Imatges de pÓgina

they enter on the development of these in the creation of a universe and its moral history onward to the consummation of all things. One cannot peruse the successive titles of the chapters in the systematic works of our best and greatest authors, without observing how much the arrangement proceeds in the chronological order of the history of the divine government—so that, after the establishment of the initial lessons which we have now specified, we are very generally conducted along some such series of doctrines as the followingthe formation of man; his original state of innocence; the introduction of moral evil at the fall, and the consequent guilt and depravation of our species ; the remedy for this universal disease in the appointment of a Mediator; the atonement made by Him, so as to release his followers from the penalty of sin; the doctrine of a regenerating Spirit to deliver them from its power; the free overtures of this reconciliation and recovery to the world; the great moral change experienced by all who accept them; their duties in the present life, and their blissful prospects of another: on the other hand the fearful doom of all who reject the Christian message; the judgment to which both the obedient and the rebellious will be summoned at the end of the world; and the destinies which respectively await them, in that everlasting economy which is

to succeed after the present economy of things shall have passed away.

Now such an arrangement, proceeding as it does in the chronological order of the divine administration, and which quadrates too with the great successions that take place in the collective history of the species, has peculiar advantages of its own. But there is another arrangement, having a distinct principle, attended too with its own distinct benefits, but of another sort. Instead of treating Theology in the order of the procedure of the divine government, and with general respect therefore to the whole Universe of created Intelligences or at least to the whole of the human family, it may be treated in the order of those inquiries which are natural to the exercised spirit of an individual man, from the outset of his religious earnestness when the felt supremacy of conscience within tells him of a Law and tells him of a Lawgiver--when his own sense of innumerable deficiencies from a higher and a holier standard of rectitude than he has ever reached, first visits him with the conviction of guilt and the dread anticipation of a coming vengeance.

This would give rise to an arrangement differing from the former, having a different starting-post or point of departure, and, though coinciding in some places, yet reversing the order of certain of the topics ;

and, more especially, transferring to a far ulterior part of its course, some of those initial matters in the first arrangement, which, when discussed at so early a stage give an obscure and transcendental character to the very commencement of the science. By the first arrangement we are made to descend synthetically, from principles which have their residence in the constitution and character of the Godhead, and which transport us back to past eternity-as in those systems of Christian Theology, where the doctrines of the Trinity and Predestination take the priority of all those themes which are within the reach of human conception, or bear with immediate application on the desires and the doings of man. By the second arrangement, we are made to ascend in the order of man's fears and of his efforts to be relieved from them—beginning, therefore, with that sense of God which is so promptly and powerfully suggested to every man by his own moral nature; and proceeding, under the impulse of apprehensive and conscious guilt, to the consideration of what must be done to escape from its consequences, and what is the remedy if any for the sore disease under which humanity labours. It is obvious that with such a commencement as this for our System of Theology, the depravity of man, along with the moral character and government of God, and the requisitions and sanctions of His law, would find an early place in it; and, whereas in the atonement made known by a professed Revelation there is a remedy proposed, it were most natural to pass onward to the claims and credentials of this professed embassy from Heaven—thence, under the promptings of a desire for relief, from the consideration of our danger to the consideration of the refuge opened up for us in the Gospel thence to the new life required of all its disciples -thence to the promised aids of a strength and grace from on high, for the fulfilment of our due obedience—thence to the issues of our repentance and faith in a deathless eternity—thence, finally, and after the settlement of all that was practical and pressing, to the solution of difficulties which are grappled with at the outset of the former scheme of Theology; but which in the latter scheme would be postponed for their more scientific treatment to that stage, when, leaving the first principles of their discipleship, the aspirants after larger views and more recondite mysteries go on unto perfection.

By the former method Theology is capable of being presented more in the form or aspect of a regular science, with the orderly descent and derivation of its propositions from the highest principles to which we can ascend; but when the departure is made from the primeval designs of the Godhead, or the profound mysteries of his nature -this gives more of a transcendental, but more at the same time of a presumptuous and a priori character, to the whole contemplation. The second method, by which departure is made from the suggestions and the fears of human conscience, has the recommendation of being more practical and, if not in the order of exposition, is more at least in the order of discovery. Even Natural Theology, taken by itself, is susceptible of both these treatments; and may be either studied as the Theology of academic demonstration, or traced to its outgoings as the Theology of Consciencefrom the first stirrings of human feelings or human fancy on the question of a God, to the fullest discoveries that can be made by the light of Nature whether of His existence or His character or His ways. In the following treatise we do not rigorously adhere to any of these methods—though we hold it incumbent upon us, to clear away the injurious metaphysics, in which certain disciples of the first school have, even in their earliest, their initial lessons on the subject, shrouded the science of Theology; and we have also endeavoured to show what those incipient, those rudimental tendencies of the human spirit are, under the guidance of which the disciples of the second school are carried

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