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Of the nature of a gospel Church, 514 Duties of Churches to their PasDuties of the members of Church- tors,
530 es to each other, 519 The office of Deacons,
532 Pastors of Churches,
522 The Discipline of Churches, 536
OF PRIVATE WORSHIP, OR, OF VARIOUS DUTIES,
PERSONAL, RELATIVE, DOMESTIC, AND CIVIL.
Duties of Husband and Wife, 595 Good Works.
HAVING completed an exposition of the whole bible, the Books both of the Old and of the New Testament; I considered with myself what would be best next to engage in, for the further instruction of the people under my care; and my thoughts led me to enter upon a scheme of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, first the former and then the latter ; the one being the foundation of the other, and both having a close connexion with each other. .
Systematical Divinity, I am sensible, is now become very unpopular. Formulas and articles of faith, creeds, confessions, catechisms, and summaries of divine truths, are greatly decried in our age; and yet, what art or science soever but has been reduced to a system? physic; metaphysic, logic, rhetoric, &c. Philosophy, in general, has had its several systems; not to take notice of the various sects and systems of philosophy in ancient times; in the last age, the Cartesian system of philosophy greatly obtained; as the Newtonian system now does. Medicine, jurisprudence, or law, and every art and science, are reduced to a system or body, which is no other than an assemblage or composition of the several doctrines or parts of a science; and why should divi. nity, the most noble science, be without a system? Evangelical truths are spread and scattered about in the sacred Scriplures ; and to gather them together, and dispose of them in a regu. lar, orderly method, surely cannot be disagreeable ; but must be useful, for the more clear and perspicuous understanding them, for the better retaining them in meinory, and to shew the connection, harmony, and agreement of them. Accord. ingly we find that Christian writers, in ancient times, attempted something of this nature; as the several formulas of faith; symbols or creeds, made in the first three or four centuries of Christianity. Since the reformation, we have had bodies or systems of divinity, and confessions of faith, better digested, and drawn up with greater accuracy and consistence; and which have been very serviceable to lead men into the knowledge of evangelical doctrine, and confirm them in it; as well as to shew the agreement and harmony of sound divines and churches, in the more principal parts of it: and even those who now cry out against systems, confessions, and creeds, their predecessors had those of their own. Arius had his creed; and the Socinians have their catechism. The Jews, in imitation of the Christians, have reduced their theology to certain heads or articles of faith.
The Scripture exhibits compendiums or systems of doctrine and duty. What a compendium or body of laws is the decalogue or ten commands, drawn up and calculated more especially for the use of the Jews, and suited to their circumstances! a body of laws not to be equalled by the wisest legislators of Greece and Rome, Minos, Lycurgus, Zaleucus, and Numa; nor by the laws of the twelve Roman tables, for order and regularity, for clearness and perspicuity, for comprehensiveness and brevity. The Lord's prayer consists of petitions the most full, proper, and pertinent, and in the most regular order. And we have a creed made mention of in Heb. vi. 1, 2. consisting of six articles, repentance from dead works, faith towards God, the ductrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
Mention is made in the New Testament of a form of doctrino delivered, and a form of sound words that had been heard and was to be held fast, and of a proportion or analogy of faith, according to which ministers were to prophesy or preach. Rom. vi. 17. 2 Tim. i. 13. Rom. xii. 6.
It is strongly pleaded that articles and confessions of faith, in which men are to agrec, should be expressed in the bare words of the sacred Scriptures; but without an explanation of their sense of them in other words, it might introduce into
a christian community all sorts of errors that can be named, it would l. destroy all exposicion and interpretation of Scripture; for without words different from, though agreeable to the sacred Scriptures, we can never express our sense of them.-2. To be obliged to express ourselves about divine things in the bare words of Scripture, must tend to make the ministry and preaching of the word in a great measure useless.
3. This must in a great measure cramp all religious conversation about divine things, if not destroy it. To what purpose is it for them that fear God to meet frequently and speak often one to another about the things of God and truths of the gospel, if they are not to make use of their own words, to express their sense of these things by them?--4. Indeed, if this is the case as it would be unlawful to speak or write otherwise than in the words of Scripture, so it would be unlawful to think or conceive in the mind any other than what the Scripture expresses.---5. In this way, the sentiments of one man in any point of religion cannot be distinguished from those of another, though diametrically opposite ; so an Arian cannot be known from an Athanasian ; both will say, in the words of Scripture, that Christ is the great God, the true God, and over all God blessed for ever ; but without express. ing themselves in their own words, their different sentiments will not be discerned; the one holding that Christ is a created God, of a like, but not of the same substance with his Father ; the other that he is equal with him, of the same nature, substance, and glory.-6. It does not appear that those men who are so strenuous for the use of Scripture-phrases only in ar, ticles of religion, have a greater value for the Scriptures than others; nay, not so much ; for if we are to form a judgment of them by their sermons and writings, one would think they never read the Scriptures at all, or very little, since they make such an unfrequent use of them: you shall scarcely hear a passage of Scripture quoted by them in a sermon, or produced by them in their writings; more frequently Seneca, Cice. ro, and others; and it looks as if they thought it very unpolite, and what might serve to disgrace their more refined writings, to fill their performances with them.
The subject of the following pages being theology, or what we call divinity, it may be proper to consider the signification and use of the word, and from whence it has its rise. I say, what we call divinity ; for it seems to be a word, as to the use of it in this subject, peculiar to us; foreign writers never en. title their works of this kind, corpus vel systema vel medulla divinitatis, a bocły or system, or marrow of divinity, but corpus vel systema vel medulla theologie, a body or system or marrow of theology. The word divinitus, from whence our word divinity comes, is only used by Latin writers for deity or godhead; but since custom and use have long fixed the sense of the word among us, to signify, when used on this subject, a treatise on the science of divine things, sacred truths, and Christian doctrines, taken out of the Scriptures; we need not scruple the use of it.
Theology is a Greek word, and signifies a discourse concerning God and things belonging to him; it was first in use among the heathen poets and philosophers. Lactantius says,* the most ancient writers of Greece were called Theologues ; these were their poets who wrote of their deities, and of the genealogies of them. The priests of Delphos, are called by Plutarch,f the Theologues of Delpbos. It is from hence now that these words Theology and Theologues have been borrowed, 'and made use of by Christian writers; and I see no impropriety in the use of them; uor should they be thought the worse for their original, no more than other words which come from the same source ; for though these words are used of false deities, and of persons that treat of them; it follows not but that they may be used, with great propriety, of discourses concerning the true God, and things belonging to him, and of those that discourse of them. The first among Chris. tians that has the title of Theologue, or Divine, is St. John, the writer of the book of the Revelation ; for so the inscription of the book runs," the Revelation of St. John the Di.* vine." Whether this word Theologue, or Divine, was ori.
De Ira c. 11.
† De defect. Orac. p. 417. vid. ib. 410, 436.