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1. It is a singularly plain piece of expository work. The author's thoughts lie clearly defined in his own mind, and every trace of fogginess is dissipated from about the crystal idea. He has observed, with painstaking fidelity, the laws of division, and thereby secured almost perfect methodicalness and orderliness of elaboration. He has resorted to the mechanical art of notating the points, heads, and sub-heads, and to the literary device of repetition, until it is impossible for the reader to ever “lose himself," or fail to recognize all the time the precise stage of the development to which the reading has brought him. The author has eschewed with relentlessness all abstrusities of language and all involved forms of sentence. Technicalities appear where they are necessary, but the context always defines the technicality. In handling abstruse topics—and there are abstruse topics in Calvinism-Dr. Beattie has successfully labored to be clear and simple. We do not see how it is possible for the grammar-school boy to miss the meaning of these sentences, through which daylight shines all the time.
2. This is a singularly cautious piece of exposition. We are struck by the fewness of the understatements, of the overstatements, and of the partial statements. Our author's object has been to set forth the coutents of these Westminster Standards. Calmness of mind, fairness of treatmeut, prudence of statement, were necessary at every point. It was not his purpose to say what he would like for these standards to contain; it was not his object to tone them down at some points, and to tone them up at other points, and to gently warp them at still other points; he has been careful to stay within safe bounds, and to represent the standards as teaching what only great prudence and conservatism would readily concede. At no point has he brought undue pressure to bear upon these authoritative statements of doctrine, but has always let them yield their easy and natural meaning to his pen. Indeed, there is nothing reckless, dashing, daring, startling about this author; his ruling ambition seems to be to say only what is safely true. We are delighted with the self-denial here exhibited—the denial of all temptation to make some striking, original, and racy use of these great formularies. It shows that our author loves truth better than brilliant dash, sensational departure, or flashy speculation. There is not a purple adjective in the book.
3. It is a singularly faithful piece of exposition. True interpretation is not merely mechanical, but creative, only regulating the new creation by the constructive lines of the original. This sort of work requires a severe analytical judg. ment in order to answer the primary question, "What does this document mean?" It also demands a vivid imagination in order that the interpreter may put himself by the side of the original author, to see as he saw, and to think as he thought. But the supreme temptation of the interpreter is to read into the original his own ideas, or to throw upon it some colors of his own mind. The ideal of the interpreter is to be a perfectly transparent, unrefracting medium for the transmission of the thoughts of the original. We believe that Dr. Beattie has approximated the realization of this ideal. There is almost no personal colorization of the ideas.
4. It is strikingly comprehensive. The author's aim was to give a connected exposition of the entire Westminster Standards. The Shorter Catechism is made the basis of the treatise, but the contents of the Larger Catechism and The Con. fession of Faith are carefully incorporated at every point. In this feature his book is differentiated from the commentaries of Hodge, Mitchell, Paterson, Fisher, Steel, and others. Two introductory chapters are given, the one on “The Great Christian Creeds," and the other on “The Nature and Uses of Religious Creeds." The last chapter is a “Summary and Conclusion," in which the author gives his personal estimate of the Westminster Standards. There are thirty-four chapters in all. Each is headed with a reference to the source where the ideas sought to be exhibited may be found. A good index is added for speedy reference.
Dr. Beattie has no sympathy with the modern insane crusade against creeds and confessional theology. He does not look upon such formularies as hampering the spirit of free inquiry, nor as biassing research concerning religious problems. On the contrary, creeds are, in his opinion, good vantage-ground from which to prosecute investigations. He holds that they are necessary as a bond of unity in doctrine, worship, and polity for those who belong to the same communion; that they supply the best basis from which to deal with heresy; that they are the best declaration of faith and conduct to those who are outside of the particular communion; that they are the very best compend for religious instruction, Of late years, in some quarters of the theological world, it has been a fascinating idea to prosecute in vestigation into religious truth without reference to traditionalism and confessionalism, the attraction being in the liberty and originality which were supposed to belong to such a method. We are of opinion that that tide is beginning to turn back to the theology of creeds and confessions. The untrammelled experiment has brought the reverent and biblical thinkers back to the conclusions which they found set up for them in the ecclesiastical formularies of faith. The feeling is, that the method is really backward and not forward; that such a student simply works over old ground; whereas, if he had begun at the point where the creeds have left off, he could have carried theology a step forward, instead of merely expending his time and life in bringing it to the point it reached at Westminster two hundred and fifty years ago. The feeling is beginning to steal over such students that they have simply cheated themselves, and thrown away their opportunity to make some advanced contribution to theological science. All hail to the decline of this foolish and egotistical experiment to wipe out the thought of the past!
This is the fifth jubilee of the Westininster Standards! Many things ought to be said about Dr. Beattie's celebration of it by the issuance of this comprehensive and satisfactory book. Our limits will not permit us to say all that we want to say in praise of this volume. The reader, however, will be interested in a word or two from the last chapter, which will show him the view-point from which the distinguished and able professor has considered the authoritative standards of his church.
He regards these standards as very comprehensive in their scope making a full exhibit of doctrine, of ethics, and of polity. They are a definite creed with a catholic spirit. Their contents, when applied, yield the highest and most beneficent results in individual, in social, in domestic, in national life. Their ruling type of doctrine is historic Calvinism, but their statements are not so rigid as to require but one special type of Calvinism, and to exclude all others as heretical. For example, while these standards are sublapsarian, they do not condemu supralapsarianism as heretical; while they are for immediate imputation, they are not so rigid as to exclude mediate imputation, generic unity, or concurrence, as possible theories as to the relation between Adam and his posterity; while they strongly assert that the atonement is a vicarious, sacrificial satisfaction, they leave some
room for diversity of opinion as to the precise nature of the atonement; while they are distinctly post-millennial in their teaching, they yet leave the pre-millennarian unbranded of heresy; while their ethics are pronounced, they are not severely Puritanic; while their polity is decidedly Presbyterian, they admit some variations of type in this sphere. As to their constructive principles, the standards, in s general way, are theocentric; but in a specific way they were evolved with the covenants as the genetic principle; they are pronouncedly federalistic. They give great prominence to the law and to Christian ethics. They are a finality, not in a primary sense, but only in a secondary way; primarily, the Bible is a final authority, but the standards are final to those who voluntarily live under them. Dr. Beattie's final opinion is, that the Calvinism of the Westminster Standards must become the basis of any closer union of Protestants.
Dr. Beattie's book is a great success. It is bound to be a potent and potential factor in Christian enlightenment, a powerful commendation of our peculiar system of doctrine. We feel sure that it will have a wide influence and a long life. We congratulate him, the Louisville Seminary, and the entire Southern Preshyterian Church upon the issuance of this volume of such soundness and force. Clarksville, Tenn.
R. A. WEBB.
JOHNSTON'S SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY,
Crozier Theological Seminary; and An ECCLESIOLOGY. By Henry G. Weston,
This is a compact and readable treatise. It comes from two esteemed instructors in Crozier Seminary. The outline of theology is a moderate type of Calvinism ; the ecclesiology is that phase of independency which the Baptist churches in America maintain. The type of Calvinism is not so clear and decided as that set forth in Boyce's Abstract of Theology. This may be taken to indicate the fact that the Southern Baptists are more decidedly Calvinistic than their brethren at the North.
In Professor Johnston's outline of theology the usual topics of the system are expounded. The first part is introductory; the second deals with theology proper; the third explains soteriology; and the fourth considers eschatology. This part of the book covers 309 pages. In Professor Weston's ecclesiology the constitution and polity of the New Testament church is expounded. Though this part consists of less than 80 pages it is very condensed and suggestive. The whole covers the main topics of the theological system.
In the introduction of over thirty pages there are some valuable expositions regarding the sources of theology, and concerning inspiration. In the second part, of fully eighty pages, there is a very good summary and exposition of the proofs for the existence of God. This exposition indicates that the author is familiar with the speculations upon this great theme, and that he is competent to give a sound judgment as to the merits of the main proofs for the divine existence. The discussion of the attributes of God is rather brief, and the exposition of the Trinity is very strangely postponed to the department of soteriology. The doctrine of the decrees and their execution in creation and providence is discussed in this
part, and the view of our author may be described as moderate Calvinism. Prayer, miracles, and angels are the concluding topics of the part which deals with theology proper.
In the third part, the main questions of anthropology are considered with considerable completeness and care. In regard to the origin of souls, traducianism is the doctrine held by our author. In many respects he agrees with the views set forth by Shedd in his Dogmatic Theology. The law of God and the fact of sin are fully considered. In regard to the relation of the race and its sin to the sin and fall of Adam, our author denies the federal headship of Adam, and seeks to maintain that his natural headship is all we should assert. With our author we would take issue at this point, and would hold to both the natural rootship and federal headship of Adam. The former is the basis for the latter, and the latter completes the former. Both are needed to explain all the facts of the sin, guilt, and depravity of the race. The exposition of the will and moral freedom, and of inability has in it a great deal that is valuable, though we might not agree with our author in all details of statement. His main positions, however, are entirely sound.
In the fourth part, which deals with the vital problems of soteriology, there is first a pretty full treatment of the person of Christ. The proofs for his divinity are well presented, the theories as to the relation of the two natures in his person are ably sketched, and our author accepts what he calls the physiological theory. By this he means that the divine and human natures in Christ were perfect and complete, but not numerically distinct. There is one species in Christ, one soul, and one will. But space forbids further statement or criticism of an interesting point.
The person and offices of the Holy Spirit are next taken up under this head, and these offices are very well set forth as they appear in the Scriptures. Then follows the exposition of the Trinity. Our author criticises the creed statement in regard to essential trinity, and seems to think that economic trinity is all that the Scriptures warrant us in holding. This part of his exposition is rather hesitating in the doctrine it unfolds.
Then there follows a very full discussion of the atonement, covering nearly forty pages. He gives first some history of the doctrine, then a statement of various theories, and follows this with what he calls a biblical and a theoretical outline of the doctrine. He holds by the sacrificial and vicarious nature of the atonement which Christ made, but denies the idea of immediate imputation. This, of course, follows from what we have seen in regard to the denial of the federal relation of Adam to his race. The federal relation is denied in the case of the second Adam also, and our author comes perilously near the realistic theory in some of the positions he takes, both in regard to the relation of the race to Adam, and of the elect to Christ. It is not easy to classify his own idea of the atonement. He speaks of it as morally efficacious, and yet he is far from holding any phase of the moral influence theory. He regards it as expiatory, and at the same time says that the expiation regenerates. But we cannot follow our author further here than say that he has some very good remarks in regard to the necessity and extent of the atonement.
At this stage election is stated in connection with the application of redemption. In some respects the doctrine of election is so toned down by our author as to resemble not a little the hypothetical redemptionist scheme, though we scarcely believe that he would formally accept this scheme. In regard to the order of salvation (ordo salutis), the most striking thing is, that justification is put before regeneration. This is done on the ground that the legal obstacles to the bestowment of divine grace and favor in regeneration must be first removed by justification. Hence, the order of the facts according to our author is: Effectual calling, faith and repentance, justification including adoption, regeneration, and sanctification.
The confusion evident in this order would be removed if the idea of the virtual justification of the elect who shall in due season believe upon Christ is given a proper place. This ideal of virtual justification lays the ground for the bestowment of grace and favor on the part of God. This grace, in the case of each soul, first renews it in connection with effectual calling and union with Christ. Then comes faith and repentance, to be followed by actual justification and adoption on the legal side, and sanctification on the ethical side. This, we take it, provides the true order of salvation, according to consistent Calvinism.
In regard to the nature of regeneration and sanctification, our author has some excellent statements. Here the views of the Plymouth Brethren and of the Perfectionists are criticised in a very fair and satisfactory way. The doctrine of perseverance is also very well stated and confirmed.
In the last part, which deals with eschatology, the usual topics are discussed with brevity in most cases. In regard to the second advent of Christ, judgment is suspended between the claims of post and premillennial views. The resurrection is very well expounded, and the various theories of second probation are criticised in a satisfactory manner. There are several points here which suggest remark and discussion at some length, but we are compelled to forbear.
It will be seen that the views of our author at several points justify what was said at the outset, to the effect that the treatise before us represents moderate Calvinism. The doctrine of election is toned down, the federal principle is not recognized, immediate imputation is not accepted, the significance of the atonement is modified, and the precedence of regeneration in the order of salvation is not fully recognized. Still, the book is one of renl value. It is clear and simple in its style, orderly in its treatment of topics, generally scriptural in its views, and uniformly devout in its spirit. We have read and reread it with much profit.
In regard to the Ecclesiology, which forms the concluding part of the volume, we have only space to say that it proposes to give the New Testament idea of the church and its polity. This gives that type of independency held by our Baptist brethren. For Presbyterians this discussion has little value, and to enter the controversy which is here opened up is not our purpose at present, though we firmly believe in the scriptural foundation of the Presbyterian system. Louisville, ky.
FRANCIS R. BEATTIE.
WhirsitT'S QUESTION IN BAPTIST HISTORY.
Immersion Before the Year 1641? With an Appendix on the Baptism of Roger