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P R E E A с Е.
*HE Reader is here presented with the plan which Dr. TAYLOR
followed, in leading his pupils to a just and rational acquaintance with the principles of Religion, founded upon an accurate knowledge of the Scriptures.
The importance of this service, and his accountableness in a great measure for the event, were considerations of the last moment, and caused him to compose, and deliver his academical instructions with the utmost circumspection. To his own judgment, after the strictest revisal, the principles here advanced, appeared just and scriptural; but he did not therefore presume they were absolutely free from error; much less did he think himself authorized, as a public tutor, to impose his sentiments on young minds with an overbearing hand. That he might do justice to his pupils, and himself, he always prefaced his lectures with the following folemn CHARGE, which does honor to the Author, and affords a noble precedent to seminaries of learning.
I. “ I do folemnly charge you, in the name of the God of Truth,
and of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the way, the Truth, and the Life, and before whose judgment-seat you must in no long time appear, that in all your studies and inquiries of a religious nature, present or future, you do constantly, carefully, impartially, and conscientiously attend to evidence, as it lies in the holy Scriptures, or in the nature of things, and the dictates of reason; cautiously guarding against the sallies of imagination,
and the fallacy of ill-grounded conjecture.” II.-" That you admit, embrace, or assent to no principle, or
sentiment, by me taught or advanced, but only so far as it shall appear to you to be supported and justified by proper evidence
from Revelation, or the reason of things.' III.--" That, if at any time hereafter, any principle or sentiment,
by me taught or advanced, or by you admitted and embraced, fhell, upon impartial and faithful examination, appear to you to be dubious or false, you either suspect, or totally reject such
principle or sentiment." Vol. 1.
IV.-" That you keep your mind always open to evidence.
That you labour to banish from your breast all prejudice, prepossession, and party-zeal.—That you study to live in peace and love with all your fellow-christians, and that you steadily affert for yourself, and freely allow to others, the unalienable
rights of judgment and conscience.” Is it possible to adjust the terms between a tutor and his pupils more equitably? But it must here be observed, that Dr. TAYLOR ever meant, the liberty he claimed for himself, and allowed to others, should be directed by a serious frame of mind, and a real desire to promote practical religion. The enlarged view he had of divine things penetrated his own heart, and had a manifest influence over his practice. He laboured to explain and vindicate the doctrines of Revelation for this reason, that he might most effectually serve the cause of vital Religion.
It were to be wilhed, that those who are students for the ministry, who choose to confult his writings, may imbibe the same spirit of genuine piety. This will be a never-failing source of weight and credit : and without it, other qualifications will be insufficient for religious improvement.
The Doctor's whole life being devoted to an impartial study of the Scriptures, not by way of speculation and amusement, but for the most valuable purposes to himself and others, it is no wonder to find him so earnestly recommending them to the serious attention of Christians. This is the important subject of those chapters, which immediately follow the Scheme of SCRIPTURE DIVINITY.
The Editor submits the whole (as the Author would have done) to the candor of every intelligent Reader; defiring that what is here advanced, may be regarded no further than shall appear conformable to truth and Scripture, in fubferviency to the best interest of Mankind..
Of CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY. HRISTIAN Theology, or Divinity, is the science which,
from Revelation, teacheth the knowledge of God, namely, his nature and perfections, his relations to us, his ways and difpensations, his will with refpect to our actions, and his purposes with respect to our being; in order to form in our minds right principles, for our direction and comfort, and in our conversation right practice for securing his favour and blessing:
In natural religion we take our proofs from the natures of things as perceived, considered, and compared by the human mind; but now we advance upon the authority and sense of writings and books; I mean, the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, acknowledged by the whole Chriftian world as a true revelation from God, and as the Standard of faith and doctrine.
That God would reveal to us, by such ways as he in his wisdom judgeth most proper, fuch things as are needful for us to know and to do, for the improvement and happiness of our nature, is perfectly agreeable to his wisdom and goodness, who is our Father, and delighteth in our well-being; and is also perfectly suitable to our circumstances, as mankind are ignorant and weak, and very liable to error and deception. It is consonant to the nature of things, that a father should instruct his child, and that persons of knowledge and learning should teach the ignorant. How much more that God, whose understanding is infinite, and without whom we can know nothing at all, should teach and instruct us all!
And that his instructions fhould be consigned to writing, is also very fit and proper; as this, in fact, is the furest method of preserving them
in the world. Tradition from one generation to another is no safe conveyance. The experiment hath been sufficiently tried in the ages before the flood; wherein, though tradition was then greatly favoured by the longevity of mankind, yet we find, that both the Religion of Nature and traditionary Revelation were both so far loft, that in the space of 1656 years the earth was filled with violence for all files had corrupted his way upon earth. Gen. vi. 11,12. And both would have been entirely loft, had not God in an extraordinary manner interposed. Likewise after the food, notwithstanding any tradition from Noah, idolatry soon overspread the nations, and rendered it expedient for God to devise a new constitution, to prevent a second universal corruption and apostacy. And so false and faithlefs is Tradition, that for many ages in the Jewish nation, and for many ages under the Gospel, Tradition was, and still is, so far opposed to Revelation,' as to obfcure and disparage it, and make the commandment of God therein of no effect. Infomuch, that had not a written Revelation by Divine Providence been introduced into the world, and preserved in it, true Religion would have been banished out of it.
The benefit of Revelation is very great: but then it must be faithfully used; otherwise it will be turned against itself, and made the patron of Falsehood and Delusion. Which, in fact, hath been the case. Men, either weak or wicked, have perverted the Scriptures, and reduced them to a subserviency to either their lusts, or preconceived opinions. The latter was remarkably the case in the first ages of Christianity. When any of the Philosophers were converted to the Chriftian Profesion, they generally brought along with them the schemes and notions of the particular sects to which they were attached; those influenced their minds in the study of the Scriptures, and inclined them to wrest the Scriptures into a consistency with their preconceived opinions. Hence it is, that many notions inconsistent with the word of God, and with each other, have been handed down to us from the earliest times under the sacred character of found Christian Doctrine.' And in our own times, we find men pleading the authority of Scripture for a variety of opposite and contradictory sentiments, which therefore cannot all of them be founded upon Scripture.
For the Holy Scriptures, being a Revelation from God, the most perfeet and invariable standard of Truth, though written by different persons, liðing in remote age, during the space of about 1500 years, from Moses to John, who wrote the Revelation; yet, being a Revelation from God, muit be perfectly confiftent in all their parts and principles, views and sentiments, expreit in uniformity of language. For if the language were multiform and various, the sente would necessarily be obscure, and the understanding confounded, and so the ends of Revelation would be defeated. And if, notwithstanding the great changes in customs, dispositions, interests, and religious sentiments, which must, and actually did, happen in so long a tract of time, we do find, that one consistent scheme, in one consistent uniform language, is carried on in all the writings, which compose the Scriptures, we may strongly conclude, that they are a Revelation from God; not the produce of human wisdom, which could never in ages fo remote, and for the greatest part so illiterate, have com
bined to carry on a regular, uniform scheme of religious principles and sentiments, in the same language or modes of expression; but the inspiration or dictates of one Spirit, the Spirit of God. Hence it follows,
I. That in explaining the Scriptures, consistency of sense and principles ought to be supported in ail the several parts thereof; and that, if any part be so interpreted as to clash with any other, we may be sure such interpretation cannot be justified. Nor can it otherwise be rectified, than by faithfully comparing Scripture with Scripture, and bringing what may seem to be obscure into a consistency with what is plain and evident.
II. The sense of Scripture can no otherwise be understood, than by understanding the force and import of Scriptural language. And the force and import of Scriptural language can be settled in no method more authentic, than by collating the several passages in which any phrase or expression occurs. Thus, in every view, Scriptare is the best interpreter of Scripture.
III. Figurative expressions should be carefully distinguished from those that are literal ; and vice versa. The oriental, and consequently the Scriptural tropes and figures of speech, are very bold, and different from the European.
IV. Single sentences are not to be detached from the places where they stand, but to be taken in connexion with the whole discourse. The occasion, coherence, and connexion of the writing, the argument that is carrying on, the scope and intent of the paragraph, are to be carefully attended to.
V. We should always interpret Scripture in a sense consistent with the laws of natural religion ; or with the known perfections of God, and the notions of right and wrong, good and evil, which are discover able in the works of creation, and in the present constitution of things. The language of Nature is most certainly the language of God, the sole author of Nature. And however the Divine Wisdom
may diversify the circumstances of supernatural Revelation, yet the law of Nature, as it is founded in the unchangeable natures of things, must be the basis and ground-work of every conftitution of religion, which God had erected. Whence it follows, that the study and knowledge of natural Religion is a necessary introduction to the study and right understanding of Revelation. And we may further conclude that supernatural Revelation, in all its parts and principles, as it certainly is, so it always thould be, interpreted and understood in perfect harmony with natural Religion, or the dictates of Reason..
But mistake me not; I do not mean, that the law or religion of Nature is commenfurate to Revelation; or, that nothing is to be admitted in Revelation, but what is discoverable by the light of Nature, or by human Reason. So far from that, that the whole of Revelation, properly so called, could never have been discovered by human Realon. And therefore in matters of pure Revelation, it is a very false and fallacious way to begin first with what our Reason may dictate and discover; because our Reason, unaffifted by Revelation, in such cases, can discover