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HE Reader is here presented with the plan which Dr. TAYLOR followed, in leading his pupils to a juft and rational acquaintance with the principles of Religion, founded upon an accurate knowledge of the Scriptures.
The importance of this fervice, and his accountableness in a great measure for the event, were confiderations of the laft moment, and caufed him to compofe, and deliver his academical inftructions with the utmost circumspection. To his own judgment, after the ftricteft revifal, the principles here advanced, appeared juft and fcriptural; but he did not therefore prefume they were abfolutely free from error; much less did he think himself authorized, as a public tutor, to impofe his fentiments on young minds with an overbearing hand. That he might do juftice 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 feminaries of learning.
I. "I Do folemnly charge you, in the name of the God of Truth, and of our Lord Jefus Chrift, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and before whofe judgment-feat you must in no long time appear, that in all your studies and inquiries of a religious nature, prefent or future, you do conftantly, carefully, impartially, and confcientiously attend to evidence, as it lies in the holy Scriptures, or in the nature of things, and the dictates of reafon; cautiously guarding against the fallies of imagination, and the fallacy of ill-grounded conjecture."
II. That you admit, embrace, or affent to no principle, or fentiment, by me taught or advanced, but only fo far as it fhall appear to you to be fupported and juftified by proper evidence from Revelation, or the reafon of things."
III." That, if at any time hereafter, any principle or fentiment, by me taught or advanced, or by you admitted and embraced, fhall, upon impartial and faithful examination, appear to you to be dubious or falfe, you either fufpect, or totally reject fuch principle or fentiment."
IV." That you keep your mind always open to evidence.That you labour to banish from your breaft all prejudice, prepoffeffion, and party-zeal.-That you ftudy to live in peace and love with all your fellow-chriftians, and that you steadily affert for yourself, and freely aliow to others, the unalienable rights of judgment and confcience."
Is it poffible to adjust the terms between a tutor and his pupils more equitably? But it must here be obferved, that Dr. TAYLOR ever meant, the liberty he claimed for himself, and allowed to others, fhould be directed by a serious frame of mind, and a real defire to promote practical religion. The enlarged view he had of divine things penetrated his own heart, and had a manifeft influence over his practice. He laboured to explain and vindicate the doctrines of Revelation for this reason, that he might most effectually ferve the cause of vital Religion.
It were to be wifhed, that those who are ftudents for the miniftry, who choose to confult his writings, may imbibe the fame spirit of genuine piety. This will be a never-failing fource of weight and credit: and without it, other qualifications will be infufficient for religious improve
The Doctor's whole life being devoted to an impartial study of the Scriptures, not by way of fpeculation and amufement, but for the most valuable purposes to himself and others, it is no wonder to find him so earneftly recommending them to the ferious attention of Chriftians. This is the important fubject of those chapters, which immediately follow the Scheme of SCRIPTURE DIVINITY.
The Editor fubmits 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 fhall appear conformable to truth and Scripture, in fubferviency to the beft intereft of Mankind..
SCH E E ME
CHA P. I.
Of CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY.
HRISTIAN Theology, or Divinity, is the fcience which, from Revelation, teacheth the knowledge of God, namely, his nature and perfections, his relations to us, his ways and difpenfations', his will with refpect to our actions, and his purposes with refpect to our being; in order to form in our minds right principles, for our direction and comfort, and in our converfation right practice for fecuring his favour and bleffing.
In natural religion we take our proofs from the natures of things as perceived, confidered, and compared by the human mind; but now we advance upon the authority and fenfe of writings and books; I mean, the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Teftaments, acknowledged by the whole Christian world as a true revelation from God, and as the ftandard of faith and doctrine.
That God would reveal to us, by fuch ways as he in his wifdom judgeth moft 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 alfo perfectly fuitable to our circumstances, as mankind are ignorant and weak, and very liable to error and deception. It is confonant to the nature of things, that a father fhould inftruct his child, and that perfons of knowledge and learning fhould teach the ignorant. How much more that God, whofe understanding is infinite, and without whom we can know nothing at all, should teach and inftruct us all!
And that his inftructions fhould be configned to writing, is alfo very fit and proper; as this, in fact, is the fureft method of preferving them
in the world. Tradition from one generation to another is no fafe conveyance. The experiment hath been fufficiently 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 flesh had corrupted his way upon earth. Gen. vi. 11, 12. And both would have been entirely loft, had not God in an extraordinary manner interpofed. Likewife after the flood, notwithstanding any tradition from Noah, idolatry foon overspread the nations, and rendered it expedient for God to devife a new conftitution, to prevent a fecond univerfal corruption and apoftacy. And fo falfe and faithlefs is Tradition, that for many ages in the Jewish nation, and for many ages under the Gofpel, Tradition was, and ftill is, fo 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 preferved in it, true Religion would have been banished
but of it.
The benefit of Revelation is very great: but then it must be faithfully ufed; otherwife it will be turned against itself, and made the patron of Falfehood and Delufion. Which, in fact, hath been the cafe. Men, either weak or wicked, have perverted the Scriptures, and reduced them to a fubferviency to either their lufts, or preconceived opinions. The latter was remarkably the cafe in the firft ages of Chriftianity. When any of the Philofophers were converted to the Chriftian Profeffion, they generally brought along with them the schemes and notions of the particular fects to which they were attached; those influenced their minds in the ftudy of the Scriptures, and inclined them to wreft the Scriptures into a confiftency with their preconceived opinions. Hence it is, that many notions inconfiftent with the word of God, and with each other, have been handed down to us from the earliest times under the facred character of found Chriftian Doctrine. And in our own times, we find men pleading the authority of Scripture for a variety of oppofite and contradictory fentiments, which therefore cannot all of them be founded upon Scripture.
For the Holy Scriptures, being a Revelation from God, the most perfect and invariable ftandard of Truth, though written by different perfons, living in remote ages, during the fpace of about 1500 years, from Mofes to John, who wrote the Revelation; yet, being a Revelation from God, muft be perfectly confiftent in all their parts and principles, views and fentiments, expreft in uniformity of language. For if the language were multiform and various, the fenfe would neceffarily be obfcure, and the understanding confounded, and fo the ends of Revelation would be defeated. And if, notwithstanding the great changes in cuftoms, difpofitions, interefts, and religious fentiments, which must, and actually did, happen in fo long a tract of time, we do find, that one confiftent fcheme, in one confiftent uniform language, is carried on in all the writings, which compofe the Scriptures, we may ftrongly 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 fo illiterate, have com
bined to carry on a regular, uniform fcheme of religious principles and fentiments, in the fame language or modes of expreffion; but the infpiration or dictates of one Spirit, the Spirit of God. Hence it follows,
I. That in explaining the Scriptures, confiftency of fenfe and principles ought to be fupported in all the feveral parts thereof; and that, if any part be fo interpreted as to clafh with any other, we may be fure fuch interpretation cannot be juftified. Nor can it otherwife be rectified, than by faithfully comparing Scripture with Scripture, and bringing what may feem to be obfcure into a confiftency with what is plain and evident.
II. The fenfe 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 fettled in no method more authentic, than by collating the feveral paffages in which any phrase or expreffion occurs. Thus, in every view, Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture.
III. Figurative expreffions fhould be carefully diftinguished from those that are literal; and vice verfa. The oriental, and confequently 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 ftand, but to be taken in connexion with the whole difcourfe. The occafion, 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 confiftent 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 difcoverable in the works of creation, and in the prefent conftitution of things. The language of Nature is moft certainly the language of God, the fole author of Nature. And however the Divine Wisdom may diverfify the circumstances of fupernatural Revelation, yet the law of Nature, as it is founded in the unchangeable natures of things, must be the bafis and ground-work of every conftitution of religion, which God had erected. Whence it follows, that the ftudy and knowledge of natural Religion is a neceffary introduction to the ftudy and right understanding of Revelation. And we may further conclude that fupernatural Revelation, in all its parts and principles, as it certainly is, fo it always fhould 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 commensurate to Revelation; or, that nothing is to be admitted in Revelation, but what is difcoverable by the light of Nature, or by human Reason. So far from that, that the whole of Revelation, properly fo called, could never have been difcovered by human Reason. And therefore in matters of pure Revelation, it is a very falfe and fallacious way to begin first with what our Reafon may dictate and discover; because our Reafon, unafiifted by Revelation, in fuch cafes, can difcover A 3