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II. LITERARY Notices. These are not to be learned reviews simply, but critical notices of, and extracts from, the more important books; and this, not merely of books which have recently made their appearance, but of those writings which have been forgotten, and descrve again to be brought into notice. This department will also contain warnings against worthless and dangerous books, that have become current.
III. HISTORICAL INFORMATION. This will respect the history of the Christian church, at home and abroad. It will exhibit biographical notices of persons worthy of particular regard, who moved in a larger or smaller circle; historical communications respecting the external condition of religious parties, and of their relation to each other; missionary intelligence, not with the design to supply defects in Journals devoted to this purpose, nor to supplant them, but partly with the design of giving general and compressed views of these subjects, and partly to exhibit those characteristic and individual sketches, which are conspicuous, omitting all useless repetitions and mere indistinct representations. In a word, the intention is to communicate whatever may be of interest and importance to the Evangelical Church. The materials for such intelligence will be drawn, partly from correspondents at home and abroad, and partly from various works and documents appropriated to such a purpose, which are published in Germany, France, England, Scotland, and America.
That the tone of the present work will be somewhat exclusive, follows of course from the preceding representation. Only those can expect to have a part in it, who have an established conviction respecting the fundamental truths of revealed relgion. Still, all variety of views, among those who belong to the same Christian community, will not be excluded. It appears altogether desirable, that there should be an animated interchange of views among those who hold fast the fundamental truths of the Gospel. The publishers of this Journal deem it very important to afford every facility in their power, for the accomplishment of this.
All those, who feel a sincere inclination to contribute to the design of this Journal, are invited to do it by the publishers of the same ; who are satisfied that the object in view can never be accomplished, except by the united efforts of many, who devote their strength to the service of God. The larger contributions will in all cases be considered as having a claim to pecuniary remuneration, unless this is expressly declined.
Although the object of the Evangelical Church Journal is simply to inculcate what is true, and to build up rather than to pull down ; yet, as the Gospel from its very nature must encounter opposition, disputation cannot altogether be avoided. Still, it will conduct with forbearance in judging of individuals, and as far as possible, avoid all personalities. Remote from all bitterness, it will shew by its example, that unwavering conviction in respect to evangelical truth is altogether consistent with mildness and affection, such as the Gospel demands of those who acknowledge its obligations. At the same time, it will point out to all such, the source to which they must go in order to learn these important virtues, and from which only they can derive them.
Such is the Prospectus of this very interesting publication; one which we might, with a few alterations, adopt as a Preface to our own. We cannot hope, indeed, to rival our brethren of the land of universities, in the extent and variety of their literary, and critical, and exegetical, and antiquarian researches and essays. But feeling ourselves to be, in several respects, situated very much as they are, we would go hand in hand with them, in the great principles, which they have thus so plainly and so boldly announced to the world. We shall have some advantages over them, for the practical and experimental departments of our work. This is a land of Revivals; it is so, in a manner which excites the curiosity and astonishment of Christians in the transatlantic world. In regard to every thing connected with missions, benevolent socie
bined talis only doers to inom
ties, &c., we are in the very focus of action, and shall have an important advantage from this circumstance. We shall not affect to rival our German brethren in learning. This generation cannot do it. The next, we trust, will be able to speak a different language.
It will be natural for our readers to inquire, whether the Evangelical Church Journal is only “the daring of a single combatant," or whether combined talent and energy are pledged for its support? The answer to this question is a cheering one to the friends of truth, on this side of the Atlantic, and especially to all, who live on the very ground, which is the arena of the great contest that is going on, at the present time. The Journal in question, lifting up its voice in the very ear (a listening one too) of the king of Prussia, published at his favorite university, which now holds the second, if not the first rank of all the literary institutions in the world, is not the solitary work of one man, nor of a few men whose names are unknown, beyond the boundaries of a small hamlet. Some of the flower of the German Corps d’Elite have united to support it. To give their names, will be sufficient proof of this, to all who know the present state of theological acquirements in Germany.
“ Among my fellow laborers,” says Dr. Hengstenberg, the editor, “ I am permitted to name Dr. Neander, professor in the university of Berlin; Dr. Strauss, court preacher at Berlin," (mark this;) “ Dr. Tholuck, professor at Halle-Wittenberg ; Dr. Heubner professor at Wittenberg; Drs. Hahn and Lindner, professors at Leipzig, and also Dr. Heinroth, at the same university; Dr. Von Meyer at Frankfurt on the Mayne; Dr. Scheibel, prosessor at Breslau ; Dr. Steudel, professor at "Tübingen; Dr. Th. Krummacher, at Bremen; Dr. Olshausen, professor at Königsberg; and Dr. Rudelbach, at Copenhagen.”
To those who are acquainted with the literary condition of Germany, it will be entirely unnecessary to say, that many of these are some of her choicest and most distinguished Elites. Dr. Neander is the acknowleged Coryphæus of ecclesiastical history and antiquities. Dr. Heubner is a very distinguished and excellent scholar. Dr. Tholuck is a kind of prodigy in Arabic, Rabbinic, and other oriental learning, and has been placed, as we have already mentioned, in the chair of the venerable and excellent Dr. Knapp. Dr. Heinroth is distinguished in metaphysics and anthropology. Dr. Hahn has given to the world some admirable proofs of his learning, criticism, and judgment, in his Essay on the gospel used by Marcion, and some other publications. Dr. Olshausen has given scarcely inferior evidences of his learning and abilities, in his “ Genuineness of the Four Gospels,” recently published. Dr. Von Meyer has published a very popular amended version of the whole Scriptures. Dr. Steudel is the successor of Bengel,
in the able work of “The Archives of Theology." The other gentlemen are distinguished, also, as teachers or preachers. We bid God speed to such a noble array, in defence of the doctrines of evangelical truth. If Luther could rise from his grave, it would be to bless and encourage them.
of the work itself, which they stand pledged before the public to maintain, (three numbers of which have come to hand,) we shall have occasion to say more hereafter, and to present specimens of it to our readers, which will enable them to judge for themselves, both of the spirit and of the ability with which it is conducted. We shall employ the brief space which can be allowed us at present, in some closing remarks on what has been laid before our readers, in the preceding pages, designed to prevent any misapprehension of our true meaning, and to shew, that the friends of Gospel truth here have a deep interest in the undertaking of our German brethren, and that we have much reason strongly to sympathize with them.
When we have spoken with implied disapprobation, of the old systems of theology in Germany, the attentive reader will perceive, that it is of the costume, not (if we may so express ourselves) of the person. Let any one take up the twenty two quarto volumes of Gerhard's Loci Theologici, (the great Coryphæus of the Lutheran systematical writers,) and he will see, by opening the book at a venture, what we have aimed to express. The mind is overwhelmed with the infinitude of divisions and subdivisions. It is grieved by frequent offences against the laws of sound exegesis, which appear in the introduction of irrelevant witnesses from the Scriptures. It is even disgusted with the heaps upon heaps of metaphysical chaff, which is not only scattered over the wheat, but often mixed among it. Must it not be difficult to read with pleasure, when we are constantly exposed to such emotion? It is only those, for the most part, who have introduced metaphysics, by a priori argumentation, into their system of theological truth, and made them an essential part of it, and who are better prepared, in this way, to say what the Bible ought to mean, than what it does mean; it is almost only such, that will read systems drawn up in this manner, with satisfaction. Good taste is revolted by them. Simple, scriptural inquiry seems to be overwhelmed, by the immense mass of other questions, which are forced upon the reader.
When theological writers compose in this manner, they are preparing the church for disquietude and for revolution. There never will be wanting, sooner or later, some bold and independent inquirers, who will raise a breeze to scatter the chaff; and well will it be, if this breeze does not increase, until it becomes a tornado, and carries away the wheat also. There is no calculating where a revolution will stop, when it begins from causes of grievances like these.
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It was, however, a most deplorable mistake in Semler to urge on the reform, (as he would fain have it,) in the manner, and to the extent, which he did. What was the offence of the old theologians ? Was it any real departure from the doctrines of the Reformation? This is not pretended. What then was it? Why, it was mixing a great deal of chaff along with the grain which they presented, and bidding you regard the whole as grain. We might well say, as standing fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and as professing to receive “the Scriptures as the SUFFICIENT and only rule of faith and practice,” We will not receive the chaff for the wheat. But is it wise, is it becoming, to throw away the whole ? Because those great and good men, who wrote in the manner that has been described, participated in the general faults of their day, as to style, and as to the mode of treating the subjects which they discussed, it is surely not the part of candor, and of just regard to real and distinguished merit and piety, to treat them with indifference, and even with contumely. Such, however, has been the injustice which they have suffered from the present age. No language scarcely is sufficient, to express the contempt which many feel for them. For ourselves, we cherish a state of mind totally diverse from this. All the cumbrous dress, with which they have unwittingly loaded theology, we would throw off, without any scruple. Simple, biblical theology is all we want, and all we ever can have which will be stable. All that rests upon the philosophy and metaphysics of the day, must forever be as fluctuating and inconstant as men are. But in the old theology, with all its faults of manner and its forbidding exterior, many a radical investigation of topics in divinity is to be found; many an overthrow of error is triumphantly achieved ; and much, very much, of a glowing and ardent spirit of piety is also to be found. The reader who does not feel, that the faults of manner are not in a great measure redeemed by such sterling virtues as these, is not prepared to harmonize at all in opinion with us. We must say, that with all their faults, we should be among the last to abandon the use of the works of such Lutheran divines, as have been named above; or of the works of Calvin, Pictet, Turrettin, Van Maestricht, Vitringa, and others, in the Reformed church.* We are fully alive to their faults. But we are not blind, as to their virtues; and the latter are vastly predominant.
Yet we do rejoice, after all, that God is bringing his church to more simple credence in his word. It cannot be denied, that there is much, in all these old systems, which stands on the simple basis of human philosophy. But they have now gone through the fire, and a great part of the dross is melted away. Most perfectly visible is this, in such a plain, simple, consistent, and
* We use the phrase Reformed church as it is used by Mosheim, to designate the Calvinistic churches of Europe, as distinguished from those of the Lutheran persuasion.
scriptural plan of theological truth, as is presented in the Lectures of the most excellent and venerable Dr. Knapp, late of Halle. How different from Gerhard; and yet exhibiting and defending the same great truths! Both loved the same Gospel; but the one loved philosophy too, and the other shunned it, whenever he undertook to represent the simple system of truth which the Scriptures contain.
Every weak spot, in the whole building of the Reformation, has now been spied out, and assaulted, by the keen-sighted, active, energetic, and powerful enemies of evangelical truth in Germany. It has been, indeed, tried as by fire. The wood, hay, and stubble in it, have, we trust, been burned up; but the solid materials all remain. The God of truth has made these of elements, which resist all assault or decay. He has taught the friends of his Gospel, by the awful castigation which they have received, how dangerous it is for them to mix their philosophy with his word. He will have men whom he has made, and sanctified, and redeemed, to exhibit simple confidence in his declarations, and not to rest on the wandering speculations of imaginary reason, and boasted human philosophy. Sooner or later, in every country, he will chastise those who set up human authority above his word, and who attach principles and nice distinctions to his Gospel, with which he never meant it should be cumbered.
We trust our readers will see where we stand, in regard to old and-new theology. In a strict sense, theology, as true doctrine, is, and ever has been, one and the same. But the modes in which men have developed it, have been very different, at different times. Some of these are much less entitled to approbation than others. For ourselves, the simplest and most scriptural method, as remote as may be from all the reigning metaphysics of the day, (which are perpetually changing,) will ever be the subject of highest approbation. But we should be among the very last to cast away, to despise, or to load with contumely, the older writers of theological systems, because the costume, which they have put on, differs from that of the present age.
We trust, after so ample a declaration on this subject, that we shall not be misinterpreted nor misunderstood. We have only to add, that the awful experience of Germany makes us devoutly wish that the teachers of religion in our country may none of them expose us to a like revolution, by insisting upon mingling wheat and chaff together, and making the whole pass for bona fide wheat. The experiment is too fearful a one. The consequences should be well weighed. The enemies of evangelical truth are active, vigilant, eagle-eyed, all-intent on its overthrow, and some of them are able and learned. We must not expect, that any breach in our walls will remain unespied or unattacked. The closer, then, we keep to the Bible, the more simply we keep there, the better for