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medium of his oldest revelation. Creation out of nothing is neither affirmed nor denied in the Old Testament, although the Divine building of this present world of ours, and of the heavens immediately round it, and the manifestation of the heavenly bodies as they appear in such heavens, are most sublimely set forth. Such speculations about the eternity of matter, for and against, were on each side of them, beyond the Indus and beyond the Halys. They entered into the early Greek and Hindoo philosophy; but the Shemitic mind, that lay between, was too simply practical in its worship to think much about them, and too pure in its theism to feel any alarm about them. The same mode of thinking comes down to the writers of the New Testament. The Greek furnished philosophical and metaphysical language in great plenty; but the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (11:3) sets forth the creation of the worlds by the Eternal Word; and yet, in giving us this ineffable process, employs one of the most purely artistic, constructive, architectural verbs in the Greek language, kataprítw, to put together, to arrange in order, to refit, to repair, to restore, etc., all of which imply supposed existing entities. This is the method of the divine writers. When we have more of the same spirit, we shall be better prepared to interpret the language in which they convey truths transcending all human philosophy, and leaving infinitely below them all human science.
Yours, very respectfully,
AMERICAN BIBLICAL REPOSITORY,
JULY, 18 5 6.
THE THEOLOGY OF DR. CHALMERS.
By Rev. J. M. Manning, Medford, Mass.
Thomas CHALMERS (D. D. LL. D.] was born on the 17th of March, 1780, at Anstruther, Scotland. While yet in his twelfth year, he joined the United College of St. Andrew's. In 1803, he was ordained as minister of the parish of Kil. many. During this ministry, he published his first volume, “ On the Evidences and Authority of the Christian Revelation;" and also gained celebrity by his enthusiasm in the study of science. In 1815, he was transferred to the Tron Church in Glasgow. Here he preached the Astronomical Discourses, and started his noble enterprises in behalf of the poor. He became the incumbent of the chair of Moral Phi. losophy, at St. Andrews, in 1823; and of the chair of Divinity, in the University of Edinburgh, in 1828. He was a leader in the movement which resulted in the organization of the Free Church of Scotland ; and was appointed “ Principal of the New College” in 1846, which post he occupied till his death, which took place May 30, 1847. The last years of his life were devoted to the preparation of his “ Institutes of Theology." This work contains his theological system, Vol. XIII. No. 51.
in its maturity, and in the form in which he desired it to be given to the world. The substance of many of his sermons, as well as of his lectures to his classes in divinity, is recast in these volumes. We hardly need to look elsewhere for any direct contribution which he has made to theological science. The present Article aims to give a concise statement of the system of theology thus elaborated. It does not undertake to estimate the theological opinions of Dr. Chal. mers ; much less does it attempt to class him with a particular school in theology. Any comments on his views, which it may be found to contain, are intended chiefly to mark certain things which characterize him as a theologian. His opinions will be given, so far as practicable, in his own words, and in connection with the arguments with which he supported them. In proportioning this epitome, regard will be had to what seems to have been his own idea of the relative importance of the subjects he has handled. By so doing, the hope may, perhaps, be reasonably indulged, that somewhat of the excellent spirit of his system will be preserved in the abstract of it, which we now proceed to give.
Moralists of the deistical school are wont to affirm that ethics and theology are distinct sciences, and that the former occupies a much higher sphere than the latter. This distinction was not admitted by Dr. Chalmers; and he was eager to remove the stain thus cast upon his favorite science.
“So much am I impressed with the unity of the two subjects (moral philosophy and Christianity), or rather with the way in which the one graduates into the other, that I scarcely feel myself translated to another walk of speculation by the removal, which is now before me, from an ethical to a theological chair. I feel it as if but a step in advance from the rudiments to the higher lessons of the same science.” 1 “ The study of the Natural is rightly held a proper introduc
1 Farewell Address to the Students of St. Andrew's.
tion to the study of the Christian Theology. And the study of ethics should be anterior to the study of both these theologies." This connection, however, is not regarded by Dr. Chalmers as “ strictly logical.” He guards the student from supposing that all theology is a deduction from the science of ethics. Whatever principles of morality are clearly true, may be extended into systematic divinity. But in this process the uncertainties of the one are not necessarily carried forward into the other. Among those ethical principles which belong also to the science of the theologian, he ranks the immutability of moral distinctions. “ We hold that morality (virtue, in the Edwardean sense] has a stable, inherent, and essential rightness of itself; and that, anterior to, or apart from, whether the tacit or expressed will of any being in the universe. God is no more the Creator of virtue than he is of truth." 3 This resolution of all virtue into the will of God has been designed the theological system of morals, and they who hold it have had the title given to them of theological moralists. Whether this be meant as a stigma on our profession or not, the principle on which it has been affixed to us is one that we disclaim as alike inconsistent with sound ethics and sound theology. We cannot consent to a proposition so monstrous as that, if an arbitrary God had chosen to reverse all the articles of the Decalogue, He would thereby have presented the universe with a reverse morality that should henceforth be binding, in point of duty and rectitude, on all His creatures. Vice and virtue cannot be thus made to change places at the will or by the ordination of any power." 4 “Virtue is not right because God wills it; but God wills it because it is right." 5 Dr. Chalmers does not fail to note the practical value of the principle which he so earnestly contends for. “ This argument is alike applicable both to the credentials of Revelation and to its practical lessons. For one can image a professed message from Heaven resting its authority on the evidence of undoubted miracles, yet in its subject-matter palpably and glaringly immoral.” 6. His
1 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 3. 4 Ibid. p. 6.
2 Ibid. p. 4.
8 Ibid. pp. 4, 5. 6 Ibid. p. 7.
belief in the independence of virtue, led Dr. Chalmers to oppose the utilitarian theory of morals. On this question he adopted, substantially, the views of Bishop Butler. He did not make the usefulness of virtue an identical proposition. “ If utility be virtue, then, in some other economy of things taken at random, it is imaginable both of mind and matter as so constituted, that society might have found its greatest happiness in a morality the reverse in all its characteristics to that which now commands and unites the suffrages of mankind. It is difficult to see how an ethics thus framed and originated could at all help to build up a theology, or constitute any evidence for a God." 2
II. Metaphysics. The view which Dr. Chalmers gives of the science of metaphysics is, if we mistake not, peculiar. His definition of it is such as we might expect from an advocate of the Baconian philosophy. “Our definition, then, of metaphysics is, that as scientia scientiarum, her proper office is to assign the relations, whether of resemblance or distinction, which subsist between the various branches of human knowledge. Each science has its own individual objects, which it classi. fies according to certain relations and resemblances. The individual objects of metaphysics are the sciences; of which, therefore, it may be said that the office is to classify, on a large scale, all the objects of human knowledge.' This definition, it will be seen, amounts to a denial of the science of causes. It confines the search for truth to phenomena. The idea of power is rendered incompetent as an object of inquiry. The only business of the metaphysician is to classify classifications; and to do this by noting their “re
i See Butler's Works (Carter's ed.), pp. 309–312. 2 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 11.
8 That the inductive method, as laid down by Bacon, is not an adequate guide for the theologian on all points, is now generally conceded, we believe, by the best divines; and its sufficiency for the student of nature has recently been queso tioned by eminent authority in the scientific world. See Sir David Brewster's Life of Newton, Vol. II. pp. 403—406.
4 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. pp. 31–34.