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IX. Systematic Theology. Dr. Chalmers has treated this subject in the true spirit of the inductive philosophy. He fails not, in the first place, to mark the “analogy between a system in theology and a system in general science.”i As the latter is reached by “induction among the phenomena of nature,” so is the former the result of “induction among the sayings of Scripture.” Neither the natural philosopher nor the theologian “invents" anything. They only “find,” “ examine,” “trace resemblances," “ classify,” and “infer;" the one, laws; and the other, doctrines. The "philologist” is, to the systematic divine, what the experimentalist” is to the framer of a natural science. Theology is a “generalization” of the “individual sayings” which the critic discovers in the Word of God. Thus rigidly is the province of the theologian defined. He must keep“ within the four corners of the Bible.”3 He 6 superadds nothing” to the contents of the inspired vol
“ To group and classify the sayings (of Scripture], by the similarities which are between them, by means of some common and pervading truth, is the part of systematic theology.”* There is this difference between “systematizing” in nature and in the Bible: the individuals of the former are the direct objects, the “ipsa corpora of the science ;" but the individuals of the latter are only " sayings which relate to the direct objects, or ipsa corpora, in theology." 5 Furthermore, in nature a wide induction of particulars is requisite to the inference of a general law ; but in the Bible "one saying” may fix a comprehensive truth. “Systematic theology and Scripture criticism go hand in hand.” Even a false theology may be useful, since it stimulates to investigation; thus performing the office of “an hypothesis in science.” It “is not a discovery, but it may serve as a finger-post to those places where the discovery is at length to be found.” 8
1 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 329.
2 Ibid. pp. 332, 333.
3 Ibid. p. 338. 6 Ibid. p. 339.
“ Theology without Scripture criticism is just as airy and unsupported a nothing, as were a philosophy without facts; and, on the other hand, without a systematic divinity, it is just as confused and chaotic a jumble, as were an undigested medley of facts without a philosophy. Scripture criticism and systematic theology are the integral, the essentially component parts of one and the same science. Without the first, it were a baseless, unsupported fabric. Without the second, it were an inextricable labyrinth.” Thus is theology represented as a progressive science. It does not invent, but discovers and systematizes; and it performs this twofold work gradually. The truth furnished it, is a fixed quantity; but it has not yet appropriated all that truth. It is incorporating more of the treasure into itself, from age to age. When the whole of the substance of revelation shall have been taken up by it, its office will be complete. Then it will cease to be progressive; for then it will have realized its ideal.
We cannot pass from this topic without giving the fol. lowing remarks, intended to allay a common, but happily decreasing, hostility to the study of theological science: “ The work of the systematic theologian is, throughout, an experimental process, beside having the firmness of an experimental basis to rest upon. When a system is said to be fabricated, the very term begets an antipathy against it. It is felt as if to fabricate were to create ; but systematic theology, when rightly conducted, creates nothing. It does not excogitate, it explores. The doctrine of the atonement in Scripture is as little a thing of invention, and as much a matter of discovery, as the doctrine of gravitation in nature. A system, even though designated by the name of its human inventor, may be the production of God. The Newtonian system was the work of God, though the discovery of New. ton; and so a theological system may be the work of God, though the discovery of man. When one says he will draw his theology, not from Calvin, but from the Bible, he may, under the guise of a great and undoubted principle, have
1 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 334.
been prompted to make such an utterance by as irrational an imagination, as when one says that he will draw his astronomy, not from Newton's Principia, but from a direct view of the nocturnal heavens.” 1
X. Human Character.
Dr. Chalmers gives the reasons why man's state of guilt and moral depravation should form the initial doctrine of a systematic course on the subject-matter of Christianity." “ First, Christianity is a remedial or restorative system;" and hence its application should be preceded by “ a view of the disease.": " Secondly, it (the disease) lies within the sphere of our own immediate consciousness.” 4 it is generally the very topic which first awakens and engages the attention of the inquirer.”5 Having reached the field of the theologian, and stated the nature of the work before him, he aims to be practical even in the order of his labors. 6 We do not want to abandon the scientific treatment of our subject; but we shall ever hold it to be fortunate, and a thing not to be pedantically despised, but to the uttermost valued and rejoiced in, whenever the scientific is at one with the popular, or when the systematic, as taught in universities, quadrates with the practical, as realized in congregations and parishes."6 “ The sinfulness of humanity” may be proved by “ conscience,” as well as by the Bible. Hence the present inquiry belongs in part to natural theology. “Man has within him a measuring line, by the application of which he can observe the straightness of human conduct, and which he refers to virtues in the human character; and by which also he can observe the unevennesses of human conduct, which he in like manner refers to vices in the human character."8 Whoever tries the members of the human family by this standard, will find “ that from one ex
Insts. Theol. Vol. I. pp. 352, 353. Posthumous Works, Vol. IX. p. 235. 8 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 364.
• Ibid. p. 365. 6 Ibid. p. 367. Ibid. p. 567.
7 Ibid. p. 370. 8 Ibid. pp. 370, 371 ; Posthumous Works, Vol. IX. p. 236.
tremity of our earth to another, or from the first creation of man to the present age, no such (sinless) individual, though the purest and most perfect of his kind, can possibly be fixed upon, or, in other words, that all have sinned; all have come short of pure and absolute virtue.”1 Dr. Chalmers here takes occasion to express his dissent from “ certain stern theologians ” who affirm “ that not one grace or virtue of character is to be found among the sons and daughters of our race, which is worthy of the name.” He argues at length, , with much indignant censure of those who differ from him, to show that our humanity is not "one mass of moral putrefaction.”3 “It (virtue) exists as a substantive reality in the hearts and habits of many an individual, who does what is right because of a spontaneous preference which impels him to it."
Sentiments like these might be regarded as coming from a Pelagian; but Dr. Chalmers explains his meaning farther
He saves his orthodoxy by introducing the novel distinction of a "social" and a “divine” morality. “ There is a terrestrial as well as a celestial ethics."! We are here presented with “two moralities.” An action, which is right so far as its earthly relations are concerned, may be wrong in some of its more extended relations. This is not a distinction in the nature or degree of moral acts; it means simply that conscience may judge them in view of a part or of the whole of the divine system. Dr. Chalmers was led to insert this theory, by a desire to show that the doctrine of human sinfulness is not misanthropical; that it allows to men, all those amiable traits which they really possess. But he does not teach that any moral act of the unregenerate is right, when it is tested by the ultimate standard of morality. He asserts that if the actions of men be examined in view of their broadest relations, they will be found to be totally sinful. Men may not be as bad as they are capable of becoming; but this is only for want of temptation. The total de. pravity of the race is made certain by the principle, recog
1 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 372. 4 Ibid. pp. 373, 494.
2 Ibid. p. 373.
nized in all jurisprudence, that " whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all.”! It is because mankind do not love God supremely, and as a holy being, that “the whole world lieth in wickedness.” ? Those amiable qualities, discernible in unregenerate character, are outside the sphere of all proper morality. There is nothing meritorious in them; they are natural gifts; they increase the obligation to be holy, and deepen the guilt of impenitency. Thus did Dr. Chalmers vindicate the doctrine of the entire sinfulness of man's character. He viewed the inquiry as coming within the province of natural theology. Taking conscience as the “supreme” judge of character, and throwing out of the account all which is a spontaneous” and " inborn" in man, he showed to reason and conscience, that the whole world is guilty before God. In this way he laid a basis on which to rest the Scriptural argument for the same doctrine. Undeniable fact prepares the way for the teachings of the Bible. Philosophy agrees with the faith once delivered to the saints." “ Deep calleth unto deep."
XI. Human Nature.
From the consideration of human character, Dr. Chalmers passes on to examine human nature. We here leave the sphere of the moral, and descend into that of the natural; go from what he does, to what he is. Our concern is not with sin as manifest in act to reason, but with the “ origin” to which this moral disorder conducts us. “ We have properly to do at present not with this depravity as a fact, but as a consequent.”+ In attempting to account for the sinfulness of the race, Dr. Chalmers says: “Every man is a sinner not alone through example, or education, or aught that was merely partial and accidental and contingent, but, apart from, and independently of these, he is a sinner solely in virtue of his being a man.”
.995 Thus human nature is made the immediate occasion of human depravity. Hence there is, in the nature
1 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 378. 3 Ibid. pp. 380, 381.
4 Ibid. p. 416.
3 Ibid. p. 379. 6 Ibid. p. 417.