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"Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight hundred and thirty one, by G. & C. & H. Carvill, in the Clerk's office of the Southern District of New York.”
I am happy in being able to present to the friends of Biblical Theology the translation of Dr. Knapp's LECTURES. The prevailing preference of the method adopted by this Author above other methods of pursuing theological study, leads me to hope, that this work will be an acceptable offering to the public. It was the ultimate object of that eminent servant of Christ who composed these Lectures, to promote vital piety and practical religion even by his more theoretical writings. If the translation of these Lectures may conduce to the same end, the Translator will feel abundantly rewarded for his labor.
On opening a book, we naturally feel a desire to know something of the Author; and, if he treats on controverted points, to know on what principles he wrote, and with whom he stood connected. I shall endeavour to satisfy this curiosity, by giving some account of the school of Biblical Theology in Germany, to which our Author belonged, together with an outline of his life and character. I cannot ect, however, within the narrow limits of a Preface, to do full justice to either of these subjects.
The school of Biblical Theology was established by Spener at Halle, in 1694, for the avowed purpose of having theology taught in a different manner from that common in the German Universities. Spener states, that it was usual for persons to spend five or six years at the Universities without hearing, or caring to hear, a single book, chapter, or verse of the Bible explained. In the few cases where exegetical Lectures were commenced by such teachers as Olearius and Carpzov, they were soon abandoned. The Bible was perhaps less used before the time of Spener in Protestant Universities, than it had been, under penalty of excommunication, by
pious Catholics before the Reformation. In place of the Scriptures, the different Symbols established by the Protestant Church were taught and studied. The minutest distinctions established by them were contended for with the greatest zeal, and the least deviation from them was pronounced heresy as decidedly as if they had been given by inspiration of God, and was punished accordingly with the greatest severity. The spirit of Protestantism seemed to have thrown off the hierarchal yoke, only to assume another and perhaps a more degrading form of bondage. In explaining and defending these symbols, the Aristotelian dialectics were employed, and in the use of them the students were thoroughly exercised. As to the practical effect which the doctrines of Christianity should have upon their own hearts, and the manner in which they should exhibit them for the benefit of others, nothing was said to them by their teachers. Thus disciplined, they went forth to repeat from the pulpit what they had learned at the University, and fought over their idle battles, in which their own learning and skill were carefully displayed, to the neglect of every thing which might arouse the careless, persuade the doubting, or satisfy the deep desires and assuage the sorrows of the heart.
This was a state of things which Spener deplored. Others before him, especially pious laymen, had noticed these evils; but had withdrawn, like the mystics of a former period, and sought in private contemplation, that satisfaction of their spiritual wants, which they could not obtain from the learned jargon of the pulpit ; or if, like Andreæ and Arndt, they had lifted up a voice of remonstrance against the prevailing disorders, it had been drowned in the noise of angry polemics. But the reputation and influence of Spener were too great, to allow his remonstrances to pass unnoticed. Without aiming at the name, he performed the work of a Reformer. In the unpretending form of a Preface to an edition of Arndt's Sermons, he published in 1875 his Pia Desideria, in which he urged the necessity of amending the prevailing mode of instruction and preaching. It was his great object to divert attention from the Symbols, and direct it to the Scriptures. He wished every student to derive his system for himself, directly from the Bible ; and to feel and enjoy the truths thus learned, rather than contend about them; and especially he wished the teachers in the Universities and the preachers in the desk, abandoning forever their foolish questions, and sub
tle dialectics, to labor to promote the solid instruction and the true piety of those committed to their charge. This was the object which more and more engrossed his attention, as he saw more of the deadening influence of scholastic theology and he at length pursued it with such zeal, that he awakened the jealousy and hatred of those who loved the letter more than the spirit, the form of godliness more than its power. After removing from place to place, and being at length driven from Dresden by the violence of the opposition against him, he found refuge and rest in Berlin. He there exerted his influence with Fredrick III. to procure the establishment of a new University at Halle. For various reasons, political and religious, his proposal was adopted, and to Spener was committed the organization of the Theological Faculty. He selected for this purpose, Anton, Breithaupt, and Franke, men of congenial spirit with himself, who had visited him in Berlin, imbibed his views, and were then laboring in different places, and under great discouragements, to promote the revival of scriptural knowledge and practical Christianity. They were now united in the new University at Halle, and though denounced by the theologians of the sister Universities, and especially those of Wittemberg, as pietists, innovators, and heretics, they were not to be hindered from appointing a new course of studies, nor from pursuing a new method in teaching.
The establishment of the Theological Faculty at Halle forms an epoch in the history of Theological science; and to those who founded and composed it, especially to Spener and Franke, are Protestants indebted for the revival and perpetuation of the spirit of the Reformation. They entered a new protest against the reign of ecclesiastical authority, and asserted anew the right of Christians in matters of faith. That we are free to judge for ourselves as to what we shall believe, in opposition to the decretals of Popes or Councils, whether Catholic or Protestant; that the Holy Scriptures are the pure source whence we must draw our religious knowledge, and not Symbols, Confessions, or systems framed and established by men ; and that the doctrines of the Bible are to be used by the learned as well as the unlearned, to promote holiness of heart and life, rather than merely as objects of speculation,--these were the great principles upon which Luther and Melancthon, Spener and Franke alike proceeded.
It is not uncommon to see the founders of this school classed with those narrow-minded and bigoted enthusiasts, who regard learning and science with hatred and contempt, and presume upon a miraculous illumination, superseding the necessity of studying divine truth. But to this class, Spener and Franke did not belong; and decided as was the stand which they took against the scholastic learning of the times in which they lived, they were far from falling into the opposite and equally dangerous extreme. Their principles respecting the study of Theology are so often misstated, that I feel induced, after a perusal of some of their own writings, to exhibit them here more at length.
I. They believed that God had revealed himself directly to men, and that this Revelation is contained in the books of the Old and New Testament, which are the only source of our religious knowledge, to the exclusion of those pretended revelations of which theosophy boasts. To obtain the meaning of these Scriptures, they made therefore the first duty of the theological student. In scripturis theologus nascitur, was their constant maxim. They did not, like their contemporaries in the other Universities, suffer the student to rely indolently on the traditionary interpretation of the Word of God, nor to adduce, without examination, exactly the same prooftexts, neither more nor less, as had been used in every preceding system ; nor did they suffer him to expect, like some ancient and modern visionaries, that a culpable ignorance would be removed by supernatural illumination. On the contrary, they insisted upon the importance of his becoming acquainted with the original languages in which the Holy Scriptures were written, and diligently using the whole apparatus of hermeneutical helps, (then indeed comparatively small,) in order to ascertain the very sense in the mind of the inspired writer.
II. By these means, however, important as they are, the student attains only to what they called a natural, human, and literal knowledge, in distinction from a spiritual and divine perception of the doctrines of Revelation. The sacred writers did not invent new words and expressions to designate the new relations to God, into which men were brought by Christianity, and the feelings belonging to those relations ; but rather employed language used to designate relations and feelings previously known, analogous to those intended.