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Although there is only one door to the kingdom of heaven, there is many an entrance to scientific divinity. There is the gate of free inquiry as well as the gate of spiritual wistful
And although there are exceptional instances, on the whole we can predict what school the new-comer will join, by knowing the door through which he entered. If from the wide fields of speculation he has sauntered inside of the sacred enclosure; if he is a historian who has been carried captive by the documentary demonstration—or a poet who has been arrested by the spiritual sentiment—or a philosopher who has been won over by the Christian theory, and who has thus made a halehearted entrance within the precincts of the faith—he is apt to patronise that gospel to which he has given his accession, and like Clemens Alexandrinus, or Hugo Grotius, or Alphonse de Lamartine, he will join that school where taste and reason alternate with revelation, and where ancient classics and modern sages are scarcely subordinate to the “men who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” On the other hand, if 'fleeing from the wrath to come,” through the crevice of some “ faithful saying," he has struggled into enough of knowledge to calm his conscience and give him peace with Heaven, the oracle which assured his spirit will be to him unique in its nature and supreme in its authority; and a debtor to that scheme to which he owes his very self, like Augustine, and Cowper, and Chalmers, he will join that school where revelation is absolute, and where “Thus saith the Lord” makes an end of every matter. And without alleging that a long process of personal solicitude is the only right commencement of the Christian life, it is worthy of remark that the converts whose Christianity has thus commenced have usually joined that theological school which, in “salvation-work,” makes least account of man and most account of God. Jeremy Taylor, and Hammond, and Barrow, were men who made religion their business; but still they were men who regarded
religion as a life for God rather than a life from God, and in whose writings recognitions of Divine mercy and atonement and strengthening grace are comparatively faint and rare. But Bolton, and Bunyan, and Thomas Goodwin, were men who from a region of carelessness or ignorance were conducted through a long and darkling labyrinth of self-reproach and inward misery, and by a way which they knew not were brought out at last on a bright landing-place of assurance and praise; and, like Luther in the previous century, and like Halyburton, and Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards, in the age succeeding, the strong sense of their own demerit led them to ascribe the happy change from first to last to the sovereign grace and good Spirit of God. It was in deep contrition and much anguish of soul that Owen’s career began; and that creed which is pre-eminently the religion of “ broken hearts" became his system of theology.
“ Children, live like Christians; I leave you the covenant to feed upon.” Such was the dying exhortation of him who protected so well England and the Albigenses; and “the covenant was the food with which the devout heroic lives of that godly time were nourished. This covenant was the sublime staple of Owen's theology. It suggested topics for his Parliamentary sermons;—“A Vision of Unchangeable Mercy," and “ The Steadfastness of Promises." It attracted him to that book in the Bible in which the federal
especially unfolded. And, whether discoursing on the eternal purposes, or the extent of redemption—whether expounding the mediatorial office, or the work of the sanctifying Spirit, branches of this tree of life
treatise. In such discussions some may imagine that there can be nothing but barren speculation, or, at the best, an arduous and transcendental theosophy. However, when they come to examine for themselves, they will be astonished at the mass of scriptural authority on which they are based ; and, unless we
greatly err, they will find them peculiarly subservient to spiritual improvement and instruction in righteousness. Many writers have done more for the details of Christian conduct ; but for purposes of heart-discipline and for the nurture of devout affections, there is little uninspired authorship equal to the more practical publications of Owen. In the life of a Christian philosopher* lately departed, it is mentioned that in his latter days, besides the Bible, he read nothing but “ Owen on Spiritual-Mindedness,” and the “Olney Hymns ;” and we shall never despair of the Christianity of a country which finds numerous readers for his “Meditations on the Glory of Christ,” and his “Exposition of the Hundred and Thirtieth Psalm."
And here we may notice a peculiarity of Owen's treatises, which is at once an excellence and a main cause of their redundancies. So systematic was his mind, that he could only discuss a special topic with reference to the entire scheme of truth; and so constructive was his mind, that, not content with the confutation of his adversary, he loved to state and establish positively the truth impugned: to which we may add, so devout was his disposition, that, instead of leaving his thesis a dry demonstration, he was anxious to suffuse its doctrine with those spiritual charms which it wore to his own contemplation. All this adds to the bulk of his polemical writings. At the same time, it adds, in some respects, to their value. Dr Owen makes his reader feel that the point in debate is not an isolated dogma, but a part of the “whole counsel of God;" and by the positive as well as practical form in which he presents it, he does all which a disputant can to counteract the sceptical and pragmatical tendencies of religious controversy. Hence, too, it comes to pass that, with one of the commonplaces of Protestantism or Calvinism for a nucleus, his works are each of them a virtual system of doctrino-practical divinity.
To the intrinsic value of these works there can be no testi* See "Memoir of Rev. Dr Welsh,” by A. Murray Dunlop, Esq. M.P.
mony more striking than the fact that they have been twice republished in our living day;* and the demand for large impressions is a hopeful sign for the theology of the modern ministry. To hold fellowship with a master-mind is one of the best methods for strengthening our own; and there are no better securities against feeble repetitions and dishonest plagiarisms than a genuine scholarship. At the same time, few students are so mighty in the Scriptures as not to feel thankful for a guide at once learned, devout, and lofty-minded ; and the more independent and original a man's turn of thinking is, if he be wise and humble, the more thankful will he be to the systematist who recals him to the analogy of faith, and restrains his speculation within the bounds of truth and soberness. And still more precious and more helpful than profound expositions or suggestive aphorisms are that habitual elevation of feeling and that abiding fellowship with the Saviour which constitute the power of any pastorate, as well as the life of individual Christianity. In this “spiritual-mindedness” no works are richer than those of Dr Owen ; and with all susceptible readers this gives them their indescribable charm. There may be a prevajling feeling of prolixity, and there may be a general lack of eloquent expression, but there is never absent for a moment the evidence of the author's seriousness and personal sanctity. As on an elevated table-land, the air is everywhere fresh, ethereal, and bracing; and wherever we catch a glimpse of the writer, we perceive an aspect calm, gentle, grave, and recollected,—the countenance of a pilgrim who in his path through the world is walking in communion with God.
* The edition of 1826 extended to twenty-eight volumes octavo, the first volume containing Mr Orme's careful and minute biography. The more complete edition of 1850-55 is compressed into twenty-four volumes, and has been edited by Dr Goold with vast industry and rare critical exactitude. It contains a short but eloquent Memoir from the pen of Dr Andrew Thomson. It was on the occasion of the appearance of this last edition that most of the above remarks were originally published in “The North British Review."
The fulness of Scripture. [The last sixteen years of Dr Owen’s life were mainly devoted to his “ Exposition of the Hebrews.” It is not only its author's masterpiece, but it is one of the noblest productions of English theology. The most cursory view of its pages is enough to impress any one with some notion of its learning and industry; but, like a pyramid-like London-like a forest or a mountainrange—it needs to be long frequented—it needs to be lived in -in order to get a full conception of its magnitude. The memory, the grasp of mind, the piety, the greatness of soul required for such a work were all colossal; but on this very account it is difficult to give an idea of it by means of extracts. After all, our specimen can only be a chip from Mont Blanc, a brick from the Pyramid. The two following quotations are from passages (ii. 11-13, iii. 15-19) where the commentary expands and glows into something of sermonic warmth and fulness.]
God hath filled the Scripture with truth. Hence one said well, “Adoro plenitudinem Scripturarum,” “I reverence the fulness of the Scriptures.” Ps. cxxxviii. 2, “He hath magnified his word above all his name;" or made it more instructive than any other way or means whereby He hath revealed himself. For not only doth the whole Scripture contain the whole counsel of God concerning His own glory and worship, our faith, obedience, and salvation, but also every parcel of it hath in it such a depth of truth as cannot by us be perfectly searched out. Ps. cxix. 18, “ Open thou mine eyes,” saith the Psalmist, “ that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." There are wonderful things in the Word if God be pleased to