The Nature And Worth Of The Science Of Church History -- By: H. B. Smith

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 008:30 (Apr 1851)
Article: The Nature And Worth Of The Science Of Church History
Author: H. B. Smith


The Nature And Worth Of The Science Of Church History

Prof. H. B. Smith

In addressing the Directors of the Union Theological Seminary and this respected audience, upon an occasion of such solemn interest to myself, and so closely connected with the welfare of the institution which they guard and cherish, I would, if possible, forget my own unfitness for the office to which I have been called, and accept its duties in the name and for the sake of the Great Head of the Church. It is the history of his church which I am to teach. And if the guidance of his wisdom is needed at all times by all his disciples, it is especially needed by his ministry; yet more by those called to train men for his ministry, and in some peculiar respects by one who is to narrate the history of his kingdom to its future preachers in our age and country.

The history of the church is not the straightforward narrative of the fortunes of an isolated community with inferior ends in view, but it is an account of the rise, the changes and the growth of the most wonderful economy the world has known, embracing the most comprehensive purposes which human thought can grasp. It has maintained itself in the historic progress of the race, as has no empire. It has been aggressive, attacked, progressive and diffusive as has no other community. It has moved through States, intertwined itself with institutions, changed politics, shaped national and individual character, affected all moral and social interests, and been interwoven with the whole web of human destiny. He who would know the principles which have really controlled human thought and action, will, if he be wise, explore the records of that kingdom which has had the longest duration and the strongest influence. On human grounds alone it may challenge the most earnest study of every thoughtful mind. But this history is invested with a solemn, a sublime interest, when it is viewed as the record of a divine economy, established in an apostate world, centering in the incarnation of the Son of God, and having for its object the redemption of the race, through the might of the Holy Spirit. As such, it contains the most antagonistic elements. For, though the origin of this kingdom be

divine, and though its consummation will be the glorious and untroubled manifestation of God’s grace and wisdom, yet, between the origin and the consummation there is a theatre of strife, where the strongest energies of good and ill, all the forces of a supernatural, and all the forces of a natural kingdom wage perpetual warfare. It is in the vanquishing of mighty and subtle foes that the kingdom of Christ has shown its superior and supreme authority. There is progress, but it is progress through conflict. There are the v...

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