The Old School In New England Theology -- By: Edward A. Lawrence

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 020:78 (Apr 1863)
Article: The Old School In New England Theology
Author: Edward A. Lawrence

The Old School In New England Theology

Rev. Edward A. Lawrence

When age had ripened his judgment with rich experience, the Rev. Dr. Humphrey expressed the opinion that evangelical writers differ more in their use of terms than in their views of truths Many other good men, of every denomination, are finding that the principles that unite them are broader and stronger than those which separate them. Hence they are beginning to seek out and intensify their agreements, and let their divergencies disappear in the background. The late Dr. William Nevins gave fine expression

to this beautiful catholic sentiment. “I don’t belong, exactly, to either of the schools. I am something of an eclectic. There are many things about the Old school that I like, and I am of opinion that it is none the worse for being old. There are some things about the New school that I don’t greatly object to. I suspect, after all, that both the schools have the same Master, though in each some things are learned, as is apt to be the case, which the Master does not teach. I think the scholars of both schools ought to love one another…..Oh, I wish they would. I desire it for charity’s sake. I desire it for truth’s sake; for the way to think alike, is first to feel alike.”

It is, however, necessary to know what men think, in order to know how far they are united, and in what they differ. Hence the practical value of clear and exact theological statements, “When discreetly made, they often subserve the ends of truth and charity much better than argument or exhortation. Men are much more likely to be drawn towards agreement, when they correctly and fully understand each other, than when they do not. And they are never more sure to miss truth, and descend to personalities and mutual repulsion, than when misunderstood and misrepresented.

To present the Old school in New England theology as distinguished from the New school, from Hopkinsianism, and the Old school Presbyterians, is a difficult task. And it is the more difficult because it requires us to define, in a degree, the systems from which it differs. We are more confident of an honest purpose in the undertaking, than of entire success.

By New England theology we mean the system of doctrines which, from the founding of the colonies, has been held by the Congregational churches of New England. By the Old school is understood those who have accepted this system, for substance, as expressed in the Westminster Confession, adopted first, at Cambridge, in 1648, and after-

wards re-adopted, in 1680, at Boston, and, in 1708, at Say-brook. Edwards ...

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