Stoddard’s Theological Lectures -- By: Charles M. Mead

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 020:80 (Oct 1863)
Article: Stoddard’s Theological Lectures
Author: Charles M. Mead

Stoddard’s Theological Lectures

Rev. Charles M. Mead

Most of our readers may remember that Mr. Stoddard after his return to Persia in 1851, prepared a course of theological lectures for use with his classes in the seminary at Seir. No one who has learned to admire the man can have failed to feel a curiosity, to know somewhat more respecting these lectures. But as they were written in English only for his own convenience, then translated into Syriac, and published only in that form (after Mr. Stoddard’s death, under the supervision of Dr. Perkins), of course that curiosity has not been gratified. It gives us pleasure to state that we have been permitted to see the English manuscript, and to give some account of it to the public. It is only a sketch, not a critical analysis, that we attempt. He who is most willing to have his defects pointed out is the one in whom we most dislike to find them. No theologian, probably, would have more heartily invited a severe judgment on his work than Mr. Stoddard; but on no one would we be less inclined to bestow it. There was that in his unaffected modesty, in his thorough honesty, in the unselfish and elevated character of his aims, which disarms criticism. He may have had faults as a man, as a Christian, as a missionary, as a teacher; but, as not in the case of some men, we can learn less from his faults than from his excellences. In regard to him then, at least, we are disposed to do all we can to falsify Mark Antony’s dolorous complaint: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

Theological lectures on missionary ground are so rare that many may be prepared to expect in them something very different from the theology of Christian lands. We must disappoint such expectations. These lectures have

their peculiarities, growing out of the fact that they were designed for, and specially adapted to, Nestorian youth; but in the staple of the thought, in the order and mode of discussion, and in the general impression left by them on the mind, there is nothing strikingly novel. Had they been written for Chinamen or Esquimaux they would doubtless have borne different features. The Nestorians believe in the authority of the Bible. They discard alike the absurd theologies of the heathen and the idolatrous practices of Roman Catholics. They are called by Dr. Perkins the Protestants of Asia. In theory, even before conversion, they are not very far from orthodoxy, according to our own standard. What they chiefly need is to be vitalized. Mr. Stoddard was eminently fitted for this work. Naturally ardent, supernaturally quickened, he was well able, both by precept and by example, to exhibit the value of Christian truth working in the heart, as di...

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