The Claims Of Theology -- By: J. R. Herrick

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 025:97 (Jan 1868)
Article: The Claims Of Theology
Author: J. R. Herrick


The Claims Of Theology1

J. R. Herrick

Fathers and brethren: The position in which I speak to-day, and your choice in placing me here, have determined beforehand my theme of discourse. It would be presumed I should speak of the Claims of Theology, and such shall be my theme; but in speaking of these claims it will be quite appropriate to have some special regard to our own times.

It is evident, however, that we cannot well appreciate the claims of theology, or wisely apply it to meet the wants of our time, till we have denned to ourselves the idea itself of theology, or what it imports or demands. The answer to this question, therefore, will first require our attention. This I apprehend we shall find to be threefold.

1. The first demand is a personal God, who may be apprehended as such. Evidently, if there were no personal God, or if he could not be known, we could have no theology.

Before this audience, and on such an anniversary occasion,, you would hardly allow me to suggest that you need vindicating for the interest you feel in your Seminary. Those who have cherished it with sincere devotion and unwearied effort for a generation, and whose interest only increases with their years, would not tolerate the implication that I need any justification for accepting your appointment to stand with them, and in the place of my worthy predecessor, to maintain this as an Institution of sacred learning.

But surely we cannot follow far the tendency of modern thought to see that your interest and my acceptance of the chair of systematic theology in this Institution must both

alike be fully vindicated, or not at all. For, the line of distinction between a belief and a disbelief in the supernatural, between a belief and a disbelief in a personal God, is becoming every day more sharply defined. Whether truth for man lies wholly in the natural world, or in part, and quite as really, in the supernatural also; whether, in fact, we have a theology about which professors and students, ministers and churches and private Christians, need so much concern themselves; this is the question which we are to solve; and we must be definitely fixed in our beliefs, or this modern thought will fix them for us.

Or, granting your foundation to be a safe one, granting you have valid reason for your belief in the supernatural, as I thoroughly hold, I would then say, there are those who would withdraw from under you your firm support; and who, if they find this impossible, would prevent others from coming safely upon it, preferring to let them float amid the rocks of infidelity, or become wrecke...

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