The Eschatology Of The New England Divines -- By: Frank Hugh Foster

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 043:169 (Jan 1886)
Article: The Eschatology Of The New England Divines
Author: Frank Hugh Foster

The Eschatology Of The New England Divines

The Rev. Frank H. Foster

It is proposed in a series of articles to sketch somewhat fully the history of certain doctrines among the New England divines.1

Histories of Doctrine are now generally confessed to hold an important place both in the general culture of the theologian, and in the material from which, in his more careful studies, he has to draw his system of divine truth. It is now seen that the Christian system has a history. It was not built up at once, nor erected by any one man. It grew by slow accessions through many centuries, as the cathedral grows. And the conclusion is so easy that many have already made it, and said that Christian truth will never be attained except by this same process. Whoever tears himself loose from his historical antecedents, and endeavors to build anew from the foundations, will be predestined to certain failure.

In its broadest statement we do not accept this view. But it is evident on the most superficial examination, that we are all formed largely by our antecedents, and are thus entangled, whether we will or not, in the meshes of the net of history. We cannot tear ourselves loose from it

entirely, and we may as well submit cordially to the inevitable, and see whether we cannot draw profit from our situation.

New England Congregationalists may, we think, congratulate themselves on the character of the theological history that lies behind them. When earnest men have been seriously engaged in the investigation of great truths through a long series of years, it is exceedingly improbable that their successors will not find many valuable results of permanent worth as the product of such labors. To neglect them, would be to invite failure in further pursuit of truth. It would be to run the risk of laboriously rediscovering things already made perfectly plain, or even of suffering defeat at some point near which the fathers had erected an impregnable fortress. But the studies of our fathers were prolonged, deep, and earnest. There are certain doctrines of theology upon which they labored in the closest sympathy with, and dependence on one another for a century. Their labors cannot be ignored with safety. They were great men. Not great, we must admit, in mere erudition, for they were far from libraries, and thrown upon the resources of their own minds; but these minds were powerful, and well-trained. They lacked many of the tools which the modern scholar regards as indispensable to his task; but they were not weighed down with the impediments which his very advantages cast around him. They concentrated their attention very largely up...

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