This work is an enlarged and amended edition of the author's "Lectures on Theology," printed in 1876 for the use of students in the Rochester Theological Seminary. It contains nearly four times the amount of matter embraced in the former volume. The main test remains substantially the same, although important additions have been made to the treatment of the intuition of the divine existence, the classification of the attributes, the statement of the doctrine of decrees, the teaching as to race-sin and race-responsibility, ability or inability, the ethical theory of the atonement, and the final state of the wicked. The section on the moral nature of man (conscience and will) is new; a few minor paragraphs of the older book have been omitted; and the work has been somewhat altered in arrangement.
The author's aim has been not so much the writing of a theology for theologians as the construction of a hand-book for the use of students for the ministry. The main text is intended to serve as the basis for daily recitation; the matter in smaller print is added by way of proof, explanation, or illustration. To save labor to the reader, Scripture passages referred to in the text have been printed in full in the appended notes — the Revised English Version, except where otherwise indicated, being used, and the readings of the American Committee being generally preferred. Minute references are given, under each head, to the various books which may serve as additional sources of information or suggestion. The writers referred to are not mentioned as authorities: it has been the aim, in general, to indicate not only the authors whose views are favored, but also those who best represent the views combated, in the text. The editions used are those found in the Library of the Seminary for whose students the text-book was originally written; fortunately these editions are, in general, the latest.
It has been thought well not only to give references to the best writers on the subjects treated, but also to introduce brief quotations from them, with a view to familiarize the reader with their general doctrinal position and to stimulate him to further reading of the works themselves. Many of these quotations are followed by explanatory or critical remarks, and in the smaller print considerable space is not unfrequently given to notes upon matters that could not be fully treated in the text, such as the history of systematic theology, the authorship of the Pentateuch, heathen systems of morality, heathen trinities, the Mosaic history of creation, the Sabbath, objections to the evolutionary theory of the origin of man, a tabular view of theories of imputation, notes on depravity, guilt, and penalty, the humanity of Christ, the Old Testament sacrifices, the doctrine of election, union with Christ, ordination to the ministry, the immortality of the soul, and the second coming of Christ.
It will be noticed that books are sometimes referred to which can hardly be called the best sources of information: in such cases the intention has often been to help the theological student to use intelligently the books he has; in other words, to enable the possessor of few books, and those not the best, to get from them all the good he can.
Attention is called to the element of Scriptural exposition that has been admitted. Under each of the chief doctrines, the main passages relied upon for proof are somewhat fully explained; while the attempt has been made to condense the results of the best modern exegesis into the few words of explanation immediately following many of the minor passages cited. Although much material for private study is thus added, the author does not regard the work, even in its present form, as more than an outline which needs to be filled in by the fuller expositions and discussions of the classroom. It is to be judged by its aim—to provide a basis and starting-point, a source of elementary knowledge and a stimulus to thought, in preparation for the oral instruction of a Theological Seminary.
To three living persons the author desires to express his peculiar obligation. Two of these are his former teachers: President Noah Porter, of Yale College, and President Ezekiel G. Robinson, of Brown University; to the former he owes his first insight into philosophy; to the latter his first insight into theology. The third name is that of Professor William G. T. Shedd, of the Union Theological Seminary, from whose various writings the author has for many years derived constant stimulus and suggestion. The sincerity and warmth of this threefold recognition are not lessened by the fact that the views presented in this volume are in some respects peculiar to the author.
The usefulness of the work, it is hoped, will be greatly increased by the very copious indexes of subjects, of authors, and of Scripture passages. For the preparation of these, thanks are due to the Rev. Robert Kerr Eccles, M. D., recently a student of the Rochester Theological Seminary, but now pastor of the Baptist Church in Salem, Ohio, with whom the work has been a labor of love. For the good measure of typographical accuracy which has been secured, grateful acknowledgements are made to Mr. Charles Augustus Strong, the author's son and pupil.
In the view of the author, the aim of a course of theological study is not to crowd upon the pupil a ready-made system, but rather to put him in possession of the most important Biblical and scientific materials of theology, to cultivate in him the habit of theological thinking, and to enable him for himself to master certain of the strategic points of doctrine, from which he may afterwards advance his lines with safety and success. In the hope that the present work may, in these respects, be serviceable to those who are preparing for the ministry of the gospel, it is now, with all its imperfections, committed to the care and blessing of Christ, the great head of the church,— to whom, as the author and perfecter of our faith, be eternal glory!
Kochester Theological Seminary,
Rochester, May 1, 1886.