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tury ago, but the teacher must verify their details and try their principles. The presumptuous and ignorant assaults of a base philosophy against the Christian church, have well nigh spent their force; no sane and instructed mind would now dare to represent it as injurious to humanity, as the work of priestcraft, as a complex of endless and useless logomachy, and as sterile of all rational interest. These vulgar objections had their origin in schools which imagined that matter was more intelligible than mind, and in countries where the history of Christianity was identified with the progress of Romish corruptions; and they now live only in the souls that are the fitting receptacles of the veriest dregs of human thought. They have been refuted in part by the very progress of Christianity, as well as by a better philosophy, and a more comprehensive view of man's history. But these larger views of human history bring with them still graver duties to the historian of the church, because most of them assign to the church a subordinate position in the development of the race, and thus impose the necessity of giving a more philosophical character to the exposition of that history, so that it shall be seen to embrace all, as well as the spiritual interests of humanity.

There are also disadvantages in the study of this branch of learning, springing from our systems of education and national habits of thought. As a people, we are more deficient in historical training than in almost any other branch of scientific research. We live in an earnest and tumultuous present, looking to a vague future, and comparatively cut off from the prolific past-which is still the mother of us all. We forget that the youngest people are also the oldest, and should therefore be most habituated to those "fearless and reverent questionings of the sages of other times, which," as Jeffrey well says, "is the permitted necromancy of the wise." We love the abstractions of political theories and of theology better than we do the concrete realities of history. Church history has been studied from a sort of general notion that it ought to be very useful, rather than from any lively conviction of its inherent worth. History is to us the driest of studies; and the history of the church is the driest of the dry a collection of bare names, and facts, and lifeless dates. It is learned by rote, and kept by mnemonic helps. Whole tracts of its course realize to us the notion of the philosopher in Addison, who used to maintain the existence of tenebrific stars, whose peculiar office it was to ray out positive darkness. Its sources are buried in the dust of alcoves, and when exhumed, it is seldom with the insig nia of a resurrection. They are investigated for aid in present


Object of Historical Theology.


polemics, not to know the past but to conquer in an emergency; as if one should run over American history only in view of incorporating a bank, or passing a tariff-bill. While we all confess that there are sources of sublime interest in the study of the visible heavens, and that no research is too deep into the successive strata of the solid earth, we are slow to believe that in the course of human history, we are to find the revelation of the sublimities of a spiritual kingdom, and the registry of the successive epochs of that new creation, in which divine wisdom and love are manifested and mirrored forth, as they cannot be in the orbits of lifeless stars, or in the growth of the unconscious earth.

While I attempt, then, as a subject appropriate to the occasion, to set forth the Nature and Worth of the Science of Church History, I would also crave the indulgence of this audience to my seeming exaggerations of an unfamiliar theme, in the belief that its inherent dignity will commend it to their favorable regard.

And I propose to speak in the first place, of the nature or true idea of the science of church history; and, in the second place, to show its worth as a part of theological training especially in our times.

I. The nature of the science of church history. What is, then, church history as a science? What is the true idea of this branch of theological learning?

The different departments of theological study are usually and most appropriately grouped under the four divisions of exegetical, doctrinal, historical and practical theology. The scope of each branch is well defined by the term applied to it. Historical theology embraces all that pertains to the historic progress of the church, under the his torical point of view. Doctrines and polity as well as external facts belong to it, yet not as doctrines and not as polity, but as the history of doctrines and polity, reproducing them with impartiality and critical sagacity in the order in which they have really existed. The church historian ought indeed so to teach, as, by his instructions, to confirm soundness in faith and attachment to ecclesiastical order; he ought to apply to history at all points the test of that word which alone is inspired and authoritative; but in order to do this, his first duty is to present the facts themselves in the order of their occurrence. Then he may judge them in their bearings on the great ends for which the church was instituted. And all the facts in both the external and internal history of the church, its progress and its reverses, its constitution, doctrines and ritual, its theologies and its spiritual life, its effects on nations and the influence of races upon VOL. VIII. No. 30.


itself, its contests with human thought in all the phases of philosophy, its bearings on social, moral and political well-being, its relations to art and culture, all these points fall, in their historical aspects, under the department of historical theology, they constitute the materials of the science of church history.

What is, then, the true idea of this science? We may answer this inquiry by considering these three points: that it is history, that it is church history, and that it is the science of church history.

1. It is, in the first place, history with which we have to do; and the history of the church falls under the conditions and laws, and has the dignity of all history. It is what has been transacted on the theatre of the world in its past centuries through human agencies, made known to us by means of monuments and testimony. It is a body of facts, but specifically of facts about the human race. It is with man that history has to do; we can talk of a history of animals or of nature only by courtesy. It is with men collectively that history has to do, and not as individuals; historical personages are historical because they are the actors in events which affect the general good. The life of an individual is a biography; the life of a community is its history. And such a history is made up of a series of events, an orderly succession, no one of which can be understood except in its connections with the rest. And it is a series of events containing all the great and permanent interests of humanity. Human history in its real character is not an account of kings and of wars; it is the unfolding of the moral, the political, the artistic, the social, and the spiritual progress of the human family. The time will yet come when the names of dynasties and of battles shall not form the titles to its chapters. And the events of history are great, because they are freighted with the weal and woe of States, with the social and moral welfare of mankind. Historical facts have not only an existence in space and time, but they have also a moral life, they are instinct with the vitality of human interests. The whole movements of past centuries, and the whole momentum of centuries yet unborn may meet upon a single plain, a single day, a single will. And of such epochs is the history of our earth made up in its majestic course, as the historic races of the human family have come one after another into the van of that uncounted and ever advancing host which started from its cradle in the East, swarmed through the plains of the Orient, skirted all the outline of the Mediterranean, toiled with slow advance from southern Europe even to its Northern shores, leaped the flaming walls of the old world, and now finds its largest



The Historian revivifies and reproduces the Past. theatre in this our Western continent, whither all nations, tribes and tongues are congregating, bearing with them the elements, from which, it may be, the highest destiny of man is to be wrought out.

The greatness of history consists then, essentially, in these two things that it is a body of facts, and that these facts are a means of leading us to a knowledge of the great realities of human welfare, and of the actual development of the race under the pressure of all its vital interests. Its solidity is in its facts; it is above the sphere of mere speculation, as much as is nature, though it is a proper and the highest object of speculative inquiry. And it is impossible to get at a comprehensive view of man's nature and destiny, without the lights and monuments of the past. The most speculative nation of modern times, in its reäction from the unsatisfying results of its universal and abstract philosophical systems, has thrown itself with ardor into the most elaborate historical investigations. The most imposing pantheistic system which was ever framed, the most compact and consistent, was bereft of its power, chiefly in its attempt to reconstruct the moral and religious history of mankind in conformity with its desolating principles. It fell upon this stone and was broken. It touched the monuments of time and became impotent. Fiction may be great, but history is grand. Philosophy is noble, but history is its test.

It is now the province of the historian to revivify the past. Its successive periods are to live again upon the historic page. "Even what from its antiquity is but little known," says Harris in his Hermes, "may, on that very account, have all the charm of novelty." It will have this, if the historian gives us, not dead facts, but living men, and broad human interests. Of that high art which thus makes the past present and the absent real, Gibbon is the greatest English master, though his vision reached only to the confines of the central kingdom of our earth. The historian is also to reproduce events, so that we may read them better than did the very actors in them; for he who is fighting in the thick of the conflict sees but a small part of the movements of the army, and even the general who directs the host cannot foresee the results of his victory or disaster. But in the results the historian is to read the causes. He is to teach us the events in the light of their principles and laws. These he is to seek out with a patient, a sympathizing, a reverential, and a truly inductive spirit. And his true office is not completed, if he gives us only partial principles and laws, but only as he gives us those which truly explain the greatest results of the greatest events. It is indeed true

that historical causes are so manifold, that nothing is easier than to build up some brilliant and partial theory, and cite facts in its confirmation, but it only requires a more thorough study of history to disclose the deception, just as it only needs an open vision to see that a Grecian temple, or a Gothic cathedral or a phalanstery is not the whole of the landscape, though it may engross the meditations of some rapt enthusiast. He who thus reads history in the light of all its impregnable facts, to get from them its laws, will be led along to see that human motives and interests do not embrace the whole of it, but that it is also the sphere of a divine justice, and the theatre of a divine kingdom.

2. And this leads us to our second point, and that is, that the subject of our science is not only history, but church history, that is, the record of the progress of the kingdom of God, intermingling with and acting upon all the other interests of the human race, and shaping its destiny.

That man looks with limited or with sealed vision upon the annals of the human race, who does not descry, running through all its course, underlying it, and prominent above it, the workings of a spiritual kingdom, whose influence, in one or another form, has defined the metes and bounds of history. To the rest of history it bears the same relation that the granite does to the earth's strata, it is both deepest and highest, it supports by its solidity beneath, and juts out in its sublimity in the loftiest summits.

The character of a people is shaped in part by its geographical position, whether along the lines of rivers, or among the mountains; it is formed in part by the influence of climate, and in the same climate, by diversities of race; political institutions serve to make men submissive or independent; social influences act with keener energy, reaching to the very fireside; more potent still are strictly moral causes, the degree in which right or wrong is practically applied; but that which shapes the whole character, and determines the final destiny of a people, that which has always done this, and from the nature of the case must do this, is its religious faith. For here are the highest objects acting on the deepest and most permanent wants of the human heart. And in the whole history of man we can trace the course of one shaping, o'ermastering and progressive power, before which all others have bowed, and that is the spiritual kingdom of God, having for its object the redemption of man from the ruins of the apostasy.

This kingdom gives us the three ideas in whose light we may best

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