Sources and Methods - A Summary of the Christian Faith by Henry Eyster Jacobs - Chapter 1

27 minute read

The Christian Faith assumes the historical reality of Jesus Christ, and from this, as a center, derives all knowledge and reaches all conclusions.

A Summary of the Christian Faith was published in 1905. Dr. Jacobs intended this to be a Biblical, orthodox, and insofar as it was possible, a non-sectarian treatment of the most important aspects of Christianity. This book was written for everyday Christians. Each chapter of this book contains rich nuggets to strengthen faith.

There is probably too much in this post for one reading. Bookmarks fall by the wayside. One suggestion is to print it out and review it little by little over the next week. Lord willing, a new chapter from Jacobs will be posted regularly.

(You can find other chapters of Jacobs’ book here.)

Henry Eyster Jacobs - Quick biography

Henry Eyster Jacobs was born in 1844 in Gettysburg, PA. He served as Principal of Thiel College in Pennsylvania, as Professor of Latin and History at Gettysburg College (1870-1880), and Norton Professor of Systematic Theology and also President of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. His books include:

  • The Lutheran Movement in England (1891)
  • History of the Lutheran Church in America (1893)
  • Book of Concord (1894)
  • Martin Luther: Hero of Faith
  • Lutheran Cyclopedia, with John A. W. Haas (1899)
  • The Lutheran Commentary
  • The German Emigration to America, 1709-40 (1899)
  • Works of Martin Luther, translated by Eyster and Spaeth, (1915)
  • Lincoln’s Gettysburg World-Message (1920).

Henry Eyster Jacobs died in Philadelphia in 1932.

Here are Jacob’s words, from his Preface:

The book, however, is not a mere compilation, but the matured expression of the convictions of the author, from the time when, as a child he was introduced to many of the problems treated, to the present.

On certain living questions, widely and hotly agitated, greater space and freedom of discussion was allowed, that a candid testimony might be given on every important topic, for which the book may be consulted. It is not offered as the final word of controversy on any point, but as a starting point and suggestion of earnest thought…

Material pertaining to the History of Doctrine has been introduced only to a very limited extent. The scope of this book is one of results. For the process, whereby those results have been attained, we have another book in prospect, if life and strength should be spared to undertake it.

And so, with the hope that it might be a blessing to you and a strengthening of your faith, here is Chapter 1 - Sources and Methods, from Henry Eyster Jacobs’ A Summary of the Christian Faith (1905):

Chapter 1 - Sources And Methods

1. What is Dogmatic Theology?

The Science of the Christian Faith.

2. Why is it a Science?

Because the Christian Faith, with all its contents is an object of knowledge. It differs from other departments of knowledge in the nature of the facts, with which it has to deal. In common with every other branch of learning, its facts are capable of classification and systematic presentation. Facts so treated constitute a science.

3. Why is this science called “Dogmatics” or “Dogmatic Theology”?

Because it is the systematic arrangement of definitions of doctrine, known as “Dogmas.” It is the science of Dogmas.

4. What is a “dogma”?

Properly a definition of doctrine made by an ecclesiastical organization. In a wider sense, it refers also to statements of principles involved in the consideration of the various articles of the Christian Faith.

5. Is Dogmatic Theology a purely Biblical science?

No. It deals not only with doctrines taught in Holy Scripture, but also with the forms which such doctrines have assumed in their treatment by the Church. In this it is distinguished from Biblical Theology, which, unlike Dogmatic Theology, is restricted to the contents of Holy Scripture.

6. State this distinction more sharply.

Biblical Theology is the science of the faith taught in Holy Scripture. Dogmatic Theology is the science of the definitions of the scriptural faith, made by the Church, or widely prevalent within the Church.

7. With what three elements, therefore, has Dogmatic Theology to deal?


In all Protestant Theology, the material of the dogma comes or professes to come from Holy Scripture.


The definition of the doctrine has been called forth by certain historical circumstances.


The definition inevitably is framed in technical terms, determined by current philosophy. Every dogma contains, therefore, a scriptural, an historical, and a philosophical element.

8. What, therefore, is the order of the chief branches of Theology that are here involved?

Biblical Theology lays the foundation. The History of Dogmas shows the process by which the material has been taken from Scripture, and then, after being discussed on its various sides, has attained a scientific formulation. Dogmatic Theology brings together the results, that are shown to have been attained by the History of Dogmas, and exhibits their scriptural foundations and their relation to each other.

9. What are the Presuppositions of Dogmatic Theology?

(a) The existence of God.

Dogmatic Theology no more undertakes to prove this, than Astronomy undertakes to prove the existence of stars, or Logic the reality of thought. The arguments usually considered in Natural Theology, viz., the Ontological, Cosmological, Teleological, and Moral, have their place, as attempts to analyze and express what exists in man’s mind prior to all argument and even all thought. But God’s existence is not a certainty because of these arguments, any more than a man has self-consciousness solely because of metaphysical processes that seem to him to demonstrate his own existence.

(b) The ability of man to attain to some degree of knowledge of God.

Limited as the capacity of all finite beings is, man’s knowledge is neither uncertain nor indefinite, within the sphere where God has imparted to him the means of knowing.

(c) The Revelation of God in Christ.

The Christian Faith assumes the historical reality of Jesus Christ, and from this, as a center, derives all knowledge and reaches all conclusions. Dogmatic Theology is, therefore, the scientific statement of the truths taught by Jesus Christ, as received by faith and confessed by believers. It knows no revelation supplementary to that given by Christ, and estimates the value of preparatory revelations, such as in Nature, and in a still higher degree in the Old Testament, only as they are recognized and taught by Christ Himself. (Chapter 13, 5.)

(d) The Holy Scriptures as the Inerrant Record of Revelation.

The New Testament is the inerrant record of the revelation of Christ in word and deed, and of the truths and principles proceeding, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, from that revelation. The Old Testament is in like manner an inerrant record, having the. express and often repeated testimony and authority of Christ, of the preparatory and partial revelations made concerning Him before His coming. Heb. 1:1.

(e) The Reception of this Revelation, and its confession by a community of believers.

There must be a Church, in order that there may be dogmas. No individual teacher or isolated believer can frame a dogma. It is a statement of Scriptural truth embodied in the public confession of a number of those professing faith in Christ’s name. “Dogmatics deals not with the individual faith of the dogmatician, but with the common faith of the Christian Church to which he belongs, and which he confesses as his own by belonging to such communion” (Luthardt).

10. Trace the process whereby the truths recorded in Holy Scripture attain scientific statement.

The Holy Scriptures are more than a text-book of doctrine. Each word of God is a seed of life intended to lodge within men’s hearts, and therein to grow. By the presence of the Holy Spirit, a life-principle is conveyed, whereby man is quickened in all his powers and faculties, and all his views of truth and duty are transformed. This new life inevitably expresses itself in confession. Man translates into his own language the thoughts of God, and is ready to give free utterance to the relation of this new life to the world within and around him. As this one life is shared by many whose experience is the same, a common confession results, around which the Christian community, i. e., the Church, centers. This confession may be occasioned by the necessities of the inner life, the attacks or misrepresentations of enemies, or the misunderstandings of other Christians, calling for an accurate and discriminating statement of the faith as it has been received. The formulation of dogmas has been an unavoidable and progressive task of the Church, under the impulse of its divine life, in order to exclude from its teaching various errors. Its aim has been to guard the pure teaching of God’s Word, by giving it a sharper expression, so as to leave no room for the protection of errorists beneath statements that are found to be ambiguous. . Dogmatic Theology deals, therefore, not with the mere letter of Scripture, but with the truth of Scripture, as it has been assimilated into the life, and as this inner life may be known by its external confession. It is the science of the Christian Faith, whether the term faith be taken objectively (fides quae creditur) or subjectively (fides qua creditur). See Chapter Xvii, 4.

11. Is Christian experience, then, a standard of doctrine?

Never. While an important element in the interpretation of doctrines, in so far as it declares the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in applying God’s Word, it must constantly be tested and adjusted by Holy Scripture. The spiritual sense of believing men is not to be depreciated (1 Cor. 2:15, “He that is spiritual judgeth all things”), nevertheless it is always to be recognized by its complete subjection to Holy Scripture (1 John 4:1,2; Gal. 1:8; Acts 17:11). A true and normal faith is one that holds implicitly and exclusively to the revelation of God in Christ contained in the Holy Scriptures. It is a faith that lives in communion with Christ; but Christ in the heart of the believer, and Christ in His Word are always one and the same.

12. By what term is that habit, or state of mind and heart known which results from faith?

Religion, or “the communion of man with God.”

13. Is there, then, no religion or religious life where there is no faith in Christ?

The term is used in a wider and a narrower sense.

In its wider sense, it refers to all the aspirations of man after God, such as those described by Paul to the Athenians (Acts 17:22), and, thus, is in a measure universal. Man is distinguished from other animals chiefly by the religious faculty, or the sense of dependence of God, however vague, indefinite or corrupt that conception of God may be.

But in a narrower sense, it refers to the realization of these ideas or conceptions, after which man has struggled. In the Old Testament, this realization began with the promises concerning Christ; in the New Testament alone, do they reach their consummation.

In its wider sense, it is applied to all foreshadowings of the communion of man with God; as where the existence of a Supreme Being and man’s obligations to serve Him, are acknowledged. In the absolute sense, it is man’s cheerful recognition and joyful service of a Supreme Personality, based upon the consciousness of reconciliation and a community of interests with Him.

14. Is “Religion” confined, then, to the designation of an inner spiritual life?

It is popularly used to designate also the various modes or systems which profess to lead man to communion with God. The communion of man with God is Religion subjectively so called. The statement of the principles underlying this communion is Religion objectively so called. In this sense, we speak of the Christian Religion, in which alone, religion in the subjective sense is fully attained; as well as the Jewish Religion, as, prior to Christ, Christianity in the germ, and the Zoroastrian, Confucian, Brahman, Buddhist and Mohammedan religions, which contain a common truth in their recognition in greater or less degree of a Higher Power, and man’s helplessness by nature, but which distort and corrupt this truth (Rom. 1:20-23 )

Christianity, therefore, is not, properly speaking, merely one religion, and that the best, out of many; that is, a species, co-ordinate with Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, etc., within the same genus; but the one, absolute and pure religion. The other religions show the various ways in which men seek after God. Christianity alone shows the way in which God is found.

15. Upon what does this claim of Christianity as the Absolute Religion rest?

Upon the, fact that it is a supernatural divine revelation. The communion of man with God is possible only by God’s revelation of Himself to man.

16. But has not God revealed Himself to all men?

Yes, as Creator, Lawgiver and Judge; but not as Redeemer, or loving Father in Heaven. (Ps. 8: I, 3; 19:1; Acts 17:26,27; Rom. 1:20; 2:15.)

This universal revelation is known, as the Natural Revelation of God, or revelation according to the Order of Creation.

17. By what is the imperfection of this Natural Knowledge to be explained?

It has become inadequate because of the enfeeblement and corruption of man’s powers by sin (Rom. 7:10-12; Rom. 1:21; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 5:8; Matt. 11:27; J onn 1:5). It is adapted to a condition of man’s nature that no longer exists. The Natural Revelation is like writing that needs the intervention of a lens in order to be legible by one whose sight is failing. Some facts indeed are known, but they are misapprehended and viewed in wrong relations; and the most important are entirely wanting.

18. Of what are the truths contained in the Natural Revelation the foundation?

Of the various natural religions. None of them could have obtained its hold upon men and retained it for ages, if beneath their gross corruptions there had not been elements of truth. But even these few truths are diversely apprehended and constantly modified and misconceived. Thus the first chapter of Romans shows the process of religious deterioration, whereby the conception of God is brought down to the standard of that of corruptible man, and is at last lost in the multiplicity of his manifestations and works, so that “the truth of God is changed into a lie” (Rom. 1:21-25).

19. Is the Natural Revelation then useless?

By no means. It alone keeps man from becoming like the brutes which perish. It constantly reminds him of a higher standard than is attainable under the mere light of Nature. It renders all the prescriptions of merely natural religions unsatisfactory. It cannot answer the inquiries of the heart for certainty, but it impels man ever onward in his search for truth and for God. It prepares the way for the supernatural revelation of God in Christ, by its unwearied assertion of claims which man cannot meet in himself or by the aid of any other religions.

20. Was there no supernatural revelation before Christ?

Supernatural, as distinguished from “Natural Revelation,” or “Revelation according to the Order of Redemption,” as distinguished from “Revelation according to the Order of Creation,” began immediately after man’s fall. Before Christ, it consisted of a series of preparatory and partial revelations in word, deed and history. These were fragmentary and largely figurative, as distinguished from the one, full and complete revelation in Jesus Christ. “God who in many parts and in many ways spake of old to the fathers through the prophets, spake, at the extremity of these days unto us through his Son” (Heb. 1:1, 2). The chief distinguishing characteristic of the earlier revelation, therefore, was its “many parts.” It could be understood only when taken as a whole, and with the end clearly in view upon which all these parts centered.

21. What records were made of these earlier revelations?

The canonical books of the Old Testament are an inerrant record of all these preparatory and partial revelations concerning Christ (John 5:39; Acts 17:11). They are to be constantly read and judged in the light and according to the standard of the New Testament. The New Testament is not to be interpreted by the Old, but the Old is to be interpreted by the New. While historically the New Testament rests upon the foundations of the Old, and the appeal was constantly made to devout Jews in our Lord’s time to accept Jesus as the Christ, because of the Old Testament testimony, with Christians the process is reversed, and with the ampler and plainer and complete testimony of Christ, as recorded in the New Testament in their hands, they accept the Old because attested by the New, and explain its types and shadows and promises and isolated statements, entirely with reference to the end towards which by Divine inspiration they were guided, and of which the New Testament clearly teaches.

22. What principle is to be observed in the determination of the meaning of the New Testament?

That of the organic relation of the various parts of Holy Scripture to one another.

23. What does this imply?

Not only that each passage must be interpreted in the light of the context in which it stands, but that the central and fixed point for the treatment of each doctrine is to be found in those parts of Holy Scripture which explicitly and fully discuss it. To such passages, termed by theologians the sedes doctrinae, or seat of the doctrine, all incidental allusions in other texts are to be subordinated.

24. Illustrate this?

In considering the doctrines concerning sin. grace, justification, the Epistle to the Romans is the starting-point, with its extended and minute arguments. In the same way, the Relation of Law and Gospel, is to be learned from the Epistle to the Romans, the Relation of the New Testament to the Old from the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the doctrine of the Humiliation and Exaltation of Christ from the Epistle to the Philippians. When the meaning of these passages has been gathered, they form the guide to the interpretation of all other parts of Scripture. Obscuriora et pandora explicanda sunt ex clarioribus ac plunbus.

25. Upon what is this principle based?

Upon the fact that there is no article of faith, i. e., no doctrine, knowledge of which is necessary for salvation, that is not set forth somewhere in Holy Scripture in clear and express terms, and that such clear and express statements then become the rule and standard according to which those which are less clear are to be decided.

26. What term has been applied to this principle?

The doctrine of the “Analogy of the Faith.” It is that of the self-consistency or harmony of Scripture, an inevitable deduction from its inerrancy and inspiration.

27. What further caution is needed in the study of the Holy Scriptures?

As the records of a supernatural revelation, even when their language is clearest, truths and facts are declared beyond man’s power to explain.

28. Are Reason and Revelation, therefore, antagonistic?

Not in reality, for as a standard of truth, Reason has normatively to do only with what pertains to the sphere of the Natural, while Revelation has to do with what pertains to the sphere of the Supernatural. They can be no more really opposed to each other than a truth of Geometry can be opposed to one of Chemistry or Music. Rules deduced, therefore, from the observation of physical phenomena, can never be made the standard according to which to judge supernatural truths.

29. What, then, is the first requisite for apprehending the meaning of Holy Scripture?

Faith, or that state of mind which takes God at His word, even when it cannot explain difficulties inherent in the language of Scripture.

30. Has Reason, therefore, no office with respect to articles of faith?

Yes, when it is kept in subordination to faith. Starting with the assumption, that it cannot explain the mysteries of the supernatural from the standpoint of the natural world, sanctified reason becomes an important instrument for comparing spiritual things with spiritual, and, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, reaching conclusions. This has been distinguished by theologians as “the instrumental use of Reason,” as contrasted with “the normative use” with regard to matters of faith.

31. How, then, is the proper relation between Faith and Reason maintained?

Only by the illuminating presence and activity of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14, 15).

32. How is the so-called conflict between Science and Revelation to be explained?

By the unscientific methods of those claiming to be representatives of science. To force the rules pertaining to one branch of knowledge into an entirely diverse department is unscientific. The fallacy has been illustrated by the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus: “When you want to write to a friend, Grammar will tell you what words you should write, but whether you should write or not, Grammar will not tell you. Music will inform you concerning sounds, but whether you should sing just now or play on the lute, Music will not tell.” The consequence of this error, is the disregard, to greater or less degree, of faith as a factor in the apprehension of all religious truth.

“So ignorant, blind and perverted is man’s reason or natural understanding, that when even the most able and learned men on earth read or hear the Gospel of the Son of God, and the promise of eternal salvation, they cannot from their own powers, perceive, apprehend, understand or believe and regard it true, but the more diligence and earnestness they employ, in order to comprehend with their reason these spiritual things, the less they understand and believe, and before they become enlightened or taught of the Holy Ghost, they regard all this as only foolishness or fictions” (Formula of Concord, 553:9).

33. Has the Church no authority to determine what are Articles of Faith?

The Church is only a witness; never a judge of what is truth. It cannot lay down a single article which Scripture has not previously taught. Neither can it disannul or modify what Scripture has determined.

34. Are the Church’s declarations concerning Holy Scripture, the testimony of the Fathers, and the opinions of later theologians to be disregarded?

By no means. Scripture itself exhorts: “Despise not prophesyings” (1 Thess. 5:20). The gifts of God in our fellowmen are bestowed for the edification of the Church, and as such are to be reverently acknowledged and used. Every testimony for the faith is to be prized. Every declaration that is the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in applying Holy Scripture to the minds and lives of men, is to be considered. “Although faith depends not on human authority, but on the Word of God, nevertheless as Scripture wants the weak to be strengthened by those who are stronger, it is of advantage, in every kind of temptations, to have Church testimonies. For as we desire to consult living men who have had experience in spiritual affairs, so also those of old whose writings are approved” (Gerhard).

35. Repeat the confessional statements of the Lutheran Church on the relation of Holy Scripture to these testimonies.

(a) “We believe, teach and confess that the only rule and standard, according to which at once all dogmas and teachers should be esteemed and judged, are nothing else than the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament as it is written.

Ps. 119:105. ‘Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path’: and Gal. 1:8. “Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you let him be accursed.”

“Other writings of ancient or modern teachers, whatever reputation they may have, should not be regarded as of equal authority with the Holy Scriptures, but should altogether be subordinated to them, and should not be received other or further, then as witnesses as to in what manner and at what places, since the time of the apostles, the doctrine of the prophets was preserved.”

(b) ‘The Holy Scriptures alone remain the only just rule and standard, according to which as the only touchstone, all dogmas should and must be discerned and judged, as to whether they be good or evil, right or wrong.

“The other symbols and writings are not … as are the Holy Scriptures, but only a witness and declaration of the faith, as to how at any time the Holy Scriptures have been understood and explained in articles in controversy in the Church of Christ, by those who then lived, and how the opposite dogma was rejected and condemned” Formula of Concord. “Introduction.”).

36. But are the Holy Scriptures sufficiently clear and complete to dispense with supplementary revelations and the testimony of tradition as co-ordinate authorities?

They are called “a lamp and a light.” “a light that shineth in a dark place.” and men are recalled from all professions of special revelations to their sure test. (Is. 8:20). While there is much in Scripture that is obscure and is intended throughout all ages to exercise the faith of believers, it is sufficiently clear and complete to bring salvation to the humbles:. “It is able to make wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15), and makes the man of God “thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:17). It was because of the insecurity of the testimony afforded by tradition that the Holy Scriptures were written (Luke 1:3,4; Phil. 3:1).

37. Is it proper to attach authority to the English, German or Latin Scriptures?

In giving the Holy Scriptures by divine inspiration, God used human language simply as a medium to convey divine thoughts and the statement of divine facts. There was such divine guidance and control of the inspired writers that the result was as perfect a statement of what God meant to communicate as was possible in human words. These words, however, were entirely subordinate to the thought not only of each particular sentence, but of each particular book, and of Scripture as a whole. As the Word of God, however, was for people of all languages, these thoughts are translatable into other tongues. It is the same divine, life-giving truth, whether it be stated in English or German, Greek or Hebrew. As, however, the original writers were inspired, while the translators were not, the translations are subject to constant revision according to the original language and text in which each book was written. As there are no two words of the same language that are precise equivalents, so a word loses some associations and shades of meaning and gains others by translation. Where a controversy or the decision of critical points turns upon a single word or sentence, a reference to the original will be needed in order to fully assure one of its meaning. But as to the general tenor and argument of Holy Scripture, there are very few who do not gain it, and that most properly, entirely from translations. The material remains the same, even though the form is changed.

38. Should we not attach ultimate authority only to the original autographs?

These autographs have probably long since perished. We know of no direct transcript from them. But while the oldest manuscripts of the New Testament show over 150,000 variations in the text, there are very few that make any important change in sense, and of these not one which in any affects or modifies any article of the Christian Faith.

39. Which is the more important aid to the knowledge of Scripture, acquaintance with the original languages, or Christian experience?

Undoubtedly the latter, first in one’s own life, and then in the lives of others; but to be a competent and well-furnished teacher of the Christian religion, such as every pastor is called to be, one should have both. No one can understand the Psalms of David unless he has passed through spiritual struggles such as David experienced. No one can appreciate the Epistles of Paul, unless, with Paul, he knows the bitterness of sin, and the need of grace, and, like the Apostle, has failed in his efforts to be justified by the Law. It was the greater depth of Augustine’s religious experience that made him the best interpreter of Paul in the Ancient Church, notwithstanding his limited knowledge of the original languages of both Old and New Testament. It was the thought of Holy Scripture as expressed in the Latin translation that guided Luther’s religious experience through its critical stages. His knowledge of Greek was very limited until after the Reformation had begun, and he had the assistance of Melanchthon. His knowledge of Hebrew was not independent of specialists, whom he called in as advisers in his translation of the Old Testament. Augustine was a greater theologian than Origen or Jerome; Luther than Reuchlin or Erasmus, or even Melanchthon.

40. What rule has Luther formulated on this subject?

Haec tria theologum faciunt: O ratio, Meditaiio, Temptatio. “These three things make a theologian: Prayer, Meditation, Trial.”

(a) Prayer refers not simply to an act, but to the spirit or temper in which all study should be begun, continued and ended.

I Thess. 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” It implies the constant sense of dependence upon the illuminating agency of the Holy Spirit, and the subjection of intellect and will to that of God. It means the laying aside of all prejudice, party spirit, and arbitrary judgments, the absence of all pride of opinion or learning, and the search for knowledge only to the end that God may thereby be glorified.

(b) Meditation refers to the contemplative habit with respect to the truths of revelation recorded in Holy Scripture.

This finds its material first of all in the Scriptures themselves. They are to be read reverently, attentively, accurately, constantly, obediently, and with more regard to practical than to theoretical ends. Attention is to be given to their scope and purpose, rather than to their details; to their arguments, than to detached statements. An excessive occupation with details, is as if a surveyor who is commissioned to map out a district of country, forgets himself in the close examination of the leaves of a forest, or of the chemical constituents of the soil, and returns without having accomplished his task. The minutest details are important when judged in their relation to the whole. But the bearing of Scripture as a whole, and of each book, and each section of each book upon the whole must be appreciated, in order that each verse and each word be understood aright. Meditation is occupied not simply with the words and text and arguments of Scripture, but also with the facts and truths comprised in its study as a whole, and in their application in the lives of the Church and of individuals. We are not only to begin with Holy Scripture, and to go forth from this center to the application of its doctrines to human life, but all the occurrences of our daily lives should be interpreted in the light of Scripture. The history of the world is a treasury of material from which ever fresh illustrations of Scriptural doctrines may be drawn. While special hours and seasons are favorable for special exercises of this kind, the meditation here meant is constant. It is not confined to devotional hours, or to any particular efforts, but is inseparable from all mental activity of the true theologian (Ps. 1:2).

(c) Trial or Practice.

For theology is directed to a practical end. The revelation of God in Christ has been made in order to re-establish the communion of God with man. Only he in whom this end of revelation has been reached, and who realizes it in his own experience, actually knows what it is (John 7:17; Rev. 2:17). Such trial or practice is continuous and progressive. Man’s knowledge of God in Christ is deepened and extended by the fruits of particular words and promises of God in his individual life, and by his close observation of similar results in the lives of others. What is otherwise general, is thus made special and individual. What is otherwise abstract, is thus made concrete. What is otherwise distant is brought home to the heart and deeply impressed there. It is in conflict with the trials and temptations of life, that God’s grace is magnified (2 Cor. 12:9). It is in the school of affliction that the riches of God’s revelation are more fully prized.