Melchior Leydekker (1642-1721): 6 marks by which true theology may be distinguished from false theology

Melchior Leydekker

 

According to Melchior Leydekker (1642-1721), in his Synopsis Theologiae Christianae (Chapter 1, p. 13), true theology bears six marks by which it may be distinguished from false theology. Of course, many others could be added to this brief list, but, generally speaking, these are helpful to distinguish true from false theology. It is a mark of true theology when:

  1. It gives the greatest glory to God (Rom 11:26; 1 Cor. 1:30-31).

  2. It draws every holy and blessed good thing out of God as its source (1 Cor. 4:7; Eph. 2:8, 10).

  3. It expounds the true reason of reconciliation with God through the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:19-24; 1 Cor. 2:2).

  4. It humbles sinful man, convicts him of his sin and misery, and compels him to the grace of God and the righteousness of Christ (Phil. 3:9-10).

  5. It demonstrates the true reasons for sincere piety, filial obedience, and genuine gratitude (Rom. 12:1; Ps. 2:11; Tit. 2:11).

  6. It consoles those whose consciences are terrified by the divine law and whose souls are poor in spirit, through Christ the Mediator and the promises of the Gospel (Is. 40:1; 61:1-2; Matt. 5:3; Lk. 2:24).

Melchior Leydekker (1642-1721) on the means by which to pursue theology

Melchior Leydekker

 

In chapter 1 of his Synopsis Theologiae Christianae, Melchior Leydekker (1642-1721) briefly comments on the means which one should in the pursuit of theology. He lists five (p. 11):

  1. The pious and painstaking reading, meditation, and comparison of Holy Scripture [in the sense of interpreting Scripture by Scripture] (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 3:15).

  2. Faithful and effective prayer (Js. 1:5; Ps. 119:18).

  3. Humble reverence and pious practice toward God (Ps. 111:10; Jn. 5:42, 44; 7:17).

  4. The legitimate use of the writings of ecclesiastics.

  5. The study of the oriental languages, true and solid philosophy, history, etc.

Although he doesn’t elaborate, it seems natural to me that by “the writings of ecclesiastics” he would not only include official church documents such as creeds, confessions, and synodical decrees, but also the books which have been deposited in the church by individual theologians throughout its history. By “oriental” languages, no doubt, Leydekker has in mind the biblical languages (including Greek, of course), not only those which we would refer to as “oriental,” such as Hebrew, Aramaic, etc.

Just a few comments on the first four of these points.

Firstly, as Leydekker points out a few pages before, the external principle (principium externum) of all our theology is Holy Scripture, and the internal principle (principium internum) is the grace of the Holy Spirit, “internally teaching, instructing, and certifying the divinity and true sense of Holy Scripture.”  Hence the preeminence he gives to Scripture here.

Secondly, regarding prayer, notice his citation of James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Students of theology should not depend on their unaided reason, but should constantly look to God in prayer to enlighten their minds as they study.

Thirdly, theology is not merely an intellectual (i.e. theoretical) exercise. Reformed Orthodox theologians emphasised the practical nature of theology, and Leydekker is no exception. He says a few pages earlier that “the whole of theology is practical, inasmuch as it refers, directs, and leads every divine truth perceived by the intellect to practice.” After all, the very name of this blog, taken from Petrus van Mastricht, points to this: theology is the doctrine of living unto God through Christ; that is, doctrine (theoretica) is a means to an end, namely living (practica) unto God through Christ.

Finally, regarding the legitimate use of tradition (i.e. reading the ecclesiastics), see these posts from Richard A. Muller and Carl Trueman.

Bénédict Pictet (1655-1724) on the unity, holiness, and catholicity of the Church

Benedict Pictet

 

The Swiss Reformed theologian Bénédict Pictet (1655-1724) discusses the unity, holiness, and catholicity of the Church in his Theologia Christiana, Book XIII, Chapter III. Below is my own translation:

1. Among the attributes of the Church, the first is its unity. For since it is a sacred society comprehending all the elect, it is necessary to have some  unity by which all those elect may be connected with one another; and this unity consists in those bonds which unite the members with one another.

2. Now as the Church may be considered in reference to either its external or internal state, so the bonds are of two kinds: some are internal, and others external; additionally, some bonds are essential, and others accidental.

3. The internal bonds are: (1) the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3; 1 Cor. 12:13). The Spirit is the soul of the Church; by this unity of the Spirit two [or more] societies, which are animated by this same Spirit, constitute one body, even though they may be entirely unknown to one another. Thus we constitute the true body together with the churches in distant parts of the world. (2) The unity of faith (Eph. 4:4), that is, one doctrine of salvation set forth in the Gospel, which is embraced by faith. (3) The unity of love [charitatis], which follows the unity of faith, and by which the faithful who are united to Christ by faith should be gathered among themselves in love, so that the unity of the Spirit may be kept by the bonds of peace (Eph. 4:3), wherefore love is called the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14). (4) The unity of hope (Eph. 4:4); that is, of the thing hoped for and of the heavenly inheritance to which we are all equally called.

4. The external bonds are: (1) the unity of sacraments, as the unity of baptism (Eph. 4:4); and (2) the unity of ministries.

5. These are essential bonds, but there are others which are accidental, which are: (1) agreement in all dogmas; (2) unity of the form of [ecclesiastical] government; (3) unity of the same [ecclesiastical] laws; and (4) unity of the same [ecclesiastical] discipline.

6. Schism is the rupture of the bonds which constitute the unity of the Church, but schism is to be distinguished in a twofold manner: as either universal schism, by which the general truths which constitute the foundation of Christianity are renounced, or as particular schism, by which [some] truths are renounced which are of great moment, but not those general truths [which constitute the foundation of Christianity].

7. Every separation is not schism, although every schism is separation; still, every unjust separation is schism. [Note: For more on schism, see these posts by Johannes Wollebius, Heinrich von Diest, Johann Heinrich Alsted, Pierre Jurieu, and Matthew Poole]

8. The Church is called holy, (1) because God has separated it from the world to be a peculiar people (Tit. 2:14); (2) because it devotes itself to holiness, not the shadowy kind of holiness as was the holiness of the Jewish nation; and (3) because it is purified and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. It may also be called holy with respect to the doctrine which it teaches, in that the purity of its dogmas and the holiness of its precepts surpass whatever is read in legislators, hierophants, and philosophers, laudable as these may be.

9. It is called catholic, not only because of its orthodoxy, in which sense the Fathers employed the term catholic […], but (1) because it is dispersed throughout the whole world and is not affixed to a certain place, in contrast to the Old Testament Church which was confined within the narrow limits of Judea; (2) because it is read that in it there is no distinction of the race, order, or status of men, for there is no difference between Jew and Greek (Rom. 10:12; Acts 10:35); and (3) because it is bound to endure through all ages unto the consummation of the world.