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.

John Brown of Wamphray (c. 1610-1679) on justifying faith

John Brown of Wamphray Life of Justification Opened

John Brown of Wamphray (c. 1610-1679) was a prominent Scottish Covenanter and minister in the village of Wamphray, Annandale, who, after the Restoration of King Charles II to the throne (1660) and the Act of Uniformity (1662), was forced by the authorities to flee his native Scotland due to his outspoken opposition to prelacy (i.e. Episcopal polity imposed on the Church of Scotland at the time). He went into exile for the rest of his life in the Netherlands (described by one author as “the asylum of the banished” at the time), where he settled in Rotterdam, industriously wrote in favour of the Covenanter cause, and produced a number of noteworthy theological works. One of Brown’s major works is his The Life of Justification Opened, published posthumously in 1695 with a preface written by the Utrecht professor Melchior Leydekker. In the excerpt below, the spelling and punctuation of which I have slightly edited for clarity, Brown discusses justifying faith:

“[F]aith is the man’s looking to Christ, as the stung Israelite in the wilderness did look unto the brazen serpent (Jn. 3:14, 15) and saying, as it is (Is. 45:24), ‘In the Lord have I righteousness’: and it is the believer’s putting-on of the Lord Jesus, that he may be found in Him, and clothed with His righteousness (Phil. 3:9). It is the man’s receiving of Christ (Jn. 1:12) and receiving of the atonement in Him, and through Him (Rom. 5:11) and of abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness (Rom. 5:17). Therefore it is called a ‘believing on His name’ (Jn. 1:12) and ‘on Him, whom the Father hath sent (Jn. 6:29; 7:35; 17:20; Acts 16:31; 19:25). And because faith laid hold on this righteousness of Christ, therefore is this righteousness called the ‘righteousness of faith’ (Rom. 4:11) and the ‘righteousness which is of faith’ (Rom. 9:30), and that, ‘which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith’ (Phil. 3:9) Now if this be the native work of justifying faith […] to receive Christ, and His righteousness, and consequently to carry the man out of himself, that he may find and partake of that all-sufficient righteousness of Christ, to the end he may with confidence stand before God, and expect pardon and acceptance, it cannot be said without destroying the native work of justifying faith, that faith is that Gospel-righteousness unto which they may lean, and upon the account of which they may expect justification.”

What Brown is noting in this last sentence, as he makes clear numerous times elsewhere in this work, is that believers are not justified on account of their faith, as if that constituted their “Gospel-righteousness”, but on account of the righteousness of Christ imputed to them through faith as a mere instrument. He continues:

“Faith, in this matter, is as the eye of the soul, that seeth not itself, but looketh out to another. Beside, this would overturn the whole nature of the covenant of grace, and is irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Apostle Paul about justification […] Therefore, all who would live the life of justification must betake themselves to Jesus Christ, and lean on Him and to His righteousness: for with the robe of His righteousness must they alone be clothed, and in Christ alone must they be found, and they must think of standing before God, having on His righteousness, that God imputeth to believers, and which they receive by faith, in order to their justification.”

– John Brown of Wamphray (c. 1610-1679), The Life of Justification Opened, p. 58

For previous posts on justifying faith, see these by Henricus Siccama, H.C.G. Moule, William Ames, and Thomas Chalmers.