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knowledge and wisdom, where little is to be found that has just claims to either.
Ignorance and false wisdom are, indeed, far from being exclusively characteristic of uncultivated minds. The understanding may be overloaded with more than it can properly digest; or it may be supplied with that sort of instruction which vitiates, instead of improving, the mental faculty. In the former case, the effect is analogous to that of bodily repletion; in the latter, to that of poison introduced into the animal system. In both cases, the intellectual frame is weakened or disordered ; and while it is so circumstanced, every accession to its stores will but add to its difficulties, or increase its dangers.
The history of the learned world, especially of that portion of it which has been occupied in theological controversies, affords but too many instances in verification of these remarks. Learning misapplied, rather than actual want of learning, has engendered most of those strifes which the Apostle represents to be the consequence of “ foolish and unlearned " questions.” The questions themselves, however, do not the less deserve those appellations. When the subject of inquiry is not within the reach of human investigation, nor can be productive of any profitable result, it matters not what degree of learning, of talents, or of ingenuity, may be bestowed upon it. It
may serve to display the skill of the polemic, or to inflate his vanity. But no acquisition will accrue from it to the stock of real knowledge; no advancement will be made in true wisdom. Ignorant we must still remain of that which no human sagacity can discover; and unwise we shall still be justly deemed, in expending our labour on fruitless researches.
This part of our subject has already been considered in a former Discourse. By reference to some remarkable divisions and offences in the Christian Church, originating in questions of theology, neither capable of determination upon any known principles of human science, nor fully revealed to us in holy writ, it was shewn that to questions of this description the Apostle's caution in the text may, in the first place, be especially applied. Another class of questions, to which the same caution was deemed applicable, comes now to be examined, comprising such as relate to points which, whether or not they may be capable of satisfactory decision, are yet in their kind unprofitable and unimportant.
The distinction between these two classes
of questions will, perhaps, be better understood, by reverting to some of the principal doctrines already noticed.
Respecting the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, nothing can properly be said to be unimportant or unprofitable, which really tends to their elucidation, or which may guard them against interpretations irreconcileable with the Scriptures. The Sabellian, Arian, and Macedonian hypotheses, far from elucidating the subject of the Trinity, did but involve it more and more in inextricable perplexities. Opposition, therefore, to these heresies became necessary, not only because the questions agitated were unprofitable and vain, but also because they were unscriptural. The same observation applies also to the opinions of the Ebionites, the Docetæ, and others already mentioned, concerning our Lord's Incarnation. Here was something worse than mere waste of talents ;-human imagination was opposed to Divine authority; and the demolition of every such engine, aimed, as it were, at the overthrow even of revelation itself, became the bounden duty of the guardians of the Christian faith.
But although these greater topics of controversy were not matters to be compromised, or slightly passed over by the advocates of truth; yet it cannot be denied, that out of them arose several minor points of discussion, which might, without injury to the main articles of the faith, have been left to every man's private judgment, could the contending parties have been persuaded to exercise such a mutual forbearance. Even these, however, too often produced fierce and almost interminable disputes.
1. On the doctrine of the Trinity, for example, differences have not unfrequently arisen, originating, not in doubt or disbelief of the doctrine itself, but in attempts at its illustration, or an overweening partiality for some particular exposition of it, supposed to be the only solution of its difficulties in which rational believers could possibly acquiesce. Several of the obscurer heresies mentioned in ecclesiastical history appear to have sprung from this vain desire of their founders to clear up points which it was of little importance to explain, and which might more wisely have been suffered to exercise only their own private speculations. Probably it was owing to this morbid appetite for discussion, that in the voluminous catalogue of heresies handed down to us from the early ages of Christianity, we find so many charged with Tritheism on the one hand, or Sabellianism on the other;
errors which the parties themselves, perhaps, might sincerely have disclaimed, though by their own injudicious and misplaced disquisitions they had laid themselves open to the accusation. An instance, indeed, not very dissimilar to these occurred in the Church of England scarcely more than a century past; when two of our most distinguished divinesd unhappily engaged in this species of warfare; each endeavouring to establish his own peculiar exposition as that by which alone the doctrine could be vindicated against excep
And had not the prudence of the higher authorities of our Church interposed to silence the dispute, the foundation might possibly have been laid for some new schism in the body; and the stigma of heresy might have been fixed even on both parties, while neither had the remotest intention of deviating from the Catholic faith. The same kind of indiscretion is also imputable to almost all who have laboured on what are called Trinitarian analogieso; attempts at physical or metaphy
d Sherlock and South.
e The late Mr. Jones's “ Trinitarian Analogy” is an instance of this; and other Hutchinsonian writers have made similar attempts. Among those of earlier date, Abelard, in the twelfth century, appears to have made a conspicuous figure. See Bernhardus, in Ep. 190. c. 1, as quoted by Harenberg, in his Otia Sacra, p. 282.