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§ 39. Preliminary Remarks.

BEFORE passing on to the consideration of the subject next in order, we preface the remark, that a number of dogmatic topics, belonging in this connection, were not further developed until by the later Dogmaticians, and were by them for the first time assigned a special place in the system; these are the topics of Vocation, Illumination, Conversion and Regeneration, Mystical Union and Renovation, which all the earlier Dogmaticians mention only occasionally, and usually in the section concerning Free Will, but have not more fully elaborated. Not until the time of CAL. did the Dogmaticians begin to arrange these topics together; by so doing they seek to collect, under one general topic, all that is to be said concerning what God, or more accurately, the Holy Ghost, does, in order to induce fallen man to accept of salvation through Christ, and what takes place in order to bring about the designed change in man. From the time of QUEN. this was all embraced under the head, The Grace of the Holy Spirit in the Application of Redemption. [1] It cannot be denied that thereby an advance was made in the systematic development of Dogmatics; and, as the earlier Dogmaticians did so little towards giving definite shape to the conceptions here in question, we find ourselves limited to the later Dogmaticians for our statements in illustration of this subject. Yet the introduction 408of an independent development of these conceptions led to an arrangement of the entire doctrine which we cannot call a happy one. After the above mentioned topics, to which that of justification is attached, have been treated under the head of “The Grace of the Holy Spirit in the Application of Redemption,” they discuss faith and good works (HOLL. adding, besides, that of penitence), but only after the doctrines concerning the Divine Word and the Sacraments; and they distinguish these [faith and good works] as the means of salvation on the part of man, from the Word and the Sacraments as the means of salvation on the part of God. [2] According to this arrangement, we meet with especially this difficulty, that the full discussion of the doctrine of faith is delayed so long. If we were not, indeed, justified in departing from this arrangement for this reason alone (since our task is simply historical fidelity, and we have no other interest to serve), yet from another quarter a reason arises that does justify us in so departing. For, according to the arrangement introduced by the later Dogmaticians, the articles concerning Justification and Faith, which had been so closely connected together at the time of the Reformation, and by the earlier Dogmaticians, are too widely separated; as, upon the whole, the topics formerly placed in the foreground here find (though it be only in the arrangement) a less favorable place. And, as we regard ourselves called upon to pay equal attention to the earlier and to the later Dogmaticians, we think we are compelled to deviate from the arrangement employed by the later Dogmaticians, if for no other reason, simply to do equal justice to both classes. For this reason, therefore, and not with the view of originating a more excellent dogmatic arrangement (for that is not our mission), we adopt the plan of treating first of Faith and Justification (both of which may be comprehended under the topic of, “The Grace of the Holy Spirit in the Application of Redemption,” since both are effected only through the power of the Holy Spirit), and after that, of Vocation, Illumination, Conversion and Regeneration, Mystical Union and Renovation; so that we may be regarded as treating first of the topics with which the earliest Dogmaticians commenced their discussion of this general subject, and then 409proceeding to treat of the topics more fully elaborated by the later Dogmaticians.

[1] QUEN. (III, 461) defends the arrangement thus: “The Triune God is very desirous of our salvation, and all the three persons of the Godhead are actively engaged in securing our eternal salvation. God the Father appointed everlasting happiness and the peace of heaven for us, of His own most gracious will and in His eternal counsel; Christ, the Son of man and of God, purchased for us the appointed salvation by His blood-bought redemption, and the Holy Spirit offers and applies the purchased salvation and spiritual blessings through the Word and Sacraments. As we have hitherto considered the grace of the Father’s commiseration and love, and the grace of the fraternal redemption, it remains for us to treat of the applying grace of the Spirit, which is completed in several distinct acts.” (HOLL. (791): “The applying grace of the Holy Spirit is the source of those divine acts by which the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God and the Sacraments, dispenses, offers to us, bestows and seals the spiritual and eternal favors designed for man by the great mercy of God the Father, and procured by the fraternal redemption of Jesus Christ.”)

[2] This arrangement is employed by nearly all the later Dogmaticians, some of them slightly changing the order of the topics. BR. alone considers faith and works separately from the means of salvation. His plan is this: after the Offices of Christ, he introduces Faith in Christ, Regeneration and Conversion, Justification, Renovation, and Good Works. HOLL. subjoins to the articles concerning calling, illuminating, converting, regenerating, justifying, indwelling and renewing grace, the following, viz., preserving grace (HOLL. (963): “Preservation is that act of grace by which the Holy Spirit, dwelling in justified and renewed men, defends them by supernatural strength against the temptations of the devil, the world, and the flesh, which solicit to sin and apostasy from God, and sustains and increases their faith and holiness, that they may not fall from grace, but persevere in it and be eternally saved;”) and glorifying grace (HOLL. (790): “Glorification is the act of grace by which God transfers those who are justified, and who remain faithful until death, from the kingdom of grace to the kingdom of glory, that they may obtain eternal happiness and praise God eternally.”)

The earlier Dogmaticians treat only of Justification, Faith, Good Works, Repentance, and Confession, without attempting a systematic arrangement, and in the free form of unconnected topics, as has been done by Melanchthon.

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