Wendelin's "Christian Theology": Preface to the Reader

Grace and Peace to the benevolent Reader.

Marvel not, O benevolent Reader, that after so many volumes, syntagmas, systems, compendia, synopses, marrows, and common places, my own efforts also in this class of Theological writing proceed into the light for the Church. In the edifying and refining of the temple of the Lord, laudable is the effort of those that are less able than others, and do not prevail to bring to fruition in that work what they desire or want. That is, in great thing it is enough to have willed something.[1] Nevertheless, let no one think that I rashly, and without weighty reasons, have applied my hand to the work. I have been pressed by the rationale of my office, that I should deliver an ἀνακεφαλαίωσιν/summary of heavenly doctrine, to the young and those older, and also apply myself to it with the utmost zeal, that I might accommodate myself to the abilities of Novices, and traverse the immense ocean of Scripture and Theology by the shortest possible route; yet not in that haste wherewith dogs drink from the Nile,[2] but of which those make use, who in an abridgement of the way and labors study to attain what others are able to acquire in lengthy circuits of the way, and who, recoiling from that trite saying, Jack of all trades and master of none, want the whole to be presented to them in a compendium without loss. Consequently, I have consulted all the most skilled artisans, so that either out of all I might chose one, who might satisfy my desire and that of my students: or I myself might glean from the many, and reduce to order what things I judge to be more suited to the capacity of my students and closer to my desire.

I do not take it upon myself to judge the labors of those more learned, whoever has fixed for himself that goal, in the attaining of which he occupied the vigor of his genius: I have seen great volumes, crammed with Herculean labors, and deposited in the treasury of the Church, as it were, so that, as to a most well-equipped armory, access might be opened, even to the athletes trained in the Theological gymnasium: But, that those things were not written for beginners, I readily understood; therefore, I commended the vast acres, but I thought to myself that but a little is to be cultivated:[3] I saw them, as it were, contracted into a fist, and arranged in ingenious ways, which were then unpacked at great length by others, sometimes in a manner not so excellent; of which, as I commend the learning and acumen, so I have observed at first glance a diversity of goals. For, some were conversant in this contemplation and care, so that they might depict the bare method of Theology: others, so that they might point out briefly and plainly the motions of the greatest matters, and the judgments of an acute mind: others, so that they might publish to the common people the outlines, as it were, of the Theological corpus in due order, and, what they would present in great volumes, teach in a compendium: others,so that they might add with a more sparing hand demonstrations for precepts, weighed according to the rigors of art, with the sophisms of adversaries at the same time dismissed: others, so that, after the precepts, in both directions they might discourse, either more prolixly, or more concisely, in building up the truth, and in destroying falsehood, and that in a manner suited to beginners. The latter have approached most nearly to my desire. For so I think: a student of theology, who wishes at length to live in the public sphere, and to render a reason for his faith, and to vindicate it from the insults of enemies,[4] is not well able to be without precepts, and the illustrations and demonstrations of those precepts, and refutations of contrary sophisms. Those that conjoined all these in perspicuous and inexpensive compendia, which neither grow above the measure of compendia, nor fall short of it by excessive brevity, to me always appeared most worthy of students of holy Theology.

Nevertheless, three things in the many compendious Theological systems of this sort, both formerly, while I was only learning, and after many years, when I began to teach, I have hitherto desired: frugality in the handling of controversies: paucity of arguments on either side: disregard of the Logical art in setting forth and resolving the sophisms of τῶν ἀντιδίκων, opposers: which, indeed, would have been exceedingly easy for men in every respect the most learned to furnish, if either the want of leisure had permitted, or the method of instruction of students often private had required, or, finally, the straitness of the time wherein the instruction had been circumscribed had allowed.

Wherefore, by no means unaware of the hindrances, which were formerly cast in my way, and which even now I see to be cast before many, I judged it to be for the aid of my struggling students: and so from the treasures of a great many I gathered what things seemed to be able to serve my desire as teacher, and to fulfill the longings of my students. Whence, first, in a few and perspicuous assertions or theses, I have encompassed the precepts of all Theology, in such a way that I have set forth the individual themes from their native seats and places of discovery, with terms of art everywhere employed; so that the students of Theology might be exercised in uninterrupted Logical praxis, and at the same time might be assisted in the reinforcement of memory not at all to be despised. Then, to the precepts I subjoin commentaries, which confirm the truth comprehended in the precepts, by the choicest arguments, and those taken, either from the express testimonies of Scripture, or from the analogy of faith, and the nature of the matters discussed, frequently in great number; and weaken and enervate the sophisms opposed to the truth. In which I have especially attended to this, that the principal arguments of adversaries, as many as this day declare war upon Orthodox Churches, as far as this is able to be done in a compendium of words, might be set forth in syllogistic forms, and refuted according to the rules of art. For Sophists are not able more readily and easily to be chased out of their retreats, than if they, stripped of the circuitous wraps of words, feel the javelins of the divine word, wielded by a Logical hand. Thus only those imbued with the Logical art understand what follows, what does not follow: thus are they speedily prepared for the more closely argued disputes, and learn to extricate themselves and others from the snares of the Sophists. I privately ventured this Theological instruction, in one and another youth of fourteen years: I saw how much mediocrity of talents, the industry of a teacher, and the dexterity of arrangement, could do. For, by this compendium of Christian Theology, which I designed only for common uses, within the space of a year, I obtained, that adolescents not only comprehended the precepts of universal Theology completely, and delivered them; but also from a ready memory they set forth the more eminent sayings of Sacred Scripture, employed for the confirmation of precepts, and afterwards, upon request, the principal arguments, confirming the truth, through all the controversies that are this day agitated in the Church between us and various adversaries; and, finally, they theologically and logically resolved the more potent sophisms. At the same time, I do not deny that from that time this little work, while it was already to be fixed for the press, grew somewhat by addition both of arguments and of some controversies, which nevertheless are not cardinal. I would not want the reader to be ignorant of this, that I occupied my students in this Theological exercise not through intervals of certain days, but on individual days devoted three or four hours to it, and so hastened over this whole course with them within the space of fifteen weeks: what was left of the year, I gave to repetition, which also itself was daily, the whole conducted to the end four times within nine months. Thus, what I desired, and dared to hope for along the way, I have obtained by the grace of God.

I add this also, that for my students acquaintance with Logic was of no small help, which, not bare and theoretical only, but also practical, with me providing guidance, they brought to bear upon this exercise, so that it did not now have to be a labor for me, or for them, concerning the Logical terms, or the manner of constructing and refuting a syllogism. For, if this help had been wanting, in so great a number of Logical terms, with which this little work is crammed, and the Logical manner of discourse, progress would have been difficult and slow, and, I add, the exertions of memory far greater. And, so that I might cloth the youths with Hercules’ buskins, as it were, before this Theological exercise I have also set the study of the Greek and Hebrew languages, which with a certain, singular help of memory, almost laughable in appearance, assumed those advancements, so that within a briefer space of time than you might think, by the fourteenth year of age, they might be able to read and understand the books of both Testaments, the Hebrew and the Greek, without a translator.

Therefore, if it be pleasing to anyone, perhaps with me as an example, to hazard this Theological instruction, I urge him to select for himself student not rude in Logic: concerning language I prescribe nothing. At this point, let the judgment of the preceptor be applied. For, in this compendium are some things that were recently added, some things that appear to exceed the captivity of the young. Therefore, let him be aware that these were not written or added for the young, but for the more mature, who aspire to the ministries of the Church, or stretch toward the more sublime things in this field of study. For it was my intention in this labor to be useful, not to childhood and adolescence only, but also to young adulthood. Finally, there are yet two things, concerning which, benevolent reader, it appears to me you must be advised.

First: The Methods of preceptors, which are found in this little work, for the most part are not mine, but belong to that most illustrious Theologian, Bartholomeus Pitiscus, a man incomparable, born to teach with clarity: Of whose labors in this part I have preferred to make use, rather than to commend to the young my own new ones: there should not be as many diverse methods of Theology, as there are heads of Theologians. And it was pleasing to me to embrace, not only the method of that man, but also to retain his definitions, and almost all of his divisions, conceived in his very words, inasmuch as I have also judged them to be perspicuous, and am not unaware that they are familiar to many. At the same time, I have also here made use of my own judgment, in the arrangements, and many definitions and divisions, of the individual topics; as the advantage of the students appeared to require. Upon the preparation of commentaries all the most excellent doctors of our Churches have bestowed abundant labor, Calvin, Beza, Martyr,[5] Zanchi,[6] Ursinus,[7] Perkins,[8] Pareus, Pitiscus, Scultetus, Whitaker,[9] Sutcliffe,[10] Moulin,[11] Chamier,[12] Tilenus,[13] Junius,[14] Sibrandus,[15] Bucanus,[16] Ames,[17] and others, whom it would take a long time to enumerate: with whom I think it safer to speak and to think, than to study things novel and singular.

Second: In reviewing the opinions of Lutheran and Roman Catholic adversaries, and in refuting their arguments, I have everywhere kept myself within the bounds of modesty and humanity, except that I have cast back the mockery, worthy of suppression, to one and another excessively brazen and wild reviler, perhaps once and again, for I do not rightly remember. Moreover, I have been very sparing in expressing the names of adversaries; I have wounded no person, the reputation or learning of none: I have ever been averse to the coarse and jeering intemperance of certain adversaries, and have judged it altogether unworthy of the learned, much less Theologians. If anyone treats me otherwise, he will not have me as an adversary. For who would strive with a reviler?

These are the things that I wished you to know, benevolent reader, who with me will entreat God with suppliant prayers, that He might at least heal Christ’s beloved, hitherto grievously wounded, O grief! by the thorns of persecution and heresy, and restrain the troublers of political and Ecclesiastical peace, for the glory of His most holy name, and our salvation. Amen.

Farewell, Benevolent Reader.

[1] Propertius’ Elegies, book II, elegy X, line 6. [2] From Æsop’s Fable of the Dog and the Crocodile. Dogs hurriedly drink from the Nile, to avoid encountering Crocodiles. [3] Virgil’s Georgics, book II, lines 412, 413. [4] 1 Peter 3:15. [5] Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562) began his career as an Augustinian monk, preacher, and lecturer in Italy. Through personal study of the Scripture and the Reformers, he came to embrace the Protestant doctrines. He settled in England and served as Professor of Divinity at Oxford and as Canon of Christ Church. Unhappily, he was forced to flee from England as well, when Mary Tudor took the throne. He settled in Zurich and became Professor of Divinity there. [6] Girolamo Zanchi (1516-1590) was an Italian Reformed theologian. At the age of fifteen, he entered the monastery of the Augustinian Order of Regular Canons. He came under the personal influence of Peter Martyr Vermigli; and the writings of the Reformers, especially Calvin, had a profound impact upon his thinking. Zanchi served as Professor of Old Testament at Strassburg (1553-1563), and Professor of Theology at Heidelberg (1568-1577). [7] Zacharias Ursinus (1534-1583) was a German Reformed theologian. He was a leader of the Reformation in the Palatinate, and served at the University of Heidelberg. He was involved in the composition of the Heidelberg Catechism, and wrote a commentary upon it. [8] William Perkins (1558-1602) was a Calvinist divine of rare ability, and a leader of the English Puritan movement. His writings were influential both in England and on the continent. [9] William Whitaker (1548-1595) was a Reformed theologian of the Church of England (albeit with strong leanings toward Puritanism). He served as Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge (1580-1595). His Disputatio de Sacra Scripture is one of the great defenses of the Protestant and Reformed view of the authority of Scripture, directed primarily against Robert Bellarmine and Thomas Stapleton. [10] Matthew Sutcliffe (c. 1550-1629) was an Anglican churchman, theologian, and controversialist (primarily against Arminianism and Roman Catholicism). [11] Pierre du Moulin (1568-1658) was a Huguenot pastor and theologian. He served as Professor of Theology at Sedan (1621-1658). [12] Daniel Chamier (1565-1621) was a Huguenot theologian. He studied at the University of Orange and at Geneva under Theodore Beza. After his ordination, he was installed as pastor at Montélimar. In 1607, he established an academy at Montpellier, and served there for a time as professor, concluding his career as Professor of Theology at Montauban (1612). [13] Daniel Tilenus (1563-1633) was a Protestant theologian of the Academy of Sedan. Although initially a Calvinist, he embraced the Arminian teaching, and was embroiled in controversy the rest of his life. [14] Franciscus Junius (1545-1602) was a French theologian and pastor. He studied theology in Geneva under John Calvin and Theodore Beza. Together with Emmanuel Tremellius, he produced a major Latin translation of the Scriptures. He concluded his career as a Professor of Theology at Leiden, at which time he published De vera theologia and Theses theologicæ. [15] Sibrandus Lubbertus (c. 1556-1625) was a Dutch Reformed Theologian. He served as Professor of Theology at Franeker (1585-1625), and was a prominent participant in the Synod of Dort. [16] Gulielmus Bucanus (died 1603) was a Swiss-French Reformed theologian and past. His Institutiones theologicæ is one of the early presentations of the Reformed system. [17] William Ames (1576-1633) was taught by William Perkins and Paul Bayne. Because of his strict Puritan views, he departed from England for Holland. At the Synod of Dort, Ames served as adviser to Johannes Bogerman, the synod’s president. Later, he was appointed as a professor at Franeker (1622). His Medulla Theologiæ was heavily influential throughout the Reformed world.

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