The Oberlin Evangelist
July 6, 1859
Dr. Redford on Prest. Finney's Theology.
In our last we noticed some late strictures of Dr. Campbell and others on some of Mr. Finney's views. We now republish the Preface to the English Edition of Mr. Finney's Theology, by Dr. George Redford, an eminent English Theologian.
The lectures of the Rev. PROFESSOR FINNEY, which are here given to the British public, were first delivered to the class of theological students at the Oberlin College, America, and subsequently published there. They were unknown in this country, except to a few of the Author's personal friends, until his arrival in England, about two years since. His name, however, was well known, and several of his works had been extensively read.
The Editor having had the pleasure and honor of forming a personal acquaintance with the Author soon after his arrival in this country, did not long remain ignorant of his Theological Lectures. After the first hasty perusal of them, he ventured strongly to recommend their publication, both for the sake of making the British churches better acquainted with the Author's doctrinal views, and also on account of the direct benefit which students, and other inquirers into the theory of gospel doctrines, would be likely to derive from a work so argumentative, and so unlike all the works on systematic and dogmatic theology known to the English schools. After due consultation and deliberation, the Author pressed upon the Editor the work of revision, and placed the Lectures in his hands, with the request that he would read them carefully, and suggest such alterations as he might deem desirable to adapt the work to the English reader; and then submit the whole to the Author's adoption or rejection.
This task the Editor undertook, and has performed in the best manner his time and ability would allow. The Author has carefully examined every part of his work again, and made such corrections and alterations as to him seemed needful. The Editor has merely performed the part of a friend, in suggesting such improvements as might make the Author's meaning better understood; but without interfering with that meaning, and without intending to give it an unqualified approbation. In fact, the Lectures have been to a great extent re-written by the Author, and in this Edition proceed as strictly from his own pen, as in the American edition.
There is another important circumstance with which the reader should be made acquainted, which will enhance the value of this edition, and render it highly preferable to the American; it is this: on the publication of these Lectures they attracted the attention of many able theologians in America, and were severely attacked by the periodical press. The Author replied at considerable length to the most learned and distinguished of his critics, fairly and fully meeting every objection that has been urged against his views. The present edition incorporates the substance of these objections with the replies of the Author.
The Editor, however, would not have ventured to recommend the publication of the Lectures in this country, if he had not deemed them as a whole, eminently deserving the attention and examination of British theologians. When they first came into his hands, they struck him as so pleasingly unlike all the other systems of dogmatic theology and moral philosophy it had ever been his lot to peruse, so thorough in their grappling with difficulties, and often so successful in the solution of them; so skilfully adjusted to modern metaphysical speculations, and so comprehensive of what is valuable in them; so manifestly the production of a masculine intellect and independent thinker, that he was not only pleased with the air of freshness and originality thrown over old themes of dry and elaborate discussion, but greatly benefited and instructed by some of the Author's views of important moral and theological questions. It may not be the same with all the Author's English readers; but assuredly few will rise from the perusal of the whole work without confessing that, at least, they have seen some points in a new and impressive light, have been constrained to think more closely of the opinions they hold, and in other respects have been benefited by the perusal.
As a contribution to theological science, in an age when vague speculation and philosophical theories are bewildering many among all denominations of Christians, this work will be considered by all competent judges to be both valuable and seasonable. Upon several important and difficult subjects the Author has thrown a clear and valuable light which will guide many a student through perplexities and difficulties which he had long sought unsuccessfully to explain. The Editor frankly confesses, that when a student he would gladly have bartered half the books in his library to have gained a single perusal of these Lectures; and he cannot refrain from expressing the belief, that no young student of theology will ever regret the purchase or perusal of Mr. Finney's Lectures.
One recommendation he begs respectfully to offer to all readers whether old or young; it is this: suspend your judgment of the Author and his theology until you have gone completely through his work. On many subjects, at the outset of the discussion, startling propositions may be found which will clash with your settled opinions; but if you will calmly and patiently await the Author's explanation, and observe how he qualifies some strong or novel assertions, you will most probably find in the issue, that you have less reason than you supposed to object to his statements.
In many respects Mr. Finney's theological and moral system will be found to differ both from the Calvinistic and Arminian. In fact, it is a system of his own, if not in its separate portions, yet in its construction; and as a whole is at least unique and compact; a system which the Author has wrought out for himself, with little other aid than what he has derived from the fount itself of heavenly truth, and his own clear and strong perception of the immutable moral principles and laws by which the glorious Author of the universe governs all his intellectual creatures.
There is one circumstance that will recommend the volume, and ought to recommend it, to impartial inquirers who are not bound to the words of any master save their divine One; it is, that the Author in his youth was trained in none of the theological schools of his country, and had imbibed, therefore, no educational preference for one system more than another. He had been disciplined to argumentation, logic, and the laws of evidence, in a very different arena; and had advanced in the science of the Law before he had felt the truth of Christianity, or thought of studying its doctrines. His views, therefore, will be found more deserving of attention and examination, from the fact of his mental independence in the formation of them.
Should the work be read in a calm, devout, unprejudiced and liberal spirit, there can be no doubt that the reader will derive both pleasure and instruction. The earnestness, single-mindedness, deep piety, and eminent usefulness of the Author, both as a preacher and lecturer, justly entitle this production of his pen to the candid and patient investigation of English divines.
Apart from the peculiarities which will be observed, and the critical objections to which some will deem his theology justly liable, there can be no doubt that many will find in it a treasure of inestimable worth, a key to many perplexing enigmas, and a powerful reinforcement of their faith in the Christian verities. With at least the hope that such will be the effects of its publication in England, the Editor has cheerfully contributed his humble aid, and now commits the work to the blessing of Him by whose Word of Truth its real value must be finally tested.
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