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  • Submitted: Nov 30 2012 01:24 PM
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  • Author: Thomas Ralston
  • e-Sword Version: 9.x - 10.x

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Download Ralston, Thomas - Elements of Divinity (Theology) 1.0

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Thomas Ralston

e-Sword Version:
9.x - 10.x

Elements of divinity: Or, A course of lectures, comprising a clear and concise view of the system of theology as taught in the Holy Scriptures; with appropriate questions appended to each lecture

THE former treatise by the author, styled “ELEMENTS OF DIVINITY,” related exclusively to the DOCTRINES of Christianity. When that work was published, it was his purpose, at no distant day, to prepare a second volume, embracing the EVIDENCES, the MORALS, and the INSTITUTIONS of Christianity, comprising in the two volumes a complete system of Bible Theology. Since the issue of the first volume much of his time and labor has been devoted to such research and investigation as he deemed important to the better accomplishment of his original purpose.

As he progressed in the work, he became convinced that for the perfecting of his plan it would be necessary to revise and enlarge the first volume, not only by farther elaborating many portions of it, but by adding thereto eight or ten chapters of new matter.

The first part of the work now offered the public comprises the matter contained in the “Elements of Divinity,” in a revised, improved, and more elaborated and systematic form, together with eight or ten chapters entirely new, on topics merely glanced at in the former volume. The second third and fourth embrace the Evidences, Morals, and Institutions of Christianity-topics entirely omitted in the former work.

The more natural order in the presentation of the great themes embraced in this work, would have required the Evidences of Christianity to occupy a position at the commencement. But as the great staple, Doctrines of Christianity, are more important in their nature, and less intricate and perplexing to most Christians, as well as more essential to the young minister in the beginning of his labors, it was deemed the better plan, in view of utility, to devote Part I. to the Doctrines, reserving to Part II. the Evidences of Christianity.

The object of the author in this work is not the production of a more orthodox critical, learned, or elaborate treatise on Theology than any with which the Church has already been blessed, but one better adapted to popular use in the present day. The theological writings of Stackhouse, Pearson, Dwight, John ****, George Hill, Richard Watson, and others that might be named, have been extensively used, and are a rich legacy which we trust will never cease to be appreciated by the Church. But while these noble productions are learned and elaborate, and are, doubtless, destined to an immortality of fame and usefulness, it must be admitted that there is a felt want of the present day which they do not, they cannot, meet.

All good judges have pronounced the “Institutes” of Watson a masterly production, admitting it to be the best presentation and defense of Christian doctrine, in its Evangelico-Arminian type, ever exhibited to the religious public. It is too noble a monument to the genius, theological learning, and logical acumen of that ablest divine of his age, for the fear to be entertained that it will ever cease to be appreciated. It will always continue to be read and studied with care by the intelligent lovers of Wesleyan. Theology, whether ministers or laymen. But it is well known that there is now an important demand of Methodism in this country which “Watson’s Institutes” are not calculated to meet. It is impossible that a work written in England, near half a century ago, can be fully adapted to the state of religious controversy in the United States at the present crisis.

Since the great works on Theology of which we have made mention were written, the status of theological belief, and the base of religious polemics, have been materially changed. Calvinism, one system of theological opinion which was so critically examined and so ably refuted in the “Institutes” of Mr. Watson, has undergone, in this country especially, a great modification, both as to the form in which it is set forth, and the method in which it is defended by its adherents. To meet this new state of things, a more modern work is needed, and one prepared with an eye to the controversy which has been so rife between Calvinistic divines of the New and the Old School type.

Besides, during the last thirty or forty years, not only has great advancement been made in science, but some startling and radical theories, connected both with philosophy, and religion, have been zealously paraded. The insidious guise in which some of these heterodox principles are often presented, renders them but too imposing to communities not well instructed in theological doctrines. The “Institutes” of Mr. Watson were written without reference or applicability to these pernicious phases of error, and, of course, do not furnish the proper antidote to the evil. In the work now presented, the modern phases of Calvinism as developed in the United States-the distinctive doctrines of that denomination termed Campbellites, or Reformers-together with the infidel principles of modern German Rationalism, have been specially considered.

The important desideratum which it is the object of the author to supply, is a text-book of Wesleyan Arminian Theology, no less solid, thorough, comprehensive, and critically accurate than any of. those referred to, and yet better adapted to popular use-a work more systematic and concise in form, more simple and perspicuous in style, and less interlarded with antiquated terms and the technicalities of the schoolmen-a work whose striking characteristic shall be Theology made easy; which, in style and method, shall not only be pleasing and easy to young persons, private Christians, and theological students, but adapted to ministers of all grades. Such are the characteristics of the work which it has been the author’s aim, to the best of his ability, to produce.

While in all the various branches pertaining to mere physical and intellectual science the master-minds of the age have gone forth in active and energetic search of improved methods of rendering those studies pleasing and easy, it is remarkable that in Theology, the greatest and most important of all sciences, so little effort has been made in this direction.

The science of Divinity is a sublime system of positive truth, and should be set forth in an easy, natural, and connected form; and, like Grammar, Astronomy, Chemistry, or any other science, it should be presented in consecutive chapters; and, for the convenience of study and examination should have appropriate questions appended to each chapter.

The author takes pleasure in recording his thankfulness to God and to the Church for the encouraging notices and kind reception with which his former work has been favored. In presenting the present more elaborate work, though it has cost him much more labor and research than the former, and may possess more intrinsic merit, yet such is the character of some of the topics discussed, that he cannot reasonably expect it to receive an equal degree of unqualified approval and commendation. On the Doctrines of Christianity there is a remarkable unity of faith among ministers and members throughout all the connections and modifications of Methodism. But in reference to the Institutions of Christianity, embracing the Government and Polity of the Church, there is less harmony of sentiment. Hence, as this subject, in its various and important aspects, is discussed in the work now issued, it is impossible, whatever may be its character that it should escape criticism, animadversion, or even opposition, from certain quarters.

Leaving an intelligent and indulgent public to decide how far he has succeeded in accomplishing his object as herein specified, he submits this work for their examination, praying that all who may favor it with a perusal may be guided into the knowledge of all saving truth through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!


Table of Contents



1. The Existence of God

2. The Attributes of God

3. The Divinity of Christ

4. The Personality and Divinity of the Holy Spirit

5. The Holy Trinity

6. The Creation

7. Divine Providence


8. The Primeval State of Man

9. The Fall of Man-The Divine Administration Vindicated

10. The Effects of the Fall of Man-Penalty of the Law Considered

11. The Effects of the Fall of Man-Depravity-The Doctrine Defined and Proved

12. Depravity-Objections Considered

13. Depravity-Objections Considered-Moral State and Legal Relation of Infants

14. The Moral Agency of Man

15. The Moral Agency of Man-Objections


16. The Atonement-Its Necessity

17. The Atonement-Its Nature-Patriarchal and Mosaic Sacrifices

18. The Atonement-Its Nature-Expiatory Character of the Death of Christ

19. The Atonement-Its Extent-Various Theories Exhibited

20. The Atonement-Its Extents-More Modern Phases of Calvinism Examined

21. The Atonement-Its Extent-The Arminian View Exhibited and Proved by Scripture

22. The Atonement-Its Extent-Predestination, Election, Foreknowledge, and Sovereignty

23. The Atonement-Its Extent-Election and Predestination-Special Scriptures Examined

24. Calvinism and Arminianism Compared


25. The Influence of the Holy Spirit

26. Repentance-Its Nature, Means, and Necessity

27. Faith-Its General Import-Justifying Faith Considered

28. Justification-Its Nature Considered

29. Justification-False Theories Refuted-Justification by the Imputation of Christ’s Active Obedience Considered

30. Justification-False Theories Refuted-Justification by Christ’s Active and Passive Obedience Taken Together, Considered

31. Justification-False Theories Refuted-Justification by Works Alone, and by Faith and Works United, Considered

32. Justification by Faith only, Illustrated and Proved

33. Justification by Faith only-Objections Answered

34. Regeneration

35. Adoption-Witness of the Spirit

36. Perseverance of the Saints

37. Christian Perfection


38. Immortality of the Human Soul-Philosophical Objections Considered

39. Immortality of the Human Soul-The Doctrine Established

40. The Resurrection of the Human Body

41. The General Judgment

42. Future Punishment of the Wicked

43. Future Happiness of the Righteous



1. Introduction-Importance of the Subject, and Method of Investigation

2. Revelation Necessary to the Knowledge and Worship of God

3. Revelation Necessary to Teach the Origin, Duty, and Destiny of Man

4. The Character of Evidence Proper on the Subject of Revelation- Connection between the Christian Religion and the Bible

5. Antiquity of the Scriptures

6. Authority of the Scriptures-Genuineness and Authenticity of the Old Testament

7. Authority of the Scriptures-Genuineness and Authenticity of the New Testament

8. Authority of the Scriptures-Inspiration of the Sacred Writers-The Sense in which it should be Understood


9. Miracles-Definition Considered

10. Miracles-Hume’s Argument

11. Miracles-The Character of their Testimony

12. Miracles of the Old Testament

13. Miracles of the New Testament

14. The Prophecies of Scripture in Relation to the Jews

15. Prophecies in Relation to Nineveh, Babylon, and Tyre

16. Prophecies in Relation to Messiah

17. The Success of Christianity


18. Harmony of the Dispensations-General Consistency of the Bible-Its Analogy with Nature

19. Origin of the Bible-Life of Christ-Style of the Sacred Writers- Adaptation of Doctrines to the Character and Condition of Man

20. Experimental Evidence-Considered in Reference to Men in general, and to Christians in particular



1. Connection between Moral Philosophy and Divine Revelation-The Manner in which Morals are Taught in the Scriptures

2. Philosophical Theses Exhibited-The Nature of Rectitude-The Ground of Moral Obligation


3. Love-The Fear of God

4. Prayer-Its Nature and Propriety

5. Prayer-Scripture View-Different Kinds of Prayer

6. Prayer-Form of Public Worship

7. The Sabbath-Its Origin and Perpetuity

8. The Sabbath-Its Change from the Seventh to the First Day of the Week

9. The Christian Sabbath-Its Observance


10. Its General Principles Considered

11. Application of the Law to Special Cases and Conditions-Husbands and Wives

12. Application of the Law to Special Cases and Conditions-Parents and Children

13. Application of the Law to Special Cases and Conditions-Rulers and Subjects

14. Christian Consecration




1. Foundation Principles Examined

2. The Apostolic Office

3. Form of Church Government

4. Form of Church Government-Scripture Testimony-The Old Testament

5. Form of Church Government-Scripture Testimony-The New Testament

6. The Highest Governmental Authority-Originally Vested in the Apostles

7. The Governmental Authority-Deposited in the Ordained Eldership

8. The Ministry-Different Orders-Ordination of the Ministry-Its Connection with the Churches

9. The Claims of Independency Examined

10. Written Creeds, Disciplines, and Confessions of Faith


11. The Number and Nature of the Sacraments

12. Christian Baptism-Its Nature, Obligation, Design, and Efficacy

13. Christian Baptism-Its Subjects

14. Christian Baptism-Its Mode

15. The Lord’s Supper-Its Origin and Nature

16. The Lord’s Supper-The Right to Partake of it Considered

17. Objections to Free Communion Answered

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