The method of giving Theological Instruction in this Institution is as follows:
1. A series of questions is propounded for discussion, comprising an outline of a system of Natural and Revealed Theology.
2. Each of these questions comes up in order, for discussion.
3. Upon each one, every member of the class is required to make up his mind, and prepare a brief statement of his views, in writing.
4. Each student is then called upon, in order, to present his views to the class, the Professor presiding. His views and statements are then made the subject of thorough examinations and discussion by the class, and by the Instructor. Questions are freely asked, and difficulties started. Answers and explanations are given, until the views of the class are settled upon the point or points discussed by him. Then another, and another are called upon in a like manner to present their views, upon which like discussion ensues, until the class have mastered the whole subject. Here the discussion is arrested, and the Professor sums up and presents the whole subject to the class in one or more lectures. The skeletons of these lectures have heretofore been copied out by each student as a kind of memoranda, to which he might in future refer, to refresh his memory. This has cost so much labor, that the students have earnestly solicited their publication. For their use and benefit, they are therefore principally intended.
To those students and others, who may read these skeletons, it may be important to make the following remarks, explanatory of which has not, and what has been my design in preparing them for the press:
1. It has been no part of my design to relieve the student from the necessity of deep study, research, and original investigation upon every topic in Theology.
2. I have not intended to give anything like a detailed history of the Theological opinions, that have prevailed in former ages.
3. Nor have I intended, any farther than is demanded by the nature of Polemic Theology, to give a history of the Theological Opinions that are at present entertained by different schools.
4. I have not intended so to prepare these skeletons that they can be well understood without deep thought, and in many instances without discussion and explanation. I have felt, that to leave them in such a state as to require much thought, was of great importance to students who would thoroughly understand Theology.
5. I have not intended to exhaust any subject of discussion; but simply, in my statements, to comprise an outline of the subject.
6. I have not intended so to prepare these skeletons, that students would, or could, on examination, barely retail my language or statements.
7. I have not intended to leave the bones of these skeletons so wholly disconnected, that students, unpracticed in Theology, would not be able, by sufficient attention and diligence, to arrange and unite them in their order.
8. Nor have I aimed so fully to unite them by statements and propositions, as to preclude the necessity of much and close thought, in order to see the connection and truth of the proposition. But,
9. I have designed to render all these subjects perspicuous to those who have given a thorough attention to Theology. They are designed as memoranda, as the summing up of previous discussions, thought, and investigation, rather than as essays from which Theological information is to be derived.
10. I have intended so to shape these skeletons, that those who understand them, should have a general, and pretty thorough acquaintance with Theology, as a science, so as not to be at a loss for an answer to almost any question upon Theological subjects.
11. I have intended however, that these skeletons should be in such a form as to render it unnatural for students to fall into the habit of following exactly in my track in their statements, answers to questions, and discussions of Theological subjects.
12. These skeletons have undergone repeated revisions, enlargement, and modification. And should I live, and continue in my present employment, it is probable, that from year to year, this will continue to be the case with my Theological lectures.
13. Additions will be made to them from year to year, as the course of discussion shall render it necessary or expedient. Should these additions ever grow to a sufficient size to render their publication necessary, for the same reasons that have demanded the publication of these, they will probably be given to the public.
14. These lectures contain as full an outline of Theological Study as we have hitherto been able to fill up in our discussions and investigations, during the three years allotted to Theological Instruction in this Institution. Such additional topics of discussion will be considered from time to time, as we may be enabled to investigate, and add to the usual labors of the class.
15. It is felt that these skeletons are in an imperfect state - that many of the statements may be seen hereafter, to need modifying. I have felt it to be an exceedingly difficult thing, so to prepare these skeletons, as that their publication should be a sufficient memoranda to the graduated classes, without forestalling the studies and investigations of subsequent classes. I have done, under the circumstances, the best I could. And whether I have exactly accomplished what I have intended, can be known only by the results.
16. In some instances, I have given such definitions as I have, with the design to awaken thought, or suggest the inquiry why are these definitions, stated under several different heads. And why are they just as they are. If I have so stated them as to suggest these inquiries, and lead the student to search for, and find out their answer, my object in this respect, is accomplished. To the superficial and unpracticed Theologian, many things that I have said, will of course be unintelligible. But those who think, and love to think, will, I hope, be able to understand them.
My design was at first, not to publish, but barely to print a small number of copies exclusively for the use of the students. But as it was supposed that others would desire to possess them, I have consented to their publication, reminding my readers that they are a bare skeleton of the course of Theological study here pursued.