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V. WHAT ARE THE VARIOUS METHODS OF TEACHING AND LEARNING THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH?

The method of teaching and studying Theology is three-fold. The first is the system of catechetical instruction, or that method which comprises a brief summary and simple exposition of the principal doctrines of the Christian religion, which is called catechizing. This method is of the greatest importance to all, because it is equally necessary for all, the learned as well as the unlearned, to know what constitutes the foundation of true religion.  The second method is the consideration and discussion of subjects of a general and more difficult character, or the Common Places, as they are called, which contain a more lengthy explanation of every single point, and of difficult questions with their definitions, divisions, and arguments. This method belongs more appropriately to theological schools, and is necessary:

First, that those who are educated in those schools, and who may afterwards be called to teach in the church, may more easily and fully understand the whole system of theology; for, as it is in other things, so it is also with; the study of Divinity, our knowledge of it is obtained slowly and with great difficulty; yea, our knowledge of it must necessarily remain confused and imperfect unless every separate part of this doctrine be taught in some systematic form, so as to be perceived and understood by the mind. Secondly, that those who are students of theology may, when they are called to act as teachers in the church, be able to present clearly and systematically the substance of the entire doctrine of God s word. To do this it is necessary that they themselves should first have a complete system, or frame-work, as it were, of this doctrine in their own mind. Thirdly, it is necessary, for the purpose of discovering and determining the true and natural interpretation of the Scriptures, which requires a clear and full knowledge of every part of the doctrine of the church, in order that this interpretation may be in accordance with the analogy of faith, so that the Scriptures may be made to harmonize throughout. Lastly, it is necessary for the purpose of enabling us to form a proper decision in regard to the controversies of the church, which are various, difficult, and dangerous, lest we be drawn from the truth into error and falsehood.

The third method of the study of theology is the careful and diligent reading of the Scriptures or sacred text. This is the highest method in the study of the doctrine of the church. To attain this, the two former methods are to be studied, that we may be well prepared for the reading, understanding, and exposition of the holy Scriptures. For as the doctrine of the catechism and Common Places are taken out of the Scriptures, and are directed by them as their rule, so they again lead us, as it were, by the hand to the Scriptures. The catechism of which we shall speak in these lectures, belongs to the first method of the study of theology.

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