Flavel on Theological Encyclopedia

Although it is a bit of an anachronism, it is relevant to the question of the unity of all truth. I haven’t seen many Puritans directly address this issue (and even this is a somewhat rudimentary treatment, as the four-fold division of theology into exegetical, systematic, historical, and practical is still some ways off), but Flavel has some wonderful things to say here (sorry for the length, but I couldn’t really cut anything):

A young ungrounded Christian, when he seeth all the fundamental truths, and seeth good evidence and reasons of them, perhaps may be yet ignorant of the right order and place of every truth. It is a rare thing to have young professors to understand the necessary truths methodically: and this is a very great defect: for a great part of the usefulness and excellency of particular truths consisteth in the respect they have to one another. This therefore will be a very considerable part of your confirmation, and growth in your understandings, to see the body of the Christian doctrine, as it were, at one view, as the several parts of it are united in one perfect frame; and to know what aspect one point hath upon another, and which are their due places. There is a great difference betwixt the sight of the several parts of a clock or watch, as they are disjointed and scattered abroad, and the seeing of them conjointed, and in use and motion. To see here a pin and there a wheel, and not know how to set them all together, nor ever see them in their due places, will give but little satisfaction. It is the frame and design of holy doctrine that must be known, and every part should be discerned as it hath its particular use to that design, and as it is connected with the other parts.

By this means only can the true nature of Theology, together with the harmony and perfection of truth, be clearly understood. And every single truth also will be much better perceived by him that seeth its place and order, than by any other: for one truth exceedingly illustrates and leads another into the understanding. Study therefore to grow in the more methodical knowledge of the same truths which you have received; and though you are not yet ripe enough to discern the whole body of theology in due method, yet see so much as you have attained to know, in the right order and placing of every part. As in anatomy, it is hard for the wisest physician to discern the course of every branch of the veins and arteries; but yet they may easily discern the place and order of the principle parts, and greater vessels, (and surely in the body of religion there are no branches of greater or more necessary truth than these) so it is in divinity, where no man hath a perfect view of the whole, till he comes to the state of perfection with God; but every true Christian hath the knowledge of all the essentials, and may know the orders and places of them all.

And as it serves to render the mind more judicious, so it causes the memory to be more tenacious, and retentive of truths. The chain of truth is easily held in the memory, when one truth links in another; but the loosing of a link endangers the scattering of the whole chain. We use to say, order is the mother of memory; I am sure it is a singular friend to it: hence it is observed, those that write of the art of memory,. lay so great a stress upon place and number. The memory would not so soon be overcharged with a multitude of truths, if that multitude were but orderly disposed. It is the incoherence and confusion of truths, rather than their number, that distracts. Let but the understanding receive them regularly, and the memory will retain them with much more facility. A bad memory is a common complaint among Christians: all the benefit that many of you have in hear, is from the present influence of truths upon your hearts (Works of John Flavel, volume 1, pp. 21-2).

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