<11>

A POSTHUMOUS TREATISE
ON THE
CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE,
COMPILED FROM THE HOLY SCRIPTURES :
ALONE IN TWO BOOKS:

BY
JOHN MILTON.

BOOK I.

CHAPTER I.
OF THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE, AND THE NUMBER OF ITS DIVISIONS.

THE Christian Doctrine is that divine revelation disclosed to all ages by Christ (though he was not known under that name in the beginning) concerning the nature and worship of the Deity, for the promotion of the glory of God, and the salvation of mankind.

It is not unreasonable to assume that Christians believe in the Scriptures whence this doctrine is derived —but the authority of those Scriptures will be examined in the proper place.

Christ. Matt. xi. 27. 'neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.' John i. 4. 'in him was life, and the life was the light of men.' v. 9. 'that was <12> the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.' 1 Pet. iii. 19. 'by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.'

Under the definition of Christ are also comprehended Moses and the Prophets, who were his fore runners, and the Apostles whom he sent. Gal. iii. 24. 'the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.' Heb. xiii. 8. 'Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.' Col. ii. 17. 'which are a shadow of things to come: but the body is of Christ.' 1 Pet. i. 10, 11. 'who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify.' Rom. i. 1. 'Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ:' in which manner he begins nearly all the rest of his epistles. 1 Cor. iv. 1. 'let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ.'

Divine Revelation. Isai. Ii. 4. 'a law shall proceed from me.' Matt. xvi. 17. 'flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.' John vi. 46. 'they shall be all taught of God.' ix. 29. 'we know that God spake unto Moses.' Gal. i. 11, 12. 'the gospel which was preached of me is not after man; for I neither received it of man.' 1 Thess. iv. 9. 'ye your selves are taught of God.'

This doctrine, therefore, is to be obtained, not from the schools of the philosophers, nor from the laws of man, but from the Holy Scriptures alone, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 2 Tim. i. 14. 'that good thing which was committed unto <13> thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.'Col. ii. 8. 'lest any man spoil you through philosophy.' Dan. iii. 16. 'we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.' Acts iv. 19. 'whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.'

In this treatise then no novelties of doctrine are taught; but for the sake of assisting the memory, what is dispersed throughout the different parts of the Holy Scriptures is conveniently reduced into one compact body as it were, and digested under certain heads. This method might, be easily defended on the ground of Christian prudence, but it seems better to rest its authority on the divine command; Matt. xiii. 52. 'every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man which is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.' So also the Apostle says, 2 Tim. i. 13. 'hold fast the form' —which the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews seems to have determined to adopt as the rule of his own conduct for teaching the heads of Christian doctrine in methodical arrangement: vi. 1-3. 'of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment; and this will we do, if God permit.' This usage of the Christians was admirably suited for Catechumens when first professing their faith in the Church. Allusion is made to the same system in Rom. vi. 17. 'ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.' In this passage <14> the Greek word τυπὸς, as well as ὑποτύπωσις 2 Tim. i. 13. seems to signify either that part of the evangelical Scriptures which were then written (as in Rom. ii. 20. μόρφωσις , 'the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law,' signified the law itself) or some systematic course of instruction derived from them or from the whole doctrine of the gospel. Acts xx. 27. 'I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God' —which must mean some entire body of doctrine, formed according to a certain plan, though probably not of great extent, since the whole was gone through, and perhaps even repeated several times during St. Paul's stay at Ephesus, which was about the space of three years.

Christian doctrine is comprehended under two divisions, —Faith, or the knowledge of God, —and Love, or the worship of God. Gen. xvii. 1. 'walk before me, and be thou perfect.' Psal. xxxvii. 3. 'trust in Jehovah, and do good.' Luke xi. 28. 'blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.' Acts xxiv. 14. 'believing all things' —and v. 16. 'herein do I exercise myself.' 2 Tim. i. 13. 'hold fast the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me, in faith and in love which is in Christ Jesus.' 1 Tim. i. 19. 'holding faith and a good conscience.' Tit. iii. 8. 'that they which have believed might be careful-.' 1 John iii. 23. 'that we should believe and love.'

These two divisions, though they are distinct in their own nature, and put asunder for the convenience of teaching, cannot be separated in practice. Rom. ii. 13. 'not the hearers of the law, but the <15> doers of the law shall be justified.' James i. 22. 'be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.' Besides, obedience and love are always the best guides to knowledge, and often lead the way from small beginnings, to a greater and more flourishing degree of proficiency. Psal. xxv. 14. 'the secret of Jehovah is with them that fear him.' John vii. 17. 'if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.' viii. 31, 32. 'if ye continue in my word ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' 1 John ii. 3. 'hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.'

It must be observed, that Faith in this division does not mean the habit of believing, but the things to be habitually believed. So Acts vi. 7. 'were obedient to the faith.' Gal. i. 23. 'he preacheth the faith.'

© 2020 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL - newtonproject@history.ox.ac.uk

Privacy Statement

  • University of Oxford
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • JISC