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A Body of Divinity: Being the Sum and Substance of the Christian Religion

Ussher, James

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The coherence and integrity of the Body of Divinity has been linked by a number of scholars to the most important theological statements of the seventeenth century. In his lectures on Evangelical Theology (1890), the Princeton theologian A. A. Hodge argued that the Body of Divinity had more to do in forming the [Westminster] Catechism and Confession of Faith than any other book in the world; because it is well known that ... this book, which he compiled as a young man, was in circulation in this Assembly among the individuals composing it. And if this is true, you could easily see how much of suggestion there is in it which was afterward carried into the Catechism - the Larger Catechism especially - of that Assembly.

And, if that is the case, then Ussher's influence stretches far beyond the boundaries of Anglicanism or Presbyterianism, for the Westminster Confession also provided the framework for subsequent confessions of faith by Congregationalists (the Savoy Confession, 1658) and Baptists (the Second London Confession, 1677 and 1689). The Body of Divinity is therefore one of the foundational texts in the construction of pan-Reformed orthodoxy.

467 Pages
Published 2007

About the Author

James Ussher was one of the most influential theologians of the early Protestant world, and his Body of Divinity (1645) was Puritanism's earliest and most important volume of systematic theology. Ussher was born into a well-connected and highly-respected Dublin family in January 1581. His early education was supervised by two Scottish refugees, James Fullerton and James Hamilton, whose emphatic Calvinism had caused them to be driven from their native church. They exercised immense influence on their student, and, when Ussher entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1593, one year after its opening, they were among the college's teaching staff. The atmosphere of the college was vigorously theological, with a strong bias towards Puritanism, and Fellows educated their students within the parameters of Reformed orthodoxy. Ussher made rapid progress. He gained his BA in 1598, his MA in 1601, and in 1603 was appointed Chancellor of St. Patrick's Cathedral. In 1607 he graduated with a BD and was appointed Professor of Divinity. In 1613 he was awarded his DD and was appointed Vice-Chancellor. But Ussher's influence transcended the narrow limits of college life. In 1621 he was appointed Bishop of Meath, and four years later, only days before the death of King James, Ussher was appointed Archbishop of Armagh. (From the Introduction by Crawford Gribben)

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