صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

ftrengthened by Mathematical Researches; the limits of his understanding may have been in fome degree afcertained by the study of Natural Religion; in a word, he may have been admirably fitted to become a Divine: but if, after this preparation, he ftops fhort, giving himself up to rural amufements, misfpending his time in idle avocations, blunting his faculties by fenfual indulgencies, indolently or arrogantly acquiefcing in the knowledge he has acquired, he will never be one.

I am far from wishing to divert the attention of the Undergraduates from that courfe of ftudies which is established in this place. There is no University, I believe, in Europe, where the degree of Bachelor of Arts is more honourably obtained than in the Univerfity of Cambridge: the fedulity with which the young men, in general, pursue the plan of ftudy which is prefcribed to them, is highly commendable; and, if I recommend it to them to let Theology make a part of that plan, it is not from an opinion that Theological ftudies are more proper for their time of life than any of thofe in which they are engaged; but from an apprehension, that if they do not make fome progrefs in Divinity, during the first years of their Academical Education, they will have no opportunity of doing it before they will be placed in fituations which require a great proficiency in it. The Statutes indeed of the Univerfity, and of many private Colleges, though they point out Theology as the ultimate End of all our ftudies, do not order us to ftudy Divinity till we have ftudied almost every other branch of Science: but it ought to be remembered that, at the time thefe Statutes were made, young men were admitted into the University about the age of fourteen; and confequently commencing Mafters of Arts about the age of twenty-one, they had a confiderable interval, even after taking their fecond degree in Arts, in which they might prepare themselves for entering into holy Orders.

It is not the reading many books which makes a man a Divine, but the reading a few of the beft books often over, and with attention; thofe at least who are beginning their Theological studies should follow this rule. I have no fcruple therefore in recommending it to the Students in the Universities, to read this Collection twice or thrice over before they take their first degree; the doing this will give little interruption to their other studies; and if it fhould give a great deal, their time will not be milemployed. Let them dedicate a small portion of every day, or the whole of every Sunday, to this occupation; and, in the course of three or four years, they will eafily accomplish the task; and, when

it is accomplished, they may offer themselves to the Bishops to be ordained, with a becoming confidence that they are not wholly unprepared; and they may undertake the most important of all human Duties-the Cure of Souls-without being alarmed by a consciousness of their inability to discharge it as becometh the fervants of the most high God. When I thus express myself concerning the fruits which may be expected from the course of ftudy here pointed out, I am far from infinuating, that it will fuperfede the neceffity of ftudying the Scriptures themselves, with the best affistance which can be obtained from Commentators: on the contrary, I am perfuaded that one part of Scripture is best interpreted by another, and that no fort of reading can contribute fo much to the producing of a steady faith, a rational piety, a true Chriftian charity of mind (the great ends of all our ftudies, and all our purfuits!) as the frequent reading of the Scriptures.


But the students who are defigned for the Church, are not the. only ones to whom I would recommend the practice of setting apart fome portion of their time for religious inquiries; I would prefs it with the greatest earnestness and fincerity on the young men of rank and fortune. I would efpecially intreat them to perufe with unprejudiced minds, the whole of this Collection; but particularly, and with the strictest attention, the First, Fourth, and Fifth Volumes of it: they will there find fuch convincing proofs of the Chriftian Religion, as will preserve them, I trust, from that contagion of infidelity which is the difgrace of the age. It is a very wonderful thing, that a being fuch as man, placed on a little globe of earth, in a little corner of the universe, cut off from all communication with the other fyftems which are difperfed through the immenfity of space, imprisoned as it were on the spot where he happens to be born, almoft utterly ignorant of the variety of fpiritual exiftences, and circumfcribed in his knowledge of material things, by their remotenefs, magnitude, or minutenefs, a ftranger to the nature of the very pebbles on which he treads, unacquainted, or but very obfcurely informed by his natural faculties of his condition after death; it is wonderful, that a being: fuch as this fhould reluctantly receive, or faftidiously reject, the inftruction of the Eternal God! or, if this is faying too much, that he should haftily, and negligently, and triumphantly conclude, that the Supreme Being never had condefcended to inftruct the race of man. It might properly have been expected, that a rational being, fo circumftanced, would have fedulously inquired into a fubject of such vast importance; that he would not

have fuffered himself to have been diverted from the investigation by the purfuits of wealth, or honour, or any temporal concern; much lefs by notions taken up without attention, arguments admitted without examination, or prejudices imbibed in early youth, from the profane ridicule, or impious jeftings of fenfual and immoral men. It is from the influence of fuch prejudices that I would guard that part of the rifing generation which is committed to our care, by recommending to them a ferious perufal of the Tracts which are here prefented to them. Let them not refuse to follow this advice, because it is given to them by a churchman; he can have no poffible intereft in giving it, except what may refult to him from the confcioufnefs of endeavouring to discharge his duty, and the hope of being ferviceable to them in this world and the next. They need not question his veracity, when he speaks of religion as being ferviceable to them in this world; for it is a trite objection, and grounded on a misapprehenfion of the defign of Christianity, which would reprefent it as an intolerable yoke, fo oppofite to the propenfities, as to be utterly deftructive of the felicity of the human mind. It is, in truth, quite the reverfe; there is not a fingle precept in the Gospel, without excepting either that which ordains the forgiveness of injuries, or that which commands every one to poffefs his vessel in fan&tification and honour, which is not calculated to promote our happiness. Chriftianity regulates, but does not extinguish our affections; and in the due regulation of our affections confifts our happiness as reafonable beings. If there is one condition in this life more happy than another, it is, furely, that of him who founds all his hope of futurity on the promises of the Gofpel; who carefully endeavours to conform his actions to its precepts; looking upon the great God Almighty as his Protector here, his Rewarder hereafter, and his everlafting Preferver. This is a frame of mind fo perfective of our nature, that if Christianity, from a belief of which it can only be derived, was as certainly falfe, as it is certainly true, one could not help wishing that it might be universally received in the world. Unbelievers attempt to make profelytes to infidelity, by preffing upon the minds of the unlearned in Scripture knowledge, the authorities of Belingbrooke, Voltaire, Helvetius, Hume, and other Deistical writers. It is proper that young men fhould be furnished with a ready anfwer to arguments in favour of infidelity, which are taken from the high literary character of those who profefs it; let them remember then, that Bacon, Boyle, Newton, Grotius, Locke, Euler, -that Addifon, Hartley, Haller, Weft, Jenyns--that Lords Nottingham,

Nottingham, King, Barrington, Lyttelton, with an hundred other laymen, who were furely as eminent for their literary attainments. in every kind of science as either Bolingbroke or Voltaire, were profeffed believers of Chriftianity. I am quite aware that the truth of Christianity cannot be established by authorities; but neither can its falfehood be so established. Arguments ad verecundiam have little weight with those who know how to use any others, but they have weight with the lazy and the ignorant on both fides of the queftion. But though I have here fuggested to young men a ready answer to fuch of their profligate acquaintance as may wish to work upon their prejudices in favour of infidelity; yet I hope they will not content themfelves with being prejudiced even in favour of Chriftianity: they will find in this Collection, fuch folid arguments in fupport of its truth, as cannot fail to confirm them, on the most rational grounds, in the belief of the Gofpel Difpenfation. They may wonder, perhaps, if religion be so useful a thing as is here reprefented, that their parents fhould have feldom or never converfed with them on the fubject.—If this should be the fact, I can only fay, that it is a neglect, of all others, the most to be regretted. And indeed our mode of education, as to religious knowledge, is very defective; the child is inftructed in its catechifm before it is able to comprehend its meaning, and that is ufually all the domeftic inftruction which it ever receives. But whatever may be the negligence of parents in teaching their children Chriftianity, or how forcibly foever the maxims and cuftoms of the world may confpire in confirming men in infidelity, it is the duty of those to whom the Education of youth is intrufted, not to defpair: their diligence will have its ufe; it will prevent a bad matter from becoming worfe; and if this foolishness of preaching, into which I have been betrayed on this occafion, has but the effect of making even one young man of fortune examine into the truth of the Christian Religion, who would not otherwife have done it, I shall not repent the having been inftant out of feafon.

Difcite, O Miferi, et caufas cognofcite rerum

Quid fumus, et quidnam victuri gignimur: ordo
Quis datus ;- -quem te Deus effe


Thefe were queftions which even the Heathen Moralifts thought it a fhame for a man never to have confidered. How much more cenfurable are those amongst ourselves who waste their days in


folly or vice, without ever reflecting upon the providential difpenfation under which they live, without having any fublimer piety, any purer morality, any better hopes of futurity than the Heathens had?

In recommending this Collection to the careful perusal of the younger Clergy, I would not be understood to vouch for the truth of every opinion which is contained in it; by no means; there is no certainty of truth but in the word of God. Their Bible is the only fure foundation upon which they ought to build every article of the faith which they profefs, every point of doctrine which they teach. All other foundations, whether they be the decifions of councils, the confeffions of churches, the prefcripts of popes, or the expofitions of private men, ought to be confidered by them as fandy and unfafe, as in no wife fit to be ultimately relied on. Nor, on the other hand, are they to be faftidiously rejected, as of no ufe; for though the Bible be the one infallible rule by which we must measure the truth or falfehood of every religious opinion, yet all men are not equally fitted to apply this rule; and the wifeft men want on many occafions all the helps of human learning to enable them to understand its precise nature, and to define its certain extent. Thefe helps are great and numerous; they have been fupplied in every age, fince the death of Chrift, by the united labours of learned men in every country where his religion has been received. Great Britain has not been backward in her endeavours to establish the truth, and to illuftrate the doctrines of Chriftianity: fhe has not abounded fo much in fyftematic Divines as Germany and Holland have done; yet the most difficult points of Theology have been as well difcuffed by our English Divines, as by thofe of any other nation. In proof of this, I might mention the works of Pearson, Mede, Barrow, Burnet, Chillingworth, Stillingfleet, Clarke, Tillotfon, Taylor, Benfon, Jortin, Secker, and an hundred others; but the fermons preached at Boyle's Lecture, and the Collection of Tracts against Popery, render every other argument in fupport of the obfervation wholly unneceffary. The freedom of inquiry too, which has fubfifted in this country during the prefent century, has eventually been of great fervice to the cause of Chriftianity. It must be acknowledged that the works of our Deiftical writers have made fome few converts to infidelity at home, and that they have furnished the Esprits forts of France, and the Frey-Geifters of Germany, with every material objection to our religion, which they have of late years displayed with much affectation of originality: but at the fame time, we must needs allow,


« السابقةمتابعة »