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carry the remembrance of them to your closets; and you must qualify yourselves for deliberate and judicious investigation, by previously gaining the knowledge, which may enable you to tread securely among the otherwise perplexing paths of theological research. As this subject is of greater urgency than it may appear at a first glance, I shall make the importance of some accurate theological knowledge to welleducated laymen the subject of this Discourse. In the remarks, which such a subject seems most properly to call forth, I shall point out some of the causes, which create a peculiar necessity in the present day for the pursuit of such knowledge; I shall explain the nature, and, in some degree, define the extent of knowledge, which is thus requisite; while I take occasion to remove some objections, which may be thought to lie against the course recommended.
1. I have hinted at the importance of some accurate theological knowledge to well-educated layAnd I lay particular stress upon the term "accurate"; because I am well aware, that anxiety about this most important of all questions does occupy the minds of laymen; but the cause of my regret is, that many of them do not investigate it with that profound and searching attention, which they bestow upon matters purely scientific and upon professions merely worldly. The consequence is that persons, who on other occasions would disdain to receive their knowledge from others only, nevertheless condescend to imbibe their notions of religion in this way; and they, who are accurately acquainted with language, or deeply versed in science, are con
tented in this one point to be superficial and even ignorant. I am anxious that they, who pride themselves upon an intimacy with the language of Homer and Demosthenes, should be equally familiar with that of St. Matthew and St. Paul; that minds which are vigorously exercised in moral and mathematical reasoning, should be disciplined also in investigating the various and complicated proofs, which establish, to the satisfaction of every diligent and candid inquirer, the Divine origin of the Mosaic and Christian dispensations. One reason no doubt, for which exact and laborious attention is not directed to this all-important pursuit is, that a profession is already set apart for this particular province; and learning, which is considered professional, is not usually acquired by those, who are unconnected with its duties or its emoluments. But here an obvious distinction cannot fail to present itself to your observation. The professions of law and physic; the various departments of trade and commerce; are of a worldly nature. Nothing scarcely, in the form either of duty or interest, makes it imperative upon such, as are unconnected with these pursuits, to gain any insight into the origin, progress, and present state of the law; into the various discoveries, which have promoted the knowledge and extended the usefulness, of the healing art; nor into the principles which ought to regulate, and the means which actually facilitate, the process of barter and interchange of commodities in the same state, or between different nations. It very seldom proves disadvantageous, nor is it at all discreditable for any one, who is not actually engaged in some
branch of these various professions, to be utterly unacquainted with those matters of fact or speculation, to which the attention of individuals respectively engaged in them is so continually, so properly, and so usefully directed. But it is not so with religion. Here is a subject equally important to every one of God's creatures. As nothing exempts any one of us from its obligations, so should every one of us be anxious to know what those obligations are. This indispensable lesson however cannot be duly learned, but by the same application of mind and the same employment of time, which bring us acquainted with the principles of any other branch of knowledge.
It must not be imagined for a moment that, in thus recommending attention to questions of religion, I am disposed to encourage that superficial view of the subject, and that tendency to acquiesce in the result of hasty and incomplete inquiry, which prevail at present so generally and disseminate so much mischief. My object is exactly the reverse. I am recommending diligent study, that it may supersede frivolous and unsatisfactory attainment; I recommend the means of acquiring accurate knowledge, in order to prevent that vain and restless spirit of dogmatism, which arises from partial and imperfect views. Nor is the time, which may be occupied in these interesting but important acquirements, to be urged as a reason for neglecting every opportunity of making them for, although time must be devoted to the acquisition of every species of knowledge, yet the questions, which are embraced in the pursuit of religious science, are so intimately connected with those,
which occupy the thoughts of well-instructed men, that the study of them requires little more than a good plan, early laid down and pursued regularly. The mind, which has been taught to employ its powers upon objects, presented by a common course of liberal education, may easily incorporate a sound and satisfactory view of the origin and contents of Scripture with the more usual topics of classical research and philosophical investigation. He, who is acquainted with the various dialects of ancient Greece, can have no difficulty in ascertaining the peculiarities of the Alexandrine idiom; he, who surveys the rise and progress of modern legislation, may find instruetion, as well as amusement, in the Commentaries of Michaelis on the laws of Moses. He; who has experienced unmixed gratification from the acuteness, learning, and wit, which are displayed in the Controversy on Phalaris; will find his attention equally well rewarded by the disquisition of Professor Porson on a question of theological criticism.
In short, the object at which I aim, is this—I am anxious that the laity of enlarged minds and extensive knowledge should take up the subject of religion, in order that it may be rescued from the hands of the unwise and ill-informed. We might then expect that sounder views would be entertained upon this most important subject, as upon many others, in which the human mind has of late made such vigorous advances. And if there be any, who entertain apprehension from the extraordinary progress, that has been made in almost every department of science, they may be assured that the most
effectual method of obviating any possible evil is, to investigate the real sense of Scripture; to shew, that it never will be found in opposition to the just conclusions of reason; and that the attributes of God are invariably exercised in accordance with the moral obligations and real happiness of man.
While I am enforcing the necessity of increased attention to this most important subject upon the laity, it is almost superfluous to explain, that my observations are more particularly intended for the younger part of this well-instructed audience. They may, with more readiness and more effect, adapt their course of reading to the suggestions now made; and a very moderate portion of time, devoted in early life to a regular course of study, may accumulate a most valuable fund of acquirement for the solace, as well as instruction, of maturer years.
Now as to the reasons, which make this species of knowledge so essential, it has already been intimated that the inquiries of modern laymen into the supremely important question of religion, (whether the result may have been communicated to the public in a more or less permanent form,) yet have evidently been dictated, in too many instances, by good intention rather than conducted with sound judgement. We have heard of pious, as well as learned, laymen, who have heretofore directed their attention to the evidence, by which the truth of our religion is established; and to the rules, by which its interpretation must be guided. In our own country the cause of Revealed Religion has been upheld by the respected names of Sir Matthew Hale, Sir Norton Knatchbull