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* N publishing this Collection of Theological Tracts I have I had no other end in view, but to afford young persons
of every denomination, and especially to afford the Students in the Universities, and the younger Clergy, an easy opportunity of becoming better acquainted with the grounds and principles of the Christian Religion than, there is reason to apprehend, many of them at present are. My first intention was to have admitted into the Collection, such small tracts only in Latin or English on Theological Subjects as had sunk into unmerited oblivion;. but, on maturer reflection, I thought it better to consult the.gerseral utility of the younger and less informed Clergy; than to aim ar gratifying the curiosity, or improving the understanding of those who were more advanced in years and knowlëdge: Inftçağ therefore of confining myself to single tracts I have not scruplest.co publish some intire books; but they are books of fuch'acknowledged worth, that no Clergyman ought to be unacquainted with their contents, and by making them a part of this Collection, they may chance to engage the attention of many who would otherwise have overlooked them. It would have been an easy matter to have laid down an extensive plan of study for young divines, and to have made a great shew of learning by introducing into it a Systematic Arrangement of Historians, Critics, and Commentators, who, in different ages and in different languages, have employed their talents on Theological Subjects. But there is a fashion in study as in other pursuits; and the taste of the present age is not calculated for the making great exertions in Theological Criticism and Philology. I do not consider the Tracts which are here published as sufficient to make what is called a deep divine, but they will go a great way towards making, what is of more worth- a well informed Christian. In Divinity, perhaps, more than
in any other science, it may be reckoned a virtue aliqua nefcire; for what Quinctilian observes of historical, is certainly very applicable to an abundance of Theological writings.Perfequi quidem quod quisque umquam vel contemprisimorum hominum dixerit, aut nimiæ miserie, aut inanis ja&tantiæ eft: et detinet atque obruit Ingenia, melius aliis vacatura,
If any thing can revive a sense of Religion in the higher classes of life; preferve what still remains of it amongst men of middling, fortunes, and bring back to decency of manners and the fear of God, the lowest of the people; it must be the Zeal of the Clergy. But Zeal, in order to produce its proper effect, must be founded in knowledge: it will otherwise (where, from some peculiar temperament of body or mind, it happens to exist at all,) be unsteady in its operation, it will be counteracted by the prejudices of the world, the suggestions of self interest, the importunities of indolenc habits; or it will be tainted by Fanaticism, and instead of producing in every individual sober thoughts of his Christian duty, it will hurry inco dangerous errors the ignorant and unchinking, and excite the abhorrence or derision of men of fenfe. I have therefore, in selecting the works which compose this publication, not so much attended to the discussion of particular doctrines, as to the general arguments which are best adapted to produce in the Clergy, and in others who will consider them, a well-gtounded persoafton that Christianity is not a cunningly devised fable, but the power of God unto falvation to every one that believerha::That Clergyman who is a Christian, not because he happens:ig have been born in a Christian country, but from rational conviction, will never think himself at liberty to make light of his calling; to suit his instructions to the vicious propensities of his audience; to scandalize his profesion by a conformity with the ungodly fashions of the world; to be ashamed of the Cross of Christ, though he should see it attacked by the fubtlety of Sophifts, or ridiculed by the wanton audacity of profane men.' A deficiency of Zeal indeed in religious concerns does not always proceed, either in the Clergy or Laity, from a want of Knowledge: sensual appetites,, ungoverned passions, worldly customs all combine together in making most men languid in the performance of even clear and acknowledged duties; yet it must be confessed, that a firm belief in the truth of Christianity resulting from a comprehensive view of the proofs by which it is established, is the most probable mean of producing in all men integrity of life; and of animating, especially, the Ministers of the Gospel, to a zealous and discreet discharge of their pastoral functions.
Young Young men who are ordained from Country Schools are frequently, when settled in their Curacies, at a loss what course of ftudies to pursue: and many of them, as well as many of those who have had the benefit of an University Education, are unhappily in no condition to expend much money in the purchase of Theological books, even if they knew how to make a proper selection. Both these difficulties are, I hope, in some degree obviated by this publication ; which contains nearly as much matter as three times the number of ordinary volumes of the same size; and the matter itself has been taken from Authors of such established reputacion ; that he who will take the pains to read and digest what is here offered to him, will have acquired no inconsiderable knowledge in Divinity. But in Divinity, as in every other study, a man must think much for himself: those who have gone before in the fame pursuit may point out the road to him, but that is the main good they can do him; if he loiters in his progress, waiting for the vigilance of others to push him on, he will never get to his journey's end. The Lectures of Professors and Tutors are doubtless of great use in every science, but their use does not confift so much in rendering the science intelligible, if we except the first Elements of the abstract Sciences, as in directing the attencion of the Students to the best books on every subject; and if to this they add a frequent examination into the progress which the Students have made, they will have done all that reasonably can be expected from them: The Republic of Letters is in very different circumstances in the present age from what was three centuries ago : the multiplicity of books which, in the coutse of that period, have been published in every Art and Science; has enlarged the boundaries of knowledge, and given every man an opportunity, if he be not wanting to himself, of becoming skilled in that branch of Literature which he shall think fit to culti.
And to speak the truth, though there may be fome dark points in Divinity which the labour of Learning may still illustrate, yet new books are not so much wanted in that Science, as įnclination in the younger Clergy to explore the treasures of the old ones.
A young man destined to the Church, who thinks that he has completed his Education as foon as he has taken his first degree in Arts, and quitted the walls of his Colleges is under a very great mistake. His memory may have been itocked with a great abundance of Classical Knowledge ; his mind may have been expanded by a general acquaintance with the several branches of Natural Philosophys his reasoning faculties may have been
ftrengthened by Mathematical Researches; the limits of his understanding may have been in fome degree ascertained by the study of Natural Religion; in a word, he may have been admi. rably fitted to become a Divine; but, if, after this preparation, he stops short, giving himself up to rural amusements, misspending his time in idle avocations, blunting his faculties by fensual indulgencies, indolently or arrogantly acquiescing 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 course of studies which is established in this place. There is no University, I believe, in Europe, where the degree of Bachelor of Arts is more honorably obtained than in: the University of Cambridge: the fedulity with which the young men, in general, pursue the plan of study which is prescribed 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 studies are more proper for their time of life than any of those in which they are engaged; but from an ap. prehension, that if they do not make some progress 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 University, and of many private Colleges, though they point out Theology, as the ultimate End of all our studies, do not order 49. to study Divinity till we have studied almost every other branch:of Science : but it ought to be remembered that, at the time. Ihèse Statutes were made, young men were admitted into the University about the age of fourteen, and consequently commencing Masters of Arts about the age of twenty-one, they had a considerable interval, even after taking their second 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 best books often over, and with attention; those at least who are beginning their Theological studies should follow this rule. I have no scruple 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 should give a great deal, their time will not be nisem ployed. 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 easily accomplish the talk, 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 becomech the servants 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 insinuating, that it will superfede the necessity of studying the Scriptures themselves, with the best affiftance which can be obtained from Commentators. On the contrary, I am persuaded that one part of Scripture is beft interpreted by another, and that no fort of reading can contribute so much to the producing of a steady faith, a rational piety, a true Christian charity of mind (the great ends of all our studies and all our pursuits!) as the frequent reading of the Seriptures.
But the students who are designed for the Church are not the only ones to whom I would recommend the practice of setting apart some portion of their time for religious inquiries ; I would press it with the greatest earnestness and sincerity on the young men of rank and fortune. I would especially intreat them to peruse with unprejudiced minds, the whole of this Collection ; but particularly, and with the strictest attention, the Förft, Foyth, and Fifth Volumes of it: they will there find such convincing proofs of the Christian Religion, as will preserve them; 1 trust, from that contagion of Infidelity which is the disgrace of the age. It is a very wonderful thing that a being such as ditan, placed on a little globe of earth in a little corner of the universe, cut off from all communication with the other systems which are dispersed through the immensity of space, imprisoned as it were on the spot where he happens to be born, almost utterly ignorant of the va. riety of spiritual existencies, and circumscribed in his knowledge of material things, by their remoteness, magnitude, or minutenels, a stranger to the nature of the very pebbles on which he treads, unacquainted, or but very obscurely informed by his natural faculties of his condition after death; it is wonderful that a being such as this, should reluctantly receive, or faftidiously reject the instruction of the Eternal God! Or, if this is saying too much, that he should haftily, and negligently, and triumphantly conclude, that the Supreme Being never had condescended to instruct the race of man. It might properly have been expected, that a rational being, so circumstanced, would have fedulously inquired into a subject of such vast importance; that he would not