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This Book deferves to be generally known; it has been for fome
These two Volumes were published in French, the First in London,
N publishing this Collection of Theological Tracts I have had no other end in view, but to afford young perfons ** of every denomination, and especially to afford the Students in the Universities, and the younger Clergy, an eafy opportunity of becoming better acquainted with the grounds and principles of the Christian Religion than, there is reafon to apprehend, many of them at prefent are. My firft intention was to have admitted into the Collection, such small tracts only in Latin or English on Theological Subjects as had funk into unmerited oblivion; but, on maturer reflection, I thought it better to confult the general utility of the younger and lefs informed Clergy, than to aim at gratifying the curiofity, or improving the understanding of thofe who were more advanced in years and knowledge. Instead therefore of confining myself to fingle tracts I have not fcrupled to pub lish fome 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 otherwife have overlooked them. It would have been an easy matter to have laid down an extenfive plan of ftudy for young divines, and to have made a great fhew 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 à 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 confider the Tracts which are here published as fufficient 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 Chriftian. In Divinity, perhaps, more than
in any other science, it may be reckoned a virtue aliqua nefcire; for what Quinctilian obferves of hiftorical, is certainly very applicable to an abundance of Theological writings. Perfequi quidem quod quifque umquam vel contemptiffimorum hominum dixerit, aut nimiæ miferie, aut inanis jaƐtantiæ eft: et detinet atque obruit Ingenia, melius aliis vacatura.
If any thing can revive a sense of Religion in the higher claffes of life; preferve what ftill remains of it amongst men of middling fortunes and bring back to decency of manners and the fear of God, the loweft of the people; it must be the Zeal of the Clergy. But Zeal, in order to produce its proper effect, muft be founded in knowledge: it will otherwife (where, from fome peculiar temperament of body or mind, it happens to exist at all,) be unfteady in its operation; it will be counteracted by the prejudices of the world, the fuggeftions of felf intereft, the importunities of indolent habits; or it will be tainted by Fanaticifm, and instead of producing in every individual sober thoughts of his Chriftian duty, it will hurry into dangerous errors the ignorant and unthinking, and excite the abhorrence or derifion of men of fenfe. I have therefore, in felecting the works which compose this publication, not so much attended to the difcuffion of particular doctrines, as to the general arguments which are beft adapted to produce in the Clergy, and in others who will confider them, a well-grounded perfuafion that Chriftianity is not a cunningly dewifed fable, but the power of God unto falvation to every one that believeth That Clergyman who is a Chriftian, not because he happens to have been born in a Chriftian country, but from rational conviction, will never think himself at liberty to make light of his calling; to fuit his inftructions to the vicious propenfities of his audience; to fcandalize his profeffion by a conformity with the ungodly fashions of the world; to be ashamed of the Cross of Christ, though he should fee 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: fenfual appetites, ungoverned paffions, worldly customs all combine together in making moft men languid in the performance of even clear and acknowledged duties; yet it muft be confeffed, that a firm belief in the truth of Chriftianity refulting from a comprehenfive 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 Minifters of the Gofpel, to a zealous and difcreet difcharge of their pastoral functions.
Young men who are ordained from Country Schools are frequently, when fettled in their Curacies, at a lofs what course of studies to purfue: and many of them, as well as many of those who have had the benefit of an Univerfity 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 thefe difficulties are, I hope, in fome degree obviated by this publication; which contains nearly as much matter as three times the number of ordinary volumes of the fame fize; and the matter itself has been taken from Authors of fuch established reputation; 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 Profeffors and Tutors are doubtless of great ufe in every science, but their use does not confift so much in rendering the fciente intelligible, if we except the firft Elements of the abstract Sciences, as in directing the attention of the Students to the best books on every fubject; and if to this they add a frequent examination into the progrefs.which the Students have made, they will have done all that reafonably can be expected from them: The Republic of Letters is in very different circumstances in the prefent age from what it was three centuries ago: the multiplicity of books which, in the couffe 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 fhall think fit to cultiAnd to speak the truth, though there may be fome dark points in Divinity which the labour of Learning may ftill illustrate, yet new books are not fo much wanted in that Science, as inclination in the younger Clergy to explore the treasures of the old
A young man deftined 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 College, is under a very great mistake. His memory may have been stocked with a great abundance of Claffical Knowledge; his mind may have been expanded by a general acquaintance with the feveral branches of Natural Philofophy his reafoning faculties may have been ftrengthened