صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


'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 Chriftian 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 funk into unmerited oblivion; but, on maturer reflexion, 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 those who were more advanced in years and knowledge. Instead therefore of confining myself to fingle tracts, I have not fcrupled to publifh fome entire 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 anexten five plan of ftudy for young Divines, and to have made a great fhew of learning by introducing into it a Syftematic Arrangement of Hiftorians, 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 purfuits; 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. InDivinity, 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 miferia, aut inanis jactantia 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 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, muft be founded in knowledge: it will otherwife (where, from fome 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 fuggeftions of felf-intereft, the importunities of indolent habits; or it will be tainted by Fanaticism, and instead of producing in every individual fober thoughts of his Christian 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 compofe 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 devifed 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 afhamed of the Crofs of Chrift, though he fhould fee it attacked by the fubtlety of Sophifts, or ridiculed by the wanton audacity of profane men. ciency 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 cuftoms, all combine together in making moft men languid in the performance of even clear and acknowledged duties; yet it must 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 moft probable mean of producing in all men integrity of life; and of animating, efpecially, the Minifters of the Gospel, to a zealous and discreet discharge of their pastoral functions.

A defi


[ocr errors]

Young men who are ordained from Country Schools are frequently, when fettled in their Curacies, at a lofs what course of ftudies 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 felection. 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 inconfiderable 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 purfuit may point out the road to him, but that is the main good they can do him: if he loiters in his progrefs, 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 ufe does not confift fo much in rendering the fcience intelligible, if we except the firft Elements of the abftract 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 reasonably 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 course of that period, have been publifhed 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 fkilled in that branch of Literature which he fhall think fit to cultivate. And to fpeak the truth, though there may be fome dark points in Divinity which the labour of Learning may ftill illuftrate, yet new books are not fo much wanted in that Science, as inclination in the younger Clergy to explore the treafures of the old ones.

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

a 4

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 short, giving himself up to rural amusements, 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 course 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 University of Cambridge: the fedulity with which the young men, in general, purfue 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 studies are more proper for their time of life than any of thofe in which they are engaged; but from an apprehenfion, 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 fudies, 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 these 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 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 best books often over, and with attention; thofe at least who are beginning their Theological ftudies fhould follow this rule. I have no fcruple therefore in recommending it to the Students in the Univerfities, to read this Collection twice or thrice over before they take their first degree; the doing this will give little interruption to their other ftudies; and if it should give a great deal, their time will not be mifemployed. 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 exprefs 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 pursuits!) as the frequent reading of the Scriptures.

But the ftudents 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 ftrictest attention, the First, Fourth, and Fifth Volumes of it: they will there find fuch convincing proofs of the Chriftian Religion, as will preferve 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 spiritual existences, 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 fuch vaft importance; that he would not

« السابقةمتابعة »