« AnteriorContinuar »
was a time, perhaps, in which knowledge of this sort was more wanted. A taste for speculations of this kind has of late been evinced in this country, which, however well intended it may have been, or however harmless it may have appeared in its tendency and extent, has been justly deplored by wise and good men. My opinion, which I here respectfully propose, is, that all this has been very much beside the mark; my reasons will be seen in the following sheets. The results, to which I have been led by a long, and I trust impartial, study of the Bible, have been, that IT is of all books the most simple and practical; and, that even the knowledge which it affords, is of all things the most unlike that which puffeth up. And, I now say, what I would have particularly borne in mind, that this consideration has constituted my principal reason for publishing this work.
One advantage more, likely to be secured by these means, I must now be permitted to notice; and, as this involves a subject which requires to be touched with the greatest tenderness and consideration, I shall be very brief: it is this: There do unfortunately exist, at this day in the Church of England, more parties than one. The motives and conduct of both, I am, in most respects, bound to revere; and the zeal, perhaps, in all. I am apprehensive, however, that what has appeared to me a most important consideration, namely, a deep and accurate acquaintance with both the letter and spirit of the Scriptures, has not been, and is not, always, looked upon as a most necessary qualification for the Clergy in general. And hence I have been led to believe, that both parties have, as such, been unwa
rily led to adopt policies, which, to say nothing of their unholy origin, are better suited to promote discord than agreement, imbecility than strength, division and distraction than unity in counsel, or effect in operation. Besides, where the mind is fully occupied in the cultivation of useful and necessary knowledge, (and this the most learned of us will need to the very end of his existence,) and where the affections are engaged in the furtherance of every good work, which such a schooling and course is most likely to insure, there will be but few opportunities or energies left for the encouragement of feelings or of measures, which have hitherto been so fruitful in multiplying discord, and producing dissatisfaction. It is not, however, for me to suggest how such measures as those here recommended may best be carried into effect. This I leave to others who have better means, greater experience, and opportunities more favourable for bringing about a consummation so devoutly to be wished.* My princi
* Since this was written, a very able sermon on this subject, preached before our University at its last commencement, by Dr. Adams of Sidney College, has fallen into my hands, the piety, energy, and reasoning, of which cannot, I am sure, be too much commended. Dr. Adams has, in an Appendix, pointed out what he deems to be most likely to bring about the objects he has in view. I would only suggest, what I know has for some time been thought advisable by a considerable part of the sister University; namely, that as students now come to Alma Mater at an age much more advanced than they did formerly, whether the previous examination would not be more effective if held in the first term after admission, than it would at any subsequent period. This would have the salutary effect of bringing men to the University sufficiently stocked with Latin, Greek, &c. to make it something besides a bad grammar-school, as in many instances it is now compelled to be; and also, to make schoolmasters in general more
pal object here, is to urge the desirableness, the practicability, and the good tendency, of the end had in view; and which, I think I may say, is not less in unison with the statutes of our Universities in general, and of our Colleges in particular, than it is necessary for the welfare of our Church and nation.*
Having touched so far upon the advantages likely to be derived from a more extended cultivation of Theology in our Universities, we may now offer a few considerations on the evils which have been felt, in consequence of its partial or entire
alive to the duty of sending out more than one or two men in a year, tolerably prepared for our public examinations. If this were done, considerable and, perhaps, sufficient time would be gained during the four years required for the degree of B.A., for the exclusive study of divinity among those destined for the Church.
*Not only do the statutes of our Colleges generally provide, that their societies should cultivate Theology, but in many instances a knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures is made necessary for the admission of their Fellows; and, in others, Hebrew lectureships have actually been established, which have unhappily degenerated into sinecures. The statutes of the Universities, too, require, that candidates for the degree of Bachelor in Divinity shall study the original Scriptures; and, to meet this, Hebrew and Arabic professorships have been established, which have been either converted into sinecures, or have been almost entirely neglected. During the last eleven years, in which I have had the honour, and I will say the pleasure, of being permitted to perform the duties of both these offices at Cambridge, my endeavours have proved much more successful than I had any right to expect, while they have met with far less encouragement than might have been justly calculated upon. But, omitting these questions, and even the decisions of conscience as to duty, from which, perhaps, there can be no appeal, it is most probable, under God, that a recurrence to these studies will meet in a most effectual manner, a very great proportion of the evils by which we are now threatened, and to which we are exposed; and my belief is, that every other human effort will fail of effecting this.
neglect. I will not here declaim indiscriminately on the general want of Scriptural learning which has prevailed in every age of the Church, but will proceed to shew, how this has actually manifested itself in some of its periods. It will be unne
cessary to say much on this subject with reference to the Apostolic times, because miracle then supplied what can now be secured only by labour and industry. Yet even then, we find an attention to reading and to doctrine recommended, with as much earnestness as that to exhortation is,* a circumstance not often witnessed in modern times. But to pass on, and to come to the Fathers of the Church. Here, I think, we may safely affirm, that, excepting a few very brilliant examples of profane and sacred erudition,† the Fathers were not generally mighty in the Scriptures. Their virtues consisted, for the most part, in warmth of feeling, acuteness of discernment, and a laudable zeal for the furtherance of religious truth. In some few instances, indeed, they inclined to the philosophical systems of the heathen; ‡ in all they were deficient in Oriental learning, and in that simplicity which is ever inseparable from an extended knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. Abstract reasoning, dogmatising, and allegory, were their prevailing faults; although, 串 * 1 Tim. iv. 13. See Dr. Adams's Sermon, as already noticed. + I cannot help here noticing the wonderfully correct application of Scripture in numerous instances in the writings of Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Ignatius, and in the Apostolic Fathers generally. The most perfect instances, however, with which I have yet met, are to be found in the Præparatio and Demonstratio Evangelica of Eusebius Bishop of Cæsarea, the Epistles and Commentaries of Jerome, and occasionally in the Syriac works of Ephrem Syrus.
See Brucker's Historia Philosophica Critica, tom. iii.
it may be affirmed, that in other respects, particularly with regard to the opinions and usages of the Church in their days, they all afford information indispensable to the Divine.
If we descend to the times of the Schoolmen, we shall see the refinements, which had been introduced from the philosophers, actually eating up as a canker, all that is good and lovely in the word of truth;-an endless and barren system of distinctions, subdistinctions, and indeed of every thing calculated to mislead the unwary, and to deceive the wise; to remove far out of sight the mysteries and the mercies of redemption, and to make man any thing but kind, compassionate, just, and good.
At this period, however, the Divines possessed both wisdom and power sufficient to cut off every means of information which could expose them to the contempt and ridicule of the people. Their doctrinal jargon they confined to an unknown tongue; and in this, too, they locked up the word of Scripture, on which they pretended that all their fabric of divine authority and philosophy rested. The system has now in a great degree passed away. The light of the Reformation had the happy effect of detecting the error and exposing the cheat; while, nevertheless, a considerable part of its subtle and circuitous expedients still remained. Much of this, it must be confessed, is yet to be seen in our elder Divines, mixed indeed with piety and learning which may be the envy of any age, and which, perhaps, will never be excelled.
One might have hoped, that later times would have profited by this experience, and retained the good while they rejected the evil; but this has, by