Imágenes de páginas

am sure every one acquainted with things as they are will allow, viz. that the youth sent to our Universities may reasonably be called upon to make far greater exertions than they now do, for the purpose of qualifying themselves to become ministers of religion. The studies, now generally pursued and encouraged, are those which have been termed the Classics and Mathematics; which, it must be confessed, are in themselves transcendently excellent, with the view to form a correct taste, and to train the mind to habits of close investigation and a regular train of thought. Besides, to a people great as this nation is in the arts, the sciences, in arms, commerce, wealth, influence, and every other consideration which tends to raise man in the scale of intellect and of usefulness, these pursuits are not only laudable, but necessary. They have been principally instrumental in raising us to the proud eminence which we hold among the nations; and they are still necessary to secure its maintenance. Where these can, therefore, be cultivated with prospects of success, they ought to be pursued; and the farther this is done, great, in the same proportion, will be our national reputation, enterprise, and success.

There are, however, in our Universities, large, and indeed by far the largest, numbers of students who have not, perhaps, a turn of mind adapted to these studies, an adequate end in view to insure their deep and successful cultivation, or time sufficient for distinction in these, and also to acquire a sufficient stock of information necessary for the profession for which they may have been destined. This last consideration will apply with the greatest force to persons intended for the Church. During the time allotted to an University residence, it is quite impossible that every one can do any thing considerable in all its pursuits; and, where the tide of popular feeling runs high in favour of the Classics and Mathematics only, which is generally the case in this country, the consequence will be, that those who cannot distinguish themselves in these, will lose their energies, give up all effort with regard to every thing else, and actually abandon themselves to apathy and idleness. I will not pretend to say what the numbers among us are who are thus situated, but I am apprehensive that they are frightfully large. And, if this be the fact, surely something ought to be done, not to narrow the extent of learning now acquired by the industrious and enterprising, but to call forth those latent and dormant energies, which are languishing without an object, or exerting themselves only to produce misery or mischief.

I would not be understood, however, to argue for something which is to produce perfection in every case, or to make a consummate theologian of every candidate for holy orders. This would be to betray a weak and visionary mind, and to labour after that which is neither practical nor necessary. My only object is, to have something done where there is now either nothing or next to nothing; to accustom those destined for the Ministry of the Church to considerations, which, if they do not require the very first talents or taste to understand and appreciate, are nevertheless such as may be grievously misunderstood and misapplied; and which are confessedly of the very highest interest and importance to all. My wish is to see, not only




theological studies called for authoritatively, but considered as worthy of distinction both in the Universities and the Church. Under such circumstances, Who shall say to what height of cultivation and of usefulness they may not rise, where they are now confessedly low, inefficient, and perhaps entirely neglected ? Time was, when our Doctors in Divinity were really masters of their profession; and when the names of Cranmer, Laud, Walton, Castell, Pococke, Hyde, Lightfoot, and a host of others, commanded an admiration and respect throughout Christendom, as flattering to themselves as it was beneficial to the cause of Divine truth. Learning was then respected, because it was deep and efficient; and piety, because it was sincere and simple : and the consequence has been, those days have left for the admiration, and indeed for the imitation, of the latest posterity, works which may be exceeded in simplicity, perspicuity, or force, but never excelled either in labour, erudition, or the expression of sound piety.

Enough, however, has been said on this subject, and perhaps enough to deceive the reader into the belief, that it is my object to call again into notice all the practices and studies of those days: this, it will presently be seen, however, is not the end which I have in view. I am well aware of the impracticability of every such speculation; and further, that the “ steep and thorny way” which these good men trod, is not the most likely to secure all that is desirable in these times. I may be excused, however, if I venture to suggest in what respects extended course of theological reading is likely to be beneficial among us, and then proceed to state

some of the evils of which the want of such a course has in many cases been productive.

In the first place, then, a deep and accurate acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures, their evidences, authority, and sanctions, cannot but have a most salutary effect on the mind of the student, and tend to keep him in an habitual state of assurance, that without the favour of their Divine Author, nothing is strong, holy, or valuable; that in himself there dwelleth no good thing, and that his sufficiency must be of God. With these feelings and convictions, the efforts of the student cannot but be cordial, continued, and rightly directed : his light will not only be clear, constant, and steady, but it will be placed upon a hill, and thence diffuse its necessary and cheering beams to all within the sphere of its action. In such a case, success will never be counted upon by the doctrines of human probabilities, but by a firm faith in the co-operation of the Divine assistance, which will at once secure the labourer from hopelessness, and bring an effectual blessing upon all his endeavours. In questions relating to the Church of God, human politics alone can effect nothing desirable. Here, if there be any truth in Revelation, or any such thing as a Divine Providence in the world, the favour of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, can alone afford success and prosperity: other expedients may promise much, but they will effect little ; and, where the Divine aid is not sedulously and habitually sought and relied upon, nothing either stable or permanent can reasonably be expected, or actually be enjoyed.

Now, it will not perhaps be too much to affirm, that where classical or scientific pursuits, or both, have been exclusively cultivated and encouraged, these dispositions, however they may be revered, will not be habitual to the Theologian. Sincerity he may indeed possess, and also evince a zeal for the truth, not inferior to that of purer and more primitive times; but, it will most probably be deficient in the article of dependence on Divine grace: it will generally be too much elevated by success, or depressed by disappointment; and too little disposed practically to believe, that all things shall finally work together for good to them that love God. If I am not very greatly mistaken, a deep acquaintance with the Bible tends in a marvellous degree both to humble and exalt the mind; both to soften and to warm the heart; and to make the man not more commendable for his sincerity, than admirable for his usefulness, disinterestedness, and reliance on the Divine favour: and this, I think, is what every teacher of Religion must be, whose object it is to do good in his generation, to give stability to the Church of Christ, or to be in his life and conversation acceptable even to himself; and this, I also think, a deep and habitual study of the Holy Scriptures is, humanly speaking, alone calculated to make him.

Another highly important end likely to be gained by extending our Theological studies at the Universities will be, that novel and speculative doctrines will, at an early period, be divested of those powers which are too frequently found successful in recommending them. It will now be known, that these have, at one time or other, been already advanced, considered, and refuted; and hence, that they are groundless, specious, and mischievous. There never

« AnteriorContinuar »