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have to traverse, or the cities ye have to visit, or the · objects most worthy of attention ye have to observe. But surely ye must acknowledge that it would be an immense advantage to be accompanied in travelling by one who is well acquainted with the country, with every province in it and every considerable town, who could bring you to every place and every object that were deserving of your notice, and conduct you by those roads which would present you with the most extensive prospects. With such an assistant and fellow traveller, it cannot be doubted, but ye might acquire more useful knowledge of the country and of the people in a month, than ye could otherwise do in a year. And it must be owned, that the use of a divinity-school is but ill-answered, if the study be not, by its means, at least facilitated to the learner. A professor of divinity, if he does not usurp what he has no title to, claims no advantage over a student but that which years and experience have given him; an advantage, in which the student in time, if it is not his own fault, may be his equal, perhaps his superior. We demand no attention from you, but such as an experienced mariner would be entitled to from those who are setting out on their first voyage.
And here I cannot help observing, that in the way, in which attendance in the divinity school is still given by some of our students, very little can be expected from it. I know the excuse that is generally produced by students for their great deficiency in this respect. They are engaged in other business, some as preceptors in private families, others in teaching schools. But are excuses like these admitted in students as a sufficient reason for absenting themselves from the inferior
classes ? Is their attendance in these dispensed with by the master for the greater part of the philosophycourse? On what a miserable footing would our uni. versity education stand, if such a plea as this were to be received as a sufficient apology, and if such a sham attendance, as is sometimes given here by students, were enough to entitle our young collegiates to academical degrees? Every person of discernment must perceive, that on such a plan of procedure, our colleges would quickly go to wreck, and our schools be shut up, because they would infallibly lose all credit and utility. Now I would fain be informed what valid reason can be produced, why this plea should rather be admitted here? Is any branch of philosophy of equal importance to one who is intended for the ministry, as those branches of theology are, which we have shown to be immediately connected with, and preparatory to the sacred function? Or is it fit that there should be less caution in regard to the preparation for holy orders than is thought necessary for attaining the degree of master of arts? It is manifest that our church did not think so, when those statutes were enacted by her, which regard the licensing of probationers, and the ordaining of pastors. But those statutes, though they still remain unrepealed, are greatly relaxed by the manner we have got of executing them. These things well deserve your serious and mature consideration.
Permit me further to recommend to you a punctual attendance on the professors of the oriental languages. I have assigned the reasons of this recommendation in a former discourse, and I hope they will be found satisfactory. I am the more emboldened to urge your attention to this recommendation at present, as I can
say with truth that, in my memory, there was never such an opportunity, in this part of the world, of being thoroughly instructed in the oriental languages, as there is now. As the knowledge of these is of great and undoubted consequence to those who would make themselves masters of the christian theology, the opportunity you have at this time ought not to be neglected. I appeal to yourselves, I appeal to common sense, whether there be not an impropriety, not to say an absurdity in this, that a person should be by office the interpreter of a book, which he himself cannot read without an interpreter. And such surely is every one, who cannot read any part of his bible in the original, but must have recourse to translations. Ye know that a'specimen of your proficiency in the Hebrew is a part of the trials ye must undergo, before ye be licensed to preach the gospel. It is however too notorious to be dissembled, that this part of trial is often artifically eluded, and through the excessive indulgence of presbyteries, that artifice, though perceived, is overlooked. But I must say, there is at least a meanness in having recourse to any thing that savours so grossly of disingenuity to which a candid mind will not easily submit. What person, I say not of genuine piety, but of liberal sentiments, can bear to avow even to his own heart in secret, that his only aim is just to obtain as much knowledge as will carry him through the trials, so that he may get into a living; and that about every thing else he is indifferent? I persuade myself, gentlemen, that ye all view the matter in a very different light; and that it is your great aim, that ye may be qualified fon discharging in such a manner the duties of the holy ministry, when it shall please Providence to call you to
the office, as may redound to the service of your master, and the benefit of your fellow creatures. I am certain, this is the only way of doing it with honour to yourselves. I do not expect that ye should all become critics in the oriental tongues. That can be the attainment of but a few. But I may and do expect, that ye should know as much of the Hebrew, as to be capable of forming a judgment concerning the justness of the criticisms that have been made by others; and that when ordained pastors yourselves, ye may in your turn be qualified to take trial of the knowledge of those who shall then come to be candidates for the ministry. And I believe it will be admitted, that a man must be in a very awkward situation, who is obliged by his profession to take trial of another's knowledge in a subject, of which he is totally ignorant himself.
I must also insist upon it, that ye be at some pains in improving yourselves in Greek and Latin. Ye know the former is the language of one essential part of the scriptures, and that part which is in particular the foundation of the christian faith. With regard to the other, it hath been long the universal language of the learned, insomuch that in this, as well as in every other literary profession, one can make but very little progress without it.
In short, we may say with truth of all the branches of a liberal education, and of history and philosophy in particular, that on all occasions they are ornamental to the character of a minister, and on many occasions may prove greatly useful. Ye ought not therefore to make a light account of those sciences in which ye have been instructed, or think ye have now no more to do with them. So far from allowing yourselves to lose
any thing of what ye have already acquired, ye ought to be daily improving your stock of knowledge. Of some branches of study, young men, after finishing their philosophical course, often have the acquisition to begin. Of this sort is civil history, which, especially the ancient oriental, as well as Greek and Roman histories, are of considerable importance here, inasmuch as they have a pretty close connexion and are in some particulars closely interwoven with the scriptural and ecclesiastic histories; and these ye know make a principal branch of your subject. Sacred history and profane serve reciprocally to throw light on each other. I may add that historical knowledge is of immense use in criticism, from the acquaintance to which it introduces us, with ancient manners, laws, rites and idioms. These things I only mention as it were in passing. No doubt from the diversity of geniuses and tastes there is in human nature, one of you will incline more to one study, and another to another. And it is right it should be so. In those branches of knowledge which do not immediately belong to our profession, though they may have a connexion with it, I do not mean to give any particular directions; I only mean to say in general that it will be neither for your honour, nor for your interest that they be altogether laid aside. But a proper appetite for knowledge is here all in all. What Isocrates said on this subject so pertinently to Demonicus, I say to every one of you, Eav ns pinoucesns son no vualns. If you love learning, you will be learned. If on the contrary you read and study more through a sort of constraint, than through choice, you will never arrive at eminence.