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the Jews, and the idolatrous fopperies of the pagans, whence hath resulted a general character of more inveterate malignity, than either judaism or paganism of any form ever manifested. And notwithstanding the inestimable advantages which we derive from the reformation, and the revival of letters in Europe, we have reason still to talk of the state of religion in our day, and the tincture it retains of Romish corruption and the Romish spirit, in much the same way as Horace did of the state of civilization in his,
In longum tamen ævum
So much for the most essential characters of upright intention, modest diffidence, and patient perseverance, with which our study of holy writ ought to be accompanied
The next thing I should consider is, the manner in which we ought to prosecute this study, that we may most effectually attain the end. When I was on the subject of the Jewish history, I observed the propriety of accompanying the reading of this, as we have it in the Old Testament, with the perusal of those uninspired writers of antiquity, whose subject bore any relation to that recorded in the sacred text; and particularly I recommended the careful reading of Josephus the Jewish historian. I observed the propriety of parcelling out the history into periods, and accustoming yourselves to compose abstracts of them severally as you proceed, which will tend at once greatly to increase your knowledge of scripture, to improve your memory, and to produce very useful habits both of reflection and of composition. I must now add, that as one great view is to habituate you to the scripture idiom, you ought not to satisfy yourselves with reading the Bible in the vulgar translation, but ought regularly to have recourse to the original. Though you should prescribe yourselves but a small portion every day, if you can but persevere in the practice, you will improve very sensibly, and find the task at last grow very easy. The portion of the Old Testament which you first read in Hebrew, I would have you next carefully peruse in Greek in the septuagint translation. Nothing can be of greater consequence for forming the young student to a thorough apprehension of the style of the New Testament. And it may be worth his while to remark the most considerable differences in these two principal exemplars of the Old. When he is puzzled as to the literal or grammatical sense, he may recur to some other translation either into Latin or any modern language which he happens to understand. This, for the beginner, is a much better method, than to recur to commentators. To canvass the reasonings of the latter belongs to maturer age, and is proper only for those, who, to adopt the style of the apostle, have by reason of use, their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. A point of great moment, in my eyes, and which I cannot sufficiently inculcate, is ever to give scope to the student's own reflections, and not (as is the too common method) to preclude all reflection of his own, by perpetually obtruding upon him the reflections of others. He must not conceive study to be purely the furnishing of his memory, but much more the sharpening of his attention, the exercising of his judgment, and the acquiring a habit of considering every subject that comes under his review, carefully and impartially on every side. When the young student is possessed of a natural good taste and quickness of discernment, it were a pity, not to put him into that track, which might qualify him in time for being an expositor to himself, and to leave him in the power of the first he happens to meet with, or at least of that commentator who has the knack of setting off his opinions in the most plausible manner.*
But left to himself in this way, will he not be liable often to commit mistakes? 'Tis probable he will, and what then? Can you insure him against them, by the assistance of
you can assign him? Besides, the mistakes he commits through the exercise of his own judgment when imperfect, he will correct as his judgment improves; whereas the errors he falls into through an implicit faith in the judgment of others, are confirmed by habit, a lazy habit, which effectually prevents that improvement of the judging faculty, which would correct them. Would you never trust a child to his own legs, would you always carry him for fear he should fall ? If you shall use him thus, till he arrive at manhood, 'tis a thousand to one he shall never be able to walk in his lifetime. And had it not been better, that he had caught a thousand falls, and been allowed to recover himself again the best way he could, than that he should never acquire the right use of his limbs ? And is not the exercise of the mental faculties, as necessary. to their improvement, as of the corporeal?
But to return, another method I would recommend to our young student when difficulties occur about the
See note at the end of this lecture, p. 99.
literal sense of any text, for it is here that his inquiries should begin, let him consult the parallel places in scripture, that is, those passages wherein the same subject is treated, or those at least, wherein there is some allusion or reference to it. Another useful expedient for bringing him acquainted with the idiom of the sacred writers, and for habituating him to read with attention, and to judge with proper circumspection is, as he proceeds in his study, to mark the different senses in which some of the principal words occur in scripture, and the particular circumstances in the context, which serve to determine the sense. For assisting him in acquiring a more perfect knowledge of the Jewish polity and customs, there are several pieces which will be of use, besides those I have had occasion formerly to mention. Such are Vitringa De Synagoga vetere, Reland de rebus sacris Judeorum, Lewis' Antiquities of the Hebrew Republic, Godwin's Moses and Aaron, Cunaus de republica Hebræorum, Bertram de republica Judaica, Buxtorf's Lexicon talmudicum, which may be consulted occasionally where it can be had, and for their modern customs, the last mentioned author's Synagoga Judaica. As greater proficiency is made, recourse may be had to Selden and Spencer. Afterwards the scholia on the New Testament of such a writer as Lightfoot may be consulted, who has particularly applied himself to turn his Hebrew and Rabbinical learning to the enlightening of the sacred scriptures, and which he has for that reason named Horæ Hebraicæ et Talmudicæ. I do not name so many authors, as thinking it of importance that you should see and read them all, but because it may fall in the way of some of you to light on one of them, and others on another, that you might take the opportunity when you can. For if you should not happen to meet with any of these for some time, I am far from thinking that great progress may not be made by your own application only, with the assistance of the original languages, and the translation of the Septuagint above mentioned. I would never have any young man, who has a tolerable capacity, and is willing to use it, to be discouraged for want of books.
I put you upon a method formerly of making an abstract of the sacred history, as you advance in your reading ; I come now to suggest what may be of use for forming to yourselves an abstract of the doctrine of holy writ. This task indeed requires much greater proficiency than the former, and therefore ought by no means to be so early undertaken. The former may be executed gradually as you proceed in reading; by composing a narrative of the principal events in each period immediately after you have read the history of it in the Bible, and before you begin to peruse the account of the succeeding. But as to a summary of doctrine, one ought to be pretty well versed in the whole scriptures both of Old and New Testaments, before he attempt it. When the student sets about a design of this kind, he may pursue some such method as the following. As God is the great object of religious worship and service, it is proper to begin with inquiring, what is the doctrine of sacred writ concerning the divine nature and perfections. Let him take the assistance of a concordance when his mernory fails, and carefully collate all the clearest and most explicit passages on every several topic, extracting from the whole a brief summary of what relates both to the natural and moral attributes of the Deity, as they are