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rance with regard to bodily appetite, and moderation in what concerns the passions of the soul, these cannot be considered as bearing in themselves a direct resemblance to any thing in the divine mind. They result purely from the peculiarities of our nature and circumstances ; at the same time, they are absolutely prerequisite to the acquisition of that resemblance. They prepare the heart for its reception, by the exclusion of whatever might tend to obstruct its access. Nor can any thing more effectually block up the avenues of the heart to prevent the entrance of the celestial guest, christian love, than sensuality and inordinate affection. Thus I have given you a kind of skeleton of the ethics of the gospel, not to preclude your own assiduous endeavours on this most important topic, but to serve on the contrary as hints to promote them. In forming a digest upon such a plan, it would be proper to observe carefully the same things, which were pointed out as meriting your attention on the former head. They were principally three, to make scripture serve as its own interpreter ; not to indulge a spirit of philosophizing, or disposition to refine upon the several articles; and lastly, to adopt as nearly as possible the scripture language, only preferring the plainest and simplest expressions to those which are figurative, or may be thought in any respect ambiguous or obscure.
It will not be improper in such a system, to attend a little to what may be called the order of subordination in duties, and to point out in cases wherein there may be an interfering, which ought to give place to the other. I do not mean, that he should enter into all the curious discussions of casuistry, an art, which when all things are duly considered, will be found, I fear, to have done more disservice to religion and mo. rals than benefit. In matters of right and wrong, it has been observed with reason, that our first thoughts are commonly the best. God hath not left the discovery of practical truths, or what regards our duty, in the same way, as those truths that are of a theoretic nature, to the slow and precarious deductions of the rational faculty ; but has in our consciences given such clear intimations of what is right and amiable in conduct, that where there have been no prejudices to occupy the mind, and pervert the natural sense of things, it commands an immediate and instinctive approbation. Recourse is rarely had to the casuist for the sake of discovering what is our duty, but very often that we may find a plausible pretext for eluding its commands. The christian scheme in this particular will be found, it is hoped, exactly conformable to the purest dictates of the unprejudiced mind, to be truly perfective of our nature, which it evidently tends to purify, expand and raise, from every thing that is sordid, contracted or low. The casuistic art, as it is commonly managed, is in fact but a child of the metaphysical theology of the schools, and has taken a considerable tincture from the secular considerations which have influenced the parent. Hence the term casuistical reasoning has, with judicious people, fallen very much into disgrace, and is considered at present as very nearly synonimous with sophistical and jesuitical reasoning. I do not say indeed, that there may not sometimes happen complicated cases, in which even a sensible and good man might be perplexed on which side he ought to determine. But these do not frequently occur; and to employ oneself in imagining them before hand, and in devising the various possible circumstances in which
transgression may be either extenuated or excused, · will, I am afraid, be found a more effectual expedient
for insinuating vice, than it is for making us understand the just limits of virtue.
I come now to point out the advantages, which will redound to the student from his employing so much of his time and labour on the scriptures, as the exercises, which I have enjoined, will necessarily require. The first and most manifest advantage is a knowledge of the scriptures. If any thing whatever can contri. bute to this end, the method I have proposed must certainly do it. Every thing that is remarkable in the sacred volume may almost be comprised in these three particulars, the history it contains, the scheme of doctrine, and the system of precepts. In order to make a proper abstract of each, it is necessary that we should be attentive to, and get acquainted with every part. Some parts indeed are more essential for one of these purposes, and other parts for another; but there is no portion of sacred writ, of which we may not say with justice, that it is conducive for our improvement, either in the biblical history, doctrine, or morals, if not in more than one of them, or even in all the three.
Another advantage well deserving the student's seri. ous attention is this. It puts him upon a method, by means of which he can hardly be in a situation wherein he may not have it in his power to employ his time profitably in the acquisition of useful knowledge, and in forming habits of composition. I can easily conceive, and I believe many of you, gentlemen, may have experienced what I am going to mention, I say, I can easily conceive that the situation, in which you may sometimes find yourselves, may be such as affords very little advantage for study, on any plan of reading that could well be proposed. The books which I might recommend may not be found in the places to which your circumstances may lead you, and even the most ordinary helps may not be at hand. On the plan I
propose, a great deal may be done with no other book but the Bible, and a Concordance, which are to be found every where. Such of you as can read Hebrew, and it is what you all ought to read, should never be without a Hebrew Bible of your own, and let me add to this, a copy of the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament. And if ye have these, which are neither cumbersome, nor expensive, ye are so richly provided, that it is your own fault, wherever ye are, if ye are not improving daily. The other books, which I have recommended for your advancement in the knowledge of sacred history, and for familiarizing you to the Jewish manners, ceremonies, polity, idiom, ye ought to use when ye have the opportunity of such assistances, but ought always to remember that the want of them needs never impede your progress, and consequently is no excuse for your being idle. It is a point of the utmost consequence to young men, that we lay down to them a proper method of employing their time, not in a certain imaginary situation which one might devise or wish, but in those actual situations, in which the greater part of you have a probability of being. I have known directions given to students, which seemed to proceed on the hypothesis, that they were to live all their days in the midst of a library, where no literary production of any name was wanting. The consequence of this was, that the impracticability of the execution made all the sage directions they received, to be almost as soon forgotten as given ; and even if they were not forgotten, as they could not be put in practice, for want of the necessary implements recommended, they would serve only as an excuse for idleness. I would, as much as possible, supply this defect; and allow me to add, I would deprive every one of you, if I can, of that silly pretext for doing nothing, that you have not books. I insist upon it, that the young student, while he has the Bible, may still be usefully employed.
A third advantage which will redound from a proper application of the method now proposed, is that your style on religious subjects will be very much formed on that of the scriptures. And what can be so proper for conveying the mind of God in the great truths of revelation, as that which was employed by the spirit of God, who speaks to us by the sacred penmen? One of the many unhappy consequences, which have resulted from the divisions of christians, from their classing themselves under their several captains and leaders, in manifest derogation from the honour due to their only head and lord, the Messiah, and in no less manifest contenipt of the apostolical warnings they have received to the contrary, (one, I say, of the unhappy consequences of this conduct) is, that each party hath got a dialect of its own, formed upon the model of the great doctor or rabbi the founder, or, at least, the champion of the sect to whom they have implicitly resigned their understandings. And what is worse, this diversity in the dialects used by the different parties hath itself become the ground of an alienation of heart from one