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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 for 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,
ns Qiaouasns con movuaans. 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.
Of the Study of Natural Religion, and of the Evidences of Christianity. I observed in general, when laying down the method of prosecuting my plan, that were I in lecturing from this place to confine myself entirely to this branch of the theoretic part, on which I am now to enter, the examination of the christian scheme, together with the controversies to which the several members of it have given rise, considering the shortness of our sessions, it would be impossible in twice the number of years, that our ecclesiastical canons require our students to attend us, (and it is well known that even these canons have grown into disuse) to finish such a course in a manner that would be satisfactory. What then can be done, when so much more than the discussion of that branch is necessary, absolutely necessary, for answer. ing the end of this profession? Who sees not that the end is not so much to make an acute disputant as to make an useful minister? I do not mean to treat slightly a talent that is necessary for the defence of truth; but I must say, that in common life, where there is one occasion of exerting that talent, there are twenty occasions of employing the other talents necessary for the right discharge of the pastoral function. As then the consideration of the other branches must occupy a part of our time, what profitable purpose, it may be asked, will be answered, by some detached discourses on a very few points of divinity, the most that the same students could ever have occasion to hear? Could this give so much as an idea, not to say the knowledge of the harmony, connection and mutual dependence of the whole ? Is then so important a branch as polemic divinity to be entirely overlooked ? and if not, in what manner is it to be treated that the end may best be answered ? It is by no means to be entirely overlooked ; but in what manner it ought to be conducted (all circumstances considered, both as to the time allowed for the study, and the other matters equally essential to be discussed) is a question much more difficult to answer. In the digest that may be made of the articles both of natural and of revealed religion, if it were possible, as it is not, within the compass of the few sessions to which the attendance of students is commonly limited, to comprehend such a digest, together with the arguments that may be warrantably urged, not only in confirmation of the whole in general, but in support of all the principal controverted points, hardly any thing either new or curious could be offered by us. We should be laid under the necessity of giving at best but a very indistinct, and therefore a bad compilation, because by far too much abridged, from the topics and arguments which have been fully treated by various controversial writers. In so ample a field therefore, I say not, the best thing we can do, but the only thing we can do, that will answer any useful purpose, is to give directions, both as to the order in which the