Images de page


cris Judeorum, Lewis' Antiquities of the Hebrew Republic, Godwin's Moses and Aaron, Cunæus 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 Spen

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

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,

you can

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 memory 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 commonly, though not so properly, distinguished, such as the spirituality, unity, eternity, immutability, and sovereignty of God, his omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, his wisdom, justice, truth, and goodness. In expressing what relates to each of these, let him adhere as close as possible to the style of scripture, only avoiding metaphorical and figurative expressions, and rendering these, where he meets with them, by the plainest and simplest terms which can convey the sense. Let him next proceed to the doctrine of holy writ, concerning the creation of the world and the divine providence. Let him still in the same manner,


and with the scriptures alone for his rule and guide, consider in the third place, human nature, particularly noting what is delivered concerning these three articles, the state of man immediately after the creation, the fall, and its consequences. The fourth point will be the doctrine concerning the Messiah or son of God, all which

may be comprised under these articles, his pre-existence and divinity, his state of suffering including his incarnation, his character, his ministry on earth, his death and burial, and thirdly, his succeeding state of glory, including his resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and second coming, together with the purposes which the several particulars were intended to an

The fifth point will be the doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit, which may be all comprised in two articles, what he is, and what he does. The sixth point, which in the order of nature should immediately follow the mediation of the son and ministration of the spirit, is that great end to which both are directed, the regeneration or recovery of man. On this head

may be considered, the external means, their use, their difference under different dispensations, and their connection with the effect produced. The seventh point will be the doctrine concerning the world to come. This may be subdivided into five articles, the intermediate state between death and the resurrection, the general resurrection, the future judgment, heaven and hell. The eighth and last point, the doctrine which scripture gives concerning itself, comprehending two articles, first what is scripture, secondly, what is its authority. The eight general heads (which for memory's sake I shall repeat) are the

following, God, the creation, man, the son of God, the Holy Spirit, the regeneration, the world to come, the scriptures.

In framing the compendious digest above proposed, there are some things, which I would have the student particularly careful of. The first is, not to have recourse to any human, that is to say, any foreign aid whatever, but to confine himself entirely to the revealed word. He must have it deeply rooted in his mind, that the question, he is concerned in resolving, is not what is the doctrine of this or the other learned man, of this or the other sect or party, but what, to the best of his judgment, is the doctrine of the sacred volume.

What have I to do, should he say, to take this doctrine upon trust and at second hand, when I have access to the fountain itself? If this book was given of God as a rule to all men, it must be in things essential, level to the capacity of all. Shall I take the mind of the Creator on the report of the creature, when, if I will, I have the opportunity of hearing the voice of the Creator himself?

The second thing is, not to indulge a disposition to speculate on points, which cannot with any propriety be said to be revealed. Sometimes events are mentioned, and a profound silence is observed as to the cause. Sometimes we are told of operations, but not a word of the manner of conducting them. Our information goes just so far and no farther. It is of the nature of our present state, and coincides with the design of our author, that here we should know in part only, that here we should see darkly as through a glass. Let us not vainly seek to be wise in divine things, above what is written.

Let us-ever stop where revelation stops; and not pretend to move one single inch beyond it. It is chiefly by indulging the contrary practice, and giving way to the airy excursions of an inventive imagination, that all our system builders, without exception, have more or less wandered from the mark. The question which I have to resolve (the student ought thus to argue with himself) is not what doctrine I should think reasonable or probable, but what is the doctrine contained in this book? However different therefore in other respects, it is as much a question of fact, what is the doctrine of the Bible, as it would be, if I were to be interrogated concerning the doctrine of Mahomet's Alcoran or Zoroaster's Zend. Nor can I ever think myself more at liberty, by philosophizing after my manner, to adulterate with my reveries the doctrine of Jesus Christ, than I should think myself at liberty to treat thus the system either of the military prophet of the Mussulmans, or of the Persian sage. It is the contrary practice, which hath so miserably sophisticated the christian scheme, and rendered that many of our theological controversies are mere logomachies, or no other than doting about questions and strifes of words, in which, if the terms were properly defined and understood, the difference would vanish. There are not a few of them in like manner, and those to the most hotly agitated, of which it may be said with the greatest justice, that scripture is of neither side, having never so much as entered into the question. The third thing I would have him attend to, is to keep as near as possible to scripture style, only preferring proper to figurative expressions, and using those words

« PrécédentContinuer »