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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 synonymous 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 contribute 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 serious attention, is this. It puts him upon a me. thod, by means of which he can hardly be in a situation wherein he may not have it in his 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
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
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 you have these, which are neither cumbersoine, nor expensive, you are so richly provided, that it is your own fault, wherever you are, if you 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, you ought to use when you 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
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 contempt of the apostolical warnings they have received to the contrary, (one, I say, of the unhappy consequences of this conduct), is, that each party hạth 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 another ; and that, even in cases where this difference in phraseology, is all the difference which a wise man would be able to discern between them, the resolution of Paul to speak the things of God, “ not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, “ but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” The reverse is the practice of all, in whom the true spirit of the sect predominates, of whatever denomination the sect be. They are ever for speaking the things of God, not in the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth, but which man's wisdom teacheth. In antediluvian times, when the sons of God went in to the daughters of men, the product of this unnatural mixture, as the sacred historian informs us, was giants, men of renown indeed, but renowned only for what is bad, men hideous both in body
and mind; as eminent for their wickedness as for their stature. When religion, the daughter of heaven, hath been at any time unhappily forced to admit an intercourse with school metaphysics, a mere son of earth, the fruit of such incongruous union has been a brood no less monstrous. Or, to adopt an apt similitude of Luther's, “ Mixtione
quadam ex divinis eloquiis et philosophicis ratis onibus, tanquam ex Centaurorum genere biformis
disciplina conflata est.” Hence those absurdities in doctrine, dressed in technical and barbarous language, by which the truth, as it is in Jesus, hath been so miserably defaced. Nor have these last monsters been guilty of fewer or less considerable ravages, than the first. In proof of this fact, many
the most incontestible evidences from church history might be produced. What the apostle dreaded with regard to the Corinthians, has in less or more befallen christians of all denominations, their minds have been corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.. A more curious, a more artificial, and a more learned style was necessary to gratify a vitiated palate and depraved appetite.
Many are the evils, which to this day are consequent upon an immoderate attachment to scholastic language. One is, a certain jealousy of temper
which it has occasioned. As one principal distinction, especially in those parties or factions which are considered as approaching nearest to one another, is in their style and idiom, a true sectary gives a particular attention, not to the sentiments, but to the phraseology of any writer or speaker whose performance falls under his consi