Images de page
PDF
ePub

" eth or falleth.” When Peter obtruded upon his master a question of mere curiosity, and said concerning his fellow disciple; “What shall become “of this man?” he was aptly checked by his Lord, and made to attend to what nearly concerned himself, " What is that to thee? Follow thou me." Once more.

It has been the fate of religion, from the beginning, to meet with contradiction. Not only have the divinity (and consequently the truth) of the whole been controverted, but several important articles thereof have been made the subject of disputation, and explained by different persons and parties in ways contradictory to one another; therefore that the student may be enabled, on this momentous subject, to distinguish truth from error, and to defend the former against the most subtle attacks of its adversaries, the patrons of the latter; it is necessary for him, to be acquainted with theological controversy, which is the fourth and last branch of the theory of theology.

I would not be understood to mean by this a thorough knowledge of all the disputes that have ever arisen in the church. Such a task would be both endless and unprofitable. Of many of these, it is sufficient to learn from church history, that such questions have been agitated, and what have been the consequences. To enter further into the affair will be found a great waste of time to little purpose. But it is a matter of considerable consequence to us, to be able to defend both natural and revealed religion against the attacks of infidels, and to defend its fundamental principles against those, who though in general they agree with us, as to the truth of christianity, are disposed to controvert

some of its doctrines. A more particular acquaintance therefore with the disputes and questions in theology of the age and country wherein we live, and with the distinguishing tenets of the different sects, with which we are surrounded, is necessary to the divine, not only in point of decency, but even for self defence.

It must be owned at the same time, that this thorny path of controversy is the most unpleasant in all the walks of theology. It is not unpleasant only, but unless trodden with great circumspection, it is also dangerous. Passion, it has been justly said, begets passion, words beget words. It is extremely difficult to preserve moderation, when one is opposed with bigotry; or evenness of temper, when one is encountered with fury. The love of victory is but too apt to supplant in our breasts the love of knowledge, and in the confusion, dust, and smoke, raised by the combatants, both sides often lose sight of truth. These considerations are not mentioned to deter any of you from this part of the study, but to excite all of you to come to it properly prepared, candid, circumspect, modest, attentive, and cool. It has been truly and ingeniously observed, that the ministers of religion are much in the same situation with those builders, who in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, whilst they worked with one hand, were, on account of their enemies. from whom they were continually in danger, obliged to hold a weapon with the other.

Let it here be remarked, that these two last branches, the christian system and polemic divinity, though perfectly distinct in their nature, are almost universally and very commodiously-joined

together in the course of study. The consideration of every separate article of religion is aptly accompanied with the consideration of its evidence; and the consideration of its evidence necessarily requires the consideration of those objections, which arise from a different representation of the doctrine. Thus the great branches of the theoretic part of this profession, though properly four in their nature, are in regard to the manner in which they may be most conveniently learnt, justly reducible to three, namely Scripture Criticism, Sacred History, and Theological Controversy. These are sufficient to complete the character of the theologian, as the word is commonly understood; who is precisely what our Lord has denominated, “a scribe “instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, who can, "like a provident householder, bring out of his treasure, new things and old.”

But even what is sufficient to constitute an able divine, is, though a most essential part, yet not all that is necessary to make a useful pastor. The furniture has been pointed out, but not the application. In the former, we may say, lies the knowledge of the profession, but in the latter, the skill. This second part I intend to make the subject of another discourse.

But before I conclude the present, I shall beg leave briefly to observe to you,

that when first I set about composing these lectures, I was in some doubt, whether I should use the Latin language or the English. I weighed impartially the arguments on both sides, and did at last, I think with reason, determine in favour of the latter. On the one side some appearance of dignity pleaded; on the other,

[ocr errors]

in

real utility. It may be said to draw more respect to the profession as a literary study, that the tongue employed be unknown to the vulgar. On the other hand it is no reflection on the proficiency in learning, which you, my hearers, may have heretofore made, to suppose, that not being so much accustomed to the use of Latin as of your mother-tongue, you should not with the same quickness and facility apprehend what is conveyed in the one, as what is delivered in the other. It is not barely knowing the words and the construction of a language, that will make us apprehend it with perfect readiness, when spoken. For this purpose long practice is necessary even to the best proficient. For so pow* erful is the influence of habit on association, that even when a person has made so great progress the language, as that he can hardly ever be at à loss, when sufficiently attentive, for explaining a term or analysing a sentence, yet if his opportunities of hearing it read or spoken have not been frequent, it will be difficult to him, for any continuance, to give the necessary attention. A man is said to understand a tongue, when there is an association or mutual attraction established in his mind between the words both single and combined, and the ideas they are intended to signify. But though this connection may be soon established, it is practice only that can quicken the attraction, and as it were smooth the passage from the one to the other. Wherever this is not done, attention requires too much effort to be long supported. Public speakers, even when their language and style are perfectly familiar and perspicuous to their hearers, find considerable difficulty to command an atten

tive hearing for half an hour, especially to matters of speculation; they have little need then, if I may be allowed the metaphor, to lay an additional tax on attention, a commodity.of so great consequence to them, and at the same time so scarce. Were it indeed the custom, that in all the previous parts of education, which our students pass through before they enter this hall, the lessons were given in Latin, it would be reasonable that the practice should be continued here. As the hearers would by habit be perfectly prepared, it would be even laudable to contribute, by continuing this usage, to familiarize them to a language, with which every man of science ought to be thoroughly acquainted. But as the case is different, I should think it unpardonable to sacrifice the profit of the students to the parade of learning; or to waste more time in composing, to no other end, I may say, but to render the composition less useful. The words of Doctor Burton, both in relation to the manner of conducting the theological study, and to the language proper to be employed, are so much to my purpose, that I shall conclude this lecture with them. The passage is in Latin, but there is a great difference between attending for three minutes and attending for thirty.

Desideratur specialis aliqua institutio, quæ prophetarum filios ad officium pastorale obeundum aliquanto instructiores faciat. Disciplina scilicet primitus instituta, pro temporum superiorum ratione, figuræ et coloris utplurimum scholastici, ad subtilis cujusdam artificii ostentationem potius quam ad usus communes comparata, exolevit. Hinc fit ut discipuli nostri ab operosa systematum disciplina

« PrécédentContinuer »