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I can indeed conceive such a degree of probity in a human society as to supersede the necessity of all compulsive power. I can figure to myself a community wherein piety and humanity would prove
sufficient motives, remorse and shame sufficient checks, a thing which may be imagined, but cannot reasonably be expected on this earth. But even in such a society, I should not say, that the authority of the magistrate might be safely lodged with the pastor, but that the virtue of the people rendered magistracy itself unnecessary; for of this power we may justly say, what the apostle says of the law, that “it is not made for a right
eous man, but for the lawless and the disobedient." What I have said on this article, it will be observed, militates chiefly, if not solely, against what may be called a coercive power in the ministers of religion, either direct, by seizing the persons and distraining the goods of obnoxious people, or, which in my judgment is still worse, an indirect coercion, by employing ecclesiastical censures as the tools for effecting the same worldly purpose.
Thus much only by the way.
I now return from what will be thought perhaps a digression, though very closely connected with my subject, and of considerable importance for conveying a just idea of the nature of this sacred charge. All that concerns government in the pastor with us, in relation to discipline, ordination and civil rights, may be comprehended under this general title, the judicial capacity of the minister; in which case the whole of what relates to the pastoral function, may be branched out into these three,
pulpit eloquence, purity of manners in private life, and the observance of propriety in the character of judge, both in ecclesiastic matters and in civil.
I have in this, and the preceding discourse given a short sketch of the several branches of study, for the better prosecution of which by the candidates for the ministry, professorships of divinity have in this country been instituted. The plan you see is very large and comprehensive. To do justice to all the parts (and all of them, as hath been obseryed, are of importance to a minister) would, even though the utmost conciseness were attempted, require a course of many years.
What can be effected to any purpose with us, where the time employed in the study is commonly but three or four sessions, and where the attendance in general is so irregular, and so much interrupted, it would be difficult to say.
But whatever relates to the manner in which it will be most conducive to the edification of the students, to treat these several topics from this place, I shall reserve as a subject for lecture.
IN WHAT MANNER THE BRANCHES OF THEOLOGY
ABOVE MENTIONED OUGHT TO BE TREATED.
IN the two preceding lectures, I showed at some length what an extensive field of study the theological student has to cultivate. I distributed the whole into two principal parts, the theoretical and the practical. The first I subdivided into three, biblical criticism, sacred history, and polemic divinity; the second also into three, pulpit-eloquence, propriety of conduct in private life, propriety also in the public character, or the judicial capacity, which a minister in this country, and church, is called to act in.
It was reserved as the subject of this discourse, to consider in what manner it will be most conducive to the edification of the students to treat from this place the several topics above mentioned. I acknowledge that, for my own part, I have found this a very puzzling question. A regular attendance for four winters is the utmost that we are entitled to expect from the same set of students. How few are there, comparatively, from whom we can obtain so much? Part, you know, are coming and part are going, I say not, every year, but every month, and every week, and every day. I
might justly be charged with a faulty insensibility, if I did not acknowledge, that for some years past, there has been a considerable change to the better in this respect, and that the endeavours, which have been used for effecting this end, have not been entirely lost labour. But after all, it must be allowed, there is still room for further improvements. Besides, our sessions are short, and though I have endeavoured to make the most of them, and have doubled the number of meetings for my own lectures, the time is, after all, but little, compared with the work. The prelections I am to give shall not be long; for I would fain, if possible, avoid being tedious. I have always considered it, as a good rule, to prefer frequency to length in the instructions that are given to youth. Attention in the earlier part of life, especially to articles of science, which afford not so much entertainment to the fancy, as matter of reflection to the understanding, is soon cloyed; but then, after a little respite, it is soon recruited. It is no better than talking to the deaf, to discourse to hearers whose stock of attention, and consequently of patience, is exhausted. For this reason, as I find it no easy task, so to enliven these topics as to secure a patient and attentive hearing, beyond the time of an ordinary sermon, I intend that these lectures shall not often fall short of half an hour, or exceed three quarters. And this, I am hopeful, will not be thought immoderate on either side. But to return to the particular branches of my subject, or points to be discussed,
Were we in lecturing to confine ourselves entirely to the third branch of the first general head, po
lemic divinity, or the examination of the several parts of the christian system, together with the controversies, to which every one of these has given occasion; would it be possible, considering the shortness of our sessions, a great part of which must be employed in hearing the exercises of the students, to finish, even in thrice the time that our canons require the students to attend us (and it is well known that these canons have grown into disuse) such a course in a way that would be accounted satisfactory? What then can be done, when so much more than the discussion of that branch is necessary, absolutely necessary, for answering the end of this profession? Who sees not, that the end is not so much to make an acute disputant in theology, as to make a useful minister? I would not be understood to treat contemptuously 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 particular articles of divinity, the most that the same students will ever have occasion to hear? Can this give so much as an idea, not to say the knowledge, of the harmony, connection, and mutual dependance of the several parts? Could a student in architecture, for instance, ever acquire, I say not skill, but what would be necessary to form a taste in that noble and useful art, by having occasion to hear a few de