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In some parts of the work, and especially in the outlines of the History of Divinity, he had the opportunity of frequent discussions on the different sections with brethren with whom he is in the habit of meeting. Imperfect as the outlines may now be, they would have been much more defective but for this advantage.
But, with every advantage that he may have had, he is conscious of defects in the work which he cannot remedy. Did he not hope, that, notwithstanding those defects, it might be of use, he should have withheld it; or had he any reason to think that delay would have given him leisure, he would have delayed, in order to attempt their removal; but he sees no prospect of such unbroken leisure as his subject requires; time is rapidly passing on, and he is unwilling to defer farther a publication which has been long promised, and the greater part of which has been prepared upwards of two years, in the contingent hope of such improvements as an uncertain and distant leisure might possibly enable him to make. Such as the work is he offers it to his friends and the public. Our gracious Master accepts imperfect services when given in love to Him, and his disciples will not despise feeble efforts to advance his kingdom.
The study of religion is the duty of every human being. The extent to which that study can or ought to be pursued will much vary with the different circumstances of men. But we have all infinite need to become wise unto salvation: overwhelmed in one common disaster, on us all is laid the indispensable obligation to ascertain the means of escape, for ourselves as well as for others. If we were not creatures, if we had not to please God our Creator, if we had not all offended him, if we had not to die, if we had not to pass through the great judgment, if eternity-an eternity of wo or blisswere not before us, we might with less danger neglect religion; but as these are no fabled tales, but solemn realities, it is of incalculable moment that every human being should know how to please God, how so to pass through the valley of the shadow of death as to fear no evil, and how so to be accepted in the day of judgment, as to enter into the joy of the Lord. To know this is our grand concern, the true work of the Christian Student.
The Writer of this work did not aim to lay down rules for making learned divines, but his main object was two fold; first, to assist his fellow Christians in the various stations of life to acquire for themselves that knowledge which makes wise unto salvation, and which will enable them to give a reason of the hope that is in them. He desires also in the second place, to assist his younger brethren in the ministry
with such information as his own means and resources may have enabled him to collect. Sincerely thankful will the author be if this Treatise should furnish any valuable help, in either of these ways.
Through the progress of education our country possesses, much more than it ever did before, a reading population; and it is specially important in a day like this, when principles are tried to the uttermost, that so extensive a capacity for improvement should have a right direction. But it is to be feared that there is far too general a neglect of instruction, in the principles of Christianity and of our Reformed Religion. Many Christians at present seem little able to meet the various subtle and active adversaries of their faith. To do this effectively they must have mature knowledge and vital godliness; but had they only a knowledge of the theory of religion, it would preserve them from the public exposure arising from ignorance, and from rash steps, for which a man suffers through a whole subsequent life.
But besides knowledge of the way of salvation, the edification of the heart is another most important end of Christian Study. We mainly want the exciting, strengthening, and confirming of holy purposes, the exciting and quickening of pious affections, and that in the midst of the bustle and hurries of life, our spirits may be calmed and purified, and elevated by devout and practical studies. Such studies, indeed, will generally have the additional advantage of conveying to us correct doctrinal views, and leading us to value more the Word of God. It has been well observed that books are good or bad in their effect as they make us relish more or less, after we have read them, the Holy Scriptures.
The chapter entitled, “ Advice to a Student on entering the University," was, at the Author's request, prepared for this work by the kindness of his beloved brother, the Vicar of Acton, in Suffolk.
He is indebted to another beloved friend for many valuable suggestions and additional remarks on those parts of the work which were revised by him.
Amid all the agitations and discouraging circumstances of the times in which we live, the Author views with the sincerest pleasure the progress of theological knowledge, and the increasing number of pious students preparing at our universities for holy orders; the ardor and zeal with which important studies are now prosecuted; and the various public measures by which they have been promoted. Those who lived even a few years back, will have seen a very perceptible change for the better. In his Sermons before the University of Cambridge, in 1810, Dr. Buchanan justly observed; "There
is a two-fold darkness in the West as well as in the East; there is the darkness of infidelity, and the darkness of a corrupt theology. Infidelity has slain its thousands, but a corrupt theology has slain its ten thousands." He asks, “Would it be impossible to restore theological learning to more respect? I mean not what is called the learning of the schools, but legitimate theology, the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and of history, and chronology, as the handmaids of revelation." Several important steps have since been taken to accomplish these ends.
When we consider the extensive range of theology, it is morally impossible that any one can have both personally and fully studied all its various branches. On subjects which he felt peculiarly delicate or difficult, or with which he felt least acquainted, he has given the sentiments of the best authors that he knew as likely to give a scriptural judgment. But feeling how defective all human judgment must be, he cannot but be conscious that he has often probably failed both in his discrimination and decision. The great day is at hand and will soon disclose all. But in the mean time, if he can in some feeble measure subserve the progress of divine knowledge, and of that holiness, without which, no man shall see the Lord, he shall not have labored in vain.
With reference to courses of study, as the variety of men's minds makes it impossible that one plan can be suitable or satisfactory to all, so different plans may yet tend to the same result. He has not the smallest idea of setting up his judgment as the only just standard, or that his plans are free from errors and omissions; it is merely the opinion of an individual.
Indeed, in the Treatise throughout, the Author desires to keep far from assuming the office of a master, and to send it forth with the feeling that he is a scholar, and not a master; a scholar in that school, where there is but one master, even Christ, and where all his disciples are brethren. Though he has been careful not to state opinions adopted hastily, or without reflection, yet he will strive against that corrupt principle of our hearts which leads us because we have given an opinion, to refuse under sufficient evidence to retract it. He will endeavor thankfully to avail himself of any remarks that may be kindly, or even unkindly, made on the present work, and should future editions be called for, he will try to correct any thing that he shall be convinced is incorrect.
The little time which he could spare for such a work has led him to far more frequent quotation than he should otherwise have felt justified in giving. At the risk of making the work less original, but in the hope that it may not be less
useful, he has freely availed himself of the sentiments of others, whenever he could in their words express his own. He has thus been able often to give, not only a valuable sentiment, but an important testimony to that sentiment at the same time.
He has generally taken his extracts from the original works, and referred to them; but in a few instances he has not, and, having omitted to notice at the time to whom he was indebted for the quotation, he cannot now supply the deficiency; he has also often been indebted to others for ideas which he has expressed in his own words. He is anxious to make these acknowledgments lest he should have credit for originality of thought where he is not entitled to it.
May that gracious Saviour in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, be more and more revealed by his Spirit and through His Word to every Christian Student, till the time arrive when all shall know the Lord from the least to the greatest.
Islington, April 22, 1829.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE AMERICAN EDITION.
It is due to the respected author of the following work, and to the public, to acquaint them with the omissions which have been made, in this Edition of the Christian Student, and with the reasons of them. The Chapters from the XIth, to the XVIIIth inclusive, are omitted in the body of the work. The titles of these Chapters are as follows: XI. "Outlines of the History of Divinity," containing brief remarks on "the Fathers, the Schoolmen and their Contemporaries, the Reformers, Successors of the Reformers, the Non-conformists, the Divines of the Restoration and Revolution, Modern Writers;" XII. "Reflections on the preceding Outlines of the History of Divinity;" XIII. "Brief Courses of the Study of Divinity;" XIV. "Religious Libraries for persons in various Classes of Society;" XV. "Parochial Religious Libraries, and diffusing of Religious Knowledge by Tracts;" XVI. "The Minister's Library;" XVII. "The Missionary's Library;" XVIII. "Hints for the Advancement of Theology." Copious extracts from these Chapters, including the more interesting and valuable parts of them, with a long list of books suitable for a Minister's Library, are published in the Appendix. Our sole object in these alterations and omissions has been to diminish the size and expense of the work, and to adapt it more perfectly for circulation among the religious community in this country. In the retained parts the language of the author has been in no instance changed; and in the opinion of good judges, this edition of the work will be even more interesting to the American reader than though the entire English edition had been published at the same expense.
Boston, Nov. 1, 1830.