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this in the least contradict the protestant doctrine of the perspicuity of sacred writ; for though every thing which pioceeds from God, it must be of consequence to us to be acquainted with, and therefore require* diligent attention, especially from the minister of his word, yet all the truths revealed are not of equal consequence, as we learn from scripture itself. The most important things are still the plainest, and set in the greatest variety of lights. Now if God is pleased to address us in two different languages, neither of which is without its difficulties, we m,iy ,find considerable assistance in comparing both .for removing the difficulties of each. But though, as I observed, na, tural theology and ethics are strictly the province of the philosopher, it may net be amiss, to suggest in a few words concerning the former-, that the use of reading elaborate demonstrations of the being and perfections of God, is more perhaps to fix our attention on the object, thai to give conviction to the understanding. The natural evidences of true theism are among the simplest, and at the same time the clear, est deductions from the effect to the cause. And it were tp be wish, ed, that the subject had not been rather perplexed, than facilitated, by the abstruse and metaphysical discussions in which it hath been some? times involved.'
Persuaded that the surest way of confirming our faith, and of enabling us most clearly to apprehend its several parts, is an immediate reference to and study of the scriptures, Dr. C. is anxious to prepare the student for beginning with them, and 10 throw the whole race of system-makers and commentators into the back ground:
'It has been the error of ages, and still is of the present age, that "to have read much is to be very learned. There is not, I may say, a 'greater heresy against common sense. Reading is doubtless necessary, and it must be owned, that eminence in knowledge is not to be attained without it But two things are ever especially to be regarded on this topic, which are these; First, that more depends on the quar lity of what we read, than on the quantity; secondly, more depends on the use, which by reflection, conversation, and composition we have made, of what we read, than upon both the former. In whatever depends upon history, or the knowledge of languages, the materials indeed can only be furnMied us by reading; but if that reading be properly conducted and improved, its influence will be very extensive. Whilst therefore it is bv far the too sencral cry, "Read, read, corrmenrators, systematists, paraphrasts. controvertists, demonstrations, confutations, apologies, answers, dtfences, replies, and ten thousand .other such like;" 1 should think the most important advice to be, "Devoutly study the scriptures themselves, if you would understand their doctrine in singleness of heart."' Get acquainted with the sacred history in all its parts, Jewish, canonical, ecclesiastic. Study the sacred languages, observe the peculiarities of their diction. Attend to the idiom of the Hebrew, and of the ancient Greek translation, between which and 'he style of the New Testament there is a great ability, study the Jewish and ancient customs, polity, laws, ceremo
nies, institutions, manners and with the help of some knowledge in natural theology and the philosophy of the human mind, you will have ground to believe that, with the blessing of God, ye shall in a great measure serve as commentators, controvertists, systematists, and in short, every thing to yourselves. Without these helps, you are but bewildered and lost in the chaos of contradictory comments and oppo» site opinions. On the contrary, overlooking all cavils for a time, pursue the track now pointed out, and as the light from its genuine sources above-mentioned breaks in upon you, the objections, like the shades of night, will vani-sh of themselves. Many of those objections you will discover to be founded in an ignorance of human nature and. of the nature of evidence, many in an ignorance of that which is the subject of debate, the genius, the doctrine, the precepts of revelation. You will find that many doughty combatants, who have imagined they have been performing wonders for the subversion of the cause of Christ, have been wasting all their ammunition against the traditions and inventions of men, and that the pure institution of Jesus is not one jot affected by their argument. Patience therefore we would recommend to the young student, in regatd to particular cavils against religion, till once he is provided of a fund of his own, from which he may be enabled to perceive their futility and to refute them.'
Lest the pupil should be discouraged from the formidable attempt of setting up as it were for himself, and of appearing to begin where it may seem he ought to end, the lecturer points out the inconvenience of being put into leading strings; and the importance, in order to make a proper digest of the scripture-truth, of consulting the scriptures themselves in the first instance, especially if we wish to be secured from collecting the materials of systems instead of the materials of revelation. The easy and familiar manner in which this truth is illustrated in the following extract will apologize for its length:
* Have not several, whom in charity we are bound to think both knowing and pious, maintained in many instances opposite opinions, each extremely positive as to his own, and extremely zealous in defence of it? And as to orthodox, I should be glad to know the meaning of the epithet. Nothing, you say, can be plainer. The orthodox are those who in religious matters, entertain right opinions. Be it so. How then is it possible I should know who they are that entertain right opinions, before I know what opinions are right? I must therefore unquestionably know orthodoxy, before I can know or judge who arc orthodox. Now to know the truths of religion, which you call orthodox, is the very end of my enquiries, and am I to begin these enquiries on the presumption, that without any enquiry I know it already? Besides, is this thing which you call orthodoxy, a thing in which mankind are universally agreed, insomuch that it would seem to be entitled to the privilege of an axiom or first principle to be assumed without proof? Quite the reverse. There is nothing about which men have been, and still arc, more divided. It has been accounted orthodox divinity in one age, which hath been
B b 4 ~ branded branded as ridiculous fanaticism in the next. It is at this day deemed the perfection of orthodoxy in one country, which in an adjacent country is looked upon as damnable heresy. Nay in the same country hath not every sect a standard of their own? Accordingly when any person seriously uses the word, before we can understand his meaning, we must know to what communion he belongs. When that is known, we comprehend him perfectly. By the orthodox he means always those who agree in opinion with him and his party, and by the heterodox those who differ from him. When one says then, of any teacher whatever, that all the orthodox acknowledge his orthodoxy, he says neither more nor less than this, "all who are of the same opinion with him, of which number 1 am one, believe him to be in the right." And is this any thing more, than what may be asserted by some person or other, of every teacher that ever did or ever will exist ?" Words," it was well 6aid by a philosopher of the last age, "are the counters of wise men and the money of fools" And when they are contrived on purpose to render persons, p .rties or opinions, the objects of admiration or of abhorrence, the multitude are very susceptible of the impression intended to be conveyed by them, with, out entering at all, or ever enquiring into the meaning of the wards. And to say the ttuth, we have but too many ecclesiastic terms and phrases, which savour grossly of the arts of a crafty priesthood, who meant to keep the world in ignorance, to secure an implicit faith in their own dogmas, and to intimidate men from an impartial enquiry into holy writ.
• But would you then lay aside systems altogether, as useless or even dangerous? By no means. But I am not for beginning with them. I am even not for entering on their examination, till one has become in the way formerly recommended, if not a critic, at least a considerable proficient in the scripture. 'Tis only thus, we can establish to ourselves a rule by which we are to judge of the truth or falsehood of what they affirm. 'Tis only thus, -that we bring systems to be tried at the bar of scripture, and not scripture to be tried at their's. 'Tis only thus, we can be qualified to follow the advice of the prophet in regard to all teachers without exception, " To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, they have no truth in them." 'Tis only thus, we can imitate the noble example set us by the wise Bereans, in exact conformity to the prophet's order, of whom we learn, that they did not admit the truth of Christ's doctrine even on the testimony of his apostles, but having candidly heard what they. said, "searched the scriptures daily to see if these things were so." 'Tis only thus we can avoid the re' proach of calling other men xaSnyiiiaj, masters, leaders, dictators, to the manifest derogation of the honour due to our only master, leader and dictator, Christ. 'Tis only thus, we can avoid incurring the reproach thrown upon the Pharisees, concerning whom God says,
their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men."
'But then it will be said, if the scriptures are to be our first study, will it not be necessary, that even in reading them, we take the aid of some able commentator? Perhaps I shall appear somewhat singular in my way of thinking, when I tell you in reply, that I would not have you at first recur to any of them. Do not mistake me, as though I meant to signify, that there is no good to be had from commentaries. I am far from judging thus of comtnviitsrics in general, any more than of systems. Bui neither are proper for the beginner, whose object it is impartially to search out the mind of the spirit, and not to imbibe the scheme of any dogmatist. Almost every commentator liath his favourite system, which occupies his imagination, biasses his understanding, and mote or less tinges all his comments. The only assistances which I would recommend, are those in which thetc caa be no tendency to warp your judgement It is the serious and frequent reading of the divine oracles, accompanied with fervent prayer; it is the comparing of scripture with scripture ; it is the diligent study of the languages in which they are written; it is the knowledge of those histories and antiquities to which they allude. Thtrse indeed will not tell you what you are to judge of every passage, and so much the better. God hath given you judgment, and requires you t* exercise it '* And why even of yourselves judge ye not wtiat is right?" If sufficient light is brought to you, and if you have eyes wherewith to see, will ye not take the trouble to use them, and observe what is befote you; must you be told every thing as though you were blind or in utter darkness? The helps therefore, which I recommend, are such as pronounce nothing concerning the import of holy writ, but only increase the light by means of which the sense may be discovered. The student I would have in a. great measure to be self-taught, a wellconducted attempt at which is, in my opinion, the true way of pieparing himself for being taught of dod. Whoever thinks that this method will not do, ought openly and honestly to disclaim the principle, that " the sciiptures ire able to make the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." Such a ore on the contrary hath in effect, whatevet he may imagine, abandoned the protestant doctrine of the perspicuity and absolute sufficiency of scripture. He hath not entirely purged out the old leaven, but retains a hankering after some human and unerring interpreter. If he differ With Home, it is not really about the needfulness of the office, but about the person or persons who shall fill it.'
Though Dr. C. is adverse to the usual mode of beginning the study of theology by human comments and systems, he has no objection to the subsequent introduction of them, and explains when and how they may be useful:'
'When is it then, that you would think it proper to recur to systems and commentators? The answer is plain. After you ha\e acquired such an insight into the spirit and sentiments of sacred writ, that you are capable of forming some judgment of the conformi y of contrariety of the doctrine of these authors to that infallible standard, With the examination of such human compositions, the studies of the theologian ought, in my judgment, to be concluded, and not begun. i he disciple of the son of God ought, above all men, to be able, with regard to merely human teachers, to apply to himself the words of the poet,
, Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri.
• I shall even suppose, that we could put an interpreter into your hands, who would always guide you right, and this is more than any man, that does not claim infallibility, can pretend to do. Yet even in that case, I am not satisfied that this would be the best method for the young student to take, in order to arrive at the understanding1 of the scriptures. To learn, seems with many, to imply no more than a bare exercise of memory. To read, and to remember is, ihey imagine, all they have to do I affirm on the contrary, that a great deal more is necessary as to exercise the judgment and the discursive faculty. I 6hall put ihe case, t!<at one were employed to teach you algebra; and instead of instructing you in the mannc of stating and resolving algebraic equations, he should think it incuiment on him, only to inform you of all the principal problems, that had at any time exercised the art of the most famous algebraists, and the solutions they had given; and being possessed of a retentive memory, I shall suppose, you have a distinct remembrance both of the questions and the an. •wers; could ye, for this, be said to have learnt algebra? No, surely. To teach you that ingenious and useful art, is to instruct you in those principles, by the proper application of which, you shall be enabled to solve the questions for yourselves. In like manner, to teach you to understand the scriptures, is to initiate you into those general principles, which will gradually enable you of yourselves, to enter into their sense and spirit. It is not to make you repeat by rote the judgments of others, but to bring you to form judgments of your own; to see with you own eyes, and not with other people's. I sh;ill conclude this prelection with the translation of a short passage from the Persian letters, which falls in entirely with my present subject. Rica having been to visit the library of a French convent, writes thus to his friend in Persia concerning what had passed. Father, said I to the librarian, what are these huge volumes which fill the whole side of the library? These, said he. are the interpreters of the scripture*. There is a prodigious number of them, replied I; the scriptures must have been very dark formerly and very clear at present. Do there remain still any doubts? Are there now any points contested? Are there, answered he with surprize, Are there? There are almost as many as there arc lines. Yon astonish me, said I, what then have all these authors been doing ? These authors, returned he, never searched the scriptures for what ought to be believed, but for what they did believe themselves. They did not consider them as a book, wherein were contained the doctrines which they oiight to receive, but as a work which might be made to authoiize their own ideas. For this reason, they have corrupted all the meanings, and have put every passage to the torture, to make it speak their own sense. 'Tis a country whereon people of all sects make invasions, and go for pil. lage; it is a field of battle, where, when hostile nations meet, they engage, attack, and skirmish in a thousand different ways.'
In the subsequent lectures, the student receives some judicious hints respecting the proper examination of the scriptures, and the formation of an abstract of their doctrines, together ► with