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THE FIRST PRÆLECTION,
DELIVERED AS PROFESSOR OF DIVINITY, ON MAY 2, 1814,
TO WHICH ARE ANNEXED, THE
REGULATIONS FOR THE EXAMINATION DIRECTED BY THE STATUTE
FIXING THE DUTIES OF THE PROFESSORSHIP OF DIVINITY,
THE LIST OF BOOKS
RECOMMENDED TO THE STUDENTS, AS PREPARATORY FOR THAT EXAMINATION.
Called on to address you for the first time in the discharge of a new and important duty, it becomes necessary for me to explain the nature of that duty, the objects to which I wish to direct your attention, and the motives which I trust will influence you, to employ on those objects that praiseworthy diligence, and that intellectual vigour, for which I do not hesitate to affirm the students of this University are eminently distinguished. The candour and liberality with which you uniformly receive every serious effort to promote academical instruction and improvement, and which I have so often experienced, leave me no doubt but you will hear me with that kind indulgence, which I never so anxiously wished for; because when I reflect on the extent and importance of the subject of which I am to treat, I deeply feel I never so much wanted that kindness and that indulgence as at the present moment.
The illustrious foundress of this University, and all her royal successors who have so liberally endowed and so steadily supported it, have uniformly declared that its first and leading purpose, was to promote the knowledge and the practice of genuine Christianity, by defending the principles and extending the influence of the Protestant religion, as it is received in its present form by the Church of England; and that therefore the instruction of such of its students as designed to enter into holy orders, in every species of knowledge preparatory to that sacred profession, ought ever to hold a distinguished place in its institutions. Conformably to this, our statutes provided from the first, a catechist to instruct the younger, and a divinity lecturer for the more advanced students. And many years since, a divinity professor was appointed, who was required to resign his fellowship in order to devote all his time and studies to this one important object, to expound the Scriptures, discuss the controversies both with the enemies of Christianity in general, and the opponents of the established church; give lectures and examinations in ecclesiastical history, and direct theological exercises of every description. This arduous trust is now devolved on me. It brings with it, I am conscious, a most serious responsibility, affecting the best interests of religion.
But even though I should employ every effort in my power to fulfil my duty, yet fruitless must all my efforts prove, if you, my young friends, do not zealously co-operate with me, by pursuing with perseverance the course of studies it is my business to point out to you. I am persuaded you will readily feel, how serious is the obligation, which binds you thus to persevere. On your receiving and improving the instructions here offered to you, may depend your being duly prepared to discharge the most important, the most sacred office, which Christians can be called on to undertake; even (to use the solemn language of our Liturgy in its ordination charge) “ to become messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord, to teach and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord's family; to seek for Christ's flock that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.” You will therefore I trust excuse me, if I use more than ordinary earnestness and plainness, when I exhort you to pursue those studies, and cultivate those attainments which are necessary to qualify you for the ministry.
Feeling the most anxious wishes to forward your improvement in theological knowledge, so as to render your proficiency creditable to the University, conducive to your own best interests, and useful to the church of Christ, I was led to consider anxiously the best modes of doing so. It occurred to me, that the same means which encourage perseverance, and produce success in your other academic pursuits, might here also be employed with advantage, by extending to eminent diligence and intellectual exertion in this most important branch of knowledge, rewards similar to those which attend them in every other. I therefore suggested the plan of an annual examination of such graduates as are preparing for the sacred ministry, two days, at the four usual hours each day. The first morning, the Old Testament to be the subject of examination; the first evening, the New Testament; the second morning, ecclesiastical history; and the second evening, the creeds, articles, and liturgy of the Church of England. This suggestion has been honoured by the approbation, first of the provost and senior fellows, and next of the visitors, as likely to promote the advantage of the Church of Ireland, and has been incorporated in the statute formed for the permanent regulation of the professor's duty. It is peculiarly incumbent on me to render its operation practicable and useful; and, in promoting the object of this examination, the provost and senior fellows are, I am authorised to state, determined to give every assistance in their power. They have appropriated to its encouragement a fund competent to reward those, who shall be found to merit reward by such distinguished assiduity and progress, as are proportioned to the peculiar importance of religious knowledge. The college honours and emoluments which are appropriated to divinity students, will of course be distributed with a constant reference to the proficiency shown at this examination. Every answerer will also have a right to have the judgments he obtains marked on the testimonium under the college seal, which he will be called on to produce to the bishop to whom he presents himself for ordination. And as the prelates of the Church of Ireland have almost universally required a proof of attendance on a year's course of divinity lectures as a necessary qualification for admission into holy orders, it may not unreasonably be hoped, that with the same praiseworthy attention to the interests of religion, they will pay a serious regard also to the use the candidates for orders have made of the opportunity thus given them to acquire, and to prove they have attained a degree of theological knowledge, suited to the importance of the sacred profession which they propose to undertake; and that in consequence, distinguished proficiency here shown may contribute to engage the favourable notice, and recommend to the good opi.. nion of the heads of the Irish church.