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It is my anxious wish, as it is my bounden duty, to facilitate your preparation for this examination, by pointing out in my future Prælections the works which will supply you with the most useful information ; and where these works are too voluminous for your studying the entire of them with equal exactness, to direct your attention to such parts as are most important, and to suggest such observations as may best contribute to lessen the difficulties which appear most likely to retard your progress. In pursuing this plan of lecturing, when any of you, my young friends, are engaged in any research of peculiar interest, you may assure yourselves I shall ever be anxious that you should communicate to me whatever observations may occur to you on which you would wish for my opinion; and that you should lay open to me candidly any serious doubts and difficulties, which may present themselves to you in the course of your studies. I shall always take time maturely to consider them, endeavour to conduct our deliberations with that caution and humility befitting men who are convinced of the boundless extent and perfections of the divine nature, as well as of the analogy* between the works and the word of God; both of which, while they convey clear instructions to guide us in the present life, and lead us to a better, yet also contain obscurities, which mere human intellect cannot penetrate, and are evidently conducted on a plan too extended and incomprehensible to be clearly developed by mere human sagacity ; so that we must repress all idle curiosity of research, and all presumptuous arrogance of decision, “ casting down imaginations, and every high thing which exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”+
If the course of theological study now proposed to you, my young friends, appear somewhat more laborious and extensive, than is usually required as a preparative for the inferior order of the ministry, it should be recollected that you come to this study with advantages, which render you fully adequate to such labour and such extended inquiries. If you have even with moderate diligence employed the means of improvement which this University supplies, you must be familiarized with the Greek language, in which the sacred records of the New Testament were originally composed, and into which those of the Old Testament were translated long before the advent of our Lord; which translations therefore supply important proof, not only of the early existence of the prophetic writings, but of their original and unquestioned application to the Messiah, and in many other ways contribute to ascertain the genuine sense of the sacred records. You are familiarized with the Latin language, which contains the richest treasures of ecclesiastical antiquity, and has been employed as the vehicle of the most useful theological learning; so that adding these to your native tongue, you have easy access to almost every source of religious information.
* Vide Butler's Analogy, Part I. ch. vii..of the government of God considered as a scheme imperfectly comprehended ; and Part II. ch. iii. the credibility that a revelation must appear liable to objections.
+ 2 Cor. x. 5.
Let me not be here understood to undervalue the acquisition of the Hebrew, and its importance to the biblical critic in ascertaining the sense of many parts of the Old Testament, and the origin and force of many expressions in the New, in developing the beauties of Scripture poetry, and most especially the accurate meaning of the Scripture prophecies. But this study has not been made a distinct object of the examination intended for the trial of all, because it could not be expected that all could attend to it. Ample encouragement, however, has been provided for its cultivation, by the liberal annual grant, which the distinguished prelate who presides over the Church of Ireland has allotted for that purpose, and I anxiously wish to see this encouragement operate more extensively than it hitherto has done; I strongly recommend it therefore to every student, who means to devote a considerable portion of his time to the critical study of the Scriptures, to begin early and continue steadily the study of this sacred language. Its acquisition will be much easier, and the advantages he will reap from it much greater than he could easily have imagined. But to those who have not yet cultivated, and cannot now devote themselves to this study, I would say, do not on that account despond, as if the acquisition of sound scriptural knowledge and the discovery of religious truth were placed beyond your reach; and in saying this I am surely warranted by reason and experience.
It is interesting and satisfactory to observe the learned and pious Burnet selecting many parts of the classical course which you have been led to study, as calculated (to borrow his own expressions) “ to unite with the Scriptures in giving a right view of the world, a just value of things, and a contempt of many objects which shine with a false lustre, but have no true worth in them. Tully's Offices,” (says this pious prelate,) 56 will give the mind a noble set, all his philosophical discourses give a good savour to those who read them much; the satirical poets, Horace, Juvenal, &c. may contribute wonderfully to give a man a detestation of vice, and a contempt of the common methods of mankind, which they have set out in such true colours that they must give a very generous sense to those who delight in reading them often ; Persius's second satire may well pass for one of the best lectures in divinity; Hierocles upon Pythagoras's Verses, Plutarch's Lives, and, above all the books of heathenism, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, contain such instructions that one cannot read them too often, nor repass them too frequently in his thoughts."* Such is this truly Christian prelate's opinion of the usefulness of classical learning religiously improved, to the student preparing for the sacred ministry. Such learning you, my young friends, have had an opportunity of acquiring; and it may well be presumed, as it is earnestly to be wished, that you will so improve it.
But the knowledge of the Greek and Latin tongues, and the acquisition of classical learning, are not the only, nor perhaps the most important preparation for studying the Scriptures with advantage, which the diligent academic student has attained. He brings with him a mind rendered acute and discriminating by logical disquisition, patient, attentive, and vigorous by mathematical research, expanded and elevated by tracing the laws by which the Creator regulates the system of nature, and by contemplating the grandeur and extent of that system itself; and above all, he has been instructed in the principles of moral truth, and acquainted with the history of human nature; and has been prepared by the former to admire the pre-eminent excellence of Scripture morality, and by the latter to feel the necessity of a divine interposition to sustain the interests of virtue.
* Vide Burnet's Pastoral Care, chap. vii. p. 188, as edited in the Clergyman's Instructor, a most excellent collection of tracts on the ministerial duties, published at Oxford from the Clarendon Press, 1807, which ought to be one of the first books purchased by every young clergyman.
In addition to these advantages, which the students of this University have always enjoyed, there are others of a more recent origin, which I cannot but reflect on with the sincerest satisfaction, as they lead me to hope confidently, that you may be now expected to pursue theological studies to a wider extent, and with greater prospect of success, than existed at any preceding period since the foundation of the University. The recent scheme for instructing the two junior classes in scriptural knowledge, has been so successful as to put it in the power of every student at all anxious for information in this most important department, to become acquainted with the leading facts of Scripture History, the most decisive proofs of its truth, and the primary articles of Christian faith. Possessed of this elementary knowledge, the student anxious to extend his theological inquiries may proceed with a facility and success, which he could not otherwise have hoped for. And the course of studies required for the examination, for which he is called to prepare by the plan to which I now solicit your attention, is only the natural and gradual extension of these reflections and researches, to which he had been previously habituated.
Another reason for expecting that the candidates for the sacred ministry will in general readily avail themselves of this opportunity of improving their preparation for it, may also be derived from the nature of the regulation not many years since established in this kingdom, which, by requiring the age of twenty-three for deacon's orders, frequently leaves a long interval between the periods of graduation and ordination; an interval which cannot surely be better improved in any mode, than by preparing for this examination. For whether the student, after he has coinpleted his four terms at divinity lectures, still keeps his name on the college books, in order to avail himself of such assistance and instruction as is here offered him, or retires within his parental roof, or employs his talents in the instruction of others, he surely cannot more effectually prove that interval to have been spent usefully and creditably, than by coming forward at its close to sustain an examination which will manifest his diligence and proficiency in the studies which form the best preparation for the sacred ministry.
If you, my young friends, avail yourselves of the various opportunities of improvement in sacred literature, which are now held out to you, with that laudable spirit of exertion for which you are distinguished in every other department of your studies, it will be your happiness, when you present yourselves for ordination, never to excite such feelings as the learned and pious Burnet emphatically describes to have been his own, on finding the candidates for orders in his day of an opposite character. “Our Ember Weeks,” says he, “ are the burthen and grief of my life. The much greater part of those who come to be ordained are ignorant to a degree not to be apprehended by those who are not obliged to know it. The easiest part of knowledge is that to which they are the greatest strangers, I mean the plainest parts of the Scriptures, which they say, in excuse for their ignorance, that their tutors in the Universities never mention the reading of to them, so that they can give no account, or at least a very imperfect one, of the contents even of the Gospels: those who have read some few books yet never seem to have read the Scriptures. Many cannot give a tolerable account, even of the catechism itself, how short and plain soever; they complain, cry, and think it a sad disgrace to be denied orders, though the ignorance of some is such that in a well-regulated state of things, they would appear not knowing enough to be admitted to the holy sacrament. This does often tear my heart. The case is not much better in many who having got into orders, come for institution, and cannot make it appear that they have read the Scriptures or any one good book since they were ordained. So that the small measure of knowledge upon which they got into holy orders, not being improved, is in a way to be quite lost; and then they think it a great hardship if they are told they must know the Scriptures and the body of divinity better, before they can be trusted with the care of souls. These things,” says this truly Christian bishop, “pierce one's soul, and make one often cry out, “O that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest.' What are we like to grow to, in what a case are we to deal