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Some, indeed, think it improper, that eloquence should be displayed in a Church, as at the Bar, or in the Senate, and would be disposed to call it “Rhapsody,” or “ Rant;" for that is the name frequently given to “ eloquence on a sacred subject.” But, in the judgment of Fenelon and Quintillian, it would be called true and legitimate oratory," the power of persuading men by the fittest means." This was that kind of pulpit address which prevailed in our own Church in her better days, from the time of the Reformation to the reign of the First Charles; and which filled the churches at the Universities with willing auditors. And, when a corrupt taste was at length introduced, and preachers began to read their sermons, the innovation was checked, for a time, by the following mandate of King Charles the Second.
- Vice CHANCELLOR AND GENTLEMEN,
“Whereas his Majesty is informed, that the prac“ tice of reading sermons is generally taken up by the “preachers before the University, and, therefore, some“ times continued even before himself: his Majesty hatlı “ commanded me to signify to you his pleasure, that the “ said practice, which took its beginning from the dis" orders of the late times, be 'wholly laid aside; and “ that the said preachers deliver their sermons, both in “ Latin and English, by memory, without book : as being
a way of preaching which his Majesty judgeth most agreeable to the use of all foreign churches, to the custom
of the University heretofore, and to the nature and inten“ tion of that holy exercise. And, that his Majesty's com
mands, in these premises, may be duly regarded and “observed, his further pleasure is, that the names of all “ such ecclesiastical persons as shall continue the present
supine and slothful way of preaching, be, from time to
« time, signified to me, by the Vice-Chancellor, for the " time being, on pain of his Majesty's displeasure.
« MONMOUTH.”* It is evident that no man can speak with propriety from the pulpit, any more than at the bar, without some education for that purpose. Would it be impracticable for our Church to retrace her steps, in regard to preparation for the Sacerdotal office, and see what can be done towards attaching the people to her communion, by restoring the primitive means? If she is to be saved from the evils that threaten her, she will be saved, under God, by PREACHING; not by acts of legislation, nor by volumes from the press in her defence, but by the means which God hath been pleased to honor in every age, and which are called in Scripture, “the foolishness of preaching." 1 Cor. i. 21. By which expression is intended, that the means are so simple, that they appear as
foolishness” to some. And if any one should doubt that this ordinance of God is so honoured in our time, he has only to look around, and behold its POWER.
Would it be impossible then 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.
It is generally taken for granted that the student is acquainted with the Holy Scriptures before he comes to College. But this is by no means generally the case; he may be acquainted with Horace and Virgil; but he often knows little of the Scriptures. That which would give immediate life and interest to the department of theology
• Extracted from the Statute-book of the University of Cambridge, page 301, Car. U. Rex.
at the University, would be the institution of some plan, for the advancement of biblical learning. The Scriptures áre the foundation of moral philosophy as well as of theology. To study any system of morals, or of divinity, or even the articles of our Church, without having previously deduced their principles from Revelation, is like studying the higher parts of mathematics withou having learned the elements of Euclid.
It is chiefly in the power of masters of colleges to establish a scheme for clerical instruction, adapted to the circumstances of their respective societies. It would not be proper to abate the ardour of mathematical study at Cambridge; for it is better that an University should maintain her pre-eminence, (when she has attained it) in one particular science, than, by relaxing, to run the hazard of preserving but a mediocrity in all. But the pursuit of mathematical science is perfectly compatible with the study of the Scriptures, and with exercises in sacred composition, from the first to the last year of the student's residence at the university
I have no pleasure in adverting to the necessity of some improvement in our system of preparatory study, for the sacred office. But the principles of truth on which this necessity is founded, are so undeniable; they are so generally acknowledged throughout the nation, and so perfectly evident both at home and abroad, particularly to those who have had an opportunity of viewing the church at a distance, as well as near at hand, that I feel it would betray a culpable indifference to the interests of religion, were I to be deterred by a false delicacy from noticing it. It must be evident to every man who is acquainted with the history of Christianity from the first ages, that in the present circumstances of our church, and in the warfare in which she is engaged, it is not eminent advances in science or classics, that are chiefly required, but advances in the knowledge of Christian doctrine, and in the ability of communicating it to the people. It must be equally evident, that whatever plan of study will bring the bible most into view, will be the most conducive for this purpose, The State may have the defence of the sword, and the shield of the law, against its assailants; but the Church has no defence, in this Era of Light, but the BIBLE
The power of reviving Hebrew learning in the Church lies principally with the Bishops. It is presumed that the object might be effected by the following means, viz. by requiring that candidates for Deacon's orders should be able to construe the Hebrew Pentateuch; and that those who offer themselves for Priests orders, should be competent to read the whole of the Old Testament, ad aperturam libri; and by refusing ordina tion to candidates coming from the universities, who should continue, after due notice (for which three yearswould suffice) to neglect to acquire this qualification. By this simple regulation it is probable that Hebrew literature would be restored very generally to the Church,
in a few years.
But other advantages would result from this measure. It is hardly possible to suppose that the student who has read the whole of the Old Testament in the original tongue, with the attention which such a course requires, should be a contemptible divine. For in the course of his study, he will be necessarily led into various useful and important investigations, which otherwise he would never have thought of. Another benefit would accrue. It will be a salutary exercise to his own heart. The
assiduous study of the sacred volume for one year, will, if any thing can, call his thoughts from the vain pursuits of the world, and fix them on the solemn duties of the profession on which he is about to enter. Before he has gone through the Old Testament, he will find it to be truly what the Poet calls PEOTEA NEIOOTE, “ a fountain pouring forth persuasives" to seek heavenly knowledge and purity of life.
It may be added that, to read the Old Testament in the original language, is the way to understand the New. The Student who has made himself acquainted with the treasures of revealed truth under the first dispensation, will not stop there ; but will proceed with impatience to a still nobler theme in the inspired strains of the New Testament, which are written, for the most part, in the idiom of the old. And here, he will have the advantage of that rich and precious mine for the theologian, the Syriac New Testament; for he who can read the Old Testament in Hebrew will soon be able to read the New in Syriac., I call it a “rich and precious mine;" for Syriac is the language which our blessed Lord himself spoke in the land of Judea : and it is probable that EVERY PARABLE AND IN THE FOUR GOSPELS IS RECORDED NEARLY IN THE VERY WORDS WHICH PROCEEDED FROM HIS LIPS. Every scholar then who thirsts for “ the words of life," and would become an able minister of the New Testament,” ought to draw from this pure fountain. What a proof of the decline of sacred literature among us, that this volume (the Syriac Version,) is scarcely known !
But it will perhaps be said, “ Is not the prescribed study of the whole of the Scriptures a work of too much labour for the student?” I think not, particularly when