« PreviousContinue »
But there are other objects in view, which should by no means be neglected. When the principles of a nation are changed, as hath been too much the case in this nation within the present century, it is a certain sign that there hath been some change in the studies of those persons, who are educated to learned professions: and if so, there can be no prospect of any amendment till a new and better course of study shall take place. Of this the society being fully persuaded, have determined to collect, and with the assistance and interest of all good men, whom they conjure to give attention to the case, will recommend to young students (especially students in divinity) such tracts as may furnish their minds with good principles, and with such sober and strong reasons as may (with the Divine Blessing) enable them not only to maintain their own ground for themselves, but to recover to the truth those who have departed from it. They apprehend, that without this step, all the good that may be done by other means will be slow and precarious. Sermons upon single texts are found to do little good to those, who never learned their Catechism; such persons having no rule of judgment in their minds to distinguish between good and evil. The British Critic, if honestly and impartially conducted, may serve in its department to keep us from growing worse; but it cannot reach to the root of the evil. Learned as we are in the present age, there are many and great subjects in which we are to begin again. And though corruption is powerful and infectious, and falsehood is overbearing; let us hope the opportunity is not lost. None of us can say how soon it may be: and therefore we should work while some day-light is left, lest the night overtake us. By some such expedient as that now proposed, we may
be furnished with a new generation of skilful critics, who may prevail to the preservation of the age in which they shall live; unless the time is come, when the Light we have so long neglected and abused shall be removed from us : which may God, in his infinite mercy, avert!
The first thing wanting is, a general and correct idea of the Christian plan; which is furnished in an incomparable piece by the great Lord Verulam. We would next attend to the truth of Revelation, as proved by its properevidences: which have never been laid down more clearly and briefly, than by that eminent controversialist Mr. C. Leslie, in his Short Method with the Deists, and his Truth of Christianity demonstrated.
Errors concerning the nature of civil government endanger the peace of mankind, and were never more current than at present: that subject, therefore, demands our attention; and for this purpose we prefer a discourse on the English government, extracted from the late Roger North, Esq. an eminent writer of the Guildford family; who goes through the subject in a clear and masterly way; and having been a lawyer by profession, his judgment may be liable to less exception. The late Soame Jenyns having well exposed the absurdity of some modern false ideas of civil government; we would extract this piece from his works, if it may be permitted: and to this we mean to add a sermon from the works of the late Bishop Horne, on the Origin of Civil Government; who has considered the subject, as it ought always to be considered by divines of the Church of England. A wild sectarian spirit would not prevail so much as it does if the sin and danger of schism were better understood by the learned, and more diligently taught among the people. Nothing can be more excellent upon the subject than
the thrée letters of the Rev. W. Law against Bishop Hoadley, in what was called the Bangorian controversy: which is now in a manner forgotten, though every clergyman ought to be acquainted with it; for it was an occurrence of great concern, not to the peace of this church only, but to the very being and subsistence of Christianity in the world. To these letters we would add an Essay on the Nature and Constitution of the Church; with some extracts from Mr. Leslie, on the same subject.
We shall speak a great and interesting truth, if we affirm, that no man will understand rightly the nature of God, unless he has a proper knowledge of himself, that is, of the real state of human nature, and the limitation of its powers. This subject was never treated to better effect, than by the late Dr. Ellis of Dublin. His book on the Knowledge of Divine Things from Revelation, not from Reason and Nature, hath happily convinced many readers: who knew not how to think justly of God or themselves, till they were taught by this author. His work being too large and diffuse for this collection, an abridgment of it has long been ardently wished for: and it is now happily discovered, that his principles were laid down by himself in two sermons, the substance of which he contracted into one discourse; of which we have been favoured with a copy; and to this we would add another discourse on the same subject, which rectifies a text of the Scriptures, a false interpretation of which has given countenance and currency to most of the modern deistical mistakes about nature and reason.
Infidelity having been very busy of late years, under the new name of Unitarianism, the people should be properly informed upon this subject, and the arguments in favour of the fundamental doctrines of the
Church of England should be well understood, in opposition to such gainsayers. For this end we shall add from the Rev. Mr. Norris's decisive Treatise on Faith and Reason, the last chapter; in which the argument is summed up; and shall subjoin to it, two treatises adopted by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; the first, A Preservative against the Pub lications of the Socinians; the second, the Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity: which is now out of print, except in the small edition distributed by the society. It was little suspected in the last century, that the time would come, when the fabulous idolatry of heathens should be openly preferred to the Gospel in a Christian country. But it hath now actually been done in this country by individual authors, and is done by the nation itself in another. It will not be superfluous nor impertinent if we subjoin some anonymous Remarks on the Growth of Heathenism among modern Christians.
No divine of this church ever studied his profession with better opportunities, nor with more diligence and success, than the late excellent and amiable Bishop Horne : we are informed, that in the papers he has left behind him, there are such rules and directions in many separate pieces, for the study of divinity, with such an apparatus of theological matter,collected from all the sources of learning, as would of themselves, if put together, form an inestimable treasure for the improvement of young students in divinity. Some of these we propose to add, if it may be permitted.
It is our intention to publish the whole collection, with the names * of the subscribers prefixed; and we trust it will appear, that the times, bad as they are, can
** The society, on farther consideration, deemed it not necessary to solicit a subscription for this collection.
still exhibit a large and respectable association of gentlemen and clergy, who will show by their patronage of this publication, that they are desirous and ready, so to think, and so to teach, and so to live, as to draw down the protection of Heaven, for the preservation and increase of true learning and true religion.
The reader of these three papers should be informed, that the first draught of the plan laid down in them has received some considerable alterations ; partly from choice, and partly from necessity; but it was thought better to reprint the papers, as they were published, than to give new trouble by such annotations and explanations, as are not necessary to the main design.