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Lord Jesus, he will accept and reward as if done to himself, Matt. xxv. 40. It is proposed to raise, by subscription, such a Fund for Mr. Gisburne and his family, as may keep them from absolute want and misery, in their present helpless condition; and that such a fund as can be raised shall be applied in that way which will best answer the purpose, as a provision for him during his life, and for his children till they are capable of shifting for themselves. This benevolent object cannot be attained without the assist
ance of our brethren in different parts of the kingdom; therefore the case is now brought before them, and their liberal aid is intreated in this work of merey. It is earnestly requested, and ́
confidently hoped, that Unitarian Mi
nisters, in different places, will make this distressing case known to their friends, or bring it before their congregations, or such persons in their congregations as are capable of contributing to the object proposed, in such a way as shall seem to them respectively the most proper; and that they will take the trouble of receiving subscriptions; which may be remitted to any of the following gentlemen, who will also receive any individual subscriptions which may be sent to them, viz. John Waldron, Esq., Trowbridge; John Christie, Esq., Mark Lane; Mr. Hornby, St. Swithin's Lane; Mr. D. Eaton, 187, High Holborn, London; Mr. G. Smallfield, Printer, Hackney.
June 27, 1822.
Having, in consequence of Mr. Gisburne's melancholy situation, spent nearly a month in Trowbridge, I have bad full opportunity of inquiring into all the particulars of the above case, and most readily bear my testimony to the correctness of the statement here given and I do most earnestly recommend it to the attention and patronage of the Unitarian public in general, and of our respected brethren in the ministry in particular; and we may hope, though we appeal particularly to those of our own denomination, such a case of extreme pressure will excite the sympathy, and find some patronage among our Christian brethren of other denominations, on the ground of humanity and of our common Christianity. I never before
saw a Dissenting Minister and his fa-
Plan of an Institution for acquiring and communicating an accurate Knowledge of the Scriptures without Expense.
Mare unperverted, and his natural
when his natural tendencies
affections are uncorrupted, is a religious being. He cannot open his eyes on the creation, he cannot contemplate the beautiful arrangements which he finds in every part of nature, without feeling an irresistible conviction, that these adjustments are the result of design. He sees contrivance the most exquisite; he sees power the most stupendous: he is therefore necessarily led to the conclusion, that though not perceptible to his corporeal organs, there is an intelligent and mighty Agent who is the author of the wonders which surround him. And since the happiness of every creature that is capable of happiness, is the general result which is aimed at, and which is produced, and since there are special and most admirable and successful contrivances for securing his own happiness in particular, it is impossible that he should not come to these further conclusions-that this Agent is benevolent, that to himself especially he is good, and that he ought to feel and to express his obligation and his gratitude. Unless, therefore, he pervert the exercise of his understanding, and suppress the most natural emotions of his heart, man must always be found, bending reverently, with mixed hope and fear, before the great Author of nature, a believer and a worshiper.
Whether it be owing to the tendency which enlightened conceptions of the character and government of the Deity have, to exercise and enlarge the faculties of man, and to
elevate and purify his affections, or in whatever manner the fact be explained, the fact itself is certain, that, in proportion as those conceptions are just or otherwise, man's own character, both intellectual and moral, is exalted or degraded. It is not, therefore, merely as it respects the direct influence of the conceptions which are formed of the character and government of the Deity on human virtue and happiness, that religion appears to be a matter of supreme importance: for that importance is scarcely in any degree less, or less manifest, considered in relation to its indirect influence on the general faculties and attainments of man. Hence it is, that the philosopher and the philanthropist, in endeavouring to promote the virtue and happiness of the human race, find religion at every step exerting an influence in favour of, or in opposition to, their projects, greater perhaps than the combined influences of all other
Now, even the mere theist must allow, that of all the systems of religion which have been proposed for the exaltation of the human character, that of Christianity is beyond all measure the best. Indeed, this system is so admirably adapted to the nature and the wants of man, that, were it universally received in its purity, and universally acted on, it would accomplish perfectly all that philosophy and religion (and religion is nothing but the purest and truest philosophy) can accomplish in the present state: it would make man as enlightened, as virtuous and as happy as is compatible with his physical nature, and with the relations of that nature to the physical world.
But, unhappily, this beautiful system has been corrupted, and its influence perverted. New and pernicious opinions, if not artfully and successfully introduced into it, have been most artfully and successfully grounded upon it, and supported by its apparent authority. And from the very nature of the case, we who live in the present age, must find many difficulties in separating the true from the false. The record itself of this religion was written at a distant period; in a distant country; in a foreign language; by men whose minds were familiar with objects which we have
never seen, and which excite no similar associations in ours, and whose writings abound with allusions which we do not and cannot understand without the aid of learning. Connecting these causes of obscurity with others which are most obviously related to them, and with the natural obscurity of language, we cannot wonder, if ignorance and mistake generally, and diversity of opinion universally prevail. These difficulties may in a great measure be surmounted; and he who contributes any thing to their removal, must be considered, not only by the Christian but also by the philosopher and the philanthropist, as performing a signal service to the human race.
A plan has been devised, and in some measure carried into effect, by which these important objects might be accomplished with great certainty and to a vast extent; by which an accurate and critical knowledge of the Scriptures, in the language in which they were originally written, might be acquired by any individual in almost any station, without at all interfering with the business or the pleasures of life; by which it would be possible at no distant period to communicate this knowledge to every human being, and by which all this might be effected without incurring the least expense. If this be true, if there be a plan. really possessed of such power, really capable of such important applications, it surely deserves attention.
The principles on which this plan is founded are extremely simple, and are as follow:
1. That that which a person is able to learn, if he be properly instructed, he will be able to teach.
2. That when a person has made a certain progress in learning any thing, it will be conducive to his improvement to begin to teach it.
3. That, upon the proposed plan of of teaching, persons in a class of four will learn more easily and expeditiously than individually.
4. That accordingly every student be gratuitously taught in a class of four.
5. That every student engage to instruct four other students upon the same terms on which he himself receives instruction.
6. That the Institution be open to Christians of every denomination who
have received a common English education.
7. That the time destined to study be six hours in the week for three
It was originally proposed that the time of meeting should be from seven o'clock in the evening to eight, in the winter; and from eight to nine in the summer; but experience has shewn that the distribution of the time must be left to the convenience of the class; although the best distribution of it undoubtedly is to meet one hour every day, either in the morning before the ordinary business of life commences, or in the evening, after it is over.
The whole time for learning and teaching is divided into two equal parts: during the first part, persons are students; during the second, teach
The course of instruction which was originally planned, and which has hitherto been followed as closely as possible, comprehends the nature of language in general, with a particular reference to an accurate acquaintance with the English; the Hebrew of the Old and the Greek of the New Testament; the geography and natural history of the countries in which the Scriptures were written, and as much of the history of the Four Great Empires with which the Jews were connected, as is necessary to the elucidation of scripture, the customs of the Jews and other Eastern nations. To this is added, when possible, Ecclesiastical History and the Evidence of Natural and Revealed Religion.
From what has been said it will be seen, that in going through the above course each student is to be a learner three years, at the end of which time he is to take four pupils, and instruct them for three years in the different branches to which he has himself attended.
The course proposed is very comprehensive, and it might seem impossible for any person who begins with nothing but a knowledge of the English grammar, and who devotes to this pursuit only one hour every day for three years, to complete it; but it must be borne in mind, that the period of study is in fact six years, and that much more knowledge will be acquired during the three years in
which the student is a teacher than during the three in which he was a pupil, and much more than he would have acquired had he continued a pupil six years.
An accurate and precise acquaintNew Testament is the great object ance with the writings of the Old and which this course of study is intended to afford. While, therefore, with this view the student is acquiring the knowledge of the language in which the Scriptures were originally written, it has been found highly conducive to the attainment of this end, to read in private the English Version of these books regularly, chronologically and connectedly. And the method of reading them, which has been found admirably adapted to give a clear and connected view of their contents, is the following: First, to read through regularly the books of Moses, with the book of Job, to the history of the reign of David. After the perusal of the history of David, as recorded in the books of Kings and Chronicles, to read the Psalms of David. Next, the reign of Solomon, and afterwards the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Then pursuing the history through the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, to read the books of the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, &c., because the predictions of these prophets relate to the reigns of these kings. In like manner the book of Jeremiah should be read in connexion with the reigns that immediately preceded the captivity, and the books of Ezekiel and of Daniel during the captivity: while those of Ezra and Nehemiah should not be read until the history of the captivity and the writings relating to that period have been rendered familiar to the mind. In this manner the writings of every author should be read in connexion with the history of the times in which he lived. After the Old Testament has been thus read through, it is important to read the first and second books of the Maccabees, for these may be considered as important documents containing authentic history.
With regard to the New Testament, the best plan appears to be to read regularly through the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. Then the Epistles in the order of time in which they
were written. Before reading any Epistle, if any thing be said in the Acts relating to the church to which it is addressed, or to any subject of controversy or doubt, in which it was particularly interested, it should be read. For example, the fifteenth chapter of the Acts should be read previously to the Epistle to the Galatians, and the tenth and eleventh chapters of the Acts previously to the Epistle to the Romans.
To what extent this plan is capable of communicating the most interesting and important knowledge, is apparent from the following calculation. If one teacher complete the education of four pupils in three years, and these four pupils shall each of them have begun the education of four other pupils at the end of three years, the education of these pupils will be finished at the end of six years, and they will have had in train sixty-four pupils, whose education will be completed at the end of nine years; and so on till the whole world might speedily be instructed in the knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures in the languages in which they were originally written. Thus :
Superintendant Teacher 1
4..Years 3 .16...... 6 64...... 9 256......12
.....15 .....18 16,384......21 65,536......24 262,144......27 1,048,576......30 4,194,304......33 16,777,216......36
268,435,456......42 1,073,741,824..... 45
In regard to this calculation there will, of course, be found in it in practice the same deficiency and failure which there always is, and always must be, in regularly increasing series when applied to human affairs. That which, without experience, we might have been sure could not take place, experience has shewn, must not be looked for. The regular increase of students in the above series, no one can for a moment expect: but as far as experience can establish any thing
respecting so novel a plan, it shews that that increase may advance with a steadiness and rapidity sufficient to entitle it to most serious attention.
The plan has now been in operation some years, and its success has been as ample as could have been reasonably expected. It was first projected by Dr. Spencer, a physician residing at Bristol.* It had long occupied the thoughts of this intelligent and benevolent man. He saw in it, or thought he saw in it, a means by which knowledge of the most important kind might be easily and rapidly diffused over the face of the whole earth. As soon as he had matured it, he determined to put it to the test of experience. Accordingly, on the 11th of July, 1814, he commenced with four pupils. Of these, one left at the end of the first year on account of ill health: another left at the end of two years on account of some embarrassment in business soon after, a third was obliged to decline on account of ill health, and is since dead: the fourth continued steadily to pursue his studies till 1820.
At the beginning of the year 1818, this gentleman took four pupils, who have continued steadily with him up to the present time.
At the beginning of 1820 one of his pupils commenced with four pupils, who have continued steadily with him up to the present time.
On the first of August, 1820, a second pupil commenced with four. And soon after, a third pupil began with two pupils, of whom no account has yet been received, but they appear to be going on well. The fourth has not yet taken pupils.
The best means by which it is pos sible to convey to the reader an idea
See the account which Dr. Spencer himself published of his Institution, enti tled "The Plan of Dr. Spencer's Insti tution in Bristol, for acquiring and comaccurate and critical municating an
Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures with ter, (successor to J. Johnson,) 72, St. out Expense. London: sold by R. HunPaul's Churchyard; and by Barry and Son, Bristol. 1817."
[The substance of this "account" was published in The Christian Reformer, Vol. III. pp. 368–372. ED.]
of the course of instruction pursued, and of the spirit in which it is conducted, is by giving an extract or two from the account which has been drawn up by the pupils themselves. The first extract is taken from a letter, addressed to Dr. Spencer, written by one of the pupils of the first class, and is dated Bristol, Nov. 14, 1816.
MY DEAR SIR,
As you have requested from me some account of what has been done by us in the prosecution of your excellent plan for the diffusion of sacred knowledge, I present you with the following, which is as complete as my data have enabled me to make it.
July, 1814. Commenced with the English and Hebrew Grammar. Read Exercises in Reading. Soon after began the Hebrew Scriptures, commencing with Genesis. Read Paley's Natural Theology and Gibbon's Rhetoric.
the Septuagint in connexion with the Hebrew,
Up to this time we have read the Old Testament, partly in English and partly in Hebrew, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of the second book of Samuel. And we have read the four Gospels and a part of the Acts of the Apostles in Greek; also some of St. Paul's Epistles. Account of the Progress of the Second Class.
One of Dr. Spencer's pupils commenced with four pupils at the beginning of the year 1818. Up to the date of this paper, viz. October 31st, 1820, they have read nearly the whole of the book of Genesis, some of the Psalms of David, and a little in the Prophecies, in the Hebrew. Part of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the Greek, Murray's English Grammar, Watts's Logic, Gibbon's Rhetoric, part of Paley's Theology and Kuckford's Connexion, with a considerable portion of the English Scriptures.
On January 1, 1820, one of the pupils of the second class began with four pupils. Up to the date of this paper, October 23rd of the same year, they have read the Hebrew Grammar, the four last chapters of Deuteronomy, and the thirtyfourth chapter of Genesis, Murray's English Grammar, Watts's Logic, one quar. ter of it. In Greek to the sixth chapter of Luke, and in the English Scriptures to the tenth chapter of Joshua.
Jan. 1815. Began the Greek Grammar, and soon after to read the Greek of the New Testament. Read also Watts's Logic: after finishing which, read the first volume of Blackstone's Commentaries, for the sake of the style and composition; and afterwards Harris's Hermes, or Philosophical Grammar. In October, began to read Prideaux's Connexion of the History of the Old and New Testament. In November, commenced reading Abstract of the Business done by the Fourth Class, from 1st of August to the 28th of October, 1820:
Of Watts's Logic,
Of Murray's English Grammar,
Of English Scriptures,
Of Hebrew Grammar,
has been read
It has been stated that there was one of the pupils of the second class who, in the year 1820, had not taken any pupils. How that happened the writer of this paper does not know: but he has seen a letter from this gentleman, addressed to Dr. Spencer, in which he speaks in the highest terms of the advantages he has received from the institution. He states that at the period at which he is addressing his instructor, the close of the six-and-twentieth year of his life, he could say, what he never before could say, that regular hours of the day had been spent in reading and di
To the third Part of fifth Section.
To the twenty-third chapter of
Eight chapters parsed partially and translated entirely.
gesting the Sacred Scriptures, and in gaining the knowledge of the language in which they were originally written : that this pursuit has afforded him much profit and great pleasure; that it has brought him peace and quietness of mind; that it has produced a thirst for investigation which can be satisfied only by the endeavour to acquire accurate knowledge, and to arrive at a rational conviction of the truth: that, but for this course of religious instruction, he thinks it but too probable that he should never again have given himself any concern respecting the Scriptures, or the sub