« PreviousContinue »
was equally remarkable for learning and piety, never used to stray beyond the verge of this divine system.
That these remains of his were the sacred lectures he read in the Public Hall of the University of Edinburgh, while he was principal of that university, will admit of no manner of doubt: there are a great many still alive, who can attest this truth; as they were themselves present at these lectures, to their great satisfaction and improvement. They all heard them, some took notes of them; and, it is to be hoped, some had the substance of them powerfully impressed upon their hearts. To these I appeal, and to them, I doubt not, this work will be very acceptable; since those instructions, which gave so much pleasure when heard but once, and that in a cursory manner, they may now have recourse to as often as they please; they may read them at their leisure, and draw from them matter of most delightful meditation. And, to be sure, those who have the least divine disposition of mind, will make it the principal business of their life, and their highest pleasure, to stray through those delightful gardens, abounding with such sweet and fragrant flowers, and refresh their hearts with the celestial honey that
may be drawn from them; nor is there any ground to fear that such supplies will fail; for how often soever you have recourse to them, you will always find them blooming, full of juice, and swelled with the dew of heaven ; nay, when by deep and continued meditation, you imagine you have pulled the finest flower, it buds forth again, and what Virgil writes concerning his fabulous golden bough is, in strictest truth, applicable in this case :
Uno avulso, non deficit alter,
The Lectures I now present thee with, I caused to be copied out fair from a manuscript in the Author's own hand-writing; which was a work that required great care and attention, on account of the blots and interlineations of that original manuscript; for the author had written them in haste, and without the least thought of ever publishing them. This done, at the desire of a great many, I got them printed, and now lay them before the public, in the same order in which they were read, as far as can be recollected from circumstances.
You must not expect to find in these truly sacred lectures, the method commonly used in theological systems; for while our reverend Author clearly explains the doctrines of religion, he intermixes to excellent purpose the principles of piety, and while he enlightens the understanding, he at the same time warms the heart.
Being to treat of religion, he uses a practical method, which is most suitable to his subject, and begins with happiness, that being the scope and design of religion, as well as the ultimate end of human life. He begins with an explanation of happiness in general, on which he treats at some length; then proceeds to consider the happiness of man, which may be called perfect and truly divine, as it has for its object the infinitely blessed and perfect Being who created him, and formally consists in the beatifie vision and fruition of Him, which is reserved in heaven for those who by faith are travelļing through this earth, towards that blessed country. He adds, with great propriety, that happiness, so far as it is compatible with this wretched life of sorrows, consists in true religion, and in religion alone ; not only as it is the way which leads directly to that perfect happiness reserved in heaven; but because it is itself of Divine original, and, in reality the beginning of that very happiness which is to be perfected in the life to come.
He observes, that the doctrine of religion is most justly called Theology, as it has the most high God for its author, object, and end. He suggests many excellent thoughts concerning the Divine existence, and reasons from the common consent of nations, from the creatures we see about us, and from what we feel and experience within ourselves, as all these so loudly proclaim the being of God: but the argument taken from the harmony and beautiful order of the universe, he prosecutes at great length; and from this consideration, which is attended with greater evidence than all the demonstrations of the sciences, he clearly proves the existence of an eternal, independent Being.
With regard to the nature of God, he advances but little, and with great caution; for concerning the Supreme Being he thought
; it dangerous even to speak truth ; but is very earnest and diffuse in his exhortations to make the wisdom, power, and goodness of God, that shine forth with great lustre in all His works, the subject of our constant and most serious meditation. As to the unfathomable depth of His eternal decrees, he was greatly pleased with that expression of St. Augustine, “Let others dispute, I will admire*."
Amongst His works, the first is that vast and stupendous one, the primitive creation of all things, which, besides the infallible testimony of the inspired oracles, our Author, by a concise, but clear dissertation on the subject, proves quite consonant and agreeable to reason.
He then treats of man, of his original integrity, and the most unhappy fall that soon followed. But to this most lamentable story he subjoins another, as happy and encouraging as the other is moving, I mean, the admirable scheme of Divine love for the salvation of sinners. A glorious and blessed method, that to the account of the most shocking misery subjoins the doctrine of incomparable mercy! Man, forsaking God, falls into the miserable condition of devils ; God, from whom he revolted, determines to extricate him, by His powerful hand, out of this misery; and that this might be the more wonderfully effected, God himself becomes man. “ This is the glory of man, by such means raised from his woful state! this the wonder of angels, and this the sum and substance of all miracles united in one t !” The Word was made flesh! He who died as man, as God rose again, and having been seen on earth, returns to heaven, from whence he
On each of these he advances a few thoughts that are weighty and serious, but, at the same time, pleasing and agreeable.
To these lectures, I have added some exhortations by our Author, to the candidates for the degree of master of arts, delivered at the annual solemnity held in the university for that purpose ; together with his meditations on some Psalms, viz., the 4th, 32d, and 130th †; because I was unwilling that any of the works of so great a man should continue in obscurity, to be devoured by moths and bookworms, especially one calculated for forming the morals of mankind, and for the direction of life. For in these meditations, he
* Alii disputent, ego mirabor.
of Hic hominis ex tanto dedecore resurgentis honos, hic angelorum stupor, hoc miraculorum omnium compendium !
These were likewise written in Latin, and have been already translated and published. [See Vol. I. of the present edition of the work.]
exhorts and excites the youth under his care, not by laboured oratory and pompous expressions, but by powerful eloquence, earnest entreaties, and solid arguments, to the love of Christ, purity of life, and contempt of the world.
But what will all this signify to thee, Reader, if thy mind is carried away with childish folly, or the wild rage of passions, or even if thou art still labouring under a stupid negligence of the means of
and unconcerned about eternal happiness and thy immortal soul? I doubt not, however, but these truly divine essays
will fall into the hands of some, who are endued with a better disposition of mind; nor are we to despair of the rest, “ for the Father of spirits liveth still, and He hath His seat in heaven, who instructs the hearts of men on this earth *.” May, therefore, the Greatest and Best of Beings grant, that these academical exercises may have happy effects! And that our heavenly Father would second these means with His all-powerful grace, shall be, while he lives, the humble and ardent prayer of him, Who earnestly desires thy salvation,
* Vivit enim spirituum pater, et cathedram habet in cælo, qui corda docet in terris.