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which is annex'd to this Letter. For those Texts (to which you may probably add diverse others, as you read the Bible) ought ever to be in the Minds of such, as either design to serve God in the Work of the Ministry, or have actually engag'd themselves in it.
Let me beseech you therefore to consider them very carefully; and to labor The Student's earnestly, by ferious and repeated Me- previous self
. ditation, to form a just and true Sense, and throughly to convince your self of, First, The Weight of that Sacred Imployment, which you have some thoughts of devoting your self to. Secondly, The Reward that attends the faithful Difcharge of it. Thirdly, The unspeakable everlasting Torments which will infallibly be the Confequence of Negligence in-it. And then ask
your own Conscience these plain Questions, viz. An I capable of the Work of the Ministry? and Do I resolve fincerely to aɛt therein according to those Rules which Christ has set me? If it answer, Yes; bless God for it, and beg him to establish your good Intentions, and enable you to be successful in the execution of them: But if it answer otherwise, be persuaded, for the Church's Sake, for God's Sake, for your own Soul's Sake; if there be any Fear of losing Heaven, any Dread of the endless Pains of Hell; if unquenchable Flames can at this Distance make any Impression, and strike any Terror into you ; be persuaded, I say, whatever Temptations of Preferment, & c. may intice you, ot to force down the severest Judgments of God upon your self, by undertaking that sublime and difficult Work, which you are either not capable of, or not ftedfaftly resolv'd by his Grace to perform, with a Zeal and Integrity suitable to the Greatness of it.
When you have thus examin'd your Heart, if you determin for Holy Orders, your next Endevor must be to furnish your self with a competent Knowledge of Divinity. I say a competent Knowledge ; for you must ever be making a Progress, and carrying on your Studies to the end of your Days ; there being (as I conceive) no Possibility of arriving at such a Perfection in Theological Learning, as will render your Labor for the future useless,
Now I take it for granted, that Some things pre- you are already sufficiently acquainfupposed in the
ted with the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew Tongues ; that you have
thro the usual Academical Courses of Logics, Ethics, and Metaphysics; that you have also taken a General View of Geography and History. This Foundation, I hope, is well laid; there being, I assure you, great Necessity and frequent Occasions of having recourse to these particulars in the several Parts of Divinity. And therefore I must desire you, for your own Ease hereafter, not to be defective in these preparatory Studies. But I am willing to believe, that you need not this Caution. And therefore I proceed to shew you, how you may attain such a competent Knowledge of Divinity, as is sufficient for a Candidate for Holy Orders; and such as I heartily wish, every Person to be ordain'd were furnish’d with.
You know, that different PerDifferent Methods fons have prescrib'd different Meof Rudying Divi- thods for the studying of Divinity. nity have been pres fcrib'd.
What Use you may make of their
feveral Schemes hereafter, it is not my present Business to examin. Nor shall I give you the Reasons, why I am not perfectly fatisfied
with any of those Advices which I have hitherto met with. Should I enlarge upon these Particulars, I should confound rather than direct you. I shall therefore briefly deliver my own Sentiments, which you were pleas’d to inquire after ; and am not only willing, but desirous, that you should depart from the Rules I offer, whensoever your own Prudence shall judge it adviseable so to do.
'Tis generally agreed, that in the beginning of any Study, a Man
or Systım generally ought to make use of some Compen- esteem'd neceffarý. dium or general System. Now Compendiums or Systems of Divinity are numberless. But they have been almost all of them writ by Foreiners; whereas, for many Reasons, an English Student ought to begin with English Writers. But the Systems publish'd by our own Country Men are such, as I çare not to recommend. What then shall be done? Why, I will select a small Number of Books written by English Men, which, with some Helps borrowed of Turretin and Limborch, will furnish you with a Body of Divinity ; and I will prescribe such a Method of reading them, as I hope may be useful to you. Only I think it necessary for me, before I proceed, to advertise you of the following Particulars ; viz.
First, That those Books or Parts of Books which I shall recommend Seven Things premito your Perusal, having been writ- fed relating to the
Method prescribed ten by different Authors, at diffe- by the Author. rent Times, and upon different First, An InOccasions; it cannot be expected, convenience attends that I should be able to range
the tacking together several Contents of them in so ferent Persons.
the Writings of difgood an Order, as that they should resemble a just and regular System wholly com
pos'd by one and the same Person. However, I am persuaded, that if you will give your self the Trouble of reading them in that Order which I shall prescribe, you will reap very near as considerable Advantages thereby, as if you had spent your time in such a System, as (tho’ we dearly want it, yet) perhaps we must despair of ever seeing.
Secondly, That diverse of the Books Secondly, Some
or Parts of Books, which I shall reRepetitions are
commend to your Perusal, being unavoidable in this Method. written on the fame Subject, there
must of Necessity be diverse Repetitions of the fame Matters. This could not be prevented, unless the Substance of 'em all were blended into one intire Discourse; the Task of doing which I have neither Time nor Inclination to undertake. I hope therefore, you'll bear with this unavoidable Inconvenience; especially since, tho' the Fatigue of Reading is thereby a little increas'd; yet perhaps each distinct Treatise will afford you something considerable, which is not in the rest.
Thirdly, That in some Particulars, Thirdly, the diverse of those Books or Parts of simes differs in Books, which I shall recommend to bis Judgment you, are not written exactly accorfrom the Per- ding to my own Mind. I cou'd wish Sonswhose Books berecommends.
that some points were handled, fome
Texts explained; some Arguments urg'd, &c. after a Manner a little different from that which those Authors there use. This all Perfons who have spent any Time in the Study of Divinity, cannot but frequently experience in their Reading; and 'tis accordingly my own Cafe. Wherefore I hope you will not conclude, that what I recommend to you does, in all respects, fully and truly express my own Sentiments. In the
main I heartily approve what I recommend to you: and I am persuaded, your reading according to my Directions, will not lead you to any such Mistakes, as you will have Reason to repent of, or be in any Danger of retaining, when farther Light is offer'd to you.
Fourthly, That whenfoever you meet with a Text of Scripture allegod to Fourthly, all prove or disprove any Proposition, I the Texts thar
are alleg'd, would by all means advise you to turn must be exato it in the Original, and peruse it mined in the carefully with the Context, “not for- Original. getting to consult such Commentators upon the Place, as you have then by you. For 'tis impossible for you, till you are well vers'd in these Studies, to imagin, how easily you may otherwise be led into great Errors by the mere Sound of Words, by plausible Glosses, &c. And let me persuade you also, when the Books you read do want Indexes of the Texts explain'd in them, to make them for your own Use. These Indexes will be of considerable Service to you in the Prosecution of your Studies afterwards.
Fifthly, that you must be extremely cautious, lest you read too fast. I hope Fifthly, The
Student must you'll excuse my Freedom, and think it
not read too no Reproach to you. For I have not faft. the least Reason to suspect your being guilty of the Fault I warn you against. But I assure you, reading too fast has done a great deal of Mischief, and spoiled a great Number of Scholars. Be persuaded therefore to ruminate upon what you read ; to lay aside your Book sometimes, and think over the Contents of it ; to digeft it throughly, and make it perfectly your own; to search and examin, and advise with a Friend, if any thing