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P.S. The first step to true wisdom is, to “know thya self:” a special respect to thy ways is to be had ; custom will make it easy and pleasant.
Some THOUGHTS concerning the proper Method of studya ing Divinity; in a Letter to a friend. By WILLIAN WOTTON, D. D.
TT is so long since I promised you my thoughts con
cerning a proper method of directing our studies in divinity, that I have been several times tempted to think it the wisest way rather to break my promise, than, at so great a distance of time, to go about to keep it. I have reason to fear you will suspect me of vanity, as if I took so long a time, that you might expect from me something extraordinary, and beyond what has been already done by much greater men than myself. Laziness in truth has thus long kept me from making good my
word; and even that has had an influence upon me so long, that at last I was ashamed, and, as men often are in greater cases, disheartened and at a loss where to begin, since I could not begin without confessing a fault. But since it is never too late to amend, I have at last resolved to set down what you here see, which is entirely submitted to your censure.
The first thing which a divine is to study is the Scriptures. To be thorougbly acquainted with the design and intention of God in both covenants, is absolutely necessary to every one that would be a preacher of the gospel. Now since the new covenant cannot be exactly understood, without knowing the old; and since the knowledge of the old requires an acquaintance with many and various things which are peculiar to the Jewish nation; I would therefore propose, that the Old Testament should be carefully studied in the first place. I have often wished, that (at least) a competent skill in Hebrew were a necessary qualification for orders with us, as it is in Holland ; because then students in divinity would not be obliged at every turn to take things upon trust, which otherwise they must be forced to do. But that I shall wholly wave at present, and propose nothing to our student that requires any learned language besides Latin and Greek, in both which, together with a course of academic learning, I take it for granted he is not to seek.
Now to understand the account of the Jewish polity, as we have it described in the Old Testament, Dr. Spengreat
work De Legibus Hebræorum, Outram de acrificiis, Reland's Antiquitates Hebraica, and Cunæus de Republicà Hebræorum, will be sufficient. These books, studied with care, will make a man as good a master of the letter of Moses's law, and of the nature of the Jewish econony, as he needs to be, unless he intends to be a master in that learning. If he would be very exact, he may add Selden's Tracts, De Synedriis, De Jure Naturali et Gentium juxta Leges Hebræorum, his Uxor Hebraica and De Successione in Pontificatum. Selden's way of writing is obscure and intricate, and his digressions are many and long; but then the uncommon variety of things worth knowing compensates for the trouble. But I would not advise our student to begin with him, for more reasons than one. At the bottom he hated the Hierarchy of the
Church of England; and he seems to have been never better pleased, than when he could shew his learning, in gathering together what he apprehended might do it a prejudice.
'If our student would know how the Jews, allegorized almost every thing in the Mosaic dispensation, he need only read Philo Judæus. If he would see what accounts they gave of themselves to the Gentiles, let bim study Josephus. If he has a mind thoroughly to understand those traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, for which they are so severely rebuked by our blessed Saviour in the Evangelists, he will find a complete system of them in Surenhusius's edition of the Mişna, with the Commentaries of Maimonides and Bartenora. The Misna is the text of what the Jews call the Talmud, i, e. the traditional or oral doctrine, which (as they pretend) God gave to Moses upon Mount Sinai, which, though it was not put into writing, till after the destruction of the second Temple, yet was, (if you will believe the Jewish masters) carefully handed down from age to age, till tbat time. Surenhusius has printed the text of the Misna * in Latin and Hebrew; the two commentators are only in Latin. It is a noble and authentic collection of what the Jews have built upon Moses's law in every particular. If our student cares not to go through that voluminous work, Reland's Hebrew Antiquities, and Dr. Lightfoot's works, will perhaps be sufficient. Lightfoot's Horæ Hebraicæ upon several of the books of the New Testament should be read with care; and Reland's He, brew Antiquities, which are very short, should be got almost by heart, by those that will sit down with a general knowledge in these matters, and yet would not be wholly ignorant of them. If one would know the customs of that nation at this day, which are very well worth knowing, F. Simon's translation of Leo Mode. na's tracts of the rites and ceremonies of the Jews, Fleury of the manners of the Jews, (which is an admirable little book) and Buxtorf's Synagoga Judaica, will give him ample satisfaction. For Commentators upon the Old Testament, Grotius and Le Clerc should be carefully studied. I am aware, that many people will won
* Dr. Wotton has since published two titles of the Misna, viz. Sabbath and Eruvin, with an English translation and annotations. Lone don, 1718,
der, and not unjustly, that I should advise the reading of Mr. Le Clerc's Commentaries upon the Bible: and I do confess that where a prophecy, a miracle, or a inystery comes in his way, he must be read with caution. Bui in other things, he may be studied and relied upon as a prudent and a judicious interpreter.
The whole natural history of the Bible is exhausted by Bochart in his Hierozoicon; as the account how the world was peopled after the food is in his Phaleg. If our student would see variety of interpretations upon difficult places, Pool's Synopsis Criticorum, and the London critics, which have been lately reprinted in Holland with additions, will satisfy his curiosity. I had like to have forgot Bp. Patrick's expositions upon a great part of the Old Testament, in which there is great learning, and great variety, and what will save the reading of many volumes.
When the Old Testament is thus made easy, our student will go to the New. There too Commentaries are necessary, Grotius and Hammond, of Le Clerc's edition, are the most considerable. Lamy's Commentary upon the harmony of the Gospels is of admirable use to understand what our Saviour did and taught. He adjusts the time of every thing that is mentioned in the Evangelists with great exactness, aud by that means clears many and important difficulties, which had escaped the diligence of those that went before him. Pearson's Annales Paulini contain an accurate history of the actions of St. Paul. Dr. Whitby's Annotations upon the New Testament, are very well worth reading, and even those who, perhaps may not agree with him in every thing that he says, yet must allow him to be an interpreter, from whom many very useful things may be learnt. The History of the Canon of the New Testament is fully, and with incredible diligence and exactness, delivered to us by Dr. Mill in his Prolegomena to his noble edition of the Greek Testament. But for a constant interpreter of the text of the New Testament, I would recommend St. Chrysostom to a preacher, beyond all the commentators that ever wrote. His explications are very judicious. He seldom allegorizes; and goes to the bottom of almost every thing which he undertakes. His reducing all things to practice by those moral discourses which are annexed to all his interpretations, and his noble and eloquent harangues upon all manner of Christian duties, will be exceedingly useful to any one, whose business it is to instruct the people out of the pulpit. The truth is, St. Chrysostom alone, well, digested, will go a great way to form a solid and an eloquent preacher. His Commentaries are well epitomized by Theophylact, and not ill by Ecumenius. TheophyJact is plain and short, and easily intelligible by any man that understands the text of the Greek Testament.
When our student has gone thus far, he will be competently well acquainted with the charters of our religion; and when he understands the tenure by which we hope to hold hereafter, he will be able to clear that title to others. But I would not have him rest here. An acquaintance with the wiles of Satan, which in every age bave been various, and have operated variously, will be of unspeakable use. The first enemies of Christianity were Jews and Heathens. By the text of the Old Testament, well understood, we shall be able sufficiently to confute the reasonings, and defeat the pretences of the former. To know how the first Christians opposed the latter, the ancient apologists ought carefully to be studied. The first fathers were indeed, as well as in name, Apostolici. The most ancient of them, who in the Greek church were read along with the canonical scriptures in their public assemblies, are admirably well turned into English by our truly great metropolitan*. Cotelerius has printed them in Greek and Latin, and his edition has been lately reprinted in Holland by Mr. Le Clerc. The chiefest apologists are Justin Martyr, Mi. nutius Felix, Tertullian, Athenagoras, Origen against Celsus and Eusebius in his discourses of Evangelical Preparation and Demonstration. These last contain a noble treasure of ancient learning. Eusebius in Greek, and St. Augustin, De Civitate Dei, in Latin, have rifled the Gentile stores, and made the Heathen learning exceedingly subservient to the overthrowing the Heathen religion. To these I may add Clemens Alexandrinus's Stromateus, and Theodoret De Curandis Græcorum Affectibus, and then you have the most considerable books of that kind, which are preserved to us of the ancients. In Justin Martyr's dialogue with Trypho the Jew, we see what weapons the first Christians used against that nation. The discipline of the primitive church we see in Ignatius's and Cyprian's epistles, and in some of Tertullian's pieces. Ignatius's and Cyprian's epistles should
be * Arichbishop Wake.