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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 fuch, as either defign to ferve God in the Work of the Ministry, or have actually engag'd themfelves in it.
Let me befeech you therefore to confider them very carefully; and to labor earnestly, by ferious and repeated Meditation, to form a just and true Senfe, and throughly to convince your felf of, First, The Weight of that Sacred Imployment, which you have fome thoughts of devoting your felf to. Secondly, The Reward that attends the faithful Difcharge of it. Thirdly, The unfpeakable everlafting Torments which will infallibly be the Confequence of Negligence in it. And then ask your own Conscience these plain Queftions, viz. Am I capable of the Work of the Ministry? and Do I refolve fincerely to all therein according to thofe Rules which Chrift has fet me? If it answer, Yes; blefs God for it, and beg him to establish your good Intentions, and enable you to be fuccefsful in the execution of them: But if it anfwer otherwise, be perfuaded, for the Church's Sake, for God's Sake, for your own Soul's Sake; if there be any Fear of lofing Heaven, any Dread of the endless Pains of Hell; if unquenchable Flames can at this Distance make any Impreffion, and strike any Terror into you; be perfuaded, I fay, whatever Temptations of Preferment, &c. may intice you, not to force down the fevereft Judgments of God upon your felf, by undertaking that fublime and difficult Work, which you are either not capable of, or not ftedfastly refolv'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 felf with a competent Knowledge of Divinity. I fay 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 Poffibility of arriving at fuch a Perfection in Theological Learning, as will render your Labor for the future ufelefs.
Now I take it for granted, that you are already fufficiently acquainted with the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew Tongues; that you have gone thro the ufual Academical Courses of Logics, Ethics, and Metaphyfics; that you have alfo taken a General View of Geography and Hiftory. This Foundation, I hope, is well laid; there being, I affure you, great Neceffity and frequent Occafions of having recourfe to thefe Particulars in the feveral Parts of Divinity. And therefore I must defire you, for your own Eafe 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 fhew you, how you may attain fuch a competent Knowledge of Divinity, as is fufficient for a Candidate for Holy Orders; and fuch as I heartily wish, every Perfon to be ordain'd were furnish'd with.
Some things prefuppofed in the Student.
You know, that different Perfons have prefcrib'd different Methods for the studying of Divinity. What Ufe you may make of their feveral Schemes hereafter, it is not my prefent Bufinefs to examin. Nor fhall I give you the Reasons, why I am not perfectly fatisfied
Different Methods of Studying Divinity have been prefcrib'd.
with any of thofe Advices which I have hitherto met with. Should I enlarge upon these Particulars, I should confound rather than direct you. I fhall therefore briefly deliver my own Sentiments, which you were pleas'd to inquire after; and am not only willing, but defirous, that you should depart from the Rules I offer, whenfoever your own Prudence fhall judge it adviseable so to do.
'Tis generally agreed, that in the beginning of any Study, a Man ought to make ufe of fome Compendium or general Syftem. 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 Syftems publish'd by our own Country Men are fuch, as I care not to recommend. What then shall be done? Why, I will felect a fmall Number of Books written by English Men, which, with fome Helps borrowed of Turretin and Limborch, will furnish you with a Body of Divinity; and I will prescribe fuch a Method of reading them, as I hope may be useful to you. Only I think it neceffary for me, before I proceed, to advertise you of the following Particulars; viz.
A Compendium or System generally efleem'd necessary.
First, That those Books or Parts of Books which I fhall recommend to your Perufal, having been written by different Authors, at different Times, and upon different Occafions; it cannot be expected, that I fhould be able to range the feveral Contents of them in fo good an Order, as that they should refemble a juft and regular Syftem B 3
SevenThings premifed relating to the Method prefcribed by the Author.
First, An In
pos'd by one and the fame Perfon. However, am perfuaded, that if you will give your felf the Trouble of reading them in that Order which I fhall prescribe, you will reap very near as confiderable Advantages thereby, as if you had spent your time in fuch a Syftem, as (tho' we dearly want it, yet) perhaps we must defpair of ever seeing.
Secondly, That diverfe of the Books or Parts of Books, which I fhall recommend to your Perufal, being written on the fame Subject, there muft of Neceffity be diverfe Repetitions of the fame Matters. This could not be prevented, unless the Subftance of 'em all were blended into one intire Difcourfe; the Task of doing which I have neither Time nor Inclination to undertake. I hope therefore, you'll bear with this unavoidable Inconvenience; efpecially fince, tho' the Fatigue of Reading is thereby a little increas'd; yet perhaps each diftinct Treatife will afford you fomething confiderable, which is not in the rest.
Thirdly, That in fome Particulars, diverse of those Books or Parts of Books, which I fhall recommend to you, are not written exactly according to my own Mind. I cou'd wish that fome Points were handled, fome Texts explained, fome Arguments urg'd, &c. after a Manner a little different from that which thofe Authors there ufe. 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 refpects, fully and truly exprefs my own Sentiments. In the
Thirdly, The Author fometimes differs in bis Judgment from the Perfonswhofe Books be recommends.
main I heartily approve what I recommend to you and I am perfuaded, your reading according to my Directions, will not lead you to any fuch Mistakes, as you will have Reafon 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 alleg'd to prove or difprove any Propofition, I would by all means advise you to turn to it in the Original, and peruse it carefully with the Context, not forgetting to confult fuch Commentators upon the Place, as you have then by you. For 'tis impoffible 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 plaufible Gloffes, &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 Ufe. These Indexes will be of confiderable Service to you in the Profecution of your Studies afterwards.
Fourthly, All the Texts that are alleg'd, must be exa
mined in the Original.
Fifthly, that you must be extremely cautious, left you read too faft. I hope you'll excufe my Freedom, and think it no Reproach to you. For I have not the least Reason to fufpect your being guilty of the Fault I warn you againft. But I affure you, reading too faft has done a great deal of Mischief, and fpoiled a great Number of Scholars. Be perfuaded therefore to ruminate upon what you read; to lay afide your Book fometimes, and think over the Contents of it; to digeft it throughly, and make it perfectly your own; to fearch and examin, and advife with a Friend, if any thing B 4
Student muft not read too