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When you have thus examin'd your Heart, if you determin for Holy Orders, your next Endevor muft be to furnifh your felf with a competent Knowledge of Divinity. I fay a competent Knowledge; for you must ever be making a Progrefs, 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 Courfes of Logies, 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 muft defire you, for your own Eafe hereafter, not to be defective in thefe 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 with, every Perfon to be ordain'd were furnish'd with.
Same things preSupposed in the Student.
You know, that different PerDifferent Methods fons have prefcrib'd different Meof Studying Divinity have been prethods for the studying of Divinity. Scrib'd What Ufe you may make of their
10 feveral Schemes hereafter, it is not my prefent Bufinefs to examin. Nor fhall I give you the Reafons, why I am not perfectly fatisfied
with any of thofe Advices which I have hitherto met with. Should I enlarge upon thefe 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 fhould depart from the Rules I offer, whenfoever your own Prudence fhall judge it advisable fo 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 Syftems of Divinity are numberless. But they have been almost all of them writ by Forei~ners; whereas, for many Reasons, and 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 select a small 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 prefcribe 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.
Compendium or Syftem generally esteem'd neceffary.
First, That thofe 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
Seven Things premifed relating to the Method prescribed by the Author.
Firft, An Inconvenience attends the tacking together the Writings of dif ferent Perfons..
pos'd by one and the fame Ferfon! However, I am perfuaded, that if you will give your felf the Trouble of reading them in that Order which I fhall prefcribe, 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 feeing.
Secondly, That diverfe of the Books or Parts of Books, which I fhall recommend to yours Perufal, being written on the fame Subject, there muft of Neceffity be diverfe Repetitions of the fame Matters. This could not be pre-vented, unless the Subftance 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; 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 reft. Thirdly, That in fome Particulars, Thirdly, The diverfe of thofe Books or Parts of Author Books, which I fhall recommend to in his Judgment you, are not written exactly accorfrom the Per ding to my own Mind. I cou'd wish fons whofe Books 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 PerTons 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 6204 main
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: Miftakes, 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 alleg'd to prove or difprove any Propofition, I would by all means advise you to turno to it in the Original, and perufe it carefully with the Context, not for getting 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 perfuade 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 exami ned in the Ori ginal.
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 leaft Reafon 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 Mifchief, and spoiled a great Number of Scholars. Be perfuaded therefore to ruminate upon what you read; to lay afide your Book sometimes, and think over the Contents of it; to digeft it throughly, and make it perfectly your own; to fearch and examin, and advise with a Friend, if any thing
Student muft not read too
feem obfcure to you; not to flide over any Difficulty, but to be impatient after a Solution of it; and (if poffible) not to give your self Rest till you
have met with it.
Sixthly, That when you have gone through any confiderable Branch of Divinity (for Inftance, the Controverfy with the Atheifts about the Being and Attributes of God; that about Nany Branch of tural Religion; that of the Authority Divinity. of the Scriptures, and the Truth of Christianity, with refpect to the Hypothefis of the Deifts; or the like) you would beftow fo much Time and Pains in Reflection upon it, as to digeft what you have read, into a regular Scheme in your own Head, to ftate the Queftions truly, to range the Arguments pro and con, with the refpective Anfwers, and, in a word, make your felf fo far a Mafter of the Whole, as to be able with a little Recollection to talk of it extempore in a good Method, and to lay it before another Perfon in a convenient Order. This, I confefs, may appear a laborious Task; but I'll promife you, 'twill abundantly reward your Labor. For the Advantages of this Practice are unspeakably great; and when once you are a little accuftom'd to it, 'twill be for the future extremely easy, and (what is more) throughly delightful to you. Befides, 'twill really fpare you a vaft deal of Pains; confidering that you'll make infinitely greater Improvements by this Means in one Year's Study, then you will otherwife probably do in three, four, or five.
Seventhly, That the best way Seventhly, He must join to ftudy fuccesfully, is to pray frequently and fervently for the Guidance and Affiftance of God's Holy Spirit, to
Devotion with Study.