« PreviousContinue »
occupied with burdensome affairs, foreign to their vocation-will they be able still to remain faithful to their Master, and not to neglect his work? Others will be exposed to the want of aids and instruction necessary for their labours; and what will be the consequence, should unlooked-for circumstances require them to display their attainments, and contend for their faith? Many will be called to officiate in venerable churches, where they will find admirable examples and hallowed remembrances. They will meet also with communities rising into life, as in the times of the Apostles—with a spirit to re-animate faith and rouse the lethargic-with congregations hungering and thirsting for the word. They will encounter there many toils and many dangers, a wide field, and an abundant harvest to get in. Will they be prepared for circumstances so serious and duties so important-furnished with all the zeal, the self-denial, the charity and prudence, which are requisite in the Apostles of our time? Alas! “ who is sufficient for these things ?” Deeply interested as we are in the
Church's welfare, and in yours, how is it possible that our bosoms should be altogether free from inquietude, when we look forward over the arena into which our children in Christ Jesus are descending ?
And yet, Brethren, I can truly declare, that, were we sure you would study the Holy Scriptures-study them assiduously, thoroughly, from choice—we should feel but little anxiety as to what might befal you. We could, at least, reckon upon your zeal and your faith! You might, indeed, notwithstanding, occasionally slacken in your exertions; but a heavenly guide would be at hand to raise and sustain you. You might be thrown into difficulty by unexpected circumstances; but you would have ready the needful supply of strength and light.
You would still, no doubt, be exposed to errors and extremes;
but with the conscientious and sincere study of the Bible, your mistakes would be less injurious: their source would determine their limits; and, instead of being expressed in the language of contempt, and backed by anathemas, they would, in all pro
bability, be overruled and
" covered” by charity.
It is, in fact, of importance to remark, that the same errors of doctrine take a totally different character, according as they have their source in the Bible, misinterpreted, but by a person of pious intentions, or in the lessons of theologians. In the latter case, they often make religion a matter of intellect and science: they breed disputes, and partake of the pride in which they originated. In the former, on the contrary, they leave the seat of religion, where God and the Gospel have placed it — in the heart: hence, though the principles may vary, the dispositions and the conduct remain nearly the same; men, though of different minds, are still of one heart, and Christ is all in all. If
you only love the Bible, and know how to study it, we can dismiss our apprehensions: having implored the Divine blessings upon you with paternal earnestness, we shall be enabled, when the hour of your departure is arrived, to send you forth with joy into those “ fields white already to harvest,” which invite the labourer. Take, then, Brethren, that “ Word of God,” which St. Paul terms the “ sword of the Spirit;” but in using it, be careful to deprive it of none of its force.
Observe, that in all which precedes, I have supposed the study of Scripture to be conducted with honesty, good sense, critical knowledge, and reflection. This is not always the case ; and it must not be concealed, that this study, like any other, is liable, when ill-directed, to fail in
producing its natural fruits. On this point, therefore, I ought now to proceed to give you some directions I could at least have wished it; but time and strength are wanting to us. Another year, perhaps, with God's permission, we may return to the subject.
For the present, allow me to conclude, with laying before you the sentiments of a celebrated critic, respecting the sacred study to which it has been my office to exhort you. The following simple and touching expressions will furnish you with a proof, from experience, of the exalted pleasure which the theologian may derive from his labours; although
the great Leclerc, whose sentiments they record, is much less known for his sensibility than his learning. He often seems, in his commentaries, to be deficient in those qualities of mind which are necessary to admire and feel the sacred writings ;* nevertheless, when an old man, at the end of a life abounding in troubles, full of erudition, but weary of disputes, he thus commenced the preface to his New Testament:~:
“ In composing this translation, ...” he says, $. as I meditated with more attention than ever the Divine original, I felt myself filled with admiration and comfort; and those feelings which occupied me diffused so much satisfaction over my mind, that I was well requited for all
At every page I thanked the Divine goodness, which, without waiting for the great day of recompense, rewarded me even now...... This occupation, while it has dia verted my mind from subjects which ordinarily inflame the passions, ... 1 has occasioned me
• He maintained, for instance, with Huet, against Longinus and Boileau, that it was absurd to find the sublime the Bible, and in particular in the history of the creation.