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ACADEMICAL PREPARATION FOR THE MINISTRY,
LETTER TO A FRIEND.
Quin et piorum mentibus mysteria,
Bucu. Ps. XXV.
James iii. 17.
Dear Sir,-I am not the son of a prophet, that whenever I should neglect them afternor was I bred up among the prophets. I am wards, all my care and labour and expense quite a stranger to what passes within the would be from that time thrown away. walls of colleges and academies. I was as My first maxim is, That none but he who one born out of due time, and led, under the made the world can make a minister of the secret guidance of the Lord, by very unusual gospel. If a young man has capacity, culsteps, to preach the faith which I once la- ture and application may make him a scholar, boured to destroy. Since you know all this, a philosopher, or an orator. But a true how could you think of applying to me for minister must have certain principles, mothe plan of an academical institution? Yet tives, feelings, and aims which no industry I confess the design you mentioned to me, in or endeavours of men can either acquire or which some of your friends have thoughts of communicate. They must be given from engaging, is so important in my view, that I above, or they cannot be received. am willing to come as near to your wishes as I adopt as a second maxim, That the holy
I must not pretend to dictate a plan scriptures are both comprehensively and exfor the business which is now in contempla- clusively the grand treasury of all that knowtion. But if you will allow me to indulge a ledge which is requisite and sufficient, to sort of reverie, and suppose myself a person make the minister, the man of God, thoroughof some consequence in Utopia, where I ly furnished for every branch of his office. could have the modelling of every thing to If indeed no other studies were of subordimy own mind; and that I was about to form nate importance, in order to a right underan academy there, for the sole purpose of standing of the scriptures, and especially to educating young men for the ministry of the those who are not only to know for themgospel-in this way I am willing to offer you selves, but are appointed to teach others also; my thoughts upon the subject with great then academical instruction would be needsimplicity and freedom. And if any of the less, and I might supply my young men with regulations of my imaginary academy should every thing at once, by putting the Bible inbe judged applicable to your design, you and to their hands, and directing them to read it your friends will be heartily welcome to them. continually with attention and prayer. But
I should then, suppositis supponendis, in my meaning is, that though there is such the first place, lay down two or three im- a concatenation in knowledge, that every portant maxims, which I would hope never to branch of science may, by a judicious applilose sight of in the conduct of the affair: ex- cation, be rendered subservient to a minispecting that, if I should begin without them, ter's great design; yet no attainments in I must stumble at the very threshold; and philology, philosophy, or in any or all the
particulars which constitute the aggregate | rendered impracticable; as they might furof what we call Learning, can in the least nish my young men with opportunities of contribnite to form a minister of the gospel, forming connections and making observations any farther than he is taught of God to refer that might contribute to their usefulness in them to, and to regulate them by the scrip- future life. But procul ab urbe will be my tures as a standard. On the contrary, the maxim. I should not only fear lest they more a man is furnished with this kind of ap- should be contaminated by the vices which paratus, unless the leading truths of scripture too generally prevail where men live in a reign and flourish in his heart, he will be but throng: if they escaped these, I should still the more qualified to perplex himself, and to have apprehensions, lest the notice that might mislead his hearers.
be taken of them, and the respect shown My third maxim is an inference from the them by well-meaning friends, should impertwo former: That the true gospel-minister ceptibly seduce them into a spirit of self-imwho possesses these secondary advantages, portance, give them a turn for dress and though he may know the same things, and company, and spoil that simplicity and deacquire his knowledge by the like methods, pendence, without which I could have little as other scholars do, yet he must know and hope of their success.
I would wish it may possess them in a manner peculiar to himself. be their grand aim to please the Lord, and His criticisms, if he be a critic, will discover under him and for his sake to please their something which the greatest skill in gram- tutor. They have as yet no business with matical niceties cannot of itself reach. If he other people. Their tutor must be to them be an orator, he will not speak in the artifi-instar omnium. Him they must love, recial self-applauding language of man's wis- verence, and obey, and accurately watch his dom, but in simplicity and with authority; looks, and every intimation of his will. But like one who feels the ground he stands upon, to secure this point, or even to have a reaand knows to whom he belongs, and whom sonable prospect of attaining it, methinks it he serves. If he mentions a passage of his- seems necessary to say, procul, procul ab tory, it will not be to show his reading, but | urbe juvenes! But the difference between to illustrate or prove his point; and it will be a rural and a town situation is so striking at evident from his manner of speaking, that first view, that I suppose it quite needless to though he may have taken the facts from say more upon this head. I therefore proceed, Tacitus or Robertson, his knowledge of the II. To the choice of my Tutor.- Whoever springs of human action, and of the superin- he may be, when I have found him, and fixed tendency of a divine providence, is derived him, I will take the liberty to tell him, that from the word of God. And so of other in- he is called to the most honourable and imstances.
portant office that man, in the present state In a word, if a young man was to consult of things, is capable of
. The skilful and me how he might be wise and learned in the faithful tutor is not only useful to his pupils usual sense of the words, I might advise him considered as individuals, but he is remotely to repair to Oxford or Cambridge, or to twenty the instrument of all the blessings and beneother places which I could name. But if I fits which the Lord is pleased to communithought him really desirous of becoming wise cate by their ministry, in the course of their to win souls, I would invite him to my new stuted' and occasional labours to the end of college in Utopia.
life. On the other hand, the errors and preFrom these general observations I proceed judices of an incompetent tutor, adopted and more directly to my subject. You are then perpetuated by his disciples, may produce a to suppose that I have taken my determina- long progression of evil consequences, which tion, and counted the cost, and am now sit- may continue to operate and multiply when ting down to contrive my plan. As a little he and they are dead and forgotten. For if attention to method may not be amiss, I shall the streams which are to spread far and wide endeavour to range my thoughts under four throughout a land are poisoned in the very principal heads, concerning,
source, who can foresee how far the mischief 1. The Place.
may be diffused. Unless, therefore, I can 2. The Tutor.
procure a proper tutor, I must give up my 3. The Pupils.
design. It is better the youth should remain 4. The Course of Education.
untaught, than that they should be taught to I. And first, (as preachers sometimes say,) do wrong. of the first. If the metropolis of Utopia And I seem not easily satisfied on this should be any thing like ours, there are ob- head. My idea of the person to whom 1 vious reasons to forbid my fixing upon a spot could cheerfully entrust the care of my acavery near it. I think not nearer than a mo- demy, is not of an ordinary size. Ile seems derate day's journey. Nor would I wish it to be one, much farther distant. Occasional visits to a
- Qualein nequeo monstrare, ac sentio tantum. great city, where there are many considerable ministers and Christians, should not be Hovever, since we are upon Utopian
ground, where we may imagine as largely studies. Besides an accurate skill in the as we please, I will attempt to delineate him. school classics, he should be well acquainted And were I to recommend a tutor to your with books at large, and possessed of a genefriends, it should be the man who I thought ral knowledge of the state of literature and came the nearest to the character I am about religion, and the memorable events of histo to describe.
ry in the successive ages of mankind. ParFor his first essential indispensable qualifi- ticularly, he should be well versed in Ecclecation, I require a mind deeply penetrated siastical learning: for though it be true, that with a sense of the grace, glory, and efficacy the bulk of it is little worth knowing for its of the gospel. However learned and able in own sake, yet a man of genius and wisdom other respects, he shail not have a single pu- will draw from the whole mass a variety of pil from me, unless I have reason to believe, observations suited to assist young minds that his heart is attached to the person of in forming a right judgment of human nathe Redeemer as God-man: that as a sinner ture, of true religion, of its counterfeits, and his whole dependence is upon the Redeemer's of the abuses to which the name of religion work of love, his obedience unto death, his is capable of being perverted. And he will intercession and mediatorial fulness. His likewise be able to select for their use, such sentiments must be clear and explicit respect- authors and subjects as deserve their notice, ing the depravity of human nature, and the from the surrounding rubbish in which they necessity and reality of the agency of the are almost buried. Holy Spirit, to quicken, enlighten, sanctify, My tutor should likewise be competently and seal those who, under his influence, are acquainted with the lighter accomplishments, led to Jesus for salvation. With respect to which are usually understood by the term the different schemes or systems of Divinity Belles Lettres, and a proper judge of them which obtain hmongst those who are united with respect both to their intrinsic and their in the acknowledgment of the above funda- relative value. Their intrinsic value to inental truths, I should look for my tutor creatures who are posting to eternity, is not amongst those who are called Calvinists ; but great; and a wise man if he has not been he must not be of a curious, metaphysical, tinctured with them in early life, will seldom disputatious turn, a mere system-monger or think it worth his while to attend much to party-zealot. I seek for one who, having them afterwards. Yet in such an age as been himself taught the deep things of God ours, it is some disadvantage to a man in by the Holy Spirit, in a gradual experimental public life, if he is quite a stranger to them. nanner; while he is charmed with the beau- To a tutor they are in a manner necessary. tiful harmony and coincidence of all the doc- It is farther desirable that he should have a trines of grace, is at the same time aware of lively imagination, under the direction of a the mysterious depths of the divine counsels, sound judgment and a correct and cultivated and the impossibility of their being fully taste. Otherwise, how can he assist and comprehended by our feeble understandings. form the taste and judgment of his pupils, Such a man will be patient and temperate in or direct or criticise their compositions ! explaining the peculiarities of the gospel to Natural Philosophy is not only a noble his pupils, and will wisely adapt himself to science, but one which offers the most intertheir several states, attainments, and capaci- esting and profitable relaxations from the ties. After the example of the Great Teacher, weight of severer studies. If the tutor be he will consider what they can bear, and aim not possessed of this, he will lose a thousand to lead thein forward step by step, in such a opportunities of pointing out to bis pupils the manner, that the sentiments he instils into signatures of wisdom, power, and goodness, them may be their own, and not taken up which the wonder-working God has impressmerely upon the authority of his ipse dixit. ed upon every part of the visible creation. He will propose the scripture to them as a But at the same time, he should know where consistent whole; and guard them against to stop, and what bound to set to their inthe extremes into which controversial writers quiries. It is not necessary that either he or have forced themselves and each other, in they should be numbered amongst the first support of a favourite hypothesis, so as, under astronomers or, virtuosi of the age. A life pretence of honouring some parts of the word devoted to the service of God and souls, will of God, to overlook, if not to contradict, what not afford leisure for this diminutive kind of is taught with equal clearness in other parts. pre-eminence. A general knowledge will
I wish my pupils to be well versed in use-suffice even in the tutor. And when he lecful learning, and therefore my tutor must be tures upon these subjects, he will caution a learned man. Ile must not only be able them against spending too much time and to teach them whatever is needful for them thought upon those branches of philosophy to learn, but should be possessed of such a which have but a very remote tendency to fund, as that the most forward and most pro- qualify them for preaching the gospel. They mising among them may feel he has a decided are sent into the world and into the acadeiny, superiority over them in every part of their not to collect shells, and fossils, and butter
flies, cr to surprise each other with feats of a minute's debate about it, provided he acts electricity, but to win souls for Christ. consistently with the principles which I have
Perhaps I have said enough of my tutor's assigned him. But as I myself, living in knowledge, and may now consider him with England, am of the Established Church, that regard to his spirit, his methods of communi- you may not suspect ine of partiality, I will cating what he knows to his pupils, and his suppose, and am ready to take it for granted, manner of living with them as a father with that he will be found to be a Utopian Dis his children.
senter. He must be didacticos, apt to teach. A On this supposition, my imagination takes man may know much, yet not have a facility a flight, hastens into the midst of things, and of imparting his ideas. It is a talent and a anticipates as present what is yet future. gift of God, and therefore will always be Methinks I see the tutor indulging his schofound in some good degree in the person who lars (as at proper seasons he often will) with is called of God to the tutor's office.
an hour of free conversation; and from some He will consider himself as a teacher, not question proposed to him concerning the comonly in the lecture-room, but in all places, parative excellence or authority of different and at all times, whether sitting in the house, forms of church government, taking occaor walking by the way, if any of his pupils sion to open his mind to them, something in are with him. And he will love to have the following manner: them always about him, so far as their stu “My dear children, you may have observdies and his own necessary avocations will ed, that, when in the course of our lectures, admit.
I have been led to touch upon this subject, it Two things he will aim to secure from has not been my custom to speak in a dogthem, reverence and affection. Without matical style. I have sometimes intimated maintaining a steady authority, he can do to you, that though every part of the Levinothing; and uniess they love him, every tical worship was of positive divine instituthing will go on heavily. But if the pupils tion, yet when the people rested and trusted are properly chosen, such a man as I have in their external forms, the Lord speaks as described will be both loved and feared. abhorring his own appointments. I have told His spiritual and exemplary deportment, his you, upon the apostle's authority, that the wisdom and abilities, will command their kingdom of God consists not in meats and respect. His condescension and gentleness, drinks, in names and forms, but in righteoushis tenderness for their personal concerns, ness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. his assiduity in promoting their comfort, and Amidst the many divisions and subdivisions doing them every friendly office in his power, which obtain in the visible Church, there are will engage their love. These happy effects in reality but two sorts of people, the chilwill be farther promoted by their frequent mu- dren of God, and the children of the world. tual intercourse in prayer, by his expository The former sort, though partakers in one lectures, and by his public ministry, if he be life and in one hope, yet living in successive a preacher. Having his eye unto the Lord, ages, in various countries, under very differand his heart in his work, a blessing from on ent modes of government, education, and high shall descend upon him and upon his customs, it seems morally impossible that house.
they should all agree, as by instinct, in one As human nature is the same in all places, common mode of social worship. It is init is probable that the christians in Utopia deed said, that there is a plan prescribed in may be divided among themselves with re- the New Testament to which all ought to spect to rituals and modes of worship, in some conform as nearly as possible. All parties such manner as we see and feel amongst us. say this in favour of their own plans; and Now here, as in every thing else, I would men eminent for wisdom and holiness are to have my tutor a sort of phenix, a man of a be found among the advocates for each. But generous enlarged spirit, a real friend of that is it not strange, that if the Lord has appointliberty wherewith Jesus has made his people ed such a standard, the wisest and best of free from the shackles and impositions of men. his people should differ so widely in their One who uniformly judges and acts upon that views of it, and deviate so far from each grand principle of the New Testament, which other when they attempt to reduce it to pracis likewise a plain and obvious maxim of com- tice? Let others dispute, but as for you my mon sense; I mean, that the Lord of all, the children, and me, let us rather adore the wisHead of the church, is the alone Lord and dom and goodness of our Lord. He who Judge of conscience. I suppose my tutor knew the heart of man, the almost invincible has already taken his side, that he is either power of local prejudices, and what innuin the Establishment (if there be one in Uto-merable circumstances in different periods pia) or of course a Dissenter from it. And, and places would render it impracticable for really, as to my scheme, I am indifferent his people to tread exactly in the same line, which side he has taken; we shall not have ) has provided accordingly. The rules and
lights he has afforded us respecting the out- any of you a door on that side, and incline ward administration of his Church, are re- you to enter, I shall not dissuade you from it, corded with such a latitude, that his true as though I thought it sinful. I shall only worshippers may conscientiously hope they wish you to attend to that advice which canare acceptable to him, though the plans which not mislead you :-“ Trust in the Lord with they believe to be consistent with his reveal- all thine heart, and lean not to thine own uned will, are far from corresponding with each derstanding; in all thy ways acknowledge other. It is sufficient that the apostolical ca- him, and he shall direct thy path.” nons, Let all things be done decently and in Thus far my tutor.–Or, since I am in a order, to edification and in charity, are uni- supposing humour, if you will give me leave versally binding; and were these on all to make one supposition more, that it is possides attended to, smaller differences would sible there may be Methodists and Itinerants be very supportable.
in Utopia, as we have in England; he would " I have often pointed out to you the won then perhaps continue his discourse a little derful analogy which the Lord has establish- longer as follows: ed in many instances, between his works in " Though the pastoral care of a single the outward creation, and in his kingdom of congregation is the service which the Lord grace. Perhaps the variety observable in has allotted me, and I have not seen it my the former may be one instance of this kind. duty to engage in any thing which might When you see every vegetable arrayed in lead me long or far from the people to whom green exactly of the same shade, or all tu- I am related, I am no enemy to itinerant lips variegated in the same manner, as if preaching. My Lord and Saviour himself, painted from one common pattern, then, and his apostles and first servants were all Itinenot before, expect to find true believers rants; and I believe that houses and ships, agreed in their views and practice respect- hills and plains, the side of a river, or the ing the modes of religion.
sea-shore, are all fit places for preaching the “Study therefore the scriptures, my chil- gospel, and sufficiently authorized as such by dren, with humble prayer, that the Lord may the highest precedents. I cannot therefore give you such views of these concerns, as censure, much less condemn, a practice which may fit you for the stations and services to the scripture warrants, and to which I doubt which his providence may lead you. See not the Lord has given abundant testimony with your own eyes, and judge for yourselves. in our own times, by making the word thus This is your right. One is your master, even dispensed effectual to the conversion and conChrist, and you need not, you ought not to solation of many souls. I believe indeed, that call any man master upon earth. But be sorne persons not duly acquainted with their content with this. Do not arrogate to your own hearts, nor with what is requisite to selves the power of judging for others. Be constitute a preacher, have too hastily supwilling that they should see with their own posed themselves called to preach the gospel; eyes likewise. The Papists, upon the ground when the event has proved that the Lord had of the assumed infallibility of their church, neither called them to his service nor furare at least consistent with themselves in nished them for it. And I think, if it should condemning all who differ from them. Pro- generally be allowed that young men are testants confess themselves fallible, yet speak proper judges in their own cause, and have a the sarne peremptory language.
right to commence preachers when or where * As to myself
, if I had thought it prefer- or how they please, without the advice or apable upon the whole to be a minister in our probation of ministers more experienced than Established Church, I might probably have themselves, many inconveniences may and been one; but I trust I am where the Lord must follow. I could wish every young man would have me to be, and I am satisfied. My to be so impressed with the force of the aposdesire for you is to see you able ininisters of tle's question, “ Who is sufficient for these the New Testament. As to the part of the things?" that he should rather need invita. vineyard in which you are to labour, wait tion and encouragement to preach, than be simply upon the Lord, and he in good time disposed to run hastily into the work, as the will point it out to you. If scripture and horse rusheth into the battle. But I must not conscience lead you to prefer the Dissenting expect every thing will be managed accordline, I shall say, It is well-provided you ing to my wish. I have mourned over the embrace it with a liberal spirit, and have a miscarriages of some Itinerant preachers, but better warrant for your choice than merely I have been much comforted by the good the example of your tutor. Should you de- conduct and success of others. It is neither termine otherwise, I shall still say, It is well my business nor my intention to persuade -provided I see you disinterested, humble, you to this course; but if, when you are proand faithful. Your being educated under my perly instructed and qualified for the ministry, roof is a circumstance not likely to facilitate I should see any of you disposed to go forth your admission into the Establishment; but in the Itinerant way, should I be satisfied of if the Lord in his providence should open to your principles and motives, and have reason