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For the Methodist Magazine. IMPORTANCE OF STUDY TO A MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL.
(Continued from page 66.) In addition to those branches of knowledge already menrioned, there are others which have a claim upon your attention. Philosophy, including natural and moral science, is a department of study highly important to the Biblical student.
By Natural Philosophy, we understand the natural history of the Universe, including the different genus, and the several species of animated nature, from man down to the lowest reptile or smallest animalcula; also the history of inanimate creation, comprehending the various productions of sea and land, with the various uses, as far as can be ascertained, of each fossil, plant or vegetable, describing the simple elements of which compounded bodies are composed. How vast the study of nature! How great, therefore, nature's God! Every reader of the Bible knows how frequently these things are referred to in the Scriptures; and that without some acquaintance with them, it is not possible to understand the point of the numerous allusions which are made to animals, to vegetables and fossils, by the inspired writers. To be able to understand, in some tolerable degree, how the great elaboratory of nature, like an immense Alchymist, continually carries on its operations by causes and instruments which, to be sure, often elude the sight of human eyes, must produce the profoundest reverence for the infinite skill of the adorable Author of nature, and not a little strengthen our belief in the divinity of that Book, in which these great principles of nature are perpetually recognized. And the deeper we dive into this profound abyss, the more diffident shall we be of our own powers, while we shall be filled with admiration of the grand displays of God's immeasurable wisdom, power, and goodness.
When an allusion is made in the Holy Scriptures, to those things with which we are familiar, we are immediately struck with its aptness, and are instructed by the illustration; and if we were as well acquainted with all the other natural productions and curiosities, as well as the artificial works of man, to which reference is made by metaphor and allegory, we should be no less edified and delighted, with the justness of the comparison, or the fitness of the allegory. But the limits we have prescribed to ourselves, in these remarks, will not allow us to particularize. This you must do for yourself; and you cannot open the Book of God, without discovering these perpetual references to the various productions of nature, to animals and vegetables, and, indeed, to all the elements of nature; and which are used by the inspired writers to illustrate some point of doctrine, to enforce some duty, or to inspire faith in some promise, or to render some threatening more tremendous in its aspect.'
The Fragments added to the latest editions of CALMET, contain much useful and curious matter illustrative of the natural history of the Bible. If the Editor has erred at all in his numerous elucidations, it has been in indulging too frequently in conjectures, and by endeavouring to lower down the majesty of miraculous interpositions to the common operations of the laws of nature. But every reader must exercise his own judgment on whatever author he may consult. Harmer's Observations are a valuable acquisition for a literal interpretation of many passages of Scripture which have a reference to the philosophy of the Bible. Many systems of natural philosophy have been written; but perhaps, Ray's Survey of the Wisdom of God in the Creation, Goldsmith's Animated Nature, and Wesley's Philosophy, are among the best. If, however, you wish to see this subject more fully exemplified, you may consult Buffon,* who is a lively writer, and to whom Goldsmith acknowledges many obligations. Wesley's Philosophy possesses one excellence, to which the others have not an equal claim; it directs all its researches to one determinate end, namely, the display of the perfections of God in His wonderful Works. What a pity that all writers did not keep this end in view ? For what is nature but the “Art of God!” And wbat are all the artificial works of men, but so many emanations of God's glory shining forth through the mind of man, and reflected from the work of his hands ? At any rate, this should be the end to be kept steadily in view by every Biblical student in all his philosophical researches. The creative skill and ever acting agency of God must be seen in all His works and ways. Newton was both a philosopher and a Christian. And that a deep knowledge of the laws of nature, has a tendency to fill the mind with devout acknowledgments of the great SUPREME, is evinced by the effect which his astonishing discoveries produced on his expanded mind. It is said that he never pronounced the ineffable Name without a solemn pause! How wonderful the works of God! “In wisdom hast thou made them all.”
The next branch of Philosophy is called MORAL. It treats of MIND-Of God, of Angels, of Men—and endeavours to ascertain the duties of moral beings to each other, from their mutual relations. This was the science which so deeply engaged the attention of the ancient philosophers. They delighted in analyzing
* What a pity this great Naturalist should have allowed himself to offend the good taste of his readers by the use of unchaste language.
man, and in developing the powers of his mind. · And I need not observe that, however accurately they might have described man, and however highly they estimated his abilities, or his intellectual attainments, they found him too feeble to ascertain the perfections of the Almighty. Of this they have given sufficient proofs in their own theories on theology.
On this branch of philosophy, the world abounds with treatises. From Aristotle down to Stewart, there has been almost a continual stream of it flowing through the land; until it finally settled in the stagnant pool of Hume's theory of successive impressions and barefaced Atheism! A Beattie and a Reid arose to rescue the captive from this fatal catastrophe, and to restore it to that reality and activity, which render it a suitable companion for the reasonable and active soul of man. In these two authors you have the philosophy of Common Sense, and are enabled to behold man as he is, and not in those fantastical robes with which an ideal and mock philosophy would array him. You need not, however, overlook Locke; though Reid, as a writer has observed, is to be preferred, “because he had the sagacity to detect the errors of Locke.” Reid's Essays on the Intellectual and active powers of man, ought to grace the library of every Christian minister; but you need not set Reid against Reid, by incorporating the notes of the Boston Editors. Let Reid speak for himself, and he will speak a more intelligible language, more in accordance with the dictates of common sense, than any of his interpreters. The judicious sciolist, may add something to his light; but the invidious and snarling critic will only “ darken counsel, by words without knowledge.” Stewart, though justly much admired, sinks, in the opinion of the writer, far beneath his predecessor and teacher in the philosophy of the mind, both in the clearness of his perceptions, the perspicuity and energy of his language, and in the justness and truth of some of his sentiments. Stewart, however, as well as Cogan, may be read with profit and delight. Beattie's Moral Science, and his Treatise on the Immutability of Truth, should occupy the same shelf with Reid's Essays. And if you wish to see the sentiments of these eminent philosophers corroborated by one of your own countrymen, you may look into Smith's Lectures on Political and Moral Science. More you need not add.
The utility and importance of making moral philosophy a particular branch of study, will appear evident, when it is considered that God addresses man as a moral being ; as a being possessing a capacity to understand, and to do His will, because he is a free moral agent, capable of willing or nilling according to his own pleasure. And as this science teaches him to analyze his own powers, to ascertain the various rights of individuals, of commu, nities, of nations, the numerous duties which originate froin his religious, civil, and political relations; and explains and enforces as far as it is able to do, all the great principles of moral duty to God and man; it has an imperious demand upon the attention of all those who would successfully instruct mankind in the great doctrines of God our Saviour. And it affords indescribable satisfaction to the biblical student, to find that all the individual and social rights and duties, which are recognized in the profoundest treatises of moral science, are clearly revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and are enforced by the strongest of all possible motives. And perhaps it may not be unimportant to observe, that this consideration, of the perfect accordance of the deductions of scientific men, who have derived their conclusions from the invariable relations of moral beings to each other, with the declarations of inspiration, is no inconsiderable argument in favour of the divine authority of Holy Scripture. At least, it is certain that no man can reasonably reject a book, which recognizes the same principles, and enforces the same duties, which he himself thinks he has discovered originating from the nature of God and man, and from the mutual relations existing among rational and intelligent beings. How far the best treatises on Moral Science may be indebted to revelation for their truest sentiments, and for their knowledge of the immutable principles of moral duty, is a question which need not be discussed here. From whatever source the light may have descended, it is all-important that we should avail ourselves of its influence.
Logic, as a branch of Moral Philosophy, has some claim upon your attention. Though custom, the slave of folly, has nearly banished from modern composition, the formal use of the sylogistical art, as displaying too much stiffness and affectation, yet the principles of Logic ought to be understood. Although there are many who can reason conclusively, who know not any of the technical terms of the art, it by no means follows that a knowledge of the system of Logic is useless.
To be able to distinguish between a sound argument and a sophism, so as to lay your hand upon the falacy and to tear the sophism in pieces, is highly important for a defence of the truth, and especially when you have to deal with a subtle adversary, who prides himself in his scholastic attainments. "And there are many adversaries gone forth into the world, whose mouths must be stopped.” It is true, that a simple query, somewhat in the Socratic method of disputation, may often do better in exposing the falacy of a sophistical argument, than a laboured refutation clothed in the majesty of logical precision ; but, to know how to use the former to advantage, you must not be ignorant of the latter.
Reid will give you a Compendium of Aristotle's system of Logic, which, however, will require some attention to understand the reason of its high celebrity in the scientific world. Duncan is much admired: but for a plain, easy, and intelligible statement VOL. VI.
and illustration of the principles of Logic, Watts is to be preferred: he wrote for the benefit and instruction of mankind, and not for the purpose of displaying the profoundness of his knowledge, or the extensiveness of his literary attainments. Wesley has a short Treatise upon Logic, which, on account of its shortness, is somewhat obscure to those who have not had the advantage of a teacher.
Perhaps it is hardly necessary to repeat here, what has already been suggested more than once, that, whatever branch of study you are pursuing, the Holy Scriptures will be your daily companion, and prayer and holy living your daily employment. For after all our attainments in literature, unless the “Unction of the Holy One” give energy to our word, and a correspondent example enforce our precepts, we cannot disarm the sinner of his objections to Christianity, nor confirm the believer in his most holy faith. The studies we have recommended are to be considered only as subservient auxiliaries to the pure word of truth, which, to be efficient in our mouth, must be like fire shut up in our bones, producing by its vehement flame, a constant, an ardent thirst for the salvation of men. Then, indeed, the word of the Lord will Be like a hammer to hreak in pieces the hard heart, and like oil to assuage the pains of an accusing conscience.
(To be Continued.)
ERROR DETECTED IN THE RELIGIOUS INTELLIGENCER. An article, in the Religious Intelligencer of the 18th ult. under the Editorial head, on the necessity and duty of ministerial support, after some very appropriate remarks upon this subject, contains a quotation from the Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, on the allowance which is made for the support of its ministry. All this is very well. But what shall we think of the following remarks?
“One circumstance respecting the support which these ministers receive has been unnoticed. Almost the whole of it is derived from a fund, and they are not obliged to supplicate a collector to entreat the people to pay arrears withholden, and for want of which they suffer.” From what source the Editor of that paper has derived his information, we are not anxious to know; but this we certainly know, that he is “almost wholly" under a mistake. As very erroneous impressions have been made on the public mind respecting the funds of our Church, we will take this opportunity to inform Mr. Whiting and others, what those funds are, and how they are appropriated.
The first, then, is the Charter Fund. This yields $1200 per annum. The second is the avails of the Book-Concern, which amount to about $4000 a year. These are all the funds of our Church. Add the two together; and you have five thousand two