THE greatest good that one can hope to do in this World is upon young Persons, who have not yet taken their ply, and are not spoiled with Prejudices, and wrong Notions. Those who have taken an ill one at first, will neither be at the pains to look over their Notions, nor turn to new Methods; nor will they by any change of Practice, seem to confess that they were once in the wrong; so that if Matters that are amiss, can be mended or set right, it must be by giving those that have not yet set out, and that are not yet engaged, truer views, and juster Ideas of things. I will therefore here lay down the model, upon which a Clerk is to be formed, and will begin with such things as ought to be previous and preparatory to his being initiated into Orders.
These are of two sorts, the one is of such preparations as are necessary to give his Heart and Soul a right temper, and a true sense of things: The other is of such studies as are necessary to enable him to go through with the several parts of his Duty. Both are necessary, but the first is the more indispensible of the two; for a Man of a good Soul, may with a moderate proportion of knowledge do great Service in the Church, especially if he is suited with an Employment, that is not above his Talent: Whereas unsanctified knowledge puffs up; is insolent and unquiet, it gives great scandal, and occasions much distraction in the Church. In treating of these qualifications, I will watch over my thoughts, not to let them rise to a pitch that is above what the common frailties of humane Nature, or the Age we live in, can bear: and after all, if in any thing I may seem to exceed these measures, it is to be considered, that it is natural in proposing the Ideas of things, to carry them to what is wished for, which is but too often beyond what can be expected; considering both the corruption of mankind and of these degenerated times.
First of all then, he that intends to dedicate himself to the Church, ought, from the time that he takes up any such Resolution, to enter upon a greater Decency of Behaviour, that his Mind may not be vitiated by ill Habits; which may both give such bad Characters of him, as may stick long on him afterwards, and make such ill Impressions on himself, as may not be easily worn out or defaced. He ought, above all things, to possess himself with a high Sense of the Christian Religion, of its Truth and Excellence, of the Value of Souls, of the Dignity of the Pastoral Care, of the Honour of God, of the Sacredness of Holy Functions, and of the Great Trust that is committed to those who are set apart from the World, and dedicated to God and to his Church. He who looks this way, must break himself to the Appetites of Pleasure, or Wealth, of Ambition, or Authority; he must consider that the Religion, in which he intends to Officiate, calls all Men to great Purity and Virtue; to a Probity and Innocence of Manners, to a Meekness and Gentleness, to a Humility and Self-denial, to a Contempt of the World and a Heavenly Mindedness, to a Patient Resignation to the Will of God, and a readiness to bear the Cross, in the hopes of that everlasting Reward, which is reserved for Christians in another State: All which was eminently recommended, by the unblemish'd Pattern that the Author of this Religion, has set to all that pretend to be his Followers. These being the Obligations which a Preacher of the Gospel is to lay daily upon all his Hearers, he ought certainly to accustom himself often to consider seriously of them; and to think how Shameless and Impudent a thing it will be in him, to perform Offices suitable to all these, and that do suppose them, to be Instructing the People, and Exhorting them to the Practice of them, unless he is in some sort all this himself, which he teaches others to be.
Indeed to be tied to such an Employment, while one has not an inward Conformity to it, and Complacence in it, is both the most unbecoming, the most unpleasant, and the most uncomfortable State of Life imaginable. Such a Person will be exposed to all men's Censures and Reproaches, who when they see things amiss in his Conduct, do not only Reproach him, but the whole Church and Body, to which he belongs; and which is more, the Religion which he seems to recommend by his Discourses, though his Life and Actions, which will always pass for the most real Declaration of his inward Sentiments, are a visible and continual opposition to it. On all these things, he whose Thoughts carry him towards the Church, ought to reflect frequently: Nothing is so odious as a Man that disagrees with his Character, a Soldier that is a Coward, a Courtier that is Brutal; an Ambassador that is Abject, are not such unseemly things, as a bad or vicious, a drunken or dissolute Clergy-man. But though his Scandals should not rise up to so high a pitch, even a Proud and Passionate, a Worldly Minded and Covetous Priest, gives the Lye to his Discourses so palpably, that he cannot expect they should have much weight. Nor is such a Man's State of Life less unpleasant to himself, than it is unbecoming. He is obliged to be often performing Offices, and pronouncing Discourses, in which if he is not a Good Man, he not only has no Pleasure, but must have a formed Aversion to them. They must be the heaviest Burden of his Life; he must often feel secret Challenges within; and though he as often silences these, yet such unwelcome Reflections are uncomfortable things. He is forced to manage himself with a perpetual constraint, and to observe a decorum in his Deportment, lest he fall under a more public Censure: Now to be bound to act a Part, and live with restraint ones whole Life, must be a very Melancholy thing. He cannot go so quite out of sight of Religion, and Convictions, as other bad Men do, who live in a perpetual hurry, and a total forgetfulness of Divine Matters: They have no Checks, because they are as seldom in the way to find them, as is possible. But a Clerk cannot keep himself out of their way; he must remember them, and speak of them, at least upon some occasions, whether he will or no: He has no other way to secure himself against them, but by trying what he can do, to make himself absolutely disbelieve them. Negative Atheism, that is, a total neglect of all Religion, is but too easily arrived at; yet this will not serve his turn, he must build his Atheism upon some Bottom, that he may find quiet in it. If he is an Ignorant Man, he is not furnished with those flights of Wit, and shows of Learning, that must support it: But if he is really Learned, he will soon be beaten out of them; for a Learned Atheism is so hard a thing to be conceived, that unless a Man's Powers are first strangely vitiated, it is not easy to see how any one can bring himself to it. There is nothing that can settle the quiet of an ill Priest's Mind and Life, but a stupid Formality, and a Callus that he Contracts, by his insensible way of handling Divine Matters; by which he becomes hardened against them. But if this settles him by stupefying his Powers, it does put also him so far out of the reach of Conviction, in all the ordinary methods of Grace, that it is scarce possible he can ever be awakened; and by Consequence that he can be saved; and if he perishes, he must fall into the lowest degree of Misery, even to the Portion of Hypocrites: For his whole Life has been a course of Hypocrisy in the strictest Sense of the Word, which is the Acting of a Part, and the Counterfeiting another Person. His Sins have in them all possible Aggravations; they are against Knowledge and against Vows, and contrary to his Character; they carry in them a deliberate Contempt of all the Truths and Obligations of Religion; and if he perishes, he does not perish alone, but carries a Shoal down with him, either of those who have perished in Ignorance, through his neglect; or of those who have been hardened in their Sins, through his ill Example: And since all this must be put to his Account, it may be justly inferred from hence, That no man can have a heavier share in the miseries of another State, than profane and wicked Clerks. On all these things he ought to employ his thoughts frequently, who intends to dedicate himself to God, that so he may firmly resolve not to go on with it, till he feels such Seeds and Beginnings of good things in himself, that he has reason to hope, that through the Grace and Assistance of God, he will be an Example to others.
He ought more particularly to examine himself, whether he has that Soft and Gentle, that Meek and Humble, and that Charitable and Compassionate Temper, which the Gospel does so much press upon all Christians; that shined so eminently through the whole Life of the Blessed Author of it; and which he has so singularly recommended to all his Followers; and that has in it so many Charms and Attractives, which do not only commend those who have these amiable Virtues, but which is much more to be regarded, they give them vast advantages in recommending the Doctrine of the Saviour to their People. They are the true ground of that Christian Wisdom and Discretion, and of that grave and calm Deportment, by which the Clergy ought to carry on and maintain their Authority. A haughty and huffing Humour, an Impatient and insolent Temper, a loftiness of Deportment, and a peevishness of Spirit, rendering the Lives of the Clergy, for the most part, bitter to themselves, and their Labours, how valuable soever otherwise they may be, unacceptable and useless to their People. A Clergyman must be prepared to bear Injuries, to endure much unjust Censure and Calumny, to see himself often neglected, and others preferred to him, in the esteem of the People. He that takes all this ill, that resents it, and complains of it, does thereby give himself much disquiet, and to be sure, he will, through his Peevishness, rather increase than lessen that Contempt, under which he is so uneasy; which is both better born, and sooner overcome, by a meek and a lowly Temper. A Man of this Disposition affects no Singularities, unless the faultiness of those about him, makes his doing his Duty to be a Singularity: He does not study to lessen the value that is due to others, on design to increase his own: His low thoughts of himself, make that he is neither aspiring, nor envying such as are advanced: He is prepared to stay till God in his Providence thinks fit to raise him: He studies only to deserve Preferment, and leaves to others the wringing Posts of Advantage out of the Hands of those that give them. Such a Preparation of Mind in a Clergy-man, disposes him to be Happy in whatsoever Station he may be put, and renders the Church happy in him; for Men so moulded, even though their Talents should be but mean, are shining Lights, that may perhaps be at first despised, as Men of a low size, that have not Greatness of Soul enough to aspire, but when they have been seen and known so long, that all appears to be sincere, and that the Principle from whence this flows, is rightly considered, then every thing that they say or do, must have its due weight: The plainest and simplest things that they say have a Beauty in them, and will be hearkened to as Oracles.
But a Man that intends to prepare himself right for the Ministry of the Church, must indeed above all things, endeavour to break himself to the love of the World, either of the Wealth, the Pomp, or the Pleasures of it. He must learn to be content with plain and simple Diet; and often even abridge that, by true Fasting: I do not call Fasting, a trifling distinction of Meats, but a lessening of the quantity, as well as the quality, and a contracting the time spent at Meals, that so he may have a greater Freedom both in his Time, and in his Thoughts; that he may be more alone, and pray and meditate more, and that what he saves out of his Meals, he may give to the Poor. This is, in short, the true Measure and right Use of Fasting. In cold Climates, an abstinence till Night, may create Disorders, and raise such a Disturbance both in the Appetite, and in the Digestion; that this managed upon the practices of other Countries, especially in young Persons, may really distract instead of furthering those who do it Indiscreetly. In short Fasting unless joined with Prayer and Alms-giving, is of no Value in the sight of God. It is a vast Advantage to a Man to be broken to the Niceties of his Palate, to be content with plain Food, and even to dislike Delicacies and studied Dishes. This will make him easy in narrower Circumstances; since a plain Bill of Fare is soon discharged. A lover of his Appetites, and a slave to his Taste, makes but a mean Figure among Men, and a very scurvy one among Clergy-men.
This deadness to the World must raise one above the Affectations of Pomp and State, of Attendance and high Living. Which to a Philosophical Mind will be heavy, when the Circumstances he is in, seem to impose and force it on him. And therefore he who has a right Sense, finds it is almost all he can do, to bear those things which the Tyranny of Custom or false Opinions put upon him: So far is he from longing for them. A Man that is truly dead to the World, would choose much rather to live in a lowly and narrow Figure; than to be obliged to enter into the Methods of the greatness of this World; into which, if the Constitutions and Forms of a Church and Kingdom put him, yet he feels himself in an unnatural and uncouth Posture: It is contrary to his own Genius and Relish of things; and therefore he does not court nor desire such a situation, but even while he is in it, he shows such a Neglect of the State of it, and so much Indifference and Humility in it, that it appears how little power those things have over his Mind, and how little they are able to subdue and corrupt it. This mortified Man must likewise become dead to all the Designs and Projects of making a Family, or of raising the Fortunes of those that are nearly related to him: He must be Bountiful and Charitable; and tho' it is not only lawful to him, but a necessary Duty incumbent on him, to make due provision for his Family, if he has any, yet this must be so moderated that no vain nor sordid Designs, no indirect nor unbecoming Arts, may mix in it; no excessive Wealth nor great Projects must appear; he must be contented with such a proportion, as may set his Children in the way of a virtuous and liberal Education; such as may secure them from Scandal and Necessity, and put them in a Capacity to serve God and their Generation in some honest Employment. But he who brings along with him, a Voluptuous, an Ambitious, or a Covetous Mind, that is Carnal and Earthly minded, comes as a Hireling to feed himself and not the Flock, he comes to Steal and to Destroy. Upon all, this great Reflection is to be made concerning the Motives that determine one to offer himself to this Employment.
In the first beginnings of Christianity, no Man could reasonably think of taking Orders, unless he had in him the Spirit of Martyrdom. He was to look for nothing in this Service, but Labour and Persecution: He was indeed to live of the Altar, and that was all the Portion that he was to expect in this World. In those Days an extraordinary Measure of Zeal and Devotion was necessary, to engage Men to so hard and difficult a Province, that how great soever its Reward might be in another World, had nothing to look for in this, but a narrow Provision, and the first and largest share of the Cross: They were the best known, the most exposed, and the soonest fallen upon in the Persecution. But their Services and their Sufferings did so much recommend that Function in the succeeding Ages, that the Faithful thought they could never do enough to express their Value for it. The Church came to be Richly endowed; and tho' Superstition had raised this out of measure, yet the Extreme went as far to the other hand at the Reformation, when the Church was almost stripped of all its Patrimony, and a great many Churches were left so poor, that there was not in most Places, a sufficient; nay, not so much as a necessary Maintenance, reserved for those that were to minister in Holy Things. But it is to be acknowledged that there are such Remnants preserved, that many Benefices of the Church still may, and perhaps do but too much, work upon men's corrupt Principles, their Ambition, and their Covetousness: And it is shrewdly to be apprehended, that of those who present themselves at the Altar, a great part comes, as those who followed Christ, for the Loaves: Because of the good Prospect they have of making their Fortunes by the Church.
If this Point should be carried too far, it might perhaps seem to be a pitch above Humane Nature; and certainly very far above the degeneracy of the Age we live in: I shall therefore lay this matter, with as large an allowance, as I think it can bear. It is certain, that since God has made us to be a Compound of Soul and Body, it s not only lawful but suitable to the order of Nature, for us in the Choice we make of the state of Life that we intend to pursue, to consider our Bodies, in the next place after our Souls: Yet we ought certainly to begin with our Souls, with the Powers and Faculties that are in them, and consider well of what Temper they are; and what our Measure and Capacity is; that so we may choose such a course of Life, for which we seem to be fitted, and in which we may probably do the most good both to our selves and others: From hence we ought to take our Aims and Measures chiefly: But in the next place, we not only may, but ought to consider our Bodies, how they shall be maintained, in a way suitable to that state of Life, into which we are engaged. Therefore tho' no Man can with a good Conscience, begin upon a worldly Account, and resolve to dedicate himself to the Church, merely out of Carnal regard; such as an Advowson in his Family, a Friend that will Promote him, or any other such like Prospect, till he has first consulted his Temper and Disposition, his Talents and his Capacities; yet, tho' it is not Lawful to make the Regards of this World his first Consideration, and it cannot be denied to be a perfecter state, if a Man should offer himself to the Church, having whereon to support himself, without any Assistance or Reward out of its Patrimony; and to be nearer to S. Paul's practice, whose hands ministered to his necessities, and who reckoned that in this he had whereof to glory, that he was not burthensome to the Churches: Yet it is, without doubt, Lawful for a Man to Design that he may subsist in and out of the Service of the Church: But then these Designs must be limited to a Subsistence, to such a moderate Proportion, as may maintain one in that state of Life. And must not be let fly by a restless Ambition, and an insatiable Covetousness, as a ravenous Bird of prey, does at all Game. There must not be a perpetual Enquiry into the Value of Benefices; and a constant Importuning of such as give them: If Laws have been made in some States restraining all Ambitus and aspirings to Civil Employments, certainly it were much more reasonable to put a stop to the scandalous Importunities, that are every where complained of; and no where more visible and more offensive than at Court. This gives a Prejudice to Men that are otherwise inclined enough to search for one, that can never be removed, but by putting an effectual bar in the way of that scrambling for Benefices and Preferments; which will ever make the Lay part of Mankind conclude, that let us pretend what we will, Covetousness and Ambition are our true Motives, and our chief Vocation. It is true, the strange Practices of many Patrons, and the Constitution of most Courts, give a colour to excuse so great an Indecency. Men are generally successful in those Practices, and as long as Humane Nature is so strong, as all Men feel it to be, it will be hard to divert them from a Method which is so common, that to act otherwise would look like an affectation of Singularity; and many apprehend, that they must languish in Misery and Necessity if they are wanting to themselves, in so general a Practice. And, indeed, if Patrons, but chiefly if Princes would effectually cure this Disease which gives them so much Trouble, as well as Offence, they must resolve to distribute those Benefices that are in their Gift, with so visible a Regard to true Goodness and real Merit, and with so firm and so constant an Opposition to Application and Importunity, that it may appear that the only way to Advancement, is to live well, to study hard, to stay at home, and labour diligently; and that Applications by the Persons themselves, or any set on by them, shall always put those back who make them: This would more effectually cure so great an Evil, than all that can be said against it. One successful suitor who carries his Point, will promote this Disorder, more than Twenty Repulses of others; for unless the Rule is severely carried on, every one will run into it; and hope to prosper as well as he, who they see has got his end in it. If those who have the Disposition of Benefices, to which the Cure of Souls is annexed, did consider this as a Trust, lodged with them, for which they must answer to God, and that they shall be in a great measure accountable for the Souls, that may be lost through the bad choice that they make, knowing it to be bad; if, I say, they had this more in their Thoughts, than so many Scores of Pounds, as the Living amounts to; and thought themselves really bound, as without doubt they are, to seek out Good and Worthy Men, well qualified and duly prepared, according to the Nature of that Benefice which they are to give; then we might hope to see men make it their chief Study, to qualify themselves aright; to order their Lives, and frame their Minds, as they ought to do, and to carry on their Studies with all Application and Diligence; but as long as the short Methods, of Application, Friendship, or Interest, are more effectual than the long and hard way, of Labour and Study; Human Nature will always carry men to go the surest, the easiest, and the quickest way to work.
After all I wish it were well considered, by all Clerks, what it is to run without being either called or sent; and so to thrust ones self into the Vineyard, without staying, till God by his Providence puts a piece of his work in his Hands; this will give a man a vast ease in his Thoughts, and a great satisfaction in all his Labours, if he knows that no Practices of his own, but merely the Directions of Providence, have put him in a Post. He may well trust the Effects of a thing to God, when the Causes of it do plainly flow from him. And though this will appear to a great many a hard Saying, so that few will be able to bear it, yet I must add this to the encouragement and comfort of such as can resolve to deliver themselves up to the Conduct and Directions of Providence, that I never yet knew any one of those few (too few I confess they have been) who were possessed with this Maxim, and that have followed it exactly, that have not found the Fruit of it even in this World. A watchful Care hath hovered over them: Instruments have been raised up, and Accidents have happened to them so prosperously, as if there had been a secret Design of Heaven by blessing them so signally, to encourage others to follow their Measures, to depend on God, to deliver themselves up to his Care, and to wait till he opens a way for their being Employed, and settled in such a Portion of his Husbandry, as he shall think fit to assign to them.
These are Preparations of Mind, with which a Clerk is to be formed and seasoned: And in order to this, he must read the Scriptures much, he must get a great deal of those Passages in them, that relate to these things, by heart, and repeat them often to himself; in particular many of the most tender and melting Psalms, and many of the most comprehensive Passages in the Epistles; that by the frequent reflecting on these, he may fill his Memory with Noble Notions, and right Ideas of things: The Book of Proverbs, but chiefly Ecclesiastes, if he can get to understand it, will beget in him a right view of the World, a just value of Things, and a contempt of many Objects that shine with a false Luster, but have no true Worth in them. Some of the Books taught at Schools, if read afterwards, when one is more capable to observe the Sense of them, may be of great use to promote this Temper. Tully's Offices will give the Mind a noble set; all his Philosophical Discourses, but chiefly his Consolation; which though some Critics will not allow to be his, because they fancy the Stile has not all the force and beauty in it that was peculiar to him, yet is certainly the best Piece of them all; these, I say, give a good savour to those who read them much. The Satirical Poets, Horace, Juvenal and Persius may contribute wonderfully to give a man a Detestation of Vice, and a Contempt of the common Methods of mankind; which they have set out in such true Colours, that they must give a very generous Sense to those who delight in reading them often. Persius his Second Satyr, may well pass for one of the best Lectures in Divinity. Hieracles upon Pythagoras's Verses, Plutarch's Lives; and above all the Books of Heathenism, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, contain such Instructions, that one cannot read them too often, nor repass them too frequently in his thoughts. But when I speak of reading these Books, I do not mean only to run through them, as one does through a Book of History, or of Notions; they must be read and weighed with great Care, till one is become a Master of all the Thoughts that are in them: They are to be often turned in ones Mind, till he is thereby wrought up to some Degrees of that Temper, which they propose: And as for Christian Books, in order to the framing of ones Mind aright, I shall only Recommend The whole Duty of Man, Dr. Sherlock of Death and Judgment, and Dr. Scot's Books, in particular that great distinction that runs through them, of the means and of the ends of Religion. To all which I shall add one small Book more, which is to me ever new and fresh, gives always good Thoughts and a Noble Temper, Thomas a Kempis of the Imitation of Christ. By the frequent reading of these Books, by the relish that one has in them, by the delight they give, and the Effects they produce, a man will plainly perceive, whether his Soul is made for Divine Matters or not, what suitableness there is between him and them; and whether he is yet touched with such a Sense of Religion, as to be capable of dedicating himself to it.
I am far from thinking that no man is fit to be a Priest, that has not the Temper which I have been describing, quite up to that height in which I have set it forth; but this I will positively say, That he who has not the Seeds of it planted in him, who has not these Principles, and Resolutions formed to pursue them, and to improve and perfect himself in them, is in no wise worthy of that Holy Character. If these things are begun in him, if they are yet but as a Grain of Mustard seed, yet if there is a Life in them, and a Vital Sense of the Tendencies and Effects they must have; such a Person, so moulded, with those Notions and Impressions, and such only are qualified, so as to be able to say with Truth and Assurance, that they trust they are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to undertake that Office.
So far have I dispatch'd the first and chief Part of the Preparation necessary before Orders. The other Branch of it, relates to their Learning, and to the Knowledge that is necessary. I confess I look upon this as so much Inferior to the other, and have been convinced by so much Experience, that a great Measure of Piety, with a very small Proportion of Learning, will carry one a great way, that I may perhaps be thought to come as far short in this, as I might seem to exceed in the other. I will not here enter into a Discourse of Theological Learning, of the measure that is necessary to make a Complete Divine, and of the methods to attain it. I intend only to lay down here, that which I look on as the lowest Degree, and as that which seems indispensably necessary, to one that is to be a Priest. He must then understand the New Testament well. This is the Text of our Religion, that which we Preach and explain to others; therefore a man ought to read this so often over, that he may have an Idea of the whole Book in his Head, and of all the Parts of it. He cannot have this so sure, unless he understands the Greek so well, as to be able to find out the meaning of every Period in it, at least of the Words and Phrases of it; any Book of Annotations or Paraphrase upon it, is a great help to a beginner; Grotius, Hammond, and Lightfoot are the best. But the having a great deal of the Practical and easy Parts of it, such as relate to Men's Lives and their Duties, such as strike and awaken, direct, comfort, or terrify, are much more necessary than the more abstruse Parts. In short, the being able to state right the Grounds of our Hope, and the Terms of Salvation, and the having a clear and ready view of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus, is of such absolute necessity, that it is a profaning of Orders, and a defiling of the Sanctuary, to bring any into it, that do not rightly understand this Matter in its whole extent. Bishop Pearson on the Creed is a Book of great Learning, and profound exactness. Dr. Barrow has opened it with more simplicity; and Dr. Towerson more practically; one or other of these must be well read and considered: But when I say read, I mean read and read over again, so oft that one is Master of one of these Books; he must write Notes out of them, and make Abridgements of them; and turn them so oft in his Thoughts, that he must thoroughly understand, and well remember them. He must read also the Psalms over so carefully, that he may at least have a general Notion of those Divine Hymns; to which Bishop Patrick's Paraphrase will help to carry him.
A System of Divinity must be read with exactness. They are almost all alike: When I was young Wendelin and Maresius were the two shortest and fullest. Here is a vast Error in the first forming of our Clergy, that a Contempt has been cast on that sort of Books; and indeed to rise no higher, than to a perpetual reading over different Systems is but a mean pitch of Learning; and the swallowing down whole Systems by the Lump, has helped to possess Peoples Minds too early with Prejudices, and to shut them up in too implicit a following of others. But the throwing off all these Books, makes that many who have read a great deal, yet have no entire Body of Divinity in their Head; they have no Scheme or Method, and so are Ignorant of some very plain things, which could never have happened to them, if they had carefully read and digested a System into their Memories. But because this is indeed a very low Form; therefore to lead a man farther, to have a freer view of Divinity, to examine things equally and clearly, and to use his own Reason, by balancing the various Views, that two great Divisions of Protestants have, not only in the Points which they controvert, but in a great many others, in which though they agree in the same Conclusions, yet they arrive at them by very different Premises; I would advise him that studies Divinity, to read two larger Bodies, writ by some Eminent Men of both sides; and because the latest are commonly the best; Turretin for the whole Calvinist Hypothesis, and Limburgh for the Arminian, will make a Man fully the Master of all the Notions of both sides. Or if one would see how far middle ways may be taken; The Theses of Sanmur, or le Blanc's Theses, will complete him in that. These Books well read, digested into Abstracts, and frequently reviewed or talked over by two Companions in Study, will give a Man an entire view of the whole Body of Divinity.
But by reason of that pest of Atheism, that Spreads so much among us, the Foundations of Religion must be well laid: Bishop Wilkins Book of Natural Religion, will lead one in the first Steps through the Principles that he has laid together in a plain and natural Method. Grotius his Book of the truth of the Christian Religion, with his Notes upon it, ought to be read and almost got by heart. The whole Controversy both of Atheism and Deism, the Arguments both for the Old and New Testament, are fully opened, with a great variety both of Learning and Reasoning, in Bishop Stillingfleet's Origines Sacrae.
There remains only to direct a Student how to form right Notions of Practical Matters; and particularly of Preaching. Dr. Hammond's Practical Catechism, is a Book of great use; but not to be begun with, as too many do: It does require a good deal of previous Study, before the force of his Reasonings is apprehended; but when one is ready for it, it is a rare Book, and States the Grounds of Morality, and of our Duty, upon true Principles. To form one to understand the right Method of Preaching, the Extent of it, and the proper ways of Application, Bishop Sanderson, Mr. Faringdon, and Dr. Barrow, are the best and the fullest Models. There is a vast variety of other Sermons, which may be read with an equal measure of Advantage and Pleasure. And if from the time that one resolves to direct his Studies towards the Church, he would every Lords day read two Sermons of any good Preacher, and turn them a little over in his Thoughts, this would insensibly in two or three years time, carry him very far, and give him a large view of the different ways of Preaching, and furnish him with Materials for handling a great many Texts of Scripture when he comes to it.
And thus I have carried my Student through those Studies, that seem to me so necessary for qualifying him to be an able Minister of the New Testament, that I cannot see how any Article of this can be well abated. It may seem strange, that in this whole Direction, I have said nothing concerning the Study of the Fathers or Church History. But I said at first, that a great distinction was to be made between what was necessary to prepare a Man to be a Priest, and what was necessary to make him a Complete and Learned Divine.
The knowledge of these things is necessary to the latter, though they do not seem so necessary for the former: There are many things to be left to the Prosecution of a Divine's Study, that therefore are not mentioned here, not with any design to disparage that sort of Learning; for I am now only upon that measure of Knowledge, under which I heartily wish that no Man were put in Priests Orders; and therefore I have pass'd over many other things, such as the more accurate Understanding of the Controversies between us and the Church of Rome, and the unhappy Disputes between us and the Dissenters of all sorts; though both the one and the other, have of late been opened with that perspicuity, that fullness of Argument, and that clearness as well as softness of Stile, that a Collection of these may give a Man the fullest Instructions, that is to be found in any Books I know. Others, and perhaps the far greater number, will think that I have clogged this Matter too much. But I desire these may consider how much we do justly reckon, that our Profession is preferable either to Law or Medicine. Now, if this is true, it is not unreasonable, that since those who pretend to these, must be at so much Pains, before they enter upon a Practice which relates only to Men's Fortunes, or their Persons, we whose Labours relate to their Souls and their eternal State, should be at least at some considerable Pains, before we enter upon them. Let any young Divine go to the Chambers of a Student in the Inns of Court, and see how many Books he must read, and how great a Volume of a Common-Place-Book he must make, he will there see through how hard a Task one must go, in a course of many Years, and how ready he must be in all the Parts of it, before he is called to the Barr, or can manage Business. How exact must a Physician be in Anatomy, in Simples, in Pharmacy, in the Theory of Diseases, and in the Observations and Counsels of Doctors, before he can either with Honour, or a safe Conscience, undertake Practice? He must be ready with all this, and in that infinite number of hard Words, that belong to every part of it, to give his Directions and write his Bills by the Patient's Bed-side; who cannot stay 'till he goes to his Study and turns over his Books. If then so long a course of Study, and so much exactness and readiness in it, is necessary to these Professions; nay, if every mechanical Art, even the meanest, requires a course of many Years, before one can be a Master in it, shall the noblest and the most important of all others, that which comes from Heaven, and leads thither again; shall that which God has honoured so highly, and to which Laws and Governments have added such Privileges and Encouragements, that is employed in the sublimest Exercises, which require a proportioned worth in those who handle them, to maintain their Value and Dignity in the Esteem of the World; shall all this, I say, be esteemed so low a thing in our Eyes, that a much less degree of Time and Study, is necessary to arrive at it, than at the most sordid of all Trades whatsoever? And yet after all, a Man of a tolerable Capacity, with a good degree of Application, may go through all this well, and exactly, in two Years time. I am very sure, by many an Experiment I have made, that this may be done in a much less compass: But because all Men do not go alike quick, have not the same force, nor the same application, therefore I reckon two Years for it; which I do thus divide: One Year before Deacons Orders, and another between them and Priests Orders.
And can this be thought a hard Imposition? Or do not those, who think thus, give great occasion to the Contempt of the Clergy, if they give the World cause to observe, that how much soever we may magnify our Profession, yet by our practice, we show that we do judge it the meanest of all others, which is to be arrived at upon less previous study and preparation to it, than any other whatsoever? Since I have been hitherto so minute, I will yet divide this matter a little lower into those parts of it, without which, Deacons Orders ought not to be given, and those to be reserved to the second Year of study. To have read the New Testament well, so as to carry a great deal of it in one's Memory, to have a clear notion of the several Books of it, to understand well the Nature and the Conditions of the Covenant of Grace, and to have read one System well, so as to be Master of it, to understand the whole Catechetical matter, to have read Wilkins and Grotius; this, I say, is that part of this Task, which I propose before one is made Deacon. The rest, though much the larger, will go the easier, if those Foundations are once well laid in them. And upon the Article of Studying the Scriptures, I will add one Advice more.
There are two Methods in reading them, the one ought to be merely Critical, to find out the meaning and coherence of the several Parts of them, in which one runs easily through the greater Part, and is only obliged to stop at some harder Passages, which may be marked down and learned Men are to be consulted upon them: Those that are really hard to be explained, are both few, and they relate to Matters that are not so essential to Christianity; and therefore after one has in general seen what is said upon these, he may put off the fuller Consideration of that to more leisure, and better opportunities. But the other way of reading the Scriptures, is to be done merely with a view to Practice, to raise Devotion, to increase Piety, and to give good Thoughts and severe Rules. In this a Man is to employ himself much. This is a Book always at hand, and the getting a great deal of it by heart, is the best part of a Clergyman's Study; it is the Foundation, and lays in the Materials for all the rest. This alone may furnish a Man with a noble Stock of lively Thoughts, and sublime Expressions; and therefore it must be always reckoned as that, without which all other things amount to nothing; and the chief and main Subject of the Study, the Meditation and the Discourses of a Clergy-man.