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THE Author gladly avails himself of the opportunity afforded by a Preface, of stating the circumstances under which this work has been prepared. He had some years since written a chapter on the Study of Divinity, which was published in 1825, in his Treatise entitled The Christian Hearer;' but, having been led more to consider the importance of theological study; in subsequent editions of the Christian Hearer he omitted that chapter, stating, that it was his intention, if it should please God, to publish it separately in an enlarged form, under the title of The Christian Student.'
His incessant occupations in connexion with the Church Missionary Society have hindered him from fulfilling that intention, for a longer period than he anticipated though he has kept it in view, he has been able to give to it but scattered fragments of time. It is right candidly to state, that this work is published with the disadvantage of his generally not having been able to give any uninterrupted time and attention to it, beyond a short period early in the morning or late in the evening, and often even this at widely intervening opportunities.
But, though unable to give to it continued application or unbroken attention, he has had some advantages which he hopes may tend to make the work more practically useful than if composed entirely
in seclusion from the constant occupation of active life.
He has now for upwards of twenty-five years been in the habit of studying religious works; first, for his own edification, and in the latter period also, in connexion with his ministerial and public duties. In that period, circumstances have led him to much intercourse with his Brethren in the Ministry, in different parts of the country, and this has often given him valuable hints from the experience of others. Having also acquired the habit of reading while travelling; his frequent journies in the work of the Society have enabled him to read through many books of which he otherwise should have been ignorant.
In some parts of the work, and especially in the outlines of the History of Divinity, he had the opportunity of frequent discussions on the different sections with brethren with whom he is in the habit of meeting. Imperfect as the outlines may now be, they would have been much more defective but for this advantage.
Mr. Horne's valuable Catalogue of Queen's College Library at Cambridge furnished him with the divisions, and suggested the names of many of the books under those divisions, in the chapter entitled the Minister's Library. The more practical parts of the work came, as was the case in his former publications, in a course of Sermons, preached to his congregation at Wheler Chapel.
But, with every advantage that he may have had, he is conscious of defects in the work which he cannot remedy. Did he not hope, that, notwithstanding those defects, it might be of use, he should have withheld it; or had he any reason to think that delay
would have given him leisure, he would have delayed, in order to attempt their removal; but he sees no prospect of such unbroken leisure as his subject requires; time is rapidly passing on, and he is unwilling to defer farther a publication which has been long promised, and the greater part of which has been prepared upwards of two years, in the contingent hope of such improvements as an uncertain and distant leisure might possibly enable him to make. Such as the work is, he offers it to his friends and the public. Our gracious Master accepts imperfect services when given in love to him, and his disciples will not despise feeble efforts to advance his kingdom. The study of religion is the duty of every human being. The extent to which that study can or ought to be pursued will much vary with the different circumstances of men. But we have all infinite need to become wise unto salvation: overwhelmed in one common disaster, on us all is laid the indispensable obligation to ascertain the means of escape, for ourselves as well as for others. If we were not creatures, if we had not to please God our Creator, if we had not all offended him, if we had not to die, if we had not to pass through the great judgment, if eternity-an eternity of woe or bliss-were not before us, we might with less danger neglect religion; but as these are no fabled tales, but solemn realities, it is of incalculable moment that every human being should know how to please God, how so to pass through the valley of the shadow of death as to fear no evil, and how so to be accepted in the day of judgment as to enter into the joy of the Lord. To know this is our grand concern,
the true work of the Christian Student.
The Writer of this work did not aim to lay down
rules for making learned divines, but his main object was two-fold; first, to assist his fellow Christians in the various stations of life to acquire for themselves that knowledge which makes wise unto salvation, and which will enable them to give a reason of the hope that is in them. He desires also in the second place, to assist his younger brethren in the ministry with such information as his own means and resources may have enabled him to collect. Sincerely thankful will the author be if this Treatise should furnish any valuable help, in either of these ways.
Through the progress of education our country possesses, much more than it ever did before, a reading population; and it is specially important, in a day like this, when principles are tried to the uttermost, that so extensive a capacity for improvement should have a right direction. But it is to be feared that there is far too general a neglect of instruction in the principles of Christianity and of our Reformed Religion. Many Christians at present seem little able to meet the various subtle and active adversaries of their faith. To do this effectively they must have mature knowledge and vital godliness; but had they only a knowledge of the theory of religion, it would preserve them from the public exposure arising from ignorance, and from rash steps, for which a man suffers through a whole subsequent life.
But besides knowledge of the way of salvation, the edification of the heart is another most important end of Christian Study. We mainly want the exciting, strengthening, and confirming of holy purposes, the exciting and quickening of pious affections; and that, in the midst of the bustle and hurries of life, our spirits may be calmed and purified, and elevated by
devout and practical studies. Such studies, indeed, will generally have the additional advantage of conveying to us correct doctrinal views, and leading us to value more the word of God. It has been well observed that books are good or bad in their effect as they make us relish more or less, after we have read them, the Holy Scriptures.
The chapter entitled, Advice to a Student on entering the University,' was, at the Author's request, prepared for this work by the kindness of his beloved brother, the Vicar of Acton, in Suffolk.
He is indebted to another beloved friend for many valuable suggestions and additional remarks on those parts of the work which were revised by him.
Amid all the agitations and discouraging circumstances of the times in which we live, the Author views with the sincerest pleasure the progress of theological knowledge, and the increasing number of pious students preparing at our universities for holy orders; the ardour and zeal with which important studies are now prosecuted; and the various public measures by which they have been promoted. Those who lived, even a few years back, will have seen a very perceptible change for the better. In his Sermons before the University of Cambridge, in 1810, Dr. Buchanan justly observed: There is a twofold darkness in the West as well as in the East; there is the darkness of infidelity, and the darkness of a corrupt theology. Infidelity has slain its thousands, but a corrupt theology has slain its ten thousands.' He asks, Would it be impossible to restore theological learning to more respect? I mean not what is called the learning of the schools, but legitimate theology, the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and of history, and chronology,