ST. BEES COLLEGE
Last week, (as we have already stated,) the Rev. Professor SEDGWICK left St. Bees, after a visit of a few days, on his return from the meeting of the British Association at Glasgow, to Cambridge, for the purpose of there delivering, as usual, a course of lectures in the October Term. At the request of the Principal, he spoke to the students of St. Bees, who were assembled for the purpose, under the peculiar circumstances of an address from one who was so intimately conversant with the early history of this Theological College.
Professor SEDGWICK commenced his observations by referring to his long and close friendship with Dr. AINGER, the first Principal - to the frequent occasions of their intercourse during many years - and to the privilege, as well as the grief, of attending him on his deathbed at St. Bees. He had not visited the neighbourhood during the 15 years, which had elapsed since the decease of his lamented friend. He had seen the College in its rise, when only a few students belonged to it; and now he beheld it a large and flourishing Society with a formal staff of teachers, exerting an extensive influence not only over the northern but also over the southern Dioceses of the land. He spoke with much feeling of the dignity and responsibility of the sacred office for which all to whom he was then speaking were endeavouring to prepare themselves. He pointed very forcibly to the vast influence of early habits of close and candid inquiry after truth. He was now 70 years of age, and had seen much of men, especially of those engaged in literary pursuits; and he felt bound to declare his firm conviction, as a warning and encouragement, that very few indeed have their general habits of thought and of action materially changed after the 40th year of their age. He knew that the Almight might turn, and, in rare instances was pleased to turn, a man, by His Holy Spirit, after that age. God forbid that any individual case should ever be looked upon as hopeless. It was the privilege and the duty of the Christian minister to offer God's forgiveness to every man who sincerely repented and believed in Christ's atonement; it was his duty to seek the salvation of the most abandoned, never giving up hope even of such an one till death closed the scene. But he felt compelled to state distinctly the conclusion, which, from long observation, he had drawn of the case of men in general. He then dwelt on the great advantage to most minds of joining some other branches of study to that of Theology, partly with a view of expanding the intellectual powers, and partly for the purpose of gathering stores of thought for the illustration of some things in religion. He instanced Natural History as a pursuit which tends greatly to accustom the mind to observation and method. More specially is it calculated to lead the reason from the phenomena of nature to the Creator and Preserver of all. The Professor then spoke of the duty of a Christian gentleman, and above all, of a Christian minister, ever trying to cultivate in himself not only a love for intellectual truth, but also general simplicity of personal carriage and character. He spoke of this feature of simplicity and honesty as being a usual attendant upon, and proof of real greatness; and he mentioned the life of RAY, the naturalist, as being a very striking example of one whose deep researches into nature were joined with the piety of an exalted christian and the simplicity almost of a child.
The Professor next touched on the subject of infidelity. The scepticism of the last and previous century took, for the most part, the form of Deism. Men who were indulging their vicious passions cried down the authority of the Holy Scriptures and seemed to contend for a pure Theism or the religion of Nature. Bishop BUTLER'S great treatise was written to conteract this form of scepticism, and to show that revelation generally, and Christianity in particular, were not, when considered along with certain obvious analogies, so unreasonable and absurd as thoughless men had ventured to assert. "The Analogy" was not written to prove the truth of Christianity or of Holy Scripture, but to meet various objections made against them both. This point must be distinctly noticed. It is an important thing a scholar not to expect more from a book than the book undertakes to establish. The scepticism of the present age, which had its origin chiefly in Germany, is of another kind. The grand attempt now is to establish the Deity itself is only a name for certain phenomena and results observable in the laws and course of nature - especially for certain of the highest forms of animal existence. Thus man, with the array of his intellectual powers, is really regarded by himself as part of the Deity! The intellect of man is considered to be God! This is the creed of some modern sceptics. It is rank Atheism and imaginative ***ntheism. He said that he felt no fear of the progress of such sentiments as these amongst the common **** people of our land. The answer to the whole theory is that it is not a deduction from legitimate premises, and that it is contradicted both by sense and reason. It can only be regarded as the froth and *** which result in our age from the working up of the older systems of D***m and profanity. The Professor observed that there is also a hold and subtle attempt made to undermine the authority of the New Testament by assuming that the historical facts are only myths, conceived by uninspired men, for the purpose of conveying their own moral instructions. This *** of interpretation is but the efflorescence of an older sceptical system which, by a similar process, explained away the historical veracity of the Old Testament. The answer to this system is to be a counter argument, by which the historic truth and reality of the subject matter of the New Testament is established by proper proofs. One of these proofs is the discovery and enunciation of such coincidences as could not proceed from design or collision on the part of those who wrote the New Testament. Paley's Horae Paulinae is an admirable book for this purpose, and, according to the judgment of the Professor, is unequalled as an exposition of that particular mode of proof. Having established the historical veracity of the Old and New Testament, faith ought to follow, as a matter of course, in those doctrines incorporated with the facts and growing out of them. Here, then, there was a firm basis for personal belief and for official teaching.
The Professor recurred to the vast and unspeakable influence of habits of patient and unbiassed researches after truth, whether simply intellectual or revealed. He urged on every student the vast importance of seeing that he never ventured to go beyond the evidence which he possessed on any subject of inquire. Especially he laid stress on the reasonableness and comfort of taking the Bible as God's depository of truth for our constant guidance. This was to be the store out of which the Ministers of Christ were to feed their flocks. The highest human learning advances but a little way into the starry heavens or the treasures of the earth. The more we know the more we see to humble us. How shall such narrow intellects and such short-sighted beings as we are ever venture to indulge a thought of self complacency or self righteousness? The Professor said he was sure that if the heart and soul were in the work of the Christian Minister, and if the aid of the Holy Spirit was sought in humility and prayer, then the discharge of the high duties involved wouth be a source of personal comfort to the Minister, even if wealth and some earthly advantages were wanting. The Christian Ministry is a work which brings its own reward to a qualified and hones-hearted man; and it must ever be carried on, in prospect of that day of solemn reckoning, when every man must yield an account of this stewardship.
The long address was listened to with undivided attention. At the close of it one of the Librarians beiefly proposed the thanks of the students: this was seconded by the other Librarian. The thanks we**e immediately expessed to the Professor by the Principal, after which the Clergy and the Students separated.