« EelmineJätka »
among several of my early acquaintance, the very unhappy effects that have arisen from their trusting too much to the stock of wisdom, science and learning which they had gained in the course of an academical education. Hence some, who promised well in the opening of life, havę sadly disappointed the public expectation, and failed of reputation and usefulness-It is only the foundation of knowledge which can be laid at the seminaries of literature.” Of the truth and importance of this declaration Mr. Kenrick was fully sensible; and so far was he when he quitted the academy from ceasing to be a student, that, much as his proficiency surpassed his years, he still applied himself with extraordinary diligence to the acquisition of kņowledge as well as to the communication of it, and especially to that of theological knowledge. Much of his time was employed in preparing his compositions for the pulpit; much in discharging the less public duties of the pastoral relation; and it was also his object to qualify himself in a greater degree for two branches of ministerial service which, in general, are either not cultivated at all, or not cultivated with the zeal, judgment and perseverance which they well deserve ;-the exposition of the scriptures and the religious instruction of the young.
He now entered on a more critical examination of the New Testament in the original language; with only the occasional help of some of the most judicious and approved commentators.
direction of his studies were owing the expository lectures on the historical books of the Christian covenant which he delivered more than once to his congregation; and to this he was indebted, under Providence, for a happy change in his sentiments of Christian doctrine.
Some of the first religious impressions on the mind of Mr. Kenrick were accompanied by his admission of the tenets inculcated in the assembly's catechism : for although it does not appear that this celebrated formulary of belief was put into his hands, yet he had acquired from other quarters its unscriptural views of the divine character and government. One of his favourite books in early life was Dr. Doddridge's “Rise and progress of religion in the soul.” This treatise, with many claims on approbation, justly incurs the accusation of describing religious excellence as a certain train and state of the affections, rather than as a principle and habit. So powerful was its influence on Mr. Kenrick, that, agreeably to a direction and a form contained in it, he drew up and subscribed a solemn act of self-dedication to a holy life. But, while he gave this proof of the devout and serious temper by which he was always characterised, his feelings were overcast by a gloom bordering on that despair which Dr. Priestley likewise, as we learn from his Memoirs, experienced in his youth, and which
proceeded from the same or nearly the same cause. It was then the practice of Mr. Kenrick to regard God as the arbitrary sovereign of the human race, and not as their gracious Father: he was then perplexed as to the proper object of his worship, and had a constant fear of incurring the displeasure of one of the persons in the trinity by presenting his addresses to another of them. At a subsequent period, he frequently contrasted with gratitude the doubts and the despondency of his former days, with the serenity and joy arising from his belief in the pure religion of the gospela
It reflects distinguished lionour on the gentlemen who superintended in succession the academy at Daventry, that they did not impose restraints on freedom of inquiry, but encouraged and assisted their pupils in the exercise of private judgment, which they represented in the light of a duty as well as of a privilege. The seminary over which they presided had hence a fair title to the distinction of a Protestant seminary; and Mr. Kenrick's diligent attendance on the theological lectures of the house, concurred with his talents and dispositions in enabling him to form some opinion for himself upon points of religious controversy. From the best information which can be obtained it appears probable, that at the time of his removal to Exeter his views of the trinity were those that had been taken by Dr. S. Clarke, and that his creed in respect to other articles now approached more nearly to the doctrines of Arminius than to those of Calvin.
A different and better method of studying theology led, as was natural, to a different result. The text-book employed by the divinity-tutors at Da. ventry was Doddridge's lectures, the arrangement of which is singularly unfavourable to the impartial discussion of controverted opinions and to the acquisition of religious truth. Without the possibility of containing the substance of mathematical demonstration, they present, like the lectures of Mr. Jennings *, from which they are in part taken, the empty form of it; popular and reputedly orthodox tenets being treated on as leading propositions, and honoured with at least the semblance of regular proof; while a scholium or a lemma is deemed sufficient for sentiments which vary from them, or to which they are opposed. When divinity, is thus taught from human systems, it becomes an object of secondary consideration to ascertain the sense of the sacred writings; and the student's mind is prepossessed with theories, instead of being assisted in attaining the end of his researches.
Nor had Mr. Kenrick been long at Exeter before he was convinced of the evils of this method of instruction, however modified, and of the necessity of his deriving Christian truth from the unpolluted fountain of the scriptures.
In the course of his investigation he gained a persuasion, which gradually increased in strength,
• The Rev. John Jennings of Hinckley, tutor of Dr, Doddridge.
that Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, is neither God equal with the Father, nor a pre-existent and superangelic being, but simply of the human race, though highly distinguished by the Deity beyond former messengers and prophets. Hence he regarded the doctrine of the gospel as more simple indeed than he had hitherto considered it, but at the same time as proportionably more credible and useful. On other important articles in dispute among the professors of Christianity, he also disclosed about this period a change in his opinions. In these pages, however, it is the less necessary to state his religious sentiments at length, as they are fully represented in two posthumous volumes of his - sermons, and in his exposition of the historical parts of the Christian scriptures. To conceal or disguise his views of divine truth from the societies whom he served was not the disposition of Mr. Kenrick : if to some persons they were obnoxious, and unpopular in the eyes of others, he had not so learned Christ as to shrink, on these accounts, from avowing them; but, as became a consistent Protestant, he manifested a fervent, well regulated and enlightened zeal for their diffusion. In the event, many members of his congregation embraced them from rational conviction, notwithstanding their warm attachment to the name, character and memory of their late venerable pastor, whose creed approached more nearly to the standard of imagined orthodoxy. Such was the energy of truth :-such