William Hamilton.

Discussions on philosophy and literature, education and university reform. Chiefly from the Edinburgh review; cor., vindicated, enl., in notes and appendices online

. (page 38 of 94)
Online LibraryWilliam HamiltonDiscussions on philosophy and literature, education and university reform. Chiefly from the Edinburgh review; cor., vindicated, enl., in notes and appendices → online text (page 38 of 94)
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! Jid Holland, in Italy, and even in France, objections, not unrea-

[ bably, have been made to an exclusive and indiscriminate clas-

i ical education ; but the experimental changes they determined,

\ye only shown in their result : that ancient literature may be

ore effectually cultivated in the school, if not cultivated alone ;

id that whilst its study, if properly directed, is, absolutely, the

jjst mean towards an harmonious development of the faculties, —

lie one end of all liberal education : yet, that this mean is not

ways, relatively, the best, when circumstances do not allow of

5 full and adequate apphcation.

It is natural that men should be inclined to soothe their vanity
lith the belief, that what they do not themselves know is not
lorth knowing ; and that they should find it easy to convert
[hers, who are equally ignorant, to the same opinion, is what
ight also confidently be presumed. " Ce n'est pas merveille, si
|ux qui n'ont jamais mange de bonnes choses, ne sgavent que
pt de bonnes viandes," On this principle, Scotland is the
funtry of all others in which every disparagement of classical
arning might be expected to be least unsuccessful. For it is the
•untry where, from an accumulation of circumstances, the public
ind has been long most feebly applied to the study of antiquity,
id where it is daily more and more diverted to other depart-
ents of knowledge. A summary indication of the more impor-
mt of these circumstances may suffice to show, that the neglect
i' classical learning in Scotland is owang, neither to the inferior
[due of that learning in itself, nor to any want of capacity in our
•untryraen for its cultivation.

There are two principal conditions of the prosperity of classical
udies in a country. The one, — the necessity there imposed of a
amcal training for the three learned prof essions ; the other, —
!« efficiency of its public schools and universities in the promotion
'^classical erudition. These two conditions, it is evident, sever-
ly infer each other. For. on the one hand, whore a certain


amount and quality of learning is requisite for the successful cul-
tivation of the Law, Medicine, and Divinity of a country, this of
itself necessitates the existence of Schools and Universities com-
petent to its supply ; and on the other, where an efficient system
of classical education has become general, there the three profes-
sions naturally assume a more learned character, and demand a
higher complement of erudition from their members. The pro-
sperity of ancient learning is every where found dependent on
these conditions ; and these conditions are always found in har-
mony with each other. To explain the rise and decline of clas-
sical studies in different nations and periods, is therefore only to
trace the circumstances which have in these modilied the learned
character of the professions, and the efficiency and application of^
the great public seminaries.

Lfc would be foohsli to imagine that the study of antiquity can
ever of itself secure an adequate cultivation. How pleasant and
wholesome soever are its fruits, they can only be enjoyed by those
who have already fed upon its bitter roots. The higher and more,
peculiar its ultimate advantages and pleasures, — the more it edu -
cates to capacities of thought and feehng, which we should nevei
otherwise have been taught to know or to exert, — and the mon
that Avhat it accomplishes can be accomphshed by it alone, — th(
less can those who have had no experience of its benefits ever con
eeive, far less estimate their importance. Other studies of mori
immediate profit and attraction will divert from it the great mas;
of applicable talent. Without external encouragement to classica
pursuits, there can be no classical public in a country, there cai
be no brotherhood of scholars to excite, to appreciate, to applaud
avy,;pi>.o-Koyiiu kxI avjivfiovaix^siv. The cxtonsive diffusion of learnin<;
in a nation is even a requisite of its intensive cultivation. Num
bers are the condition of an active emulation ; for without a rivalrv
of many vigorous competitors there is little honour in the contesi
and the standard of excellence will be ever low. For a few hold
ers of the plough there are many prickers of the oxen ; and
score of Barneses are required as the possibility of a single Bentle}

In accounting, therefore, for the low state of classical eruditio
in Scotland, we shall, in the /rsf place, indicate the causes why i
this country an inferior amount of ancient learning has been Ion '
found sufficient for its Law, Medicine, and Divinity ; and, in th'
second, explain how our Scottish Schools and Universities are s
ill adapted for the promotion of tliat learning.


[. The Profei<sions. — Law can be only viewed as conducive to
lO cause of classical erudition, in so fiir tis (what in most coun-
Ics is the case) it renders necessary a knowled<;-e of the Roman
risprudence ; the necessity of such a knowledge being, in fact,
iitaniount to a necessity for the cultivation of Latin history and
evature. For while the Roman law affords the example of a
unpleter and more self-connected system than the jurisprudence
' any modern nation can exhibit ; without a minute and compre-
usive knowledge of that system in its relations and totality, its
inciples can neither be correctly understood, nor its conclusions
ith any certainty applied. This, however, is impossible, with-
it a philological knowledge of the language in which this law is
ritten, and an historical knowledge of the circumstances under
hich it was gradually developed. On the other hand, an ac-
laintance with the Roman jurisprudence has been always
lowed as indispensable for the illustration of Latin philology
id antiquities ; insomuch, that in most countries of Europe,
Acient literature and the Roman law have prospered or declined
;her : the most successful cultivators of either department
ive indeed been almost uniformly cultivators of both. — In Italy,
Oman law and ancient literature revived together ; and Alciatus
IS not vainer of his Latin poetry, than Pohtian of his interpre-
tion of the Pandects. — In France, the critical study of the
Oman jurisprudence was opened by Budseus, who died the most
coniphshed Grecian of his age ; and in the following generation,
ujacius and Joseph Scaliger were only the leaders of an illustri-
is band, who combined, in almost ecpial proportions, law with
perature, and literature with law. — To Holland the two studies
ligrated in company ; and the high and permanent prosperity of
ic Dutch schools of jurisprudence has been at once the effect and
!<■ cause of the long celebrity of the Dutch schools of classical
lilology. — In Gennany, the great scholars and civihans, who
istrated the sixteenth century, disappeared togethei- ; and with
frw partial exceptions, they were not replaced until the middle
' the eighteenth, when the kindred studies began, and have con-
iiued to flourish in reciprocal luxuriance. — Classical literature
id Roman law owe less to the jurists of Eu/jland than to those
' auy other country. The English common law is derived from
urces which it requires no classical erudition to elucidate ; in no
lier nation, except our own, has jurisprudence been less liberally
ilrivated as a general science, — more exclusively as a special


practice ; and though of some recognised authority in certai
Enghsh Courts, so little has the civil law been made an object o
professional study, that an English lawyer rarely hazards an alli
sion to the Imperial Collections, without betraying his ignoranc
of their very titles. Classical learning has, however, been alwayj
laudably cultivated in England, and English jurists have accor(
ingly sometimes acquired, as scholars, a legal erudition, whoU
superfluous in professional practice. [This peculiarity of tt'
English jurisprudence is noticed and commented on by Job
Barclay in his Icon Animammi.l

In Scotland the causes are different, although the result
nearly the same. In this kingdom the Roman jurisprudeni
formerly possessed a high, but always an indefinite, authorit
It exerted a conspicuous influence on the genius and origin,
development of the Scottish law ; where not controlled by statu;
or custom, its determinations were usually admitted as decisiv(
and some of the most eminent of our jurists have even recognisii
it as the written law of Scotland. It was usual also, until a coi
paratively recent period, for those educated for the Scottish b
to study the Roman law under the illustrious civilians of Fran,
or Holland ; and they returned from the continental universiti(j
if not always profound scholars, more aware, at least, of the val.
of classical learning, and with a higher standard of classical ;,
tainment. Still, however, the authority of the Civil Law in Sc(|
land was never strong enough to constrain the profession to |.
profound and universal study ; and the necessity of resorting
foreign seminaries for the requisite education, showed that t ;
could not adequately be procured at home. Among the myriss
of works illustrative of Roman jurisprudence, we recollect i';
even one that has appeared in Scotland ; and the little that 1 ■
been done in this department by Scotsmen was executed abro;,,
— the result of foreign training, stimulus, and example. T^
profession can lay no claim to what Cuningham proposed,— p
what Scrymger and Henryson performed. But the authorityjf
the Roman jurisprudence, and the consequent necessity of s
study, was destined gradually to decline. The Scottish law i-
came more and more reduced to statute ; and after the unioEJf
the kingdoms was constrained to gravitate with an ever increas'g
velocity towards the indigenous and anti-Roman jurisprudencej'f
England. The knowledge of the Roman system became alw;|s
rai-er and less profound. The judges, perhaps prudently, bes"


b neglect an authority which was seldom adequately understood ;
■ Ind in Scottish practice a quotation from the Pandects now savours
ntlier of ostentation than of use.

Medicine was formerly a profession which required a large

Lmount of classical erudition ; and among the most illustrious

' ^holars since the revival of letters, no inconsiderahle numher

:ive been physicians. The practical importance of this learning

I Scottish medicine has, however, been long gradually falling.

'' . ilippocrates and Galen are not now the authorities. Medical

•orks are no longer written and read only in Latin ; nay, the late

)v Gregory (the " Ultimus Romanorum,") apologizes in his

Conspectus" for not abandoning a language which promised

!\long to be unintelligible to his professional brethren. The

It ore physician does not now resort to the classical schools of

,tyden and Padua; and in the universities of Scotland, the lan-

iKige of the learned has been dispensed with, not only in medical

■ctures, but in medical examination. [In the chief of these, literary

ualitication is indeed tested only by the professional teachers ;

liile the proportion of graduates has risen as the number of stu-

■its has fallen off: so that a Scottish degree in medicine is now

did guarantee of no higher classical accomphshment, than the

' •■nee from a Surgical College or certilicatc from Apothecaries'

lull. But was it for this, that the privilege is entrusted to a

iiiversity of conferring the " Summi in Medicina Ilonores"?]

Theology, however, far more than either Law or Medicine,

oiu jffords an effectual support to classical studies ; for Christian, and,

llil here especially, Protestant theology is little else than an applied

>f milology and criticism ; of which the basis is a profound know-

1 Mge of the languages and history of the ancient world. To be

competent divine is, in fact, to be a scholar.

Christianity is founded upon Miracles ; but these mii-acles are

pit, ' jot continued, and the proof of their original occurrence is con-

-Tjuently left to human learning as a matter of historical evidence.

Again, Revelation, under either dispensation, was made through

>ters divinely autJiorized and insjnred. But in some cases it

loubted, whether certain of these writers have been actually

[lired; and in others, whether the works purporting to have

' ''n written by them are actually theirs. This necessitates pro-

jj,; ,jund researches in regard to the authors of the several writings,

jijii [-to the time when, — to the circumstances under which, — to the

'lace where, — and to the persons for whom, thoy wore first writ-


ten. It behoves, to discover all that is known or not known
touching the first publication of these writings, — what is histori-
cally certain or probable as to their original recognition, and
annexation to the general collection of inspired writings, — and, ir
fine, all that is known of the fate, of the contradiction it encouni
tered, and of the changes which this collection or Canon maj
have undergone.

The vehicle of revelation is Writing; and no miracle wa
vouchsafed to preserve the sacred documents from the fate o
other ancient manuscripts, or to prevent the omissions, changes
and interpolations of careless or perfidious transcribers, througl
the period of fourteen centuries. This was left to the resource,
of human Criticism ; and the task requires for its accomplishmen
the profoundest scholarship. The collation of the most ancienj
manuscripts, the discrimination of their families, and a compariso!
of the oldest versions may afford certain valuable criteria; bi
the one paramount and indispensable condition for the determine
tion of the genuine reading, is a familiar acquaintance with tl
spirit of the languages in which the sacred volume is written.

Interpretation, therefore, is not only the most extensive ar
arduous, but the most important function of the theologian ; — tli;
is, an inquiry into the sense of the inspired waitings, and r
exposition of the truths which they contain. — To speak only
the New Testament. God did not select for his apostles the el
quent and the learned. It is, therefore, necessary to evolve tl
sense from the phraseology of unlearned men, writing also in
language not then' own. At the same time, the circumstanc
which determined the associations and course of thought, ai
consequently explain the meaning of the authors, are to be d
covered only through a knowledge of the Uterature to which t
writings belong, — of the age in which they appeared, — of t^
particular public whom they addressed, — and of the cii'cumstancj
under which they were produced. Add to this, that the origii[
language, though Hellenistic Greek, is yet in a great part inm>
diately, and in a still gretiter, mediately, translated from t'
Aramaic or Syro-Chaldaean ; and it is universally admitted
the learned, that without a knowledge of the various Semi;
dialects, it is impossible to enter thoroughly into that pecul'*
chai'acter of thought and expression, which is necessary to /
understood, to understand the real import of the vehicle in wha
revelation is conveyed. The interpretation of the sacred bo( ^



US supposes a profound and extensive knoivledge of the lan-

\iages of antiquity, not merely in their words, but in their spirit ;

.i kd an intimate familiarity ivith the historical circumstances of

I \e period, which can only be acquired through a coniprchcjisivc

1 iidy of the contemporary authors.

i; It is thus evident, on the one hand, that no country can possess

itheojogy without also possessing a pliilological erudition; and

l( I the other, that if it possess a philological erudition, it possesses

k {q one necessary condition of a theology. Now, for nearly two

ijr kiixmes, Scotland, compared with other countries, may be broadly

k {id to have been without a theology ; but as no other country has

s ien more strongly actuated by religious interests, it cannot be

k Apposed that its clergy held in their hands the condition of a

(cology which (overlooking two qualified exceptions) has been

! \ or realised by any. What then are the peculiar circumstances

MH'h caused, or which allowed, the Scottish Church to remain so

t- behind all other national establishments in theological, and,

[,i i|Usequently, in classical erudition ?

Id ! In the first place, the Reformation in Scotland, and the consti-

:p( ttion of the Scottish Church were not indigenous, — were not the

i.. (JDclusions of a native theology. In Scotland the new opinions

^TC a communication from abroad. The polity and principles

the Scottish Church were borrowed, — borrowed from Calvin

1 Geneva; and it was only one, and one of the least prominent,

the many Calvinist and Presbyterian Churches throughout

iiropc. At the same time, it was neither the creature nor the

t> (lurite of the Prince. The defence of that moditication of Chris-

Miity established in Scotland Avas thus no peculiar, no principal

J jiut of honour with the nation or the state; and the Scottish

(liiii V^'Sy' geographically remote from the great centre of P^uropean

J flemic, were able, without manifest discredit, to devolve upon

' ■ kindred communions the vindication of their common polity

■1 doctrine. — In this respect the English Church exhibits a

- iking contrast to the Scotch. The former stood alone among

; 1 1' Protestant communions. It was at once opposed to these and

1| the Church of Home. It was the establishment of a great and

"-, Joininent nation ; and the personal and political honour of the

ionarch — the dispenser of its high distinctions and emoluments —

is long deeply interested in its credit and support. The Church

I'":, ([England was thus, from its origin, in a relation of hostility to

•lory other. Polemical it must be ; and in the general warfare


which it waged, as it possessed the means, so it had every motiv'
to reward, in its champions, the higher quahties of theologica
prowess. If the Church of England could dispense with
learned clergy, it could not dispense with a complement <:■
learned divines.

In the second place, the determination given to the Church c
Scotland by those through whom it was estabhshed was not on
of erudition.

In Germany the Reformation proceeded from, and was princ
pally carried through by, the academical divines ; the prince;
the cities, and the people only obeyed the impulsion first give
and subsequently continued from the universities. In its origi
the religious revolution was, in the empire, a learned revolutior
and every permanent modification, every important movement ij-
its progress had some learned theologian for its author. FroiJH
this character of the Reformation in Germany, the determinatic'^
of rehgious dogmas was there naturally viewed as a privilege ■
erudition, — as more the function of the universities than of tl;
church, the people, or the state. Religion consequently remainc
in the German schools a matter peculiarly proposed for learnt,
investigation ; the authority of confessions was not long allow(
to suspend the Protestant right of inquiry ; and the alarmir
freedom with which this right has been latterly exercised by tl;
Lutheran divines, maj^ be traced back to the license and examj:
of Luther himself. In Germany, indeed, theology necessari
shared the fate of classical learning. The causes which, from t
conclusion of the sixteenth century, depressed the latter, reduc
the former to a shallow and barbarous polemic; and the reviv
of the study of antiquity, from the middle of the eighteenth, w
principally the condition, and partly the consequence, of a revi".
of theological learning. :

In England the peculiar form under which the Reformat; i
was established was principally determined by the royal w.
But the very fact that the Church of England was neither in i
origin the free creation of a learned theology, nor the sponta -
ous choice of a persuaded people, only enhanced the necessity f
a higher erudition to illustrate and to defend it when establish .
Besides standing, in Europe, opposed to every other establi'-
ment and communion, it was, in its own country, surrounded b^^ ii
more powerful host of sectaries than any other national church - It
who, originally hostile to its polity and privileges, became, on s l|


'onversion from Calvinism, by Laud, the more deadly cneinios

tf its doctrine. The difficulty and increasing danger of this

josition kept up an unceasing necessity for able and erudite

jefenders ; and as honours and riches were not stinted as the

Irice, the supply of the commodity was hardly inferior to the


The Church of Scotland, on the contrary, was neither the ofl-

ring of learning nor of power ; it was the choice of an unlearn-

,1 people, and after being long upheld by the nation in defiance

t" every effort of the government, it was finally estabhshed by a


As the Scottish Reformation did not originate in native learn-

g, so it did not even come recommended to the Scottish people,

the learned authority of its propagators. In relation to other

lational Reformers, the Reformer of Scotland was an unlettered

lian. " Compared with Knox," says a great German historian,

Luther was but a timorous boy ; " — but if Ivnox surpassed Luther

imself in intrepidity, even Luther was a learned theologian by

pe side of Knox. With the exception of Melville, who obtained

hat erudition he possessed abroad, the rehgion of the people of

|cotland could boast of no theologian worthy of the name. Some

■^markable divines indeed Scotland has possessed ; but these were

1 adherents of that church, which for a season was established by

pe will of the monarch in opposition to the wishes of the nation.

I'he two Forbeses, to say nothing of Leighton, Burnet, and Sage,

Vre EpiscopaUans. In fact the want of popular support made it

' cssary for the divines of that estabhshment to compensate by

18 strength of their theological learning for the weakness of their

olitical position. The struggle which ensued between the Epis-

)pal and Presbyterian parties was, from first to last, more a

opular than a scientific, — more a civil than a theological contest ;

id the Covenanters, whose zeal and fortitude finally wrought

it the establishment of the religion and liberty of the nation,

'■re unlearned as they were enthusiastic. With the triumph of

H." Presbyterian polity and doctrines, the controversy between

1'.' rival persuasions ceased. The Scottish EpiscopaUans were

w in numbers, and long politically repressed ; and the other

■paratists from the establishment, so far from being, as in Eng-

iiid, the enemies of the dominant church, were in reality its use-

il friends. They pitched in general somewhat higher the prin-

I'les which they held in common with the establishment ; and



whereas in England the Dissenters would have radically destroyed
what they condemned as vicious, in Scotland they wished only,!
as they in fact contributed, to brace what they viewed as relaxed.
Thus, in Scotland, if sectarian controversy did not wholly cease,;
theological erudition was not required for its prosecution. Thtl
learning of the Dissenters did not put to shame the ignorance o:;
the Estabhsliment ; and the people were so well satisfied with their
own triumph, and their adopted church, that its clergy had m'
call on them for erudition to illustrate what was already respected!
or to vindicate what was not assailed.* Even the attacks on Chris,
tianity which were subsequently made in Scotland, and whiclj
it was therefore more immediately incumbent on the Scottis];
clergy to repel, were not such as it required any theological eriii
dition to meet ; while, from the rehgious dispositions of the pul
lie, these attacks remained always rather a scandal than a dangei
At the same time, in no other country was there so little verg(
far less encouragement, allowed to theological speculation. Tb;
standards of Scottish orthodoxy were more articulate and unan
biguous than those of any other church ; and to its members tl:
permissible result of all inquiry was in proportion rigorously pr<

Online LibraryWilliam HamiltonDiscussions on philosophy and literature, education and university reform. Chiefly from the Edinburgh review; cor., vindicated, enl., in notes and appendices → online text (page 38 of 94)