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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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Skill in any science, or that improvement of the mind which we gain by study, instruction, observation, &c. An attentive examination of ecclesiastical history will lead us to see how greatly learning is indebted to Christianity, and that Christianity, in its turn, has been much served by learning. "All the useful learning, " says Dr. Jortin, "which is now to be found in the world, is in a great measure owing to the Gospel. The Christians, who had a great veneration for the Old Testament, have contributed more than the Jews themselves to secure and explain those books. The Christians in ancient times collected and preserved the Greek versions of the Scriptures, particularly the Septuagint, and translated the originals into Latin. To Christians were due the old Hexapla; and in later times Christians have published the Polyglots and the Samaritan Pentateuch. It was the study of the Holy Scriptures which excited Christians from early times to study chronology, sacred and secular; and here much knowledge of history, and some skill in astronomy, were needful.

The New Testament, being written in Greek, caused Christians to apply themselves also to the study of that language. As the Christians were opposed by the Pagans and the Jews, they were excited to the study of Pagan and Jewish literature, in order to expose the absurdities of the Jewish traditions, the weakness of Paganism, and the imperfections and insufficiency of philosophy. The first fathers, till the third century, were generally Greek writers. In the third century the Latin language was much upon the decline, but the Christians preserved it from sinking into absolute barbarism. Monkery, indeed, produced many sad effects; but Providence here also brought good out of evil; for the monks were employed in the transcribing of books, and many valuable authors would have perished if it had not been for the monasteries. In the ninth century, the Saracens were very studious, and contributed much to the restoration of letters. But, whatever was good in the Mahometan religion, it is in no small measure indebted to Christianity for it, since Mahometanism is made up for the most part of Judaism and Christianity. If Christianity had been suppressed at its first appearance, it is extremely probable that the Latin and Greek tongues would have been lost in the revolution of empires, and the irruptions of barbarians in the east and in the west; for the old inhabitants would have had no conscientious and religious motives to keep up their language; and then, together with the Latin and Greek tongues, the knowledge of antiquities and the ancient writers would have been destroyed. To whom, then, are we indebted for the knowledge of antiquity, for everything that is called philosophy, or the literae humaniores?

to Christians. To whom for grammars and dictionaries of the learned languages?

to Christians. To whom for chronology, and the continuation of history through many centuries?

to Christians. To whom for rational systems of morality, and improvements in natural philosophy, and for the applications of these discoveries to religious purposes?

to Christians. To whom for metaphysical researches, carried as far as the subject will permit?

to Christians. To whom for the moral rules to be observed by nations in war and peace?

to Christians. To whom for jurisprudence, and for political knowledge, and for settling the rights of subjects, both civil and religious, upon a proper foundation?

to Christians. To whom for the reformation?

to Christians. "As religion hath been the chief preserver of erudition, so erudition hath not been ungrateful to her patroness, but hath contributed largely to the support of religion. The useful expositions of the Scriptures, the sober and sensible defences of revelation, the faithful representations of pure and undefiled Christianity; these have been the works of learned, judicious, and industrious men." Nothing, however, is more common than to hear the ignorant decry all human learning as entirely useless in religion; and what is still more remarkable, even some, who call themselves preachers, entertain the same sentiments. But to such we can only say what a judicious preacher observed upon a public occasion, that if all men had been as unlearned as themselves, they never would have had a text on which to have displayed their ignorance. Dr. Jortin's Sermons, vol. 7: charge 1; Mrs. H. More's Hints to a Young Princess, vol. 1: p. 64; Cook's Miss. Ser. on Matthew 6:3; Dr. Stennett's Ser. on Acts 26:24-25 .

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Learning'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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