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Training for Leadership

XXVIII.

TRAINlNG FOR LEADERSHlP.*

It is a pleasant thing, on my first visit to Hamilton, to meet with so cordial a welcome. I am one of the sons of that wilful daughter of yours who, thirty-five years ago, ran away from home and set up a family of her own. These matches often turn out better than was expected. England is getting to be proud of America, and Hamilton to be proud of Rochester. And today, in view of all I see about me — this lovely country, this noble structure, these evidences of comprehensive and far-sighted liberality— I can truly say that Rochester is proud of Hamilton, and is glad to trace back the stream of her history to this sacred eminence, and through this to another that commands us both, namely, to "Sion hill" and

"Siloa's brook that flowed Fast by the oracle of God."

In dedicating this new and beautiful building, the first question one might well ask is: What is it for? I am not content with the obvious and common-place answer, that it is designed to provide facilities for the education of ministers or preachers or pastors of our churches. That is all true — so true that it fails to make any great impression upon us. There is one aspect of our common work which has failed to receive sufficient recognition, and which I would emphasize to-day. Without questioning any of the other ends which are to be sought and attained here, I wish to speak of Training for Leadership in the church of Christ, as an end which of itself and by itself justifies all that has been given and all that has been done in the erection of this noble hall, and in the founding and support of this whole congeries of institutions. My first proposition is, that the church must have leaders. It is a necessity of nature. She will have them whether she wants them or not. Love of power is an instinct of human nature — an innocent and proper instinct. Men seek to acquire power over others, and ought to seek it,— for how else can they better the world? Christ had this love of power, and Satan was very artful in appealing to it when he offered him all the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them. The evil lay, not in seeking power, but in seeking it at times and in ways opposed to the will of the Father. So the Christian is not to give up his will, but to have more will; not to be devoid of ambition, but to have a holy ambition; not to renounce power, but to seek power and use power for God. "Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not." But then, "Covet earnestly the best gifts "— gifts of government and leadership, among the rest. Christ is

the great Leader, Captain, Shepherd. We may well desire to be shepherds, 1

*An address delivered at the dedication of the Theological Hall, Hamilton, N. Y., June 16, 1886.

captains, leaders, under him. And ad the New Testament recognizes men who are "over" others in the Lord, praises the elders that "rule well," gives to pastors the title of "bishops" or "overseers," and exhorts the churches to "submit" to them and to "follow" them.

Now I am as good a Congregationalist in church government as any of you, and if it were necessary I could put in as many qualifications of this doctrine as any of you could. We have only "one Master," and "all we are brethren." While the government of the church as respects the divine source of the authority is an absolute monarchy, as respects the ascertainment and interpretation of God's will it is an absolute democracy. No man therefore has any business to lord it over God's heritage. Jesus says: "I am among you as one that serveth ;" "he that would be chief among you, let him be your servant." Preeminence is to be preeminence only in service. But nothing of all this is inconsistent with leadership in the church of Christ, — for this leadership is nothing but moral suasion, the natural influence of strong character and sagacious planning, the irresistible force of the mind and heart and will which the Holy Spirit has informed and energized. You cannot prevent such leadership, even among the Plymouth Brethren, with all their fear that church organizations will become machines and that pastors will become bishops. Human nature craves human leadership. It never will be satisfied with an abstract and distant God to worship. It must have a kingdom with a Son of man for King, and an army in which the chosen representatives of this Son of man are lieutenants and leaders. So we are bidden to seek out and set apart men for this sacred service, and it will be a great day for the church when she feels her need of men like Paul and Augustine and Luther and Wesley, and prays mightily to God to raise up a multitude of such to be leaders of his people.

My second proposition is, that these leaders must be trained. If men are to be leaders, then they must be able to lead. They must themselves be in advance of those who are to follow. Of course I believe in natural gifts and endowments. Blood is thicker than water. The sons of ministers, other things being equal, make better ministers than their fathers were. They belong in the ministry, and I claim them for the Lord Jesus. I have no sympathy with the idea that the church must take up with what is left, after law and medicine and mining and journalism have had their pick. Pray God that more able and enthusiastic and persuasive and faithful men may be born. But it is not enough to be born. Nature is something, but nurture is something more. These men who are to go before their fellows in knowledge and zeal, in enterprise and devotion, must be trained for their work. Birth did a great deal for Paul, but he never would have been the apostle to the Gentiles, if he had not had the Rabbinic schools, and Gamaliel for a teacher. Knowledge of the world, variety of environment, contact with broad minds, social culture, all these go to make up the difference between a Peter and a Paul.

I insist upon it that men can be trained for leadership,—that is, natural gifts can be improved. Confidence may be aquired, methods can be taught. There is a great deal of training for leadership outside the schools. Leadership is in large part a matter of will, of determination, of habit, of example. The young man sees others bravely striding to the front, and he says: "By God's grace I can do the same." Difficulty trains men. Exigency draws out their powers. Success in a small field prepares them for success in a greater. Even here in this world, he that has been faithful over a few things is madc ruler over many things. I know that God needs men of different sorts in his ministry, and that he calls men of many sorts. The little country village needs a pastor,— and God raises up a man to fill that particular place. He needs a broad, flexible, magnetic personality for the great city, — and he provides such a one for that place. He needs energy, enterprise, intense devotion, the martyr-spirit in a foreign field,—and the man for that is forthcoming. But I protest against the notion that there is a hard and and fast line that separates these various fields — a great gulf fixed between them, so that no man can pass. I rather hold that honest work in the one may train one for work in another. And it is not a sin but a duty to fill the largest place we can, to reach the greatest number and the highest class of minds, to exert the strongest and most permanent influence for God. If I can hew down two trees for God, and yet content myself with felling one, I am responsible to God for the two. And if by hard work I can prepare myself for the larger service, if by severe training I can double my influence, then training is a duty. The world is perishing meantime, you say? Yes, but it is not perishing for lack of foolish preaching. If God had wanted you in the ministry before this, he would have had you born earlier. If he has waited for your appearance till 1886, he can wait till you know something of the truth you are to preach, even if it takes till 1896 for yon to learn it.

I have only one other proposition, this namely, that training for leadership is the peculiar duty of our Seminaries. By this I mean, that we fail in our proper purpose, if we do not make the training of leaders a determining idea in our work. We cannot educate the whole church of Christ, nor all the ministers of the church. If we should attempt it, we should simply be swamped by a mass of material we could not manage, and the very heterogeneous character of that mass would put the gravest difficulty in the way of effectively teaching anything. The Theological Seminary never yet has trained, and for generations to come it will not train, even the majority of our ministers, and it is not our duty to turn it into a theological Kindergarten in order that it may do this. It is not our business to cover the whole field of education, even in the case of those whom we do teach. We cannot give instruction in all the departments of human knowledge. We cannot teach the elements of English. We cannot teach the elements of Greek. We ought not to teach even the elements of Hebrew. The elements of English belong to the common school; the elements of Greek belong to the Academy; the elements of Hebrew properly belong to the college,— and it was once an honor to Madison University that she, almost alone of the colleges, recognized this fact. The Theological Seminary is not a common school, nor an academy, nor a college, and we need practically to insist upon this, if we intend to train the leaders of religious thought and life for the coming generation. Let us insist upon it that the men who enter our Seminaries shall, as a condition of admission, give evidence either that they have had the drill of the common school, the academy and the college, or that they have pursued studies which fit them to do efficient work in thesame classes with common school, academy and college graduates.

Bat now, granting that we have the right men to teach, and that we do not attempt to teach everything, how may we best arrange our Seminary work so as to train men for leadership? I reply that we must first give men faith — something to believe, and then belief in that something,-—belief in its importance, belief in its right to rule, and belief in the God who has power to make it rule. You never can lead other people unless you are thoroughly persuaded yourself; no doubts, no fears,—because you know that you have truth and God upon your side. And so the teaching of doctrinal and ethical truth is the first way in which the Theological Seminary can make men leaders. But there is a right way and a wrong way of teaching that truth,— the one way will help men to be leaders, and the other will not. There is the critical, the polemic, the apologetic way,— a way that makes a man sharp-scented for heresy, eager for theological warfare, interested in doctrine because of its purely intellectual and speculative aspect,— and I wish to say with all emphasis that the merely speculative and closet theologian will never be a leader of men. He is too narrow. He has mastered the truth, but the truth has never mastered him. There is a broader sort of study — study with the heart as well as with the intellect, study that fills the soul with truth, and makes it seem a priceless possession which it would be cowardice and sin not to give to others, so that it may make them free as it has made us free. It is the constructive and not the destructive habit of mind that we need to cultivate, the spirit of the propagandist, in the best sense of that word, by which I mean the spirit that merges self in the truth, until it has but one end in life — to bring men to the knowledge and obedience of the truth.

But even this does not exhaust the list of our responsibilities and duties in the Seminary. Men who are merely possessed of the truth, and eager for its triumph, may be fanatics — with no ability to adapt it to the actual wants and conditions of men. If we would make men leaders, therefore, we must make our courses of study excel on the practical as well as on the theoretical side. The men who teach in the Theological Seminary should, where this is possible, be men who have had not only practical experience as pastors, bnt practical success as pastors. There should be constant practice in Sunday school and mission work in connection with the scholastic duties of the Institution, and at least occasional preaching should be encouraged, in order that the student may have continually in view the end to which he is to address his labors. He must learn to bring himself, and so to bring the truth, in contact with men. All true leadership is simply leading individual men. You cannot lead men in the mass. You cannot lead men by preaching alone. They will not believe that you care for them, unless you come to them privately and personally; and you cannot get other Christians to go after them, unless you set the example of going after them yourself. If I might be permitted to speak of my own experience, I would say that the critical points in my history as a minister have been, not so much the times of preparation for sermons, as the times when after long struggle I brought myself to go to individual men and talk to them about their souls; or when I took my life in my hand to remonstrate with some erring Christian; or when I summoned up all my energies to ask some man of wealth for money for God's cause. And I think that the power to do this work is largely the result of the example of Christian instructors and teachers. I appeal to you who are before me, if the words of private counsel which your teachers spoke to you in your youth did not do more for you than their formal instructions in the class-room. My dear brethren who teach in Theological Seminaries, let us appreciate this power that we have of private and personal influence upon our students. We can teach them best how to lead others, only by showing them that we are leaders ourselves. We can give to men who thought they never could do this work, the confidence that God can make them mighty, first of all to lead others to Christ, and then to lead them into the paths of Christian obedience and service. Let there be such a spirit of intellectual and religious life in these institutions, that the men who go out of them shall feel that they are not only bound to conquer circumstances and to lead men, but that with the help of God's Holy Spirit they can do it and will do it.

West Point is an institution where not the whole army is taught, nor yet all the officers of the army, but a few who can be fitted by natural powers and severe discipline to lead the rest. Training for leadership is the central idea of the Military Academy. Training for leadership should be the central idea of the Theological Seminary. Do you say that I narrow down unduly the range of Seminary work and of Seminary influence? I answer, I divide only to conquer. I would insist on the highest and widest culture at the top, only that the whole body of the ministry who have not enjoyed such advantages, may be stimulated to secure them. Education is not like vapor that rises, but like water that runs downward, from its source. Make the demands of the professional school greater, and the colleges will be forced to meet them, even as the growing demands of the colleges have to be met by our preparatory schools. I should be glad if this occasion could be improved by us who represent the theological schools of our denomination, so as to secure unity of action in maintaining the efficiency, and advancing the standard of our common work. But I remember what happened to that wise man among the Maories of New Zealand. The missionary asked the chief, why it was that the tribe had put him to death. And the reply was simply: "He gave us so much good advice, that we had to." While I wish all good things to all the Seminaries represented here, and especially to the Hamilton Theological Seminary which so hospitably entertains us, I remember the fate of that heathen sage, and take my seat before* a worse thing happens to me.