Education for the Ministry: Its Principles and Its Necessity




Brethren of the Monroe Association :•— I thank you for this invitation to address you. I take it as a welcome home, to one who has been long away. Among you I was born, and not very far from here was the place of my spiritual birth also. It seems fit that I should come back at last, and do what I can to repay the debt I owe. I am sure that in doing the work of theological education among you, I am serving you. The history of this association, and its growth in intelligence and spiritual power, bear witness to the value of trained men in the ministry. But the very blessing of God upon the work already done only urges us forward to larger work in the future. I do not know how you may feel here, but in my Ohio pastorate I was constantly oppressed with the spectacle of the destitute fields about me, and the scarcity of men who were able and willing to fill them. With the great growth of the country, and the diminished inclination of young men among us to resign the hope of business advancement for the prospect of a long course of study for the ministry, it seems to me a time when every church and every Christian needs most seriously to ponder this great need of laborers to fill the places of those who are passing away, and to occupy the vast fields now opening on every side of us. We have been told to pray that God will raise up ministers. We must remember that we cannot truly pray, without at the same time seeking out and educating men for the ministry of the gospel. We shall do this, just in proportion as we appreciate the fundamental principles upon which this duty rests. These principles may be stated in some such way as this: First, God has appointed the ministry as a chief and indispensible agency for the perfecting of his church and for the conversion of the world. Secondly, the ministry, to be most efficient and successful, must be specially trained for its work. Thirdly, it is the duty of the churches to seek out men of natural fitness, lay upon them the duty of preaching, and when they are moved to give themselves to the work, furnish them with all needful means of preparation for their calling.

About the first point, not one of us has a doubt. We believe in the divine appointment of the ministry — the setting apart of a class of men for the specific work of perfecting the church and propagating the gospel. All Christians indeed are responsible to Christ for a similar work. But Christ's ministers are to be leaders of the rest. No other agency can take the place of theirs. No power of civilization or of the press or of the sword can ever

* An address delivered at the annual meeting of the Monroe Baptist Association, West Henrietta, October 2,1872.

accomplish those moral wonders which are brought about, when a man clothed with God's power stands up and pleads with beating heart and living voice that men will be reconciled to God. In the great political contest which now agitates the nation, neither party dare content itself with newspaper articles and private influence alone. Men must be gathered in masses, and confronted with other men who sway them by personal magnetism as well as by argument. And so the influence of the pulpit will endure so long aa the world endures. There is provision and demand for it in the constitution of the human mind. Just as physicians exist because man has a physical nature, and lawyers exist because man has civil relations, so ministers of religion exist because there is such a thing as a social and religious nature in man.

Consider the second point, then. The ministry, to be most efficient and successful, must be specially educated for its work. I might speak to you of the general advantages of education. I might tell you of the demand for trained men in all the arts. Only the other day one of the most successful manufacturers in Philadelphia said that it had been found, among manufacturing engineers, that establishments and firms that employed educated men for managers, succeeded, while those which employed men not educated, did not. I might tell you of the rising sentiment all through the land which demands that all who enter responsible positions in our diplomatic and civil as well as our military service shall be men specially educated and qualified for their work. Now if this principle holds in the management of locomotiveshops, and in the military and civil service of the nation, must it not hold much more in the church, that great arsenal of spiritual powers? If we require the men who doctor our bodies to pass through special courses of study before entering upon their work, shall we not require it of physicians of the soul? If we provide normal schools for those who teach our children the rudiments of earthly knowledge, shall we not give equal facilities of preparation to those who are to instruct us out of the word of God?

Just here we touch the vital point. Ministers of the gospel are ordained for the special work of instructing and influencing mind. The priests of the old dispensation were set for a different work. They were the servants of an external system of rites and forms. Paul most sharply describes the leading characteristics of the two, by calling the priests of the Mosaic economy "they that minister at the alter," while he styles the ministers of the New Testament "they that preach the gospel." The Old Testament priests were representatives of the worshiper and, as it were, performed his service for him. The New Testament minister never supersedes his brethren, but only teaches them to perform true service for themselves. The New Testament minister, I say, is set to instruct and influence mind. But by what means? By bringing to bear upon that mind the truth of God. The office of the ministry is to enlarge men's views of truth and deepen their love for it, and then, with this solid basis of intelligent conviction, to organize and develope their practical activities in serving the Master and converting the world. And, therefore, having a work to do which is not mechanical or simply emotional in its nature, but which consists in bringing truth to bear upon men's minds and conduct, it is evident that the ministers of the gospel must be men who not only know the truth, but who know how to wield the truth Bo as to convince others. To know this truth of God as God has written it, know it in its connections and relations, know it in the grandeur of its system and unity, know it in its wonderful adaptation to all the wants of the human soul — this requires not only the highest natural powers, but the best training of those powers which both man and God can give.

But the day has gone by for this general argument. We all understand it. None of us are in danger of supposing that Paul did not need his early training in the schools, because Christ appeared to him near Damascus; or that the apostles did not need their three years' theological course unddr the Savior's teaching, because they were to receive the Holy Ghost afterwards ; or that God's call obviates the necessity of study and preparation on the part of his preachers now. Let us take all that for granted, and let me give you some special reasons in the nature of our times, why a higher educatton is demanded in our ministry than has ever been given before. One reason may be found in the advancing intelligence of the age. The newspaper and the common school have revolutionized society. The young of this geniration participate in a general culture which has been unknown to the mawes in any age before. Our children know more of general literature and of political science at the age of ten, than their great-grandfathers knew at the age of twenty. They are critical hearers now. If the ministry is to influence them, it must be abreast of them in intellectual progress. Nuy, is it not true that, to master this youthful mind of the century, the ministry must be before it in point of mental attainment? The best economy for the farmer who thinks twenty dollars a year a large contribution for the support of his minister, is to make that twenty a hundred, and so secure a pastor who can have power over his children's minds. If he contents himself with the cheapest service he can get, he may think himself well off if his boy's waywardness does not make every twenty dollars cost him in the end a thousand, besides the sorrow of his old age and the ruin of the child. And not simply for those who are to constitute the strength or weakness of the next generation. For the present adult mass of our congregations, we need the best gifts and training that can be furnished. We hear much about the power of the old-fashioned ministry of a hundred years ago, and I thank God for all they wrought. But it is not less true that if they lived to-day, they would preach sermons of different model from those they preached then, — or even Jonathan Edwards would lose his hearers. May God give us all the fervor and self-sacrifice they showed, and above all, the power of the Spirit that rested upon them. But with all these, which we may have as well as they, let us seek to know the truest and most effective method of reaching the modern mind, for we have to deal not with the eighteenth but the nineteenth century,— and we are to bring out of the treasures of God things new as well as old. God calls upon us to lead this advanced intelligence of the age with a still more advanced intelligence in the ministry of the church of Christ.

A second reason in our times for the most advanced culture in the ministry may be found in the skeptical tendencies of the day. "This is an age of unsolved problems," a modern German writer says most truly. The world asks religious teachers for the solution of them. There never was a day when the higher forms of speculative doubt had influence over so wide a range of uiind. As the world has come up in intelligence, it has come out from sensual opposition to intellectual opposition to Christianity. Brutal skepticism like that of Tom Paine and Voltaire has had its day. We live in an age when the name of religion is used to conjure with, and all the devil's most specious lies are labelled "Christianity." It is an age of scientific marvels, and of arguments against all real Christianity, drawn from science. But this science of the day is mostly the science of matter and of the things of matter. A subtle doubt whether there be any science of mind, whether there be any such thing as spirit, pervades a large part of our literature, It lurks in the most cultivated minds of our congregations, and often operates a3 an antidote to our most pointed arguments. A thousand forms of heartunbelief entrench themselves in false theories and false philosophies, and could not long maintain themselves without these defenses. How plain it is that the preacher of the day should be prepared to treat such unbelief intelligently, unmask the fallacies of its reasoning, and then set the mind upon the sure foundation of truth. Or if, as is often the case, the errors of those we address rest upon some false historical foundation, there is great need of such knowledge of doctrines and practices in their past development as will enable the preacher to show from what small deviations in principle the most enormous and soul-destroying errors have grown. Forewarned, forearmed, says the old proverb. Let our rising ministry have the means of knowing beforehand the nature of the opposition which they have to encounter in their work.

Then there is a demand for special discipline of mind in the preacher, arising from the intensity of modern life. We live faster than any age before us. Railroads and telegraphs have compressed into days the work of years. We do not live as long as Methusaleh did, but we live just as much. We have learned to think quickly and act quickly. There is a wonderful rush and excitement about modern trade and modern amusements. Men come into our churches and prayer circles jaded, and yet excited, with the press of the day's or the week's business. If you would influence them at all, you must think faster than they — furnish an excitement that will supersede theirs — startle them into attention, rouse them to thought, press them to immediate action, lest they go out into the whirl, and the tide sweep them away again. They will not stand the sermons four hours long, that were preached in the days of the Puritans and the Long Parliament. What truth they take in must be pemmican and not broth, condensed and hot, or they will certainly loathe the light bread the pulpit gives them. We have models in Scripture of short sermons and short prayers in abundance,—I do not know that we have more than one instance of long preaching, and that seems to have killed one of the hearers. But, whether intended as models or not, these Scripture instances are the only examples to follow in our age. And to preach the truth to this generation, stirring with life as it is, demands a power of concentration and a discipline of mind in the minister, that can be gained only by diligent and protracted study. — And the necessity of all this is the greater, from the fact that the preacher of the gospel in these days must be several men in one. The old recluse life of the monastery is out of place now. He must be a public man, a citizen as well as a preacher, a man interested in the denomination and the church at large, as well as devoted to his own parish. These demands he cannot well meet without a power of quick and vigorous analysis^ a habit of systematic labor, a careful economy of time, a mind that can turn in a moment from talk to study, or from study to prayer. If this discipline has not been gained in early life, it is hard to secure it afterwards. The joints of the mind are most supple in youth,—men run most easily then into the mould of habit. To meet this intense age on its own ground, and turn its activities into holy channels, needs early preparation of both mind and heart. The best preachers feel their needs in this respect the most, and wonder that God can use such inapt material for any good. Let us see that the next generation of preachers enters on its work with better equipment than we possess.

A better preparation is demanded again by the fact that this is an age of organization. The forces of evil are organized as never before. Every new enterprise of speculation or trade has its Society. So, too, it is an age of organized religious effort. Our churches in the great cities are seeing the necessity of a division of labor among their members, and of providing agencies for developing the various gifts of the church, and of encouraging aud sustaining all manner of benevolent undertakings. It is beginning to be seen that a true pastor is more than a preacher, more than a visitor of his flock, more than a worker on individuals,— that he is not only to work himself but to do a large part of his work through others,—in other words, that he is to combine and organize the talent of the church and to lead it out to new work and new conquests for Christ. If Alexander the Great should wake from his slumbers, he could not fight the battle of Sedan to-day without learning the art of war. And the pastor of a century ago, who should wake from sleep to-day in the midst of a working church in London or New York or Rochester, and should see the order and efficiency of Sabbath school and mission work, of church visitation, of poor relief societies, of temperance organizations, of committees on strangers, of street preaching enterprises, would not only think the millenninm near at hand, but would ask to be taught this new art of war that he too might be successful. In this day when we are learning so much of the value of organization in Christ's work, how plain it is that we ought not to send out our young ministers without giving them the opportunity of observing and participating in these new plans aud agencies for the extension of Christ's kingdom. I thank God that our Theological Seminary is planted in a large city, under the shadow of four large and vigorous churches, in which our students in course of preparation for the ministry may see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears what Christ is doing in these modern days to develop and enlarge the activities of his church. I count the pastors of these churches a<s assistant professors in the seminary, and these churches as our great support and strength. Let all our rising ministry have the opportunity of learning from them, and then go to their several charges over the land prepared to put over the doorways of their churches that inscription which one sees over the entrance to the Pacific Mills: "And to every man, his work."

But after all, the great need of this age is the need of consecrated men, men filled with the Spirit of God. It is an age of advancing intelligence, of intense life, of skeptical tendencies, of organized effort of every kind,—but it is also an age of absorption in outward things. Meditation, introspection,

hardly exist. Nothing can make head against the current of wordliness but the fervor, the unction, the power, that come from God. I urge you, therefore, brethren, to put your rising ministers under influences which will impress upon them the necessity of a hidden life with God and a profound communion with his truth. Paul did not rush at once into the great labors of his life,—he spent three years in Arabia. And I believe that in the life of the Theological Seminary have been nurtured some of the noblest characters, have been born some of the noblest enterprises, that have ever adorned the annals of the church. It was while a student in Williams College, that Samuel J. Mills invited his college-mates Hall and Richards to a walk and led them to a retired spot in a meadow, where they spent all day in fasting and prayer, and in conversing on the duty of missions to the heathen. And so in the Theological Seminary it was, that Adoniram Judson and Samuel Newell came to the resolution of spending their lives in pagan lands, and the result of that Seminary work was the formation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. In the three years of this Seminary life, and its warm-hearted communion with other students about the needs of the world and the power of Christ, our young men have an opportunity of spiritual growth and preparation, whose value is inestimable. And this Association can testify that, with the inward growth, there has often been outward work, in destitute regions about, that proved the value of the preparation, and gave promise of great future harvests to be reaped for God.

And this brings me to the third and last thought of my subject, — namely, the obligation that rests upon the churches, not only to seek out and encourage the men whom God has called to the work of the ministry, but to provide the means needful for their training and support until they shall be ready for their active work. I fear that in all these particulars we are sadly deficient. I fear that the old days when Christian men and women consecrated their sons to the ministry of Christ from the cradle are almost gone by, and that we have fallen upon times when the calling of a preacher is thought rather beneath the aspirations of the cultivated and well-born. We need to have a revival of true sentiments in this matter, for depreciation of Christ's ambassadors is depreciation of Christ himself. When we consider whose ambassadors they are, and what business they transact between the King of kings and his subjects, what earthly dignity seems so high as theirs? Surely an office like this demands the choicest and noblest gifts. As Archbishop Leighton has said: "If bodily integrity was necessary to those who ministered of old at the altar, shall the mentally blind and lame be good enough for the ministration of that gospel that exceeds in glory? Let us not imitate Jeroboam, who made high places but made priests of the lowest of the people, who had abundance of golden cups but was content with wooden priests." If the minister of the gospel be, as George Herbert says, "the deputy of Christ for the reducing of men to the obedience of God," then no talents or graces can be too precious to be employed in this sacred service. Why is it then that we lack for men,— why do scores of most important posts call for able ministers of Christ, and call in vain? Is it not because the churches at large have not felt the great necessity? And as church after church rises in culture to the point where the unanimous voice is: "Let us have an educated minister, to educate our children and the community," who can tell where the supplies will be for our failing ranks ten years from now, unless God grant us a new spirit of prayer and effort for the raising up of a competent ministry? If there ever was a time when we needed to ponder our Savior's command to pray for laborers, it is now.

It has been said that the great error of Luther was that, while he restored New Testament doctrine, he did not restore the New Testament church; that, while he cared for the faith, he did not care for the organization of believers upon the moder left by Christ. I have another fault to find with Luther, which seems to me almost if not quite as serious, namely, that he did not establish Seminaries for the education of the ministry. Contending, like a giant, against the influence of Aristotle, that" accursed mischief-making heathen" as he called him, he notwithstanding left the Universities under that sume influence, and the Universities trained up men to undo all his work. See the result in Germany. When once the spiritual impulse of Luther's personal presence had ceased, the enemy began to gather strength. Uninstructed piety did not stand against the assaults of rationalism. With the Universities training men of thought to do battle against the faith, and no distinctively Christian schools to train its defenders, the result was that, two centuries after, infidelity was to all intents and purposes the established religion of Germany, and half the fruits of the Reformation were swept away. Our German Baptists of the old conntry are in danger of repeating the same error. With much gained under the labors of Dr. Oncken, there is little or no provision for the leadership and instruction of the churches after Dr. Oncken has passed away. It is only just now that they are waking up to see that, without Seminaries for the training of ministers, all that has been gained is in peril, and that a few years may see the rushing tide of irreligion sweeping over them again. We cannot consolidate what we have gained in a new convert, without instruction and discipline. How much less can we consolidate the results of a great popular awakening over a whole country, without provision for the instruction and discipline of the formed and forming churches. Let us appreciate our own position as a denomination, brethren! Under the good Providence of God, we have come up from weakness to be the second denomination, in point of numbers, in the land. We have secured the ear of the world. Every step in the progress of Biblical scholarship has been a step forward for us. With our very denominational existenco based upon knowledge of the original languages of the Bible and a correct interpretation of it, we stand or fall with the education of our ministry. And now the question rises before us, solemn and momentous as no other can be, shall we fix and consolidate what we have gained, or shall we allow it all, through ignorance and neglect, to be swept away? I know your answer, brethren. You say, let us set ourselves to this great work until every village and town and hamlet throughout the land shall bo provided with a teacher and pastor who shall expound the word of God,—and, in accordance with the model there laid down, shall build up the beautiful structure of a New Testament church — a church of baptized believers.

And what are the means? Our Theological Seminaries come first and foremost. What have they not done for us? Dr. Hackett, our venerated professor, was telling me only the other day of the time when he and a few •other students were counting up the number of educated Baptist ministers in the neighborhood of Boston, and they could find but three,— now at every Anniversary of Newton Theological Institution, they come up by scores and even hundreds. Seminaries like Newton and Rochester have already trained the very best pastors and preachers we have — the very strength of our denomination to-day. It is our duty to see that the Theological Seminary nearest to us, and upon which we most naturally depend, shall never want for buildings, library, teachers, — never want for facilities of every sort for the work it has to do. Is there one within the sound of my voice who has been blessed by God with abundant financial prosperity? Let me beg such an one to consider the power for good of a blow struck at the right time. Who can tell the ultimate good accomplished by that single man Crozer, in the establishment of the Seminary for theological education near Philadelphia? Untold ages will rise up to call him blesssed, and the fruits of his benefactions will go on ripening and gathering until the great harvest-day of the world! May God raise up many such men to bless the church and the world! We may not be able to give as largely, but we may all do our part, if we only have the like spirit. There are many even now pressing their way bravely through a Seminary course, though it costs them sacrifice and hardship. We must not let such men waste years of strength in manual toil, before they come to us, in order to make money enough to pay their way through the Seminary. We must not let them want for books and clothes after they have come. We must take them into our sympathies and prayers, and furnish them with all that is needed to make their course of study profitable and successful. And this cannot be done for a large number of students, without large outlay and expenditure. But to this all of us may contribute, and in doing it may feel that we give directly to Christ and the work of his gospel. We may all at least assist in the work of the New York Baptist Union for Ministerial Education, and thereby help on to a place in the ministry some useful man who, when we are dead, may be proclaiming the everlasting gospel. Take this Society into your hearts then, my brethren. Give liberally into its treasury. Send to it the men whom God has called, and whom it should educate. And "may he that ministereth seed to the sower, both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness, being enriched in everything to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God."