« AnteriorContinuar »
thus qualified to become instructors of the people. God did not, indeed, confine himself to men thus scholastically trained for those whom he employed in the sacred officeas Amos, for example, "was no prophet, neither was he a prophet's son;" "but," says he, "I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit; and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel." It is safe to say that God never will confine himself to any particular guild, or order of men, when he sends forth laborers into his harvest. But it is not unreasonable to suppose that those who have been trained to husbandry will know better than others how to wield the sickle and guide the plow.
The apostles, indeed, were not learned in Rabbinical lore -which is what is meant when it is said "that they were unlearned and ignorant men;"* but then they had enjoyed two or three years' daily communion with their Masterhad heard "the gracious words" of eternal life from his own lips-and finally had them all reproduced with infallible certainty in their minds by the plenary inspiration of the Holy Spirit. How small are all our acquirements, though we may have sat at the feet of Gamaliel, compared with their divine endowments! The last and greatest of the apostles had been thoroughly drilled in Rabbinical learning and perhaps in Grecian, too—but what was all this compared with the plenary inspiration vouchsafed to him by the Holy Ghost?
Their successors in the sacred ministry, who had not their supernatural qualifications, prepared themselves for their important work by a careful study of the word of God. In the early Church men were trained for the min
* Οτι ἄνθρωποι ἀγράμματοί εἰσι καὶ ἰδιῶται. Wiclif: “That thei werein vnlettrid and lewid men." Tyndale: "That they were vnlerned men and laye people." Cranmer: "That they were vnlerned and laye men."
istry in ecclesiastical seminaries, which were multiplied in all parts of the Christian world.
During the Middle Ages monastic institutions were founded for this purpose-as, for example, Iona, Bangor, Oxford, Cambridge, in the British Isles, and so on the continent of Europe, and also in the East.
During the Dark Ages many of these institutions degenerated into hot-beds of superstition, and even immorality, and not a few became extinct. But at the Reformation a fresh impulse was given to the cause of clerical education, and the Reformers put forth strenuous efforts to supply the Churches with "a godly learned ministry." The Puritans were very zealous in this matter-not only in the mothercountry, but also in America; and many are the monuments of their enlightened zeal.
Mistakes, indeed, were made by all the Churches, the principal of which was this: in many instances learning, or a show of learning, was considered all-sufficient, and men who were never converted nor called to the ministry were sent forth from theological schools as pastors of the flock of Christ, thus creating a prejudice against "the schools of the prophets." The Methodists, who will not tolerate a mere man-made ministry, naturally shared largely in this prejudice. The Wesleys and their clerical associates, of course, did not, as they had been trained for the ministry in one of the most renowned universities of the world; yet they infinitely preferred what was stigmatized as an ignorant ministry to mitered infidels and cassocked libertines, not a few of whom cursed the Church in their day. But they wanted "learning and holiness combined" in those who ministered in holy things. Hence John Wesley early inquired what could be done for the training of the preachers. Year after year the question was asked in their Conferences, and the answer was the same: Nothing yet; when the Lord
shall send us men with means to enable us to found a seminary for preachers, then we will have one, but not before.
Wesley had a great horror of debt; and, besides, he did not wish to proceed in so grave an enterprise till the path of duty was made "straight and plain before his face." He did not want the camp to move while the cloud rested upon the ark! Earnestly did he desire to see this work undertaken before he finished his course; but, like Moses, he came to the borders of the promised land, but was not allowed to come into its possession. How would he have rejoiced if Providence had raised up for him a THOMAS FARMER or a CORNELIUS VANDERBILT!
But what was not granted to Moses was vouchsafed to Joshua. Dr. Bunting and Mr. Watson, on whom Wesley's mantle fell, matured the plan, and Providence raised up men with the means to execute it; and first Richmond was purchased and endowed, and then another, and still a third institution, to which "the sons of the prophets" have been sent, and hundreds upon hundreds have been taught the way of the Lord more perfectly in their halls than it was ever taught before since the days of the apostles.
At first prejudice, deep-rooted opposition, was encountered; but the wisdom and prudence which marked all their movements, and the manifest blessing of Heaven which rested upon all their operations, vindicated the policy adopted; and now if there be any prejudice, any opposition, in England, to the Theological Institution, it never comes to the surface.
Even the Primitive Methodists, who were supposed to be specially averse to progress in this direction, have their seminary for ministers, adapted to their peculiar character and wants, with the practical good sense which marks their Connection, and from which we may profitably take some lessons.
The Northern Methodist Church encountered still stronger antagonism; but the movement was not to be suppressed. We watched with interest the fierce contest, with no misgiving, however, as to the result. The men who led in the movement were no fanatics, no ultraists. They did not wish to force their views upon their brethren who could not see the matter in the same light with themselves; nor did they attempt to make a scholastic training a sine qua non for the ministry. But they were resolved that all young men who were called to the sacred office, and who wanted a better preparation for it, and could profit by the instruction which such institutions afford, should not go without it, or be forced to seek it from others not "of our faith and order."
Nothing succeeds like success! They have succeeded. We have yet to learn that those who have gone forth from their halls of instruction into the pastoral work are at a discount among their brethren-that the Bishops find it more difficult to get places for them than for others—that they are less efficient in the great work of saving souls. On the contrary, they are at a premium, as everybody knows. Indeed, this itself has been brought as an objection to the movement, that educated men are sought after by the people and by the appointing power in preference to those who are not educated. Hinc illæ lachrymæ. But we can forgive this wrong!
We have sufficiently indicated the character of the Biblical Department of the VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY. Its desigu is, as Adam Clarke said it was his in writing his "Commentary," to give a better understanding of the sacred Scriptures than young ministers can acquire without some man to guide them. My honored colleagues, who will have to bear the burden and heat of the day, will instruct you, my young brethren, in all that you need to know in Her
meneutical and Exegetical Science-in Homiletical and Pastoral Theology-and if I can render you any aid in Systematic Divinity, as far as may be compatible with other duties, and as my limited acquirements will allow, I shall do it, in the name of God, with all my heart and soul; and I can assure you it will be a labor of love.
I shall endeavor to assist you in your study of the great standards of our faith-the Bible--"first, middle, and without end," like its Divine Author. Then, for the better study of the sacred volume, we shall endeavor to master those great monuments of Christian antiquity, the Three Creeds the Apostles', the Niceno-Constantinopolitan, and that miscalled the Athanasian-all of which we cordially indorse, excepting the interpolated clause in the first, of the descent into hell, which may be interpreted in an innocent sense, but which is sometimes perverted to a sinister use, and which is therefore eliminated from our recension of that symbol; and the damnatory clauses in the Athanasian, which are so foreign from the genius of the gospel. The Filioque in the Niceno - Constantinopolitan we admit, though we cannot justify its interpolation by the Latins.
But these three great Creeds-especially the so-called Apostles' Creed, the Creed of our baptism, the Creed of Christendom-we consider invaluable monuments of orthodox Christian antiquity, and shall use them accordingly.
Of equal importance, in its place, is the Catechism of the Church-of course, I allude to what is known as the "Second Wesleyan Catechism." This is one of our recognized standards, and well does it deserve this distinction. It was digested from the Catechisms of the Churches of England and Scotland and Wesley's "Instructions," by that ripe theologian, Richard Watson, by appointment of the British Conference, and has received the sanction of universal