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Thorntons and Grants, have done nobly in giving and loaning money to candidates for the sacred office.
A principal design of the colleges which were first established in this country, was to furnish the means, through various charitable foundations, of preparing indigent young men for the Christian ministry. This was a main object of Thomas Hollis in founding the professorship of divinity at Harvard college. The same excellent man also made provision for an annual bounty of ten pounds sterling “ apiece, to several pious young students devoted to the work of the ministry.” The preamble to the charter, which was granted to the college of William and Mary, Virginia, by the assembly of the colony, in 1662, has the following language : “ The want of able and faithful ministers in this country, deprives us of those great blessings and mercies, that always attend on the service of God, &c. In 1698, a number of individuals in the colony of Connecticut, on account of an increasing demand for educated and pious ministers, formed a design of establishing a college. Various advantages have been long enjoyed in the institution which they founded for assisting the class of young men in question. The Presbyterian synod of New York, desiring to remove the necessity of introducing individuals into the ministry without the necessary intellectual attainments, resolved to take measures to establish a college in New Jersey. Similar motives influenced many of the founders of Williams, Middlebury, and other colleges. In 1307, the theological seminary at Andover was founded. Important pecuniary assistance, in many ways, has been furnished by the patrons of this institution, in preparing young men to become preachers of the gospel. The same remark is applicable to the Princeton, Auburn, and other theological seminaries. In 1807, an education society was formed in the vicinity of Dorset, Vermont, and in 1313, an association for a similar object in the southern counties of Massachusetts. The last named adopted the principle of loaning money to young men, without interest. In 1814, the Massachusetts Baptist education society was formed.
In the summer of 1815, a few individuals in Boston, having become convinced of the necessity of a great increase of the number of well-qualified ministers of the gospel, determined to make an immediate and general effort for the accomplishment of their purpose. A meeting was accordingly held in the last week in July, at which the subject was fully discussed. On the 29th of August, a constitution was reported and adopted. The society was not, however, organized till the 7th of December. William Phillips, lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, was chosen president. On the fourth of March, 1816, four young men were admitted to the patronage of the society. !
The causes which led to the establishment of this institution were various. The close of the war with Great Britain furnished good men a favorable opportunity for calm inquiry into the religious condition of the country, and for devising comprehensive plans for its benefit. The increase of theological seminaries naturally suggested to their patrons and trustees the necessity of adopting measures for augmenting the number of theological students. Those who looked abroad upon the unevangelized nations, were sensible that an extraordinary demand would be made for missionaries and missionary agents. The general spirit of the age was also highly auspicious in respect to the formation of such an institution. In addition to the general philanthropy which was awakened, and the power of associated effort, which was put forth, it became apparent to the most intelligent Christians, that a great amount of educated talent must be provided,, that otherwise, the incessant demand which would be made for laborers on the outworks of Christianity would exhaust the internal supplies. The world was not only to be evangelized, but educated. Permanent Christian communities were to be formed over all the earth. The united and invincible power of knowledge and holiness was, therefore, to be brought into extensive operation. It was seen that education societies would form a sort of intellectual magazine where the constant waste of benevolent energies could be repaired. They would make a kind of substratum, in every portion of the country, on which the most sure dependence might be placed.
But the principal argument for their establishment was, unquestionably, the want of preachers of the gospel in the United States. The supposed deficiency of religious instruction was amply corroborated by the results of the most laborious investigations. It was estimated that the number of clergymen of all denominations, who had been educated at college, was one thousand and six hundred; and that the number of competent ministers, who had not received a public education, was nine hundred; making a total of two thousand five hundred, for the supply of eight or nine millions of inhabitants. A circumstance, which rendered the destitution more affecting, was the singular inequality in the distribution of ministers. In three States and four territories, with a population of three hundred and fifty thousand, there were but seventeen stated preachers of the gospel. Another very gloomy feature in the picture, was the rapid decrease in the number of ministers, compared with the population. Seventy years before, New England was supplied with one liberally-educated minister for every six hundred and twenty-eight souls, while in 1816, in the United States, there was not one such minister to six thousand souls. The ratio of ministerial supply had been for a long time regularly and rapidly declining. The number of pious young men, who were able to defray the expense of their own education, was proved by the experience of half a century, not to be, by any means, adequate to provide a remedy for a state of things so deplorable. The alternative before the Christian community was, therefore, manifestly this ; either the number of ministers must continue to decline, or pious and indigent youth must be assisted in their studies preparatory to the sacred office.
The first object of the society was obviously to survey the extent of the evils which it would remedy, and then to direct public attention strongly to the subject. An extensive correspondence was commenced, public documents were collected and examined, and agents for inquiry were despatched to various quarters of the country.”
For this last named service, Mr, Cornelius received a commission in 1817, on his way to New Orleans. His labors in behalf of the Indian missions, and at New Orleans, prevented him from giving that attention to the subject, which its importance demanded. He collected, however, facts and documents, which were of considerable service. He gives the following account of his labors, in a letter to the Rev. Dr. Pearson, a director of the society, dated New Orleans, January 14, 1818,
“I have often feared that my long silence, in regard to the work appointed me by the education society, should induce the belief that I have become indifferent to it. Far from it. Never have I felt more uniformly the importance of any cause, than that of providing laborers for the Lord's harvest. I do regard it as involving in itself all that is essential in every other benevolent undertaking; and while I have not been able, from previous engage ments, to lend to it all that attention which desired, those very engagements have
e led me ofte
claim, as Whitefield did on a similar occasion, “O for a thousand tongues, a thousand hands, for Christ!' I do not now remember certainly, whether I answered the letter of commission which you had the goodness to send me while at Washington city. But this I remember, that it interested my feelings more than I can describe. The time, however, which had elapsed since I wrote to you from New York, was so long, that I was doubtful whether the proposal I made of becoming an agent of inquiry, would comport precisely with the views of the directors. I resolved, however, to do all in my power. From Washington to this place, a distance of twelve or fourteen hundred miles, I have made such exertions as were compatible with my other engagements. I conversed with respectable gentlemen on the subject, as I passed along, and obtained their consent to prepare statistical views of their respective districts of country. I am well satisfied, from all which I have yet experienced, that this is the only practicable method of procuring a just view of the condition of the whole nation. I inclose a printed copy of a circular letter which I am sending to gentlemen of distinction in the regions through which I have passed, and to other judicious men in various parts of the western world. In this circular, my object has been to make known as extensively as possible the existence and the objects of the society, and to give such a representation of its character as should challenge the respect of all honorable and benevolent men. Whether I have done justice to the subject, I dare not affirm. I have sought to do it. My heart is deeply concerned in the noble design. Of its success I have no doubt. There is something in its very nature so inviting to the friends of mental culture and refinement, as well as to the Christian, that it cannot fail in due time to awaken and concentrate a greater amount of enlightened feeling than any other