Page images
PDF
EPUB

When has the world been so thrilled, so awed, so inspired, as by the sublime death of our great and lamented President? It marks an era in history that this man should so have revealed his calm trust in God; and we realize now, as never before, the source of his power, and his hold on the affections of men. Righteousness is power. Power is needed in our profession, that more and more the minister may with all meekness be the prophet in his own church rather than the errand boy of the richest layman. The conviction that the minister is a man of God, that he is clothed with the authority of the truth, that he is the administrator of his Lord's affairs, subject only to the church, will have a beneficial effect on all.

It may be that a crown fashioned by the hands of Jesus will never be devoid of thorns. But Jesus said : “Lo, I am with you alway; and all power is given unto me in heaven and on earth.” It is not to defeat that we are called, but to a larger victory than we have yet dreamed of. The preacher spiritually linked to a living Christ is both servant and king of men, and his heart takes on new rejoicing every day; but the preacher who has let others think for him, who has lost confidence in his Bible, and who depends on human rather than on Divine power, is more to be pitied than the slave scourged to his dungeon, and can accomplish more of deadly harm in murdering men's faith than the anarchist who kills only the clay.

THE RIGHTFUL CLAIMS OF THE THEOLOGICAL

SEMINARIES UPON THE CHURCHES.1

PROF. GEORGE F. MOORE, ANDOVER, MASS. The theological seminary is an organ which the church has developed to prepare men for its service in the ministry of the Gospel. In some other branches of the church the ecclesiastical organization has itself established seminaries, and administers them directly or immediately. In our own, in accord with its spirit and history, seminaries have been founded by voluntary associations of individuals and endowed by private beneficence, just as the boards. and societies have been through which we carry on our missionary and educational work. Some of them are under the oversight anů

* Page 22.

control of the churches or ministers in their own region; others have no such system of supervision; but whether the relation to the churches finds formal expression in the constitution of the seminary or not, all — like the boards, in the constitutions of which there is a corresponding diversity -- exist for the church and are dependent upon it. The church has a vital interest in the prosperity and effectiveness of these institutions. If for any reason they do not supply in adequate numbers ministers possessing the spiritual and intellectual ability, the knowledge and the skill which fit them for the work of the church in their generation, the efficiency of the church must in the same measure be impaired.

In order that the purpose of the churches and the end of the seminaries may be attained, there must be intelligent, sympathetic, and active co-operation between them. If the work of the seminaries is to be adapted to the needs of the churches their teachers may not be simply closet scholars, absorbed head and heart in their investigations or speculations; they must have that acquaintance with the work of the ministry in our day which can only come from participation in its various activities. It is no less important that the churches should be familiar with the aims of the seminaries and the work which is being done in them through observation both of the process and the product. Such a manifestation of interest would be no less welcome than wholesome; suggestions or criticisms, especially those growing out of personal acquaintance with the results of seminary training in the ministry of our graduates, instructive and helpful. The closer the contact of the churches and their seminaries, the better we shall understand one another, and the more effectively we shall work together for the one end.

I have premised these general and self-evident remarks upon the mutual relations of the seminaries and the churches, that we may come to the consideration of the special topic assigned to me, “The rightful claims of the Theological Seminaries upon the Churches,” in agreement as to the nature and ground of the obligations. The seminaries claim nothing as due to them for their own sake, as though they had ends and interests distinct from those of the churches. They may rightly expect from the churches everything that is necessary to enable them to do with the greatest efficiency the work for which they have been instituted by the church, the raising up for the churches in generation after generation, of a godly, able, learned, and zealous ministry.

I. The seminaries must look to the churches for the men whom they are to educate for the ministry, as the churches look to the seminaries for the men who are to serve them in the ministry. The church needs a constant supply of ministers fitted by grace, culture, and training to fill its pulpits and chairs, to direct its missionary and benevolent activities, or labor in them, and to do the work of the master in a wide variety of service. But the church cannot get what it does not give. Unless it dedicates to the ministry its sons in sufficient numbers, it will suffer from lack of men bred in our traditions and trained in our way; if it does not dedicate the best of its sons it cannot fail to suffer an even more serious loss through a falling off in the quality of the ministry.

No one would dispute the truth of these propositions, but there must be some failure in the application. There were never so many young men in our churches as to-day ; they never entered more actively into the life and work of the churches; there never was so large a proportion of them who have the advantages and opportunities of education ; there was never more religious activity in our colleges; yet the number of those who are preparing for the ministry is relatively smaller than at any time, I suppose, within the memory of the oldest of us.

It is, moreover, a current impression, though one that cannot be brought to the test of statistics, that among students of theology the proportion of men of high culture or distinguished ability, who shall be men of light and leading in the church, is smaller than in a former generation.

It is not incumbent upon us here to analyze the numerous and diverse causes which have brought about this result; but one potent cause indubitably is that the need of men in the ministry, and the great opportunities of usefulness which it opens to able and devoted men, are not set before the young men in our churches as they ought to be. There was a time when almost every Christian young man of ordinary ability and advantages was invited and urged by his pastor, teachers, parents or friends seriously to consider the claims of the ministry, or advised to fit himself for it. Doubtless the advice was sometimes injudicious, the urgency misplaced; but it is surely even more unwise, and in the long run more injurious, to neglect the responsibility altogether, trusting that those who are really the men for the ministry will find their way into it without our guidance. Those who have the future of the church at heart should see to it that the twofold call to the ministry, its opportunity and its difficulty, together with the motives which should lead a man to enter it, should be presented wisely and warmly to young men who by the possession of gifts of nature and of grace give promise of usefulness in the church; as we should kindly but candidly advise those who have some manifest disqualification for the ministry to seek a field of extra usefulness in some other calling.

Co-operative with the lack of active effort to recruit the ministry from their best men in our churches are certain general influences which work potently to keep men out of it. We must remember that young men see the ministry from the outside and in comparison with other callings, and that they perceive some of its disadvantages more clearly than those of other professions because the minister's life is public beyond that of most other men. They see, then, that the ministry as a class have small incomes, sometimes collected like a charity and tardily and grudgingly paid ; and that in many communities its members are not held in very high esteem. The common way to a settlement, by competing as a candidate with a dozen or a score of others, appears to a man of spirit a gratuitous humiliation; he has observed that the ordinary tenure of office is very short, and seems to depend on the minister's being able to please everybody theologically oratorically, and socially — a task which in the independence of youth he thinks difficult enough in itself, and still more difficult to reconcile with the duty of speaking the truth fully and fearlessly; the arts by which promotion is often sought and gained appear degrading to the office, the church, and the man.

He remarks in addition to this, that men of ripe experience and in the full vigor of middle life are frequently regarded as superannuated; he hears from churches which are suffering violence from candidates and from ministers who cannot get a hearing that “there are too many ministers.” He sees the vulgar competition and petty jealousies of rival denominations in over-churched towns. He has heard more than enough of the carping criticisms to which a minister and his household are often subjected. It would be strange if many a young man, entirely dependent on his own exertions for his livelihood, should not turn away without much consideration from a calling in which there does not seem to be any urgent need of him, and in which he has only too good reason to doubt whether he will be able to support and educate his family and make a modest provision for his declining years, or for the not improbable contingency of being laid aside before old age. I am not representing these as the prevailing conditions of the ministry; they are not. But they are common enough to repel many men from the ministry; and it is unfortunately, the most sensitive and self-respecting on whom they are likely to make the greatest impression. For these evils, again, there is no remedy but a sound and effective public opinion in the churches at large.

II. The seminaries must look to the churches also to uphold them in maintaining a high standard of general and special preparation for the ministry. The Puritan churches have a history in this regard of which they may justly be proud. Out of their poverty our forefathers founded academies, colleges, and in due time theological seminaries, that they might have a learned as well as a godly ministry. They did not think that earnest but uninstructed piety, or fluent and orotund utterance, or the art of " mixing” with people and being a “good fellow," or all these qualities together, fitted a man for the office of “pastor and teacher” among them. They expected their ministry to be powerful in the Scripture, with the power of thorough knowledge, to be well versed in theology, and to hold the truth and be able to expound it in an orderly, reasonable, and convincing way. Our Congregational churches have in the past generally upheld this ideal, even in periods of expansion, when the demand for more men for new fields seemed to give a valid reason for lowering the requirements. Other branches of the church, which formerly did not lay so much stress on the education of the ministry, have come to realize the need of it, and are making great efforts to raise the standard of preparation. The great progress of general education in the last quarter of a century, the largely increased number of thoroughly educated men in other callings, the improvement in the higher secondary schools, and their evident influence, make it impossible that the ministry should maintain its influence without liberal culture and thorough knowledge of their own profession of theology in a broad sense.

The seminaries, recognizing this, have striven to meet the need of the modern ministry by insisting more strictly upon a previous collegiate education; by broadening their courses of study and adapting them to new demands; and by exacting of their students diligent and thorough work. But while they can maintain a high standard for admission and for graduation, they cannot impose it upon the churches. And among the churches there are disquieting signs of a disposition to relax the demand for an educated ministry.

« PreviousContinue »