« PreviousContinue »
early life from their straitened circumstances. Education Societies are proceeding then, substantially, upon a plan which has been in use five hundred years. If this method of charitable aid had been unwise, if it had fostered indolent habits, if it had weakened the sense of moral obligation, or the motives for personal exertion in any considerable degree, would it not have been discovered in less time than five centuries? Some of the ablest men in every department of Church and State in England received their education in the charitable schools in and around the metropolis. The names of the Grants and the Thorntons of that country are written high on the same imperishable scroll as the Ab bots, Boudinots, Phillipses, and Bartlets of our own land. Two hundred years ago, forty-four students, preparing for the ministry, were supporied at Oxford and Cambridge Universities by an Education Society, framed with an exact system of rules, among whose trustees were Richard Baxter and Ralph Cudworth.
The plan is a wise one, from its peculiar adaptation to the state of our country.
A great proportion of the families in the free States, probably from one-half to two-thirds are unable to defray the expenses of a liberal education for their sons. With frugal habits they can live comfortably from year to year. But to dispense with the asssistance of the son, just at the age when his services begin to be valuable, and in addition, io expend directly six or eight hundred dollars, is entirely out of the question. Occasionally a young man of extraordinary energy will force his way over every impediment, and become, as it is said, the architect of his own fortune. There have been instances of this kind so marked that some have argued that we might rely upon this spontaneous, unassisted movement to fill the ranks of the ministry. Every youth, it has been contended, who is worth educating will, in some way or other, get the means. We reverse the order of Providence when we take away the motives for self-reliance.
But why, it may be asked, did not this self-supporting plan succeed before Education Societies were formed in our country? Why were not the ranks of the ministry full in 1816? On the contrary, why was there such a deplorable state of things in the lack of ministers, that there was a simultaneons inquiry all over the country : What shall be done? Here was, certainly, a long and favorable time in which to
try the experiment. There had been at the close of the last century, and at the beginning of this, extensive revivals of religion. And yet the ranks of the ministry remained mournfully and increasingly deficient. Why then did not a compelent number of these self-sustaining men enter the sacred profession? The failure shows, indubitably, that no adequate dependence can be placed on this source.
Again, the aid that is rendered enables the student to proceed in his calling without distracting anxieties. Nothing is more harassing to a scholar than perpetual pecuniary embarrassment, than the dread of incurring liabilities which he has no prospect of meeting. The mind must be free in order to act well. Depressing anxiety from any source cripples the will, palsies the resolution, and leaves the poor subject, in the midst of his unaccomplished studies, the prey of melancholy, if not of misanthropy. There are indeed some hardy spirits who can climb over these formidable steeps by the aid of a powerful body and an indomitable will. But their education will be marred and imperfect. It was a wise man who said that those separated themselves who would seek and intermeddle with all wisdom. Leisure, retirement, a tranquil state of the emotions, opportunities for acquiring habits of patient thinking, are absolutely necessary for one who is to be the public teacher of his fellow men. He will have experience enough of the stormy ocean which he is to buffet. He will not need to be in the ministry more than six months to learn by heart several chapters in the book of human experience. How inestimable, ihen, will be those mental and moral habits which will enable him to pursue his way with quiet decision, but which cannot be acquired, ordinarily, if the griping hand of poverty has been upon him in his preparatory course. And if he is properly educated, he will not be a novice in the science of human nature. He has studied those books which have given him an insight into the subject, especially the book of his own heart, and as face answerech to face, so doth the heart of man to man.
There are three ways of rendering this assistance ; through private individuals, by a single church, or by an organized association. On the first method, no certain dependence can be placed. There is liule responsibility. There will be no knowledge of a thousand cases of promising talent and piety. And it is generally an ungracious task to apply to an individ
ual for pecuniary aid. The most deserving young men would be least inclined to do so.
To the second method, there are insuperable objections. The members of a church are liable to be biassed for or against one of their own number. The youthful prophet, in these days, is frequently without honor in his own country. A church is not always the best judge of the literary promise of an individual. And then he must, almost necessarily, have a feeling of dependence upon his patrons, which does not exert the best influence upon his character. If there is a decided failure, the cause itself will be prejudiced in the view of that church for at least one generation.
Now an association comes in to his relief, with a well-digested plan, with rules which have had the test of many years' experiment, having no partialities for a particular part of the country, no favorite seminary of learning, but the impartial friend of all that will comply with its conditions.
It proposes to introduce into the ministry men of promising piety and of thorough education. And if there ever was a necessity for these two qualifications, they are indispensa
What but piety can sustain the minister as he looks over his afflicted and distracted country? What but an unwavering trust in God can give him the heart to pray for his native land, when the flood-gates of the depravity of the old world are opened upon us, when patriotism in our ru lers seems to be merged in a reckless party spirit, when pestilent religious delusions are popular in proportion to their absurdity and impiety.
Again, a thorough education for the ministry was never more urgently demanded than it is now. Never had the youthful preacher more occasion to be clad in the panoply of the Gospel. No language can adequately express the importance of his being familiar with the doctrines of the Gospel, with their mutual relations, and with the best methods by which they may be defended.
At no time since the Protestant Reformation has it been of more vital consequence to him to be versed in the history of the Church. Nothing would more contribute to his steadfastness, or to his power to grapple with the disorders of the present day. Scarcely any thing could furnish more-pertinent proofs and illustrations to aid him in his work of preaching the Gospel, and of guiding the souls of men.
So likewise in respect to the interpretations of the Scriptures ; when multitudes are wresting them to their own destruction, puuting upon them arbitrary meanings, deducing false inferences, placing their credibility on a sandy foundation, and exposing them to become the object of ulter contempt. How imperative, then, is it upon every one who goes out into this world of delusion, that he should be armed at all points, well trained, thoroughly furnished.
But no less imperative is it that these youthful champions should not be borne down by pecuniary embarrassments in the early stages of their education ; that they should be aided so that they may enjoy a season of unbroken preparation.
If there be one agency which can save our great nation from going the way of every other republic-which can prevent her from becoming the scoff and jeer of all coming time, it is the agency which might be put forth in Education and Home Mission Societies. The latter are doing a service to our country worth more than all our fleets, and armies, and Congresses combined.
It is often said that our only hope is in revivals of religion. But can these be expected-we had almost said, how are they possible—without an able, stated, numerous ministry? Without it, they are certain to end in the wild fire of the fanatic.
In pleading for the Education Society, we feel that we are pleading for one of the two or three instrumentalities which are to save our nation, and without which our power to bless the pagan world cannot exist. To let it languish is suicidal. We may depend upon it that it is an agency which is vital to the existence of every other.
We feel no envy at the success of the Foreign Missionary Society. Rather we rejoice ibat the friends of Christ have gathered round her in her darkest hours, and nobly sustained her. The churches of our land have given a most honorable testimony to their sense of the value of the Bible, in contributing more than three hundred thousand dollars in a year of pressing pecuniary embarrassment. That Society is of inestimable benefit in awakening and keeping alive a spirit of benevolence. All other institutions feel ihe salutary influence of this. No other could supply her place. She nobly goes in the van.
SECOND SERIES, VOL. VIII. NO. ll. 13
At the same time, her operations cannot proceed prosperously if the Education Society is abandoned. If the intimate eonnection of the two Societies is not seen now, it will be three years hence.
Just so will it be with other benevolent Societies. If you dry up the spring, you dry up the streams. If you break the connection at one point, you do at all others.
It has often occurred to us, that the people of the more favored parts of the Eastern States, of all others, will be led to judge erroneously in this matter, unless they cast their eye beyond their own small horizon. There is no want of ministers here. Why the necessity of increasing their number? But because there is no lack of civil liberty in this country, we might just as well argue that there is no lack in Spain, in Austria, in Turkey. Because we have an abundance of food, because the harvests are' spreading and waving all around us, there are not fourteen hundred thousand persons in England starving at this moment. Because we live on a green island, an oasis of plenty, there is not a continent of barren and burning sand streiching all around us. Because we happen to see no spiritual want, therefore there is none in our immense western regions.
But let us lift up our eyes and look over the mountains. Let us believe credible and overwhelming testimony. Let our faith, if our eye cannot, affect our heart. Let us act as those ought to act who live, as we had almost said, in the garilen of Eden. Let us feel, pray, labor to save our beloved country from the doom which seems to be menacing her more and more every day.