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FOR JANUARY, 1840.
Art. I. 1. Report of the Committee of Homerton College. 1839. 2. Report of the Bristol Education Society for 1839. 3. Report of the Committee of Highbury College. 1839. 4. Report of the Committee of the Baptist College at Stepney for
1839. 5. Report of the General Committee of Spring Hill College, Birming
ham, for the Session, 1838–1839. 6. Report of the Committee of the Baptist College at Bradford for
THE following article on the Theological Colleges of the two
large denominations by which our review is principally read, is written, we beg leave to state at the outset, without the slightest disposition to croak. Quite the contrary. While these institutions present some defects which in our opinion may be supplied—and these we shall honestly endeavour to point out--and while they admit of some improvements—which we shall take the liberty to suggest--we conscientiously think, that they present far more reason for exultation than depression; and that
the whole they were never in so healthy and efficient a state as they are at this moment. Not only has the system of instruction in many of our older colleges been gradually enlarged to meet the exigencies of the times, but other colleges, entirely new, have recently sprung up, and promise both by the experiments they have an opportunity of making, and the healthy reaction which they cannot but produce, to exert a most salutary influence. It is but fair, also, to admit that many of the defects of which we shall have to complain, and which still circumscribe the usefulness of some of our colleges, arose out of the necessities of a past age; the demands of a perishing population were then out of all proportion to the
means of meeting them. Finally, it is no more than justice to add, that many of these evils have already been partially corrected. We write then only because we think that the defects in question may be still further remedied, and some additional improvements suggested in our general system of academical education.
Our readers will readily excuse us from entering into any controversy with those, whether. Plymouth Brethren, or called by whatsoever other name, who imagine that the church of Christ is to be supplied with an adequate and efficient ministry without any system of ministerial education at all. To any persons but themselves such opinions appear to be too absurd to need refutation, while those who are weak enough to hold them are not likely to perceive the force of it. Two observations only we shall offer on this subject, for the benefit of those who may be in danger of adopting any such extravagancies. The first is, that the people of this age are certainly as little likely as those of any, to listen with much attention to men whom they do not think fully equal to themselves; as well informed on general subjects, and somewhat better informed on those in which they have undertaken to set up as public instructors. This feeling exists at least as strongly in the ignorant and uneducated as in the classes above them; perhaps we might say more so. It is scarcely once in a century that we hear of any considerable audiences being attracted by a man who has not had the advantages of education, either imparted by others, or supplied by his own industry; and never, we believe in all ecclesiastical history is there an instance of any considerable number of persons being collected and held together by a man absolutely illiterate; by any man, who was not, both in capacity and knowledge, many degrees above the mass of those who listened to his instructions. Something like an equality in general knowledge, and decided superiority in those branches which he aspires to teach, are proved by all experience to be necessary to the maintenance of the teacher's general influence (especially over the minds of the young and the ignorant), to insure respectful attention to the instructions communicated, and to impart to them their proper efficacy. Let a persuasion once take possession of the minds of an audience that the preacher is below the mass of his hearers, and all improvement is at an end. People may listen to criticise, perhaps to laugh, but they cease to be disciples.
Nor is it merely in relation to the duties of the pulpit that this general superiority is so desirable. In these times of extensive combination, and varied methods of doing good, a minister may be quite as useful out of the pulpit as ever he can be in it. Now such superiority alone will enable him to avail himself to the full of these opportunities of usefulness; this alone will confer upon him a prominent station in his immediate locality,
will qualify him for taking a leading part in the organization and working of important societies, and give that weight to his judgment which is inseparable from a reputation for welldisciplined intellect and extensive knowledge. But to secure such a position, and to acquire credit for such qualities as can alone secure it, efficient training and thorough education are absolutely necessary. To the truth of these observations all history and present experience bear loud testimony. Those who have been most useful, whether in the pulpit or out of it; who have most deeply impressed their own character on that of the age ; who have not merely attracted and retained the largest audiences, but have exerted the strongest influence in their immediate neighbourhoods and throughout the church at large ; who have taken the most prominent part in the formation and the advocacy of all comprehensive schemes of benevolence and piety, have certainly been by no means destitute of education. Not only so; but cæteris paribus, that is, the measure of intellect and other natural endowments being the same, their general influence in nine cases out of ten, is exactly proportioned to the degree in which that inlellect has been disciplined and those endowments cultivated. Some of them, it is true, may not have received any prolonged academical advantages, a few of them, none at all; but they confirm the general rule, inasmuch as they have either received an excellent early education, or, being men of great natural energy of mind, they have supplied all deficiencies by their own indomitable industry, and have thus attained their position by the same vehicle, only by another route. We appeal to the whole history of the church in corroboration of these remarks. It was thus with the Reformers; it was thus with our Puritan and Nonconformist forefathers, who came forth from the seclusion of long study with minds well disciplined and richly stored with various knowledge; it was thus these men were rendered capable of easily performing tasks at which we stand aghast with wonder, of enduring labors with which few of modern times would like to compare their own, and of achieving good beyond all comparison greater than now attends the labors of the generality of our ministers. It was thus, too, with Whitfield and Wesley, who though not men of profound attainments, had both enjoyed those advantages of education of which they were not sufficiently solicitous that their successors should participate. It has been thus with all the most eminent men who have appeared in the societies they established ; if they have not studied at colleges, they have been compelled to make up their deficiencies by their own industry. In other words, they have not attained their position without considerable acquisitions, though it matters not to the present argument in what way those acquisitions were made. It has been thus, also, with all the most eminent missionaries; with Martyn, Schwartz,
Corrie, Morrison, and Carey.* Were it not invidious, and indeed needless (for the memory of the reader will immediately supply examples) we could mention scores of living instances to the truth of these observations. On the other hand, we have tasked our memory, and tasked it in vain, to supply a single instance of an illiterate man attaining and keeping a position in which he could by possibility be extensively useful, or exert a wide and permanent influence on the general mind.
The second observation is, that if these things be so, it were nothing less than midsummer madness' to expect that the exigencies of the church could be supplied by accident. To hope that men, already well educated, fitted for other professions, perhaps already engaged in them, and thus not only destitute of early training for the specific work of the ministry, but debarred both by their age and the habits derived from other occupations from availing themselves of it, should offer themselves in sufficient numbers to meet the extensive demands of the church and the world, is of all things the most chimerical. A large portion, moreover, of those who upon the present system, are ultimately found amongst the most useful ministers, would be at once rejected, since they can neither afford the time nor the money to qualify themselves for their important functions by those advantages of education which we have already proved to be so essential.
On this point then we shall say no more ; we are confident that few of our readers will be inclined to impugn the statement that an efficient ministry must be an educated one.
With respect to the extent to which that education should be carried there may be, and there is diversity of opinion. On this subject, which has frequently engaged our most serious attention, we shall proceed to develop our views with all that freedom with which it is necessary to discuss opinions in order to elicit truth; but at the same time with much timidity, being fully conscious of the difficulties which beset it. Our thoughts may to some appear crude; they very probably are so; but if they lead to the full discussion of the subject on the part of those to whom the chief management of our academical institutions is entrusted, our end will be answered.
* Here again we are far from meaning that all these individuals enjoyed much early education, though many of them did, or that their extensive knowledge was of the kind taught at colleges ; but we mean that they all added to whatever capacity they possessed, the advantage of well-disciplined faculties and extensive information—the latter by the labour implied in its acquisition insuring the former. Those, indeed, who had not received carly advantages, obtained the same results by a longer process and through greater difficulties—an argument surely for a thorough early training ; but none of them ever reached eminence without such qualifications.