Page images

the writer will not conceal from them the fact, that for their benefit it is chiefly intended. We may then proceed to observe,

That the very nature of the ministerial office is such as to require a greater degree of knowledge than any other calling whatever. The minister is a teacher; and an untaught teacher, even in the lowest branch of elementary science, would be a solecism too gross for the reception of the most illiterate. He is not barely a teacher in the ordinary acceptation of that term, but a teacher of the most elevated character. There are gradations in science. Intellectual science rises above that of physics, and moral science is above intellectual. Theology embraces the other as its subordinate branches; but rising up into the spiritual world, and bringing man in contact with the Infinite mind, it takes a wider range, and occupies a more elevated position, than any other subject whatever. In the discharge of his high functions, the minister will find himself called back to the ages of antiquity; its history, civil jurisprudence, religion, manners, and customs, will all come in review before him. His Bible will lead him to the study of ancient geography, poetry, and language. It will call him into the wide field of morals; it will bring him in contact with man as an intellectual, social, moral, and immortal being, and raise his conceptions to the throne of the Eternal, to study his government and attributes. The bare idea of attempting these high subjects in a style of incoherent rhapsody, or attempting to bring them before a congregation in broken sentences and inappropriate terms, is revolting in the extreme, Well may it be said of such a work as that of the Christian ministry

"No post on earth affords a place
Of equal honor or disgrace."

We may learn the importance of a well instructed ministry from the practice of the founder of Christianity. I am well aware that superficial observers have supposed the Author of Christianity to have shown a decided preference for an illiterate ministry. "They were not the doctors of the law, the learned scribes, or men of wisdom, which he chose, but men from the fishing-boats of the sea of Galilee." We grant all this; but does this argue aught in favor of an ignorant ministry? Did he not choose men of very superior native talent? and did he not keep them under his own immediate tuition for the space of three years? Besides all this, did he not endow them with supernatural gifts, enabling them to preach in the different languages of the people to whom they were sent? Still further, did he not put the seal of his approbation upon learning in the most decided manner, by employing the most learned man among them to pen fourteen of the epistles of the New Testament? And lest there should be any mistake on this point, did he not direct his apostle to commend study and improvement, in his inspired directions to Timothy? "Give attendance to reading." Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."


The emergencies of the country require an intelligent ministry. The institutions of learning, our schools, academies, and colleges are, at present, chiefly in the hands, and under the guidance, of reli. gious men. Following up the precedent set us by our pilgrim

forefathers, who erected the school-house and the church as some of the first buildings in their infant settlements, we have continued learning under the patronage of religion; and in this the ministry has taken the lead. Our success has justified the wisdom of both those who set and those who followed the example. A liberal government, laws characterized by simplicity and efficiency, a prosperous community, and a peaceful and flourishing religion, have been established. But infidelity, ever restless and reckless, having nothing to lose and every thing to gain by change, has of late shown symptoms bearing no equivocal character of a disposition to take the institutions of learning and the literature of the land into its own hands. It would hurl every minister from the seats of learning, and break at once and for ever the connection between the ministry and the forming of the minds of our youth. It would fain poison the fountains of intelligence, would write the books, edit the periodical literature of the day, and infuse itself into the entire mind of the nation.

If it could not get possession of the existing institutions of learning, it would destroy them; if it could not accomplish all by force, it would resort to stealth. If, coming in undisguised colors, its native ugliness should prove revolting, and it should be met by the glance of suspicion, it would be willing for a time to assume the garb of piety itself; and associating itself with the name of a free and easy religion, it would be willing to worship in the temples of Universalism, et cetera.

What would be the result should success crown the efforts of the secret and open foes of religion, we are at no loss to determine. France has already sat for the portrait: her infidel philosophers succeeded in corrupting the literature of the country, and then wrote out the true character and tendencies of their sentiments in the blood of the nation! "As the heathens fabled that Minerva issued full armed from the head of Jupiter, so no sooner were the speculations of atheistical philosophy matured than they gave birth to a ferocity which converted the most polished people in Europe into a horde of assassins-the seat of voluptuous refinement, of pleasure, and of arts, into a theatre of blood."

"The efforts of infidels to diffuse the principles of infidelity among the common people is an alarming symptom peculiar to the present time. Hume, Bolingbroke, and Gibbon addressed themselves solely to the more polished classes of the community, and would have thought their refined speculations debased by an attempt to enlist disciples from among the populace. Infidelity has of late grown condescending. Bred in the speculations of a daring philo. sophy, immured at first in the cloisters of the learned, and afterward nursed in the lap of voluptuousness and of courts, having at length reached its full maturity, it boldly ventures to challenge the suffrages of the people, solicits the acquaintance of peasants and mechanics, and seeks to draw whole nations to its standard.3

This picture, drawn originally with more special reference to Europe, is equally true of the actual state of things in the United States. A person not acquainted with the actual posture of affairs in our cities and villages, particularly among mechanics, would be * Robert Hall's Sermon on Modern Infidelity.

surprised to learn with what diligence, (and generally by stealth,) infidel books and pamphlets have been circulated. They have been put into the hands of youth, and even children; and often, while their pious parents were praying for their conversion, the abettors of infidelity have been industriously poisoning their minds with the most insidious and destructive skepticism. Need it be added, that the emergencies of the times require not only a deeply pious and untiringly zealous, but also a well instructed ministry. We need men for this work well read in the evidences of revealed religion, able to draw the line of discrimination between the impostures of Mohammed and the truths of Christianity, between the lying wonders of paganism and popery and the miracles of Jesus, between the ambiguous oracles of heathenism and the inspired predictions of those men" who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." We need men able to unravel the dextrous coils of sophistry in which error enwraps itself; men, whose thorough acquaintance with man, not barely in the abstract, but as he thinks, feels, and acts in society, shall enable them to lay open the hidden springs of the human heart, and show his auditors themselves in true colors.

The general diffusion of knowledge among all classes of the community is such as imperatively demands an intelligent and well trained ministry. Let it be remembered, that "it is not so much the duty of ministers to follow examples as to set them." They occupy a conspicuous position. Their office leads them into the van of the advancing host. They are expected to be among the first in whatever advances the general good. Under these circumstances for a minister to possess a mind untrained and destitute of mental furniture is to expose himself to mortification, and his office and character to contempt. A mental sluggard in his study, he will be a blunderer in the pulpit, and will soon be considered as an intruder into the sacred office by his brethren, while he will be set up as a laughing-stock by even school-boys.

The same qualifications which would have enabled a minister to pass very well thirty years since, will not answer for these times. Institutions of learning were not then multiplied as at present; and those that did exist, particularly the elementary schools, did not compare with those now in operation. With the improvements already made, and those projected and in progress, no inconsiderable share of science is likely to be brought to every man's door. History, the philosophy of language, geometry, chimistry, natural philosophy, the elements of astronomy, physiology, the elements of moral and intellectual science, and composition, are already taught in some of our common schools, and likely soon to be quite generally introduced. Books on all these subjects are multiplied, and cheap. Now no proposition in mathematics is more demonstrable than that the ministry, the public teachers of religion, must keep in advance of the general intelligence of society, or lose its influence over the public mind. The same acquirements which pass at present will not do twenty years hence. The progress of learning in the ministry must be onward; and those whom it may concern will do well to look to it that they do not introduce mere "novices" in learning into the sacred office.

The state of the nation demands an intelligent and influential ministry. In this country every thing is in motion. Nothing seems so permanently settled as not to be subject to frequent fluctuation. Towns, villages, states, and even nations, are rising up around us, as if by the influence of magic. Not only whole families, but nearly whole neighborhoods are found removing from one part of the continent to another. Let any one mark the line of our seaboard, where thousands of emigrants are pouring in from the old world; let him trace our great thoroughfares, our rivers, railroads, canals, and turnpikes; let him look into our public vehicles; let him look at the waves of our population rolling westward; let him turn his eye to Texas, where a nation, "like a young giant, is rushing up to manhood;" let him not forget the Oregon territory, where the germ of a nation has already made its appearance; let him also take into account the mania for speculation and money-making with which this nation has already run mad; and then, remembering that the gospel ministry, with the subordinate agencies under its control, is to be the chief instrument in infusing the moral elements which are to guide and save the millions spreading over this vast continent, let him ask himself, if a ministry endowed with gifts both solid and durable, as well as grace burning and self-sacrificing, is not required to meet the emergencies of the times.

The condition of our own beloved Zion-our own branch of the church-requires a well instructed ministry. As a church, we have grown up with unparalleled rapidity. Providence sent Methodism to these shores, and Providence opened "a great and effectual door" before it. It is within the memory of men still living when there was not a Methodist church in the United States. Now our numbers are greater than those of any other evangelical church within the limits of the nation. A necessary consequence attendant upon our rapid growth is that, until quite recently, we have not been able to turn our attention to the promotion of the cause of education to any considerable extent. The result was, that those of our youth who were in pursuit of an education were obliged to seek it in institutions under the influence and control of other denominations. As might be expected, many became alienated, or were drawn from us. The ranks of our ministry were often impoverished by young men of piety and promise going out among others to seek literary advantages which we could not give them, and finally connecting themselves with other ecclesiastical bodies.

To see our young men drawn from us in this way-young men for whom we had labored and prayed, and over whom we had rejoiced as children born into our spiritual household, was by no means agreeable. We felt that it was due to them and ourselves to make provision for them. Moreover, we felt bound also in honor, and by Christian principle, to contribute of the ability which we at length possessed in advancing the general cause of education. Accordingly we have succeeded in establishing seminaries of learning, academies and colleges, under our own patronage and influence. These institutions have rapidly filled up; they have been favored by the God of providence, and blessed by the Spirit of divine grace. The result has already been of a very cheering character.

But the point had in view at the commencement of these obser

vations, and which is of the utmost moment, is this: These institutions are fast raising up among us an intelligent and well instructed laity, and one which will expect and require a corresponding ministry. It is vain, under any circumstances, to expect an intelligent laity will sit under an uninformed ministry.

We therefore reiterate the sentiment, the minister must keep ahead of his auditors. If he do not, he will inevitably lose his influence over the most influential and valuable of his hearers, and drive them into other churches. For ourselves, we are fully convinced that the ministry of our church is capable of being one of the most efficient on the face of the earth. Let us maintain and improve our piety; let us retain our simplicity and zeal; let us be pastors, as well as preachers; let us continue, as from the beginning, the spirit of self-sacrifice; let us never give up our impassioned style of address, but continue to speak as though we were in earnest; and then let us follow out the intention of Mr. Wesley who penned, and our fathers who adopted, the rule found in section xvi, pages 59 and 60 of our Discipline; let us get all the learning we can, particularly that which more immediately concerns our calling, and the followers of Wesley will be second in efficiency to none on earth. "It was once remarked of the preachers of the Methodist Church by a learned infidel, that, were they only panoplied in the literary armor which is worn by the preachers of some other sects, they would, in five years, make a conquest of the world." Were we panoplied in all the literary armor the world could furnish, and did we possess the unction and energy of a Paul, we should not probably be favored with so sudden and extensive a conquest as this eulogy of our zeal would imply. But, with the learning and zeal which we may call to our aid, we may be privileged with acting a successful part, at least, in the great warfare against sin and the powers of darkness.

As to the means of bringing about an improvement, and meeting the wants of the church in the particular which forms the subject of this article, that must be left to those who may be selected to represent the church in her highest ecclesiastical council, and to the bishops and annual conferences. The writer may, however, be permitted to observe, that if there could be a greater number of examinations of the candidates for sacred orders among us, and if they could be more thorough, it would be for the mutual advantage of all concerned. Why should there not be a rule requiring an examination into the literary acquirements, as well as the piety and native gifts, of those who ask a recommendation to the annual conferences from the quarterly conferences? This could be done either before the quarterly conference, or before a committee, by the presiding elder; or in case he should not be present, or should desire it, by some senior minister; or some one or two ministers, with the presiding elder, might do it. Then, why should not the examinations be extended to four years, instead of two? And, again, why not examine candidates every year, and report upon their cases to the conference? Our system, too, might, with advantage to the church, require four years' probation before admission into full connection. It would then be a year shorter than that required by our Wesleyan



VOL. X.-July, 1839.

« PreviousContinue »