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The Theological Seminary and Foreign Missions.
The origin of foreign missions in New England was contemporary with that of theological seminaries. The first known instance within the present century of personal consecration to the foreign service was by an undergraduate at Williams College, the same year that Andover Seminary was founded; while the first class from that Seminary graduated the same year with the organization of the American Board. It will always remain a suggestive incident that Mr. John Norris of Salem, being deeply impressed with the claims of missions, and often uttering the sentiment, “ The missionary object is the greatest in the world !” was at first disposed to give only five thousand dollars toward an endowment at Andover ; but on the suggestion of his wife, that the two objects are the same, he made the amount ten thousand dollars. Later, his widow bequeathed thirty thousand to the Seminary, and an equal sum in aid of missions to the heathen.
Among the fathers, founders, and early officers of the institution whose semi-centenary we celebrate to-day, there was not wanting a regard to the interests of foreign evangelism. They were men neither of narrow minds nor of shriveled sympathies. Among them were those who had weighed seriously the duty of going in person to the heathen ; who prayed for the universal spread of the Gospel, whose contributions to that object were not small, though they made large sacrifices for the new Seminary. One of them gave a son to Africa, where he has already spent thirty-five years of Christian service among the Zulus. We might expect that such a spirit would impart character, in some good measure, to the sentiment of successive classes of students. Recent correspondence with living alumni who have been, or are now in foreign fields, bears testimony that the monthly concert of prayer was maintained here with interest; that the missionary meetings of Tuesday evening were far the best ; that seldom did a student absent himself; that a union of those contemplating foreign work was early formed, and that love for missions was sustained by the personal interest of the Professors. “I spent but one year—my senior year-in Hartford Seminary," writes a graduate, “but it is a year full of blessed memories, because it brought me nearer to Christ; gave me an intense longing to know and do only his will; to seek souls, not place; to labor anywhere and in any way that might best promote the glory of Him who redeemed us with his most precious blood. Willingness to labor as a foreign missionary became in Hartford Seminary a decision to do so, if God should open the way.”
An alumnus who has for ten years had charge of a mission theological seminary, expresses the conviction, in a letter just received, that all candidates for the ministry, including those for foreign service, should become familiarized with the principles and leading methods of evangelistic work abroad as well as at home, not that a training-school for missionaries should be established, but that in the lecture-rooms of existing institutions there should be instruction beyond what is generally given at present. This falls in with the theme assigned to me—the place of missions in a theological curriculum; and it is a happy circumstance that what I have to say can be said without the least comparative reflection upon the past or the present of Hartford Seminary.
As regards distinct, formal instruction on this subject, what is the condition of things in training-schools for the ministry throughout our land! The question is not whether interest in missions has been felt, and whether, in the department of church history, more or less of instruction has been given ; but the question is, What status has Evangelistic Theology, as a branch by itself? Not till January, 1867, was permanent provision made for distinct instruction in this line, at any one of our professional schools. The endowment of the Hyde
Lectureship of Foreign Missions in the Andover Seminary, with a fund of five thousand dollars, less than a score of years since, marked an epoch in ministerial training. Nothing could be more appropriate than that the oldest seminary in our country-save, perhaps, that of the Moravians, at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania—the foster mother of so many sons who have entered foreign missionary fields, should take the lead in an an arrangement of this kind. True, fifty years ago the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, with a breadth of enterprise quite in advance of that period, instituted a chair at Princeton, with a special, though not exclusive regard to this subject; but it was filled for only a short time. Seven years after the founding of the Lectureship at Andover, the Union Theological Seminary of New York city established a mixed professorship of “pastoral theology, church polity and mission work,” and the incumbent lectures twice a week to the junior class, through the first term, on the subject last named. That was the next instance in which this department of ministerial propedeutics found recognition in a permanent organic form.
From a comparative survey of theological institutions in the United States, it would seem that those of the Methodist Episcopal Church come abreast with the most advanced in distinctness of aim as relates to this department. What else might be expected of a denomination in which the missionary idea is, to so commendable a degree, dominant-an idea which enters formally into the very constitution and prescribed administration of the church. The first seminary of that denomination, for theological training, was established at Concord, New Hampshire, in 1847; was twenty years afterwards removed to Boston, and is now the School of Theology connected with the Boston University. In its curriculum is a missionary course; but the elaborate plan has not been carried out, though it only awaits required funds. Yet for thirteen years past, a weekly lecture on some missionary topic has been supplied by one of the Faculty, and special courses are also occasionally delivered by gentlemen from outside. The Drew Theological Seminary at Madison, New
Jersey, announces that it aims to give due prominence to those kinds of instruction which are needed by students proposing to go as missionaries to foreign countries, and by ministers at home. They are referred to the best books on the history of missions, and are required to become particularly familiar with the history, the fields of labor and plans of action of their own missionary society. The subject is presented to them by lectures, with reference to those paragraphs of the church discipline which officially set forth the method of raising and appropriating funds—also to the annual reports of their missionary society. After explanations and sufficient time for consulting the references given, each man is required to be prepared to state exhaustively the whole topic or any part of it, with a view to his being qualified to present the claims of the society to any congregation, so as to secure its intelligent and liberal support.
The inquiry here arises, Where, in the field of institutional studies, a chair of missions may have place—what are its logical relationships? Biblical Theology supplies the startingpoint; and among urgent desiderata of the day-one worthy of the highest scholarship—is painstaking, exhaustive exegesis, together with inferential exposition of all Scriptures relating to the nature and compass of the Messianic Kingdom ; to the character, condition, and destiny of the unevangelized; to the universal need and universal adaptation of Christianity, and to its predicted triumphs.
Thence we would pass to the department of Practical Theology, and gather into systematic form, the teachings of our Lord and His Apostles, regarding the bounden aggressiveness of Christianity; the proper motives for evangelizing the heathen; the need of general consecration to the work; the power and need of prayer specifically for the coming of the Kingdom. The principles, forms, and proceedings of home organizations; the policies and methods of missions abroad, with a multitude of topics, will engage the instructor's attention. In both Biblical Theology and Biblical Ethics there would be left a domain too broad ever to be exhausted by their respective professors.
Then comes the obvious element which gives this subject a place in church history. There is certainly required a glance at primative gospel promulgation, including the causes and consequences of decline in evangelistic zeal; medieval missions; modern Roman Catholic propagandism; tentative Protestant efforts in the seventeenth century; the rise of organized evangelism among heathen nations at the beginning of the last century; the signal growth thereof at the close of that century and thence onward to the present time. There are now more than eighty foreign missionary societies, each of which has for its object what was the motto of one established in the Netherlands, 1797, “Peace through the blood of the cross,” each of which deserves notice, and some of which would require years of study. Portraits of heroes and heroines in the great enterprise would fill a gallery. So would the portraits of eminent converts from heathenism. No small space would be due to trials endured and obstacles encountered ; and among the latter might come the comparative study of false religions. Direct results are an ample and animating theme. Indirect results, in benefits accruing to commerce, to geography, ethnography, philology, and natural science, deserve consideration; and still more the reflex influence on churches at home, and the general culture of the community. These are topics but slightly touched upon at the present time in our seminaries, and topics which any professor of Ecclesiastical History would be glad to have treated by some able coadjutor. One attractive feature in this department is that a comparatively virgin soil presents itself, and there exist vast stores of undigested facts to be carefully explored, as well as great problems to be solved.
It must seem plain that there is here a broad field for cultivation, and that it is one for which no adequate specific provision has been made. Indeed schools of the prophets generally, with all the advances that have taken place, seem not to have kept pace with certain other institutions. There are lines of higher education in the United States which, during the fifty years that measure the life of this Seminary, furnish suggestive lessons. Look at schools of science, of which