« ПредишнаНапред »
not touch bottom. Figure aside, nothing would seem more likely than that the young man, who, on taking his parish charge, is thus confronted with sin in real life, rather than with sin in the books, and in place of cool theories of virtue and vice, of motive and conduct, meets the beating hearts of his fellow-men with the living tides of feeling and purpose coursing through them, should be appalled and disconcerted, and in his bewilderment and ignorance, should pattern bis conduct after some minister who has gone before him, and drive his theology in the rut which he has made for him. The chance is, that for years such a man will be worth little to his parish, except barely to keep alive in them the comfortable knowledge that they have some one regularly in their pulpit, and as the phrase is, are “enjoying the means of grace.' The chance, the probability, is, too, that such a person, if he ever recover himself, and is able to stand on his own feet, will carry not a few of the habits of his rawness and inexperience with him through life.
“But if, instead of being thus plunged suddenly into the unknown, untried realities of life, he had been introduced to them gradually, he would very likely have met them wisely, and from the outset would have been a better minister of the gospel. The old plan of educating candidates for the sacred office, in the study of some settled pastor, instead of in a herd, crowded in the class room of a professor, had the advantage, in this respect at least, over the arrangement now prevailing. It took the student day by day from his books to the practical work of the pastor. He rode with his teacher to visit the sick and the dying, and he practised the preaching art under the eye of the dominie, at the village school-house of an evening, or in the best room of some godly old farmer, when it was opened for the Saturday night ineeting for prayer and conference. Thus he was from the outset a kind of colleague pastor, and it was a comparatively slight transition from such a position to that of the sole charge of a parish. The thousand questions of the practical application of the gospel to actual life and conduct, which everywhere arise, had already come up, and in some mode had been solved.” (New Englander, Vol. XI, pp. 131, 132.)
In fact, the best friends of our older theological institutions feel the difficulties to which we have adverted, as sensibly as any; but hitherto no practical remedy has appeared.
But nowhere has the defect in our prevalent system of theological education been felt as a practical difficulty, so much as in the more recently settled portions of our country. If anything characterizes the people of our western states, it is their intense and universal practicalness. They wish to come right at the matter in hand, whatever it is. If good,
, they desire to know in what its goodness consists, and care little for the outward dress it wears. So, too, if they engage in wrong doing, they take little trouble to cloak the wrong under any garb of conventionalism or propriety. What in
some other regions would be spoken of, for instance, as a “shrewd piece of financiering,” they call simply “a steal,” and have done with it. In that rapidly forming society, life is too busy to leave time for much attention to the mere circumstances of things. If a man prays, he does not deem it necessary to begin with the admission of the federal headship and his complicity with Adam in sin, and come down thence through patriarchs and prophets, in order to get to Christ. Nor, if he is a Universalist, or an Infidel, will he be likely to take pains to conceal the fact on account of any supposed requisitions of respectability. Being thus eminently a practical, matter-of-fact people, the dwellers at the West need a ministry of correspondent character, educated in a method that shall make them as practical as their hearers. They will not listen to merely elegant essays. They feel that they cannot afford the time to be tickled with rhetoric, while yet they are by no means insensible to the power and charm of appropriate rhetoric. They take nothing upon trust, though a late able writer, not resident among them, has characterized them as being so religions, after the manner of the Athenians in the time of Paul, as to be ready to adopt almost any scheme of religion as soon as propounded.
Nor do they prize a truth or system overmuch because it is of this or that school. If a man knows how to deal with their reason and their conscience in the same downright way in which they themselves deal with them, they will respect him and listen to him, and the more willingly in proportion as he is able thus to convict them of their sinfulness; otherwise they will turn away.
What they want is, not less training in their ministers than others want, but a more practical training. There is no part of our country that so much needs for its ministry men thoroughly furnished with all the knowledge and intellectual culture and dialectic skill which our best colleges and seminaries can give. On this point Dr. Kitchel speaks well, and not without ample knowledge, in his charge to Prof. Haven. He says, speaking of the wants of the western churches : “Among these churches is every variety in respect to condition and
culture. They run through even a wider scale of variety than the churches in older regions. And every variety of ministerial qualities and gifts is demanded among them. There is no ripeness of scholarly culture, no breadth of mind or force of character that will not find fit field among us. If anywhere on earth the choicest endowments of nature and training are needed, it is in the ministry whom God is calling here to shape the irfancy of vast Christian communities, and to lay the foundations of a future such as rushes upon us Lere.”—(Proceedings, &c., p. 37.)
There is no part of our country or of the world, where the Christian ministry more need a thorough acquaintance with the history of the church in all ages, the history of doctrines, and the best training in biblical scholarship. It used to be thought, to a considerable extent, that if a man was unable to sustain himself in the ministry at the East, all he bad to do, in order to find a high place and to be caught at eagerly, was to migrate to the West. We believe that time and that notion are both in the past. On that great field of the West, as in no other portion of our land, are to be found all the elements of human character from all parts of the world, and all philosophies, and vagaries, and false religions there have open field in which to work. What is wanted for its niinisters, for their right instruction in things of highest moment, is the most thorough furnishing which study and scholarship can give; but along with this, the ability by means of a practical knowledge of mankind, their ways and wants, to apply all the furniture of the mind to the daily life of man, and to apply it from the very ontset of their ministry. There is too much time consumed, often, by the students of our seminaries, as hitherto constituted, in learning the use of their tools after they are sent out into the world and are supposed to be masters of their divine craft. Souls perish while they are learning how to save souls, not by the theoretic methods of the lecture room, but by the practical work of the ministry in the method of God's appointment.
Accordingly, it was felt by those most nearly concerned, that there was not only wanted for the West a larger supply of
the ministry of the word, but the supply of a different and a better ministry, in some respects, than they were getting or could get by the existing system of training. This feeling finally took shape in one of the northwestern states, about five years since. The project of a Theological Seminary, with some new and peculiar features, was presented at that time to the Association of Michigan. The subject was discussed and referred to a committee, which was ordered to report upon the matter at the next annual meeting. The committee, at the time appointed, reported favorably. Their report was adopted, and measures were taken to secure a conference with those concerned in other portions of the Northwest. It was soon found that the matter had been up for consideration almost at the same time, in four different states. These various movements led to the assembling of a convention, in the month of June, 1854, at Chicago, at which, these states were duly represented. The discussions which arose at this convention strengthened the general conviction that the time had arrived for a definite and decisive movement for the purpose of training up, on its own field and according to its peculiar wants, a ministry for the West, and as for the West, so for the world. Such was the feeling at this meeting, that a committee was appointed to digest a plan for a Theological Seminary, this plan to be laid before a larger convention to be assembled in the ensuing autumn, and the Rev. Stephen Peet, so long and widely known in the West, was secured to act as agent of the seminary that was so clearly to be. The second convention met at Chicago in September following, and was largely attended by ministers and delegates from the churches of six states. The plan reported to it was adopted, with some unessential modifications. The seminary was fully and finally resolved upon. Boards of directors and of visitors were appointed, and measures taken to secure a charter from the legislature of Illinois, Chicago having been already chosen as the location of the seminary. The directors, having secured the desired charter, met in March of the following year, appointed an executive committee, and a general agent in place of Mr. Peet, who had been removed by death, and thus set themselves at work to realize, as soon as might be, the expectations of the churches. After great and unforeseen difficulties, these expectations have been so far realized that, early in October last, the new seminary opened its doors, and received for instruction thirty students. Two professors were at that time inaugurated, and another has just taken his place in the corps of instruction. Others are being sought for, and will, doubtless, be found within a reasonable period of time. The fit men for such places are not to be found without much search.
We have spoken in part of the circumstances which occasioned the movement resulting in the founding of this new in: stitution, and have traced briefly the steps of the movement itself, until the seminary came to have an actual existence. The plan of the seminary, as it exists, demands some notice.
That plan aims to secure, in the largest measure, and to make most largely available, the talent and capacity by which the seminary is surrounded, and which it, in some sense, represents. It aims, so to speak, to economize the raw mate. rial of the ministry. To this end it is, in the first place, most intimately connected with the churches. It is the creature of no profession, of no school, of no elass in the churches, but of the churches themselves. Its management is in the hands of no close corporation, or self-perpetuating board, but it rests with the Christian brethren as a whole, acting through the intervention of a body of directors chosen at frequent intervals. The seminary came into being not as the happy suggestion of a few, but in answer to the spontaneous feeling and simultaneous desire of a whole denomination of Christians in the North west. Their common wants, and intelligent forecastings of the future of the magnificent region placed by Divine Providence in their hands, led, under the same Providence, to the design and the actual creation of an institution which has drawn to itself, from the beginning, the confidence of the Christian public in a remarkable degree. Springing thus from the very bosom of the churches, its constitution also provides that it shall, at frequent intervals, give account of itself to the