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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Ministerial Education

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It is rather an inference than a demonstrable historical fact that in the Levitical cities of the Jews schools were maintained for the instruction of priests and Levites in the knowledge and ceremonies of the law. (See EDUCATIONS). It is certain, however, that under Samuel "schools of the prophets" were established for the purpose of training men for the high function of moral and spiritual teaching. Not less than five such schools are named in sacred history; one at Naioth, one at Bethel, one at Jericho, one at Gilgal, and another at Mount Ephraim. The number of the sons of the prophets was often large. Obadiaih hid one hundred of them in a cave to save them from the malice of Jezebel, and at the translation of Elijah fifty of the sons of the prophets were present to witness the wonderful scene.

At a subsequent period of Jewish history a species of schools came into vogue, known as the "assemblies of the wise." The Talmud mentions some twelve of these institutions, of which those at Tiberias and Jerusalem were the most celebrated. Nevertheless they were not exclusively for the education of the priests, but also of elders and teachers. When Jesus the Christ appeared among men, no inconsiderable portion of his ministry was employed in the instruction and training of his disciples in a kind of peripatetic school, of which he was the great Teacher, as he went about doing good and explaining the things of the kingdom of God. From the Acts and the Epistles it is evident that the apostles imitated their divine Lord in giving personal attention to the instruction of younger disciples designed to succeed them in the holy vocation. As the great Head of the Church had commanded his disciples to "go teach all nations," so Paul, in handing down his apostolical responsibility to the future Church, exhorts Timothy and his successors in this language: "The things that thou hast heard of me among many Witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2).

In harmony with such examples and precepts, it is recorded, in the early history of the Church, that the apostle John spent his advanced years at Ephesus in qualifying youth for the Christian ministry, that Mark founded a ministerial school at Alexandria, and Polycarp another at Smyrna. Subsequently, similar schools were established at Caesarea, in Palestine; at Antioch, Laodicea, Nicomedia, Athens, Edessa, Nisibis in Mesopotamia, Seleucia, Rome, and Carthage. Less distinguished than these were many episcopal schools connected with the prominent dioceses of the ancient Church. In some of the better periods and phases of monasticism conventual schools were established, in which young ecclesiastics were qualified as missionaries and teachers for the tribes and nations, to which they were sent forth. Prominent among these were the schools at Iona, at Bangor, in Wales, and Armagh. in Ireland. During the mediaeval period the Waldenses, although few in number and obscure in their seclusion, required all their candidates for the ministry to be diligent students, prescribing to them a course of study, and testing them by specific examinations.

The schools of Charlemagne, and the various universities founded in sequence of the Crusades, appear to have contemplated primarily, though not exclusively, the instruction of ecclesiastics. The University of Prague and that of Strasburg are celebrated for their aid to religion and the diffusion of piety in the Church. Nor must Paris be omitted. All these institutions exerted their influence for the purifying of Christian doctrine, not only at home, but abroad. We need but mention, the names of John Huss and Jerome of Prague; and here let us not forget John Wickliffe, who labored so faithfully at Oxford, and instilled English students with those principles that gave life to the Reformation. D'Aubigne says: "The first rays of the sun from on high gilded with their fires at once the Gothic colleges at Oxford and the antique schools at Cambridge." During the Reformatory period, the Continental universities became the main agencies for the spread of the new doctrines. Wittenberg, then but recently founded, became the nursery, the citadel, of the Protestants. The lecture-rooms of the Reformers were their principal pulpits; and, as has been declared by Melancthon in his Life of Luther, the great cause owes its success to the universities. The University of Heidelberg heard with joy the lectures of the exile Reuchlin. Witteiberg was the starting-point of the great Reformer himself, and from all Europe students flocked thither to sit at the feet of the immortal Melancthon. All the leaders of the new cause, in short, were university men most of them professors, who diffused their opinions through attentive listeners. Calvin, first at Strasburg, and later, aided by Beza, at Geneva, exerted an influence chiefly through the famous schools with which he was connected. Fleury says, in his Life of Calvin: "He was indebted to the academy (at Geneva), which soon became greatly frequented, for the rapid diffusion of his doctrines in Germany, Holland, and France." In passing, we may remind our readers also of those university laborers, the ardent servants for the Christian cause, Erasmus of Paris, OEcolampadius of Strasburg, Peter Martyr and Martin Bucer of Oxford and Cambridge, and Arminius of Leyden.

From those days to the present all complete universities had had faculties of theology of greater or less extent. Their character and influence we shall consider in an article on Theological Education (q.v.). We confine ourselves for the present to a review of the educational advantages offered by the various religious organizations independent of the state; and as even such are in Europe subject to more or less state aid, we shall consider here only those of religious bodies in the United States of America, but mainly in so far as they have in view the instruction of ministers.

In the colonial days of this country's history the ministers were, with few exceptions, men who had been trained for the work in Europe, and in a majority of cases were skilled laborers in the vineyard before they left the old country. It has been estimated that there was in the New England colonies, twenty years after the landing of the Pilgrims, a graduate of college for every 240 inhabitants. A few of these graduates were employed in the civil administration of the colonies, but most of them were in the ministry. As the population increased, it became necessary to supply the ministry from the rising generation. For this purpose, and this mainly, the university at Cambridge was founded in 1636, and as its motto was chosen "Christo et ecclesiae" (To Christ and the Church). Amid much sacrifice and denial this school was started, and for years, yea, decades, as new churches were planted, or as the early ministers passed away by death, the ministerial office was supplied, in great measure, from among the graduates of the infant college. More than half of its graduates, during the first century of its existence, entered into the labors of the ministry. Cotton Mather, in his Magnolia, furnishes a list of the New England churches in 1696, from which it appears that of the 129 pulpits supplied by 116 pastors, 107 of the preachers were graduates of Harvard College. In the charters of several of the oldest colleges it is declared that virtue and religion are the principal objects for the founding of these higher institutions of learning. "The Virginians have souls to be saved" was the plea presented by the pioneers in 1693, when the college was asked for Virginia; "and though the chancellor cursed their souls, saying, Let them raise tobacco,' William and Mary granted both a charter and money to the college which still bears their name." In a few generations all the leading churches, as they grew and found a need for training-schools to supply the ministry, founded colleges, until at present full four hundred chartered Christian colleges have grown into life as the outward material expression of the Christian zeal within American bosoms.

What is peculiarly strange about American colleges is that all of them have felt more or less constrained to consecrate their work to religion. "Secular and state colleges, so called, many of them, surpass those under denominational control in their vigorous appeals to the religious feelings of the people." Placing some eminent worker of the Christian Church in the presidency, they install the Word of God in the daily college prayers. They require all the students to attend church each Sabbath. They have daily prayermeetings among the students. These students generally attend Sabbath-schools. The Greek Testament is read in the college lessons. The evidences of Christianity are taught in the classes. Free tuition and other inducements are offered to attract candidates for the ministry to these institutions. Revival measures are introduced. All the means of grace known to the evangelical churches are used as regularly, as frequently, as earnestly in the colleges as they are in any of the congregations. Of late years, the Church, working unitedly under the auspices of the "Evangelical Alliance," has appointed a day of prayer to be observed once annuallynow on the last Thursday in January and many have been the conversions and fruits for the ministry. It is asserted by those who have carefully searched the records of our colleges that nearly one third of their graduates enter the ministry. Of Amherst College, e.g., it is told that "nearly half of its alumni,' since the beginning of its career, have become ministers of the Gospel." "Even West Point Military Academy, where they talk of war, and drill to the time of martial music every day, the cross of Jesus has won many a trophy. In one of the awakening seasons there the college chaplain was busy circulating tracts. A cadet to whom he gave a tract called soon afterwards to see him, exclaiming, I am a lost sinner; what must I do to be saved?' The chaplain led him gently to Jesus. The cadet was afterwards bishop Polk." Such is the religious influence upon the higher literary institutions in the United States of America.

Theological Seminaries. Ministerial education, properly so called, was afforded to but few of the earlier preachers of this country. In the colleges no special advantages were known, except what the instructors could grant by special arrangement. Principally the custom prevailed in some churches of associating ministerial candidates as students with experienced pastors, from whom they might receive instruction in theology and pastoral duty, and to whom in turn they might render some assistance. In other churches, in which the pressure for ministerial aid was great, young and inexperienced men were associated in actual service with senior ministers, by whom they were expected to be taught. While such modes of instruction and training were the best practicable at an initial period of Church development, and, indeed, not without some intrinsic advantages, yet the increase of general education, and the necessity for more thorough study on the part of ministers, were thought to demand the establishment of a class of institutions specially devoted to ministerial preparation and the cultivation of sacred learning.

The history of this class of institutions in the United States is limited to the present century, with the single exception of a Roman Catholic seminary in Baltimore, founded in 1791. The first theological seminary of the Congregationalists, that of Andover, was founded in 1807. The dates at which the other principal denominations followed these examples are as follows: The Presbyterians at Princeton in 1812; the Protestant Episcopalians at New York in 1817; the Baptists at Hamilton, N.Y., in 1820; the Methodists at Newbury, Vermont, in 1843 consolidated with Concord, N.H., in 1847.

The extent to which institutions for ministerial education have since been multiplied is indicated by the following summary, given in the report of the United States commissioner of education for 1886-7.

 

Denomination.

Number of Institutions

Number of Instructors

Number of Students.

Roman Catholic

20

140

646

Presbyterian

14

81

739

Baptist

18

101

1011

Protestant Episcopal

12

68

286

Methodist Episcopal

13

101

655

Congregational

11

65

378

Lutheran

14

59

1013

Reformed

6

21

95

Christian

6

19

229

Minor sects

25

36

987

Total

139

691

6039

Of the influence of this class of institutions as a whole, it may be said that it is greatly conducive to the advancement of sacred learning. By the accumulation of libraries, by the classification of studies, by the devotion of able men to special departments, more thorough instruction is provided, and students are enabled to secure, within limited periods, a more thorough acquaintance with the various branches of theological science than would be possible by any form of isolated or individual effort. (D.P.K.) Educational Aid Societies. In this connection a word must be said about the many educational' societies founded by the various religious bodies to aid young men financially during their preparations for the sacred office of the ministry. The amount of work accomplished by these agencies may be estimated by reference to the following items: The American Education Society (including the parent society at Boston and its Presbyterian branches), since its formation in the year 1815, has raised and expended in the work of ministerial education not far from $2,000,000. It has afforded aid to over 5000 young men in their course of education for the ministry. The amount raised by this society for one year was $38,914, and the number of young men assisted for the same year was 432. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions since its formation has sent out into the great foreign mission field not far from 500 ordained ministers. Of these over one half have been beneficiaries of the American Education Society. About one third of the Congregational ministers of New England at the present time were aided in their education by this society, while more than one third of that large body of men who have labored so efficiently in connection with the Home Missionary Society were raised up in the same way. The Board of Education of the Presbyterian Church (Old School) has since its formation furnished aid to about 2200 young men. How many of these men have been employed in foreign and home missionary service we have no means at hand for determining. The amount raised by this board from year to year for the purposes of ministerial education is not far from $50,000, and the number of young men now assisted yearly is but little less than 400. There is also an Education Society in connection with the Baptist churches, which has rendered efficient aid in the same great work. In the Methodist Episcopal Church this agency has assumed such vast importance that special provision was made for a "Board of Education" during the American Centennial of Methodism, and there is now (1874) a fund of $100,000, the interest of which is annually expended to aid candidates for the Methodist ministry There are also educational societies for the same purpose in connection with most of the Annual Conferences. Even the non- evangelical churches support such agencies. See Knight, Utility of Theol. Seminaries; Kentish, Importance of Min. Education; Clarke (Adam), Letter to a Preacher; Mason, Student and Pastor; Raike, Remarks on Clerical Education; New-Englander, 1:126; Eclectic Rev. (new series), 1:99; Princeton Rev. 5:55; 15:587; Christian Examiner, 11:84; Amer. Bible Repository, 9:474: 11:187; 2d series, 8:444; 10:462; Evangel. (Luth.) Qu. Rev. 1868, July; Meth. Qu. Rev. July 1845, art. 2; January 1872, page 94; Theol. Medium (Cumberland Presbyt. Rev.), January 1873, art. 1.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ministerial Education'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/m/ministerial-education.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Wednesday, July 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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