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of Scripture language, which cannot stand the test of an enlightened criticism. Such sad defects as these have given boldness to the opposers of evangelical truth, have given influence to all their opinions, and have thrown a splendid charm around their plausible neology
The subject which we have thus touched, we feel to be one of vast importance. Connected as it is with the interests of truth in these eventful times, it demands the serious attention of the rising ministry. It is exceedingly desirable that the character of a Christian minister be adapted to the exigencies of the age. While then the student for the sacred office, prays for help from on high, and trusts in the efficient aid of God alone for success, let him see to it that he neglect no means of acquiring such a character as shall prepare him to meet the demands of his own times.
An obstacle which may much discourage him in the pursuit of such a course is to be found, no doubt, in the erroneous estimate which too extensively prevails respecting the nature and importance of a theological education. How generally is it supposed, even by good men, that the acquisition of theology, instead of being the faithful, persevering investigation of the truth as God revealed it, consists rather in the study of human systems adorned by learning and genius, sustained principally by human authority, and which in their tendency must corrupt the mind from the “simplicity that is in Christ.” No wonder is it, with such views as these, many earnest Christians have distrusted the institutions for theological instruction; and scarcely should we wonder that such views are very prevalent, since, in theological schools, so much attention has been given to the various branches of human learning, and so little comparatively to the patient study of the Bible. But we are glad to think that now a better day is dawning upon
We have hailed with joy, the rise and progress of some institutions in our country, which have made the study of the Bible the grand object of attention. They have evinced that a sincere desire to “search the Scriptures,” and to learn the truth, is the distinguishing trait of their character. Let Institutions like these be multiplied, and increase in influ
Let their acts be such, that the churches shall confide in their integrity. Let all know that it is not their design to corrupt the taste of the young disciple of Christ, by imparting to him the intoxicating draughts of human lore, but to refresh and strengthen him for his work, by leading him to drink deep of that" living water” that flows from the oracle of God.
When such sentiments are generally felt, and such confidence inspired, then will the churches be incited to co-operate efficiently in the cause of education. Thus shall the truth have free course and be glorified. Thus shall Zion arise and shine, her light being come, and the glory of the Lord shall be seen upon her. Uniformity of opinion and feeling will characterize her ministers; and she shall be called the “joy of the whole earth.”
GIFTS FOR THE MINISTRY TO BE SOUGHT OUT AND CHERISHED.
The voice of the Ministers and Messengers of the Boston Association, in their late annual address, ought to be heard by every member of the great family of American Baptists; and may it be accompanied by the blessing of Him whose ever wakeful eye is upon the Churches.
Dear Brethren,-Permit us to ask your attention to a subject, which yields not, in point of importance, to any other connected with your duties and your welfare.
We need say nothing concerning the rank which the Christian ministry occupies among the means by which the Saviour's kingdom is to be established on the earth. Nor need we inform you, that the number of faithful ministers is now inadequate to supply our churches at home, while there are many fields in our own land which are white unto the harvest, and heathen countries appeal to us, by their crimes and hopeless miseries, to send them the mes. sengers of salvation.
It appears to us, that this deficiency of ministers must be attributed to a neglect of duty on the part of the churches. We cannot suppose
that God is inattentive to the wants of his church and of the world, and causelessly withholds a competent supply of ministers.
Wrong notions, it is believed, exist concerning the nature of a call to the ministry, and in regard to the duty of the churches to seek out and foster ministerial talent.
We firmly believe that no man ought to enter into the ministry, whom God has not called to the service. But the question is, How is the call of God to be ascertained ? That a miraculous intimation of his will is to be expected, no rational man, at the present day, believes. This will must, then, be learned from the feelings which the Holy Spirit produces in the mind of the individual himself; from the gifts of heart and of intellect with which he is endowed; from the course of providence; and from other circumstances.
Two things are necessary to prove a call to the ministry to be from God. The first is, that the individual possess a sincere desire to be thus employed. He must feel a strong concern for the glory of God, and for the salvation of men. His heart must be moved with desires to proclaim the love of Christ to dying sinners, and to persuade them to be reconciled to God. Ile must feel such an impulse of soul towards this point, such a concentration of his thoughts and affections, that he cannot, with a quiet mind, engage in any other employment. He must be willing to part with prospects of emolument, and to forego all worldly advantages, for the sake of his Saviour and of his fellow men. These are some of the feelings which will occupy the heart of a man, whom God designs for the ministry. Of these feelings the individual himself is the only judge, because he alone can determine whether they are sincere, strong and permanent.
But another necessary thing is, that he possess suitable gifts. We mean not, that he must be qualified immediately to preach, because no man is qualified to preach with profit, until he has furnished his mind with adequate knowledge, and has learned how to communicate that knowledge. By suitable gifts, we mean a sound understanding, a capacity and a desire to learn, an aptitude to teaclı, a reasonable degree of ability to be useful to his fellow men as a minister, when his mind shall have been cultivated as much as circumstances may allow.
Of these points, the individual is not a competent judge. His brethren must judge for him. The church has thus a duty to perform. She ought to watch the character and conduct of her young men. An individual, whom God designs for the ministry, will usually show the bent of his disposition, by his zeal for the support of Sabbath schools, by his pertinent exhortations in the conference room, and by his prayers in social meetings. If the ministerial spirit exist within him, it will find occasions to display itself; and in most cases, a church is convinced of the call of a young man to the ministry as soon, and sometimes sooner than himself. In such cases as this, it is the duty of pastors, deacons, and other members of the church, to converse with such persons, to inquire concerning their feelings, and to give them all proper encouragement. If the individuals have themselves been thoughtful and anxious concerning their duty, such an affectionate and judicious conversation may remove their doubts, and confirm their decisions, by bringing in aid of their own convictions, the opinions of their brethren.
It is believed that a very different course is frequently pursued. Young men are left to struggle with their feelings without one word of advice or encouragement. The more modest they are, and therefore the more deserving of sympathy, the more reluctant they are to disclose their feelings, lest they should be attributed to pride and presumption. A sense of unfitness, the greatness of the work, doubts concerning duty, all throng upon the mind, and often produce inconceivable distress, which one word of kind sympathy and advice from a pastor or Christian friend would remove. Many young men, cannot be doubted, are overcome by these anxieties, doubts, and fears, and relinquish the thought of the ministry, who ought to preach the gospel. It is a mistake to suppose, that if it be a man's duty to preach, he will force his way through every obstacle. A man may neglect his duty to preach, as he may refuse any other duty; and he is more liable to neglect this duty, because the conscientious mind will consider it as a far less sin to neglect to preach, though it be a duty, than to preach when it is not. If the scale of doubt, then, sink in the smallest degree, the mind of a conscientious man will be very liable to abandon the design, and thus the very best ministers may be lost to the church.
But if a young man does surmount his doubts and discouragements, and makes his case known to his brethren, he is sometimes treated with cold suspicion, and obstacles are thrown in his way, on purpose to try the strength of his zeal. If, at last, by dint of perseverance, he forces the church to give him a license, so much
time may have been wasted, that it is too late to obtain that education which is needful to his usefulness.
There may be cases, too, in which a young man may not have thought of the ministry, who may nevertheless surnish evidence of piety, talents and zeal, which would make him useful as a minister. It is undoubtedly the duty of pastors and Christians to converse with such a person, in a judicious manner; to inquire respecting his feelings ; to ask him if it is not his duty to preach the gospel; to urge him to reflect and pray on the subject; to invite him to speak and to pray in conference and prayer meetings, and thus give his mind a direction towards the object. No reason can be given, why it is not as much our duty to use the proper means in this case, as it is to persuade a sinner to be reconciled to God. Our persuasions cannot change the sinner's heart without the blessing of God; nor can our arguments convince a man of his duty to preach the gospel ; but God may, in both cases, employ us as instruments to accomplish his will.
We think, brethren, that there has been, and still is a failure in duty, on this subject, among our churches. We earnestly entreat you to think of these suggestions, and let your attention be more directed to the young men among you. Let not selfishness induce you to detain them from their duty. The cause of God needs ministers. Millions of our fellow men are dying every year, without any one to tell them of the love of Jesus. Let, then, every young man in our churches inquire, with a prayerful heart, Is it not my duty to preach the gospel ? Let every church be a faithful and affectionate nursing mother to the young servants of the Redeemer. And let every Christian pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest.
PRESIDENT CHAPIN'S INAUGURAL ADDRESS, DELIVERED IN THE CITY OF WASHINGTON, MARCH 11, 1829.
(Continued from p. 339.) The subject, to which our attention has been given, leads us to form high anticipations of the triumphant issue of the work of education.
We have not embraced the doctrine of human perfectability, nor any visionary projects by which we expect this fallen world is to be regenerated. But these anticipations are encouraged by substantial reasons. We have seen that education should be the first pursuit of man, since it is, in fact, the chief concern of heaven; and that for its advancement the works of creation, the arrangements of Providence, and the whole array of positive institutions, and revealed truth, are made subservient. In its completion, the brightest glories of God, and the highest amount of human happiness, are involved. A work so dear in the sight of Heaven Nov. 1829.
inust be crowned with abundant success. It is true, that education has made but slow advances. In some considerable portions of time, it has been apparently stationary; and, in others, even declining. Indeed, it has advanced by degrees so silent and inconsiderable, that they have been unheeded by the mass of mankind, and denied by some authors, who have cherished gloomy and mistaken views of human nature. But those philosophers who have carefully collated different periods of history, and compared the results of successive dispensations, have seen abundant proof, that, on the wbóle, both the intellectual and moral states of the world have been greatly advanced. Nor need we be surprised at this slow movement. Various considerations lead us to suppose, that God saw it best to confine the soul, during its term of trial, in an earthly tabernacle, and to make it dependent upon bodily organs for all its knowledge of surrounding matter, in order to linit the sphere of information, and to prevent us from acquiring, in this earthly stage of our being, too clear a view of the government of the universe. The Almighty, hy thus imposing temporary checks to the ardor of our curiosity, has practised upon the principles of economy. He has, in this way, reduced man to the necessity of studying well the nature and relations of the objects that surround him in this dawn of his being, before he is admitted to that higher grade of instruction, where every impediment shall be removed from his boundless career of knowledge. But notwithstanding this slow movement, yet much has been gained. Of this truth how much more sensible should we be, if it were possible for us to retain a vivid recollection of the bright day which we now enjoy, after we had witnessed the rapid extinction of every light in the scientific heavens, tili we were enveloped in that inidnight darkness, which surrounded the first inhabitants of this world. Though each successive generation has 10 commence its progress in a state of infancy; yet it starts from a higher point of improvement, than did its predecessor; and this will continue to be the case, till the nations of the earth arrive at that state of intellectual and moral perfection, in which they will enjoy all the bright visions, which are now seen, afar off, by the aid of prophetic light. The advantages already acquired are highly encouraging. We are now freed from the trammels of theoretic philosophy, and from the puerilities of the syllogistic art, which, as an engine of science, kept the human mind, for nearly two thousand years, moving round in the same beaten circle. The philosophy of the mind is greatly advanced. The baneful influence of early prejudices is more fully understood, and their formation more guarded against. The laws of association are better known, and more judiciously applied in the work of education. The sun of civil and religious freedom has risen, fullorbed, and will continue to climb the heavens, till it stands in midday to bless the world with its cheering light. Language, the vehicle of thought and the instrument of instruction, has become more settled in its meaning, and more copious and powerful in its expression. The press, that lever which can move the world, is lending her aid in the diffusion of knowledge, and in the suppres