Friday, March 24, 2017

An Educated Ministry (Part 3)

This, and the preceding two posts are from an essay written by R.L. Dabney for the periodical The Southern Presbyterian Review, for the April 1883 edition. It was written in response to an October 1882 & January 1883 article, entitled "An Inquiry into the Aggressiveness of Presbyterianism."

We have been told that by this way we should get a cheaper ministry for our new fields. Men thus trained, not having spent so much in their training, would work on smaller salaries. Now, the only experience we have does not support this hope. Most of the Methodist evangelists were trained thus; but they really receive better salaries than the Presbyterian. When the various allowances are added up, theirs is found a better paid ministry than ours.

The urgent comparisons made between our method and that of Methodists and Baptists cannot but suggest another thought:—that we, if we make the proposed change, shall be in danger of “putting on their old shoes just when they are throwing them away.” If these denominations are good exemplars for us, then it is to be presumed that they understand their own interests; their fine results indicate wise management. Now, it is significant that both these denominations are now expending great effort in making certain changes in their methods of rearing ministers, and that these changes are in the direction of the way we are now advised to forsake. They have tried, and are trying, two different ways. They are in a transition state. Before we make their way our guide, it will be well to wait and see which of their two ways they are going to approve finally for themselves. If we are correctly informed by those who are in closest intelligence with their influential men, these are yearly less and less satisfied with their old species of training, and more and more desirous to have all their ministry improve the advantages of the excellent seminaries of theology which they have founded. Hear, for instance, the testimony of Mr Price in the Southern Presbyterian:—“And, in proof of this view, it is a remarkable fact, that those very causes to which this writer ascribes their more rapid growth, are becoming more unpopular every day with those denominations.” While he and others in our church are advocating a lower standard of ministerial qualification, that we may keep pace with the Baptists and Methodists, these denominations are directing the most intelligent energies of their respective churches to raising their grade of scholarship; their uneducated men are losing caste and influence; the ministers coming forth from their theological schools are establishing a public sentiment and a more rigid rule of systematic theology, and of clear and accurate statement in doctrine, before which the loose and extravagant discourses of a class of preachers that once exercised. a powerful influence fall under sharp censure, and are even occasionally exposed to ridicule.

There are unlearned men in these churches, and such may be licensed and ordained in ours, under our provisions for extraordinary cases, whom the most intelligent are bound to respect as called of God, and whose usefulness none can deny; but when our Baptist and Methodist brethren are casting off certain methods, which they have weighed in the balance and found wanting, it becomes us to consider well before we take up that which they throw away, especially when they are free to confess that our example, and the evident fruits of our more thorough training, have powerfully impelled them towards change.

The writer in the Review has heard of the Cumberland Presbyterians. If he has been correctly informed, he will find that no branch of the Presbyterian Church has, in proportion to its numbers and resources, more colleges, universities, and theological schools. If he attends their General Assembly, he will be impressed by the distinct and painful line of demarcation between their learned and their unlearned men. And when he sees and hears some of the latter, though he may find much to admire in the vigour of their speech and the vigour of their labours, he will not wonder that, as a people, our Cumberland brethren are making, perhaps, more vigorous effort”, than any other Presbyterian body to educate their ministry, and thus obliterate one of the distinctive features upon which they went out from us. When the Revelation Dr Lyon brought into our General Assembly, some years ago, a report against certain proposals of union with the Cumberland Presbyterians, he did not hesitate to present, as one of the arguments of the committee that he represented, that, by such a union, our church will be brought under the control of an overwhelming majority of uneducated men. If some of the theories now in vogue among us are put into practice, we may reach this alternative without uniting with the Cumberlands; and they, in turn, by raising their standard, as they now seem determined to do, may be in a position, by and by, to raise the same objection to a union with us.

We are reminded that our system now requires a longer and more expensive preparation than the other liberal professions. And why should it not, when our professional tasks are infinitely more responsible? But facts here argue on our side again, in that society is steadily demanding a raised standard of preparation from lawyers and physicians. Is this the time to lower ours? The well-furnished young physician, for instance, gets, in his youth, a pretty fair classical education; then he reads medicine a year with some doctor; then, if he graduates in one year (most have to spend two) in a good school of theoretic medicine, like that in the University of Virginia, he does remarkably well; then he goes into a New York or Baltimore hospital one or two years, to get the clinic instruction. And even the plainer country neighbourhoods are now requiring so much of training of their doctors! The other professions are advancing largely; it is no time for ours to go back.”

It has been often and justly remarked that it requires more mature training and ability to teach unenlightened minds accurately than cultivated ones. It was considered by discerning persons the crowning manifestation of Dr John H, Rice's trained capacity, that he could not only preach to the edification of General Assemblies in Philadelphia, but could go then to the Bethel Seamen's chapel and preach with equal effect to the rough sailors. If we are to bring poor and rude communities into our denomination, then they will need the best trained, not the inferior, minds, to inculcate on them our logical and profound system. And as regards the frontier communities, there is no greater mistake than that of concluding that, because their exteriors are rough, the ill-furnished minister will suffice to instruct them. The testimony of Dr N. L. Rice, for instance, in the Assembly of 1857, was wholly the opposite; and he spoke of his own knowledge. Said he:—“The garb of the frontiersmen may be rough; their dwellings may be cabins; but they include the most independent, active, inquiring minds anywhere to be found in America. It is the fact that their minds and temperaments are such which has made them emigrants; the plodding, the slow, the minds that like to lean on precedent and prescription, and are content to be led—these stay in the old neighbourhoods. It is the adventurous minds who seek new fortunes. A very large portion of them are men of thorough education. The educated emigrant is most often a 'free-thinker,' so-called; for one main impulse which pushes the man of culture to brave the roughnessess of the frontier is, that he has broken all intellectual trammels, if not all sound restraints of orthodox thinking. Hence we find these frontier societies seething with most eager speculation, questioning all old foundations. To suppose that the good man of slim intellectual resources can control these minds is the most fatal mistake. The man who is to command them needs to have the most mature resources of learning at the readiest possible command. He needs to be a walking library, of the most advanced learning, not only in divinity, but in all connected studies.” This witness is also true of our Southern frontiers. You shall see the “cow-boy” of Western Texas, sometimes reclining on his greasy blanket to read a pocket edition of Horace or Moliere. In their “shanties,” alongside of the whiskey-jug, will be found the writings of Huxley, Bradlaugh, and Büchner, with the Westminster Review, and the works of Renan. Our evangelists confirm Dr Rice's testimony, and tell us to send none but thoroughly furnished men to the frontiers.

It has been supposed that great gain-would result from the alternative of an “English course” in our seminaries for such candidates for the ministry as could not find time or means for mastering the original languages of Scripture. A manual of church history might be taught, it is supposed, without involving Latin or Greek; and the exegetical and doctrinal studies would be founded on the English version alone. Were the teachers in these seminaries entitled to any consideration in this discussion, their friends might perhaps raise an embarrassing question on their behalf. Their time seems to be already fully occupied in the teaching of the fuller course to their classical students and the exposition of the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, which alone are the ipsissima verba of God. Shall they cease to give this course, in order to do justice to the other class of their students? Or shall they give the latter class a light, perfunctory. Sabbath-school course, such as they will have time for? Would such a little sketch be a worthy training for a Presbyterian minister?

It will behove the advocates of this system to consider three consequences which are very distinctly involved in it.

One is, that it will admit the imperfect education of a great many more men than should be entitled, according to the new plan itself, to enter the ministry upon it. Men's over-haste, or indolence, or ill-considered seal, or self-confidence, will prompt many of the candidates to plead that they also are poor enough, or old enough, or gifted enough, or married enough, to claim to enter through the English door, of whom the judgment of our innovators themselves “would be, that they had no grounds for claiming that easier way.” The pressure of churches and Presbyteries for more labourers to be speedily gotten will assuredly second their pleas. The result will be the general breaking down of our standard. The majority of our ministry will be the uneducated, the minority the educated, as it was in the other denominations in those old ways from which they are striving so hard to escape.

The second will be, that the students of the English course will be much at the mercy of the professor for their doctrinal and exegetical opinions. When the teacher gives his construction of the text, if the English pupils attempt to say that the English version, or the commentaries thereon, seem to sustain another meaning, he has only to reply:—“I assure you, young gentlemen, that the original supports only my construction; and if you understood that language, you would see it to be so.” That is, to those students, an end of debate. Or else they must learn to hold their teacher in suspicion and disesteem, as a man capable of imposing on their ignorance. There will be one caste of minds which will resent this mental domination, the self-sufficient and crotchety. The consequence will be, that to this class their teacher will be no guide; but this is the class to whom influential guidance will be most necessary. Now, we surmise that this sweeping power in the professors of our seminaries will not be very agreeable to that large class of our presbyters who cherish along with us a well-grounded jealousy of seminary dictation, and all other forms of centralisation. It may be said, our present professors may all be trusted. But they cannot remain always. Unhappily, such things have been known in seminaries as heretical professors, and yet oftener as crotchety professors, fond of riding exegetical hobbies. Shall we arm these with this dangerous power of leading off the English students after their error?

The third consideration is, that if the new plan of training is to be carried on to any successful extent, we must reconcile our minds to become a “broad church.” We must lose our doctrinal unity. Again, we advance the experimental evidence as the most solid. All the denominations which practice the methods of training ministers proposed become broad churches. The Immersionists are a broad church; we have ourselves heard Calvinism and Arminianism preached in it from the same pulpit. The Cumberland Presbyterian is a broad church. The Methodist is a broad church. As we remarked, the Wesleyan theology receives from Methodist ministers various interpretations, from moderate Calvinism down to Pelagianism. There are ministers and presiding elders who hold the perseverance of the saints, just as we do. The church of Alexander Campbell is a broad church; he himself declared that in it “all sorts of doctrine were preached by all sorts of men.” In this we are not reproaching these denominations. We use the phrase “broad church” in no sense offensive to them, but as a ready and familiar phrase to describe a condition of things among them on which they congratulate themselves, namely, a tolerance in the ministry of the same body of different schools of theological opinion, “within the scope of the fundamental doctrines of salvation.” But we only point to the fact that it has been the conscientious fixed policy of us Presbyterians not to have these doctrinal diversities and contrarieties among our official teachers. We receive all shades of opinion, compatible with true repentance, to our communion; but we require the voice of our official body to give one sound as to revealed theology.

Now, the experience cited above proves that if we are willing to lose this doctrinal harmony and unity, the chief glory of a church of Christ, we have only to imitate these other denominations in their method of training ministers. The explanation of the result is easy. Human minds are imperfect instruments of thought, and their opinions naturally tend to variety and diversity. Again, the religious world teems with competing clashing doctrines, each striving for recognition and pressing itself on others with its utmost ingenuity of argument. The proposed method of training, by reason of its comparative brevity and imperfection, must leave its pupils more pervious to the injurious religious errors which obtrusively meet them. These different “grades” of preachers will not have the unifying bond with each other of a complete esprit de corps. The result will be doctrinal divergence; and our church must either submit to become a “broad” one, or be again rent by schism. We are aware that there is no patent infallible process, in fallible men's hands, for transmitting a doctrinal homogeneity from age to age. But the means which comes nearest, the only means of any tolerable efficiency is, under the grace and light of God's Spirit, the thorough education of ministers in an orthodox theology, and that by similar methods for all. Thus not only is the competent knowledge of the divine science acquired by all, and the practical skill in moral reasoning and exposition, which detect error and sophism in false doctrines, but all imbibe, so to speak, the Presbyterian and orthodox idiosyncrasy of mind The doctrinal affinity in the correct creed is propagated through the whole body. Now, he who really doubts whether the Presbyterian theology is right, may also doubt whether it is proper to employ these influences for unifying and stereotyping men's belief in it. But those who, with us, are sure that our theology is right, will also feel that it is not only allowable, but our duty to wield those influences for making our theology permanent in our ministers' minds. It is the only human way to avoid the tendencies to “broad Churchism.”

In conclusion, we most emphatically affirm all the regrets expressed at our lack of a holy aggressiveness, and every ardent aspiration for a remedy. But this remedy is not to be found by innovation upon our system, but in the reformation of the persons who work the system. What we need is not a class of imperfectly educated ministers, but repentance, holy yearning for souls, prayer, and more abounding labour by educated ministers; more family religion and true Christian training in households, which is, after all, the Presbyterian's main lever; more self-consecration in our laymen; and especially our employment of the “dead capital” now lying unused in our eldership. The elder need not be a “local preacher,” after the pattern of the Methodist “local,” but the intelligent elder ought to be something much better; active in spheres of work which the church needs much more than sermonising or formal “preachments,” vis., catechetical instruction, teaching the gospel from house to house, oversight, social meetings, exhortations. Sabbath-schools. Do we feel a “crying need” in our out-lying destitutions for such work as this, and for labourers to do it more cheaply than the educated evangelist? This is precisely the work which intelligent ruling elders ought to do. All the elders in Scripture, ruling and teaching, were required to be “apt to teach.” Our conception of the New Testament organisation of the congregation would not pull down a part of the ministers to an uneducated level, but lift up all the elders, including the ruling elders, to the level of official teachers. Each congregation was governed and taught, not by a one-man power, a sort of local prelate, but by a board, a plurality of elders, all of whom were teachers, though not all of equal teaching authority, learning, or gifts. But, to ensure full intelligence and permanent orthodoxy, we should require the presiding elder in this board to have the full equipment of well attested theological learning. One such man, thoroughly furnished, presiding over the board, and regulating and harmonising their joint instructions, would give a sufficient guarantee of soundness in the faith. The others under him, in their less authoritative teaching sphere, would safely fill in the details of the work. The ruling elder would not act as catechist as though he were an independent integer, but as a member of the board, under its direction, and especially under the direction of the president, who is fully trained and tried; even as he, in his public work as authoritative herald of salvation, does not act independently, but under the control of his Presbyterial Board, the Presbytery. Thus the didactic work of each congregation would assume a largeness, occupying several men's hands; while the thorough theological furniture of the one man at the head would guarantee doctrinal safety in the whole. Such was evidently the apostle's conception in the pastoral epistles.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Educated Ministry (Part 2)

This, the previous, and the next post are from an essay written by R.L. Dabney for the periodical The Southern Presbyterian Review, for the April 1883 edition. It was written in response to an October 1882 & January 1883 article, entitled "An Inquiry into the Aggressiveness of Presbyterianism."

We have, then, the battle to fight over again for the utility of thorough education, and a knowledge of the “dead languages,” to the pastor. Let us again define the ground we assume. It is not that the Christian ignorant of the classics may not get the rudiments of redemption out of English books, or may not so teach them to another as to save his soul. It is not that this plain man's ministry is invalid, because he is no classic. It is not that such a man, if greatly gifted by nature and grace, may not do more good than many weaker good men with their classical training. But we 'assert that this training will be, to any man, gifted above his fellows or not, an important means of still greater efficiency, correctness, authority, and wisdom, in saving souls, and that the lack of it will entail on any pastor a considerable (comparative) liability to partial error, mistakes, and injury of the church and of souls. Now it is each minister's duty to love God, not with a part, but with all of his heart; and to serve him, not only as well as some weaker brother is doing, but with the fullest effectiveness possible for him, he being such a man and in such circumstance as he is. It should be with each minister as with the faithful and devoted bondsman. He may be gifted by nature with a giant frame, so that with a dull and inferior axe he cuts more wood for the master in the day than another with his natural feebleness who has the keenest axe. By “putting to more strength,” he may even cut the average day's task. But if, by grinding his axe thoroughly, he is enabled to cut even two days' task in one, if he loves the master he will grind it. And even if his day is advanced towards the middle of the forenoon, if he finds that an hour devoted even then to a thorough grinding, will result in a larger heap of wood well cut by nightfall, he will stop at that late hour to grind.

Now, as to the high utility of classic culture to the educated man, the arguments which have convinced the majority of well-informed men for three centuries, have by no means been refuted by the multiplication of books in English. Latin and Greek are large sources of our mother tongue. No man has full mastery of it until he knows the sources. Translation from language to language is the prime means for training men to discrimination in using words, and thus, in thought. There is no discipline in practical logic so suitable for a pupil as those reasonings from principles of syntax, by processes of logical exclusion and synthesis, to the correct way of construing sentences. As a mental discipline, this construing of a language, other than our vernacular, has no rival and no substitute in any other study. And if the language to be construed is idiomatically different from the vernacular, with its own genius, collocating thoughts and words in its own peculiar order, as is the case with the “dead languages,” this fits them best of all to be implements of this discipline. It is the best way for teaching the young mind to think. We do not dwell on the culture of true taste, and the value of the fine models presented in the classics. It may be retorted that there is fine writing in English too; why may not this cultivate the taste? We reply; these English models are moulded after the classic, if they are really fine. Is it not better to take our inspiration from the prime source than the secondary? Moreover, they are usually so imbued with classic allusion and imagery that only a classic scholar can understand them. True, Milton wrote in English; but the reader needs to be as much a Latin and Greek scholar fully to comprehend him as to read Virgil and Sophocles.

But the prime fact which determines the question is, that the Bible was given by God in Greek and Hebrew. The Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament alone are God's word. No translation or commentary is infallible. No man who must needs “pin his faith” as to the interpretation of a given phrase upon the “say so” of an expositor that “this is just what the Greek means,” can be always certain that he is not deceived. Does one say, this is all the laity have? Just so; and therefore no such layman is entitled to become the authorised teacher of others. “The analogy of the faith” may give the intelligent English reader practically a certainty that his translators and expositors do give him the more fundamental and obvious truths of redemption without any substantial error, and that he may be sure of his own salvation. But it ought to be the aim of the religious teacher, who undertakes to lead others, to attain accuracy also on the lesser points. No atom of revealed truth is useless to souls. The lesser error may perchance be the means of leading some soul to the greater, even to the destructive, mistake. The duty of the pastor to go himself to the fountain head of the exposition may be illustrated thus:—an author offers to him his English commentary on Scripture designed for the English reader. The pastor receives it and says, “That is well. But, Mr Expositor, you yourself tested your own expositions by the light of the original Greek?” “No,” he answers, “writing only for English readers, I myself stopped at the English version!” That pastor would throw the commentary from him with indignation. But the pastor is the commentary, of his charge; they have the same right to require of him that he shall not stop short of testing his expositions to them until he gets to the infallible standard.

Again, it is often the pastor's duty to defend the correct exposition of the truth against impugners. How can he do this successfully unless he is able to argue for the translation he assumes, when he is always liable to be assailed with the assertion:—“I deny that the original means what you say.” Shall he meet assertion only with bald assertion, while confessing that he himself is not qualified to judge whereof he affirms? This would be a sorry polemic indeed. For instance, the pastor ignorant of Greek has declared that the word rendered in the Scripture “justify,” does not signify an inward and spiritual change, but only a forensic and declarative act of God in favour of the believing sinner. The Roman priest rises and says:—“Holy Mother Church teaches the opposite; how do you know what the word signifies?” “I read what I asserted in Dr Hodge's English Commentary on Romans. He says so.” “But Holy Mother Church is inspired. Is your Dr Hodge inspired?” “No.” “Do you know Greek, so as to assure us, yourself, that he may not be mistaken?” “No.” “But” the priest adds, “the church is not only infallible, but knows Greek perfectly; and she asserts, of her knowledge, that you and your Dr Hodge are mistaken.” In what a pitiful attitude is this “defender of the faith” left, although he is, in fact, on the right side, with nothing but an assertion and a confession of ignorance to offset a more confident assertion.

It is worth remarking also, that an incomplete knowledge of the original languages is not to be despised in the pastor. A tolerable knowledge of the rudiments, which would not suffice him to originate independent criticism, may enable him to judge intelligently of another's criticism of the original. Or it may furnish him with the weapons to overthrow completely the arrogant assailant who knows no more than he does and yet boasts much. A young pastor in Virginia was once debating, during a series of days, the “Thomasite” creed with its founder a man of boundless dogmatism and pretension. He, like the Anabaptists of Luther's age, denied the conscious existence of the soul apart from the body after death. He boldly asserted that he knew Hebrew; that the Hebrew Scripture gave no countenance to the idea of separate spirit in man; for that the word currently translated soul in the English version meant only a smelling bottle! The young pastor related that when Dr Thomas began to parade his Hebrew he began to tremble, for he had the guilty consciousness that the dust had been gathering on his own Hebrew books ever since he left the Seminary. But the intervening might gave him an opportunity to examine them, and his Lexicon at once cleared up the source of the impudent assertion by giving him under Heb. הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ , (“breath,” “soul”) the phrase from Isaiah 3:20:—Heb. בָתֵּ֥י הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ ; “smelling bottle” (bottles of odours). All, therefore, that was necessary was to take this Lexicon to the church next morning, read the extract, challenge all competent persons—of whom there happened to be none present—to inspect his citation, and show the absurdity of reading “smelling bottle” wherever Heb. הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ , occurred. Thus, as he humorously stated, he hewed Dr Thomas to pieces with his own smelling bottle. Here a small tincture of Hebrew answered a valuable purpose:—without it, our advocate would have had nothing bat assertion to oppose to assertion. It should also be admitted that a critical knowledge of the Hebrew tongue is less essential to the pastor than of the Greek, and its lack less blameable. For the New Testament résumés and restates all the doctrines of redemption contained in the Old Testament. Hence, he who can be sure that he construes all the declarations of the New Testament aright, cannot go amiss as to any of the doctrinal statements of the Old Testament, though he has only the English version. But even this admission cannot be extended to the historical statements of the Old Testament; and as they have an interesting, though subordinate, value for illustrating the plan of redemption, the minister who knows Greek but not Hebrew cannot be fully on the level of him who knows both. For, in general, there is a sense in which the best translation cannot fully represent its original. Pope's Homer shows us Pope rather than Homer; Dryden's Virgil, Dryden fully as much as Virgil. There are shades of thought, connections of words and ideas, idiomatic beauties and aptitudes of expression, which a mere translation does not reproduce. These points, lost in any modern version, are not essential to the getting of the fundamentals of redemption; but they clothe the teachings of revelation in a light and consistency which he that undertakes to teach others ought not to slight.

There is a practical testimony to this argument. It is found in the example of some of the best of those excellent and useful men who have found themselves in the Baptist or Methodist ministry without classical knowledge. They, seeing its vital necessity to the guide of souls, have given themselves no rest until they have acquired, often by unassisted study, a competent knowledge of the New Testament Greek at least; many also of the Hebrew. Their consciences would not suffer them to remain without it.

This position is also sustained by this very simple and natural view. 1 Timothy 3:2, requires of the presbyter-bishop “aptness to teach.” This cannot mean less than didactic ability to explain the gospel correctly; and we may grant that this would be sufficiently conferred by fair general intelligence, perspicuous good sense, the gift of utterance, familiarity with the Scriptures of the New Testament, and a personal experience of gospel grace. The intelligent tradesman or mechanic in Ephesus might possess these. But ought not the modern pastor to possess this minimum, qualification? Should he not be abreast, at least, of the Ephesian mechanic? Let it be remembered that this Greek, now the classic “dead” language, was then the vernacular. The educated Englishman must be no mean Greek scholar to have that practical mastery of the idiom which this mechanic had, granting that the mechanic had not the knowledge of the elegancies of Greek which the modern student may have sought out. But more than this:—the events, the history, the geography, the usages, the modes of thought, the opinions, which constituted the human environment of the New Testament writers, the accurate understanding of which is so necessary to grasp the real scope of what they wrote, all these were the familiar, popular, contemporaneous knowledge of that intelligent mechanic in Ephesus. He had imbibed it in his daily observation, reading, and talk, as easily and naturally as the mechanic in Charleston has imbibed the daily facts about current politics, cotton shipments, familiar modern machinery, or domestic usages. But to us now all this expository knowledge is archæologic! It is gained accurately only by learned researches into antiquity. This imaginary picture may help to put us in the point of view for understanding our argument. We may suppose that the chasm of eighteen centuries is crossed, so that an Ephesian scholar—not mere mechanic—appears in Charleston now, audit is made his duty to instruct his Greek fellow-colonists in the municipal and state laws. But they are printed in English, a tongue strange to him, antipodal to Greek in idiom. Well, this difficulty may be surmounted by learning English, or, as our opponents think, simply by purchasing a translation of South Carolina laws into Greek; though how this translation is to enable him to guarantee his clients against error in their legal steps passes our wit to see. But this obstruction out of the way, he begins to read. He finds enactments about property in “cotton!” What is cotton? The wool which old Herodotus reported grew on trees in Nubia? And property in steam engines! And in steamships! And in steam cotton-compress engines; and in stocks of railroads, and in banks, and in government securities! And of buying and selling cotton futures! And of valuable phosphate works, etc., etc. What a crowd of surprises, of mysteries, of astonishments! How much to be learned, after the knotty, sibilant, guttural English is learned, before the book has any light to his mind!

We thus see that the plain Ephesian mechanic elder had immense advantages over us, inuring directly from his epoch, contemporary with the events of redemption, from his vernacular, from his providential position for understanding the sacred books. But we again urge the question. Are we “apt to teach,” unless we make up our deficiencies to a level somewhere near his? The modern who has become a learned Greek scholar and archaeologist has not done more than reach the level of this Ephesian elder. It were well for us if we had reached it.

Only one other point in this wide field of argument can be touched. The great apostasy of prelacy and popery was wrought precisely on that plan of a partially educated ministry which is now urged on us. As time rolled on, antiquating the language and the facts and opinions of the apostolic age, the church forgot the argument illustrated above, and vainly fancied that she would find the requisite “aptness to teach,” as Timothy found it, in pious men taken from the mass of society. Men read church history now under an illusion. When they hear of the pastors and fathers of the early church, as writing and preaching in Latin or Greek, because these are the learned languages now, these must have been learned men! But it was not so; these languages were their vernaculars. True learning was not the requisite for the ministerial office in the patristic ages. A few, like Jerome, had biblical learning; the most were chosen without it, precisely on the plan now recommended to us. The Latin pastor knew no Greek nor Hebrew, but read his Bible from a translation, precisely as our author wishes his new evangelist to do now. The Greek pastor knew no Latin nor Hebrew. The result of that experiment is indelibly written in church history the result was the gradual development of popery; the “dark ages;” the reintroduction of idolatry; the mass, bloody persecutions, and the corruption of Christianity. This lesson is enough for us; we do not desire to witness the repetition of the experiment. It was by just such expositions, founded on a translation, for instance, that the great Augustine, ignorant of Hebrew, and nearly ignorant of Greek, but energetic, eloquent and confident, introduced into the theology of the Latin church those definitions which it took all the throes and labours of the Reformation to expunge; which made μετανοια mean penance (pœnitentia); δικαιωσιν mean conversion, and faith (fides) a derivative of the verb fit, “it is done,” thus representing faith as work. Shall we be told that Protestants have now learned that lesson so well that there will be no danger of their being again misled on those points, even by uneducated guides? Perhaps not on those points. But who can foresee on what other unexpected points? The ingenuity of error is abounding.

Reference is made to a literary revolution which is to extrude the study of the classics from their place, and substitute other (modern) languages for them, or modern sciences; and it is claimed that this revolution has gone so far, and is so irrevocable, that in making the classics a requisite for preaching we narrow our field of choice to one-fifth of the fully educate young men of the country. We see no evidences of such revolution as permanent. We see, indeed, a plenty of rash innovation; but there is no sign that the educated mind of Christendom will submit to such a change in the methods of liberal culture. The business school is relied on, indeed, to make architects, engineers, and clerks; but real education, in it:—higher sense, still resorts to the classics as the foundation Germany, for instance, “the school-mistress of the nations,” has her “real-schulen” for the training of the men who are expected to devote themselves to the “bread and butter sciences;” but her gymnasia, where her youth are prepared for the professions. hold fast to the most thorough teaching of the dead languages. The plea that we limit ourselves away from four-fifths of our young men by requiring classical training, is refuted by this simple view. The educated, in any mode or form, are a small fraction of any population. Suppose, now, we retort, that by requiring that sound English education in divinity, which is described to us as so desirable and sufficient, we preclude ourselves from the whole field of choice except that small fraction; wherefore we should require no education, classical nor English, but ordain the common mass-ignorance. The reply to this our sophism would be patent:—that while the church will not ordain ignorance, she does not preclude even the most ignorant, because she proposes to educate (in English) and then ordain all worthy applicants. But if classical training is essential to the minister's best usefulness, as we have shown, the very same reply avails for us. The church does not exclude the four-fifths of the cultivated English scholars, by requiring of all classical knowledge; because her call is to come forward and accept a classical education, and then be ordained. The man who is fit for a minister will not refuse the additional labour for Christ, when he learns that it is requisite for his more efficient service of Christ. But it is said, the man whose heart God hath touched, may have no Latin, and may be middle-aged, and may have, moreover, a family on his hands. The classical process is too long for him to attempt. To this the answers are two. Very few men at middle age ought to be encouraged to take up the clerical profession. They must be men of peculiarly good endowments of nature and grace, or both they and the church will have to repent the unseasonable change of profession. And second, for those peculiar cases our system already makes full provision. To any fit man's plea, that the preparation required of him by the church is hopelessly long, she has this answer:—no such man, however behindhand in his training, ever fails to receive, among us, the aid and encouragement to carry him through the desirable training, Her answer is, to point to that noble and honoured class of her ministers represented by the explanter, James Turner of Bedford; the ex-carpenter, Dr J. D. Matthews; the ex-ship captain, Dr Harding; and to say to all like-minded men, if Christ gives you the will, we pledge ourselves to give the way.

It is urged that, by our requirements, we actually limit God's sovereignty. He may have elected the devout man without Latin, while we practically refuse to have him. That this is a “begging of the question,” appears from one remark:—suppose it should be that God's election and call are to a thorough education, and then to preaching. But whether this is God's purpose is the very question in debate. To assume the negative is to beg that question. Should the affirmative be true, then our requirements are not across, but in the very line of God's purpose.

We are pointed to the inconsistent execution of our system to the perfunctory examinations of Presbyteries, the shameful ignorance of some candidates, the practical setting at naught of our own constitution; and we are told that we have just enough of the old system, in name, to drive off from us the good men who make no pretence of classical knowledge, and yet not enough to keep out other men as ignorant, and less honest. Now, on this we remark, first, that this charge is not brought by us, but by others; and it is not our mission at this time to affirm it. But, secondly, if it be true, the inference drawn from it, that our slow growth and small success mainly are caused by a lack of this class of less educated ministers, will find its complete refutation in the facts charged. For surely no other solution of our scanty success need be sought, if those discreditable facts are true. If courts of Christ's church thus trample or their own profession and their own rules; if they thus dishonestly certificate ignorance as scholarship, assisting such impositions on society; if the young men who become our pastors have no more conscience than to contemn and waste the precious opportunities for learning provided them by the church, so as to come forth from them pretentious dunces; if such grovelling laziness in the season of preparation is the measure of these young men's energy and devotion in their ministry, there is a mass of sin at once abundantly sufficient to insult our God, grieve his Spirit, and effectually alienate his help. Our quest is ended. There is no need for our looking one step farther to find out what is the matter. Such a ministry cannot be blessed of a truthful God, and cannot succeed. The one work which remains for us is, not to change our constitution, but, with deep repentance and loathing delinquencies so shameful, to return to it, and live up to it. Let us try that first. If these charges are true—which it is no task of ours to affirm—let us execute our righteous rules in examining and licensing in such a way that God's truth shall be honoured, real merit recognised, and dishonest indolence shamed and banished from among us. Then perhaps, we shall find that our ministry will be efficient, without innovating on the wisdom of our laws, approved by the experience of centuries.

It is argued that since society includes various grades of taste, culture, and possessions, our church is suffering for the lack of different grades of ministers. But we thought that the parity of the ministry was one of the corner-stones of our constitution. Methodists, or prelatists, can consistently have different grades: for they retain some features of hierarchy. Our church, in its very essence, is not a hierarchy, but a republic, Now, there is one sense in which, with an equally thorough education, we shall have, not grades, but sorts of ministers endlessly various, and adapted to all the various parts of our work. No two minds are exactly alike; no two temperaments. God, who bestows the different shades of nature, provides for this variety; that is enough. All we need is to do as our author so well inculcates in his January number—allot the right man to the right work by our Presbyterial supervision. This is entirely compatible with parity. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” But when we begin to make a substantive difference in the educational privileges of ministers, to train them for different grades, these will soon be virtually marked as higher and lower grades. “Ultimately, the forms will be moulded to the virtual facts, and we shall have, like the Methodists, the beginnings of a hierarchy.” And whereas it is supposed that the more cheaply trained preachers will be specially adapted to the plainer and poorer congregations, our knowledge of Presbyterian human nature makes us surmise that these will be the very charges to insist most upon having the fully trained minister, and to resent the allotment of the less learned to them as a stigma and a disparagement. It is much to be feared that the new grade will be obstinately rejected by the very grade of hearers for whom they will have been devised.

The desideratum claimed is, that there shall be a way, like the Methodist mode, for giving many ministers their adequate training without the expense and delay of segregating them for years in scholastic institutions, along with a useful occupation in parochial labours. Now, we are struck with the thought that our constitution provides expressly for just this way. It nowhere makes a college or a seminary an essential. All that it stipulates for, in the way of means, is a two years' training under “some approved divine.” This, of course, throws the door wide open to the incoming of the very ideal painted. The young man may join any experienced, pastor, assist him within or without his field of labour, pursue his studies under his guidance, in connection with these evangelistic labours, present himself before Presbytery, and, if his “parts of trial” are adequate, demand his licensure with the full sanction of the present' constitution. Now, if such a mode of training is so desirable, is so strongly a “felt want,” how comes it that none enter into this open door? Why has there been such a rarity of such cases in our church since 1825? Why are not many learned and wise pastors—of whom we have so many—thus bringing on many godly candidates? The obvious reply is, that the good sense of the church tacitly perceives this training unsuited to the times. Pastors practically feel this, churches feel it, and the young men feel it. It is the same feeling which is to-day operating in the Methodist Church to make them substitute this method of training, long so peculiarly their own, by one more nearly like ours. In a word, the door is already open. If the Christian community felt its need of this way, it would use it. It does not use it; and the inference is that really it does not want it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

An Educated Ministry (Part 1)

This and the next two posts are from an essay written by R.L. Dabney for the periodical The Southern Presbyterian Review, for the April 1883 edition. It was written in response to an October 1882 & January 1883 article, entitled "An Inquiry into the Aggressiveness of Presbyterianism."

At first thought we are surprised to find that the best established principles should need reconsideration and resettling in every age. Yet the explanation is not difficult. Some new pressure of circumstances, or some trait of mind in a part of the new generation, gives renewed prominence to the old objections against the settled principle, and temporarily overshadows the more weighty reasons for it. For every practical question has two sides, contras as well as pros. Then, it is forgotten that those objections were as maturely considered as they now are by us, when our fathers determined the system for us, and were properly overborne by the affirmative considerations. We are tempted to think that the contrary reasons have never been regarded as they deserve to be, and that we have a new light on the subject, until our innovating experiments, by their failure, teach us again that our predecessors had really looked more thoroughly around the subject than we had. Such a process-has been for some months engaging a part of our church, as to the general requirement of a thorough and classical education of our ministers. The two awakening essays which appeared in the October and January numbers of this Review, entitled “An Inquiry into the Aggressiveness of Presbyterianism,” are not the only outgivings of this movement. The overture of the Bethel Presbytery, pleading for a ministry without any classical acquirements, and other declarations, evince the unsettled mind of many. Our discussion, therefore, does not derive its whole importance from the wide attention which the brilliancy, force and plausibility of those essays are exciting.

The most of the points, so well made in them, we concede. Aggressiveness ought to be a prime trait of every church, and test of its fidelity; for what else is her great commission from her Lord, except a command to be aggressive until she has conquered the whole world? She ought to be able to reach the poorest and lowest. Presbyterial supervision ought to be wiser and more effective. There is a startling lack of ministers, calling in trumpet tones upon Christian men. Looseness in examining candidates, false and deceptive verdicts of a scholarship which does not exist, and literary indolence in the applicants, are painfully inconsistent with our rules and professions. The practical relations of our seminaries to our Presbyteries are most anomalous and mischievous. Our constitution, though of well proved wisdom, is not inspired, and therefore its betterment is not impossible. In our author's pungent presentation of these points, we heartily rejoice. The one point on which we take issue with him is his proposal to revolutionise our system of training ministers, in order to overtake our aggressive work more rapidly.
The argument for this proposal is drawn from a comparison of our numbers in the four Southern Atlantic States with the numbers of the Baptist and Methodist Churches in the same regions. The allegation is that they, no older than we on this ground, have each made fivefold progress over us, in number of ministers and members. This fivefold growth is ascribed mainly to the facility and speed with which they multiply ministers and cheapen their labour, by reason of their not requiring classical education of them. The inference is, that we must imitate those denominations, so far as to cease to require—though we shall still invite—such training of our candidates. The author thinks that we need ministers whose grades shall differ in this sense, to perform the different kinds of missionary and pastoral work.

First, the fact assumed needs inquiry. Is it true that each of these denominations has done five times as much real work for Christ and souls as our own? Our author claims this, and rather dogmatically forbids us to go behind their statistics, or to deduct any more from them than from our own, for inaccuracies. It is impossible for sensible men, acquainted with stubborn facts, to submit here. Our own statistics may be loose; but theirs are doubtless far looser. This could not but result from the independency of the Immersionist churches, and from the notorious facility with which the Methodists demit or resume their church membership. Are all the hundreds of their “local preachers,” in any continuous sense, labouring in the ministry? Is not the country notoriously sprinkled over with members who have not been to the Lord's table for years, whose families frequent no church or Sabbath-school?

But both denominations have become far more numerous than ours. We freely admit it; yet we do not admit that this has been the result of the inferiority of our system of rearing our ministry. Twenty other solutions of their success are listed; and but little influence seems to be assigned to any of them—none at all to the most—by our author. The really influential causes of their comparative numerical growth do not appear in his list.

One is, the broad scriptural catholicity of the Presbyterian Church, It is the most liberal of all churches, receiving all true penitents to membership, of all shades of doctrinal opinion, having no shibboleth, communing with all, unchurching none, who teach the essential rudiments of salvation. Now, everybody condemns other people's bigotry; yet every carnal man is naturally a bigot as soon as he ceases to be a mere indifferentist. Hence, this wide catholicity of our church is an obstacle to her popularity with the carnal, because she firmly refuses to give them this gratification of pride and dogmatism, or to allure them by any partisan bait; but holds out only the pure and enlightened love of the holy truth of the gospel. It is well known, indeed, that this adverse world is in the habit of calling the Presbyterian the most bigoted church, at least next to the Popish. People think so, because she sternly refuses to cater to their secret bigotry.

But a second influence is more potent:—our church presents to the world the humbling doctrines of the gospel with faithful candour:—man's death in sin and inability for all spiritual good; his entire dependence on efficacious grace; the demands of a perfect law; God's eternal and essential punitive justice; the worthless-ness of man's works and sentiments for his justification; the everlasting doom of contumacious sin. These are the doctrines which carnal man hates. He also dreads perdition. Yes, with a selfish dread. And therefore is he charmed with any theory of redemption which takes off any part of the edge of these hated truths, and yet makes plausible promise of escape. The Methodist church is avowedly Arminian, and the Immersionists are partially so; the independency of the latter has borne its usual fruit, the partial relaxation of the old Calvinism of the denomination. Arminianism is semi-Pelagianism, repolished and reconstructed. There are a few modem improvements. These were probably intended by Mr Wesley to make a compromise between the Arminianism of Episcopius, Grotius, and Whitby, and Calvinism. But there is no compromise. The attempt to patch the old garment with new cloth only results in a lack of consistent juncture in the “Wesleyan theology,” which gives occasion, in that church, for all the shades of preaching, from moderate Calvinism down to almost blank Pelagianism, according to the personal impulses of the ministers.

Again, in competition with the Immersionist churches, Presbyterianism meets a capital disadvantage in scripturally refusing to countenance any shade of ritualism. She does not permit her sacraments to be misunderstood on that point by any one. Everybody comprehends, as to her, that she sternly rejects every plan for manipulating sinners into a state of salvation by a ceremony; that she refuses to allow any process less arduous than that of a living faith, a deep repentance, including “the full purpose of and endeavour after new obedience,” and a holy striving in duty and life-long watchfulness. It is true that all better Immersionists profess to discard ritualism also in their dipping; but in spite of their disclaimers, the inordinate importance given to that form, with their close communion, practically encourage both a ritualistic and an exclusive temper. To the carnal, and even the partially sanctified heart, it is very seductive to find one's self exalted by a shibboleth and a ceremony into a spiritual aristocracy, sitting nearer God's throne than other Christians. This powerful attraction Presbyterianism will not and cannot use.

But doubtless the chief cause of the numerical spread of the other churches, and especially among the ruder classes, is the employment of “new measures.” These, the anxious-seat, the altar of penitents, and others, known as “revival measures,” have hitherto been almost universally used by Methodists, and generally by Immersionists. They are as influential as they are deleterious. They cater to the strongest passions of the sinful heart. By parading in public the vivid, and often the hysterical, emotions of penitents, and especially of females, they offer to the populace that spectacular excitement which is as fascinating to them as bodily intoxication, and draws the gaping crowd as powerfully as a hanging, a horse-race, or a pugilistic battle. These measures also engage the passion of sympathy, a passion, as universal as it is misunderstood. They allure the awakened carnal mind, by flattering it with the permission, yea, the direct encouragement, to adopt a gust of sympathetic excitement, a fit of carnal remorse, with the calm of the natural collapse which succeeds it, and a shallow, spurious hope, in lieu of that thorough work of mortifying sin and crucifying self along “with Christ, which, we teach, alone evidences a title to heaven.” No -wonder that these “measures” have been found a prime enginery for religious self-deception; the patent process for building wood, hay, and stubble into the fabric of the visible church, instead of precious metals and stones. If our consciences would permit us to resort to these measures, we could burn over wide surfaces, as others do, leaving them, as they do, blighted and barren for all more scriptural methods. Thus this unhealthy system works against us, not only by sweeping the multitudes, by unsound means, into these other communions, but by searing and hardening what is left, so as to unfit them for our sober but safer methods.

These are the differences which account, so far as merely natural means are concerned, for the greater facility with which these denominations gain popular accessions. It may be said that, in urging these points, we are guilty of making “odious comparisons,” and of insinuating, at least, disparagement of sister churches. If our reasonings on these points are untrue, then we are thus guilty. But if we are correct, then loyalty to truth requires us, in studying the comparison of results to which we are challenged, to state the true solutions. But we state them in no spirit of arrogance or insolence towards others; for we accompany these points with deep and sorrowful confessions of the imperfections of our own household. The nominal membership of all the churches, including our own, is, doubtless, deplorably mixed. Witness the prevalent worldly conformities; the incursions of dissipating amusements; the decline of family religion and discipline; the Sabbath-breaking by communicants, and even ministers; the loose and unscrupulous methods of “making money;” the indifference of multitudes to the obligations of old debts; the practical prayerlessness of countless families and individuals. The correct inferences to draw from all these corruptions are:—that any conclusions whatever from these hollow numbers, as to the methods of a real and spiritual efficiency in God's work, are mainly out of place, and untrustworthy;

that the number of counterfeit coins among our supposed gains. are too large to leave much place for prudent counting up; that the church of Christ at this time is called to study genuineness much more than numerical increase.

If the question be raised, why the church does not grow faster? we are persuaded that the real answer, which most needs looking at, is the one which our author dismisses most hastily:—that the fault is not ecclesiastical, but spiritual. The real desideratum is not new methods, but fidelity to the old, a true revival in the hearts of ministers and Christians themselves, a faith that “feels the power of the world to come,” a solemn and deep love for souls. What we most need is repentance, and not innovation.
We are persuaded, however, that the Southern Presbyterian Church is contributing to the general advancement of Christ's cause, along with sister denominations, in ways of her own, which are not to be measured by numerical results; and it is not arrogance, but truth, to view these contributions. In the natural “body there are many members, yet one body, but all the members have not the same office;” and it is so in the ecclesiastical body of the visible church-catholic. Presbyterian Ism is providentially fashioned and employed to do for Christendom her own peculiar part. It is the conservative branch of the family of churches, checking the departures of all the others from sound doctrine. It is the exemplar of scriptural organisation. It is the sustainer of the more thorough education of both ministry and laity. And we assert that, constituted as poor human nature now is, it is entirely reasonable to expect that Presbyterianism cannot, in the nature of the case, both perform all these her peculiar precious functions, and also compete successfully for the largest and most promiscuous numbers. The two results may be now incompatibles. And hence it may be justifiable that Presbyterianism should make the practical election, and pursue these vital results which are peculiarly assigned to her in providence, though at the cost of resigning the more promiscuous numerical greatness. The normal school cannot have as many pupils as the popular school; to do so it must cease to be normal.

The issue raised, then, is this:—whether it is not now our duty to give up our constitutional requirement of a classically learned ministry, and provide another grade of ministers, equipped only with piety, seal, and an English training, in order to gain these numerical accessions, like our Immersionist and Methodist neighbours. It is not proposed that we shall lower the standard of learning in our Seminaries, or discourage such as have taste for it from acquiring classical training; but that there shall be another wide door into our ministry, by which a large number of ministers of another grade shall be permitted to enter, -with only an English education. On the other hand, we hold that our present theory of preparation should be left unchanged, and only more faithfully executed. The extent of this is, not to make classical learning so essential to the being of a ministry as to refuse the character of a valid minister to those who are without our training, but to assert that it is a true source of increased, efficiency; and hence, inasmuch as every one who avouches the obligation to serve Christ ought to feel obliged to serve him the most and the best possible, we conclude it to be our duty to gain that increase of capacity for service.

The first reason we urge against innovation is, that it opposes the deliberate judgment of the wisest and best of our fathers, when viewing and deciding the very same problem. Is it said that the tremendous emergency arising out of our growth of population has put a new face on the question, in the presence of which they would have decided otherwise? No. Dr John H. Rice, for instance, foresaw precisely this increase and this emergency. He looked full in the face the figures disclosing the slow relative growth of Virginia Presbyteries. And in the presence of these express facts this is what he did in 1825:—he devoted his great powers to pressing these two points, the evils of an uneducated ministry, and the equipment of Union Seminary. Never, for one moment, did the facts sway him and his co-workers to favour the hurrying of a single partially educated man into the field; their only idea of the remedy was, to provide means as speedily as possible to give the most thorough. education to the largest number of ministers. The same thing was true of the fathers who began the creation of Princeton Seminary in 1811, Ashbel Green, Archibald Alexander, Samuel Miller, and their comrades. The same was true also of Moses Stuart in New England, and the men who created the Congregational (American) Education Society. They saw the solemn emergency; they appreciated the church's slow progress in overtaking it; they refused all other remedy for it than the one to which they devoted their energies; means for the thorough education of more numerous men to reap the perishing harvest.

But it is suggested that there is substantial difference in the case now, because we now have a rich and profuse literature in English, covering all the departments of theological learning, whereas, when the Presbyterian constitution was first devised (say 1649-1651), all was locked up in Latin. We are told that, even at the day of Albert Barnes, he had nothing in English to begin with, save Doddridge's Family Expositor.

This greatly misrepresents the facts. We must remind readers, first, that the dates of the creation of our constitution, as an American church, are not those of the Westminster Assembly but are 1729, 1758, 1789, and especially 1820. At the last date which marks the real establishment of our polity, the English works on all the branches of divinity bore as large a ratio to the Latin then accessible to American scholars, both in quantity and value, as at this day. To make it much otherwise, indeed at the epoch of the Westminster Assembly, one must strangely forget the works of the great English Reformers a century before, from Cranmer onward, many of which were in English He must forget that the age of the Westminster Assembly was adorned by such writers as Lightfoot, Richard Baxter, Manton John Owen, the prince of expositors, Joseph Caryl, Sir Robert Boyle, Bishop Hall, Matthew Poole, the Scotchmen Baillie Henderson, and Rutherford, the evangelical prelates Usher and Leighton, the poet and divine John Milton, and a multitude of others. These men illustrated every part of biblical learning by works which, to this day, are mines of knowledge for the more pretentious moderns, and that, not only in Latin dress, as Poole's “Synopsis Criticorum,” but also in English, as the same author's “Annotations.”
Now, when we add to this noble catalogue of English biblical lore of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the yet more profuse works of the eighteenth and the early part of the nineteenth, how much is the trivial assertion of Barnes worth? Not to dwell on the profound works of the scholars of the Anglican Church, such as Dean Prideaux, Bishops Hammond, Bull Stillingfleet, Warburton, Waterland, Pearson, we remember that age witnessed the critical labours of a Bentley and a Mill, the Hebrew Grammars (in English) of Bayley, Fitsgerald, Joseph Frey; the Lexicons of Parkhurst and Frey, the publication of Dr George Campbell's Gospels, the vast and unsurpassed work of Dr Lardner (Credibility), the prophetic studies of Sir Isaac Newton and of Bishop Newton and Dr Faber; ministers had possessed Doddridge from 1740; McKnight from 1756; Dr Benson from 1735; Paley's Horæ Paulinæ from 1790; Blair on the Canon from 1785; Lowth's critical works from 1787; Whitby from 1761; Dr Gill from 1763, unsurpassed, perhaps unequalled, by any commentator since, who wrote on the whole Bible; Matthew Henry from 1706; Scott from 1790; not to dwell on the long line of American divines from Drs. John Cotton and Cotton Mather down to Jonathan Edwards. No, the framers of our constitution did not require learning of their ministry because the stores of information were then locked up in Latin, but because they knew that knowledge of the originals of the Bible was essential to make a competent teacher in the church. Nor are the English books of this age on divinity more learned, or accurate, or useful, than the former; they are more frequently feebler rehashes of the very materials already gathered by those admirable old scholars.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Parental Responsibilities in Light of Original Sin

And, first, the urgency of parental responsibility appears in a solemn, and even an awful manner, from the nature of the parental relation itself. Perhaps we fail to appreciate its momentous nature by reason of its very commonness and of our familiarity with it. Wherever human society is, there the parent is. Every man was once a child; every human existence begins in a parental relation. Our perpetual familiarity with the light of the sun disqualifies to appreciate its glory and beauty as we would, were we to behold it but once before entering on a life of blindness. Thus, we are so accustomed to see the child proceeding from the parent, that we are incompetent to perceive the solemn nature of the relation. Let us seek to gain a juster view by comparing the human race with that order of angels than which man was made a little lower. It is every way probable that to the angels the power of reproduction, bestowed on Adam and Eve in paradise, appeared the most marvellous and splendid part of this new creation of the Almighty. For the bliss and glory of the elect angels there is no multiplication. The only increase within their reach is that arithmetical addition which may arise out of their individual progress in knowledge, love and happiness. The eternal adoption of Gabriel is assured against all the powers of hell and accidents of time. But Gabriel cannot multiply his happiness and transmit it to beloved offspring of his own likeness. Except as he has communion with his fellow-angels who began their career with him, he remains solitary in his blessedness. But the glory of the Divine beneficence towards the human race appears in this, that the parents, without alienating anything of their own immortality, are able to multiply immortalities in ever-widening and progressive numbers. Thus, by the multiplications of the generations of men, the field of the Divine love and benevolence is widened as time flows on, until the subjects of the Divine bene factions and instruments of the Divine glory on earth unspeakably surpass in number the heavenly hosts. It may be beyond our skill, as it is unnecessary to this argument, to distinguish and allot the several parts of the agency which belong to God and to the human instruments in the origin of a new human soul. It is enough for us to know that God, by his mysterious works of creation and providence, does empower human parents for this amazing result — the origination, out of nothing, of a new being — and that a rational, immortal spirit. How solemn, how high, this prerogative! It raises man nearer the almighty Creator, in his supreme prerogative as Master of all things, than any thing else that is done by creatures on earth or in heaven. Angels are not thus endued. The responsibility of this relation is not fully seen by merely regarding the infant as a beautiful animal, organized, in miniature, after the kind of the parents. It is the mysterious propagation of a rational soul that fills the reflecting mind with awe. The parent looks upon the tender face which answers to his caress with an infantile smile; he should see beneath that smile an immortal spark which he has kindled, but can never quench. It must grow, for weal or for woe; it cannot be arrested. Just now it was not. The parents have mysteriously brought it from darkness and nothing. There is no power beneath God's throne that can remand it back to nothing, should existence prove a curse. Yes; the parents have lighted there an everlasting lamp, which must burn on when the sun shall have been turned into darkness and the moon into blood, either with the glory of heaven or the lurid flame of despair.

The command to the first pair to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth was given as a blessing of paradise, and while man was unfallen. To understand it, we must remember that covenant which was made with Adam as the representative of the race. God gave him an easy law to keep, with the implied promise that, by keeping this command, he should 'enter into life.' Had Adam stood his probation successfully, he would have been lifted from his mutable position into a permanent adoption of life, making both his holiness and his happiness indefectible. And we have every reason for believing that he would have raised all his posterity to that state along with himself. He stood as their representative. When he transgressed, 'they sinned in him, and fell with him.' It is hard to believe that God would have broken that representative union when about to result in the glorification of the race which he had established, and which he inexorably maintains when it issues in universal ruin and condemnation. Neither his goodness nor equity would prompt such unequal dealing. Had Adam been confirmed in glory, the law would doubtless have held by which 'he begat Seth in his own likeness after his image.' All his posterity would have been holy and happy. Cain would have lived a saint, innocent of his brother's blood, and Abel would never have felt the murderer's blow. As the successive generations of men extended, parentage would have extended and multiplied immortal happiness until earth surpassed heaven. Such is the magnificence of that plan which the Creator proposed to execute through man's parental relation.

But the amazing plan was marred. The malice of Satan saw in this feature also his opportunity to execiate a mischief as much more gigantic than the seduction of his brother-angels, as the aggregate of the whole series of human generations is greater than the number of the devils. It was, indeed, the infinite refinement of malice which he taught one of his heathen servants to cherish, when he inspired the Roman despot to wish that all the people of Rome had but one neck, that he might decapitate all at one stroke. Thus Satan saw that humanity had then but one head. By poisoning this, he would taint all the vast future body with spiritual death. Thus he vainly hoped he would usurp that very power, the power of parentage, which God had bestowed to be the instrument of multiplying blessedness, and he would turn it into an inlet of spreading and boundless sin and misery. By poisoning the spring-head, he would at once poison the whole stream in all its widening course, until it disembogued its innumerable drops — each drop in the flood a lost soul — into the ocean of eternity. Thus it is that we owe to this malignant perversion of God's plan of benevolence, that every parent now transmits to the child he loves, along with the gift of existence, the deadly disease of sin.

These, then, are the two facts which give so unspeakable a solemnity to the parent's relation to his children. He has conferred on them, unasked, the endowment of an endless, responsible existence. He has also been the instrument— if the unwilling, yet the sole instrument — of conveying to this new existence the taint of original sin and guilt. Can the human mind conceive a motive more tender, more dreadful, more urgent, prompting a parent to seek, for the beloved souls he has poisoned, the aid of the great Physician? And if this parent professes to have felt his blessed skill in his own soul, to be rejoicing in the Divine cure, and is yet callous to the ruin he has transmitted to his own child, he is a monster, with a heart harder than a wild beast's. There are hereditary diseases of the body. Their indications pierce the parent's heart like barbed arrows, even when suspected in the beloved child. To see, beneath the hectic glow of the cheek, else so beautiful, the fatal sign of the worm at the root of life; to remember that it was from your own blood the sufferer drew the poison — this awakens the pity and love of the father to all its depths. There is an authentic illustration in the last days of the first Napoleon. As his life was consumed upon the gloomy rock of St. Helena by that fearful malady, cancer of the stomach, one of the few alleviations allowed him by his jailers was the presence of a skillful Italian physician, Dr. Automarchi. The French officers near him relate that, when death was recognized as certain, the emperor laid his dying commands on his compatriot to return to Italy, visit his only son, watch over his health, and endeavor by every resource of his art to ward off the dire inheritance of his father's disease. Thus spoke the parent's heart in this man so ruthless and hard, who had reared his throne upon a pyramid of human skulls, and ground the nations of Europe under the chariot-wheels of his ambition! How could it speak otherwise, cruel though that heart was to others? How can you, O Christian! fail to bring your child to the great Physician of souls, to be healed of the deadly contagion you have conveyed into him?” - R.L. Dabney, Parental Responsibilities, Discussions: Volume 1

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dabney on Secular Education

Is a really secularized education either possible or admissible?

First, No people of any age, religion, or civilization, before ours, has ever thought so. Against the present attempt, right or wrong, stands the whole common sense of mankind. Pagan, Papist, Mohammedan, Greek, Protestant, have all hitherto rejected any other education than one grounded in religion, as absurd and wicked. Let Mr. Webster be heard against the Girard will, which enjoined, in order to exclude Christianity from his college, that no minister should ever enter its walls. The argument against the will here was, that the trust it proposed to create was, in this, so opposed to all civilized jurisprudence, as to make it outside the law, and so void- So formidable did the point seem to lawyers, that Mr. Horace Binney, of the defense, went to England to ransack the British laws of trusts. It was in urging this point that Mr. Webster uttered the memorable words:

'In what age, by what sect, where, when, by whom, has religious truth been excluded from the education of youth? Nowhere. Never! Everywhere, and at all times, it has been regarded as essential. It is of the essence, the vitality of useful instruction!'

And this was not the assertion of Mr. Webster, the politician, but of the learned lawyer, face to face with able opponents, and making one of the most responsible forensic efforts of his life. He knew that he was uttering the weighty voice of history and jurisprudence. Let another witness be heard, of equal learning and superior character. (John B. Minor, LL. D., University of Virginia.) 'It must be acknowledged to be one of the most remarkable phenomena of our perverted humanity, that among a Christian people, and in a Protestant land, such a discussion' (whether the education of youth may not be secularized) 'should not seem as absurd as to inquire whether schoolrooms should be located under water or in darksome caverns! The Jew, the Mohammedan, the follower of Confucius, and of Brahma, each and all are careful to instruct the youth of their people in the tenets of the religions they profess, and are not content until, by direct and reiterated teaching, they have been made acquainted with at least the outline of the books which contain, as they believe, the revealed will of Deity. Whence comes it that Christians are so indifferent to a duty so obvious, and so obviously recognized by Jew and Pagan?'

We are attempting then an absolute novelty. But may not the tree be already known by its fruits? State education among Americans tends to be entirely secularized. What is the result? Whence this general revolt from, the Christian faith in this country, so full of churches, preachers, and a redundant Christian literature, so boastful of its Sabbaths and its evangelism? What has prepared so many for the dreary absurdities of materialism? Why do the journals which seek a national circulation think it their interest to affect irreligion? Why so many lamentations over public and popular corruptions? He who notes the current of opinion sees that the wisest are full of misgivings as to the fruits of present methods. As a specimen, let these words, from the Governor of (Massachusetts, at a recent anniversary, be taken: 'He' (Gov. Rice) 'lifted up a warning voice, with respect to the inadequacy and perils of our modern
system of one-sided education, which supposed it could develop manhood and good citizenship out of mere brain culture.'

Second, True education is, in a sense, a spiritual process, the nurture of a soul. By spiritual, the divines mean the acts and states produced by the Holy Ghost, as distinguished from the merely ethical. The nurture of these is not human education, but sanctification. Yet education is the nurture of a spirit which is rational and moral, in which conscience is the regulative and imperative faculty; whose proper end, even in this world, is moral. But God is the only Lord of the conscience; this soul is his miniature likeness; his will is the source of obligation to it; likeness to him is its perfection, and religion is the science of the soul's relations to God. Let these statements be placed together, and the theological and educational processes appear so cognate that they cannot be separated. Hence it is that the common sense of mankind has ever invoked the guidance of the minister of religion for the education of youth; in India the Brahmin, in Turkey the Imam, in Jewry the Rabbi, and in Christian lands the pastor. So, everywhere, the sacred books have always been the prime text-books. The only exception in the world is that which Rome has made for herself by her intolerable abuse of her powers. Does the secularist answer that this sacerdotal education results in a Boeotian character and puerile culture? Yes, where the sacred books are false Scriptures, but not where it is the Bible which is the textbook. So that these instances prove that the common sense of mankind has been at bottom correct, and has only been abused in some instances, by imposture.

The soul is a spiritual monad, an indivisible, spiritual unit, without parts, as without extension. Those powers, which we name as separate faculties, are only modes of function with which this unit is qualified, differentiated by the distinctions of the objects on which they operate. The central power is still one. From these truths it would appear that it cannot be successfully cultivated by patches. We cannot have the intellectual workman polish it at one place, and the spiritual at another. A succession of objects may be presented to the soul, to evoke and discipline its several powers; yet the unity of the being would seem to necessitate a unity in its successful culture.

It is the Christian ideas which are most stimulating and ennobling to the soul. He who must needs omit them from his teaching is robbed of the right arm of his strength. Where shall he get such a definition of virtue as is presented in the revealed character of God? Where so ennobling a picture of benevolence as that presented in Christ's sacrifice for his enemies? Can the conception of the interstellar spaces so expand the mind as the thought of an infinite God, an eternal existence, and an everlasting destiny? Every line of true knowledge must find its completeness in its convergency to God, even as every (beam of daylight leads the eye to the sun. If religion be excluded from our study, every process of thought will be arrested before it reaches its proper goal. The structure of thought must remain a truncated cone, with its proper apex lacking. Richard Baxter has nervously expressed this truth.

Third, If secular education is to be made consistently and honestly non-Christian, then all its more important branches must be omitted, or they must submit to a mutilation and falsification, far worse than absolute omission. It is hard to conceive how a teacher is to keep his covenant faithfully with the State so to teach history, cosmogony, psychology, ethics, the laws of nations, as to insinuate nothing favorable or unfavorable touching the preferred beliefs of either the evangelical Christians, Papists, Socinians, Deists, Pantheists, Materialists, or Fetisch worshippers, who claim equal rights under American institutions. His paedagogics must indeed be 'the play of Hamlet, with the part of Hamlet omitted.' Shall the secular education leave the young citizen totally ignorant of his own ancestry? But how shall he learn the story of those struggles, through which Englishmen achieved those liberties which the colonies inherited, without understanding the fiery persecutions of the Protestants under 'Bloody Mary,' over which the Pope's own Legate, Cardinal Pole, was sent to preside? How shall the sons of Huguenot sires in New York, Virginia, or Carolina know for what their fathers forsook beautiful France, to hide themselves in the Northern snows or the malarious woods of the South, and read nothing of the violation of the 'Edict of Nantes,' the 'Dragonnades,' and the wholesale assassination of St. Bartholomew's day, in honor of which an 'infallible' predecessor of the Pope sang Te Deurns and struck medals? Or, if the physicist attempt to ascend farther in man's history, can he give the genesis of earth and man, without intimating whether Moses or Huxley is his prophet? Or can the science of moral obligation be established in impartial oversight of God's relation to it, and of the question whether or not his will defines and grounds all human duty? Or can a Grotius or a Vattel settle the rights of nature and nations without either affirming along with the Apostles that 'God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation,' or else denying it with the infidel ethnologist? How much of the noblest literature must be ostracized, if this plan is to be honestly carried out? The State teacher must not mention to his pupil Shakespeare, nor Bacon, nor Milton, nor Macaulay. The Expurgatotrus of free democracy will be far more stringent than that of despotic Rome! But it is not necessary to multiply these instances. They show that Christian truths and facts are so woven into the very warp and woof of the knowledge of Americans, and constitute so beneficial and essential a part of our civilization, that the secular teacher, who impartially avoids either the affirmation or denial of them, must reduce his teaching to the bare giving of those scanty rudiments, which are, as we have seen, not knowledge, but the mere signs of knowledge. Does some one say that practically this showing is exaggerated, for he is teaching some purely secular course, without any such maiming of his subjects or prejudicing of Christianity? If his teaching is more than a temporary dealing with some corner of education, the fact will be found to be that it is tacitly anti-Christian; overt assaults are not made; but there is a studied avoidance which is in effect hostile. There can be no neutral position between two extremes, where there is no middle ground, but 'a great gulf fixed.'

Fourth, Of all rightful human action the will is the executive and the conscience the directive faculty. Unless these be purified and enlightened, to enhance the vigor of the soul's other actions by training is but superfluous mischief. If in a ship the compass be lost and the pilot blind, it is better that there should not be a great force to move her machinery. The more energetic its motion, the greater is the likelihood the ship will speedily be upon the breakers. Surely this is sufficient to show to the reflecting mind that right moral inculcation cannot be separated at any point or for any time from the intellectual, without mischief.

One very obvious and yet not the weightiest application of this truth is to the discipline of the school itself. No training of any faculty takes place without some government. On what moral basis shall the teacher who wholly suppresses all appeal to religion rest that authority which he must exercise in the school-room? He will find it necessary to say to the pupil, 'Be diligent. Be obedient. Lie not. Defraud not,' in order that he may learn his secular knowledge. But on whose authority? There is but one ground of moral obligation, the will of God, and among the people of this country he who does not find the disclosure of that will in the Scriptures, most often finds it nowhere. But this teacher must not inculcate this Bible. Then his mere might must make his right, or else the might of the parent, or of the magistrate, to whose delegated authority he points back. Or his appeal may be to mere self-interest.

Will this government be wholesome for a youth's soul?

But from a pupil the youth becomes a citizen. He passes under wider and more complex obligations. The end of the State schooling is to fit him for this. The same question recurs, with transcendent moment, On what basis of right shall these duties rest? As a man, it is presumable he will act as he was taught while a boy. Of course then the grounds of obligation employed with him in school should be the ones he is to recognize in adult life. In the State school a non-Christian standard alone could be given him. He cannot be expected now to rise to any better; he may sink to a lower, seeing the ground then given him had no foundation under it. That is to say, young Americans are to assume their responsibilities with pagan morals, for these are just what human reason attains from the non-Christian standard. Will this suffice to sustain American institutions? One may say: Natural theism may deduce quite a high ethical code, as witness the Greek philosophy. So could a man who rightly construed the data of his consciousness be an atheist; even the atheist might find in them proof that conscience ought to govern. But he does not, nor does the pagan reason act as Epictetus speculated .Let us begin to legislate for the people as they ought to be, and we shall have a fine card-castle. In fact, Americans, taken as we find them, who do not get their moral restraints from the Bible, have none. If, in our moral training of the young, we let go the 'Thus saith the Lord,' we shall have no hold left. The training which does not base duty on Christianity is, for us, practically immoral. If testimony to this truth is needed, let the venerable Dr. Griffin, of a former generation, be heard. 'To educate the mind of a bad man without correcting his morals is to put a sword into the hands of a maniac.' Let John Locke be heard. 'It is virtue, then, direct virtue, which is the hard and valuable part to be aimed at in education.'... 'If virtue and a well-tempered soul be not got and settled so as to keep out ill and vicious habits, languages and science, and all the other accomplishments of education, will be to no purpose but to make the worse or more dangerous man.' Let Dr. Francis Wayland be heard. 'Intellectual cultivation may easily exist without the existence of virtue or love of right. In this case its only effect is to stimulate desire; and this, unrestrained by the love of right, must eventually overturn the social fabric which it at first erected.' Last, let Washington be heard, in his farewell address, where he teaches that the virtue of the citizens is the only basis for social safety, and that the Christian religion is the only adequate basis for that virtue.
But, is not mental culture per se elevating? It is hard for us to give up this flattery, because hitherto education has been more or less Christian. The minister has been the American school-master. But are not the educated the more elevated? Yes. For the reason just given, and for another; not that their mental culture made them seek higher morals, but their (and their parents') higher morals made them seek mental culture! We are prone to put the cart before the horse. Again I cite evidence. James Anthony Froude, a witness by no means friendly to orthodoxy, quoting Miss Florence Nightingale, emphatically endorses her opinion, that the ordinary, as the natural effect of the mere communication of secular knowledge to youths, is only to suggest the desire for more numerous, and, for the bulk of men whose destiny is inevitably narrow, illicit objects of desire. But they plead: In teaching the youth to know of more objects of desire you also teach him to know more restraining considerations. The fatal answer is that knowledge does not rule the heart, but conscience (if anything does); mere knowledge, without God's fear, makes desire grow faster than discretion. Says Sir Henry Buiwer: 'I do not place much confidence in the philosopher who pretends that the knowledge which develops the passions is an instrument for their suppression, or that where there are the most desires there is likely to be the most order, and the most abstinence in their gratification.'

Again, the soul should grow symmetrically. Let the boughs of a tree grow, while the roots (without actual disease) stand still; the first gale would blow it over, because of the disproportion of its parts.

Fifth, We need the best men to teach our children. The best are true Christians, who carry their religion into everything. Such men neither can nor will bind themselves to hold so influential a relation to precious souls for whom Christ died, and make no effort to save them. So the tendency must be towards throwing State schools into the hands of half-hearted Christians or of contemptuous unbelievers. Can such be even trusted with an important secular task? Railroads persist in breaking the Sabbath; so they must be served on the track exclusively by profane Sabbath-breakers or truckling professors of religion. The consequence is, they are scourged with negligent officials, drunken engineers, and defaulting cashiers. So the State will fall into the hands of teachers who will not even teach secular learning honestly; money will be wasted, and the schools will become corrupting examples to their own pupils of slighted work and abused trusts.

Sixth, To every Christian citizen, the most conclusive argument against a secularized edneation is contained in his own creed touching human resiponsibility. According to this, obligation to God covers all of every man's being and actions. Even if the act be correct in outward form, which is done without any reference to his will, he will judge it a shortcoming. 'The ploughing of the wicked is sin.' The intentional end to which our action is directed determines its moral complexion supremely. Second, Our Savior has declared that there is no moral neutrality: 'He that is not with him is against him, and he that gathereth not with him scattereth abroad.' Add now the third fact, that every man is born in a state of alienation from God; that practical enmity and atheism are the natural outgrowth of this disposition; that the only remedy for this natural disease of man's spirit is gospel truth. The comparison of these truths will make it perfectly plain that a non-Christian training is literally an anti-Christian training.

This is the conclusive argument. The rejoinder is at tempted; that Christians hold this theology as church members, and not as citizens; and that we have ourselves urged that the State is not an evangelical agent, and its proper business is not to convert souls from original sin. True, but neither has it a right to become an anti-evangelical agency, and resist the work of the spiritual commonwealth. While the State does not authorize the theological beliefs of the Christian citizens, neither has it a right to war against them. While we have no right to ask the State to propagate our theology, we have a right to demand that it shall not oppose it. But to educate souls thus is to oppose it, because a non-Christian training is an anti-Christian training. It may be urged again, that this result, if evil, will not be lessened by the State's ceasing to teach at all, for then the training of youth will be, so far as she is concerned, equally non-Christian. The answer is, that it is one thing to tolerate a wrong as done by a party over whom we have not lawful control, but wholly another to perpetrate that wrong ourselves. For the State thus to do what she ought to condemn in the godless parent, though she be not authorized to interfere would be the sin of 'framing mischief by a law' the very trait of that 'throne of iniquity' with which the Lord cannot have fellowship.

It is objected again, that if the State may govern and punish, which are moral functions, she may also teach. If we are prepared for the theocratic idea of the State, which makes it the universal human association, To Ilau of human organisms, bound to do everything for society from mending a road or draining a marsh up to supporting a religion, then we can conclude thus. But then consistency will add to State schools a State religion, a beneficed clergy, a religious test for office, and State power wielded to suppress theological as well as social error. Again, while secular ruling and punishing are ethical functions, they are sufficiently grounded in the light of natural theism. But teaching is a spiritual function—in the sense defined - and for teaching beings fallen, and in moral ruin, natural theism is wholly inadequate, as witness the state of pagan society. Christian citizens are entitled (not by the State, but by one higher, God) to hold that the only teaching adequate for this fallen soul is redemption. But of this the State, as such, knows nothing. As God's institute for realizing secular justice, she does know enough of moral right to be a praise to them that do well and a terror to evil-doers.

The most plausible evasion is this: Since education is so comprehensive a work, why may there not be a 'division of labor?' Let the State train the intellect and the Christian parent and the Church train the conscience and heart in the home and the house of worship. With this solution some Christians profess themselves satisfied. Of course such an arrangement would not be so bad as the neglect of the heart by both State and parent.

Points already made contain fatal answers. Since conscience is the regulative faculty of all, he who must not deal with conscience cannot deal well with any. Since the soul is a monad, it cannot be equipped as to different parts at different times and places, as a man might get his hat at one shop and his boots at another; it has no parts. Since all truths converge towards God, he who is not to name God, must have all his teachings fragmentary; he can only construct a truncated figure. In history, ethics, philosophy, jurisprudence, religious facts and propositions are absolutely inseparable. The necessary discipline of a school-room and secular fidelity of teachers call for religion, or we miss of them. And no person nor organism has a right to seem to say to a responsible, immortal soul, 'In this large and intelligent and even ethical segment of your doings you are entitled to be godless.' For this teaching State must not venture to disclaim that construction of its own proceeding to its own pupil. That disclaimer would be a religious inculcation.

But farther: Why do people wish the State to interfere in educating? Because she has the power, the revenues to do it better. Then, unless her intervention is to be a cheat, her secularized teaching must be some very impressive thing. Then its impression, which is to be non-Christian, according to the theory, will be too preponderant in the youth's soul, to be counterpoised by the feebler inculcation of the seventh day. The natural heart is carnal, and leans to the secular and away from the gospel truths. To the ingenuous youth, quickened by animating studies, his teacher is Magnus Apollo, and according to this plan he must be to his ardent young votary wholly a heathen deity. The Christian side of the luminary, if there is one, must not be revealed to the worshipper! Then how pale and cold will the infrequent ray of gospel truth appear when it falls on him upon the seventh day! In a word, to the successful pupil under an efficient teacher, the school is his world. Make that godless, and his life is made godless. If it be asked again: Why may not the State save itself trouble by leaving all education to parents? The answer is, Because so many parents are too incapable or careless to be trusted with the task. Evidently, if most parents did the work well enough, the State would have no motive to meddle. Then the very raison d'etre of the State school is in this large class of negligent parents. But man is a carnal being, alienated from godliness, whence all those who neglect their children's mental, will, a fortiori, neglect their spiritual, culture. Hence we must expect that, as to the very class which constitutes the pretext for the State's interposition, the fatally one-sided culture she give will remain one-sided. She has no right to presume anything else. But, it may be asked: Is not there the church to take up this part, neglected by both secularized State and godless parent? The answer is, The State, thus secularized, cannot claim to know the Chuch as an ally. Besides, if the Church be found sufficiently omnipresent, willing, and efficient, through the commonwealth, to be thus relied on, why will she not inspire in parents and individual philanthropists zeal enough to care for the whole education of youth? Thus again, the whole raison d'etre for the State's intervention would be gone. In fact the Church does not and cannot repair the mischief which her more powerful, rich, and ubiquitous rival, the secularized State, is doing in thus giving, under the guise of a non-Christian, an anti-Christian training. It is also well known to practical men that State common schools obstruct parental and philanthropic effort. Thus, parents who, if not meddled with, would follow the impulse of enlightened Christian neighbors, their natural guides, in creating a private school for their children, to make it both primary and classical, now always stop at the primary. 'The school tax must be paid anyhow, which is heavy, and that is all they can do.' Next, children of poor parents who showed aspiration for learning found their opportunity for classical tuition near their homes, in the innumerable private schools created by parental interest and public spirit, and kindly neighborhood charity never suffered such deserving youths to be arrested for the mere lack of tuition. Now, in country places not populous enough to sustain 'State High Schools,' all such youths, must stop at the rudiments. Thus the country loses a multitude of the most useful educated men. Next, the best men being the natural leaders of their neighbors, would draw a large part of the children of the class next them upward into the private schools created for their own families, which, for the same reason, were sure to be Christian schools. The result is, that while a larger number of children is brought into primary schools, and while the statistics of the illiterate are somewhat changed, to the great delectation of shallow philanthropists, the number of youths well educated in branches above mere rudiments, and especially of those brought under daily Christian training, is diminished. In cities (where public opinion is chiefly manufactured; high schools may be sustained, and this evil obviated so far as secular tuition goes. But in the vast country regions, literary culture is lowered just as it is extended. It is chiefly the country which fills the useful professions—town youths go into trade.

The actual and consistent secularization of education is inadmissible.

But nearly all public men and divines declare that the State schools are the glory of America, that they are a finality, and in no event to be surrendered. And we have seen that their complete secularization is logically inevitable. Christians must prepare themselves then, for the following results: All prayers, catechisms, and Bibles will ultimately be driven out of the schools. But this will not satisfy Papists, who obstinately—and correctly were their religion correct—insist that education shall be Christian for their children. This power over the hopes and fears of the demagogues will secure, what Protestants cannot consistently ask for, a separate endowment out of the common funds. Rome will enjoy, relatively to Protestantism, a grand advantage in the race of propagandism; for humanity always finds out, sooner or later, that it cannot get on without a religion, and it will take a false one in preference to none. Infidelity and practical ungodliness will become increasingly prevalent among Protestant youth, and our churches will have a more arduous contest for growth if not for existence.

Perhaps American Protestants might be led, not to abandon but to revise their opinions touching education, by recalling the conditions under which the theory of State education came to be first accepted in this country. This came about in the colonies which at the same time held firmly to a union of Church and State. The Massachusetts and Connecticut colonies, for instance, honorable pioneers in State education in this country, were decidedly theoretic in their constitution. The Reformed religion was intimately interwoven. So all the Protestant States of Europe, whose successful example is cited, as Scotland and Prussia, have the Protestant as an established religion. This and State primary education have always been parts of one consistent system in the minds of their rulers in Church and State. A secularized education, such as that which is rapidly becoming the result of our State school system, would have been indignantly reprobated by the Winthrops and Mathers, the Knoxs, Melvilles, and Chalmers, and, it is presumed, by the Tholucks and even Bismarcks of those commonwealths, which are pointed to as precedents and models. It is submitted, whether it is exactly candid to quote the opinions and acts of all these great men, for what is, in fact, another thing from what they advocated? Knox, for instance, urged the primary education of every child in Scotland by the State. But it was because the State he had helped to reconstruct there was clothed with a recognized power of teaching the Reformed religion (through the allied Church), and because it was therefore able, in teaching the child to read, also to teach it the Scriptures and the Assembly's Catechism. Had Knox seen himself compelled to a severance of Church and State (which he would have denounced as wicked and paganish), and therefore to the giving by the State of a secularized education, which trained the intellect without the conscience or heart, his heroic tongue would have given no uncertain sound. Seeing then that wise and good men in adopting and successfully working this system, did so only for communities which united Church and State, and mental and spiritual training, the question for candid consideration is: What modifications the theory should receive, when it is imported into commonwealths whose civil governments have absolutely secularized themselves and made the union of the secular and spiritual powers illegal and impossible?

The answer may, perhaps, be found by going back to a first principle hinted in the outset of this discussion. Is the direction of the education of children either a civic or an ecclesiastical function? Is it not properly a domestic and parental function? First, we read in holy writ that God ordained the family by the union of one woman to one man, in one flesh, for life, for the declared end of 'seeking a godly seed.' Does not this imply that he looks to parents, in whom the family is founded, as the responsible agents of this result? He has also in the fifth Commandment connected the child proximately, not with either presbyter or magistrate, but with the parents, which, of course, confers on them the adequate and the prior authority. This argument appears again in the very order of the historical genesis of the family and State, as well as of the visible Church. The family was first. Parents at the outset were the only social heads existing. The right rearing of children by them was in order to the right creation of the other two institutes. It thus appears that naturally the parents' authority over their children could not have come by deputation from either State or visible Church, any more than the water in a fountain by derivation from its reservoir below. Second, the dispensation of Divine Providence in the course of nature shows where the power and duty of educating are deposited. That ordering is that the parents decide in what status the child shall begin his adult career. The son inherits the fortune, the social position, the responsibility, or the ill-fame of his father. Third, God has provided for the parents social and moral influences so unique, so extensive, that no other earthly power, or all others together, can substitute them in fashioning the child's character. The home example, armed with the venerable authority of the father and the mother, repeated amidst the constant intimacies of the fireside, seconded by filial reverence, ought to have the most potent plastic force over character. And this unique power God has guarded by an affection, the strongest, most deathless, and most unselfish, which remains in the breast of fallen man. Until the magistrate can feel a love, and be nerved by it to a self-denying care and toil, equal to that of a father and a mother, he can show no pretext for assuming any parental function.

But the best argument here is the heart's own instinct. No parent can fail to resent, with a righteous indignation, the intrusion of any authority between his conscience and convictions and the soul of his child. If the father conscientiously believes that his own creed is true and righteous and obligatory before God, then he must intuitively regard the intrusion of any other power between him and his minor child, to cause the rejection of that creed, as a usurpation. The freedom of mind of the child alone, when become an adult, and his father's equal, can justly interpose. If this usurpation is made by the visible church, it is felt to be in the direction of popery, if by the magistrate, in the direction of depotism.

It may he said that this theory makes the parent sovereign, during the child's mental and moral minority, in the moulding of his opinions and character, whereas, seeing the parent is fallible, and may form his child amiss, there ought to be a superior authority to superintend and intervene. But the complete answer is, that inasmuch as the supreme authority must be placed somewhere, God has indicated that, on the whole, no place is so safe for it as the hands of the parent; who has the supreme love for the child and the superior opportunity. But many parents nevertheless neglect or pervert the power? Yes, and does the State never neglect and pervert its powers? With the lessons of history to teach us the horrible and almost universal abuses of power in the hands of civil rulers, that question is conclusive. In the case of an unjust or godless State, the evil would be universal and sweeping. Doubtless God has deposited the duty in the safest place. The competitions of the State and the Church for the educating power have been so engrossing that we have almost forgotten the parent, as the third and the rightful competitor. And now many look at his claim almost contemptuously. Because the civic and the ecclesiastical spheres are so much wider and more populous than his, they are prone to regard it as every way inferior. Have we not seen that the smaller circle is, in fact, the most original and best authorized of the three? Will any thinking man admit that he derives his right to marry, to be a father, from the permission of the State? Yet there is an illusion here, because civic constitutions confer on the State certain police functions, so to speak, concerning marriage and families. So there are State laws concerning certain ecclesiastical belongings.But what Protestant concedes therefrom that his religious rights were either conferred, or can be rightfully taken away, by civil authority? The truth is, that God has immediately and authoritatively instituted three organisms for man on earth, the State, the visible Church, and the Family, and these are co-ordinate in rights and mutual independence. The State or Church has no more right to invade the parental sphere than the parent to invade theirs. The right distribution of all duties and power between the three circles would be the complete solution of that problem of good government which has never yet been solved with full success. It is vital to a true theory of human rights, that the real independence of the smallest yet highest realm, that of the parent, be respected....

Let us suppose, then, that both State and Church recognize the parent as the educating power; that they assume towards him an ancillary instead of a dominating attitude; that the State shall encourage individual and voluntary efforts by holding the impartial shield of legal protection over all property which may be devoted to education; that it shall encourage all private efforts; and that in its eleemosynary character it shall aid those whose poverty and misfortunes disable them from properly rearing their own children. Thus the insoluble problems touching religion in State schools would be solved, because the State was not the responsible creator of the schools, but the parents. Our educational system might present less mechanical symmetry, but it would be more flexible, more practical, and more useful. - R.L. Dabney, Secularized Education, Discussions Volume 4

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