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spirits of men run out into heats and passions, and into perverse disputes, and mere notional contentions, which have ever been diminutions unto the power of godliness.-1 Cor. iii. 3, 4. When there are schisms in the body, the members will not have care one of another.-1 Cor. xii. 25. Greatly, therefore, even for its own cause, are the sad and dangerous divisions of these times to be lamented, when men make use of civil troubles to disturb, yea, to tear asunder the unity of the church; when they set up, as in the time of the Donatists, altar against altar, and church against church, and make secessions from the common body, and then one from another, to the infinite content and advantage of the common enemies of our religion, and hazard of it. It were a blessed thing if we were in a condition capable of the apostle's exhortation, to speak all the same thing, to be perfectly joined in the same mind and in the same judgment, to be of one mind, and to live in peace.-1 Cor. i. 10; 2 Cor. xii. 11.-See Seven Sermons on the Fourteenth Chapter of Hosea, by Edward Reynolds, D. D., Lord Bishop of Norwich, (Serm. V.)
SELECTING AND LICENSING CANDIDATES FOR THE MINISTRY.
[It may be supposed the following letter is not altogether suited to the circumstances of the Presbyterian Church in this country. A careful perusal of it, however, will show that the great principles which it recognizes and enforces, are applicable to the church every where. It urges the necessity of a converted, zealous, and well-educated ministry. On the last topic we fear there is still more reason for complaint in this country than in America. A considerable portion of the collegiate course is at present the most trifling. Much time and labour are spent on topics of almost no importance, while those of the greatest moment are omitted altogether. For example, in what is called the moral class, lectures are read which are dignified with the title of philosophical disquisitions, that are totally useless, if not mischievous, for any of the purposes of life; while in none of our ordinary colleges is there a chair for biblical criticism. The consequence is, that students are leaving our colleges every day, and licensed to be preachers of the Gospel, who are neither scholars, nor philosophers, nor divines. A considerable time is spent in the course of education, but education itself is far behind. We therefore request the earnest attention of our readers to the following letter, and we entreat Presbyteries and Synods to consider what can be done to improve the system of education for candidates for the ministry.]
1. That none be recommended, or even countenanced, in going forward to prepare for the sacred office, who does not give
I do not
decisive evidence of SINCERE AND HUMBLE PIETY. merely mean that he should give that amount of evidence of what we are wont to call "hopeful piety," which we require of all who are admitted to the communion of the visible church. My meaning goes much beyond this. The piety of a candidate for the ministry ought to be deep, unquestionable, and strongly marked. We expect ministers of the Gospel to be not only pious, but eminently pious :-to go before their people in this as well as every other department of Christian character. Every unconverted minister will probably prove a curse rather than a blessing to the church. Every minister of feeble, wavering, and dubious piety, even though learned and eloquent, will be likely to be of little use, and to have little comfort in his work. And when large numbers of unsanctified men are introduced into the sacred office in any church, her true glory will have departed. Doctrinal error will soon insidiously creep in. The benefit even of the portion of truth which they preach will, in most cases, be counteracted by pride, ambition, unsanctified speculation, heresy, or unsavoury deportment; and the best interests of the "commonwealth of Israel" will perish in their hands. Whatever else, then, is overlooked, or slightly regarded, in selecting and training candidates for the sacred office, personal piety-piety deep, undoubted, and exemplary-is the first, most important, and most radical of all qualifications. If there be any serious doubt, as to this point, no young man, however otherwise promising, ought ever to be encouraged, for one moment, in seeking the sacred office. Especially ought nothing of this kind to be whispered to him until the reality of his conversion has borne the test of a number of months. I have now in my recollection cases in which a contrary policy was pursued, and in which the results were painful and melancholy in a high degree. But,
2. After the best endeavours to ascertain the reality of this first and greatest qualification, no consideration should induce any one to be satisfied with mere piety, however decisive and fervent. The possession of GOOD NATURAL TALENTS should also be deemed equally indispensable. The truth is, a man of a weak, childish mind, though he were as pious as Gabriel, can never make a respectable or truly useful minister, and ought never to be invested with the sacred office at all. With respect to a large portion of the duties pertaining to that office, he is utterly unqualified to perform them; and he will be in constant danger of rendering both himself and his office con
temptible. Here again my recollection, for the last thirty years, furnishes me with no inconsiderable list of cases truly instructive and admonitory in their character. Cases in which, at the instance of partial friends, who seemed to think that apparent piety was the only thing to be regarded,—large expenditures were incurred in training up young men for the sacred desk, who, after reaching it, gave but too much evidence that, if they had been pious, exemplary mechanics, or merchants, they would have served the cause of Christ far more effectually than as public teachers; and who have continued, for many years, through entire incompetence, to be a hinderance rather than helpers of the great cause which they appeared really to love. It might seem almost an insult to common sense to say a word by way of enforcing this point, did we not frequently see enlightened individuals, and public bodies acting as if they still doubted of its truth!
3. PRUDENCE is another quality which ought ever to be deemed indispensable in those who are selected and encouraged to go forward as candidates for the holy ministry. A youth may possess unfeigned piety, and talents far above mediocrity, and yet be so strikingly deficient in dignity, in common sense, in regard to the decencies and proprieties of life, in one word, in practical wisdom, as to be totally unfit for the work of the ministry. It is not enough, therefore, in bringing forward candidates for the holy office, in such a day as this, to ascertain that they give satisfactory evidence of genuine piety, and vigorous talents. If they be characteristically rash, impudent, censorious, strikingly vain, or ridiculously eccentric, my judg ment would be decisive against encouraging them to think of the Gospel ministry. I should consider a manifest, striking defect in these particulars, as a barrier in the way quite as insurmountable as the want of piety-and if I mistake not, the New Testament will fully bear me out in this decision.
4. It is manifest that none ought to be selected and trained by the church, unless they appear to be SINCERE
FRIENDS TO HER DOCTRINE AND ORDER.
If these things be so, who does not see that, in the present age of educational enterprise for the church; when hundreds of youth are in training for the sacred work, and hundreds more are eagerly sought and prayed for, to carry on the Lord's harvest; when Presbyteries and Committees, in every part of our ecclesiastical bounds, are busy in the work of selecting and bringing forward young men to "bear the vessels of the Lord;"who does not see that the considerations of which I
have been speaking-always highly important, are now invested with a double importance, nay, with a tenfold greater interest than ever before in our day? Unless we examine with caution, and select with sacred care; unless we take counsel of our fears, as well as of our sanguine hopes; unless we learn the unwelcome art of repressing the forward, and rejecting the unworthy-as well as the more pleasing task of encouraging the modest and timid; we shall, in the midst of all our honest zeal for the cause of Christ, be in danger of filling the church with drones and pests, with clerical ignorance, imbecility, heresy, and carnal ambition, while we fondly dream that we are preparing faithful labourers for her service.
Be not in haste, then, my Christian brethren, when precious revivals of religion have hopefully brought a number of amiable young men into the Redeemer's kingdom;-be not in haste to hold up to the mass of them without distinction, the offer and the prospect of being ministers. Wait patiently. Discriminate carefully. Remember that the object in view is not to gratify personal feelings, or to soothe parental partialities; but to search out, and bring forward for the service of the church, not the greatest possible number, but the most select and excellent choice of the sanctified youth of each flock.
But momentous as is the task of selecting candidates for the holy ministry, no less momentous is the trust of ORDERING THEIR PREPARATORY STUDIES, and presiding over their whole professional training. And in reference to the latter point as well as the former, the present state of our church appears to me to call for the most profound and solemn consideration.
It cannot be disguised, and ought to be known to all who wish well to the Presbyterian church, that only a very small part of our candidates for the ministry can be prevailed upon to go through a regular or adequate course of study preparatory to the sacred office. This is an evil of deep and painful import. In spite of every remonstrance that has been urged against it, both by judicatories and individuals, it does not appear in the least degree to diminish. And if it should go on to prevail, it is not possible to measure the mischief which will be likely to arise from it to the church of God.
When Theological Seminaries were erected at great expense, for the benefit of those who wished to pursue a course of study for the holy ministry, it was taken for granted that they would generally and eagerly avail themselves of the advantages thus afforded; and that the church would soon be furnished with a generation of ministers who should manifest the superior
training under which they had been placed. It is deeply to be lamented that this expectation has not been more happily realized. But so it is--and unless public sentiment, the most potent of all earthly rulers-should be made, by the divine blessing, to effect the conquest of an evil which has set at defiance every other influence, we must sit down, for aught I can see, under the humiliating impression that the church has provided these facilities, so far as respects a majority of her sons, in a great measure in vain.
The reasons of this unhappy fact among our candidates are various. Some plead for such an abridgment of their studies as they know to be injurious, on account of the want of pecuniary support for a more extended course. In other words, they think it right to enter on the duties of the sacred office, but half qualified for their discharge, because the Providence of God has interposed an obstacle in their way, which a little patience and perseverance, or a little humility in accepting aid, would enable them to surmount. And thus, instead of struggling with some real difficulties, perhaps for a couple of years longer, they make the ignoble choice of saddling themselves on the church as incompetent drivellers through their whole lives! Others plead as an apology for shortening their course of study, the urgent call for ministers;-the wants of the heathen world; the great scarcity of gospel labourers in the domestic field;-and the perishing necessities of unevangelized millions: not recollecting, as before suggested, that, even in the days of the Apostle Paul, when the scarcity of ministers, on the one hand, and the darkness and misery of the world, on the other, were far greater than at present, the sending forth of "novices" as ministers was solemnly interdicted ;and forgetting, too, that the usefulness of the Gospel labourers, in every department of service, depends much more on their character than on their numbers. A third class are hurried on prematurely to the pulpit by the importunity of relatives and friends, who cannot be made to see the importance of more protracted study; and who feel a sort of childish ambition to see their youthful friends engaging as early in their public work as some others of whom they have read. And not only have youthful candidates, in all the fond inexperience of their juvenile feelings, yielded to this silly importunity; but venerable ministers have not been ashamed to countenance it, and to prevail on Presbyteries to become parties in the infatuation. Others again, when they had but little more than half completed their proper course of study, have been pre