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Saturday, January 16, 1819.
THIRD REPORT Of the Directors of the American Society for Educating Pious Youth for the
Gospel Ministry-September 30, 1818. In once more meeting their brethren on the anniversary of this Institution, consecrated to the interests of the church, the Directors would devoutly acknowledge the continued smiles of beaven upon the endeavours of its friends to promote its prosperity.
According to the provisions of the constitution which the Society adopted under the act of incorporation, it will be recollected that their annual meeting is attended on an earlier day than heretofore. Of course this report includes but three quarterly meetings of the Directors. At each of these meetings the average number of young men received on the list of beneficiaries has been about twelve. or the forty-one thus received at these three meetings, one is in the third stage of education, seventeen are in the second, pursuing their studies in the college, and twenty-three in the first, members of acadeinies and private schools. The whole number of beneficiaries on our funds from the commencement of the Society is one hundred and forty-six. The number for the past year is one hundred and forty.
In selecting candidates for this sacred charity, the Directors have deeply felt the difficulty and responsibility of the trust reposed in them by the Constitution. They have endeavoured to exact the best evidence which the nature of the case admits, that these candidates unite, as their claim to assistance, piety, promising talents, and real indigence.
In the appropriation of monies, the Directors have been guided by the desire of accomplishing the greatest amount of good with their limited means. Considering how much useful qualities of character depend on personal effort, and how often this effort results from the impulse of necessity; and considering how much indigent young men often do accomplish for thenselves by private exertions and the aid of friends, the Directors have designed to apportion their assistance to the exigencies of each case; believing that it is better to give to a large number, such relief as to prevent discouragement, than ample maintenance to a few. In most cases, however, they wish that the state of the funds could have justified a more liberal allowance.
In transacting business so arduous and so complex as that committed to their hands, the Directors have been compelled, by experience, to aim at simplicity and system in their proceedings ; and they hope soon to attain greater precision in the testimonials of beneficiaries, and in correspondence with the instructors of colleges and schools.
The three senior officers of Nassau Hall have been authorised and requested to examine, in behalf of the Board, candidates for the assistance of the Society, according to the Constitution, and the regulations of the Directors; and the Board bave, from time to time, appointed agents both temporary and permanent, to transmit, froin different parts of the United States, facts relating to the general oljects of this Society, and to promote its interests abroad, as they have opportunity.
For reasons which will doubtless be obvious to the Society, the Directors have found it necessary to establish the general rule, that, except in extreme cases, no one shall be admitted as a beneficiary who shall not have studied the languages at least three months.
In conformity with the name of the Society, and the liberal prin. ciples on which it was established, the Directors have endeavoured to keep out of sight all geographical and sectarian distinctions. Accordingly, no applicant has ever been refused on account of the region or religious denomination to which he belonged: but beneficiaries have been received from eleven different states and five denoumnations; and have pursued their studies in eleven colleges, and in inany academies and private schools.
In prosecuting the great business committed to their trust, the Directors have found tbe concerns of this Society attended with many difficulties, some of which, indeed, are common to all the benevolent operations of the day, but others peculiar to this.
One of these difficulties is thai locality of feeling, which limits the views of good men to their own vicinity. Sucb feelings, resulting from principles common to our nature, are strengthened in this country perhaps by the character of our institutions and babit. In some respects these limited views are attended with important advantages. But they are certainly unfriendly to the accomplishment of any great public object where concentration of efforts is required. In respect to our principal literary institutions, multiplied as they are, without the possession or hope of adequate endowmenis, we have much instruction to receive from experience. But in respect of our benevolent operations, at least we ought to learn wisdom from a few noble exainples of our own times. We rejoice in all that is accomplished by minor associations, to promote the object which we are pursuing; and we would hail them as auxiliaries in this good work, though their efforts have no direct connexion with vur own. But in no case, perhaps, is co-operation among the friends of Zion, for the attainment of a great end, more necessary than in this. The magnitude of the design requires, that it should be conducted on a large scale. Without the agency of a general Society, it is impossible to combine the two grand principles of operation, eficiency and responsibility. The independent eftirts of an individual or neighbourhood are liable soon to die away. In sucb cases too, the want of a regular body of men to examine and watch over beneficiaries, has often occasioned the selection of candidates so defective in character as to bring reproach on this department of charity.
The ample resources necessary to a great society, it is perfectly obvious, cannot be furnished by a system of contribution so restricted as to require that each sum suall be applied under the eye of the donor.
At the same time the Directors wish beneficiaries to pursue their studies in respectable seminaries, most convenient to themselves; and appropriations of money have invariably been made with an impartial regard to the best interests of students, and not from motives of favour to any literary institution. But ibis vast enterprise cannot prosper as it ought, till its friends regard it with feelings of expansive benevolence; regard it as strictly a public object, which it is their duty to promote on public principles, without stipulating that an exact and immediate equivalent of benefits shall be measured out to themselves, or to their neighbourhood. It is the cause of God and the church that calls for aid, and every one wbo contributes to its support, from proper motives, will, in this life or the next, be rewarded an hundred fold,
A secund difficulty attending the operations of this society, arises from the supposed uncertainty that exists respecting the ultimate character and uselulness of those who are assisted by its funds. The conduct of each beneficiary is subjected, as it should be, to public scrutiny ; and if exceptionable in any case, it is liable to be made the occasion of prejudice against the whole system. Judicious men will, however, see the impossibility of guarding, with entire certainty, against instances of deception. While the Directors have had so litile to regret on this point, they feel that unceasing vigilance is indispensable; and that every friend of the Society, who has the requisite knowledge of facts, ought promptly to inforin the Board of any misconduct or any unpromising defect in a beneficiary. Still the candid and wise will not demand that such a youth shall be exempt from buman infirmity, or shall possess an elevation of character that belongs only to advanced age. Much less will they condemn this system of charity in the gross, because, in common with all buman undertakings, it is liable to occasional disappointment. The fact is unquestionable, that the charity students in our colleges generally maintain a high rank in the estimation of their instructors. And that many of these students will become eminently usefal, inay be reasonably expected, if we may juilge fron distinguished examples of the same sort in Europe and America.
A third difficulty results from inadequate views of many pious people respecting the necessity of learning, as a qualification for the ministry.
Without entering into an extended discussion of this subject, which would be inconsistent with the limits of this Report, it may be taken for granted, that no one can be qualified to teach what lie does not understand. Knowledge is certainly necessary to a preacher of the Gospel; not only that experimental knowledge of the truth, which is given by the Spirit of God, but intellectual knowledge. This he must receive by special inspiration, or by study. That
ministers of this day are inspired, or have reason to expect míraculous qualifications for their work, will hardly be pretended by any sober Christian. They must then preach without knowledge, or they must acquire it, like other men, by study. And if study is necessary, time, and teachers, and books, are necessary. It is admitted that some men have made respectable attainments, without the aid of literary seminaries. Such honourable exceptions prove only that talents and zeal, which could surmount obstacles sufficient to bury common minds in obscurity, might, with proper cultivation, have shone in distinguished spheres of usefulness. It is also admitted that preachers with no literary qualifications have done good. But the question remains, with proper qualifications, how much more good might they have done ? And how much less mischief might have been mingled with this good, by inadequate or false interpretations of the Scriptures, or by prejudices fostered in the minds of the irreligious, and transferred to Christianity itself, from its unskilful advocates ?
After the utmost that candour can allow in behalf of teachers who are grossly illiterate, one solemn and unquestionable fact should not be forgotten. In those parts of our country where the defence of the gospel is chiefly committed to such teachers, open, avowed infidelity is fashionable, especially among the higher classes of society; while it is driven from the field, and scarcely has a public existence, in regions that are furnished with able preachers. Nor can it be said that this influence is limited to mere external decena cy; for the same preaching, before which infidelity bas fled away, has been accompanied, under the blessing of God, with the most powerful revivals of religion.
In this view, it is to be deeply lamented, that efforts to raise the qualifications of Ministers should be opposed, and even stigmatized, by any professed Christians who exhibit an ardent, though in this respect certainly, a mistaken zeal for the cause of religion. While we think that experience and the word of God most plainly condemn these prejudices, we would not speak of them in terms of asperity ; but the magnitude of the subject requires us to speak distinctly. What then is the state of those regions where these prejudices exist in their greatest strength ? A respectable gentleman now resident in the West says in a letter to the Directors, “The objects of your Society bave long had the next place in my heart to those of the Bible Society. I have too often seen in other parts of the country professed preachers of the Gospel · who could not teach, and would not learn.' Judge then how I must have felt in this region, wbere I have seen more than one preacher who was ready to avow that he could not read the Bible.' From another region, a gentleman of equal credibility writes, that there is a considerable number of preachers who can neither “read nor write.” In other extensive districts of the United States, preachers are to be found, who acknowle Ige that they have read only parts of the Bible; and some whose ignorance is not so great, are notwithstanding incapable of teaching children in a common school the rudiments of the English language. Will these men think themselves injuriously treated, when it is said, that they are incompetent to teach and guide the church of God! We would not say that no man, in any
circumstances, ought to preach, without respectable literary acquisitions. But the time is come to say unequivocally, that without such acquisitions, no man ought to regard himself, or be regarded by others, as competently qualified for this great work. While we would give ample credit for all the good accomplished by men of piety and sound understanding, though defective in education, some of whom have been great blessings to the church, we hope that the Christian public, and especially the members of this Society, will keep steadily in view the importance of a learned, as well as a pious ministry.
A fourth difficulty, closely connected with the foregoing, is, that many who admit the necessity of ministers being learned men, are in no proper degree aware bow great is the deficiency of such ministers in the United States.
In all calculations which have been recently made on this subject, it has been common to allow that the country would be properly supplied, if there were one educated minister to every thousand souls. That there should be at least this number, will appear reasonable, when we reflect that in England and Wales, with a population of 10,150,615, there are 10,434 clergymen of the established church, while the dissenting ministers are supposed to be even more numerous than those of the establishment. If only one half of these were estimated to possess competent qualifications, there would be more than one to 1000 souls. · In 1753 there was in New-England, on an average, one liberally educated minister to every 628 souls. When we say then, that there should be in the United States one minister to 1000 souls, we only claim that the country should be supplied a little more than half as well as New-England was actually supplied within the memory of
many now upon The United States contain about 9,000,000 inhabitants. At the rate of one minister to 1000 souls, this population requires 9,000 ministers. Let us now see what is the actual number.
To avoid misapprehension, the Directors wish two things to be kept in mind. One is, that while the college catalogues are taken as the only basis of accurate calculation, the estimate of competent ministers includes, as will be seen, a large number not educated at Colleges, who are supposed to have acquired, in some other way, sufficient learning to be safe interpreters of the Bible. The otber is, that this estimate has no respect whatever to difference of religious denomination.
From the triennial catalogues of the following Colleges, viz. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Union, Brown, Middlebury, Williams, Bowdoin, Columbia, Carlisle, South Carolina, Transylvania, and William and Mary, it appears that only 1465 settled