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such as characterizes some of the most thrilling passages in the
their lean and flashy songs
The hungry sheep look up and are not fed.' We would by no means insinuate that this want of simplicity is always the result of intellectual poverty ; still less, that it proceeds from wilful affectation, from a want of simplicity in the motives and views of the individual, or from any thing worse than bad taste. But we view the consequences of its prevalence with, not the less dismay. To our certain knowledge, it forms at least one cause of the preference increasingly obtained by the more simple, more edifying preaching of many. of the evangelical clergy. Parents who might listen with complacency to théological discussions, and criticisms, and arguments, and orations from the pulpit, are led to the conclusion that, for their children and servants, instruction must be sought, for elsewhere. And unless there takes place a very consider. able alteration in this respect, in the prevailing style of Dissent. ing preaching, without pretending to the gift of vaticination, we may venture to predict, that the result will be such as shall give the death-blow to that interest with which hitherto the cause of evangelical religion in this country has been the most closely identified.
How far the modern system of academic training is favourable to the formation of eloquent preachers, it is impossible not to question. The negative has been strongly maintained:
and certainly, the forcing system by which orators are so very speedily raised, to meet, as is said, the increasing demand for supplies of that description, must tend, we think, to injure the plant. It were, indeed, most unreasonable to expect, that theological academies should be schools for eloquence : they are not at all adapted for this ; and all that can be required, or ought to be aimed at, is, that they should furnish the materials for it, and that they should not deserve to be stigmatized as • the grave of eloquence. We do not profess to know very much of the interior of such institutions, but we have reason to believe, that the faultiness lies, not in the administration, but purely in the system. That there are evils connected with the present system, is felt, and has been acknowledged, by some who have with equal laboriousness and ability presided over these schools of the prophets ;' and the only way by which they have become reconciled to that system, has been, by referring its defects to the inevitable imperfection of all human institutions, the alloy of evil inseparable from the good. We believe that we should be simply doing justice to the highly esteemed individuals who for the most part occupy those posts of anxious responsibility and, to a great extent, thankless labour, were we to affirm, that all that can be done by them to give efficiency to those institutions, has been done. Nor do we lightly estimate the importance and advantage of such institutions, and the actual benefits they have conferred upon the churches. But we cannot shut our eyes to the fact, that, notwithstanding the multiplication of theological academies, the Dissenting ministry has not kept pace with the times, has not risen in public estimation and efficiency, but has declined; that a vicious style of preaching has spread, as far removed from simplicity as from true eloquence, and that, from some cause or other, they have failed to produce any fair proportion of either eminent or eloquent men.
We are, perhaps, bound to say what we consider as the radical defect in the system upon which these institutions are conducted; and as the subject is an important one, we shall be forgiven, we hope, if we take the freedom of speaking very plainly. The first error lies in their embracing a course of education and training far too wide for the time allowed, and including arrangements incompatible. A raw lad is taken from the counter; he is made a preacher, as the easiest thing, in one year, a Greek scholar in two, a profound Hebraist in three, and an accomplished divine and orator in four. And his being set to preach, is just that which unfits him for acquiring either solid learning or any thing else well, except that fluency which is dangerous in proportion as it is the substitute for fertility, instead of being the result of it. A preaching student, a learner set to teach, is a solecism : nothing but the familiarity of the practice could reconcile persons to the gross impropriety. The practice is as cruel to the young men as it is degrading to the sacred office, and destructive of those feelings of respect in congregations towards the minister, which it is so infinitely important to cherish. We are well aware of the specious pleas which may be urged for the toleration of the practice within certain limits, although the practice has spurned all sober and decent limitation; but it is our deliberate opinion, that it has been productive of more serious mischief to the cause of religion in various ways, than can be compensated by any occasional good resulting from these precocious exertions, so injurious to the individual and, in general, so little satisfactory to their hearers. We look upon it, indeed, as a fraudulent thing, to take a young man from his studies, and compel him to employ three days out of six in writing bad sermons and travelling to some obscure place to practice praying and preaching, when he must feel to be wholly unfit for such sacred employment. The shifts,—the deception to which there is a temptation to have recourse in order to maintain a respectable appearance, the levity with which such performances are spoken of, the occasional mortification, or expense, the hinderance and fatigue attendant upon such excursions, and the havoc made in simplicity of feeling,--altogether render this pernicious practice of making students play the minister, a source of mischief that it would be difficult to calculate. · Preaching, the all and every thing in the modern system, is just that one thing which academies cannot teach; and it is for this very reason, that the poor student is sent out to learn the art as he may, by practising his gifts. But would it not be better that our colleges should be reserved for scholars, and that the business of acquisition should be understood to be, while there, their sole object? Why should an individual who is fit to occupy a pulpit, be sent to an academy? He is either competent to instruct others, or he is not. If he is, let him teach : if not, let him keep to his lessons, and “ tarry till bis beard be grown." What would be thought and said, if the universities of Mother Church sent out raw sizars to preach in the churches of the Establishment ?
But another serious defect in the constitution or management of these institutions is this: they require no security, on the one hand, that the student should have the means of maintaining himself in respectability till he obtains an appointment, and on the other hand, they furnish him with no means of earning his bread, except by preaching A theological academy, as they are at present conducted, is a public charity. The number of students is extremely small, who are educated in them at their own expense or at that of their friends. In some cases, the charity has been abused, the gratuitous education having been claimed in forma pauperis by individuals whose friends were well able to support them during their studies. There can be no doubt that the extreme cheapness of this education, though, in some cases, a great advantage, has tended to open the door into the ministry somewhat too widely, and to make such institutions less valued and less respectable. It is generally allowed, that men are disposed to set more value on what they pay for, than on what is gratuitously bestowed; and we have reason to think, that the sense of obligation and feeling of gratitude on the part both of the students and their friends, would be greatly enhanced, were the education not so perfectly gratuitous. Besides, why should the Dissenting ministry be uniformly entered through the door of pauperism? Why should exclusive encouragement be given to those whose circumstances necessitate them to accept of this charity as a stepping-stone to a maintenance ? How is it that the sons of opulent Dissenters are never found availing themselves, as in former times, of the literary and theological advantages which such institutions hold out? Has not the effect of this system been to pauperize the ministry, and to render it less respectable in the eyes even of those who con tribute to its support?
This, however, is not the whole of the evil. As the pro vision made by these institutions, is too cheap in one point of view, so, in another, it is insufficient, because, in the failure of personal resources, they furnish the academic with no opo portunity of maintaining himself in the anxious interval between the termination of his studies, and his obtaining an invitation to become a pastor. He must preach or starve. The institution takes him up as a pauper, and having fed and maintained him entirely for a certain number of years, turns him out on the religious world. One consequence is, that the student is laid under strong temptation to enter into premature engagements of a pastoral nature, before his noviciate is expired, to secure a future habitation. Now we really think, that à Society which thus adopts young men, in order to train them for the Christian Ministry, and which holds out a gratuitous education as a bonus to encourage them to come forward from even the lowest ranks, ought not to stop short in its munificence thus improvidently ; that, where the circumstances of the individual require it, he should not be compelled to have recourse to preaching in order to purchase books and clothes
while in the house, or to support himself out of it. There ought to be provided funds of some description, which might both serve as a premium upon scholarship, and as a resource to those who revolt at mingling mercenary considerations with the sacred engagements of the pulpit. Nothing can have a worse tendency upon the ingenuous mind of a young man, than teaching him to rely upon preaching fees. It is a disgrace to any institution of this kind, that its students should receive a fee for their preaching. If they are to be sent out, the Institution ought to be at the charge of their expenses ; and at least during the period of their education, they ought not to be suffered to accept of a degrading and paltry remuneration for their occasional services. But then it is equally necessary, that they should not be compelled by indigence to have recourse to this expedient. Either those who recommend the student ought to be chargeable with his unavoidable expenses, or the Society which adopts him, ought to see to it, that he is properly provided for. Many a young man has been suffered, while a student, to contract debts, which have not only harassed and disturbed his mind in a most prejudicial manner at the time, but have laid the foundation of an indifference on the subject of incurring debt in after life, very fatal to his respectability and usefulness.
In the Church of England, a person cannot obtain ordination without a title, derived from either a parochial cure or a college fellowship ; and the reason of this rule we have understood to be, that the Bishop is bound to see that the person ordained has the means of a livelihood, or else to provide for him. Ordination, among Protestant Dissenters, is limited, upon a different principle, to persons sustaining 'a specific charge: none are simply ordained to preach, and it forms, therefore, no line of distinction between the ministerial profession and the laity. The liberty of prophesying, to use Jeremy Taylor's phrase, ought, as we conceive, to be thus unrestricted; it ought not to be a mere official function tied up to the pastoral office. But still, there is an official distinction among Dissenters, pretty generally recognised, between the reverend and non-reverend classes, the ministry and the laity. This distinction commences, not in virtue of ordination, (for the title is given to very many unordained persons,) but, in point of fact, when the student is received into the academy, and assumes the black coat as the badge of his relinquishing secular concerns. Few, after taking that step, ever voluntarily relinquish the ministry, and return to trade or handicraft. This being the case, the Committees of such institutions may be regarded as executing the episcopal function in commission; it is they who open the door into the VOL. XXVII. N.S.