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CHAPTER XXII

EVANGELISM AND EDUCATION

AS was pointed out before, the line of demarcation between the periods of American Baptist history is uncertain, and dates cannot be positively fixed. Overlapping the period of rapid growth and missionary extension, ending at the latest about the year 1850, is a movement of another sort, manifesting itself in the spiritual quickening and edification of the churches. For nearly a half-century after the Great Awakening there had been no marked revivals of religion. Then a great revival wave, beginning in New England about the year 1790, swept over the whole country within the next ten years. In the Southwest it was marked by a fanaticism and a series of remarkable physical phenomena that tended to bring revivals into disfavor with the sober-minded and judicious. Thereupon ensued another period of inaction, lasting about a generation. It was broken by the revivals of Finney, through whose agency in the ten years following 1825 there were added fully one hundred thousand persons to the Northern Presbyterian churches. The year 1857 saw an even more remarkable wave of revival, from the influence of which no part of the country was exempt, and a half-million are said to have been converted in a single year.

Since then the norm of church life seems changed. No longer do we have periodic waves of intense religious excitement, with intervening periods of coolness and indifference, but a slowly rising tide of spiritual power. Progress is no longer by occasional leaps, but by a steady advance. Evangelism is not less genuine now than in the days when a Finney or a Knapp stirred whole communities as they never were stirred before, but now an evangelist preaches weekly from nearly every pulpit. The type of preaching has changed; it is simple and direct; it aims more consciously at the conversion of men. It is more intelligently adapted to reach the will through the intellect and affection, and to produce an immediate decision for or against Christ. Whether the change is permanent it would be rash to pronounce. The names of Moody and Sam Jones, unfitting as it is in other ways for them to be pronounced together, testify to the fact that both at the North and at the South it is still possible to interest great crowds in religion, and that occasional revivals may be expected rivaling all that we read of in past years.

The large place filled by local and State work during the past fifty years should be by no means overlooked, for it is one of the chief factors in Baptist progress. The State Conventions or general Associations now organized in every State are missionary bodies, whose usefulness it would be difficult to overrate. In the Baptist Missionary Convention of the State of New York, one of the oldest and most active of these bodies, will be found a good type of all. The object of this Convention is declared in its constitution to be “ To promote the preaching of the gospel, and the establishment and maintenance of Baptist churches in the State of New York to encourage the common educational interests of the denomination within the State, the general care and encouragement of denominational Sunday-school work, to promote denominational acquaintance, fellowship, and growth.” Forty-three local Associations are found in the territory of this Convention. Many of the local Associations—which in the oldest States usually follow county lines—do a similar work, and often on a scale not inferior to that of the State organization, though in a field more circumscribed. Of these the Southern New York Association is a good type. Organized for “The cultivation of fraternal sympathy, the promotion of each other’s spiritual welfare, and the establishment and strengthening of Baptist churches within its bounds,” its churches have long maintained efficient city mission work in the metropolis, to which is largely due the past and present growth of the New York Baptists.

Another chief distinguishing feature of American Baptist history is the remarkable development of educational work. Almost from the first, Baptists felt the necessity of a better education for their children, and especially for the rising ministry. An academy was established by the Rev. Isaac Eaton, at Hopewell, N. J., in 1756, and continued its work for eleven years. It even obtained a small endowment through the aid of the Philadelphia and Charleston Associations, which was, however, lost during the Revolution through the depreciation of Continental money. During the continuance of its work, one of its pupils was James Manning; his conversion occurred while he was at the academy, and is to be ascribed under God to his teacher. If the Ilopewell Academy had done nothing more than give the world James Manning, it would be entitled to the gratitude of Baptists for all time. But it also gave us a man only less distinguished and useful than he, Hezekiah Smith, and many other eminent ministers and laymen were among its pupils. Similar private schools of a like grade were established in other places by Baptists; among them one at Lower Dublin (now in Philadelphia) by Dr. Samuel Jones, one in New York by Doctor Stanford, and one at Bordentown, N. J. by Dr. Burgess Allison.

About 1750 some Baptists in the Philadelphia Association began to consider seriously the project of founding a higher institution of learning. Few Baptist students could avail themselves of the advantages offered by the existing colleges, which were besides strongly anti-Baptist in sentiment and often in teaching. For various reasons it was difficult to obtain a charter for such an institution from the legislatures of New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania. Consequently, though the project for the new college originated in the Philadelphia Association, the eyes of the brethren were turned toward Rhode Island as the State most likely to grant the Baptists a liberal charter for a college. They looked about for a suitable head of such an institution, and fotmd it in James Manning, who had gone in 1758 from Hopewell Academy to Princeton College, and was graduated four years later with the second honors of his class. Shortly after his graduation he married Margaret Stites, the daughter of a ruling elder of the Presbyterian church in Elizabethtowt, who proved “an help meet for him” indeed. A year was spent in travel through the country, and when Manning returned he found his life-work ready for him.

Manning was a young man to take the lead in such an enterprise, it is true, but was greatly esteemed for his prudence and good sense, of fine presence and good repute as a scholar, in every way fitted to be an educational leader. He met the Baptists of Rhode Island, or some of their representative men, at Newport, in July, 1763. He unfolded his plan, and it met with their acceptance. A charter was drafted, and after some legislative pitfalls were successfully avoided, it was enacted in February. 1764. It provided that the president, twenty-two trustees, and eight fellows were forever to be Baptists, but the remaining trustees of the thirty-six were to be of the different denominations then represented in the State; while four fellows were to be elected “indifferently of any or of all denominations.” To all positions in the faculty save that of president, and to all other honors and advantages, persons of all religious denominations were to be freely admitted. Such a charter, while it gave to the denomination that founded the institution perpetual control of it (as was but right), was in perfect harmony with the spirit of religious liberty that had characterized the colony of Rhode Island from the first.

The college began giving instruction in Warren in 1766, Mr. Manning being president and professor of languages; and that year the institution had one student. The college celebrated its first commencement September 7, 1769, when the degree of bachelor of arts was conferred on seven young men. In 1770 the people of Providence subscribed four thousand two hundred dollars for the erection of University Hall, and the college was removed to that city. In 1776 the capture of the city by the British made necessary the suspension of instruction, which was not resumed until 1780, the college building being used much of the time by the British as a barracks. Doctor Manning continued his labors as president until his death, in 1791. During the greater portion of the time he was also pastor of the First Baptist Church of Providence. In 1804 the name of the institution (at first Rhode Island College) was changed to Brown University, in honor of Nicholas Brown, its generous benefactor. This, the oldest and best-known Baptist institution of learning, has a long and distinguished roll of alumni and a property valued at two and a half million dollars, besides an endowment of nearly three millions.

Very soon the need of more distinctively theological education was felt, but for some time nothing was done. The Newton Theological Institution owes its origin to a meeting of ministers and laymen held in Boston, 1825. Its early years were marked by difficulties and debt, but at length a permanent endowment was secured. It has graduated or instructed over eight hundred students, and among its alumni are many of the most useful and distinguished preachers and teachers of the denomination. Another New England institution is Waterville College, Maine, which was founded in 1818 by the Rev. Jeremiah Chaplin, as the outcome of a private school maintained by him at Danvers. The collegiate charter was granted in 1820. The early history of the institution was one of continual struggle with adversity, but of late years it has found generous friends. In recognition of the benefactions of one of these, Gardner Colby, the name was changed, in i86’, to Colby University; and still later the ambitious name of university was changed into the more modest and truthful title, college.

New England Baptists have been wiser in their day than those of most other sections, by providing liberally for secondary or academic education. Thus Colby has three Maine academies closely connected with it as feeders, while New Hampshire and Vermont have each a flourishing academy. Worcester Academy, in Massachusetts, and the Suffield Literary Institute, in Connecticut, care for the Baptist youth of those States, and are among the principal sources whence Brown University derives students. The educational system of New England Baptists therefore stands on a solid foundation; they have not committed the error of resting the pyramid on its apex.

In the Middle and ‘Western States, and to some extent in the South, there has not been this unity of action in
educational matters. Early in the present century a new development of interest in education was manifest among the Baptists which took form in the organization of education societies. One of the first of these was formed at Hamilton, N. Y., in 1817, and the following year Jonathan Wade was admitted a student of the new institution. President Garfield said once that his idea of a college was Mark Hopkins at one end of a log and a young man at the other. That was about how the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution began; at one end was Daniel Hascall, at the other Jonathan Wade. The second student to join this infant institution was Eugenio Kincaid. Soon others came, and in 1820 the institution was opened to the public and formal instruction began.

Another institution that belongs to this early period is the Columbian College, at Washington. It owes its origin, like so many of our best denominational agencies, to the Philadelphia Association. As far back as 1807, Dr. William Staughton began to receive students into his household, lie continued this work for a series of years, partly on his own account, partly as an appointed “tutor of the Baptist Education Society of the Middle States. Finally, at the instance of the Rev. Luther Rice, the General Convention took the matter up, and undertook the establishment of a higher institution of learning, especially for the training of ministers. This movement resulted in the chartering of the Columbian College (now University) in 1821, and the removal of Dr. Staughton’s school to Washington as the “theological department” of the new college. The hope of establishing a school at Washington for the training of ministers proved futile, and this theological department was finally transferred to Newton, at its establishment in 1825.

The school at Hamilton, in 1834, developed into the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution. In 1846, the literary department was chartered as a university, its name being changed to Madison University, the theological seminary being maintained as a separate institution, but in harmony with the college. The village of Hamilton was thought by many Baptists to be an unsuitable site for a denominational school, and in 1847 an effort was made to remove it to a better location.

The city of Rochester offered special inducements, and was decided upon as the new site. But a party rallied to the defense of the old site, discussions grew warm, passionate feelings were excited, and the end was a division—part of the faculty and supporters going to found a new institution, since known as the University of Rochester. The new institution opened its doors to students in 1850. April 6, 1853, Martin Brewer Anderson was chosen president, and filled the office with conspicuous ability until 1888. David J. Hill, then president of Bucknell University, was elected his successor, and resigned in 1895. After an interrcgnum of several years, Prof. Rush Rhees, of the Newton Theological Institution, was chosen president, and assumed his duties in 1900.

The Rochester Theological Seminary was an outgrowth of the same movement, but had a separate existence from the first, though for a time it had quarters in the University buildings, and some men taught in both faculties. The Seminary was founded in 1850 by the New York Baptist Union for Ministerial Education, and in 1853, Dr. Ezekiel G. Robinson was elected president. At his resignation, in 1872, Rev. Augustus Hopkins Strong was chosen to be his successor. A German department was organized ifl 1854, and has ever since been maintained.

In the meantime the friends of the institution at Hamilton rallied to its support and gradually increased its endowment. The family of William Colgate have repeatedly been its munificent benefactors, and in honor of them the institution was named Colgate University in 1890. Thus, out of seeming misfortune has come some good. Still this division of the New York institution has been marked by a corresponding division among the churches, part of which have supported the one and part the other. The old bitterness has somewhat subsided of late years, but it is in the highest degree unfortunate that the present generation should seem willing to perpetuate divisions caused by the unwisdom and contentiousness of their fathers.

This experience has been duplicated in several Western States, and rival institutions have been founded in excess of educational needs, with the result of making all poor and inefficient, where a single strong institution might have been established. So serious had become the lack of unity, and the consequent waste of money and labor, that there was organized at Washington, in May, 1888, an American Baptist Education Society, under whose leadership it is to be hoped that the mistakes of the past may be avoided. Its great achievements thus far have been assisting the Southern and Western institutions to add to their endowments, and the founding of the new University of Chicago, through the liberality of Mr. John D. Rockefeller. Though established so recently as 1890, this university has already property amounting to nearly or quite ten millions and an endowment of nearly equal amount. This accomplishment in so short a period may be justly termed phenomenal.

We can do little more than name the principal schools of learning founded by Baptists during the last half-century; if it were attempted to give even a brief sketch of the career of each, these chapters would stretch out to quite unwieldy proportions. The following should at least be named: Baptist Union Theological Seminary, Morgan Park, Ill. (1867) ;1   Crozer Theological Seminary, Upland, Pa. (1868); Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky. (1858); Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pa. (1846); Columbian University, Washington, D. C. (1821); Richmond College, Richmond, Va. (1832); Denison University, Granvillc, Ohio (1832). Vassar College, founded in 1861, at Poughkeepsie, N. Y., by the beneficence of Matthew Vassar, is the best endowed college for women in the world. The omission of other names does not imply that institutions equally worthy and doing excellent work do not exist in many parts of our land.

One of the most striking things in the recent religious history of America has been the development of work among and for the young. The Sunday-school was established as a department of church work early in the present century, and from about the year i86o societies for young people began to be formed almost simultaneously in most of the evangelical churches. There was nothing like a concerted movement, however, for another twenty years in the Williston Congregational Church, of Portland, Me., a society was formed February 2, i88i, to which the name was given of “The Society of Christian Endeavor.” It attempted to organize the young people in a closer relation to the church than had been general, and to train them for Christian service. The idea was catching, and societies of this kind were rapidly organized in many localities and among various denominations.

Not a few Baptist pastors desired a society that should be more distinctively denominational in character, and have a denominational name; and for a time there was much discussion and even prospect of serious trouble in the denomination. In October, 1889, at the meeting of the Nebraska State Convention, the Nebraska Convention of Baptist Young People was organized, and all societies of Baptist young people in the State were invited to affiliate with it, without giving up the name or form of organization that they preferred. At the instance of the American Baptist Publication Society a conference of friends of the work was held in Philadelphia, April 22, 1891, as a result of which this policy was commended to the Baptist churches at large. Accordingly, at Chicago, on July 8 of the same year, the Baptist Young People’s Union of America was organized on a basis so broad that any society of young people in a Baptist church, or the young people of a Baptist church who have no organization, are entitled to all its privileges.

The distinctive work of this organization is educational. In its organ, “Service,” it publishes every year three courses of study on the Bible, missions, and deriotninational teachings and history. These Christian Culture Courses are now pursued by many thousands of young Baptists, the number of students increasing every year, and several of the courses of study have been published in permanent book form. It is the hope and expectation that the coming generation of Baptists will be, as a result of this educational work, more intelligent, consistent, and loyal Baptists, and not less catholic Christians. Several other denominations have watched this work with growing interest, and are planning something of a similar nature for their own young people.

Chief among the educational institutions of the denomination may be reckoned the American Baptist Publication Society. Beginning at Washington, D. C., in 1824, as the Baptist General Tract Society, its transfer to Philadelphia was voted in November, 1826. In 1840 its name was changed to the American Baptist Publication and Sunday-school Society (the word Sunday-school being dropped in 1844), and the purposes of the organization were enlarged, being now defined as “to promote evangelical religion by means of the printing-press, colportage, and the Sunday-school.” In 1856 the Society acquired by purchase the “Young Reaper,” and from that time added other Sunday-school periodicals to its list, until it has reached its present proportions and immense circulation. In the earlier years of the Society, its work of publication was necessarily confined in the main to books and papers for Sunday-schools; but it was never a part of its plan thus to restrict the field of its operations. As early as 1844, the publication of books for the denomination at large was begun by the issue of an American edition of the writings of Andrew Fuller, the first of a long list of books of the highest value and of many varieties. Contrary to a general impression for many years, the bulk of the Society’s issues has been in this field of general literature, not in Sunday-school publications. With the increase of capital and the gathering of a corps of authors, the Society has come to take an honorable and prominent place among the great publishing houses of the United States, as estimated by the size and value of its annual literary output; while the enlargement and improvement of its mechanical facilities has enabled it to vie with the foremost of American publishers in all that constitutes good book-making. The query, “Who reads a Baptist book?” has become as obsolete as that other question, once so provocative of wrath, “Who reads an American book?” Besides its colportage work in this country, the Society has from time to time engaged in foreign colportage, men like Oncken, Wiherg, and Bickel having been aided in this way to carry on missionary work in Europe. Since 1862 this work has been conducted by a missionary department, with separate offices and separate accounts.

 

1 Since 1890 the Divinity School of the University of Chicago.

 
 
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