WE consider the following extracts from the Inaugural Address of Professor Eaton as expressive of the views of the N. Y. Baptist Convention, as he is chosen by them as one of the teachers who are to prepare pious young men for the ministry at Hamilton Institution.
“The exigencies of the times, then, demand a thoroughly educated ministry. This may seem rather a bold and startling proposition to many Baptists, but a deep conviction of its truth urges me to advance it, and I trust my previous remarks have fully prepared my brethren to receive it with favor. I verily believe without such a ministry our nation cannot be saved. We cannot too much magnify the office of the christian ministry. I will not, however, stop here to descant upon its sublime and unspeakably important relations to God and man. Compared with it, how contracted the sphere, and mean the station, of the mightiest earthly monarch. I speak of it now merely as a center of conservative influence to save the nation. Its position to the people is such, its action so constant, direct and uninterrupted, its opportunity to exert a moulding influence upon the mind and heart so fair and full, that I will venture the assertion, even at the risk of raising the senseless cry, “Church and State,” “priesteraft,” et id omne genus, that the temporal as well as the eternal salvation of the land depends more upon the christian ministry than upon any other body of men. How immensely important that its influence should be of the right kind, powerful and unrestrained, acting benificiently upon all the great interests of humanity. Now, however favorable its position, however constant and direct its action, however fair and full its opportunity for exerting an influence, it cannot keep its hold upon an intelligent and educated community without it is itself intelligent and educated. It cannot, indeed, fully exert its beneficent power without it is considerably in advance of the general mass in knowledge and information.
Added to the considerations just mentioned, are others of a more special character, suggested by a contemplation of some of the peculiar features of the age, which most forcibly demonstrate the importance to the ministers of God of that discipline and enlargement of mental powers which a thorough education can alone impart. One of the most remarkable features of this most remarkable age is the grandeur of the conceptions, and the magnificence of the enterprises which men form and execute. Things are conceived and done upon a great scale. New energies and new capabilities seem to have been discovered in the world of mind as well as in the world of matter. An elevation and extent of view, a vastness and stretch of purpose, a depth and intensity of feeling, and an energy and promptitude of action, characterize the present movements of the human mind. The enterprises of the church, as those of the world, are strongly marked with these characteristics. The conceptions of enlightened christians, as respects the field and object of their labors, have been widening and widening, until they have come actually to embrace the world and the conversion of its millions to God. They have come to talk as familiarly of the conversion of the world as formerly of sending the gospel to a destitute neighborhood, not as a “consummation devoutly to be wished,” and fervently prayed for, merely, but as a work which the Son of God is now calling upon them with commanding and animating voice to attempt and accomplish. The plans projected, and the means devised, for the accomplishment of this glorious object, partake in some measure of the grandeur and magnitude of the object itself. Ever and anon some new plan is announced, whose moral sublimity fills the mind, and thrills along every nerve of christian philanthrophy. At one time we hear of supplying the millions of our own country with the word of God in the brief space of two years; the astonishment of our minds at the boldness of the conception had scarcely subsided ere the work was done. Again we hear of providing schools for the instruction of our whole youthful population in this precious word. Our minds are delighted and our hearts cheered at the energy and success with which this great and benevolent object is now being prosecuted. Finally we hear of giving the Word of life to the whole world. Yes, the church seems at last to be rousing and shaking herself, and taking hold in earnest of her appropriate work. She is casting out the gospel net over the world. She is planting her moral machinery upon every shore. A cordon of her mighty agencies even now belts the earth. Now does it not require a well informed mind of strong and expanded powers to form even an adequate conception of these sublime movements of the Zion of God. Much more does it require such a mind in one who is called not only to take a conspicuous part in these movements, but to lead and direct them!”
How passing strange the infatuation of that mind, which can,in the face of the word of God,talk and write to us about the exigencies of the times requiring, in the house of God, a deviation from the order established in Zion by our Lord Jesus Christ, as hitherto strictly observed by the people of the saints, and which has never failed to answer in all respects the designs contemplated by the divine Legislator, by whose authority this order in all its fulness was established. Well might Mr. Eaton apprehend that some of the Baptists would regard his statements as “bold and startling,” especially those of them whose thorough acquaintance with the New Testament has taught them to regard the order established in Zion by the great Head of the church as immutable as the pillars of the throne of God, and amply adapted to the exigencies of the church, until the last wave of time shall dash upon the shore of eternity. Such Baptists cannot but view the assertions of this learned teacher as insulting to the divine Majesty, as it is incompatible with a just sense of the wisdom of our adorable Lord.
How preposterous to assert that the plan of God is so defective, that at this moment we have hit upon a period which requires a new order of things, differing essentially from the order once required and maintained in the kingdom of Christ. And that although the plan which divine wisdom originated and established was well adapted to and did answer the purpose of the church for the last eighteen hundred years, yet now it is discovered that unless a new plan can be brought into requisition by human wisdom, “our nation cannot be saved.” But yet, Mr. Eaton says, it is demanded; and we will not dispute that such demand is made, but we have a right to inquire, by whom? and being duly informed on this point, should we honor the imperious demand, we should find ourself in such circumstances as would enable us to tell the Jew and Gentile who had required these things at our hand. Hence we ask, Has Jesus demanded of the church and world that they should now no longer regard the line of division which, his sovereign hand has drawn between them? That they should now unite as one man, raise up and educate a new order of bishops, apostles, ministers, or popes, to meet the exigencies of the times? If so, where is that demand to be found in the good old book, or by what special messenger has this extraordinary message been sent down? Can Mr. Eaton find it in the following language of Paul? “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel, which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ! But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed!” - Gal. i. 6,8. Or will he find it contained in these words: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book?” Rev. xxii. 18. Mr Eaton has the assurance to tell us that this is a demand of the times. Well then let him with all his time-serving brotherhood see to it; we profess allegiance to another king - “one Jesus.”
But we pass to notice the faith of Mr. Eaton: “I verily believe without such ministry (educated) our nation cannot be saved.” This faith will accord much better with that of Levi Tucker, who believes that “there is no hope for Pennsylvania other than through an educated ministry.” (See page 181,) than with the faith of God’s elect. But what salvation does Mr. E. believe cannot be effected without an educated ministry? He tells us, “The temporal as well as eternal salvation of the land,” &c. Let us examine for a moment the foundation of this man’s faith. We will test the matter thus: Fifty years ago a theological machine for educating young men for the Baptist ministry was not known in our denomination; at that time none but such as persecuted the Baptists unto death had any colleges for educating their ministers, and yet, how strange to tell, instead of sinking into eternal oblivion, we see at that very moment our then newly organized government emerging from the temporal thraldom into which but a little before the Revolution they seemed to be doomed; and from the day of our deliverance from the government of Great Britain up to the time of building colleges for manufacturing Baptist divines, America could challenge the world to produce a nation enjoying to a greater degree the blessings of temporal salvation. Yes, under such circumstances of the church, is it not admirable to mark the temporal salvation which the God of providence wrought for us? Here, and at that very time, an asylum was provided for the reception of the oppressed of all nations under heaven; and to the shores of our dear America, God with an high hand brought his church; here they found their promised and long sought “place in the wilderness, where she should be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” - Rev. xii. 14.
It is also a remarkable fact that the greatest obstacles in the way of the salvation of the Colonies of America were the learned priests, and their pliant “cow-boys,” or tories. The latter were invariably instigated by the educated ministry - not of the Baptist, for, we thank God, at that day the Baptists had none - of the then established order; while the whole phalanx of educated ministers were found acting ever in concert with the most inveterate enemies of civil and religious liberty.
We are happy here to insert the opinion of General Washington, concerning our uneducated Baptists, which we extract, in reply to a letter of congratulation which he received from the United Baptist Church in Virginia, when he entered upon his first term of service as President of the United States.
“While I recollect with satisfaction that the religious society of which you are members, have been, throughout America, uniformly and almost unanimously the firm friends to civil liberty, and the persevering promoters of our glorious Revolution, I cannot hesitate to believe that they will be the faithful supporters of a free yet efficient general government. Under this pleasing expectation, I rejoice to assure them that they may rely upon my best wishes and endeavors to advance their prosperity.
“In the mean time be assured, gentlemen, that I entertain a proper sense of your fervent supplications to God for my temporal and eternal happiness.
“I am, gentlemen, your most obedient servant,
Here, if our limits would admit, we could insert the names of many of our venerable but uneducated fathers in Israel, who contributed much to the temporal salvation of our nation, and on the other hand trace the unyielding oppression and tyranny of the educated priesthood, before, during, and since the Revolution. The blood of those victims who were murdered by the pious hands of the educated ministry in New England, has not yet ceased to call down the vengeance of heaven on their murderers. Fine conservators these of our national rights, who have never since the days of Cain been in possession of power but they have employed it in a manner hostile to the interests of civil and religious liberty! Not a nation under heaven has ever been able to maintain a free and equitable government where an educated ministry has been able to bring the people to believe the doctrine set forth in the address of Mr. E.
But let us once more compare the present state of things in this country with the past. We have shown above how the illiterate and genuine disciples of our Lord stood halt’ a century ago, and what temporal salvation God wrought for America in their time; but now the times have altered, and the popular Baptists have adopted the policy of their old oppressors, and have their own Theological Schools scattered all over the face of our once prosperous country. The ministers which has issued from these dens of abomination are almost as numerous among us as were the locusts in Egypt in the days of Moses and Aaron. Mission Societies for the maintenance of these popular school boys, with a host of other popular money-getting machines for their agarandizement, are brought into being, and the influence of the educated ministry is felt among the Baptists, and what now is the state of things in regard to the temporal salvation of the nation? Let them now tell their own story, and from their own shame-deserted lips the cry is heard, “Men of Israel, help; sinners, help; government, help; mammon, help! We are like to be outdone by the Catholics; the Pope can and does furnish missionaries faster than we; he deals his cash with unlimited profusion, and is at thin moment deluging our country with Catholicism and ruin!” Nor is this cry an idle tale, for it is a real fact that the Catholic church is making a more rapid headway than her Protestant daughters can; and under the very influence of Mr. E.’s educated ministry, so far are we from finding the temporal interests of our beloved country improved, according to their own statements, our nation never before bordered so closely on the verge of ruin and despotism as at this moment, while the popular reform flourishes among us like a pestilence. So much then for the clerical protection of our country. This influence of the clergy Mr. E. would wish to be powerful and unrestrained; but let his desire in this particular be gratified, and then may the Lord have mercy on the people. Let loose the power of an educated and unrestrained clergy, and hell alone could equal the scene that would follow.
In regard to the eternal salvation of our nation, land, &c., we are not able to comprehend the precise meaning of the learned Rabbi of the Hamilton Theological School. Our bible knows of no other eternal salvation than that which secures to the heirs. of promise the blessing of immortality and eternal life’ through (not an educated ministry, but) our Lord Jesus Christ. This was, and is, eternally secured in the covenant of life and peace, and cannot be altered either for the better or worse, by men, angels, or devils. “For he saved them and called them with an holy calling, not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given them in Christ before the world began.” - 2 Tim. 1. 9.
As to the idea of the eternal salvation of the nation as such, or the land, if Mr. E. will dig among his rubbish until he finds the book of the Lord, by reading therein he will find that God has not designed the nations of this world as such to exist eternally, but has appointed a day in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up. - 2 Peter iii. 10.
But passing the foregoing considerations for the present, we will endeavor to place in one scale the reasons urged by Professor Eaton in favor of, and those by an all-wise God against, an educated ministry.
1. Mr. E. argues that an educated ministry is indispensible to the exigencies of the times: the world is on the “onward march,” and becoming enlightened and scientific; and this he at,tempts to demonstrate by showing the vast capacities of the children of men for inventing such things as Bible Societies, with all their kindred institutions, together with the great scale in which the present age conceives of and does up things. Having probably to his own satisfaction proved that human nature is now somewhat different from what it was in olden times, he urges on this ground the necessity of an improved ministry.
2. Connected with the first reason, he urges that in order to carry into effect the mighty enterprises conceived and brought forward by the inventive genius of improved human nature, an educated ministry is indispensible.
3. The inventions of the age are so numerous and multiform, that a ministry uneducated cannot understand them all.
4. The ministry cannot fully exert its beneficent power unless it be considerably in advance of the general mass of knowledge and information.
5. Because the ministers of this age are not only called to take a conspicuous part in the work of saving the world, but to lead and direct these movements.
6. That being made acquainted with natural philosophy, they may be put in possession of a store-house of illustration, which in this scientific age they will find available and serviceable in the elucidation and enforcement of divine truth.
All these, together with the supposition that the temporal and eternal salvation of America depends exclusively on an educated ministry, seem to make up the sum total of his arguments in favor of the Theological Machine in which he is about to take the high seat of Gamaliel. Yes, these are the considerations urged by the most learned and talented of the day, and of course may safely be considered as presenting the strength and bulwarks of the new divinity system.
We will now collect some of the reasons why the God of wisdom will not lay aside his own plan of operations, and adopt those of human production.
1. “Because his thoughts and ways transcend the thoughts and ways of man, as the heavens do the earth,” (Isa. iv. 8, 9;) and “He is of one mind, and none can turn him.”
2. Because the wisdom of men is foolishness with God.
These are sufficient reasons why the Lord will not adopt the plan of Mr. Eaton. It would reflect on his wisdom, destroy his immutability, impeach his truth, and after all fall so far short of effecting anything good, that it would only be to substitute foolishness for perfect wisdom; and we can as easily bring ourselves to believe with the fool, “There is no God,”is with Mr. E. and his admirers, that God is as deficient in wisdom, power and immutability as. they would rep. resent him to be. It will now be entirely too late for Mr. E. to assert that he intended no other or new plan, for him has already admitted this, and claims that the exigencies of the times demand something more than what was required in times past. Nothing can be more evident than the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ, having all power in heaven and earth, did call poor, unlearned and despised fishermen, and others of like common occupation, to preach among the Jews and Gentiles the unsearchable riches of his gospel; and inasmuch as we know that “he had power over all flesh,” (John xvii. 2, also Matt. xxviii. 18,) and could as easily, had it been his sovereign pleasure, called the most learned of men or the most exalted of angels to proclaim his everlasting gospel, the conclusion is too irresistible to be denied, that he has chosen, not from necessity, but of his own good pleasure, the weak things of this world to confound the mighty; and the reason of this, his sovereign choice, he has condescended to give us: “That the excellency of the power thereof might be of God and not of us.”
Had our Lord adopted Mr. Eaton’s plan, and called to the work the most splendid talents to be found in that day, and sent them forth, it would have materially marred the excellency of the glory; for what cause would not appear to good advantage when advocated by the greatest talents? But the gospel was not to be dependent on human talent for its success, hence God was pleased to make it a stumbling-block to the learned Jews, and foolishness, to the wise Greeks; but at the same time to them who are called, Christ, the wisdom of God, and the power of God. We are aware that it is said that Christ was personally with those whom he first called to the work, and had them under a thorough course of preparation for the sacred work to which he called them. All this we admit; and if Mr. E. has yet to learn it, we are frilly prepared to inform him that that Old School of Baptists has not been discontinued. It is still the province of our Lord to raise up, qualify and send forth laborers into his harvest, and it remains the duty of the church, as formerly, to pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his vineyard.
We cannot close these remarks without noticing particularly one assertion which occurs in this famous address. Mr. E, says that the Son of God is now calling upon enlightened christians, not devoutly to wish for, or fervently to pray for the conversion of the world, but is now commanding them with animated voice to attempt and to accomplish the work. This assertion we deny, and we call upon Mr. Eaton to prove his assertion; we shall hold him guilty of uttering palpable falsehood in the name of the Lord, until he proves to us that the Son of God has called on any of his creatures, angels, men, or devils, to convert the world. We wait for his proof.
NEW VERNON, N. Y.,
May 13, 1835.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 233 – 244