Strickersville, Dec. 4, 1834.
DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: – In looking over the minutes of the Philadelphia Ass’n. of October last, I find my name on the list of directors of the Hodington Institution. I believe I should have passed it by unnoticed, had I not felt some fears, that such of my old school brethren as might see it, should conclude that I was about to prove traitor, and abandon the ground I had taken in connection with them in renouncing fellowship for such institutions; and indeed it would be but natural for them to draw such a conclusion, as they would suppose that such a thing would not have been done without my knowledge or consent, but I should have remained ignorant of it, had I not accidentally heard of it last week, while in Philad. As to the Institution in question, so far as it may be considered a literary school, feel towards it, as I do to all such institutions. I am a friend to learning, believing it when properly applied, productive of the most salutary effects on society, and I also view it as one of the main pillars of our republic, and as a republican I must advocate it. But, from all the information I can gain in reference to the above Institution, I have taken up the opinion, that it is ostensibly a Theological Seminary, and as such I have no fellowship for it or any of its kindred institutions.
I will here give two general reasons for rejecting them: the first is, I find no warrant for them in the New Testament. I am aware that the advocates of the new measures say that the miraculous influence of the Holy Ghost, as enjoyed by the Apostles, superceded the necessity of such a course of education; but when their influence ceased, the other became a substitute to accomplish the gospel minister. We are bound to believe that the great Head of the Church, knew that these miraculous influences would cease, and if the other were required he must have known it also, and as a wise and good teacher, and provider, would have made some provision for it. If he has either directly or indirectly made such provision, I frankly confess, that after twenty-four years reading of that precious book with interest and a sincere desire of knowing the will of its divine author, I have never been able to find it – and, I despair of ever finding it; I know it is not there to be found, and am well convinced that the great Head of the Church, never did contemplate such an Institution, as necessary to promote her Spiritual interest; for if he had, he most assuredly would have made it known. But lest I should protract my remarks beyond my original design, I will proceed to the second reason: and that is, I know of no instance either from history or observation, in which such institutions have not gendered corruption in doctrine or order; or indeed in both, as the one follows the other as a matter of course. The motive that gave rise to the measure, originated in vanity; the early ministers of the gospel was opposed by the philosophers of the day, and to enable them to cope with those opponents upon their own ground, the idea of a course of human education was started, and the experiment tried, but what was the consequences? The blending of gospel doctrine with heathen philosophy, and consequent corruption of the former – not that the gospel itself, properly speaking, can be corrupted, but every attempt to unite it with any thing else, tends to mar its beauty and produce a corrupt system, the tendency of which is to abuse the Truth and bewilder the mind. This was one of the effects of the experiment. Another was, that as the different schools had their different systems of philosophy, they soon became jealous of each other, and bitter disputations, and even persecutions were the consequents.
It is now said that Infidelity has its learned advocates, and that the gospel ministers should be prepared to fight their learned adversaries with their own weapons; it is true that Infidelity has its learned advocates, and it needs them – it is founded in falsehood, and requires all the aid it can find – learning, sophistry, and ingenuity, are all requisite to give it even a plausible appearance. But not so with the Gospel of Jesus Christ: it is founded in eternal truth, and seeks not foreign aid; it never appears so beautiful or so formidable, as when exhibited in its plain simplicity. It requires considerable art to support falsehood, but truth will stand abuse. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise, and hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not to bring to naught things that are. That no flesh should glory in his presence, 1 Cor. i. 27-29. This is the order that God saw proper to persue in the institution of the first ministry of his gospel – and if he has changed the order, we will thank the learned ministers of the day to shew us where, when, or how, that change was made, and we are ready to adopt it; but till then, we are bound to view Theological Institutions as a bone of that accursed woman, Jezebel, and shall never rest until it is buried out of sight. If I had any direction to give in reference to the Hodington Theological Institution, it would be to take the accursed thing and bury it. We have had some of the students from that institution in our region, and although I have not heard them myself, but from the best information I have derived, they are Arminian in doctrine and enthusiasts in practice.
But it may be said that admitting these early schools did corrupt the truth, it does not follow of course that all Theological Schools are necessarily productive of the same effects. In answer to this, I will ask any Baptist – and I mean such as adhere to the doctrine and order that have ever distinguished them from all other denominations on earth – to point to an institution of the kind, from the school of Alexandria to the present, that has not sent out a corrupt ministry; and when that is done I will acknowledge one exception to the general rule. Again it may be urged that even should there not be found one exception, does it follow that such an institution might not be conducted without abuse? I answer no; for the very thing in itself is an abuse of gospel order, and who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.
It may be thought strange that I should be so much opposed to those institutions, having spent some time in one myself. It is true I did, and I hope the Lord has pardoned my folly. However, I had some opportunity from observation, to form some idea of their nature and tendency; I soon discovered that the one with which I was connected, was founded in vanity, and that its leading object was to acquire for the Baptists a worldly respectability, which I have viewed as the bane of the Baptists. I lost in that institution what I have never gained; I enjoyed before going there a spiritual mind a peculiar dependence on divine aid, which I have never gained since. I found by experience what the Psalmist meant, when he said his soul was as a bottle hung up in smoke. I must conclude by subscribing myself.
Yours, as ever,
Signs of the Times
Volume 3, No. 1
January 7, 1835