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W. OLIPHANT AND SON, EDINBURGH ; AND D. ROBERTSON, GLASGOW.
FOR JANUARY, 1840.
Education Society for 1839. 2. Report of the Bristol Education Society for 1839. 3. Report of the Committee of Highbury College. 1839. 4. Report of the Committee of the Baptist College at Stepney for
1839. 5. Report of the General Committee of Spring Hill College, Bironing
ham, for the Session, 1838–1839. 6. Report of the Committee of the Baptist College at Bradford for
THE following article on the Theological Colleges of the two
1 large denominations by which our review is principally read, is written, we beg leave to state at the outset, without the slightest disposition to croak. Quite the contrary. While these institutions present some defects which in our opinion may be supplied and these we shall honestly endeavour to point out-and while they admit of some improvements—which we shall take the liberty to suggest--we conscientiously think, that they present far more reason for exultation than depression, and that upon the whole they were never in so healthy and efficient a state as they are at this moment. Not only has the system of instruction in many of our older colleges been gradually enlarged to meet the exigencies of the times, but other colleges, entirely new, have recently sprung up, and promise both by the experiments they have an opportunity of making, and the healthy reaction which they cannot but vroduce, to exert a most salutary influence. It is but fair, also. to admit that many of the defects of which we shall have to complain, and which still circumscribe the usefulness of some of our colleges, arose out of the necessities of a past age; the demands of a perishing population were then out of all proportion to the
means of meeting them. Finally, it is no more than justice to add, that many of these evils have already been partially corrected. We write then only because we think that the defects in question may be still further remedied, and some additional improvements suggested in our general system of academical education.
Our readers will readily excuse us from entering into any controversy with those, whether Plymouth Brethren, or called by whatsoever other name, who imagine that the church of Christ is to be supplied with an adequate and efficient ministry without any system of ministerial education at all. To any persons but themselves such opinions appear to be too absurd to need refutation, while those who are weak enough to hold them are not likely to perceive the force of it. Two observations only we shall offer on this subject, for the benefit of those who may be in danger of adopting any such extravagancies. The first is, that the people of this age are certainly as little likely as those of any, to listen with much attention to men whom they do not think fully equal to themselves; as well informed on general subjects, and somewhat better informed on those in which they have undertaken to set up as public instructors. This feeling exists at least as strongly in the ignorant and uneducated as in the classes above them ; perhaps we might say more so. It is scarcely once in a century that we hear of any considerable audiences being attracted by a man who has not had the advantages of education, either imparted by others, or supplied by his own industry; and never, we believe in all ecclesiastical history is there an instance of any considerable number of persons being collected and held together by a man absolutely illiterate; by any man, who was not, both in capacity and knowledge, many degrees above the mass of those who listened to his instructions. Something like an equality in general knowledge, and decided superiority in those branches which he aspires to teach, are proved by all experience to be necessary to the maintenance of the teacher's general influence (especially over the minds of the young and the ignorant), to insure respectful attention to the instructions communicated, and to impart to them their proper efficacy. Let a persuasion once take possession of the minds of an audience that the preacher is below the mass of his hearers, and all improvement is at an end. People may listen to criticise, perhaps to laugh, but they cease to be disciples.
Nor is it merely in relation to the duties of the pulpit that this general superiority is so desirable. In these times of extensive combination, and varied methods of doing good, a minister may be quite as useful out of the pulpit as ever he can be in it. Now such superiority alone will enable him to avail himself to the full of these opportunities of usefulness; this alone will confer upon him a prominent station in his immediate locality,