Having examined the scriptural and logical arguments that the Hardshells made, in the Black Rock Address, against Sunday and theological schools, mission work, etc., I wish in this short series to look at the historical evidence for Baptist support for theological education and cooperative mission work.
One of the reasons given by the Hardshells, in the 1830s, for their opposition to such is the fact that such was something new among Particular or Regular Baptists. This, as we shall see, was not true, and men such as Dr. R.B.C. Howell and Dr. J.M. Peck, rose to answer the arguments of those opposed to theological schools and mission work. We will first look at what the Baptists who wrote and endorsed the 1689 London Confession believed about these matters. Then we will look at the history of theological education and mission work among American Particular Baptists who followed the London and Philadelphia confessions of faith. We begin with a look at historical Baptist support of ministerial education among the English Baptists of the 17th century.
According to The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Volume 1 (see here) the Baptists who produced the London Confession of faith met in 1677 and recorded this of their doings.
"The Bill of Indulgence (1675) opened the way for efforts to strengthen the ministry of dissenting churches. In the same year the Particular Baptist ministers of London requested the churches in England and Wales to send representatives to meet in London the following May, with a view to taking measures for "providing an orderly standing ministry in the church, who might give themselves to reading and study, and so become able ministers of the New Testament." The meeting seems not to have occurred till 1677, when a confession of faith, that of the Westminster Assembly with necessary modifications, was adopted and formally promulgated. In 1689 (just after the Revolution and the promulgation of the Act of Toleration) representatives of about a hundred churches assembled for the expression of fellowship and the reaffirming of the confession of 1677. The meeting was most harmonious, scarcely a note of dissent being heard. A dearth of properly qualified pastors is lamented. During the Civil War and Commonwealth times many highly educated ministers from the Established Church had joined the Baptist ranks. This source of supply had failed. Failure "to make gospel-provision for their maintenance" is thought to be one of the reasons why so few competent men devote themselves wholly to the work. For remedying this defect it was decided to raise "a public stock or fund of money," "first by a free-will offering to the Lord; and secondly, by a subscription, every one declaring what he is willing to give weekly, monthly, or quarterly to it." "A general fast in all the congregations" was arranged for, a list of "evils to be bewailed and mourned over" is given, and special prayer is to be offered for the conversion of "the poor Jews." The assembly was careful to disclaim "superiority and superintendency over the churches" and determined that in future assemblies no differences between churches and persons should be debated. Nine London brethren were entrusted with the collection and the administration of the fund for the assistance of weak churches, the sendinp forth of missionaries, and the assistance of gifted and sound men "in attaining to the knowledge and understanding of the languages, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew."
This is sufficient proof to show that the Old Baptists in England in the 17th century, the authors of the 1689 London Confession, were supporters of raising money to support both missionaries and theological education, the things that the Hardshells have said were new in the early 19th century. Further, I have found no Particular English Baptist who arose to denounce or declare non fellowship for those Baptists who supported theological education and mission work through general church cooperation.
The encyclopedia continues:
"The assembly of 1691 was made up of representatives of a hundred churches belonging to twelve associations. In 1692 it was decided to divide the assembly, one portion to meet in London and the other in Bristol, at different seasons of the year, these assemblies not to be accountable to each other and each to send messengers to the other...The Broadmead church, Bristol, was one of the earliest and strongest of the Particular Baptist Churches outside of London and the importance of Bristol as a Baptist center was greatly enhanced by the endowment left by Edward Terrill (d. 1686) with the Broadmead church for ministerial education, which became available in 1717. Out of this foundation grew the theological college that from its inception has been one of the chief factors in the progress of the denomination...In 1717 the London ministers inaugurated another missionary fund."
Again, this shows that the Old Baptists of the 17th century supported ministerial education and that the charge that the Hardshells made in the early 19th century that such schools for ministers were new things is false.
In "A Brief Essay Towards an History of the Baptist Academy at Bristol: Read Before the Bristol Education Society, at Their Anniversary Meeting, in Broadmead, August 26th, 1795," (see here) JOHN RYLAND, D.D., President, wrote:
"It is not easy for me to say with precision, how early in the last century our learned brethren, in this country, began, among themselves, to educate their juniors for the work of the ministry. Though it is certain, if they had not been much inclined to it before, the act of uniformity in 1662, made it necessary for them to turn their attention to this object. For now the feats of learning were made so difficult of access by oaths and subscriptions, as to prevent the admission of the wise and good, who were of nonconforming principles."
Ryland observes that the first Particular Baptist churches of the 17th century would no doubt have earlier begun their efforts at training their ministers had the Baptists not been under legal censure and persecution prior to the act of uniformity in 1662. As soon as they were able, these Old Baptists made it a priority to see that their ministers were educated.
"By a manuscript letter in my possession, dated London, the ad of the 8th month 1675, many copies of which were sent to the churches in the country, I find that our ministers of London invited their brethren of the Baptist persuasion, throughout England and Wales, to meet the following May, in the metropolis, with a view to form a plan for the providing an orderly standing ministry in the church, who might give themselves to reading and study, and so become able ministers of the New Testament. This letter is signed by most of the London pastors, among whom were the learned Daniel Dyke, William Collins, Henry Forty, and William Kiffin. The result of this proposal I am yet to learn."
Ryland here confirms what was stated by the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge cited previously. The first Particular Baptists, who are the forefathers of the Hardshells, were positively in favor of religious training for their ministers.
"It is of general publicity, that the ministers and messengers of more than 100 baptized congregations in England and Wales met, in a General Assembly at London, in September 1689, to consult the good of the whole denomination. At this convention they resolved to raise a fund or stock, for the advantage of churches who were not able to maintain their own pastors or teachers,—for sending duly qualified ministers from the city and the country, to visit the churches, and to preach the gospel where it was not at that time published,—and for assisting members of churches who had promising gifts, were sound in fundamentals, and inclined to study, in attaining to the knowledge of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Towards these benevolent purposes, different congregations made collections, and among them the church in the Pithay, Bristol, sent up by the hands of their pastor, the renowned Andrew Gifford, thirty pounds."
One thing is important to note from this citation. It is the fact that the Particular Baptists of Wales were in fellowship with the London Baptists, a fact that some Hardshells, like Michael Ivey, have sought to deny, trying to insist that the Welsh Baptists disagreed with the London churches who wrote the 1689 confession, and did not have fellowship with them. The fact is, the Particular Baptists of Wales agreed with the London Baptists, and believed in Gospel means and in the church's support of missionary work and theological education. But, more on this later when we examine Hardshell revisionist histories.
Notice that the churches cooperated together by forming a kind of society or organization created by churches meeting in a general assembly. This is the very thing that the Black Rockers condemned as being new and against the Scriptures. The general assembly or association of churches agreed to raise a fund or stock to support missionaries and theological education for those with promising gifts. Thus, the argument that these things were new, in the 19th century, is false.
"About four months after the General Assembly had met, our brethren, from the church at Plymouth, wrote a letter to the metropolis (the original is before me) with which they remit to the trustees of the fund a collection of 27I. 3s. 8d. and a promise of nine pounds per annum, to be entirely disposed of in the education of young ministers—observing that if this contribution were applied to the general uses of the fund, and not to the very purpose for which it was collected, no more would be sent. This letter contains the recommendation of a Baptist student, at Bristol. As he was the very first, of whom I have any account, who was educated in this city, though not on our present foundations, a short account of him may be admissible."
Again, more proof of the first Particular Baptist churches of 17th century England were zealous to see that their ministers received a theological education.
"He devised—he planned—he executed. It was a structure of faith, founded in hope, on the basis of charity; to which he, its father, gave the name of The Bristol Education Society—a society of Christian Philanthropists, before whom I appear with a respect bordering on reverence."
"This society was formed in 1770, in aid of the Baptist Academy in Bristol, with the design, "That dissenting congregations, especially of the Baptist denomination, in any part of the British dominions, may, if it please God, be more effectually supplied with a succession of able and evangelical ministers; and that missionaries may be sent to those places where there is an opening for the gospel."
Again, more proof that our Old Baptist forefathers, well into the 18th century, continued their support for the training of ministers.
Now, let us look at the history of theological education among the churches in America who were in fellowship with their English and Welsh brethren.
John T. Christian in his history writes of the early doings of the Philadelphia Association in regard to ministerial education. He wrote:
"He likewise corresponded with the Philadelphia Association on the subject. That body, in 1722, proposed to the churches "to make inquiry among themselves, if they have any young persons hopeful for the ministry, and inclined to learning; and if they have, to give notice of it to Mr. Abel Morgan before the first of November, that he might recommend such to the academy of Mr. Hollis, his account" (Minutes of the Philadelphia Association, 27)."
Notice the early date of 1722 and how the American churches followed the lead of the 17th century English Baptists in the efforts to train their ministers. We have already seen how Elder Bradley referred to this incident as showing precedence for the training of ministers, a fact that the vast majority of Hardshells ignore. Further, there is nothing in history that suggests that Baptists objected to this work. Elder Sylvestor Hassell would later try to deal with this evidence by saying that it is true that the Philadelphia Association, the oldest in America, supported theological education, but that the Kehukee Association never did. However, the Kehukee was for years in direct fellowship with the Philadelphia Association and yet they did not raise any objection to theological education until the cantankerous Hardshells came into being in the early 19th century.
Christian next writes:
"Isaac Eaton, who was the pastor of the church at Hopewell, New Jersey, from 1748 to 1772, set up a school for the education of youth for the ministry as well as other callings, in 1756, and kept it for eleven years. To him belongs the honor of being the first American Baptist to establish a seminary for the literary and theological training of young men. For this work his natural endowments of mind, his varied attainments of knowledge, and his genuine piety happily qualified him. In the welfare and progress of this academy, the Philadelphia and Charleston Associations ever manifested a lively interest. They appointed trustees, had some oversight and liberally supplied funds. Some of the most distinguished men in the country were there educated."
Again, these facts are clear. The Hardshells who denounced such things as new, in the early 19th century, simply stated falsehoods.
"The following extract from a letter, addressed to the Particular Baptist ministers of London, by the Philadelphia Association, in 1762, has an allusion to the academy at Hopewell:
Our numbers in these parts multiply; for when we had the pleasure of writing you in 1754, there were but nine churches in our association; yet now, there are twenty-nine all owning the Confession of Faith put forth in 1689. Some of the churches are now destitute; but we have a prospect of supplies, partly by means of a Baptist academy, lately set up."
Again, the Baptist churches in the 18th century were supporters of theological schools for ministers.
"There follow some very interesting statements from the Charleston Association. "In 1755, the Association taking into consideration the destitute conditions of many places in the interior settlements of this and neighboring States (then provinces), recommended to the churches to make contributions for the support of a missionary to itinerate in those parts. Mr. Hart was authorized and requested, provided a sufficient sum should be raised, to procure if possible a suitable person for the purpose. With this view he visited Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the following year, and prevailed with Rev. John Gano to undertake the service; he attended the annual meeting and was cordially received. The Association requested Mr. Gano to visit the Yadkin first and afterwards to bestow his labors wherever Providence should appear to direct. He devoted himself to the work; it afforded ample scope for his distinguished piety, eloquence and fortitude; and his ministrations were crowned with remarkable success. Many embraced and professed the gospel. The following year he received from the Association a letter of thanks for his faithfulness and industry in the mission. At the same time, the expediency of raising a fund to furnish suitable candidates for the ministry with a competent share of learning, was taken into consideration, and it was recommended to the churches generally to collect money for the purpose. The members present engaged to furnish one hundred and thirty-three pounds to begin the fund; and Messrs. Stephens, Hart, and Pelot were chosen trustees. In 1759, Mr. Evan Pugh was proposed by Mr. Gano as a candidate for the ministry. He was examined, approved, and put on a course of studies. Having gone through them, he preached before the Association in 1762 with acceptance, and was soon afterward ordained."
Again, notice how not only the Philadelphia Association, but the Charleston also were supporters of missionary efforts and theological schools and believed that the churches should be solicited to support a fund for those ends. Further, Elder Gano was on a missionary journey when he helped to convert people in North Carolina from Arminian beliefs to those of the Regular Calvinistic beliefs, and these new converts formed the Kehukee Association. It is remarkable that the Kehukee Association would later denounce missionary work by the cooperative efforts of churches when their very beginning was the result of such activity.
"The general contribution from the churches was not so great as wished. But a society instituted in Charleston in 1755, which was called ‘the Religious Society’ and flourished many years, was highly useful in aiding the Association in its benevolent design. Several young men were furnished by it with the means of pursuing studies preparatory to the ministry."
Notice the use of the word "society." A society was formed for the purposed of supplying the means for young men to be theologically educated. Where were the Hardshells in the 17th and 18th centuries? If they were then in existence, why is there no declarations against these things?
"Rhode Island College, now known as Brown University, originated in the Philadelphia Association and was likewise intimately connected with the Warren Association. On October 12, 1762, the Association with twenty-nine churches, met at the Lutheran church building, in Fifth street, Philadelphia. Rev. Morgan Edwards was chosen moderator, and Abel Morgan clerk. At this meeting, says Backus, "the Association obtained such an acquaintance with the affairs of Rhode Island, as to bring themselves to an apprehension that it, was practicable and expedient to erect a college in the colony of Rhode Island, under the chief direction of the Baptists, in which education might be promoted, and superior learning obtained, free from any sectarian tests" (Backus, II. 137). The principal mover in this matter was Morgan Edwards, to whom, with the Rev. Samuel Jones, the business in general appears to have been entrusted. This gentleman, who had but recently settled in Philadelphia, was a native of Wales, having come to this- country upon the recommendation of Dr. Gill and other prominent ministers in London."
So, in the early to mid 18th century, the Baptists had created Hopewell Academny and Rhode Island college towards their efforts at schooling their ministers. Thus, the oldest Associations in America were supporters of theological education, including the Philadelphia, Chareleston, and Warren Associations. These practices existed for nearly a hundred years before the Hardshells began to object to them.
These citations from Christian are from "A History of the Baptists," Volume II, CHAPTER IX.
In the next chapter we will look at how the first Hardshells answered these facts.