« PreviousContinue »
and there it may have been found comparatively uninjured, or, at least, in a state which might enable a spectator to distinguish it. And this may have given birth to a report which credulity or superstition might exalt into a miracle.
“ Thus perished Archbishop Cranmer;-a man to whom the obligations of this country must ever be broad and deep :' for to his conscientious labors, and incomparable prudence and moderation, we are, under Providence, mainly indebted for the present fabric of our Protestant Church. The brightness of his last hour was preceded, it is true, by an awful interval of darkness. The shadows, however, most happily passed away from him ; and his name resumed its lustre in the midst of the fires of his martyrdom. The revival of his courage was the bitterest of all imaginable disappointments to the Romish party. The final prostration of his integrity would, to them, have been a great and inestimable spoil. So blind was the impatience of the Church of Rome for the ruin of his fame, that it drove her to a prodigal application of her customary craft
, such as must have tended only to the defeat of her purpose. She trod upon the victim whom she had allured into her toils, till his heart must have revolted against her perfidious cruelty. She thus, in effect, Jabored unconsciously to rekindle the slumbering fires of his faith and virtue, and to defraud herself of the satisfaction of utterly murdering his reputation before she consigned his body to torture and to death. Whether she might, at the last, have spared his life, and yet have been, eventually, gratified with his blood, is, indeed, a question which none can certainly determine, except Him who searcheth the heart. But yet, if he is to be judged of man's judgment, it seems impossible to believe that he could long have endured the miseries of a dishonored and despised old age. It appears that, all along, he was smitten with remorse and horror for yielding to the recoil of flesh and blood. He protested, just before his death, that he had oft repented of his recantation :' and the truth of this saying is irresistibly established by his whole demeanor in his last agony, as represented to us by his honest and candid . Roman Catholic reporter.' And when we look at his self-possession and alacrity at the stake, and recollect at the same time his constitutional defect of firmness,--nothing can be well thought of more surprising than the heroism of his last hour. It has, indeed, been sometimes alleged that he derived courage to retract, only from despair of pardon. But his despair of pardon never can have inspired him with invincible fortitude, while the flames were devouring his flesh. His courage in the midst of sufferings, (which might well extort groans, even from nien made of more stubborn stuff than Cranmer,) can never have been the effect of hypocrisy and dissimulation. It is impossible that he could be merely playing a part, when he held his hand immovably in the fire that was scorching every nerve and sinew, and accused that hand as the guilty instrument of his disgrace. We have here, at least, a substantial proof that, at that moment, all anguish was light, compared with the agony of his deep, but not despairing repentance. And justice demands of us, farther, to keep in mind that the language in which his penitence was proclaimed, relates wholly to his recent course of dissimulation. With regard to every other act of his life, he expresses himself, throughout his prosecution, like one who had exercised himself to have a conscience void of offence toward God and man.
“In a word, then, we have seen Archbishop Cranmer in his last moments, surrounded as it were by the ruins of his own good fame; and yet, in the midst of that piteous wreck, enabled to resume his courage, and to rise, like the apostle who denied his Lord, from the depths of human frailty, to the honors of Christian martyrdom. It is scarcely to be credited that a man like this could have borne to live 'infamous and contented,' if the Church of Rome had allowed him to survive. Had his life been granted him, he must soon have loathed a gift which would only have reserved him for sufferings worse than the bitterness of death. He might then, possibly, have sunk under the silent, though inglorious martyrdom, of a wounded spirit: but, more probably, he would have been enabled to renew his strength to seek a refuge from his anguish by rushing a voluntary martyr into the flames."
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Revicw.
AN ADDRESS, Delivered before the Literary Society of the Oneida Conference,
September 28, 1834.
BY THE REV. GEORGE PECK.
INTELLIGENCE and literature are at all times and in all places essential qualifications for a minister of the Gospel. But these qualifications are especially necessary in an age when the arts and sciences are cultivated with the greatest avidity, and in a country where they are the national birthright of all classes of the community. The improvements which have been made in the systems of education, and the multiplication of facilities for the attainment of knowledge, within these few years past, have greatly improved the literature of the country, and considerably elevated the literary character of all classes of the community. And it requires no extraordinary penetration to see that the Christian ministry must make corresponding advances or fall behind the times, and consequently go into disrepute, and so expose the cause of Christianity to contempt. An unlettered ministry at this age of the Church must be considered as fairly out of the question. The present is emphatically an age of inquiry. And it is an age in which skepticism and infidelity are disseminated and openly avowed. The enemies of truth abate not a whit of their zeal and malignity. They are incessant in their attacks upon the foundations of our faith. They assume a variety of false colors and deceptive garbs. Stale and antiquated objections to fundamental truths are diligently sought out and revived, and men's brains are.put to the rack to find out new ones. Old heresies are daily dug out of the rubbish of antiquity, and novel ones are coined, and both are disseminated with more than apostolic ardor; and our own people are daily becoming more inquisitive and intelligent. How our ministry is to be qualified for the emergencies growing out of all these facts, is a question of the deepest interest, both to our Church and to the community. The present is not the age of miracles. We are not now authorized to expect that "it shall be given to us in the self-same hour what we ought to speak.” The object is now placed within the grasp of the ordinary means; and when this is the case, God does not ordinarily put forth his miraculous powers, but we are required to make use of the appointed means, and then look to him who gives the increase for his blessing.
Even in the apostolic age, when plenary inspiration was shed down upon the ministers of the sanctuary, there is abundant evidence that they did not neglect the cultivation of their minds. The holy apostles not only enjoyed the opportunity of receiving instructions from Christ himself, during his life and ministry, when Divine truth was unfolded to their minds as they were able to bear it, but the college of apostles remained together at Jerusalem for several years after the ascension, before they separated and went to their several departments of labor. And this, it is highly probable, was, that they might have the better opportunity for mutual improvement, as well as to unite their wisdom and experience in preparing for the work those who were to be their helpers and successors. St. Paul himself, with all his moral, theological, and literary endowments, did not enter upon the duties of his high and holy vocation, until he had first spent some time in retirement and study. For immediately upon his conversion, he went into Arabia, where he remained two years; and there is no evidence that during that time he preached publicly at all. Indeed had he given himself to the ministry of the word during this time, it would probably have been noticed by St. Luke, in his history of the Acts of the Apostles: but he passes over the apostle's residence in Arabia in entire silence, and the fact had never come down to us, but that St. Paul mentions it himself. Here we may suppose the apostle spent his time with some Christian family, in the study of the Jewish Scriptures and the targums of the Jewish doctors, and comparing them with the great facts alleged in the Gospel, and it was by this means, at least in part, that he became so thoroughly qualified to "reason out of the Scriptures," and "mightily to convince” his Jewish antagonists. And in perfect keeping with his own practice was his advice to Timothy: “Give thyself to reading Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” And if mental culture was necessary in apostolic times, in the days of inspiration;.can it be any less necessary now? The enemies of truth are now, if possible, more numerous and subtle than they were. We live in an improved age of the world, and an improved state of society, and cannot call inspiration and miracles to our aid. And can it be possible that there is now no longer any necessity for a high state of mental improvement in the ministry? That the interests of truth and religion may now safely be intrusted to men who have neither heads nor hearts to study ? None of you, my brethren, will hesitate a moment in giving your negative to these interrogations.
The present state of religious opinions furnishes a consideration upon this subject of immense weight. While some other branches of the visible Church are perplexing themselves with endless speculations, and have almost lost themselves in the fog of metaphysical refinements ; how does it become our ministry to possess the intelli
gence clearly to discern the ancient landmarks of our system, and to have logic and critical skill to defend them when assailed. There is, withal, amid this wonderful confusion, “the rush of mind.” Master spirits are engaged, mental resources are developed; and a machinery is at work which bids fair to change entirely the grounds of controversy between them and us, and threatens to bewilder, if not indeed to destroy, the unwary upon both sides. The only check which can be opposed to this overwhelming deluge I conceive to be a clear and forcible development of the great doctrines of the Bible, unsophisticated and undisguised. And how are we to act our part in this great work, without an able and truly learned ministry? But I do not intend to prosecute an extended argument upon the importance of a thorough education upon the part of our ministry: this I must for the present take for granted. But thus much I have judged necessary by way of introduction to my main design, which is, to develope some of the principal causes of the sad deficiencies in the literature of the Methodist ministry, and by the way to make some suggestions as to the remedy for the evil.
In order to show what constitutes a capital deficiency in the literary qualifications of a minister, it might appear necessary to show what is absolutely essential to it. But the ground I take will not require this. I set up no infallible standard of literary qualifications, which must be a sine qua non for admission into the annual conference. Nor, by a deficiency of literature, must I be understood to mean incompetency, in the sense in which this term is used in the common parlance of the day. But I mean simply that, as a body of ministers, we have less literature than is at the present day' highly necessary to give us that commanding influence over the community, which will render us adequate to the emergencies of the times in which we live. To this proposition I think all will concede ; and I doubt not but all will unite most heartily in the inquiry after the causes and the remedy.
I. The first of these causes which I shall notice is the want of many of the means of ministerial education.
In order to the proper cultivation of the mind, in any department of knowledge, it must have proper stimulants, timely aid, and suitable direction. These objects are effected by education. Until subjects of interest are presented to the mind, it will remain dormant, or will rather roam at large, occupying itself in pernicious or useless vagaries. And though it may in its wanderings glance at some useful subjects, it will never so comprehend them as to make any substantial improvement. When. stimulated to action by the presentation of important and interesting subjects of contemplation, it soon meets with numerous obstacles, which have the effect either to suppress, or greatly to retard investigation. Then it is that effective aid is indispensable. But remove these obstacles, and the faculties of the mind acquire fresh vigor, and it prosecutes its researches with a new and increasing vigor. But without timely and proper direction the mind is ever running astray: and by how much its energies are awakened, and called into action, without a suitable guide, by so much it is exposed to take some fatal course. And hence arises the necessity of education: for without it the mind, as to any useful pur
Vol. VII.-January, 1836. 2
poses, remains inactive, or in its undisciplined efforts is ever driving upon some fatal experiment.
General education lays the foundation for the cultivation of the several branches of science and literature. And hence a defec'ive knowledge in any department of literature may originate in a defective general education. Here, then, we are undoubtedly to look for some of the causes of the deficiency in ministerial education. We shall find, upon due inquiry, that the difficulty commences with the very rudiments of knowledge. The teachers employed, the books and systems of instruction used in our early years, were most wofully defective. And hence the false notions which we imbibed in childhood from these sources have crippled our efforts in after life, and some of their evil effects we may carry to our graves.
But some of us have labored under still other embarrassments, growing out of our circumstances in life, location, habits of thinking, &c., which, however, I need not here detail.
But as to the means of education in the higher branches, there is still greater cause of complaint. Until these few years past, the Methodist Church exerted next to no influence over the high schools and colleges in the country, and had none under its immediate patronage. Dr. Coke and Mr. Asbury made a laudable effort to raise the standard of literature among the Methodists, by erecting Cokesbury college. This institution was opened on the 8th of December, 1787, with twenty-five students. But it had scarcely begun to shed its genial rays upon our infant community, before, by a mysterious providence, its light was extinguished. It was destroyed by fire, December 4, 1795, about eight years after it was opened, and about ten after laying the foundation of the edifice. A long and gloomy night succeeded the catastrophe of this rising institution ; during which no effectual provision was made for the literary improvement of our Church. Our fathers were so constantly occupied in meeting the numerous and pressing calls for labor, which came up from every quarter of our widely extended country; and in thrusting themselves into the thousand doors which were opening for the preaching of the word and the conversion of souls; (and some of them, too hastily concluding that the destruction of Cokesbury college was an indication of Providence that the Methodists did not need, and ought not to have, literary institutions,) that no similar effort was made, no college or seminary erected, or brought under the special patronage of any annual conference, for more than twenty years !
The consequence was such as would be naturally expected. The literature of the Methodist Episcopal Church, struggling under such disadvantages, remained low. Most of our people who had the means of giving their sons a liberal education, were averse from putting them under the influence and instructions of such men as branded Methodism as a novel heresy, and might think it a good work to alienate them from it. Consequently, few who became Methodist preachers ever had it in their power to take a regular course in the higher branches of education : not to say that many of us, from the necessities of honest poverty, (which I suppose ought not to be reckoned to us a sin,) never had the means to find our way into a college, or even an academy or high school, had we been ever so