The late Mr. Ephraim Robins, of this city, in 1832, suggested to the leading members of the Baptist denomination, to which he belonged, the expediency of establishing a seminary for the education of young men for the ministry in that denomination, here, in the West, where they are wanted, and where a more learned body of them was considered necessary, since all other Protestant denominations were increasing their requirements in respect to the learning of their teachers. No rational man could maintain that sound learning — knowledge of the languages in which our sacred books are written, of the history of those books, and of the circumstances that prove their authenticity, with the rules of interpretation, and methods to aid in the correct comprehension of their doctrines — could fail to be useful to religious instructors. The few exceptions of fanatics, who consider that human learning is an obstacle in the path of religious teachers, and that they ought to depend solely on their English bibles and immediate inspiration, constitute, at present, a class so much smaller than it did formerly, that it has ceased to have any weight in any religious denomination.
It was determined, therefore, that a Theological Seminary was needed; and that it was needed in the West, because of the greater simplicity of habits and modes of life here, which ought to be preserved by their religious teachers; and which would, if pupils were sent abroad, where more luxurious or less simple habits of life prevailed, render them less contented in the stations, to which they might be called, and therefore less useful.
It was determined, also, that a committee should be appointed to examine such points as might be considered suitable for the location of the proposed institution, and select the one which offered the greatest advantages.
This committee, consisting of J. Going and E. Robins, after due examination of all the the sites supposed to be peculiarly suitable, and comparing all the capabilities of each, in relation to their influences on the proposed institution, selected a site at Covington, Kentucky, opposite Cincinnati, to which they gave the preference, for several good and substantial reasons. Among them, the prospect that by the purchase of a considerable tract of land, adjoining that city, and building their college thereon, they would aid in causing a rise in the value of their property, which the natural increase of the city would also aid; and thereby obtain an important addition to their endowment, which would otherwise be dependant on private donations. Other considerations, such as convenience of access, proximity to many important towns, &c., had their weight, and that locality was determined on. A considerable tract — about two hundred and fifty acres — was purchased, of which, however, three-fourths was sold, leaving ninety acres for the purposes of the institution. Some additional purchases were made afterwards, and the profits gained by the rise in value of their grounds created an endowment of $150,000 to the institution, which was organized as soon as suitable buildings could be erected, and was in successful operation for many years.
Unfortunately, however, for the permanent prosperity of the institution, the slavery question became a portion of every question of politics, morals, and religion, and was an apple of discord wherever it was thrown. During the lifetime of Mr. Robins, his conciliatory spirit, combined with the influence of his efforts and desires for the progress of the institution, directed by the purest motives, restrained the parties on each side of the question from maintaining such strongly opposing sentiments as to be unable to co-operate in peace and harmony. But, after his death, the breach becoming constantly wider, it was judged that the objects of the institution would best be
promoted by a division of its property, and the adoption of two seperate [sic] seminaries.
In consequence, the establishment at Covington was abandoned, and two others founded — the one at Georgetown, Ky., the other at Fairmount, Cincinnati.
"The Fairmount Theological Seminary is situated within ten acres of ground reserved for its use by the Trustees, one hundred and thirty rods north-west from the corporate limits of Cincinnati. The site is recommended by its healthfulness, and is unsurpassed in the beauty of its scenery, overlooking the cities of Cincinnati, Covington, and Newport, and commanding an extensive view, in all directions, of the surrounding country. The Seminary building, erected at a cost of $20,000, is four stories high above the basement, one hundred and twelve feet in length, and fifty-four feet in its greatest breadth, and surmounted by an observatory. It contains a chapel, forty-four by forty-one feet; a reading room; lecture rooms and study rooms, with separate and lighted dormitories attached, for the accommodation of the students."
The library formerly belonging to the Institute at Covington, has been transferred to this Seminary, and, with other collections, constitutes a well selected library of four thousand volumes, well adapted to the wants of the institution. There is, also, a reading room, supplied with the valuable religious journals of the day, open to the students and friends of the Seminary.
The course of instruction adopted in the institution will be understood by the statement of the studies which occupy the two classes, and, in the Catalogue of 1854-5, it is stated as follows:
"The studies of the Junior Class have been —
"IN HEBREW, one daily exercise during five months, and a weekly exercise, during the remainder of the year, have been devoted to an examination of the elements and principles of the language — Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar being chiefly used as a text book — and to the critical reading of several chapters in the Hebrew Bible
"IN THE DEPARTMENT OF BlBLlCAL INTERPRETATION, two daily exercises have been had during the year, embracing a course of lectures and recitations on the following subjects:
"THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION, in their application to the various kinds of composition adopted by the sacred writers; with criticisms on the notes of Ernesti, Carson, and others — together with an examination of the general character of the sacred writings.
"IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, the Greek of the New Testament — the Chronology and History of the Acts of the Apostles. — a particular introduction to each of the Gospels with respect to special design, style, manner of narrating facts, etc. — and to each of the Epistles of Paul with respect to occasion and circumstances of composition, design, contents, etc, — an examination of the Gospels in harmony, with an exposition of important passages selected from each — and extended exegetical examination of the epistles to the Romans, with a general exposition of the epistle of James, and the epistle to Galatians.
"IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, the history of the Hebrew language in the different stages of its development — the Chronology and History of the Israelitish nation — an introduction to each of the prophetical books — with an exposition of the first chapter of Genesis, several of the Messianic Psalms, and passages selected from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zachariah, and Malachi.
"IN ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY, lectures have been delivered and recitations had on the state of the Church, external and internal, during the first four centuries. In the instruction in this department the method adopted in the text books, by which the events or facts pertaining to each century, or particular period, are considered by themselves, has not been adhered to. After an examination of the external history of the Church in its relations to the Roman government, and of the authorities to be relied on for testimony, the facts relating to each usage or opinion have, in connection with passing allusions to their cotemporaneous relations, been traced on separately and
uninterruptedly from the apostolic age to the close of the fourth century.
"The studies of the Senior Class have been as follows:
"IN THEOLOGY, daily lectures have been delivered on the following subjects:
"The Importance of Theology and divisions of the subject — Sources of theological knowledge — Nature and sources of evidence — Characteristic properties of mind and matter.
"Proofs of the existence of God, metaphysical and general — Evidences of Divine Revelation, including an examination into the Genuineness of the sacred writings — their Credibility — Credibility of the Christian miracles — Evidence from prophecy — and the Inspirations of the Scriptures.
"Attributes of God — His Eternity, Spirituality, Power, Omniscience, Wisdom, Goodness, Holiness, Truth, Immutability.
"Creation and primitive state of Man, and his relations to his posterity. — The Fall and its consequences — Present condition of Man — His relation to the government of God — The doctrine of Human Depravity — Nature and desert of sin — Necessity of a remedial scheme, and the purpose of God respecting it.
"The Agency involved in thework of redemption — Doctrine of Christ's Humanity — His Divinity — Union of the two natures in one person — Personality and Divinity of the Holy Spirit — General doctrine of the Trinity.
"The Work of Christ — His vicarious sacrifice, with the general doctrine of the Atonement, its nature, its design, its extent — The Obedience of Christ — His Resurrection — Exaltation, Intercession, and the relation of each to the work of redemption.
"The Work of redemption in its relation to the experience of the believer — The doctrine of the Regeneration, of Faith, of Repentance, and their relation to each other — The believer's union with Christ — His justification — Adoption — Growth and perfection in holiness — Perseverence in the state of Grace — Reception to heaven at death — Resurrection of the body — Final state.
"Judgment and Destiny of the wicked, and the general trine of Future Punishment.
"The Kingdom of Christ — Its relation to the Patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations — Its ultimate extension throughout the earth — Its termination on earth, or the second coming of Christ — His Kingdom in its internal nature and membership — Its external organization, or the Christian Church — Its membership — Its general polity and government — the office of the ministry — The Ordinances of the gospel — Baptism, its design, subjects, form — The Lord's supper, its design, and prerequisites — The Christian Sabbath.
"Each of these subjects has been discussed by means of written lectures, accompanied by oral remarks and illustrations, and daily reviews and recitations on the part of the class. In one part of the course recitations were also had in Paley's Natural Theology, parts of Butler's Analogy, and Wilson's Evidences of Christianity.
"IN HOMILETICS AND PASTORAL DUTIES, a course of daily exercises has been had, conducted partly by means of oral and written lectures, and partly by recitations in Porter's Lectures on Homiletics and Pulpit Eloquence, and Vinet's Pastoral Theology.
"IN BIBLICAL INTERPRETATIONS, the argumentative portion of the epistle to the Galatians has been examined — parts of the Gospels in harmony, and several of the Messianic prophecies.
"A Weekly Exercise has also been had during a greater part of the year with members of both classes in the reading and criticism of Sermons and plans of sermons, and in Elocution with special reference to exercises of the pulpit.
"The members of the Preparatory Department have been arranged according to their attainments in two classes, and have successfully prosecuted -their studies under Prof. Stone, assisted in the primary English Branches, and to some extent in Algebra and Geometry, by Mr. Fisher.
CLASS OF THE FIRST YEAR.
"The class for the first year, with three daily exercises have gone through with Geography, Arithmetic, and English Grammar, and have advanced to the 9th section in Algebra, and to the 7th in Geometry.
"They have had in connection with the other class, a daily exercise in orthography, synonyms, the reading and interpretation of passages in poetry and prose selected from the scriptures and standard English authors ; besides a semi-weekly exercise in Composition and Declamation, and during the last six weeks, a weekly extemporaneous debate.
"The advanced class have reviewed and completed Algebra and Geometry — have examined the elements of Natural Philosophy, Astronomy and Chemistry — have gone through with Whately's Rhetoric and Logic, Wayland's Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, and have advanced in Butler's Analogy as far as the 5th chapter of the 2d part; besides exercises in reading, composition, declamation, etc., as noticed above.
"Members of both classes have had during four months an exercise in Greek, under Mr. Buell.
"The following is a list of text books used in the Preparatory Department — Mitchell's Geography — Adams' Arithmetic — Brown's English Grammar — Parker's Aids to English Composition — Graham's Synonyms — Day's Algebra, (revised edition,) — Geometry, Davies, Legendre — Comstock's Natural Philosophy and Chemistry — Olmstead's Astronomy — Whately's Rhetoric and Logic — Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, Wayland's — Butler's Analogy."
We have copied this account of the studies prescribed for pupils of this institution, to show the progress of the Baptist denomination in a proper appreciation of the value of "human learning," which, half a century ago, was rather feared than desired, as a qualification for their teachers — in the South and
West particularly. And, perhaps, their earliest missionaries would have been less successful if they had possessed more learning; it might, possibly, have cramped their genius and checked that native eloquence, which is — especially among the ignorant — more effective than learning in calling men to repentance.
At the present time, this denomination possesses a number of clergymen, eminent as men of learning — scholars of the highest class — and many of its authors are recognized as distinguished "defenders of the faith."
The Theological schools, of all Protestant denominations, have been greatly multiplied during the last half century, and a much more extensive course of study is required for admission to the ministry than was formerly necessary; and this is one of the marks of progress in the general value of education on the part of the community. Every improvement in general intelligence among hearers, requires higher attainments in speakers; and the aids to the investigation of truth, which are given by an improved standard of education, are understood as soon as men discover in themselves the advantages they have derived from such a source.
The Baptist denomination has had many distinguished men as missionaries, in various parts of heathendom, and, among them, some that have been very eminent for their knowledge of the languages of Eastern Asia, and, generally, for their attainments in rare learning; and their missions have generally been more successful from this cause. In the early periods of missionary history, it appeared to be the prevalent opinion, that men of very limited knowledge would do as well for missionaries, if they possessed the necessary zeal; and if, with such notions, men of uncommon 'strength of mind and native talent should be selected, they would, probably, be successful, as such men generally succeed in whatever they undertake. But if, instead of men of this class, missionary Boards select such as they feel somewhat ashamed of, but think they may do well enough to send among ignorant heathen, they will be likely to hear such accounts of them, as those which formerly excited the sneers and ridicule of the Edinburgh Review.
Since a more correct estimate of the qualifications necessary for missionaries to the heathen has been entertained, their success has been remarkably increased; and to the early Baptist denomination — to which such men as Marshman, Ward, and other self-sacrificing laborers in Christ's vineyard, devoted themselves — a great portion of this success is owing; not only for what their own missionaries have done, but for the lesson which other denominations received from them, of the importance of sending abroad men of learning, instead of such as were supposed to be fit to instruct the heathen, merely because they were fit for nothing else.
The importance of human learning to those who would become teachers, is now generally appreciated, as well in relation to Theological instruction as to the sciences of common life, for the forms of error are multiplying with the progress of improvement, and the powers of truth must be called forth to oppose it from every source that can supply aid of any kind.
[From John P. Foote, The Schools of Cincinnati and its Vicinity, 1855, pp. 163-171. The document is from Google Books. — Jim Duvall]
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