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As is to be expected, the utmost unanimity prevails among the schools as to the desirability of excluding persons either morally or intellectually unfit to enter upon the sacred calling. While almost every school will admit an applicant who belongs to another denomination than that to which the school pertains, all demand that he shall be in full communion with some Christian (in two cases with an "Evangelical") church. The evidence of this is given by letters of recommendation from pastors, churches, or, in the Presbyterian church, from the presbyteries under whose care the student is requested or required to place himself. Nor does the precaution taken cease with the student's admission within the walls of the institution; in several cases at least some months elapse before he is admitted formally as a member of the school. There is another qualification that sometimes is mentioned as a prerequisite, which is called by one institution "earnestness of purpose" and by others a "call to the ministry." As to the literary qualifications demanded by the schools, some diversity exists. It may be said, speaking generally, that a college education, at least that of a first-class high school, is the qualification that is thought requisite. But there are several ways in which this requirement is sometimes modified or dispensed with. It is modified when the scholastic deficiences of the pupil are compensated for by natural ability and when the course of the seminary is five or more years in duration, as is the case with many Roman Catholic seminaries, the Moravian Seminary, and others. It is dispensed with when the Greek and Hebrew Testaments are eliminated from the curriculum and the English Bible substituted. To enter upon the English course some institutions require that the applicant for admission be at least 25 years of age.
The instruction and lodging at these schools of theology being gratuitous and in the great majority of the schools pecuniary aid being furnished to the student, it is natural that a benefaction so wide in its scope and operating constantly in favor of new individuals, should seek to secure the attention of the student to the instruction which it provides. Indeed, in addition to the testimonials as to moral and intellectual fitness spoken of in a preceding paragraph, some schools are known to require a declaration in writing from the student on his admission, which may be represented by the following formula :
"Deeply impressed with a sense of the importance of improving in knowledge, prudence, and piety, in my preparation for the gospel ministry, I solemnly promise, in reliance on divine grace, that I will faithfully and diligently attend on all the instructions of this seminary, and that I will conscientiously and vigilantly observe all the rules and regulations specified in the plan for its instruction and government so far as the same relate to the students; and that I will obey all the lawful requisitions and readily yield to all wholesome admonitions of the professors and board of trustees while I shall continue a member of the institution."
Of the 145 schools given in Table 16 (p. 1045), 104 answer specifically the question addressed to them, "Have you noticed during the last decade that the students of later years were better prepared to enter upon the scientific study of their intended profession than those who preceded them?" In some cases the school had not been in existence for ten years, in others the dean had recently assumed charge. In many others the inquiry was passed by with a mere scratch of the pen, etc. Of the 104 specific answers, two say oatright that they have nothing to base an opinion on, which leaves 102 schools whose answers are of service in the canvass of this important matter. Of these 102 answers 78 are in the affirmative, the greatest number being simply "yes," but 17 answer "decidedly," or "very much," or "marked or decided advance," as the case may be,
while about half a dozen answer" slightly" or "somewhat," etc. Twenty schools answer "no," two of them adding that they are getting fewer graduates in letters or sciences. There are two classes of statements that deserve consideration, to wit: Those relating to the effect of the elective system in colleges and those giving the reason why the scholastic character of the applicants for admission has improved.
One of our important seminaries in New England answers the question thus: The optional system tends to make the Greek preparation deficient; history is lacking; the English language and literature do not seem to have adequate attention. Students are not able to read Latin with facility; the philosophic systems seem to be a priori. We do not find a better average than in previous years."
By another eastern seminary of the highest standing we are informed: More come now than formerly with some preparation in Hebrew, which is a distinct gain. On the other hand, the spread of the elective system in colleges, with other causes, has probably lowered the average quality of preparation in Greek. From the Upper Mississippi Valley it is learned that the scientific courses in colleges make more students enter the seminary knowing little or no Greek," but otherwise no change has been noticed.
From Pennsylvania one school reports that the students have much general intelligence and are equal to those who preceded them in training of faculties, but are behind them in the classical training especially called for in theological schools. By another, it is said that their college training has been broader and more varied, but it is not apparent that there has been any better mental development than under the earlier systems of college study when the curriculum was narrower. Depth has been sacrificed to breadth. From a third the answer is received: "No; as a general thing it may be said that classical schools have not yet distinguished themselves for thoroughness of mental training."
The Harvard and Yale divinity schools, on the other hand, assure the Bureau that there has been a very undoubted improvement, the latter school attributing it to stricter requirements for admission. The Harvard school instances the fact that all but one of its members were degree men, adding that a few years ago this would have been impossible. A half a dozen other seminaries attribute the improvement in scholarship of those they are admitting to their having exacted more elevated attainments for admission. Several attribute the fact to the advance of education in the South or West, as the case may be.
To the question Has the average age of the freshman advanced? an almost universal No is returned. In a university for the colored race, the dean answers that, whereas some years ago the students of the divinity school were ministers seeking further education, now the students come fresh from the preparatory school. Two seminaries give statistics. The dean of the Augustana Seminary at Rock Island gives the average age as varying from 27 to 29 during the last years; in some of the earlier classes it was over 30. Union Theological Seminary reports a slight increase, as follows:
Taking the answers to the two questions as to scholarship and age and considering them together some corroboration is found for the remarks upon the influence of the high schools, made under medical instruction (p. 878). But though the great extension of public higher elementary instruction, or, as it is called, secondary instruction, is in all probability subserving in America the purpose accomplished by the colleges of Germany and France (Gymnasien and lycées) it is still interesting to note the percentage of college graduates in attendance at our seminaries of theology. In attempting such a showing the Bureau must ask the indulgence of the reader who expects the utmost mathematical exactness. The diagrams given on pp. 846-7 are accurate as far as the schools have reported. But many schools will not report or insist in reporting by making a scratch of the pen so that it is not possible to tell whether they mean that an account of such matters has never been taken or that there are no students of the kind in their institution. The table which follows is an attempt to represent the percentage of college graduates in theological seminaries, by showing the percentage that has been reported by 27 schools in various parts of the country for the 10 years last past. Before canvassing the table, however, it may be said that, in the schools reporting an improvement in the scholastic attainments of their freshmen, 30 per cent of the attendance were students having a degree in letters or science."
From the table it appears that there is a decrease in the number of graduates of colleges secking admission to the theological seminaries (columns 2, 4, and 6) and that this decrease has been constant during the ten years last past. The general average for the ten years (column 8) for the New England and Middle States is the same, while that of the schools representing the West is much lower. Had the statistics of other sections of the Union been at hand the table might have been made more complete in its attempt to represent the condition of affairs in the country at large:
Students having degree in letters or science in twenty-seven schools of theology that report for each of the ten years 1880–81 to 1889-90 (omitting 1882-83).
Per Attend- cent Attend- cent Attend- cent Attend- cent ance. having ance. having ance. having ance. having
The course of the theological seminary proper is three years. The principal exception to this is in the case of the seminaries of the Roman Catholic Church, where the course is four, five, or six, or even more years in duration. The regular course of the Catholic University of America covers four years. Other exceptions are the schools having a shorter (not necessarily an English) course or a postgraduate course. In the schools of New York and New England, and of Chicago there are from two to six postgraduate students. The reason for the length of the course in Catholic seminaries, excluding the course of the
Catholic University, is shown by the following; there are really three courses, one dovetailing into the other:
The object of the Salesianum is the remote and immediate preparation for the holy priesthood, and only such students are received as express their intention of becoming priests. In accordance with this object, the education imparted embraces the classical studies, philosophy, and theology, nine years in all, with the following courses:
This system, though not characteristic of, is not unrepresented among Protestant schools.
The two-year course is the English course. No better illustration can be given as to what this course is than the English course of Oberlin Theological Seminary. This course has been established in view of the present urgent need of more ministers and of the fact that many young men now in secular business would be willing to give their lives to the preaching of the gospel, but can not pursue a course of preparation extending over 10 years. It is designed for mature young men of at least 25 years of age, who, though possessing perhaps but a common English education, have acquired, in practical business, familiarity with affairs and acquaintance with men. It is believed that men of this class by two years of judiciously applied study can acquire such a knowledge of the English Bible, of systematic theology, and of other fundamental branches as will qualify them for great usefulness in many fields. Should a sufficient number apply, some special additional instruction will be provided for those looking forward to Y. M. C. A. secretaryships as a substitute for the homiletic training of candidates for the pulpit. The programme is as follows:
Tabular view of the English course of Oberlin Theological Seminary.
Another species of the two-year course is shown by the course of the Jeremiah Vardeman School of Theology in William Jewell College, Liberty, Mo. The regular course of this school is intended for two years in the case of those who are fully prepared to proceed with the study of the Scriptures in the Greek or Hebrew or who have taken the first degree in college; but, to afford profitable instruction to those who have not a classical education and to those who desire to study theology at the same time that they pursue their literary studies, the
course is so arranged as to be pursued in connection with a literary course, and parts of the theological course which are adapted to the development of mental power are taken by agreement of the faculty, in lieu of proportionate parts of the literary course in the examination for the degree of A. B. Theological students who are candidates for the degree of A. B. may substitute, in each year after the freshman, one class in theology for one other class with an equal number of recitations, except in Latin, Greek, English, and geology.
Still another kind of two years' course is shown by the curriculum of the Moravian Theological Seminary. The course of study, arranged for six years, is divided into two departments: (1) Classical, of four years' duration, and (2) the ological, of two years' duration. A class graduates and a new class is formed every alternate year. Hence only three classes of the six are in existence at the same time. The number of lectures and recitations for each class ranges from 20 to 25 per week. The figures in parentheses indicate the number of hours a week.
Theological department [of the Moravian Seminary].
Homiletics (2), with written sermons.
Liturgics (2).-Results of the General Synod.
A three years' English course is offered by Hillsdale College, the last year being the course followed by the student in the “full course.”
English theological course.
Preparatory.-Fall: English grammar; arithmetic; United States history. Winter: English grammar; arithmetic; elementary philosophy. Spring: Reading and orthography; civil government; composition and rhetoric."
Junior-Fall: Systematic theology; inorganic chemistry; ancient history. Winter: Systematic theology: organic chemistry; Roman history. Spring: Systematic theology; elementary botany; English history.
Middle-Fall: Systematic theology; mental philosophy: logic. Winter: Systematic theology: evidences; rhetoric. Spring: Sytematic theology; moral philosophy; English literature. Senior-Fall: English Bible; pastoral theology; historic doctrines. Winter: English Bible; homiletics; historic doctrines. Spring: English Bible; homiletics; historic doctrines.
As illustrating a composite course (academico-theological) the course in divinity of the Southwestern University is given. The curriculum of this university is arranged on the coördinate school principle, the completion of the course of a certain number of schools entitling the student to a degree. The divinity course is the only professional course as yet established in the university. It was organized by the board in June, 1885, and has been in operation for five years with the most satisfactory results. The various schools and departments of this course stand in the same relations to the university as the academic schools. The two faculties are in reality but one, and have the same government and discipline. The chancellor is the chief executive and the presiding officer of the whole. Schedule of recitations is as follows:
I. 8:45 to 9:30-Jun. French, bookkeeping, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; Sen. French, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday; Jun. Greek, El. Latin, 5 days.
II. 9:30 to 10:30-Sen. Latin, Sen. Ec. Hist., Jun. Met., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; Int. Latin, Sen. N. P., Sen. Met., Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday; Jun. Hebrew, 4 days; Subj. Math., El. Algebra, 5 days.
III. 10:30 to 11:30-Jun. N. T. Greek, Sen. German, Int. Greek, chemistry, Jun. Bible, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; Sen. Greek, Jun. Ee. Hist., Geol., etc., Int. Bible, Jun. History, Tuesday. Thursday, and Saturday: Sen. Theol., 5 days.
IV. 11:30 to 12:30-Sen. Math., rhetoric, Jun. Lit., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: Sen.
Three years, however, is the time devoted to study in our seminaries of theology. The studies pursued during that period group themselves around certain