The Presbyterian Church has always stood for Religion and Education-Religion as the basis of true education, and Education as the promoter of positive practical religion.
The Presbyterian Church wishes to see the young people of every generation provided with the best means for their intellectual and spiritual progress. It wishes to see them prepared, not merely for active and successful participation in the onward work of the world, but also in full and hearty sympathy with the great work of Christ and his people, for the spiritual salvation of the nations. It knows there is no good reason, why a stirring leader of men should not be a Christian; nor why a Christian should not be eminently successful, in taking his place among men as a forceful factor in the life of the world.
The Presbyterian Church believes in the system of state schools from the primary, public and high schools, to the University. These schools provide for general education. Millions of children would never be in school, were it not for these state provisions and for compulsory public education. These schools are however not all perfect, since they do not provide for moral and religious training, the great underlying principles of reverence and righteousness, that must enter into every life in order to fit it for the performance of Christian and patriotic duty.
The Presbyterian Church takes a patriotic interest in our whole public school system, and believes that all the children should be trained in those that are under public direction, so that all the children and youth of the nation shall be a united, intelligent and patriotic body, fitted for good citizenship.
At the same time it believes in special Church institutions of higher learning that shall be adapted to train our young people for intelligent leadership in the Church, and enable them to become doubly useful in the home, social circle and in public life. Our Christian academies and colleges are valuable institutions. These furnish to the Church and the world the greatest number of ministers, missionaries, college presidents and Christian statesmen. Parents everywhere, find these Christian institutions furnish the best advantages, and that they are the safest and most economical. No institutions furnish higher or more profitable culture. They combine all that is best in real culture and education of the intelligent faculties, with a true religious conception of life; so that all who yield to their best influences go forth from them pure-hearted, stronger and better prepared to engage in life’s duties successfully; for they take with them the personal assurance of the gracious presence and abiding blessing of our Father in Heaven.
In a Christian educational institution, the spirit of the instructor is one that regards the student, as of more value than the subject taught. Its aim including the Christian college is not research, the work of a university, but to make men. The ordinary branches that are taught are regarded as instrumentalities, for making a well trained man of the student.
The key to success in the battle of life is found in the struggle, which insures control of one’s self. This is the secret of a good education. In an important sense, all education must be self-education. Professor Huxley gave good emphasis to this thought when he wrote: “Perhaps the most valuable result of all education, is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson which ought to be learned, and, however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson he learns thoroughly.” An eminent educator used to say to his class: “He, who will become a scholar, must learn to command his faculties.”
The Presbyterian Church honors God and exalts him to the throne of absolute supremacy over all his creatures. It honors Him by using the instrumentalities he has appointed. It receives the Bible, as the very word of God, and adopts it as the only rule of faith and practice.
The Presbyterian Church from the beginning has been a zealous missionary organization. At the meeting of the First General Assembly arrangements were made to send the gospel to “the regions beyond,”-the frontiers and the various tribes of American Indians. The agencies, then organized as committees, have become the great Boards of Home and Foreign Missions, that now receive and distribute, each, more than a million dollars annually.
A Zealous Missionary Organization
It is gratifying to know that the colored people, although emotional and demonstrative, have nevertheless an intelligent appreciation of the views and methods of the Presbyterian Church.
A prominent minister of a southern Church is quoted as having said: “The Presbyterian Church can do for the colored people of the south what no other Church can do.”
Fable of Persian Tent
There is a Persian fable that tells of a young prince who brought to his father a nutshell, which, when opened with a spring, contained a little tent of such ingenious construction, that when spread in the nursery the children could play under its folds; when opened in the council chamber the King and his counselors could sit beneath its canopy; when placed in the courtyard the family and all the servants could gather under its shade; when pitched upon the plain, where the soldiers were encamped, the entire army could gather within its enclosure. It possessed the qualities of boundless adaptability and expansiveness.
This little tent is a good symbol of our Presbyterian system. It is all contained within the nutshell of the Gospel. Open it in the nursery, and beneath its folds parents and children sit with delight; spread it in the court yard, and beneath its shadow the whole household assembles for morning and evening worship; open it in the village and it becomes a Church, under whose canopy the whole town may worship. Open it upon the plain, and a great sacramental army gathers under it. Send it to the heathen world, and it becomes a great pavilion, that fills and covers the earth.
The Presbyterian Church is as Catholic as the Gospel in its spirit of brotherly love, and readiness to co-operate with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ. It recognizes the ordination of the Episcopalian and the baptism of the Baptist. It joins cordially with those who would place the crown upon the brow of Jesus by singing only the Psalms of David, and responds with an approving echo to the hearty “Amen” of the Methodists. It is capable of an expansion, that will include all shades of our common humanity, and is working valiantly to usher in the day, when the prayer of our Lord Jesus shall be fulfilled: “That they may be one; as Thou, Father art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.”
“The Presbyterian Church stands,” says Rev. W. H. Roberts, D. D., “as it has stood during its entire history, for the unconditional sovereignty of God, for the Bible as the only infallible rule of faith and life, for simplicity of worship, representative government, a high standard of Christian living, liberty of conscience, popular education, missionary activity and true Christian Catholicity.”
President Benjamin Harrison said of it: “The Presbyterian Church has been steadfast for liberty, and it has kept steadfast for education. It has stood as stiff as a steel beam for the faith delivered to our fathers, and it still stands with steadfastness for that essential doctrine-the inspired Word. It is not an illiberal Church. There is no body of Christians in the world that opens its arms wider to all who love the Master. Though it has made no boast or shout, it has yet been an aggressive missionary Church from the beginning.”
Lincoln University in Chester county, Pennsylvania, was established in 1854 under the leadership of Rev. John M. Dickey, D. D., pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Oxford, for the classical and theological education of Negroes. The extent and thoroughness of the courses of instruction at this institution have been amply justified by the success of its graduates; many in the ministry, and others, in founding similar institutions of a high grade in the south, as at Columbia, S. C., Salisbury, N. C., Holly Springs, Miss., and a number of other places. Its aim is to furnish trained professional leaders, and it is accomplishing this object in splendid form. Established before the Freedmen’s Board, it has continued to be maintained without its aid.