Why does formal training for gospel ministry matter? Samuel Miller answers.

Samuel Miller, the Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government at Princeton Theological Seminary in the first half of the 19th century, gave six answers to this question in his book, The Importance of a Thorough and Adequate Course of Preparatory Study for the Holy Ministry (1832):

1. The great importance of careful and mature preparatory study in candidates for the Ministry, appears from the nature and importance of that public service which the sacred office demands. 

2. A further and very important argument in favour of mature preparatory study is, that very few who do not lay a good foundation in the beginning, ever supply the deficiency afterwards.

3. The great importance of regular and mature training for the holy Ministry is manifest from the peculiar state and wants of our country.

4. The great importance of mature study, and thorough training for the holy Ministry, is manifest from the predominant influence which, the Press exerts, and seems destined in a still higher degree, to exert, in every part of our country.

5. Ample and mature preparatory study is of exceeding great importance to a candidate for the holy ministry, as a substitute for that experience which cannot be possessed in the outset of an ecclesiastical course; and for the general formation of the character.

6. The importance of mature study and thorough training for the sacred office, is powerfully and uniformly attested by the history of the Church.

How should students of the Bible approach their study? William Swan Plumer answers.

In his 1867 Inaugural Address at Columbia Theological Seminary, William Swan Plumer explained what ought to be the right "temper" of the student of God's word. You can find his address along with others works we've posted by him, but here's a sneak peek to the answers he gives: the theologian should possess modesty, impartiality, independence of thought and freedom of inquiry, profound reverence for what he studies, a love of truth, patience, a spirit of diligence, a genuine lively faith, just moderation, the spirit of prayer, a commitment to practice what he learns, and a gospel centered, evangelical spirit. The address is only 16 small pages, so make sure to read how Plumer unpacks each of these points. 

(This is actually an abridged version of his address, published for the popular press as a booklet. You can find the entire address in the Southern Presbyterian Review , 19.1 (January 1868), which we have not posted to our site yet!) 


Want to know how to view the Bible? Read John Holt Rice's 1824 Inaugural Address on II Timothy 3:16.

John Holt Rice was the first professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary. On what was his theology founded? In his inaugural address he lays out his presuppositions:

1. The sacred Scriptures are the source from which the preacher of the gospel is to derive all that doctrine, which has authority to bind the consciences, and regulate the conduct of men.

2. That the Scriptures afford the only information on which we can rely, in answer to the all-important question, "What must we do to be saved?”

3. That the Scriptures contain the most perfect system of morals, that has ever been presented to the understanding, or urged on the conscience of man. 

May the Lord continue to grant seminary professors, and the pastors they train, these convictions about the word of God. 

Pastors, this is a needful, convicting, and encouraging word from Moses Hoge as you minister to your people this day.

"And now, my brethren, before I take leave of you, permit to request you to turn your attention to the people committed to your care. See what a large proportion of them are perishing in sin. And are we sure that we have done everything in our power to prevent their destruction? that no more effectual measure can be adopted than those already employed, for their salvation? Let us not be too hasty in concluding that we have exhausted all the treasures of Divine mercy, either with respect to ourselves, or our people - that no superior assistance for ourselves in the discharge of ministerial duty, or more effectual grace for them, is within our reach.  The hand of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear. I will venture to affirm there is one thing which we might do for them more than we have yet done. We might pay greater attention to ourselves - to the state of our own souls. Ah! did we feel for ourselves as we ought, we should soon see a glorious change in the state of our people. We should then feel for them, preach to them, pray for them, and live for them, in a way that would scarcely fail to be attended with the happiest effects."

-- Moses Hoge, Ministerial Piety (page 33 of Sermons of Moses Hoge)

How should the pastor spend his time in the study? Read chapter 3 of Thomas Murphy's Pastoral Theology

Thomas Murphy's Pastoral Theology, written in 1877, is a book of which most Presbyterian pastors are utterly unaware. And yet it is chock full of rich spiritual counsel for the labors of pastoral ministry. Chapters 2 and 3 are worth the price of the book, as this summary proves: "There are two places where, unseen by the world, the pastor receives strength and equipment for that momentous work to which he has been ordained; they are the closet and the study. We place them in the order of their relative importance first the closet, then the study. First the cultivation of the heart, then the cultivation of the head, is the rule of life from which the minister of the gospel ought never to depart" (Pastoral Theology, 91). If you have never heard of this book, take time to download it today. 

(Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a picture of Thomas Murphy - if anyone knows of one, please let us know!) 

What was the mission of Jesus? What is the mission of the church? What is the mission of the minister?

William Henry Green, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary in the 19th century, answered these questions in a brief sermon on Luke 4:18-19 at the installation service of Rev. Heman Timlow in 1856. This sermon (along with the charge by Daniel Dana) can be found here, where we plan to upload more of Green's works in the future!