Seminaries, Theological, in the United States
Seminaries, Theological, In The United States Professional schools for the special training of ministers of the gospel are almost peculiar to America. Although most of the universities of Europe were originally instituted chiefly for ecclesiastical education, and clerical studies were for a long time mainly pursued in them, this was only an accident of the time, arising principally from the imperfect views of science then entertained, and the predominance of religious teachers in the world of letters. In some instances, such as the famous Sorbonne (q.v.) of France, the academical studies gradually supplanted the theological; while in but a few cases, such as those of Geneva in Switzerland, Montauban in France, and the Propaganda at Rome, is theology prominently or exclusively taught. To these must be added the training-schools of the English Dissenters, which are comparatively few and uninfluential. As a very general rule, however, the various branches of theology in Europe are included as departments of the great universities, and are therefore taught, almost entirely by lectures, as parts of a scientific education.
In America, on the other hand, while nearly all the higher schools were originated and are sustained by various Christian bodies, yet the system of special preparation of candidates for the ministry is very generally carried on in distinct institutions, sometimes included in a so-called university, but nevertheless having each its separate faculty and particular course of study, which is intended and arranged so as to be supplementary to those of the academy and the college. This gives a
definiteness and practical character to ministerial training scarcely attainable, or even attempted, by the looser method of European instruction. SEE MINISTERIAL EDUCATION.
I. Growth and Character of American Schools of Theology. — The earliest of these institutions, exclusive of a Roman Catholic one founded in 1791, in Baltimore, Maryland, which still survives, and a private one established in 1804 by Dr. John M. Mason, in the city of New York, which lasted several years, is the Theological Seminary founded by the Congregationalists at Andover, Massachusetts, in 1808, although a foundation was made somewhat earlier for a similar institution by the Reformed Dutch Church at New Brunswick, N.J., which did not go into operation for a long time. The next great theological seminary was that of the Presbyterians, founded at Princeton, N.J., in 1812, although the College of New Jersey with which it is connected, was established in 1757. The divinity schools of Harvard and Yale are even more modern, while the universities themselves are much older. After the above dates numerous schools and departments of a strictly theological character sprang up in the more thickly settled states, and in more recent times they have rapidly multiplied throughout the Union. Thus, in the first decade of the present century (1800-1809) there were but two organized, in the second 2, in the third 14, in the fourth 9, in the fifth 8, in the sixth 19, in the seventh 38, in the eighth (1870-79) 30. The Report of the United States Commissioner of Education for 1883 (the latest return) gave the total of theological seminaries and departments as being 145, with an aggregate of 583 resident teachers and 5771 students.
"As to the methods pursued in the theological schools of the United States, it may be remarked that no uniformity, but a general similarity, prevails. In nearly all, primary attention is given to the study of Hebrew and New-Test. Greek, as the foundation of an enlightened Scriptural exegesis. In the departments of ecclesiastical history and systematic and practical theology, instruction is largely given by lectures, with references to text-books and collateral reading. In all the fully organized seminaries the course of study extends through three years, and is planned in reference to the attainments of graduates of colleges, although partial-course students are admitted on specified conditions." Tuition is free, and arrangements are usually made which reduce the cost of board, etc., to a very low rate.
II. Statistics. — The accompanying table, compiled from the above- mentioned report, exhibits a summary account of all the theological institutions in the Union, arranged in the alphabetical order of the several states. For further details, see the annual catalogue of each, which is furnished gratuitously on application to the presiding officer.