Barry Moody, in his study of the early history of Acadia College, observed that from thetime of its establishment in 1838, until well into the next century, many maritime Baptistsharboured considerable fear that education would smother piety, that the search for earthlywisdom would ³divert the pious young man from his search for the real meaning of life.´
These were sentiments firmly rooted in New Light practices and beliefs, particularly thoseof Henry Alline, who had preached without any regard for formal education or training.Within his journal Alline posited the belief that education was not necessary for a preacher,and in fact could be harmful. ³O the prejudices of education!´ he wrote. ³I began to see thatI had all this time been led astray by labouring so much after human learning and wisdom,and had held back from the call of God.´ To Alline, a preacher needed nothing to qualifyhim ³but Christ; and that if [he] should have all the wisdom that could ever be obtained bymortals, without having the spirit of Christ with [him], [he] should never have any successin preaching.´
Alline asked questions such as ³has Christ not got learning enough?´ and³Is he not able to teach you in half an hour in his school, more than you¶ll be able to obtainin the seats of human learning all your life?´
The shift to an interest in education represented a fundamental change in the character of the Baptist denomination, and a major move away from New Light tradition.
Institutionslike Acadia, and the Baptist seminary founded in Fredericton in 1836, were built not toconserve a way of life, but ³to be the vehicle by which that life could be changed.´ Theyexisted not to safeguard a social position, but to advance it.
The development of educational institutions provided a means of training the ministry, which provided anincrease in prestige for the ministers and attracted to the Church¶s ranks young menincreasingly interested in professional advancement. It also contributed to the welfare of the community rather than the separateness of a particular religious group, marking abreak from the past by drawing the Baptists closer to the life of the broader community. According to sociologist S.D. Clark, the Baptist denomination became an institutionalsystem of religion, and education provided it with the means of perpetuating itself fromgeneration to generation, and attracting younger people who had not inherited thesectarian loyalties of their parents.
Education also provided the denomination with the means to keep up with the age of progress and general advancement in which they believed they lived. To prominent Baptistleaders like Rev. Edward Manning in Nova Scotia and Rev. Frederick Miles in NewBrunswick, the dramatic inroads made in the first half of the nineteenth century into themiddle and upper classes of Halifax and Saint John were clear proof of God¶s work on themarch.
Intellectual competence among the ministry was demanded by the expectations of this important and growing segment of the Church membership, who believed that only³growing men´ could gain and retain the respect of congregations in an increasinglylearned age.
It was no coincidence that the primary advocate for the establishment of Acadia College was J. W. Johnston, a prominent Halifax lawyer and Conservative