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The Last New Lights: The New Brunswick Free Christian Baptists, 1832 - 1905 (chapter 2)

The Last New Lights: The New Brunswick Free Christian Baptists, 1832 - 1905 (chapter 2)

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Published by Paul Kimball

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Published by: Paul Kimball on Mar 09, 2010
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06/21/2010

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Chapter Two
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.´
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 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.´
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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?´
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 The shift to an interest in education represented a fundamental change in the character othe Baptist denomination, and a major move away from New Light tradition.
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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.
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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.
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 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.
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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.
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It was no coincidence that the primary advocate for the establishment of  Acadia College was J. W. Johnston, a prominent Halifax lawyer and Conservative
 
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politician. Johnston was a leading member of the city¶s Anglican community until he andothers split with the church in the 1820s over the appointment of a suitable evangelicalminister, and organized the Granville Street Baptist Church. That the Halifax Baptist cliquedid not represent the views of many rural Baptists on either general education or ministerial training did not prevent them from spearheading the drive to achieve both for the denomination. For years, the Anglican establishment had derided the Baptists for their lack of learning. By the 1830s the Baptist leadership, energized by the former Anglicans intheir midst, had begun to take steps, through education, to become a denomination thatwould be able ³to appeal to others than those of their own body.´
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The result was a moresecular orientation to the Nova Scotia Baptist community and a rapidly growing acceptanceof the emerging North Atlantic evangelical consensus that linked material success withspiritual integrity and growth.
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 The New Brunswick Baptists had their own Johnston in the form of William Boyd Kinnear,a prominent lawyer and politician. Like Johnston, Kinnear was an Anglican until 1828when, after inquiring into Baptist teaching through his acquaintance with some of thecharter members of the Granville Street Baptist Church, he was immersed while on a visitto Halifax
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. He became the leading advocate of the establishment of the FrederictonBaptist Seminary, which he believed to be crucial in the development and progress of thedenomination both at home and, given the growing interest of the Baptist leaders in foreignmission work, abroad.
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Kinnear¶s most important ally among the Baptist ministers in thepromotion of increased education for the New Brunswick Baptists was Rev. Frederick W.Miles, who had begun his career with a pastorate in Saint John and then moved toFredericton in the early 1830s. As was the case with Kinnear and Johnston, Miles camefrom an Anglican family. He had also attended King¶s College in Windsor, and receivedtheological training in the late 1820s. These men were not representative of the socialstatus of the vast majority of New Brunswick Baptists, but they did represent what manyBaptists, particularly the young, aspired to achieve.The Methodists also began to seriously consider establishing a denominational secondaryschool in the early 1830s, a process which led to the founding of the Sackville Wesleyan Academy after Charles H. Allison of Sackville. Allison, another former Anglican and now aninfluential Methodist, offered in 1839 to provide means for the establishment of a schoolthat would be ³truly Christian and Methodistical´, where ³Pure Religion is not only taughtbut Constantly brought before the Youthful mind.´
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As with the Baptist leadership, thisreflected the belief that in secondary schools and colleges in which the functional colonialelites, including ministers, of a modern society would be trained, the denomination itself should assume responsibility for the training, with the assistance and cooperation of thestate.
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They were determined to provide opportunities for young Baptists and Methodistswho would not otherwise have had even the rudiments of higher education. However, aswith the Baptist membership, not all Methodists were convinced that education and pietycould co-exist, particularly where preachers were concerned.
 
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The divisions that the issue of ministerial training and education created were observedand recorded by a British visitor to New Brunswick. While attending a Baptist generalmeeting in the early 1840s, Frances Beaven watched as these issues were fiercelydebated. ³[The] present subject,´ she observed, ³was the appropriation of certain funds -whether they should be applied towards increasing their seminary, so as to fit it for theproper education of ministers for their churches, or whether they should be applied tosome other purpose, and their priesthood still be allowed to spring uncultured from themass.´ The opposition to funding the seminary, Beavan recalled, came from ³some white-headed leaders of the sect, old refugees, who had left the bounds of civilization beforethey had received any education,´ and who ³sternly declaimed against the educationsystem, declaring that grace [alone] was what formed the teacher.´ By the 1840s, however,those in favour held the upper hand, as the ³old men, stern in their prejudices as their zeal,were conquered, and the baptists have now well conducted establishments of learningthroughout the province.´
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With the establishment of Acadia College, the FrederictonSeminary, and Mount Allison, along with the creation of numerous Sabbath Schools, theBaptist and Methodist leadership, despite lingering doubters within, were firmly committedto secondary education and ministerial training by 1850. As was shown in Chapter One, the Free Christian Baptists, of all the major Protestantdenominations in mid-century New Brunswick, were the last to accept the values andchanges of mainstream Victorian evangelicalism. It is therefore not surprising to find thatby 1850 the issue of education, whether for preachers specifically or the young in general,had not been considered to any meaningful extent. In the rural areas that comprised theheartland of the denomination there was little agitation for regular schooling prior to the1850s, as fathers felt their sons would learn far more valuable skills - and provide freelabour - working on the farm that they would one day inherit. Most of them believed in thenecessity of learning how to read or write, as these were skills which they knew wereimportant for running a farm and conducting business, and for being able to understandGod¶s word as written in the Bible, which was imperative in order for a Christian toparticipate as an equal in the affairs of the Church.Sabbath schools were the first real attempt to provide a basic knowledge of reading andwriting to their children. To the Elders they were primarily instruments for the promotion of their brand of Christianity and the indoctrination of a second generation of potentialconverts in the basic principles and practices of the denomination.
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To the parishioners,however, they provided more tangible and immediate benefits, namely literacy and self-improvement within a secure Christian environment. Most important, it was an institutionthat was readily adapted to suit local requirements and tastes. Conditions for acceptanceby rural congregations included the use of home-grown teachers, the maintenance of localautonomy against denominational control, and the integration of the school into the localcommunity.
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Where these conditions were present, Sabbath schools were usuallyestablished and fairly well maintained. Very few parents, however, saw their childrenbecoming doctors or lawyers, or ever leaving the community in which they had been born

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