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LABORS IN CONNECTION WITH THE AMERICAN
TION SOCIETY, FROM 1826 to 1832.
The work to which Mr. Cornelius gave his first attention, was the preparation of a brief statement of the principles and objects of the American Education Society. One of these objects devised and carried into execution by himself, was the establishment of scholarships. It was maintained that if any enterprize requires a steady and permanent support, it is that in which this society is engaged. The work to be done is that of education, which, more than almost any thing else, is liable to suffer from instability and interruption. By means of permanent scholarships, it was thought that the society would be relieved in a considerable degree from pecuniary embarrassment, and be enabled to make the selection and religious supervision of the young men whom it should patronize, a prominent object of attention. The dangers arising from a misapplication and perversion of the funds, it was supposed would be guarded against by the mode in which the society is organized. The supreme control is lodged in a general society, composed of members from every part of the country, and from various denominations of Christians, who have the power of electing additional members, as occasion may require. Branch societies are
also established in different territories of country, sustaining the general relation of auxiliaries, but retaining the right to select young men for patronage within their respective limits and to appropriate for their support the funds in their treasury, including the income of scholarships which have passed through their hands into the general treasury. This feature in the plan of the society was regarded with great approbation at that time, as was proved not only by the written testimonials of a great number of distinguished men, but by the subscription of forty or fifty thousand dollars. Since that period, however, the accumulation of permanent funds for any purpose, is a subject which has excited considerable inquiry, and extensive opposition. The validity of the arguments which have been alleged against the measure, it is not necessary in this place to discuss.
From the formation of the society, until 1820, the assistance which was rendered to young men, was entirely gratuitous. From 1820 to 1826, one half of the amount of appropriations was loaned, and the other half was afforded as a gratuity. At the time of the accession of Mr. Cornelius to the society, an entire loaning system was adopted, subject to exceptions in extraordinary instances, and no interest being required in any case until a considerable period after professional engagements should be assumed. A great majority of the young men, who were assisted at the time the change was made, were in favor of it. It has been adopted in substance by the education societies which have been formed subsequently. The operation of the system upon character is its most decided recommendation. It promotes habits of economy and careful expenditure. The money is not received as a gift, where gratitude and the right use of it are all the returns which are demanded. The system of exclusive charity has been found to exert an unfavorable influence upon
those traits of character which are of great importance as a preparation for usefulness. The consciousness of independence, produced by this system, gives a force, freedom, and elasticity of thought and feeling, which cannot be acquired on any other plan.
In regard to a regular preparatory course of education for the ministry, the society has steadily adhered to the same rule from the beginning—a rule which Mr. Cornelius ever supported with all his personal influence, and all the arguments of his pen. He threw the whole power which he could command, in favor of the most ample training for the Christian ministry. He felt that the honor, if not the very existence of Christianity, depended, in no inconsiderable degree, on the deep and various scholarship, as well as eminent piety of Christian ministers, and that any thing which would essentially impair their reputation in this particular, was to be deprecated as an inexpressible calamity. He believed that there should be no line of mental distinction between the men patronized by education societies, and those who are educated in other ways. Ministers as a body may exert an incalculable influence on the most precious destinies of man. But they can do this only through the mind of man, by understanding the laws of human thought and action.
Another measure of great importance is the pastoral supervision of the young men. The secretary of the society is required to visit periodically the institutions of learning where those assisted are pursuing their studies ; to visit their instructors, and converse with them fully respecting the intellectual and religious character of the young men; and also to see the young men themselves, to pray with them individually and collectively, to counsel them affectionately and faithfully, and in all other ways to do what he can to promote in them an elevated piety. In a word, he is, to this interesting class of persons, so far as his
circumstances and general duties will allow him, a personal friend and pastor.
Mr. Cornelius devised his plans and exerted his influence so as to promote the eminent holiness of the ministry. He regarded the salvation of the world as depending more upon the deep and firm religious principle of clergymen, than upon their number. He believed that the highest religious attainments are perfectly consistent with the most indefatigable pursuit of science and literature, and that the powers of the human mind will never be developed as they can be, till the ennobling and purifying influence of the Christian religion shall control and pervade the entire moral and intellectual nature of man. It is a matter of deep regret that this part of the plan of the society has never been carried into full effect. The time of the secretary and other agents has been exhausted in procuring funds. The education society has commanded less than any other benevolent association of voluntary and unsolicited patronage. It has had an array of fearful prejudices and obstacles to meet. To a great extent, its principles and mode of organization were new, and consequently must be subjected to experiment. That no more has been done to promote the personal piety of the young men assisted, is to be attributed to the unceasing and indispensable demands of other departments of labor.
One of the most laborious tasks which Mr. Cornelius was called to perform, was the office business of the society. But little attention had been paid to this branch of labor. The documents of the board of directors, though carefully preserved, had not been arranged and classified. The agents of the society had necessarily given nearly their entire attention to the collection of funds and of statistical information. The treasurer of the institution had performed his appropriate labors with great fidelity, and altogether as a gratuity. But a home department was now to be created, commensurate in some degree with the existing and prospective magnitude of the society's operations. The loaning system, in connection with the branch societies established in every part of the country, immediately gave to the general as well as financial concerns of the institution, a great increase of complicated and difficult labor. A considerable portion of this labor could not be intrusted to clerks and subordinate agents. It required from the head of the institution an intelligent survey and an orderly arrangement. In addition to this general superintendence, Mr. Cornelius performed a great amount of manual and what might be called comparatively menial service. He did not shrink from the most exhausting toils. He entered apparently with as much cheerfulness upon the business of copying a long and intricate document, as upon addressing a popular assembly. In the office, he exhibited as striking proofs of the energy of his character, and of the strength of his religious principle, as in any other department of his duties. It was a sphere of less excitement and notoriety, less liable to the intrusion or imputation of sinister motives, but a sphere in which his heavenly Father could be served with equal fidelity, and his fellow-men with equal advantage.
The first journey which Mr. Cornelius undertook in behalf of the education society, was for the purpose chiefly of conferring with the officers of colleges and of theological seminaries, and other distinguished clergymen and laymen, in respect to the principles and prospects of the society, with a view to devising a system of extended efforts for the promotion of its objects. It was on this tour that nearly all the testimonials in favor of the society, which are printed in the eleventh annual report, were