A week ago, on opening day of Seminary classes for this new semester, we began to take a look at a significant sermon Presbyterian pastor and professor (Princeton Seminary) Samuel Miller delivered back in August of 1812. I will not repeat all that was mentioned then by way of introduction (you will find the link to that post here), but will simply proceed to the second answer Miller gave to the question “What are the means which the Church is bound to employ, for providing such a ministry (that is, an “able and faithful ministry”)?
This answer too is noteworthy and profitable for our consideration.
2. The church is bound to provide funds for the partial or entire support of those who need this kind of aid, while they are preparing for the work of the ministry. ought to feel, can feel, no pain in receiving from the hand of parental affection. Some of the most promising candidates for this holy work have not the means of supporting themselves, while they withdraw from the world , and give up its emoluments, for the purpose of becoming qualified to serve God in the gospel of his Son. These persons must either abandon their sacred enterprise altogether, or receive (from some other source) adequate aid. And from what source can they so properly receive it, as from their moral parent, the Church? …The Church can never be weary, as long as ability is given her for her beloved children. The aid which individuals (as such) furnish may excite, in delicate minds, a painful sense of dependence; but children ought to feel, can feel, no pain in receiving from the hand of parental affection.
Nor is it any valid objection to the furnishing of this aid, that the objects of it may not always be found, when their character shall be completely developed, either ornaments to the church, or worthy of so much exertion and expenditure. As well might parents according to the flesh decline to provide for the support and education of their children, in early life, lest peradventure they might afterwards prove neither a comfort nor an honor to them. In this respect every faithful parent considers himself as bound, in duty and affection, to take all possible pains for promoting the welfare of his offspring, and having done so, to leave the event with God.
Neither ought the church to consider this provision as a burden, or imagine that, in making it, she confers a favor. It is as clearly her duty – a duty which she as really owes her Master and herself – as the ordinary provision which she makes for the support of the word and ordinances. Or rather, it is to be lamented that she has not been accustomed always to consider it as an essential part of her ordinary provision for the maintenance of the means of grace.
We thank the Lord for the abundant means our churches have provided and do provide for the support of our Seminarians. Let us also keep before us the needs of the pre-Seminarians, as they too can suffer hardship for the sake of the gospel they pursue to proclaim, even in the early stages of their training.