"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." Prov. 9:9.
It was a matter of no small moment for the internal as well as the external development of our German churches that, from the very first, their leaders were men who had some special training for their life's work. The churches were spared the vexations, contentions and divisions which have usually followed from unbalanced interpretations of Scripture and which unhappily have given our country the "legion" of small and unnecessary church bodies. During their entire history our churches were characterized by saneness, and religious cranks and fanatics were obliged to go elsewhere for the exploitation of their hobbies. And yet, as already stated in a previous chapter, the movement for a trained ministry did not arise in their circles. God's providence, as we believe, directed otherwise at a time when it was wholly impossible for our churches to give thought to such an important venture.
The beginning of a ministerial education goes back to 1850, when a group of devout and staunch Baptists, largely from Rochester, N. Y., were laying the foundations for a new University and a Theological seminary in the city of Rochester, Their attention was directed to the German churches and missions which were giving much promise of success, but which were lacking in suitably trained leaders. They therefore let it be known that German young men would be welcome to the new institutions of learning. The prime mover was Rev. Zenas Freeman, who was at the time the Corresponding Secretary, and whose personal interest led him to go to New York City to interview some German young men who had expressed a desire to enter the German work. In the very first Catalogue of the Rochester Theological Seminary, a course of studies for German students is offered, extending over four years and embracing collegiate and theological subjects. It was the opinion of these good men, that prospective German students would join the classes already formed and hold their own with men whose native language was English. As early as 1852, a number of German brethren accepted the generous invitation and tried the impossible, but their ranks soon thinned out, A few succeeded, the majority abandoned the task as hopeless and drifted into the ministry with the little training the could get. It was not until 1858, that the Seminary authorities secured a German teacher in the person of Augustus Rauschenbusch who should give his entire time to the task of training men for missionary work among the Germans. In this way was the German Department of the Seminary founded.
It ought to be said to the great credit of the small group of German churches and their leaders in this early time that, although they had had neither hand nor voice in the founding of this school of the prophets," they nobly co-operated from the very first and thereby made it a successful school. In the early years, owing to the great demands upon their own missionary enterprises, the German churches could contribute little else than their best men whom they sent in increasing numbers, always at the sacrifice of some local interest. In these early years the financial burden for the upkeep of the German Department rested almost exclusively upon those who had called the department into being. But as the German churches grew in numbers and resources, their financial support increased also. For the last thirty years the German churches alone have cared for the support of all German students and in addition have paid the salaries of the professors teaching in the Preparatory Department, formerly called "The German-American Academy." In the course of time several endowment funds were secured, one in the sum of $100,000, for the use of the German Department, and from the interest of these funds the salaries of the theological teachers are paid.
Professor August Rauschenbusch was the first teacher. Appointed by the Board of the New York Baptist Union in 1858, he served until 1890 For thirty-two years he trained the older generations of our ministers with rare ability, placing at their service his ample store-house of knowledge and experience, and emphasizing the great truths of man's salvation. He died at Wandsbek, Germany, in 1899.
In 1872, Hermann M. Schaeffer, [Jugendfreund, November, 1922.] at the time pastor of the First German church in New York City, was elected professor to assist Professor Rauschenbusch. His twenty-five years of service marked an epoch in the development of the German Department. He was a man of tremendous energy and an untiring worker. Largely through his efforts, the Seminary came into possession of the splendid property, familiarly known among us as "The Student's Home"-a five story brick building, having lecture rooms, a chapel and all the appurtenances of a dormitory for about 70 students. Professor Schaeffer began, in 1895, the raising of the endowment fund of $100,000, which task, however, at his sudden death in 1897, was left unfinished.
In 1884, the German Department had grown to such numbers that it was necessary to elect a third theological teacher in the person Jacob S. Gubelmann, at the time pastor of the First Church in Philadelphia. For thirty-one years Professor Gubelmann [Jugendfreund, December, 1922.] taught Systematic Theology, Pastoral Theology and Homiletics with great effectiveness and resigned his position in 1915, when he felt the disabilities of age creeping over him. He died in 1919, at the ripe age of 83.
These three men will always be known as the first line of our Seminary's teachers, all of them men tried and true, whose services to the denomination were not limited to the class-room, but who labored with the pastors of the churches in any work which needed their help. Their combined ministrations covered a period of fifty-seven years, from 1858 to 1915. They have had as successors the following men: Albert J. Rammer, since 1889, Lewis Kaiser, since 1890, Walter Rauschenbusch, from 1897 to 1902, and F. W. C. Meyer, since 1915.
From its very beginning our German Seminary was obliged to give much attention to pre-theological studies, for the vast majority of the young men who entered had neither college nor high school training. Very frequently they came direct from the farm or the factory. Because the invested funds of the Board, which was supporting the German Department so generously, could not be expended for any but strictly theological instruction, it became necessary to solicit funds from American churches and friends for the purpose of this academic instruction. It was not until 1892, that the contributions from the German churches were becoming sufficiently ample to make this solicitation of money unnecessary. From the time of Professor A. Rauschenbusch, the theological teachers have been devoting a portion of their time toward giving this preliminary instruction, but the main work, obviously, had to be done by men who gave their entire time to it. This academic department has had, among others, at some time the excellent services of Rev. Gustav H. Schneck and Rev. Hermann von Berge. At the present time this instruction is in charge of Professor Gustav A. Schneider who has served since 1908, and Professor Otto Koenig whose services began in 1920. In return for the assistance given by the theological teachers, each of the professors just mentioned give a short course, the former in Psychology, the latter in Christian Ethics, in the Seminary department.
In 1877, after the German-Department had come into possession of its present property and had outlined a fuller course of instruction, an incorporation was secured under the laws of the state of New York, the legal name of the corporation being, "The Educational Union of the German Baptists of North America," giving the Seminary all the legal protection which religious schools enjoy in that state.
The courses of instruction have repeatedly been modified to keep the school in line with the special needs of the German churches. While until recent years the instruction given was mostly through the medium of the German language, this plan has now been changed, more than half of the subjects treated being given in the English language.
In its past history of seventy years, the German Seminary has trained 494 men, and of these 286 are still in the active ministry as pastors, teachers, secretaries, editors and missionaries in this country, Canada, Germany, 5011th Africa, Australia, China and India. It has also furnished the recently established Lettish, Polish, Hungarian and Bohemian missions and schools some of their most efficient leaders. Of the 224 ministers at present serving our German churches in the United States and Canada, all but 31 have had their training at Rochester.