It has been said that Baptists don’t, or didn’t, believe in an educated ministry. While there have been a small minority bearing the Baptist name who believed that ministers should rely on the Holy Spirit alone, to the exclusion of teachers and reference books, and there have been God-blessed men, who began their service without the blessing of a formal education, generally that is untrue, bordering on slander.
Many early American Baptists, such as John Clarke and Henry Dunster, the former president of Harvard college, were educated in England. Then augmenting Baptist churches which had schools for young men who had just been called into the ministry, as early as the 1760’s the Baptists had a college set up in New England for the education and training of their gospel ministers. The Rhode Island College later became known as Brown University.
On this day in 1817, thirteen brethren met at the house of Deacon Jonathan Olmstead, in Hamilton, New York, dedicating themselves to the education of future servants of God. At the time, they had little more than their faith and prayers that God would bless their efforts, and the Lord did bless. At the time each member was required to pay one dollar towards their goal, but their financial means eventually grew into the thousands of dollars.
Luther Rice, the friend of Adoniram Judson, a man who had been educated in a Protestant school, came to understand Baptist principles while sailing to India. In order to help his missionary friend, he returned to this country to raise awareness and support for missions, but also to establish Columbian College, which eventually became known as George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Over the next fifty years Baptist schools began to pop up all over the country. Baptist educators have, from the beginning, played an important role in evangelizing this country and the world.