24 History of Wake Forest College
a condition necessarily precedent to the founding of a college.6
Ross did not himself have a classical education. Very few of the
American Baptist ministers of his day were so educated. Asplund7 in
his roll of Baptist preachers for 1790 names only a few who had a
college degree, and not one among the seventy-seven ordained
ministers and an equal number of licentiates accredited to North
Carolina.
By way of explanation it may be said that in these early days no
need of much education was felt by many Baptist preachers. They
were ministering to an uneducated people who could understand only
a simple gospel, people who needed preachers enough like themselves
to understand their infirmities and to minister to them in a
sympathetic spirit. Though the ignorant and reactionary Baptist
preachers mentioned above were hindering the progress of the
churches, there were many of the class we are now discussing. They
were far from being ignorant, even though of meagre education. They
were most often planters, of good families and naturally intelligent,
men of influence in their communities, who became preachers from a
sense of obligation to minister to the religious needs of their
neighbors. But none of them except Martin Ross had the qualities
necessary for leadership in a reform. "His attainments," says Meredith
in a
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6 In the circular letter of the Chowan Associaiton for 109, Ross addressed some
cautious words to the preachers of the Association. He says: " 'Tis the great work of
a minister to teach men, but particularly to teach men in the way of the Lord; and
ministers therefore should be well instructed themselves in the way of the Lord.
You are to feed the flock with knowledge and understanding. It is therefore
essentially necessary for you to be blessed with knowledge and understanding
yourselves. `Such as I have I give unto thee.' Acts 3:4. But that which you have not
you cannot give. 0! brethren, give yourselves to reading, and aim to be like Apollos,
mighty in the Scriptures. Where is the man that has dived so far in them that he can
go no farther? Many have said respecting the knowledge necessary or useful to a
minister: `The Spirit of God needs none of man's learning.' With much greater truth
and propriety it may be said, `The Spirit of God needs no man's ignorance.'
Knowledge brethren, sound gospel knowledge, is what is necessary; noises and rant,
confusion and uproar, may set the world a gazing, but divine truth--it is the mighty
force of divine truth that turns souls to God."
7 John Asplund, The Annual Register of the Baptist Denomination in North
America, 1791.
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