The Benefits of Education

My friends Doug and Julie Reynolds are starting a classical school in the Wheaton area called the Clapham School ( Listening to Doug’s vision, my wheels started turning about the role of education in the development of one’s faith.

For instance, Charity Schools were established in eighteenth-century England to teach poor children, and even adults. John Venn (1759 – 1813) and the Clapham group were ardent supporters of these schools. As Michael Hennell puts it in his biography of the able pastor, Venn considered education “as a preparatio evangelica . . . For the clergyman it will produce ‘a rising generation of young persons disposed to listen with a lively interest to his sermons, qualified by a stock of religious knowledge to understand them; prepared by good habits to attend regularly the ordinances of worship; accustomed to revere him as their guide and attached to him as their friend.’”1

In the following quotation from an article in the Christian Observer, Venn defends the importance of education as a plow to stir the fallow ground in preparation for the truth.

“Man is almost universally what he is trained up to be. Man, it is true, cannot by education be made a real Christian; but by education he may be freed from prejudices and delivered from the dominion of dispositions highly favourable to temptation and sin. He may, by education, be endued with qualities friendly to the growth of Christianity. His mind may be enlightened by knowledge instead of being darkened by brutish ignorance. His conscience may be awakened instead of being seared by insensibility. He may be made attentive, docile, submissive, rational; instead of being thoughtless, obstinate, intractable, void of understanding. The soil may be cultivated and prepared for the reception of the heavenly seed.”2


1 Here Hennell is quoting Venn himself. John Venn, “Charity Schools,” Christian Observer (September 1804); 542, quoted in Michael Hennell, John Venn and the Clapham Sect (London: Lutterworth Press, 1958), 137.

2 Ibid.

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