The Danish charter--The British treaty--Growth of native Christian community--Lord Minto’s concession of self-governing privileges--Madras Decennial Conference and Serampore degrees--Proposed reorganisation of College so as to teach and examine for B.D. and other degrees--Appeal for endowments of Carey’s Christian University

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ATTENTION has already been directed to the far-seeing plans which Carey laid down for Serampore College. It is a pleasure to record that while this volume is in the press (1909), a scheme is being promoted by the College Council for the reorganisation of the College on the lines of Carey’s ideal, with a view to making it a centre of higher ministerial training for all branches of the Indian Church.

It will be remembered that in 1827 the College received from Friedrich VI. a Royal Charter, empowering it to confer degrees, and giving to it all the rights which are possessed by Western Universities. Under Treaty dated the 6th October, 1845, the King of Denmark agreed to transfer to the Governor-General of India, Lord Hardinge, G.C.B., for the sum of 125,000, the towns of Tranquebar, Frederiksnagore or Serampore,30 and the old factory site at Balasore. Article 6 of this treaty provides that "the rights and immunities granted to the Serampore College by Royal Charter, of date 23rd of February, 1827, shall not be interfered with, but continue in force in the same manner as if they had been obtained by a Charter from the British Government, subject to the General Law of British India."31

For lack of an endowment sufficient to maintain the teaching staff required, and to establish the necessary scholarships, the College has never been fully developed on University lines. Since 1883 it has been used as a training Institution for preachers and teachers for the Bengal field of the Baptist Missionary Society. Meanwhile in the century since Carey’s statesman-like ideal was sketched, under the providence of God there have been two notable developments in the conditions of Indian life--(1) the educated Christian natives of India, from Cape Comorin to Peshawar, have grown, and continue to grow, in numbers, in character, and in influence, with a rapidity pronounced marvellous by the official report of the Census of 1901; (2) the three hundred millions of the peoples of India have, by the frank concession of the Earl of Minto and his advisers, and the sanction of Viscount Morley and Parliament, received a virtual constitution, which recognises their fitness for self-governing rights under the benevolent rule of King Edward VII. and his Viceroy in Council. Christianity, and the leaven of the more really educated Christian natives, will alone moralise and loyalise the peoples of India, and prepare future generations for a healthy independence, material and political.

As they have watched the lines along which these developments have proceeded, the leaders of the missionary enterprise have become more and more convinced that the realisation of Carey’s ideal has been too long delayed, and that the influence of the Christian community on the great movements of Indian thought has suffered in consequence. In particular, while the need for highly-equipped Indian preachers, evangelists and leaders, is far more urgent now even than it was in Carey’s day, the most experienced missionaries of all societies are far from satisfied with the present level of theological education in the Indian Church. They are convinced that the time has come to reorganise the whole system of ministerial training, and to secure for the study of Christian Theology in India that academic recognition which it has enjoyed for centuries in Western lands. Since the British Government is pledged to neutrality in religious matters, it is unable to sanction the establishment of Divinity faculties, in any of the State Universities, Hence the Decennial Missionary Conference, representing all the Protestant Missionary Societies working in India, meeting in Madras in December 1902, appointed a Committee "to confer with the Council of the Serampore College, through the Committee of the London Baptist Missionary Society, to ascertain whether they are prepared to delegate the degree-conferring powers of the Charter of that College to a Senate or Faculty, representative of the various Protestant Christian Churches and Societies working in India."

The College Council (of which Meredith Townsend, Esq., is Master, and Alfred Henry Baynes, Esq., F.R.G.S., is Secretary), has taken this request into careful consideration, and after being assured by the highest legal opinion that the Charter is still valid, has resolved to do everything in its power to carry out the suggestions of the Decennial Conference. They realise, however, that if the degree-conferring powers of the Charter are to be used, the College itself must be raised to the highest standard of efficiency as a Teaching Institution, and its permanence must be guaranteed by an adequate endowment.

The Council has felt that the attainment of these two objects is possible only through a union of the forces of the various Protestant Christian Churches working in India. The result has been the adoption of a wise and catholic project of reorganisation, under which it is hoped that Serampore will become a great interdenominational College of University rank, giving a theological training up to the standard of the London B.D., conferring its own divinity degrees, and maintaining an Arts and Science department, for the present at least affiliated to the Calcutta University. It is justly claimed that such a Christian University at Serampore will both unify and raise the standard of theological education in the Indian Church, helping to build the Eastern structure of Christian thought and life on the one Foundation of Jesus Christ, the Word of God.

The scheme which the Council has sanctioned contemplates the permanent endowment of the requisite professorships and scholarships. The College building will provide sufficient class-room accommodation, but it will be necessary to secure additional land, and to erect houses for the staff and hostels for the students. An immediate endowment of 250,000 is aimed at with a view of establishing a well-equipped theological faculty, with a preliminary department in Arts and Sciences. The Council, however, is not without hope that in due time Carey’s noble vision of a great Christian University at Serampore conferring its own degrees, not only in theology but in all branches of useful learning, may powerfully appeal to some of the merchant princes of the West. It is estimated that the sum of 2,000,000 would be required for this equipment and endowment of the University on this larger scale. The great missionary Churches and Societies look favourably on the proposal, initiated by their own missionaries, to co-operate with Carey’s more immediate representatives in realising and applying his ideal which is bound to expand and grow as India becomes Christianised.

The members of the College Council maintain that, in view of the world-wide influence of the modern missionary movement, inaugurated by William Carey, a movement that has been so beneficial both to the Church at home and to non-Christian nations, there is no institution that has greater historical and spiritual claims upon modern philanthropy than Serampore, and they believe that there are large numbers of men and women in Great Britain, America, India and other lands who will consider it a sacred privilege to have their names inscribed with those of Carey, Marshman and Ward on the walls of Serampore College as its second founders.

The Council is doing all within its power to reorganise the College on the broadest possible basis, believing that an institution with such inspiring traditions and associations should be utilised in the interests, not merely of one denomination, but of the whole Church in India and the nation. Up to the present, the Council, though legally an entirely independent body, has worked in the closest association with the Baptist Missionary Society’s Committee. But now with the fullest sympathy both of the Baptist Missionaries on the field and the Committee in England, it is also inviting the co-operation of all evangelical Christian bodies in the work of Serampore College. It is prepared to welcome as full professors of the College, in Arts and Theology, representatives of other evangelical missions, who shall have special superintendence of the students belonging to their respective denominations, and be free to give them such supplementary instruction as may be thought necessary. All professors without distinction of denomination will share equally in the local management of the affairs of the College. The final authority must, in accordance with the Charter, remain in the hands of the College Council, but in order to admit of the due representation upon the Council of the various evangelical bodies which may co-operate, the present members of Council have, with the hearty concurrence of the Baptist Missionary Society’s Committee, approved the suggestion that application should be made to the Indian Legislature for powers to enlarge its membership. 

The Honorary Secretary of the College Council, A. H. Baynes, Esq., 19 Furnival Street, London, E.C., will be glad to supply further information, or to receive contributions towards the Fund for the endowment and equipment of the College.

In view of the conditions at present existing in India, this appeal should be of interest not only to friends of Christian missions, but to philanthropists generally, for a Christian University, conducted on the broad and catholic principles laid down by Carey, supplementary but in no way antagonistic to the existing Universities, will be a most effective instrument for permeating the political and social ideals of the youth of India with the spirit of Christ. This is a matter that deeply concerns, not only the Missionary, but also the statesman, the merchant, and all true friends of India of whatever race or creed.

In all the romance of Christian Missions, from Iona to Canterbury, there is no more evident example of the working of the Spirit of God with the Church, than the call of Carey and the foundation of Serampore College under Danish Charter and British treaty, making it the only University with full powers to enable the whole Reformed Church in India to work out its own theological system and Christian life.

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