That candidates, for the holy ministry may enjoy sound orthodox, and scriptural instruction

In 1853, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. started a theological seminary at Centre College in central Kentucky. Danville Theological Seminary would exist until 1901 when it merged with Louisville Presbyterian Seminary to become Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

The Kentucky Synod had been building a fund to finance a new seminary within its bounds. Mr. Samuel Laird, a ruling elder of Mount Horeb Presbyterian Church in Fayette County, Kentucky, made a $10,000 gift to this fund in 1851.1

Laird was concerned that the funds only be used for the support of orthodox theological education. The Records of the Synod of Kentucky (1851-1559) contain Laird’s conditions:

I, Samuel Laird, of the County of Fayette, and Commonwealth of Kentucky, a member and Ruling Elder of the Presbyterian Church, and as such, connected with the Presbytery of West Lexington, the Synod of Kentucky, and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, in the United States of America—all of the Old School Presbyterians, as now commonly called, since the schism of 1838—make the following dedication, by way of free gift, of the sum of ten thousand dollars, to the Trustees of the Theological Fund of the Synod of Kentucky, for the uses and to the objects herein specified—and upon the trusts, herein set forth, and on the condition herein stated—and for no other use or object, and upon no other trust or condition (To wit) I give the said sum of money to be a part of a perpetual Fund, of which the interest alone, and not the principal, shall be used forever, for the purposes herein set forth—the said sum of money to be under the exclusive control and management of the said Trustees, themselves, under the control of said Synod of Kentucky.

The sole object, 1. which the annual interest of said money shall be appropriated, shall be the support of a Professor or Teacher, in whatever place, connected with whatever Theological Seminary, and the said Professor or Teacher to impart instruction, in whatever department of Theological learning, the said Synod of Kentucky, shall, from time to time, designate, appoint and ordain, to the end, that candidates, for the holy ministry may enjoy sound orthodox, and scriptural instruction, in the sense of the standards of doctrine, faith and order, heretofore, and at present held forth by the said Synod.

My object is to invest the Synod of Kentucky with compete and entire control of the money, hereby given—for the object, designated, and in the manner, prescribed, so long, as said Synod shall be and remain what it is at the present time, a sound and orthodox Presbyterian Synod, in the sense of the standards, already mentioned.

But the gift and dedication of the said Ten Thousand dollars, in manner aforesaid, is upon the conditions, following (To wit)

First, that, if there should, at any time, occur a schism, in the body of said Synod of Kentucky all the use, trust and benefit, and control of said money shall belong to the rest with the orthodox and sound portion of said Synod, whatever part of it, that may be

Secondly, that, if the Synod shall depart from the faith, as a body, and as a Synod cease to be sound and orthodox, or if it should become so indifferent to the truth, as either to appoint a corrupt or an unsound Professor or Teacher, or to appoint a Professor or Teacher, of any sort in said Seminary, that is itself corrupt or unsound—in either of these contingencies, stated, under this second general head—the gift or dedication herein made, shall, from the occurrence of either of these vents, be absolutely forfeited, and all control of said Synod, and all right, title, and interest, both of said Synod and said Trustees, shall absolutely cease and determine, in, to, over or concerning said Ten Thousand dollars, and every part thereof.

But as it is my desire and purpose to dedicate the sum of Ten Thousand dollars, absolutely, to the great object, herein specified, I hereby provide, that, if any forfeiture, such as is above set forth, should, at any time, occur then and in that case, I dedicate and give the said sum of money so the first, sound, orthodox Presbyterian Theological Seminary, that will sue for and recover the same.

It is well known, to those so whom this gift is now made, in the first instance, that I aim entirely opposed to the practice, which prevails to a certain extent, of reading sermons, in the pulpit, instead of preaching the Gospel: and I would, but for the practical difficult of doing it, make it an express condition of thus gift, that its use should be directed, as far as possible, consistently, with the great object object I have in view, against the practice, I therefore content myself, with the expression of my strong opposition to the practice—and the expression of the hope, that this money may never be used to promote it—. This gift is, in full discharge of all promises, subscriptions, or undertakings by me, whether verbal or written, to contribute any thing, in any way, to the said Trustees, herein first named, or to aid the said Synod of Kentucky, in the object, herein contemplated, or any similar object.2

  1. The equivalent of about $300,000 in 2017 dollars. ↩︎

  2. Quoted in History of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (1953) by Robert Sanders. ↩︎