Philander Chase



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Philander Chase responds to Erastus Burr's dilemma in finding the source of his difficulties and concludes that it is sin.




Philander Chase, Erastus Burr, Kenyon College, Gambier, sin, theology, righteousness, sermon


Jubilee College 19th of Apl 1849

To the Rev. Erastus Burr.

My dear Sir

I received, yesterday, yr favour of the 30th of march, and read it with reciprocal feelings of friendship.

In referring to Gambier, (a place ever most dear to me by reason of my labours and sufferings there,) and in speaking of the affairs of “the poor afflicted Seminary,” on Gambier Hill you say you “have long wished for wisdom and penetration to look into and see through the causes of your difficulties and then to devise ways and means of relief.” In answer I beg leave to remark; that the case is a very simple one in its origin. “The cause of your difficulties” is in the corruption of the human heart by sin. From this proceeded envy and jealousy of the founder of the Ohio Institution. Then followed: a design of perverting the same to purposes foreign to the express design of the Donors in England made known in my letter to Bp. White and in my deed of gift to Lord Gambier and the preamble to the reception of the English funds. The mounds and levees being thus broken away by this act injustice: the flood of “difficulties” have spread in every direction far and wide. Selfishness and covetousness have always endeavoured to fulfil the floating fragments & in those who have kept the [purse] strings success has attended them hitherto and doubtless will hereafter attend them, especially those who bring forward their claims under feigned titles unexplained to the public eye, to a considerable degree.

Thus Sin in all unrighteousness has been the cause of your difficulties; and there is no reason to marvel at their present magnitude & perplexities. As to “seeing through them” I am at a loss to know what you mean by the expression. Can you see through the works of Darkness? Those who labour in the cause of injustice and wrong understandingly, love darkness rather than light and for this very reason cast dust and ashes in the eyes of those who try to “see through” their deeds of iniquity. Having slipped out of the gears they seem to rejoice at and to prosper by the embarrassments of their successors.

As to helping those who follow them to “devise ways and means” of “true relief” to which end your pure mind seems to aspire they would have you look quite another way. In the man who was leading me in the wrong way thro’ devious wilds of West Florida, as related in the Reminiscences you may read their exact resemblance.

And as then so now I would advise the taking of the compass from their hands and marking out from the memory the past the true course for the future & then the following of that course for that alone will lead to safety. In the case alluded to “[Islestion]” (for that was his name) was obliged to confess that he had told falsehoods and led us out of the true way in the woods which he alone pretended to know as our guide. This settles the question as to “who shd lead the party:” the rest followed and we were by the mercy of God thus saved from death.

Thus let Ohio do: amid the perplexities into which false guides led them. Let them own the cause of their [arrow]: as Gen’l King did on his death bed, Let them take the compass the word of God to direct them the way they are now to steer. Let them bring back the Theological Seminary to the path marked out for them by the will of the Donors and the Founder. Let the principal end and design of the Institution be that of training Ministers of the Gospel according to the articles and worship of the Protestant Epis’l Chh. Let there be but One Faculty & that under the direction & personal control of the Bp the Clergy only and they Professors in the Theol. Seminary and they only (not the Trustees) empowered to confer degrees even in Secular learning. This was the original design and always so understood as by late letters from England re’d since the publication of the 6th No of the Motto.

The great principles maintained are.

  1. The Institution (now called Kenyon College for brevity’s sake) is not what it was intended to be. It is first and foremost Secular and not Theological. The scholars are not under the teaching of the Church nor in worship--at one time they had a layman for their president and they are suffered to leave the Preacher whenever he does not suit their taste.

  2. The English donors paid all the money on which the Seminary was founded--and they claim a right under the founder to “re-enter” when the fundamental conditions of their donation are not fulfilled.

  3. The forfeiture took place as they now [see] by the Reminiscences when the founder was made to resign because he would not violate his conscientious duty. His doing it without a murmur evinced the righteousness of his cause & his own innocency and not their right to do an unlawful action

These are the principles on which they stand and on which if things go on as they have done they by their lawful agents are willing to appear before our courts of Justice.

As to their obtaining a title to teh lands in question by a sale at Austin by the sheriff for taxes: will be disappointed in their end & as to waiting for my death for the settlement of this question in their favour, they will be disappointed in that also. Should this event take place before the matter is settled others will be empowered to act instead of the deceased

All I wish to say publicly for the present is contained in the 6th no. of the Motto of which I sent you a Copy and now for fear of failing send you another

The motive I had in being thus frank with you is the fond hope that by righteous dealing the Institution of which I was the Founder “may live and not die.”

Make use of what I have said to that end only in your own words and in your own way. Having read carefully the Rem’s the short questions answers all approved of by a disinterested public and then the 6th no. of the Motto. And ask your own conscience in the fear of God & in the full flow of Christian charity what you ought to do.

An account must be rendered at the Great day? Let us all do as we shall wish we had done then.

My best love to the dear Kinneys--and to your dear Wife who, if she inherits the enquiring mind of her honoured Father will look into these matters & be your companion & adviser in your inquiries and resolutions.

My own strength faileth me in body--though in mind I still enjoy the blessings (by God’s grace) of my usual tho’ imperfect judgment

The spring comes on slowly by reason of late frosts. Still there are some hopes of a fruitful season.

Pray read the last No. the Church Review and note what is said (I think by Bp Burgess of Church Extension especially in the West.

Ever your faithful friend &

Obedient Ser’t

Philander Chase

Letter to Erastus Burr



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