A NEW SCHOOL OF THE PROPHETS At the close of his sermon on 1 Corintians 9:16, — “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”mdelivered :Ln New Park Street Chapel, on Lord’s-day morning, August 5, 1855, Mr. Spurgeon said: — “Now, my :lear hearers, one word with you. There are some persons in this audience who are verily guilty in the sight of God because they do not preach the gospel. I cannot think, out of the fifteen hundred or two thousand persons now present within the reach of my voice, there are none beside myself who are qualified to preach the gospel.
I have not so bad an opinion of you as to imagine myself to be superior to one-half of you in intellect, or in the power of preaching God’s Word; and even supposing I should be, I cannot believe that I have such a congregation that there are not among you many who have gifts and talents that qualify you to preach the Word .... I cannot conceive but that there are some here, this morning, who are flowers ‘wasting their sweetness on the desert air,’ ‘gems of purest ray serene’ lying in the dark caverns of ocean’s oblivion.
This is a very serious question. If there be any talent :in the church at Park Street, let it be developed. If there are any preachers in my congregation, let them preach. Many ministers make it a point to check young men in this respect. There is my hand, such as it is, to help any one of you if you think you can — “‘Tell to sinners round, What a dear Saviour you have found.’ I would like to find scores of preachers among you. ‘W’ould God that all the Lord’s people were prophets!’ There are some here who ought to be prophets, only they are half afraid; — well, we must devise some scheme for getting rid of their bashfulness. I cannot bear to think that, while the devil sets all his servants to work, there should be one servant of Jesus Christ asleep. Young man, go home and examine thyself; see what thy capabilities are, and if thou findest that thou hast ability, then try in some humble room to tell to a dozen poor people what they must do to be saved.
You need not aspire to become absolutely and solely dependent upon the ministry; but if it should please God, desire even that high honor. ‘ If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.’ At any rate, seek in some way to proclaim the gospel of God. I have preached this sermon especially because I long to commence a movement from this place which shall reach others. I want to find some in my church, if it be possible, who will preach the gospel. And mark you, if you have talent and power, woe is unto you, if you preach not the gospel!”\parIT was most appropriate that the Institution, which was destined to be used by God as a means of training many hundreds of soul-winners, should itself have been brought into existence as the direct result of Mr. Spurgeon’s successful effort to win the soul of one young and earnest enquirer.
Happily, that early convert, — now Pastor T. W. Medhurst, — after serving in the ministry of the gospel for more than forty years in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, is still spared to labor for the Lord at Hope Baptist Chapel, Canton, Cardiff; and he has kindly written for this work a fuller and more accurate account of the events that led to the founding of the Pastors’ College than has ever before appeared in print. Mr. Medhurst says: — “I first saw and heard dear Mr. Spurgeon before he was really elected to the Pastoram of the New Park Street Church; it was in the early part of 1854, at Maze Pond (3hapel, at a Sunday-school anniversary meeting. I was very much struck with theaddress he delivered on that occasion. F9 I was, at that time, a seat-holder at the old Surrey Tabernacle, where James Wells was Pastor. The first sermon I heard Mr. Spurgeon preach was from Hosea 6:3: ‘Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.’ Well do I remember the opening sentence of the discourse: — ’You observe, dear friends, that the “if” is in italics; it is not in the original, so we will substitute “as” in its place. There is no “if” in the matter; once begin “to know the Lord,” and it is certain that you will “follow on” to know Him.’
That sermon convinced me of sin. “I continued to listen to Mr. Spurgeon, and, after a while, in soul-trouble, I wrote to him the following letter: — “Mr. Porter’s Rope Factory, “Blue Anchor Road, “Rotherhithe, “Sunday, July 2nd, 1854. “Dear Sir, “Will you be kind enough candidly to inform me whether I have any room for hope that I belong to the elect family of God, whether Jesus Christ His Son has died for me, while my affections are in the world? I try to pray, but cannot. I make resolutions only to break them. I from time to time listen to you when you speak of the glory set apart for the saints, when you describe their joys and their feelings, but I feel myself as having nothing to do with them. O sir, that Sunday morning when you spoke of the hypocrite, I felt that you described me! I go to chapel to hear the Word preached, I return home, and make resolutions; I go to work, then out into the world, and forget all until the time for preaching comes again. I read the Bible, but do not feel interested; it seems no more to me than a book I have before read, — dry and insipid. Christ has said that, of all who come to Him, He will not send any away. How am I to come? I feel that I cannot come. I would if I could, but I cannot.
At times, I think that I will give it all up, that I will not go to chapel any more; yet when the time comes, I cannot stay away, but feel compelled to go again once more. Do, dear sir, tell me, how am I to find Jesus? How am I to know that He died for me, and that I belong to His family? Dear sir, tell me, am I a hypocrite? “I remain, “Dear sir, “Yours to serve in anxiety, “T. W.MEDHURST.” “In reply, I received from Mr. Spurgeon this letter, which greatly helped me at the time, and which I still prize more than I can tell: — “75, Dove;’ Road, “Borough, “July I4th, 1854. “Dear Sir, “I am glad that you have been able to write to me and state your feelings. ‘Though my hands are always full, it will ever give me joy to receive such notes as yours. “You ask me a very important question, Are you one of Gods elect? Now, this is a question neither you nor I can answer at present, and therefore let it drop. I will ask you an e. asier one, ‘Are you a sinner?’ Can you say, ‘YES’? All say, ‘Yes’; but then they do not know what the word ‘sinner’ means. “A sinner is a creature who has broken all his Maker’s commands, despised His Name, and run into rebellion against the Most High. A sinner deserves hell, yea, the hottest place in hell; and if he be saved, it must be entirely by unmerited mercy. Now, if you are such a sinner, I am glad to be able to tell you the only way of salvation,’ Believe on the Lord Jesus.’ “I think you have not yet really understood what believing means.
You are, I trust, really awakened, but you do not see the door yet. I advise you seriously to be much alone, I mean as much as you can; let your groans go up if you cannot pray; attend as many services as possible; and if you go with an earnest desire for a blessing, it will come very soon. But why not believe now? You have only to believe that Jesus is able and willing to save, and then trust yourself to Him. “Harbour not that dark suggestion to forsake the house of God; remember you turn your back on Heaven, and your face to hell, the moment you do that. I pray God that He will keep you. If the Lord had meant to destroy you, He would not have showed you such things as these. If you are but as smoking flax, there is hope. Touch the hem of His garment; look to the brazen serpent. “My dear fellow-sinner, slight not this season of awakening. Up, and be in earnest. It is your soul, yourOWN soul, your eternal welfare, your Heaven or your hell, that is at stake. “There is the cross, and a bleeding God-man upon it; look to Him, and be saved f There is the Holy Spirit able to give you every grace.
Look, in prayer, to the Sacred Three-one God, and then you will be delivered. “I am, “Your anxious friend, “Write again.” “C. H.SPURGEON.” “I was set at liberty under a Thursday evening sermon from the text John 6:37: ‘ All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in:no wise cast out;’ and then I did ‘ write again,’ telling Mr. Spurgeon of my conversion, and of my desire to be baptized, and to join the church. This was ~his reply to my letter: — “75, Dover Road, “August 7th, 1854. “My Dear Sir, “Your letters have given me great joy. I trust I see in you the marks of a sort of God, and I earnestly pray that you may have the evidence within that you are born of God. “There is no reason why you should not be baptized. ‘ If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.’ Think very seriously of it, for it is a solemn matter. Count the cost. You are now about to be buried to the world, and you may well say, ‘ What manner Of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness.’ The friends who were with you in the days of your carnal pleasure will strive to entice you from Christ; but I pray that the grace of God may be mightily manifest in you, keeping you steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. “I should like to see you on Thursday evening, after six o’clock, in the vestry. “I am, “Yours faithfully, “C. H.SPURGEON.” (Of this interview, Mr. Spurgeon preserved the following record in the book containing his notes concerning applicants for baptism and churchmembership: — “Thomas William Medhurst.
A very promising young man, — his letters to me evince various degrees of progress in the pilgrims’ road. He has been very anxious, but has now, I trust, found refuge in the Rock of ages.”) “On September 28, 1854, the beloved Pastor baptized me at New Park Street Chapel, and in due course I was received into the church. I at once began to preach in the open air and elsewhere, though I had not then any idea of entering the ministry. Two persons, who became members at New Park Street through my preaching, led Mr. Spurgeon to suggest that I should seek to prepare myself for Pastoral work. I was just then out of my apprenticeship, and not quite twenty-one years of age, so I gladly consented to the proposal, and arrangements were made, in July, 1855, for me to go to reside with Rev. C. H. Hosken, who was Pastor of the BaptisTL Church at Crayford, but who lived at the Mill Road Collegiate School, Bexley Heath, Kent. “Once a week, I had the privilege of spending several hours with Mr. Spurgeon at his lodgings in the Dover Road, Southwark, that I ,night study theology under his direction. A letter that he wrote to me, during that period, shows that’he had already anticipated a further addition to [he ranks of the ministry after my course of training was completed: — “London, “September 22nd, 1855. “My Dear Brother, “Since your departure, I have been meditating upon the pleasure of being the means of sending you to so excellent a scene of preparation for the ministry, and in prayer to God I have sought every blessing upon you, for I love you very much. Oh, how I desire to see you a holy and successful minister of Jesus! I need not bid you work at your studies: I am sure you will; but be sure to live near to God, and hold very much intercourse with Jesus. “I have been thinking that, when you are gone out into the vineyard, I must find another to be my dearly-beloved Timofhy, just as you are. “Now I find it no easy task to get money, and I have been thinking I must get friends to give me a good set of books, which I shall not give you, but keep for those who ,nay come after; so that, by degrees, I shall get together a good Theological Library for young students in years to come. “If I were rich, I would give you all; but, as I have to bear all the brunt of the battle, and am alone responsible, I think I must get the books to be always used in future. Those you will purchase to-day are yours to keep; Mr. Bagster’s books must be mine; and I have just written to a friend to buy me ]gallhew Henry, which shall sdon be at your disposal, and be mine in the same way. You see, I am looking forward. “Believe me, “Ever your very loving friend, “C. H.SPURGEON.” “After Mr. Spurgeon’s marriage, I continued regularly to study with him, once a week, in the New Kent Road, and afterwards at Nightingale Lane, Clapham Common. Towards the latter part of 1856, I preachedat Kingston-on-Thames, and before long received a unanimous invitation to the Pastorate of the Baptist Church there. Acting on Mr. Spurgeon’s advice, that invitation was accepted temporarily until two years of study had expired. Mr. Spurgeon himself made arrangements with tl~e church that, in addition to the amount they were giving me for my services, they were to repay him the amount he was expending for my tuition at Bexley Heath. At the expiration of the first quarter, he handed me a cheque, saying, ‘That is yours; the deacons would not have given that extra if I had not put it in the way I have done.’ On my refusing to accept the cheque, he at once said that, as he had given the money to the Lord for two years, he must take a second student. In that way, the Pastors’ College was commenced. “I went to reside with Rev. George Rogers, at Albany Road, Camberwell, on March 2I, 1857, and in the course of that year, the second student (Mr. E. J. Silverton) was received.” (Mr. Spurgeon’s own account of the origin of the College begins near the point where Mr. Medhurst’s narration ends; he does not mention the preliminary period of training at Bexley Heath — ) When, in early days, God’s Holy Spirit had gone forth with my ministry at New Park Street, several zealous young men were brought to a knowledge of the truth; and among them some whose preaching in the street was blessed of God to the conver,;ion of souls. Knowing that these men had capacities for usefulness, but labored under the serious disadvantage of having no education, and were, moreover, in such circumstances that they would not be likely to obtain admission into any of our Colleges, it entered into my heart to provide them with a course of elementary instruction, which might, at least, correct their inaccuracies of speech, and put them in the way of obtaining further information by reading. One young man, of especial promise, seemed to be thrust in my way by Providence, so that I must commence with him at once, and, not long after, the very man of all others the most suitable to assist in carrying out my design was brought before me. The Rev. George Rogers, of Camberwell, had been waiting and ripening for the office and work of a tutor; and while the idea of educating young men was simmering in hay brain, he was on the look-out for some such service. We met, and entered into a fellowship which every succeeding year has strengthened.
With a solitary student, our labor of love commenced. Funds were forthcoming for the support of this one brother; but, at the time, it seemed to me to be a very weighty enterprise and a great responsibility. With a limited income, it was no easy thing for a young minister to guarantee £50 a year. This, however, was a small matter ere: long, for other brethren, who required the same aid, and were equal]y worthy, came forward to ask for similar instruction, and we could not deny them. The single student, in 1856, grew into eight ere long; and then into twenty; and, anon, the number rose to nearly one hundred men. Faith trembled when tried with the weight of the support of one man; but the Lord has strengthened her by exercise, so that she has rejoiced under the load when multiplied a hundred-fold.
The work did not begin with any scheme,reit grew out of necessity. It was no choice with him who first moved in it, he simply acted because he was acted upon by a higher power. He had no idea whereunto the matter would grow, nor did he contemplate the institution of any far-reaching and widespread agency. To meet the present need, and follow the immediate movement of Providence, was all that was intended, and no idea of the future presented itself at the commencement. It seems to be God’s plan that works of usefulness should develop themselves in Obedience to a living force within, rather than by scheme and plan from without.
When the Pastors’ College was fairly moulded into shape, we had before us but one object, and that was, the glory of God, by the preaching of the gospel. To preach with acceptance, men, lacking in education, need to be instructed; and therefore bur Institution set itself further to instruct those whom God had evidently called to/reach the gospel, but who labored under early disadvantages. We never dreamLed of making men preachers, but we desired to help those whom God had already called to be such.
Hence, we laid down, as a basis, the condition that a man must, during about two years, have been engaged in preaching, and must have had some seals to his ministry, before we could entertain his application. No matter how talented or promising he might appear to be, the College could not act upon mere hopes, but must have evident marks of a Divine call, so far as human judgment can discover them. This became a main point with us, for we wanted, not men whom our tutors could make into scholars, but men whom the Lord had ordained to be preachers.
Firmly fixing this landmark, we proceeded to sweep away every hindrance to the admission of fit men. We determined never to refuse a man on account of absolute poverty, but rather to provide him with needful lodging, board, and raiment, that he might not be hindered on that account.
We also placed the literary qualifications of admission so low that even brethren who could not read have been able to enter, and have been among the most useful of our students in after d~.ys. A man of real ability as a speaker, of deep piety, and genuine faith, may be, by force of birth and circumstances, deprived of educational advantages, and yet, when helped a little, he may develop into a mighty worker for Christ; it would be a serious loss to the Church to deny such a man instruction because it was his misfortune to miss it in his youth. Our College began by inviting men of God to her bosom, whether they were poor and illiterate, or wealthy and educated. We sought for earnest preachers, not for readers of sermons, or makers of philosophical essays. “Have you won souls for Jesus?” was and is our leading enquiry of all applicants. “If so, come thou with us, and we will do thee good.” If the brother has any pecuniary means, we feel that he should bear his own charges, and many have done so; but if he cannot contribute a sixpence, he is equally welcome, and is received upon the same footing in all respects. If we can but find men who love Jesus, and love: the people, and will seek to bring Jesus and the people together, the College will receive two hundred of such as readily as one, and trust in God for their food; but if men of learning and wealth should come, the College will not accept them ‘unless they prove their calling by power to deliver the truth, and by the blessing of God upon their labors. Our men seek no Collegiate degrees, or classical honors, — though many of them could readily attain them; but to preach efficiently, to get at the hearts of the masses, to evangel![ze the poor, mthis is the College ambition, this and nothing else.
We: endeavor to teach the Scriptures, but, as everybody else claims to do the same, and we wish to be known and read of all men, we say distinctly that the theology of the Pastors’ College is Puritanic. We know nothing of the new ologies; we stand by the old ways. The improvements brought forth by what is called “modern thought” we regard with suspicion, and believe them to be, at best, dilutions of the ‘truth, and most of them old, rusted heresies, tinkered up again, and sent abroad ‘with a new face put upon them, to repeat the mischief which they wrought in ages past. We are old-fashioned enough to prefer Manton to Maurice, Charnock to Robertson, and Owen to Voysey. both our experience and our reading of the Scriptures confirm us in the belief of the unfashionable doctrines of grace; and among us, upon those grand fundamentals, there is no uncertain sound. Young minds are not to be cast into one rigid mould, neither can maturity of doctrine be expected of beginners in the ministry; but, as a rule, our men have not only gone out from us clear and sound in the faith; but, with very few exceptions, they have continued so. Some few have ascended into Hyper-Calvinism, and, on the other hand, one or two have wandered into Arminian sentiments; but even these have remained earnestly Evangelical, while the bulk of the brethren abide in the faith in which their Alma Mater nourished them. The general acceptance of our students in Scotland is one remarkable proof that they stand by the old Calvinistic, Evangelical doctrines. The Presbyterian Churches of Rofterdam and Amsterdam, which are frequently supplied by our students, and are resolutely orthodox, have again and again sent us pleasing testimony that our men carry to them the old theology of the Westminster Assembly’s Confession. Let wiseacres say what they will, there is more truth in that venerable Confession than could be found in ten thousand volumes of the school of affected culture and pretentious thoughtfulness. Want of knowing what the old theology is, is in most cases the reason for ridiculing it. Believing that the Puritanic school embodied more of gospel truth in it than any other’ since the days of the apostles, we continue in the same line of things; and, by God’s help, hope to have a share in that revival of Evangelical doctrine which is as sure to come as the Lord Himself. Those who think otherwise can go elsewhere; but, l:or our o~vn part, we shall never consent to leave the doctrinal teaching of the Institution vague and undefined, after the manner of the bigoted liberalism of the prese, nt day.
This is our College motto: — ET TENEO ET TENEOR “IHOLD AND AM HELD.”
We labor to hold forth the cross of Christ with a bold hand among the sons of me.n, because that cross holds us fiast by its attractive power. Our desire is, that every man may hold the truth, and be held by it; especially the truth of Christ crucitied.
There were many interesting incidents associated with the earliest days of the Pastors’ College, or which occurred even belbre it was actually in existence. When Mr. Iviedhurst began to preach in the street, some of the very precise friends, who were at that time members at New Park Street, were greatly shocked at his want of education, so they complained to me about it, and said that I ought to stop him; for, if I did not, disgrace would be brought upon the cause. Accordingly, I had a talk with t~he earnest young brother; and, while he did not deny that his English was imperfect, and that he might have made mistakes in other respects, yet he said, “I must preach, sir; and I shall preach unless you cut off my head.” I went to our friends, and told them what he had said, and they took it in all seriousness. “Oh!” they exclaimed, “you can’t cut off Mr. Medhurst’s head, so you must let him go on preaching.” I quite agreed with them, and I added, “As our young brother is evidently bent on serving the Lord with all his might, I must do what I can to get him art education that will fit him for the ministry.”
The next one to come to me in trouble was Mr. Medhurst himsell. One day, with a very sad countenance, he said to me, “I have been preaching for three months, and I don’t know of a single soul having been converted.”
Meaning to catch him by guile, and at the same time to teach him a lesson he would never forget, I asked, “Do you expect the Lord to save souls every time you open your mouth?” “Oh, no, sir I” he replied. “Then,’ I said, “that is just the reason why you have not had conversions: ‘ According to your faith be it unto you.’” During the time Mr. Medhurst was studying at Bexley Heath, he used to conduct services in the open air. On one occasion, when I went there to preach, I was much amused, after the service, by overhearing the remarks of two good souls who were manifestly very much attached to the young student. “Well,” enquired the first, “how did you like Mr. Spurgeon?” “Oh!” answered her companion, “very .well; but I should have enjoyed the service more if he hadn’t imitated our dear Mr. Medhurst so much.” There was another explanation, which did not seem to have occurred to the old lady; and, in after days, when relating the story to other students, I pointed out how serious the consequences might be if any of them imitated me!
At a later date, when I visited Kingston-on-Thames, after Mr. Medhurst had become Pastor of the church there, I wanted to find out what the people thought of him, so I spoke of him with apparent coolness to an estimable lady of his congregation. In a very few moments, she began to speak quite warmly in his favor. She said, “You must not say anything against him, sir; if you do, it is because you do not know him.” “Oh!” I replied, “I knew him long before you did; he is not much, is he? .... Well,” she answered, “I must speak well of him, for he has been a blessing to my family and servants.” I went out into the street, and saw some men and women standing about; so I said to them, “I must take your minister away.” “If you do,” they exclaimed, “we will follow you all over the world to get him back; you surely will not be so unkind as to take away a man who has done so much good to our souls?” After collecting the testimony of fifteen or sixteen persons, I said, “If the man gets such witnesses as these to the power of his ministry, I will gladly let him go on where he is; for it is clear that the Lord has called him into His service.”
Mir. Medhurst himself told me of an incident that occurred to him in connection with one young man whom I had accepted for training, because I could see that he might do good service after proper tuition. So extraordinarily ignorant was he of his Bible that, upon hearing Mr. Medhurst mention the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s being driven out from men, until his nails grew like birds’ claws, and his hair like eagles’ feathers, he said to the preacher, at the close of the sermon, “That was a queer story you tom the people, certainly; where did you fish that up? .... Why!” replied our friend, “have you never read your Bible? Can you not find it in the Book of Daniel?” The young man had read a great many other books, but he had never read his Bible through, yet he was going to be a teacher of it! I fear that such ignorance is very current in many persons; they do not know what is in the Bible: they could tell you what is in The Churchman’s Magazine, or The Wesleyan Magazine, or The Bafitist Magazine, or The Evangelical Magazine; but there is one old magazine, a magazine of arms, a magazine of wealth, that they have forgotten to read, mthat old-fashioned Book called the Bible. I remember saying, of a later student, that if he had been as well acquainted with his Bible as he was with The Bafitist Handbook, he would have made a good minister; and he was not the only one to whom such a remark might have been applied.
There was one of the early students, who gave me great cause to fear concerning his future, when he began his petition at the Monday night prayer-meeting thus:~” O Thou that art encinctured with an auriferous zodiac Z” This was, of course, a grandiloquent paraphrase of Revelation i. 13. Alas! my fears proved to be only too well founded; after he left the College, he went from the Baptists to the Congregationalists, then became a play-writer and play-actor; and where he is now, I do not know. For many ),ears I had the sad privilege of helping to support his godly wife, whom he had deserted. I thank God that, among so many hundreds of men, so few have caused me such sorrow of heart as he did.