THE PASTORSí COLLEGE.
BY C. H. SPURGEON.
I HAVE so often written the story of the Pastorsí College at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, that I do not feel it to be necessary to repeat it yet again. Success in preaching the gospel always leads on to further modes of service, and every advance in holy enterprise renders a yet further advance needful. My ministry was blessed of God to the conversion of a gifted brother who commenced preaching; his education was defective; I felt it to be my duty to help him to supplement it, none of the colleges at that time commended themselves to me as suitable for him, and therefore he was sent to a tutor for education. His progress encouraged me; other men presented themselves, they also were received, till at last the work grew into the Pastorsí College. It was no project of mine, it grew without sound of my axe or hammer; grew because it could not be otherwise ó God in his providence would have it so.
The design from the first has been to instruct men who have proved themselves able to preach the gospel. His call to the ministry is the first thing inquired into, and if it be not thought clear, the applicant is declined.
Mistakes are doubtless made, for we are very fallible, but these do not arise from want of intense desire to help forward the chosen men, and to reject the incompetent and uncalled. It is quite beyond manís province or power to make a minister, all that he can do is to imitate the example of Priscilla and Aquila in the case of Apollos, and teach young men the way of God more perfectly. An earnest exhorter is all the better for being able to speak the English language correctly, and when he can do that he will be none the worse for having some acquaintance with general literature. God does not need manís knowledge, but neither does he need manís ignorance. If it be not absolutely essential for a religious teacher to be able to read the word of God in the original tongues, it is certainly very desirable that he should do so, and it is eminently to be wished that he should also be a proficient in sound theology. We frequently hear of ecclesiastical functionaries who confess that they never studied theology, and do not know what it means unless it be something akin to Butler and Paley. It is a strange thing that in every other calling men make their own work the main object of study, but in the preparation for the ministry arranged by some sections of the church, everything else is provided for the student except the very matters which he most requires. Our one aim has been to train preachers and pastors. Let the men be scholars by all means, to their fullest bent, but first and foremost let them study their Bibles, hold the faith clearly, and know how to defend it valiantly. If they become so bookish that they cannot speak except in a pedantic latinised language, their education has failed; if they grow so refined and affected that they cannot condescend to men of low estate, their learning has made them fools; and if they are so fascinated by literary pursuits that they think lightly of the preaching of the gospel, they have missed the mark: but should they be rendered humble by the knowledge which they gain, should their minds be well stored, should their tongues become more fluent, and their thoughts more deep, and above all should their piety be strengthened and their graces be cultivated, it will prove an essential benefit to the men, and an immense gain to the churches, that they have passed through a college course. Such has been the aim of the Pastorsí College, and its success may be judged of by its fruits.
Providence has greatly favored the College by sparing to it throughout its whole history, its invaluable tutor, Mr. George Rogers. This venerable divine was prepared for his post by special circumstances, for he had for years been looking for similar occupation, and making ready for it; he is moreover a man of Puritanic modes of thought and action, and withal a genial spirit, fond of young men and in full sympathy with them. It is a great joy to me, that athough my beloved friend has passed his threescore years and ten, he retains his vigor, and commands the increasing love and respect of all concerned. The like good hand of the Lord has sent to me each of the other valuable fellow-workers in our important engagement; and best of al1, the invaluable addition of my beloved brother, J.A. Spurgeon, to the staff, has strengthened the directing and supervising power, and made our instructing department as complete as human affairs can be. We were never more efficiently at work than at this moment, nor ever enjoyed more richly the divine blessing.
The supply of men as students has been always very large, and at this time more are applying than ever. This gives us a good field from which to select, and as we are not bound to receive either more or less, we make our choice with the utmost care, and with an earnest desire to receive none but the most suitable men. Should so few good men offer that our number should be reduced to twenty, we should follow the indications of divine leading; and, if on the other hand, two hundred promising men should be forthcoming, we should feel no difficulty in giving them all a welcome. The Lord knows best how many men he would have us educate, and we are sure that he will always find means for carrying on his own work. At present we have a class of men around us of whom we expect great things, for both in temper, spirit, ability, and diligence they are equal to the best set of students we have ever had. The spirit of prayer is well maintained among them, and love to their work is most apparent.
I have seen no reason to alter the plan by which the College was made into a Home Missionary Society for the spread of the gospel. The students are most of them engaged in preaching the word, and many new churches have sprung out of their labors. This, it is true, has some injurious effect upon their studies, and unless a man works beyond measure, he cannot keep up his College work and his preaching too; but the most of those who attempt it manage to perform the double labor, and those who do so are all the better for it. A man is kept in right relation to his future ministry when he is not taken wholly away from preaching and confined to study; he is less in danger of losing sympathy with the activities of the church, and more likely to increase his gifts of utterance. Preaching can only be learned by practice; disuse of the speaking faculty means decrease of its power, and hence we believe it to be a gain rather than a loss to a ministerial student to be called upon frequently to conduct services. No doubt the College suffers in repute, for those who hear our raw recruits are apt to censure all for the faults of one, and to blame the institution for those very blots which it labors to remove; but as our object is not to gain reputation, we cheerfully endure the loss of it. The benefit is in any case far greater than the injury; for souls won to God are results beyond all price.
It will gratify some of our friends to know that one of our students, Mr.F. E. Suddard, was first, in 1872, among seven competitors for one of the Dr. Williamsís Scholarships at the University of Glasgow. The fact is interesting as helping to show that our course is not quite so elementary as has been wrongly supposed.
This employment of the students in preaching involves a considerable outlay in the hire of rooms and halls, and in the needful expense attending the commencement of new interests. Success in these cases leads to yet larger demands, for chapels must be built to house the new churches, and schools in which the young of the neighborhoods may be taught on the Sabbath-day. Several thousands of pounds have been well and economically spent in this line of action, for the sums granted have induced the friends in the different localities to contribute largely, and so our pound has gained ten pounds. This is one of the readiest modes of increasing our churches, and more has been accomplished by it than by any other agency in the same space of time. In the metropolis alone we have founded some forty-five churches, besides preaching the gospel temporarily in various parts of our great city. In many parts of the country believers have been gathered into church fellowship, many sinners converted, and influential centers of usefulness created. Great has been the Lordís goodness in allowing some of the brethren to labor, and to suffer poverty for Christís sake, in order to build not upon other menís foundations, but upon new ground. It would be invidious to mention the name of one where so many have done and are doing valiantly; may the Lord reward them. Along the Northern Coast of Kent, Sittingbourne, Faversham, and Whitstable are instances of new ground broken, up, and in the same manner, along the Sussex shore, Newhaven, Eastbourne, Portslade, and Shoreham, in rapid succession, saw the rise of new and vigorous interests, which have much to struggle with, but will live and prosper. In all directions our bough has run over the wall, and would do so yet more if we were not compelled to stay from entering upon many a hopeful field from want of men and money. We do not complain, but yet we sometimes mourn when we are hampered in the Lordís work, and remember that hundreds of his people have heaps of gold and silver cankering in their coffers.
Here we may joyfully call attention to the statistics of additions to the churches over which our brethren preside, which show beyond all doubt that these have prospered, as a rule, far above the average of the churches of the denomination. To God be all the glory. This is our richest and best reward. The Lord make the increase to be ten times greater in years to come.
In the matter of funds we have to magnify the Lord that so much has been forthcoming. The beloved friends at the Tabernacle, by their weekly offerings, furnish more than £1,800 of our income, and, at the supper given by our generous friend and deacon, Mr. Phillips, a similar sum is usually given. God moves the hearts of his people to send the rest that is needed; may he graciously influence far more. One brother in Christ aids us annually in the chapel-building part of the enterprise, and to him, under God, we owe much of our power to launch forth into new spheres. It is the more remarkable that our needs have been supplied for this work because so few comparatively see the importance of it. Appeal to any man for an Orphange, and human sympathy moves him to assist, but only a believer in Christ comes to aid a young minister in his studies; and even among Christians there are grave differences of opinion upon the need of such institutions as ours, and the right method of managing them: consequently the area from which we draw our supplies is a limited one, but the great Lord knows how to make it yield suffcient. The cruse of oil and the handful of meal have never failed and never will. No paid collector calls upon regular subscribers, in fact we have no list of such. Friends give as they are moved and when they are moved, and their help generally comes at the most welcome time. There are occasions when donations appear to be timed to the hour, to prevent anxiety and provide for need. He who has the care of this work resting upon him is often refreshed by manifestations of the divine favor, and therefore, having obtained help of God, he continues to this day.
Prayer has been often offered that men might be called from among our number to occupy the mission field, and we have lately received the first fruits of the gracious answer. Our beloved brother, Mr. Pegg, having labored awhile in Turkís Island, is now commencing evangelistic operations in the island of Santa Domingo, and so great has been his success in gathering congregations that he has been obliged to visit this country to collect the means for erecting a commodious meeting house.
Few spheres promise so well, and few men are better fitted for such a work. If the Lord be with him, Mr. Pegg will be the apostle of Santa Domingo and Hayti. Two of our young brethren have gone to Spain to preach the word, and are now in Barcelona learning the language, and meanwhile distributing Bibles and Gospels on a large scale. They are not connected with any society, but they have faith that their needs will be supplied. Another friend has gone out to serve the Lord under the direction of Mr. Hudson Taylor in China, whose mission is one of the grandest efforts in modern times; and yet another has commenced his studies in Edinburgh with the view of becoming a medical missionary. May the Lord prosper these brethren and make them to be but the first rank of a numerous band of missionaries.
I am delighted to hear from our brethren in Canada and the United States.
They appear to find churches with remarkable ease, and to be well appreciated by their congregations. The pastor is not, by our American friends, starved down to the lowest living point, but is liberally supported, and treated with respect and liberality; the absence of a State Church, no doubt, to a great extent, accounts for this. There are twenty-one ministers upon our College list now preaching in America, besides others who were dismissed from the College before their time was fulfilled because the tutors and myself feared that they would not succeed in the ministry: two or three of these last named are said to be acceptable across the sea, and we can assure them that we are right glad to hear of it, and we earnestly hope that their future career may prove how mistaken we were. Seven of our host are now in various parts of the great Southern world of Australia, and there are openings for more, but the expense of transit will always restrict the numbers as compared with those in America. It is our belief that in future years the United States will receive a far larger number of our brethren, and that the lack of ministers in that vast and growing country wilt thus be, in a measure, supplied. The universal kindness expressed towards our brethren is hereby very gratefully acknowledged.
There is, in connection with the College, a Loan Fund to assist in the erection of places of worship, amounts being lent out to be returned by annual instalments, without interest. This was intended to be £5000, but remains several hundreds short of that sum. In all probability, some donor will see it right to complete that part of our machinery.
The great want of our College remains to be spoken of. We are in urgent need of suitable rooms. The rooms under the Tabernacle become worse and worse for light and air as the surrounding buildings become higher and more numerous. Gas has very frequently to be burned all day long, or the men could not see their books; indeed, on ordinary days, all the year round, the period of sufficient light is very brief. The rooms being underground become close and stifling after the classes have been in them for a short time. For one day in a week this may be borne, but for every day it becomes a hardship. Much inconvenience would have been put up with had we not found the health of the men suffering materially. Very much time has been lost during the last winter through illness, and the men who have not succumbed have many of them exhibited great lassitude after a few weeks in our subterranean apartments. The tutors and president feel it personally, but the students most of all. They have not complained, but we feel that we cannot afford to have them so often laid aside, and that it will be the truest economy to build a proper home for our school of the prophets. We cannot go up to the forest to cut every man a beam, or we would gladly do so; we are, therefore, dependant upon the Lordís servants for our new house, and we trust they will not deny us. Let all who believe in our work help us. Let all who count us faithful help us. Let all who would do us a personal favor help us. The College is my dearest enterprise, and I would earnestly plead its claims now in the time of its need. If my sermons have refreshed any hungry hearts, and been food to any weary souls, and if these desire to show me a token of their love, let them have a stone in the College Home. I might say more, for it is not for myself that I ask anything, but for the sake of the gospel, and the Lord of it, I am bold to beg. I commit the case to God, and next I look to all my friends who have in times past aided me, and who love me still for my workís sake.
This year the work must be done. The plans are preparing, the contract will soon be put up to competition, the need is urgent. A word to the wise will suffice.