It appears to us that the maintenance of a truly spiritual College is probably the readiest way in which to bless the churches. Granting the possibility of planting such an institution, you are no longer in doubt as to the simplest mode of influencing for good the church and the world. We are certainly not singular in this opinion, for to successful workers in all times the same method has occurred. Without citing the abundant incidents of earlier times, let us remember the importance which John Calvin attached to the College at Geneva. Not by any one of the Reformers personally could the Reformation have been achieved, but they multiplied themselves in their students, and so fresh centres of light were created. In modern times, it is significant that the labours of Carey and Marsham necessitated the founding of Serampore College; while the gracious work in Jamaica called for a somewhat similar institution at Calabar. Where-ever a great principle is to be advanced, prudence suggests the necessity of training the men who are to become advancers of it. Our Lord and Saviour did just the same when he elected twelve to be always with him, in order that, by superior instructions, they might become leaders of the church.--C.H.S.
The Pastors' College, 1861-1878
WHEN the Tabernacle was opened, the students migrated from the house of Mr. George Rogers to the class-rooms in the new sanctuary, and the Pastor took an early opportunity of bringing the work of the College more distinctly before his church and congregation than he had previously done. On Lord's day morning, May 19, 1861, in reminding his hearers of the object for which the collection had been announced, Spurgeon said:
It has been thought desirable that I should state a few particulars relative to our Institution for training young men for the ministry. Some five or six years ago, one of the young men of our church gave promise of being a successful minister if he could but have a good education. With the assistance of two friends, I resolved to take him under my charge, send him to a suitable tutor, and train him for the ministry. So useful was that brother, that I was induced to take another, and another, and another. Hitherto, I have been myself committee, secretary, treasurer, and subscriber. I have not, except in one or two instances, even mentioned the matter to anyone; but have been content to spare everything that I could out of my own income, beyond that which is necessary for the support of my household, in order to educate any suitable young men who came in my way, that they might become ministers of the cross of Christ. There are now seven settled out, all of whom have been eminently successful. They are probably not men who will become great or brilliant, but they have been good and useful preachers. I think there are not other seven in the whole Baptist denomination who have had so many converts during the years that they have been settled. They have been the means, most of them, in the hands of God, of adding many members every year to the churches of which they are pastors; and most of those churches are not in provincial towns, but in villages. I have therefore been led still further to increase my number of students, and I have now about sixteen young men wholly to support and train. Beside these, there is a very considerable number of brethren who receive their education in the evening, though they still remain in their own callings. With the wider sphere we now occupy as a church I propose so to enlarge my scheme that all the members of this church and congregation, who happen to be deficient in the plain rudiments of knowledge, can get an education--a common English education--for themselves. Then, if they display any ability for speaking, without giving up their daily avocations, they shall have classes provided for higher branches of instruction. But should they feel that God has called them to the ministry, I am then prepared--after the use of my own judgment, and the judgment of my friends, as to whether they are fit persons--to give them two years' special tutorship, that they may go forth to preach the Word, thoroughly trained so far as we can effect it in so short a time. I know I am called to this work, and I have had some most singular interpositions of Providence in furnishing funds for it hitherto.'
Generous gifts were contributed following this statement of the work of the College and thereafter the church became publicly united with their pastor's call to train men for the ministry. In this connection a resolution of the church on July 1, 1861, noted: 'Hitherto this good work has been rather a private service for the Lord than one in which the members have had a share; but the church hereby adopts it as part of its own system of Evangelical labours, promises its pecuniary aid, and its constant and earnest prayers.
Spurgeon, the President of the College Institution, often referred to it as 'his first born and best beloved'. In the pages which follow we continue the narrative in his own words.
It is a grand assistance to our College that it is connected with an active and vigorous Christian church. If union to such a church does not quicken the student's spiritual pulse, it is his own fault. It is a serious strain upon a man's spirituality to be dissociated, during his student-life, from actual Christian work, and from fellowship with more experienced believers. At the Pastors' College, our brethren can not only meet, as they do every day, for prayer by themselves, but they can unite daily in the prayer-meetings of the church, and can assist in earnest efforts of all sorts. Through living in the midst of a church which, despite its faults, is a truly living, intensely zealous, working organization, they gain enlarged ideas, and form practical habits. Even to see church-management and church-work upon an extensive scale, and to share in the prayers and sympathies of a large community of Christian people, must be a stimulus to right-minded men. It has often done me good to hear the students say that they had been warned against losing their spirituality during their College course; but they had, on the contrary, proved that their piety had been deepened and increased through association with their brethren and the many godly men and women with whom they were constantly brought into contact. Our circumstances are peculiarly helpful to growth in grace, and we are grateful to have our Institution so happily surrounded by them.
Encouraged by the readiness with which the first students found spheres of labour, and by their singular success in soul-winning, I enlarged the number, but the whole means of sustaining them came from my own purse.' The large sale of my sermons in America, together with my dear wife's economy, enabled me to spend from £600 to £800 a year in my own favourite work; but on a sudden, owing to my denunciations of the then existing slavery in the States, my entire resources from that 'brook Cherith' were dried up. I paid as large sums as I could from my own income, and resolved to spend all I had, and then take the cessation of my means as a voice from the Lord to stay the effort, as I am firmly persuaded that we ought under no pretence to go into debt. On one occasion, I proposed the sale of my horse and carriage, although these were almost absolute necessaries to me on account of my continual journeys in preaching the Word. This my friend Mr. Rogers would not hear of, and actually offered to be the loser rather than this should be done. Then it was that I told my difficulties to my people, and the weekly offering commenced, but the incomings from that source were so meagre as to be hardly worth calculating upon. I was brought to the last pound, when a letter came from a banker in the City, informing me that a lady, whose name I have never been able to discover, had deposited a sum of £200, to be used for the education of young men for the ministry. How did my heart leap for joy! I threw myself then and henceforth upon the bounteous care of the Lord, whom I desired with my whole heart to glorify by this effort. Some weeks later, another £100 came in from the same bank, as I was informed, from another hand. Soon afterwards, a beloved deacon of the church at the Tabernacle began to provide an annual supper for the friends of the College, at which considerable sums have from year to year been contributed. A dinner was also given by my liberal publishers, Messrs. Passmore and Alabaster, to celebrate the issue of my five-hundredth weekly sermon, at which £500 was raised and presented to the funds. The College grew every month, and the number of students rapidly advanced. Friends known and unknown, from far and near, were moved to give little or much to my work, and so the supplies increased as the need enlarged. Then another earnest deacon of the church espoused as his special work the weekly offering, which has been, for many years, a steady source of income. There have been, during this period, times of great trial of my faith; but, after a season of straitness, never amounting to absolute want, the Lord has always interposed, and sent me large sums (on one occasion, £1,000) from unknown donors.
Pecuniary needs, however, have made up but a small part of my cares. Many have been my personal exercises in selecting the men. Candidates have always been plentiful, and the choice has been wide; but it is a serious responsibility to reject any, and yet more so to accept them for training. When mistakes have been made, a second burden has been laid upon me in the dismissal of those who appeared to be unfit. Even with the most careful management, and all the assistance of tutors and friends, no human foresight can secure that, in every case, a man shall be what we believed and hoped. A brother may be exceedingly useful as an occasional preacher, he may distinguish himself as a diligent student, he may succeed at first in the ministry, and yet, when trials of temper and character occur in the pastorate, he may be found wanting. We have had comparatively few causes for regret of this sort; but there have been some such, and these have pierced us with many sorrows. I devoutly bless God that He has sent to the College some of the holiest, soundest, and most self-denying preachers I know, and I pray that He may continue to do so; but it would be more than a miracle if all should excel.
In dealing with aspirants for the ministry, I have constantly to fulfil the duty which fell to the lot of Cromwell's 'Triers'. I have to form an opinion as to the advisability of aiding certain men in their attempts to become pastors. This is a most responsible duty, and one which requires no ordinary care. Of course, I do not set myself up to judge whether a man shall enter the ministry or not, but my examination merely aims at answering the question whether the Pastors' College shall help him or leave him to his own resources. Certain of our charitable neighbours accuse me of having 'a parson manufactory, but the charge is not true at all. I never tried to make a minister, and should fail if I did; I receive none into the College but those who profess to be ministers already. It would be nearer the truth if they called me 'a parson-killer,' for a goodly number of beginners have received their quietus from me; and I have the fullest ease of conscience in reflecting upon what I have so done. It has often been a hard task for me to discourage a hopeful young brother who has applied for admission to the College. My heart has always leaned to the kindest side, but duty to the churches has compelled me to judge with severe discrimination. After hearing What the candidate has had to say, having read his testimonials and seen his replies to questions, when I have felt convinced that the Lord has not called him, I have been obliged to tell him so.
I had a curious experience with one applicant. His pastor had given him an open letter, warmly commending him to me as a man called to the ministry; but, in another communication, sent to me by post, the minister wrote that the young man was not at all likely ever to become a preacher, and that he had only written the recommendation because the candidate's father was his chief deacon, and he feared to offend him by telling him the truth. I felt that it was quite unjust to put upon me the onus of refusing the young man; so, when he arrived, I gave him the epistle I had received, and left him and his father to settle the matter with their pastor in the best way they could.
Physical infirmities raise a question about the call of some excellent men. I would not, like Eurysthenes, judge men by their features, but their general physique is no small criterion, and I feel assured that, when a man has a contracted chest, with no distance between his shoulders, the all-wise Creator did not intend him habitually to preach. If He had meant him to speak, He would have given him, in some measure, breadth of chest sufficient to yield a reasonable amount of lung force. A man who can scarcely get through a sentence without pain, can hardly be called to 'cry aloud, and spare not.' Brethren with defective mouths and imperfect articulation are not usually qualified to preach the gospel. The same rule applies to brethren with no palate, or an imperfect one. I once had an application for admission to the College from a young man who had a sort of rotary action of his jaw, of the most painful sort to the beholder. His pastor commended him as a very holy man, who had been the means of bringing some to Christ, and he expressed the hope that I would receive him, but I could not see the propriety of it. I could not have looked at him, while he was preaching, without laughter, if all the gold of Tarshish had been my reward, and in all probability nine out of ten of his hearers would have been more sensitive than myself. A man with a big tongue which filled up his mouth and caused indistinctness, another without teeth, another who stammered, another who could not pronounce all the alphabet, I have had the pain of declining on the ground that God had not given them those physical appliances which are, as the Prayerbook would put it, 'generally necessary.
One brother I have encountered--one did I say?--I have met ten, twenty, a hundred brethren, who have pleaded that they were quite sure that they were called to the ministry--because they had failed in everything else! This is a sort of model story: 'Sir, I was put into a lawyer's office, but I never could bear the confinement, and I could not feel at home in studying law. Providence dearly stopped up my road, for I lost my situation.' 'And what did you do then?' 'Why, sir, I was induced to open a grocer's shop.' 'And did you prosper?' 'Well, I do not think, sir, I was ever meant for trade; and the Lord seemed quite to shut up my way there, for I failed, and was in great difficulties. Since then, I have done a little in a life-assurance agency, and tried to get up a school, beside selling tea, but my path is hedged up, and something within me makes me feel that I ought to be a minister.' My answer generally is, 'Yes, I see; you have failed in everything else, and therefore you think the Lord has especially endowed you for His service; but I fear you have forgotten that the ministry needs the very best of men, and not those who cannot do anything else.' A man who would succeed as a preacher would probably do right well either as a grocer, or a lawyer, or anything else. A really valuable minister would have excelled in any occupation. There is scarcely anything impossible to a man who can keep a congregation together for years, and be the means of edifying them for hundreds of consecutive Sabbaths; he must be possessed of some abilities, and be by no means a fool or a ne'er-do-well. Jesus Christ deserves the best men to preach His gospel, and not the empty-headed and the shiftless.
I do believe that some fellows have a depression in their craniums where there ought to be a bump. I know one young man who tried hard to get into the College, but his mind had so strange a twist that he never could see how it was possible to join things together unless he tied them by their tails. He brought out a book; and when I read it, I found at once that it was full of my stories and illustrations; that is to say, every illustration or story in the book was one that I had used, but there was not one of them that was related as it ought to have been. This man had so told the story that it was not there at all; the very point which I had brought out he had carefully omitted, and every bit of it was told correctly except the one thing that was the essence of the whole. Of course, I was glad that I did not have that brother in the College; he might have been an ornament to us by his deficiencies, but we can do without such ornaments; indeed, we have had enough of them already.
One young gentleman, with whose presence I was once honoured, has left on my mind the photograph of his exquisite self. That face of his looked like the title-page to a whole volume of conceit and deceit. He sent word into my vestry one Sabbath morning that he must see me at once. His audacity admitted him; and when he was before me, he said, 'Sir, I want to enter your College, and should like to enter it at once.' 'Well, sir,' I said, 'I fear we have no room for you at present, but your case shall be considered.' 'But mine is a very remarkable case, sir; you have probably never received such an application as mine before. Very good, we'll see about it; the secretary will give you one of the application papers, and you can see me on Monday.' He came on the Monday, bringing with him the questions, answered in a most extraordinary manner. As to books, he claimed to have read all ancient and modern literature, and after giving an immense list, he added, This is merely a selection; I have read most extensively in all departments.' As to his preaching, he could produce the highest testimonials, but hardly thought they would be needed, as a personal interview would convince me of his ability at once. His surprise was great when I said, 'Sir, I am obliged to tell you that I cannot receive you.' 'Why not, sir?' 'I will tell you plainly. You are so dreadfully clever that I could not insult you by receiving you into our College, where we have none but rather ordinary men; the President, tutors, and students, are all men of moderate attainments, and you would have to condescend too much in coming among us.' He looked at me very severely, and said with dignity, 'Do you mean to say that, because I have an unusual genius, and have produced in myself a gigantic mind such as is rarely seen, I am refused admittance into your College,' 'Yes,' I replied, as calmly as I could, considering the overpowering awe which his genius inspired, 'for that very reason.' 'Then, sir, you ought to allow me a trial of my preaching abilities; select me any text you like, or suggest any subject you please, and here, in this very room, I will speak upon it, or preach upon it without deliberation, and you will be surprised.' 'No, thank you, I would rather not have the trouble of listening to you.' 'Trouble, sir! I assure you it would be the greatest possible pleasure you could have.' I said it might be, but I felt myself unworthy of the privilege, and so bade him a long farewell. The gentleman was unknown to me at the time, but he has since figured in the police court as too clever by half.
Beside those brethren who apply to me for admission to the College, I am often consulted by others who wish me to say whether I think they ought or ought not to preach, and I have more than once felt myself in the position of the Delphic oracle--not wishing to give wrong advice, and therefore hardly able to give any. I had an enquiry from a brother whose minister told him he ought not to preach, and yet he felt that he must do so. I thought I would be safe in the reply I gave him, so I simply said to him, 'My brother, if God has opened your mouth, the devil cannot shut it, but if the devil has opened it, I pray the Lord to shut it directly.' Some time afterwards, I was preaching in the country, and, after the service, a young man came up to me, and thanked me for encouraging him to go on preaching. For the moment, I did not recall the circumstances, so he reminded me of the first part of my reply to his enquiry. 'But,' I said, 'I also told you that, if the devil had opened your mouth, I prayed the Lord to shut it.' 'Ah!' he exclaimed, 'but that part of the message did not apply to me.'
From quite the early days of the College, I arranged for a regular course of lectures on physical science; and many of the brethren have thanked me, not only for the knowledge thus imparted, but also for the wide field of illustration which was thereby thrown open to them. The study of astronomy, as illustrative of Scriptural truth, proved specially interesting. The science itself was very helpful to many of the students. I remember one brother who seemed to be a dreadful dolt; we really thought he never would learn anything, and that we should have to give him up in despair. But I introduced to him a little book called The Young Astronomer; and he afterwards said that, as he read it, he felt just as if something had cracked inside his head, or as if some string had been snapped. He had laid hold of such enlarged ideas that I believe his cranium did actually experience an expansion which it ought to have undergone in his childhood, and which it did undergo by the marvellous force of the thoughts suggested by the study of even the elements of astronomical science. Another student, who evidently had not paid very special attention to the lecturer, wondered whether that star, which always hung just over his chapel, was Jupiter! Of course, the result of his foolish question was that 'Jupiter' became his nickname ever afterwards, even though he was not 'a bright particular' star in our College constellations.
I have often noticed one thing in some who have seemed unable to understand even the elements of science; the Holy Spirit has taught them the Word of God, and they are clear enough about that. When we have been reading a chapter out of some old Puritanic book, or when we have been diving into the depths of theology, these brethren have given me the smartest and sharpest answers of the whole class. When we have been dealing with things experimental and controversial, I find that these men have been able to vanquish their opponents at once, because they are deeply read in the Word of God. The Spirit has taught them the things of Christ, if He has not taught them anything else.
One night, Mr. Selway, in the course of the experiments with which he enlivened his lectures, playfully turned a little jet of water on to one of the students, little dreaming what would be the consequences of the harmless pleasantry which had amused successive batches of the men who had listened to him in the room just at the back of the lower platform in the Tabernacle. In an instant, the young man, who was sitting near the table on which stood the glass tubes, jars, and other apparatus used by the lecturer, swept the whole mass to the floor in a terrific crash before anyone could be aware of his intention, much less prevent him from carrying it into effect. It was a sad exhibition of an ungovernable temper which, I greatly fear, in after years, cost the student far more than the price of the destroyed apparatus which he was required to replace. Mr. Selway, who was a singularly calm, self-possessed individual, simply said, 'That young gentleman will some day be sorry for what he has done,' and then proceeded with his lecture--of course, without any more experiments that evening!
Bad as this display of passion was, there was one student who did something which, in certain respects, was worse, for there was an element of deliberation about it which was absent on the other occasion. It has long been our rule that each brother should read in the College at least one discourse which he has himself composed, and which his comrades are expected to criticise. Any attempt at plagiarism would, therefore, be manifestly unfair; and, if detected, would meet with well-merited condemnation. One man, when it came to his turn, was actually reckless and foolish enough to take one of my printed sermons-I suppose condensed-and to read it as though it had been his own composition; and he had to thank his brethren that he was not instantly expelled from the Institution. Several of them at once recognized the discourse; and, as soon as the time for criticism arrived, proceeded to pull it to pieces most mercilessly. They found fault with the introduction, the divisions, the sub-divisions, the illustrations, the application--with everything in fact except the doctrine; I think that was all right! I was so pleased with the critical acumen displayed that I forgave the offender, but I let it be distinctly understood that, for the future, any student repeating the offence, whether with my sermon or anyone else's, would be forthwith dismissed in disgrace.
As a rule, the men who have come to the College have been so anxious to make the best use of their time while with us, that they have laboured at their studies most diligently, but occasionally we have had a lazy student who has tried to shirk his class and other work. One who, in his day, was a conspicuous instance of this lack of appreciation of the privileges placed within his reach, had an experience which ought to have made him both a sadder and a wiser man, though I am not sure that it had either effect. When the other brethren, who resided in the same house, were preparing their lessons, he so often interrupted them with questions about the translation of simple words with which he ought to have been perfectly familiar that one of them determined to try to cure him of the practice. On that particular occasion, he came to enquire the meaning of the Latin word 'omnibus.' 'Oh!' said the young wag, thats easy enough; omni--twenty-six, and bus--to carry; omnibus, a vehicle to carry twenty-six persons! You know that you constantly see the notice in the omnibus, "licensed to carry twenty-six persons."'. The next morning, it so happened that Mr. Gracey asked the lazy man to translate the very passage which contained the word 'omnibus'. In due course, he gave the rendering which had been supplied to him, with a result that can be better imagined than described.
If he was not diligent in one respect, he was certainly industrious in another direction, and he managed to get engaged to three ladies at once! As soon as I knew of it, I sent for him, and told him that he must make his choice, and I hoped the other two would sue him for breach of promise. I never heard that they did so, and probably they were well rid of a man who could trifle with them in such a fashion. He appeared to do well for a time in the ministry, but he afterwards left the Baptist denomination, and therefore is not now numbered in our ranks.
At one of our closing meetings at the College, before the brethren went away for their vacation, I said that I was a poor man, or I would give every student a present, and I told them what I would have selected if I had been rich. I remember one brother to whom I said that I would give him a corkscrew, because he had a good deal in him, but he could not get it out. 'As to you, my brother,' I said to another student, 'I should give you a sausage-stuffer, for you need to have something put into you.' There was one friend to whom I should have liked to present a canister of Chapman and Hall's gunpowder. He was to have two pounds of it, and someone was to set it alight exactly at the second head of his discourse. Of course, the brethren were amused at the idea, but I advised them to read Foxe's Book of Martyrs, where the historian records that Bishop Hooper, and others who were burned, had friends who came with bags of gunpowder, to put under their arms when they were going to the stake. I did not want the students to be made to die, but to be made thoroughly alive, and I promised to talk to my wife about supplying dynamite as well as books to poor ministers, so that they might be stirred up, and made a blessing to their hearers.
I have had some amusing experiences with deacons in search of a minister. One wrote to ask if I would send a student who could 'fill the chapel. 'I replied that I had not one big enough, and added that I thought it was the business of the people to try to gather the congregation, but that I could send a brother who would do his best to fill the pulpit, and preach the gospel faithfully. In his next letter, the deacon explained that this was just what he and the church wanted, only he had failed to express his meaning clearly.
At one place, where a student-a brother of no little ability--had preached with considerable acceptance, he was informed that, if he had been a bigger man, he would have been invited to the pastorate I really could not blame him when I heard that, in reply to this very foolish objection, he said to the deacons, 'If Mr. Spurgeon had known that you wanted bulk instead of brains, he would have sent you a bullock!' He might have told them that, in looking for quantity, instead of quality, they might, possibly, find themselves burdened with the support of a donkey!
The officers of a small church in the country applied to me for a minister; but the salary they were prepared to pay was so small that, in reply to their request, I wrote: 'The only individual I know, who could exist on such a stipend, is the angel Gabriel. He would need neither cash nor clothes; and he could come down from heaven every Sunday morning, and go back at night, so I advise you to invite him.' The corresponding deacon of another church, which was needing a pastor, sent me such a long list of the qualifications that must be possessed by the man whom they could look up to as their leader, that I recommended him to take a large sheet of brown paper, and cut out a minister of the size and shape desired, or else to seek to secure the services of the eminent Dr. So-and-so, who had been for a good many years in glory, for I could not think of anyone else who could fulfil the conditions that such an important church and diaconate seemed to regard as indispensable. Like one of the other deacons, he also wrote again; and his second letter being more reasonable than the first, I was able to recommend a brother with whom the church appeared to be perfectly satisfied.
One of Spurgeon's students, W. D. McKinney, who later became a pastor at Ansonia, Connecticut, U.S.A., has written the following graphic description of the ever-memorable Friday afternoon classes when the President addressed the students:
'Friday afternoon came at last. The old, familiar dock pointed to three: the door opened on the stroke of the hour, the beloved President appeared, and walked up to the desk--Dr. Gill's pulpit-- while hands clapped, feet stamped, and voices cheered, till he had to hold up his hand, and say, "Now, gentlemen, do you not think that is enough? The floor is weak, the ceiling is not very high, and, I am sure, you need all the strength you have for your labours."
In those days, the President was in his prime. His step was firm, his eyes bright, his hair dark and abundant, his voice full of sweetest music and sacred merriment. Before him were gathered a hundred men from all parts of the United Kingdom, and not a few from beyond the seas. They were brought together by the magic of his name, and the attraction of his personal influence. His fame had gone out into all lands. His sermons were published in almost all languages. Many sitting before him were his own sons in the faith. Among his students he was at his ease, as a father in the midst of his own family. The brethren loved him, and he loved them.
Soon, the floods of his pent-up wisdom poured forth; the flashes of his inimitable wit lit up every face, and his pathos brought tears to all eyes. It was an epoch in student-life to hear him deliver his Lectures to my Students. What weighty and wise discourse he gave us on the subject of preaching! How gently he corrected faults, and encouraged genuine diffidence! What withering sarcasm for all fops and pretenders! Then came those wonderful imitations of the dear brethren's peculiar mannerisms: one with the hot dumpling in his mouth, trying to speak; another, sweeping his hand up and down from nose to knee; a third, with his hands under his coat-tails, making the figure of a water-wagtail. Then the one with his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat, showing the "penguin" style of oratory. By this means, he held the mirror before us so that we could see our faults, yet all the while we mere almost convulsed with laughter. He administered the medicine in effervescing draughts.
After this, came the wise counsel so kind, so grave, so gracious, so fatherly; then the prayer that lifted us to the mercy-seat, where we caught glimpses of glory, and talked face to face with the Master Himself. Afterwards, the giving out of the appointments for the next Lord's day took place; the class was dismissed for tea, and then came the men who wanted advice. Some were in trouble, others in joy; and the President listened patiently to all their tales; anon he would laugh, and then he would weep. At last, he is through, "weary in the work, but not weary of it." His cheery voice gradually dies away as he ascends the stairs to his "sanctum." We did not grieve as we parted from him; for we knew that, God willing, on the next Friday afternoon, we should once more see his bright, genial face, and hear his wit and wisdom again.'
The list of students in the College at this early period contained the names of men of God who left their mark upon the age, and whose work as preachers and soul-winners, or as teachers of others, is only second to that of Spurgeon himself. Four of those names stand out conspicuously, David Gracey (who was 'called home' one year after Spurgeon), Frank H. White, Archibald G. Brown, and Charles B. Sawday.
Frank White wrote for this volume the following reminiscences of his student-days:
'Early in 1862, Mr. Henry Hull--who was himself a master in the blessed art of soul-winning--wrote to Mr. Spurgeon with a view to my admission to the Pastors' College. An appointment for an interview was soon made, and with some fear and trembling (for the first and last time--for I never afterwards trembled in his presence, except with delight) I stood before the great preacher in his vestry at the Tabernacle. "The very man I want," was his hearty exclamation the instant I entered the room. I do not remember anything else he said, except, "You must go to Paradise Chapel, Chelsea, next Sunday." Accordingly, to Paradise Chapel I went; and that little riverside sanctuary became a very Eden to me, though its surroundings were often quite the reverse of paradisaical. Only eighteen persons were present at the first morning service at Chelsea; but, by the grace and power of the Lord the Spirit, some eight hundred were baptized before my ministry in that part closed.
What happy days were those we spent in College, and with what eagerness did we, after the intense strain of the study and work of the week, look forward to those delightful Friday afternoons with the President! Being fewer in number, the intercourse was closer than was possible in after days. How favoured we were even in the ordinary course of things. But what of those special opportunities, such as a six-days' driving tour, which was once my happy lot? The letter of invitation is before me now.
"Dear Mr. White,
I am expecting you at my house, at 8 a.m. next Monday, to go for a week's drive. I have reserved a seat in the carriage for you, which I could have filled with some other friend, so that you must not feel free to decline under any consideration whatever. Your charges will all be paid, and your company appreciated. Not to have you with me, would grievously afflict--
- Your loving friend,
- C. H. SPURGEON.
Breakfast at Nightingale Lane at 8; bound to me till Saturday evening; may reach home by 6 on that evening."
Think whether a poor, worn-out, hard-worked student--such as Archibald Brown, or myself--would be glad to receive such a command, or not. I must leave it to an abler pen than mine to describe those drives from day to day; but to me, they were indescribably joyous. The very trees of the field clapped their hands; and we were closely examined as to their nomenclature, and then most delightfully instructed as to their peculiarities and characteristics. I wish I could recall some of the dear Governor's conversations as we rode along, but I do remember one thing that he said. We were close by the spot where the Bishop of Winchester fell from his horse, and was killed; and Mr. Spurgeon said that he had just received a letter from a clergyman, who informed him that his bodily sufferings were a judgment from God upon him for speaking against the Church of England. In replying to his unfeeling correspondent, he had asked--If a swollen hand or foot was to be regarded as a mark of Divine displeasure, what was to be said concerning a broken neck? Needless to say, that question remained unanswered.'
Archibald Brown has preserved the following letter inviting him to form one of the party on another of those memorable driving tours:
Will you go out with me and others, on June 15, for a week, or two weeks, or three weeks, or a few days, or whatever time you like? We feel that we should like your company, and we think we might do you good. You are very dear to us; to me especially. We shall be very quiet, and jog along with the old greys.
I pray the Lord to bless and comfort you.
I thank you much for preaching for me, praying for me, and loving me. I am better, but have had a sharp nip. Lucian says, "I thought a cobra had bitten me, and filled my veins with poison; but it was worse--if was gout." That war written from experience, I know. Yet I bless God for this suffering also, and believe that your prophetic card will be truer than Dr. Cumming's vaticinations.
Three cheers for you, my true-hearted comrade! The story of your East London gathering of the clans fills me with delight. The Lord be with thee, thou mighty man of valour! Whether, in striking the Spiritualists, you are hitting the devil or a donkey, does not matter much; you have evidently hit hard, or they would not be so fierce. I am not able to take much credit for bringing you up, but I am about as proud of you as I dare be.
I hope we shall have a good meeting on Friday week. It is oil to my bones to see you all.
The fourth of the notable students of 1862 was Charles Sawday. Spurgeon wrote to his father when the question of a College training for his son was under discussion:
I scarcely wonder at your preference of Regent's Park College for your son, but I think you labour under some mistake, for it so happens that the ground of your choice is just one of the evils which my Institute seeks to remedy.
The residence of a number of young men in one house encourages and necessarily generates levity; their separation from common social life is a serious injury, and tends to unfit them for the wear and tear of future work among ordinary mortals. When a young man resides in a Christian family, not only is he under the most vigilant oversight, but he never ceases to be one of the people. We are far from putting our men into the way of temptation; on the other hand, we think our arrangement is the most effectual method of preservation. I merely write this because your brief acquaintance with our system may allow me to suppose that this view of the case has not suggested itself to you.
Our tutors are sound scholars; but, as we do not aim at any very profound scholarship, we allot but two years to the course. The young men who have left us have been very useful, and the class now in hand will bear comparison with any body of men living. I could not, while possessing any self-respect, prepare your son for Dr. Angus;' but I shall be delighted to be of any other service to him.
The solution of the problem is given by the subject of it in the following words: 'My dear father was prejudiced against Mr. Spurgeon; and, in his anxiety for me to receive an efficient training for the Baptist ministry, had arranged for my admission to Regent's Park College. But I had heard Mr. Spurgeon several times at the Tabernacle, and I pleaded with my father not to insist on my going to Regent's Park, and with Mr. Spurgeon to admit me to the Pastors' College. In those early days, it was no wonder that my father, whose whole religious life was spent among the Wesleyans, should have been unwilling for his son to be associated with so pronounced a Calvinist as Mr. Spurgeon was, and he had conscientious objections against contributing towards my support. The Pastor met us both, one Sunday morning, after the service, and ended the matter by saying, "Well, Mr. Sawday, your son is set on entering my College, and he shall be trained, if necessary, at my own expense." It is not surprising, therefore, that I feel that I have more cause than many of our brethren for holding in grateful love the memory of our now glorified President.'
Spurgeon could scarcely have imagined that, by this generous offer, he was preparing the way into the ministry for a man who would, for a third of a century, be greatly owned of God as a winner of souls, and, then, after his beloved President's departure, become the able and loyal assistant of his son and successor in the pastorate at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Yet so it was directed by the unerring wisdom of Him who--
There is one series of Spurgeon's sayings to his students which must find a place here--namely, the farewell words spoken to them on leaving College, or on removing to another pastorate. The gracious and gifted William Anderson, when he was going from Warkworth to Reading, received the apostolic injunction, with a new meaning attached to it, 'Give attendance to Reading.' Mr. Dobson relates that the parting message to him was: 'Go to Deal, and fight the De'il. Hit him hard; I owe him no love.· To Harry Wood--a devoted brother whose hair was so bright that his fellow- students used playfully to gather round him to warm their hands at the fire--the President wrote from Mentone a loving letter which concluded: 'You are so well known to me that I think I see you-especially your distinguished head of hair-and I look you in the face with a tear of love in separation, and say, God bless you Wood! Go, and blaze away for your, Lord.
Mr. Welton has thus recorded the remarkable message given to him, in 1867, when he accepted his first pastorate at Thetford: I want you to go under an operation before you leave. I am going to put out one of your eyes, to stop up one of your ears, and to put a muzzle on your mouth. Then you had better have a new suit of clothes before you go, and you must tell the tailor to make in the coat a pocket without a bottom. You understand my parable?' 'I think so, sir; but should like your interpretation.' 'Well, there will be many things in your people that you must look at with the blind eye, and you must listen to much with the deaf ear, while you will often be tempted to say things which had better be left unsaid; then, remember the muzzle. Then all the gossip you may hear, when doing pastoral work, must be put into the bottomless pocket.
Several students, at different periods in the history of the College, on being sent out as pioneers to start new churches, received this singular charge: 'Cling tightly with both your hands; when they fail, catch hold with your teeth; and if they give way, hang on by your eyelashes! Mr. Saville went to Carlisle with these words ringing in his ears, and he obeyed them all too literally. With true heroism, he would not let his dear President know the hardships he was enduring for Christ's sake and the gospel's; but someone who discovered the plight he was in, wrote about his trials and sufferings; and as soon as the tidings reached Mr. Spurgeon, substantial help was sent to him.
This account of the earlier years of the Pastors' College would not be complete without a specimen of Spurgeon's letters to the students while in College. The following, preserved by Pastor C. L. Gordon, exerted a powerful influence upon the men to whom it was written:
I am called away from you this afternoon; and I should much regret this if it were not that it has come into my heart to suggest to you to spend our usual time in prayer, instead of in teaching and learning. My heart is often heavy with trials, arising out of the College work, which is so dear to me that I am perhaps unduly anxious over it. I am bowed to the very dust when I fear that any brother is erring in doctrine, lacking in grace, or loose in behaviour. I have as little to lament as it is possible there should be where we are all such imperfect creatures. But, my brethren, I would fain have you all the best men living; and when you are not, I am distressed exceedingly. Just now, one brother, by his general self-indulgent habits, has lost the respect of his people, and must move. I do not want to inflict a curse on another congregation, and I do not want to cast him off. Between these two courses, I am perplexed. Pray for me, for him, for all the brethren, and for yourselves.
In your society, I always feel so much at home that I must appear to you to be all happiness and mirth. Alas! it is not so; I am happy in the Lord, and blest in Him; but I am often a poor cast-down mortal, groaning under the burden of excessive labour, and sad at heart because of the follies of those whom I hoped to have seen serving the Lord with zeal and success. Do give me your warmest consideration in your supplications. Believe me when I assure you that you are, for Christ's sake, very dear to me. Do not be led away from the faith which you all professed when you entered the College. Cling to the two great collateral truths of Divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Live near to God, and love the souls of men. I make some sacrifices for your sake; but I count them gain, and my work for you is a delight. But do plead for more grace to rest on us all, and upon those settled in the ministry. Levity of conduct in my brethren brings heaviness of heart to me; and what is inconsistent pleasure to them, is terrible agony to me. Oh, how can the ministers of God be smoking and drinking when souls are dying, and talking lightness and wantonness when sinners ate perishing? It must not be so among us. May the Lord prevent it! Seeking ever your soul's best interest, and desiring your fervent prayers, I am, dearly-beloved brethren,