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Surely we command the agreement of most Christian people in the opinions we have stated; if it be not so, we are bold enough to say that we ought to do so, for all along through history it can be confirmed . that the men who have been most precious to the church have been such as we have described. Find us a revival the whole world's history through, produced by a gentleman whose speech could not be understood, or whose sympathies were not with the people. Great evangelists have never been philosophical essayists, but men of simple gospel views. The Reformers and true fathers of the church have been men of practical common-sense habits, who went to the business of soul-winning in an earnest downright way, disdaining the little conventionalities and prettinesses which charm the weaker sort. They all without exception aimed at conversions. They did not hit on soul-winning by chance; they were not aiming at something else, and by accident managed to bring a great many to the Saviour: they flew towards this one object, like an arrow to its target. There were great distinctions between Calvin and Luther, Whitfield and Wesley, Jonathan Edwards and Rowland Hill: their culture, talents, and position differed greatly, but they were all of one spirit, and God blessed them all.
We will now push on to our second point-the means of procuring such men. The first and best means is for the church to value the as-cension gifts of her Lord, which were men ordained by himself for her edification and increase. Prayer for the sending of fit men must be continuous and fervent. Our Saviour himself bade us pray the Lord of the harvest to send more labourers into the harvest; but perhaps throughout Christendom no prayer is more seldom offered: indeed, we hear from some quarters complaints that there are too many labourers already. A murmur monstrous, to say the least.
But honest prayer leads to action. It has led us to it. We believe that the Pastors' College has been one among other means used of God to promote the end we have been describing; and without intending, even by implication, in any degree or manner to criticise other institutions, we mean to show how our own effort seems to us adapted to its work.
The design being to discover earnest men, men of differing talents and abilities, suited for various places, one thing is very clear, namely, that the church should make the area from which she draws her supplies as wide as herself. To many excellent men the lack of pecuniary means has been a serious barrier. The number of young preachers in a denomination like the Baptists—which is one of the poorer branches of the Nonconforming family-who can afford to pay even a small sum for their own education and maintenance during three, four, five, or six years, at a training institution, must necessarily be small. They are earning nothing at the time, and the sacrifice of what would have been their income is all that most of them can afford. A large number of men of real ability could not even clothe themselves during a college course, for they have no store, and their friends are poor. Why should the churches lose their services from our pulpits, or receive them in a raw, half-developed state ? Should not every vestige of difficulty on this score be swept away, prudently and wisely, but effectually? Where the selection is carefully made, it is a great pleasure to feel that the wealth or poverty of the applicant does not sway the judgment one single iota,
but higher qualifications are alone considered. There should be a clear way for any gracious and qualified man into the place where he may be taught the way of God more perfectly; no lack of money should block up his path. A great number of excellent brethren enter our ministry without education ; all honour to them for what they accomplish ; but while these worthy brethren do well, who shall say that they might not have achieved more if they had been better equipped for their work? Now it ought to be the object of the denomination to get these men who will become preachers, whether they are educated or not, to submit themselves to a preliminary instruction which will make them more efficient, if such instruction there be. The College ought to be so arranged that none of them should say by way of excuse for not entering it, “We could not afford it.” Their case should be wholly and entirely met. A number of gifted men are at this moment useful in the Sunday School and in occasional addresses, who would develop into notable preachers if they were encouraged to exercise their gifts by the knowledge that, if found qualified, there would be an opportunity for them to multiply their talents. We know that the spirit of preaching the gospel has been largely poured out upon our own church, and fostered by the presence of our school of the prophets; and we doubt not that other congregations have been influenced in the same way. At any rate, our College is open to the poorest. We constantly receive men whose food and raiment, as well as lodging and education, are furnished for them as a free gift from the institution ; and though we are glad when they can help themselves and some few not only help, but bear all their own charges), yet we never mean to set up a golden, silver, or even a copper gate to the Pastors' College, but to the poorest man, whom we believe the Lord has called, the porter opens cheerfully the door.
Another matter calls for attention. The degree of scholarship required upon entering College should be so arranged as to exclude none solely on its own account. Many a preacher who has come to us and succeeded best, would not, when he entered, have passed an examination at an ordinary dame school. It is sad that any man of twenty years should be in such a state of ignorance; but when the Lord converts youth of the most ignorant class, and puts the living fire into him, shall we leave him unaided ? As things have been until now, the unlettered condition of many a peasant and labourer has been well nigh inevitable. England has been far behind Scotland in this respect, and it is to be hoped that matters will now improve. At least for the present distress, I have been unable to see why a man who has the gift to speak earnestly and to move human hearts, should be denied an education because he is so terribly in need of it. What if he does not know the rudiments of English grammar? Let us take the blundering Apollos, and begin at the beginning with him. Because he laboured under disadvantages in his childhood of poverty, and perhaps of sin, is he for ever to be crushed down ? Must he achieve the impossible before we help him over the difficult? Let the man who has some education fight his way alone, rather than leave the other unhelped. I would assist both. Let the church, when the Lord sends her a man of rough but great natural ability, and of much grace, meet him all the way, take him up where he is, and help him even to the end. This we daily seek to do.
But there needs the opposite balancing principle of restriction. There must be always in every institution a most earnest, determined resolution that none shall be received but such as are confidently believed to be deeply gracious, whose piety is beyond reasonable dispute, testified to by many who have known them, manifested by the fruits of their labours, certified in all ways that are possible. Even then we fear some will thrust themselves in unawares, but no vigilance must be spared. Those only should be received who have given indisputable proofs, as far as human judgment can ever go, that they love the gospel, that they seek only the glory of God, and all because they feel how much they owe to him who has redeemed their souls from going down into the pit. Certain denominations make a small matter of grace, and look alone to other qualities : we know a church where a man would be nearly as eligible for the ministry being graceless as if he were perfect : but it must not be so among us. It would be almost impossible to be too stringent in this respect. As Caesar's wife must be not only blameless but beyond suspicion, so must the Christian minister be spotlessyea, more, he must be full of good works to the glory of God. That we have sought to separate between the precious and the vile our Master knows full well.
If we would have the right men, again, they should not be untried, but should have preached sufficiently long to have tested their aptness to teach. No education can give a man ability if he has none. Amongst the first of ordinary gifts for the ministry is the gift of utterance;—that cannot be produced by training. I do not know of what value elocutionary classes may be. I suppose they are of some use; the existence of professors of elocution leads us to hope that they may be of some utility; but he would be an extraordinary elocution master who could teach a man to speak who had no aptness for it; in fact, it cannot be done. Now, no one can prove his fitness to impress others except by trial ; it is, therefore, a wise regulation that the preacher should be asked, “ Have you for a sufficient time-say two years or thereabout-exercised your gift, and have you in the judgment of persons qualified to speak been somewhat successful ? We do not ask you whether you have already achieved anything remarkable, for then you would not want college help, but have you brought souls to Jesus, and been generally acceptable to believers ?" To my mind, it it is clear that no others ought to be admitted under any pretence whatever. If a college receives students because they know so much Greek, or so much mathematics, or can write a theme, it has no more facts before it from which to form a judgment as to the men's eligibility for the Christian ministry, than if they were asked, “Could you stand on your head ?” or, “ Are you six feet high ?”
So far we have looked only towards the students, but we have already said that men who will be a blessing to the church, must plainly preach gospel truths. Very well ; then it is of the utmost importance that the College should teach those truths, and teach them plainly. But no books will spread orthodox doctrine unless they are in the hands of sound men. ^ It is imperative that the tutors should be not only believed to be sound, but they should be known to have a determined predilection for the old theology, to be saturated with it through and through;
to be, in fact, Puritans themselves, and not mere teachers of puritanic theology; men who love the gospel, defend it, and are ready to die for it. We cannot expect to have the right men sent out unless the tutors who exercise so very potent a part in the training of their minds are valiant for the truth themselves. Our joy is that in this respect the Lord has favoured us very greatly. Our dear friend, Mr. Rogers, who is at our head, is a John Owen for erudition, with a rare spice of motherwit. He is so venerable in years that we venture to say this much of him; as to the rest of us who form the staff, wherever we fail, we are certainly not less stanch in the old-fashioned theology.
In addition to biblical instruction, without limit, it is important that each man should receive as much education as he is able to bear. There should not be one cast-iron rule, so that a brother who would reach his best condition if he acquired a common English education, should be obliged to muddle his poor head with Hebrew. There should be different courses of instruction for different men. We have always endeavoured to carry out this idea, but with varying success; for many brethren who need urging further are content to pause, while others who had better halt clamour to go forward, and our wish is to yield to their desires as far as we dare. We have always from the very first tried to see what a brother could learn, and to let him learn what he could.
It has appeared to us that the chief aim should be to train preachers and pastors rather than scholars and masters of arts. Let them be scholars if they can, but preachers first of all, and scholars only in order to become preachers. The Universities are the fit places for producing classical scholars, let them do it; our work is to open up the Scriptures, and help men to impress their fellows' hearts. It is certain that the man who has sacrificed everything to mathematical and classical eminence is not one whit the better esteemed by our churches, because experience has taught them that he is not superior as an instructor or exhorter. Our one aim is to assist men to be efficient preachers. If we miss this, we think ourselves to have failed, whatever else we attain.
In order to achieve all these things, it is a very grand assistance to our College that it is connected with an earnest Christian Church. If union to such a church does not quicken his spiritual pulse it is the student's 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 earnest, working organisation, they gain enlarged ideas, and form practical habits. Even to see church management and church work upon a large scale, and to share in the prayers and sympathies of a large community of Christian people, must be a stimulus to right-minded men. Our circumstances are peculiarly helpful, and we are grateful to have our institution so happily surrounded by them. The College is recognised by the Tabernacle church as an integral part of its operations, and supported and loved as such. We have the incalculable benefit of its prayers, and the consolation of its sympathies.
We think it a fit thing that students who are to become ministers in sympathy with the people, should continue in association with ordinary humanity. To abstract them altogether from family life, and collect them under one roof, may have its advantages, but it has counterbalancing dangers. It is artificial, and is apt to breed artificialness. It may be objected, that residing, as our men do, with our friends around, they may be disturbed by the various family incidents. But why should they not? In future life the same difficulties will occur, for they are not likely to be Lord Bishops, whose studies will be out of the reach of a babe's cry or the street noise. Recluse life or collegiate life is not the life of the many, and much of it soon puts a man out of harmony with the everyday affairs of life. It is dangerous to engender tastes and habits which in afterlife cannot be gratified, and especially habits which, if they could be abiding, would tend to weakness. Besides, the association of a number of young men has great perils about it, which we need not now rehearse; we will only mention the tendency to levity. Buoyant spirits are not to be condemned, but they usually find vent enough without the encouragement of constant companionship with their bike. To keep fourscore young men constantly under the same roof, and so to direct them that they shall remain as earnest and gracious as when they came to you, is a feat which some may have accomplished, but which we shall not attempt. Let the men meet at their studies, form suitable friendships, and go home at night to staid orderly households of much the same class as they may hope their own to be in future years.
Above all, if we are to discover the right sort of men, we must have an institution in which spiritual life is highly esteemed and carefully fostered. Watching as we do with anxious heart, we feel we can honestly bless God for the gracious spirit which rests upon the College just now. The most of the brethren have been rich partakers in the influence of our Special Services. We have heard with great joy of their earnestness and prayerfulness. It did us good to hear one say that he had been warned against losing his spirituality by going to College, but he now felt that he could live nearer to God than ever. Nor is this our occasional experience, it is more or less prevailingly our constant element. There have been seasons when it has been a very profitable means of grace to the president to attend his class, and associate with his young friends; for though they were students, eagerly looking after ordinary knowledge, yet they evidently walked with God in all they did. We desire to have it so at all times. There has never been among us any undervaluing of faith and enthusiasm because associated with educational defects, or any treatinent of prayer as a needless formality ; but on the contrary, a very earnest coveting of spiritual gifts has been the rule. We try to realise how mighty a thing is nearness to God, and how grand it is to live under the divine influence of his Spirit.
Under God, the College has been the instrument of extending the Saviour's kingdom, by founding new churches, and we hope to do faz more in future years, if the Lord shall send us means. We do not so much care to build on other men's foundations, by sending ministers to old-established churches, our wish is to found new interests and break up fresh ground. In this aim we have had much fraternal co-operation