Our Colleges have won a place in the confidence of the churches. In their early course they were misunderstood, but faith and work have secured their congenial triumphs, and these institutions now live amongst us as the acknowledged fountains of spiritual blessings. They have been highly favoured. They have a history that may tempt to toasting; but while rejoicing in their usefulness, the recollection of unemployed talents and wasted energy checks vanity and pride. Their direct influence has been to supply the churches with a higher order of ministry; and their indirect, to moderate the views and actions of all, on controverted points of doctrine and practice. Our indebtedness to our Colleges cannot either be appreciated or described.
Each has its valued record; but while the eye gratefully passes over the noble roll of brethren educated at Bradford and Stepney, the heart dwells especially on the names that have given to Bristol its pre-eminence. In the past generation there were Evans, Ryland, Beddome, Francis, Hinton, Hall, Foster, and Hughes, with their associates; of the passing generation there are Crisp, Hinton, Steane, Hoby, Mursell, and many others, grown grey in the service of the common Master. To these may be added a host of younger men now in active service, who have caught the spirit of these departed and departing prophets.
It would be easy to name fellow-workers and contemporaries with each, who, by their gifts, graces, and fidelity, enrich the history of Rawdon and Regent's Park; but, without injustice, we may give pre-eminence to Bristol. Here dwelt and here worked Evans, Ryland, Hall, Foster, and Hughes. These stand not alone; but if they did, our preference would be pardoned.
In reviewing the past we are deeply impressed by the kind Providence which has preserved the domestic and personal character of these institutions. Each has been favoured with esteemed and revered presidents, who have watched over the students as over their own sons, and guarded their domestic interests with paternal care. Dr. Steadman, of Bradford; Dr. Ryland, of Bristol; and Dr. Newman,
of Stepney, fitly represent this fact. Their personal influence was great, but genial and good, and they insensibly moulded the characters of their students and the form of the institution entrusted to their care.
Our Colleges have never assumed the character or spirit of Universities. They have instituted a limited and restrained competition, but have never sought to place the student beyond the influence of the family bond, nor in fierce competition with promiscuous rivalries. The rough and hazardous conflict of a University course has been surrendered for a comparatively sequestered life. Our Colleges have been moulded after the form of a Christian family and private school, where, amidst genial influences, the student, without unnecessary interruption, may prepare for his solemn work. This may have lessened the number of successful literary students, but not of successful preachers.
Young men separated from diverting studies, and taught by example and precept to regard an effective ministry as the supreme object of desire, must, with reasonable diligence and the Divine blessing, succeed. They have done so. Men of warm affections, and unconquerable ardour in the service of the Cross, have occupied our pulpits, and many have taken honourable part in the controversies of the day. If surpassed by some in culture and scholarship, they have scarcely been equalled for usefulness and zeal.
Neither College needs be ashamed of her sons. Rawdon can point to this field of toil, and that of conflict, occupied by those trained within her walls; and Regent's Park, with the old spirit in a new form, has done and is doing its appointed work with great success. We attribute much to the comparative seclusion of the students. To break in upon this, is a considerable risk. The candidates for admission are generally least prepared for severe mental labour, and all the energy available is needed for the special work the student has to do. The changed circumstances of the churches point to the character of the remedies to be employed. The doctrines, rather than the practice of our churches, are now assailed. The student's mind is captivated by the fascinations of style, generosity of character, aud purity of motive, by which the truth is undermined. No classic lore will meet the enemy in the gate. The mind disciplined by the severest mathematical study, is powerless in the conflict. A tyro in Biblical knowledge, a babe in Christ Jesus, a young man in the Christian life, will do a work which the best schooled student may fail to effect. Our theology needs the benefit of all our changes. On our beloved brethren, the tutors, a heavy responsibility rests. It is theirs to resist the danger, and to guard our young friends in these times of peril. The Ritualistic controversialist the Baptist can easily silence; but the Rationalistic demands our best strength put forth to the greatest advantage. If so, how important it is that the theological lectures, and the Biblical criticism, with all their accessaries, should be in perfect keeping with this new aspect of our times, and that every suitable preparation should be made to enable the student to give to the people, in the most popular form, the established convictions of his own mind. Our Committees and tutors are not standing still. A tendency to alter has set in, which is gradually diffusing itself over our educational institutions. Rawdon and Regent's Park have taken the lead, and Bristol, with becoming dignity, by issuing revised rules,
sanctions this spirit of innovation. University honours have struck our older Colleges with their fascinations, while the youngest-born at the Tabernacle has loosened the bonds of conventionalism, and has let the bounding heart and ready tongue go free. All are feeling the tide. They are passing onward. No eye can detect how fast; but happily, by suitable diligence and prayer, the right course may be secured. It needs especial prayer that these changes may be improvements. The necessities of our position will inevitably give rise to crude planning and extemporized arrangements; but a thorough reform seems the only fitting course. By this we mean a revival of the old spirit of calm, resistless energy, finding new and appropriate channels to declare its power. It is a disadvantage that we have no council to which we can appeal. If a conference of experienced brethren could be held, fairly to discuss the present state of our Colleges, its suggestions would give occasion to inquiries and discussion in the Committees, and command the respectful and grateful attention of the tutors. Even adverse criticism is better than none. Oxford and Cambridge, if ever saved, will be so by the severe handling of their sharp and scrutinizing sons; and we hope and believe that each of our Colleges would welcome the severest comment that might awaken life and impart new power. "Within these few years many important changes have been suggested, but it is not our purpose to criticize these. We would rather seek to call renewed attention to that which, by common consent, underlies the entire discussion — the preparation of an able ministry of tlie New Testament. To secure this everything must be subordinated. As there goes out again and again a well-instructed minister, there proceeds a living sanction of the institution from which he passes. They testify to their value, vindicate their honour, and in their successes justify their works. It is the privilege of these schools to send out men, whose characters, lives, and eloquence are made triumphant and glorious by the Cross. To those truths that cluster around the cross, our ministry must be dedicated. These alone can invest with imperishable honour the labourer and his work. Expediency, principle, and necessity, demand supremacy for the truth as it is in Jesus, and this cannot reign in character, life, and ministry, but as the student resolves to know nothing among men but Christ and Him crucified. With this resolve it is ours to co-operate, and every pursuit and study that can awaken youthful admiration of the sublime attractions of Evangelical truth and enthusiasm in its proclamation, should be encouraged. The mind must thoroughly apprehend, if it cannot comprehend, the truth, and the heart must do it homage before the tongue can enforce its claims. Even, if the mind be thoroughly furnished, and impelled by a Divine love, the best use of the student's powers and opportunities will do full justice: neither to the preacher nor his theme. His life as a student would be well used in seeking to know, and how best to declare the matchless grace of God. If it be so, economy of resources is the first demand, in the arrangements of the house. Every hour and every pursuit should aim at the ministry of the truth. If classical and mathematical studies invigorate the mind, favour theological enquiry, and help to pulpit power, let them be pursued. A well-disciplined is more needful than a well-furnished mind, but jealous care is necessary that time and
energy are not wasted on an inferior and inefficient pursuit. It may be practicable, effectively to discipline the mind by the very process of furnishing it. We can accept neither scientific nor classical aid, but as they help us to preserve the truth as it is in Jesus. The Divine theology of a crucified Saviour has not yet received the intellectual homage which is its due. Its touching pathos has kindled myriads of hearts with fervent love, and urged numberless tongues to praise; but its scientific value, vast resources, moral grandeur, and spiritual power, have been neither appreciated nor understood. Here are heights that none have scaled, depths that none have fathomed. The Church has been unmindful of its priviledge and neglectful of its duty. The schools of the prophets must not be content with the conservation of the truth. It is theirs so to exhibit its attractions, and enforce its claims, that our ministry may unceasingly reverence the glorious gospel of the blessed God. Would that we had means to institute a theological professorship whose only duty should be to exhibit the illimitable influence and attractions of evangelical truth. The foundations of our faith, are without concealment, resolutely and perseveringly assailed. Calm reflection, prayerful study, matured experience, a baptism by the Word and Spirit, with self-culture, are the best armour of defence and weapons of attack. To despoil the adversary of his power, his virtues must be imitated, his errors understood, and the truths he attacks felt to be the strength, glory, and life of the believer. To prepare the student for such a success, is the high mission of our College life, and all should bend to this glorious triumph. The ordinary residence of four or five years is not enough to qualify for this work, and if the course of study be interrupted by other objects, success appears impossible. In this light, we doubt the propriety of numerous attempts to secure University honours. In most cases, the study and anxiety given, are taken away from the legitimate object of preparation, and for the sake of a few, a factitious stimulusis applied to all. The studies necessary for a right understanding of the Word of God are requisite as laying the foundation on which the whole superstructure of theological truth rests; but the exigences of our times ask that only the few, favoured and gifted, should attempt more. The critical must be held in subordination to the theological. Competent scholars are around us on every side who can measure swords with the most accomplished of our foes. The Ritualistic element finds its neutralizing power in the simple truths of the Gospel. Let the preacher, with an emphasis that a loving heart, cultivated expression, and natural eloquence prompt, declare dogmatically the saving truths of the Gospel, and rites and ceremonies, both in theory and practice, receive their fatal blow. Neither scholarship nor historic lore can so easily disarm the heavy armed Ritualist as the artless, but earnest utterance of the Gospel. He that has been taught how best to preach it is the most destructive enemy with whom the ecclesiastic has to deal. The Baptist above all can strip the symbols of their falsehood. The restrained course of study we advise is more than justified by the prevalence of unbelief. It may not be apparent, but it is real. It is spread more widely than the ecclesiasticism of the day. The one is ostentatious, the other insidious and secret. It taps the root and saps the foundation of the faith, while professedly
employed on preserving each. In its best attempts, it but betrays tbe Master with a kiss. Unhappily many gifted pens are in the service of the enemy, and to meet him, the root of the matter and the foundation of the faith must be studied with a diligence and care unequalled in the past. The fragments of time, and unused energies, need to be gathered up, that the student may be prepared for the important service that awaits him. The stealthy attacks of the enemy are increasing, and by channels, new and effective, he is seeking to undermine our faith. Reserve in the statement of the truth — a use of evangelical terms in an unevancrelical sense — the suspicious exhaustion of admiration on the person of Christ, the avowed preference for the creedless Christian; the prescribed morality, without the moral force springing from the Cross, and the aspirations after holiness without the Holy Spirit, are among the subtle means that error is using. This enervating influence is creeping into the forms of thought, the modes of expression, and the habits of the Christian life. This, alone, can be met by an enlightened apprehension of the sublime theology and saving power of the Cross. To know Christ, and Him crucified, is to know how best to subdue the baneful influence of this specious heresy. But although an experimental knowledge of the Gospel may be equal to the ordinary doubts and dangers of the believer, far higher attainments are necessary for the minister of Christ. He must familiarize his mind with the great principles most needing guardianship, and the Divine revelations most requiring truthful and obedient study. We may take, as an illustration, the doctrine of the Atonement. This at present is a point of especial attack.
If the mode of assault be watched, the necessity of a theological, rather than of a classical, training to secure success, will at once be apparent. The analogies of nature, the social structure, the constitution of man, his relation to his fellow-man and God, form the theology and the gist of the question. The scriptural argument is invaluable to the believer, but it is powerless with the sceptic, until his own principles have been compelled to yield homage to the "Word." We contend that a severe course of theological study and discipline is the main thing needful in our present circumstances, and this alone can be secured by the majority of our students holding cheaply the distinction of University honours. We would discourage none who may be regarded as equal to success in both departments; but if only one can be traversed, let the whole College life be thrown into the effective vindication and ministration of the truth. Let all be taught how best to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and to prove themselves good ministers of Jesus Christ. This is the goal at which we aim. We are reminded that a graduate's honours are not sought for their own sake but as necessitating a preparation which ultimately increases the power of the Christian ministry. This may be conceded, but only in exceptional cases. He must be a gifted and favoured candidate who can enter our College course, and within its four or five years, master his University and College studies with success. The one must be subordinated to the other; and if the matriculating course be kept under, theology will be "plucked" by the classics. The student may toil and labour honourably and successfully in his professional and direct course but for this the secular authorities
have no prize. To obtain it, a jealous all-absorbing attention to the prescribed course is requisite; and when the honours are gained — concerning their value there are doubts, but about their cost there is none. To win — results in a doubtful prize; to fail — brings disappointment and dishonour; and whether winning or losing, waste of time and energy is almost certain. These remarks apply to the many cases in which an indiscriminate encouragement has been given to the preparation for University honours. That some caution is needed, the occasional action of our Committees abundantly proves. It is reported that one of our Colleges has just accepted five gentlemen, to pursue permanently their studies only on condition that each should engage to matriculate and graduate. On the cruelty of exacting such a promise we offer no remark; but of the impropriety of such a resolution, we have no doubt. The probability is, that not one of the five will be able to meet the wishes of the Committee. The object we infer is, to stimulate the student to a diligence which, without neglecting the ordinary course, will successfully urge him to succeed in gaining University honours. This is possible, but not probable. Even if success come to all, in some cases, it must be at a cost that will accept of no compensation. We sincerely trust that no temptation will lead to the introduction of such a condition into the rules of our Colleges. It would be far better to exact from every candidate indubitable evidence of his ability to teach and preach the truth. These are the gifts that, amongst us, prove their inestimable value, and receive our highest rewards. The eminent Christian, thoughtful student, and able preacher, is the character over which the Church rejoices. On him she confers her highest honours. Let us demand from all, full proofs of the possession of those gifts and graces, without which the ministry, however approved by man, will not be honoured by God.
We venture to suggest, that to keep alive the attention and industry of the students, the annual examinations should be thorough and genuine. A change of examiners gives increased interest to the work. The more discriminating the reports the more satisfaction they give. Honours should be awarded to the successful students of the Word of God, and proficiency in any studies bearing directly on the usefulness of the pastorate and the success of the ministry should be recognized and sanctioned. Carelessly conducted examinations tend to relax the attention of the students, and lead ultimately to undue dependence by the Committee upon the alien influence of a University course.
Pastoral work should command more serious attention, and the cultivation of the gift of public speaking should be conscientiously pursued. No profession permits such neglect as this holy calling has to endure. The lawyer, the barrister, the physician, have their guides and models, whom they jealously obey and most anxiously imitate. Our Colleges do not pretend to impart either gifts or graces, but to improve them. The speaker's gifts and the pastor's graces have but a scanty consideration in our prescribed course. By common consent, the candidate once admitted is allowed to fight his way to pre-eminence in pulpit service, or to die of despair. He needs the caution, help, and sympathy of a kindred spirit and worker, but how rarely does he find them. In his preaching a friendly eye should be upon him, to mark his
gesture; an ear to listen to his intonation; an interest to detect his weaknesses, and appreciate his strength. A word spoken in season has often been better than an apple of gold to a warm-hearted devoted speaker. The awkward movement, falsetto voice, and bad delivery, have been checked and at last changed for self-control, easy and commanding gesture, and varying and pleasing expression. To secure these instruments of power no care should be spared; but we fear, in many cases, other studies have been required where this priceless preparation should have been given. The elocution-master is not the teacher desirable. He may be the drill-serjeant of the class, but never its urging and moulding spirit. Some honoured minister, whose eloquence, shrewdness of observation, and mature experience, make him a congenial instructor, should favour the students with his watchful counsel. Their proverbial sensitiveness would not rebel against such authoritative counsel; and the College authorities would welcome the presence of a minister, whose practical advice would so admirably supplement their habitual instructions. Among our cloud of accomplished and able ministers of Christ, a variety could be secured, which would render their occasional presence a source of interest to all. The conditions of prosperity are simple. Common sense and common talents, employed with uncommon skill, under the Divine blessing, give the victory. None need despair. With the aid we are asking a revived life and energy may be ours. What to say, and how to say it, are the lessons primarily to be learned, and such acquirements ought to be within easy reach of every one committed to our care. We deprecate a severe critical spirit. Freedom in language, though approaching looseness of expression, is to be preferred to a cold and rigid precision. The tongue, unless early trained, is inapt at great accuracy. This is to be aimed at, but not impetuously. Let our students be trained to speak freely. Let mistakes be borne with, and not so dreaded as to paralyse the tongue. Sometimes cases occur which painfully illustrate the danger of this hypercritical habit. The critic, in speaking, has often fallen into his own trap. Accustomed to refuse many a word that offers to express his meaning; he waits to choose, but the word he needs will not come. He hesitates, stammers and stutters, and at last is compelled to employ some phrase that wraps his meaning in indefiniteness and mist. Nature has exacted reprisals, and the critic has to bear the severest criticism. The student preacher must escape this bondage, and with freshness and freedom proclaim the truth.
The mother-tongue should be carefully studied, and its resources understood. Many of our best speakers know but little of other languages than their own; but this they use with masterly power. They accept it as the appointed instrument of their success; and the nervous, graphic, and Shakesperian force with which it is employed, allows of no complaint. Let English be more carefully studied, its best models imitated, and its resources perpetually used for writing and speaking. This will produce a style that will be neither rigid, nor loose, and absolutely prohibit diffusiveness and disorder in the pulpit ministration. The stereotyped form which College exercises so frequently take, have injured the reputation both of the house and of the ministry. Our young brethren have seriously suffered from the formal mould into which their exercises have been expressed.
Only a student has become a proverb almost of reproach, rather than an apology for imperfection, and a reason for commendation. Let him assume perfect self-possession, without boldness; be natural in appearance, voice and gesture, and speak from the heart, and the blessing will come. Though only a student he will win the heart. The success of Mr. Spurgeon's students in character and work, confirms the representations we have made. Probably the frigid zone of College life created the torrid zone of Tabernacle animamation and adventure. Here all is free, buoyant, and full of vivacity: the president reigns, but happily in the hearts of all. The students have time only to pick up the crumbs that fall from the Professor's table, yet they grow, aud thrive, and do deeds of daring. It may be an extreme case, but it proves that a very simple course of study and preparation may be most effectively used in the Divine service, and that some approach to this irrepressible life and energy in our older institutions is possible. We much doubt the propriety of establishing separate institutions for preparing city missionaries and village preachers. This class should have ample opportunity of study in our existing Colleges. We have no doubt, that a wise and generous spirit might devise a plan by which they could prepare the men Mr. Spurgeon so ardently desires to send into the ministry, and with them a goodly number of those who should graduate. The result would be as a rule that among the one we should find our scholars, and among the other our preachers. Each class is a necessity to the Church of Christ. If three or four scholarships were established in connection with each College, the stimulus to a higher course of study would be secured. They need not be confined, except by preference, to the students of the particular College, to which the scholarships are attached. They might be open to all. Then if an unusual number of suitable students happened to be at either of the institutions, there would be stimulants and rewards for all. This would necessarily lead to a re-casting of the procedure of each College, and the blending of individual action, in a united arrangement for one common purpose. Regent's Park is rich in these attractions, and Bristol has, been promised liberal assistance. Some years since, a friend in the north proposed to found a Robert Hall-scholarship and promised to contribute largely to this object. We hope that the arrangements are matured, and soon this appropriate memorial of Mr. Hall will be established. If this example is imitated we may soon possess exhibitions enough to meet every necessity. Real scholarship might then be secured without subjecting the ordinary student to a discipline and to studies, alien from his habits and foreign to his purpose. The time has come for popularizing these institutions. They have hitherto, with great success, done their work in comparative epiiet and silence. The churches around them have known but little of their inward life. The students have caught this spirit, and have disregarded the advantages of Church fellowship and local work. Some intensely in earnest have joined the city church and mission to keep alive their zeal, and get pledges of future good, but as a rule, the College and the churches have lived apart. This should not be. It is the duty and privilege of the churches near the college to give their warmest sympathy and watchful care to it. The College, in return, should encourage and welcome the presence of those around, who practically
show an interest in its progress. Mr. Spurgeon at once recognized the importance of this fellowship. So soon as the students were his, they became the adopted of the Church. Hence, springs the undying energy that sustains and directs this beneficient and scriptural enterprize. It lacks nothing but the more protracted discipline and study which our elder Colleges should seek to offer.
How pleasing would be the scene, if these important institutions, the creations of the Church's necessity, were to arrange to unite their labours without blending their organizations. Such concessions as were necessary would have the Divine sanction. Our Colleges then would form a University of unequalled attractions. Its honours would be sought before any corporate distinctions, however ennobling. An interchange of work, guidance, duty and ministration, would gradually arise, and the unity of the Spirit would be realized amidst the diversity of gifts and ministrations. A baptism of the Spirit would surely be felt in such a school for the prophets as tlus.
There are probably not less than 150 students of the Baptist Denomination in the English Colleges alone, 80 in Wales, and 15 in Scotland, making a total of nearly 250 brethren being educated by us for the Christian ministry. Let us attempt to realize the responsibilities of such a trust: with a four years' course more than 60 students are sent out as ministers or pastors every year. Our Colleges should be the great fouutains and springs of sanctified thought, feeling, and action. They have channels of communication with the churches to the extent of the settlement of some 70 students in the year. The burden of responsibility that rests upon the tutors, students, committees, and churches, is oppressive. All are called to greater watchfulness and prayer that the great Lord of the harvest would send out from them more labourers into the harvest. He alone can prepare the men. It is He alone who can fit the instrument to its work. From Him comes the Spirit that breathes joy and success into our languishing lives. To Him we look, and on Him we wait that our Colleges may increasingly become a source of joy aud a means of success.
[From The Baptist Magazine, February, 1867, pp. 69-77. The word "Baptist" has been added to the title. The document is from Google Books. — Formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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