From the beginning, Spurgeon’s vision for the Pastors’ College was the training of pastors. But with the expansion of the British empire in the 19th century, along with advances in travel and communication, new opportunities for global missions arose. Spurgeon would never justify the violence and oppression of imperialism for the sake of missions. Still, he believed that churches in Britain were responsible for making the most of every opportunity to bring the gospel to previously unreached lands. As the Pastors’ College grew, he was thrilled to see in his students a passion not only for local evangelism and church planting but also global missions.
By the 1870s, the Pastors’ College Missionary Association was formed, and when sufficient funds were raised, they sent out their first missionary, Mr. Patrick, to North Africa. On the eve of his departure, Spurgeon wrote him the following letter,
Menton, Dec. 14
Dear Mr. Patrick,
I rejoice that the way is cleared for you going to North Africa. As a brother looking to our own funds for support, you are the first representative of the Foreign Mission of the College, and I am the more earnest that you should lead the way gloriously. I am sure from your personal character, and from your course in College that I may place unlimited confidence in you; and far more is my confidence in the Lord whom you and I unitedly serve with our whole hearts. HE will help you to play the man. A blend of zeal, patience, and wisdom will be needed in a mission so new, dealing with such a peculiar people. You believe that the gospel will meet the need of any creature in the form of man, whether Jew or Gentile, Mahometan or heathen. You will keep wholly and only to the cross. There hangs our hope, as well as the hope of those to whom we go. Hammer away with the old gospel; and let those who like it use the miserable wooden mallet of mere reason. The Lord will be with you. Take special care to be much with HIM. Without the means of grace, in a lone land, as you will probably be ere long, “give attention to reading” the one and only Book, and be often carried away to heaven on the wings of prayer and meditation.
Write us often that you may keep up the interest of the brethren, and of my constituency in the glorious work. Be of good courage while you are dumb in the language of the people, and feel the fire burning within, with the power to let its heat warm the people. Carry your daily worries to your Master and they will not be worries. Aspire to be another “Patrick,” – the apostle of North Africa, as he was of Ireland.
On your head may the Holy Spirit pour of the anointing oil, and may you often be constrained to sing as I do,
“O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be.”
God himself bless you.
Yours in Christ Jesus,
C. H. Spurgeon
The Pastors’ College did not have a special track for missionaries. Every student was trained in the same course of theology, Bible, church history, preaching, ecclesiology, and more. But Spurgeon understood that this would be the foundation for any minister of God’s Word, whether a pastor, evangelist, or missionary. Even as Mr. Patrick worked at language learning and cultural adaptation in North Africa, what he needed most was to be grounded in “the old gospel,” remain earnest in his preaching and evangelism, and be “much with Him” in Bible reading and prayer. In observing Mr. Patrick as a student and member of his church, Spurgeon believed he was ready for this new “glorious work.” He was committed to drawing from all his resources (his “constituency”) to support him in the coming years.
For the next two decades, many more students would head out for the mission field, being sent not only by the College but also by the Baptist Missionary Society, American Baptist Missionary Union, and the China Inland Mission. The story of these missionaries has not yet been told, but as Spurgeon writes in his Autobiography, “they also have done… a work which ‘the day shall declare.’”