“He who has ceased to learn has ceased to teach. He who no longer sows in the study will no more reap in the pulpit.”
Today marks the beginning of a new academic year at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spurgeon College with the arrival of our largest ever incoming on-campus class. Indeed, it is an exciting time to celebrate students’ preparation, and consecration, for ministry.
Such excitement also appears to have been the case with the Pastors’ College, Spurgeon’s own “seminary,” which grew throughout his London ministry. In his address for the Annual Report for The Pastors’ College, 1877-1878, Spurgeon confessed to “trembling under the responsibility” of his presidential duties because the College was exploding.
Since its founding, the purpose of the Pastors’ College was not only to “train students,” but also to “found churches.” The first church so founded was East Hill, Wandsworth, in 1859, but by 1877 a total of fifty-three new Baptist churches had been planted in London. While Spurgeon celebrated the incredible growth in his address, he also expressed “an increasing hunger to see our great city thoroughly permeated with the gospel.”
However, for this work to be done students had to be raised up, sharpened, and sent out for the advancement of the gospel. This was true then and is true now. In recognition of the new academic year, here are ten quotes from Spurgeon’s lecture “The Necessity of Ministerial Progress” to encourage students in their academic preparation for ministry.
1. “It will never do for us continually to present ourselves to God at our worst. We are not worth having at our best; but at any rate let not the offering be maimed and blemished by our idleness.”
“First, dear brethren, I think it necessary to say to myself and to you that we must go forward in our mental acquirements. It will never do for us continually to present ourselves to God at our worst. We are not worth having at our best; but at any rate let not the offering be maimed and blemished by our idleness.”
2. “Our ministry demands mind.”
“‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart’ is, perhaps, more easy to comply with, than to love him with all our mind; yet we must give him our mind as well as our affections, and that mind should be well furnished, that we may not offer him an empty casket. Our ministry demands mind.”
3. “God made the world for man, and he made man with a mind intended to occupy and use all the world.”
“We must, I say, make great efforts to acquire information, especially of a Biblical kind. We must not confine ourselves to one topic of study, or we shall not exercise our whole mental manhood. God made the world for man, and he made man with a mind intended to occupy and use all the world; he is the tenant, and nature is for a while his house; why should he shut himself out of any of its rooms?”
4. “Study the Bible, dear brethren, through and through, with all the helps you can possibly obtain.”
“It is a small matter that you should be able to write the most brilliant poetry, as possibly you could, unless you can preach a good and telling sermon, which will have the effect of comforting saints and convincing sinners. Study the Bible, dear brethren, through and through, with all the helps you can possibly obtain: remember that the appliances now within reach of ordinary Christians are much more extensive than they were in our fathers’ days, and therefore you must be greater Biblical scholars if you would keep in front of your hearers.”
5. “Be well instructed in theology, and do not regard the sneers of those who rail at it because they are ignorant of it.”
“Be well instructed in theology, and do not regard the sneers of those who rail at it because they are ignorant of it. Many preachers are not theologians, and hence the mistakes which they make. It cannot do any hurt to the most lively evangelist to be also a sound theologian, and it may often be a means of saving him from gross blunders, Now-a-days we hear men tear a single sentence of Scripture from its connection, and cry ‘Eureka! Eureka!’ as if they had found a new truth; and yet they have not discovered a diamond, but a piece of broken glass.”
6. “Be masters of your Bibles.”
“Be masters of your Bibles, brethren: whatever other works you have not searched, be at home with the writings of the prophets and apostles. ‘Let the word of God dwell in you richly.’”
7. “When grace abounds, learning will not puff you up, or injure your simplicity in the gospel.”
8. “Serve God with such education as you have… but if there be a possibility of your becoming a silver trumpet, choose it rather.”
“Follow the trails of knowledge, according as you have the time, the opportunity, and the peculiar faculty; and do not hesitate to do so because of any apprehension that you will educate yourselves up to too high a point. When grace abounds, learning will not puff you up, or injure your simplicity in the gospel. Serve God with such education as you have, and thank him for blowing through you if you are a ram’s horn, but if there be a possibility of your becoming a silver trumpet, choose it rather.”
9. “Prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good.”
“Many run after novelties, charmed with every invention: learn to judge between truth and its counterfeits, and you will not be lead astray. Other adhere like limpets to old teachings, and yet these may only be ancient errors: prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good. The use of the sieve, and the winnowing fan, is much to be commended.”
10. “Be sure you have the truth, and then be sure you hold it.”
“Be sure you have the truth, and then be sure you hold it. Be ready for fresh truth, if it be truth, but be very [wary] how you subscribe to the belief that a better light has been found than that of the sun. Those who hawk new truth about the street, as the boys do the second edition of the evening paper, are usually no better than they should be.”
Phillip Ort serves at the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City where he is also pursuing a Master of Divinity degree.