The following is excerpted from the chapter “Metropolitan Tabernacle, London” of The History and Heritage of Fundamentalism and Fundamental Baptists, https://www.wayoflife.org/books/
Pastor's College circa 1888 - (Illustration)
The school grew quickly. By 1861, there were 20 students, and by 1864, there were 100. About 900 preachers were trained in Spurgeon’s lifetime.
The entrance requirement was the new birth with a clear salvation testimony, doctrinal soundness, a good Christian character, a demonstrable call to preach, two-years’ preaching experience, and the ability to do the course work. Spurgeon alone decided which applicants to accept.
The students paid what they could and the rest was supplied by Spurgeon and the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
The two-year Institute was not shallow. The students studied Puritan writings, which are of great theological depth (though they also err in Reformed theology). Eventually a third year was added. Spurgeon himself taught one afternoon a week (Friday), and some of his teaching on those days were published in Commenting and Commentaries and the two-volume Lectures to My Students, which is still widely used.
Spurgeon emphasized the practical. He wanted to produce evangelists, pastors, and church planters. The students either participated in the life and ministry of Metropolitan Tabernacle or they pastored churches within commuting distance.
Spurgeon also conducted evening classes for men who could not attend the regular classes of the Preacher’s College. In 1890, he said, “Besides the students for the regular ministry, several hundreds of street preachers, city missionaries, teachers, and workers of all kinds have passed through our evening classes, and a band of 250 such men are now with us, pursuing their callings by day and studying in the evening.”
Spurgeon strongly emphasized the importance of reading and continued learning. He exhorted his preacher boys, “Sell your shirt and buy books.” He advised the men to read the entire multi-volume Matthew Henry commentary set in the twelve months after they graduated from Pastor’s College. The book Commenting and Commentaries contains lectures that Spurgeon delivered to the students of his college, and it reveals the serious nature of his own study habits and the manner in which he trained his students.
Some 200 churches were planted or revived by the graduates, both in the U.K. and overseas. They recorded 100,000 baptisms. By 1891, one in five pastors of Baptist churches in England were graduates of the Pastors’ College. When a graduate started a new church, Metropolitan Tabernacle would pay the rent for a meeting place for the first year.
There were bi-annual Bible conferences at Metropolitan Tabernacle for the Pastors’ College graduates. Spurgeon’s messages at these conferences from 1872-1890 were collected into An All-Round Ministry. One was “The Evils of the Present Time, and Our Object, Necessities and Encouragements.” One evil Spurgeon dealt with was the “entertainment-driven church.” He warned, “Within suitable bounds, recreation is necessary and profitable; but it never was the business of the Christian Church to supply the world with amusements. ... By the solemnities of death, and judgment, and eternity, I beseech you, keep yourselves clear of the follies, the inanities of the day. ... The preaching of Christ usually ceases when these frivolities come in. These things are so opposed in spirit, that one or the other will have to be dropped; and we know which it will be.”
Spurgeon was at the forefront of a great spiritual revival. “During Charles Spurgeon’s ministry tens of thousands were converted to God under the preaching of the Word” (“Brief History of The Metropolitan Tabernacle,” MetropolitanTabernacle.org). There were 14,000 additions to the Tabernacle during his pastorate. As we have seen, the graduates of the Pastors’ College started or revived 200 churches and saw thousands converted. And these were not empty numbers. As we have seen, this was no Quick Prayerism program. The largest percentage of the numbers that were reported represented genuine, life-changing conversions produced by the power of God through the preaching of the gospel.
Eleven graduates of the Pastors’ College became presidents of the Union. This was in spite of the fact that the Union has continued down the path of the theological apostasy that caused Spurgeon to separate from it.
In the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, H. Wheeler Robinson, pastor of Baptist Union churches and principal of Regents Park College, denied the infallibility of Scripture, considered the Old Testament a product of religious evolution, and denied the historicity of Adam and original sin. He blasphemously claimed that Jesus was not right in everything He said. “[T]he language and the thought of a particular generation [are] stamped upon His sayings” (Robinson, Ancient and English Versions of the Bible, p. 287). In 1971, Michael Taylor, principal of the Baptist Union’s Northern Baptist College, addressed the London Baptist Assembly on the theme, “How much of a man was Jesus?” He denied that Jesus Christ is God. Though many protested the man’s heresy, the Baptist Union refused to discipline him or remove him from office.
The Pastors’ College was renamed Spurgeon’s College in 1923. By then it was no longer associated with the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The college was led by George Beasley-Murray from 1961-1977. He claimed that Jesus was wrong about the timing of the Second Coming, that John’s Gospel was not written by John but by a community of John’s followers, and he taught that salvation is not complete without baptism. Beasley-Murray participated in the apostate World Council of Churches and praised its “general theology” and “deep spirituality” (“The Rise and Fall of Spurgeon’s College,” Standing on Shoulders, Jan. 19, 2010). The theology of the WCC includes every type of heresy and blasphemy, including universalism, and its “spirituality” includes idolatrous Hindu dances, mindless Buddhist chants, and North American Indian spirit sacrifices. (See the free eBook World Council of Churches, available at www.wayoflife.org.)
Today Spurgeon’s College trains female pastors. Lynn Green, the first female president of the Baptist Union (2013), was a graduate of the college. She received a standing ovation for her inaugural sermon. She proclaimed, “I believe that our union is ready for generational change ... It is time to ... embrace a new way of being for the 21st century.” This is the philosophy of the emerging church: a new church for a new time.
By 1970, the Metropolitan Tabernacle was almost dead. The hall that could seat many hundreds was almost empty. Under the leadership of Peter Masters, the church has been revived and today the building is nearly full during Sunday services. Dr. Masters stands on the same doctrinal platform as Spurgeon. He is an “evangelical Calvinist” who believes in preaching the gospel to all sinners, and the church is still aggressive in evangelism, with Sunday evening gospel services and Sunday Schools. Metropolitan uses the same sacred music it used in Spurgeon’s day, with additions representing the same theological depth and sacred style, avoiding the contemporary sound by conviction and with clear purpose. The Sword and the Trowel is still published by the church, and it still preaches the truth and defends the truth as Dr. Masters sees it. The church’s annual School of Theology is well attended.
In February 1971, Dr. Masters led the church to again depart from the Baptist Union (which it had re-joined in 1955) and has kept the church separated from the contemporary evangelical philosophy that has captured most Baptist churches in the U.K. He has written and published books warning about contemporary music, worldliness, Christian psychology, charismatic mysticism, and the new Reformed philosophy, among other things.
We don’t agree with Dr. Masters’ Calvinism, but we are thankful for a great many things that this man stands for. In my personal experience, I have found him to be a man of God and a Christian gentleman. The thing that divides us is not the doctrine of the Bible. It is, rather, the doctrine of a man named John Calvin, a man who has caused massive and unnecessary division among God’s people.
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