11 December 2011

On Learned and Unlearned Ministers

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from the "Report of the Pastors’ College," Published in The Sword and the Trowel in the April 1882 issue..

ime was when an educated ministry was looked upon by certain of our brethren as a questionable blessing; indeed it was thought that the less a minister knew the better, for there was then the more room for him to be taught of God.

From the fact that God does not need man's wisdom it was inferred that he does need man's ignorance; indeed, some seemed to be leaning to the opinion of the Mohammedans, who have long considered idiots to be inspired. Many devout persons doubted whether the preacher should study at all; they looked upon books as "dead men's brains," and conceived of all knowledge as of a thing which necessarily puffeth up.

The venerable Daniel Jackson, a Baptist minister of Indiana, said, at the Conference of churches held in 1880, that "he had a lively recollection of the obstacles placed in the way of study and mental improvement in connection with his first pastorate. He had no books, and no money wherewith to buy them, and there was a strong prejudice among his parishioners against human learning; but he saved twenty dollars out of wedding-fees and the like, went fifteen miles to purchase a Commentary on the Bible, came home with his treasure at night, when it was dark, that it might not be seen, kept it secreted in a private apartment, and never ventured to bring it out and read it without setting his wife to watch at the door, as a sentinel, to give the alarm when anyone came.

A visitor, alas! of the gentler sex, at last discovered the poor offending book, and reported that the minister studied out his text! The news flew like lightning. If he had had the small-pox packed away in his bookcase the consternation could not have been greater; the whole parish, with one of the deacons at the head, was up in arms. His ministry, it was felt, could no longer be a 'Holy Ghost Ministry.' He had to leave, and seek a new sphere of toil; but he did not abandon his Commentary. Now, thank God," said the minister, "young men may read Commentaries, and get a College training, for the sunlight of knowledge has risen with effulgent beams upon the denomination."

This depreciation of learning was a natural recoil from the folly which magnified education into a kind of deity; as though it could take the place of the Spirit and power of God. It was supposed that none but doctors who had passed through the schools could possibly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ; and yet these were the very last persons to undertake the blessed service,—they were too much engrossed with their own disputations and imaginings.

The result of such idolatry of human scholarship was injurious to the last degree; the free utterance of the word was hampered, and the dead letter of pretended learning crushed out the life and energy of Christian zeal. Greater folly has been found in the schools than out of it. Unlearned men may have injured religion by the wild-fire of their injudicious zeal; but pedantic and pretentious scholars have far more seriously imperilled it by the lukewarmness of their latitudinarianism, and the chill of their doubt.

Human learning is, after all, only another form of human ignorance, touched up with an extra coat of the varnish of conceit; for what does man know when he knows all that he can himself discover? What does he know that is worth knowing unless he be taught of God? Above all, what can he know of eternal truth unless the eternal Spirit shall instruct him?

Yet, for all this, the inference that ignorance is better than knowledge is a false one. Neither untutored confidence, nor learned diffidence can take the place of the Spirit; but when a man has once submitted head and heart and tongue to the supremacy of the Holy Ghost, all other things may be added unto him without fear of injury, yea, with the hope of great advantage to himself and others; and the more he knows, especially of matters which concern the Scriptures, the better will he be able to bring forth things new and old out of his treasures.

C. H. Spurgeon


John Dunn said...

Greater folly has been found in the schools than out of it. Unlearned men may have injured religion by the wild-fire of their injudicious zeal; but pedantic and pretentious scholars have far more seriously imperilled it by the lukewarmness of their latitudinarianism, and the chill of their doubt.

I love his insight. Truly, a man before his time. Now over 100 years later and we have turned the credentials and status of the seminary into an golden idol. A man's worth is only weighed by the letters after his name, for which he has paid a very handsome sum. All the while, the poor man who posesses the mighty power of the Spirit of Christ within him is often overlooked and despised.

donsands said...

Charles is the prince of pastors for sure.

One of our Lord's best vessels for us to exaime and listen to.

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."
2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Dave said...

Such a disdain for education seems outlandishly backwards to us today. I wonder what things we hold to as self-evident in the Church today that will be seen as similarly outrageous in 200 years.

Alan E. Kurschner said...

Another wise balanced nugget from Spurgeon. Thanks for the selection, Phil.

~Mark said...

I'm always so blessed by the Spurgeon quotes, they may be my favorite regular parts of this blog, so I never know what to think about the fact that they get (seemingly) the smallest response.

I don't often comment on them because I think it would go like this;

"Amen brother!"
"You can say that again!"


yankeegospelgirl said...

So true. I've been increasingly disappointed by some pretty embarrassing scriptural errors on the part of Russell Moore, a number of which can be found just in his article "Jesus Has Aids." When a supposedly distinguished, learned conservative pastor is being that shallow, it brings it home to me just how much trouble the Church is in.

E1970F said...

"Until it be recognized that it is “Not by might, (of trained workers), nor by power (of intellectual argument or persuasive appeal), but by “MY SPIRIT, saith the Lord” (Zech. 4:6), there will be no deliverance from that fleshly zeal which is not according to knowledge, and which is now paralyzing Christendom. Until the Holy Spirit is honored, sought, and counted upon, the present spiritual drought must continue." -A.W. Pink

I strongly recommend A.W. Pink on the Holy Spirit.