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The Signs of the Times, vol. 13 - Contents
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    June 23, 1887

    “The Need of Evangelists” The Signs of the Times 13, 24, pp. 375, 376.

    ONE of the associations of Congregationalist Churches in New England lately passed a resolution “objecting to the licensing as evangelists for home missionary service, of men who have not taken a full theological course.” The Christian Union decidedly objects to this objection, saying that the colleges and theological seminaries cannot do more than supply the demand for pastors and teachers over established churches, because the graduates from these schools are barely more than enough to fill the vacancies caused by death and departure to non-clerical professions. But the strongest objection made by the Union is stated in the following words:—SITI June 23, 1887, page 375.1

    “The education which culminates in a theological course does not prepare men for this evangelistic work. A young man who has spent three or four years in an academic course, four in college, and three in a theological seminary, is by the very process of such an education unfitted for the work of an evangelist. He is trained away from the people whom the evangelist wishes to reach. He is prepared to teach cultured Christian populations. The great evangelist of our times, Dwight L. Moody, not only did not have a college education, but it is safe to say would have been spoiled for his particular work if he had received such an education. We want in our great cities men of the people, educated with the people, accustomed not only to use the language but to think in the thought of the people. Scholastic training which is admirably adapted to prepare the teacher of an up-town church is equally admirably adapted to unfit a preacher to a street or a hall audience.”SITI June 23, 1887, page 375.2

    We do not doubt in the least that this is the exact truth of the matter. But what a deplorable condition of things it reveals? The highest effort to train men for the work of the gospel, only ends in unfitting them for that work! Ten or eleven years’ study by a young man in a theological course undoes him! That is to say that the most thorough educational course furnished by the theological schools of the country, unfits a young man for the very work which, above all others, demands the most thorough and fully rounded education. And for the very good reason that “he is trained away from the people whom the evangelist wishes to reach.” Now the evangelist wishes to reach all people, for so the Lord commanded, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Therefore no stronger indictment need ever be brought against the theological training of to-day to condemn it utterly, than that it trains men away from the people whom the evangelist wishes to reach. Such education is mis-education, and is worse than no education; such training is worse than no training. Any system of education or training that educates or trains men away from the common people is only a curse, for its only tendency is to develop pride, self-righteousness, and bigotry; its sole tendency is to Pharisaism.SITI June 23, 1887, page 375.3

    “He is prepared to teach cultured Christian households,” says the Union. That is to say that he is prepared to teach persons who are trained away from the people just as far as he is himself. But whoever cannot receive the kingdom of Heaven except as a graduate, will never receive the kingdom of Heaven at all. For, said Jesus: “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” And whoever is trained to such a pitch that he is disqualified to present the kingdom of God so that it may be received thus, is trained away from the gospel of Christ. And if it be true that the “scholastic training which is admirably adapted to prepared the teacher of an up-town church is equally adapted to unfit a preacher to a street or hall audience,” then the fact of the matter is that the “up-town church” is just as far estranged from the real gospel of Christ as is the street or hall audience.SITI June 23, 1887, page 375.4

    The Union thinks that Dwight L. Moody “would have been spoiled for his particular work” if he had received a college education. We very much doubt it. We have an idea that Dwight L. Moody has common sense enough to have kept him from becoming so puffed up by the little knowledge that is imparted in a theological course, as to unfit him for helping common people to a knowledge of the gospel of Christ. Yet if the inevitable result of a college education be to unfit men for such work, then of course even Mr. Moody would have been unfitted by it. We venture the assertion, however, that nobody ever heard Dwight L. Moody say that a college education would have spoiled him for his particular work.SITI June 23, 1887, page 375.5

    Is it then in truth better not to have a college education? Is it true that an uneducated man is better fitted for the work of the gospel? Not by any means. It is not one of the offices of the Spirit of God either to sanction or to sanctify ignorance. Nor does a lack of education commend a man even to uneducated people. There is nothing more interesting nor more attractive to uneducated people than to listen to an educated person speaking in a language that they can understand, and—not condescendingly nor patronizingly but, as it were—unconsciously adapting himself to their capacity. While on the other hand there is nothing that will repel the common people more quickly than to find a man talking to them in language entirely beyond the comprehension of anybody but a lexicographer, and with a manner that seems to be constantly saying, “I am a graduate in theology. I have been trained to teach cultured Christian households in ‘up-town churches,’ and it is a great condescension on my part to preach to ‘a street or a hall audience.’” This last is precisely what makes so objectionable the college education of which the Christian Union speaks. The fault lies not at all against a college education, but against such a system of education.SITI June 23, 1887, page 375.6

    There never was a more highly educated person on this earth than was Jesus of Nazareth, yet “the common people heard him gladly.” True, his teach- ing was not adapted to “cultured” Jewish households in “up-town” synagogues, but this was not the fault of either the matter or manner of his teaching. The fault lay in the proud hearts of the cultured up-town class. And everybody knows that if he had drunk in the spirit of the theological schools of his day, he too “would have been spoiled for his particular work,” and he never would have been the Saviour of the world. The education of those schools was precisely such as the Christian Union says it is in these. It unfitted for evangelistic work every man that was taught there. Their students all “trained away from the people.” There was a way, however, by which they could be brought back to the people, and taught “not only to use the language but to think in the thought of the people.” That way was by conversion.SITI June 23, 1887, page 375.7

    There is on record a notable instance of this, written, no doubt, as an example to be followed by these very theological schools that are now so admirably successful in unfitting men to preach the gospel. Saul of Tarsus was educated in the chief theological school, and by the chief theologian of his day. In that school he was trained so far away from the people whom the evangelists reached, that he thought he was doing God service by breathing out threatenings and slaughter against them and persecuting them unto strange cities. But he was converted after a while; then he became all things to all men, that he “might by all means save some.” Though he was free from all, yet he made himself a servant to all that he might gain the most. He could preach in the street, or in a hall, just as well as in an “up-town” synagogue. He could preach to “pagan populations” just as easily as to “cultured” Jewish households. But whether he preached in the one place or in the other, he preached “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” He preached “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” And although he was learned in all the wisdom of the schools, his speech and his preaching was not to make a display of his eloquence, it was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. He spake too in the language of the people, that he might be understood. To the church at Corinth he said: “Except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.” “I speak with tongues more than ye all; yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.”SITI June 23, 1887, page 376.1

    If the instructors in these theological schools should become converted to Christ, and should lead to Jesus those committed to their charge, and have them learn of Christ, the young men would not then be trained away from the people; they would not then be unfitted for the work of an evangelist; then an education instead of spoiling them for the work of Christ, would only the better fit them to obey the Scripture injunction, to “do the work of an evangelist,” and “make full proof of their ministry,” as it did for Paul, and Luther, and Wesley, and Finley, and Asbury, and Finney, and Simpson; as, in short, it ever has done for those who have made Christ and his salvation supreme, and have subordinated to his will themselves and their education. J.SITI June 23, 1887, page 376.2