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Charles Haddon Spurgeon has been described in various ways—preacher, pastor, evangelist, philanthropist, man of prayer—but the ascription educator is not a frequent one.

Yet Spurgeon began speaking publicly when teaching a Sunday school class. (He ended up ministering not only to the children, but also to adult teachers eager to hear his exposition of Scripture.) Later, he ran his own children’s school for a while. As the state school system emerged in the nineteenth century, Spurgeon urged his church members to be involved in the emerging school boards.

As an educator, he is best remembered, however, for founding a theological college that trained nearly 900 pastors during his lifetime, and that continues today.

How the School Began

That Spurgeon would found a pastors’ college is somewhat surprising, since he received no formal theological training. Spurgeon received his education through his parents, his grandfather’s library, occasional dame schools (neighborhood schools taught by a woman in her home), and a year at Maidstone Agricultural College. He entered pastoral ministry as a self-made man. Nevertheless, within two years of coming to New Park Street Chapel in London, Spurgeon drew to himself a number of men who were eager and gifted to preach, yet whose abilities and eloquence could be improved by basic education.

The work began when Thomas Medhurst, a rope maker in his early twenties who had come to Christ through hearing Spurgeon, began to preach in the open air. Some church members complained to Spurgeon about Medhurst’s evident lack of education and asked Spurgeon to stop him. “I had a talk with the earnest young brother,” Spurgeon later recalled, “and while he did not deny that his English was imperfect, and that ...

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