Primitive Methodist Theological Institute, Sunderland

Christian Messenger 1869/1

Transcription of article published in the Christian Messenger by W. Antliff

ABOUT a quarter of a century ago, a number of gentlemen—among whom was the late John Gordon Black, Esq.—held a meeting in the town of Sunderland, to take into consideration the propriety of adopting measures to secure for young men of piety and promising ability some little training preparatory to their entering the Primitive Methodist ministry. In consequence of what then occurred, Mr. Black laid the subject before the Conference held at Lynn in 1844. That Conference spent some time in the discussion of the matter, but finally came to a conclusion unfavourable to any immediate action in that direction. 

Subsequently the question was not allowed quietly to sleep, but from time to time our northern brethren, especially, kept it in agitation; and during the jubilee year, while kindred questions were under discussion, that of doing somewhat to aid our junior ministers was repeatedly mooted. Still no decided steps were taken till five years later; then several brethren in the Sunderland district held a meeting, at which it was decided that the Conference should be asked to authorise the Sunderland friends to secure suitable premises in that town, and to commence a training institution. After a full consideration of the matter at the Hull Conference, it was resolved that as a tentative measure provision should be made at the Jubilee School, at York, for the reception of twenty students for the ministry, and that the late Rev. John Petty should take them under his tuition. 

This step was found to harmonise with the views of the Connexion generally, and was so successful as to warrant still more energetic and decided measures being taken. Accordingly, at the Conference held at Luton, in 1867, authority was given to purchase premises at Sunderland at once, and a number of ministers and lay gentlemen were nominated as trustees. In a short time the old Infirmary was purchased for £1,500, and after being thoroughly repaired and suitably furnished, which involved an outlay of upwards of £1,500 more, the premises were ready for the accommodation of twenty students and the principal when the Conference met at Sunderland last June. 

The building stands at the west end of the town, in an open, airy, and tolerably healthy and pleasant situation. It is a substantial brick building, covered with slate. It is cellared underneath, and well lighted and ventilated. The rooms are lofty and convenient, and, on the whole, answer the purpose to which they are now appropriated as well as if they had been erected for the purpose. By subscriptions, jubilee money, and book-room ‘grants the premises have been opened free of debt; and the only expenses now to be provided for are those of board and allowances and wear and tear. If the friends of education and the rising ministry in different parts of the Connexion will kindly lend a helping hand towards meeting the current expenses, there will now be no difficulty, financially, in making the movement a success. 

The engraving gives a good front view of the Institute, and all who visit it express great satisfaction at its neat, clean, and satisfactory appearance, both within and without. There are now sixteen young men in the house, and some others are expected at once. It is a matter of great satisfaction to the principal to be able to state that they all are deeply pious, thoroughly earnest, and making good progress in both their religious experience and mental cultivation. They are learning English Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric, Theology, English and Ecclesiastical History, Geography, Elocution, Arithmetic, Connexional History, Rules and Usages of the Connexion, &c., and are being trained to family visiting and sermonizing, and various kinds of active and useful labour. 

And they are striving to promote the prosperity of the cause when they go to preach, and they have already reported between 50 and 100 souls converted under their labours. The great aim is to make them thoroughly pious, zealous, laborious, and useful Primitive Methodist preachers. Indeed, we think that while intellectual training is required by our young preachers, they more especially need a practical training; else, while they may become better informed on general subjects, they will be painfully deficient in spiritual power and adaptation for usefulness. 

So far as the trustees and the principal are concerned, they feel supremely anxious to send forth a class of men into the ministry who, while they will be a credit to us as preachers, will reflect peculiar credit on the Institute and on the Connexion by their holiness and by their success in the conversion of souls and the extension of the work of God generally. Learning we believe to be a suitable handmaid to piety and very helpful to a devoted and laborious minister, but all the learning in the world without deep sympathy for souls and a supreme concern for the glory of God will never meet the wants of the age and the needs of the church. Paul, Luke, Jerome, Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin, Zwingle, Wesley, Fletcher, and others, were men of learning, and were not worse but better for it; but if they had not had piety and zeal as well they would not have left behind them such memories as they did. 

We trust the prayers of our friends will often ascend to the throne of grace on behalf of the dear young men who are now in training for our ministry, that they may become worthy sons of worthy sires. Nor should he be forgotten on whom devolves the solemn and responsible task of guiding their studies, imparting to them the requisite instruction, and teaching them how they may become in the true sense able ministers of the new testament. O that those happy meetings he and the young men have already had together may prove prelusive of those grand and glorious seasons he hopes they will have when they go into the regular work; and that the fire of enlightened zeal which now glows among them may continue to burn more and more to the perfect day! And after many years of happy and successful service in the church militant, may teacher and students have a glorious meeting with multitudes (to whom they shall have been made abundantly useful) in the church triumphant! Amen.


Christian Messenger 1869/1

Comments about this page

  • You can see a later photograph of the Institute and explore what happened next here

    By Christopher Hill (19/04/2022)
  • There is a note in the 1898 Primitive Methodist magazine (page 475) telling us that the Institute, which had been used as a place of worship and minister’s residence, had been sold to the Roman Catholics for £5,000. £1,500 of this covered debts and the remaining £3,500 would be used to build two new chapels one further west in Chester Road and the other in Hylton Road, which would replace the chapel in Millfield.

    By Christopher Hill (22/09/2021)

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