A History of The Missionary Training Institute (1933)


III. The Progress of the Missionary Training Institute


From 1890 to 1897 the “Training College” was conducted in a suitable building erected in connection with the Gospel Tabernacle at 690 Eighth Avenue, New York City. Here the work made splendid progress as will be seen from the following editorial which appeared in The Christian and Missionary Alliance, April 30, 1897:


“The Fifteenth Anniversary of The Missionary Institute of New York and the Commencement Exercises which mark the close of the current session will be held on Thursday evening, April 29th, in the Gospel Tabernacle, New York. Rev. F. W. Farr, the Dean of the Institute, will preside, and addresses will be given by … The class-roll of the fourteenth session just closing numbers one hundred and thirty-five ladies and eighty-six gentlemen, a total of two hundred and twenty-one students. It has been a session of profound interest and most satisfactory work of a large faculty of more than a dozen regular teachers, lecturers given by a number of honored and gifted brethren in the ministry, and the range of teaching has been both wide and lofty. An unusual proportion of students have devoted their lives to the work of foreign missions, and we have reason to hope that at least a hundred heralds of Christ will be the outcome of the session.”


We note here that in 1890 the school was known as The Training College; in 1894 the name was changed to “The New York Training Institute”; in 1897 it is designated “The Missionary Institute” in Dr. Simpson’s editorial, though on the front page of the same number of the Christian and Missionary Alliance the name “Missionary Training Institute” is used. By the last name it is now known, Training is emphasized as we shall see later.

4. “NYACK”

The transfer of The Missionary Training Institute to Nyack, N. Y., was a venture of faith in the life of the founder, as well as a new epoch in the history of the school. April, 1897, under the subject—“Nyack Heights—the new suburban settlement of The Christian and Missionary Alliance at South Nyack, N. Y.,” Dr. Simpson wrote:

“For many years the Alliance workers have felt the need of a spiritual center for our work near enough to the city to afford a resting place for our city people who cannot afford to go to the most distant resorts at Old Orchard, Ocean Grove, etc., and so situated by location and accessibility to means of transportation that it could be reached without inconvenience or great expense, and that it could afford all the facilities necessary both for a summer camp-meeting and also for a place of summer residence . . .

“Then it has been found desirable to secure a more economical and retired location for our Missionary Institute, Berachah Home and other institutions connected with the work… The easy accessibility and delightful situation of this place will also make it a very desirable place of residence for many of our workers and people who are looking for cheaper homes and room to live in, which is scarcely allowed in our crowded metropolis… Nyack… was brought to our notice in an unexpected and providential manner, and all through the various transactions which have followed, we have distinctly traced the direct leading of the hand of Providence. The Christian Alliance Settlement is situated on the west bank of the Hudson, immediately joining the South Nyack depot on the Northern Railroad of New Jersey.”

The article continues to tell of the beautiful location, the historic surrounding, including “the broad expanse of the Tappan Zee, Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow and Irvington.”

The above excepts from this very lengthy article bespeak a conviction that The Missionary Training Institute had finally found a permanent home away from the busy and expensive metropolis. Especially is it evident that Dr. Simpson wrote with an enthusiasm born out of an assurance that the Lord was leading in the change from New York City to Nyack.

His burning zeal in this enterprise is seen in an editorial of April, 23, 1897. He wrote: “Of course, the most intensely interesting of all the features of the Convention was the excursion to Nyack Heights on Saturday afternoon and the laying of the cornerstone of the new Missionary Institute there. It was a real typical day and could not have been better planned for the illustration and instruction of faith in God and the true spirit in which our work must ever be carried on. Arrangements had been most carefully and prayerfully made for two large excursion trains to convey our friends and visitors to Nyack in the early afternoon and 800 persons had accepted tickets for the occasion. There had, or course, been much prayer for the weather … but when the morning dawned, lo, the heavens were black with clouds, the earth was drenched with pouring rain, and the faces of all but the believing ones were filled with dismay. The little prayer-meeting gathered in the Tabernacle from 9 to 10 o’clock and believing prayer was offered up to God while the heavens were still streaming with the heaviest showers and the roads and hillsides of Nyack were apparently utterly ruined for such an occasion. Before the prayer-meeting was over, about a quarter to ten, the sky cleared and the clouds rolled away, the sun shone out in all its glory and a stiff, drying wind blew briskly over the land, and by three o’clock, when the services began at Nyack, one would scarcely have suspected that there had been a shower. Truly we felt it was like David’s beautiful metaphor of God’s dealing with him, when he described it as the ‘clear shining after rain.’ This truly has been the story of all our work—clouds of threatening danger, shadows of deep trial, but God above all and turning all into blessing, victory and praise. So we believe He is to lead us to our blessed work as we step out into this new chapter. May we always trust him through cloud and sunshine.” So we observe that the founder saw the touch of the miraculous upon the change of the location of the school.


Continuing in the same editorial Dr. Simpson has left record as to show how the school was financed. “The offering made on Sabbath morning, April 18th, for the new Institute building at Nyack reached the sum of nearly $17,000. For this we thank God, etc.” Then after showing that more was needed he continued: “We have already received 300 pledges. We trust the number will reach a thousand before the building is finished.” Thus we note that the Missionary Training Institute was funded by numerous givers rather than by a few donors. And such has continued to be the case. This is doubtless due to the fact that this school is the handmaiden of a movement whose constituency is primarily interested in pioneer missionary work in the “regions beyond.” Bequests and annuities usually find their way into the general missionary treasury of The Christian and Missionary Alliance rather than become endowments for schools.

a. Nyack Opening

The opening exercises of The Missionary Training Institute were held in the new building at Nyack, October 24, 1897. From this location, graduates, for thirty-five years, have carried the message of the fullness of Christ for body, soul and spirit to needy corners of the world.

b. Enrollment

The attendance continued to be about 200 during the score of years from 1897-1917. Then it increased from year to year until in 1920 more than 400 were in attendance. The marked growth numerically followed immediately in the wake of the World War. The year 1917 showed a roll of 202; 1918 the enrollment was 262. Then the number quickly mounted up to 385 in 1919. Many young men released from military service had devoted their lives to the army of the Lord. The attendance continued to be about 400 for several years. A Summer School was launched in 1922 with an enrollment of 70. This summer term has become a feature of our training program. By it teachers are enabled to do special Bible work during vacation months and regular students may thereby hasten the time of graduation.

c. Extension Work

During the school year 1926-27 Nyack Extension Courses were given with the approval of the Institute authorities at the Gospel Tabernacle of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, Philadelphia, Pa., Rev. G. G. Williams, Pastor, by John H. Cable of the Faculty of the school. An earnest group, numbering from 50 to 90 attended these lectures, some doing assigned work and thereby earning credits. Dr. George Shaw carried on this work during the school year 1927-28.

This extension program was revived in Philadelphia during February of this Jubilee year under the auspices of “The Interstate Chapter of the Alumni Association of The Missionary Training Institute and Associated Churches.” Five members of our Faculty—John H. Cable, E. R. Dunbar, Herbert Dyke, E. R. Carner and George Shaw—give four nights each to this large and enthusiastic class. Spiritual results are evident and scholastic progress on the part of the students is satisfactory.

d. District Schools

As the work of The Christian and Missionary Alliance spread to various sections of the United States and Canada, “Dr. Simpson’s educational ideals were expressed not only in the Nyack work, but also in the regional (or district) schools, which were modeled after the original pattern.” These schools now naturally attract students that might otherwise find their way to Nyack, and in themselves comprise centers of full Gospel teaching.

IV. The Features of The Missionary Training Institute


The Nyack school motto is “The Whole Bible to the Whole World.” Herein do we have at once the obligation assumed by the school; that is, teaching the Bible to the students that attend; herein do we have the objective of the school; that is, having a missionary atmosphere and finally seeing a good percentage of the graduates preaching the Gospel where it is most needed.


What Nyack stands for has been stated as follows in many of the school catalogs:

  • An unmutilated Bible.
  • Salvation through the Blood of Christ.
  • Entire separation from the world.
  • The Baptism of the Holy Spirit for life and witnessing.
  • Victory through the indwelling Christ.
  • Rugged consecration to sacrificial service.
  • Practical faith for the sufficiency of Christ for spiritual, temporal and physical needs.
  • Increasing, purifying hope of the Lord’s return.
  • Burning missionary zeal to evangelize the world and bring back the King.
  • This implies definiteness in doctrinal statement.


The founder pleaded for the special type of training to be offered by The Missionary Training Institute for the following reasons:

  1. “The need of Holy Ghost missionaries. Our aim is to prepare a class of men who will represent, not so much brilliant intellectual qualities as deep spiritual experience and Holy Ghost powers.”
  2. “The need of distinct Bible Training.”
  3. “The need of practical training in definite lines of Christian work…Much of our proposed training is real work, actual soul winning and wise effective methods of reaching men.”
  4. “The need of irregulars in the work of the gospel.”
  5. “The need of a whole gospel. This Institute represents not merely the gospel of salvation, but the fullness of Christ; and while it does not limit its work and bind its graduates to any special set of doctrines, yet it teaches them all the fullness of Christ and aims to qualify them to give the whole gospel to the whole world.”
  6. “Simplicity and economy.”
  7. “Actual results and world-wide fields.”


This plea was made in 1897 when the school was being transferred to Nyack. The results especially stressed were 240 missionaries then on the field under the Alliance Board and distributed as follows: “There on the Congo the Institute is represented by two score. There is another score in the Soudan and more than a hundred in China. Four of them are beyond the borders of Thibet. Four of them are in the Holy Land. Three score are scattered over India, and a dozen of them have taken Southern China for Christ,” etc.


Such aims, such a plea, call for loyalty to the Bible, a genuine spirituality on the part of faculty and students, and a pronounced missionary tone and program.


At its inception the school offered a course of one year of study. The subjects offered were English, Christian Evidences, Bible Study and Interpretation, Church History, and Christian Life and Work. “In 1885, the standard course was lengthened to cover three years, and the syllabus included three departments. In the Literary Department were the following: English Language and Literature, Rhetoric and Public Speaking, Logic, Mental and Moral Philosophy, Natural Science, Ancient and Modern History, Geography, with special reference to Bible lands and mission fields. In the Theological Department were included: Christian Evidences, Bible Exposition, New Testament Greek, Systematic Theology, Church History, History and Biography of Christian Work, Pastoral Theology. The Practical Department comprised: Christian Experience, with special reference to the Enduement of Power, Exercises in Sermon Outlines and Bible Readings, Evangelistic Work and the Conducting of Religious Services, Personal Work for Souls, Foreign Missions, Sunday School work and Vocal music.”

This three year course gives us some appreciation of the comprehensive offerings and scholarship ideals of the Institute in its early history. The Course has been modified from time to time. At present a three year “Standard Course” is offered. Entrance requirements are “High School graduation or its equivalent.” Many College graduates have been numbered among the various student bodies.


Though no credit toward graduation is given for “Practical Work,” such as the giving of gospel messages, the conducting of meetings, wherever opportunity affords, the rendering of vocal and instrumental musical numbers, as solos, duets, quartets, etc., the holding of street meetings and the doing of house-to-house visitation, yet this phase of the school activity receives a strong emphasis. No amount of theory can make for efficiency in soul-winning unless there is the application for what is leaned in the actual experience of the worker.

In 1897 Dr. F. W. Farr laid down some principles in an article entitled “The Training of the Worker.” We quote from it: “It is best to know and to do, but it is better to do without knowing that to know without doing.

“Knowledge is theory; doing is religion. Theology is speculative and theoretical. Religion is practical and experimental. Theory must precede practice. Increase of knowledge carries with it an increase of responsibility. Unless we use truth as it comes to us, it becomes a barrier instead of a blessing. In order that we may know and do, we must be taught and trained. Teaching is the securing to a person knowledge beyond himself. Training is the shaping and developing of the personal faculties and powers. Teaching imparts knowledge and fills the mind. Training imparts skill and shapes the habits.”

The best known expression of our emphasis upon “training” is an organization known now as “The Missionary League of Nations.” For 14 years this form of activity in our school life has been stressed. The story of its origin is interesting. A group of young men of different nationalities was gotten together from among the students and a program was given at the Central Nyack Congregational Church. At that time “The League of Nations” was being talked of everywhere. We appropriated the name and claimed a “Local League of Nations.” The name has been modified until now the word “missionary” is indicative of the general character of the program put on by this group. Stirring missionary appeals are made; suitable musical numbers are scattered through the program. Finally an evangelistic address is given, followed by an invitation. Decisions for Christ are made; young men and women are constrained to surrender their lives for missionary service. The activities of this group extend as far as five hundred miles from the school. Rev. W. H. Oliver, Superintendent of Men, when this League was originated, had charge of this organized form of training and his successors, Rev. K. D. Garrison, Rev. J. M. Seatter, Rev. M. B. Birrel and Rev. E. R. Dunbar, have ably carried it on. Sometimes several groups of a dozen or more each are out at the same time. This type of work is confined to week-ends and holidays and thus studies are interfered with but little. Such groups among the young ladies also render most acceptable service and receive very valuable training. Mrs. A. D. Pardington, Mrs. W. M. Turnbull, Miss Mary F. Parmenter, Miss Margaret Scheirich, Miss Marie Freligh and Mrs. E. M. Charlton have most efficiently directed this work among our women students.

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