The Spirit in Which One Should Consider Whether One Is Called to Gospel Ministry

William Plumer, in his sermon, “The Scripture Doctrine of a Call to the Ministry,” reminds us that if we study “any subject involving moral truth, religious duty, and solemn responsibility” in an improper spirit, then that question “most probably will be determined sinfully.” Since the question of whether God is calling us to the ministry in His church is such a weighty one (for us and for the church!), what is the spirit with which we ought to approach the question? Dr. Plumer lists four characteristics that mark the pious inquirer:

1. We must approach it seriously, solemnly, reverentially. “He who jests, he who trifles, he who feels no solemn awe, when considering this matter, may well doubt not only his fitness for the ministry, but the reality of his piety.” The ministry is so serious a vocation, that we must not dare approach the question of whether we are called with anything less than the utmost reverence. If Moses had to take off his shoes, how much more do we need to tread lightly and carefully on this holy ground?

2. We must approach it in a spirit of “patient waiting on God, producing caution and deliberation.” The Bible speaks of people waiting on God whenever there is doubt, darkness, or difficulties, and certainly the question of whether we are called is often shrouded in these. Thus we must beware a spirit of haste. Plumer notes, “A man who acts without due deliberation is also guilty for so doing, even though his decision be materially right, and carried into effect.” How much more guilty, when our decision be wrong? We’ve all seen examples of how decisions that are hastily made are either foolish, or hastily abandoned. “He who hurries his footsteps, sins” (Prov. 19:2). So move slowly.

3. We must approach it with humility, producing candour. That is, we must have a just estimation of our abilities and lack thereof. “He who has real piety and much knowledge of himself must have genuine and deep humility, when he contemplates such an undertaking as that of a herald of the cross.” Wee must recognize our strengths as well as our weaknesses: “Neither will a disposition to deny one’s gifts and graces be any less dangerous than an extravagant self-conceit.” We should “think so as to have sound judgment” (Rom. 12:3).

4. We must approach it with docility – “a deep sense of the folly of mere human wisdom; a spirit of hearty prayer to God for the teaching of the Holy Ghost; a strong desire to know the truth, and an entire willingness to act upon the truth when known.” Study the examples of Samuel and Saul of Tarsus to learn more in this regard.

Plumer’s closing plea is still apropos: “Dear youthful Reader! if you have not the spirit just described, read no further, until you look to God through Christ for the influence of the Holy Ghost, to make you solemn, reverential, humble, candid, deliberate, docile, wise, and holy, in your aims and purposes.”

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