Blog Entry

13 Spurgeon Quotes on Calling

By Drew Tillman Feb 14, 2019

“Am I called?” This question has lingered in the mind of every man called by God to pastoral ministry. For Charles Haddon Spurgeon, taking up the call to ministry required wisdom, discernment, and a sincere seriousness. This was a solemn and weighty thing. Indeed, he once said, “it would have been a fearful thing for me to have occupied the watchman's place without having received the watchman's commission.”

 

For Spurgeon, a call from God was essential if one wanted to enter pastoral ministry. In fact, he advised, “Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called,” unless there was a “special call from God to devote himself to the ministry.” However, Spurgeon did not believe that such calls were secretive. Rather, “there would have been some evidence and some sign of it.”

 

Furthermore, Spurgeon believed that only the best of men should enter the ministry – men that possessed “True and genuine piety.” A simple test for Spurgeon was to examine the character of the one claiming the call. With respect to personal holiness he dogmatically asserted, “whatever ‘call’ a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry.” For as Spurgeon knew, “Men do not read the Bible, but they read us,- do let us give them a good version of the Scripture in our lives.”

 

Furthermore, those who wanted to proclaim the gospel had to understand the gospel themselves. Spurgeon lamented that “there are young men, who are striving to enter into the ministry before they scarcely know the alphabet of the gospel.” But he believed that before they “set themselves up as preachers of God’s Word,” they ought to go to “infant class” and learn the ABCs of the gospel. Such a man called by God would be humble, and constantly amazed at the grace he has received. Spurgeon summarized it nicely by saying, “He is never satisfied with himself, for he forms a right estimate of himself, and he weeps to think that he is so poor an instrument for so good a Master.”

 

But above all, if a man were to be stamped with Spurgeon’s seal of approval he had to preach Christ. Such a ministry would be difficult and would provoke, rather than avoid, suffering. But Spurgeon knew that bearing the reproach of men meant “more honour…to God.” Thus, he knew that key to faithful perseverance was this: “Keep to the cross; keep to the cross!” In honour of Spurgeon’s legacy, here are thirteen quotes on calling from the “Prince of Preachers.”

 

1. “[It] would have been a fearful thing for me to have occupied the watchman's place without having received the watchman's commission.”

 

“And suppose if, after having preached for sometime, I hear of none who have been brought to Christ, there is no rustling among the mulberry trees, I think the best thing I can do is, to let somebody else try; for suppose I have not been called to the ministry, it would have been a fearful thing for me to have occupied the watchman's place without having received the watchman's commission. He that should take upon himself to be a policeman, and go and do the work of arresting others, without having received a commission, must be in danger of being taken up himself, for being a deceiver.”

 

2. “If you had been called to preach, there would have been some evidence and some sign of it.”

 

“I do not ask whether you are much instructed or learned, or all that; I do not need to ask you; for I do not care about it myself. But I ask you these questions. Have you tried to address a Sabbath-school? have you gained the attention of the children. Having tried to address a few people, when they have been gathered together, have you found they would listen to you after you have preached? Had you any evidence and any sign that would lead you to believe that souls were blessed under you? Did any of the saints of God who were spiritually- minded, tell you that their souls were fed by your sermon? Did you hear of any sinner convinced of sin? Have you any reason to believe that you have had a soul converted under you? If not, if you will take one's advice for what it is good for- and I believe it is advice which God's Holy Spirit would have me give you-you had better give it up. You will make a very respectable Sunday-School teacher, you will do very well in a great many other ways; but unless these things have been known by you, unless you have these evidences, you may say you have been called, and all that; I don't believe it. If you had been called to preach, there would have been some evidence and some sign of it.”

 

3. “Men do not read the Bible, but they read us,- do let us give them a good version of the Scripture in our lives.”

 

“Let each one among you be upon his guard lest in some evil hour he should bring dishonour upon the cause he loves, upon the Christ by whom he lives. Men do not read the Bible, but they read us,- do let us give them a good version of the Scripture in our lives. They will not study our doctrinal opinions, but they will examine our practical examples; and if we are not what we ought to be we wound the Saviour afresh, stab at the heart of his gospel, and impede the progress of his kingdom.”

 

4. “What shall I say to young men who are about to enter the ministry that shall be more useful to them than this? Keep to the cross; keep to the cross!”

 

“Any man who is called to the ministry may, if he will take an example from yonder dome of St. Paul's Cathedral. There you see the cross above the globe. You must put from henceforth the cross above the world in all your calculations. To preach Jesus and to win souls, and not to gain money or human applause, must be the way in which you prove that you glory in the cross. But the principal way is by constantly preaching about it. What shall I say to young men who are about to enter the ministry that shall be more useful to them than this? Keep to the cross; keep to the cross! Always preach up Jesus Christ! Always preach up Jesus Christ!”

 

5. “Cast as much reproach as you like on me, ye worldlings; the more honour shall there be to God, who worketh as he pleaseth, and with what instrument he chooseth, irrespective of man.”

 

“Therefore give all the glory to his Holy name. Cast as much reproach as you like on me, ye worldlings; the more honour shall there be to God, who worketh as he pleaseth, and with what instrument he chooseth, irrespective of man. Again, dearly-beloved, whatever is your work, whatever God has ordained you to do in this world, you are equally certain to have the assistance of the Holy Spirit in it.”

 

6. “Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called, unless there be to him some special call from God to devote himself to the ministry.”

 

 “Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called, unless there be to him some special call from God to devote himself to the ministry. Go on with your employment, dear Christian people, and do not imagine that you are to turn hermits, or monks, or nuns. You would not glorify God if you did so act. Soldiers of Christ are to fight the battle out where they are.”

 

7. “True and genuine piety is necessary as the first indispensible requisite; whatever 'call' a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry.”

 

“No amount of fees paid to learned doctors, and no amount of classics received in return, appear to us to be evidence of a call from above. True and genuine piety is necessary as the first indispensible requisite; whatever 'call' a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry. "First be trimmed thyself, and then adorn thy brother," says the rabbins. "The hand," saith Gregory, ‘that means to make another clean, must not itself be dirty.’”

 

8. “If a man be truly called of God to the ministry, I will defy him to withhold himself from it. A man who has really within him the inspiration of the holy ghost calling him to preach cannot help it. He must preach.”

 

“Now comes the third question, with which we are to finish. What is that Necessity which is laid upon us to preach the Gospel? 1. First, a very great part of that necessity springs from the call itself. If a man be truly called of God to the ministry, I will defy him to withhold himself from it. A man who has really within him the inspiration of the holy ghost calling him to preach cannot help it. He must preach. As fire within the bones, so will that influence be until it blazes forth. Friends may check him, foes criticise him, despisers sneer at him, the man is indomitable; he must preach if he has the call of heaven. All earth might forsake him; but he would preach to the barren mountain-tops. If he has the call of heaven, if he has no congregation, he would preach to the rippling waterfalls, and let the brooks hear his voice. He could not be silent.”

 

9. “A trembling lip and a coward countenance in a minister show him to be unworthy of the office which he pretends to sustain.”

 

“May every minister of Christ-and I trust the rightness of the thing will be more and more recognized- take courage to speak for his Master; speak out, never with bated breath, but in the name of him that sent him, in the name of God, with a courage that befits his commission. A trembling lip and a coward countenance in a minister show him to be unworthy of the office which he pretends to sustain. We must set our faces like a flint and bear testimony to the truth- to the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as far as God shall teach it to us.”

 

10. “The useful worker for Christ is a man of tenderness.”

 

“The useful worker for Christ is a man of tenderness, not a Stoic; not one who does not care whether souls are saved or not; not one so wrapped up in the thought of divine sovereignty as to be absolutely petrified; but one who feels as if he died in the death of sinners and perished in their ruin, as though he could only be made happy in their happiness, or find a paradise in their being caught up to heaven.”

 

11. “You must be fitted to lead, prepared to endure, and able to persevere.”

 

“Sound judgment and solid experience must instruct you; gentle manners and loving affections must sway you; firmness and courage must be manifest; and tenderness and sympathy must not be lacking. Gifts administrative in ruling well will be as requisite as gifts instructive in teaching well. You must be fitted to lead, prepared to endure, and able to persevere. In grace, you should be head and shoulders above the rest of the people, able to be their father and counsellor. Read carefully the qualifications of a bishop, given in 1 Tim. iii. 2-7, and in Titus i. 6-9. If such gifts and graces be not in you and abound, it may be possible for you to succeed as an evangelist, but as a pastor you will be of no account.”

 

12. “The ministry needs the very best of men, and not those who cannot do anything else.”

 

“This is a sort of model story:-‘Sir, I was put into a lawyer's office, but I never could bear the confinement, and I could not feel at home in studying law; Providence clearly stopped up my road, for I lost my situation." "And what did you do then?’ ‘Why sir, I was induced to open a grocer's shop.’ ‘And did you prosper?’ ‘Well, I do not think, Sir, I was ever meant for trade, and the Lord seemed quite to shut my way up there, for I failed and was in great difficulties. Since then I have done a little in life assurance agency, and tried to get up a school, besides selling tea; but my path is hedged up, and something within me makes me feel that I ought to be a minister.’ My answer generally is, ‘Yes, I see; you have failed in everything else, and therefore you think the Lord has especially endowed you for his service; but I fear you have forgotten that the ministry needs the very best of men, and not those who cannot do anything else.’”

 

13. “Brethren, I beseech you, crave Moses's place, but tremble as you take it.”

 

“I would not shun my Master's service, but I tremble in his presence. Who can be faultless when even Moses erred? It is a dreadful thing to be beloved of God. "Who among us shall dwell with devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously and speaketh uprightly"-he alone can face that sin-consuming flame of love. Brethren, I beseech you crave Moses's place, but tremble as you take it. Fear and tremble for all the good that God shall make to pass before you. When you are fullest of the fruits of the Spirit bow lowest before the throne, and serve the Lord with fear.”


Drew Tillman is pursuing his Master of Divinity at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also is a Spurgeon Scholar at the Spurgeon Library.