Christopher Chelpka

Review: Scripture Doctrine of a Call to the Work of the Gospel Ministry

William Plumer (1802–1880) was a southern Presbyterian minister and professor. He held various positions within the church to help men prepare for the gospel ministry. And in conjunction with one of those roles, he wrote this essay on how one might determine whether he is called to the work.

Plumer explains that there is some difficulty in determining this, and that one’s conviction of God’s call may strengthen or weaken, even after becoming a minister. Nevertheless, there are points we can draw from both Scripture and common sense than can help with discernment.

He sets the tone in the preface when he encourages his readers to not even read the essay unless they are willing to consider the question of their calling with a humble, reverent, and deliberative spirit.

After this, he distinguishes between the general and special call of the believer to Christian ministry. And then writes breifly on each of the various and necessary evidences for a call. These include:

  • earnest desire,
  • sense of personal weakness but also confidence in God’s grace,
  • a high view of the office, the consent of the church and the authorities in the church,
  • a wise discernment of various providences,
  • the essential qualifications for the office: “piety, prudence, knowledge, and the power of communicating knowledge in an appropriate manner,”
  • and conviction of duty.

In the last few pages, Plumer concludes with a list of reasons why some men resist a call and why some men pursue a call without warrant. This list can help those considering the call to calibrate their consciences. It can also help sessions and presbyteries shepherd the men under their care.

Read: Plumer, William S. Scripture Doctrine of a Call to the Work of the Gospel Ministry. Philadelphia: Russell and Martien, 1832.