The Scripture Doctrine of a Call to the Work of the Gospel Ministry, by William Swan Plumer

In 1831, at the age of 28, William Swan Plumer was the pastor of Tabb Street Presbyterian Church in Petersburg, Virginia. As a member of his Presbytery he was engaged in working with those preparing for the gospel ministry. He would frequently receive requests for information on what the Bible teaches about a call to the ministry, but he could find no essay that met the need. So eventually he wrote one himself, and delivered it to the students of Union Theological Seminary in April 1831. His text was the same that Thomas Boston had used in his book The Art of Man Fishing (Matthew 4:18-22), though interestingly Plumer did not know of Boston’s book when he wrote his essay, “The Scripture Doctrine of a Call to the Work of the Gospel Ministry.”

In his Preface, Plumer helpfully lays out the spirit in which such an important topic ought to be studied. First, we must approach it seriously, solemnly, and reverentially. We ought not to trifle with the thought of being an ambassador of Christ, an official servant of the Lord. Second, we must patiently wait upon the Lord in caution and deliberation. Purposes hastily formed are often foolishly or hastily abandoned, thus God calls on us to move slowly. Third, humility is indispensable. Plumer reminds the reader that he must never be ignorant of “Pope Self,” for one who denies either his faults and deficiencies, or his attainments and abilities, will not make a wise judgment. Finally, those seeking the Lord’s guidance in this question must be docile - that is, teachable. We are to shun mere human wisdom, seek the Lord heartily, desire to know our duty, and a willingness to act upon what we learn.

Available here, Plumer’s essay is only 34 brief pages, so take time to read it today and recommend it to those preparing for the ministry.