And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me.
JOHN ANGELL JAMES (1785-1869): It must never be forgotten that ministers are called, qualified, and blessed by the Lord, the Spirit.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): God’s fitting men for work is a sure and constant evidence of His calling them to it.
JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Another inference is, that no man will be fit or qualified for so distinguished an office who has not been formed and moulded by the hand of Christ Himself.
A. W. TOZER (1897-1963): I cannot recall, in any of my reading, a single instance of a prophet who applied for the job.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I have made thee a watchman, Ezekiel 3:17. Here we read a true account of the making of a minister. God alone can do it. Two things are absolutely requisite to make a man a preacher: (1) Special gifts—such as perception of truth, simplicity, aptness to impart instruction, some degree of eloquence, and intense earnestness. (2) Special call. Every man who is rightly in the ministry must have been moved thereto of the Holy Ghost. He must feel an irresistible desire to spend his whole life in his Master’s cause. No college, no bishop, no human ordination, can make a man a minister.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Is it not a simple fact to say that the real damage in the life of the church in the last two centuries has been done mainly by theological seminaries? Is not that where the trouble has arisen? It has not arisen in the churches. It has arisen in the theological seminaries. Men who have felt called to the ministry and been recommended by the churches for ministerial training have gone into the seminaries as evangelicals and true evangelists, and they have come out denying everything, sometimes even departing from the faith altogether. If that has not happened, they have come out dead, trying to be scholars and having lost the edge of their zeal and their enthusiasm.
JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Though I am no enemy to the acquisition of useful knowledge, I have seen many instances of young men who have been much hurt by what they expected to reap advantage from. They have gone to the academy humble, peaceable, spiritual, and lively; but have come out self-wise, dogmatical, censorious, and full of a prudence founded upon the false maxims of the world…I do not mention this as the necessary fault of the institution, but as the frequent effect of notions too hastily picked up, when not sanctified by grace, nor balanced by a proportional depth of spiritual experience.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: There are those who say, and I tend to agree with them, that it would be good for all men who enter the ministry to have some preliminary experience of living life in the world, in a business or profession. They query the wisdom of a system whereby a young man goes from school and college directly to a seminary and then into the ministry without having any experience outside that. There is the danger, putting it at its lowest, of an over-theoretical and intellectual approach; so that the man in the pulpit is really divorced from the life of the people who are sitting in the pews and listening to him. So general knowledge and experience are of inestimable value.
J. W. ALEXANDER (1804-1859): Great is the difference, though little apprehended, between a theological dissertation and a sermon on the same subject.
A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Many who can preach Gospel, Doctrinal and Prophetic sermons appear to be quite incapable of entering into the experiences of the perplexed and distressed and giving them “a word in season.” Unless pastors are Divinely qualified to be doctors of souls they are “physicians of no value,” as Job had to say unto those who failed to diagnose his case and minister to him in his trouble. Such ‘qualifications’ cannot be acquired in any Seminary or Bible School.
GEORGE OFFOR (1787-1864): Many of our most valuable ministers have, like John Bunyan, relied entirely upon their prayerful investigation of the Scriptures. His college was a dungeon, his library the Bible; and he came forth with gigantic powers to grapple with the prince of darkness. No human learning could have so fitted him for this terrible and mysterious warfare…His was an education which all the academies and universities in the world could not have communicated. He was deeply learned in that “wisdom that is from above,” James 3:17, and can be acquired only in the school of Christ.
JOHN OWEN (1616-1683): I would gladly give up all my learning if I could preach like that tinker.
WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): Some of the most pious, eminent, and useful ministers the churches ever possessed have been educated for the purpose; and we ought to be thankful for such institutions; and on these, for our spiritual supplies, we must principally depend. But we must not limit the Holy One of Israel. He will sometimes take a man out of our rules, and give him acceptance and success. And we must receive a Bunyan as well as an Owen. When will persons allow God to work in His own way, and learn that, because one thing is right, another need not be wrong?
JOHN NEWTON: The dreary coast of Africa was the university to which the Lord was pleased to send me.
WILLIAM JAY: I was little more than sixteen when I began [preaching]; and from this period I was called to preach with no little frequency; and before I was of age, I had preached, I believe, near a thousand sermons…Sir Richard Hill and John Thornton the philanthropist decided against [me going to University], saying, “God has opened the young man’s mouth, and for years to come we dare not shut it, while there are so many immediate and pressing calls for exertion.”
A. W. PINK: I had to make my own choice regarding entering or not some Theological Seminary. Against the advice and counsels of all my friends I determined to give them a wide berth, and I have never regretted that decision.
C. H. SPURGEON: (letter to his father at age 19) The only thing that which pleases me is, as you will guess, that I am right about College. I told the deacons that I was not a College man, and they said, “That is to us a special recommendation, for you would not have much savour or unction if you came from College.”
SAMUEL CHADWICK (1860-1932): A ministry that is college trained but not Spirit filled works no miracles.
G. CAMPBELL MORGAN (1863-1945): The only way in which a man can possibly enter the ministry is when the Holy Spirit of God bestows upon a him a gift from the Head of the Church. By that gift he is made a minister of Jesus Christ. It means this: He will never call a man to preach who has no natural ability for preaching. I am afraid we often do―He never does.
AMY CARMICHAEL (1867-1951): God create them; they are not the product of theological colleges.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: There is only one thing to say about this; it cannot be taught. That is impossible. Preachers are born, not made. This is an absolute. You will never teach a man to be a preacher if he is not already one. All your books such as The ABC of Preaching, or Preaching Made Easy should be thrown in to the fire as soon as possible.
JOHN BERRIDGE (1716-1793): Are we commanded to make labourers, or to pray the Lord to send labourers?
JOHN NEWTON: None but He who made the world can make a minister…We are therefore directed to pray, that “the Lord of the harvest would send,” or rather, according to the force of the Greek word, “thrust forth labourers into his harvest.”