Commenting on Mark 5:1-20
I cannot help remarking, in connection with our Lord’s words in this passage, that it is questionable whether people do not sometimes act unadvisedly in giving up a secular calling in order to enter the ministry of the Gospel. In plain words, I doubt whether men who have been suddenly convened to God in the army, the navy, the law or the merchant’s office do not sometimes desert their professions with undue haste in order to become clergymen.
It seems to be forgotten that conversion alone is no proof that we are called and qualified to become teachers of others. God may be glorified as really and truly in the secular calling as in the pulpit. Converted people can be eminently useful as landlords, magistrates, soldiers, sailors, barristers or merchants. We want witnesses for Christ in all these professions. Colonel Gardiner and Captain Vicars probably did more for the cause of Christ as military men than they would ever have done if they had left the army and become clergymen.
In steering our course through life, we should carefully look for the call of providence as well as the call of inclination. The position that we choose for ourselves is often that which is the worst for our souls. When two conflicting paths of duty lie before a believer, the path which has least of the cross and is most agreeable to his own taste is seldom the right one.
I write all this with a due recollection of many eminent Christians who began in a secular profesion, and left it for the office of the minister. John Newton and Edward Bickersteth are instances. But I sense that such cases are exceptions. I sense moreover that in every such case there would be found to have been a remarkable call of providence as well as an inward call of the Holy Spirit. As a general rule, I believe that the rule of St. Paul ought to be carefully observed: “Each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to” (1 Corinthians 7:24).
J. C. Ryle, Mark (The Crossway classic commentaries Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1993), 70-71