On an Extraordinary Calling


Order of Contents

Rutherford’s 11 Distinctions


In Ordinary Circumstances Gifts do Not Infer an Office



Rutherford’s 11 Distinctions

The Due Right of Presbyteries  (1644), pt. 1, Question 5, ‘From whence had Luther, Calvin & our blessed Refor­mers their calling to the pastoral charge?’, p. 203-8 & 29  irregular numbering

“1st Distinction.  That is, 1. Properly extraordinary which is im­mediately from God without any other intervening cause; so Moses, his calling, when God spake to him out of the bush to go to Pharaoh and command the letting go of his people was extraordinary, for both the matter of the calling and the per­sons designation to the charge was immediately from God.  Luther’s calling this way was not extraordinary, because he preached no new Gospel, nor [was it] by any immediate calling from God.

2.  That is extraordinary which is contrary to the Law of of nature.  Neither the calling of Luther nor of Huss and Wycliffe was extraordinary; for that any enlightened of God and members of the Catholic Church should teach, inform, or help their fellow-members being seduced and led by blind guides, is agreeable to the Law of nature…

3.  That is extraordinary which is beside a divine positive Law.  So that one should be chosen a pastor in an island where there be no elders nor pastors at all, and that the people only give a calling, is extraordinary, and so it is not inconvenient that something extraordinary was in our reformers.

4.  That is extraordinary which is against the ordinary corruptions, wicked and superstitious forms of an ordinary call­ing: so, in this sense, Luther and our reformers’ calling was extra­ordinary.

2nd Distinction.  A calling immediately from God and a calling from God some way extraordinary are far different.  An im­mediate calling often requires miracles to confirm it, especi­ally the matter being new; yet not always; John Baptist’s cal­ling was immediate, his sacrament of Baptism [was] beside the posi­tive order of God’s worship, yet he wrought no miracles; but an extraordinary calling may be where there is an immediate and ordinary revelation of God’s Will and requires not mi­racles at all.

3rd Distinction.  Though ordinarily in any horologe [time-keeping device] the higher wheel should move the lower, yet it is not against ordinary art that the horologe be so made as inferior wheels may move without the motion of the superior.  Though by ordinary dispensa­tion of God’s standing Law, the Church convened in a synod should have turned about Huss, Wycliffe, Luther, to regular mo­tions in orthodox divinity, yet it was not altogether extraordi­nary that these men moved the higher wheels and labo­red to reform them.  Cyprian urged Reformation, Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, Augustin and the African bishops did the like; the bishop of Rome [?r]epining thereat; It is somewhat extra­ordinary that reformation should begin at scholars and not at principal masters.

4th Distinction.  A calling may be expressly and formally corrupt in respect of the particular intention of the ordainers and of the particular Church, ex intentione ordinanris & operantis [out of the intention of the ordainers and of the one working]. Thus Luther’s calling to be a monk was a corrupt calling, and eatenus, and ‘in that respect’ he could not give a calling to o­thers.  But that some calling may be implicitly and virtually good and lawful in respect of the intention of the Catholic Church and ex intentione operis & ipsius ordinationis [out of the intention of the work and the ordination itself], he was called to preach the Word of God.

5th Distinction.  Luther’s oath to preach the Gospel did oblige him as a pastor, this is his calling according to the substance of his office, and is valid; but his oath to preach the Roman Faith, intended by the exacters of the oath, was eatenus, ‘insofar’ un­lawful, and did not oblige him.  Even a wife married to a Turk, and swearing to be a helper to her husband in pro­moving the worship of the Mahomet, or being a papist, is en­gaged in an oath to promote Romish Religion; if she bee converted to the true faith of Christ, needs not to be married de novo [anew], but remains a married wife, but is not obliged by that unjust oath to promove these false religions, though the marriage oath, according to the substance of marriage duties, ties her.

6th Distinction.  A pastor may, and ought, to have a pastoral care of the catholic Church, as the hand cares for the whole bo­dy, and yet neither Luther nor Zwingli are universal pastors as were the apostles.  For they had usurped no power of go­verning and teaching all Churches: though I profess I see no inconvenience to say that Luther was extraordinarily called by God to go to many Churches, to others than to Wittenberg where he had one particular charge; yea even through Ger­many and the Churches of Saxony, and Zwingli through the Helvetian and Western Churches, which yet does not make them essentially apostles, because:

1. They were not wit­nesses of Christ’s death and resurrection, which as a new doctrine to the world, as Apostles they [were] behoved to preach, Acts 1:22.  They only revealed the old truth borne down by an universal apostacy.

2.  Because they were not immediately called, nor gifted with diverse tongues.  And the like I may say of A­thanasius, for men in an extraordinary apostasy to go somewhat farther than to that which a particular Church calls them to, is not formally apostolic, yet lawful.

7.  A calling to the ministry is either such [1.] as wants the es­sentials, as gifts in any messenger and the Church’s consent, or these who occupy the room of the Church, the Church consenting: such a minister is to be reputed for no minister; or 2. an entry to a calling, or a calling where diverse of the apostles’ requisites are wanting, may be a valid cal­ling, as if one enter as Caiphas, who entered by favor and mo­ney and contrary to the Law, was High-Priest but for a year: yet was a true High-Priest and prophesied as the High-priest [Jn. 11:49-51].

8.  If the Church approve by silence, or countenance the mi­nistry of a man who opened the Church door to himself, by a silver key, having given the prelate a bud.  The ordinance of God is conferred upon him, and his calling ceases not to be God’s cal­ling because of the sins of the instruments both taking and giving.

9.  Though Luther was immediately called by men, anno 1508, by the Church of Wittenberg, as may be seen, tome 9, Wet­tenber., p. 104 in his writ­ings as [John] Gerard shows, and the Jesuit Becanus says, he was called and ordained a presbyter, and so had power to preach and administer the sacraments, yet that hinders not that his calling was yet from the Church whereof he was a member, that is from the Roman Church, and from God, and that [1.] his calling to cast down Babylon was not from the Church of Rome: and his gifts being extraordinary; 2. his spirit heroic and supernaturally courageous, and so extraordinary; 3. his faith in his doctrine great, that he should so be blessed with success in his ministry extraordinary, his calling in these considerations may well be called extraordinary, though not immediate or apostolic.

10.  Then we may well acknowledge a middle calling be­twixt an ordinary and every way immediate calling, and an ex­traordinary and immediate calling, for the calling of Luther was neither the one, nor the other, in proper sense, but a middle be­twixt two; and yet not an immediate calling.

11.  The question, if such a pastor be called lawfully, is a question of fact, not a question of law; [it is] as this [case]: if such an one be baptized and there be an invincible ignorance in a questi­on of fact which excuses.  And therefore we may hear a gifted pastor taken and supposed by the Church to have the Church’s calling, though indeed he received no calling from the Church at his entry.”





Martin Chemnitz

Examination of the Council of Trent (1565-73), 9th Topic, Concerning Holy Orders, from the 23rd Session, Section 4, ch. 4, in Chemnitz’s Works, vol. 2: Examination of the Council of Trent (1978; St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2007), in ed. Littlejohn & Roberts, Reformation Theology: a Reader of Primary Sources with Introductions  (Davenant Institute, 2017), p. 501

“22.  But they say:  ‘Those who have not been called, ordained, and sent by the usual ecclesiastical authority are thieves and robbers.’  That will make thieves and robbers of the apostles, evangelists, pastors, teachers, presbyters and deacons of the apostolic church, who were not ordained by the chief priests, who at that time had the regular ecclesiastical power.

That is the same question which the chief priests once attacked the ministry of the Baptist (John 1:19-25) and of Christ Himself, (Matt. 21:23): ‘Who gave You this authority?'”



Patrick Forbes

A Defense of the Lawful calling of the Ministers of Reformed Churches Against the Cavillations of Romanists…  (Middleburg, 1614), pp. 3-4

“…for all argument they come at last to this,’By what authority doest thou these things; and who gave thee this authority?’ where the Lord answering for Himself, then, and for us now in the like case, most plainly and at length shows that, howsoever in the ordinary course of a constitute Church, a careful regard must be had to the ordinary calling, yet when (as sometime it falls) that the ordinary husband-men become murderers, and the ordinary builders become destroyers, there God extraordinarily stirs up men whose ministry proves itself to be from Heaven and not from men, even by this, that they come in the way of righteousness: and sinners are converted by them, that, so the Lord of the vineyard may report fruit thereof, even when the ordinary husbandmen rebel, and that the stone, rejected, even of the ordinary builders, may yet be made the head of the corner: which, howsoever it be marvelous in our eyes, yet it is the Lord his doing.”


Samuel Rutherford

A Peaceable & Temperate Plea  (1642)

p. 5-7

“4th Conclusion is this…  Now if a church should be in a remote island, not consociate with other churches, and yet wanting guides [officers], our [congregationalist] brethren say in this case, the power of the keys should be seen to be in believers, and they might choose and ordain their own officers.  I grant they have great [Romanist] schoolmen to say with them…

But I say in this case necessi­ty is an unbooked and naughty lawyer, and God extraordinarily should supply the want of ordination, as He can do the de­fect of second causes: so that if God send some pastors to a congregation that were unwilling to choose their own eldership, pastors might ordain themselves pastors in that case to these people, and God should supply their want of popular election…”


p. 48

“2. The Church of believers have no au­thority ecclesiastical, nor power of the keys, if all the pa­stors on earth were removed from the Church by death; and in that case the keys should indeed be only in Christ’s hand, and the case being extraordinary, Christ [would be] behoved extraordi­narily to supply the want of ordination, which Timothy, Ti­tus and other elders do ordinarily give, for the Church of believers could not give that which they have not…”


pp. 126-7

2.  A calling is extraordinary, either in habit or in exercise; in habit, as to be an apostle and have the gift of miracles: Thus our reformers cal­ling was not extraordinary, they were not immediate­ly called by God from Heaven; for they would not have concealed such a calling, if they had had any such:

Or a calling is extraordinary in the exercise, and that two ways; either in the principle moving them to teach, or, 2. in the manner of teaching and efficacy; a calling extraordinary in the principle moving is two­fold: Either a mere prophetical impulsion of reve­lation stirring them up to such an act, as the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul and he prophesied; this our reformers had not because we never find that they allege it. 2. A more than ordinary motion with il­lumination by God’s Spirit speaking in the Scriptures, in which motions they were not subordinate in the exercise of their ministry to the Church of pastors, but immediately in that subordinated to God; and in this I prove that our reformers were extraordinary do­ctors.

1.  Because Eze. 34, in a universal apostasy of the prophets and shepherds, the Lord extraordinarily wor­ks, v. 11, ‘For thus saith the Lord God, behold I, even I will both search my sheep, and seek them out.’  Now this is by pastors, when the ordinary pastors are all failed.  So Rev. 11, in that universal apostasy under Anti­christ, when the gentiles tread upon the outer court of the Temple and the holy City, God stirs up two wit­nesses to prophesy in sackcloth; that is, some few pastors (for two is the smallest number) and they prophesy and are slain, and yet they rise again.  We need not apply this to men in particular, as to John Huss and Jerome of Prague; but certainly, some few spake against Babylon and they were borne down and oppressed and killed, and men of that same spirit rose and spake that same truth as if the very two men who were slain had risen within three days again.

2.  Because when the Church is overgone with heresy and Apostasy, our reformers, in the exercise of their ministry, were not to keep a certain flock as in a constitute[d] Church, and suppose they had no cal­ling but eminent gifts, they were to spread the Gos­pel to nations, as Luther did; and suppose the people should resist them, as in many places they did; yet God called them, and they were not to expect election from people: So [men of] Cyprus and Cyrenus preached, Acts 11 and 18, and we read of no vocation that they had from either people or apostle.  So Origen preached to a people in a certain town where there was not one Chri­stian, and afterwards he was chosen their pastor.”


pp. 197-8

“Answer.  In an extra­ordinary case a private man, yea a prophet, as Samuel has performed, by the extraordinary impulsion of the spirit, that which King Saul should do, to wit, he may kill Agag;”


p. 257

“…some private Chri­stians, Acts 8:4, preached the Gospel, but when?  In time of heavy persecution when they were scattered, vv. 1,4.  Then all gifted Christians, trades-men or what else, not separated by Christ and his Churches’ calling may now preach the Gospel [according to the congregationalists], yea be the ordinary and only converters of souls and gatherers of the saints; it follows no ways.”


pp. 266-67

“2.  What is essential for making a minister who is extraordinarily called of God, is not ever more essen­tial to the making of a minister ordinarily called of God, in an island where the Gospel is: if all the pastors should die, the people might choose pastors to themselves, but they could not then make pastors; God only, without the ministry of other pastors, in that case should make pastors; but it follows not hence that pastors ordina­rily have not their calling to be pastors from the ordina­tion of pastors.”


pp. 267-68

“…but a Church mystical, or a Church of be­lievers may choose pastors before they can ordinarily be their pastors, but they cannot make pastors:

Yea, and God at same times supplies the want of popular ele­ction while He calls one to preach to a people never consenting he shall be their pastor;

…nor do we hold a constant ordina­tion of pastors in a continual line of succession from the apostles, made by pastors; the succession may be interrupted, but then God Himself supplies the want of ordinary ordination, appointed by Himself, 1 Tim. 4:14; Tit. 1:5; 1 Tim. 5:21-22; Acts. 6:6.”


p. 269

“Answer.  Suppose in this or that Church all the mini­sters should die, yet it follows not that a ministry can utterly fail in the Church: It is contrary to Eph. 4:11 and to the perpetuity of Christ’s kingly govern­ment and throne, which shall endure as the days of hea­ven: And what if God extraordinarily supply the want of ordination in this or that particular church?  A mi­nisterial power is conferred in that case immediately upon some in a Church removed from any Church-consociation from other Churches, and so Christ’s ministe­rial power dies not.”


The Due Right of Presbyteries  (1644), pt. 1

p. 8

“3rd Distinction.  There is a formal ordinary power, and there is a virtual or extraordinary power.

1st Conclusion.  Christ Jesus has immediately Himself, without the intervening power of the Church or men, appointed offices and officers in his house, and the office of a pastor, and elder is no less immediately from Christ (for men as Christ’s vicars and instruments can appoint no new office in the Church) than the office of the apostles, Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28; Mt. 28:19.  The offices are all given to the Church immediately, and so absolutely, and so the power of the keys, is given to the Church the same way.  But the officers and key-bearers now are given mediately and conditionally, by the intervening mediation of the ruling and ministerial Church, that she shall call such and such, as have the conditions required to the office by God’s Word, 1 Tim. 3:1-3…

2nd Conclusion.  I deny not but there is a power virtual, not formal in the Church of believers, to supply the want of ordination of pastors or some other acts of the keys simply necessary, hic & nunc [here and now]; this power is virtual, not formal, and extraordinary not ordinary, not official, not properly authoritative, as in a Church in an island, where the pastors are dead or taken away by pest[ilence] or otherways; the people may ordain pastors or rather do that which may supply the defect of ordination, as David without immediate revelation from Heaven to direct him, by only the Law of nature, did eat showbread;

So is the case here, so answer the casuists and the schoolmen, that a positive law may yield in case of necessity to the good of the Church; so Thomas, Molina, Suarez, Vasquez, Vigverius, Sotus, Scotus, Altisiodorensis, Durand, Gabriel; and consider what the learned Voetius says in this:

What if in an extreme case of necessity, a private man, endued with gifts and zeal should teach publicly, after the example of the faithful at Samosaten.  Yea and Flavianus and Diodorus preached in Antioch, as Theodoret says; yea, says Voetius, an ordinary ministry might be imposed on a laic, or private person by the Church, though the presbytery consent not, in case of necessity.  God (says Gerson) may make an immediate intermission of a calling by bishops; yea (says Anton. speaking of necessity’s law) the Pope may commit power of excommunication, quia est de jure positive, pure laico & mulieri, to one mere laic, or a woman; though we justify not this, yet it is hence concluded that God has not tied Himself to one set rule of ordinary, positive laws: a captive woman (as Socrates says) preached the Gospel to the king and queen of Iberranes, and they to the people of the land.”


p. 165

“4.  Stephen [a deacon] did no more (Acts ch. 7) in his apology than any witnesses of Christ convened before rulers may doe who are obliged to be ready always to give an answer to every one who asks them of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear, 1 Pet. 3:15, yea though it were a woman who yet may not preach, 1 Cor. 14:34.”


p. 185

“First, a succession in the Church is necessary ordinarily; extraor­dinarily, and in cases of necessity it may be wanting…  Occam [a Medieval Romanist] says laymen and teachers extraordinarily raised up may succeed to he­retical pastors.”


p. 186

“2nd Conclusion.  Thence may well be deduced that they are law­ful pastors and need not a calling revealed, who, in cases of ex­traordinary necessity are only chosen by the people, and not ordained by pastors; and that pastors ordained by pastors, as such, are pastors of the same nature, as Matthias called by the Church and Paul immediately called from Heaven, had one and the same office by nature.”


p. 195

“I answer, there is: in an extraordi­nary necessity where there are no presbyters at all; as little neces­sity of ordination if there be presbyters in other congregati­ons to ordain.  And since you never read that any in the apostolic Church ordained pastors, but pastors only; why, but we may have recourse to a presbytery of other congregations for or­dination, as well as for baptizing;”


p. 199

“Answer 1.  That ordination be wanting where ministers are wanting, is extraordinary and not against, 1 Tim. 4:14; no more than that one not baptized for want of a pastor should yet believe in Christ.”


p. 204

“And thus Perkins (on Gal. 1:8), if the Gospel should arise in America where there were no ministers, ordination might be wanting.  And why not (say I) election also in another case, if as Petrus Martyr says well (on Judges 4:5), a woman may be a preacher of the gospel; yea, and a Turk (says Zanchius (Commentary on Eph. 5)) converted by reading the New Testament, and converting others, may baptize them whom he converts, and be baptized where both ordination and election should be wanting.”


pp. 454-455

“But a woman in no case is capable of administrating baptism or the Lord’s Supper, except she were extraordinarily and immediately inspired to be a prophetess…

2.  There is no such moral necessity of the sacraments as there is of the ministry of the Word, and consequently of some use of the keys where a scandalous person may infect the Lord’s flock.  For where vision ceases the people perish, but it is never said, where baptism ceases the people perish; and therefore uncalled ministers in case of necessity, without ordination or calling from a presbytery, may preach and take on them the holy ministry and exercise power of jurisdiction, because the necessity of the souls of a congregation in a remote island requires so, but I hope no necessity in any [of] the most extraordinary case requires that a midwife may baptize, or that a private man remaining a private man may celebrate the Lord’s Supper to the Church without any calling from the Church.”


p. 493

“But you will say, in a church in an island, one may be a pastor without any ordination if the people elect him and there be no elders to ordain.

I answer: it is true: but so many pastors send a pastor to be a pastor to a congregation, though that congregation never choose him, as possibly they be for the most part Popish or unwilling; yet both cases are extraordinary and the Church [is in the case of] not [being] constituted and esta­blished.”


Pt. 2

p. 204

“Answer.  First, we hold that by a calling or ordination he is made a pastor; by election he is restricted to be ordinarily the pastor of his flock.

Secondly, a pastor is a pastor of the catholic Church, but he is not a catholic pastor of the catholic Church, as were the apostles.

Thirdly, the Reformed Churches may send pastors to the Indians, for that which Acosta says of Jesuits, we may with better reason say it of our selves: That pastors are as soldiers, and some soldiers are to keep order and remain in a certain place; others run up and down in all places; So some are affixed to a con­gregation, to feed them; others may be sent to those people who have not heard of the Gospel, which sending is ordinary and lawful in respect of pastors sending and the pastors who are sent, because in pastors, even after the apostles be dead, there remains a general pastoral care for all the Churches of Christ.  Thus sending is not ordinary, but extraordinary in respect of those to whom the pastors are sent; yet is it a pastoral sending [as opposed to this being absent in congregationalism in such a case].

…but a pastoral care for the Churches is not proper to apostles only, but only such a pastoral care by special direction from Christ immediately to preach to all,  2. Backed with the gift of tongues and of miracles; and this essentially differences the apostle from the ordinary pastor; but the former pastoral care to preach the Gospel to all nations, and to convert, is common both to the apostle and pastor.”


p. 293

“‘The Samaritan woman’ (says [John] Robinson [a congregationalist]) ‘Jn. 4:28, preached, and many of the Samaritans believed because of her, v. 39, and without preaching of the Word of God, none can believe, Rom. 10:14-15.  If a woman may teach without the Church, then may a man teach in the Church.’

Answer 1.  A woman may teach, 2. in a non-constituted Church where there is no salvation and they worship they know not what, Jn. 4:22.  3.  A woman may occasionally declare one point of the Gospel, that Mary’s Son is Christ.  But hence it follows not, [that] therefore, 1. a man 2. in a constituted Church 3. may ordinarily preach the whole Gospel to the Church in public: a weak spar for so vast a roof.

2.  He abuses the place, Rom. 10:14, and would hence prove that a woman or any gifted teacher is a sent preacher by whom faith ordinarily comes; for otherwise who dare deny but faith comes by reading? and just as the [Socinian] Catechism of Raccovia expones the place, Rom. 10:14, to evert the necessity of a sent ministry, so does Robinson expone the place.”


p. 303

“But [1 Cor. 14] v. 34, he sets down a new canon about women who took on them to prophesy publicly, and he inhibits so much as ordinary prophesying, yea so much as speaking in the Church; and I deny not but Irenaeus, Eusebius, yea and Tertullian, Cyril, Chrysostom, Theophylactus, with warrant teach that always women extraordinarily inspired may prophesy, for in that God immediately exalts them above men.  But for ordinary prophesying in public, it is of moral equity, and perpetual, that the women should not teach, for Adam was first formed; this Paul brings as a moral argument against women’s preaching.”


A Survey of the Survey of that Sum…  (1658), ch. 21, pp. 117-8

“Why does Mr. [Thomas] Hooker frame a new instance of his own and pass by the Lord’s way?  For God sends not private men or Christian unofficed scholars [Rom. 10:14-15] (or if he do, their extraordinary sending makes them public pastors and prophets, not the people)”



Thomas M’Crie

‘On the Right of Females to Vote in the Election of Ministers and Elders’, p. 5  from Miscellaneous Writings, Chiefly Historical  (1841), pp. 669-76

“…I believe it is generally allowed that the choice and call of the people, in certain extraordinary cases, forms a valid and sufficient warrant for exercising the pastoral office.”



In Ordinary Circumstances Spiritual Gifts of Themselves do Not Infer an Office

Samuel Rutherford

The Due Right of Presbyteries  (1644), pt. 1, p. 33

“…gifts give not the keys, nor authority to use gifts; and so that all believers, though gifted and graced also, have not power of the keys.  2. It’s certain that in a constituted Church there be no hands nor mouths to do and speak by authority, and ex officio, by virtue of an office, save only elders and pastors; and that if they do or speak, they do it extraordinarily, when Churches’ hands are lame and her eyes blind; or if they do and speak ordinarily, it is from the law of charity in a private way, not by power of the keys, and as judges and officers.”




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