The Preacher and the Rat-Catcher

Charles Spurgeon was never afraid to call people “rats.” He once told his congregation that closet Christians, those who keep the faith to themselves to avoid opposition, are like rats in the wainscoting who feed safely on crumbs at night.

Spurgeon also called “professional” preachers rats. He wrote the following story in The Sword and Trowel (1884):

A certain country clergyman used to tell a good story of his going to a new parish, and asking a parishioner what his occupation was. “I am the village rat-catcher,” the man replied; “and what are you?” The clergyman answered that he was the village parson, whereupon the rat-catcher was good enough to observe that he supposed “we must all get a living somehow.”

If a man’s one object is to get a living, let him by all means take to rat-catching rather than to preaching. It is probably legitimate to kill vermin to earn your bread; but it would be a prostitution of the sacred ministry to pursue it with that design. It is to be feared that not a few look upon the work in that light; and in their cases it is to the loss of the church that they did not buy a ferret and a couple of dogs, and seek small game under the floors of barns and stables. They would then have cleared men’s houses of pests; but as it is, they are themselves the pests of the house of the Lord.

Preach with a single eye to the glory of God, or else hold your tongue.

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