“they who are called to preach the gospel, to teach the flock of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to lead them, cannot do their duty, unless they lay all ambition aside and seek not to please men, not to be seen, nor to be in reputation. They must account all this as vanity, and content themselves to build the Church, to procure the salvation of souls, to magnify the Majesty of our Lord Jesus, and cause all to submit themselves obediently to God. To be short, let it suffice them to put forth the simplicity of the Gospel, to enrich those who desire to be satisfied with God’s blessings. Let them content themselves herein, and not covet as many do to be exalted, to be esteemed for their showy babbling and lofty speech, for their subtleties, for their fine and sharp wits, for their fleeting, pretentious displays. All these things (he says) must be laid underfoot, or else we can never serve God and his Church. And therefore this knowledge that men so much seek for is but a mere vanity, because there is no soundness nor substance in it.”
(Calvin, preaching on 1 Timothy 6:20)
This quote is challenging and helpful in a variety of ways. In spite of mischaracterizations to the contrary, we see here Calvin urging pastors to labor in order to “procure the salvation of souls.” Also, here we are reminded that we cannot pursue God’s glory and our own glory at the same time. We cannot simultaneously build the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of self, though it is so easy to build the kingdom of self and simply rename it, “Kingdom of God.” To be useful to God in the salvation of souls and the building up of his church and thus to hear Him say “Well done,” is of so much more value than winning the applause of our contemporaries- despite the inner clamor of our hearts for the immediate gratification of the praise of man.