« AnteriorContinua »
The churches can readily see why no part of the counsel of God is so likely to be kept back, by faithful ministers of Christ, as that which relates to their own support. So many considerations of feeling and delicacy arise, that they shrink from the task of speaking of themselves, and prefer to toil on in poverty, rather than furnish the least pretext for a suspicion that they preach the Gospel for “filthy lucre's sake.” But the ministry has claims on the people, and there are times when “necessity is laid upon them” 10 assert these claims in a manly and decided tone,
There is no wish to deal in indiscriminate censure. Some of the churches are ready to discharge their duty in this respect; and hence the laudable efforts they make to place pastors and their families above all anxiety about what they shall eat and drink, and wherewithal they shall be clothed. Such a spirit is encouraging, and it is believed it meets with a rich reward in blessings from heaven above, as well as from the earth beneath. But every one at all acquainted with the history of ministerial support in the church at large, will grant that these are uncommon cases. Truth and duty compel the declaration, that there is frequently an indifference to this matter, which, besides utterly destroying the comfort, very seriously impedes the useful. ness, of the pastor. It is necessary then, to inquire
I. WHAT CLAIMS IN EQUITY MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL HAVE TO A COMFORTABLE SUPPORT FROM THE PEOPLE.
That “the labourer is worthy of his bire,” is a dictate of common sense, and common justice. To suppose for one moment that any man regards what he pays to the pastor, whose services he enjoys, in the light of a mere gratuity, would be to bring into question both his understanding and Christian principle. God never intended that his ministers should be treated as objects of charity, or “ fed with the crumbs which fall from the table.” No one can think or speak of them in this light, without fixing upon himself as
foul a reproach, as he attempts to fix upon that Gospel of which they are the appointed messengers.
Let this subject be weighed in an even balance. Men who consecrate themselves to the service of God in the Gospel of his Son, ought in justice to be furnished, by the people among whom they labour, with a competent worldly maintenance. Less than this cannot with propriety be claimed, and less than this the people cannot with propriety grant. The official duties of ministers are so arduous in their nature, and so exhausting in number and variety, that they have not time, and ought not to have the inclination, to leave the word of God for the sake of serving tables. It behooves them to give themselves to the ministry of the Gospel. Whatever be the unavoidable expense of sustaining their families with any tolerable degree of credit in the world, they must meet and bear this expense, as best they can, from their salaries. Other men may watch the market, and seek to make what are called good bargains; but mi. nisters cannot. It is a thousand times better for them, in general, to submit to a great deal of present inconvenience, and, what is worse, to the prospect of a penniless old age, than to acquire a reputation for secular management, or money-making. Be it little or much, pastors must, as a common rule, subsist upon what they receive from their flocks.
To judge what this support should be, think of the necessary expenses of their situation in society. Men who live upon the avails of their own secular industry, are not often aware what it necessarily costs a minister to sustain his fa. mily as it ought, both for their sakes and for his own sake, to be sustained. Because a few hundred dollars answer for them, they conclude that the same sum is sufficient for their pastors. But let it be considered whether they can properly magnify their office, without being subjected to expenses of which such men, from their different position, know nothing by experience. They must keep up a respectable appear
Any great failure here would lose them the esteem of their people at once. Whatever may be their own feelings and inclinations, a proper regard to the flocks they serve, and to the customs of society, will not permit them to occupy a narrow tenement, or sit down to a scanty table. This is a point which should not be overlooked. Merely to purchase food and clothing for their households, to correspond with their friends, to attend upon church judicatories, and now and then to add a little to their libraries, is what very few ministers can do from their salaries. Yet not to do this, subjects them to blame from every quarter.
Now, ought not men, under these circumstances to be well supported? We say without hesitation—if there be a service on earth which deserves, in equity, a cheerful and generous recompense, it is that which every conscientious pastor renders to the people of his charge. Other kinds of toil can be paid for. You know how to count in money a full equivalent for the effort of bone and sinew put forth by the man who gathers in your harvest. But can you as easily tell the worth of your minister's solicitude for your eternal welfare? Paul could be paid for “tent-making;" but neither gold nor silver could be weighed as the price of those tears, with which he warned the Ephesians “night and day." This, then, is not the service that should go unrequited. No temporary embarrassment of the times, and no little pique at the officers or members of the parish, should be regarded by any one as a reason for keeping back his portion of the minister's salary.
Ministers, too, are to be “ lovers of hospitality.” No one would give them credit for exercising their office well, if their houses were not always open for the entertainment of respectable visiters. A person in private life can invite a stranger home with him or not, and nothing is thought of it. But the family of a settled minister, especially in one of our populous towns, must always be prepared for company. Sick or well, provided with domestic help or without it, all expect that the wayfaring minister, and the travelling agent should be welcome to their boards and firesides,
Nor is this all. Their office brings them into contact with poverty and suffering in every variety of form; and light as may be their own purses, they must do something to lessen the sorrows of those in worse circumstances. It is neces. sary that every minister should be regarded as the poor man's friend. Benevolent enterprises also make their demands. For the sake of example they must go forward in these works of mercy, and let “ the depth of their poverty abound unto the riches of their liberality.” To meet all these expenditures, a generous support is indispensable.
But besides having to subsist upon an inadequate salary, many ministers are seriously embarrassed by the tardy and irregular manner in which it is paid. Not a few men, and some of them members of the church, agree to give as little as they can with any show of propriety, and then keep back that little as long as possible. The merchant's bill must be met, and so must be that of the mechanic, and the teacher;
but the minister is treated as if he need not have bread at all, because he ought not to “live by bread alone.” Other things are not graduated on this narrow scale. More is given, in many cases, every three months, for some fashionable accomplishment for a single child, than for the yearly religious instruction of the whole household. And this is not the worst. The music teacher and the drawing master are paid punctually, while the minister's services are left, from time to time, to go unrequited. Can this be right? Shall men pay so readily the insurance upon their earthly dwellings, and yet be backward to meet the expenses necessary to prepare for them a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens ?” There is no equity in such a course.
Explicitness on this subject is necessary. Duty requires that it should be stated, that the cost of maintaining a family is not now what it was in the days of our fathers, nor what it was even a few years ago. A great change has taken place, not only in the habits of society, but in the necessary expenses of a household. So enhanced is the price of almost every sort of provision, that, what was then a competent support, is now altogether inadequate. Take two items as a sample. - The keeping of a horse and carriage is necessary for the pastor of every country parish, and yet to do this costs him nearly or quite a hundred dollars every year. For the wages and board of proper domestic help, at least an equal sum is requisite. Here, then, are barely two charges, and both of them indispensable, which amount to nearly half of what many ministers receive in salary.
If the people would remember that the gospel and its appointed ministry are necessary to their highest welfare, they would feel bound in justice to sustain them. They cannot do without pastors and churches. This was the deep and settled conviction of the pilgrim fathers, and hence whenever they had a settlement amounting to sixteen families, they made provision at once for the support of a minister. Those noble minded men never dreamt of securing such a blessing without cost. It was with them a fixed principle, that all their interests for earth and heaven required the presence of a faithful ambassador of Christ, and this led them to sustain him with pleasure. Let such a spirit as this prevail in the churches; let the people feel that the ordinances of the gospel are absolutely indispensable, and there will be no further necessity for appeals to them on the subject of ministerial support. “We speak as to wise men, judge ye what we say.”
II. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH AS TO THE OBLIGA. TION OF A PEOPLE COMFORTABLY TO SUPPORT THEIR MIN ISTER?
“ To the law and to the testimony” let this question be brought-for God has clearly expressed his will concerning the maintenance of those who serve at his altar. The dictates of reason and equity are enforced and confirmed by repeated and emphatic injunctions from the Head of the Church himself. Under the Mosaic economy it was ex. plicitly provided that “they who ministered at the temple should live of the things of the temple.” This “statute was ordained in Israel” for the purpose of securing for the priests and Levites a just and liberal support. In lieu of any inheritance among their brethren, one tenth of all the produce of the other tribes was allotted to them, and they had no scanty or stinted supply. Besides cities and suburbs appropriated to their use, and a share in the daily offerings of the Lord, this one tribe among the twelve was furnished with a regular tithe of all the avails of the harvest and the vintage.
No one ever learnt to practise an ill-judged parsimony towards his minister, from this portion of the word of God. It will be well, too, to recollect that religion flourished or declined among the Jews, just as its ministry was liberally sustained, or was driven from the temple to follow some secular employment. In all these arrangements for the good of the church," the foolishness of God is wiser than men.” His blessing cannot reasonably be expected when his precepts are disregarded. All the tithes must be brought into the Lord's house, before the windows of heaven could be opened, and blessings poured out until there was no more room to receive them.
By this it is not intended that religion should be supported by law, nor is it at all desirable to witness any such arrangement revived as would enrich the ministers of the Gospel, or elevate them as to style and way of living above respectable men in other professions. On this subject need be felt no apprehensions. The ministerial office is too honourable, and is connected with consolations too precious, and hopes too glorious, to be associated with worldly wealth. It is most clearly in accordance with the spirit of the Christian dispensation, as well as most consonant with the wishes of the ministry, for the people to give freely to support the Gospel as each man purposeth in his own heart.”
This support of the ministry, however, should be generous. Contributions for this end should be voluntary, so far as all human