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the earlier revelation is evidently necessary to a correct understanding of the later. We therefore begin with the requirements made through the Hebrew lawgiver, purposing to present the matter in plainest modern phrase.
According to the Mosaic code, what proportion of his income was the Jew required to devote to the cause of his religion?
The general notion seems to be that he gave a tenth. It is clearly a mistaken one, as will be seen from an examination of the Scriptures. The law, in its first enactment on the subject, required the Jew to give one-tenth of all the produce of the flocks and herds and fields to the Levite. If he paid it in kind, well; if not, one-fifth was added. The Levite was to give one-tenth of this tenth to the Lord for the support of the high-priest. This enactment is found in Leviticus xxvii. 30–33, and is repeated and enlarged upon in Numbers xviii. This was one-tenth for the support of the priesthood, or of that part of the religious system. Secondly, the law required that he should devote a second tenth to the yearly religious festivals. He was to take this tenth to the place appointed by the Lord for his worship, and there devote it to the uses specified. This enactment is found in Deuteronomy xiv., beginning with verse 22. Thus far there are two essentially different tithes each year. Thirdly, the law required that every third year the Jew should bring a tenth of all and share it with the Levite, with the poor, and with the stranger, in festival rejoicing with them. This enactment is found in Deuteronomy xiv., and is renewed in Deuteronomy xxvi. Independently of all testimony on the subject other than that of the Scriptures themselves, it inight perhaps be said that there is a possibility, although as far as may be from a probability, that the tithe of the third year might have been the same as that previously mentioned. If we have read its provisions correctly, the Mosaic law demanded of the Jew two-tenths every year, and each third year threetenths, or an average of two and one-third tenths yearly.
But may we not have read the record incorrectly? Certainly no argument against the result arrived at, based upon the greatness of the requirement, can for a moment stand; for, by accurate calculation, almost one-half the time of the Jew was required in God's service. It was evidently the Divine
purpose to require great things of the chosen people. Indeed, it is necessary to go further, and to take into account the fact that these tithes were only a part of the gifts of the Jew,the ordered and measured part.-before we can appreciate the full extent of the means whic, he devoted to God's service. The other part consisted of free-will offerings, the largeness and frequency of which were left to the promptings of the individual heart, but which might, in soine instances, exceed even the tithes. Moreover, it was the gross income or product of his industry that was tithed, before any thing had been used for his own purposes.
But we are rescued from all need of dependence upon probabilities, by finding, just at hand, reliable witnesses to the correctness of the above reading of the Mosaic law. Josephus,* who lived at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, says distinctly that one-tenth was to be given yearly to the Levites, one-tenth was to be applied to the festivals at Jerusalem, and one-tenth was to be given every third year to the poor. Tobit,t who probably wrote some 400 B. C., and Jerome,t who wrote about 400 A. D., tell us the same thing. Now these are all credible and competent witnesses to the Jewish understanding of the law in their day, and they all confirm our reading of the rule which was to govern the benevolence of the Jews.
But does this enactment of the Jewish lawgiver belong to that part of his code which, as is the case with the Decalogue, is of perpetual obligation, and, therefore, necessarily binding upon the Christian church? Or, if not, what is the present rule which is to govern the church in its Christian giving? This involves the inquiry, How did Christ and his Apostles treat the tithe system? What rule did they acknowledge or lay down?
How did Christ, the greater lawgiver than Moses, treat the tithe system? We learn from the Gospels that he ratified it, at least for the Jew. He did this when he reproved the Pharisees for their neglect of the weightier matters of the law. 6 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith : these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." This ratification is recorded in Matthew xxiii. 23, and in Luke xi. 42. But was this ratification for any one besides the Jew? The considerations in favor of a negative answer appear to be conclusive. For the Jew, clearly, since the Jew was still under the law of Moses, and this was but an affirmation of that fact; for none besides the Jew, since Jesus was himself a minister of the circumcision, or of the old dispensation (see Romans xv. 8), and, as such, enforcing the law of Moses. The new dispensation could not have its full beginning until its foundation had been laid in his death. Taking into account the teachings of the Apɔstles along with those of our Lord himself, there is nowhere any clear and sufficient evidence that he made the old Jewish law of tithes the law of that dispensation; there is nowhere even the shadow of evidence that he did.
* Antiquities, iv. 8, SS 8 and 22.
+ Tobit i. 7, 8. | See citations in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, Article, Tithes.
If he did reaffirm the law, then the requirement would be that the church should yearly devote at least seven-thirtieths of its income to the objects of Christian benevolence; and this, too, in addition to all the free-will offerings for which the special favors of God give ten thousand occasions. If he did not reaffirm it, then more, rather than less, in some form, must be required of Christians as a body. If a reason be asked, it may be answered, that since the times of the Mosaic law, the grand truth of God's ownership of all things has given place to that of Christ's ownership of all things; that the motive has risen all the way up from law to love, and that the mission of the people in covenant with God has enlarged from the reception and conservation of the Divine revelation in the little Jewish state, to the propagation of the Gospel throughout the whole world. To the Christian the Head of the church can say, Give as bought by my blood, as recreated by my Spirit, as you love me, as a perishing world needs.
But assuming that Christ did not make the Mosaic system binding under the new dispensation, did the Apostles, on whom devolved the work of organizing the primitive church, do any. such thing? The answer inust be an emphatic negative. The substantive expression for "tithe," and the twofold ver
bal expression for "giving" and "receiving tithes," occur in the apostolic writings from the Acts to Revelation only seven times, never out of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and there always in such a connection that nothing short of Mr. Boase’s churchly Scotch metaphysics could possibly find in them any thing on which to base an argument in favor of the re-enactment of the tithe law for the New Testament Church. We do not see how any one can avoid coming to the same conclusion with regard to the whole tithe system which Blackstone reached with regard to the tithes of the clergy, and that in spite of his noted and almost slavish adherence to past usages, and which he expressed when he wrote in his Commentaries, “I will not put the title of the clergy to tithes upon any Divine right; though such a right certainly commenced, and I believe as certainly ceased, with the Jewish Theocracy."*
What then is the scriptural and apostolical rule laid down to govern Christian giving! It would be easy to bring forward many passages bearing upon the objects of benevolence and the dispensers of it, the frequency of giving and the times for it, the extent of the demand made upon the income of the primitive Christians and their response to it,—but a single apostolic expression of the rule of beneficence, and a single instance of Christian conduct illustrative of it must suflice for present purposes. The rule is the comprehensive one laid down by Paul for the Christians at Corinth, in 1 Corinthians xvi. 2: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.” It is a simple rule, suited to the needs of that single poor church, and yet expansive enough to leave room for a growth of liberality that should take in all the world; and Christians in this day seem to be generally turning toward it as a Divine direction quite abreast with the progress of the most advanced school of modern benevolence. It decides who shall give : “Every one of you,” rich and poor. It tells when and how the consecration shall be made: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you store up by him." Upon the Christian Sabbath the laying aside was to be done, that out of it the Sabbath offering, which, as will be seen further on, was an
* Commentaries, Book ii., c. 3.
essential part of the Christian worship, might be made. It directs how much to give. “As God hath prospered him," or as God has made him able to give. The rule is altogether a plain one to the man in whose heart the love of Christ reigns supreme. There is need of no more specific legislation even touching the amount to be given. Shall the Christian give a tenth? Is that all that the Head of the church in giving him his measure of prosperity has made him able to give? Shall he give a fifth? Is he willing in his liberality to fall behind the Jew who lived in the comparative darkness of thirty-five hundred years ago ? Shall he in these days of large demands give one-half ? Nine-tenths ? Is that all God has made him able to give? The apostolic rnle evidently knows no measure short of the steward's utmost ability when wholly under control of love to Christ and a lost world. The single illustration from Christian conduct to which we refer is that furnished by the mother church of all, at Jerusalem, and recorded in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Living in that first great crisis in the spread of the Gospel, than which no greater has been known till that of the present day, they read with all clearness the demand of their ascended Lord in his words and the signs of the times, and catching the spirit of their mission, devoted themselves and all their possessions to his cause.
6. With this review of the teachings of the Scriptures we come to the consideration of the special Divine demand made upon the church of this day in present providences.
The Divine law laid down in the Word is evidently one which binds the Christian from generation to generation, and from age to age. At the same time, it may be taken for granted that the Word of God supposes that a work of so vast moment as that of bearing the Gospel to a lost world is to be done as soon as possible. If, in any particular age or generation, the church is able to give a valid reason for not furnishing the entire pecuniary means requisite, and finishing the appointed work, well. The past has been able to give at least a partial reason for failure in its mission, and beyond that has suffered even to judgment where the failure has been without adequate reason.