« ElőzőTovább »
regard to all complaints and murmurings about pecuniary matters. And the world would never have heard of these embarrassments, to which so many of them are subjected, and their own people would never have heard of them, even in a whisper, had it not been that matters have arrived at such a crisis, that unless some remedy be found, the Gospel ministry must cease amongst us: for unless something be done to put matters on another footing, it looks at present as if these were in a course which would lead to this issue, that the original Secession Church would perish for want of sustenance—die through official starvation. How have matters arrived at such a crisis? They have arrived at such a crisis in consequence of the fact that we have none, or almost no young men coming forward to the ministry, and that we cannot expect them longer to come forward, unless something is done to place the whole ministers among us in such a position that they can live. The state of matters is such, that no parent able to educate any of his family for the ministry, with a parent's heart in the right place, could encourage his son to come forward to the ministry among us, unless he had property to leave him; no parent could take this responsibility, because he would be placing his son in a position of great suffering, and exposed to many temptations; and no parent will conceive himself warranted to do that on his own responsibility. And in the case of young men themselves, they would require not simply to be faithful-hearted, they would require to have the spirit of heroes, in order to resolve, for the sake of principle, to encounter these difficulties as they have hitherto pressed on many. To go abroad among the Heathen in most parts requires, now-a-days, an amount of courage and character greatly less than to be a minister among us. The missionary is supported abundantly, the missionary goes forth amid the prayers and applauses of the whole Church; he is constantly encouraged by the interest that he knows is taken in him—by the cordial and far-spread sympathy that is felt for him. But among us it is self-denial and patience from beginning to end. There are no popular hosannas — no crowd to cheer us on; there is nothing of outward excitement, but a constant call for steady, unfaltering, unrelieved, unencouraged patience. The missionary goes down into the heart of
the battle, but the minister is called tn maintain a post where he must stand exposed to all the fire of the enemy, without the enthusiasm caused by returning it. The one can draw much of his energy from the excitement caused by the conflict; the other must draw it wholly from the depths of his own character.
"Such being the case, it is not to be wondered at that there is a deficiency of ministers among us. It would require a miracle to raise regularly a class of persons with the necessary amount of self-denial. True, from the days of our fathers, a Gospel ministry has been kept up among us; but our fathers in the Secession never knew anything of the privations to which the present race of their descendants have been subjected. It may be the case that, fifty or sixty years ago, the stipends of some of our fathers were not nominally much higher than the average income of our ministers at present, but, nevertheless, they were greatly more in real value. The relative worth of any fixed sum gradually decreases as society advances in civilization; and it is not beyond the truth to affirm, that in the station of a Dissenting minister, fifty or sixty years ago, 100/. was of as much real value as 150/. in the present time. The truth of this will appear to any one who considers what are now the average incomes of that class of persons who, fifty or sixty years ago, were on an equality with a Secession minister having an income of 100/. per annum. These considerations will make it apparent, that Dissenting ministers generally are worse in point of remuneration in the present day than ever they were in former times. At the commencement of the Secession, its ministers, speaking generally, were on a level with the highest of the industrious classes, but gradually they have sunk down to the second, the third, the fourth class, and, every year, those previously on a level with them are rising above them. In a country where the direct influence of men upon the public is estimated by their position as much as by their talents and character, unless some change take place in the course of half a century, this lowering of the status of the ministry will tell fatally on the interests of all Dissenting communities. The point will soon be reached in all these bodies at which the average number of promising youths will, even as a question of conscience, determine that they can serve the Lord more usefully in other positions than in one in which they will be subject to continual hardship and privation, from the necessity of keeping up an appearance of respectability to which their income is inadequate. And, as the ministry sink in the scale of society, it will be found, as has been the case all along in the Secession, that members as they rise in the world will adjoin themselves to wealthier and more fashionable churches. The thing is as certain as if it had already occurred, that unless Dissenters take care gradually to augment the incomes of their ministers as society progresses, they will all very soon find their pulpits occupied by an inferior ministry, and their members generally disappearing when they reach a certain mark in the scale of prosperity." These remarks were written with reference to the Original Secession Church in Scotland, but their truth will be felt as applicable to all Dissenting and unendowed denominations. Even the Free Church of Scotland, with all its advantages of prestige and organization and wealth, ascribes the deficiency of students at its College to the general inadequacy of ministerial support. It is the same with our English Presbyterian College; and we hear similar complaints among our Dissenting brethren as to the dearth of students for the ministry of such a class as it is desirable to have. And we are satisfied that this falling off, both in the quantity and quality of supply for the service of the Church, in great part depends on the insufficient maintenance connected with the office. It rests with the Christian people to remedy this evil; it rests with them to remember that the labourer is worthy of his hire, and to devise more liberal things. In this the Free Church of Scotland is setting a noble example to all unendowed Churches. Much difficulty there must be to overcome the prevalent illiberality of feeling in this matter, of which, even in the Free Church, somewhat is felt. One of the ministers in Edinburgh having, some time since, married a lady with some property, a proposal was formally made in the deacons' court that the annual salary should, in consequence, now be reduced, as being unnecessarily large! There were gentlemen of right feeling present who at once put down so shabby a proposal; but the Church-door collections actually fell off for a time! This
we were told by one of the elders of that Church. If such spirit sometimes exists in the green and flourishing tree of the Free Church, what can we expect in our dry English Presbyterian trunk? There is with us a very low and illiberal standard as to ministerial support, a remark which we make with the more freedom, because of having no pastoral charge. The greater part of the hearers contribute no more to the support of the Gospel than the small sum required for pew-rent, and the occasional offerings at the church doors. Double the amount paid during a whole year for the service of God is often paid ungrudgingly to a physician for a single visit or consultation in sickness, or tenfold the amount is readily given to a lawyer for forwarding a lawsuit. Men are liberal in what affects their bodily health or their property, but the value of a church sitting is counted sufficient recompense for all the visits and studies and services of a spiritual physician and adviser during a year. Such proportional worth do most men put upon their body and property as compared with their souls.
The following remarks are from "Matthew Henry's Commentary," in his own quaint and pertinent way, concerning the sufficiency of ministerial maintenance :—
"As, on the one hand, ministers shall not raise estates by their work, so, on the other hand, they shall not spend what little they have of their own upon it. Provide neither silver nor gold. Though they who serve at the altar may not expect to grow rich by the altar, yet they may expect to live, and to live comfortably upon it. (1 Cor. ix. 13, 14.) It is fit they should have their maintenance from their work. Ministers are, and must be workmen—labourers, and they that are so are worthy of their meat, so as not to be forced to any other labour for the earning of it. The workman is worthy of his meat."—(Comment. on Matt. x. 10.)
III. The third position, to wit, that the main support of a minister should be from those among whom he ministers, is proved from such Scriptures as these :— "Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." (Gal. vi. 6.) "Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not the fruit thereof? Who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" (1 Cor. ix. 7, II.) On this part of the subject we shall introduce a passage from Dr. Owen's "Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews,"* wherein most clear and important views are given of the whole matter of the support of the ministry.
"This way" (of maintenance by the voluntary contributions of them that have the benefit and advantage of their labour) "is the most honourable way, and that which casts the greatest respect upon ministers. Even the princes and rulers of the world have their revenue and support from the substance of the people. Now I would only ask, whether it would not he more honourable, that the people should willingly and of their own accord, bring in their contribution than merely to pay it under the compulsion of a law. For in this latter way, no man knoweth whether they have the least true honour for their ruler or regard unto his office. But if it might be done in the former, all the world must take notice what reverence, regard and honour they have for the person and dignity of their prince. It is true generally the men of the world are such lovers of themselves, and so little concerned in public good, that if they were left absolutely at liberty in this matter, their governors might be defrauded of their right, and the ends of government be disappointed. Wherefore, in all coirntries, provision is made by law for the payment of that tribute which yet without law was due; but whether it be meet to bring this order into the Church or not, I much question. If it be so, possibly it may secure the revenue of ministers, but it will not increase their honour. For however men may please themselves with outward appearances of things, true honour consists in that respect and reverence which others pay them in their minds and hearts. Now, when this is such, and that on the account of duty, that men will freely contribute unto their support, I know no more honourable subsistence in the world. What! will some say, to depend on the wills and love of the people, there is nothing more base and unworthy! Yea, but what if all the honour that Jesus Christ himself hath, or accepts from his people, proceeds from their wills and affections? Mahomet, indeed, who knew well enough that
* Exposition on chap. vii. 4, 5. Edif., Edinburgh, 1814, vol. v., pp. 378—383.
neither honour, respect, nor obedience were due unto him, and that he could no way recompense what should be done towards him in that kind, provided that men should be brought into subjection to his name, by fire and sword. But our Lord Jesus Christ despiseth all honour, all obedience and respect that is not voluntary and free, and which doth not proceed from the wills of men. And shall his servants in the work of the Gospel suppose themselves debased to receive respect and honour from the same principle? Well, therefore, because our apostle tells us that our Lord hath ordained that those who preach the Gospel shall live on the Gospel, and all obedience unto his ordinances and institutions must be voluntary; if ministers are ashamed, and esteem it unworthy of them to receive what is so contributed in a way of voluntary obedience, let them try if they can prevail with themselves to receive it so for him, and in his name, who is not ashamed to receive it, no, if it be only a cup of cold water, so it comes from a free and willing mind, when he despiseth the revenue of the whole world upon compulsion. If they will not do so, the best way is to leave his service, and take up with that which is more honourable. For my part, I do judge that the way of maintenance of ministers, by voluntary benevolence, in a way of duty and obedience unto Christ, though it be not likely the most plentiful, is yet the most honourable of all others. And of this judgment I shall be, until I am convinced of two things. 1. That true honour doth not consist in the respect and regard of the minds of men unto the real worth and usefulness of those who are honoured, but in outward ceremonies and forced works of regard. 2. That it is not the duty which every Church owes to Jesus Christ, to maintain those who labour in the word and doctrine, according to their ability; or that it is any Gospel duty which is influenced by force or compulsion.
"It must be acknowledged that this way of voluntary contribution is not like to afford matter for that grandeur and secular greatness, those ample revenues, those provisions for ease, wealth, and worldly honour which some think necessary in this case. But yet, however, it must be granted, that all those large possessions and dominions which some now enjoy under the name of Churchrevenues, were originally voluntary grants and contributions. For it will not be said, that the clergy got them by force of arms or fraud, nor were they their patrimonial inheritance. But yet I fear, there were some undue artifices used to induce men unto such donations and ecclesiastical endowments, and somewhat more of merit fixed thereon, than truth will allow, besides a compensation therein, for what might be undergone in purgatory, when men were gone out of the world. However, the thing itself in its whole kind, that men out of their substance and revenue should design a portion to the service of the Church is not to be condemned. But it proved mischievous and fatal, when those who received what was so given, beingunmeasurably covetous and worldly, fixed no bounds unto the charity or superstition of men in this kind, until they had overrun the world with their gains. And not only so, but whereas there was no pretence of use for such great revenues, in any way pretended to be of Divine appointment, they were forced to invent and find out ways innumerable, in abbeys, monasteries, cloisters, to be repositories of their overflowing treasure and revenues. But when God had appointed to build his tabernacle of the free-will offerings of the people, a type of the Gospel-Church, when there was provision enough of materials brought in, the liberality of the people was restrained by proclamation, and some, perhaps, grieved that their offerings were not received. (Exod. xxxvi. 5, 6.) Through want of this care to put a stop unto the devotions of men in these donations, according unto a just measure of the Church's necessary use, the bounds whereof were broken up and left invisible by the pride, ambition, covetousness, and craft of the clergy, the whole world ran into superstition and confusion. At present I grant that the way which the Gospel appoints, is not likely to make provision for pomp, grandeur, wealth, revenues, and inheritances unto them that rely upon it. Nor do I think that if the present establishment of a superfluous revenue unto the clergy were removed, that the world itself would in haste run into the same state again. Wherefore, those who judge these things necessary and desirable, must be permitted, as far as I know, to betake themselves unto the advantage the world will afford; it is acknowledged that the Gospel hath made no provision of them.
"It is indeed supposed unto the dis
advantage of this way, that by means thereof, ministers do become obnoxious unto the people, do depend on them, and so cannot deal so uprightly and sincerely with their consciences as they ought to do, lest they incur their displeasure, wherein they are too much concerned. It were easy to manifest with how many more and greater inconveniencies the other way is attended, were we now comparing of them. And in truth it is a vain thing to look for or expect any such order and disposal of these things, as should administer no occasion for the wisdom and graces of them concerned, nor would such a way be at all useful. I say, therefore, that God hath established mutual duty to be the rule and measure of all things between ministers and people. Hereunto it is their wisdom and grace to attend, leaving the success unto God. And a minister may easily conclude, that seeing his whole support in earthly things, with respect unto his ministry, depends on the command of God, on the account of the discharge of his duty, if he have respect thereunto in his work, or so far as it is lawful for him to have, that the more sincere and upright he is therein, the more assured will his support be. And he who is enabled to give up himself unto the work of the ministry in a due manner, considering the nature of that work, and what he shall assuredly meet withal in its discharge, is not in much danger of being greatly moved with this pitiful consideration, of displeasing this or that man in the discharge of his duty. "It is farther pleaded, that these things were tolerable at the first entrance and beginnings of Christianity, when the zeal, love, and liberality of its professors did sufficiently stir them up unto an abundant discharge of their duty; but now the whole body of them is degenerate from this pristine faith and love, coldness and indifferency in the things of their eternal concernment, with love of self and this present evil world, do so prevail in them all, as that if things were left unto their wills and sense of duty, there would quickly be an end of all ministry for want of maintenance. This is of all others the most cogent argument in this case, and that which prevails with many good and sober men, utterly to decry the way of ministers'maintenance by a voluntary contribution. I shall briefly give my thoughts concerning it, and so return from this digression. And I say, 1. I do not condemn any provision that is made among men by good, wholesome, and righteous laws, for this end and purpose, provided it be such as is accommodated unto the furtherance of the work itself. Such provision as in its own nature is a snare and temptation, inclining men unto pride, ambition, luxury, distance from, and elevation above, the meanest of the sheep or lambs of Christ; or, as it were, requiring a worldly grandeur and secular pomp in their course of life, must plead for itself as it is able. But such as may comfortably support, encourage, and help men in this work and discharge of their duty, being made without the wrong of others, is doubtless to be approved. Yea, if in this degeneracy of Christianity under which we suffer, any shall, out of love and obedience unto the Gospel, set apart any portion of their estates, and settle it unto the service of the Church in the maintenance of the ministry, it is a good work, which, if done in faith, will be accepted. 2. Let those who are true disciples indeed, know that it is greatly incumbent on them to roll away that reproach, which is cast upon the institutions of Christ by the miscarriages of the generality of Christians. He hath ordained that those who preach the Gospel shall live on the Gospel. And the way whereby he hath prescribed this to be effected is, that those who are his disciples should, in obedience unto his commands, supply them with temporals by whom spirituals are dispensed unto them. If this be not done, a reproach is cast upon his institutions as insufficient unto the end for which they were designed. It is, therefore, incumbent on all who have any true zeal for the glory and honour of Christ, to manifest their exemplary obedience and fruitfulness in this matter; whereby it may appear that it is not any defect in the appointments of Christ, but the stubborn disobedience and unbelief of men, that is the cause of any disorder. 3. Seeing there is such a degeneracy among Christians, as that they will not be wrought upon unto a voluntary discharge of their duty in this matter, it may be inquired what hath been the cause, or at least the principal occasion thereof. Now if this should be found, and appear to be the coldness, remissness, neglect, ignorance, sloth, ambition, and worldliness of those who have been their guides and leaders, their officers and ministers in most ages; it will evince how little reason some have to complain that
the ]>eople are backward and negligent in the discharge of their duty. And if it be true, as indeed it is, that the care of religion, that it be preserved, thrive and flourish, not only in themselves, but in the whole Church, be committed unto those persons, there can be no such apostasy as is complained of among the people, but that the guilt of it will be at their doors. And if it be so, it is to be inquired whether it be the duty of ministers absolutely to comply with them in their degeneracy, and suffer them to live in the neglect of their duty in this matter, only providing for themselves some other way; or whether they ought not rather by all ways and means to endeavour their recovery into their pristine condition. If it be said, that whatever men pretend, yet it is a thing impossible, to work the people unto a due discharge of their duty in this matter; I grant it is, whilst that is only or principally intended. But if men would not consider themselves or their interest, in the first place, but really endeavour their recovery unto faith, love, obedience, and holiness, and that by their own example, as well as teaching, it may well be hoped that this duty would revive again in the company of others, for it is certain it will never stand alone by itself."
While the excellence of the voluntary system is thus weightily set forth by Dr. Owen, let the ultra-voluntary and the enemy of all endowments take note that he "does not condemn any provision made among men by good, wholesome, and righteous laws for this end and purpose, provided it be such as is accommodated unto the furtherance of the work itself." And on this remark the provision made for the encouragement and help of godly ministers under Cromwell and the Commonwealth, when Owen wrote, is the best comment.
IV. The last general principle is that where local maintenance is necessarily insufficient, there should be a system of external support and mutual aid. In the very nature of things, such external support is often necessary. For example, in sending the Gospel to a new field, how can they hear of Christ without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent? The very name missionary means one sent; sent from among those who have already heard, and sent by those who have received the truth. And the Church is beginning to feel that it is as truly missionary agency