Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

and the church. The watchword of the one band is, “retrenchment;" that of the other, "augmentation.” The former, cry “hold,” the other, "give.” Those complain of extravagance, these of niggardliness. And we think it will not be denied by many that, to some extent at least, both movements are necessary,—both charges just.

It is not our province to deal with the question of state finance. We have to do only with the ecclesiastical department of the subject; and yet not with this in all its extent, but solely with the scriptural view of it; and chiefly with what is doctrinal and fundamental regarding it. This aspect of the question has, we think, been hurtfully overlooked. The foundations of our faith-the grounds of our duty—have not been sufficiently exhibited. Details have been brought forward, while first principles and general laws are not rightly understood, or not heartily received. What, then, is the law of Christ's kingdom in the matter? What is the general arrangement which our Lord has made for conducting the financial affairs of his church ?

That the Master would give directions on this point was to be expected. Seeing He aimed at universal dominion, and proposed to extend his cause by human instrumentality, it was not to be thought that He would omit positive instructions on a matter which every government pronounces essential, and which even a spiritual society may not safely neglect. Accordingly, on examining the statute-book of Christ's kingdom, we are not disappointed of information on this head. A plain and express law has been enacted, and one, as we shall see, in every respect worthy of its Divine author_simple, and suitable, and satisfactory; “holy, and just, and good.” This statute we find in such passages as the following : “Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teacheth in all good things” (Gal. vi. 6)—or earthly goods—temporalities. Here is a positive command, and one whose reference cannot be mistaken, seeing that the relation of teacher and taught-of pastor and people—is distinctly expressed. The injunction, too, is a most important one, as appears from the solemn consideration by which its observance is enforced in the verses immediately following. For there the apostle compares the withholding of due support from God's servants to “sowing to the flesh,” and the certain consequences of such wickedness to the “reaping of corruption.” And what simpler, or fairer, or more becoming than the rule here laid down, that the labourer in the Gospel receive his maintenance from those for whom he toils, and to whom he ministers? Again, “ Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, the labourer is worthy of his reward.” (1 Tim. v. 17, 18). Here the same relationship is referred to as in the former passage—that subsisting betwixt the rulers and the ruled—the teachers and the taught-in the church of Christ; and the same claim is put forth on behalf of the pastors --the claim to an honourable and liberal maintenance. For that the “honour” mentioned does not signify bare respect, is obvious from the illustrations employed—the food of the ox, and the reward of the labourer. Nor should it be overlooked that the apostle here not obscurely intimates, that as the ox is to be allowed to eat of the corn which it treadeth outwhich belongs to its master—to him in whose service it is engaged, and not to some other husbandman,--so the Christian pastor is to derive his support, not from strangers for whom he does not labour, but from the people of his charge who claim and receive his services. Once more, in 1 Cor. ix. 11, 13, 14, these important words occur—"If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? Do you not know that they who minister about holy things live of the things of the temple ? and they who wait at the altar are partakers with the altar ? Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” In this passage Paul borrows an illustration from the Jewish economy. He says: Just as under the former dispensation, the ministers of the temple, the servants of the altar, received their share of the offerings presented by the worshippers ; so the Lord hath ordained, that the ministers of the Gospel be supported out of the gifts and offerings presented to his cause by his obedient people. The writer, too, in these other previous verses of the chapter, throws out other considerations fitted to show the reasonableness and justice of this arrangement. He notices in verse 11 the great value of the ministrations of Christ's servants—“of the spiritual things” which they sow compared with the temporal support they claim in return—" the carnal things” they are entitled to reap. And on the ground of this superiority he contends, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, much more should we reap of you carnal things.” In the 9th verse, after quoting from the Old Testament the passage, 6. Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn,”-he asks, “ Doth God take care for oxen ?”—meaning, “ Has God commanded that the ox be properly fed in return for his labour ; and has He made no such law on behalf of his faithful ministers ? Has He not rather, in issuing the one injunction, shown the still greater obligation of the other ? And in the 7th verse the apostle argues, that as the soldier, the vinedresser, and the shepherd live by their respective

occupations, so ought the teacher of the Gospel to live by his calling. All these illustrations show the great propriety of the ordination that “they who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” And we have reason to rejoice that the inspired apostle has here so directly told us that the law in question is none of his making, but émanated directly from the sole Head and King of Zion. 66 The Lord hath ordained it.” These are not the only proofs which might be adduced in support of our argumentalthough they certainly form a sufficiently broad and sure basis on which to rest the general principle which each of them so distinctly teaches. We may simply remark, in addition, that these texts are confirmed by others of a more comprehensive character, such as that in which our Lord, when sending forth the twelve to preach and to heal diseases, said, “ Provide neither gold nor silver, nor brass in your purses ; nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes nor yet staves; for the workman is worthy of his meat;” and also his memorable words to Pilate, “ My kingdom is not of this world” -an assertion which it were easy to prove, applies to Christ's kingdom in its every department, and its entire extent-in its whole genius, and in all its arrangements.

Such, then, is Christ's arrangement for regulating the financial affairs of His church and kingdom. “ They that preach the Gospel shall live of the Gospel.” The ordinance is not of man, not of this world, but “ of the Lord from heaven.” Earthly wisdom did not devise it. Earthly authority did not sanction it. Nor by any earthly power is it to be carried into effect. And it does appear strange that any professed subject of King Jesus, or any section of His church, should seek to evade the law, to amend, or to abolish it. Here, however, we come into direct collision with those who deny that this is the financial arrangement of Christ's kingdom, and who maintain that the minister of religion should be supported by the state. How they contrive to get quit of the above passages, we do not very well know. Some up

holders of establishments, we are aware, admit our interpretation of them, but hold that the principle which they teach can be carried out only in a higher state of the church of Christ. Others say that this principle was adapted to the Redeemer's kingdom during its infancy. The great majority, however, make no such admission, but passing over such texts in silence, refer us to the Jewish economy for the proof of their theory. They maintain that as under that dispensation a national provision was made by God himself for the teachers of religion, so should it be in the Christian church. And as this is the chief Scripture argument adduced by our opponents, it will be necessary to examine it.

Here we remark generally, that it by no means follows that what obtained under the law should continue under the Gospel. Many regulations, all admit, which existed during the Jewish age, find no place in the Christian. Nor is it safe, without the express warrant of our Lord or his apostles, to transfer any ordinance from the old into the new economy. Can the friends of establishments point to such a warrant for the case in hand? Is there a single passage in the New Testament which declares that the church and state connection that obtained in the Mosiac dispensation is also to prevail in the Christian ? Is it not rather apparent that the whole circumstances of the church of the Redeemer rendered such an arrangement perfectly impracticable; that from the very first, the relation of the kingdom of the Saviour to the state of the world was of such a character that no alliance of the kind in question could possibly have been formed? But even admitting that it is fair to reason thus analogically without any express warrant, we ask, on which side does the argument fall? - The Jewish church was supported by the Jewish state, therefore (say our opponents.) the Christian church should be supported by a Christian state.” Where, we ask, is there such a state ? Where is there a nation or a government really entitled to be called Christian—as much entitled to this appellation as the Hebrew nation or state was to be styled Jewish ? Not in Christendom--not on earth. But is not this the proper form of the argument? The members of the Hebrew commonwealth maintained their ministers of religion; therefore the members of the Christian commonwealth should do likewise! The Jewish nation, in its organised state, was not the symbol of any other nation. It has no representative among the kingdoms of the world. It was the pattern of the Christian church. It is represented only by the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ; and, therefore, when we find all the Jews liable in the matter of tithes for the support of their religious teachers, we are not on that account warranted to conclude that the inhabitants of a professedly Christian country should, as such, be subjected to taxation for the maintenance of their pastors, but rather that the members of the church of Christ should be so taxed. The former are not comparable with the Jewish nation. The indiscriminate exaction of moneys from the inhabitants of a parish or a country, from the whole population, irrespective of creed or character, derives no countenance whatever from the case of the Hebrews, seeing that there is no resemblance betwixt their theocracy and an earthly state. The Jewish nation-or more properly the Jewish church--for undoubtedly the nation had no existence separate from the church, but was organised solely for its sake, was typical of, and is represented by, the Christian church; and the fact that all connected with the former were required to contribute toward the maintenance of the true religion, only proves, if the analogy be carried out in this particular, that all connected with the latter are bound to give of their substance for the like object.

But further, we hold there is an express Scripture warrant for maintaining that the mode of supporting the Christian pastorate, for which we contend, derives direct countenance from the Jewish economy-from the method therein presented by God for providing for the priesthood. What was that method ? Was it not the voluntary offerings of the Lord's own people ? Were not the priests, the actual ministers of religion, supported by the gifts which the pious Jews brought to the altar of the Lord. Not by the tithes. These were for the use of the Levites at large, who, however, gave a tenth of this their portion to the officiating priests. But by the free-will offerings which God's worshipping people laid on his altar, were the ministers in sacred things and their families maintained. The Almighty carefully defined what parts of their gifts were to be appropriated by the priests—by those set apart to the proper service of religion, and these portions constituted their means of support. Such passages of Scripture as Leviticus vii. 28-34: Numbers xviii., and Deuteronomy xviii. seem quite decisive of this point. And to this very arrangement Paul makes pointed allusion in one of the texts formerly quoted. “ Do ye not know,” he says, “ that they who minister about holy things live of the things of the temple ? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar ?" (1 Cor. ix. 13.) Here the apostle reminds his brethren of God's own law for the support of His ministers under the ancient economy.

Now, his account of that law exactly harmonises with the statement of it we have just given. The priests shared in the gifts which God's worshipping people laid on his altar. Thus they were maintained. Paul then adds,—“Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel,” i. e., of the offerings presented to Christ by believers. There is in this passage an express law for supporting the ministers of the Christian religion. That law is declared to resemble the one formerly in existence for the maintenance of the Jewish priesthood. That law enjoins the payment of the teachers of the Gospel, not by the state, but by the hearers of the Gospel,-by them who wait on the ministry of the Word, and adhere to the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, then, the Mosaic economy, so far from countenancing civil establishments of religion, favours the very opposite system,-authorises the payment of the Christian pastorate by the Christian people.

There is another consideration bearing directly on this subject which we could not pass unnoticed. The words of Paul which we have just been examining, combined with the Old Testament practice to which they refer, show that an offering made toward the maintenance of God's ministers, and the support of God's cause, generally is, if rightly viewed, nothing less than an act of worship,-a gift to Jehovah himself

. And the texts prove, that such contributions are the acknowledgment of a righteous claim as between man and man, of a just debt due by the people to their pastor.

But the passage now in question teaches this, that the payment of the teachers of religion, being included in the general duty of maintaining the cause of God in the world, is in reality but one way of rendering homage to the Almighty,

an expression of our allegiance to the King of truth-the Lord of all. The words of Paul confirm this statement. “I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.” (Phil. iv. 18.) Now, how can the principle, and especially the practice of an Established Church, be made to harmonise with this view? How can money, exacted by force of civil law,-exacted under threat of imprisonment, and at the point of the bayonet,-exacted even from those who reject Christ's authority, and deny God's existence,-how can this be viewed as an act of worship? How can the Most High accept it at our hands ? Some modern statesman of eminence, we believe, has styled the state support of religion a nation's homage to that nation's God; but the sound of such a sentiment is far better than the sense of it. A nation has no existence apart from the individuals who compose it; and where we find an entire people really pious and devout, as well as “of one heart and of one mind,” in the service of the true God, then, but not till then, can we hope to behold the sublime spectacle of a nation paying homage to the King of kings. It is only on the Voluntary principle that worship can be rendered to the Saviour in the form of contributions toward the support or extension of His cause. Such offerings, like all other acts of a religious character, in order to be acceptable, must be of our own free will, as well as of our own proper good;" must be presented, “not of constraint, but willingly,” otherwise our Lord will say in reply,—~ Who hath required this at your hands ?” Nor should we forget that this condition may be awanting, doubtless often is awanting, even in a Voluntary Church. Too much constraint is sometimes used to make people “give, give.” Too many, it is to be feared, give, whose heart is never consulted in the matter. And surely, if God's people were always to reflect when approaching His sanctuary, or when about to enjoy some other opportunity of contributing to His cause, -that the gift they are ready to present is the Lord's offering,--the offering of Him who made, preserves, and redeems them; and that in bestowing it they are, or should be, engaged in a solemn act of worship, if contributors to religious objects would only ponder this, how different would be their feelings when giving-ay, and how very different their gifts! Instead of the hearty grudge, and the harping regret, there would be the cheerful blessing and the earnest prayer. And, instead of the basest of coins—" the blind, the lame, and the sick for a sacrifice,” there would be " for brass, gold; and for iron, silver; and for wood, brass ; and for stones, iron." Then, too, might we anticipate greater acceptance with God, and more abundant blessing on our labours as the fruit of that acceptance. How can we expect the Almighty to accept, and to bless that which, to whomsoever it may be presented, is really not offered to Him, or which is of such a character, so disproportioned to our obligations and our abilities, as to be utterly worthless in His sight? Has He not told us in many parts of His word, that such offerings He will not receive, far less reward? And may not such rejection of our gifts, on such grounds, account to no small extent for the complaint in the church at home and abroad, “We have sown much, and bring in little ?" May not this circumstance explain why now, as in the days of Haggai (whose short book, by the way, seems to contain the best exposition to be found in Scripture, of what may be styled “the philosophy of the Voluntary principle,”) “ the heaven over us is stayed from dew, and the earth stayed from her fruit ?” May not God be delaying to “open the windows of heaven, and pour us out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it,”-until we cease to “rob Him in tithes and offerings,”-until we “ bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in his house, and prove Him now herewith ?”

These questions at least deserve the most serious consideration. And should they prompt us to more hearty and more bountiful giving, for upholding and extending the cause of the Redeemer, we may certainly expect that God "will take pleasure in our work, and will be glorified,” in proportion to the increase of our liberality. Then, too, shall " the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and He will establish the works of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands He will establish it.”

J. M. L.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »