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We come now to the third point, viz. the maintenance which is allowed to the ministers of the Gospel. On this subject the directions of our blessed Lord are so particular, that, with the practice of his Apostles, they set the matter in a very clear point of view. The directions, so far as they relate to this subject, I shall transcribe from the tenth chapter of Matthew, when Christ sent forth the twelve Apostles on their first mission : “Heal the sick ; cleanse the lepers ; raise the dead ; cast "out devils : freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses :-for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and therein abide till ye go thence. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet."*
In the foregoing passage, we have directions for the conduct of the ministers of Christ, both when their ministry is received, and when it is rejected. In the former case, all that is provided is temporary accommodation, whilst travelling in the work of the ministry; or so
* Matt. x. 8–14.
engaged therein, as to prevent their attention to their temporal occupations. In the latter case, they are by no means authorized to extort a forced maintenance; but, as a testimony against those who reject them, they are directed to shake off the dust that cleaveth to their feet. Well would it have been for the Christian religion, bad its ministers, under all denominat'ions, adhered to their Lord's instructions on this subject; and acted with that noble disinterestedness which He inculcates, and wbich we find was practised by his immediate followers, so as to enable one of them to say, “I seek not yours, but you.”*
And here I cannot well avoid expressing great regret for the wound, which, there is reason to believe, Christianity has received, and still receives, from a lucrative establishment for ministers ; a circumstance which holds out a tenptation for unqualified, and even immoral men, to seek for, and get into that office, with no better motive (I believe it will be generally allowed) than that which it was foretold would actuate the corrupted sons of Eli :“ Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priest's offices, that! I may eat a piece of bread.”+ | * 2 Cor. xii. 14.
+ 1 Sam, ii, 36.
We are aware of the arguments advanced from some expressions of the apostle Paul, in favour of an established support for ministers; and which I apprehend are all comprised in the following words of the Apostle: “Do ye not know, that they which minister about holy things, live of the things of the temple ; and they which wait at the altar, are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach the Gospel, should live of the Gospel."* Now all this only proves a support consistent with what “the Lord hatb ordained,” and which is already given in his own words. This we readily admit, and adopt in our practice ; but surely no one can infer, from the foregoing passages, that ministers are to be provided with a settled maintenance; and not to labour with their hands, or to be engaged in the usual occupations of life, for their own support, and that of their families.
That we are justified in the construction given of our Lord's direction, and the Apostle's reference to it, is abundantly clear from the practice which resulted from it; and which cannot be more completely or energetically described, than in the words of the same Apostle contained in his most excellent address to the elders of Ephesus, which he concludes in this memorable language: “I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel ; yea, you yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that, so labouring, ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."*
* 1 Cor. ix, 13, 14.
These being our sentiments on this important subject, we make no provision for the support of our ministers, further than the discharge of those expenses, wliich travelling in their religious services necessarily occasions; and, if we make no provision for the support of our own ministers, whose ministry we approve, we think ourselves fully warranted in declining to contribute to the support of others, and of a worship connected with them, from both of which we conscientiously dissent. A ministry with a settled maintenance, forced even from those, who so far disapprove of their establishment, as to withdraw from their teaching, is so eyidently incompatible with the doctrine and
* Acts xx. 33–35.
practice of Christ and his Apostles, that I think it unnecessary to say more to justify our principles in this respect. But, although it appears to me to be a system so deeply injurious to the interests of true religion, I have no doubt that many, not seeing the subject in the same point of view, have seriously entered, under these circumstances, into this vocatiou ; and are piously concerned to discharge the duties of their station. These should be left to their own master, to whom we must all, at last, either stand or fall.
After what has been said respecting the general maintenance of Gospel Ministers, it appears superfluous to enter into argument against that most objectionable and anti-christian mode, of support by titles. Their divine right is generally exploded and abandoned ; their impolicy is almost as universally acknowledged. How far the testimony which we have borne against them may have contributed to produce these effects, is not for me to determine; but it is hoped that, so long as tbis yoke remains, that testimony will continue to be maintained, with the firmness and meekness which should ever be united in the support of religious truths.