HOPKINSVILLE, March 9, 1841.
DEAR SIR: - I should like to hear from you on an all-important subject to us in this country, which is, The duty of the laity to the clergy. We have gone as far upon one extreme as the New School have upon the other, and are letting our ministers starve temporally, whilst they are ministering to our spiritual wants. If they neglect their stated appointments, there is a great hue and cry to know what is the matter. We do not first inquire if we have done our duty; we seem to want them to have no natural affection for their dear families. I might say a great deal on this subject, but I shall leave it with you, hoping you will let us hear from you.
I subscribe myself your brother, in hope of eternal life,
H. C. CATLETT.
REPLY: WE discard from our vocabulary the words laity and clergy, coined by Popish prelates, and adapted only to such as are more aristocratic than Old School Baptists. We should prefer the statement of the query thus: “What is the duty of the members of the church of Christ towards those whom God has called to labor in the ministry of his gospel?
Some remarks on this truly important subject may be adapted to other meridians than that of our brother in Kentucky. There are many relative duties devolving upon the children of God, in their social connection with each other, and there are many obligations binding upon the saints in relation to their pastors, besides that of communicating to their pecuniary support; but as this latter is the particular duty to which brother C. has called our attention, we will show our opinion. As in every other matter, even so in this, we are bound by our allegiance to the King of Zion to take the New Testament as the rule of our faith and practice.
In several of his epistles, Paul quoted two passages of scripture upon this very point; the one Dent. xix. 15, and the other the words of Christ, Matt. x. 10. The former reads thus: “Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.” Upon this precept of the ceremonial law, the apostle in his official character, on one of the twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, (of the spiritual Israel,) has rendered the decisive judgment from which no disciple of Christ can appeal. His inspired illustration of the figure is thus recorded, (1 Cor. ix. 9 - 14) “Doth God take care for oxen? or saith he it altogether for our sakes I For our sakes, no doubt, this was written, that he that plougheth should plough in hope, and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” Again, “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things, live (or feed) of the temple . and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?”
The other quotation made by Paul to Timothy, v. 18, (from Matt. x. 10.) is, “For the workman is worthy of of his meat.” That all these instances are directly applicable to to the question before us, is demonstrated thus:
First. Christ addressed his words to a company of gospel pioneers, when in the act of sending them forth to preach his gospel among his and their enemies, as lambs in the midst of wolves; indicating to them, that as he sent them without purse or scrip, and where they could reasonably look for no favor, he would display those signs and wonders that should attend his gospel, by opening the hearts of those among whom they should minister, to supply them with what was needful.
Second. In connection with his argument, (1 Cor. ix) Paul glories in that he has not in preaching the gospel availed himself of these privileges, which he had a right to claim at the hands of his brethren; for he says, “Who goeth a warfare at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Who feedeth a flock and eateth not or the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man or saith not the law the same things?” And then produces those passages of the law to which allusion has been made.
Finally. His words (Gal. vi. 6; also Rom. xv. 27) cannot be easily misconstrued: “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth, in all good things.” Not, as some narrow-minded, penurious professors have been wont to interpret this apostolic injunction, to communicate to those who teach them in the word, of their lean things, or, in other words, to simply communicate the bare necessaries of life, to prevent their preacher from actually starving to death; but Paul commands that they communicate in all good things.
We cannot, without doing violence to the word, suppose that the churches are to make lords of their ministering servants; to rob themselves and families of the comforts of life, in order to pamper and enrich their preachers, to make merchandise of them, or of the gospel; nor that they are to withhold from them such things as they themselves enjoy. We understand the obligation to involve an imperative duty to make the ministering servants of Jesus as comfortable in the enjoyment of carnal things, as those are to whom they minister in spiritual things. The duties of minister and people are reciprocal; if the minister does not labor to feed the flock of God on the sincere milk of the word, on the best and most glorious things of the Spirit, into which the Lord has instructed him, we would suppose him unworthy to participate in the enjoyment of the best carnal things his brethren could bestow.
Ministers and brethren in general, are all called stewards. Titus i. 7, 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2, 1 Peter iv. 10. In those cases referred to in Titus and Corinthians, ministers are intended; and in 1 Peter, all the household of faith are called stewards. All, therefore, that we possess, whether spiritual or temporal, is the Lord’s; and we ourselves are his; hence when the servant of Jesus is divinely enabled to feed the sheep and lambs of his dear flock, he feeds them as the Lord’s stewards, and deals out to them of the good things God has provided for them: so also the brethren, in supplying the ministers, and also the flock, with the comforts of this life, are only acting as God’s chosen stewards, over those things which he has appointed them stewards of. We wish not to confine the stewardship of the saints to carnal things, for Peter extends it to the manifold grace of God.
There is, probably, too much occasion for the assertion of brother C., that we have gone to as great an extreme on one hand, as the New School have on the other; but this remark, we trust, can only apply to some sections of country; and the best apology we can frame for such of the Old School as have erred, is, that they have been so much disgusted with the greedy avarice of the anti-christian retailers of abomination, the life, and soul, and body of whose faith and practice is their love of filthy lucre, that, to avoid giving the least countenance to such, they have in some instances failed to come up to the plain requisitions of the New Testament. Nor is this fault to be laid altogether at the door of the churches; the ministers themselves have in many instances refused to receive that support which the brethren would willingly giver from fear of being like the hirelings of anti-christ; and churches after having become accustomed to feeding their pastors on good wishes, are apt to adopt the sentiment, “If the Lord will keep their preachers humble, they will keep them poor.”
We are no advocate for stateed salaries. We do not believe in preaching by the day, by the month, or by virtue of any contract between the preacher and his people. To us, it appears more scriptural for the ministers to preach the preaching that the Lord bids them, as he bids them, when and where he bids them. This is incumbent on them; and this they will do, if they are called of God to the work; and if their brethren neglect to discharge their duties toward them, leave the case with the Lord. The Lord will either stir them up to faithfulness, or in his holy providence open some other door; perhaps they may be furnished with a job at tent making, or something else, by which they will ultimately be provided for. The Lord has commanded them, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Their heavenly Father knoweth they have need of these things; and he that adorns the lilly, feeds the raven, and numbers the hairs of their heads, is able and willing to supply all they need.
Neither the churches nor individual brethren should wait for their ministers to call upon them for support; they ought to act from nobler principles; for while the emissaries of Satan are bold in their appeals for aid, the humble disciple of Jesus is more modest, more diffident on this subject, than on any other. At this peculiarly trying time in Zion, the children of God ought, as far as God has prospered them in the things of this world, to endeavor to loosen the hands of the ministers of Christ, to free them from the harrassing and perplexing cares of this life, that as far as possible, they may be engaged in visiting the destitute branches of Zion. We have known some instances where professors of religion that were rich in the things of this world, have lavished high encomiums upon their ministers, while they were by no means too forward in communicating to their comfort. We speak not in reference to any with whom we stand immediately connected; our lot has always been cast among generous and kind brethren; but we have felt a deep sympathy for some of our contemporaries situated among a more penurious and niggardly people.
Finally, We hold these truths to be self evident - The ministers of the cross should go forth and feed the flock of Christ in all the faithfulness and patience they are in possession of, and leave the matter of support for themselves and dependent families entirely to God and their brethren; and on the other hand, we hold it as a binding duty on the church, to sustain the ministers, so far as God has In his providence made them stewards of the good things of this life, not grudgingly, but of a ready mind; and those who would not feel a real pleasure in doing this, we honestly believe, act in a manner unworthy of the sacred name of Old School Baptists.
NEW VERNON, N. Y.,
March 15, 1841.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 671 – 676