WE cordially welcome the communication of brother Van Duzer, on the subject of ministerial support. “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake, whose mouths must be stopped.” So writes the apostle Paul, and how applicable are his words to the anti-christian preachers whose name is Legions, while Jesus has informed us that his servants are few. The legions are unruly, inasmuch as they are governed by no law or rule given by our Lord Jesus Christ. The few are “Called, and chosen, and faithful.” - Rev. xii. 14. The many are vain, but the few know that their labor is not vain in the Lord. The many are talkers, being men of human ability, talent and influence, able to communicate and promulgate vain things; but the few are frequently like Moses, slow of speech, of stammering lips, unpolished and uncomely in the eyes of the world, who, instead of being talkers or readers, without divine rule, are made able ministers of the New Testament - sons of thunder to the unruly, and sons of consolation to the saints. The former are mostly of the circumcision, being generally legalists or Arminian work-mongers; but the latter are of that circumcision which is made without hands, whose praise is not of men, but of God. The former teach things which they ought not, but the latter speak as the Spirit gives them utterance, and they speak the truth in soberness. Those teach for filthy lucre’s sake, but these because the word of the Lord is like fire shut up in their bones; and there is to them a wo, if they preach not the gospel of Christ. Of those it is written, “Their mouths must be stopped;” but of these it is written, “Touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm; for he that toucheth them, toucheth the apple of mine eye.”
But how are their mouths to be stopped? We are not left altogether in the dark as to the mode. As they teach for filthy lucre, just remove the cause, and the effect will cease. Nothing is more apparent than that the prevailing system of contracting with preachers to preach by the day, or year, for a stipulated amount of lucre, presents a charm which allures thousands from the bar, and from other pursuits, into the ministry, whom God has not called to preach his gospel. It is this greediness of lucre which leads to making merchandise of the gospel - to the establishment of Theological Seminaries, Mission Societies, and that fills our pulpits with dandies and fops, who being unable to feed the flock of God, employ their position in ridiculing the aged fathers in the ministry, who have labored successfully in the gospel ministry, and that, too, in many cases, without receiving as much remuneration as the Indian’s salary of forty shillings a year. A specimen of the manner in which they allude to our aged ministers is given by one of the American Baptist Missionary Society’s hirelings, in writing to the Editor of the Repository, in which he calls them wind-broken and distanced. To satisfy their greedy appetites with lucre they have married their churches to their respective congregations, especially in the Eastern States, where a subscription is circulated with the understanding that all who subscribe are thereby constituted members of the congregation, subject, of course, to the general taxation; but as an equivalent are entitled to the privilege of voting in the calling and settling of pastors, and in the regulation of what passes with them for sacred music. All these evils naturally grow out of the systems of the day.
We are fully aware that Christ has, through his apostles, enjoined the duty and privilege on his people, of communicating of their worldly substance, as God has blessed them, to the support of those whom he has called into the ministry. The ministers of Christ are stewards of the word, as the saints who are benefitted by their labors are stewards of their carnal things. It is the work of the minister to preach the word faithfully, and it is the work and duty of his brethren to see that he is made comfortable in regard to temporal things. We see nothing improper in the ancient practice of our Baptist churches, when having chosen a pastor, without consulting the world, herself judging of his gifts and qualifications, and having settled him, to make the necessary arrangements for his support. If the church thinks proper to open a subscription book in which every one who feels willing may annex to his name the amount he intends to give, by doing which the burden becomes more equal among the members; and such non-professing friends as feel so disposed may throw in their aid and thus reduce the burden of the church, we see no wrong in it. But the system of selling memberships in congregations or societies, or the privilege of voting, or of conducting any part of devotion, or any right to interfere in any other business of the church for money, is in my estimation as sacrilegious and unscriptural as the popish practice of selling indulgences to sin, or passport through purgatory.
A minister of Jesus should never be above laboring with his hands, and we are persuaded that Christ’s ministers are not; still when it is in the power of a church to relieve their minister from the cares of the world, that he may devote his time principally or wholly to the work, it is right they should do so. We know that the liberality of the churches in the support of the ministers of the gospel of Christ has not been extravagantly large. The excess and extravagance of their appropriations have been to those who teach for filthy lucre’s sake; of this latter class we have known some, who while receiving their thousands by contract for preaching, are at the same time setting on foot every conceivable devise for swelling their income, by preaching what they call Missionary sermons, Education, Tract, Temperance or other kinds of sermons; any kind except gospel sermons; not of a ready mind, but for filthy lucre’s sake, thus enabling them to roll in luxury and extravagance, while in many cases there are members of their own churches living on public expense at the common poor houses. These things, brethren, ought not to be.
New Vernon, N. Y.,
May 3, 1833.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 60 – 64