IT has been supposed by some of our readers that we are opposed to a minister receiving any remuneration from the people of his charge, for his time and services in the gospel ministry; this error has probably grown out of our known aversion to the missionary system. We wish to correct the wrong impression by giving a statement of our views on the subject.
We wish in this, as in every other respect, the churches and preachers to be conformed to the word of God, and we believe the word is as clear and pointed on this point as on any other involved in the relation existing between churches and preachers. The obligations devolving on preachers and churches towards each other are reciprocal, and both parties are viewed in the New Testament as stewards. “For a bishop (pastor or elder) must be blameless as the stewards of God.” - Titus i. 7. “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” - 1 Cor. iv. 1. And Peter writes to the elect to “Use hospitality one to another, without grudging, as every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” - 1 Peter iv. 9, 10. Here we see that both the ministers and brethren are stewards of God, and as stewards are servants who are entrusted with their master’s property, to deal it out according to his direction, so the minister of Jesus receives in trust the mysteries of God; these mysteries then they are bound to deal out or explain to the people of God, and this according to the gift which they have received of the Lord. Now this is the preacher’s business; he must preach the word, be instant in season, out of season. &c., and feed the flock of God which he hath purchased with his own blood; nor is he permitted to take thought for the morrow, what he shall eat, what he shall drink, or wherewithal he shall be clothed. This is not his concern; and if he should take thought, what can he do? He cannot add to his stature one cubit, or make one hair black or white; hence it is unnecessary for God’s stewards or ministers to bargain with the mission boards or with the churches, by the day, month or year, to preach for a stipulated slim, and hold them bound to raise for him just that amount. There are good reasons why our Lord has otherwise ordered this matter; in the first place, the ministers are not so capable of calculating and providing for themselves as the Lord is for them, and besides their time is to be occupied in other matters; hence our Lord in the order of his kingdom has kindly freed them from that distracting charge, and by his divine arrangement the minister is more immediately called to trust in the Lord for all he needs, both spiritual and temporal. The minister whose living is secured to him by the obligations of responsible men, whose sermons are written down, and prayers committed to memory, no more trust in God for qualifications to preach the gospel than they can in sincerity say, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Again, by making no provisions for stipulated salaries, there is less temptation to those who say, “Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priest’s offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.” - 1 Sam. ii. 36. As it has pleased the Lord to enjoin upon his ministers that they should “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and has given them the assurance that all these things shall be added unto them, (Matt. vi. 33,) so he has also enjoined upon his church to provide for those who labor in word and doctrine. As stewards, they are entrusted with temporal things, and as they receive from the stewards of the word of their spiritual things, they are required to administer to them of their temporal things. This requires no bargaining between the churches and preachers, for a stipulated sum of money or a given term of service; the church has a right to expect the labors of the minister of Christ, and the minister has a right to expect from his flock a competent support; neither are they to look for these things on the ground of legal obligation or contract, but from the nature of the relation which they stand in, one to the other. No minister of Christ will refuse to do the best, and all he can, to feed the flock of God, so we think no church or individual, in gospel order, will refuse to make their minister as comfortable as they themselves are.
We wish not to forget that there is a vast difference in the circumstances of those whom God has called to preach. Although God’s ministers are generally poor, yet there are evidently cases where one minister is more in want of help than another; some have large and expensive families, others have none; some few are wealthy, and need nothing from their flock, others are entirely dependent, and are to live of the gospel; some, again, are not so closely occupied in the labors of the gospel, as to prevent their laboring some part of their time, and thus, in part, minister to their own necessities; yet generally speaking, it seems highly desirable that the ministers should be so far liberated from the distracting cared of this world, at this particular time of trial to the church of Christ, as to spend every moment in the labor of the gospel. There was a time in the primitive church when the ministers of Christ could and did attend to the widows, but there also came another time when it was not meet that they should leave the preaching of the word and serve tables, (Acts vi. 1-4;) and so it appears at the present moment, that the few who remain firm in the old track should be encouraged to go among the scattered sheep and lambs, and confirm them in the truth by preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. Our object in writing on this subject is not to complain of any deficiency in the support of the Old School preachers - we hear none of them complain. Their savory meat, like that of Jacob, in a temporal as well as spiritual sense, is often made ready to their hand, while Esau’s party are penetrating the wilds of mission boards for the former, and theological schools for the latter. But we wish to correct the wrong impression that we are opposed to the idea of ministers receiving from the churches a competent support, when such a support is afforded them in a scriptural manner. We do not oppose it, but believe on the other hand that the obligation on the church to impart to the comfortable support of those whom God has thrust into his vineyard to labor, is as imperitive as is that on the minister of Christ to preach the preaching which Jehovah bids him. We would pursue the subject further, but our limits will not permit us. We hope that some of our correspondents will more fully present this subject in its scriptural light.
NEW VERNON, N. Y.,
September 16, 1835
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 261 – 265