ARE those who enjoy the services of the ministers of Christ bound to minister to them of their carnal things, or are the ministers to be regarded as paupers, and only receive relief as poor members of the church? There seems to be some difference of opinion on this subject. Joseph and Benjamin have called up the subject, and expressed their opinion that the church is solemnly bound to communicate, according to the ability wherewith the Lord has blessed them, to the support of their servants who labor for them in the ministration of the word. To their views, however, several brethren have expressed a dissent. Brother ‘Smith, whose letter will be found in a preceding number, takes the ground, if we comprehend his meaning, that the minister is only to be relieved from pressing necessity, .as any other brother who maybe cast upon the liberality of the church.
While we agree with brother Smith, that the gospel is not to be made an article of merchandise for religious stock-jobbers, we cannot see with him the necessity of classing the ministers of the gospel with the poor of the church, as the cases are very dissimilar. The poor of the church, Who become so poor as to require the assistance of the church, are not supposed to be entitled to such assitance for services rendered, or for money advanced, but simply because they are in need, and the spirit and doctrine of Christ requires that those who have ability shall contribute to their relief. The minister is required to serve the church, and is subjected to more than an equal share of labor and actual expense, from the position he is called to occupy. His duties to his family are the same as those of other brethren, and if the church has a righteous claim on him for labor and expenditures of money, he has as righteous a claim on them for reimbursement, or else he must be in duty bound to rob his family of their means of support to apply to the enrichment of his brethren. We will state a case which is not unusual among the servants of the churches. A man who is a mechanic is called to preach; his business is established and affords an ample support for his family where he resides, but, as a prophet, he has n honor where he resides; a church in a distant neighborhood requires his labors, gives him a call which he feels bound to accept, in doing which, he breaks up his business, and can no longer depend on it for the support of his family; his whole time is now occupied in doing the service that his brethren require of him, and in addition he is required to keep a horse, and an open house to entertain company who may call on him as a minister; he sacrifices say $500 yearly by retiring from his worldly business, incurs an additional expense of $500, or more or less, (as the principle is the same,) by accepting the call. Now, is it the duty of this minister to bear all this burden, or should his brethren, according to their ability, share it with him? If they are bound to share the burden with him, is he to be regarded as a pauper because his brethren refund to him a part or the whole of the amount that he has expended in labor, sacrifice, or money, in doing them service? Or, shall he be doomed to plead with, and beg of the brethren, on every Sunday to throw a few cents into the hat or plate, to be divided between him and the suffering members of the church, and encourage them to do so from the cheering prospect that they who contribute may become poor enough by and by to share with their devoted pastor in the product of these weekly gatherings of crumbs?
We do not see wherein brother Smith’s proposed mode of raising funds for the support of poor ministers and poor brethren has less of the sound of axe and hammer than the mode generally pursued by the churches. The rattling of a few coppers in the hat once a week has but little charm for devotional ears; and the zealous appeals of the pastor to the liberality of the saints, would not enrapture the penurious and miserly members of the congregation.
Our view of the subject is, that the churches are bound by the order of the gospel to contribute to the support of those who labor among them in the gospel ministry; and we know of no particular form of raising that support. The churches are themselves most competent to judge in what manner the contributions of the saints shall be collected and how disbursed, whether by weekly contributions, subscriptions, or by each one carrying to the pastor or to the indigent brethren what they feel able or willing to give. But we do protest that it is unequal and unjust for any church to exact the labors of a minister of the gospel, and then withhold from him that support which according to their ability they are required by the gospel to render.
It cannot well be denied that ministers have, in many cases, been themselves greatly in fault, in misleading their brethren either to make merchandise of the gospel, by offering their services in the market to the highest bidder, as a farmer would sell the produce of his farm, or on the other hand, they hare protested against ministers receiving any remuneration from their brethren for actual services rendered them. While, on the one hand, God’s ministers do not preach for hire, but because they are constrained by the love of God; and if all the fountains of human kindness were dried up among those to whom they minister, yet there being a necessity laid upon them, they would still preach; they are divinely authorized to expect their brethren to bear an equal .share of the burden, according to their several abilities.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
April 1, 1846
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 628 – 631