Orwell, Bradford Co. Dec. 5, 1835.
BROTHER BEEBE: In reading that Old Book which so many profess to love, and yet despise, I think I have a rule for hiring preachers; at least it looks as much like it as the Abrahamic covenant does like a foundation to build a gospel C’h. upon, or circumcision like gospel Baptism. And as multitudes have thought that the gospel C’h. was built on the Abrahamic Covenant, and that baptism came in lieu of circumcision, the thought struck me whether the notion of hiring ministers by the month or year, according to the present popular custom, had not originated from it, as there is nothing in the gospel to support such a practice.
I will just state what I believe about it, since it is written, “I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we believe and therefore speak,” 2 Cor. iv. 13; and when you have read it you may do with as you please.
The circumstance to which I allude, is recorded Judges xvii: There was a man of mount Ephraim whose name was Micah. And he said unto his mother, the eleven hundred sheckels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in my ears, behold the silver is with me; I took it. And this mother said, blessed be thou of the Lord. And when he had restored the eleven hundred sheckels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the Lord from my hand for my son, to make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee. Yet he restored the money unto his mother; and his mother took two hundred sheckels of silver, and gave them to the founder who made thereof a graven image and a molten image: and they were in the house of Micah. And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.” Now Micah and his mother belonging to the house of Israel, which were nationally the people of God, answers in character to such nominal christians as dedicate their children to God in rantism, or have them taught in a Sunday School, or otherwise dedicate or instruct them, supposing them the more likely to be born of God for what they have done for them; for Micah’s mother was a religious woman, though she could use profane language when in a pet. Her son, however, for a season seems rather wild and unlucky; he becomes a convert – perhaps at a protracted or camp meeting, or some other patent machine or means for making christians, and where they get so engaged that they say they will not take a denial of what they ask at the hand of the Lord. He becomes religious at any rate, and confesses his sin in stealing his mother’s money, and she, rejoicing at it, cries out, Blessed be thou of the Lord my son. The nature of their religion, however, is exposed; for they both become idolaters. They were numbered among the people of God, and the name of the Lord was handy for them to use whenever they thought proper. The son restores the stolen money; the mother had wholly dedicated it to the Lord, to make idols for her son to worship, contrary to the law of the land of Israel. How much of the money professedly dedicated to the Lord, in the present day, is dedicated to make idols of, I cannot tell; I however believe that much of it is put to no better purpose than the ornaments the Hebrews borrowed of the Egyptians was, when they gave them to Aaron, and of which he made the calf. Notwithstanding the mother had wholly dedicated the money to the Lord, yet when it is restored to her again, nine elevenths of it is kept back; for only two hundred sheckels of it was sent to the founder to make images of. Perhaps a greater proportion of it was kept back by her than was kept back by Ananias and Saphira. How great a proportion of the money now professedly dedicated to the Lord, suppose ye, is kept back by those into whose hands it is delivered to pay the founder for making idols?
Micah having his graven image, and his molten image prepared, proceeds to make an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrates one of his sons for his priest: “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. And there was a young man out of Bethlehem Judah, of the tribe of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. And the man departed out of the city from Bethlehem Judah, to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephrahim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed. And Micah said unto him, when comest thou? And he answered, I am a Levite of Bethlehem Judah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place. Now it appears that Micah’s son was not very learned – and Micah, like many in these days, wanted a learned priest – he therefore was willing to hire and pay his money, rather than longer employ his ignorant son; notwithstanding he had consecrated him, one appears that he thinks will better answer his idolatrous purpose. The young man was doubtless learned, as he sprang from a tribe of which Moses spake something concerning the priesthood; (see Deut. xxxiii. 10,) for none was to come, nor to offer incense before the Lord which was not of the seed of Aaron. See Num. xvi. 40. It appears that this young man was willing to be hired by the year for the sum of his ten sheckels of silver, a suit of clothes and victuals. Had he been one of the seed of Aaron, and a worshipper of Israel’s God, he no doubt would have been satisfied to have received what the law in that case provided, and have taken it as it came without wanting Micah for the Lord’s bondsman.
Now let us compare the case with others found at the present day. He doubtless was an active young man, supposed to ahve talents, a spirit of devotion, and ardently longed for the priests office – to which he had no legal claim, and for which he was in reality unqualified, not being called of God to the work; but having sojourned in Bethlehem Judah, and having been instructed in the work, is supposed to be competent thereto, and fit to be consecrated. He now goes in quest of a place to settle. How many active young men of the present day, who are supposed to be pious and ardently long for a place in the ministry, but knowing that they are not qualified either to preach the gospel or please men, as preachers, they must go to some theological school, answering, in popular opinion, to the ancient schools of the prophets, in order to be qualified to preach; and having completed their term of study go forth to seek a place where they can obtain a salary; being afraid, or unwilling to trust the Lord for their living, they want the people to be his bondsmen, make a contract and are hired to preach to them. This appears to be a fact, from the following language which is often used: I must have my price or I will go elsewhere; or if the people will not pay me, I will not preach to them. The character of the people also seems to agree with that of Micah; for he said, “Now know I that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.” And says the people, Now surely we shall be blest seeing we have a learned minister.
The circumstances recorded in the 18th chapter gives the finishing stroke to the picture. The circumstance of the Danites not having all their inheritance, answers to an expression that I have several times heard, “There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.” The tribe of the Danites had not yet received all their inheritance, and the children of Dan sent out men to search the land, who, when they came to mount Ephraim, they lodged there; and they knew the voice of the young man, the Levite, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither? and what makest thou in this place? – a subject of conversation common with many that are called ministers in the present day. And he said unto them, Thus and and Micah dealeth with me, and hath hired me and I am his priest. And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous. (A small thing to ask.) And the priest said unto them, Go in peace; before the Lord is your way wherein ye go. Now the thievish, idolatrous Danites could be very religious as well as others, and employ an idolatrous priest, as though he would enquire of their God whether their way should be prosperous; and the young man, idolatrous as he was, could appear to answer in the name of the God of Israel, and speak peaceably unto them, saying Before the Lord is your way. And can it be doubted that some of our professedly pious young men, as well as some of the riper years, who could not give themselves up to the work of the ministry until they were qualified by instructions from the foundry, should be as idolatrous; and yet use the name of the Lord as handy as Micah’s young priest? I believe it is a fact that very many of them are as warmly attached to, and much engaged in serving images which are the work of man’s hands – the various monied institutions of the day; nor can it be denied that these idols are made of silver or its equivalent; they certainly are based upon money. Their language is, The heathen will not be given to Christ without money. Money is no less the nerve of missionary enterprise, than of war.” They also tell us that the Lord is calling for our money, that he may have it “to expend as he did his heart’s blood for the salvation of a perishing world.”
But an idolatrous people are as fond of an idolatrous priesthood, as was Micah or the Danites. They want just enough religion to keep up the name, and to inquire of the Lord when they are in strong doubts about any important matter. The five men sent by the Danites to search the land, may answer to the runners (agents) sent out by the tribes (societies) who wish to enlarge their inheritance; and the report of the Danites to their brethren, compares well with many of the reports, I have read within a few years, that speak of large portions of country, whose people are careless, and have no business (religion) with any man. See verses 7, 8 and 9. And soon after the report, an armed force sets off from some society, with all the panoply of its respective order, to go and take possession. They take the path that leads to the house of Micah, where the priest and idols are, or thus they are directed by those that know where more money and minsters are to be found, if they will only take the proper method to obtain them. When the Danites were near the house of Micah, they were informed or reminded of what was there, and so they call; not however to inquire of the Lord, as before, but to rob Micah of his gods and priest. And while the five men that went to spy out the land, was robbing Micah of his images, &c., the priest was standing with the armed men at the gate; and when they brought forth the gods and the ephod, he said unto them, What do ye? And they said unto him hold thy peace, lay thy hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be unto us a father and a priest: is it better for thee to be a priest unto a tribe and family in Israel? And the priest’s heart was glad, and he took the images of Micah and went in the midst of the people, and so they departed.
From this part of the history we may learn the folly of hiring ministers. Micah’s hired priest was content to walk with him while he had no prospect of greater gain, and so are many others; but when they have a greater call, they must leave. If no dangerous wolves appear, they may answer an idolatrous purpose for a season; but when the wolves appear, the hireling fleeth, as the Lord said, John x. 13 – and in the 12th verse the wolf catcheth the sheep; so the Danites, like wolves, caught Micah’s hireling. The scribes, pharisees and Jewish rulers, were by our Lord called wolves, and he sent his disciples forth among them as lambs among wolves, Luke x. 3. How near the present the hireling and idolatrous priests compare with the Danites, and ancient scribes and pharisees, and Micah’s hireling, both in doctrine and practice, is easy to discover. But the Lord hates robbery for burnt offering, Isa. lxi. 8. Cursed be the deceivers, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing; for I am a great King saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.
I am, dear Brother, bound with you in the afflictions of the present state,
Signs of the Times
Volume 4, No. 3
January 29, 18136