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THE SUPPORT OF THE GOSPEL MINISTER

“Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? * * * Do you not know that they which minister about holy things love of the things of the temple, and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” – 1 Corinthians ix, 7, 13, 14.

We have dwelt particularly in our previous article upon the character of the call to the work of the ministry; and in an admonition to our churches to be careful that the work is of God before calling to ordination. Admitting now that we have the gift, called, qualified, and sent of God to the work; it becomes an equally important matter for the church to take proper care of such a precious gift.

It is written (Acts xiii, 2, 4,) “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them. * * * So they being sent forth by the Holy Ghost. . .” The Church has been moved (not moved upon) by the Holy Spirit, and the minister sent forth, “Separated unto the Gospel of God.” – Romans i, 1. The minister’s life work is now before him, and much like the priests under the law who ministered at the altar in days of old, upon whose mitre was engaged “like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.” – Exodus xxviii, 36. He is set apart to the work. It is his life business. It comes first always, first as exemplified in Luke ix, 59, 60: “And He said unto another, Follow Me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” He must not take into any consideration his worldly affairs when they come in conflict with his ministerial duties; no matter if the plow is left standing in the unfinished furrow, or the fields are ripening to the harvest, at the call of duty he must go. The sympathetic appeal of wife or of children must fall upon an unheeding ear; he cannot turn aside to the sympathy or reasoning of the carnal mind.

As a member has no right whatever, but is absolutely in disorder in engaging in any business no matter how pecuniary profitable, that causes him to neglect his church obligations, so too, the minister as an ensample (Philippines iii, 17,) to the flock can engage in an enterprise that conflicts with his higher duties. The testimony requires a life dedicated to the work; “separated unto the Gospel of God.” “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” – 2 Timothy ii, 24. “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.” – 1 Timothy iv, 15; it is written of their high calling. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” – Hebrews i, 14.

Nor is this life work simply attending meeting when the weather is pleasant on Sunday and nothing else seems to come in the way, but it is one day of the week as on the other when duty calls; for several days, or even weeks, if need be at a time; in storm or in sunshine, he must be at his post; if others are faithless this must not be said of him!

Now can he turn aside from the path of Truth to please or flatter freewillers, or even children of grace much less the worldling. “And they went every one straight forward; whither the Spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.” – Ezekiel i, 12. He is a watchman upon the walls of Zion who is to “cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet.” – Isaiah lviii, 1. The message may often be impalacable as he shows Israel“their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” Yet still he must cry; “open thy mouth WIDE, (not speaking incoherently, muttering monosyllables, straddling questions, dodging the issues, speaking in riddles &c.,) and I will fill it,” is the Divine promise. – Psalm Lxxxi, 10. He may be a pioneer in the investigation of some particular Truth blazing the trail over which his brethren are to travel; and the Truth of which they sooner or later will have revealed to them. In all this long, arduous labor as he has neglected his worldly interest continually and constantly we might well inquire: how is he to get his financial support? The text answers the inquiry directly and to the point: “Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?”

The arguments Paul presented, as in all Scripture testimony, are unanswerable. Does the patriot called to his country’s defence provide for his own support while he fights his country’s battles? Does he who tills his vineyard and watches over the flock not eat of the fruit thereof? “even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should love of the Gospel.” Paul continues: “Say I these things as a man? Or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith He it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that plougheth should plough in hope; and he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we should reap your carnal things?” We might continue to quote, for the Scripture abound with similar testimony.

We will pause here for a moment and pass to the consideration of another phase of this testimony worthy of notice: “The Support of the Gospel Ministry.”

This testimony also deals with this particular character of support which we wish to notice. An illustration is found in 2 Kings iv, 8, 9, 10: “And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. And she said unto her husband, Behold now. I perceive that this is a holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick; and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.” This woman was “a great woman;” not great in worldly riches and fame perhaps; not the member of some woman’s club, seeking notoriety in the public eye; but great in her faith and trust in God, in the wealth of the riches that comes from the knowledge and love of God. She recognized the character of this “man of God” (what a wonderful name to a chosen servant) and would provide for his needs, which were not numerous; a “little chamber on the wall,” a quiet room on a side of the house where he could “turn in thither,” and rest; where he could meditate undisturbed, and commune with his God. She anticipated the disposition and needs of such a man. She knew the character of that faith which was found in seclusion, which sought retreat from the fierce glare, the curious gaze of the rabble; which sought refuge often in dens and in caverns, where prophets prophesied by the Spirit of God. Surely she was a great woman.

“The calm retreat the silent shade
With prayer and praise agree.”

What a provision was this for the comfort of the prophet Elisha! This prophet testified a dark and terrible day, when the rulers in Israel “wrought evil in the sight of the Lord.” – 2 Kings iii, 2. ‘Twas much like the times in which we live (the Progressive Era), when the chosen witnesses are but few and far between; now and then one who lifts up his voice “like a trumpet,” sounding clear and loud, exposing the prevailing abominations, compromises, and deceitfulness. Such a man was marked; unpopular, persecuted, and like the sect among whom he was identified “everywhere spoken against,” – “hypers,” “antinomians,” “misers,” “sectarian,” etc. Nothing short of the Divine Presence can sustain such an one amid the trials, persecutions, and conflicts which he is called to endure. The life of such a chosen man is separate and apart from the religious world; hence he finds not encouragement and enjoyment in the banqueting halls of worldly mirth, but in communion with His precious God. The gay, frivolous gatherings of the worldly-minded are no company for him. He seeks the quiet seclusion of some restful spot, among companions congenial in his heavenly sphere, or all alone.

This the “great woman” of Shunem had faith to perceive, and made provisions for the prophet’s comfort accordingly. Here was support indeed that he needed; a home in which he could find shelter; a place that the Lord had provided. Such Baptists’ homes are found scattered abroad among the saints to-day, evidencing the Divine promise; “And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.” – Matthew x, 11.

When Moses’s hands became heavy in the battle with Amelek (Exodus xvii, 8-16,) we are told that “Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands;” and in enumerating the gifts set in the body Paul speaks of “helps” “Greet Priscilla and Aquilla, my helpers in Christ Jesus.” – Romans xvi, 3. Here is help to the minister; encouragement and appreciation of his labors, as well as the sacrifice of his wife and children; and it seems that some are particularly raised up especially to render just such service. But we return again to the first consideration of our subject to which the apostle alludes in 3 John 6, as help of a “godly sort.” It is a sad reflection upon many of our churches in days that are past, that but so little attention has been paid to the support of their ministry. We cannot shirk our duty in a matter of this kind, and expect the Divine blessing; “in keeping” the commandments there is great reward. These thoughts crowded upon our attention in the death of Elder Zinn.

We turned from the sad scene at the cemetery, and toward the sorrowful home. The thoughts that we write pressed for utterance. Are such men properly cared for? Do the churches of saints need a fearful lesson to direct their attention to the Scriptural Divine order? Will there be a famine of the preaching of the word – the word of Truth? – Amos viii, 11. Will more of His ministers be called away that the attention of our churches should be directed to the importance of properly caring for (providing for the temporal support) of the gifts which God has so richly bestowed upon the churches in this blasphemous age?

Are the members of our churches and congregations in many instances disposed to let a few bear all the burden of church and Gospel expenses? Regularly and yearly in each church an amount should be raised, and set aside for this and other church expense. Are our ministers faithful in warning our membership and congregations against the sin of “covetousness, which is idolatry”? – Colossians iii, 5; Luke xii, 15; and Ephesians v, 3.

Is the careless indifference and inattention of saints – thoughtlessness – to this most important Gospel obligation a matter of chief importance? Or covetousness; or both? Can money be readily raised for natural wants, and even our live stock well housed and fed; with but a mere pittance allowed for this far more important object, and in some churches no attention paid to it at all! Do we recognize the fact that the Divine blessings alone ripens our growing fields, and bring them to plenteous harvest; filling our fold with flocks; and crowning our board with plenty; and our health with vigor; and that by the blast of His nostrils all this can be suddenly changed?

Fearful, sober, solemn inquiries these, to be answered in the sight of high heaven by our ministers, churches and congregations. Careless inattention to similar requirements under the law was charged upon Israel in days of old; “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation.” – Malachi iii, 8, 9.

We copy from one of the articles in the Sectarian previously referred to in the series of articles upon “the labor and support of the ministry” written some years ago. The article from which we copy was published in the Sectarian for April, 1895:

“A portion of the appointed offerings under that dispensation was thus set apart for the priests who ministered at the holy altar. The divine order which required the consecration of their services in this ministration, richly provided for their temporal needs. Evidently this is what the Apostle designs to present in his reference to the Levitical services. “They which wait at the altar,” we are told, “are partakers with the altar.”Their temporal support was assured. “Even so,” he says, “hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” The holy consecration of their life and labor to the work of the ministry absolutely requires that those among whom they minister should amply provide for their earthly support. We speak not of an hireling ministry,” but of a “divine order” so positively expressed in the language, “even so hath the Lord ordained.” “If we have sown unto you spiritual things,” says the Apostle, “is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” The language is plain and positive; the principle taught cannot be evaded. No church or ministry can afford to ignore it. “And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God.” Unselfishly such a minister labors for the good of the Cause, for the welfare of the flock, in obedience to the summons of His divine Master.

Through toil and trial, through sorrow and affliction, he comes to their comfort and encouragement with the Gospel of the free grace of God. “For,” says the apostle, “as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.” – 2 Corinthians i, 5, 6. Here is certainly the consecration of a ministerial life to the service of those unto whom he is sent. “The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits.” – 2 Timothy ii, 6.

The life of the minister is sacredly identified with his flock in all their sorrows, afflictions, and joys. He loves them as he loves nothing else, except his God and Gospel Truth. He stands ready to serve them if it be to the neglect of his own affairs and family. He counsels neither his interest or his own comfort when they call for such service. He cannot forsake his duty toward them. He must stand in his place, must defend their cause, no matter whether others fulfill their obligations or war against him. His life is an example of patient toil and hope.

“Moreover,” says the apostle, “it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” Can it be possible that any amount of earthly gain could compensate for such service?”

Of what we have here written in the two articles upon the “Gospel Ministry and Their Support,” this is the sum: First, Be careful to ordain only as we have evidence of the Divine Unction. Ordain only those whom we are assured that the Lord has called, qualified, and settled in the Truth. Second, next, Be careful that those who are thus ordained are properly cared for.

If we fail in our duty the Lord will open other avenues for their support, but assuredly will hold His people accountable. This is not idle talk, but stern Bible fact, that the travel of the Church in type or in substance in all ages verifies. “If His children forsake My law, and walk not in My judgments; If they break My statutes, and keep not My commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.” – Psalm Lxxxix, 30, 31, 32. “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” – Hebrews vi, 9-12.

Elder William M. Smoot
May 1911