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“ This pecuniary relation does not trouble me,"—though it is not easy to repress the suspicion that in many cases, at least, their happy exemption must be traced to the same spirit of meek resignation which enabled the Vermont farmer to say he was not troubled by his breachy cattle, because he never let such things trouble him. If ministers were in all respects as spiritual as their functions, if they had no bodies to feed, clothe, and shelter, if their intellects required no aid from things that cost money, such as books, time for study, and means of travel, while zeal and love and knowledge were as expansive, and ardent, and constant in them as in the burning seraphs, this troublesome relation would cease.* But so long as min
he things troubled bish enabled traced to any cases,
• South, a zealous advocate of a State episcopacy, in a discourse before the clergy at Oxford, thus describes the pecuniary condition of the clergy in his day : “ The Christian ministry is a troublesome and a disgusted institution, and as little regarded by men as they regard their souls, but rather hated as much as they love their sins. The Church is every one's prey, and the shepherds are pilled, and polled, and fleeced by none more than by their own flocks. A prophet is sure to be without honor, not only in his own country, but almost in every one else. I scarce ever knew an ecclesiastic but was treated with scorn and distance; and the only peculiar respect I have observed shown such persons in this nation (which yet I dare say they could willingly enough dispense with) is, that sometimes a clergyman of a hundred pounds a year has the honor to be taxed equal to a layman of ten thousand. Even those who pretend most respect to the Church and Churchmen, will yet be found rather to use than to respect them; and if at any time they do aught for them, or give any. thing to them, it is not because they are really lovers of the Church, but to serve some turn by being thought so. As some keep chaplains, not out of any concern for religion, but as it is a piece of grandeur, something above keeping a coach ; it looks creditable and great in the eyes of the world: though in such cases he who serves at the altar has in general as much contempt and disdain passed upon him, as he who serves in the kitchen, though perhaps not in the same way; if any regard be had to him, it is commonly such a one as men have for a garment (or a pair of shoes) which fits them, viz., to wear him, and wear him, till he is worn out, and then to lay him aside. For, be the grandee he depends upon never so powerful, he must not expect that he will do anything for him till it is scandalous not to do it. If a first or second rate living chance to fall in his gift, let pot the poor domestic think either learning, or piety, or long service, a sufficient pretense to it; but let him consider with himself rather, whether he can answer that difficult question, Who was Melchisedek's father? or whether, instead of grace for grace, he can bring gift for gift, or all other qualifications without it will be found empty and insignificant.
"In short, everything is thought too much for persons of this profession. Though one would think, that as they are men, and men who have been at the charge of an expenseful and laborious education, as much or more than most others, they ought upon that very right of nature and justice to expect a return, in some degree at least, proportionable to such cost and labor, as well as men of any other profession whatsoever : yet here it, VOL.XV.-NO. LXI.
isters continue to be men, of like passions and necessities with other men, it must continue. In other words, money must be had for their support.
But how shall it be raised ? By means of free seats and contribution boxes? This method, to say nothing of its precariousness, places the minister much on a level with the penny lecturer or wandering piper, whose tenure on the sustenance of life is regulated by the maxim, “ No song, no supper.” It may serve a good purpose, temporarily, in certain circumstances, where the other customs of a people are of a corresponding character; but in orderly, thriving, intelligent communities, its inevitable tendency must always be, to sink the character of the ministry, and bring the public services of religion into contempt.
Shall it be raised by annual subscriptions, eked out by donation visits? This method, though superior to the other, places both the minister, the people, and the public services
seems religion must supersede the rule of justice and the course of nature, and the ministers of it must be required to live not only as spiritual persons, but as spirits ; and upon no other ground in the world it is, but men's envying the Church a competent share of these, that all those virulent but senseless clamors of the pride, covetousness, and luxury of the clergy have been raised; so that when their insolent, domineering enemies cannot get them under their feet, as they desire, then presently the clergy are too high and proud. And when avarice disposes men to be rapacious and sacrilegious, then forthwith the Church is too rich. And lastly, when with whoring, and gaming, and revelling, they have disabled themselves from paying their butchers, their brewers, and their vintners, then immediately they are all thunder and lightning against the intemperance and luxury of the clergy, forsooth, and high time it is for a thorough reformation.
“But to disabuse the world, the true account of the pride of the clergy is, that they are able to clothe themselves with something better than rags; or rather, that they have anything to clothe them at all, and that the Church of England would (by its good will) neither have naked gospels nor naked evangelists. And then in the next place, the covetousness of the clergy is, that they can and do find wherewithal to pay taxes, and just enough to keep them from begging afterwards. And lastly, their luxury and intemperance lies in this, that they had rather eat at their own poor home, than lick up the crumbs at the end of their haughty neighbor's table, and much less under it; that they scorn to sneak here and there for a dinner, or beg their daily bread of any but God himself. The world in the meantime proceeding by no other measure with the clergy than this, to exact of them hospitality to others, and to grudge them bread for themselves."
He speaks, a little after, of an opinion sometimes expressed, “ that the Church and clergy of England have an interest opposite to the rest of the nation, that the whole nation ought to rise up (as one man) against them with staves and clubs and knock out their brains, as vermin and public nuisances.” If this is a true account of the estimation in which the State clergy were held, the ministry in this country have not much reason to desire any nearer relation to the State.
of religion, in false and often embarrassing positions. The enlightened, liberal, and devoted friends of religion, may subscribe and pay, not as a gift or personal favor to their minister, but in the discharge of God's just claim upon them to support his worship, believing that the laborer is worthy of his reward. But others subscribe to his support more from persuasion than from principle, more from regard to public opinion than to the will of God, more to be pleased than to be profited, more from the influence of worldly than of spiritual motives; and such men regard their subscriptions as personal favors to the minister, to be given or withheld, according to their likes or dislikes of the preacher. Such men regard the ministry not so much a divine institution for the good of mankind, as a necessary evil, or burden, which must be borne, to keep greater evils in check. They believe that real estate would have been worth more in Sodom and Nineveh, if Christian churches had flourished there. They know, that without religious worship, any community will soon sink into vice and confusion, and they will subscribe to the support of the Christian ministry as the most effectual means to prevent such evils.
Where this system is adopted, the minister is employed on condition that he shall please God, the church, and the world ; at least that portion of it who, subscribe, or would subscribe to his support, if pleased. It soon comes to be generally understood that he must please all parties. If he fails to do this, he is regarded as deficient in his duty. Unlike any other public servant or officer, he is held under obligation to satisfy, not the majority, but every individual. If some covetous, purse-proud, conceited man of wealth withdraws his subscription, assigning, as every such man knows how to do, some dissatisfaction with the minister as the reason, the latter is often blamed when he ought to be commended. Not unfrequently is a useful minister driven from his proper field of labor by a very few individuals who are always telling what liberal things they would do if the church would only settle the right man.
No minister of the gospel ought to be placed in a position disadvantageous to his success. What would be thought of a proposal to place any other class of men who are called to the service of the public, in a similar position ? to provide for the support of our judges, public attorneys, public officers, or assessors, by voluntary subscription? or even for the salaries of bank or railroad officers, by the individual contributions of those individuals who might be willing to reward
their services ? What have the ministers of the gospel done, that they should be made a special exception to all rules for the election and support of public men, by being placed in the position of gentlemanly paupers, who have some claim on the charities of their hearers? If they do not seek to please all their hearers, they are blamed; if they do seek to please them, they are men-pleasers, and of course unworthy ministers. The tendency of the system is, to make ministers either sycophants or misanthropes, ready to cringe and flatter to obtain the priest's office that they may eat a piece of bread, or, when occasion serves, to quit a position so embarrassing in disgust.
If any suppose that this precariousness of a minister's bread, depending on keeping in the good graces of every man in his congregation, is favorable to the increase of his piety, their philosophy of man's spiritual nature must be a very singular one. Those who hold this philosophy should test it first on themselves. If such a position in society should be found to promote their spirituality, let it be thoroughly tried on the ministry. For if ministers can be starved or frightened out of their native depravity, it is a great discovery, which ought to be speedily tried upon their people.
This system places the conscientious Christian in the embarrassing necessity of being his own assessor. He knows that the divine law requires him to give for the support of public worship, “according as he is able,” “ as the Lord hath prospered him;" but he is liable, from generosity or from pride, to do more than his proportion, or by covetousness or misunderstanding, to do less. It injures the covetous man, by allowing him to go on in his covetousness. It tends to divide and alienate brethren from each other. It prevents churches from acting as the bodies of Christ, as they are required to do, so that, in one important department of Christian duty, each one claims the right to act in disregard of the judgment of his brethren.
But the worst fruit of this anomalous individualism where the most perfect fraternal affiliation is required, is, it places the public worship of God in a false and disparaging position. Is it, indeed, the duty of Christians to sustain the worship of God? Is it a received doctrine, that this worship is, and of right ought to be, one of the stated, permanent operations of human society, to the end of the world ? Is it so, that God and man have a just claim that Christian worship shall be sustained ? Then why not give it a recognized place? Why treat it as a temporary thing, a respectable poor relation,
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or a beggar? Why degrade it below public schools, highways, and public pauper institutions ? Why compel the worship of God to go round, annually, to beg subscriptions of the charitable to keep it from extinction? If Christians believe in the duty of sustaining the worship of God, why not openly confess it, by assuming its burdens according to the equitable principle laid down in the Scriptures, and thus exalt it to its true position? How many generations more ought to be trained up under a system which teaches, by implication, such mischievous error ; which, under the semblance of voluntariness, is but the specious shift of covetousness?
Or shall the expenses of public worship be provided by means of pew rents? This system has some advantages over the others, but it has also many disadvantages and injurious tendencies. It is far above the puerile mendicity of the weekly contribution box plan; it is more dignified, effi- cient, and permanent, than the method of annual subscription. It promotes regularity in the collection of funds, and order in the house of God. It has the air of commercial and business-like exactitude so attractive to business men.
But its mischiefs are, that it places the ministry too much on a secular footing. Those who pay the rents virtually elect and dismiss the preacher, on the principle that paying and voting go together. The minister soon comes to be estimated, not according to his piety, ability, and diligence, but his power to please an audience by his public addresses. If he keeps the pews full, whether by sense or sound; by convicting his hearers of sin, or by tickling their fancies, by preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified, or a mixture of politics, moral reform, and nonsense, he will, in most instances, keep his place. Few churches have the moral strength to dismiss a minister so long as he keeps their house filled with fashionable hearers, who go down the broad aisle exclaiming, “ What a splendid sermon!" although he might be sadly deficient of real ability, solid, useful learning, deep habitual piety, pastoral faithfulness, and wisdom in counsel. The loss of such a minister might bankrupt them. If a minister is to be chosen, he must be a safe man for the finances. This is the first inquiry. Let it be understood that a minister pays well, lifts his society out of debt, and puts their stock at a premium, and he is sure not to lack for calls, especially from churches badly in debt. It requires as much worldly wisdom to select a profitable minister as a horse that will do the most work in proportion to his oats. No one is surprised