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THE YEAR OF OUR LORD
PUBLISHED AND SOLD BY N. BANGS AND T. MASON, FOR THE METHODIST
PREACHERS IN THE CITIES AND COUNTRY.
John C. Totten, Printer, 9 Bowery.
FOR JANUARY, 1822.
OBLIGATION OF THE CHURCH TO SUPPORT ITS MINISTERS. Extract of a Sermon, preached at Sheffield, before the Associated
Churches and Ministers assembled there, April 25, 1821.
BY JAMES BENNETT.
“If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” 1 Cor. ix. 11.
IT devolves on me, my dear hearers, by the appointment of others, and not by my own choice, to unfold and enforce the duty of supporting the ministry of the word. I am not unaware that the first mention of this subject will startle many, and awaken a thousand reflections on the delicacy, not to say the invidiousness of the attempt. But as I hope to give the most satisfactory proof that divine authority binds this duty on the conscience, I presume that you
feel it would be an affront to your good sense, and a reflection on your Christian principles, to waste your time in efforts to display the propriety of inculcating that which God has commanded, and of resolving, that neglect on this point shall not rob us of the right to say, “we have kept back nothing that was profitable to you, nor shunned to declare the whole counsel of God.”
If any shrink from this subject, not on their own account, but for the sake of others ; lest the discussion should prove injurious to religion, by giving colour to the suspicion of mercenary motives, which some affect to entertain against the ministers of religion; I respect their fears, I sympathize with their delicate solicitudes, and say, with the apostle, it were better for us to starve, or to die, than that any man should make void our glorying, that we preach the gospel, “not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; and seek not yours but you."
I would, however, remind such hearers, that the words I have chosen for my text are extracted from a passage, in which the same Apostle who was so exquisitely alive to every thing that might commit the honour of the Gospel, inculcates the duty of supporting the ministry, on an infant church, whom he might naturally be afraid of prejudicing against that religion which they had so recently embraced. Yet we shall soon see with what frankness and decision he who would sacrifice every right, or interest of his own, or even life itself, to the honour of the Gospel, demands the recompense due to pastoral toils ; without once betraying the slightest suspicion that he might injure the religion of Jesus, by pressing a duty which bears the impress of divine authority, and commends itself alike, to the coolest decision of the judgment, and the noblest feelings of the heart.
That those who live under the highest inspirations of religion, will welcome the consideration of this subject, I am satisfied; because I know that they grieve for the inadequate attention paid to that which so deeply affects the interests of the church; while those who would gladly lose sight of the grand Christian duty, or blot it from the code of Scripture and the Christian's breast, are the very persons, for whose "correction and instruction in righteousness," we are compelled to unfold the duty, and urge to that obedience which Heaven demands, for its honour and their highest good.
On the coolest consideration, therefore, I feel myself entitled to all Christian freedom in discussing this subject; not forgetting that, as I am often called to address young ministers, on their duty to the churches, and can appeal to some present that I have endeavoured to discharge that delicate task with unsparing ridelity, showing all that the churches have a right to expect from us, I may be indulged with equal boldness, while I call, upon Christians to yield an adequate support to those, who “watch for your souls as they that must give an account.”
I request, then, your candid attention to
1. The divine appointment, that the church of Christ should support its ministers.
To a Christian audience, scarcely any thing more is necessary, certainly nothing is more conclusive and authoritative on any point, than to show that “thus saith the Lord.” In the mode of adducing my proof of this, I cannot follow a better example than that of the inspired Apostle, who shows that the ancient dispensation enjoined the same duty; that Christ perpetuated it under the Gospel; and that in fact, it may be termed a duty of natural religion, or, in other words, that it is but common justice.
1. Under the Mosaic dispensation, God enjoined that the ministers of religion should be supported by the contributions of the people.