Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ethan Smith on a Paid Clergy

Ethan Smith, a Congregationalist minister of the early nineteenth century, had certain remarks in opposition to those who, like the early Latter-day Saints who would later arise, viewed the idea of a paid clergy as a corruption. The following statements are taken from Ethan Smith, A Dissertation on the Prophecies Relative to Antichrist and the Last Times; Exhibiting the Rise, Character, and Overthrow of That Terrible Power: And a Treatise on the Seven Apocalyptic Vials (Charlestown, MA: Samuel T. Armstrong, 1811), 359-360:

Many are induced to withdraw, or withhold the support of the Gospel ministry. Many under the name of teachers have artfully led the unwary to infer from the gratuity of some of Paul's missionary labors among the heathen, that the ministry of the Gospel is ever to be free of all regular expense: and that all ministers, who stipulate for their regular support in return for their being devoted to a people, are hirelings and impostors. This is a suggestion, than which nothing can be more opposed to the word of God; or injurious to man. It is a prime stratagem of hypocrisy, and of Infidelity. These words of Christ are perverted, and pressed into this service, Freely ye have received; freely give. In relation to the power of miraculous healing, which was superadded to the special commission of the apostles, our Lord gave them a charge; Freely ye have received; freely give. (Matt. x, 8.) i.e. Make no merchandize of this special Divine delegation. Men would give almost any sum to be healed. Take nothing. But it is base wickedness to pervert these words of Christ into a prohibition to his ministers from asking their regular support. The words of Christ, which immediately follow, take this text out of the impostor's hands. 'Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses; nor scrip for your journey; neither two coats; neither shoes; nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.' It is the express order of God, that those, who preach the Gospel, shall live of the Gospel; that people shall aid their support according to their several abilities; and that they shall do it to such a degree, as that their minister need not entangle himself with the affairs of this life, but may give himself wholly to the work of the ministry. When this support of the Gospel is covetously withholden, God charges the withholders with the sin of robbing him. (Mal. iii, 9.) And they may well expect judgments, delusion, and ruin in return. The support of the Gospel then, and a faithful attention and obedience to its administration, are a most important remedy against the innovating, Antichristian principles of these last days. And a firm rejection of all erroneous and irregular preachers, is an important mean of withstanding the Antichristian principles of this period. And this is solemnly enjoined in the word of God.

So, is it permissible to financially sustain a pastor?

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