Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

be given them, and may by them justly be received, our Saviour himself, from the very light of reason and of equity hath declared, Luke x. 7: “The labourer is worthy of his hire;” next, by whom; and, lastly, in what manner. The first of these divisions is designed to prove that the imposition of tithes is inconsistent with the spirit and constitution of the Christian religion. “What recompense,” he says, “ought to be given to church ministers, God hath answerably ordained according to that difference which he hath manifestly put between those his two great dispensations, the law and the gospel. Under the law, he gave them tithes ; under the gospel, having left all things in his church to charity and Christian freedom, he hath given them only what is justly given them. That, as well under the gospel as under the law, say our English divines, and they only of all protestants, is tithes; and they say true, if any man be so minded as to give them of his own the tenth or twentieth; but that the law therefore of tithes is in force under the gospel, all other protestant divines, though equally concerned, yet constantly deny. For although hire to the labourer be of moral and perpetual right, yet that special kind of hire, the tenth, can be of no right or necessity, but to that special labour for which God ordained it. That special labour was the Levitical and ceremonial service of the tabernacle, Numb. xviii. 21, 31, which is now abolished: the right, therefore, of that special hire must needs be withal abolished, as being also ceremonial. That tithes were ceremonial, is plain, not being given to the Levites till they had been first offered a heave-offering to the Lord, ver. 24, 28. He, then, who by that law brings tithes into the gospel, of necessity brings in withal a sacrifice and an altar; without which tithes by that law were unsanctified and polluted, ver. 42, and therefore never thought on in the first Christian times, till ceremonies, altars, and oblations, by an ancienter corruption, were brought back long before. And yet the Jews, ever since their temple was destroyed,

though they have rabbies and teachers of their law, yet pay no tithes, as having no Levites to whom, no temple where, to pay them, no altar whereon to hallow them ; which argues that the Jews themselves never thought tithes moral, but ceremonial only. That Christians, therefore, should take them up when Jews have laid them down, must needs be very absurd and preposterous.”*

After supporting this position with great ability, and answering all the objections of his opponents, by appealing to the authority of Scripture, he proceeds to his second topic:

“ The next thing to be considered in the maintenance of ministers, is by whom it should be given. Wherein though the light of reason might sufficiently inform us, it will be best to consult the Scripture. Gal. vi. 6, ‘Let him that is taught in the word, communicate to him that teacheth, in all good things :' that is to say, in all manner of gratitude, to his ability. 1 Cor. ix. 11, · If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we reap your carnal things?' To whom therefore hath not been sown, from him wherefore should be reaped ? 1 Tim. v. 17,· Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honour ; especially they who labour in word and doctrine.' By these places, we see that recompense was given either by every one in particular who had been instructed, or by them all in common, brought into the church-treasury, and distributed to the ministers according to their several labours : and that was judged either by some extraordinary person, as Timothy, who by the apostle was then left evangelist at Ephesus, 2 Tim. iv. 5, or by some to whom the church deputed that care. This is so agreeable to reason, and so clear, that any one may perceive what iniquity and violence hath prevailed since in the church, whereby it hath been so ordered, that they also shall be compelled to recompense the parochial minister, who neither chose him

* Prose Works, vol. üi. pp. 6, 7.

for their teacher, nor have received instruction from him, as being either insufficient, or not resident, or inferior to whom they follow ; wherein to bar them their choice, is to violate Christian liberty.” Under this head, he cites extensively the testimony of Scripture, and the practice of the apostolic and reformed churches, and concludes as follows:— “Forced consecrations out of another man's estate are no better than forced vows, hateful to God, ‘who loves a cheerful giver;' but much more hateful, wrung out of men's purses to maintain a disapproved ministry against their conscience; however unholy, infamous, and dishonourable to his ministers and the free gospel, maintained in such unworthy manner as by violence and extortion. If he give it as to his teacher, what justice or equity compels him to pay for learning that religion which leaves freely to his choice whether he will learn it or no, whether of this teacher or another, and especially to pay for what he never learned, or approves not; whereby, besides the wound of his conscience, he becomes the less able to recompense his true teacher? Thus far hath been inquired by whom churchministers ought to be maintained, and hath been proved most natural, most equal and agreeable with Scripture, to be by them who receive their teaching; and by whom, if they be unable. Which ways well observed, can discourage none but hirelings, and will much lessen the number in the church.”f The last topic of consideration is in what manner God has ordained that recompense be given to ministers of the Gospel; “and,” says Milton, “by all scripture it will appear that he hath given it them not by civil law and freehold, as they claim, but by the benevolence and free gratitude of such as receive them.” In proof of this, he heaps scripture upon scripture, and answers with great severity the objecto sustain a learned ministry by means of an expensive university education. The treatise concludes with the following bold and nervous passage:– “Heretofore, in the first evangelical times, (and it were happy for Christendom if it were so again,) ministers of the gospel were by nothing else distinguished from other Christians, but by their spiritual knowledge and sanctity of life, for which the church elected them to be her teachers and overseers, though not thereby to separate them from whatever calling she then found them following besides; as the example of St. Paul declares, and the first times of Christianity. When once they affected to be called a clergy, and became, as it were, a peculiar tribe of Levites, a party, a distinct order in the commonwealth, bred up for divines in babbling schools, and fed at the public cost, good for nothing else but what was good for nothing, they soon grow idle: that idleness, with fulness of bread, begat pride and perpetual contention with their feeders, the despised laity, through all ages ever since; to the perverting of religion, and the disturbance of all Christendom. And we may confidently conclude, it never will be otherwise while they are thus upheld undepending on the church, on which alone they anciently depended, and are by the magistrate publicly maintained, a numerous faction of indigent persons, crept for the most part out of extreme want and bad nurture, claiming by divine right and freehold the tenth of our estates, to monopolize the ministry as their peculiar, which is free and open to all able Christians, elected by any church. Under this pretence, exempt from all other employment, and enriching themselves on the public, they last of all prove common incendiaries, and exalt their horns against the magistrate himself that maintains them, as the priest of Rome did soon after against his benefactor the emperor, and the presbyters of late in Scotland. Of which hireling crew, together with all the mischiefs, dissensions, troubles, wars merely of their kindling, Christendom might soon rid herself and be happy if Christians would but know their own dignity, their liberty, their adoption, and let it not be wondered if I say, their spiritual priesthood, whereby they have all equally access to any ministerial function, whenever called by their own abilities, and the church, though they never came near commencement or university. But while protestants, to avoid the due labour of understanding their own religion, are content to lodge it in the breast, or rather in the books of a clergyman, and to take it thence by scraps and mammocks, as he dispenses it in his Sundays' dole, they will be always learning and never knowing; always infants: always either his vassals, as lay papists are to their priests; or at odds with him, as reformed principles give them some right to be not wholly comformable; whence infinite disturbances in the state, as they do, must needs follow. Thus much I had to say; and, I suppose, what may be enough to them who are not avariciously bent otherwise, touching the likeliest means to remove hirelings out of the Church; than which nothing can more conduce to truth, to peace, and all happiness, both in church and state. If I be not heard nor believed, the event will bear me witness to have spoken truth; and I in the meanwhile have borne my witness, not out of season, to the church and to my country.”

tion, that the oppressive charges of the church are necessary * Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 22, 23. + Ibid. vol. iii. p. 30.

* Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 40, 41.

« AnteriorContinuar »