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Church Revenues.-As to the argument that large or any permanent revenues are essential to the existence of a christian church, it is answered at once by the well known fact, that during the primitive ages of the christian church, it possessed no other revenues than the voluntary contributions of the faithful. As to tithes, they were wholly unknown for many centuries after the establishment of the christian church; they have, therefore, no connection with christianity; and it is worthy of remark, that they have never formed any part of the temporal establishment of the eastern church.- Eagle.
The Church is a 'sable society of gentlemen, wearing broad hats and deep garments; who possess great part of the wealth and power of the world, and would have all, as a reward for keeping mankind in a decent ignorance and bondage.
captives for One's sake--why must One perish ?
Inscrutability. This is the key-stone of all religions: this is the angel with the flaming sword that turns every way, who keeps the way of the tree of life. In the perception of humanity the Universal Spirit must be inscrutable. We quarrel not with the assertion but with the application. Since God is inscrutable, how comes it that the priest can ascertain and accurately describe his nature, which description is ever found to correspond with the character and circumstances of the narrator? By what superior power attains he to such knowledge? Through revelation? This can only avail for himself. Could men analyse the minds of Theologians, they would discover that the gods of their idolatries are the very types of their own characters, the images of their own passions which they have set up for worship: Be it so! but let every man rest content with his own image, nor wish to compel others to bow down and worship him. The Spirit of proselytism is not the desire of truth. He who seeks converts, either arrogantly fancies that he has mastered truth, which hereafter shall be subservient to his opinion; or, as in the case of those founders of religions, who have pretended to miraculous power, he is an impostor and deceiver. Where power and profit are the produce of this assumption of superhuman knowledge, the persuading motive is sufficiently obvious; and even self-martyrdom, though it prove the honesty of the martyr, is no argument for the rationality or justice of his opinions.
May 4, 1839.
CHURCH HIRELINGS. What recompence ought to be given to church-ministers, God hath answerably ordained, according to that difference which he has 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 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 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, 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. 32, and therefore never thought on in the first Christian times, till ceremonies, altars, and oblations, by an ancienter corruption, were brought back before. And yet the Jews, ever since their temple was destroyed, though they have rabbies and teachers of the law, yet pay no tithes, as having no Levites to whom, no temple where, to pay them: which argues that the Jews themselves never thought tithes moral, but cereinonial only. That Christians therefore should take them up, when Jews have laid them down, must needs be very absurd and preposterous. Next, it is as clear in the same chapter, that the priests and Levites had not tithes for their labour only in the tabernacle, but in regard they were to have no other part nor inheritance in the land, ver. 20, 24, and by that means for a tenth, lost a twelfth. But our Levites undergoing no such law of deprivement, can have no right to any such compensation : nay, if by this law they will have tithes, can have no inheritance of land, but forfeit what they have.
If the Minister be maintained by his own ministry, why should he be twice paid for any part thereof? why should he, like a servant, seek vails over and above his wages? As for christenings, either they themselves call men to baptism, or men of themselves come: if ministers invite, how ill had it become John the Baptist, to demand fees for his baptizing, or Christ for his christenings? Far less it becomes these now, with a greediness lower than that of tradespeople calling passengers to their
shop, and yet paid beforehand, to ask again for doing that which those their founders did freely. If men of themselves come to be baptized, they are either brought by such as already pay the minister, or come to be one of his disciples and maintainers : of whom to ask a fee, as it were for entrance, is a piece of paltry craft or caution, befitting none but beggarly artists. Burials and marriages are so little to be any part of their gain, that they who consider well may find them to be no part of their function. At burials their attendance they allege on the corpse; all the guests do as much unhired. But their prayers at the grave; superstitiously required : yet if required, their last performance to the deceased of their own flock. But the funeral sermon; at their choice, or if not, an occasion offered them to preach out of season, which is one part of their office. But something must be spoken in praise; if due, their duty; if undue, their corruption, a peculiar simony of our divines in England only. But the ground is broken, and especially their unrighteous possession, the chancel. To sell that, will not only raise up in judgment the council of Trent against them, but will lose them the best champion of tithes, their zealous antiquary, Sir Henry Spelman; who in a book written to that purpose, by many cited canons, and some even of times corruptest in the church, proves that fees exacted or demanded for sacraments, marriages, burials, and especially for interring, are wicked, accursed, simoniacal, and abominable : yet thus is the church, for all this noise of reformation, left still unreformed, by the censure of their own synods, their own favourers, a den of thieves and robbers. As for marriages, that ministers should meddle with them, as not sanctified or legitimate, without their celebration, I find no ground in Scripture either of precept or example. Likeliest it is (which our Selden hath well observed, 1, 2, c. 28, Ux. Eb.) that in imitation of heathen priests, who were wont at nuptials to use many rites and ceremonies, and especially, judging it would be profitable, and the increase of their authority, not to be spectators only in business of such concernment to the life of man, they insinuated that marriage was not holy without their benediction, and, for the better colour, made it a sacrament; being of itself a civil ordinance, a household contract, a thing indifferent and free to the whole race of mankind, not as religious, but as men: best, indeed, undertaken to religious ends, and as the apostle saith, 1 Cor. vii. “in the Lord.”. Yet not therefore invalid or unholy without a minister and his pretended necessary hallowing, more than any other act, enterprise, or contract of civil life, which ought all to be done also in the Lord and to his glory : all which, no less than marriage, were by the cunning of priests heretofore, as material to their profit, transacted at the altar. Our divines deny it to be a sacrament: yet retained the celebration, till prudently a late parliament recovered the civil liberty of marriage from their encroachment, and transferred the ratifying and registering thereof from the canonical shop to the proper cognizance of civil magistrates. Seeing then, that God hath given to ministers under the gospel that only which is justly given them, that is to say, a due and moderate livelihood, the hire of their labour, and that the heave-offering of tithes is abolished with the altar; yea, though not abolished, yet lawless, as they enjoy them; their Melchisedechian right also trivial and groundless, and both tithes and fees, if exacted or established, unjust and scandalous; we may hope, with them removed, to remove hirelings in some measure, whom these tempting baits, by law especially to be recovered, allure into the church.
Milton : Likeliest Means to remove Hirelings out of the Church.
Tithes. Of all institutions which are in this way (letting in those, who have no concern in the improvement, to a participation of the profit) adverse to cultivation and improvement, none is so noxious as that of tithes. A claimant here enters into the produce, who contributed no assistance whatever to the production. When years, perhaps, of care and toil have matured an improvement, when the husbandman sees new crops ripening to his skill and industry; the moment he is ready to put his sickle to the grain, he finds himself compelled to divide his harvest with a stranger. Tithes are a tax not only upon industry hut upon that industry which feeds mankind; upon the species of exertion which it is the aim of all wise laws to cherish and promote; and to uphold and excite which composes, as we have seen, the main benefit that the community receives from the whole system of trade, and the success of commerce. And, together with the more general inconveniency that attends the exaction of tithes, there is this additional evil, in the mode at least according to which they are collected at present, that they operate as a bounty upon pasturage. The burthen of the tax falls with its chief, if not with its whole weight, upon tillage; that is to say upon the precise mode of cultivation which it is the business of the state to relieve and remunerate, in preference to every other.