« PreviousContinue »
men, that whoso pleased might speak freely his opinion thereof, and give in his exceptions, ere the law could pass to a full establishment. And where ought this equity to have more place, than in the liberty which is inseparable from Christian religion? This, I am not ignorant, will be a work unpleasing to some: but what truth is not hateful to some or other, as this, in likelihood, will be to none but hirelings. And if there be among them who hold it their duty to speak impartial truth, as the work of their ministry, though not performed without money, let them not envy others who think the same no less their duty by the general office of Christianity, to speak truth, as in all reason may be thought, more impartially and unsuspectedly without money.
Hire of itself is neither a thing unlawful, nor a word of any evil note, signifying no more than a due recompence or reward; as when our Saviour saith, "The labourer is worthy of his hire." That which makes it so dangerous in the church, and properly makes the hireling, a word always of evil signification, is either the excess thereof, or the undue manner of giving and taking it. What harm the excess thereof brought to the church, perhaps was not found by experience till the days of Constantine; who out of his zeal thinking he could be never too liberally a nursing father of the church, might be not unfitly said to have either overlaid it or choked it in the nursing. Which was foretold, as is recorded in ecclesiastical traditions, by a voice heard from heaven, on the very day that those great donations and church revenues were given, crying aloud, "This day is poison poured e into the church." Which the event soon after verified, as
appears by another no less ancient observation, "That religion brought forth wealth, and the daughter devoured the e mother." But long ere wealth came into the church, so soon
as any gain appeared in religion, hirelings were apparent; drawn in long before by the very scent thereof. Judas thereit fore, the first hireling, for want of present hire answerable to
his coveting, from the small number or the meanness of such as then were the religious, sold the religion itself with the founder thereof, his master. Simon Magus the next, in hope only that preaching and the gifts of the Holy Ghost would prove gainful, offered beforehand a sum of money to obtain them. Not long after, as the apostle foretold, hirelings like wolves
came in by herds: Acts xx. 29, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock." Tit. i. 11, "Teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake." 2 Pet. ii. 3, "And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you." Yet they taught not false doctrine only, but seeming piety: 1 Tim. vi. 5, “ Supposing that gain is godliness.' Neither came they in of themselves only, but invited ofttimes by a corrupt audience: 2 Tim. iv. 4, "For the time will come, when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;" and they on the other side, as fast heaping to themselves disciples, Acts xx. 30, doubtless had as itching palms 2 Pet. ii. 15, "Following the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness." Jude 11, "They ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward." Thus we see, at not only the excess of hire in wealthiest times, but also the undue and vicious taking or giving it, though but small or mean, as in the primitive times, gave to hirelings occasion, though not intended, yet sufficient to creep at first into the church. Which argues also the difficulty, or rather the impossibility, to remove them quite, unless every minister were, as St. Paul, contented to preach gratis; but few such are to be found. As therefore we cannot justly take away all hire in the church, because we cannot otherwise quite remove all hirelings, so are we not, for the impossibility of removing them all, to use therefore no endeavour that fewest may come in; but rather, in regard the evil, do what we can, will always be incumbent and unavoidable, to use our utmost diligence how it may be least dangerous: which will be likeliest effected, if we consider, first, what recompence God hath ordained should be given to ministers of the church; (for that a recompence ought to 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.
What recompence 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 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 heaveoffering 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 ow 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. 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. Besides this, tithes were of two sorts, those of every year, and those of every third year: of the former, every one that brought his tithes was to eat his share: Deut. xiv. 23,
"Thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place whicn he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil," &c. Nay, though he could not bring his tithe in kind, by reason of his distant dwelling from the tabernacle or temple, but was thereby forced to turn it into money, he was to bestow that money on whatsoever pleased him, oxen, sheep, wine, or strong drink; and to eat and drink thereof there before the Lord, both he and his household, ver. 24, 25, 26. As for the tithes of every third year, they were not given only to the Levite, but to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, ver. 28, 29, and chap. xxvi. 12, 13. So that ours, if they will have tithes, must admit of these sharers with them. Nay, these tithes were not paid in at all to the Levite, but the Levite himself was to come with those his fellow-guests, and eat his share of them only at his house who provided them; and this not in regard of his ministerial office, but because he had no part nor inheritance in the land. Lastly, the priests and Levites, a tribe, were of a far different constitution from this of our ministers under the gospel: in them were orders and degrees both by family, dignity, and office, mainly distinguished; the high-priest, his brethren and his sons, to whom the Levites themselves paid tithes, and of the best, were eminently superior, Numb. xviii. 28, 29. No protestant, I suppose, will liken one of our ministers to a high-priest, but rather to a common Levite. Unless then, to keep their tithes, they mean to bring back again bishops, archbishops, and the whole gang of prelaty, to whom will they themselves pay tithes, as by that law it was a sin to them if they did not? ver. 42. Certainly this must needs put them to a deep demur, while the desire of holding fast their tithes without sin may tempt them to bring back again bishops, as the likeness of that hierarchy that should receive tithes from them; and the desire to pay none may advise them to keep out of the church all orders above them. But if we have to do at present, as I suppose we have, with true reformed protestants, not with papists or prelates, it will not be denied that in the gospel there be but two ministerial degrees, presbyters and deacons; which if they contend to have any succession, reference, or conformity with those two degrees under the law, priests and Levites, it must needs be such whereby our presbyters or ministers may be answerable to priests, and our dea
cons to Levites; by which rule of proportion it will follow that we must pay our tithes to the deacons only, and they only to the ministers. But if it be truer yet, that the priesthood of Aaron typified a better reality, 1 Pet. ii. 5, signifying the Christian true and "holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifice;" it follows hence, that we are now justly exempt from paying tithes to any who claim from Aaron, since that priesthood is in us now real, which in him was but a shadow. Seeing then by all this which has been shown, that the law of tithes is partly ceremonial, as the work was for which they were given, partly judicial, not of common, but of particular right to the tribe of Levi, nor to them alone, but to the owner also and his household, at the time of their offering, and every three years to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, their appointed sharers, and that they were a tribe of priests and deacons impropely compared to the constitution of our ministry; and the tithes given by that people to those deacons only; it follows that our ministers at this day, being neither priests nor Levites, nor fitly answering to either of them, can have no just title or pretence to tithes, by any consequence drawn from the law of Moses. But they think they have yet a better plea in the example of Melchisedec, who took tithes of Abraham ere the law was given; whence they would infer tithes to be of moral right. But they ought to know, or to remember, that not examples, but express commands, oblige our obedience to God or man: next, that whatsoever was done in religion before the law written, is not presently to be counted moral, whenas so many things were then done both ceremonial and judaically judicial, that we need not doubt tc conclude all times before Christ more or less under the ceremonial law. To what end served else those altars and sacri fices, that distinction of clean and unclean entering into the ark, circumcision, and the raising up of seed to the elder brother? Gen. xxxviii. 8. If these things be not moral, though before the law, how are tithes, though in the example of Abraham and Melchisedec? But this instance is so far from being the just ground of a law, that after all circumstances duly weighed both from Gen. xiv. and Heb. vii., it will not be allowed them so much as an example. Melchisedec, besides his priestly benediction, brought with him bread and wine sufficient to refresh Abraham and his whole army; incited to