Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Who tends a flock and does not drink of its milk?
Acts 6:1-6. Then certain persons gave themselves up to the study and ministry of the Word and to prayer. The question how they were to be fed and supported was at once met by the members of the Church, who, in response to a natural and reasonable demand, and in full accordance with the principles and practices of the Mosaic dispensation, made provision for their material necessities. Our Lord, in sending out his disciples on their trim mission, had laid down the principle that they should not supply their own material wants, because "the labourer is worthy of his hire." Much has been said in recent times against an organized Christian ministry, dependent on the good will of the several Churches they may serve; but the Scripture cannot be read with unprejudiced mind, and the reader fail to perceive that "they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel." In the verses now before us St. Paul urges the duty of supporting the ministry by three lines of argument and illustration.
I. BY COMMON WORLDLY ILLUSTRATION.
1. The soldier, who, if he fights the battles of his country, reasonably expects his country to provide for his maintenance and his comfort.
2. The vine dresser, who expects to reap in fruitage the reward of his labours in the vineyard.
3. And the keeper of a flock, who day by day lives upon the milk of the flock. These illustrations only touch the general principle that the worker has a claim to a portion at least of the results of his labour. The illustration of the soldier is the one most to St. Paul's point, because, while doing a special kind of work for us, he looks for our care of his temporal necessities. So the minister, in doing a spiritual work for us, commits to us the care of his "carnal things."
II. BY SCRIPTURE RULES. (Ver. 9.) The law is taken from Deuteronomy 25:4. The figure is that of the oxen, who were driven to and fro over a hard space of ground, called a threshing floor, on which the cornstalks were spread, so that by their "treadings" the grain might be separated from the husk. Those oxen were engaged in doing work for the good of others, and it was only fitting that they should be provided for while they laboured.
III. BY THE RITUAL LAWS OF THE OLDER MOSAISM. (Ver. 13.) Priests and Levites had special maintenance, and this almost entirely by the offerings and good will of the people. They had certain towns allotted for their residence, certain portions of the sacrifices for their food, and certain tithes for the supply of their other necessities, and such a regulation could in no sense be regarded as an unreasonable burden. St. Paul even declares, upon his apostolic authority, that "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." When we have sufficiently proved that the material support of a spiritual ministry is one of the first duties of the Christian professor, we are prepared to argue and to illustrate further that a generous, liberal, hearty, and even self denying provision is comely and noble; and that in securing such generous provision our thankful love may find a most fitting expression. - R.T.
Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges?
I. AN INSPIRITING METAPHOR. When life is represented as a warfare, some peaceful minds may feel a little alarmed, yet there are others who feel their blood pulsing the stronger at the thought that life is to be one continued contest. It were ill for us if our love of peace, as a nation, should degenerate into a fear of danger or an indifference to exploits. For me the battle-field has no charms; but I buckle on my armour at the very thought that life is to be a conflict in which it behoves me to get the mastery.
1. It is wise to begin the battle of life early. We have all so little time to live, and our first years are so evidently the best, that it is a pity to waste them.
2. We have to fight with that trinity of enemies — the world, the flesh, and the devil.
3. This is not an engagement to be quickly terminated. Unlike the laconic despatch of the ancient Roman — "Veni, vidi, vici," this is a continuous fight. Like the old knights who slept in their armour, you must be prepared for reprisals — always watchful, and ready to resist.
5. You may be defeated. Make bankruptcy in your secular business, why, you can start again; but once make bankruptcy in soul affairs, and there is no second life in which to start afresh. If you are defeated in the battle of life you can never begin again, or turn the defeat into a victory. If you go down to your grave a captive of sin, the iron hands will be about you for ever.
II. A KINDLY HINT. There are charges in this life-battle. Let us just glance at some of them. If any man shall get up to heaven he will have to meet a demand for —
1. Courage. How many enemies he must face!
2. Patience. How he must bear and forbear!
7. Wisdom.The difficulties of an expedition may be intensely aggravated by a lack of knowledge as to the country to be invaded; and in the battle of life who knows what lies next before him? Hence I beseech you to consider the greatness of the charge of this warfare. Our British soldiers must press forward, though they are landed on a blazing beach, before steep mountains, dismal swamps, or savage tribes. But in our eventful battle of life the checks and bars to progress are more than I can describe. No marvel that Pliable should say, as he turned back, "You may have the brave country yourself for me," Apart from Divine strength Pliable was a wise man. There is no "royal road" to heaven, except that the King's highway leads there. There is no road skilfully levelled or scientifically macadamised. The labour is too exhaustive, the difficulties are too serious, unless God Himself come to our help. Who, then, can go this warfare at his own charges?
III. A GRACIOUS REMINDER. You cannot go this warfare in your own strength. Then do not try it. If you do you will rue it. But you may rely on God to help you. You may reckon on —
1. His watchful Providence. You little know how easy the Almighty can make a path which otherwise would have been difficult and dangerous. All things shall work together for good to them that love God.
2. The help of Christ. He will be always present to revive you with His precious blood, to sprinkle your hearts from an evil conscience, to wash your bodies with pure water.
3. The assistance of the Spirit. There is nothing too obdurate for the Spirit of the Lord to overcome.Conclusion: Let me urge upon those who are beginning this battle —
1. The wisdom of diffidence. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
2. The dignity of reliance upon God.
3. The importance of prayer. If all our charges in the life-war are to be paid us by the Paymaster, let us go to the treasury.
4. The necessity of holiness.
5. The power of faith. The beginning of true spiritual life is here — trusting what Christ has wrought for us. The continuation of spiritual life is here — trusting still in what Christ has done and is doing. The consummation of spiritual life on earth is still the same — trusting still, trusting ever.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?1. Commend themselves to human reason.
2. Are enforced by the law of God.
3. Are of universal application.
4. Contribute by their operation to the best interests of all.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)1. Is but an echo of the Divine law.
2. Is only explicable on the principle of moral government.
3. Establishes the authority of the law.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)
For it is written in the law of Moses.1. Its ascription to God.
2. Its moral bearing.
3. Its comprehensive application.
4. Its beneficial tendency.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)
Doth God take care for oxen?1 Timothy 5:17, 18). If Paul wrote this twice we may be sure the words were often on his lips; and if the Holy Spirit has twice put this fragment of the old law into the New Testament, we may be sure the lesson is an important one. The text is racy and suggestive.
I. MINISTERS AND THEIR WORK.
1. They are a distinct class. Have a function all their own like oxen.
2. Their work is humble.
3. And hard.
4. And requiring patient routine.
5. And withal of vital importance.
II. THE SAVIOUR HAS TAKEN CARE FOR THEIR SUPPORT. They have the same wants as other men, but are not at liberty to supply them in the same way: they are oxen whose strength is spent in the service of others. Therefore the Master laid down His will as to their temporal support. "The labourer is worthy of his reward" (ver. 14). Both charity and ordinary bargain are excluded by this rule: the matter is raised to a higher level altogether.
III. THE RULE IS REASONABLE (ver. 11). Whatever a man pays for his Bible there is no kind of proportion between the money given and the thing got: the wealth of the world could not buy one text of the Word of God: the money is the equivalent only of paper, printing, binding. So conversion, sanctification, organised fellowship, godly training of the young, the Lord's Day, the sacraments, comfort in sickness and death — are things which man cannot buy, because man cannot give them. All the more reasonable, therefore, that the simple and inexpensive channel by which God dispenses them to us and sends them on to coming generations should be maintained.
IV. THE SUPPORT SHOULD BE GENEROUS. While the ox is working he will not be the worse for all he can eat: let him not be muzzled. Muzzling is poor economy, and not even just. All the more should this part of Bible teaching be plainly uttered, because the true minister will be ready to forego even righteous claims rather than allow God's message of love with which he is charged to be discredited by urging these (vers. 15-19). The minister should receive freely — not what his education, time, gifts, may be worth in the market, for gain and bargain have no place here — but what is needed to maintain his position. There should be nothing so grand about him as to estrange him from the poorest, and nothing so mean about his dress or personal habits as to render him unfit for the most refined society; for, like the gospel, he belongs to no one class of society, but stands equally related to all (Philippians 4:10-19).
(A. M. Symington, D. D.)
That he that plougheth should plough in hope.i.e., to do the will of Him who placed us here. The few who do try to conform to it are fulfilling the end of their being. They are living not for themselves, but for God. We affirm the right of the believer, and of all who have their faces Zionward, to labour or suffer for God in hope, because He "cannot deny Himself." In His infinite condescension He has been pleased to link His own glory with the toils and trials, the prayers and praises, of His people. To an eye capable of taking in its vast proportions, our globe must present a busy scene. We may not assert that the overthrow of an empire or the founding of a dynasty is a matter of no moment to God; but we are warranted in saying that events of this kind are of small moment with Him as compared with changes in the condition of the Church; and, indeed, that He orders or permits those very events, with a continual reference to His Church. We are sure, then, that He looks with approbation upon the efforts of His people to follow and to serve Him; and that in doing this they have more reason to be hopeful than in attempting any other service whatever. Let us rather consider the lesson of the text in its bearing upon various parts of the Christian life. To begin at the beginning — our first plougher shall be one who is just awaking from the sleep of sin, and pondering the question, Shall I now attend to the matter of my personal salvation? Can I hope to secure this greatest of blessings? Many an one, brought to this point, has been discouraged by the apparent obstacles in the way, and declined the effort. Had it been an earthly scheme they would not have abandoned it. Men do not so lightly forego the prospect of wealth and honour. But where the soul is concerned the quest is too often relinquished on the vague report that "there is a lion in the way." Without striving there is no entering in at the strait gate. But is this peculiar to religion? Do you win any earthly prize without striving? Why, then, complain that Christianity denies its treasures to the torpid and the indifferent? The blessings it proposes to us are as much superior to the noblest distinctions of the world as the heavens are higher than the earth. There is nothing a man may go about more hopefully than an honest and faithful endeavour to obtain forgiveness and reconciliation to God. How can you help seeing this? For what means this day of rest, this house of worship, these Christian ordinances, this precious Bible revealing a crucified Saviour, a throne of grace, and an ever-present compassionate Spirit? If, with these testimonies around you, you cannot "plough in hope," you will be likely to wait until all that now invites you to hope gives place to remediless despair. But coming to Christ is only the first step: it is simply securing the charter and the gracious equipment which prepare us to begin the work of life. The ploughing must go on. The field is large, and much of the soil intractable. But the allotted task can be accomplished, provided only we keep up a good heart as we tread the weary furrows, and "abound in hope." You will know what is meant by this "intractable soil." Look at the human heart, even the renewed heart, and see what a work is to be done there before it can "bear the image of the heavenly!" This whole work of self-discipline must needs be arduous and painful, because it is in the face of nature. Its aim is the subjugation of nature. We need this conviction as a stimulus to effort. You have to deal, e.g., with some wayward passion, some obliquity of temper, some inexorable habit. You are well aware that it is more than a match for your own strength. But you must also understand that you henceforth bring into the contest auxiliaries which insure your ultimate victory. It is part of His plan that "you should be holy and without blame before Him in love." And what He proposes, He can and will accomplish. There is nothing in the case which need discourage them. Let them "plough in hope." We have all seen the proudest men clothed with humility; the profane become patterns of godliness; the passionate put on the gentleness of the lamb; even the parsimonious turned into generous givers. They "ploughed in hope," and were made "partakers of their hope." And thus it will be with all who tread in their steps. We may extend the application of this principle. It deeply concerns parents and teachers to understand it, and all who have to do with the training of the young. How disheartening this work is may be seen in the ill success which so often attends it. What is done frequently is to leave them to themselves. The fruit answers to the culture. Their early infirmities have ripened into vices; and the habits which were barely endurable in their youth are intolerable in their manhood. The Scriptures teach "a more excellent way": "That he that plougheth, should plough in hope." It will be conceded that the field here indicated is not very attractive. One would not choose for his ploughing a common that was overrun with brambles, or a hill imbedded with stones and matted roots. But if that happens to be your only inheritance, you have no alternative. And many a farmer has transformed just such a plantation into a scene of surpassing fertility. These uninteresting children, so dull and torpid; these malicious children; these deceitful children; these coarse, unkempt children; it matters not what they are, they belong to your patrimony: at least they are, for the time, committed to your guardianship. It is idle to look abroad and say, with a sigh, "Oh, that this or that child had been confided to me instead!" God has given you this field to plough; and however ungenial the task, He has bid you "plough in hope." For consider that He who made nothing in vain could not have designed that these children should remain in perpetual bondage to their wayward tempers and repulsive habits. And is there anything in the sort of problems here presented which should prevent your "ploughing in hope"? The question may be answered by another: "Is there anything too hard for the Almighty?" For no one expects these children to be roused into action, to be toned down into submission, to be cured of their vicious propensities, to be moulded into shapes of symmetry and beauty, except by the help of a superhuman arm. But God can do it. And He can do it through your agency. And if it be thus with teachers and parents, so also with ministers of the gospel. No one can understand, except from experience, the greatness of their work, or the trials and discouragements which are incident to it. But what can they do? What ought they to do? They hear a Divine commission. They preach a Divine gospel. The truth they proclaim is precisely suited to its end. It is the only cure for the world's maladies, the only means for bringing men back to God. They must publish it. And they may well publish it in hope. Appearances may be adverse. But there is no alternative. And precisely such conditions as these have often been followed by a generous harvest. It has proved thus even amidst the appalling wastes of paganism. Let them "plough in hope." The cause they have at heart is God's cause. His eye is upon them. His ear hearkens to their intercessions. Especially will this be the case with those who make it a part of the real business of life to seek the conversion of their fellow-sinners. There are such Christians. They are always on the alert for opportunities of this kind. And they who do this, who make the conversion of sinners one of the cherished ends of life, not only have full warrant to "plough in hope," but uniformly avail themselves of it. Hopefulness is of their very nature. There is another field for the application of this maxim, covering too many broad acres to be traversed now; but we may just glance at it. I refer to the multitudes of sufferers — those who are struggling with inward conflicts, with poverty, with misfortune. There is a lesson in our text even for these sufferers. It is not in mockery of their troubles, but with a full appreciation of them, we say, in the face of these trials, you must "plough in hope." Despair will ruin you. Despondency will paralyze you. Hope will bring peace and strength. These troubles have not come by chance. They are from the hand of an infinitely wise and merciful God. "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord" (Lamentations 3:26). Satan will if possible prevent this, Still another wide sphere invites our notice in connection with the text, merely glanced at in the opening of this sermon — viz., the importance of this principle to the young in prosecuting even their secular plans. It is, under God, one of the great secrets of success, this "ploughing in hope." No one quality has been more uniformly characteristic of the world's heroes, both its benefactors and its scourges, than hopefulness. The main thing is to assure yourselves that you are in the right path; that your ends and aims have been sought in the fear of God, and your powers dedicated to Him. With this condition precedent, you may and should be hopeful. You will encounter difficulties. But never despond. Look to God for succour, and "plough in hope." I feel that I have done injustice to this text by restricting it so much to the present life, to immediate, or at least palpable, success, whether in temporal or spiritual things. But you will all contemplate it in its higher and nobler aspect. It is the blood-bought privilege of the Christian always and everywhere to "plough in hope," because he may be certain of his harvest hereafter, even if it fail here. Nothing he does for Christ can miss its fruitage there. There is one hope, and only one, that never misleads and never disappoints. Its foundation is laid in the blood and righteousness of Christ. Its object is the friendship of God and the glories of the heavenly state.
(H. A. Boardman, D. D.)
1. We shall see the propriety of applying the sentiment of our text, primarily, to repentance towards God. This is indeed the gift of God, but clearly the duty of man. Painful, tedious, and distressing as this toil is, it is preparatory to that state of rich cultivation which is the honour of the Christian character. Then those of you who are convinced of sin, and are sorrowing in the bitterness of your spirits, persevere.
2. May not the sentiment of these words be considered as applicable to that reformation and regulation of heart and life which invariably accompany, yea, may be considered as essential parts of true repentance — as the necessary products of genuine contrition? Self-inquiry, like the searching and separating ploughshare, will be driven over every part of the heart: irksome as the service may appear, no nook or corner of that barren field shall be left unbroken.
3. There are numerous acts of self-denial required by Him who for our sakes bare His Cross and hung thereon. These, like the toils of tillage to which our text alludes, require much skill and perseverance in their discharge; and but for a better hope would be in every case neglected.
4. Various are the duties of benevolence He performed towards His fellow immortals.Not only are we called to cultivate our own hearts, but to labour for the good of others, that they may not be barren and unfruitful in knowledge of our Lord and Saviour: but frequently this toil is so irksome, and the advantage, if any, so remote, that but for the principle presented in our text, we should refuse to commence our work, or cease in the midst of our labours.
1. Are there any here who must be charged and convicted of having put their hand to the plough and looked back?
2. Let me offer consolation to such as have long toiled, and have hitherto wrought unrewarded in the field of exertion.
3. I congratulate such as patiently persevere, even where success appears withheld.
He that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
I. On entering a barn and seeing the thresher beat the corn with his flail, a casual observer would almost conclude the grain would be MATERIALLY INJURED, Censures, in ignorance of the process, might be heard; and ministerial efforts are open to this misconstruction (Isaiah 41:15, 16; 2 Corinthians 7:8-16).
II. He who thresheth intends, and hopes, to succeed IN SEPARATING THE GRAIN FROM THE HUSK; and he does succeed. So shall the Word of God be, by it character is detected and displayed. After our Lord had urged the necessity of self-denial, from that time many walked no more with Him, they were offended at His doctrine: while His genuine followers became by the same means more confirmed in their attachment, and renewed their allegiance to their chosen sovereign. Labours for the spiritual good of others must be discriminating to be successful: each must receive his portion of meat, or medicine, as the case may require, in due season.
III. Does not the toil of the thresher receive a remarkable and instructive commendation in the REMOVAL OF THE CHAFF when the corn is winnowed? He hopes that he shall so thresh as that the subsequent process of the fan shall thoroughly purge the floor. Terrible will be the sanction that God, the Judge of all, will give to every rejected message: the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous: they are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
IV. THE TERMINATION OF MINISTERIAL TOIL is suggested by this metaphor: when the husks and chaff are separated from the grain, the husbandman threshes it no longer. Further, this specific toil of all who labour for the immortal welfare of others shall cease for ever when the number of the elect is accomplished: the dusty and tedious process of threshing is not needed in our garners; and it is in hope of this remoter happiness that he that plougheth and he that thresheth engage in their respective labours; they shall rejoice together. To conclude, let it ever be remembered that though the Word of God is the ordinary threshing instrument, yet it is not the only one; for there is a variety of implements used for this purpose (Isaiah 28:27). So where the Word fails of producing the desired effect, He will try the flail of adversity; by this, therefore, shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, and this is all the fruit to take away sin.
If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?I. ARE SOWERS.
1. They toil and cast in the seed.
2. In obedience to their Master's command.
3. The result depends on the soil and the Divine blessing.
II. BEAR PRECIOUS SEED. Spiritual things as —
III. HAVE A RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE FRUIT. The reasonableness of some return is shown by —
(H. H. Beamish, M. A.)I. THE DIVINE APPOINTMENT, THAT CHURCHES SHOULD SUPPORT THEIR MINISTERS.
1. Under the Mosaic dispensation.
2. As enjoined by Christ under the gospel.
3. As the dictate of natural religion.
II. THE VARIOUS MODES ADOPTED TO ATTAIN THIS INSTITUTED END.
3. Voluntary support.
III. THE EXTENT TO WHICH THIS DUTY SHOULD BE CARRIED.
1. To satisfy the claims of justice.
2. To accord with the language of Scripture.
3. To promote the highest interests of the Church.
4. To promote in the best way the conversion of the world.
IV. THE AGENTS BY WHICH THIS WORK MUST BE ACCOMPLISHED.
1. The deacons.
2. The people.
(J. Bennett, D. D.)
I. FROM THE NATURE AND DESIGN OF THE MINISTERIAL OFFICE, FORCIBLE ARGUMENTS RESULT FOR THE GRATITUDE AND LIBERALITY OF THOSE FOR WHOSE BENEFIT IT IS EMPLOYED. "We sow unto you spiritual things." We are the ministers of a spiritual dispensation which has for its object the present happiness and everlasting salvation of mankind; we endeavour to implant in your mind those sacred principles which, when nourished by Divine influence, ripen into all the fruits of righteousness and peace; we willingly spend our strength for your improvement. Just is the plea, good men will reply. From your ministrations we have enjoyed advantages which we can never repay; through your instrumentality we have, by Divine grace, been rescued from the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity; have learned the vanity of created joys, and been taught to set our affections on the nobler things which are above. We know, indeed, that to the God of all grace belongs the supreme unrivalled praise of those supports and joys we have experienced. But ye are the servants of the Most High, who have shown unto us the way of salvation, and as such we honour you; ye have administered to us benefits far more valuable than all the honours and treasures and joys of time. And what can we render you in return? What can we do for you, or for your sons or daughters?
II. THE STATED LABOURS OF A REGULAR MINISTRY ARE OF MUCH IMPORTANCE TO THE COMMUNITY. The preservation of a state depends far more upon the prevention of crimes than upon the punishment of them. Civil legislation needs to be aided by an authority which reaches the heart, by a dominion over man which extends to his sentiments and pursuits, and by considerations calculated to subdue his worst dispositions, to restrain him from every evil work, and to regulate by internal and governing principles the whole tenor of his conduct. This is the empire which religion establishes. If this representation of the importance of religion to human society is just, it becomes a prudent measure in all well-regulated governments to secure a succession of persons who are qualified by education, by talents, by principle, and by conduct, for explaining the rules of piety and morality; and for recommending that glorious scheme of salvation which Christianity reveals to us — that blessed doctrine of salvation which came down from heaven, which alone can conquer the depravity of human nature, which alone can secure the reign of tranquillity on earth.
III. THE LABOURS OF A REGULAR MINISTRY ARE OF MUCH IMPORTANCE TO INDIVIDUALS, A faithful pastor, dwelling amongst his people, observing their tempers and their habits, and enjoying their confidence and affection, feels himself sincerely interested in the welfare and happiness of every individual committed to his charge. He regards them as his family, and the evidences of his pastoral care will bear a proportion to the variety of their situations. Animated by his careful inspection, and awed by his reproofs, the young are trained up to habits of application, temperance, and subordination; and thus are fitted for appearing with advantage in the station which Providence allots them. In estimating the advantages of religious institutions to individuals, keep it in remembrance that ministers of religion are messengers of consolation to the afflicted. The trials of life are far too numerous to be mentioned in detail; suffice it to remark that the consolations of the gospel extend to all the variety of human woes. Another evidence of the importance of pastoral ministrations to individuals is taken from their tendency to prepare them for everlasting happiness.
IV. THE HARDSHIPS AND DIFFICULTIES WHICH MINISTERS HAVE TO ENCOUNTER VINDICATE THE REASONABLENESS OF THE EXPECTATION EXPRESSED IN MY TEXT. Long before they enter on their sacred employment, they look forward to it with the mingled emotions of hope and fear. They enter on the arduous work with the solicitude of men who know that earth and hell unite to impede their progress and to ensnare their steps. They perceive the importance of preparing new and diversified instruction for their people.
(A. Bonar.)I. THE WORK OF THE MINISTER IS COSTLY TO HIMSELF.
1. All the energies of the minister must be devoted to his work, or it cannot be well done.
2. The minister's work is relatively expensive. He occupies a position which exposes him to expenses that cannot be met with small means.
3. Then there are the public meetings of the churches and councils, all necessary for the good of Zion, yet they cost something to the minister. He must also read much; he must therefore have at hand all necessary facilities for the study and illustration of truth.
4. The work of the ministry requires a large amount of skill and a sound judgment, and imposes great responsibility upon the minister.
II. THE MINISTER'S SERVICES ARE VALUABLE TO THE PEOPLE. The pulpit is in no wise indebted to its supporters. It gives them many times more in temporal good than it costs. It has ever been the first, the most important, means of civilisation and social refinement; of gathering around the family home the tokens of thrift and comfort; of the increase of wealth, and of the productive value of real estate. Life and property are more secure under the influence of an evangelical ministry than where the gospel is not preached.
III. THE STANDING AND REPUTATION OF A MINISTER IS AFFECTED BY HIS COMPENSATION.
IV. JUSTICE REQUIRES THAT MINISTERS SHOULD BE PAID LIKE OTHER MEN.
V. THE SYSTEM SO PREVALENT OF SUPPORTING THE MINISTER AS A GRATUITY DEGRADES THE MINISTRY IN THE ESTIMATION OF THE PEOPLE AND TENDS TO MAKE THE MINISTER SERVILE.
1. To avoid misapprehension, it is proper to say that this discourse refers to the duty of churches in forming their estimate of a minister's claims; not of the minister's duty to preach, whether paid or not. Necessity is laid upon him, he must preach the gospel; but it does not follow that he must give his services to those who able to pay him.
2. Ministers should preach to their own people on this subject.
3. Churches may not expect the rich effusion of Divine grace while they do not acknowledge their just obligations to their minister.
4. If the church that is able to pay a just compensation to their minister does not and will not do it, their minister should leave them.
(M. H. Wilder.)
IfI. THE JUST RIGHTS WHICH THE APOSTLE ASSERTED — that like other teachers he had a claim upon his scholars for recompense and support.
1. He supports this by striking illustrations (ver. 7) and by Scriptural proof (vers. 8, 9).
2. He urges the superiority of the advantages bestowed by the teacher over those which he is justified in expecting by way of acknowledgment if not of return (ver. 11).
3. This right he claims for all ministers, himself included.
II. THE NOBILITY OF SPIRIT WITH WHICH THE APOSTLE WAS WONT DELIBERATELY TO FOREGO THESE RIGHTS. Observe —
1. The fact. Paul had acted on this principle from the beginning, and remembered that it involved hard manual labour. Like every Jew he had been taught a trade; he wove the Cilician goat's hair into the fabric used for tents and sails. It was a tax upon his energies whilst he was thinking, writing, and preaching, to spend part of the day in hard rough toil.
2. The exception. From the Macedonian Churches, for a special reason, he consented to receive a gift (Philippians 4.).
3. The motive.(1) Not pride: whilst preaching was a necessity in his case, so that he could take no credit and make no boast for his ministry, he gave up the right of maintenance that he might have the pleasure of a voluntary sacrifice, a ground of lowly glorying.(2) That there might be no hindrance to the progress of the gospel. It might have been thought that he preached for gain, and such a supposition would render his hearers suspicious and unreceptive.
(Prof. J. R. Thompson.)
But suffer all things lest we should hinder the gospel.1. In one sense the gospel cannot be hindered. As well speak of hindering the advance of the sun, or of an avalanche. God has promised, "My word shall not return unto Me void," &c., and Christian history is but the fulfilment of this prediction.
2. But whilst this is true it is not less true that the work of sinner's salvation may be impeded. I will not refer to so-called hindrances by the enemies of truth, for these have often been the most effective aids to its advancement; nor to the major hindrances such as Romanism, superstition, hypocrisy, rationalism, &c., for these are so prominent that we cannot overlook them. But I call attention to some serious obstacles which are too much overlooked.
I. CHURCHES MAY HINDER THE GOSPEL.
1. By the want of a clear and definite line between the Church and the world. During the first three centuries this was distinct enough, and then the Church prospered. And if this distinction is less manifest to-day it is not because the world has become less carnal. A false respectability is threatening the spiritual life of the Church. A cause is often accounted prosperous according as its finances are large and the hearers influential. This cold respectability does not believe much in conversions or aggressive effort.
2. By the want of self-denial. Instead of "suffering all things" for the advancement of the gospel, is there one single thing that we really suffer? The manifold artifices we have to adopt, the violent efforts we have to make to raise the means of spreading the gospel are an evidence of the unreality of much religious profession and a powerful hindrance to the truth. How different in those early days amid the glow of the Church's first love, when they that had money brought it and laid it at the apostles' feet.
3. By the refusal of personal and active service. We speak, indeed, with anxious concern of the heathen abroad and at home, pray for their evangelisation, and bid God-speed to the official labourers among them; but something more than this is required before these masses will be brought under the power of the gospel. As in the early days the responsibility must be felt by the entire Church; every believer must be a herald and an evangelist. The Epistle to the Hebrews rebukes those who are still babes in Christ, but ought to be teachers; and if the day is to come when it will be no longer necessary to say "Know the Lord," because all shall know Him, it will only come by every one teaching his neighbour that knowledge. The living Church has not yet stretched herself Elijah-like upon the dead body whose quickening she prays for. Like the atmosphere she must press with equal force on all the surfaces of society; like the sea flow into every nook of humanity; and like the sun shine on all things foul and low as well as fair and high, if she is to accomplish that for which she has been commissioned and equipped.
4. By self-complacency and spiritual pride.
5. By a spirit of captiousness, ever ready to pick faults with existing arrangements, but doing nothing to make them better.
6. By our failure to recognise the absolute sovereignty of God in the salvation of souls.
7. By our want of humble dependence on the Holy Spirit and our neglect of earnest persevering prayer.
II. MINISTERS MAY HINDER THE GOSPEL. If Paul felt the possibility of this, why may not we?
1. By a cold perfunctoriness in the discharge of our duties. It is no easy matter to escape this. To address to the same people every week the same verities and still retain freshness and power, can only be done by sustained communion with God and living contact with the realities of which we speak. Incessant preaching apart from careful cultivation of the inner life will make us little better than sermon machines.
2. By forgetfulness of our absolute dependence on the Holy Spirit, and by reliance on human strength.
3. By the assumption of a certain distinctness of order from our people. Our office, authority, and work are all spiritual. We have no priesthood in any other sense than that all believers are priests. The more we make our people feel that we are not above them, but of them, the more influence will oar preaching exert upon them.
4. By our want of confidence in the success of the gospel. How many sermons have we preached of which we have never seen any fruit because we never really looked for it?
5. By our want of the spirit of self-sacrifice and consecration indicated in the text.
(Thain Davidson, D. D.)
They which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar.
Do ye not know that they... which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.I. THE BUSINESS OF THE PASTOR IS IMPLIED: he is to "preach the gospel." Note —
1. The subject of his ministry — "the gospel," i.e., all the gospel fairly implies, its promises, commands, &c. The term taken thus comprehensively, clearly instructs us in —
(1) (2) (3) 2. His duty with regard to it. He is to preach "the gospel." Every pastor is bound to do this out of regard to — (1) (2) (3) II. THE DUTY OF THE FLOCK POINTED OUT, viz., to support their pastor. There are two ways of doing this, either by compulsory laws or by voluntary contribution. The former has, indeed, some advantages. It renders the minister independent, and if his flock is destitute of principle it is well for him that the law compels them to the performance of duty. But the law of Christ binds the people voluntarily to the support of their minister, i.e., it binds them to the duty, but leaves the amount to them according to the rule in 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2, and Matthew 10:8. Now this is to be done — 1. From a principle of justice. It is not benevolence, but equity, and he is not just who withholds from the minister the due remuneration of his labours (ver. 7). The person who refuses to meet the just claims of the physician is reckoned dishonest, and is he less so who withholds from the pastor his equitable support? 2. From a regard to our own advantage. We all know that our prosperity depends on the Divine blessing; and should we not be chiefly concerned respecting soul prosperity? God's blessing may be hoped for in the use of the means when those means are suitably valued and employed. But are they so when the support we could give is sinfully withheld? (2 Corinthians 4:6-10; Malachi 8, 9). 3. From a regard to our final account. (J. Dorrington.) (J. A. Macfadyen, D. D.) (Thoreau.) (Paxton Hood.) (Prof. Park.)
(2) (3) 2. His duty with regard to it. He is to preach "the gospel." Every pastor is bound to do this out of regard to — (1) (2) (3) II. THE DUTY OF THE FLOCK POINTED OUT, viz., to support their pastor. There are two ways of doing this, either by compulsory laws or by voluntary contribution. The former has, indeed, some advantages. It renders the minister independent, and if his flock is destitute of principle it is well for him that the law compels them to the performance of duty. But the law of Christ binds the people voluntarily to the support of their minister, i.e., it binds them to the duty, but leaves the amount to them according to the rule in 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2, and Matthew 10:8. Now this is to be done — 1. From a principle of justice. It is not benevolence, but equity, and he is not just who withholds from the minister the due remuneration of his labours (ver. 7). The person who refuses to meet the just claims of the physician is reckoned dishonest, and is he less so who withholds from the pastor his equitable support? 2. From a regard to our own advantage. We all know that our prosperity depends on the Divine blessing; and should we not be chiefly concerned respecting soul prosperity? God's blessing may be hoped for in the use of the means when those means are suitably valued and employed. But are they so when the support we could give is sinfully withheld? (2 Corinthians 4:6-10; Malachi 8, 9). 3. From a regard to our final account. (J. Dorrington.) (J. A. Macfadyen, D. D.) (Thoreau.) (Paxton Hood.) (Prof. Park.)
(3) 2. His duty with regard to it. He is to preach "the gospel." Every pastor is bound to do this out of regard to — (1) (2) (3) II. THE DUTY OF THE FLOCK POINTED OUT, viz., to support their pastor. There are two ways of doing this, either by compulsory laws or by voluntary contribution. The former has, indeed, some advantages. It renders the minister independent, and if his flock is destitute of principle it is well for him that the law compels them to the performance of duty. But the law of Christ binds the people voluntarily to the support of their minister, i.e., it binds them to the duty, but leaves the amount to them according to the rule in 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2, and Matthew 10:8. Now this is to be done — 1. From a principle of justice. It is not benevolence, but equity, and he is not just who withholds from the minister the due remuneration of his labours (ver. 7). The person who refuses to meet the just claims of the physician is reckoned dishonest, and is he less so who withholds from the pastor his equitable support? 2. From a regard to our own advantage. We all know that our prosperity depends on the Divine blessing; and should we not be chiefly concerned respecting soul prosperity? God's blessing may be hoped for in the use of the means when those means are suitably valued and employed. But are they so when the support we could give is sinfully withheld? (2 Corinthians 4:6-10; Malachi 8, 9). 3. From a regard to our final account. (J. Dorrington.) (J. A. Macfadyen, D. D.) (Thoreau.) (Paxton Hood.) (Prof. Park.)
3. From a regard to our final account. (J. Dorrington.) (J. A. Macfadyen, D. D.) (Thoreau.) (Paxton Hood.) (Prof. Park.)
3. From a regard to our final account.
(J. A. Macfadyen, D. D.)
(Paxton Hood.)— A clergyman in Wales was appointed by an ordaining council to address the people who had impoverished their former pastor and were now to receive a new one. He recommended in his address that Jacob's ladder be let down from the skies to that Welsh parish, in order that the new minister might "go into heaven on the sabbath evening after preaching, and remain there all the week: then he would come down so spiritually minded and so full of heaven, that he would preach almost like an angel." Now, the people insisted on having their pastor with them on other days than the sabbath. "That may be," replied the speaker; "but then, if he remain among you, he must have something to eat." The dignity of the angels was not inconsistent with their ascending and descending on a wooden ladder; and one ladder on which our ministering angels may go up to their heavenly studies is such a material sustenance as will make it unnecessary for them to grovel in the earth.