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all others, however skilful in teaching, however eloquent in word, or however pure in life, to presume to minister to holy things.
But, though He thus made this single tribe of Levi the exclusive preservers of His word; though He gave them, as they held office from Him and were accountable to Him alone, a spiritual independence, a sacredness and dignity, without which teachers teach in vain,--this was not all. His good Providence did not rest satisfied with the spiritual part of this considerate and merciful appointment. He did not merely shape out the great features of His ministry, and leave the details to be completed by His people. Know. ing the wants and necessities of man, with what difficulties His truth must ever be contending, He was not content simply to institute a successive race of priests, to give them spiritual authority and power, and then to leave them, after being devoted to Him, to their own devices for support, to leave them in temporal matters to the fickle and uncertain mercy of those they taught. He knew too well how fluctuating under such a state of things would be their worldly means; how wretched, how unbecoming, it would be for those who spoke for Him on earth, to be the dependents upon their own flock and people; and, while they had to speak oftentimes bitter truths, harsh, unpleasant, unpopular
truths, to trust after this bold speaking for a supply of temporal necessities to the capricious wind of popular favour and popular inclination.
Knowing these things, and being a merciful Master to His servants, He condescended to concern Himself with a most blessed kindness, even for the worldly provision of those who were to speak His word; lest, out of the hard pressure of poverty and want, they should be tempted to prophesy what was smooth rather than what was true, to preach what would please more than what would profit, and to consult the taste and humour and likings of their flocks, rather than their instruction in self-denying righteousness and faith.
And, if we extend our search from the Old to the New Testament, we shall find, as it was to be expected, that Christ Jesus exhibited the same anxious care and interest for the worthy support of those who should preach the crowning doctrine of the atonement, who should declare the whole counsel of God, finished and perfected as it was by His precious death and burial, His glorious resurrection and ascension. Thus St. Paul whom He inspired says to the laity of the Corinthian Church, “ If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your worldly things ?” and again, “Do ye not know that they who minister about holy things live of the things of the temple ? and they who wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” And Christ Himself taking, as He was wont, a metaphor from every day life, applies it to this subject of ministerial remuneration, and says “ the labourer is worthy of his hire.”
Now a Christian people would proceed to act upon expressions and exhortations much less strong than these. A Christian people would listen to, obey, and esteem as law, the faintest, slightest indications of what the Lord would like; and, being under the law of liberty and love, would catch and adopt His least suggestion or hint with a quick affection, not waiting for any very exact, express, and definite commands, but rejoicing rather to show that the Lord's pleasure was their pleasure, that they had delight in finding out His will, and did not give a slavish obedience as if obedience was a task.
And therefore before we can declare ourselves a Christian people, we must see, whether in this matter, in our concern and provision for the Christian ministry, we have shown an anxious desire to do as we think the Lord would like to see us doing. We are apt indeed to think that faith in Jesus Christ consists in believing in the single doctrine of the atonement, and, if we have faith in that, then we think we have done enough; whereas, though this is the chiefest doctrine of the gospel, really to believe in Jesus Christ is to act upon all His words, having a care for the subordinate limbs and members whereof He is Head; and thus, before we complete our faith, as He has given us instruction concerning His priests, we must obey and fulfil those instructions. In this respect then Christ has not been obeyed; in this respect, however much we may talk and make boast of faith, our faith is partial and deficient; and in these latter days, that sublime and noble spirit, which prompted those of old to take a pride in the due maintenance of all who sowed to them spiritual things, has for long drooped, declined, and almost perished. Increased as is the population, increased as are the labours of the clergy thereby, who now have flocks so large and overgrown that they cannot keep over them a careful and sufficient watch, the laity have done comparatively little or nothing to remedy this state of things; they are not enough distressed at the spiritual destitution that abounds; they do not feel any particular claim upon them individually; they forget the effect in the aggregate of individual indifference. When pressed by a long array of melancholy facts to do something, they do what is hardly anything; they give a mite; I mean, what is a mite to them, a mite when compared with their means, not the widow's mite, which was her all. On such occasions as these they throw in what is in truth a little gift, what scarcely could be less, just because others do; and then, as if they had taken a load from their consciences by these parsimonious offerings, they get the whole subject from their memories ; in short they want a practical and working zeal, a serious sense of individual responsibility; and yet when they have been taking this long sleep, they seem surprised that either popery or dissent have at all gained ground; as if it were not rather a wonder they have not gained more by our supineness. They seem to think all other religions will stand still, because they do; are amazed that active error has won a point over sleeping truth ; while the remedy for this new growth of corruption was, under God, in their own hands, the simple remedy of giving all people churches and ministers of the truth, which at present they have not. The church with multiplied labours, multiplied responsibility, multiplied wants, has the spiritual power but not the temporal means to carry out her evangelising principle of extension, which would correct these evils. She has scarcely enough to support those who already serve, scarcely indeed a farthing more than she had two hundred