Images de page

ance, and which peculiarly needs freedom from sordid anxieties, has come to be regarded as in its normal condition when groaning beneath the constant burden of worldly care. Leaving out of view the mere injustice which is thus inflicted, and all the suffering it occasions, a moment's thought will show that the ill effects of this injustice must fall chiefly upon the persons guilty of it; in other words, the harm done to the churches making an insufficient provision for their pastors transcends infinitely that of which their ill-remunerated teachers and their families are the victims. The minister whose mind is tortured with pecuniary anxieties is deprived of half his power to instruct and strengthen his people. His self-respect is impaired, his confidence in those who should be his trusted friends weakened. As things are, and while human nature remains what it is, a man known to be poor and struggling, and over-burdened with difficulties, will be looked upon with diminished respect by “those that are without.” While, the opportunity being denied of making provision against an untimely death, or any other of the common contingencies of sorrow and trial, when the extraordinary pressure comes, the result is only too likely to be such as will bring dishonour upon the ministry, and inflict lasting injury upon the particular Christian church and the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. The evil, moreover, is one which makes itself felt in many ways. Of necessity, the inadequately paid pastor turns his thoughts away from the proper duties of his ministry—which should, in most cases, suffice for his whole time and strength--to subsidiary means of augmenting his resources. It may not be an evil that a minister should engage, for example, in literary work, and probably the pressure of a little gentle necessity becomes, in some instances, the occasion of calling forth much useful talent in the service of the press; but it might be better, even in such cases as these, that the love of literature, and the simple desire of extended usefulness, should be the operating motive, rather than the enforced pursuit of gain. So much can hardly be said, however, in favour of some other occupations which are now and then resorted to from the like necessity; such as school-keeping, which, when combined with the ministry, requires of one man the duties of two arduous professions. It is said, too, though of course the insinuation is to be resented as a calumny, that recourse is sometimes had to less worthy expedients; as when, in certain cases of marriage, an undue regard is said to be paid to dowry, in comparison with piety and good sense and general fitness for companionship with one who is called with a "calling" at once "holy " and infinitely momentous and responsible, and in which the association and the helping counsel of a “good wife” may be regarded as most truly “from the Lord.”

shouldnting his hole time nistry-425 his this ways.

There are, however, disadvantages more serious than any of these resulting from the present ill-considered and ill-adjusted system. It cannot be doubted that the inadequate resources of a large number of ministers, limiting their command of books and contracting the range of their studies, must greatly lower their rank and the estimation in which they are held as scholars, and so injure the general credit of the ministry ; while, at the same time, the efficiency and value of the public services of this class of ministers (and its numbers cannot be inconsiderable) must be gravely impaired.

But, probably, the most serious result of all consists in the prevention of able and godly, but prudent and far-seeing, young men from entering a service which, while gratifying a generous ambition, is yet, generally, most miserably underpaid, and which only too often involves a life of constant and soul-wearying poverty. It is not pretended, of course, that the ministry should be rich, that Christian pastors should be able to “live” luxuriously “of the Gospel." Nor is it desired for a moment that “prizes” should be created for the attraction of undevout and worldly men, to raise the status of a profession, instead of eliciting the holy zeal of a true priesthood of the Lord. Yet, on the other hand, it is felt to be both desirable and absolutely necessary that, in addition to the sublime attractions of an exalted spiritual service, there should be the prospect, in ordinary as well as in extraordinary cases-that is, wherever there are average adaptation, and culture, and faithfulness, and devotion, as well as pre-eminent talent or a fortunate popularity—that there should be the prospect then also of a decent maintenance and a tolerable freedom from cares, from which life in almost any other profession would be exempt. As matters now stand, it is a comparatively rare thing for the sons of wealthier Nonconformists to enter the Nonconformist ministry. The friends of young men with fair worldly prospects, like those of well-dowered young ladies, are careful to point out the poverty of the “chances" in question, and therefore frequently ensure the rejection of loving inclinations which have nothing but good names and generous ambitions to commend them. It may be that there is so much of worldliness in this manner of looking at the subject, that the loss of such persons as are now described is rather to be counted gain. But the loss is not simple, it is twofold. An obstruction, which should never have existed, and which, by wise arrangements and conscientious determinations, might be removed, prevents the entrance into the ministry of men who have at least grace and zeal enough to cherish desires towards it, and who are otherwise pre-eminently qualified, and the door is left open to inferior men-men disqualified by the lack of early

discipline and culture for the highest ministerial service, and too often seeking admission to the priest's office for “a morsel of bread.”

About one thing there can be no sort of question : the desire for the ministry should be wholly untainted with the mere longing for wealth and worldly advancement. “Nor for filthy lucre's sake," must be the protest made from the very soul of every man who would be “a good minister of Jesus Christ;" of every church calling such an one to take the oversight of it in the name of the Lord. Yet it is inevitable that questions relating to pecuniary provision and recompense should enter, as, of course, in all cases they do enter, into the calculations of aspirants to the ministerial office, and into transactions respecting ministerial “settlements.” How, on the one hand, ministers may be set free from solicitude and apprehension on this subject, may be saved from the temptation even of giving it any undue place in their thoughts; and how, on the other, churches may be taught and influenced to "render" unto their pastors "that which is just and equal:” these are the difficult questions calling, and which long have called, imperatively for solution. One thing which is required is, that the subject should have greater prominence given to it; that it should be freely canvassed and discussed, that so, it may have a chance of coming beneath the notice of “those whom it concerns." This may be best done by means of the press. The subject is of such a nature that it can only, in some cases, be appropriately dealt with from the pulpit; though a little more courage and outspokenness with regard to it would be by no means out of place even there.

Before suggesting remedies, it may be well just to glance at the question, How has the present state of things arisen ? To what principle cause or causes may its existence be traced ? To this question an infinite variety of answers might be given, as they would have respect to countless special instances. But our concern is with general causes, and mainly with such as lie upon the surface and may be palpable to any observer. The ministry of the Free Churches has long been, and still is, very largely supplied by an order of men to whom its most moderate remuneration not only appears sufficient, but proves to be enough to attract them from other callings to that of the teacher Very many ministers, again, are more or less independent of their official incomes, and are restrained, by delicacy or generosity of feeling, from any effort to keep up the standard of remuneration, merely for the sake of adding to resources already, at least, sufficient, or for the contingency of benefiting their successors. Those, too, by whom the pressure of poverty is felt, are often the last to speak of, or pine at, their sore necessities. In all such

Liberality,ment of pashether they neve numb

cases there is the great difficulty, a difficulty found for the most part to be all but absolutely insuperable, of turning to a new occupation. But, beside all this, narrow and sordid views have very largely prevailed amongst the officers and members of our churches respecting their pastors' claims.

It need hardly be said, that these observations are not, for a moment, supposed to be of anything like universal application. There are, doubtless, a very large number of cases, though it may be questioned whether they amount to a majority, in which the treatment of pastors is conceived in a spirit of generous liberality, leaving nothing to be desired. It is still possible, however, that frequently, where substantial justice is done, the true principles upon which it should be based are very far from being understood. Yet it is these principles which are judged to be of real and primary importance. The intrusion of the trade spirit, for example, into the relations of a church with its pastor; the mere pew-rent system, the arrangement, which is so customary, to give the minister what the chapel produces, by the method of letting seats and pews at a fixed and invariable rate, may be a thing radically vicious in principle, however well it may seem to answer the purposes of both sides.

A careful consideration of the position of a minister, depending on his professional income, will be necessary in order to form just conclusions upon the question in hand. Let us suppose him to be a man of average ability and culture, and devoted to his official work. Such a man, having talent, integrity, and industry, would have been tolerably sure of average success in any secular calling. As a medical man, or lawyer, or as a merchant, or tradesman, he would, in all likelihood, have been free from harassing pecuniary cares; he would have been able to bring up his family in respectability, and in the enjoyment of the ordinary comforts of life; his children would have an education and a fair start in the worldly race; and, at length, retiring from active business, he would betake himself, at life's eventide, to a well-earned and happy repose. This, it will be conceded, is no mere picture of the fancy. It is a fair average example of the career of an ordinarily suceessful business man. Where the career, and its result, are materially different from this, the case is usually regarded as exceptional, and the cause is to be assigned to imprudence or calamity. On the other hand, the calling of the ministry commonly forbids all expectation of wealth ; and retirement upon a competency is an eventuality not even thought of. Through his whole career, unless his cireumstances te exceptionally favourable, a minister is likely to be familiar with straitened means and pecuniary anxieties. His early companions and friends, his own brothers, say, all outstrip him in the race of worldly advancement. Young men in his congregation, who began life with no better chances than he would have had, had he chosen a profession or trade, accumulate comforts around them, lay by a stock against a rainy day, make liberal provision for their children when they are gone; while he, working as hard as they, and harder, in a vocation imposing heavy stress upon all the powers of body and mind and heart, remains still poor, and feels only too happy if the daily wants of his household are provided for, his clothing and yearly bills paid, and if he can live, and leave this world out of debt. Meanwhile, his position forbids the narrow economies which may be practised in almost any other walk in life than his own. He must dress well, that his poverty may not be paraded in the teacher's desk, and that he may be fit to take his place in the society to which his recognised rank gives him admission. He must be hospitable. His visits to the poor bringing him into contact with cases of severe and extreme distress, and strangers needing temporary succour seeking his house, as a place where it may surely be obtained—if he have a heart at all, he must do many an act of charity, however low his purse, or however scantily supplied his larder. He is expected to be, and usually is, a contributor to the local and general religious societies. Yet, if he should come to be considered near and illiberal, if he should be even suspected of any eagerness in getting money, scarcely a heavier reproach could be brought against him.

Now, it is not every man who, in presence of claims so numerous and urgent, and under the pressure of difficulties so great, can make a narrow income answer all the purposes required. In many cases of failure, therefore, where the minister bears all the dishonour, the shame of a good name tarnished may, very possibly, belong in fairness to some other people.

Is there anything that can be done, in view of all these circumstances, to bring about a careful revision of the monetary system of the Free Churches, to insure some habit of referring to just and equitable principles, and a more generous regard to the known exigences of particular cases ? Whatever is done must be done in the first instance, it is to be feared, by a few. But a few thoughtful and resolute men, one here and another there, may do much. Of course no very definite rules can be laid down or plans proposed. A simple, but very sensible suggestion, was made a short while since at an ordination service in Suffolk, which, if acted upon, could hardly fail of good results. It was, that the officers of a church should, at some definite time, in the beginning of each financial year, meet as a Committee of Ways and Means, and, with paper and pen, form some estimate in detail of their minister's necessary and probable expenses.

it is not evender the pher all the the ministe

« PrécédentContinuer »