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Chapter 3.-Of Substitutes for the Deacon.

Database

Chapter 3.-Of Substitutes for the Deacon.

James Dodson

These are various. In some instances, the teaching and ruling elders perform all the duties of the deacon, and in others a part of them. In the congregations of the Scottish Establishment, the care of the poor is devolved generally upon the session; while the remaining functions of the deacon, those which respect the maintenance of the ministry, and the charge of the property of the Church, are mostly discharged by civil functionaries. In the Presbyterian congregations of Ireland,[1] a similar arrangement subsists for the care of the poor; while the other offices of the deacon are performed, so far as they are attended to at all, by temporary and unordained officers, called trustees, or committee-men.

This is the mode which, more than any other, obtains in the churches in the United States. In very few congregations, comparatively, is the office of the deacon, as a distinct institution in the church, known at all. And where the name is common, as in the congregational churches of New England, it is employed to designate an officer resembling much more the scriptural elder than the deacon.

If the doctrines advocated in this essay be sound and scriptural, there is something wrong in all this. If the Lord Jesus Christ has instituted a distinct office for the care of the poor, then the eldership have no warrant for taking its place, so as to exclude the instituted office.[2] If to this office belongs the charge of all the contributions of the faithful, then the substitution of trustees or committees for this purpose must be still more unwarrantable. All these departures from the scriptural model, and the footsteps of the flock, are not, however, equally reprehensible in principle or dangerous in practice. It is not so decidedly unscriptural to commit the whole oversight of the poor to the eldership, as to constitute boards of trustees for the administration of the finances; inasmuch as to the elder does belong in a certain manner,[3] the care of the poor, while the Scriptures give no warrant for the latter at all.

It is difficult to define the precise position and character of what are denominated boards of trustees. They are in the Church, but are not of the Church. They have under their management that which most nearly concerns the interests of the church; and yet, as officers, the Church can have no knowledge of them, or control over them. They collect and disburse the contributions of the Church, for the support of her ministry, and for the erection and repair of her places of worship; and yet they are not the boards of the Church. They cannot be defined; but they can be shown to be a class of officers not warranted either by the Scriptures, or the usages of the best churches.

An historical fact, which has an important bearing upon this subject, should be attentively considered, and remembered. It is this: The deacon and the trustee have never, for any considerable time, co-existed in any denomination of Christians. Congregations there are, indeed, that, for a time, have had both; and there are churches in which some congregations have deacons, and others trustees performing the same duties. These are exceptions. It is a notorious fact, demanding no proof, that at present in churches where the trustee or committee-man has been allowed the management of the funds, the deacon is very rarely found. And equally notorious, that churches which retain the deacon, have no class of officers corresponding to the trustee or committee-men. For example, the French and Holland churches. The reason of this is evident. Either one or the other is unnecessary. An active board of deacons can attend to all the fiscal concerns of any congregation: an active board of trustees would find deacons, in the end, uncalled for. Moreover, they cannot but interfere with each other. In case the number of poor should be great, requiring for their sustenance more than the collections made particularly for their use, while the ordinary revenues were more than sufficient to meet the other current expenses (a frequent occurrence), what is to be done? The trustees could not transfer the surplus to the deacons without incurring more weighty responsibilities than they would often be willing to undertake; while the deacons would not be satisfied to knock at the door of the trustees for the funds necessary to accomplish their deeds of beneficence.

But, whatever may have been the causes, the fact is as has been stated. Consequently, the question is not deacons and trustees; but deacons or trustees: Christ’s institution, or man’s. For unless the operations of the same causes shall be entirely changed for the future, we shall never see both these classes of officers actively employed at the same time, in the Christian Church to any very considerable extent. Let us enter more into detail.

I. Boards of Trustees are an Innovation[4]

There were no such officers in the churches in apostolic times. There were no officers sustaining such a relation to the Church, in the congregations of Geneva, France, Holland, and Scotland at the time of the Reformation. Their introduction has been gradual; but, no doubt, keeping pace with the downward progress in doctrine and godliness, that has been manifest among most of the descendants of the reformers.[5] There is great difficulty in ascertaining at what time regularly organized boards of trustees first took their present position in the Protestant churches. In the United States, they were probably formed at a very early period. It is certain they made their first appearance in cities, where most corruptions begin. Pride and worldliness operate more powerfully in cities. There is a class of men to be found in most city congregations, that is (or was) almost unknown in the more retired country congregations. Men of active business habits, industrious and influential; but who, with these characteristics and habits, are lacking in that spirituality that would fit them to undertake a sacred office by solemn ordination They may make very good trustees, and it may be thought prudent to render them useful. Or, there are men who do not even make a profession of religion, yet they are rich, and possess influence. The trusteeship will exactly suit them: it forms a kind of neutral ground, neither belonging to the world nor to the church, where both may meet, and harmonize pleasantly together.

However introduced, boards of trustees are an innovation. Like other human contrivances, originally devised, perhaps, with the professed design to promote the good of the Church, by furnishing such assistance as might be thought necessary to increase the efficiency of established gospel institutions; but in the result, either excluding wholly, or materially curtailing, and changing these institutions themselves. As the singing of human compositions in celebrating the praises of God has its rise in small beginnings, no claim is at first offered on their behalf to the sole possession of this part of God’s worship. In the end, the psalms of Scripture are excluded, and, perhaps, even reviled. Singing by choir begins very modestly: the object is merely to improve the music. In the end, the choir claims to be the seat of praise in the house of God. Trustees had no places in the apostolic churches. There could have been none at that time. The Reformed churches had no such officers. Originally, as there is reason to believe, they were barely tolerated;[6] they are now, sometimes, supported as altogether preferable to deacons; and some, going still farther like the advocates of human psalmody, deny the office of deacon to be at all an important part of the order of the sanctuary. Trustees, man’s invention, they would not dispense with: deacons, Christ’s appointment, may be very well neglected! The history of all the corruptions we have mentioned is the same, for the general principle will always hold good: a human invention, once tolerated in the Church, will ultimately exclude, or throw into the shade a divine institution.[7]

II. Boards of Trustees are Unscriptural.

The authority, or even the permission, of the Scriptures is not often pleaded in behalf of trustees.[8] The argument in their defense seems generally to take for granted, that, upon this system alone, can all the rights of the people be properly secured. It will be shown in the sequel, that the directly opposite statement is true; but, in the mean time, we remark that the scriptural order does by no means deprive the members of the Church of an interest in the management of the ecclesiastical goods; for deacons are chosen by the people and are the representatives of the Church; not, indeed, the agents of the people. And here, it ought to be observed, that there is great liability, in defending the trustee system, to employ arguments that are inconsistent with Presbyterianism; inasmuch as they often proceed upon a principle which assails the representative character of the Church’s government, viz., that to commit the management of the temporalities to the deacon, is to take them out of the hands of the Church.

This evil, however, is not so great as another to which we now refer. Trustees having no scriptural warrant, can stand upon no principle that does not impugn the wisdom or the goodness of the Church’s Head. If it is necessary for human wisdom to devise a system of pecuniary management for the church, then it follows that on this point her arrangements have been left incomplete by her blessed Head. That some arrangements are absolutely necessary for fiscal management, in all Christian congregations, no sensible man will think of denying. In the loose manner in which affairs of this nature are often left at the present day, the persons to manage, and the modes of management may not be very distinctly defined; but in the most loosely constructed congregation some method, either understood or defined, must be adopted for managing fiscal concerns. In the apostolical times (among pagans and pagan institutions), the circumstances of the Church were not, in this respect, materially different from her present condition in nearly all countries. Such arrangements were imperatively necessary then. History shows that her wants have at all times been nearly the same. It is her duty to support the poor, to maintain a ministry, and to provide a place of worship.[9] Has the manner of doing all this been left uncared for by Jesus Christ, except one portion, that regarding the poor, which, however important, is a small portion compared with the whole? It has always been argued by Presbyterians, and with great and acknowledged force, that to affirm, as some have done, that the Head of the Church has not instituted any government for her regulation, but left this whole matter to be arranged according to circumstances, is to charge the King of Zion either with ignorance or neglect; that, as a government is necessary, we might expect to find provision on this subject in the Scriptures.[10] The argument applies with equal weight to the subject we are now considering. And as the necessity which we have stated unquestionably exists,[11] we may expect to find something in reference to it, in the record of the institutions established by Jesus Christ in the Church. We find this in the deacon; but nowhere else. If the deacon is not the officer for this purpose, then, in a very remarkable manner has this whole matter been overlooked by the Church’s Head.[12] This view is the more important, as it puts us in the proper position for viewing the scriptural arguments already brought forward on this subject: we should expect to find an office as has been defined in this essay.[13]

III. Boards of Trustees are Anti-Scriptural.

This involves considerations, in some respects, more serious than any yet presented. It involves opposition to the authority of the Church’s Head. The radical principle of the trustee system is, that trustees and committees who perform similar duties, are no church officers – do not act in the name of the Church’s Head – and that they are the mere agents of the people. That the ecclesiastical goods (except the funds for the support of the poor), namely, the funds invested in the place of worship, and those which go to the maintenance of the ministry, and other charges attendant upon the enjoyment and propagation of the gospel, are a mere joint stock concern, and differing from the property invested in a bank, or road, only in the circumstance that the revenue anticipated in the one case consists in dollars, in the other, in religious and moral improvement. That there is no dedication of property in the one case more than in the other. That it is in the power of the contributor to manage it as he does any other part of his property, either to attend to it himself, or to appoint one or more persons as his agents, to manage it for him.

It is difficult, indeed, to believe that any devout mind can contemplate, without revolting at it, this doctrine as thus stated in its naked deformity. Yet it is certainly the fact, that this statement embraces the essential principle of the trustee system. This system is so interwoven with the habits of an age which knows nothing of the deacon, as to render some farther notice of it absolutely necessary.

The true doctrine respecting the ecclesiastical goods, is directly the opposite of that above stated, and is this: that the property which is appropriated to ecclesiastical purposes, is dedicated to the service of Christ, as the Church’s Head. And is to be managed therefore, under his authority as King in Zion, by officers of his appointment. There can be no doubt, for it is so said expressly,[14] that the contributions made during the former dispensation, were devoted to the Lord, and therefore could not be re-called, except they were replaced by an equivalent with a fifth part of the assessed value added to it. The cities, fields, and revenues of the priests and Levites are all called “the Lord’s.”[15] The materials employed in erecting the temple were dedicated.[16] Was there anything typical in this? Was there anything in it of such a character as to render it inapplicable now? The dedicated things were employed generally for the same purposes in all respects, for which the ecclesiastical property is now used. And the most acute vision may be challenged to discover anything typical in the devoting of the houses, etc., of the Levites and priests. There is positive evidence that this was not a circumstance peculiar to the Old Testament economy. Paul enforces the duty of furnishing a support to the gospel ministry by referring to these very institutions;[17] while in the case of Ananias and Sapphira there was both lying and sacrilege.

That ecclesiastical property is not a joint-stock-company concern, but something ecclesiastical, can be otherwise established. It cannot be sold and distributed for the individual benefit of the members of the Church, or the pew holders; nor can the revenues be appropriated to the private uses of the members of the congregation. Nor, in case of removal, can any contributor demand an assessment to receive his share. And when, on the other hand, immigrants attach themselves to the Church, or individuals make a profession of religion in a particular church, they become entitled to the benefits of the church property. Moreover, the poor have a real and true joint interest in the ecclesiastical goods, as well as the rich. This the trustee system would deny them.[18] There is, in the view in which we are now looking at it, an analogy to state property. The commonwealth is a moral person, and is capable of holding property, and deriving benefit from it. It belongs to no one individually, and all the citizens of the nation have an interest as citizens in it. So of town, county, and city property. The Church is a moral person: so is a congregation, a presbytery, and a synod. They, therefore, can, and do hold property, when lawfully received, by a right with which the Church is endowed by her Head. This is property dedicated. It is set apart for ecclesiastical purposes, to be employed in promoting the great ends of her organization in the world. And here we have the reason why the property of the Church cannot be sold and distributed as private property. It belongs to the Church of Christ. In other words, it is devoted to the promotion of her interests and ends, so long as it can be usefully employed in this way.[19]

Now, the system that we oppose really and practically denies all this: denies that Christ has made any provision for the control of the fiscal interests of the Church, denies that the Church has any right to receive or control property,[20] denies that the poor in the Church have all the rights of the rich. The connection between the trustee system, and the erroneous views of church property just noticed, is abundantly evident. If the property set apart for religious ends, is, after all, mere joint stock property, then it is natural enough that it be managed just as a bank, or a road concern. And, on the other hand, if funds of this kind really belong to the congregation as a part of the Church, and are ecclesiastical property, then the conclusion is unavoidable; the management of them should be entrusted to officers constituted agreeably to the will of the Head of the Church, by the choice of the people, and by ordination: that is, to deacons.

IV. Boards of Trustees are of a Dangerous Tendency.

As they are ordinarily constituted, this is unquestionable. In many congregations, having boards of trustees, individuals are chosen to that office who are not even professors of religion, and whose recommendations are solely of a worldly character. It is manifest that a board, thus constituted, either in whole or in part, must have ultimately an injurious influence upon the cause of truth and vital religion. Leaving out of view altogether, the direct and powerful temptation to trim and accommodate, which must beset the ministry in congregations whose fiscal concerns are all under such management, this hurtful influence will be felt in other ways. The sacredness of the ministerial office will be affected. The pastor will be in danger of degenerating into a mere temporary hireling, and his support not considered as a religious duty, any further than it is incumbent to pay a hireling his wages.[21]

The example of many of the most prominent men in the congregation, on the side of irreligion, must have a tendency to prevent accessions to the Church. Nearly as high privileges of honor and influence as the Church has to bestow, can be enjoyed by worldly men. Such men occupy a station hardly inferior in prominence and power to that of the eldership. Cannot the fewness of male members in many churches, where the appearances of prosperity are otherwise great, be traceable in part to this cause?[22]

Such a board has the pecuniary support of the pastor in their power, and that without redress. Should the pastor, by faithful preaching, or discipline, offend the trustees, he has no protection from that kind of vengeance which they might attempt to inflict upon him, except such as the civil law affords.[23]

But were it so that none of these evil effects, which have been specified, should result from the system of trustees, the silent and gradually operating influence which such a commingling of the world and the Church has had upon the churches, and must necessarily have, would of itself be sufficient to excite the alarm of pious and thinking men. What, for example, would be thought of a system which would place the funds collected for missionary and education purposes, or the funds of the theological seminaries of the churches, under the control irresponsible to the authorities of the Church, of worldly men, or even of men wanting an ecclesiastical character although church members? Every one knows the long and vehement conflict waged on this very subject in the General Assembly, before the division of the Presbyterian Church. That whole controversy was, in fact, upon the question whether the funds devoted to the maintenance and diffusion of the Gospel, should be managed upon the principle and according to the mode of the trustee system, or upon the principle and according to the mode prescribed in the Scriptures.

Those who have not reflected upon this subject, may suppose that all these apprehended dangers can be easily avoided, by restricting the elective franchise to church members in full communion, or, at least, by limiting electors to such persons in the choice of trustees. But is such a restriction generally made, or can it be expected as a general rule? The pressing temptation to increase the funds and augment the resources of the congregation, may be expected to prevail over the feeble anticipations of evil from such a course, and to terminate, as has commonly been the case heretofore, in choosing non-professors as trustees. Nor is such a result to be anticipated only in the larger denominations. Not many years ago, when a city congregation, in connection with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, were arranging their mode of fiscal operations, the question whether pew-holders, not being members, should have a vote in the choice of trustees, was warmly argued; and although, in that instance, it was decided in the negative, the majority was very small. Had the decision been different, there was no redress upon the doctrine of the trustee system. Nor, upon this system, can any judicatory of the Church ever undertake to decide the question, by enacting, by law, any such restriction; it must be left to congregations themselves.[24] This presents the subject in another aspect. Have congregations, upon the principle, supposed the right to make this restriction? Let us examine this point a little.

Suppose a congregation is making pecuniary arrangements: they meet, and subscriptions are given in by some persons who are church members, and also by others, who are not. What right have the church members, if the trustees are mere money agents, to take the appointment of them to themselves? Mark: the right of appointing trustees is supposed to be derived, not from citizenship in the Church, and a consequent right to have a voice in managing the ecclesiastical funds, but from the fact of having invested money in the funds of a joint stock concern. All have this qualification alike (which is the only one known to the trustee system), and yet one part take upon themselves to exclude the other from the management of their own funds; for they are supposed still to be theirs. It is true, the church members might refuse to receive subscriptions from any but themselves, or to let a pew to any other; but, as this is so improbable, we may leave it out of view altogether. It is not even supposable that churches will refuse to rent pews to non-professors. It would be too great an absurdity. And yet, if they do so, we repeat, they have no right, upon any other principle than that which we advocate, to exclude them from the management of the fiscal concerns.

To return to the proposition with which we set out: the trustee system is of evil tendency. This point may be still further illustrated by the laws and doings of nations. Nations derive a revenue, in many ways, from foreigners; yet they do not, on that account, allow foreigners a vote, even for officers who manage the revenue. The revenues are national property. The right to a voice in managing them is, consequently, a privilege of citizenship. No other doctrine would be listened to for a moment in the commonwealth. National security against foreign influence requires them to pursue this course And should nations be more jealous of the intrusion of foreigners, than the Church of God? Ought they to guard against the evils that might result from the control of their revenues, by men who are not bound by the ties of citizenship to the body politic; and should the Church of Jesus Christ commit her revenues to those who are not citizens of this commonwealth of Israel, and thus expose herself to evils, against which the world adopts so many precautions? Truly, “the children of this world are, oftentimes, wiser in their generation than the children of light!”

V. Boards of Trustees are Not, as Depositories of Church Property, so Safe as Deacons.

And that because they are, comparatively, irresponsible. Trustees are not, indeed, without responsibility to the laws of the land:[25] and provided they are church members, they are individually accountable to the courts of the Church, for immoral or scandalous conduct. But they have no responsibility as trustees to any ecclesiastical tribunal, as deacons have.

Are they responsible to the congregation? Not at all. It is true they may be superseded at the termination of the period for which they were chosen, by another set of trustees; but, in the meantime, none of their acts, however deeply injurious to the interests of the congregation, can be remedied except by an expensive process at law. They may close the church doors against the minister and congregation; they may refuse to pay the pastor’s salary, they may neglect to pay other dues, and in some of the United States,[26] they may dispose of the entire property of the Church. For such breaches of trust there is, indeed, a remedy by the courts of law; but what this is worth, in most instances, they know best who have tried it. When their term expires they may be voted out of office, but this does not furnish a remedy for past evils. And, moreover, their successors go into office equally unencumbered, and irresponsible. Their responsibility is therefore, practically, little better than nominal.

It is different with the deacon. He is equally responsible to the laws of the land with the trustee, for the law views him as such; and besides, he is responsible to the courts of the Church. These courts can order the board of deacons to reverse their acts of malversation, and mal-administration. In the first instance they are chosen with care by the members of the congregation in regular standing as church members; they are then ordained in the name of Jesus Christ; and, then, besides their accountability to the courts of law, they are responsible to the ecclesiastical authorities. So that, considered merely as furnishing satisfactory guarantees for the just and faithful administration of the Church’s finances, Christ’s institution will be found far superior to the contrivances of men.[27]

A system so highly objectionable, and so extremely liable to abuses, ought not to be permitted to continue in operation in any congregation; not even in those where it may still be in its infancy,[28] and has not yet assumed its more objectionable features. And particularly when it rests, as it always does, at least in part, upon the ruins of the deacon’s office. Let congregations do their duty on this subject, and their own experience will satisfy them that Christ’s arrangements are better than man’s.

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Footnotes:

[1] This is true, with slight modifications, both of the Reformed Presbyterian Church and the Synod of Ulster.

[2] The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, at its last meeting, enjoined upon all congregations to elect and ordain deacons. The Associate Presbyterian Synod, in May last, reiterated their scriptural doctrines respecting deacons. It is to be hoped that both these denominations will complete the work they have begun, by abolishing the boards of trustees in their churches.

[3] See next chapter. 

[4] By boards of trustees are not meant those boards, which, acting under the direction of the ecclesiastical judicatories in the management of church funds, such as those appropriated for theological seminaries, are likewise incorporated; but the boards of congregations, which do not sustain any ecclesiastical character.

[5] This remark is intended to refer to the whole period since the Reformation. Of late years, frequent and successful attempts at reformation have been made in some denominations.

[6] They are tolerated only, in most churches, still.

[7] The Papacy furnishes the most complete example of this.

[8] The only attempt ever made, perhaps, to gather the office of trustee from the Scriptures, has been from 1 Cor. 16:3, 2 Cor. 8:19, and it may be, one or two other passages of the same tenor. Besides the difficulty there will be forever in establishing, from these passages, the right to commission any but a deacon to convey the church’s contributions to Jerusalem, there are two others which are insuperable. (1.) It is absurd to say that the mere carrying of funds constitutes an office, and (2.) which is still more fatal: if these texts prove anything on the subject at all, they prove too much, even for the advocate of the system we oppose, viz.: that the people have a right to appoint trustees for the poor’s fund, and thus banish deacons altogether; for the money conveyed was that sent to the saints at Jerusalem.

[9] Symington, Dominion of Christ (p. 53), puts this interrogatory: “While God has a visible Church in the world, will there not be required outward erections for the ordinances of worship, and temporal emoluments for the support of its ministers and institutions?”

[10] M‘Leod’s Ecclesiastical Catechism, p. 44, question 72: “That which is really necessary, Christ’s care must have provided for his Church, for he distributes different gifts to profit withal.”

[11] The great variety of substitutes for the deacon, proves this sufficiently.

[12] What then becomes of the doctrine of the Westminster Confession, Larger Catechism, question 191, that the Church should be “maintained by the civil magistrate?”

[13] There is another aspect of this subject which ought not to be left out of view. The trustee system separates the funds for the poor from the general funds of the congregation; and that without any scriptural warrant. And some even go so far as to say, that the ordinary collections which are made in many congregations, on the sabbath, should be held sacred for this use alone.

The entire silence of the Scriptures in regard to any such distinct fund, is enough to set this opinion aside. Under the Old Testament dispensation, there was, unquestionably, no such distinction of funds. And as to collections made during the seasons of public worship, there was an explicit law, Deut. 16:16-17, that none should ever “appear before the Lord empty,” but “every man as he was able, according to the blessing of his God upon him,” was to bring to the public treasury at Jerusalem. No one ever imagined this to refer solely to collections for the poor. It was this which was “gathered at the door of the temple,” in Josiah’s reign, and applied to the repair of the temple, 2 Kings 22:4-6. It was into this “treasury,” that the “poor widow cast her to mites,” Luke 21:1-4. In the reign of Joash, 2 Kings 12, these collections, taken up on the sabbath, as well as the other days of the feast, were similarly applied. “The bag” which Judas carried, was the common treasury, for three years and a half, of our Lord and his apostles. From this their expenses were borne, and gifts made to the poor, John 13:29. The apostle Paul, in writing to the Galatian and Corinthian churches, merely recalls the law in Deut. 16. He intimates to them that the most proper time to make collections for the church at Jerusalem was the season of public worship. He does not prescribe that all these collections should be applied in that way; he does not, in the least, intimate that their own necessities, as a church might not be supplied out of these gatherings. Moreover, these collections, when sent to Jerusalem, would there be improved in the best manner, undoubtedly, for promoting the good of the church. They were not designed solely to feed the poor. They were sent to strengthen a feeble church, as in our times is often done. So the Church has always explained this matter. And in all churches, sabbath collections are appropriated to various ecclesiastical purposes. Therefore, there can be no distinct fund, from that source at least, for the use of the poor. And, it is scarcely possible to imagine any other source whence a distinct fund for the poor can emanate.

Sabbath collections for pious uses are a part of the instituted order for public worship, Deut. 16:16-17, 1 Cor. 16:2. Dr. M‘Leod has stated the doctrine of the Bible, in reference to this subject, with great precision and perspicuity in his Ecclesiastical Catechism (p. 83, 1831 ed.), in answer to the question: “How do we worship God, in making collections for the saints?” He says, “Collection is to be made for the support of those church members who are in Providence incapacitated to make provision for themselves, and for other pious purposes; Christians, in so doing, worship God by a public act, which testifies their dependence on Christ for worldly property, and their willingness to use it in his service, contributing on the Lord’s day, according to the need of the church, in proportion to their weekly prosperity.”

It would be of advantage, in more than one respect, to the Church, if this part of worship were well understood, and liberally acted upon.

[14] Lev. 27:13,15,19,17,31.

[15] Lev. 27:30.

[16] 1 Chron. 26:26-27. 

[17] 1 Cor. 9.

[18] The law which requires, in some places at least, a year’s payment of pew-rents, before the liberty is allowed of voting at the elections for trustees, and which, of course, excludes the poor entirely from any voice in this management of the funds, is perfectly consistent with this anti-scriptural system. It is carrying it out to its legitimate and sure termination. This will be the result, certainly, in most cases, when the system has existed long enough among any people to show its genuine character.

[19] In the thirty-eighth note to M‘Crie’s Life of Knox, there are some brief, but interesting notices of the opinions of the Scottish ministers on the subject of the property of the church. This author says, that they held that “property, which had been set apart, and given for religious uses, could not justly, or, without sacrilege, be alienated, as long as it was needed for those purposes.” An extract is given in this note from Sermons Against Sacrilege, by Robert Pont, a son-in-law of John Knox, and a very distinguished divine. They were written by the appointment of the General Assembly, in the year 1591. He replies to the objection, that the Levitical law is abrogated, and that, therefore, authorities from the Old Testament are of no force now, as follows: “I answer concerning those lands, or annual rents out of lands delated and given to the Kirk, that although the Levitical law, with the ceremonies thereof, concerning the outward observation hath taken an end, and is fulfilled in Christ, yet the substance of the policy, concerning entertainment of the service of God, and uphold of religion, still remains. And it is no less necessary, that the ministry of God among us be maintained: and that sufficient provision be made to secure other godly uses,” etc., etc. Again, Pont says, “albeit in their own nature they be like other earthly possessions; yet in so far as they are applied to an holy use, they may well be called holy possessions and rents, as the Kirk is holy, to whose use they are appointed.”

[20] Carry this out, and what becomes of theological seminaries, libraries, mission boards, etc., etc.? 

[21] This result has been already developed to a lamentable extent. It has become common, in some denominations of Christians, for clergymen to hire themselves out to congregations, to preach for six months, nine months, a year, etc.! To make bargains, previously to receiving a call where the pastoral relation is constituted, which by the old laws of the Reformation was a censurable offense, is an every day matter. To such an extent has this evil gone, that of about thirteen hundred ministers belonging to the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (Old School), four hundred and eighty-one are stated supplies, or more than one-third; while, in some instances, nearly whole Presbyteries have been mere stated supplies. The views of a writer in the Presbyterian, one of the organs of the Old School General Assembly, are remarkably correct on this point. Some of them are quoted, contained in that paper of June 6, 1840. After stating that “there was no such thing as a church and congregation associated together, in the apostolic age, in the support of divine institutions,” he goes on to say: “It is far otherwise now. Not only are there regular congregations associated with every church, but in our own, and many other countries, legal provision is made to collect and disburse the temporalities of the whole united concern. Hence, there are now legal officers, styled trustees, to perform those very duties which once lay exclusively on the Church alone.” “I am constrained to say, that it is very questionable, whether it has not produced, or, at least, increased one of the most serious evils which the Church has to contend with in the present day. In may parts of the Church, the frequent failure of ministerial support, is constantly separating pastors and churches, thus blighting the labors of numerous years, and condemning the churches to long and cheerless seasons of silence and desolation. It is worthy of serious inquiry, whether the commitment of the support of the gospel to a number of men who do not, as a board, feel that they are acting under the same solemn responsibilities of religion, and the obligations of church officers; whether their duties would not be more faithfully performed, if they were committed to men who felt that they are ‘ordained of God,’ for this, as well as other important services, and that they have vowed before heaven and earth to be faithful to their trust? And would not the Church itself be more likely to be kept awake to the important subject of ministerial support, if faithfully urged to it by the officers whom they had chosen for this self-same service?”

It is hoped that not a few in that body begin to reflect upon that very remarkable arrangement, by which a “church,” a body of Christians, and a “congregation,” a part of the world, thus intermingle and entwine themselves together.

[22] The paucity of male members in the churches of some of the larger denominations is notorious. It was stated on the floor of the General Assembly in May, 1840, that there are many churches in connection with that body, especially in the South, which have not materials enough to make ruling elders of, to say nothing of deacons. Yet they have their boards of trustees. 

[23] This is no supposition. In one instance, in the city of Philadelphia, the salary of a minister was withheld by the board of trustees for nearly, or quite, two years. They had secured a majority through the operation of the principle that holding a pew entitles to vote for trustees, and by excluding, upon various pretexts, many members in full communion. Their purpose was, avowedly, to starve him out, because of his faithful reproof of sabbath violation, intemperance, the traffic in liquors, etc. The writer has more than once heard clergymen regretting difficulties which attended their ministry, arising from this source.

[24] In another instance, in the same denomination, individuals, not members, of that church, and some not professors of religion, were chosen trustees, and for some time managed the funds. In the result, the members in that congregation lost the whole property.

[25] Deacons are also responsible to the laws. 

[26] New York, for example. 

[27] For some observations upon the “Title to Church Property,” see Note C, HERE

[28] As in those congregations which manage their funds by temporary committees, chosen in various ways from among themselves, as emergencies occur, and which are not permanent boards.