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October 07, 2003

The Hireling Ministry, None of Christ's

The idea that the United States is a "Christian Nation" has been getting more press lately, quoted by those who rally in support of the display of the 10 commandments in Alabama, by those who oppose homosexual marriage, and on a somewhat smaller scale, by those who believe that the mayor of Crystal River, Florida should be allowed to open City Council meetings with a prayer. Nebulous "founding fathers" and their ideas are invoked by both sides of the separation of church and state debate, ironically enough taking the authoritative position previously occupied by God and the Scriptures in moral arguments of an earlier time.

I thought it might be interesting to both sides to see the thoughts of a decidedly unnebulous founding father, the Reverend Roger Williams, the founder of not only the first Baptist church in America, but of the colony of Rhode Island.

Following is his essay on The Hireling Ministry, None of Christ's, which though ostensibly about the forcing of tithes to support ministers, partakes of writings on the relationship between church and state that Williams had published earlier in The Bloody Tenet. I've not been able to find a copy of The Hireling Ministry, None of Christ's on the Net, which is fast becoming one of my pet peeves, so I've reproduced the essay in it's entirety here.

The Hireling Ministry, None of Christ's

The civil state of the nations, being merely and essentially civil, cannot (Christianly) be called "Christian states," after the pattern of that holy and typical land of Canaan, which I have proved at large in the Bloudy Tenent to be a nonesuch and an unparalleled figure of the spiritual state of the church of Christ Jesus, dispersed yet gathered to Him in all nations.

The civil sword (therefore) cannot (rightfully) act either in restraining the souls of the people from worship, etc., or in constraining them to worship, considering that there is not a tittle in the New Testament of Christ Jesus that commits the forming or reforming of His spouse and church to the civil and worldly powers....

If it shall please our most noble governors to search into the institution and constitution (as they have done of the diocesan so also) of the national and parish churches. . .

If they please to take off the yokes, the soul yokes of binding all persons to such parochial or parish forms, permitting them to enjoy their own belief, whether within or without such parish worships, parish maintenance, parish marryings, parish buryings, by which the souls and consciences of so many have been inbondaged in life and death, and (their bodies, in respect of bury-
ings) after death.

If they shall please so far (if not to countenance yet) to permit impartially all consciences, and especially the consciences, the meetings and assemblings of faithful and conscionable people (the volunteers in preaching Christ Jesus), so as that what people and persons please, may peaceably frequent and repair to such spiritual meetings and assemblies as they do the parish churches, I am humbly confident that, as to the point of converting souls to God (so far as the present state of Christianity can be so promoted), the souls of thousands will bless God more than if millions of hirelings were sent abroad from all the universities, both of popish and Protestant countries.

[And] upon the grounds first laid, I observe the great and wonderful mistake, both our own and our fathers, as to the civil powers of this world, acting in spiritual matters. I have read ... the last will and testament of the Lord Jesus over many times, and yet I cannot find by one tittle of that testament that if He had been pleased to have accepted of a temporal crown and government that ever He would have put forth the least finger of temporal or civil power in the matters of His spiritual affairs and Kingdom.

Hence must it lamentably be against the testimony of Christ Jesus for the civil state to impose upon the souls of the people a religion, a worship, a ministry, oaths (in religious and civil affairs), tithes, times, days, marryings, and buryings in holy ground, yet in force, as I have (I hope), by the help of God, fully debated that great question with Master Cotton, and washed off all his late washings of that bloody tenent of persecution, etc.

What is then the express duty of the civil magistrate as to Christ Jesus, His Gospel and Kingdom?

I answer: I know how woefully that Scripture, "Kings shall be thy nursing fathers," etc., has been abused. ... I humbly conceive that the great duty of the magistrate, as to spirituals, will turn upon these two hinges:

First, in removing the civil bars, obstructions, hindrances in taking off those yokes that pinch the very souls and consciences of men, such as yet are the payments of tithes and the maintenance of ministers they have no faith in; such are the enforced oaths and some ceremonies therein, in all the courts of justice; such are the holy marryings, holy buryings, etc.

Second, in a free and absolute permission of the consciences of all men in what is merely spiritual. . . .

But how will this propagate the Gospel of Christ Jesus?

I answer thus: The first grand design of Christ Jesus is to destroy and consume His mortal enemy antichrist. This must be done by the breath of His mouth in His prophets and witnesses. Now, the nations of the world have impiously stopped this heavenly breath and stifled the Lord Jesus in His servants. Now, it shall please the civil state to remove the state bars set up to resist the holy spirit of God in His servants (whom yet finally to resist is not in all the powers of the world), I humbly conceive that the civil state has made a fair progress in promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This mercy and freedom is due to the (merely) religious consciences of all men in the world. Is there no more due from the magistrate to Christ Jesus. His saints and Kingdom?

I answer: While I plead the conscience of all men to be at liberty, doubtless I must plead the liberty of the magistrate's conscience also; and, therefore, were his bounties and donations to his bishops and minis ters as large as those of Constantine — who but the Holy Spirit of God in the mouths of His prophets can restrain him? . . .

But under the pretense of propagating the Gospel of Christ Jesus (it may be said), what horrible opinions and spirits will be vented, as woeful experience has manifested.

I answer: Opinions offensive are of two sorts: some savoring of impiety, and some of incivility.

Against the first, Christ Jesus never called for the sword of steel to help the sword of the spirit, that two-edged sword that comes out of the mouth of the Lord Jesus. . . .

The second sort, to wit, opinions of incivility, doubtless the opinions as well as practices are the proper object of the civil sword. . . .

But ought not the civil magistrates to repeal their ordinance for tithes, and also to appoint some course for the maintenance of the ministry?

I answer: Upon that ground of removing soul yokes, and not restraining nor constraining conscience, I humbly conceive that the civil state cannot by any rule from Christ Jesus either forbid the payment of tithes to such whose conscience is to pay them, or enjoin them where the conscience is not so persuaded. For the further clearing of which assertion, I distinguish of the people of this nation into two sorts:

First, such as have a freedom in their mind to frequent the public parish assemblies of the nation; and they are also of two sorts: (1) such as conscientiously frequent such places, either out of a conscientious zeal of worshiping of God, or out of a superstitious and traditional awe; (2) such as can go or not go, and care not what religion themselves and the state be of.

There is a second sort of people in this nation which, out of conscience, dare not frequent such places, and they are such: (1) such as indeed fear God and are in their consciences persuaded of an indelible character of holiness upon such temples as temples dedicated to a parish worship; (2) such as, out of an utter dislike of all Protestant worship and a high esteem of their own Catholic faith, are as far from love to such places as the former sort.

Now, all these consciences (yea, the very conscience of the Papists, Jews, etc., as I have proved at large in my answer to Master Cotton's washings) ought freely and impartially to be permitted their several respective worships, their ministers of worships, and what way of maintaining them they freely choose.

But if the civil state enjoin not the maintenance of the ministry, if they quite let loose the golden reins of discipline (as the Parliament expressed and the Scots objected), what will become of the ministry of the Gospel and the souls of men? For if each man's conscience be at liberty to come to church or not, to pay to the minister or not, the profane and loose will neither pay nor pray, but turn atheistic and irreligious. The ministers of worship will be discouraged and destitute, and parents will have little mind to expend their monies to make their children scholars, when the hope of their preferment is cut off.

I answer, first, that the Supreme Court in their declaration never declared to bar up all the doors and windows of that honorable House, so that no further light from Heaven should break into their . . . councils from the most glorious sun of all righteousness, the Lord Jesus.

Although the loose will be more loose (yet) possibly being at more liberty they may be put upon consideration and choice of ways of life and peace, yet, however, it is infinitely better that the profane and loose be unmasked than to be muffled up under the veil and hood of traditional hypocrisy, which turns and dulls the very edge of all conscience either toward God or man.

Third, it is not to be doubted but that each conscience, the Papists and the Protestants, both Presbyterians and Independents, will . . . strive for (their not only conscience but) credit sake to excel and win the garland in the fruits of bounty, etc. Thus a Jesuit once in Newgate boasted of the Papists' charity to a Protestant . . . for, pulling out his hand full of gold, look here (said he) are the fruits of our religion.

Fourth, such parents or children as aim at the gain and preferment of religion do often mistake gain and gold for godliness, godbelly for the true God, and some false for the true Lord Jesus. I add, such priests or ministers as can force a maintenance of tithes or otherwise, by the sword, or else cease preaching for want of such or such a maintenance, or can remove from bishoprics or benefices ... for fatter and ranker pastures, or, wanting spiritual work and maintenance, are too fine to work with their hands as the first patterns, Christ's first ministers, did — how can they say, as Peter to Christ Jesus, "Lord, Thou knowest all things. Thou knowest I love Thee," etc.?

[Therefore] lastly, the Father of Spirits graciously be pleased to preserve the spirits of our higher powers from laying on the hay and stubble, though upon the golden foundation Christ Jesus, for all such work in matters spiritual which our forefathers, either popish or Protestant, in their several changes in this nation have made, they have been consumed and burned (like hay and stubble) and come to nothing.

The summa totalis of all the former particulars is this:

First, since the people of this nation have been forced into a national way of worship, both popish and Protestant (as the wheels of time's revolutions, by God's mighty Providence and permission, have turned about), the civil state is bound before God to take off that bond and yoke of soul oppression, and to proclaim free and impartial liberty to all the people of the three nations to choose and maintain what worship and ministry their souls and consciences are persuaded of; which act, as it will prove an act of mercy and righteousness to the enslaved nations, so is it of a binding force to engage the whole and every interest and conscience to preserve the common freedom and peace; however, an act most suiting with the piety and Christianity of the Holy Testament of Christ Jesus.

Second, the civil state is humbly to be implored to provide in their high wisdom for the security of all the respective consciences, in their respective meetings, assemblings, worshipings, preachings, disputings, etc., and that civil peace and the beauty of civility and humanity be maintained among the chief opposers and dissenters.

Third, it is the duty of all that are in authority, and of all that are able, to countenance, encourage, and supply such true volunteers as give and devote themselves to the service and ministry of Christ Jesus in any kind, although it be also the duty, and will be the practice, of all such whom the spirit of God sends upon any work of Christ's . . . than the work and service of their Lord and Master should be neglected.

Posted by Bigwig at October 7, 2003 12:24 PM | TrackBack
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A delightful essay that I remember well from my studies at the Collegium Georgeopolitanum ad ripas Potomaci in Marylandia. Great to read it again.

Posted by: Scipio at October 7, 2003 05:59 PM
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