Preaching for Pay? – Old School Baptist History
“The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.”
As far back as the Old School or Primitive Baptist can trace their history they have been guided by one rule only; they must have a “Thus sayeth the Lord” for any and all doctrine and practice. A doctrine or a practice without a supporting text from Scripture is as unwelcome among the old order of Baptists as Egyptian lice.
There is no Scriptural support for the practice of hiring a man (or woman) to preach the gospel of free grace. It is the purpose of this article to establish that, 1) our early churches did not condone such a practice and, 2) neither have any orderly churches of the old order since. Preaching for pay is as foreign to the church Jesus built as are all other carnal practices of men not commanded by the Word of God.
We are reminded of a sister from years past that was asked by an acquaintance if she sent her children to Sunday school since the Old School Baptist Church where she attended had no such accommodations. “Heavens no!” replied the sister; “I had sooner send my children out to steal hen eggs as to send them to a Sunday school.” Upon serious reflection we conclude the sister answered honestly, if unwisely. The old order of Baptists are no friends to these modern inventions of greedy religion.
The first recorded account in the Bible instructions relative to preaching the gospel came from the lips of our dear Lord Himself. The entire 10th chapter of the book of Matthew contains the discourse. Jesus called His twelve disciples unto Him and fully instructed them for their mission. The following is of particular interest for our topic:
“And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses. Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.”
These are the words of the Master.
He has spoken!
It is a violation of the worst sort to deviate from His commands for the sake of filthy lucre or for security’s sake.
See carefully these words: freely give! Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses. It would require the sagacity of the combined angelic band to reason these words to mean either more or less than their plain import. And mark well; these are the words of instruction given by our Lord to the very first ministers of the gospel in this age. No one has the right to dismiss them or treat them lightly.
Hardly three years after Jesus had endowed His disciples with these instructions He was sold for thirty pieces of silver by Judas, one of the twelve. Judas was a thief besides being a traitor (John 12:6), and carried their bag. After His crucifixion and burial, Jesus arose on the third morning. The chief priests, ringleaders in His death, alarmed at the prospects of the resurrection event being circulated, gave large sums of money to the soldiers, “Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (Matthew 28:13-15).
Marvel at these things readers! The leading event that delivered Jesus into the hands of His persecutors was the 30 pieces of silver for which Judas sold Him. The initial lie to suppress the truth of the resurrection of Jesus was purchased by large money, and they took the money and did as they were taught!
Is it any wonder then, the church of the Living God is cautious when money and messages are involved together?
Well they should be, for there are many wolves about that had rather fleece the flock than to feed them.
Hirelings, the Lord called them!
Almost at once after the Holy Ghost came down upon the waiting disciples after Jesus had ascended (Acts 1:8-9; Acts 2:1ff), Peter and John went up to the temple to pray. A man lame on his feet asked of them an alms. The response:
“Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”
Note well! Peter did not condemn silver and gold. Peter did, however, put the affairs of the kingdom of heaven on a non-commercial plane. This is exactly the position of the Old School, Primitive Baptists; the gospel ministry is non- commercial. (It is interesting to note that the first deaths in the church was the results of financial double-dealing by Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. See Acts 5:1-11).
Again, in the early church there was a covetous imposter that would make merchandise of the gospel ministry, Simon, a sorcerer of the city of Samaria. Peter, having come to lay hands on the believers, swiftly rebuked the solicitous overtures of Simon thusly:
“But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.”
Let it be repeated, today, tomorrow, and forever; the gift of God may not be purchased with money!
Any gift! Preaching, praying, the laying on of hands, or whatever. These things are not commodities to be bought and sold. Men cannot be hired to sell them, for they are free to those God has chosen to receive them.
Over the course of about 30 years after, Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus, preached throughout much of the then-known world, being sent out by the Holy Ghost from the assembly at Antioch. When he went out it was after the fashion the Lord directed the twelve at the first. In his departing discourse at Ephesus these were among his final words: “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.”
What is this?
Did not Paul negotiate a salary before he hoofed out over the unknown regions to preach the gospel?
He did not, and neither has a true God-called minister since that day!
Any man that professes to be a minister, called of God to preach the gospel, that would negotiate a salary for preaching the blessed gospel is a hireling.
Any church that would negotiate with a hireling minister to preach the gospel is a false church.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The Bible gives clear, unambiguous instructions, or qualifications, for the bishops or elders of the church. These are a portion of them:
“For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self- willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre.”
Not the wildest stretch of language could prove that accepting a salary was not being given to filthy lucre.
What more could it be if one accepts a position to preach, or paint fences, for hire?
They are given to it.
How then did our old brethren of years past understand these things?
Moreover, how did they practice what they understood?
Did the Old School, Primitive Baptist ministers, called of God to preach the gospel of free grace, bid themselves out to the churches for a stipulated sum?
Did they agree with a board or committee of a church to render their services for a fee?
Was a salary ever considered as a fair means of compensation for those that would toil in the doctrine and the Word?
The history of the Old School Baptist in this country begins about 1700 AD. Though there were Baptists here before that, the Old School and Primitive Baptist trace the majority of their churches back through the Philadelphia and Kehukee Associations of churches. However, it was not until about 100 years later, about the early 1800s that the rumblings of discord were heard among the Baptist family. The Fullerite mission system was infecting the churches with pleas for money to convert the lost. Seminaries were being opened to teach hirelings the fine art of begging and moochery. Mission boards were being established to send the little dandies out to wilderness posts to populate heaven with converted heathens. This all took money and hirelings will not hire out without some assurances. Salaried preaching had come of age.
Some few were opposed. Who were these opponents of the salary scheme?
The Old School or Primitive Baptists. We list some of their comments, remarks and objections to these novel practices of making greed for filthy lucre acceptable. They are not necessarily in order.
Black Rock Address of 1832.
“2nd. In reference to ministerial support. The gospel order is to extend support to them who preach the gospel; but the mission plan is to hire persons to preach.”
(“Black Rock Address,” Butler, Maryland, Feast of Fat Things, Page 16ff)
This quotation really sets the tone for the difference between the Old School, Primitive Baptists and the monied orders. Extend support to those who preach the gospel versus hiring persons to preach. No true church will withhold their support, as they are by God enabled, from those set apart to feed the flock of God. Neither will the true church entertain the wicked practice of hiring a minister. The lines of distinction had thus been drawn. A salaried ministry would not be countenanced among the Old School churches.
Elder John Leland.
“This machine is propelled by steam (money), and does not sail by the wind of Heaven. Immense donations and contributions have already been cast into the treasury; and we see no end to it, for the solicitors and mendicants are constantly crying `Give, Give,’ with an unblushing audacity that makes humble saints hold down their heads. But I forbear. The subject sickens. I close in the words of God Himself, `Stand ye in the way, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls (Jeremiah 6.16)'”
(Elder John Leland, History of the Church of God, Hassell, Page 624)
Leland, as it is well known, was probably the most influential Baptist minister of his day and was respected from the highest seats of Government to the pine-planked pews of remote Baptist meeting houses. His views were held in esteem where truth was reverenced and his writings appeared frequently in the Signs of the Times, the first Old School paper in America. Thus, when he condemns the “machine propelled by steam (money)” there was no doubt in the minds of the scattered children of God that Leland was on no salary, or he had hired out to carry the gospel to those that may afford to gain it from their purse.
London Confession of Faith-1689.
“10. The work of pastors being constantly to attend the service of Christ in His churches, in the ministry of the word and prayer (Acts 6.4; Hebrews 13.17), with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to Him, it is incumbent on the church to whom they minister not only to give them all due respect (I Timothy 5:17-18; Galatians 6:6-7), but also to communicate to them of all their good things, according to their ability, so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves (II Timothy 2.4) entangled in secular affairs, and may also be capable of exercising (I Timothy 3.2) hospitality towards others..”
(Chapter Twenty, London Confession of Faith)
Regarding how the churches were to assist the work of their ministers, the key expression is, according to their ability. Surely, if the London brethren, and multitudes of others that after adopted this confession, had intended a fixed salary, or a stipulated hireling’s sum, they would not have used such language as according to their ability. Rather, the language would have to say something to the sort of pay that thou owest, irrespective of your ability, for the hireling is worthy of your labor.
“16. They adhered to their flocks, and seldom relinquished their pastoral stations for want of support; but would devise some way to support themselves and keep on their work. 17. They had no settled income for their services.”
(David Benedict, “Marks of the Old Fashion Baptists,” Hassell’s History, Page 764f)
David Benedict was a New School historian, and as such, rarely spoke in flattering terms when the Old School were involved. No matter his intentions, he accurately depicted the gospel ministers of the Old School; they had no settled income for their services! Benedict bragged that his history of the Baptists would not have reached the farthest regions of the nation before the Old School were dead and gone. Perhaps he could have learned something of the God-ordained plan from those he ridiculed, for they have stood the test of time without the moneyed schemes and Benedict is now seldom mentioned.
“Resolved, That we wish it distinctly understood by all that we disown any intention in said Circular to either build up or encourage a gospel ministry by unlawful means; and that it is foreign to our design to predicate a preached gospel on a moneyed foundation; and as such seems to have been the inference drawn by some, we now frankly say to such that we intended to declare no such sentiments by the adoption of said Circular Letter.”
(C. B. Hassell, “Preamble to Circular Letter of 1846 for Kehukee Association,” Hassell’s History, Page 785)
Elder Hassell and his Kehukee brethren certainly made their sentiment clear enough in 1846 no matter how matters were interpreted in 1844 when the issue of pastoral support first came up. They were correct in the first instance; they were correct in the last instance, and we believe they are yet correct. Their language was “it is foreign to our design to predicate a preached gospel on a moneyed foundation.” Amen!
It should not be understood, however, that the Kehukee brethren, or Old School Baptists anywhere the world over, disengaged themselves from the obvious necessities of those that labored in the word. The following query to the same Kehukee association should put that idea to rest:
“Query 28. What measures shall a Deacon take who sees the necessity of the minister’s support, and his conscience binds him to do his duty, in consequence of which he frequently excites the brethren to their duty; yet after all, he finds they neglect their duty? Answer: It is our opinion that it is the members’ duty voluntarily to contribute to the minister’s support; and if the Deacon discovers any member remiss in his duty that he shall cite him to the church; and it the church finds him negligent in his duty we give it as our advice that the church should deal with him for covetousness.”
(Hassell – Page 832)
Another query will be examined in due time.
Elder Thomas P. Dudley.
“While I loathe and abhor the practice which prevails so generally, except among Old School Baptists, of professed ministers auctioning themselves off to the highest bidder, and thus assuming the character of ‘hirelings’, I nevertheless am freely persuaded that when the church fails or neglects her duty in this matter, the ministration of God’s servants fails to afford that comfort, instruction and encouragement they would otherwise derive from their labors. In such cases the ministry becomes to such as `dry breasts.’ Let us bring the matter home to ourselves, and ask, would we be willing to leave the little comfort we enjoy in the bosom of our family, our domestic concerns at home, by which a competency is secured for those committed to our charge, and labor, and toil for the encouragement of others, while we are pained to witness how indifferent they are to our comfort, and the comfort of those near and dear to us?”
(Elder Thomas P. Dudley, “One Body”, Signs of the Times, 1868)
Elder Dudley’s sword cut both ways in this article, written for the general edification of the scattered saints. He loathes and abhors selling the gospel by hireling ministers. At the same time he sternly admonishes the church to her privilege of assisting the minister in his, and his family’s, needs. This is especially noteworthy since Dudley was probably held in higher esteem among the Old School Baptists than any other minister West of the Appalachians.
Kehukee Queries Answered.
“Query 12: What way is thought best for a church to act in supporting their minister? Answer: That each member ought to contribute, voluntarily, according to his or her ability, and in no wise by taxation or any other compulsion.”
(Queries to the Kehukee Association, Hassell’s History, Page 830)
It may be suggested that the Kehukee brethren did not specifically denounce salaried hirelings here in this query. True, and they did not denounce a multitude of other evils either. What they did, since obviously they did not here at once suggest a salary, is address the individual’s duty to their pastor. That duty was to contribute, voluntarily, not pay them a salary or stipulated sum in return for preaching.
At the time this query was written, many ministers received their support, what little they did receive, in the form of eggs, beef, chickens, a bushel of peanuts, or other such commodities the brethren might be able to afford. Hard cash was scarce then, and furthermore, the church and its ministers did not have to look over their shoulder to see if an IRS agent was peering into their transactions of love and fellowship. Religion then was a matter between man and his God; not man and his government. It must, though, be honestly admitted, that the government may not have been so hasty to become involved with the financial dealings of churches and ministers had it not been for the proliferation of huge religious machines that greased their wheels of progress with money filched from the gullible with schemes of selling prayer clothes, worthless books and tapes on how to become a “rich Christian” along with a multitude of other nefarious tools of greed.
Elder Gilbert Beebe.
“Equally great is the difference between the gospel and the hireling system of antichrist. The latter is based upon the wisdom of men, without divine authority. They make merchandise of the gospel; first, by investing a certain amount of capital in qualifying themselves for the work, and then offer their services to the highest bidder. They have not freely received, therefore they cannot freely give, God has not called them, therefore they cannot trust him to provide for their support. They have their bargains arranged in dollars and dimes, as a debt and credit system, so much labor for so much money, and that money in some cases secured by the endorsement of some wealthy person or persons. While the minister of Jesus has no bargain to make, no stipulated sum to require, no bondsmen to endorse either for the Lord or for the church, if entirely neglected by his brethren, still his trust is in the Lord, and as long as he is supplied with ability, he will never shun to declare the counsel of God, to preach the word, or to feed the sheep and lambs of the flock, to the utmost of his ability.”
(Elder Gilbert Beebe, “The Support of the Ministry,” December 1, 1859, Editorials, Volume 4, Page 285f)
Of Elder Beebe it may be fairly said that he rarely left room for doubt about wherein he stood on any issue. There was certainly no ambiguity in the issue of paying preacher to preach. Beebe believed, as do the Old School today, that hireling preachers were of Antichrist. To fortify that opinion he says; “They make merchandise of the gospel..” and again, “God has not called them.”
Concerning his own call to the ministry Beebe says:
“In 1816 I came to the city of New York, and afterward became identified, by letter, with the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where I was called to exercise my gift, and was finally licensed to preach the gospel; this was about the year 1818. I then traveled in several States as an itinerant preacher, and supplied the Third Baptist Church in Baltimore three or four months in about 1821-2, but it suited my mind better to be traveling. I never failed to find places where I was well received, and without any support from missionary arrangement I was fully sustained, so that I could say as did the disciples whom Jesus sent out without purse or scrip, when they returned, that I had lacked nothing.” (Autobiography of Elder Gilbert Beebe, Hassell’s History, Page 934)
Such is generally the testimony of the Old School ministers wherever the Lord has cast their lot. Freely they have received, freely they give and without any support from the missionary arrangement, they are sustained.
Elder John Tanner.
“Every preacher, he argued, should love his Lord well enough to obey Him, feeding both lambs and sheep, even if he got no money for it, nay, if it cost him all he had, and even his life beside. And the flock who were fed by him should remember that he had a right to his support from them.”
(Elder John Tanner, “Ordination Sermon for Elder Wilson Thompson,” Autobiography of Elder Wilson Thompson, Page 130)
There has probably never been a gospel minister that was more used of the Lord in this country than Elder Thompson. The Mid West was well stocked with churches he gathered and established during his long service to the flock of God. His life was extraordinary in usefulness and exemplary in decorum. His Autobiography is a storehouse of personal illustrations relative to serving God without following the cunning patter of the hireling.
Thus we have presented witness after witness and all testifying the same truth; the gospel is free and cannot be bought or sold, either by hirelings or carnal professors of religion. Each of these witnesses we have set before the reader has been well known among the Old School Predestinarian Baptists and were unblemished in character. None of them, and none of their contemporaries, would have dreamed of striking a bargain for a salary from the Church of the Living God. Countless other witnesses might be produced but sufficient has been shown for those that love the truth unvarnished and without compromise.
Each of those we have cited herein were men of standing among the Absolute Predestinarian ranks of the Old School with the exception of David Benedict. However, despite their denial of so great a truth as absolute predestination, practically all those of the limited Predestinarian Primitive Baptists also deny the error of a salaried preacher of the gospel. We offer, in conclusion, several of these fellows as well.
Elder Walter Cash.
“The system of fixing salaries for ministers is corrupting in its influence. Instead of trying to please Christ, men endeavor to get their salaries raised; instead of being devoted to their flocks, they are always looking for a better paying position. Raising money for the salary of a preacher, with Arminian denominations, gets to be a grinding weight on their shoulders, as is evidenced by their trying to shift it on to others and resorting to all kinds of schemes, gambling included, to get money. The Primitive Baptists can never resort to paying salaries to get pastors, nor should our ministers ever stoop to sell the word of God at so much a sermon or by the year.”
(Elder Walter Cash, Practical Suggestions for Primitive Baptists, Page 41f)
Elder W. S. Craig.
“10th. That while the ministry received voluntary help from the churches, they were not salaried, but labored themselves, more or less, for their own support.”
(Elder W. S. Craig, “12 Marks of Apostolic Churches,” Primitive Baptist Faith and Practice,
Elder Craig labored on the high planes of Nebraska for many years and published numerous books and pamphlets on a variety of historical and Biblical subjects. He was highly respected for his fair manner in presenting any subject, thus his quotation here carries its due weight and influence.
We have saved our final quotation, from the pen of Elder C. H. Cayce, because we feel that he hit the nail on the head. It is not often that the Old School Predestinarians can come to terms with Cayce. When we can, we should.
Elder C. H. Cayce.
“None that we know of, except some ignorant superstitious Softshell Baptists, suppose that Primitive Baptist preachers are clothed and fed in a miraculous way. They go preaching where they feel that the Lord directs; and they do this trusting in the Lord, that he will put it into the hearts of the hearers to minister of their carnal things. They go without the promise of money or support by men. This the Softshell will not do. The Softshells do not trust the Lord. The Lord promised to be with those He sends out to preach. The Softshells will not risk the promise of God. They must have a promise of a support from men before they will go. They must have men to go the Lord’s security before they will do the preaching. This is good evidence that they are not sent by the Lord. If they were sent of the Lord, they would be willing to trust Him. They would rather trust the promise of men than the promise of the Lord. They look to the party by whom they are sent for support, and for a promise of support. They have no confidence in their god. Well, we don’t blame them much, for they claim that their god can’t save people that he wants to save, because people are too covetous to give their means to send the gospel. Their poor little god is no better than Diana of the Ephesians. They have to tell the people that sinners are going to hell by the thousands every day for want of the gospel, in order to get them to give of their hard-earned dollars. That’s the way many of these Softshell humbugs get their support.”
(Elder C. H. Cayce, “Ministerial Aid,” Selected Editorials, 1896-1910, Page 354f)
We have thus set before you a broad selection of solid views respecting preachers and pay. Hirelings, in the firm opinion of the Old School, Primitive Baptists have no place in the church of God. The man, called of God to preach free grace, deserves the support of the flock of God but neither sheep or shepherd can follow any course but that of the Bible.
By James Poole