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spirit of Christianity, if they would give their spiritual labours freely, and look up to God for their reward ;--thus avoiding the cha: racter of false teachers, and the imputation of an abuse of their power in the Gospel.
Now these conclusions, the Quakers say, seem to have been sanctioned in a great meaşure by the primitive practice for the three first centuries of the Church, or till the darkness of Apostasy began to overwhelm the religious world.
In the very early times of the Gospel, many Christians, both at Jerusalem and Alexandria in Egypt, sold their possessions and lived together on the produce of their common stock. Others, in Antioch, Galatia, and Pontus, retained their estates in their possession, but established a fund, consisting of weekly or monthly offerings, for the support of the Church. This fund continued in after times : but it was principally for the relief of
and distressed Saints, in which the ministers of the Gospel; if in that situation, might also share. Tertullian, in speaking of such funds, gives the following account: “ Whatsoever we have," says he, “ in the treasury of our churches, is not raised by taxation, as though we put men to ransom their religion, but every man once a month, or when it pleaseth him, bestoweth what he thinks proper, but not except he be willing. For no man is compelled, but left free to his own discretion. And that, which is thus given, is not bestowed in vanity, but in relieving the poor, and upon children destitute of
and in the maintenance of aged and feeble persons, and of men wrecked by sea, and of such as have been condemned to metallic mines, or have been banished to islands, or have been cast into prison professing the Christian faith."
In process of time, towards the close of the third century, some lands began to be given to the Church. The revenue from these was thrown into the general treasury or fund, and was distributed, as other offerings were, by the deacons and elders ; but neither bishops nor ministers of the Gospel were allowed to have any concern with it. It appears from Origen, Cyprian, Urban, Prosper, and others, that if in those times such ministers were able to support themselves, they were to have nothing from this fund. The fund was not for the benefit of any particular person. But if such ministers stood in need of sustenance, they might receive from it ; but they were to be satisfied with simple diet, and necessary apparel. And so sacred was this fund held to the purposes of its institution, that the first Christian emperors, who did as the bishops advised them, had no recourse to it, but supplied the wants of ministers of the Góspel from their own revenues, as Eusebius, Theodoret, and Sozomen relate.
The Council of Antioch, in the year 340, finding fault with the deacons relative to the management of the funds of the churches, ordained that the bishops might distribute them, but that they should take no part of them to themselves, or for the use of the priests and brethren, who lived with them, unless necessity required it; using the words of the apostle, “ Having food and raiment, be therewith content.”.
In looking at other instances, cited by the Quakers, I shall mention one, which throws light for a few
this subject. In the year 359, Constantius the emperor, having summoned a general council
of bishops to Ariminum in Italy, and provided for their subsistence there, the British and French bishops, judging it not decent to live on the public, chose rather to live at their own expense. Three only out of Britain, compelled by want, but yet refusing assistance offered to them by the rest, accepted the emperor's provision, judging it more proper to subsist by public than by private support. This delicate conduct of the bishops is brought to show, that where ministers of the Gospel had the power of maintaining themselves, they had no notion of looking up to the public. In short, in those early times, ministers were maintained only where their necessities required it, and this out of the fund of the poor. They, who took from this fund, had the particular appellation given them of “ Sportularii,” or “ Basket-clerks,” because, according to Ori. gen, Tertullian, Cyprian, and others, they had their portion of sustenance given them in båskets. These portions consisted but of á small pittance sufficient only for their livelihood, and were given them on the principle laid down by St. Matthew, that the ministers of Jesue Christ were to eat and
drink only such things as were set before them.
In process of time new doctrines were advanced relative to the maintenance of the ministry, which will be hereafter explained. But as these were the inventions of men, and introduced during the Apostasy, the members of this Society see no reason why they should look up to these in preference to those of Jesus Christ, and of the Apostles, and of the practice of Christians in the purest ages of the Church. They believe, on the other hand, that the latter only are to be relied upon as the true doctrines. These were founded in divine wisdom on the erection of the Gospel-ministry, and were unmixed with the inventions of men. They were founded on the genius and spirit of Christianity, and not on the genius or spirit of the world. The Quakers, therefore, looking up to these as to the surer foundation, have adopted the following tenets on this subject :
They believe, first, that it would be inconsistent in them as Christians to make a pecuniary payment to their own ministers for their Gospel-labours. And they regu