Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ministerial Compensation

The Daily Telegraph , 27 December 2007, notes the following with reference to salaries in the Church of England:

In monetary terms, their services are less valued now. A diocesan bishop receives £36,230 a year, and an auxiliary suffragan bishop only £29,560.

That is less than a teacher, though we expect great things of bishops.
But, as we report today, instead of finding ways of attracting better candidates, perhaps by increasing the amount they receive to a level where they might no longer wonder how to pay for the children's shoes, the Church Commissioners, in a secret document, have recommended that more than a fifth of bishops should simply be abolished.

Jonathan Edwards, particularly in the 1740s, was particularly irritated by the level and reliability of his salary payments. It reminded me of these rather idiosyncratic comments from the seventeenth century Cambridge Reformed theologian William Perkins:

'All men are flesh and blood. In that respect they must be allured and won to embrace this vocation by the kinds of arguments which may well persuade flesh and blood. The world has had a careless attitude about this in every age. Consequently in the law, God gave careful instructions for the maintenance of the Levites (Num. 18:26). But especially now, under the gospel, the ministerial calling is poorly provided for, even although it deserves to be rewarded most of all. Certainly it would be an honourable Christian policy to make at least good provision for this calling, so that men of the worthiest gifts might be won for it.

The lack of such provision is the reason why so many young men with unusual ability and great prospects turn to other vocations, especially law. That is where most of the sharpest minds in our nation are employed. Why? Because in legal practice they have all the means for their advance, whereas the ministry, generally speaking, yields nothing but a clear road to poverty.'

From William Perkins, The Art of Prophesying (reprint Edinburgh: 1996), 95.

I wonder what Edwards would make of this argument? It isn't exactly a Pauline theme - Paul was more commonly heard to boast that he was Christ's doulos rather than his well-paid civil servant. Perkins was a fabulous theologian, but this is a very odd argument. Isn't the cross of Christ meant to motivate Christian service? Aren't there myriad other motivations in the Scripture apart from money?

A few from Edwards:

'They [ministers] shall then [at the judgement] receive a glorious reward for the good they have done in their successful faithfulness. The reward their Lord and Master shall bestow upon such ministers when they return to give him an account shall be exceeding excellent.' The Minister Before the Judgment Seat of Christ, in Salvation of Souls, 82.

Edwards' understanding of this issue of motivation comes across clearly in his sermon The Work of the Ministry is Saving Sinners (see Salvation of Souls, Crossway, 157-159). The doctrine of the sermon reads as follows:

'My design from these words is to consider Christ's expending his own blood for the salvation and happiness of the souls of men, in the view both of an inducement and a direction to ministers to exert themselves for the same end.' (159)

What then of 'inducement'?

After a lengthy and intensely theological discussion of the person and work of Christ - the cross represents 'the blood of God' shed for sinners - he writes that '[s]eeing Christ manifested so great a regard to the honor of God in the salvation of souls, surely his ministers ought earnestly to seek that they may be the instruments of promoting of the glory of God in the same thing?' (169)

'If Christ thought the worth of souls to be so great as to answer such labors, such suffering, shall ministers begrudge Christ the same?' (170) ... 'An imitation of Christ in laying down his life for the good of souls is in Scripture in a peculiar manner recommended to ministers.' (171)

Edwards makes many other arguments in the sermon, none relating to a secure income. Can anyone rehabiliate Perkins for me please?

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Christmas Meditation

He loved us first when we had no love to him and shall not we follow when he loves us and courts our hearts? He loved us that never did anything for him. Shall we not love him who became poor that we might be rich? ...

If it be so that Christ became poor that we might be rich, then these are exceedingly to blame who mind earthly things and don't seek the true riches. How much soever Christ has laid out himself to make us spiritual[ly] rich and rich in another world there are many men that don't regard it. Christ thought it worth the becoming poor for men's sakes, but many men don't think it worth their troubling themselves about.

They neglect these riches that Christ bought at so dear a rate and they are pursuing of earthly riches. All or most of their concern is what they shall eat, and what they shall drink and wherewith all they shall be clothed. Christ might have kept in heaven where he was for all them, and spared all that cost. Truly, if you choose earthly possessions, money and land, and meat and drink, or houses and clothing, rather than the righteousness and sanctification, and God's love and heavenly glory, the riches which Christ by his poverty has procured, you are like to go without 'em. You must have your house and lands, and meat and drink, and clothing and nothing else. You must "have your portion in this life" [as in]Psalms 17:14.

IV. The doctrine reproves those who are, upon occasion, afraid of becoming poor for Christ's sake when they are called to part with something for the relief of the poor, or for the maintaining the gospel, or to help their brethren and neighbours. They are exceeding careful least they should hurt themselves. They think with themselves that they are forced to labour a great while to get so much, and to part in a minute with what they get by many a hard blow, and have no profit by it. They grudge at it. They think they shall at that rate become poor and run themselves into hardship. They hope to have benefit by Christ poverty. They hope he became poor that they might be rich. But they [are] exceeding cautious that they don't endanger their own being poor for Christ. The blood run free from Christ's veins and out of his heart. He freely shed it for sinners, but anything of theirs' comes hard from them as their blood. There is abundance of this more or less in multitudes of men. It is a common thing to be too grudging, too apt to think about the difficulty and about the danger.

From a 1728 sermon on II Cor 8.9.

With the disclaimer that JE would never have celebrated anything as pagan as Christmas!

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Arminian vandals?

The JE page on wikipedia is being vandalised. Who would do such a thing?

If it is you, please cease and desist.

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Jonathan Edwards: A life

From a helpful review of a great book. In the opening section of the review McClymond writes that Marsden's volume on Edwards is like Peter Brown's on Augustine. That must be correct. He concludes:

Jonathan Edwards offers correctives to some common images of Edwards. First, this book should banish forever Perry Miller's myth of the lonely American genius. It embeds Edwards so deeply in his familial, social, cultural, historical, literary, and religious context that it may be impossible ever to extricate him--and that is just as it should be. Second, by placing piety ahead of intellect, this book challenges any notion of Edwards as a thinker with philosophical ideas that can be detached from his theological beliefs. To attempt such a separation is to dismember Edwards's thought, which is held together by his concept of God. Third, Marsden problematizes the image of Edwards as a Calvinist saint. Though Marsden's Edwards is someone whom most thoughtful persons might enjoy speaking with at least once, he is not a person whom many would want to befriend. His uncompromising standards would likely make him attractive only to those who shared his total spiritual commitments (5-6).

What makes Marsden's Edwards seem approachable, though, is his very consciousness of tendencies to pride, self-righteousness, and judgmentalism, and his lifelong efforts to overcome them. Such self-awareness distinguishes this portrayal of Edwards from the serenely self-confident Calvinist that appears in both the admiring and disparaging biographies of the past. Marsden's Edwards--unlike earlier versions--is capable of self-doubt. This internal complexity makes Edwards appear human, and it may be an element in his extraordinary creativity. He is like a demanding piano instructor or symphony maestro who relentlessly drives himself and others to peak performance but secretly wonders if he has been too harsh and strident. Marsden's biography gives a clearer window into Edwards's soul than anything else we are ever likely to read.


George M. Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life. Review By: McClymond, Michael J., Church History, 00096407, Mar2007, Vol. 76, Issue 1

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Progress in Doctrine

'Tis God's design gradually to introduce an increase of light to correct mistakes, and more and more to show his people the way of truth and duty.

From One Great End in Appointing the Gospel Ministry, Works, 25, 445

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