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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