Verse 22. "This stone shall be God's house" - That is, (as far as this matter refers to Jacob alone,) should I be preserved to return in safety, I shall worship God in this place. And this purpose he fulfilled, for there he built an altar, anointed it with oil, and poured a drink-offering thereon.For a practical use of Jacob's vision, see note on "ver. 12".
ON the doctrine of tithes, or an adequate support for the ministers of the Gospel, I shall here register my opinion. Perhaps a word may be borne from one who never received any, and has Done in prospect. Tithes in their origin appear to have been a sort of eucharistic offering made unto God, and probably were something similar to the minchah, which we learn from Genesis 4. was in use almost from the foundation of the world. When God established a regular, and we may add an expensive worship, it was necessary that proper provision should be made for the support of those who were obliged to devote their whole time to it, and consequently were deprived of the opportunity of providing for themselves in any secular way. It was soon found that a tenth part of the produce of the whole land was necessary for this purpose, as a whole tribe, that of Levi, was devoted to the public service of God; and when the land was divided, this tribe received no inheritance among their brethren. Hence, for their support, the law of tithes was enacted; and by these the priests and Levites were not only supported as the ministers of God, but as the teachers and intercessors of the people, performing a great variety of religious duties for them which otherwise they themselves were bound to perform. As this mode of supporting the ministers of God was instituted by himself, so we may rest assured it was rational and just. Nothing can be more reasonable than to devote a portion of the earthly good which we receive from the free mercy of God, to his own service; especially when by doing it we are essentially serving ourselves. If the ministers of God give up their whole time, talents, and strength, to watch over, labour for, and instruct the people in spiritual things, justice requires that they shall receive their support from the work. How worthless and wicked must that man be, who is continually receiving good from the Lord's hands without restoring any part for the support of true religion, and for charitable purposes! To such God says, Their table shall become a snare to them, and that he will curse their blessings. God expects returns of gratitude in this way from every man; he that has much should give plenteously, he that has little should do his diligence to give of that little.
It is not the business of these notes to dispute on the article of tithes; certainly it would be well could a proper substitute be found for them, and the clergy paid by some other method, as this appears in the present state of things to be very objectionable; and the mode of levying them is vexatious in the extreme, and serves to sow dissensions between the clergyman and his parishioners, by which many are not only alienated from the Church, but also from the power as well as the form of godliness.
But still the labourer is worthy of his hire; and the maintenance of the public ministry of the word of God should not be left to the caprices of men. He who is only supported for his work, will be probably abandoned when he is no longer capable of public service. I have seen many aged and worn-out ministers reduced to great necessity, and almost literally obliged to beg their bread among those whose opulence and salvation were, under God, the fruits of their ministry! Such persons may think they do God service by disputing against "tithes, as legal institutions long since abrogated," while they permit their worn-out ministers to starve:-but how shall they appear in that day when Jesus shall say, I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat; thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; naked, and ye clothed me not? It is true, that where a provision is established on a certain order of priesthood by the law, it may be sometimes claimed and consumed by the worthless and the profane; but this is no necessary consequence of such establishment, as there are laws which, if put in action, have sufficient energy to expel every wicked and slothful servant from the vineyard of Christ. This however is seldom done. At all events, this is no reason why those who have served God and their generation should not be comfortably supported during that service; and when incapable of it, be furnished at least with the necessaries of life. Though many ministers have reason to complain of this neglect, who have no claims on a legal ecclesiastical establishment, yet none have cause for louder complaint than the generality of those called curates, or unbeneficed ministers, in the Church of England: their employers clothe themselves with the wool, and feed themselves with the fat; they tend not the flock, and their substitutes that perform the labour and do the drudgery of the office, are permitted at least to half starve on an inadequate remuneration. Let a national worship be supported, but let the support be derived from a less objectionable source than tithes; for as the law now stands relative to them, no one purpose of moral instruction or piety can be promoted by the system. On their present plan tithes are oppressive and unjust; the clergyman has a right by law to the tenth of the produce of the soil, and to the tenth of all that is supported by it. He claims even the tenth egg, as well as the tenth apple; the tenth of all grain, of all hay, and even of all the produce of the kitchen garden; but he contributes nothing to the cultivation of the soil. A comparatively poor man rents a farm; it is entirely out of heart, for it has been exhausted; it yields very little, and the tenth is not much; at the expense of all he has, he dresses and manures this ungrateful soil; to repay him and keep up the cultivation would require three years' produce. It begins to yield well, and the clergyman takes the tenth which is now in quantity and quality more in value than a pound, where before it was not a shilling. But the whole crop would not repay the farmer's expenses. In proportion to the farmer's improvement is the clergyman's tithe, who has never contributed one shilling to aid in this extra produce! Here then not only the soil pays tithes, but the man's property brought upon the soil pays tithes: his skill and industry also are tithed; or if he have been obliged to borrow cash, he not only has to pay tithes on the produce of this borrowed money, but five per cent interest for the money itself. All this is oppressive and cruelly unjust. I say again, let there be a national religion, and a national clergy supported by the state; but let them be supported by a tax, not by tithes, or rather let them be paid out of the general taxation; or, if the tithe system must be continued, let the poor-rates be abolished, and the clergy, out of the tithes, support the poor in their respective parishes, as was the original custom.