Many Men of Many Minds, by John Leland, is excerpted from the pamphlet A Budget of Scraps, first published in 1810.
How various are the opinions of men respecting the mode of supporting gospel ministers.
A thinks that preachers of the gospel should be qualified, inducted, and supported, in a mode to be proscribed by statute laws.
B is of the opinion that that a preacher is not entitled to any compensation for his services, unless he is poor and shiftless, and cannot live without the alms of the people.
C says, that it takes him as long to go to meeting, and hear the preacher, as it does for the preacher to go and preach, and their obligations are therefore reciprocal.
D believes a rich preacher is as much entitled to a reward for his labor as if he was poor.
E believes that a preacher should give the whole of his time to reading, meditating, preaching, praying, and visiting, and therefore he ought to be liberally supported; not in the light of alms, but in that of a gospel debt.
F joins with E, with this proviso, that the liberal support be averaged on all the members of the church, according to property and privilege.
G also agrees with E, provided the liberal support be raised by a free, public contribution, without any knowledge or examination what each individual does.
H chooses to tax himself, and constable his own money to his preacher, without consulting any other.
I loves the preachers, and pays them with blessings, but the sound of money drives all good feelings from his heart.
When J hears a man preach that he does not believe is sent of God, he feels under no obligation to give him anything; and when he hears a preacher that gives him evidence, that he is in the service of the Lord, and devoted to the work, he forms the conclusion, that the Lord pays the preacher well for his work as he goes along.
K likes preachers very well, but preaching rather better; he feels, therefore, best pleased, when the preacher fails coming, and a gap opens for himself; for he had rather work his passage, and take his turn at the helm, than pay a pilot.
L argues like a man, that the preacher ought to receive something handsome for his services, and laments that himself is in debt, and cannot communicate any thing, without defrauding his creditors. At the same time, he takes special care to keep always in debt for cheap farms, wild land, or some other articles of an increasing nature.
M is a man of a thousand. He argues that the mode of supporting ministers is left blank in the New Testament; because no one mode would be economical in all places; but that the deed itself is enjoined on all who are taught by an ordinance of heaven. If, therefore, a contribution is recommended, M will be foremost to the box. When a subscription is judged most advisable, his name will be first on the list. If averaging is considered most equitable, he will add a little to his bill, lest others should fail. And if no mode at all is agreed upon, still M, as an individual, will contribute by himself; for he reasons, that if others are remiss, it is neither precedent nor excuse for him. He does not give to be seen of men, but because his heart is in it; and these gospel debts (as he calls them) he pays with as much devotion, as he spreads his hands in prayer to God. The creed of his faith, which seems to be written on his heart, is “That, although all the money in the world cannot purchase pardon of sin, or the smiles of a reconciled God; yet religion always has cost money or worth, from Abel’s lamb to the present day. And that the man who will not part with a little money, for the sake of him who parted with his blood for sinners, is a wicked disciple.”
N approves of the faith and profession of M, in every particular, but reduces nothing of it to practice.
O, like his make, believes nothing, does nothing, and is as near nothing as anything can be.