“And Melchizedek king of Salem… was the priest of the most high God… And he [Abraham] gave him tithes of all.”
“…you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
“Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.”
Order of Contents
Should We Tithe?
Travis Fentiman, MDiv.
Having been bought by the blood of God (Acts 20:28) and being wholly owned by Him, it ought to be a small thing and one of joy for the Christian to give a regular portion of his or her income to the service of the One who has created us and redeemed us.
The poor widow, with nothing more, could have only thrown into the Temple’s treasury one mite, keeping the last one for herself, but instead she threw in all that she had (Mk. 12:41-44; Lk. 21:1-4). It is better to give than to receive, Jesus said (Acts 20:35), for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7).
In light of this, the question naturally arises whether it is morally obligatory that persons, and Christians especially, systematically give a certain amount of their earned money to the service of God? And if so, should this be ten percent, or a ‘tithe’?
The answers to these questions in contemporary Christianity have often been influenced by:
(1) Anti-nomianism (against-the-Law-ism), believing that Christians are not obliged to obey the moral laws of God, especially if that means ‘tithing’ (which costs a person something), in which understanding seeking to obey God’s commandments is held to be legalism (contra what Jesus says, Jn. 14:15); and
(2) Fundamentalism on the other hand, which characteristically uses a simplistic and ‘literal’ interpretation of Scripture, often arguing that the Levitical statute for giving 10% of one’s income to the Lord continues to directly bind Christians in the New Testament era. This paradigm became popular on the American scene beginning with the Tithing Renewal Movement in the late-1800’s (see pp. 24-68 of Croteau, A Biblical & Theological Analysis of Tithing).
The dominant answer of reformed theology’s classical era during the 1500’s and 1600’s, according to the Word of God, was neither of these.
Systematic Giving is Morally Obligatory & Natural
At the Reformation Anabaptists, and later Quakers and many Independants, argued that, as the Levitical statutes are done away with, so no law remains to bind persons to systematic giving to the Christian ministry, and that ministers need not, and should not be paid. However, even before the Law with Moses, being yet a gentile, Abraham paid a tithe to the priest Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20; Heb. 7:4-9) and Jacob vowed to give a tenth unto God with all that He prospered him with (Gen. 28:20-22). If there were any question about the moral right of ministers to be paid (and the obligation for Christians to pay them), Paul argues this point from the general equity of Old Testament examples (1 Cor. 9:9:13-14):
“For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.’ Doth God take care for oxen?… Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”
The obligation for giving a portion of our income to the Lord is not simply due to this passage and the examples of Melchizedek and Jacob happening to have been recorded in Scripture, but rather, the foundation is deeper, even in the natural law of how God created the world (which Scripture recognizes, reiterates and enforces). The instances of Abraham and Jacob giving tithes were not arbitrary and without a rational foundation. The natural desire of Jacob and Abraham to give a portion of their income to the Lord sprung from their conscience operating in their circumstances, with a due consideration of their natural relations to God. Abraham and Jacob probably settled on the ratio of ten percent as these men likely had been accustomed to this ratio from the practice of larger societies around them using this number for tribute to kings and religious orders.
Giving a portion of income for such purposes has been part of ‘the law of nations,’ its universal occurrence in widely varying circumstances stemming from our inherent nature. Paul himself argues that a minister’s right to be paid fundamentally derives from the natural principles he enumerates in 1 Cor. 9:7,10,11.
A creature’s obligation to give to the Lord is specifically due to the natural principles that we were created by, and are owned by God, are his servants, owe Him a return for that which He has given to us (Mt. 25:24-30), that all things are his, that He has given us the power to get wealth, that He is the highest Good existent, that all things are to be done to his glory, that we have an obligation by the moral, 2nd Commandment to keep up and support the public worship of the True God, and that giving of our substance is an act of allegiance and devotion unto God. This being the case, the moral obligation of systematic giving to the Lord’s special ministry is not limited to one time, place or people, but is universal in extent to all creatures in all time.
It is because systematic giving to the Lord arises from our natural relations to Him that it appears to us to be natural, right and good, whereas not doing this is unnatural and against nature, or sinful.
The Levitical Tithe of 10% Does Not Bind Today
It may be surprising to learn that the reformers and puritans largely did not hold that the Levitical tithe of ten percent was binding upon Christians. Those arguing that the Levitical tithe directly bound persons today, and that the revenues thereof were to be given directly to the ministry as a divine right (New Testament ministers being claimed, simplistically, to be the continuation of the Old Testament priests), were, rather, largely the entitled bishops of prelacy, especially in the Anglican Church. Increase Mather wrote (Discourse Concerning the Maintenance due to those that Preach, pp. 49-50; 1706):
“Among Protestant writers, prelates, and prelatical men plead hard for the divine right of tithes as the ministers’ due. Bishop [Lancelot] Andrews and Bishop [George] Carleton [whose works are below] have said as much for it as any that I have seen.
But most of our reformed divines maintain the negative. So Peter Martyr (Common Places, pt. 4, ch. 13), Zanchy (Of Redemption, book 1, ch. 16), Daneus (Ethics, book 2, ch. 10), Rivet (in Genesis, Exercitation 80), Voetius (Eccle. pt. 1, book 4, p. 824), and to this we adhere.”
David Croteau, who wrote a modern dissertation on the topic of tithing, said that “…the Reformation period closed with no (major) Reformer explicitly advocating tithing.” (A Biblical & Theological Analysis of Tithing, p. 17)
A number of considerations factor into the dominant viewpoint of the reformers and puritans. The Levitical law did not simply have one tithe of ten percent, but, it had, in its detailed complex of statute laws, numerous tithes which added up to significantly more than ten percent (see the dictionary articles below). These multiple tithes on specific products of the land, be it noted, were only obliging upon Israelites, not on gentiles (living in the land or otherwise). If one will follow these Levitical laws at all, one must follow them in the exact details which they prescribe. This is hard to do without Levitical priests around today.
Further, before the Law, while Abraham gave a tenth of his war-spoils to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:15-16,20), this was a one time, rather extraordinary event in his life (not involving what was originally his own property); there is no evidence that he did this yearly with his regular income. Jacob’s voluntary, non-obligatory vow, while involving more regularity of earned income, yet was conditioned to the future upon the providential actions of God fulfilling it (Gen. 28:20-22), which is not typically what is meant by ‘tithing’ today.
(For numerous more reasons why Abraham and Jacob’s examples are not sufficient grounds for a universal obligation to tithe, including from the mention of Abraham paying tithes in Hebrews, ch. 7, see the southern presbyterian, Thomas Peck’s article, Moral Obligation of the Tithe, 1890.)
The New Testament gives us reason to believe that the moral obligation of regularly giving to the Lord from our increase continues in its pages, per Jesus’ directive to the Pharisees to not leave off tithing their garden herbs (Mt. 23:23). Yet, insofar as ten percent may be implied in the etymology of the word ‘tithe’ used in this text, the Pharisees were then yet under the Levitical statutes (before the Temple veil rent in twain at Jesus’ death). When Paul directed the Corinthian and Galatian believers to lay up an offering on the First Day of the Week (1 Cor. 16:1-4), this was particularly for relieving the acute distress of the saints in Jerusalem that had come up; it was not necessarily mandating dropping ten percent of one’s weekly paycheck into the offering box, in all circumstances, every Lord’s Day.
It is difficult to see how nature teaches that ten percent, as opposed to a different number, ought to be given to the Lord.
(Just as nothing in nature itself teaches that 1/7 of our time ought to be devoted directly to the Lord, and that as one rotating day in seven.. Rather, Westminster Confession, Ch. 21.7 teaches only that “it is of the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God.” The obligation of every seventh day being set apart for God does not come from nature, but from God’s positive, sovereign action, example and prescription recorded through special revelation: “so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages, He hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath, to be kept holy unto Him.” This is what is implicit in Gen. 2:1-4.)
Abraham and Jacob gave ten percent probably as that was a convenient division of currency which was customary in their society, which society apparently used a base-10 number system. Other societies, also under ‘the law of nations’, have used other number-based systems with other percentages, though ten percent has been common in history.
Fundamental moral principles arising from natural relations must be distinguished from the specific details and ways in which those principles are manifested in, applied to and encoded in human situations with complex societal circumstances. This was a fundamental, ethical distinction made by the reformers and puritans; see Paul Barth’s very helpful article expounding this: ‘Natural Law and Divine Positive Law’.
Thus, as Abraham was guided by natural conscience to honor the Lord with a due portion of his spoils, that manifested itself positively in him giving the specific amount held to be customary and appropriate to the purpose as learned from the society around him (which was rightly based on a fitting, natural, proportion): ten percent.
As Abraham and Jacob’s examples are not actually of perpetually giving 10% of their regular income to the Lord by a natural, moral obligation (which is the modern paradigm that is claimed to be universally binding), the only other place in the Bible that could oblige such a practice would be the Levitical law. The ten-percent requirement from Moses, though, was not flexible for the Israelites: it was to be exact, and the Levites could not willingly forego it. The tithe was not the Levites’ per se, but rather it was the Lord’s (Lev. 27:30,32; Mal. 3:8-9), who then gave it to the Levites (Num. 18:24,26).
The divinely stated reason for the Levites receiving the ten percent tithe was that they had no inheritance in the land of Israel as the other tribes had (Num. 18:21,23-24):
“And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation… it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance… therefore I have said unto them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.'”
Needless to say, if the Levites had a land-inheritance in Israel, or if the circumstance of the specially promised land of Israel was not in the picture, the Levites would not have received the specially set, mandatory, ten-percent tithe. Not only have the land-laws of Israel been done abrogated with the Mosaic economy passing away, but prelates had a land-inheritance in England (and that more than most).
Note also that ten-percent of Israel’s gross national product went directly to the Levites for their own personal uses, by divine right, and was not to be used for other purposes, such as giving to the poor, which there was another tithe (and other provisions) for (Dt. 14:28-29; 15:7-8; Lev. 23:22, etc.). The Anglican prelates often argued in their own day that 10% of the gross national product was for their own personal use, by divine right, though they made up only a sliver of ten percent of England’s population. The Old Testament tithe, though, did not only go to the priests of the Old Testament (the prelates arguing that they were the equivalent thereof), but to all the Levites (there is a difference, as not all of them were priests). The non-priest, Levites of the Old Testament, being keepers in the Temple, were a proto-type of the deaconal ministry of the New Testament, something Anglicanism does not admit of.
The reformers and puritans, on the other hand, largely argued that the percentage to be given and the income derived from it was flexible, that the form of collection and distribution of it was indifferent, that the monies should be appropriate to the need, should not be excessive, could be voluntarily foregone by ministers (1 Cor. 9:6,12,14-15; 1 Thess. 2:10, etc.) and could (and should) go to other causes in the Lord’s work, such as giving to the poor, maintaining buildings, etc.
The Teaching of the New Testament
Col. 2:14 teaches that the positive, Mosaic statutes, especially those distinguishing Jews from gentiles, those involving the land-inheritance of Israel and the priesthood dependent upon the Temple administration, have been abrogated (WCF 19.3-4) by Jesus at the cross:
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;”
Witsius and Vanderkemp (below, in the quotes section) explicitly place the Mosaic tithing laws under this ‘handwriting of ordinances’, which was a ‘yoke of bondage’ (Gal. 5:1) hard to bear (Acts 15:10). The detailed, statute, tithe-laws, which prescribed multiple, straight, somewhat simplistic, exact and unforgiving percentages (irregardless of difficult or extenuating circumstances) were intended to teach the people of God the Lord’s house-rules while they were still in their under-age years first learning the Faith (read Gal. 3-23-4:5 & 4:21-31). This is just as we implement rudimentary, specific house-rules, not necessarily universal in their moral obligation, with our children for the development of their maturity; such rules often being a yoke to children’s behavior while they are young and also as they begin to mature out of them ready for their independence. This was the standard understanding of reformers and puritans.
The English puritan Matthew Poole (1624–1679) explains how God’s good and just, statute laws were designed for the good of Israel and yet were ‘contrary to us’ (Annotations, on Col. 2:14):
“…the law, which was in itself holy, just, and good, through sin became in some sort contrary, or subcontrary, to us, in that it did serve to convict, and terrify with the curse for our default, Rom. 7:5,9, aggravating all by its ceremonies, and shutting the gate of God’s house against the Gentiles, of whose number the Colossians were, strangers from the covenants of promise, Eph. 2:12; yet this obligation was abrogated and annulled by the death of Christ…”
Being set at liberty by Christ and having come to maturity with more revelation and a fuller, promised, out-pouring of the Spirit, the people of God are able to use their sense and wisdom (WCF 1.6) in discerning, following and doing the will of God in their widely various circumstances across the nations, being in different developmental stages of the Church in their lands, per the natural and moral laws of God (which underlaid the statutes of Moses).
What does carry over into the New Testament from the specific tithe-laws of the Old Testament? To summarize Francis Turretin (1623-87), a leading voice of high, reformed orthodoxy: it is their general equity (see WCF 19.4). Turretin, in seeking to prove that ministers of the New Testament should be paid, argued (Institutes, 3.270):
“From the salaries of the sacred ministers under the Old Testament (Num. 18:8-12), to whom were given ordinarily sacrifices, tithes, firstfruits, and other similar things, besides certain cities and suburban fields (Num. 35:1-8). Now although in the New Testament, we are not bound by those laws as to the special material from which and the manner in which the pay was given, still they remain as to kind and analogy, as is evident from the passage already quoted (1 Cor. 9:13).”
This is a balanced perspective on the multi-faceted issue of the binding nature of the Old Testament tithes, a perspective that not only the majority of the reformers and puritans advocated, but which was also essentially argued by some of the better prelates who saw some obligation in the Old Testament tithes which should be defended for the New Testament Church ministry.
Outside of Mt. 23:23 and the incidental mentioning of tithes to prove a different point in Hebrews ch. 7, the New Testament never speaks of ‘tithing’ (the word in Hebrew and Greek probably implying ten percent), but rather the New Testament has many exhortations for giving liberally based on need and what is fitting. The following is a sampling:
Acts 2:44-45 “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”
Acts 4:34-35 “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”
Rom. 12:13 “Distributing to the necessity of saints…”
2 Cor. 9:6-7 “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
Gal. 6:6 “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.”
Gal. 6:10 “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
Phil. 4:16 “For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.”
1 Tim. 6:18 “that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;”
As it is right, good and naturally obligatory for persons to generously and joyfully give to the Lord’s ministry systematically, especially as the ministry has continual needs, opportunities and prospects, and ought to expand into all the reaches of the earth, so it seems, especially from the general equity of the Old Testament, that a regular expression of such giving would be to give at least ten percent of one’s income, in addition to other voluntary offerings.
For more practical wisdom on how much to give, see Richard Baxter, ‘Cases & Directions about Works of Charity,’ point 14, pp. 493-6 in Christian Directory, Part IV, Christian Politics (1673). May we have a heart to enrich God’s house before our own (Hag. 1:4-5).
The Role of the Civil Magistrate
All people, being creatures of God, by the light of nature have a duty to honor God with their resources and to support his cause in the earth, especially with regard to his immediate and public worship (the 2nd Commandment). As the civil magistrate is the representative of the people and is the (fallible) vice-regent of God, acting under and by God’s authority, being obliged to rule according to God’s natural and moral laws for God’s ends (Rom. 13:1-5; Ps. 2:10-12; Ps. 82), so the magistrate has the responsibility, right and duty to publicly uphold the 2nd Commandment and to materially support and protect the public worship of God in his domains (Isa. 49:23; Ps. 72:10,11). As all people have the moral obligations to honor God with their substance and to countenance his worship written upon their hearts (Rom. 2:14-15), there can be no objection to the magistrate enforcing persons to do this, their public and civil duty, by civil authority (2 Chron. 31:2,4-5; Neh. 10:32; 13:10-14).
This, the Establishment Principle, was the universally held view of the Protestant Reformation, especially as delineated in her historic creeds through the 1500’s and 1600’s. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation states (vol. 1, pp. 329-331):
“…the Protestant Reformation marked a sharp break in the pattern of ecclesiastical finance wherever it took root… Huldrych Zwingli and Martin Bucer… held that church property belonged to the religious community and that the secular ruler merely administered it.
Geneva itself followed the model of other Reformed cities in expelling all the regular [papist] clergy and divorcing itself from episcopal jurisdictions in 1536. The profits of dissolution were appropriated by the [civil] municipality, which henceforth paid the pastors of the new church… The Dutch Reformed Church was funded by the magistracy…”
The reformers and puritans firmly held to an important distinction: that the civil government, being the civil enforcer of God’s Law and public morals, had power with regard to religion (the First Table of the Law) circa sacra (around the sacred), but not in sacra (in sacred things). What is usually emphasized by Christian teachers today is that the magistrate does not have power in sacra, or with respect to the things of faith, doctrine, Church discipline, etc., while ignoring what the reformers and puritans were so staunch to uphold on the other side of the coin from natural law and Scripture, that the magistrate does have authority and the obligation to materially support, protect and provide for the maintenance of the True Religion in their land in temporal and physical things.
The Reformation’s teaching is demonstrated to be true by the natural equity of approved examples in Scripture. It was David and Solomon, civil kings, that designed and built the Temple, the outward house of God. The civil queen of Sheba and the pagan king of Tyre, Hiram, gave great gifts which were bestowed upon the Temple services (1 Kings 10:10-12). It was Cyrus, a pagan king, who, by the direct prescription and approval of God, ordained for the Temple to be rebuilt with his kingdom’s money after the Temple had lain waste (2 Chron. 36:22-23). When this effort fell into abeyance, King Darius renewed the mission and supplied the lavish provision for it (Ezra 6:1-15).
Did the Jews turn away this material provision for the divine and spiritual service of God, or rejoice in it? The following verse in the account says, “and the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy.” (Ezra 6:16) Shortly thereafter Artaxerxes sent Ezra to the land of Israel with ample provision from Babylonian tax-payers for the Lord’s ministry: “whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king’s treasure house.” (7:11,15-23) This was to be done “for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?” (as there is in so many lands today where this is not done).
It is of New Testament times that the prophecy speaks (Isa. 60:3,6,9,10,16):
“And the Gentiles shall come to thy light… all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold… Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God…
And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee… Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I the Lord am thy Saviour…”
The magi giving their gifts to the Lord Christ in the New Testament was a foreshadowing of what Scripture says will come.. If kings will bring their ‘glory and honor’ into heaven (Rev. 21:24), how much more approved is their using their material glory and honor for the extension and health of Christ’s Church in this age? It would be a sin if they did not, as they too must seek first the spiritual Kingdom of God with their lot, authority and resources in this life, before anything else (Mt. 6:33).. The First Commandment, which the civil magistrate is to fulfill and civilly enforce, comes before any commandment in the 2nd Table of the Law.
The Reformation’s viewpoint is compatible with the Church receiving the voluntary offerings of its own members (Mk. 12:42), keeping its own stores of funds (just as the Temple had its own stores in the Old Testament), and the deaconal ministry looking to the needs of the household of faith (Acts 6:2-3) as well as doing good unto all (Gal. 6:10).. As the Church may often not have the countenance and support of the civil magistrate in the land that it is in, so such civil support is not essential to the Church’s existence or ministry (as is clear from the history of Acts), but such temporal support from the magistrate (as is clear from the verses quoted above) is for the Church’s well being.. Needless to say, it is in the State’s best interest to fulfill its obligation, both respecting the favor of God and in the fruits that redound from the Church’s flourishing back onto the commonwealth.
The Changing of the Tide in History
In the mid-to-late 1600’s, rising sects, such as the Independents and Congregationalists, often called for the abolition of the civil government being involved with the collecting and distributing of tithe money to the Church. John Owen and much of New England puritanism, though, were more moderate, still believing in and practicing the Establishment Principle. Being oriented to the New Testament alone for Church practice, they argued that the voluntary contributions of church members was the Lord’s ordained way for the primary support of the Church, though civil support was tolerated as a beneficent, indifferent means useful to the Church.
The Scottish presbyterians on the other hand, noted that the spiritual obligations of church members in the New Testament are not at variance with the moral obligations of the civil magistrate more largely expounded in the Old Testament when a godly civil government coexisted with, and benefited God’s Church. Further, the Old Testament not infrequently prophesies that kings would be a support to the Church in the New Testament era.
The founding of America saw a further regress from the political theology of the Reformation. Yet still, even during the 1700’s and early 1800’s, many of the colonies and states established and retained in their constitutions provisions for the churches in their localities to be supported by civilly-collected tax-money (see this documented on the webpage: The Establishment Principle in the American Westminster Standards and Early American States). John Witherspoon argued the point in some detail.
The historical tide came to a full turn in the mid-1800’s when the popular call and change towards disestablishment and Voluntaryism (that churches should only be supported by voluntary contributions) came to be effected, especially as the controversy waged in Scotland. The brink of this momentous change has handed down to us the fullest literature defending from Scripture the State endowment of the Church since the 1600’s, preeminently by writers in the Church of Scotland during the 1830’s and writers of the Free Church of Scotland during the 1840’s and after (many of which writings you will find below).
Though the popularity of Voluntaryism has only become more entrenched into modern societies and the Church in the last few hundred years, yet the Word of God has not changed. Insofar as people read the Bible and God pours out his Spirit in the earth, so persons will be drawn to the truth and will become doers of it. Despite the hard times that the political teaching of the Word of God has fallen into, the day remains, Scripture says, when God will rise up and convert the nations to the Messiah (Rom. 11:12,15; Ps. 72:17; Isa. 2:1-5; 60:12; Zech. 14:16-21; etc.) and the Church will “eat the riches of the gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.” (Isa. 61:6)
The godly woman of Prov. 31:10-31 diligently lends her daily work to wisely building up her husband’s house, affairs and interests. O’ Bride of Christ, will you not do the same with a portion of the fruit of your daily work, your money? Of what use are the pennies in our hands when our Husband may put them to a much greater use and profit than we are able to find in them? Scripture says “there is [one] that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty” and “there is [one] that scattereth, and yet increaseth.” (Prov. 11:24) Why will you seek to hang on to that which you cannot keep, when, in giving it away, you may gain that which you cannot lose?
Consider the words of the American, southern presbyterian, Robert Dabney (“Principles of Christian Economy,” in Discussions: Evangelical and Theological, 1.10):
“We profess a difference between ourselves and the unrenewed, as radical as that between light and darkness, almost as wide as that between heaven and hell. But in all the visible and practical concerns which interest the unrenewed heart, we nearly resemble them.
Our words say that we believe riches to be vanity and emptiness. Our acts seem to say that we love and seek them as intensely as those do who make them their all and their god. We say in words that ‘we have here no continuing city,’ but in act are as eager to adorn our dwellings here as though they were our only home…”
There are higher rewards in the promises of God for sacrificing the things of this life than we can conceive of (Mk. 10:29-30). Lord increase our faith! and may we be like the Christians of the Early Church whom Irenaeus spoke of (Her., iv.2):
“While they [the Jews] had the tenth of their goods consecrated, these [Christians] on the other hand who have received freedom [from the Mosaic Law] assign all that they have to the uses of the Lord, cheerfully and freely giving them, and not in lesser portions only, as becomes men professing the hope of greater things.’
Start Here: Articles & Book
Smyth, Thomas – The Parsimony of Professing Christians being Note A to The Rule & Measure of Christian Charity in Works, vol. 7 American, southern presbyterian. Parsimony means an extreme unwillingness to spend money.
Peck, Thomas – Moral Obligation of the Tithe 1890 in Miscellanies, vol. 1, pp. 146-157
Peck was an American, southern presbyterian.. He argues that while natural and Biblical principles morally obligate us to return a portion of our income to the service of the Lord, this does not obligate an exact amount of, or at least, 10% in the New Testament era.
While this article is very valuable, yet throughout it Peck argues for Voluntaryism, which is contrary to the Establishment Principle of the Reformation.. This aspect of Peck’s article is not recommended.
Balfour, William – The Establishment Principle Defended, pp. 126-134 1873
Balfour was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland.. He here defends from Scripture the Reformation’s view of the Establishment Principle with regards to tithing. Balfour is here arguing against the Voluntary position of the Scottish United Presbyterian Church, with which Church the Free Church was considering union with in his time. The teaching of Scripture is clear.
Croteau, David – A Biblical & Theological Analysis of Tithing: Toward a Theology of Giving in the New Covenant Era 2005 339 pp. a PhD dissertation
Croteau brings out numerous, enlightening Biblical insights.. His historical survey on pp. 6-68 is very helpful, especially in documenting the tithing renewal that occurred in America during the late-1800’s and following.. Indispensable for further digging into the subject, especially for his citations of literature on the subject.
Dictionary & Encyclopedia Articles on the Biblical tithes
Smith, William – ‘Tithe’ in Dr. William Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, Comprising its Antiquities, Biography, Geography and Natural History, vol. 4 1871 ed. H.B. Hackett & Ezra Abbot 1871
** ed. McClintock & Strong – ‘Tithe’ in Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 1880
Davis, John D. – ‘Tithe’ in A Dictionary of the Bible 1898
Jewish Encyclopedia – ‘Tithe’ 1901-1906
ed. Orr, James – ‘Tithe’ in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 1915/1939
Articles Theological & Political
Bullinger, Henry – Tenth Sermon, pp. 486-500 in the Fifth Decade of The Decades 1550’s
Bullinger (1504–1575) was a Swiss reformer, the successor of Zwingli as the head of the Zurich Church.
** Ursinus, Zacharias – p. 570 (bottom) of ‘The Fourth Commandment’ in Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism tr. Williard, 3rd American edition, 1851
Ursinus (1534–1583) was a prominent German Reformed theologian.
** Vermigli, Peter Martyr – Pt. 4, ch. 13, ‘Of a Magistrate, & of the Difference between Civil & Ecclesiastical Power’, section 18-32 in Common Places (1583), pp. 235-45
Quote: “First we must understand that tithes in the old time pertained unto ceremonies, and that as well in Melchisedek as in the Levites: Because in either priesthood they were referred unto Christ, and either priesthood was in very deed a figure of Christ… But what signified the tenths in either priesthood? Truly they signified nothing else but that it behoved the old fathers to acknowledge that whatsoever they had came from Christ. By that ceremony, the people worshipped Christ Himself…
Boniface says: “We receive the tithes of all laymen.” Ye take them indeed, but now that Christ is come, the paying of tithes is no more a ceremony as it was before the coming of Christ when by tithes men worshipped Christ which was to come in the flesh, and confessed that they ought unto Him, both themselves, and all that they had. After the very which manner they paid the first fruits of all that they had.
Nevertheless our men in these days receive tithes: but by what law? Truly not by the ceremonial law, but by a moral Law: since it is requisite that the minister should be sustained by the people: (Mt. 10:10) For the laborer is worthy of his reward: And he which serves the Gospel ought to live by it. So then, whether stipends be paid unto ministers out of lands or out of houses, either in ready money or in tithes, it makes no matter so that they be not maintained dishonestly, but honestly. Indeed these rewards in some places do retain the old manner of tithes. Howbeit in many places they are not called tithes, but stipends or wages. And doubtless they be rather rewards which are due to the labors of ministers than tithes.”
The Whole Body of Christian Religion (d. 1590; London, 1659)
ch. 25, ‘Of the Government of the Church-Militant’, doctrines 28 & 29, pp. 338-340, ‘That Ministers with their families are to be supported with competent & befitting stipends’ & ‘That the goods of the Churches are not to be embezzled, but distributed to the support of Ministers & other godly uses’ See also, with more relevance, Of Redemption, book 1, ch. 16.
“28. Ministers with their families ought to be maintained with honest and liberal stipends.
We also believe that the church cannot well be governed unless such necessary maintenance be bestowed on the ministers as whereby they and their family may live in an honest estate; For no man, except he have whereupon to live (Mt. 10:10), can do his duty; and Christ says, “the workman is worthy of his wages” and the apostle writes largely thereof in more than one place (1 Cor. 9:7 etc.) showing by many reasons that ministers which serve the churches ought to receive of the same church what so is needful for them: (1 Tim. 5:17 etc.) and that they have good right to demand the same: so far from offence is it, that they should take it, as some would cavil: yet notwithstanding covetousness, as well in all other as chiefly in ministers we do with the apostle utterly condemn: (1 Tim. 3:3,8) as also we allow not prodigality: and we teach that both these faults are to be shunned and avoided.
29. The church goods should not be wasted, but be bestowed on the maintenance of ministers, and other godly uses.
And whereas many goods have in times past, and yet in some places are given to churches, by the liberality of princes and other godly persons: we judge that if any church have such goods, great care is to be had that the same be not wasted nor converted into profane uses, and much less into sacriligious uses, nor feigned to be so converted: but to be only bestowed upon that purpose whereto they were given, even to a godly intent.
And we well allow of that ancient partition of church goods, where one part went to the bishops, that is, to the teachers, (Deu[…] […]) and ministers of the Word and their families; another to the clerks, that is to students and such as were ordained to the ministry of the church and to them that attended on the church: the third part to poor people and travelers: a fourth part to repairing of churches and schools, to which part also, belong not only the houses of ministers, teachers, students, libraries and books, all kinds of instruments and things necessary for churches and schools: but also spittles and hospitals and other such like places, where such live as are peculiarly to be relieved and cared for of the church.”
ch. 26, ‘Of a Magistrate’, doctrine 6, ‘The Explication of this Opinion in Particulars’, pp. 367-8
“We believe therefore, the duty of a godly magistrate is…
Sixthly, to carry a special care to the goods of the church, that they may be bestowed on the right, that is on the true godly, uses; and that all necessary things be supplied to the Church and to the ministers thereof.”
Willet, Andrew – ‘Concerning the Maintenance of the Church by Tithes’, ‘Whether the Payment of Tithes be Necessary?’ & ‘By What Right Tithes are due to the Ministers of the Gospel?’ in Synopsis Papismi (London, 1592), First Book or Century, 5th Controversy: Concerning Spiritual Persons, 6th Question, pp. 223-231
“6. Though the law of tenths be not now necessary, as it was a ceremonious duty: but it is lawful either to keep that or any other constitution for the sufficient maintenance of the Church, whether it be more or less than the tenth part: yet we doubt not to say that this provision for the Church maintenance by paying of tithes is the most safe, indifferent and surest way, and no better can come in the place thereof.” – pp. 226-227
Dod, John & Robert Cleaver – pp. 238-9 of ‘The Fifth Commandment’ in A Plain and Familiar Exposition of the 10 Commandments 1618 English puritans in the Church of England
Thache, Thomas – pp. 44-56 in The Gainsayer Convinced: or, An Answer to a Certain Scandalous Paper… in which the calling of the ministry of the Church of England… the right of tithes, with many other points now in controversy are briefly, fully and plainly cleared 1649
Tache (1620-1678) was an English puritan and defends the Anglican establishment’s distribution of tithes to its ministers in the form of a dialogue.
Mede, Joseph – pp. 171-173 of Discourse 33 on Acts 10:4 in Works 1672
Mede (1586-1638) was reformed and a puritan.
Ley, John – Exceptions Many & Just Against Two Injurious Petitions Exhibited to the Parliament… Both of Them Not Only Against Tithes, but Against All Forced or Constrained Maintenance of Ministers, Examined… (Oxford, 1653) 43 pp.
Ley (1583-1662) was an Anglican clergyman and Westminster divine.
Leigh, Edward – ‘Of Pastors: of their Maintenance’ in Body of Divinity, p. 461 1654
“The Schoolmen are generally for the negative, and so are many able Protestant Divines: Rivet (in Gen. 28, Exercitation 125 and in his Jesuita Vapulans), Capel (in Thes. Theol. Salmur), Mr. Cartwright (Against the Rhemists, on Heb. 7:4 and in his Necessity of Discipline). Mr. [John] Dod, Bishop [George] Carleton, Dr. [John] Prideaux, Dr. [William] Sclater [I] and Mr. Whateley, were for the affirmative.”
Milton, John – pp. 13-68 & 78 ff of Considerations Touching the Likeliest Means to Remove Hirelings out of the Church, wherein is also discoursed of Tithes, Church-Fees, Church-Revenues, and whether any Maintenance of Ministers can be Settled by Law 1659
Milton (1608–1674) was best known for his poem Paradise Lost. He was also a polemicist, a man of letters and a civil servant. He was sometimes considered a puritan, though his thought was dominated by humanism. Milton argues that while a due right is owed to ministers, the Levitical statutes have been abrogated. He also argues for a Voluntary approach to tithing.
** Baxter, Richard – ‘Cases & Directions about Works of Charity,’ point 14, pp. 493-6 in A Christian Directory, Part IV, Christian Politics 1673 English puritan, congregationalist
** Owen, John
Question III: Whether it be Convenient that the Present Way of the Maintenance of Ministers or Preachers of the Gospel be Removed and Taken Away, or Changed into Some other Provision? in Two Questions Concerning the Power of the Supreme Magistrate about Religion and the Worship of God, with One About Tithes in Works, vol. 13, p. 514-16
England was then funding ministers, at least partially, via the civil government, per the Establishment Principle and the 2nd Commandment (which the magistrate is obliged to uphold in its jurisdiction). The question was raised by Independents (of which Owen was one) whether that should cease and the ministry be left to purely voluntary contributions. Owen thinks that from Scripture offerings should be by voluntary contribution, but allows for the indifferency of financial support through the civil magistrate, answering the question in the negative.
A reply was made to this short pamphlet of Owen’s: A Serious Letter to Dr. John Owen, Sent by a Small Friend of his… also a Short Friendly Reply to a Late Pamphlet of his Concerning Tithes (1660).
An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, vol. 3 (of 4) 1840
Obervations XXII-XXIII, pp. 427-433 on Heb. 7:1-3 under a discussion of tithes being paid to Melchizedek
pp. 454-463 on Heb. 7:5
Owen argues that whereas the Levites of old had a right and duty to receive exactly 10% (in addition to other various O.T. tithing details) from the people, these peculiar Levitical statutes have ceased in the N.T., the means of the maintenance of ministers having changed (natural principles remaining), contra Episcopalians who argued the former position stringently.
Mather, Cotton – A Monitory Letter About the Mainenance of an Able & Faithful Ministry. Directed Unto those People who Sin Against, & Sin Away the Gospel, by not Supporting the Worthy Preachers of the Gospel. A Decree of a National Synod of Reformed Churches at Paris (Boston, 1700) 16 pp.
Mather in New England does not mention tithes directly, but he does say:
“Now, while some of your ministers choose to leave their salaries unto the voluntary contributions of the people, there are others, who (sensible of what the Great Voettus writes, Hominum saepe tanta est injustitia, •allacia, lubricita, ac profanitas, ut expediat contractum intercedere) do make their contracts with their people for their stipends.” – p. 3
Brown, Charles J. – Ch. 2 of 1833
Sect. I – The Word of God Requires our Civil Rulers to Endow the Church
Sect. II – On the Expedience of a National Endowment of the Church
Sect. III – On the Allegation that it is Unjust to Endow the Church of Scotland Exclusively, and still more, to make all other bodies contribute to her support
C. Brown (1806-84) was the brother of David Brown (of the J.F.B. Bible commentary) and after the Disruption of 1843 was a leader in the Free Church of Scotland.
Bruce, John – Lecture II: On the Lawfulness of the Church Accepting an Endowment from the State… and the Scriptural Method of her support 1834 in Lectures on the Nature, Lawfulness, Duty, and Advantages of Civil Establishments of Religion, p. 71 ff. 1835 Church of Scotland minister
Lewis, James – Lecture III: On the Right of the Civil Magistrate to Expend the Public Funds in Support of the Church The section is mislabeled, Lecture IV: ‘The Duty of the State to Endow the Church, etc.’ in Lectures on the Nature, Lawfulness, Duty, and Advantages of Civil Establishments of Religion, p. 71 ff. 1835 Church of Scotland minister
Brown of Edinburgh, John – ‘On the Payment of Tribute’ being Part II of The Law of Christ Respecting Civil Obedience: especially in the payment of tribute, to which are added two addresses on the voluntary church controversy, pp. 118-190 1839
Brown was the justly famed exegetical Bible commentator and professor in the United Secession Church (New Light). He held to, and taught Voluntaryism, contra the Establishment Principle.
Brown objected to paying the portion of Scottish taxes that went towards paying for the establishment of the Church of Scotland (which was greatly corrupted in his day). He consequently suffered for it. This is his book long defense of his action and principles. The first part is his exposition of Rom. 13:1-5, which is sound and is primarily against those who say that the passage prohibits all resistance to immoral laws of one’s civil government. Birks and Symington below rightly argue against the Voluntary position.
Smyth, Thomas – pp. 638-9 ff. of Claims of the Christian Ministry, Discourse Second 1840 in Works, vol. 6 American, southern presbyterian
Chalmers, Thomas – On the Use and Abuse of Literary [Educational] and Ecclesiastical Endowments in Church and College Establishments 1848
Chalmers was a leader in the Free Church of Scotland.
Birks, Thomas R. – ‘Church Endowments’ being ch. 3 in Church and State, or National Religion and Church Establishments Considered with Reference to Present Controversies, p. 287 ff. 1869 a vicar in the Anglican Church, which is Erastian.
** Balfour, William – The Establishment Principle Defended, pp. 126-134 1873 Free Church of Scotland, arguing against the Scottish United Presbyterian Church’s Voluntaryism
Symington, William – ‘Pecuniary Support’ in Messiah the Prince (London, 1881) ch. 9, pp. 302-305 Scottish Reformed Presbyterian
Binnie, William – Giving to the Lord 1882 being section 5 in ch. 4 in The Church, pp. 94-97 Free Church of Scotland
** Peck, Thomas – Moral Obligation of the Tithe 1890 in Miscellanies, vol. 1, pp. 146-157
Peck was an American, southern presbyterian. He argues that while natural and Biblical principles morally obligate us to return a portion of our income to the service of the Lord, this does not obligate an exact amount of, or at least, 10% in the New Testament era.
While this article is very valuable, yet throughout it Peck argues for Voluntaryism, which is contrary to the Establishment Principle of the Reformation.. This aspect of Peck’s article is not recommended.
Clarke, Samuel – A Caution Against Sacrilege: or Sundry Queries Concerning Tithes: Wherein is held forth the Propriety & Title that Ministers have to them, the Mischiefs which would ensue if Tithes were brought into a Common Treasury & Ministers Reduced to Stipends. The Danger of Gratifying the Petitioners Against Tithes & All Imposed Maintenance… 1659 6 pp.
Clarke (1599-1682) was a puritan, English clergyman and was ejected in 1662.
It is not clear from the title whether Wall argued simply that the specific obligation of Levitical tithes does not remain, or whether the traditionary custom of tithing was not to be used by the government to support ministers. Wall has other books arguing for infant baptism against baptists, which were published with civil authority. Hence it is unlikely that Wall was arguing against a then-current civil practice.
Beverley, Thomas – A Disquisition upon our Savior’s Sanction of Tithes, Mt. 23:23 & Luke 11:42, wherein that Whole Case is Most Impartially Stated & Resolved According to Express Scripture for the Satisfaction of all Scruples (1685)
Beverley (d. 1702) was a puritan.
** Mather, Increase – A Discourse Concerning the Maintenance due to those that Preach the Gospel: in which, that Question whether Tithes are by the Divine Law the Ministers’ Due, is considered, and the Negative Proved 1706 New England, Congregationalist puritan See especially pp. 48 ff.
Ch. 3 is entitled: “There is something due to GOD out of every Mans Estate, and the Tenth of his Incomes is the Least that may be supposed.” See especially ch. 4, pp. 48 ff.
Croteau, David – A Biblical & Theological Analysis of Tithing: Toward a Theology of Giving in the New Covenant Era 2005 339 pp. a PhD dissertation
Croteau brings out numerous, enlightening Biblical insights. His historical survey on pp. 6-68 is very helpful, especially in documenting the tithing renewal that occurred in America during the late-1800’s and following. Indispensable for further digging into the subject, especially for his citations of literature on the subject.
Order of Qutoes
William M. Blackburn, Ulrich Zwingli: the Patriotic Reformer. A History (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication), pp. 99-100. See also p. 78.
“Thus Zwingli gained a support and greater influence among the canons, which was the more desirable, since certain of these clerical gentlemen kept a suspicious eye upon him. They had made a noise because he did not act more zealously as a revenue collector, a sort of publican in the service of those Pharisees. ‘Indeed’ said they,
‘instead of urging his hearers to pay their tithes as a religious duty, he denies their divine origin altogether, and represents their strict exaction as a tyranny. He thereby seeks to gain the confidence of the people in the same measure that he makes the monks hated and despised as mere cap-divines.'”
The Discipline of the Reformed Churches of France 1559
“That our churches may be always furnished with a sufficient number of pastors, and of other persons fit to govern them, and to preach the Word of God unto them…
Kings, Princes and Lord shall be exhorted and petitioned particularly to mind this important affair and to lay by some part and portion of their revenues towards their maintenance… Colloquies and provincial synods shall as they see meet notify and solicit this affair, and take the best courses that matters of so great necessity may be successful…
that one poor scholar at the least may be maintained in every Colloquy, and rather than this design should miscarry, the fifth penny of all our charities shall be set apart, if it may conveniently be done to be employed in this service.”
‘The Third Sermon of Melchisedech, wherein is treated of the use and right of tithes, and also of an oath’, pp. 64-68 on Gen. 14:20-24 in Sermons on Melchizedek & Abraham, Justification, Faith & Obedience (1592; rep. Old Paths Publications: 2000)
“We see then how that the tithes which were contained in the law were especially for the people of Israel. And yet notwithstanding the tithes were very common amongst the Heathen, even for kings, princes and noblemen. We see likewise by profane histories, that they were also exacted, and that in some countries they exacted more than in other some… But be as be may, this word ‘Tithe’, or ‘Tenth’, has been a common and ordinary amongst all nations.
And all Princes and great men as I have already said, sithens [since] the Gospel was received, have bestowed part of the tithes towards the maintenance of the Ministers of the word, as is very great reason, according to the saying of Saint Paul, “That they which ministered at the Altar in the old Testament were maintained, that they which at this day sacrifice unto God after a more excellent manner,” (1 Cor. 9:9-13) that is, which win souls unto Him, to make of them sacrifices unto his majesty, that they should also be as well provided for and maintained: and although God has not qualified how nor by what manner of revenue they should be maintained, yet is there a law for it. Now then, sith [since] God has been known through the preaching of the Gospel, a Christian order and law has been made for the giving and bestowing of one part of tithes [as opposed to other uses, such as giving to the poor, etc.].
And herein we may see the deceit of the Pope and of his shavelings [def: contemptuous epithet for a tonsured ecclesiastic, i.e. monk]: for, when they handle the law of tithes in their Canons, they take it as if it were transferred to them after that Jesus Christ had put an end unto the priesthood of Levi. All these are very leasings [lies], falsifying the holy scripture, and wickedly corrupting the same. For we see to the contrary, as has been before showed, that it is long ago sithence [since], that it was not known what the paying of tithes was by virtue of the law of Moses, and they were always paid either to the Emperor, or to some other particular great men. But now sith [since] the thing has been so ordained (so therein be no abuse, and to make men believe contrary to all truth, that it came from the holy scripture: but to be taken for a politic law).
Let us hold that rule which Saint Paul sets down: to wit, “That we must not [muzzle] the mouth of the ox when he travels to feed us”: and therefore it stands with a far greater reason, that they which preach the doctrine of the gospel, ordained in so excellent an estate, should not be abridged and deprived of their maintenance, but be very well waged.
Now as I have already said, when tithes and such like are bestowed unto a good use: we must not so straightly look into the matter, as to ask the cause of why it is so, as many fantastical fellows will, who at this day could be contented to turn the whole world upside down saying, O, it is no time now to pay tithes, for seeing the thing has been so long abused, it is no reason it should any longer continue. Then must we by their laying scrape out all: for they think that Christianity consists in changing the color of the sun and the moon. But if there be anything that is to be amended, as I have said, as if the Papists have brought in any false opinion, let that be utterly abolished.
But in the meanwhile, let us hold unto all good ordinance: to wit, let the tithes and all such things that are for the maintenance of the poor, and the Ministers: let these things be reduced to their lawful use, and let not unsatiable wide gullets devour all. Let them not consume them upon their superfluities, in pomps, drunkeness, and other dissolutions: but let them know, that these are holy goods, which ought to be reserved for the use of the Church, as well for the maintenance of the poor as I have already said, as also for the feeding of those which serve God and his people.”
David Calderwood, Scottish presbyerian
“Ecclesiastical dues and rights are 1. tithes, which are either praedial, personal or mixed.
Praedial are such as come of the fruit and crop of the ground, as of corn or fruit of the trees. Personal are such as are paid by reason of the person himself, out of the gain that he makes of this trading, handicraft, hunting, warfaring, etc. The mixed is added by some as a third kind, but others reduce them according to their diversine [division] to one of the first two, and such are the birth of beastial [offspring of beasts], wool, milk, whether they be fed at home or be at pasture in the field.
Tithes of whatever kind are but temporal goods, not spiritual, howbeit they be annexed to spiritual things and be appointed to uphold and maintain divine service and spiritual functions. Tithes were of old recovered in the King’s Court, not in ecclesiastical, as is averred in a treatise alleged by the author of the Apology of Proceedings in Courts-Ecclesiastical [Calderwood is quoting the concessions of an opponent]. “We think that the King’s courts be put out of jurisdiction for tithes by a custom of the realm and not by the immediate power of the bid of God.” And again, “That suit for tithes shall be taken in the spiritual court, is only grounded upon a favor that the kings of this realm, and the whole realm, have in times past born to the clergy.”
That the King’s courts of his bench and common pleas, and also other inferior courts, were put out of jurisdiction for tithes and suits for tithes [and] were granted to spiritual courts was a favor, it is true, granted to the clergy, enabling them with power within themselves to recover tithes destinate[d] to their maintenance, but we must not look so much to the commodity we may reap by the grants of princes, as whether Church consistories [courts] should meddle with such controversies concerning things temporal.
[Calderwood seems to be saying that ideally the Church need not, and should not be involved with collecting such temporal teinds, or ‘tithes’. The previous context to this passage is Calderwood arguing against his prelate opponents that prelacy had unwarrantably taken over many purely temporal and civil affairs. Near the beginning of the Reformation though (1560’s and following) a portion of such teinds were in some measure put into the hands of the reformed presbyteries for their support and maintenance, the teinds being seen as the traditional patrimony of the Church. Hence Calderwood below tolerates this practice, though complains of the recent change of it into the hands of bishops.]
This man owe me a cole, that man a stick, the third two stone of butter, the fourth such a number of saffron [spice] heads, the fifth so many sallow [willow] trees: such and such suits were very pertinent for a presbytery to sit [rule] upon; for the presbytery is the true and right consistory. Now change this consistory as ye please, and make the bishop alone to be the Church-consistory, it is all one. For the causes themselves being temporal, the quality of the person does not alter the nature of the cause. In the Assertion for True and Christian Policy (p. 99) [an opponent’s work], it is said, that by a statute, 32, Hom. 8, ch. 44:
“it is enacted, that the parsons and curates of five parish churches whereunto the town of Royston did extend itself and every of them, and the successors of every of them shall have their remedy by authority of that act to sue, demand, ask and recover in the King’s Court of Chancery the tithes of corn, hay, wool lamb, and calf, subtracted or divid[ed] to be paid by my person, or persons.”
Are the tithes of other parishes more spiritual than these of Royston? But admitting such pleas to be pertinent for a spiritual court, they should not be turned over to a civilian, the bishops’ official. And what favor is granted to Churchmen by princes, when a doctor of the law shall determine in these pleas!”
Samuel Rutherford, Due Right of Presbyteries (1644), 2nd Part, pp. 465-466 Scottish commissioner to the Westminster Assembly
“Answer: This [argument of Rutherford’s Independent opponent] speaks against glebes [contracted lands] of ministers, but the New Testament speaks not of manses or houses, or of moneys for ministers; yet a wage we know is due, Matt 10:10; 1 Cor. 9:8-10; Gal. 6:6, and the Levites were not to be distracted from the most necessary work of the Tabernacle and service of God more than ministers, yet they had lands and towns assigned of God to them; though the less distractous the wages be, the better and the more convenient they are, 2 Tim. 2:3-5.
As for the tithes, we think quotta decimarum, or a sufficient maintenance of tithes or what else may conduce for food and raiment, of divine right, Matt 10:16; 1 Cor. 9:8-9, tithes formally as tithes are not necessary, so [as long as] the ministers be provided and a stipend be allowed to them, not as an alms but as a debt, Luke 10:7.
But the stinting [frugal restricting] of maintenance for ministers the author [Rutherford’s opponent] condemns, because when Constantine gave large rents to the Church, it proved the bane of the Church. But I answer, stinting makes not this, but excess, for mountains of rents may be stinted no less than mole-hills.”
Thomas Hooker, Sarreg., pr. 2, pp. 31-32 New England, congregationalist puritan as quoted in Increase Mather, A Discourse Concerning the Maintenance, pp. 51-52
1. That this way of raising maintenance appointed in the Gospel is far differing from that way of tithing in the Law; nay, to be tied precisely to follow the one cannot stand with the other: for this is raised out of all good things [Gal. 6:6], the person that is taught has, but the tithes in the Old Testament were out of the seed of the land, the fruit of the trees, or of the herd of the flock (Lev. 27.30-32; Deut. 14:22-23).
2. This maintenance is to be paid by all that are taught. But the Levites were to receive the first tenth, and to pay the tenth of the tenth to the priest (Neh. 10:38). So that if the patrons of tithing look at the command given to the Jew as a moral law, they must conform themselves precisely to the prescript[ed] form thereof. Therefore, the ministers must have a tenth of a tenth, and from them happily who were never taught by them as the Levites who taught in the particular synagogues paid to the priests who administered at Jerusalem.
And hence it follows that the way of tithing in the Old Testament was not a natural or moral law. For no law appointed in the Gospel is inconsistent with any natural or moral law of God, which this is.”
On John Cotton New England puritan, Congregationalist d. 1652
“Mr. Cotton, preaching out of the 8 of Kings, 8, taught, that when magistrates are forced to provide for the maintenance of ministers, etc., then the churches are in a declining condition. There he showed, that the ministers’ maintenance should be by voluntary contribution, not by lands, or revenues, or tithes, etc.; for these have always been accompanied with pride, contention, and sloth, etc.”
William Gouge English puritan d. 1653
Commentary Upon the Whole Epistle to the Hebrews, vol. 2, p. 108, Sec. 40, ‘Of the law of paying tithes,’ on Heb. 7:5-7
“This was it, which is here said to be according to the law: and that the judicial, ceremonial and moral law:
1. By the judicial law the Levites had not their portion in Canaan for their inheritance, as other tribes had: therefore in lieu thereof, by the said law they had the tenth of the rest of the people.
2. The holy services which they performed to the Lord for the people were ceremonial. Therefore the recompence given was by a like law.
3. The general equity that they who communicate unto us spiritual matters should partake of our temporals, and that they who are set apart wholly to attend God’s service should live upon that service, is moral.”
Bunyan’s Searching Works: The Strait Gate, The Heavenly Footman, The Barren Fig-Tree, The Pharisee and Publican, and Divine Emblems (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1851), p. 24, on Luke 18:10-13:
“This paying of tithes was ceremonial, such as came in and went out with the typical priesthood.”
Baxter places all temporal/physical ‘accidents’ of the Church under the authority of the civil magistrate, and hence relegates him the full power respecting tithes as well.
Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 3, 18th Topic, Q. XXVIII, ‘The Salaries of Ministers and Ecclesiastical Goods – Is any salary due ministers of the church? We affirm against the Anabaptists’
“V. (3) From the salaries of the sacred ministers under the Old Testament (Num. 18:8-12), to whom were given ordinarily sacrifices, tithes, firstfruits, and other similar things, besides certain cities and suburban fields (Num. 35:1-8). Now although in the New Testament, we are not bound by those laws as to the special material from which and the manner in which the pay was given, still they remain as to kind and analogy, as is evident from the passage already quoted (1 Cor. 9:13).”
On Mt. 23:23, “these ought ye to have done”
“That He doth not blame the Pharisees’ exactness in tithing mint, anise, rue, cummin, and all manner of herbs… The Levites having no inheritance: God ordained tithes for their maintenance; of which also the poor were to have a share, Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:24.”
On Heb. 7:8, “And here men that die receive tithes”:
“The particle wde, ‘here’, if referred to time, notes during Moses’s economy, while the Levitical law lasted; if it refer to place, it notes Jerusalem in the land of Canaan, where the temple was: in that habitation of the Israelitish church the Levitical priests were not only as to their nature and persons withering and decaying, ceasing to be on earth, though they had the honor to decimate their brethren, but as to their order and office, mortal, they were no better than the tithed and blessed by them, in prospect of death. Aaron himself, the first of the order, died, and so did all his successors, as well as Israel.”
Christopher Ness, an English, Independent puritan
A Complete History and Mystery of the Old and New Testament, Logically Discussed and Theologically Improved, p. 457 1696
“That he [Paul] did not propose this his practice [of not receiving money from the Christians in Ephesus in Acts 20:33-35] as a precept or precedent law or rule to all ministers, for he had not power to deprive them of what God had given them (Lev. 27:32; Mt. 10:10; Lk. 11:42; Prov. 3:9,10; Mal. 3:9,10). Tithes were paid by Abraham to Melchisedeck long before the Levitical Law: So that there must be a moral equity in this reciprocal duty both before the Law, under the Law, and after the Law under the Gospel.
And though Paul did thus in a juncture and case of necessity because of their present poverty (had they been able, more shame would it have been to them to let him labor) and because false teachers were watching all advantages against him, yet does he himself often assert his own privilege (1 Cor. 9:14; Gal. 6:6) and Christ’s words (he urges) might be collected out of Lk. 6:38 and 16:9, etc. yea, the very terms might be spoken by Christ, for all He spake is not writ (Jn. 20:30).”
Increase Mather, A Discourse Concerning the Maintenance due to those that Preach the Gospel 1706 New England, congregationalist puritan
“The learned [John] Selden [an Erastian] in his discourse of the Civil Right of Tithes, has endeavoured to prove this [that tithes are not by any Divine Law due to the ministers of the Gospel]. There has been a war in the Romish Church about this question, between the canonists and the scholastics; the former hotly maintaining that tithes are due to the Church jure divino [by divine right]; the latter, that they are due only by ecclesiastical constitution: so says [Robert] Bellarmine, and other of their learned men. Yet some of their theologues, agree with the canonists: So does Baronius (Annals, tome 1, anno. 57, s. 74)…
Among Protestant writers, prelates, and prelatical men plead hard for the divine right of tithes as the ministers’ due. Bishop [Lancelot] Andrews and Bishop [George] Carleton have said as much for it as any that I have seen. But most of our reformed divines maintain the negative. So Peter Martyr (Common Places, pt. 4, ch. 13), Zanchy (Of Redemption, book 1, ch. 16), Daneus (Ethic., book 2, ch. 10 [also in 4 Praecept., p. 810]), Rivet (in Genesis, exercitation 80), Voetius (Eccle. 1, book 4, p. 824): And to this we adhere.”
“In Holland their ministers are maintained out of a public treasury, which the political magistrate takes care of. The first reforming ministers in that province, and in Zeland desired that it might be so; in which Voetius (Eccle. 1, book, 4, p. 804 & 823) says they had Calvin’s advice.”
Herman Witsius d. 1708
Ch. 13, Of the Real Defects of the Old Testament, section XI in Economy of the Covenants, Book IV, Ch. IV, p. 303
Johannes Vanderkemp d. 1718
p. 134 (middle) of ‘The 6th Lord’s Day: Christ Revealed in the Gospel’ in The Christian Entirely the Property of Christ in Life and Death, Exhibited in 53 Sermons on the Heidelberg Catechism
Daneau, Lambert – Ch. 10, ‘The Fourth Commandment of the Divine Law… Explained’ in Christian Ethics, Book 2, p. 154 ff.
Increase Mather: “…prelates, and prelatical men plead hard for the divine right of tithes as the ministers’ due… But most of our reformed divines maintain the negative. So… Daneus (Ethices, book 2, ch. 10)…” A Discourse Concerning the Maintenance, p. 50 1706
Calderwood, David – Altar of Damascus, p. 448 1623
Calderwood, a leading Scottish presbyterian, goes into detail here, and in the larger context, on the relevant Biblical issues. Unfortunately, the very abridged, English translation above does not contain most of this section.
190 Theological and Scholastic Exercitations in Genesis 1633
p. 478 ff. in ch. 27 of Jesuits Flogged
Increase Mather: “Among Protestant writers, prelates, and prelatical men plead hard for the divine right of tithes as the ministers’ due… But most of our reformed divines maintain the negative. So… Rivet (in Genesis, exercitation 80)…” – A Discourse Concerning the Maintenance due to those that Preach, pp. 49-50 1706
Edward Leigh: “The Schoolmen are generally for the negative, and so are many able Protestant Divines: Rivet (in Gen. 28, Exercitation 125 and in his Jesuita Vapulans)…” – Body of Divinity, p. 461
Prideaux, John – Oration 5: ‘Of Tenths’ in 13 Inaugural Orations in 22 Selections in the Capital Heads of Religion… 1648
Prideaux (1578–1650) was a reformed Anglican bishop and professor of theology.
Leigh: “Mr. [John] Dod, Bishop [George] Carleton, Dr. [John] Prideaux, Dr. Sclater and Mr. Whateley, were for the affirmative.” – Body of Divinity, p. 461 1654
Capel, Ludwig – ‘Of the Stipends and Tithes of Evangelical Ministers’ in System of Theological Theses in Salmur, pt. 3, pp. 345-358 1664 a disputation with Johanne Placaeo responding
Leigh: “The Schoolmen are generally for the negative, and so are many able Protestant Divines:… Capel (in Thes. Theol. Salmur)…” – Body of Divinity, p. 461 1654
Voet, Gisbert – Of Ministerial Stipends 1666 being Part 1, Book 4, Tract 3 of Ecclesiastical Politics, in vol. 2, pp. 797-851
Poole, Matthew – On Matt 23:23 in A Synopsis of the Interpreters, Commentators and other Critics of the Sacred Scriptures, vol. 4 1686
Early and Medieval Church
ed. Smith, William & Cheetham, Samuel – ‘Tithes’ in A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities… from the time of the Apostles to the age of Charlemagne, vol. 2 1908
Gibson, James – pp. 139-146 of ‘Causes of the Church’s Degeneracy and of its Unlawful Power’ in pt. 1, ch. 4 of The Church in Relation to the State 1872
Gibson was a professor in the Free Church of Scotland. It is often claimed that the Establishment Principle instituted by Constantine in the 300′s was the major contributing factor to the later Romish and priestly domination of the Church. Gibson argues from history that the Church would have been much helped from the Establishment Principle under Constantine, but in fact it was due to the Voluntary Principle that the later Romish domination came about. In this context, Gibson surveys the development of tithes and endowments through the Early Church and Middle Ages.
This essay was highly recommended by the Doctors M’Crie and Cunningham, and (according to them) had not been answered. The book was also highly recommended by James Begg, George Smeaton, and John Kennedy, amongst others.
The Catholic Encyclopedia – ‘Lay Tithes’ 1907-1912
Heal, Felicity – ‘Church Finances’ in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, vol. 1, pp. 329-331
“…the Protestant Reformation marked a sharp break in the pattern of ecclesiastical finance wherever it took root… by the end of 1525, however, he [Martin Luther] was assuring the elector of Saxony that the revenues of the church belonged to the state, and that after proper payments to clergy, schools and charity, the surplus could be employed by the prince. Huldrych Zwingli and Martin Bucer, on the other hand, held that church property belonged to the religious community and that the secular ruler merely administered it.
The Calvinist church was more fully separated from past modes of finance than its Lutheran and Anglican counterparts… Elsewhere [other than Geneva], Calvinism was often a minority faith and had to depend on the voluntary support of its members… The Dutch Reformed Church was funded by the magistracy after several false starts in the 1570’s, but not at a particularly generous level.” – pp. 329-331
ed. McClintock & Strong – ‘Tithes’ in Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 1880
‘Tithes: II. Ecclesiastical’ in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 12 vols. 1908-1914
ed. Hastings, James – ‘Tithes’ in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. 12 1908-1927
Seldon, John – The History of Tithes, that is, the Practice of Payment of Them, the Positive Laws made for them, the opinions touching the right of them: a review of it is also annexed, which both confirms it and directs in the use of it 1618 (1586-1654) Anglican
This was replied to by the Anglican, doctor of divinity, Richard Tillesley (1582-1621), Animadversions upon Mr. Selden’s History of Tithes… Maintaining the Jus Divinum of tithes or more, to be paid to the priesthood under the Gospel 1619 as well as the Anglican Thomas Comber (1645-1699), An Historical Vindication of the Divine Right of Tithes… designed to supply the omissions… of Selden’s History of Tithes 1682. For William Sclater’s response, see below.
Clarke, Henry William – A History of Tithes 1894 290 pp.
Cutts, Edward – ‘Tithe’ in A Dictionary of the Church of England 1887 680 pp.
ed. Ollard, S.L. – ‘Tithe’ in A Dictionary of English Church History 1912 690 pp.
Fleetwood, William – Chronicon Preciosum; or, An account of English gold and silver money; the price of corn and other commodities; and of stipends, salaries, wages, jointures, portions, day-labour, &c. in England, for six hundred years last past: shewing from the decrease of the value of money… 1745 Anglican (1656-1723)
Easterby, William – The History of the Law of Tithes in England 1888 155 pp.
Jones, G. Edwardes – History of the Law of Tithes in England 1888 130 pp.
Evans, Eric J. – A History of the Tithe System in England, 1690-1850 with Special Reference to Staffordshire 1970 a PhD dissertation
First Book of Discipline, 6th Head, ‘Of the Rents and Patrimony of the Kirk’ 1560
Steuart of Parovan, William –
Per a civil ordinance by James VII (II, 1685-88) the upkeep for church-buildings was placed on the civil magistrate at the local level, etc.
Per the Reformation view, Scottish jurists (Mackenzie & Stair) determined that some portion of persons’ income was due by divine right to the ministry, though the percentage was to be determined and regulated by human, civil laws.
History and Settlement of Tithes in Scotland in Edinburgh Review, 1823, vol. 4, Feb. 25 pp. Every other page has not been scanned.
Nenion, Elliot – ‘Tiends or Tithes and Church Property in Scotland’ 40 pp. in ed. Story, Robert, The Church of Scotland, Past and Present, vol. 5, pp. 557-596 18??
Kirk, James – ‘Teinds’ in ed. Cameron, Wright, Lachman, Meek, Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology, pp. 814-5
Connell, John – A Treatise on the Law of Scotland Respecting Tithes: and the stipends of the parochial clergy, 2 vols. Buy 1830
Buchanan, William – Treatise on the Law of Scotland on the Subject of Teinds, or Tithes (Edinburgh, 1862) 530 pp.
Black, William George – What are Teinds? An Account of the History of Tithes in Scotland 1893 120 pp.
ed. Kirk, James – The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices: Scottish Ecclesiastical Rentals at the Reformation Buy 1995 986 pp.
Prelacy / Anglicans
Many more works of this nature may be found by searching EEBO-TCP.
Becon, Thomas – p. 537 (bottom) of The Acts of Christ and of Antichrist in Prayers and Other Pieces of Thomas Becon
Becon (c. 1511–1567) was an English cleric and Protestant reformer of the Anglican Church.
Carleton, George – Tithes Examined and Proved to be Due to the Clergy by a Divine Right 1606
Carleton (1559-1628) was a reformed, Anglican bishop who was delegate to the Synod of Dort. Increase Mather: “Among Protestant writers, prelates, and prelatical men plead hard for the divine right of tithes as the ministers’ due. Bishop Andrews, and Bishop Carleton, have said as much for it as any that I have seen. But most of our reformed divines maintain the negative…” – A Discourse Concerning the Maintenance due to those that Preach, pp. 49-50 1706
Seldon, John – The History of Tithes, that is, the Practice of Payment of Them, the Positive Laws made for them, the opinions touching the right of them: a review of it is also annexed, which both confirms it and directs in the use of it 1618 (1586-1654) English lawyer and paliamentarian, Erastian
This was replied to by the Anglican, doctor of divinity, Richard Tillesley (1582-1621), Animadversions upon Mr. Selden’s History of Tithes… Maintaining the Jus Divinum of tithes or more, to be paid to the priesthood under the Gospel 1619 as well as the Anglican Thomas Comber (1645-1699), An Historical Vindication of the Divine Right of Tithes… designed to supply the omissions… of Selden’s History of Tithes 1682. For William Sclater’s response, see below.
Sclater (1575-1626) is listed as a reformed puritan at PRDL.
Leigh: “Mr. [John] Dod, Bishop [George] Carleton, Dr. [John] Prideaux, Dr. [William] Sclater [I] and Mr. Whateley, were for the affirmative.”
Burges (1589?-1665) was an Anglican minister and a Westminster divine.
** Mayer, John – ‘Of Tithes and Things Dedicated’, pp. 372-379 of Question #99, on the 8th Commandment in The English Catechism Explained 1630
pp. 52, 125, 193 of A Pithy, Short, and Methodical Opening of the Ten Commandments 1622
Pt. 1, pp. 98-99 (on Melchizedek); Pt. 2, pp. 52-3 (on Jacob) in Prototypes, or, The primarie precedent presidents out of the booke of Genesis 1640
Whately (1583-1639) was reformed.
Leigh: “Mr. [John] Dod, Bishop [George] Carleton, Dr. [John] Prideaux, Dr. [William] Sclater [I] and Mr. [William] Whateley, were for the affirmative.”
Andrewes (1555-1626) was a reformed Anglican. Increase Mather: “Among Protestant writers, prelates, and prelatical men plead hard for the divine right of tithes as the ministers’ due. Bishop Andrews, and Bishop Carleton, have said as much for it as any that I have seen. But most of our reformed divines maintain the negative…” – A Discourse Concerning the Maintenance due to those that Preach, pp. 49-50 1706
Heylyn, Peter – The Undeceiving of the People in the Point of Tithes GB 1648 (1599-1662) Anglican, Arminian-Remonstrant
Turmiger, Bevill – A Brief Treatise Concerning the Chief Dispute of this Time about Tithes: Wherein is Shown, 1. That the Tenth or Tithes are the Clergy’s Right by the Laws of God, of Nature & of this Nation. 2. That No Person ought to pay above the Tenth Part of any rate or charge Imposed upon the Whole Parish for his Parsonage, Tithe & Gleabe Also (1653) 11 pp.
A Gospel Plea for the Lawfulness & Continuance of the Ancient Settled Maintenance & Tenths of the Ministers of the Gospel: Proving that there is a Just, Competent, Comfortable Maintenance due to All Lawful, Painful Preachers & Ministers of the Gospel by Divine Right, Institution & Express Texts & Precepts of the Gospel… [and] they may Lawfully be Enforced by Coercive Laws & Penalties… (1653)
Prynne (1600-1669) was an English lawyer, political figure and Erastian, often a literary opponent of numerous of the Westminster divines.
The Remainder, or Second Part of a Gospel-Plea… for the Lawfulness & Continuance of the Ancient Settled Maintenance & Tithes of the Ministers of the Gospel wherein the Divine Right of our Ministers’ Tithes is Further Asserted… with 10 Considerable Queries Concerning Tithes (1659)
Leslie, Charles – An Essay Concerning the Divine Right of Tithes 1700 (1650-1722) Anglican
** Edwards, John – ‘Of the Maintenance of Ministers’ in Theologia Reformata, or the Body and Substance of the Christian Religion, vol. 1, pp. 533-40 Reformed Anglican
Prideaux, Humphrey – The Original and Right of Tithes: For the Maintenance of the Ministry in a Christian Church, Truly Stated 1736 (1648-1724) Anglican
“But he [Melchizedek] whose descent is not counted from them [Levites] received tithes of Abraham,”
“And Jesus sat over against the treasury… and there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites… And He called unto Him his disciples, and saith unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury.'”
“We can almost think she cast in those two mites into the treasury with a sigh that the offering was so small.”
John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan