This section is from the "How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt" book, by Rev. Sylvanus Stall. Amazon: How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt.
Three years ago the recorded loans to the various churches, secured by bond and mortgage, not including loans obtained upon notes and other securities, in the city of New York alone, amounted to the enormous sum of $2,367,886. The various denominations were represented by the following amounts: Presbyterian, $706,000; Reformed, $644,000; Protestant Episcopal, $453,000; Roman Catholic, $229,000; Baptist, $212,000; Methodist, $79,000; Lutheran, $44,-886. The debts upon the various churches throughout the United States foot up to such vast millions that when the herculean task of paying them is contemplated, the question naturally arises, Can the debts now resting upon the churches be paid? Let a Christian merchant in his convincing words answer the question:
"That the professed followers of Christ, especially in our day and country, possess a large share of this world's riches, is apparent to the most casual observer. Subject to no persecutions, relieved of the stigma which in the earlier history of the church attached to the Christian name, not liable to be despoiled of their goods because of their loyalty to their divine Head, many of those enrolled under the banner of Jesus rank high as the possessors of material wealth. A large number of those at the head of our railroad and canal corporations, our river and ocean steam navigation companies and shipping firms; many of those prominent either in the ownership or the management of our great commercial houses, our telegraph and insurance companies; not a few of those who have achieved honorable distinction as financiers, as bankers and brokers, as managers of our savings banks and trust companies; not a few of those who conduct on a large scale our lumber, mining, manufacturing, and agricultural interests, profess allegiance to Him whose is the earth and the fulness thereof, to whom belong alike the silver and the gold, and the cattle upon a thousand hill's.
"From those owning broad acres of the richest soil on which our great staples are grown; from those in our large cities owning plots of land on which lofty palaces are reared; from those who manage our great public works; from engineers, architects, lawyers, physicians, authors, lecturers, editors, men of letters, men of science, may be selected many bearing the Christian name, to whom God has given in greater or less degree the riches of this world. Scarcely any honorable secular profession can be named that does not contribute its quota of those possessed of far more than the mere means of living. In the princely residences of Christians in our cities, their dress, their equipage, their costly entertainments, their general style of living, abundant proof is furnished of the unstinted measure of wealth which God has poured into their lap. In our towns and villages, and in our farming districts, particularly in our seaboard and Middle States, it cannot be gainsaid that Christians share abundantly in the general prosperity of the country.
"The immense, unprecedented sums of money, nearly four hundred and twenty-five millions of dollars, to-day in the savings banks of the two states of New York and Massachusetts, deposited chiefly by the middle and poorer classes, attest the wide distribution of our wealth; and this extraordinary accumulation has awakened the astonishment and elicited the hearty commendation of keen observers in the Old World. If our religious and benevolent enterprises languish, surely it cannot be for want of means in the hands of the Lord's servants, to whom he has committed the stewardship of wealth."*
"That the people of God have an abundance of his money in their hands," says Rev. William Ramsey, "which should be disposed of for the glory of their
*J. F. Wyckoff, Esq , in "The Christian Use of Money." master, no one can doubt. Do they not live, many of them, in their ceiled palaces, and nearly all of them in the enjoyments of the comforts of life, and I might add, of its luxuries, too? Is there a scheme of world-liness that promises temporal gain; is there a scene of national joy and amusement not in itself sinful; is there a new fashion or a new mode invented to make life more easy; is there a new enterprise to promote the political prosperity of the nation, or to increase the glory of our country both at home and abroad; is there any society founded for the promotion of the arts, or for the cultivation of letters in this great nation that does not draw largely upon the treasury of the Lord through the hands of his people? Point me to one if you can. Why, then, does the house of the Lord lie waste, and why are the watchmen on the walls of Zion faint and dying for the lack of those means which God's people have directed, in a great degree, from their appropriate channel? I am not finding fault with the activity of Christians in any plan whose tendency is to promote the temporal good of man. But why should they be active in pushing forward their researches in science, in the improvement of the arts, in the improvement and refinement of society in general, and yet leave the cause of God to languish? Does this latter cause promise less temporal gain? Or does the money thrown into the treasury of the Lord yield less interest, and less comfort to the body, and less joy and peace to the soul, than the amount invested in the stocks of earth, that church members are induced to trust their thousands in the hands of man, while they will not trust their tens to God for safe keeping? There is something here radically wrong. If the pride, covetousness, and selfishness of the church be not the cause of the evil, do tell me what is."
"Notwithstanding the great debt that presses upon the church, it could be paid immediately, because the people of God are able to do it. I speak advisedly, when I say they are able to do it. Look at the immense wealth that is in this country. Now ask, into whose hands has God entrusted all this wealth? You will find that a very large portion of it is in the hands of those who are the avowed friends and followers of Him who became poor for our sakes. A large portion of the remainder is held by those who, although not the professed followers of Christ, are the decided friends of Christianity - are regular in their attendance on the means of grace, and are ready to contribute to the support of every benevolent enterprise. The wealth of this country is not held by the misanthrope and the foe of the Bible. If the people of God do not now possess as much of their Lord's money as is needed to carry forward His work, there is still enough in the hands of others to do it, which they may obtain. For, as ' the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof,' as ' the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just,' and as the promise is, 'ask, and ye shall receive,' the amount may be had if the proper means be used. There is money enough, and more than enough, in the hands of Christians to release the houses of their God from the pressure of mortgages and judgment bonds, which now weigh them down. The pewholders in one congregation alone, in this city (Philadelphia), hold property to the amount of, at least, thirty millions of dollars! What a trust is this! And what a fearful responsibility rests upon those who are the stewards of so much of God's money. There are individual Christians among us who hold property from the value of one hundred thousand up to two millions of dollars.
"A gentleman, who certainty has the means of knowing facts like the following, and who is not apt to make groundless statements, recently informed me that the Saviour has entrusted in the hands of one of his people in this city, and which he now holds, more money than has been received into the treasury of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions since the year 1812 - say, some two and a half or three millions of dollars."
"Now, take what view of this subject you choose, still, I think, you will agree with me in the belief 14 that the people of God have enough of their Lord's money in their hands to pay off all the debt that now rests upon the churches dedicated to his service. The work can be done. If the work can be done, it may be asked, why is it not done? I reply, that many Christians have not seriously thought of paying off the debts of their churches; and yet they would cheerfully aid, if any one would lead the way. There may be some who do not wish to do it, and the reason is, they imagine they can make more money for themselves by the operation. I will explain myself. Suppose Mr. A has the sum of $5,000, which he chooses to call his own. He is a member of a church that is in debt $8,000 or $10,000, and is now called on to aid in paying off the debt. He reasons thus: I can give $1,000, and so can others; but as the interest is only six per cent, if I keep my thousand dollars, and trade with it, I can make ten, twenty, or even thirty per cent profit out of it. I will, therefore, cheerfully pay my portion of the interest as it becomes due. I will trade with my Lord's money, and whatever is over the six per cent, which I must pay as my share of the interest money, I will put in my own pocket. And when I am dead the money may go to pay the debt.
"There may be some who feel and act in this way, and it is probable that they think they act wisely. Perhaps they do for this world, but not for the next. Is it the proper course for those to pursue who are the Lord's stewards?"