30 August 2010

Insolence Upbraided

by Phil Johnson

hile looking up something totally unrelated, I came across an intriguing bit of correspondence published in Jill Morgan's biography of her father-in-law, A Man of the Word: Life of G. Campbell Morgan. It's a fine example of how to respond to supercilious criticism.

But I'll let Jill Morgan tell the story:
An incident occurred in connection with meetings held in a town in England, which shows a side of Campbell Morgan few people ever knew, and those who did, it is likely, never forgot. Soon after concluding a series of meetings at which the offering had been particularly generous (which was not always the case!) Dr. Morgan received the following letter:

Dear Sir,

Having recently heard of the cheque you were paid by our treasurer, I wish to point out that to receive over thirteen pounds a day for expounding the Scriptures is a great stumbling block to the ordinary Christian, and still more so to 'the man in the street'.

One frequently hears that preaching is only a profession like any other, its main object being to get money, and your big fees make me feel that there is a good deal of truth in it.

Your reputation as one of the greatest Biblical scholars is in my opinion quite justified, and I thank God you use your great gifts to His honour and glory, but your love of money is positively appalling.

If, as I have been told, you have heavy expenses, my reply is, no Christian is justified in living extravagantly, and no one else that I know of asks or expects such huge fees.

If I thought that studying the Scriptures produced such fruit as that!—but of course, such a thing is absurd, for its effect should be just the opposite, on a lowly, Christ-like life.

It is the inconsistent lives of Christians that produce such harm. . . .

Yours sincerely,


To which Dr. Morgan replied:


I am in receipt of your amazing effusion of Sept.——. It is characterized by impertinence based on ignorance.

In the course of it you use the expressions, 'big fees', and 'huge fees'. For your enlightenment I may say that I make absolutely no charge for my work, neither does Mr. Marsh, who has made all my arrangements. The amounts which are paid to me are decided by those whom I serve, and it is of the essence of bad manners for anyone outside the interested party to interfere in such arrangements.

When you speak of "living extravagantly" you are once more revealing your crass ignorance, and I have no intention of giving you any information as to my methods of life.

The only kindness you can do me is to let me know how much you contributed toward the gift of love which was handed to me at X—, and allow me the pleasure of sending you a cheque for the same.

Faithfully yours,


No one can afford to be careless regarding what he puts into writing, and Dr. Morgan's statement of the method he followed in the matter of remuneration he received for his services was always meticulously carried out. What he never put into writing, and what was never known to the rank and file was the extraordinary generosity with which he used the 'huge fees' when they came his way. Less than a week after dictating this letter, he was making arrangements to help a friend which involved a long journey and a new start in life, and for this privilege he was footing the bill, not as a loan but as a gift. This side of his character was, it is needless to say, entirely unknown to his explosive correspondent.

Morgan's reply to a rude and haughty correspondent is the model of both candor and restraint. I wish I could write like that.

Phil's signature


Coram Deo said...

Those are two of the finest tags I think I've ever seen side-by-side on a blog post, Phil.

You've got my vote for "best ever"!

In Him,

P.S. - bonus points for the "Supercilious Saint" descriptor on mouseover of the chairman of the lemon-suckers committee.

Anonymous said...

That is epic win.

Thanks for that.

Sir Brass said...

And I wish I had the kind of restraint YOU show, Phil.

We should all aspire to that level of restraint in our daily lives as a testimony and witness to the Lord.

James Kubecki said...

What is saddening to me is that Morgan's tone would -- in most evangelical circles today, even conservative ones -- be considered rude, "ungraceful," and requiring repentance.

Robert said...

That is a great response! I am going to store this away somewhere and send a copy to my pastor and pastor friends. Thanks for posting this, Phil.

Michael Andrews said...

Awesome. I love that! For a full copy of This book visit gcampbellmorgan.com - The G. Campbell Morgan Archive

Anonymous said...

But, Phil...you do write like that.

Thanks for sharing.

Johnny Dialectic said...

I am in receipt of your amazing effusion

That's the way to start a response!

Bike Bubba said...

Very interesting way of putting it....I'd like to hear some thoughts on whether it's wiser to say "I have no intention of..." rather than saying "you will not find me living at a mansion" or such.

Mike said...

Aside from prayer, I wouldn't even know where to begin to find that kind of humility in a straightforward, honest and righteous judgement. It's just too easy to be biting and sarcastic without consideration. I pray we would all model that kind of restraint and truth in our tones.

Anonymous said...

In good stewardship, I still like to use guidestar.org to see how and what charities spend their money on before I contribute. I took a look at the GTY 990 for the FYE 6/30/09. How many donors do you think earn over $200,000 in wages/fringes annually?

Brad Williams said...

I bet that guy's pastor was like, "Thank you, Pastor Morgan!" I mean, that's the kind of dude who winds up on finance teams and inevitably decides that the pastor is making too much money. Yeesh.

Citizen Grim said...

round.tuit - I generally check out CharityNavigator when researching non-profits. It is shocking to me how well some of the higher-ups are paid. Salaries of half a million dollars seem hard to justify when your donation requests say that "$30 feeds a child for a year" etc etc

Of course the counter-argument is that "you get what you pay for" and if you want a President or CEO who can really lead the non-profit to higher levels, greater support, more visibility, better efficiency, worldwide impact, etc than you may need to offer a more competitive salary to attract that person. I'd like to believe that people would head an organization because they passionately believe in the work it does, but sadly, that's a rare thing these days.

Having said all that, any compensation more than $200,000 is a bit difficult to stomach, when I compare it to what my annual donations would be.

David said...

I remember talking to someone who was complaining about the budget of a certain church in town, how outrageous it was. The budget was something like 10x that of my church.

Of course my church had 250 people attending, and the church in question had 2500.

Covetousness can take many forms, including wishing that the other guy had less, like me.

Anonymous said...

Citizen - I like to see the actual tax return (990) filed with the IRS for the charity. Charity Navigator has limited information. The ECFA is a good source for information.

David - My issue board governance and accountability.

Halcyon said...

It's the "haughty" comments that always catch my ire.

I can handle some troll attempting to be cute or succeeding in being unteachable, but there is something extra insidious about a commenter who comes oozing pseudo-humility as a cudgel and smokescreen.

David said...


What does board governance and accountability have to do with broadcasting income disparity?

And what does that have to do with this post?

Magister Stevenson said...

I love the "board governance and accountability" comment from a writer with no identity information.
I used to be troubled by people in former churches who charged church members for various help related to their profession (be it plumbing, electric, etc). Yet do not the scriptures say the workman is worth his wages?
I praise God that he both provides me the money to give (to members in my church, GTY, missionaries, etc) and gives them the chance to receive. Both are blessed by the one gift.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

What struck me most was that Dr. Morgan was more than ready to return whatever money the gentleman had contributed to him. Although there is definitely reproof there, there is also a sense in which Dr. Morgan seeks to restore this man if he is a Christian - the issue isn't the money with Dr. Morgan, the issue is the man and his sin. I don't see those two things in concert as often as I should in my own life. Great post Phil.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

I agree with Everyday Mommy's comment, Phil.

And this quote from your post could be used once more for this comment thread:

A generous and cheerful giver is one who is a good steward of his own goods, and gives for God's glory, not man's.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

OOPS. Failed attempt at italicizing. Here's the quote, with my own alterations:

The amounts which are paid to [any man] are decided by those whom [he] serve[s], and it is of the essence of bad manners for anyone outside the interested party to interfere in such arrangements.

CLINTON said...

The Teacher Of The WORD Shold Be The Best Paid Teacher Around.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I am an individual who owns over 40+ books by John MacArthur and was pleased to find this site. I did not have a blogger account and a while back used my e-mail account to set up a method to post - without spending much time researching the identity - it works.

I stand by my comments with regards to stewardship, and expected accountability by those who are also stewards of funds entrusted to them.

Anonymous said...

Clinton - Matthew 8:20 - And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

Do I hear $200,000, $300,000, $400,000...? Whew - that's a lot of shoe boxes! Why are we in this?? I did not create this thread. There needs to be balance.

Anonymous said...

Profile Not Available:

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4 ESV)

Magister Stevenson said...

No, you did not create the post but you do show its applicability. Why is 200k too much? Why does the pay have to resemble those of the donors (by which I get the impression you mean yours)? You throw out the words "accountability, accountability"as if the mere word and numbers are self evidence against what is proper. You claim some sort of benefit from the ministry ("see, I'm one of you"), but I have no qualms starting that you are not on the committee that decides compensation.
State your case plainly: why do such numbers fall on the wrong side of proper financial accountability?

Anonymous said...

Magister - You assume too much. I am not attempting to champion that all of Christ's followers are called to serve as impoverished and persecuted missionaries.

Why do non-profit ministries exist? To pay out salaries comparable to those in the private sector? Is not sacrifice and service (as exhibited by Jesus - e.g. Matthew 8:20) an element?