Appendix On The Clergy

Civil society is intended to promote the mutual happiness of the members of it while they live together here on earth. It does not extend to a future state of existence, which will take place under such regulations as the Almighty may think fit to appoint.

Religion embraces all the motives to good conduct here and all the means of happiness hereafter. Civil society, therefore, has nothing to do with religion but as it tends to mutual happiness while we live together here on earth. Hence, that religion which makes a man the best citizen is the best religion for society. A religion that makes a man cruel, persecuting, and intolerant, is a bad religion for society; and the teachers and preachers of any religion whatever, who are so, are bad men and bad citizens, whether their opinions be true or false. I wish some one would undertake to show how public morals are promoted by the doctrines of death-bed repentance, election, and reprobation, and the final salvation of backsliding saints.

The wise men who framed the American constitutions well knew the truth could only be discovered and placed on a firm basis by permitting free discussion on every subject. If an opinion be erroneous, it requires discussion, that its errors may be exposed: if it be true, it will gain adherents in proportion as it is examined. It is an opinion so manifestly wrong that every man must see it as so? It can do no harm. Is it so plausible as to be likely to deceive mankind by its semblance to truth? The more need, then, of open and free discussion to expose fully the fallacy of it.

Moreover, as the American legislators well knew the infirmities of human nature, and that no set of men had any pretensions to infallibility, they put all opinions on the same footing as to each other, and left truth to prevail by its own force and intrinsic evidence. In no other country is the wise toleration established by law so complete as in this. But in no country whatever it is a spirit of persecution for mere opinions more prevalent than in the United States of America. It is a country most tolerant in theory and most bigoted in practice. The laws control no man’s opinions; they control his conduct only. They guarantee freedom of conscience, of profession, and discussion to every creed and form of worship; the framers of them, well knowing that the result of conflicting opinion and open discussion can only be truth; and that no opinion deserves to be protected which cannot protect itself.

But the clergy of this country, I hope not of all sects, the Calvinist clergy chiefly, are united in persecuting every man who calls in question any of their metaphysical opinions, or who hints at their views of ambition and aggrandizement. If they dare not actually stabbed him or burn him: but they raise the outcry of mad dog; they vilify him; they give him nicknames; they hoot at him as infidel, deist, atheist; they set the ignorant upon him to abuse his person, character, and conduct; they treat him with open revilings; they urged him with clandestine falsehoods, and they interdict him as far as possible from all intercourse with society. Then it is they exult, when their secret lies have blasted his character, and their open denunciations have blasted his prospects in society. There are individual exceptions to this picture, but it is faithful as a representation of the body. I know and have felt their unprovoked hostility, and their rancorous combinations.

Cowardly and cruel, their machinations are private, and then enmity unforgiving. What earthly reason can a man have to dread discussion but that his opinion will not bear it? What makes men cruel but their cowardice? Calvin procured Servetus to be burnt to death. Whom did Jesus Christ burn? Yet has that gloomy murderer of Geneva more zealots devoted to his intolerant creed in the United States than in any other part of the globe. Why? Because it is a fit instrument in the hands of the clergy in proportion as it is in tolerant and unintelligible. Weak minds have a vast opinion of the knowledge of those who pretend to be familiar with truths that appear so mysterious. It is in the fetters of mystery that the priesthood binds and bends the spirit and the consciences of their ignorant hearers. The religion of the Gospel is too plain and simple for their purposes; hence their ardent efforts to establish their own mysterious creed. In what country has it been that the priesthood as a body have not been cruel, and persecuting, dreading contradiction, hating discussion, and holding every doubter as a concealed enemy? They are so here.
Fellow citizens — The Presbyterians of these States, the Congregationalists, the Seceders, and in some places the Baptists, dragging after them the timid Episcopalians, have combined and for many years have been steadily prosecuting the following schemes, with a perseverance and devotedness worthy of a better cause.

They are steadily aiming at a CHURCH ESTABLISHMENT; at an alliance between church and state; so as to bring the civil power in aid of their own plans of aggrandizement.

They are steadily aiming in their pamphlets and their preachings to establish the religious obligation of paying TITHES of all you possess; in strong hopes of procuring the system to be established also by law. This will render them not only wealthy, but independent of their congregations, whom they consider as by right dependent upon them; assuming openly the character of God’s viceregents, and branding all opposition to their ambitious designs as blasphemy. They are steadily aiming to obtain the entire control of every seminary of EDUCATION throughout the United States; claiming the exclusive superintendence of them as a matter of right. This is done with a view of infusing into the minds of the rising generation an implicit reverence for the priesthood, and an attachment to the views and interests of the priesthood.

They look with a jealous eye at every scientific discussion; prohibiting, so far as they dare, all investigations that do not harmonize with their own theological creed. Their interference has been recent and violent with respect to physiological, zoological, and geological discussions. No printer, no editor of a scientific journal, bear insert and article in favor of any opinion which the clergy have pronounced heterodox. Fanaticism has completely clipped the wings of science in this country. They have organized a stupendous scheme of raising a PECUNIARY FUND to uphold their pretensions by picking the pockets of the people under some or under all of the following pretenses.

The educating of pious young men (as they are called) to the ministry. That is, taking those who ought to be tillers of the ground, and hiring them, by theological education, as slaves for life to the propagation of those tenets by which the interest and the views of these sects are best promoted. After having been less educated, apparently at the expense of these sectarians, and really by means of the funds extracted from the folly, the indolence, the timidity, or the good nature of the public, they hold themselves bound to the doctrines and interests of their preceptors, and become the standing army of the Church militant. The establishment of missionary societies, to furnish the East Indians, the American Indians, the Australasians, and the Africans, with parsons, who can neither speak the language of their hearers, or make themselves understood. The subscribers to these institutions seldom or never look after the sums they subscribe, which are under the absolute control of these manufacturers of missionaries; whose object is not missionaries, so much as men devoted to their interests, when they shall come out in favor of a Church establishment and tithes.

Societies to make ministers of individual congregations trustees for life of these missionary societies; and of course, to have a voice in disposing of the sums thus elicited from the people’s pockets. What the missionaries are, and how they live when they can get the means, I hope someone will show by exhibiting the style of luxury of the Serampoor missionaries.

Prayer Meeting Societies, which, by means of the weak and credulous females who attend them, furnish the priests with a sure source of influence and information over the domestic concerns of every family.

Female benevolent and missionary societies; female mite societies; for no sum is too small for their acceptance; Juvenile societies of children, who are cajoled out of their six cent and twelve cent pieces; cheated out of their gingerbread money, to give to institutions of which they hardly know the name. No sum is too small for acceptance, and no plan too mean to acquire it. Missionary fields of corn, wheat and potatoes; missionary hog societies; missionary rag-bag societies, and missionary scrap societies. All means of scraping together money, the most trifling and contemptible, are employed by these men: not individually, but corporately, and en masse.

But their most profitable concern is that of becoming authors, printers, and booksellers. Composing, praising, recommending religious tracts, sermons, and almanacs. The Bible Society, interfering with the regular printing trade, cannot have less than 150,000 engaged, which brings a good interest to the persons who conduct it.

Such are the means of satisfying the cravings for Money, Money, Money employed by this ambitious, avaricious, and crafty set of men. In all other respects they are more devoid of useful knowledge than any other class of persons in the community. But they act in concert: they have thrown their fetters over the minds of the people — they have cowed the spirit of the community — the literary classes are compelled to succumb to them — they look forward to the day when they show government of the Union in their own manner, and in meantime, take good care to plunge their hands deep in the pockets of those whom they can flatter or frighten into acquiescence and submission.

If the people do not keep the CLERGY under control they will bring the people into abject slavery and keep them there. In every nation upon earth they have done so; what should change their character here? It is in the year 1822, that the clergy of Austria have persuaded the monarch over 40 millions of people to say, “I want no men of science, I want only obedient subjects. I want no education among my subjects but what is given by the priesthood.” Look at the priesthood in France, Spain, Italy, Mexico, even in England: is not their general character one and the same? Already has the religious arrogance of this order of men tempted them to assume the character of God’s immediate agents and viceregents — placed at an immense distance from the herd of inferior beings who compose their congregations. Look at New York and Philadelphia papers for instance. “BY DIVINE PERMISSION, on such a day the Rev. Mr. A. will perform divine service at such a place.” Latterly (that is, within a few months) this style of annunciation has not been so frequent; but for a twelvemonth it was quite the fashion.

In what part of the New Testament has Christ said you cannot approach the Father but through the agency of men divinely commissioned from among you for the purpose and well paid for their services? Has he not said where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of you? And yet these men scruple not to declare that any religious exhortation by a layman, any usurpation of the functions usually performed by a hired and paid priest, is not only in proper and indefensible but a SIN! And Dr. Ashbel Green, of Princeton, has recently denounced such persons as presumptuous and sinful intruders on the rights of the priesthood! They claim it as a right to be exclusively hired and well paid; and we patiently submit to it! As if the God of love, the kind Father and preserver of the human race, were a gloomy haughty tyrant, not to be approached but through the intervention of these arrogant ministers of state, who take good care to be remunerated for their intercession.

I have no objection to a ministry appointed as a convenient and expedient class of men that the religious business of a district may be conducted decently and in order; but upon no other ground. And although I should prefer well educated and liberal men for this purpose, I see no reason for giving them an exclusive preference. In the purest times of Christianity the elders of the church transacted the religious business of it. Do Jesus Christ choose his disciples whom he nominated to preach the gospel from among the learned and the wise? Mankind are pestered with the rights of the priesthood! Rights! What rights? Who pays them, who supports them? Who enables these drones in the hive to fatten on the labors of the industrious bee? Who seem to glory in being ignorant of all useful knowledge, and skills only in the quarrelsome questions and senseless jargon of the metaphysical divinity.

It is the idleness, the pride, the aristocracy of rank and wealth, that has rendered a priesthood necessary. People are too indolent or timid to pray for themselves, and they hire a priest to pray for them! Then too their ears must be tickled by eloquent discourses; as if religion needed eloquence to enforce it! Surely all this is not necessarily and essentially religion! Fellow citizens, you aid these imposters to cheat you by making them necessary to you. Let them know they are your servants; let them know that you hire them and you pay them; and they will not be a whit the less pious for being more humble.

These views of the subject are well worth your consideration. The priesthood in every age, in every country, forbid discussion, frowned down all investigation; they require, like other tyrants, passive obedience and non-resistance. They denounce every man who opposes their views: not merely their spiritual, but their temporal views. Their intent here, as elsewhere, is to fetter your minds first, and your bodies afterwards; and finally, to command your pockets.

It is high time to warn the people that their liberties are in danger; that they are about to be undermined by crafty, persevering, insidious foe in the imposing guard of a heavenly friend. It is high time to call upon the honest citizens of this yet free country and to sound the watchword,

Blow ye the trumpet in Zion!

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Published on September 19, 2018 at 1:39 am  Comments Off on Appendix On The Clergy  
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