To Any Member of Congress

By A Layman






You will have petitions again about stopping the mail on a Sabbath day because the christian religion ordains the Sabbath day to be kept holy. That is, because the priests will permit nobody to make hay when the sun shines on a Sabbath but themselves. They claim the day as their own day of labour, and will suffer no body but a parson to work on that day; and they take care that if it be to them a day of godliness, it shall also be of great gain.

A few questions, if you please – not that I am very anxious to please you, nor would I willingly offend. You are welcome, however, to be displeased, if you are determined to be so, and to burn this paper; but some of you will read it.

Whether the observance of our Sunday as a Sabbath day is of religious obligation among christians is a disputed question, for which we must appeal to the christian scriptures. What part of the constitution has authorized Congress to decide a theological question? If it be expedient as a civil municipal ordinance to appoint a day of relaxation from labor, is not each state as competent for this purpose as you are? What have you to do with it? You have quarrelsome questions enough before ye – let religion alone.

“Oh! But the laws of Congress must be conformable to the divine commands! This is a christian country, and the observation of the Sabbath is of divine ordinance!” Is it so? Who says this is a christian country? Not the constitution; for that embraces under one system of equal rights Jew, Turk, Infidel, and Heretic. Not old Mr. John Adams, who, as President of the United States, assured the Dey of Algiers, “that the constitution of the United States was in no sense founded on the christian religion.” The base lie of the law judges, that christianity is part and parcel of the common law, has been so completely put down by Mr. Jefferson that it can never be repeated, except for purposes of fraud.

That head repository of antiquated decisions (Judge Story’s head) has lately sent forth a contrary doctrine on the authority of Justice Park (Smith and Sparrow, 4 Bingh. 84, 88). Did this man never read the Year book cited by Mr. Jefferson, which shows the barefaced, wilfull ignorance of the English Bench, and of Judge Story? This judge either has read Prisot’s opinion, or he has not. If not, he is grossly ignorant: if he has, he has asserted what he knows is not law. I give him notice – the Year book is before me (34 H.6 fol. 38-40) and I know he dare not meet the discussion. Is he prepared to allow what he cannot deny, that the christianity of Prisot’s day was the grossest form of Popery? Is this the religion which is part and parcel of the common law, or is it Judge Story’s Unitarianism? Or is it that paragon of christian meekness and mildness, John Calvin’s “sweet and comfortable doctrine” (17th art. of the 39) of predestination to eternal damnation and eternal brodings on Satan’s gridiron? God forgive these ignorant and rancorous bigots, who form God after man’s image, and choose the very worst model they can find, themselves!

This base subserviency of the judges to the priests is most degrading. But supposing christianity is part and parcel of the law of England, does it follow that this is the law here? Sir, you are a Papist; what is christianity? Sir, you are a Calvinist; what is christianity? Sir, you are an Arminian; what is christianity? Sir, you are a Unitarian, an Universalist, an Arian, a Sublapsarian, a Superlapsarian, a Baptist, a Hopkinsian, a Quaker, a Shaker, a Harmonist, a Moravian, a Swedenborgian, a Hutchinsonian, a Muggletonian, a Wilkinsonian; what is christianity?

Judge Story I fancy is unitarian; he stops at the half way house; he is wise; he may go farther and fare wose, as the Catholic said to the Protestant who disliked purgatory. I know not an historical fact so disgraceful to the pretended honesty of the bench, English and American, as this wilful perversion and mistranslation of Prisot’s expressions. It is evidence how ready even judges are to connive at forgery (for such the translation is) rather than give up their obsequiousness to the priesthood. I wonder Judge Story did not cite The People v Ruggles in his favor.

“But the Sabbath is of divine authority and obligation.” Is it so? Who made it so? Assuredly not Christ, or his apostles. Let us see. To the law and to the testimony.
Christ was opposed to the Sabbath; by precept; by practice.

By precept. 2 Mark 27. “The Sabbath was made for man; not man for the Sabbath.” 2 March 28. Luke, ch. 6, v.5. “The son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” Luke 13, v. 15. “Thou hypocrite! Doth not each one of you, on the Sabbath, loose his ox or his ass from the stall? And his adversaries were ashamed.” 12 Matt. 11. “Which of you, if a sheep fall into a pit, will not life him out on the Sabbath day?” See also 14 Luke, 5.

By practice. See the last mentioned practices. Also 5 John, 16, 18. “Therefore the Jews sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the Sabbath day, and had broken the Sabbath.” Christ, then, never acknowledged the divine origin of the Jewish Sabbath, which was the last day of the week. Did he ever ordain the christian sabbath, the first day of the week? No; he did not. Not a text can be produced in its favor. Produce it if you can. Did the apostles sanction a Sabbath of any kind? We know they were Jews; that they observed the Jewish Sabbath, as well as other Jewish rites; that they scolded St. Paul for neglect of them; but they did not impose them on their followers. When they met together for the purpose of determining what part of the Jewish law the Gentiles ought to observe (15 Acts 25, 29) they omitted the Sabbath, and recommended no substitute. St. Paul treated it very unceremoniously. 2 Col. 16. “Let no man judge you then, in meat or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the Sabbath days.”! 5 Gal. 1. “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free.”

Does any person say the apostle ordained the christian Sabbath, the first day? Let him show his text; his authority. The Bible does not contain it. If it be sanctioned, therefore, neither by Christ or his apostles, can the commandments of men confer divine authority? Who ordained the Sabbath? Those avaricious, ambitious, fraudulent and impudent imposters, the christian priests. For what purpose? To create business for themselves: to obtain influence: to get money: to make their services necessary to the ignorant; and by the bigoted violence of the blockheads, to terrify and rule the wise – and well have they succeeded. But free discussion, holding in her hand the spear of Ithuriel, is abroad.

ALL PUBLIC PRAYER is forbidden by Christ; expressly, in words, as well as by his uniform and regular practice. I am obliged to give you the trouble of reading the passages here, because I know you re too indolent to look them out. Here they are; and if you are a christian, say if you can that public worship is of divine appointment. The fraudulent priests indeed say so; Christ says otherwise. Where he sets an example, christians are bound by it. 1 Pet. ch. 2, v.21. 6 Matt. 5, 6, 7, 8. – “When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they shall have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into they closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy father which is in secret; and they father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

Is it possible for command to be more plain, direct, and unequivocal? We shall now see that this practice uniformly coincided with his precept. 14 Matt. 23. “And when he had sent the multitude away, he went up into a mountain apart, to pray.” 23 Matt. 14. “Wo unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, who for a pretense make long prayers!” 26 Matt. 36. “And he saith unto his disciples, sit ye here while I go and pray yonder.” 6 Mark, 46, 47. “And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.” 14 Mark 32. “And he saith to his disciples, sit ye here while I pray.” 5 Luke 16. “And he withdrew himself into a wilderness and prayed.” 9 Luke 29 “And he went up into a mountain to pray.” 22 Luke 41. “And when he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, he kneeled down and prayed.”

Such are the precepts and the practice of Christ. He never practiced; he expressly forbade all public prayer. He preached, indeed, and taught in the synagogue; he never prayed there. All prayer is ordered to be private; and he who orders it to be public is no christian, if the command of Christ, the example of Christ, and the directions of the scripture have any authority. Public prayer and Sunday preaching are the inventions of the clergy; they are no part of christianity. They were brought into vogue to enable the clergy to find profitable employment for themselves, and a plausible pretense for swindling the people out of their money. The necessity for preaching is superseded by the gospels. Show, as I have now shown, that the christian Sunday is a clerical imposition, not countenanced by any part of the scripture; show, that among christians who reverence the precepts and example of Christ, public prayer is inconsistent with that humble, unpretending, devotional spirit which Christ requires – show this, and where is the use for the order of men called the clergy? An order of men raised up by the money-making speculations, self-created, who take up religion as a trade, who dispense it for pay, and to which the history and the precepts of the New Testament afford no countenance, but otherwise. Christianity is a very doubtful religion at the best, as these quibblers teach and preach it; and they disqualify themselves from being competent witnesses in its favor by hiring themselves out for money to give testimony.

The clergy are a mass of men who, in direct contradiction to their master Christ, ordain the observance of forbidden practices that they may live in ease and luxury by this gross and manifest imposition. Sunday is their day of labor; of earning money; but they forbid anyone else to do so. This is harsh language; but wh is imposture and avarice, and falsehood, and fraud to be treated with respectful deference?

You employ chaplains to pray for you during the session; a practice which nine-tenths of you believe to be farcical, useless, and know to be a mere popularity-hunting ceremony. Few of you attend it; none of you care for it. Why do you not pray silently, seriously, and shortly, each for himself? Is God Almighty such a proud and overbearing despot that he must not be addressed unless by means of some third person, some official and accredited agent, hired and well paid for being the go-between? Is this not another barefaced, clerical pretension, for swindling the people out of their money; which you, their representative, dishonestly countenance and support?

But if you must intermix religion with politics; if the people’s understanding must be gulled and cheated; why pick their pockets? If you will have some hired prayer-monger to do for you that duty that you ought to do for yourselves, why do you not hire and pay him at your own expense for doing your duty? Why rob the public treasury? Do you suppose God Almighty will be pleased at this act of folly and fraud? Is not this a shameful misapplication of the public funds levied on the people for far different purposes? By what authority, in this country of religious freedom, do you intermix religion with politics, or tax the man who is not a christian in support of any sect or any form of christianity? A precious set of representatives you are, who acknowledge the necessity of having your memories jogged every morning before you are able to do your duty; and of hiring a parson to do this in some sort of theology fashion! While he, good man, always takes care to foist in some petition for “the good of the church;” although he knows you have nothing to do with any such topic. But the whole ceremony is a farce, and you know it. The ignorance, the folly, and the credulity of the people tempt you thus to impose upon their understandings, and pick their pockets. Methinks you ought to be satisfied with the wanton waste committed upon time and upon money by talking, day in and day out, upon exhausted subjects, and draining the cup of wordiness to the very dregs. to this source of enormous expense, in printing speeches spoken to blind your constituents by a semblance of business, the pay of your chaplains is comparatively nothing; but both the one and the other are indefensible. If the people were wise, which Heaven knows is very far from being the case, they would allow you no pay at all; and then half an hour’s good sense would be the length of tether allowed to your womanly propensity for incessant chattering. It will come to this at last.

I well know that talking spins out the day, without spinning out the period of final adjournment; that is settled on other principles. Back country members are too fond of $8 a day to give it up, till they can find no excuse for receiving it. The day of breaking up, therefore, is protracted as far as possible, and settled at the beginning of the sessions, which no talking extends or hastens. Talking is desirable; it fills up the hours of the day, and prevents too early an adjournment to dinner. No one is compelled to listen. Nothing but no pay, or a fixed salary, or a day for adjournment fixed by law, will remedy this evil. The talking answers no purpose but the please the constituents. The members care nothing what is said, or who says it.

It is high time for men of talent, and men of honesty, to renounce this playing into the hands of the selfish priesthood. The conventional simulation and dissimulation involved in the usual shallow pretenses to religion do little credit to your moral honesty, or your moral courage. It is a disgrace for you to be actuated either by fear of the clergy or fear of the ignorance of the people. Your high station ought to put you upon high ground, and to resist in every case these persevering, never ending encroachments of the clergy on political rights.

After all, what is prayer? What does it amount to? What does it imply? You pretend that the God you worship is all good, all knowing, all foreseeing, all wise, all powerful. You approach him and you say, “It is true, O Lord God, thou art infinite in wisdom and knowest all things; thou art all bountiful and all good; and desirous of supplying all our wants; but thy memory is apt to be deficient occasionally, and thou forgettest what a set of poor miserable wretches we are, the work of thine Almighty hand, formed in thy own likeness, but perpetually in need of thy assistance. We are ill fashioned, imperfect, and ill going machines, needing thy perpetual interposition. We acknowledge thou knowest every thing, but after all, we know our wants best. Permit us, therefore, to refresh thy memory as to the following particulars, which we have hired and paid one of thy own appointed servants to lay before thee in due form, lest, in the multiplicity of business that presses on the, we may chance to be forgotten.” Such is all prayer in substance; but the best of it is that the clergy cajole us with the expectation that prayer, offered up by their intervention, will induce the Almighty to change his purposes and predeterminations; to interfere miraculously in all our petty concerns; to become of our party in all our mad disputes; and be influenced by these our inconsistent ravings.

At any rate, I hope I have proved, 1st, That no clergyman, no conscientious christian, can countenance public prayer, because it is positively prohibited by Jesus Christ. 2d. That although oral preaching was necessary in the very early times of christianity, before any accounts of Christ were published, it cannot be necessary since the universal publication and wide diffusion of the gospels, unless the preacher can correct the inaccuracies and mistakes, and add something to the omissions of which the Evangelists were guilty, or explain what these inspired writers were too ignorant to dictate intelligibly.

If the clergy are not wanted for preaching or for praying, for what purpose are they wanted? A clergyman to each 1000 persons will amount to 13,000 for the United States. At $1000 a year on the average, these men take the people $13,000,000 a year. This is a great deal of money, and it will double every 22 years. For 1850 it will be 20 millions at least. Is not this great sum obtained under false pretenses? If so, what is the legal name appropriated to this conduct? Can this army of expounders be really necessary to the word of God?

Gentlemen of the Bible Society: you say the scriptures are the infallible dictate of divine inspiration, given for the instruction of mankind. Be it so. If these scriptures contain, in plain and intelligible language, all that is necessary to faith and practice here, and to salvation hereafter, where is the use of 20,000 persons, members of the church militant, paid at the expense of 20,000,000 a year, to explain these dictates of divine inspiration?

If these pious commentators are necessary, what becomes of inspiration? Why do you propagate this book which is so obscure and unintelligible that a thousand quarrelsome commentators and a thousand conflicting comments are needed to make it still more unintelligible? Obscuram per obscurius. The only true answer is that you are the willing tools and dupes of the clergy, whose real motive is to gull the people and pick their pockets.

The parsons will cry out against this as an attack upon religion. This is their ususal subterfuge. They palm upon us their doctrines for God’s doctrines, and their cause for God’s cause, and their treasury for the Lord’s treasury. Their good friend, the devil, stands by and laughs in his sleeve at the dexterity with which they persuade their credulous follows that all men who tell the truth are God’s enemies! THIS IS NOT AN ATTACK UPON, BUT A DEFENSE OF SCRIPTURAL CHRISTIANITY. I appeal to the gospels; and I call upon ye to examine for yourselves. There is not one text which countenances the clergy as a separate order of men necessary to christianity.

The clergy, more especially the Presbyterian clergy, for these last 50 years, have been aiming by all methods direct and indirect to acquire political influence in this country, and to inculcate the necessity of a provision for the priesthood, independent of the people; principally by insisting on their favorite doctrine, the divine obligation of tythes. Over and over they have been checked, but they persevere with an obstinacy worthy of a better cause; and they are now accumulating immense funds to bribe popular opinion when they cannot gain it over to their purpose in any other way. All this is well known to every member of Congress, who, with disgraceful timidity, yields to their insolence and their popular influence, and adopts that prudent time-serving hypocrisy which is the besetting sin of the day; thus sacrificing his own honest opinion, the interest of his constituents, and the good of his country, to the insinuated but insolent threats of an avaricious, and ambitious, and a daring combination.

A class and order of men whose character, from the earliest history to the present moment, is that of subjugating the minds and preying upon the substance of the people; who govern in each family by their influence over the females; and who govern in society by employing the ignorant and bigoted to threaten, to worry, and subjugate the wise. Such, in sum and substance, has ever been, and still is, the character of a hired and paid priesthood. Has not Dr. Ely very lately recommended his sect to unite, and turn out every political candidate, from the President downward, who was not an orthodox communicant; so as to force themselves on the public as a political sect?

I shall be abused for an impudent, intermeddling blockhead; perhaps justly. But I have not picked your pocket, as you and the parsons pick the peoples. These few pages cost you little or nothing; burn them if you please. I have not told you lies; I have not taxed you, either in money or in time. You need not buy this; you need not read it. But I like in hopes – Truth never takes a walk without meeting and making some friends. It is possible, if I should be encouraged, that I may repeat this offense next year. Pray order your Chaplain to reply to these observations. Mark me: he will say it is not worth any one’s while to reply to such infidel trash. (N.B. – Every objection the clergy are unable to answer, they call infidelity.) This may serve his purpose for the present; the time is coming when something more will be expected.


P.S. To the Chaplain – Reverend Sir: If a man be hired, and paid, and bribed to teach and preach certain facts and doctrines, is he an independent, unimpeachable witness in support of these facts and doctrines? In support of what you call gospel truths? Would any witness in a court of justice be heard for a moment if he should declare upon his voir dire that he was hired to appear and give testimony in a certain way? What right has a clergyman to ask for credence who is hired and paid for asserting what he asserts?

Pray tell us, Rev’d Sir, what worldly motive the persons called skeptics and infidels can have to profess their opinions, unless it be the claims of truth, and the honest dictates of an unbending conscience? Do they gain in reputation? Do they acquire friends and supporters by their unpopular opinions? is it any pecuniary gain to them? Unless indeed they be printers or editors; which is not the case with one in thousand – not with half a dozen in the whole United States. Are they not exposed to the obloquy and reproach of all the time serving, worldly minded, hypocritical members of society – of all the ignorant and the bigoted, set on to abuse them by the odium theologicum of the clergy, whose craft is endangered by these opponents?

On what pretense can a hired and paid priest put himself on an equality with the bold and fearless honesty of the men whom he abuses as infidels? Can you tell us?


Published on September 19, 2018 at 1:43 am  Comments Off on To Any Member of Congress  
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