The report that Elder Leland had been excluded from the church, etc., induced the Rev. O. B. Brown to write to him. The following is a copy of his reply: –
MY BROTHER – It has often struck my mind, that if a constitution of government was now to be formed for a nation unborn, it might border on perfection; but, in this I meet with a check, for it is hard to conceive how government is anything but the contrivance of individuals to secure what they possess by nature and acquisition. It must, therefore, be formed in a mode to answer those ends. For the first eighteen centuries, the inhabitants of the earth had no government, (that we have any account of,) but partriarchal; but, in the days of Nimrod, the awful experiment was made of leaping into the gulf of absolute monarchy. From that period until the present time, there has been a perpetual war between the claims of governmentals, and the rights of people. In the most successful struggles for the rights of man, in the final close, the people have gained but little, except the change of masters to ride them. The constitution of the United States, I consider the best that was ever formed. Energy and liberty walk hand in hand together; but, such is the thirst of man for power and wealth, that it requires all the vigilance of the people to prevent usurpation. If men sleep, the enemy will sow tares. The usurpation begins with a strained construction, proceeds as precedent, which soon becomes doctrine; a sacrifice of the rights of the people follows, and a field for ambition is opened.
The character of tolerable statesman is far beyond my claim. My talents, my education, my low circumstances in life, and my avocation, have all admonished me to be little; and, my disposition perfectly accords; for I never desired a civil office in my life. But I rejoice that my country contains the men which are needed. A noble Spartan, who expected to be elected one of the fifty men that were wanting, and was left in the background, went rejoicing home, exclaiming to his wife with joy, “Sparta contains fifty men more virtuous than myself.” The origin and outlines of civil government I have paid some attention to, in order to give that ordinance of God its proper reverence, and maintain that religious opinions are inalienable in nature, and should be forever excluded from the civil arm. For this opinion, I have often been represented a Deist; and, for this opinion, contended for in some remarks on the Sunday mail question, I am published in gazetts, as renouncing the faith, and being excluded for it. If those gentlemen who petition Congress to interfere in the controversy of religious opinions, should be asked, “who hath required this at your hands?” could they turn to the text in the New Testament and say, “there is our authority?” Is it possible for man to give greater evidence that he is ignorant of the precepts of Christianity, and destitute of the spirit of it, then he does when he makes use of the arm of the law to force others to believe as he does, or compel them to support what he believes? All such renounce Christianity, and are excluded from the fellowship of the gospel.
If I were a man of influence, I should not suppose that the hue and cry after me was designed to degrade my character, and thereby destroy my influence; but, as it is otherwise with me, the words of an old book occur; “after whom is the king of Israel come out? After a dead dog? After a flea?”
Had the accusation which has gone the rounds, stated that I did not possess that full portion of the Christian spirit, or live equal to the holy precepts of the gospel, although the charge should prove me perverse, yet, in honesty I must have responded to its truth. But, to affirm that I have renounced the only scheme that Jehovah ever made known to man, which met the guilty sinner's wants and brought relief to his woes, is not true. And if Christianity is divinely true, as I believe, the first editor who set the charge afloat, or his informers, may remember the doom therein given to all liars.
That kind of Christianity which calls in the aid of law, sword, or the college for its support; which puts on the mask of sanctity to cover injustice and cruelty, and acquire pre-eminence and wealth; that forces its dogmas on others, or asks for any thing more than a dispassionate hearing, and a corresponding faith, on rational evidence, I do renounce from the bottom of my heart; and, if I am excluded for denying the faith, I shall glory in my lonely solitude, and take more delight in the tub of Diogenes, than I otherwise should in the court of Ahasuerus. That the blessed Jesus, who is God over all, the ancient of days, the everlasting Father, the first, the true God, and eternal life; without beginning, the creator of all things, the Lord God of the holy prophets, who was in heaven when instructing Nicodemus on earth, whose name is wisdom; should be deficient in his laws to govern his church, or any ways dependent on the rulers of this world to defend his people, prevent error, and describe and protect the truth, is not likely. If any orders are left in the New Testament for such interference, in more than fifty years search, they have escaped my notice. The laws of men should recognize every man as a citizen, but none as religionists – should protect the rights of all, the opinions of none. If any, under a pretence of religion, commit overt acts, punish them for their crimes, and pity them for the delusion.
I am aware you will see a great sameness in my several communications; and one reason is, I cannot get out of my shell. Should I try to expand like the silly frog that swelled to be as big as an ox, like him I should burst myself. Another reason I borrow from a Dutch priest, who, having severely flogged one of his hearers with his fists, exclaimed, “my hearers are such numb-sculls, that I was obliged to beat it into them.”
I conclude by wishing the present session of Congress may be pleasant to the members, and acceptable to their constituents.
With due respect,
P.S. I am well pleased with the administration; it is as good as I ever knew, or ever expect to know.
Elder John Leland
The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland
Pages 608 – 610