IT has been the misfortune of most governments, to have holy orders of men among them. The more holy and just men there are in a state, the stronger arid better the state is; but where there is an order established by law, by a charter of exemptions and pensions, such orders will, in a good measure, be filled with the most unholy men. Whether such privileged orders are called Davids, Priests, or Clergy, the amount is the same. To traverse the subject, would be a boundless task; a few instances must suffice.
According to Nizbet’s history, an opinion prevailed through christendom, in the tenth century, that the world would close its existence with that century. The clergy availed themselves of this opinion, and worked it to their own advantage. Near the close of the century, men would give, first, all their money, and next, all their lands, to the priests, for their prayers. The century at length closed, but the world still existed – existed – but the chief of it belonged to the priests.
In the eleventh century, a Christian clergyman, called Peter the Hermit, crept out of his cell, and, going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he saw the holy land in the hands of Infidels; he returned, and taking a crucifix, ran to the European princes, and inflamed them to commence the crusades and holy wars, which lasted a century, and destroyed the lives of two millions of people, to take the country where Christ lived and died, out of the hands of those who did not believe in him. These orders of men are exempt from taxes, and their lands with them – freed from bearing arms, and all the burthens of government. And it is candidly believed that they inflame the people to commit more cruelty and injustice than they restrain them from. But nothing is here intended to invalidate the characters or usefulness of that number of individuals, who are the ministers of the meek and lowly Jesus. Let such individuals be left where they ought to be, in relation to the laws, without partial indulgence, and without legal proscriptions; and, as citizens, they will feel the common burthen of government, and thereby be led to seek the good of their country, and, as ministers of Christ, will exert their powers to save the souls of men from the wrath to come. Constitutions of government, and the laws of the land, should never know religious officers, by placing golden baits and exemption from social burthens before them, nor by proscribing them from any civil offices in the state. Either of these establishes them as a holy order; the first rewards them as such – the last reserves them be-cause they are such. The first is calculated to make hypocrites – the last to encumber virtue.
Miscellaneous Essays, In Prose and Verse.
Elder John Leland
Published sometime since 1810 (precise year unknown)
The Writings Of The Late Elder John Leland
Pages 424 – 425