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The history of the last eighteen centuries does indeed afford, in various ways, a strong evidence that the cause of true Christianity has materially suffered in the world, in consequence of the forced and arbitrary connexion between two systems, founded on such different principles, regulated by such different laws, and directed to such different objects, as those of the church and the state. While it does not appear that the state has derived any real advantage from its supposed union with the church, it is probably, in a great measure, the consequence of such a union (invented and contrived as it has been by the wisdom of man) that the church has assumed, in almost all Christian countries, so secular a character—that Christianity has become so lamentably mixed up with the spirit, maxims, motives, and politics, of a vain and evil world. Had the union in question, never been attempted, pure religion might, probably, have found a freer course; the practical effects of Christianity might have been more unmixed, and more extensive; and it might have spread its influence in a much more efficient manner than is now the case, even over the laws and politics of kings and nations.
It was in the reign of the emperor Constantine (A. D. 325) that the Christian religion was first established by law, forced into connexion with the body politic, and handled as a matter appertaining to the state. Now, though we ought not to ascribe to a single cause an effect which may have had its origin in many, we cannot but be confirmed in our view of the present subject, when we remember that, before its union with the state, our holy religion flourished with comparative incorruptness; and that afterward it gradually declined in its purity and its power, until all was nearly lost in darkness, superstition, and spiritual tyranny.
Independently, however, of these considerations, which relate to the interference of civil authority with the affairs of religion in general, there appears to be a distinct moral objection to the legal establishment, in any country, of a particular form of Christianity, to the disparagement of other modifications of the same essential religion. Although the provisions of such a legal establishment may have been rendered liberal, and softened down (as has been so evidently the case in Great Britain) by the powerful operation, on the legislature, of public opinion, it may reasonably be questioned, whether there must not always exist in these provisions a radical opposition to true and unbiassed religious liberty. I would, therefore, suggest that we cannot conscientiously contribute, in an active manner, by the voluntary payment of tithes or church-rates, to the maintenance of the Established Church; not only because we object to the system on which it is, in various respects conducted, but also because it appears to be inconsistent with the divine law, that any human government should compel us, either to adopt for ourselves, or to uphold for others, a mode of religious worship at variance with our own principles.!!!
able, when the civil authorities come forward, either by the exertion of prerogative, or by the enactment of law, to prevent those various breaches of Christian morality (including drunkenness, gaming, sabbath-breaking, &c.) which plainly interfere with the true welfare of the body politic.
On a review of this essay, it will be recollected that, in the New Testament, and especially in the writings of the apostle Paul, the doctrine is clearly promulgated, that the preacher, when actually labouring in the cause of the Gospel, has a claim upon those who hear him, for the supply of his outward wants—that Paul, while he allowed, and even enforced, this doctrine, was exceedingly jealous (as was proved by his own conduct) of its being, in any respect, perverted or abused—that, according to the opinion of Friends, it is dangerously perverted and abused in the practice, so prevalent among Christians, of hiring the preachers of the word—that such a practice degrades the character of the Christian ministry, and is closely connected with the notion, that it may be brought into exercise according to the will of man—that, since Friends admit no preaching or public praying, but such as they deem to be offered under the immediate influence of the Spirit, they cannot pay, or otherwise remunerate, the Lord's servants, for the use of a gift which is of a nature entirely free; but they hold, that, as every man has received the gift, so he is bound to minister it—that the preachers among Friends, when engaged in itinerant labours, are supported by their brethren; and, when resident at home, generally find no diffi
1 It ought to be noticed that, although several observations offered in the present chapter relate specifically to tithes, most of them are, on general grounds, equally applicable to other ecclesiastical taxes; such as those denominated church-rates. Tithes and church-rates, though differently applied in detail, are intended for the support of the same system: and the Friend who refuses to pay church-rates, as well as he who refuses to pay tithes, thereby expresses his dissent from that system.
culty in maintaining themselves—that the same principle which prevents Friends from hiring or paying their own ministers, prevents their contributing to the hiring or paying those of other societies—that, in their refusal to comply with ecclesiastical demands, they bear a practical testimony against all such hiring and paying of preachers; against that description of ministry which is capable of being so procured; against those appointments to the sacred office which introduce to the possession of a claim on tithes ; against the vulgar notion, that the sacerdotal office is continued in the church; against the forced maintenance of the clergy, and the arbitrary union of church and state; and against the legal obligation to maintain, either for themselves or others, a system of religious worship inconsistent with their own views.
In concluding this dissertation, I cannot be satisfied without remarking, that our refusal to comply with ecclesiastical demands arises from a desire to uphold certain principles which we deem to be both true and important, and is not, I trust, in any measure dictated by a spirit of enmity against the particular church established by law in this country. On the contrary, we regard the members of that church with a friendly eye, and rejoice in the evident extension of true religion within her borders. For my own part, I consider it only justice to avow, that I know of few persons who are more generally free from useless prejudices, more zealous in the cause of religion, and more ready for every good word and work, than many serious and devoted ministers of the Anglican church. It may, moreover, be remarked, that some of them, whose labours of love are abundant, receive very small pecuniary stipends; and that others make a point of expending their whole parochial income, in relieving the necessities of their poor neighbours, and in promoting other objects of a benevolent nature.
To such individuals we might safely make our appeal respecting the practical excellence of those views which have been unfolded in the present chapter. Without any fear of an answer in the negative, we might address to them the inquiry, whether they do not find that the sacrifice of their personal interest is a vast advantage to them in their ministerial labours; whether it is not a circumstance which gives great currency to the doctrine preached by them, that they derive little or no temporal advantage from preaching it, and that, in the promulgation of divine truth, they are known to be ac
tuated by no other motives than a sense of religious duty, and an ardent love toward God and man? While, therefore, we encourage a liberal and friendly feeling toward our fellow-Christians of every denomination--while we readily make allowances for the various circumstances and conditions in which they are placed—it is certain that we cannot be too faithful in upholding our own testimony against the paying and hiring of preachers. For, have we not reason to believe that, the further the church of Christ on earth advances in her great career, the more generally will serious persons of every name sympathize with our solicitude, that the contrivances of man may not be allowed to interfere with the work of God; that avarice, ambition, and selfishness, may be for ever excluded from the motives which lead Christians into the professed service of their divine Master; and that the standard may
be more and more exalted, of such a ministry of the Gospel as shall be spiritual in its origin, and free in its operation ?
ON THE MINISTRY OF WOMEN.
While, by the bulk of the Christian world, the public preaching and praying of women is strictly excluded, and it is even considered indisputable, that their peculiar duties in society, and the offices of the Christian preacher are absolutely incompatible, Friends believe it right, freely and equally, to allow the ministry of both sexes. That this is indeed a necessary consequence of those sentiments respecting the ministry which I have already endeavoured to unfold, must be plain to the reflecting reader. Since we conceive, on the one hand, that all true ministry is uttered under the immediate influence of the Spirit of Christ—and since, on the other hand, we confess that the wind bloweth where it listeth—we cannot, reasonably, do otherwise than make way for the exercise of the gift by those persons, of every description, whom the Spirit may direct into the service, and whom the Great Head of the church may be pleased to appoint as his instruments, for the performance of his own work. It is, indeed, declared that “ the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets :” and hence it may be inferred that, in the conduct of our gifts, we ought not to neglect the dictates of a sound and enlightened discretion : but we believe that we must not limit the Holy One of Israel, or oppose to the counsels of infinite wisdom our own fallible determinations. We dare not say to the modest and pious female, “ Thou shalt not declare the word of the Lord,” when we believe that, from an infinitely higher authority, there is issued a directly opposite injunction, “ Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee, thou shalt speak.”
Now, that women are often led to proclaim the word of the Lord among us—that it is laid upon them as an indispensable duty—that they are, from time to time, constrained, under the influence of the