An Essay Picked by blupete

"On the Clerical Character" 1

-------"Now mark a spot or two,
Which so much virtue would do well to clear."

The clerical character has, no doubt, its excellence, which have been often insisted on: it has also its faults, which cannot be corrected or guarded against, unless they are pointed out. The following are some of them.

The first, and most obvious objection we have to it, arises from the dress. All artificial distinctions of this kind have a tendency to warp the understanding and sophisticate the character. They create egotism. A man is led to think of himself more than he should, who by any outward marks of distinction invites others to fix their attention on him. They create affectation; for they make him study to be not like himself, but like his dress. They create hypocrisy; for as his thoughts and feelings cannot be as uniform and mechanical as his dress, he must be constantly tempted to make use of the one as a cloak to the other, and to conceal the defects or aberrations of his mind by a greater primness of professional costume, or a more mysterious carriage of his person --

----"And in Franciscan think to pass disguised."

No man of the ordinary stamp can retain a downright unaffected simplicity of character who is always reminding others, and reminding himself, of his pretensions to superior piety and virtue by a conventional badge, which implies neither one nor the other, and which must gradually accustom the mind to compromise appearances for reality, the form for the power of godliness. We do not care to meet the Lawyers fluttering about Chancery-lane in their full-bottomed wigs and loose silk gowns: their dress seems to sit as loose upon them as their opinions, and they wear their own hair under the well-powdered dangling curls, as they bury the sense of right and wrong under the intricate and circuitous forms of law: but we hate much more to meet a three-cornered well-pinched clerical hat on a prim expectant pair of shoulders, that seems to announce to half a street before it, that sees the theological puppet coming, with a mingled air of humility and self-conceit--"Stand off, for I am holier than you." We are not disposed to submit to this pharisaical appeal; we are more inclined to resent than to sympathise with the claims to our respect, which are thus mechanically perked in our faces. The dress of the bar merely implies a professional indifference to truth or falsehood in those who wear it, and they seldom carry it of out of Court: the dress of the pulpit implies a greater gravity of pretension; and they therefor stick to it as closely as to a doublet and hose of religion and morality. If the reverend persons who are thus clothed with righteousness as with a garment, are sincere in their professions, it is well: if they are hypocrites, it is also well. It is no wonder that the class of persons so privileged are tenacious of the respect that is paid to the cloth; and their tenderness on this subject is strengthened by all the incentives of self-love; by the esprit de corps; by the indirect implication of religion itself in any slight put upon its authorised Ministers; and that the deliberate refusal to acknowledge the gratuitous claims which are thus set up to our blind homage, is treated as a high offense against the good order of society in the present world, and threatened with exemplary punishment in the next. There is nothing fair or manly in all this. It is levying a tax on our respect under fraudulent, or at best equivocal pretences. There is no manner of connexion between the thing and the symbol of it, to which public opinion is expected to bow. The whole is an affair of dress --a dull masquerade. There is no proof of the doctrine of the Trinity in a three-cornered hat, nor does a black coat without a cape imply sincerity and candour. A man who wishes to pass for a saint or a philosopher on the strength of a button in his hat, or a buckle in his shoes, is not very likely to be either; as the button in the hat or the buckle in the shoes will answer all the same purpose with the vulgar, and save time and trouble. Those who make their dress a principal part of themselves, will, in general, become of no more value than their dress. Their understandings will receive a costume. Their notions will be as stiff and starched as their bands; their morals strait-laced and rickety; their pretended creed formal and out of date; and they themselves a sort of demure lay-figures, sombre Jacks-of-the-Green, to carry about the tattered fragments and hoarded relics of bigotry and superstition, which, when they no longer awe the imagination or impose on credulity, only insult the understanding and excite contempt. --No one who expects you to pay the same regard to the cut or colour of his coat as to what he says or does, will be anxious to set an exclusive value on what can alone entitle him to respect. You are to take his merit for granted on the score of civility, and he will take it for granted himself on the score of convenience. He will do all he can to keep up the farce. These gentlemen find it no hardship

"To counterfeiten chere
Of courts, and ben estatelich of manere,
And to ben holden digne of reverence."

On the contrary, if you offer to withhold it from them,

"Certain so wroth are they,
That they are out of all charity."

This canonical standard of moral estimation is too flattering to their pride and indolence to be parted with in a hurry; and nothing will try their patience or provoke their humility so much as to suppose that there is any truer stamp of merit than the badge of their profession. It has been contended, that more is made here of the clerical dress than it is meant to imply; that it is simply a mark of distinction, to know the individuals of that particular class of society from others, and that they ought to be charged with affectation, or an assumption of self-importance for wearing it, no more than a waterman, a fireman, or a chimney-sweeper, for appearing in the streets in their appropriate costume. We do not think "the collusion holds in the exchange." If a chimney-sweeper were to jostle a spruce divine in the street, which of them would ejaculate the world "Fellow?" The humility of the churchman would induce him to lift up his cane at the sooty professor, but the latter would hardly take his revenge by raising his brush and shovel, as equally respectable insignia of office. As the watermen and firemen, they do not, by the badges of their trade, claim any particular precedence in moral accomplishments, nor are their jackets and trowsers hieroglyphics of any particular creed, which others are bound to believe on pain of damnation. It is there the shoe pinches. Where external dress really denotes distinction of rank in other cases, as in the dress of officers in the army, those who might avail themselves of this distinction lay it aside as soon as possible; and unless very silly fellows or very great coxcombs, do not choose to be made a gazing-stock to women and children. But there is in the clerical habit something too sacred to be lightly put on or off: once a priest, and always a priest: it adheres to them as part of their function; it is the outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace; it is a light that must not be hid; it is a symbol of godliness, an edifying spectacle, an incentive to good morals, a discipline of humanity, and a momento mori, which cannot be too often before us. To lay aside their habit, would be an unworthy compromise of the interests of both worlds. It would be a sort of denying Christ. They therefore venture out into the streets with this gratuitous obtrusion of opinion and unwarrantable assumption of character wrapped about them, ticketed and labelled with the Thirty-Nine Articles, St Athanasius's, Creed, and The Ten Commandments,--with the Cardinal Virtues and the Apostolic Faith sticking out the very corner of their dress, and angling for the applause or contempt of the multitude. A full-dress ecclesiastic is a sort of go-car of divinity; an ethical automaton. A clerical prig is, in general, a very dangerous as well as contemptible character. The utmost that those who thus habitually confound their opinions and sentiment with the outside coverings of their bodies can aspire to, is a negative and neutral character, like wax-work figures, where the dress is done as much to the life as the man, and where both are respectable pieces of pasteboard, or harmless compositions of fleecy hosiery.

The bane of all religions has been the necessity (real or supposed) of keeping up an attention and attaching a value to external forms and ceremonies. It was, of course, much easier to conform to these, or to manifest a reverence for them, than to practise the virtues or understand the doctrines of true religion, of which they were merely the outward types and symbols. The consequence has been, that the greatest stress has been perpetually laid on what was the least value, and most easily professed. The form or religion has superseded the substance; the means have supplanted the end; and the sterling coin of charity and good works has been driven out of the currency, for the base counterfeits of superstition and intolerance, by all the money-changers and dealers in the temples established to religion throughout the world. Vestments and chalices have been multiplied for the reception of the Holy Spirit; the tagged points of controversy and lackered varnish of hypocrisy have eaten into the solid substance and texture of piety; "And all the inward acts of worship, issuing from the native strength of the soul, run out (as Milton expresses it) lavishly to the upper skin, and there harden into the crust of formality." Hence we have had such shoals of

"Eremites and friars,
White, black, and grey, with all their trumpery"----

Who have foisted their "idiot and embryo" inventions upon us for truth, and who have fomented all the bad passions of the heart, and let loose all their mischiefs of war, of fire, and famine, to avenge the slightest difference of opinion on any one iota of their lying creeds, or the slightest disrespect to any one of those mummeries and idle pageants which they had set up as sacred idols for the world to wonder at. We do not forget, in making these remarks, that there was a time when the persons who will be most annoyed and scandalized at them, would have taken a more effectual mode of showing their zeal and indignation; when to have expressed a free opinion on a Monk's cowl or a Cardinal's hat, would have exposed the writer who had been guilty of such sacrilege, to the pains and penalties of excommunication: to be burnt at an auto da fe, to be consigned to the dungeons of the Inquisition, or doomed to the mines of Spanish America; to have his nose slit, or his ears cut off, or his hand reduced to a stump. Such were the considerate and humane proceedings by which the Priests of former times vindicated their own honour, which they pretended to be the honour of God. Such was their humility, when they had the power. Will they complain now, if we only criticize the colour of a coat, or smile at the circumference of a Doctor of Divinity's wig, since we can do it with impunity? We cry them mercy!

------"Now make a spot or two,
Which so much virtue would do well to clear."

Many people seem to think, that the restraints imposed on the Clergy by the nature of their profession, take away from them, by degrees, all temptation to violate the limits of duty, and that the character grows to the cloth. We are afraid that this is not altogether the case.

How little can be done in the way of extracting virtues or intellect from a piece of broad-cloth or a beaver-hat, we have an instance in the Quakers, who are the most remarkable, and the most unexceptionable class of professors in this kind. They bear the same relation to genuine characters, not brought up in the trammels of dress and custom, that a clipped yew-tree, cut into the form of a peacock or an arm-chair, does to the natural growth of a tree in the forest, left to its own energies and luxuriance. The Quakers are docked into form, but they have no spirit left. They are without ideas, except in trade; without vices or virtues, unless we admit among the latter whose which we give as a character to servants when we turn them away, viz. "that they are cleanly, sober, and honest." The Quaker is, in short, a negative character, but it is the best that can be formed in this mechanical way. The Priest is not a negative character; he is something positive and disagreeable. He is not, like the Quaker, distinguished from others merely by singularity of dress and manner, but he is distinguished from others by pretension to superiority over them. His faults arise from his boasted exemption from the opposite vices; he has one vice running through all his others --hypocrisy. He is proud, with an affectation of humility; bigoted, from a pretended zeal for the truth; greedy, with an ostentation of entire contempt for the things of this world, professing self-denial, and always thinking of self-gratification; censorious, and blind to his own faults, intolerant, unrelenting, impatient of opposition, insolent to those below, and cringing to those above him, with nothing but Christian meekness and brotherly love in his mouth. He thinks more of external appearances than of his internal convictions. He is tied down to the opinions and prejudices of the world in every way. The motives of the heart are clogged and checked at the outset, by the fear of idle censure; his understanding is a slave to established creeds and formulas of faith. He can neither act, feel, or think for himself, or from genuine impulse. He plays a part through life. He is an actor upon a stage. The public are a spy upon him, and he wears a mask the better to deceive them. If in this sort of theatrical assumption of character he makes one false step, it may be fatal to him, and he is induced to have recourse to the most unmanly arts to conceal it, if possible. As he cannot be armed at all points against the flesh and the devil, he takes refuge in self-delusions and mental imposture, learns to play at fast and loose with his own conscience, and to baffle the vigilance of the public by dexterous equivocations; sails as near the wind as he can, shuffles with principle, is punctilious in matters of form and tries to reconcile the greatest strictness of decorum and regularity of demeanour with the least possible sacrifice of his own interest or appetites. Parsons are not drunkards, because it is a vice that is easily detected and immediately offensive; but they are great eaters, which is no less injurious to the health and intellect. They indulge in all the sensuality that is not prohibited in the Decalogue: they monopolize every convenience they can lay lawful hands on: and consider themselves as the peculiar favourites of Heaven, and the rightful inheritors of the earth. They are on a short allowance of sin; and are only the more eager to catch at all the stray bits and nice morsels they can meet. They are always considering how they shall indemnify themselves in smaller things, for their grudging self-denial in greater ones. Satan lies in wait of them in a pinch of snuff, and a plate of buttered toast, or the kidney end of a loin of veal. They lead their cooks the devil of a life. Their dinner is the principal event of the day. They say a long grace over it, partly to prolong the pleasure of expectation, and to keep others waiting. They are appealed to as the most competent judges, as arbiters deliciarum in all questions of the palate. Their whole thoughts are taken up in pampering the flesh, and comforting the spirit with all the little debasing luxuries which do not come under the sentence of damnation, or breed scandal in the parish. You find out their true character in those of them who have quitted the cloth, and think it no longer necessary to practise the same caution or disguise. You there find the dogmatism of the divine engrafted on the most lax speculations of the philosophical freethinker, and the most romantic professions of universal benevolence made a cover to the most unfeeling and unblushing spirit of selfishness. The mask is taken off, but the character was the same under a more jealous attention to appearances. With respect to one vice from which the Clergy are bound to keep themselves, clear, St. Paul has observed, that it is better to marry than burn. "Continents," says Hobbes, "have more of what they contain than other things." The Clergy are men: and many of them, who keep a sufficient guard over their conduct, are too apt, from a common law of nature, to let their thoughts and desires wander to forbidden ground. This is not so well. It is not so well to be always thinking of the peccadillos they cannot commit: to be hankering after the fleshpots of Egypt: to have the charms of illicit gratification enhanced by privations, to which others are not liable; to have the fancy always prurient, and the imagination always taking a direction which they themselves cannot follow.

"Where's that palace, whereunto foul things
Sometimes intrude not? Who has that breast so pure,
But some uncleanly apprehensions
Keep leets an law-days, and in session sit
With meditations lawful?"

But the mind of the Divine and Moralist by profession is a sort of sanctuary for such thoughts. He is bound by his office to be always detecting and pointing out abuses, to describe and conceive of them in the strongest colours, to denounce and abhor vice in others, to be familiar with the diseases of the mind, as the physician is with those of the body. But that this sort of speculative familiarity with vice leads to a proportionable disgust at it, may be made a question. The virtue of prudes has been thought doubtful: the morality of priests, even of those who lead the most regular lives, is not, perhaps, always "pure in the last recesses of the mind." They are obliged, as it were, to have the odious nature of sin habitually in their thoughts, and in their mouths; to wink, to make wry faces at it, to keep themselves in a state of incessant indignation against it. It is like living next door to a brothel, a situation which produces a greater degree of irritation against vice, and an eloquent abuse of those who are known to practise it, but is not equally favourable to the growth and cultivation of sentiments of virtue. To keep theoretical watch and ward over vice, to be systematic spies and informers against immorality, "while they the supervisors grossly gape on," is hardly decent. It is almost as bad as belonging to the Society for the Suppression of Vice --a Society which appears to have had its origin in much the same feeling as the monkish practice of auricular confession in former times. --Persons who undertake to pry into, or cleanse out all the filth of a common sewer, either cannot have very nice noses, or will soon lose them. Swift used to say, that people of the nicest imaginations have the dirtiest ideas. The virtues of the priesthood are not the virtues of humanity. They are not honest, cordial, unaffected, and sincere. They are the mask, not the man. There is always the feeling of something hollow, assuming, and disagreeable in them. There is something in the profession that does not sit easy on the imagination. You are not at home with it. Do you, or do you not, seek the society of a man for being a Parson? You would as soon think of marrying a woman for being an old maid!

To proceed to what we at first proposed, which was a consideration of the Clerical Character, less in connexion with private morality than with public principle. We have already spoken of the Dissenting Clergy as, in this respect, an honest exemplary body of men. They are so by the supposition, in what relates to matters of opinion. The Established Clergy of any religion certainly are not so, by the same self-evident rule; on the contrary, they are bound to conform their professions of religious belief to a certain popular and lucrative standard, and bound over to keep the peace by certain articles of faith. It is a rare felicity in any one who gives his attention fairly and freely to the subject, and has read the Scriptures, the Misnah, and the Talmud --the Fathers, the Schoolmen, the Socinian Divines, the Lutheran and Calvinistic controversy, with innumerable volumes appertaining thereto and illustrative thereof, to believe all the Thirty-nine Articles, "except one." If those who are destined for the episcopal office exercise their understanding honestly and openly upon every one of these questions, how little chance is there that they should come to the same conclusion upon them all? If they do not inquire, what becomes of their independence of understanding? If they conform to what they do not believe, what becomes of their honesty? Their estimation in the world, as well as their livelihood, depends on their tamely submitting their understanding to authority at first and on their not seeing reason to alter their opinion afterwards. Is it likely that a man will intrepidly open his eyes to conviction, when he sees poverty and disgrace staring him in the face as the inevitable consequence? Is it likely, after the labours of a whole life of servility and cowardice --after repeating daily what he does not understand, and what those who require him to repeat it do not believe, or pretend to believe, and impose on others only as a ready test of insincerity, and a compendious shibboleth of want of principle: after doing morning and evening service to the God of this world --after keeping his lips sealed against the indiscreet mention of the plainest truths, and opening them only to utter mental reservations --after breakfasting, dining and supping, waking and sleeping, being clothed and fed, upon a collusion, after saying a double grace and washing his hands after dinner, and preparing for a course of smutty jests to make himself good company,--after nodding to Deans, bowing to Bishops, waiting upon Lords, following in the train of Heads of Colleges, watching the gracious eyes of those who have presentations in their gift, and the lank cheek of those who are their present incumbents,--after finding favour, patronage, promotion, prizes, praise, promises, smiles, squeezes of the hand, invitations to tea and cards with the ladies, the epithets, "a charming man," "an agreeable creature," "a most respectable character," the certainty of reward and the hopes of glory, always proportioned to the systematic baseness of his compliance with the will of his superiors, and the sacrifice of every particle of independence, or pretence to manly spirit and honesty of character,--is it likely, that a man so tutored and trammelled, and inured to be his own dupe, and the tool of others, will ever in one instance out of thousands, attempt to burst the cobweb fetters which bind him in the magic circle of contradictions and enigmas, or risk the independence of his fortunes for the independence of his mind? Principle is a word that is not be be found in the the Young Clergyman's Best Companion: it is a thing he has no idea of, except as something pragmatical, sour, puritanical, and Presbyterian. To oblige is his object, not to offend. He wishes "to be confirmed to this world, rather than transformed." He expects one day to be a Court-divine, a dignitary of the Church, an ornament to the State; and he knows all the text of Scripture, which tacked to a visitation, an assize, or corporation-dinner sermon, will float him gently "like little wanton boys that swim on bladders," up to the palace at Lambeth. A hungry poet, gaping for solid pudding or empty praise, may easily be supposed to set about a conscientious revision and change of his unpopular opinions, from the reasonable prospect of a place or pension, and to eat his words the less scrupulously, the longer he has had nothing else to eat. A snug, promising, soft, smiling orthodox Divine, who has a living attached to the cure of souls, and whose sentiments are beneficed, who has a critical bonus for finding out that all the books he cannot understand are written against the Christian Religion, and founds the doctrine of the Trinity, and his hopes of a Bishopric, on the ignorant construction of a Greek particle, cannot be expected to change the opinions to which he has formerly subscribed his belief, with the revolutions of the sun or the changes of the moon. His political, as well as religious creed, installed in hopes, pampered in expectations; and the longer he winks and shuts his eyes and holds them close, catching only under their drooping lids, "glimpses that may make him less forlorn, " day-dreams of lawn-sleeves, and nightly beatific visions of episcopal mitres, the less disposed will he be to open them to the broad light of reason, or to forsake the primrose path of preferment, to tear and mangle his sleek tender-skinned conscience, dipped and softened in the milk-bath of clerical complaisance, among the thorns and briars of controversial divinity, or to get out on the other side upon a dark and dreary waste, amidst a crew of hereticks and schismatics, and Unitarian dealers in "potential infidelity" --

"Who far from steeples and their sacred sound,
In fields their sullen conventicles found."

This were too much to expect from the chaplain of an Archbishop.

Take one illustration of the truth of all that has been here said, and of more that might be said upon the subject. It is related in that valuable comment on the present reign and the existing order of things, Bishop Watson's Life, that the late Dr Paley having at one time to maintain a thesis in the University proposed to the Bishop, for his approbation, the following:--"That the eternity of Hell torments is contradictory to the goodness of God." The Bishop observed, that he thought this a bold doctrine to maintain in the face of the Church; but Paley persisted in his determination. Soon after, however, having sounded the opinions of certain persons, high in authority, and well read in the orthodoxy of preferment, he came back in great alarm, said he found the thing would not do, and begged, instead of his first thesis, to have the reverse one substituted in its stead, viz. --"That the Eternity of Hell torments is not contradictory to the goodness of God." --What burning daylight is here thrown on clerical discipline, and the bias of a University education! This passage is worth all Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, Wood's Athene Oxoniensis, and Mr Coleridge's two Lay Sermons. This same shuffling Divine is the same Dr Paley2, who afterwards employed the whole of his life and his moderate second-hand abilities, in tampering with religion, morality, and politics,--in trimming between his convenience and his conscience,--in crawling between heaven and earth, and trying to cajole both. His celebrated and popular work on Moral Philosophy, is celebrated and popular for no other reason, than that it is a somewhat ingenious and amusing apology for existing abuses of every description, by which anything is to be got. It is a very elaborate and consolatory elucidation of the text that men should not quarrel with their bread and butter. It is not an attempt to show what is right, but to palliate and find out plausible excuses for what is wrong. It is a work without the least value, except as a convenient common-place book or vade mecum, for tyro politicians and young divines, to smooth their progress in the Church or the State. This work is a text-book in the university: its morality is the acknowledged morality of the House of Commons. The Lords are above it. They do not affect that sort of casuistry, by which the country gentlemen contrive to oblige the Ministers, and to reconcile themselves to their constituents.

"Priests were the first deluders of mankind,
Who with vain faith made all their reason blind;
Not Lucifer hinself more proud than they,
And yet persuade the world they must obey;
Of avarice and luxury complain,
And practise all the vices they arraign.
Riches and honour they from laymen reap,
And with dull crambo feed the silly sheep.
As Killigrew buffons his master, they
Droll on their god, but a much duller way.
With hocus pocus, and their heavenly light,
They gain on tender consciences at night.
Whoever has an over-zealous wife
Becomes the priest's Amphitrio during life."
Marvell's State Poems.

This then is the secret of the alliance between Church and State --make a man a tool and a hypocrite in one respect, and he will make himself a slave and a pander in every other, that you can make it worth his while. Those who make a regular traffic of their belief in religion, will not be backward to compromise their sentiments in what relates to the concerns between man and man. He who is in the habit of affronting his Maker with solemn mockeries of faith, as the means of a creditable livelihood, will not bear the testimony of a good conscience before men, if he finds it a losing concern. The principle of integrity is gone; the patriotism of the religious sycophant is rotten at the core. Hence we find that the Established Clergy of all religions have been the most devoted tools of power. Priest-craft and Despotism have gone hand in hand --have stood and fallen together. It is this that makes them so fond and loving; so pious and so loyal; so ready to play the court-game into one another's hands, and so firmly knit and leagued together against the rights and liberties of mankind. Thus Mr Southey sings in laureat strains:--

"One fate attends the altar and the throne."

Yet the same peremptory versifier qualifies the Church of Rome with the epithets of that Harlot old,--

"The same that is, that was, and is to be," --

without giving us to understand whether in Popish countries the best and most "single-hearted" portion of Europe, the same lofty and abstracted doctrine holds good. This uncivil laureat has indeed gone so far in one of his "songs of delight and rustical roundelays", as to give the Princess Charlotte the following critical advice:--

"Bear thou that great Eliza in they mind,
Who from a wreck this fabric edified,

These lines seem to glance at contingent rebellion, at speculative treason: they have a squint, a strong case of the eye that way. But it is neither our business nor inclination to point out passages in prose or verse, for the aminadversion of the Attorney-General. Mr Croker, we fear, however, must have been greatly scandalised at this specimen of his friend's original mode of thinking for himself in such delicate matters as the cashiering of Kings and encouraging their daughters, as in duty bound, to stand up against them whenever Mr Southey pleases. Launce could not have been more put to it when his dog misbehaved "among the gentlemanlike dogs at the Duke's table" than the Admiralty Secretary at this faux-pas of Mr Southey's reformed Jacobin Muse. It was showing the lady's breeding to some purpose. This gratuitous piece of advice to a Protestant Princess is, however, just the reverse of that which Cardinal Wolsey gave to a Popish ruler of these realms, Henry VIII, before that Monarch saw reason to change his religious principles for a wife, as Mr Southey has changed his political ones for a pension. The Cardinal was almost as wise a man in his generation as Mr Southey is in his; saw as far into reasons of State, and argued by anticipation all the evils of anarchy and rebellion since his time on that very Protestant religion, which the modern courtier under the Protestant succession considers the only support of passive obedience and non-resistance. Cavendish, in his Memoirs, in the Harleian Miscellany, makes Wolsey on his death-bed give this testamentary advice to his Sovereign:--"And, Master Kingston, I desire you further to request his Grace, in God' s name that he have vigilant eye to suppress the hellish Lutherans, that they increase not through is great negligence, in such a sort as to be compelled to take up arms to subdue them, as the King of Bohemia was; whose commons being infected with Wickliff's heresies the King was forced to take that course. Let him consider the Story of King Richard the Second, the second son of his progenitor, who lived in the time of Wickliff's seditions and heresies: did not the commons, I pray you, in his time, rise against the nobility and chief governors of his realm; and, at last, some of them were put to death without justice or mercy? And, under pretence of having all things common, did they not fall to spoiling and robbing, and at last took the Kings' person and carried him about he city, making him obedient to their proclamations?" --(The author of Wat Tyler has given a very different version of this story,) --"Did not also the traitorous heritick, Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, pitch a field with hereticks against King Henry the Fourth, where the king was in person, and fought against them to whom God gave the victory? Alas! If these be not plain precedents and sufficient persuasion to admonish a Prince then God will take away from us our present rulers, and leave us to the hands of our enemies. And then will ensue mischief upon mischief, inconveniences, barrenness, and scarcity for want of good orders in the commonwealth, from which God of his tender mercy defend us." --Harleian Miscell., vol. Iv, p. 556.

The dying Cardinal might here be supposed to have foreseen the grand Rebellion, the glorious Revolution of 1688, the expulsion of the Stuarts, and the Protestant ascendancy, the American and French Revolutions --as all growing out of Wickliff's heresy, and the doctrines of the hellish Lutherans. Our laurel-honouring laureat cannot see all this after it has happened. Wolsey was a prophet; he is only a poet. Wolsey knew (and so would any man but a poet), that to allow men freedom of opinion in matters of religion, was to make them free in all other things. Mr Southey, who raves in favour of the Bourbons and against the Pope, is "blind with double darkness." He will assuredly never find that "single-heartedness" which he seeks, but in the bosom of the Church of Rome.

One mischief of this alliance between Church and State (which the old-fashioned Statesman understood so thoroughly and the modern sciolist only by halves) is, that it is tacit and covert. The Church does not profess to take any active share in affairs of State, and by this means is able to forward all the designs of indirect and crooked policy more effectually and without suspicion. The garb of religion is the best cloak for power. There is nothing so much to be guarded against as the wolf in sheep's clothing. The Clergy pretend to be neutral in all such matters, not to meddle with politics. But that is, and always must be, a false pretence. Those that are not with us, are against us, is a maxim that always holds true. These pious pastors of the people and accomplices of the government make use of their heavenly calling and demure professions of meekness and humility as an excuse for never committing themselves on the side of the people; but the same sacred and spiritual character, not to be sullied by mixing with worldly concerns, does not hinder them from employing all their arts and influence on the side of power and of their own interest. Their religion is incompatible with a common regard to justice or humanity; but it is compatible with an excess of courtly zeal. The officiating Clergyman at Derby the other day pestered Brandreth to death with importunities to inform against his associates but put his hand before his mouth when he offered to say what he know of Oliver, the Government-spy. This is not exactly as it should be; but it cannot both be otherwise than it is. Priests are naturally favourers of power, inasmuch as they are dependent on it. --The power over the mind is hardly sufficient of itself to insure absolute obedience to their authority without a reinforcement of power over the body. The secular arm must come in aid of the spiritual. The law is necessary to compel the payment of tythes. Kings and conquerors make law, parcel out lands, and erect churches and palaces for the priests and dignitaries of religion: "they will have them to show their mitred fronts in Courts and Parliaments"; and in return, Priests anoint Kings with holy oil, hedge them round with inviolability, spread over them the mysterious sanctity of religion, and, with very little ceremony, make over the whole species as slaves to these Gods upon earth by virtue of divine right! This is no losing trade. It aggrandizes those who are concerned in it, and is death to the rest of the world. It is a solemn league and covenant fully ratified and strictly carried into effect, to the very letter, in all countries, Pagan, Mohammedan, and Christian, --except this. It is time to put an end to it everywhere. But those who are pledged to its support and "by this craft have their wealth", have unfortunately remained of one opinion, quite "single-hearted" from the beginning of the world: those who, like Mr Southey, are for separating the Man of Sin from the Scarlet Whore, change their opinions once every five and twenty years. Need we wonder at the final results? Kings and priests are not such coxcombs or triflers as poets and philosophers. The two last are always squabbling about their share of reputation; the two first amicably decide the spoil. It is the opinion, we understand, of an eminent poet and a minute philosopher of the present day, the press ought to be shackled,--severely shackled; and particularly that the Edinburgh Review, the Examiner, and the Yellow Dwarf, as full off Examinerisms, ought to be instantly put down. Another poet or philosopher, who has not been so severely handled in these works, thinks differently; and so do we. Nay, Mr------himself has been a long time in coming to his opinion; and no wonder, for he had a long way to come in order to arrive at it. But all the Kings that ever were, and ninety-nine out of a hundred of all the Priests that surround them, jump at this conclusion concerning the fatal consequences for the Liberty of the Press --by instinct. We have never yet seen that greatest calamity than can befall mankind, deprecated by Mr Burke, namely, literary men acting in corps, and making common cause for the benefit of mankind, as another description of persons act in concert and make common cause against them. He himself was an instance how little need be dreaded in this way. If the National Assembly had sent for Burke over, to assist in framing a Constitution for them, the traitor to liberty and apostate from principle, instead of loading the French Revolution with every epithet of obloquy and execration which his irritable vanity and mercenary malice could invent, would have extolled it to the skies, as the highest monument of human happiness and wisdom. But the genius of philosophy, as he said, is not yet known. It is a subject which we shall shortly endeavour to make clear.

--------"At this day
When a Tartarean darkness overspreads
The groaning nations; when the impious rule,
By will or by established ordinance,
Their own dire agents, and constrain the good
To acts which they abhor; though I bewail
This triumph, yet the pity of my heart
Prevent me not from owning that the law,
By which mankind now suffers, is most just.

In another point of view, Priests are a sort of women in the State, and naturally subject to higher powers. The Church has no means of temporal advancement but through the interest and countenance of the State. It receives what the other is pleased to allow it as a mark of friendship, out of the public purse. The Clergy do not engage in active or lucrative professions: they are occupied with praise and prayer, and the salvation of souls --with heaping up for themselves treasure in heaven, and wrath upon their enemies' heads against the day of judgment. The candidate for Church preferment must therefore look for it as a free gift at the hands of the great and powerful; he must win his way to wealth and honours by "the sufferance of supernal power." The Church can only hope for a comfortable establishment in the world by finding favour, as a handmaid, in the eye of the State: The Church must wed the State, but for protection and a maintenance. The preacher of God's word looks for his reward in heaven, but he must live in the meantime. But he is precluded by the cloth and his spiritual avocation from getting on in the world by the usual means of interest or ambition. His only hope of advancement lies in the bishop's blessing and his patron's smile. These may in time translate him to a vacant diocese of l0,000L. a year . His labours in the cure of souls, or the settling of the most difficult point of controversial divinity, would not, on an average calculation bring him in a 100L. Parson Adams could not dispose of his manuscript sermons to the booksellers; and he ruined his hopes of preferment with Lady Booby, by refusing to turn pimp. Finally, the Clergy are lovers of abstract power, for they are themselves the representatives of almighty power: they are ambassadors of religion, delegates of heaven. The authority under which they act is not always respected so readily, cordially ,and implicitly, as it ought to be and they are indignant at the neglect. The become tetchy and imperious, and mingle the irritability of self-love with their zeal for the honour of God. They are not backward to call for fire from heaven, and to put down the Atheist and Schismatic by the strong hand of power. Fear God and honour the King, is the motto of priestcraft; but is not a sound logical dilemma, for this reason, that God is always the same; but Kings are of all sorts, good, bad, or indifferent --wise, or mad, or foolish, arbitrary tyrants, or constitutional Monarchs, like our own. The rule is absolute in the first case, not in the second. But the Clergy, by a natural infirmity, are disposed to force the two into a common analogy. They are servants of God by profession and, sycophants of power from necessity. They delight to look up with awe to Kings, as to another Providence. It was a Bishop, in the reign of James I, who drew a parallel between "their divine and sacred Majesties", meaning the pitiful tyrant whom he served and God Almighty: yet the Attorney-General of that day did not prosecute him for blasphemy. The Clergy fear God more than they love him. They think more of his power than of his wisdom or goodness. They would make Kings Gods upon earth; and as they cannot clothe them with the wisdom or beneficence of the Deity, would arm them with his power at any rate.3



1 Hazlitt's "The Speeches of Western and Broughan" is to be found in Political Essays (1819).

2 Here Hazlitt shows his feelings for William Paley (1743-1805), who, in 1790 published Horae Paulinae a work in which Paley set out to counter the idea that the New Testament was but a cunningly devised fable.

3 ("And for the Bishops (in Edward VI's days), they were so far from any such worthy attempts, as that they suffered themselves to be the common stales to countenance, with their prostituted gravities, every politick fetch that was then on foot, as oft as the potent Statists pleased to employ them. Never do we read that they made use of their authority, and high place of access, to bring the jarring nobility to Christian peace, or to withstand their disloyal projects: but if a toleration for Mass were to be begged of the King for his sister Mary, lest Charles the Fifth should be angry, who but the grave prelates, Cramner and Ridley, must be sent to extort it from the Young King! But out of the mouth of that godly and royal child, Christ himself returned such an awful repulse to those halting and time-serving Prelates, that, after much importunity they went their way, not without shame and tears." -- Milton -- Of Reformation in England, and the causes that have hitherto hindered it.) The original footnote found in the original work; I have, in turn, placed them in parentheses.


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Peter Landry