A KNOWLEDGE of what this Government will become when its legislators surrender fully to the demands of the clergy, and its laws are modeled after (their ideas of) the will of God, is not dependent upon theory or logic. It is furnished us by the plain testimony of historical facts.
There is nothing new under the sun,—not even the “National Reform” theory of government. Indeed, that theory is older than the theory expressed in our national Constitution, and has been many times put upon trial. History is full of instruction upon this point; but her lessons are never sufficiently learned by the generality of mankind. This is why history—evil history—so peristently [sic.] repeats itself.
We have not to go back very far into the past to find the information sought. Nor are we obliged to turn to Roman Catholic lands. Indeed, those most active in National Reform work are the descendants of the old Scottish Covenanters, and it is the Scottish Covenanter theory of government which they are seeking to establish in this country. That theory was once well established in Scotland, and very interesting to enlightened people in this age is the record of the proceedings under it. That record may be found in “Buckle’s History of Civilization.” First, however, by way of introduction, we quote the following from the “Encyclopedia Britannica,” article, “Presbyterianism“:—
For the spiritual tyranny which they [the Covenanters] introduced the reader should refer to Mr. Buckle’s famous chapter; or, if he thinks those statements to be partial or exaggerated, to original records, such as those of the Presbyterian of St. Andrews and Cupar. The arrogance of the ministers’ pretensions and the readiness with which these pretensions were granted, the appalling conceptions of the Deity which were inculcated, and the absence of all contrary expression of opinion, the intrusions on the domain of the magistrate, the vexatious interference in every detail of family and commercial life, and the patience with which it was borne, are to an English reader alike amazing. “We acknowledge,” said they, “that according to the latitude of the Word of God (which is our theme) we are allowed to treat in an ecclesiastical way of greatest and smallest, from the king’s throne that should be established in righteousness, to the merchant’s balance that should be used in faithfulness.” The liberality of the interpretation given to this can only be judged of after minute reading.
Turning now to “Buckle’s famous chapter” (chapter V. of his “History of Civilization”), we find the following (the notes, in brackets, being from Buckle’s foot-notes in proof of his statements):—
“According to the Presbyterian polity, which reached its height in the seventeenth century, the clergyman of the parish selected a certain number of laymen on whom he could depend, and who, under the name of elders, were his councillors, or rather the ministers of his authority. They, when assembled together, formed what was called the Kirk-Session, and this little court, which enforced the decisions uttered in the pulpit, was so supported by the superstitious reverence of the people, that it was far more powerful than any civil tribunal. By its aid, the minister became supreme. For, whoever presumed to disobey him was excommunicated, was deprived of his property, and was believed to have incurred the penalty of eternal perdition.”
“The clergy interfered with every man’s private concerns, ordered how he should govern his family, and often took upon themselves the personal control of his household. [Clarendon, under the year 1640, emphatically says, “The preacher reprehended the husband, governed the wife, chastised the children, and insulted over the servants, in the houses of the greatest men.”—Note 26.] Their minions, the elders, were everywhere; for each parish was divided into several quarters, and to each quarter one of these officials was allotted, in order that he might take special notice of what was done in his own district. Besides this, spies were appointed, so that nothing could escape their supervision.”
Sunday observance was enforced in a manner which, to even the strictest National Reformer, would have been unexceptionable:—
“Not only the streets, but even private houses, were searched, and ransacked, to see if any one was absent from church while the minister was preaching.” [In 1652, the Kirk Session of Glasgow “brot boyes and servants before them, for breaking the sabbath and other faults. They had clandestine censors, and gave money to some for this end.” And by the Kirk-Session, Presbytery, and Synod of Aberdeen, it was “thochy expedient that ane Baillie with tua of the session pas throw the towne everie sabboth-day, and nott [note] sic as they find absent fra the sermons ather afoir or after none [either before or after noon]: and for that effect that thoy pas and sersche sic house as they think maist meit, and pas athort the streittis.” “Ganging throw the towne on the ordinar preiching days in the welk, als weill as on the sabboth-day to cause the people to resort to the sermons. “The session allous the searchers to go into houses and apprehend absents from the Kirk.]”—Notes 28, 29.
The preacher was exalted to a position which, in the public mind, must have been but little short of the place of deity:—
“To him [the minister], all must listen, and him all must obey. Without the consent of his tribunal, no person might engage himself either as a domestic servant, or as a field laborer. If any one incurred the displeasure of the clergy, they did not scruple to summon his servants and force them to state whatever they know respecting him, and whatever they had seen done in his house. [In 1652, Sir Alexander Irvine indignantly writes, that the Presbytery of Aberdeen, “when they had tried many wayes, bot in vaine, to mak probable this their vaine imaginatione, they, at lenthe, when all other meanes failed thame, by ane unparalleled barbaritie, enforced mny serwandis to reweall upon oathe what they sawe, herd, or knewe done within my house, beyond which no Turkische inquisitione could pase.”—Note 31.] To speak disrespectfully of a preacher was a grievous offense; to differ from him was a heresy; even to pass him in the streets without saluting him, was punished as a crime. His very name was regarded as sacred, and not to be taken in vain. And that it might be properly protected, and held in due honor, an assembly of the church, in 1642, forbade it to be used in any public paper unless the consent of the holy man had been previously obtained.”
The “law and order” leagues, city vigilance leagues, and “societies for the prevention of crime,” were very numerous:—
“The arbitrary and irresponsible tribunals, which now sprung up all over Scotland, united the executive authority with the legislative, and exercised both functions at the same time. Declaring that certain acts ought not to be committed, they took the law into their own hands, and punished those who had committed them. According to the principles of this new jurisprudence, of which the clergy were the authors, it became a sin for any Scotchman to travel in a Catholic country. It was a sin for any Scotch innkeeper to admit a Catholic into his inn. It was a sin for any Scotch town to hold a market either on Saturday or on Monday, because both days were near Sunday. It was a sin for a Scotchwoman to wait at a tavern; it was a sin for her to live alone; it was also a sin for her to live with unmarried sisters. It was a sin to go from one town to another on Sunday, however pressing the business might be. It was a sin to visit your friend on Sunday…. On that day horse exercise was sinful; so was walking in the fields or in the meadows, or in the streets, or enjoying the fine weather by sitting at the door of your own house. To go to sleep on Sunday, before the duties of the day were over, was also sinful, and deserved church  censure.” [The records of the Kirk Session of Aberdeen, in 1656, have this entry: “Cite Leobell Balfort, servand to William Gordone, tailyeor, being found sleeping at the Loche side on the Lord’s day in tyme of sermon.”—Note 186].
At the “Kirk,” the prayers averaged nearly two hours in length, and the “sermons” about three hours and a half; yet it was a great sin even for the children to become tired before they were ended:—
“Halyburton, addressing the young people of his congregation, says: ‘Have not you been glad when the Lord’s day was over, or at least, when the preaching was done that ye might get your liberty? Has it not been a burden to you, to sit so long in the church? Well, this is a great sin.’”—Note 186.
“Heresy,” or “pretended liberty of conscience,” was the crime of crimes, and to be punished accordingly:—
[“Rutherford’s Free Disputation against Pretended Liberty of Conscience” says: “We hold that toleration of all religions is not farre from blasphemy.” “If wolves be permitted to teach what is right in their own erroneous conscience, and there be no ‘magistrate to put them to shame,’ Judges 18:7, and no king to punish them, then godliness and all that concerns the first table of the law must be marred.” “Wilde and atheisticall liberty of conscience.”—Notes 199, 200.]
“They taught that it was a sin to tolerate his [the heretic’s] notions at all, and that the proper course was to visit him with sharp and immediate punishment. Going yet further, they broke the domestic ties, and set parents against their offspring. They taught the father to smite the unbelieving child and to slay his own boy sooner than to allow him to propagate error. [“A third benefit (which is a branch of the former), is zeal in the godly against false teachers, who shall be so tender of the truth and glory of God and the safety of the church (all which are endangered by error), that it shall overcome natural affection in then; so that parents shall not spare their own children, being seducers, but shall either by an heroick act (such as was in Pineas, Numbers 25:8), themselves judge him worthy to die, and give sentence, and execute it, or cause him to be punished, by bringing him to the magistrate…. The toleration of a false religion in doctrine or worship, and the exemption of the erroneous from civil punishment, is not more lawful under the New Testament than it was under the Old.”—Hutcheson’s Exposition on the Minor Prophets, the Prophets, the Prophecie of Zechariah—Note 201.]
“As if this were not enough, they tried to extirpate another affection, even more sacred and more devoted still. They laid their rude and merciless hands on the holiest passion of which our nature is capable, the love of a mother for her son. Into that sanctuary, they dared to intrude; into that they thrust their grant and ungentle forms. If a mother held opinions of which they disapproved they did not scruple to invade her household, take away her children, and forbid her to hold communication with them. Or if, perchance, her son had incurred their displeasure, they were not satisfied with forcible separation, but they labored to corrupt her heart, and harden it against her child, so that she might be privy to the act. In one of these cases mentioned in the records of the church of Glasgow, the Kird-Session of that town summoned before them a woman, merely because she had received into her own house her own son, after the clergy had excommunicated him. So effectually did they work upon her mind, that they induced her to promise, not only that she would shut her door against the child, but that she would aid in bringing him to punishment. She had sinned in loving him; she had sinned, even, in giving him shelter; but, says the record, ‘she promised not to do it again, and to tell the magistrates when he comes next to her.’
“She promised not to do it again. She promised to forget him whom she had borne of her womb and suckled at her breast. She promised to forget her boy, who had ofttimes crept to her knees, and had slept in her bosom, and whose tender frame she had watched over and nursed…. To hear of such things is enough to make one’s blood surge again, and raise a tempest in our inmost nature. But to have seen them, to have lived in the midst of them, and yet not to have rebelled against them, is to us utterly inconceivable, and proves in how complete a thralldom the Scotch were held, and how thoroughly their minds, as well as their bodies, were enslaved.
“What more need I say? What further evidence need I bring to elucidate the real character of one of the most detestable tyrannies ever seen on the earth? When the Scotch Kirck was at the height of its power, we may search history in vain for any institution which can compete with it, except the Spanish Inquisition. Between these two there is a close and intimate analogy. Both were intolerant, both were cruel, both made war upon the finest parts of human nature, and both destroyed every vestige of religious freedom.”
It may be said, of course, that all this was back in the seventeenth century, when men where narrow and bigoted in their ideas, and intolerant in matters of religion. Yes, that was the seventeenth century, when men were bigoted and self-opinionated and revengeful, and hated others who differed from them, and lusted for power in both civil and spiritual affairs; and this is the nineteenth century, when human nature is exactly the same that it was then. To-day men are narrow-minded, bigoted, full of prejudices and passions, and as eager to obtain power and to use it for any purpose they may see fit, as they ever were in the past. Let the “National Reform” party succeed—let there be a resurrection of the Scottish Covenanter theory of government in this land, and there will a chapter in our national history parallel to that in Scotland’s history to which we have referred.
We present no arraignment of clergymen, as such; we ourselves believe and preach the gospel of salvation through Christ. If we did not, the AMERICAN SENTINEL would not be published. But there are clergymen and clergymen—some who are eager to get control of civil affairs in order that they may be conducted on a “Christian” basis, and others who see that compulsion in religious matters is contrary to the gospel, and ruinous to both the Church and the State. The clergymen who would assume control of civil affairs if they could, are not to be trusted. And, sad to say, they are a numerous and growing company in our fair land, and are able to marshal a mighty host of adherents.
The proper administration of civil affairs for the preservation of peace and order, is through the regularly constituted and authorized officials of the government, and not through the clergy, or through “Law and Order” leagues, “City Vigilance” leagues, Epworth leagues, “Christian Endeavor” leagues, societies for the “Prevention of Crime,” or anything else of the sort. If the regularly-constituted officials of the government are not trustworthy, let others be appointed in their place; if they are not sufficiently numerous, let the number be increased. But let religion be kept out of politics, and to all those of whatever profession who would seize upon the civil power in the interests of a religious theory of government, let it be emplatically [sic.] said, “Hands off.”