Intolerance of Protestants When In Power

HAVING expressed our views freely in former numbers of this paper, upon the intolerant spirit which is manifested by certain Protestants, in their indefatigable efforts to control and manage all the schools and fountains of mental improvement of our country, and to enforce their sectarian dogmas upon the community, without regard to the consciences, or constitutional rights of those who honestly dissent from their standards of orthodoxy; and also in the extraordinary exertions they have made to get our civil government committed, and our legislatures to so far transcend their constitutional power as to legislate upon the divine law; and having, with all, strongly repudiated the recent unprovoked persecution and slaughter of Catholics, for their religious faith; we have been most unceremoniously denounced by the “Holy Alliance,” as an advocate of the Catholics – a friend of publicans and sinners.

Even some of our brethren have evinced some symptoms of alarm lest we should indirectly encourage heresy, and be set down as an abettor of Romanists. But our friends will not find us insensible of the persecutions which have stained the history of the Romish church in former days and in other countries; but we contend that the evil is not peculiar to any one sect of religionists – other sects have been equally intolerant whenever they have had an opportunity. 

Let any religious sect among us receive the patronage of the government, then woe to the dissenters from their doctrines. If we were in need of testimony to demonstrate our position, beyond what is now staring us in the face, of recent events among us, we might refer our readers to the creeds and confessions taught, and the principles carried out in this and in other countries by the Presbyterians. [Not that we would, by any means, single out the Presbyterians any sooner than their mother church, the Catholics, for an example of intolerance; for, as we have said repeatedly, the spirit of intolerance is peculiar to no denomination of religionists, but common to all, when connected with worldly or secular power.]

Thomas Jefferson, after commenting on the danger that might arise to our country from the introduction of monarchical or other predilections by immigrants, warns us particularly against a more serious danger, growing out of the intolerance for which Presbyterianism has been distinguished in all ages. In Vol. IV., page 358, he remarks:

The atmosphere of our country is unquestionably charged with a threatening cloud of fanaticism, lighter in some parts, denser in others, but too heavy in all. I had no idea, however, that in Pennsylvania, the cradle of toleration and freedom of religion, it could have risen to the height you describe. This must be owing to the growth of Presbyterianism. Their ambition and tyranny would tolerate no rival, if they had power. Systematical at grasping at ascendency over all other sects, they aim at engrossing the education of the country; are hostile to every institution they do not direct; are jealous at seeing others begin to attend to that object.

On the same subject, he writes in his letter to William Short, (p. 322:) 

The Presbyterian clergy are the loudest, the most intolerant of all sects; the most tyrannical and ambitious; ready at the word of a lawgiver, if such a word could now be obtained, to put the torch to the pile, and to rekindle in this virgin hemisphere the flames with which their oracle, Calvin, consumed the poor Servetus, because he could not subscribe to the proposition of Calvin, that magistrates have a right to exterminate all heretics to the Calvinistic creed. They pant to reestablish by law that holy inquisition which they can now only infuse into public opinion.

To show the ground on which the illustrious statesman and champion of equal rights founded his warning, a late writer has collected. testimony from the most authentic history; he says:

It is necessary to give a slight sketch of the rise and progress of Presbyterianism, or at least a few extracts from the standards of that faith, from public confessions practically illustrated by penal enactments, and also from the writings of the chief framers and expounders of that doctrine.

We will commence with the confession of Helvetia, which teaches: 

That the magistracy ought to have the chief place in the world. His principal duty is to procure and maintain peace and public tranquility; to extirpate falsehood and all superstition, impiety, and idolatry, and shall defend the church of God; for indeed we teach that the care of religion doth chiefly appertain to the holy magistrate.

The Dutch confession declares that God… 

…hath armed the magistrate with a sword to punish the bad and to defend the good. Furthermore, it is their duty not only to preserve the civil policy, but also to endeavor that the ministry be preserved; that all idolatry and counterfeit worship be abolished, &c.

The confession of Saxony teaches that:

…the word of God doth in general declare this concerning the magistrate; first, that God wills that the magistrates, without all doubt, should sound forth the force of the moral law among men, according to the ten commandments, or law, natural bylaws forbidding idolatry and blasphemies,’ &c.; for well has it been said of old, ‘that the magistrate is a keeper of the law; i. e. of the first and second table, as concerning discipline and good order. This ought to be their special care (of kingdoms and their rulers,) to hear and embrace the true doctrine of the Son of God, and to cherish the churches, according to Psalm 2 and Psa. 24, and Isaiah 49, and kings and queens shall be thy nurses, i. e. let commonwealths be nurses of the church, and to godly studies.

The French confession declares: 

…that God hath delivered the sword into the magistrate’s hand, that no sins committed against both tables of God’s law, not only against the second but the first also may be suppressed.

The celebrated professor of theology, Turretin, thus explains the Geneva Confession: 

Magistrates have the right to restrain contumacious and obstinate heretics, who cannot be cured of their errors, and who disturb the peace of the Church, and even to inflict upon them due punishment, since magistrates are keepers of both tables, and the care of religion pertains to them,’ &c.

The Westminster Confession, chap. xx. art. 4, teaches that:

The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; yet he has authority, and it is his duty to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept true and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline be prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better affecting whereof, he hath the power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever be transacted in them be according to the mind of God.

The striking uniformity in all these Confessions for the consolidation of church and state government, must be observable by all; and had I time, I would here transfer the many scriptural testimonies which they have quoted as explanatory of the ‘mind of God,’ or more plainly speaking, as arguments for the accursed union of church and state. 

But, by way of illustrating these confessions, particularly of the Westminster Confession, which is the standard of Presbyterianism of this country, I would submit the following extracts from penal enactments, from the declarations of General Assemblies, &c.:

That papistry and superstition may be utterly suppressed, according to the acts of Parliament, repealed on the 5th Act Parl. King James VI. And to that end they ordain all papists and priests to be punished with manifold civil and ecclesiastical pains, as adversaries to God’s true religion, preached and by law established within the realm. (England.) Act 24, Parl. II, King James VI.

From the coronation oath in the National Covenant, we extract the following:

And they shall (the kings and princes) abolish and gainstand all false religion contrary to the same, (the Westminster Confession,) and they shall be careful to root out of their empire all heretics and enemies to the true worship of God.

‘So it cannot be denied, (see Declaration and Brotherly Exhortation, in the Acts of Assemblies, August, 1647,) that upon these passages and proceedings hath followed the interrupting of the so much longed for reformation of religion, of the settling by Presbyterian government, and of the suppressing of heresies and dangerous errors, which works the parliament had taken in hand.

We are also very sensible of the great and imminent dangers into which this common cause of religion is now brought by the growing and spreading of the most dangerous heresies in England, to the obstructing and hindering of the begun reformation; as namely, besides many others, Socinianism, Arminianism, Anabaptism, &c., and that which is called liberty of conscience, being, indeed, liberty of error, scandal, schism, heresy, dishonoring God, opposing the truth, hindering reformation, and seducing others.

Samuel Sewall In Sewall’s History, (Protestant,) p. 191, we find the following: 

In the year 1653, a law was made’ (against Quakers,) ‘which, besides imposing heavy penalties and imprisonments, extended to working in the house of correction, severe whipping, cutting off ears, and boring through their tongues with red hot irons, whether male or female, and such like inhuman barbarities.

ACCORDING to the same author, page 218. a law was made by the court of Boston, October 20, 1658; we extract a part: 

Whereas, there is a pernicious sect (commonly called Quakers,) do take upon them to change and alter the received laudable customs of our nation, and also to destroy the orders of the churches, by denying all established forms of worship; for prevention thereof, this court doth order and enact, that every person or persons being convicted to be of the sect of the Quakers, shall be sentenced to be banished upon pain of death.

It will be observed that these laws are in perfect harmony with the confessions above given, but the principal article found in all these confessions of faith, and in that of Presbyterianism of this country, and which they believe as a positive commandment revealed to them by Almighty God, is (Confession of Faith, pages 218, 219, Ques. 108,) 

the disapproving, detesting, opposing all false worship, and according to each one’s place and calling, removing it and all the monuments of idolatry.

Here is a pretended commandment from Almighty God, directly opposed to civil and religious liberty, hostile to all other denominations, and inimical to the Constitution of the United States, as that Constitution recognizes the right of all worshiping God according to their own predilections. 

We hope every friend of human rights will weigh it well. It is a commandment which enjoins upon all, from the petty tipstave in our courts up to the president of the United States, to ‘remove, according to each one’s place and calling, all false worship, and all the monuments of idolatry.’ But this we are told means ‘moral influence.’ ‘We are compelled to say that this meaning is sufficiently refuted by their history, by their penal enactments, by the writings of the chief framers and expounders of their doctrines, who persecuted, and also by the scriptural quotations which they have adduced as confirming the warrant for their inhuman and intolerant persecutions. The seventh chapter of Deuteronomy, referred to particularly, is very expressive on this point. Verse 2 says, And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee, thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them.

Verse 5: But thus ye shall deal with them, ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire,’ &c.

For practical illustrations of these verses, or rather of the whole seventh chapter of Deuteronomy, and of the meaning of ‘moral influence,’ I would merely advert to the cantons of Switzerland, where the Presbyterians banished the Baptists under penalty of death if they returned; in the canton of Zurich, where (see Ruchet’s History, Protestant, of the Reformation in Switzerland, vol. iii. page 99,) they decreed that not only Baptists themselves, and those who protected them, should be but to death, but that all non-informants would be condemned as perjurers to imprisonment and exile; and in Berne, where they extirpated the same denomination, beheading the men and drowning the women. Singular illustration of ‘removing all false worship,’ truly, by ‘moral influence.’ 

Look, too, in Holland where they drove the remonstrants out of their churches, plundered them of their property, condemned the Arminians, deprived them of the exercise of their religion, banished their ministers, racked to death the Lutherans, and quartered the Catholics. 

View them in Geneva, burning heretics at the stake; in Scotland, putting those to death who said or heard mass three times; in England, depriving the Episcopalians of the book of Common Prayer; in Ireland, murdering the Catholics like wild beasts; and in New England, persecuting the Quakers, stripping men and women half naked, fastening them to cart tails, dragging them through the surrounding towns, while scourging them unmercifully upon their backs, imprisoning them, confiscating their goods, cutting off their ears, boring their tongues through with red hot irons, and at last hanging them upon an ignominious gallows. Verily these are striking exemplifications of ‘removing all false worship’ by ‘moral influence.’

CALVIN IS regarded as the founder of Presbyterianism, although few of that order retain at this day much more than his persecuting spirit, which is shown up in history in connection with acts of the most barbarous cruelty against those who refused to embrace his theory. After plundering Servetus of his property – confining him in a damp prison till “he was almost eaten up with vermin,” denying him an advocate, loading him with every indignity that barbarity could invent, and at last burning him at the stake, he wrote a work entitled “A faithful account of the errors of Michael Servetus, in which it is proved that heretics ought to be restrained with the sword.” In a letter to Marques de Poet, dated September 30th, 1561, he says, 

Honor, glory and riches shall be the reward of your pains; but above all, do not fail to rid the country of those zealous scoundrels who stir up the country to revolt against us. Such monsters should be exterminated, as I have exterminated Michael Servetus, the Spaniard. (See Robinson’s Researches, p. 340.)

John Knox, the reputed founder of Presbyterianism in Scotland, and who, according to Doctor Heylin, characterized the cold blooded assassination of Beaton as a “godly act,” laid down these principles:

Ye are bound to remove from honor, and punish with death, (if the crime so require) such as deceive the people, or defraud of that food of their souls; I mean the lively word. Knox’s History of Reform, p. 10.

None provoking the people to idolatry ought to be exempted from the punishment of death. Page 21.

It is not only lawful to punish to the death such as labor to subvert the true religion; but the magistrates and the people are bound to do so, unless they would provoke the wrath of God against themselves. Page 25.

Intimation was made to others as to the abbott of Corraguel, the parson of Saughn, and such, that they should neither complain to the Queen nor council, but should execute the punishment that God has appointed idolaters wherever they should be found. Page 352.

Edwards, says Neal’s [History of the Puritans], when addressing the civil rulers respecting the commandment, “removing all false worship,” declared, 

A connivance at and suffering without punishment, such false doctrines and disorders, provokes God to send judgments. A toleration doth eclipse the glory of the most excellent reformation, and makes the sins to be the sins of the legislature that countenances them. A magistrate should use coercive power to punish and suppress evil, as appears from the example of Eli.

Again, says Edwards: 

“…toleration will make the kingdom a chaos, a Babel, another Amsterdam, a Jordan, an Egypt, a Babylon. Toleration is the groundwork of the devil, his masterpiece and chief engine to uphold his tottering kingdom. It is a most compendious, ready and sure way to destroy all religion, lay waste, and bring in all evil. It is a most transcendent, Catholic and fundamental evil. As original sin is the fundamental sin, having the seed and spawn of all sins in it, so toleration hath all errors in it and all evils.” See Verplank’s Discoveries, pps. 23 and 24.

“My judgment,” says Baxter, another celebrated divine, “I have always freely made known. I abhor unlimited liberty, or toleration of all.”

As we have before said, we would by no means single out the Presbyterians as the only sect possessing a spirit of intolerance: the same proscriptive and intolerant spirit has always characterized every system of worldly religion, from the days of Cain to the present time; and at this day that spirit is as rife among those Baptists who have drunk in the worldly principles of Protestants and Catholics, as among any other sects, according to the degree of worldliness, human wisdom, human power and human means, they have incorporated into their religious faith and practice. 

The poor Old School Baptists would not long escape the prison, the cart tail scourge or the stake, if the secular power were in the hands of New School Baptists. Already have some of them recommended the penitentiary for the correction of Old School Baptists; and others have prayed that we may be laid quietly away, where our “croaking may no longer disturb the onward move of their car of salvation.”

That there are or may be many among the Presbyterians who cherish no such feeling against their religious opponents as those attributed to their order in the foregoing examples, we will not dispute; and there may be some exceptions also among other worldly sects of religionists: but it is too palpably true to admit of contradiction, that at this day the various orders of Presbyterians lead the van, in pressing upon our legislatures, that it is their duty to use the sword in defence of their religious tenets. Who are they at this very time laboring to persuade the legislatures to incorporate religious drilling under legal provisions and penal enactments with our common school instructions? And who are loudest and foremost in asking for and receiving from our government chartered privileges and exemptions? And who are now receiving from the funds of our state and nation more than three-fourths of all the money appropriated for educational purposes, and thereby enabled to grasp the control of by far the greater number of all the collegiate institutions of our country? 

Let the Presbyterians themselves answer these interrogatories. Doctor E. S. Ely declared, years ago, that “Two-thirds of all the colleges, theological seminaries and academic institutions in this country are under the instruction and control of the Presbyterians.” Another of their divines (Doctor Barton) has said, “When all our colleges are under our control, it will establish our sentiments and influence so that we can manage the civil government as we please.” “They aim,” as Jefferson said truly, “at engrossing the education of the country.” 

In what way, their own publications will best illustrate. The Sunday School Union have in various reports declared their intention “to force out of circulation” all such elementary books as disagree with their views, to “revise and alter” – “yet keep their titles” – to change the ideas of authors, and to. become “dictators to the consciences of thousands of immortal beings!” See Appendix to Doctor Ely’s sermon, published with remarks by himself in 1828. Also Preface to the catalogue of Sunday School Books for 1826. And what is their object in thus dictating to the consciences of thousands of immortal beings? The Appendix to Second Annual Report of Sunday School Union, 1826, page 93, gives the answer: “In ten years, or certainly in twenty, the political power of our country would be in the hands of men whose characters have been formed under the influence of Sabbath Schools.”

In perfect harmony with these declarations, the Presbyterians, aided by other sects, including New School Baptists, have been operating by manufacturing public opinion through the agency of Sunday Schools and other kindred institutions, and in dictating to the consciences of thousands of immortal beings, through the legislatures, until now their plans of operation are so far matured and so firmly established as to almost defy opposition.

In regard to their seizure of our schools, perhaps they have gone further in this than in any other state. Here they have not only managed to place about two-thirds of all our educational funds at the disposal of the Regents of the university, composed in part of clergymen, and by appropriations made by the legislature to the use of colleges and academies which, by their own admission, are principally under the control of Presbyterians; but they have got a Normal School established at Albany, under the supervision and control of the Regents and the State Superintendent, to drill those who are to have charge of our common schools. 

Thus by one sweeping stroke of legislative power, all the educational institutions of our state, and according to their own declarations, they have now the instruments of controlling the political affairs of our state, and of dictating to the consciences of immortal beings. All that is now wanting for the consummation of their most ambitious desires, is to first have time to prepare a sufficient number of pupils at the Normal School to monopolize all the common schools of our state, and then persuade the other states of the Union to imitate the example of this state. Let this policy be extended, as powerful efforts are now being made to extend it throughout the United States, and the entire rising generation must be at the mercy of those conscience dictators; parents are no longer to choose what books shall be read; all books obnoxious to the interests of Sunday Schools or the church and state establishment, must be forced out of use. 

Already has the legislature vested a power in the superintendents to remove books from our school libraries which they may deem objectionable; but this is not all: the people are not to be allowed to judge for themselves as to the qualifications of, or to select their own school teachers. Agents, subservient to the wishes of the Regents, are to decide who shall teach and what shall be taught. “Religion, but not sectarianism,” they say, “must be taught in our schools” – such religion as all religious sects are agreed in. But what kind of religion is there in which all sects agree? It is idle to talk of all agreeing upon religious subjects. But if all the human family were perfectly agreed in their preference for pure bible religion, that religion could not be taught in schools as a science, for it is purely a revelation.

The following article, which we copy from the New England Puritan, goes to establish the correctness of our position, that no religion can be taught that is not sectarian, and also that the Presbyterian Puritans desire to avail themselves of our schools for the inculcation of their sectarian tenets. The editor of the Puritan, however, is less reserved in avowing the convictions of his own mind upon the subject, and so far we commend his honesty; if others would speak out as plainly what they mean, we think there would he less danger of misleading the public mind:

The School Question

THE hostile interests of different sects touching the subject of religious instruction in the public schools, are ominous of serious disturbance, sooner or later, to our system of popular education. In the state of New York the matter has already assumed a serious aspect. And we see not but that the same reasons and motives will eventually operate to similar results in all the other states. 

Indeed, the laws of Massachusetts, while they expressly require moral and religions teaching in the common schools, do in the next breath virtually exclude it; for they require all teaching to be excluded which favors any particular sect, or which is opposed to the views of any sect. And as there is almost no religious truth which some of the sects among us do not oppose, there can be no religious teaching in our schools without a violation of this part of the law. But as the law contradicts itself touching this matter, those who do teach and those who do not teach religion, are equally obedient to the law. And there is, in the smaller towns especially, where sects have not been so much multiplied, much of religious teaching yet remaining.

But the question must yet come up for a practical solution, whether or not religion shall be excluded from our schools. And it is time that the true principle of action in such a case were better defined. As religion – and evangelical religion – the religion of the Puritans – is the parent of the common school system, it would seem that she ought to retain her influence in the schools. As religion is the foundation and prop of all our civil institutions, and as that moral influence which religious teaching imparts is essential to give our common schools their value in preserving our frets institutions, it would seem to be self-evident that, for civil purposes, religion should and must be taught in our common schools.

Then, on the other hand, the genius of our institutions protects the interests of all sects; and men of no religion come in under some sects, and claim to have their rights allowed and their children protected from religious truth! Now what shall we say? Is the theory of our government here at war with itself? Perhaps not: still, here is a difficulty for which it has made no provision. And how shall this difficulty be met? It is useless to think of finding a code of religion and morals, that can be at all effective, against which no sect would object. Give to each and all sects the liberty to erase what they will from the system of revealed religion, and then give the Papists liberty to throw out the whole bible at once, and the remnant would not be worth teaching.

There seems to be but one way to avoid this difficulty; and that is, to separate the schools and the state, as we have separated the church and the state. There would be evils attending this measure; but the question is, whether they would be greater than the evil of wholly divorcing religion and science. If there is any way in which the religion of Jesus can have a place in the instructions of our common schools, and yet no sect, christian or infidel, complain of it very well. But if there be no such way, is it not better for each sect to have its own schools, and teach religion fully and faithfully after its own fashion? Where the state has funds for the support of schools, they might be distributed according to some equitable ratio; and the some tax which is now laid might, if expedient, be continued, and the sum distributed to different schools in just proportion fixed by law.

It is not pretended that there would be no loss in this mode of action. There might be a difficulty in that case for securing so general an education of the people, inasmuch as the religious part of the community would be less likely to have schools for their children; and there might be some difficulty in carrying out a satisfactory distribution of the funds.

But these and other difficulties might be, at least in part, compensated. In that case there would be a freer and more unrestrained action in religious teaching. A large part of the community would have an education vastly better than they now have. So far as the religious part of the community are concerned, the teaching would do far more than it now does to uphold the pillars of state; and the irreligious part would have hardly less of religious teaching than they now have.

And further, the influence and efficacy of religious instruction would then be practically tested. We should have religious and irreligious schools, and we should see the difference in the results. We should see also how well, and how long the enemies of religion would remain the friends of education when set off by themselves. Teachers of religious schools would then give more religious instruction.

Thus some great and practical questions would have elucidation by the change. Religion might gain a great advantage by being allowed to stand by herself and on her own institutions. God has once affectingly illustrated the power of Puritanism, and given it the exclusive honor of being the foster mother of free and healthy education. In suffering, at the present time, this conflict to come up, throwing asunder the educational efforts of the different sects, he may be preparing in another form, to illustrate the same great principle.

Gilbert Beebe 
New Vernon, N.Y. - 1845

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