Saturday, September 24, 2005

Pillars of the Priestcraft and Orthodoxy Shaken

The following is the introduction to a long out of print book. I hope to make it available soon as it contains a compilation of some of the most revealing of pamphlets and publications that were published in pre-War for Independence America.

These sermons and public postings reveal the mindset of the culture as it then existed. May it be again.

The priest-craft of which the author speaks are all those who would attempt to create an elite class of individuals who alone possess truth and understanding. In those days the papists had hijacked both religious and civil authority so as to establish their base of power and control. Tyranny was the outcome.

Today, there is another priest-craft which has accomplished the same thing, though often they wear other garments than priestly robes. Nonetheless, they are a priest-craft, arbiters of truth and knowledge, truth and knowledge, they say, which the common man is incapable of understanding or perceiving without their "help."

Beware such workers of darkness whether Roman or Protestant, Democrat or Republican, judges or lawyers, pastors or laymen; they are all the same and always have been.

The Pillars of Priestcraft and Orthodoxy Shaken

------------- And now
To final battle draw, disdaining flight,
Or faint retreat.


The high priests look aghast, the people stare, and all cry out the craft, the craft is in danger!


To Samuel Rhodes, Esq. Of Highgate in Middlesex,


The design of this Collection being to emancipate the minds of men, and to free them from those chains in which they have been long held to the great disgrace both of reason and Christianity, I beg leave to dedicate the first volume to you and I do it with great alacrity and pleasure, as I am thoroughly persuaded that every attempt to serve the glorious cause of liberty and truth, will be acceptable to a man of your excellent spirit.

In countries enslaved all truth is rigorously suppressed, all avenues to religious knowledge and free enquiry are carefully blocked up and it is penal, sometimes capital, to oppose what power hath decreed and established. A few ages ago, our own country was in the same doleful condition; when nothing could be published but what supported superstition and tyranny, when the Priests had the direction of the press, and restrained it to their own vile purposes; to keep the people in ignorance and bondage, But, thanks to Heaven! Our lot has fallen in happier times and the only way to preserve our liberty, is to assert it; and to oppose all such principles and practices as are in inconsistent with it, or which threaten and endanger the loss of it.

The worth of liberty is inestimable; it comprehends all human felicity; and it is impossible for any man to love God or his country, that does not study to prolong its date to the utmost of his power. Where liberty is gone, all is gone that is precious and dear to men! For this reason, it may be justly expected that all who are friends to mankind, will oppose priest-craft and spiritual tyranny, as these have been ever found the greatest foes to truth and the happiness of men. In the professors of Christianity this is a most indispensable duty, both from a regard to men’s temporal good and from that concern which they ought to have for the honor and purity of their religion. It is certain that nothing has been a greater hindrance to the reception of this religion among men, nothing has more obstructed its progress in the world, than the absurd and selfish doctrines, the superstitious and foolish practices, which have been blended with it and fathered upon it. To free it from these, would be the means of recommending it to all men and it is very probable, that when one it is separated from all heterogeneous and foreign mixtures, its divinity will be acknowledged, and all men will readily embrace it.

When Christianity first appeared, it was a light to the world; it comforted and made glad the heart of man; but the corruptions, inventions, and additions of after-ages, rendered it a disgrace to human reason, a burden and curse to human kind. For many centuries it was buried under such a mass of superstition, that it could not be distinguished from the worst sort of Paganism itself. In Christendom all was darkness, horror, and chains. Here is an everlasting reason for opposing all Priests, and an unanswerable argument against all their claims of power and authority. For, from the power and pride of Priests it was, that all these terrible evils arose. Not content with being pastors and ministers according to the primitive institution, they set up for Lords and Rulers: And when they were become masters of all things, and wielded both spiritual and civil sword, it was death and damnation to resist them.

Does it not highly concern all Christians, to know and consider these things? If men had exercised their reason, or understood their just rights, their Christian liberty, could they possibly have been thus blinded and enslaved? And is not this ample warning to all Protestant States, that have in some measure recovered their liberty, to guard against all priestly encroachments, to break every remaining yoke, and to encourage a spirit of free enquiry in their people, as what alone can preserve and perpetuate liberty? If neither bitter experience of past ages, nor the dreadful conditions of Popish countries at this day, can open our eyes, and teach us wisdom, we must be the blindest, the most insensible, the most stupid and infatuated of all people.

Of late years religious knowledge hath greatly increased in this nation, and the nature and design of Christianity are now better understood than ever, but of what avail are all the improvements in knowledge, if we must still be slaves to the laws and customs, the doctrines and practices of dark and barbarous ages? How can we blame Papists for following the Tradition, tho’ contrary to the light both of reason and revelation, when we ourselves are the most proliferate worshippers of custom, and reverence error for antiquity’s sake? Better be in ignorance, than thus hold the Truth in unrighteousness, to slash in our faces and condemn us!

Whoever compares the Scriptures with the articles and canons of our church, [Anglican Church], may soon see how little we have of Christian Liberty, and what remains there still are of popish corruption and tyranny. Can any man reconcile the right of private judgment, and the apostolical injunction to prove all things, with the twentieth article of the church, by which the Priests claim a power over all human understanding, and by denying us a right to think for ourselves, treat us as brute beasts?

Let them shew us, if they can, how the use of reason and their damning creeds agree; and the consistency of cursing in churches, or that it is less shocking for men to damn their neighbors in the worship of God, than in the ale-house of a gin-shop!

It can never be s just defence of these things to tell us that they are established by law. Human authority is not the standard of Truth; nor is it in the power of any men to make that which is wrong, to be right. A law compelling us to eat what we do not relish or cannot digest would be less unnatural than a law commanding us to believe what we do not understand, or judge to be false. If our laws are inconsistent with reason and truth and public good, have we not a right to abolish them? If not, what a ridiculous and contemptible, what a base and unworthy nation are we, to boast of knowledge and freedom?

Sir, I mention not these things for your instruction, but for your edification; to animate and fortify you in the noble opposition you have hitherto made to established falsehood and folly. In matters of Religion, neither the great vulgar, nor the small, have any concern what they profess or act. Where honors, wealth and preferments are annexed to any opinions, the great will ever profess and maintain them, how false and wicked soever they be; whilst truths that are attended with reproach and poverty, or any degree of persecution, will have few friends, few advocates and followers in this world. But if there be a God, the love of truth is a sure title to his favor, and hereafter they shall shine with distinguished honor that here stood up for Truth and Liberty in a degenerate age and by their example, influence and all their abilities, studied to promote their interest amongst men. Who would desert so glorious a cause, with such rewards in prospect? That you will never desert it, I have the greatest reason to believe and therefore I thus publickly declare myself to be, with great esteem and affection,


Your highly obliged friend,
And most humble servant,

Richard Barron.

January 16, 1752.

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