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tion of the wicked passions of sinful men. Let these threatenings be applied as the scriptures apply them ; not as they are applied by the erring creeds of men's inventions. Finally let the minister duly and properly attend to every division of the word of truth, and thereby show himself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.
POLICY OF PRIESTCRAFT.
DELIVERED IN BOSTON, FAST DAY, APRIL 3, 1828.
JEREMIAH, V. 50, 31.
" A wonderful and borrible thing is committed in the land; the propiets
prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their ineans; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof ?"
Resting on the authority of our text, as well as on the evidence of all history and observation, as far as they relate to the subject, we are authorized to state the deplorable fact, that in all ages and in all countries, that order of men, called the ministers of religion, have been much prone to the love of power. This disposition is not peculiar to any one order or grade in society, but seems to be indulged by most of men accordingly as they are possessed of means for its gratification. The ministers of religion, generally speaking, and especially the popular clergy, have many advantages in their hands, and they seldom fail to improve them, of gaining an ascendency over the common people, and of securing the confidence of the populace ; so that when they come to exert a most rigorous and unreasonable rule over them, the people love to have it so.
The account, given in the text, informs us how the priests of Israel obtained their power to rule the people. There was in that nation another order of men called prophets, whose profession was to foretel future events. It seems that these two
orders concerted measures and means which were directed to this monopoly of power. As it is not natural for men to wish to be slaves, they never would be, if they were not decoyed into it, either by force or fraud. These are both employed, but fraud generally leads the way. In our context we have the following statement.
6. For among my people are found wicked men ; they lay wait as he that setteth snares : they set a trap, they catch
As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit; therefore they are become great, and waxen rich." Whatever false predictions were wanted for the purpose of deceiving the people, the prophets were ready to predict; and the priests stood ready to take advantage of those deceptions to bring tlıe people into entire submission to their measures. If, on the one hand, a fallacious prosperity was predicted, the priests, having the confidence of the people, could dictate the terms by which such prosperity might be realized. If on the other hand, a fallacious calamity was predicted, the priests could point out those measures by which such calamity might be averted ; and in proportion as the people loved their own prosperity, or desired to avoid the dire judgments of heaven, they esteemed this priestly rule and the slavery to which it subjected them. Such was the blind, preposterous folly of a misguided people, who had eyes, but saw not; who had ears, but could not hear; who had hearts, but could not perceive. Driven by this force, and blinded by this craft, the house of Israel became the most stupid and degraded idolaters, supporting an hireling priesthood, at an enormous expense, which consumed their corn, their oil and their wine, and which wrenched the last mite they possessed from them; and to cap the climax of folly and madness, immolated their sons and daughters on the altar of Moloch !
In view of such perverseness, the hearer may be led to exclaim, Why was such an order of men
ever suffered to hold a standing in society ? Far better would it be to have no priesthood! Away with the whole order of clergy! Let us not be too hasty. Remember that the priesthood of the house of Israel was established as an ordinance of heaven ; it was set up by the special command of God. It is not this order of men which is the evil of which God, by his prophet complains, but it is their perverse and wicked conduct. A well ordered state of human society requires an order of men, who specially devote themselves to the interests of religion. The great and glorious head of the christian church appointed a ministry. While he laboured in the flesh he chose twelve disciples, and appointed them as apostles to bear the tes timony of his truth to mankind ; and at one time he sent forth seventy others to minister his truth and favour to the Jewish nation. But this immaculate high Priest of our profession, this Bishop of our souls, gave frequent lessons to the ministry which he appointed, designed to guard them against a departure from the sacred duties of the office to which he had appointed them. He called them the salt of the earth ; but cautiously pointed out the dangerous consequences which would result from their lusing the savour of his spirit. He called them the light of the world ; but prudently set forth the uselessness of a light which is hid. He acknowledged them his servants ; but did not fail to inform them that nothing short of attention to their duty would secure them from sharing the dreadful calamities, which he had, in their hearing, denounced on hypocrites and unbelievers.
There is no blessing which man enjoys that may not be perverted to his disadvantage ; and it is generally, if not always the case that the perversion of the greatest of blessings produces the greatest evils. It is too often the case that law is used for a trap to ensnare the simple, and through the perverseness of corrupt adjudication, its severest penalties are made to fall on the innocent, while
the guilty escape with impunity. But we should egregiously err should we contend that law was unnecessary, and that there ought to be no such orders of men in society as judges and executioners.
The complaining, the accusing, the warning voice of inspiration is not raised against the priesthood or the administrators of law and government, as an order established in society ; but against the wickedness which men practice, who are honoured with appointments in these useful establishments. It is when the ministers of religion, forgetful of their responsibility, devote themselves to the study of craft, and employ all the means of deception in their power, to obtain the confidence of the people, to secure to themselves the affections of the people, to make the multitude look up to them for security against threatened vengeance, and to depend on their interest with heaven for all the blessings they need ; and when these, deceivers use the whole weight of this immense influence to bring the people into the most degrading bondage and slavery, that the accusing voice of heaven is heard against them. Nor is this voice heard against them alone who practice this deceit, and who, by means thereof, rule the people ; but it is equally against the people themselves, who debase their nature and dishonour God, by such stupidity.
“And what will ye do in the end thereof ?” is a question, the prophet, by the Spirit of God, put to prophets, priests and people, who were all united in the commission of the horrible thing of which complaint was made. By this question was indicated the deplorable ruin which awaited that wicked, perverse and rebellious nation. We read their wickedness in the records of their true prophets ; we read the vengeance which their sins procured in the prophecies of Moses, their lawgiver, and in the rest of their prophets; and we read their end in Josephus, their own historian.
Do you ask why destruction should be sent on a nation for the deceptions practised by its priest.