Modern day Americans cannot conceive of the awful burden of paying Clergy Taxes to support pastors in churches they do not attend. It is even more incongruous for Bible-believing Baptists to accept that plan. Sincere Bible-believing Baptists all believe in tithing to their local church. On top of that, man, embracing the concept of Love Offerings and Faith Promise giving, give substantially more through their local churches. This means that these give a minimum of 10% to their churches, and many, with a desire to support missionaries, give well in excess of that. The Clergy Tax forced the Baptist believers to pay for services they did not want, and would even reject! Yet this was the procedure throughout the young colonies in New England.
Apparently such laws with regard to religion were not made in the Colony of Vermont until 1797. Then an act was passed for the support of the ministry. The Substance of the law actually empowered the inhabitants of every town or parish that consisted of at least twenty-five voters, to collect taxes, to build meeting houses, and to hire and support religious teachers of such denomination as a majority of the population thought proper.
Every person of "adult age, was, by said act, considered as being of the religious opinion and sentiment of such society, and liable to be taxed, after residing in said town or parish one year, unless he should, previous to the vote for raising taxes, &c. obtain, and produce, to be recorded in the Town Clerk's office in the said town, a certificate of this different belief, signed by some minister of the gospel, deacon, elder, moderator, or clerk of the church, congregation, sect or denomination, to which he belonged." 1
A slight modification of this law was granted on November 3, 1801, but still the individual seeking exemption had to present a written declaration of his objection and intent. Finally the legislature on October 24, 1807, repealed all the statutes on the subject of taxation aimed at supporting religious organizations.
It is interesting that this action of the legislature was championed by two Baptists who had entered into the political arena. Aaron Leland was Speaker of the Lower House while Ezra Butler was an active member of the State Senate. In the Lower House the bill was debated by a committee of the whole and Mr. Leland spoke to it. Both he and Senator Butler zealously advocated the adoption of the rescinding bill.
Often times the participation of Baptists in the political arena has been questioned and debated in our circles. Surely with tender consciences men ought to prayerfully seek to know the mind of God concerning His will for their lives. From time to time in our national Baptist history, Baptist men have been used of God in political positions to accomplish His Divine Will. Romans 13 sets forth clearly the relationship of the believer to the law.
I do not believe that any God-called man to the ministry ought under any consideration leave his God called position to serve in a political role. When Mr. Spurgeon's son wrote his father that he sensed God's call upon his life, Mr. Spurgeon is said to have responded, "Son, if God has called you to preach the Gospel, don't stoop to becoming the King of England."
On the other hand, as we have entered into the twenty-first century, we need godly men to become members of the House and Senate to stand solidly upon principles concerning homo-sexuality (same sex marriages), abortion, legalized prostitution, and the entire spectrum of issues of morality that will impact society. Surely Messrs, Aaron Leland and Ezra Butler were in the right place at the right time. in the Old Testament the Lord positioned Joseph and Daniel in the very right place where they could have the greatest impact. Let us pray for sincere, godly men who seek to serve our Republic in the political arena.
David L. Cummins
1.David Benedict, A General History of Baptist Denomination (Boston: Lincoln & Edmands, 1813), 1:351-352.
Taken from "This Day in Baptist History III" by David L. Cummins
A thought of my own: =)
The future moral condition of our society rests upon the law makers of this country. Many Christians think that we should have nothing to do with politics, and sadly, that thinking is prominent in Baptist circles, especially. I believe that this is one reason we have strayed so far from the morals of the Founding Fathers. If we as Christians leave issues like abortion, gay marriage and education (just to name a few) up to ungodly men in high places, then we will be left with a crumbling society and no moral foundation. Actually, we are already there and it is only getting worse. I think today's entry in This Day in Baptist History III hit the nail right on the head! Not only must we pray for godly men to rise up to this important task, but we must also pray for those already in authority, whether good or bad.
I Timothy 2:1-3
"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;"