Sunday, June 23, 2013

Preaching without notes and prodding the establishment

In the late 1700's, funds from Virginia state taxes went to support the Episcopalian clergy. Baptists and other non-establishment ministers opposed this practice that wed church and state. An Anglican minister told John Leland, supremely anti-establishment Baptist freedom fighter, that a minister needed state support to compensate them for their time spent preparing sermons.

"Leland answered that he could expound the Scriptures without special preparation, and the Anglican challenged him to preach on a text to be provided just before beginning the sermon. Leland went into the pulpit of the Anglican the following Sunday. As he ascended to the pulpit he was handed a text which proved to be Numbers 22:21, 'And Balaam saddled his ass.' Mr. Leland first commented on the account from which the text was taken, and then said he should divide his subject into three parts: 1st, Balaam, as a false prophet, represents a hireling clergy; 2d, the saddle represents their enormous salaries, and 3d, the dumb ass represents the people who will bare such a load. This was a theme he could develop with no difficulty whatever." -- From The Life of the Rev. James Ireland, James Ireland, Winchester, VA: J. Foster, 1819, p. 125

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