Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I Cannot Gulp It

John Byrom (1692-1763), Verses on Clergymen Preaching Politics, Addressed to Ralph Leycester Esq., from Miscellaneous Poems, Vol. I (Leeds: James Nichols, 1814), pp. 83-84:
Indeed, Sir Peter, I could wish, I own,
That parsons would let politics alone;
Plead, if they will, the customary plea
For such like talk when o'er a dish of tea;
But when they tease us with it from the pulpit,
I own, Sir Peter, that I cannot gulp it.

If on their rules a Justice should intrench,
By preaching us a sermon from the bench,
Would you not think, your brother magistrate
Was touch'd a little in his hinder pate?
Now, which is worse, Sir Peter, on the total,—
The LAY vagary or the SACERDOTAL?

In ancient times when preachers preach'd indeed
Their sermons, ere the learned learnt to read,
Another Spirit and another life
Shut the Church doors against all party strife;
Since then how oft is heard from sacred rostrums
The lifeless din of Whig and Tory nostrums!

'Tis wrong, Sir Peter, I insist upon't,—
To common sense a manifest affront.
The parson leaves the Christian in the lurch,
Whene'er he brings his politics to Church.
If he his cant, on either side, calls preaching —
The man's wrong-headed, and his brains want bleaching.

Recall the time from Conquering William's reign,
And guess the fruits of such a preaching vein:
How oft its nonsense must have veer'd about,
Just as the politics were in or out!
The pulpit govern'd by no Gospel data,
But new success still mending old errata.

Were I a king,—God bless me!—I should hate
My chaplains meddling with affairs of state;
Nor would my subjects, I should think, be fond
Whene'er their priests the Bible went beyond.
How well, methinks, we both should live together,
If these good folks would keep within their tether!
Ronald C. White, Jr., Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002), pp. 138-139, quotes Lincoln as saying about Phineas Densmore Gurley (minister of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church):
I like Gurley. He don't preach politics. I get enough of that through the week, and when I go to church, I like to hear the gospel.

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