I have the utmost affection and value for many of the individuals among the body designated as clergy; and many doubtless there are unknown to me. But this is not an individual question, but one affecting the divine glory and the whole order of the church, one which is the necessary result of its departure from God, and the form into which that departure was matured and has developed itself, and its present practical results is, that the things by which the Spirit of God would bless the world, or them in it, are charged, by virtue of this name, with being that of which Satan is the immediate author; and thus the name and title of the body  become the concentration of that which, by its denial of the Holy Ghost and gratuitous blasphemy against Him, brings destruction, necessary destruction, on all to which it is attached.
How this came to be so is plain enough, without wearying any one with a parade of learning. The church had confessedly apostatized, and the structure of the apostasy, that wherein it consisted, remained precisely what it was when the truth came in, with this single difference—that the king took the place of the pope in the appointment of persons to offices in the church, and the control of its arrangements. The church, originally, sank gradually into worldliness, until it embraced the world, and the world became its head. The world could not manage spiritual office: it could manage formal, local authority; it arranged these authorities, and did so. For a length of time, in the prevalence of ignorance and superstition, the nominal offices of the church had more power than secular strength; when this ceased to be the case, civil power re-assumed the supremacy, but the structure remained the same: governing, contending, or governed, the same thing remained.
The world, in authority, arranged geographical secular power—leaving its influence over superstitious feelings to be what it might—so that it might be an available instrument in its hand to manage the world in its mass, not in Christ’s hand to minister to and guide the church. Whether the Establishment has sufficient of this influence to be of any use to the State, is exactly the question agitated at this moment. But what has the church of God to do with this? I cannot see. It is merely a compound of secular influence and remaining superstition, by virtue of which the church is bound up with the world, and all its real energies cramped. This system, or structure, goes by the name of clergy, whether it be the pope, or from the pope down to the lowest curate, who may be entitled, by virtue of it, to hold a place in the world which otherwise he may not have had; or, if a Christian, to labour in some field where his labours may be unemployed, and his usefulness thrown away; but the church is lost in it.
I admit, as fully as any one can do, that many of the clergy are most valuable men. They may have eminent gifts for various offices, which the exigency of the times may require; but the effect of this system, by which they form part of this great worldly structure, is to deprive them of the opportunity to stir up, or to bar the exercise of, whatever gifts God may have made them partakers of. The operation of the Reformation was to introduce a statement of individual faith, and to break off, generally, all without the limits of the Roman Empire, from the immediate power of Rome and Popery.  It in no way separated the church from the world, but the contrary; and, while it changed the relations, left the principles of the structure just where it was. The King’s Arms took the place, in the rood-loft, of the image of Christ. Christ and His Spirit ruled in neither case, save in honour. I verily believe, that the principle of a clergy man, as it is part and parcel of the structure of popery, will re-introduce the power of popery as far as the name of religion remains; for as it hangs on the doctrine and principle of succession, not on the presence of the Spirit, there is no ground on which a Protestant minister, as a clergy man, can prove his title, which does not validate the tide of the Pope and his followers more even than his own. His happening to have right doctrine does not make him a clergyman; his having false doctrine does not make him not one.
The layman or dissenting minister, who holds the same doctrinal truth, is not a clergyman. The Popish priest, who conforms to the Church of England, is not ordained to become so: he has that already which makes him a clergyman. Nay, in point of fact, the truth was not preached in the Church of England for the greater period of its distinct existence; and in the vast majority of instances the clergy still do not preach the truth; and the rest of the body would not allow them to be Christians at all. Is it not manifest that the term clergyman, of such amazing influence on the minds of men, is the distinctive title of that association which has grown up from the decay of the church, and now forms the common though varied ground of its association with the world, and a hindrance to cramp the operation of God’s Spirit, the cementing tide of that vine of the earth, which is cast into the wine-press of the wrath of God, and which charges evil upon the operations of the Spirit of God, as rebellion to its authority, not acting within its limits, or in conformity to its secular arrangements and appropriations of service, appropriations of territory formed neither by, nor with reference to, the church of God at all; and when the Spirit of God operates by individuals within its limits (for God chooses whom He chooses), making them at once schismatic from their brethren, who do not comply with their geography, or acknowledge authority which they pretend to reverence (because it is of the system), but really despise, and violate at the same time all the arrangements, for the sake of which they are rejecting their godly and faithful brethren? If it were not for this term “Clergy,” the link and bond of the great evil of the earth, and of pernicious influence over the minds of men, where would be the occasion of schism, save in that which is ever to be subdued? Or where would be the opportunity to charge the fruits of God’s Spirit upon the author of confusion? Or what else is it that consummates the occasion of judgment to the system (of which it has taken the place of the energy and spirit), and always opposed the blessing? Has there, I will ask, ever been an opposition to, and hindrance of the truths of God, of which the clergy have not been the human authors, and in which they have not been the real and active agents? The clergy, then, is the specific title which identifies the church and the world, not God and the church; and as the world necessarily denies, rejects, and will blaspheme the Holy Ghost, because it is the world, and cannot receive it, the tendency of this name is solely to involve the church, corporately, in the same thing, and is to be viewed as the grand evil, the destroying evil, of the day.
What is the remedy? The recognition of God’s Spirit where it is—personally seeking for that holiness and subjection of spirit which will discern, own, and bow to its guidance and direction, and hail its blessing as the hand of God, wherever it operates, in the measure and way it does so—that other Comforter sent to abide with us, whatever else did, for ever; and working in obedience, that we may possess its joy—boldness, as against all that grieves it—against joining the world, which cannot own or receive it—or denying the truth, of which it is the witness. The Lord give us to discern things that differ, and to separate the precious from the vile.