If all who really labour in God's great harvest, and especially those who preach the gospel to the poor, (who stand in the greatest need of instruction,) were to receive their wages, in proportion to the real use of their labours, out of the tithes, and other public funds, from which the clergy are now paid for doing (or rather for not doing) the same work, it would be no small sum that would go out of their pockets into those of the Methodist preachers, who have civilized and christianized a great part of the uncivilized and unchristianized part of this country. But if they be not recompensed out of that fund, they will be recompensed out of another, something more permanent. When this great globe, and all that it inherits, shall dissolve, I had rather be found in the company of such humble labourers in God's vineyard than in that of the generality of your dignified and beneficed clergy, who have had their good things in this life.
From the veneration with which Mr. Madan would inspire you for civil establishments of Christianity, and the abhorrence and contempt with which he treats Dissenters, you would naturally imagine that such establishments of Christianity have been from its first promulgation, and that our mode of religion is quite an upstart thing; whereas the very contrary is well known to be the truth of the case. In every article in which we differ, our system is the ancient one, and yours modern.
What is it that distinguishes Dissenters from the members of Established Churches? They are the following particulars, and no other whatever: They choose and they pay their own ministers, without burdening the state with any expense on that account. They also dismiss their ministers whenever they are dissatisfied with them, and they acknowledge no authority in any man, or in any body of men, to settle articles of faith, or rules of discipline for them. In all these things they judge and act for themselves, holding themselves to be answerable to God and their own consciences only.
These principles are common to all Dissenters, though we differ much from one another in other things, and in all of them we differ from established churches, like that of England. Your creeds and forms of public worship are dictated by acts of parliament. Your ministers, at least most of them, are appointed either by the king, or particular patrons. You have only a right to complain in case of their misbehaviour, but without any other controul over their conduct. You have no power either to choose or to dismiss them, and their incomes are fixed by the law; so that whether you approve of their services or not, they can enforce the payment of their dues, to the uttermost farthing, by a regular, well-known course of law. They can levy a distress, and throw you into prison, for the non-payment of tithes, as well as for that of any other debt.
Now all these things are comparatively of late date in the history of Christianity, and they took place not all at once, in consequence of any proper alliance with the state, which is entirely a fiction of modern times, but one after another, as circumstances were favourable to the clergy. For they, like other bodies of men, never lost sight of their interest; and the ignorance and superstition of former times were exceedingly favourable to them.
When the emperors became Christians, they gave power to the bishops, whom they were then disposed to favour, to enforce the decrees of their councils, with respect to articles of faith and points of discipline. But the church funds, from the voluntary contributions of Christians, being sufficient for the purpose of them, they made no farther provision for the support of the clergy. They only shewed their piety, as other rich individuals did, by building churches, making presents of plate, and vestments, and grants of lands to some of them. By their example they encouraged these donations, and thus the church grew rich, and was supported by its own proper funds, as any other corporate body might be.
But the emperors never interfered in the choice of bishops, till the bishops of Rome becoming very wealthy, and from their peculiar situation having great power, the emperors assumed a negative on the choice of the people, though there is hardly any example of their making a real use of it. They seldom or never presumed to recommend any particular person antecedently to the choice of the people. Ia the appointment of the ordinary bishops and clergy they never interfered at all, directly or indirectly.
When, upon the irruption of the northern nations and the establishment of the feudal system, churchmen got possession of estates in fee, those estates were subject to the same laws as if they had been held by other persons. And as the bishops and abbots had no natural heirs, the princes bestowed them, at least the temporalities, as the estates were called, on whom they pleased. By this means the greater bishops and abbots became temporal lords, and in consequence of this obtained a right to sit in the great council of the nation, along with other peers of the realm. But this did not better the condition of the ordinary clergy, or provide for their maintenance by law.
Tithes, by which they are now legally maintained, took place very gradually, and were first given voluntarily, sometimes to the poor, and sometimes to the church, at the pleasure of the donor. By degrees, however, the clergy excluded the poor, and appropriated all the tithes to themselves; and about A.D. 600, tithes, from being established as a custom, became, in some instances, legal rights; because many estates were bequeathed with an obligation to pay tithes to particular churches. When tithes were left to distant churches, the priests of the parish in which the estate lay, used to complain ; and at length, but so late as the reign of our King John, the Pope made a law that all tithes should be paid to the parish priest; and after some time they were levied by law, in all parishes without exception.*
* There was much more reason for an universal tax upon the kingdom to support religion in former times, than there can be at present. But the times, or circumstances of things, change, while the institutions to which they gave birth, continue. When this tax was imposed, there was no other religion than one in the country. At least, avowed sectaries were very few.
[Priestley, 'Familiar Letters Addressed to the Inhabitants of Birmingham in Refutation of several Charges, advanced against the Dissenters' (1790), in John Towell Rutt (ed), The Theological and Miscellaneous works of Joseph Priestley (1817-31) 19:197-99
‘Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical art. It would be μóρφωσις, not ποίησις. The rules of the IMAGINATION are themselves the very powers of growth and production. The words to which they are reducible, present only the outlines and external appearance of the fruit. A deceptive counterfeit of the superficial form and colours may be elaborated; but the marble peach feels cold and heavy, and children only put it to their mouths.’ [Coleridge, Biographia ch. 18]
‘ποίησις’ (poiēsis) means ‘a making, a creation, a production’ and is used of poetry in Aristotle and Plato. ‘μóρφωσις’ (morphōsis) in essence means the same thing: ‘a shaping, a bringing into shape.’ But Coleridge has in mind the New Testament use of the word as ‘semblance’ or ‘outward appearance’, which the KJV translates as ‘form’: ‘An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form [μóρφωσις] of knowledge and of the truth in the law’ [Romans 2:20]; ‘Having a form [μóρφωσις] of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’ [2 Timothy 3:5]. I trust that's clear.
There is much more on Coleridge at my other, Coleridgean blog.