Orson Hyde asks people to read his book. Or else.
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The previous little work was written in Regensburg, and the author also intended to publish it there; but after the manuscript had been submitted to the censor and presented to the city commissioner to obtain permission, I received the answer that as a result of the principles it contained, which were so different from those of the religion established in this land, I could not be given permission to publish it there, since it would only cause excitement and unrest among the people.(1) If I nevertheless dared to distribute it there, the whole print run would be confiscated, and I (as I was told by a third party) would be subject to a fine or imprisonment. To pay a fine or to be imprisoned for the sake of virtue and religion does not frighten me; but to necessarily waste my effort and my money, which I intended to use for the benefit of my fellow man, without the prospect of accomplishing such a desirable cause, may adequately excuse me if I scatter the good seed in a friendlier soil, where the birds of the air are not so numerous to carry it away before it has time to take root.
In 1837, I was sent in company with others on a mission to England to introduce our church there. We landed in Liverpool on 18 July of the same year and stayed in England until 20 April of the following year; or in all, nine months and two days in that land, where we spent eight months of vigorous activity. Our teaching spread at a speed that exceeded our own expectations. The streets, the marketplaces and churches (if we could have them) were the field of our labors, and we also labored from house to house. A throng of people crowded around us day and night. Sometimes we would be contradicted by a half dozen priests of other religions at once, but since the Lord wished for every contradiction we encountered to give our cause new impetus, our opponents soon became convinced that they were incapable of restraining our progress by ordinary legal means.
They therefore maliciously decided to use their influence so that anyone who adhered to our doctrines would be put out of employment and, in need and distress, be compelled to abandon what they called heresy. Many were put out of employment and their masters refused them letters of recommendation with which they might find accommodation elsewhere.(2) This was a time of temptation! They often came to ask us for advice, saying: “What should we do? Our existence depends on our work, and if we don’t find employment, we and our families will starve.” We asked them whether they might not have been faithful to their masters in fulfilling their occupational matters, both in time and in labor, and perhaps they were dismissed for that reason. But they said no, that their masters had dismissed them not for neglecting their work and duties, but as a result of their religion. We often gave them the last shilling we had so that they could buy bread.
On one occasion in the town of Preston in Lancashire, I addressed a large gathering in the theater. Among other things, I touched on the subject of the cruel and unfeeling manner with which they opposed the message that God had sent to them through us. After talking about this point and bringing to their view the inappropriateness and inhumanity of their practices, I said the following to them in solemn tone:
“Few are the years, and not many the months, when you will have to suffer the same things you are now trying to impose on my brothers. Your land will mourn and you will beg your bread from door to door and still be hungry.”
When I finished these words, a man stood up in the meeting and said with malicious glee: “You have said hard things to us here, sir! However, you did not definitively tell us the time when we would have the fine days of which you speak. Would you be so kind, sir! as to specify them for us.”
My answer was: “Before you are prepared for it.”
For the sake of this and other addresses of the same kind (which fortunately found their way into various public journals at that time) I was regarded as a blasphemer who presumed a power and authority that no man can possess at this time. However, I willingly yielded to their accusations, conscious in my own heart that I was right; and since that time, the same and similar things have been repeatedly proclaimed by the priests of our church in almost every city of England, Scotland and Wales.
It not infrequently occurs that the means used by selfish and prideful peoples for their comfort and security only bring about their more rapid and complete overthrow. (3)
I am truly sorry that I could not obtain permission to publish and disseminate this work in Regensburg. — I do not wish to blame either the city commissioner or any individual person, because I assume that the laws of the land forbid it; this is simply a misfortune under which it must endure those consequences that arise from the nature of its form of government, which does not tolerate its religion standing on its own merits, but rather has surrounded it with the strong bulwark of human laws for its protection and defense.
And in doing so, they have shut every entrance against the intrusion of any principle that might in any way contest their customs, their traditions, and their rites, even if an angel were to speak to them.
Although there are many people in Regensburg for whom I have great respect, and whose names I will always recall to my memory with gratitude, a feeling of duty stirs in me that imposes on me the sad obligation to tell the people of that land that if they further refuse to tolerate this religion, they will only rebuff a supposed evil in order to grant acceptance to a real evil; and that if they do not quickly reform their laws in this regard so that this religion may be spread among them, they will be visited by a messenger to whom their laws cannot deny entry and whom their armies cannot overcome. They will not only be compelled to hear his message, but also to feel it, so long as these barriers are not lifted; and in the future it will be seen whether these words were the fruit of a wicked heart, or whether they were inspired by the spirit of fairness and truth.(4)
May no one think to mock or ridicule the principles presented in this work, for it will bring blessings neither to him nor to those who hear him. I do not say that this work is mechanically perfect; I do not perfectly understand the German language. But the principles it inculcates are true and good; and because we have sufficient boldness to freely declare what God has communicated to us, not only in the midst of the sinister glances of public opinion that are often spread against us in the columns of all journals in the most false and disgraceful language, but also in spite of banishment, sword and death, we, like our master, are regarded as blasphemers and usurpers of a power that belongs to no man. But public opinion is not our leader. We have only one thing to fulfill, and that thing is: to spread the message that God has given us to all the nations under Heaven. And whenever our work encounters an obstacle, it will certainly be removed, either through our own efforts or through the direct or indirect intervention of an omnipotent power.
We do not teach that we are angels, but human beings, and we do not call ourselves perfect; but we feel our dependence on God for our life and salvation, and we believe that after we have completed our work here, we will become perfect in the same way as our master, namely through suffering.(5) But we would far prefer to be those who suffer for this cause than those who cause us to suffer for it.
Whoever seeks to spread this doctrine with friendship and good will in order to serve the Lord in purity and righteousness will find heavenly peace in this work; but whoever seeks to suppress it or resist it will be barren in spirit and deprived of the peace that our Savior gave to His disciples when He said to them: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” — may everyone therefore bring his own behavior concerning this matter before the judgment seat of his own conscience in the presence of God and judge for himself the truth of what I have said.
We have several preachers in America who are Germans by birth and upbringing. Some of them will probably soon be sent to Germany, and if the Lord wills it, I will return again after visiting the United States of America.(6)
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(1) Der Kommisar geht um – oh oh oh.
(2) Unsettled labor relations were apparently a thing in England at this time. The question to ask here is: Why did Hyde suddenly start talking about events from England in the late 1830s in a book for Germans in the early 1840s? I think there’s an answer – see the next note.
(3) I think the insertion of Hyde’s prophecy in England only makes sense if he assumes it will be understood as a prophecy that has clearly already been fulfilled. His argument is in essence: the English resisted this message by oppressing the laborers; now look at what’s happened to labor relations in England, in Preston and elsewhere; so think carefully now about whether you want to ridicule my message or not.
(4) Hyde is writing prophetically again, this time concerning the legal provisions that prevent him from spreading his message. If you’re wondering how things worked out, you can consider that later missionaries were able to preach in Germany. Or if you’d prefer a negative fulfillment, ask someone from the Kingdom of Bavaria their feelings on German unification under a Prussian emperor in 1871.
(5) Interestingly, Hyde advances a belief here in theosis, although teachings concerning the mechanism of theosis would undergo profound changes in the next few years.
(6) Narrator’s voice: The Lord did not, in fact, will it.
And now we’re done.