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Robert Matthias’ Vision of Family, Religion, and Women Exploratory Essay

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Updated: May 28th, 2019

Robert Matthias was the founder of the Kingdom of Matthias which was a religious movement that started in the 1830s. Robert Matthias or Matthews, who was an itinerant preacher from upstate New York, joined the Dutch Reformed church in Albany after attending the Washington County Presbyterian Church in Washington. Matthews was affected by the preaching of Charles Grandison Finney who was described as one of the foremost religious leaders of the Second Great Awakening.

Finney’s preaching affected Matthews by making him rethink his own religion but he however did not become a follower of Finney. During the early 1830s, Matthews had become known for his street corner exhortations which would later change when he had a revelation in Albany that would enable him discover a great truth.

This great truth was that any man who shaved could not be a true Christian. This made him grow his beard out and later proclaimed that he was a Jew. He changed his name from Matthews to Matthias and began to prophesy about God’s destruction on the city of Albany.

The Kingdom of Matthias was established in the Hudson River town of Mount Pleasant now referred to as Ossining. The kingdom was organized along authoritarian lines which accorded Matthias the overall power of making important and trivial decisions. His movement was referred to as a kingdom because Matthias chose to wear long robes meant for a king and he sat on a throne made of gold.

The authoritarian power also allowed him to dictate his own form of theology that was mostly informal and similar to other religions that existed during that time in New York such as Mormonism and Second Day Adventism. Matthias taught his followers that he was possessed by the spirit of God and that there were good and evil spirits.

The unrealistic existence of spirits was also a central teaching of Matthias and formed a basis of the teachings of the Kingdom. Because of this focus on spirits, Matthias and his followers did not believe in doctors, claiming that illnesses or diseases were caused by evil spirits that needed to be cast out. The diet in the Kingdom was made up of fresh fruit and vegetables which was optional as most of the kingdom’s members choose to fast.

Matthias’ view of women was more of submissive subjects whose role was relegated to cooking, cleaning and performing sexual favors for their husbands. Matthias also viewed all women to belong to him. This was because he had God’s spirit in him and everything in this earth belonged to God. Together with his other preachers, he lured young female followers some of whom were married to join his kingdom as his mistresses or his wives.

This created a situation of sexual promiscuity in his kingdom. His views of family, women and religion differed from those of Christian preachers such as Finney who believed in equality amongst men and women. Matthias on the other hand believed that men were more superior in the marriage, family and societal context. Matthias’ view on women was also cemented when he stated that women who argued with their husbands would be damned because they were consumed by the devil when they went argued with their husbands.

One of the most notable followers of Matthias was Elijah Pierson who joined the Kingdom of Matthias after failing to raise his wife from the dead. Elijah played a central role in the kingdom by being one of Matthias’ close confidants and a preacher. Elijah shared Matthias’ views on the role of women in the family by saying that women were less superior to men in the marriage and family context. The level of patriarchy that existed in the kingdom was as a result of the beliefs and values that both men had from their religious upbringing.

Elijah’s religious background was Presbyterian. His family attended the First Presbyterian Church in Morristown. Robert Matthews’s religious background included the Anti-Burgers Church in Albany and the Washington Presbyterian Church. These religious backgrounds enforced the dominance that both men had in the kingdom, allowing them to incorporate their own domestic authority into the kingdom.

Regardless of having a democratic system of liquefying properties and power, patriarchical duties were encouraged by figures of men who guided their families to churches. Charles Grandison Finney was referred to as America’s foremost revivalist and was a major player in the Second Awakening that left a huge impact in the history of America. His religion was mostly focused on converting people to accept Jesus Christ, a concept of revivalism known as salvation.

He pioneered revivalism in America creating a transformational wave in the American society during this time by emphasizing the importance of human responsibility to improving the individual and the society at large.

Finney’s followers went on to convert other people thereby creating social reform movements that called for changes in the moral behavior of the American society during that period of time. Finney’s revivalistic religion was against prostitution, drinking, smoking and slavery which were doctrines followed by the Kingdom of Matthias.

Finney’s views on family, women and religion were different from those of Matthews as he involved women in his prayer meetings, a concept that was unheard of in the Kingdom of Matthias. He also believed in women’s rights stating that women had equal opportunities in the social and political context.

He stated that women should be accorded the same treatment and civility that was given to men. Women according to Finney were viewed to be companions to their husbands helping them to run the house and manage the family. Charles was a major sway on the resumptions style of divinity in the 1830s. He believed that a person’s will should have been involved in salvation whether they believed that the will was free to repent or not.

Finney believed in salvation that was founded on not only obedience but on grace and faith. He is also known for founding extemporaneous preaching which refers to preaching that was mostly focused on convincing people through the use of logical persuasion and fear. Finney was involved in the abolition movement that called for the abolition of slavery in the United States. He frequently denounced those who were practicing slavery in his pulpit by denying communion to people who still practiced slavery in his church.

Finney’s loud and clear logical donation of the gospel message touched hundreds and thousands of followers which were estimated to be at least five hundred thousand people. He mostly used advertising, music, counseling, multi-church participation and personal prayers that were meant to draw his audience to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. These techniques formed the revivalistic nature of Christianity that influenced modern evangelistic leaders such as Billy Graham and Billy Sunday.

He also came to establish what was referred to as christocentric liberalism which mostly focused on the belief of Jesus Christ and religious scriptures instead of God as the creator of the world and related theological scriptures. Charles was able to achieve a flourishing revivalism in New England, America and England. This success was compared to other religious groups such as the Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah witnesses which mostly practiced exclusive and closed religion.

Unlike Matthias, Charles did not start his own minster or any spiritual denomination and he never confessed to believe in any form of spiritual or prophetic guidance that uplifted him above different preachers, magicians and evangelist in the 2nd awakening. This showed Finney’s belief on religious denomination to be different from that of Robert Matthias’ who saw dominance and the establishment of his own religious denomination to be vital in his ministry.

However Finney’s followers were usually absorbed by other religious denominations such as the Baptists and Methodists that offered a more flexible and established Christian denomination. Finney’s role in eradication movement guaranteed that all the places in America that opposed oppression and slavery had some unit of legitimate spiritual support to their grounds.

Finney’s teachings were mostly focused on the Bible and his views on sin, salvation and sinners were most derived from his readings of the Bible. He rejected any authority from the church to apply religious doctrines that went against what the Bible preached. His preaching went against the Presbyterian doctrines for which he had a Christian upbringing and background.

He also did not believe the Universalist doctrines such as those used by Matthias that claimed God punished sin with death. Finney viewed God’s government as a righteous one where sin was punished in a just and fair way.

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