In The Kingdom of Matthias, Paul E. Johnson retells the tale of a religious cult that was founded in the sass-sass. Robert Matthews, an emigrant who grew up in Cambridge, New York, was a member of the orthodox Scots Presbyterian Church, which at the time was an incredibly strict religion that basically taught and believed that people naturally do wrong and commit sinful acts. Elijah Pierson, who later came to be called Elijah the Atheist was a descendant of Puritans, was raised in a liberal Presbyterian church.
The two self-proclaimed prophets created the bizarre religious alt known as the Kingdom of God, which attracted mostly poor men. Robert Matthews lived in New York, and for a while led a normal life with a family and a business. This didn’t last long, because he began to search for religious enlightenment. He had trouble fitting into any church group usually due to him being known as a violent person and being considered “unholy’ after he was arrested for being disruptive during a church service.
After his arrest, he moved to Manhattan by himself. His inability to fit in prompted him to begin to invent a religion of his own. By he sass’s, Matthews had met Elijah Pierson, who had left the Baptist church and formed his own independent church. He now became Matthias “John the Baptist” and let Robert Matthews preach to their followers. It’s important to understand the history of the time in order to clearly define what exactly were the motives and driving forces behind the religious cult formation brought about by these two men.
The nineteenth century was rapidly evolving religiously and economically. During this time, the Second Great Awakening occurred. This was a Christian revival that led to the formation of many denominations and form movements that were meant to “purify’ society before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. At this time, many religious congregations were forming to serve the lower class specifically. Also important during this historical period was the large shift in technological advancement and economic advancement.
All these advancements created a strong distinction between the lower and upper class, however it also brought about a distinguishable middle class. People continued to become very involved with mercantilism, buy and sell trading, wages and money in general. In the eyes of many, people were spending more time with worldly things ether than focusing their energy on the worship of Matthews had a vision of bringing people back to what I can only think to describe as a “more simple time. He said “In the Kingdom of Matthias, there would be no market, no money, no buying or selling, no wage system with its insidious domination of one father over another, no economic oppression of any kind. ” (page 96) In a sense, the Market Revolution and the Second Great Awakening dismantled Matthews’ life. This could have been a strong driving force behind his ideals considering that so much of what he preached was very much against the Market Revolution and Second Great Awakening. It’s also possible that his relationship with his wife was a reason for his idea of a strongly male-dominated society.
After he had problems with his wife, nee Dead near Ana was Throwaway seen as a violent man, wanly as alehouses earlier was one of the reasons he had trouble fitting into any church. Matthews says “Christianity was the work of devils” (page 103). This could again be his retaliation towards the Christian churches that wouldn’t accept him and, additionally, the church sermon he interrupted and got arrested for. In conclusion, Robert Matthews, or Matthias had many driving forces behind his session to form a new religion.
The economic and social hardships he faced especially were large factors that played out in his decisions. He wanted to strike back against the Market Revolution and Second Great Awakening that changed his life, and he found this way of doing so. The Kingdom, and reign, of Matthias ended with the death of Elijah Pierson. He was declared to have died by poisoning, causing a large outrage against Matthias who was accused of the murder of Elijah Person. Matthews served about 4 months in Jail and after he was released, he found that his followers had dispersed, thus ending the Kingdom of Matthias.