The Kingdom of Matthias Robert Matthews proclaims himself “The Prophet of Truth”, but is he actually the Prophet of Tradition? The Truth, as Matthews sees it, is nothing more than the principles and standards he learned as a boy in the farming town of Cambridge, New York. Much of his “teachings” reflect family values that he learned there. He sees the changes in people’s lives in the city, and fights to keep it old school. He does his best to keep the new out of the world, and wants everything to be done the way he was taught.
He wants the world to know the truth as he sees it, and live the way he was taught. He wants tradition to out-weigh innovation. There were many changes that Matthews was fighting against, but none so fervently as women’s rights. He absolutely hated them, and wanted all women to be obedient to their man, and not do anything without their husband’s (or father’s, for unmarried women) consent. He says that women shouldn’t preach, shouldn’t work, shouldn’t do anything but serve their husband’s every wish. And that is exactly how he saw it growing up.
In the small farming town where he lived as a child, women really couldn’t do much but cook and clean while the men farmed. That’s the way Matthews was taught the world worked, and that’s how he expected to find it work in the rest of the world. Unfortunately for him, times were changing, and women were starting to leave the house and do things on their own. The biggest “problem” was when women started preaching. Matthews thought that was the single worst thing ever, and did everything in his power to stop it.
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He even went so far as to say that anyone who preaches to a woman without her husband is going to Hell. Any woman who didn’t stay in the home was going to Hell, too. He fought tooth and nail against the new reforms, and it’s ironic how his wife acted. Being such a big hater of women’s rights, it would seem likely Matthews would marry an obeying woman, who would do as he commanded. But, as time went on, Margaret Matthews realized her husband was insane, and stopped listening to him. But Robert was a cruel man, and beat her into submission with a rod.
Another thing Matthews was against was the change in the way people were working. Before the market revolution, shops had small numbers of employees, and everyone knew each other fairly well. But, with the boom in market, there came a boom in the need for labor, and soon the small shops were filled with many different men, all with one thing in common: they enjoyed their alcohol. Matthews, being raised in a pious Christian community, disdained them for their drinking on the job, and preached at them to stop their sin.
This didn’t make him too many friends, and eventually he was fired from his job. Poor, unemployed, and distraught, Matthews did the only thing he knew how to do: talk to God. But even this did nothing to help him, as no matter what he did bad times wouldn’t stop coming to him. His children were dying, he was starving, he was moving from relative to relative for a place to live, and he was switching his religion with increasing rapidness. All the while he was watching the alcohol loving heathens around him prosper. He hated businessmen for this, and blamed them for his short-comings.
A third change he saw was the change in religion itself. He grew up thinking only few, select holy men could preach the word of God, but after living in New York City, he saw countless people doing it. Anywhere from women, prostitutes, blacks, and some even claiming to be God’s Prophets, and speaking directly from God’s own mouth. He was horrified by all of this obvious blasphemy, and needed to find a way to stop it. So, he decided if he couldn’t beat all of the crazy people, he had to become the craziest of them all. He had to speak the Truth.
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The Truth consisted of many of the values he was taught as a child, including family structure, jobs, farming, ect. He immediately started defending the idea of patriarchy, and that women shouldn’t be allowed as many (or any) rights. This is most prevalent in Mt. Zion, the religious capital of the Truth. Matthews was able to con some rich businessmen into giving him the house and enough money to maintain it, and so he claimed it in the name of the Truth. The house was structured much like the family structures of his childhood in Cambridge. The neighbors later recalled that Mount Zion had looked like any other well-ordered house: the men and boys labored in the fields, and the women and girls worked in the house, all under the command of an authoritative father. …Yet if Mount Zion was based on unique forms of prophecy and terror, the neighbors were not completely mistaken when they saw [Matthew’s] household as a traditional farm family arrangement. (105-106, Johnson and Wilentz) Matthews did all he could to keep true to his traditions, he also clung to traditions that weren’t his.
He decided to be Jewish, Methodist, Calvinist, Zionist, every religion under the sun he had practiced at one point in time. The same could be same about his wardrobe. When asked about his outfits, Matthew’s explained: “The white linen nightcaps were “pale mitres”; the green three-cornered hat with gold trim as the rainbow surrounding the head of Him that sits upon the throne; the silk coat linings of pink or white signified Joseph’s coat; he wore a crimson sash because Matthias was the one in Isaiah who treads the wine press alone; and the rich green of his coat told the world that the Dove “the Holy Spirit” had at last found a resting place.
It was a confused and outlandish pile-up of Biblical references, but to Mount Zion’s believers it made perfect sense. ” (108, Johnson and Wilentz) He quite literally just saw pieces of the Bible that looked good and mixed it together, while cutting out all the pieces he didn’t want or need. But he was, in a way, staying true with the traditions set in the Bible; it just seemed he didn’t know which ones he liked best, so he picked all of them. Going along with his defense of many things, he was also an avid fighter of the change happening to family life, and social life in general.
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During the early nineteenth century in America, factories were showing up more and more, and a new faction called the “middle class” was swallowing up more and more New Yorkers. Because the men of the family were now working long hours in a factory all day, it left the women home alone to tend the house, children, and day to day needs. A man by the name of Charles Finny realized this, and began to preach directly to the women, without their husbands being around.
Matthews was outraged at this, not only because he believed you would go to hell if you preached to a woman without her husband, but also because due to the factory system, the average household was rapidly becoming more matriarchal, which he believed was strictly against God’s views for a Christian family. He went so far as to call all men who work in factories or office buildings “mock men”, not only because they are not doing the farm labor that Matthews had seen the men of his youth doing, but also because they weren’t home to control the family.
Also with the industrialization boom came the need for more workers. When there weren’t enough men to work, factories hired women to do it. Because of this there were many single women in the city, and single women went to church just as much as men. They would then go out and do God’s work on their own, trying to improve not just themselves, but the rest of the world too. So, Matthews saw a bunch of single, young, independent women out shaping the city without the help of men, which is another thing Matthews preached against. Not just preached against, raged against.
He absolutely hated every bit of it. He thought it was outrageous for women to be doing things outside of their household, because once people saw that women could do things on their own, the husbands and fathers of these girls would lose the power they had over them. Because if Matthews was nothing else, he was power hungry. When his daughter came to live with him in Mount Zion, he whipped her many, many times for the slightest misstep, and if someone else stepped out of line, or went against his wishes, he would become enraged, and threaten them with death and damnation.
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Even Elijah Pierson, Matthews’ first follower and prince to his kingdom, was poisoned and killed by Matthews (although most evidence points that Matthews killed Pierson, he was never found guilty of the crime) when he could no longer serve him, and was nothing more than a nuisance to Matthews. Matthews did everything he could to fight against the lessoning power of the male figure-head, both in the house, and in the outside world. So what I’m basically trying to say is this: Matthews was a power hungry, insane megalomaniac, with a serious God-complex.
In fact, he seriously thought he was the reincarnation of God. But was he really the Prophet of the Truth? Not likely, in fact, if anything he was just a small, scared little farm boy who found himself in the big city, and desperately tried to cling to what he knew from his youth. Robert Matthews is a great example of man versus time. And in that battle, time wins 100% of the time, every time. Matthews saw time changing the world, and thought that he could single handedly hold it still. But in the end, it was as hopeless as a man trying to change the work of God. It just won’t happen.