- To the Lower House of Convocation.
- To the Publisher of the Independent Whig.
- Lib. Causarum Per Ann. Dom. 1721.
- To the Reverend Mr. Woods, Episcopal Register, to Be Communicated to the Clergy of This Diocese, 30 Januarii 1721.
- To the Honourable Alexander Horne, Esq; Governor of This Isle: the Remonstrance of Tho. Bp. of Sodor & Mann.
- At Castle Rushen, the 2d of February 1721.
- The Preface.
- The Independent Whig.
- Number I.: The Introduction.
- Number II.: The Design of This Paper.
- Number III.: Of the Contempt of the Clergy.
- Number IV.: Of the Explication of the Scripture.
- Number V.: The Unfitness of the Clergy to Teach Others.
- Number VI.: Of Creeds and Confessions of Faith.
- Number VII.: Of Uninterrupted Succession.
- Number VIII.: Of Uninterrupted Succession. P T . II.
- Number IX.: Of the Clearness of Scripture.
- Number X.: Of Ordination.
- Number XI.: The Advantageous Situation of the Clergy, Strangely Inconsistent With Their Common Cry of Danger.
- Number XII.: The Enmity of the High Clergy to the Reformation, and Their Arts to Defeat the End of It.
- Number XIII.: The Church Proved a Creature of the Civil Power, By Acts of Parliament, and the Oaths of the Clergy.
- Number XIV.: The Clergy Proved to Be Creatures of the Civil Power, By the Canons, and Their Own Public Acts.
- Number XV.: The Absurdity and Impossibility of Church-power, As Independent On the State.
- Number XVI.: The Inconsistency of the Principles and Practices of High-church; With Some Advice to the Clergy.
- Number XVII.: Reasons Why the High-church Priests Are the Most Wicked of All Men.
- Number XVIII.: A General Idea of Priestcraft.
- Number XIX.: Ecclesiastical Authority, As Claimed By the High Clergy, an Enemy to Religion.
- The Following Queries, and Letters to a Clergyman, Written By the Author of the Foregoing Paper, and Never Before Printed, Are Thought Proper to Be Here Inserted.
- A Letter to a Clergyman, Shewing the Impossibility of Assenting to What We Do Not Understand.
- Number XX.: Of Chaplains.
- Number XXI.: A Comparison Between the High-church and the Quakers.
- Number XXII.: Priestcraft Corrupts Every Thing, and Perverts the Use of Words.
- Number XXIII.: Of Zeal.
- Number XXIV.: Of Persecution.
- Number XXV.: Of Consecration.
- Number XXVI.: Of Faith and Morality.
- Number XXVII.: Of Fasting.
- Number XVIII.: Of Authority.
- Number XXIX.: Of Education.
- Number XXX.: Of Education. Part II.
- Number XXXI.: Of Ceremonies.
- Number XXXII.: Of Ceremonies. Part II.
TO THE LOWER HOUSE OF CONVOCATION.
YOU, Gentlemen, who are the Representatives of the Clergy of England, are proper Patrons of a Work, which treats of Religion, and the Clergy. It is written to promote Liberty, Virtue, and Piety; the Interests of which, I hope, you will always espouse, and esteem as your own; and will consequently approve my Design, and give me your Thanks, whatever may have been the Success of my Endeavours.
The many wild and unscriptural Claims started, and impetuously maintained, by very many of those whom you represent, (and I wish I could say denied, though but faintly, by any considerable Number of others) gave Occasion to the following Sheets; and, having in them shewn to my Brethren, the Laity, the Absurdity and Impiety of those Claims, by Arguments fetched from Reason, the Gospel, and the Laws of our Country; I shall, in this Address to yourselves, endeavour to convince you, that it is your Interest to drop them; and if I can succeed in this, I presume, that all other Arguments may be useless.
These Gentlemen, in the Heat of their Demands and Contention for Power, have gone so far towards Rome, and borrowed so many of her Principles, that I see no other Medium left for them, but either to proceed on in their Journey thither, (which, as they have managed Matters, is now a very short one) or to turn back to the Principles of the Reformation, (a very long Journey, I confess!) and accept of the Bishop ofBangor’s Scheme, as much as they hate it and him. That Scheme, though it may not be altogether so palatable, yet is a safe Scheme: And though it does not intitle them to all the Power and Wealth in England, yet it secures to them what they have.
Consider, Gentlemen, that you cannot take as much of Popery as you please, and leave the rest. Machiavel has long since told us, that no Government can subsist long but upon its original Foundation, and by recurring often to the Principles upon which it was first founded. It will indeed stand upon no other; and when that is sapped and undermined, the Superstructure must fall to the Ground, the old Inhabitants must find out new Materials, erect new Buildings upon other Foundations, and are, for the most part, undone by the Experiment.
The first Principles of our Protestant Church are the Principles of the Reformation; namely, the spiritual Supremacy of the Crown; the Right of the Laity to judge for themselves; the forming of all Ecclesiastical Polity by the Legislature; and, consequently, the creating of Clergymen by the Civil Authority; a Power forgot by too many of the Clergy, and remembred, against their Wills, by the Laity. Whoever would maintain the Reformation, must maintain these Principles; or embrace Popery, if he desert them. Whether the solemn Oaths of the Clergy in general have been sufficient Pledges and Motives for their believing and defending them, I appeal to their Behaviour, and their Writings.
Being the sworn Servants of the Law, many of them have avowedly contradicted and bid Defiance to the Law. Being entrusted with serving and instructing the People, they have deceived and set up for commanding the People. Being chosen by the Crown to ministerial Offices, they have claimed a Power above the Crown; from which they acknowledge, upon Oath, to have received all Power. They have done what in them lay, to make the Mercy of God of none Effect, by damning whom they pleased; and to disarm his Justice, by pardoning whom they would. They have made Heaven itself to wait for the Sentence from the Priest’s Mouth, and God himself to follow the Judgment of the Priest. They have pretended to oblige God Almighty to open and shut Heaven’s Gates. They have asserted, that the Priesthood is a Princely Power, greater and more venerable than that of the Emperor: That the spiritual Government (that is, a Government by Priests) is farther above the Civil Power, than Heaven is above the Earth: That a Bishop is to be honoured as God: That “the Revenue of Priests ought to be greater than the Revenue of Kings: That greater Punishment is due to an Offence against a Priest, than to an Offence against a King: That Kings and Queens are to bow down before the Priest, with their Face towards the Earth, and to lick up the Dust of his Feet: That it is the Royal Office of Kings and Queens, to carry the Priest in their Bosom, or on their Shoulders: That Great Men ought not to say, My Chaplain, in any other Sense than we say, My King, or My God.”
As to the King’s Nomination of Bishops, and the Power that he has over the Convocation, they have maintained, that “The Church should as reasonably have the Nomination and deposing of Kings; and that it is as reasonable, that the Parliament should neither meet or act without the Bishop’s Licence and Authority: That the Chief Magistrate is bound to submit to the Bishop, who may excommunicate him: That it is a Contradiction, and an Impossibility, for any State to have Authority over the Church, that is, over the Priests: That the Priests Power extends to the settling of Fasting, and Feasting, and Cloaths: That those Clergy, who comply with the Government, and yet retain their old Principles, are the best Part, and most numerous of the Clergy”; that is, that those of the Clergy, who are perjured, are the best and most numerous. They have decreed, that to maintain the Sovereignty of England is in the Three Estates of England, namely, in King, Lords, and Commons, is a damnable Principle. They have asserted, that the Lords and Commons have no more Share in the making of Laws, than a Beggar has in one’s Alms: That all Subjects are Slaves, as to Life and Property: “And that Resistance is not lawful for the Maintenance of the Liberties of ourselves or others; nor for the Defence of Religion; nor for the Preservation of Church and State; nor for the Salvation of a Soul; no, nor for the Redemption of the whole World.”
There is a choice Catalogue of these extravagant Doctrines, collected in a Pamphlet published some Years since, and intituled, A new Catechism, with Dr. Hickes’s Thirty-nine Articles; and all of them taken out of the Writings of Men in the highest Reputation among you. Yes, Gentlemen, all these impious, mad, and selfish Doctrines have been maintained by those of your Order, and never yet contradicted by any public Act of your Body. On the contrary, with your usual Charity and Good-nature, you have fallen upon those who exposed them, tho’ they were evidently the very Corner-stones of Popery, and a flat Contradiction to the whole Spirit and Progress of the Reformation.
There is no Medium between Popery and the Reformation; that is, between the claiming of any Power in Religion, and the renouncing of all Power in Religion (as you will find fully made out in the following Sheets). The latter is the Characteristic of a Protestant Minister, and the former the black Mark of a Popish Priest. You have it in your Choice, Gentlemen, which you will chuse to resemble.
If you do not think fit to accept the Bishop of Bangor’s Protestant Scheme, which is the same with that of the Reformation, and has been ever since the Law of the Land, there is but one Choice left you, namely, that of working about a Popish Revolution, per fas & nefas; of bringing undisguised Popery and the Inquisition into the Church; direct Slavery upon your Country; and upon your own Order, the Necessity of throwing yourselves blindly upon the Mercy of the Court of Rome, for her Protection, and Licence to preserve your Dignities and Revenues.
You have no Possibility of keeping clear of the Pope and the Regale both. The King will not part with his Prerogative; the Parliament will not give up its Authority; nor will the People intirely part with their Senses. And for the Bishop of Rome, you would do well to remember what tender Usage your Predecessors received at his Hands. He indeed always discountenanced and oppressed them. The lazy Monks, and debauched Friers, were his Darlings, and peculiar Care. They were thoroughly detached from the Interests of the Laity, thorough Dependents upon the Holy Father: They were therefore distinguished as his Spiritual Janizaries, and the Guards of the Papacy; and to them he gave away the Revenues and Maintenance of the Secular Clergy, not so much trusted by him.
If you remember this, you will easily judge how much more it is your Interest to submit to the easy and gentle Authority of the Prince, to live under the Protection of the Laws of your Country, by which your Income, and all your Immunities, are ascertained and secured, than to live exposed to the Distrusts of a foreign cruel Court, to the Rapine of foreign and needy Priests, who will be perpetually quartered upon you, perpetually drawing Money from you: Nay, probably it will grow a Maxim in the Roman Politics, that you must be kept poor.
But besides, however good the Intentions may be of such Men amongst yourselves, or of those whom you represent, to become the Subjects, or, as you may vainly imagine, the Confederates of Rome; they will, in all Likelihood, find it utterly impossible to execute their Designs; and must, in all Appearance, venture their present Possessions upon the Success of such Designs. And if they should happen to succeed, they may have the Glory indeed of the Wickedness; but the Rewards will be, for the most part, reaped by new Comers, who had no Share in the Toil. Foreign Ecclesiastics will be the first in Favour, and the highest in Place: They will carry off your Honours, and your Preferments: The Sincerity of your Conversion will be questioned, or pretended to be questioned: There will quickly grow a Distinction between Old Papists and New Converts; as in Spain and Portugal, where a wide Difference is made between old Christians and new; which Difference holds for many Generations; and, in short, all Countenance will be shewn, all Favours will be granted, to those who never bowed their Heads to Baal. Your Behaviour to the late K. James will also be remembred, tho’ you have forgot his to you; and you will be called Ingrates, New Hypocrites, or Old Rebels.
I am in hopes, Reverend Sirs, that from all these Considerations, the Gentlemen of these Notions will find Reason to look back to their Original at the Reformation, and to preach up the Principles upon which it stands, since they are like to stand or fall by these Principles. Let them veer about once more; they know how to do it; and I will be the first to declare, that they have been once in the Right, once reconciled their Views to the Liberties of England.
I might likewise fetch an Argument from their Aukwardness in Politics, to convince them that they ought to be Protestants. They have made it manifest, by many Trials, and long Experience, that they are but heavy Intriguers, and sadly want both the Temper and Talents of Politicians. The Protestant Religion, being a plain one, supported by obvious Truth and common Sense, and requiring no Managements or Finesse to make it go down with the People, would fit them well enough, if they could be content with it. But it is quite otherwise with the Religion of Rome; which, being a surprising Medley of various and contradictory Parts, requires the utmost Address, Delicacy, and Skill, to keep them from falling to pieces. And, in this respect, the Church of Rome owes its Figure and Preservation to the Court of Rome, where all the nicest Secrets of Power are understood, all the most curious Arts in Politics are practised; where every Absurdity is finely disguised, every Cruelty artfully concealed; where, in fine, they have the Knack of making People pleased with being abused, and of forgetting, that they are Slaves, or of never knowing it.
Hitherto, Gentlemen, it has been otherwise with you. Our Pretenders of this Cast have but grosly aped Popery. Their Aims have been too open, their Management too coarse. A blunt Demand at once for all the Wealth, and Reverence, and Power of England, was so ridiculous, that, had we not before known their unhappy State of Ignorance, we should have thought, that they had been in Jest when they made it. Nor has that incurable Appetite of theirs, which they cannot hide, of combating Conscience with downright Force, and brutish Violence, done them less Harm. In short, good Counsel they have seldom taken; their foolish Counsels they never could conceal; and, God be thanked, their wicked Counsels they never yet have been able, thoroughly, to execute. They are, in truth, but doggrel Politicians. English Priestcraft is as coarse as the Romish Priestcraft is fine. Theirs is the Depths of Satan, andOurshis Shallows; as is excellently said by the late Mr. Samuel Johnson.
TheRomish Clergy chose the Days of Darkness to sow their Frauds in. They vended their holy Trifles, when Ignorance had increased the Number of Buyers. They planted their Power in the fertile Soil of Superstition; and, by keeping the People poor, wretched, ignorant, wicked, and fearful, as they every-where do, they still maintain their Dominion.
But our High Gentlemen, who both know and lament, that this Nation has seen more Days of Light and Liberty (which indeed are seldom separated) since the Revolution, than ever it saw before, have yet preposterously chosen that very Time of Light and Liberty to advance all the wildest Claims of Popery, and all the vilest Tenets of Slavery. What could they mean? Did they not know, that the more Men find the Use of their Understanding, the more they are loth to part with it? And that those Men who are willing to part with their Understandings, must have very shallow ones?
TheEnglish Laity have been used pretty much, of late, to think for themselves; and we find, as doubtless, Gentlemen, you do, that the more Men know of Church Power, the less they like it. They see that Priestly Pomp always stands on Lay Misery; that where the Priests are Princes, the People are the lowest Slaves; and that Church Power always rises with the Fall of Liberty, and the Decay of Knowledge.
The Popish Priests too, as they propagated their lying Tenets in the dark, so they did it slily, and by well-weighed Gradations. Every Intention of theirs had its proper Season. The Fire of Purgatory was kindled at one time; Indulgences were hatched at another; Transubstantiation stole in at a convenient Hour; and all their Doctrines of Gain and Power were broached at politic Distances, and as Opportunities invited.
But our High Priests, as they have observed neither Measure nor Mercy in their Demands upon us; so neither have they made them at due and discreet Intervals. By overloading the Cart, they have overturned it. They have frightened us with the broad and black Cloud of their Pretensions, and made Men unanimously oppose that Heap of Claims and Absurdities, which, had they been wise, we might have been brought to swallow singly. They wanted Patience, as well as Policy.
We were not yet ripe for Popery. We had Judgment enough to see, that all those Claims, all those new Doctrines, evidently and solely tended to the Clergy’s Advantage, and our Undoing. And we thought it was as consistent with natural Equity, and common Sense, that we should be Judges in our own Case, as that you should be in yours. Indeed, if any amongst you had maintained Doctrines evidently grievous to yourselves, and manifestly tending to the Knowledge and external Happiness of the People, we should at least have thought you in earnest. If, for Example, you had contended, that the Priests should fast three Days in the Week, the Laity only when they pleased; that the Priests should be entirely at the Mercy of the People for a Maintenance; should be restrained from taking above Thirty or Forty Pounds a Year Salary; be forbid all Pomp and Affluence, because they vitiate the Mind, and breed Pride and Laziness; two Faults heinous in a Minister of God: I say, if you had contended for such Liberty in the Laity, and for such rigorous Restraints upon yourselves, it would have carried in it the Face of Sincerity and Self-denial. But, for Priests, who are known to have been, at first, the Alms-men of the People, (and who mostly are still educated by the Charity, and maintained by the Benevolence, of the Laity) to talk of Palaces, Revenues, nay, Thrones and Principalities, to be for assuming Empire over their Masters, and growing great by the Poverty of the People, is such a Stretch of Arrogance and Folly, as cannot be aggravated; as it would not be credible, did we not see it. The Pretensions of the Great Turk are not half so detestable.
Who would not rather be a Slave to a Monarch, than to a Monk? The Oppression of Temporal Tyrants never has been, never can be, so great as the Oppression of Priests. Temporal Tyrants only make their Slaves as miserable as Laymen can do. They take almost their All; but the little that is left, they leave them to use as they please. The Priest, where he has Power enough, exercises his Tyranny over the Bellies and Palates of his more miserable Vassals, and suffers them to eat (if he leave them any thing to eat) but what he pleases, and when he pleases.
In Truth, the Subjects of Priests abroad are in a viler State than the Priests Black Cattle: They are worse fed, and not more knowing.
Can you deny, Gentlemen, that the more Power the Priest possesses, just so much the more Men suffer in their Souls and Bodies? Nor can it be otherwise: Power produces Pride and Debauchery in the Clergy, and Vassalage begets Baseness and Poverty in the People. Whatever is gained to the Clergy, is gained from the Laity; so that for them to be rich, we must be Beggars; that they may be Lords, we must be Slaves. This I take to be self-evident.
Will you, or can you say, Gentlemen, that those Claims are conducing to the Welfare of Mankind; which, whereever they prevail, do effectually divest Mankind of every thing that sweetens human Life, and renders it desirable, or indeed supportable? Is that Power for our Benefit, which disarms us of our Faculties, cows our Minds with slavish Fears, and gives us up a Prey to those Men, whose Strength lies in our Weakness, whose Prosperity is owing to our Undoing? This is what it has always done, and what it does at this Day in Spain, Italy, and other Priest-ridden Countries: And this is what it would as effectually do in England, if Englishmen would suffer it.
These Claims of yours, Gentlemen, have done you great Prejudice. They have made Men afraid of your Spirit, which seems to them to be merciless and insatiable. So that, if you are begrudged what you have, you must thank yourselves; it is owing to your claiming what you ought not to have. If a Clergyman enjoy the Tythes of Part of my Estate, by virtue of the Law; and, not content with that, would have Tythes of the Whole, in spite of the Law; it is natural enough for me to think, that the Man is a Knave, who would have no Man’s Property secured by the Law but his own.
Nothing is more common with you than to call the Impropriations of the Abbey-Lands by the dreadful Name of Sacrilege. You say, some of you have said it in Print, and many more in the Pulpit, that such Impropriation was robbing the Church. What Church, Gentlemen? Was it not the Church of Rome? And are you of that Church? It is certain, that the Reformed Protestant Church of England never possessed any of these Lands; and how you, who are Protestants, and not Successors to the Monks, can hold from the Popish Monks, by Divine Right, Lands and Immunities, which these gluttonous and cheating Vermin acquired by diabolical Rogueries; is such a Riddle as can only come from Ecclesiastics, but can never be solved by Laymen. Did you ever hear, Gentlemen, that the primitive Preachers of Christ set up for being Heirs to the Riches and Revenues of the Heathen Temples, when they were deserted or demolished? And, in my Opinion, these Pagan Revenues were more honestly got, as well as more innocently used, than the Lands and Income of the Popish Monasteries.
Our Gentlemen of this Cast have long provoked one Part of the World, long deceived the other, by their Cant of Divine Right; which, tho’ a very Jest in itself, and long since exploded, is a Title which they fix to all their Possessions, let them come by them how they will. This is shameful Boldness. It is certain, that the Gospel has not given you one Foot of Land, or one Shilling of Money; nor did ever God Almighty appear personally to do it by Word of Mouth. Your Church is a Creature of the Constitution, you are Creatures of the Law: And you must evidently belye Divine Right, if you pretend to derive from thence, what all the World sees you owe to secular Bounty; I will not say to devout Frauds.
If you could be but persuaded to reconcile your Principles and Pretensions to the Security and Happiness of Mankind, all Mankind would be reconciled to you and your Pretensions. I do not remember to have ever heard the Clergy contemned, where they did not first deserve Contempt. When any of them depart from the Meekness of Ministers, nobody will pay them the Regard due to Ministers. Such who intermeddle in every thing, will be respected in nothing. They who oppose every public Good, every Action favourable to Liberty, and beneficent to the World, will be deemed Foes to Liberty, and to the World. Such who promote Strife and Persecution, will be reckoned Enemies to Peace and Charity; and those who are at the Head of all public Mischiefs, will themselves be thought a public Mischief. If they promote the known Principles, and endeavour to support the known and main Pillars, of Popery, can they expect to be treated as Protestants? If they promote Rebellion, and practise Perjury, can they either be accounted good Subjects or Christians? And if they are Patrons of Tyranny, and the Promoters of Immorality, what Quarter can they expect to find in a free Country, or amongst Men of Virtue?
If you ask me, Why all this from a Layman to his ghostly Guides? The Answer is ready———The Work was necessary; and, Gentlemen, those of your Order made it necessary. The Interest of Truth and Liberty was concerned, and indeed at stake, by the constant Attacks of those of your Robe upon them; which Attacks were so far from being disavowed by you, that the wicked Authors of them were not only treated as the chief Champions of the Church’s Cause; but all who opposed them have been fallen upon with the sternest Outrage, with the utmost Bitterness of Spirit; together with lying Calumnies, uncharitable Suggestions, and base and brutish Language; their usual Weapons, offensive and defensive.
It is worth while to mention the great Want of Sincerity in the Conduct of such Men on this Occasion. Whenever they think it seasonable, in Conversation, to uphold the mad Principles of Hickes, and of the other Protestant Papists and Nonjurors, (though, if ever there was such a thing as Blasphemy in the World, it is to be met with in their Writings, in the most daring Colours) they never fail to shew themselves their Advocates. But when they think, that a Defence of these Reveries will do a Prejudice to the Cause, with those of your People, who have a Notion of Religion and the Reformation, or among Men, who, they know, can expose these Reveries: Then, Gentlemen, they either shamelesly deny, that these Writers maintain what they do maintain; or say, that the Clergy are not answerable for the Whimfies of particular Doctors.
These dishonest Shifts, these base Practices, compounded of Knavery and Lyes, are common amongst too many of your Order. Yes, Gentlemen, to the Disgrace of common Candour, and the Reproach of Religion, they are very common amongst the High Clergy. I myself have frequently found them; and I believe, that every one, who has had any Conversation with them, has as frequently found them.
Now, that these Principles (several of which I have already laid together in this Dedication) are asserted in the Books of your Non-swearing and For-swearing Brethren, I appeal to the Books themselves: That they are impious, false, antichristian, and destructive of human Society, of all social Virtues, and all civil Happiness, I appeal to common Sense, and to the known State of those miserable Countries where they prevail: And, that they have been either adopted or approved by all the High Clergy, I appeal to their many Quotations from them, and to their constantly opposing every Proceeding against them.
Gentlemen, it is of much Consequence to you, to clear yourselves from the Imputation of maintaining or adhering to such ungodly, such mischievous Tenets, which, without consulting the revealed Will of God, appear detestable to the common Light of Reason: Tenets, which abrogate the Justice and Mercy of God, and call his very Being in question; and Tenets, which would for ever banish all Peace and Security from amongst Men, and from the Face of the Earth. Consider, that you cannot take one Step in asserting or countenancing them, without direct Perjury. You have, upon Oath, renounced all Power of any kind or sort whatsoever, but what you receive from the King and the Law. Will you, after this solemn Appeal to God, by an Oath, sacred amongst Barbarians and Infidels, appeal to all the World, that you are perjured, by maintaining, as too many do in their Writings and Sermons, that they have a Power, which they neither derive from the King nor the Law?
Sure it must be a melancholy Reflection to these Gentlemen, in point of Credit and Reputation, (for I say nothing of Conscience) that, whilst they thus distinguish themselves from Low Churchmen, whose great Crime consists in not mocking God, and leaping over Conscience and Oaths; they do, at the same time, distinguish themselves from Christianity itself, which, above all other Religions, disclaims Power, and, more than all other Religions, abhors Insincerity and false Swearing.
Can you, Gentlemen, reconcile their Behaviour, since the Revolution, to the Understanding of the People, or to any Man’s Conscience but their own? If the Doctrine of Hereditary Right be true, as many of them eternally and fiercely contend, how could they swear to Princes made by Act of Parliament? And if the Doctrine of Passive Obedience be true, how came they to swear to a Government founded upon open and evident Resistance, and to be instrumental themselves in that Resistance? Their particular Behaviour to his present Majesty cannot yet be forgot. Be so good to let us know, what Security he found from their Oaths; or what Assistance the High Clergy gave Him against the late Rebellion, in parsuance of these Oaths? Can Men, who shew, by glaring Actions, that they value not their own Souls, do any Good to the Souls of other Men?
If you would clear yourselves from the Imputation of supporting or favouring such monstrous Principles, you must do it openly and avowedly, in full and express Words, free from that Equivocation which some of your Order are much suspected of, upon the most solemn and sacred Occasions. You have been ready enough to censure many good Books, and many worthy Propositions: Be ingenuous for this once, Gentlemen; expose the Blasphemies of those of your own Body, and brand the Authors of them with those Names of Infamy which they deserve, and which you never want, whenever you think fit to call Names. And if you fairly renounce ill Company, you will not be censured, as you have been, for not censuring their Impieties. The Convocation at Oxford, in the Days of Tyranny, were sufficiently forward and explicit in damning, by their detestable Decree, since worthily burnt by the proper Hand of the common Hangman, by Order of the Legislature; I say, that black Assembly were forward and clear enough in damning all these Principles of Liberty, which ever have been, and ever will be, the Principles of wise Men, and free Men. Consult your own Reputation, and the Welfare of Mankind, by treading in Steps directly contrary to those of that wicked Assembly.
I cannot pass over in Silence, that shameful Want of Charity found amongst too many of you, and every Day complained of to no Purpose. Allowing Charity to be a Christian Grace, (and the Apostle calls it the highest) I would be glad to know in what Instance you practise that Grace yourselves, or promote it in others. As to such who deny the regular Means of Salvation to all Communions, except their own and that of Rome, they bring this Charge home to their own Door; since their Courtesy to those of the same Spirit with themselves, and their good Opinion of them, is not Charity, but Self-love and Faction. Highwaymen, no doubt, call one another honest Fellows, as frequently and habitually as other Men do; whereas their Honestly is no other than a wicked Fidelity to a Nest and Confederacy of Rogues, and they are only honest to their Fellow-Thieves. But true Honesty is the same to all Men, and to all Men alike.
The like may be said of Charity; it is tried and exercised upon those who are of a Persuasion different from ours. But to flatter and be complaisant to those of the same Imaginations, or the same Craft with ourselves, merely because they are of the same Craft, is such a new-fangled Charity, as would beat the old Christian Charity of St. Paul quite out of the World. And yet that this is the true Cause, and the true State, of modern Orthodox Charity, appears abundantly from hence, that the most wicked good Churchman has more Compliment paid him, and more Favour shewn him, than the most righteous, most godly Dissenter. Nay, by the servile Court paid by many, very many, to those of their Patrons, who lived Libertines, and died Atheists; and by their barbarous Usage of peaceable, religious Dissenters, (blameable only for being Dissenters) it would seem as if Virtue were no longer the Object of their Affection, nor Vice of their Aversion.
For God’s sake, Gentlemen, abandon this damning Spirit, which is a Contradiction to Religion, and a Reproach to Humanity; assume Charity for all Men, or drop all Pretensions to Christianity; learn to be temperate and well-bred, or cease claiming to be Gentlemen: Leave reviling, as you would be thought Preachers and Exhorters; and, as you would be thought Successors to the Apostles, concern not yourselves with worldly Power, of which the Apostles had none.
You would not sure be thought a Set of Ecclesiastics, detached both from Christians and Heathens; and yet, by contending not only for worldly Power, but for independent worldly Power, superior to all the Powers of the World, you shew, as many of you as do so, that you are a Discredit to Christians, and yet are worse than Heathens. It was the good Counsel of Bishop Hall to Laud, who was confounding all Things Human and Divine, that he would be either Fish or Flesh; either throw away his Wings, or pull out his Claws. For God’s sake, Gentlemen, tell us what Religion you are of ——— I mean such of you as assert the Positions above quoted. To what Class of Religion, think you, these Men belong? To none, certainly, that ever was in the World. They cannot even make consistent Papists, tho’ That seems to be their highest Ambition. Their Popery, I own, is true Popery, and yet it is Popery without a Pope. I cannot speak so favourably of the Christianity which they pretend to; though That too is Christianity without Christ, who was all Meekness, Humility, and Love; Omnipotent, but disclaimed all Power; Infallible, and yet would judge no Man — Are you, Gentlemen, his Successors? Do your Champions resemble this Picture? They are poor, frail, erring, mortal Men; and yet they would act as if they were omnipotent, and dictate as if they were infallible. Good God! Gentlemen, what Madness, to deal thus with us, before they had burnt our Bibles, or put out our Eyes!
Do we not see Clergymen actuated by as savage and unreasonable Passions as any Set of Men living? And would you pretend to govern absolutely those who have at least as much Virtue, Sense, and Sobriety as yourselves; who, as it is plain from your Lives, cannot govern yourselves better than others? Have we not seen their Heads as deep in wicked Counsel, and their Hands as deep in Crimes, as the Heads and Hands of any Society of Men upon Earth? And can you expect, that we will trust the most important Care in the World, the Care of our Souls, to Men who take no Care of their own; or rather do not seem to think, that they have any? What Opinion, think you, can we have of their Power with Heaven, when we behold them incessantly contending for, and pursuing Power upon Earth, which is inconsistent with the Ways of Heaven? It is time, high time, Gentlemen, to give over, and to remember, that we neither want Eyes nor Memory.
There has been a long and almost general Charge against the Clergy of all Ages and Countries, for neglecting to preach and enforce, as much and as clearly as they ought, the great Doctrine of Morality, the best Mark of Religion, and the best Stay of Human Society: It is indeed Religion itself; and that Religion which does not produce Morality, deserves another Name. Morality is the only Religion which Human Society, considered as such, has any Occasion to see practised. If a Man be really Moral, neither the Civil Magistrate, nor his Fellow-Citizens, ought to have any Concern what he believes, or how he believes. Our Actions are in our Power, but our Thoughts are not, no more than our Dreams. Belief necessarily follows Evidence, and where the Evidence does not appear sufficient, a Man cannot believe if he would. There was Virtue in the World before there was Orthodoxy in it; which hard, equivocal, priestly Word, has done more Mischief to Mankind, than all the Tyrants that ever plagued the Earth. This is worthy the Consideration of the Laity. Yes, Gentlemen, Orthodoxy has made many Tyrants, and exceeded All. What can be said to this Fact?
I allow that Priests often contend for good Works; but, without a Paradox, the good Works which they contend for, are, for the most part, not only not Morality; but, on the contrary, are often very wicked and sinful. The Endowing of Churches and Monasteries, is, for Example, with them, a great good Work; and yet it has generally proved a mischievous Liberality, which evidently hurt Religion and Human Society, and frequently destroyed both. I call upon you, Gentlemen, to shew where and when the Christian Religion ever thrived or gained by Riches. I, on my Side, can shew that they have been always Poison to it. Riches first made Priests rampant, and such Priests soon defaced and ruined Religion; but more or less effectually, as their Revenues and Power were greater or smaller. Christianity flourished most, when it had neither worldly Priests, nor worldly Endowments. Will you deny this? In short, their preaching good Works has been generally preaching Themselves, who were the chief Gainers by them. And as to those good Words which did not promise any Advantage to the Clergy, they either always opposed them, or never encouraged them. We cannot forget your Behaviour at the Beginning of our present Charity-Schools, how you every-where opposed them, till you had got the Management of them into your own Hands; and now you as violently promote them out of other Mens Pockets. Whether your Government of those Schools promotes the Welfare of the Commonwealth, (if you can bear that Word) appears abundantly from the bitter and disaffected Spirit found in them.
ByMorality, therefore, is meant a Thing quite different from such good Works. Morality is Natural Religion, which prompts us to do Good to all Men, and to all Men alike, without regard to their Speculations, any more than to their Cloaths, or to the Colour of their Hair; which is as much in their Power as their Faith is. Morality is social Virtue, on rather the Mother of all social Virtues: It wishes and promotes unlimited and universal Happiness to the whole World: It regards not a Christian more than a Jew or an Indian, any further than as he is a better Citizen; and not so much, if he be not.
Barbeyrac, in his excellent Preface to his Translation of Puffendorf de JureNaturæ & Genium, has shewn us, by a fine Detail of Passages, how the Pagan, the Jewish, and too many Christian Priests, have all ever agreed in concealing, disguising, mangling, calumniating, and opposing the eternal Principles of Morality, or Natural Religion. The Religion of these holy Hirelings consisted either in a long Rout of Ceremonies, as tedious as ridiculous; or in certain abstruse Points, which could never be known, and were not worth knowing; always in great Pomp and Pride; and in Dominion, where-ever they could get it. It was either a Religion of the Body, or a Religion of the Imagination, or a Religion of Shew, Profit and Terror. In fine, the blessed Clubs of Ecclesiastics of all Religions, in whatever else they differed, yet always accorded in this, that the Religion which they contrived, agreed neither with Heaven nor Earth, neither with Reason nor Good-humour, but only fitted themselves, and their own Views.
Mr. Barbeyrac, in his Preface, has given us a diverting Specimen of the Absurdities and Ravings of those Reverend old Gentlemen, whom we call the Fathers. And in all the Instances that he brings, it is hard, if not impossible, to say, whether the Uncharitableness, Roguery, or Stupidity of these old Saints, appears uppermost.
This Preface is every way so excellent, that I have prevailed upon a Friend of mine, a Gentleman of Gray’s-Inn, to translate it into English, for the Instruction of the Laity. A Reverend Divine or two have translated the Book itself; but no Divine has yet thought fit to give us the Preface. My Countrymen may therefore soon expect it from him, with an Introduction.
Gentlemen, I have but two Questions to ask of you, and I have done: Pray, to what is it owing, that the usual Spirit and Zeal of this Nation against Popery are now quite extinct; insomuch that in the Neighbourhood of great Popish Families, your Flocks grow daily thinner, and the Mass-houses stronger; as I am able to shew in some Instances? And, Secondly, What is become of the Bundle of Papers sent by Mr. Lesley to a former Convocation, containing a Project for an Union between the Protestant Church of England and the Popish Church of France? And I desire you will acquaint the World with the Reasons, why no Notice or Censure was passed upon them.
I shall say nothing here of the usual way taken to answer Antagonists, not by Reason, or Scripture, but by downright Force, Hardships and Oppression. The Sermon, called, The Craftsmen, has done this to my Hand, and I have now added it to this Edition; I therefore haste to conclude, and
Your most Humble, and
Most Obedient Servant,
The Independent Whig.
TO THE PUBLISHER OF THE Independent Whig.
I Have been informed, that you are now preparing a Fifth Edition of the Independent Whig. I reflect with much Pleasure on the great and lasting Esteem which these Papers have deservedly gained. Far from being written with the Spirit of Party, far from being ever designed to promote the low and mean Pursuits of private Passion, they have long out-lived the Date of Party-writings: And as the candid Spirit which produced them, was above such ungenerous Contentions, so will they live beyond them. They will live to a Day when the very Names of Parties shall hardly be remembred, when the Feuds and Contests of those Times in which they were produced, shall no longer engage the Attention of Men; when Ambition is laid low; when Divisions are laid aside, and even Defamation is silent. Whilst the Love of Truth and Liberty shall prevail in the World, this Collection shall be preserved as sacred to the Interests of both; as their noble Foundation is eternal Truth and good Sense, as their only End is the Preservation of that common Good which every Man is born to enjoy in Right of his Creation, and which he ought always to enjoy against the exorbitant Claims of superstitious Priests, the vile Arts which they practise to deceive, and the Power which they usurp to oppress.
This then is the Cause of Liberty and Reason, a Cause which itself requires, and whose Friends can wish it no better Advantage than to be seen and tried in open Day. This is most worthy of Conquest and Triumph. It fights to save, and it conquers to deliver. Slavery flies its Approach, and Liberty attends its Victories. This likewise is that Cause which is sure of Success, where the wicked and corrupt Agents of dark Iniquity cannot blind the People with mysterious Delusion, nor put out their Eyes by the Authority of Laws. Against these impudent Pretensions, and unwarrantable Practices, fatally common to all Ages and Nations, where-ever Ambition inspires the Love of Power, or whereever Avarice incites the Lust of Rapine, have the Authors of this Collection appeared with so great Reputation and Success, that I know not which is the clearest Evidence of their Merit, the Number and Distinction of their Friends, or the Outrage of their Enemies.
Indeed the Rage of Nonsense is too feeble to support itself. Even the Cause that gives it Fury, cannot give it Life; it raves, and dies. The most flaming Stupidity that ever appeared in Defiance of common Sense, how much soever it might serve to fire ignorant Multitudes for a present Hour, lost all its Force, and Credit, and Effect, in the next; lost even the Applause of those whose Interests had Service from it. The most elaborate and well-written Piece of Nonsense is but the Being of a Day: If happily timed, it hath its Admirers; when the Season is past, it wants even Readers. The very Memory of it can have no Existence, unless a Work of Sense and Meaning give it Life by taking notice of it, and Posterity read it bound up with those Writings, which it was meant to depress and discredit. What a Secret would it be with Men, that Filmer ever wrote, or that Sacheverel ever preached, if the Honourable Algernon Sidney and Mr. Locke had not answered one, and if the House of Commons had not impeached the other? How rarely do we ever meet with the former, but in the immortal Works of his great Adversaries? And how seldom do we find the other, but in the Account of his Trial?
The Zeal which I have for the Papers contained in those Volumes now under your Care, makes me fond even of some of the most miserable Nonsense that ever was published against them; and though I have reason to believe, that such raving Folly will meet with few Admirers, methinks it ought not to be destitute of Readers. To suppress it, would be an Honour which it very ill deserves. It would thereby share the Fate of the most deserving Writings. This would be treating the most impotent Nonsense as if it was Sense and Integrity. Such Considerations induce me to think, that we ought not to treat with Neglect the doughty Performance of the Bishop of SodorandMann, or the Bull which he published against the Independent Whig. The Bishop is a Gentleman of some Figure; the Nonsense of the Bull is equally conspicuous: In short, it is Dulness episcopally eminent. And though a Person, even of his Character, should not have Credit enough to keep such a Performance alive; yet the Independent Whig may preserve it, and ought to preserve it. The Authors of that useful Book owe this Regard to the Prelate, and, in Return for so much Zeal shewn by him in suppressing their Writings, ought with all possible Care to perpetuate his. It will do him exemplary Justice; it will give Mankind the clearest Proofs of his Wisdom, and of his Integrity, when they shall read and compare what this Prelate desired to burn, and what he recorded to preserve. The Motive which engaged his Zeal against our Authors, the earnest Desire, that their Papers should not be read, could never have a place in their Thoughts, whenever they reflected on him. It was, I dare say, their hearty Desire, that he should always have Readers. So little Reason had this Reverend Person to charge them with Infidelity, since this their Disposition, with relation to himself, shewed that truly Christian Principle strongly implanted in them, of doing as they would be done by, how little soever of that Doctrine appeared in the Actions of their Opposers.
When the Independent Whig came into the Diocese of Mann, the Bishop immediately issued an Act against it, which was conceived in the following Terms, and is properly intituled his BULL against the Independent Whig.
Lib. Causarum per Ann. Dom. 1721.
WHEREAS a most pestilent Book, intuled, The Independent Whig, has been lately brought into this Diocese, and, as we are certainly informed, industriously handed about with a manifest Intent to beguile ignorant and unstable Souls, and to render the Doctrine, Discipline, and the Government of the Church contemptible; and this without any Regard to his Majesty’s Directions, sent to me by his Grace our Metropolitan, and communicated unto you, expresly condemning such vile Books, and the spreading of them: I think it my Duty to acquaint you therewith, and with some of the baneful Contents thereof, that you may be upon your Guard, and that we may endeavour to secure the Flock over which the Holy Ghost has made us Overseers, from the Mischief intended by this and such-like blasphemous Books, which God, either for our Punishment or Trial, has suffered to be sent amongst us.
THAT the great Design of the Book abovementioned is to undermine the Christian Religion, appears by the Author’s representing all Religion as a mere Contrivance of Ecclesiastics for their own Interests;
BY his Rage and Malice against the antient Creeds, even that called The Apostles not excepted, and by his treating all such as at any time have contended for the Faith once delivered to the Saints, as the Tools of Princes, and as the Pest of Mankind;
BY ridiculing the venerable Fathers and Councils of the Primitive Church after the most scandalous Manner, and thereby depriving, as much as it is in the Power of Hell to do it, the Church of Christ of their Testimony to the Truth, and of the then received Sense of the sacred Scriptures;
BY making a very Jest of the Ordinances of the Gospel, and prostituting the Sacraments ordained by Christ himself to Contempt, magnifying those Heretics who do avowedly reject them;
BY making the Peace of the Church the Bane of Society; and Unity amongst Christians, so much required by Jesus Christ, the very Cause and Badge of Slavery;
BY scoffing at Holy Orders, and making a blasphomous Comparison betwixt the Powers conveyed by the Apostles to their Successors, and those given by an Attorney-general. And that we may be assured, that all this is from the Spirit of Antichrist, which St. John saith should come into the World, the Author of thisBook makes the Want of Faith an indifferent Matter, and expresly saith, that no Man will be rewarded or punished for having or not having right or wrong Conceptions of the Incarnation, that is, concerning Jesus Christ being come in the Flesh, which the Apostle gives as the very Mark of Antichrist. In short, the whole Book is one continued Design, in which the Devil and the Authors have shewed the utmost Skill to lay waste the Church of Christ, to overthrow all revealed Religion, to reduce Men to a State of Nature, and to bring all Things into a Confusion, both Sacred and Civil.
LEST therefore we should provoke God to deprive this Church and Nation of the Blessings of Truth, and Peace, and Unity, and the Means of Grace which we have so long enjoyed, by seeming to sleep while the Enemy is so busy in sowing Tares, and by neglecting to make use of all Means becoming the Spirit of the Gospel, to hinder such vile Tenets from spreading, to the manifest Danger both of Church and State; I beseech you, my Brethren, to join with me in puting a Stop, if possible, to the Beginnings of Profaneness and Infidelity;
BY convincing our People, from the Word of God, of the Necessity of holding fast the Mystery of Faith in a pure Conscience; that is, believing well, as well as living well; not being,like Children, carried away with every Blast of vain Doctrine; and of the prodigious Sin of those that teach, countenance, or embrace any thing contrary to the Gospel we have received. The Apostle saith, and repeats it, Let such be Anathema, let them be accursed.
BY detecting the Agents and Abettors of this Antichristian Spirit, that either they may be convinced of their Error in the Spirit of Meekness, or cut off from the Body of Christ, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
AND for ourselves, my Brethren, let us endeavour, by Well-doing, to put to Silence the Ignorance of foolish Men, holding fast the faithful Word, as we have been taught, that we may be able, by sound Doctrine, both to exhort and convince the Gainsayers.
Given under my Hand this 27th of January, in the Year of our Lord 1721, and of our Consecration the 25th.
THO. SODOR & MANN.
To the Reverend Mr. Woods, Episcopal Register, to be communicated to the Clergy of this Diocese, 30 Januarii 1721.
Copia vera Exa’ per me J. Woods, R. P. D. Tho. Sodor & Manniæ Epis. Registr.
Not content with these thundering Curses against this unfortunate Book, the Bishop of Mann, in the Plenitude of his Apostolical Power, conceived himself legally commissioned to seize it where-ever he found it. Accordingly, when Mr. Richard Worthington sent it as a Present to the Public Library of the Island, the Bishop commanded his Creature, one Stevenson of Ballidoole, to take it and keep it, so that it should neither be deposited in the Library, nor yet restored to the Owner. The Party aggrieved by this lawless Procedure had recourse to the Justice of the Governor, who, when Stevenson refused to restore the Book to the right Owner, committed him to Castle Rushen, till he should make Reparation. Upon which Occasion the Bishop of Mann protested against his Imprisonment; which Act of the Bishop, as also the Governor’s Answer, are faithfully set forth in the following Words:
To the Honourable Alexander Horne, Esq; Governor of this Isle:
The Remonstrance of Tho. Bp. of Sodor & Mann.
WHEREAS John Stevenson, of Ballidoole, Esq; is now imprisoned in Castle Rushen for assisting me to suppress a most pestilentBook, intituled, The Independent Whig; which Book has been industriously handed about, to the manifest Hurt of the Flock committed to my Care: And forasmuch as I am obliged and required, not only by his Majesty’s late Directions, sent to me by his Grace our Metropolitan, but also by my Consecration-Vows, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange Doctrines, contrary to God’s Word: And being convinced, that this Book, so full of damnable Errors, (if permitted to be again dispersed) is capable of doing more Mischief, than the very Plague we are so much justly afraid of: And since there is no other Method of obtaining Mr. Stevenson’s Inlargement, than by delivering up the said Book; I do therefore protest against the evil Consequences which may attend the forcing it out of my Hands. And I desire, that this may be entered upon Record, to the end, that my Obedience to his Majesty’s Commands, and a due Sense of my Duty, may appear hereafter.
Dated Feb. 21. Anno Dom. 1721, and the 25th
of our Consecration.
THO. SODOR & MANN.
At Castle Rushen, the 2d of February 1721.
THE Concern the Bishop shews for John Stevenson, of Ballidoole, an Esquire of his own Creation, is a Recompence be could not well avoid making, since he has by such Ways and Means made him an Instrument to pursue any thing he shall think fit to put him upon.
BUT it is surprising to me, to find the Bishop making the Assistance Mr. Stevenson gave him, to suppress the Book, intituled, The Independent Whig, the Occasion of his Confinement; when they, and every body else that knows the Matter, can tell, that he was confined for refusing to restore that Book that was but lent him, which Mr. Worthington desired might be presented from him to the Library here; and if Mr. Stevenson would have returned that Book, or a Receipt from the Library-keeper, that he had received it for the Library, as was often told him, it would have prevented his Confinement, and saved the Bishop the Trouble of his elaborate Remonstrance, since a Receipt, which might have been writ in few Words, would have done as well; and when they had it in their Custody, they might have used their own Methods to suppress or prevent its being spread abroad.
BUT, perhaps, he had a mind to shew his Resentment of this Book, under the specious Pretence of his Zeal and Obedience to his Majesty’s Commands; but if he had thought fit to have used the Prayers that were composed in the Time of the Rebellion, which were ordered by his Majesty to be made use of in all Churches and Chapels, &c. it might have been a greater Instance of Affection, Zeal and Obedience to his Majesty and Government, than what he has done by censuring and condemning this Book; which I cannot find has been condemned in England, or thought to be one of the Books comprehended in his Majesty’s late Order.
BUT though the Prayers above-mentioned were then delivered to the Bishop, in order to be used in the Churches and Chapels here, and that he (the Bishop) promised they should, yet I did not find that they were; nor do I now so much wonder at it, when I find, that rather than the Clergy will subscribe a Declaration, testifying their Affection to his Majesty and Government, and his Right to the Crown of Great Britain, &c. as established by several Acts of Parliament, and against all Pretenders, they will content themselves with supplying the Cure of some Parishes now vacant, upon Courtesy, rather than apply to the Right HonourableLord and Patron of this Isle for a Presentation, upon these Terms.
AND since the Bishop has so earnestly desired this his Remonstrance to be recorded, he has given me an Opportunity of making these Remarks, and also of justifying my Desire of having the Prayers above-mentioned used in this Island, and leaves me less liable to the Reflections that might be made, for not using them.
It is also proper to annex the Certificate of those who tendered the Book, by the Governor’s Command, to another of the Bishop’s Creatures, the Library-keeper of the Island.
We do hereby certify, that being this Day sent by the Honourable Governor with a Book, intituled, The Independent Whig, to be given to Mr. Ross, Library-keeper in this Island, as a Present from Mr. Richard Worthington, for the Use of the Library; We accordingly tendered the said Book to the aforesaid Mr. Ross; but he positively refused to accept the same, saying, he had read it, and that it was the vilest Book he ever saw; and, with solemn Repetitions, declared, he would as soon take Poison,as receive the Book into the Library upon any other Terms, than immediately to burn it.
Witness our Hands, this 21st of February 1721-2.
ThisBull, and the subsequent Proceedings, (as they have been faithfully extracted from the Registers of the Diocese, and from the public Records of the Isle of Mann) give us a notable Instance of that virtuous and godly Spirit which appeared with such primitive Zeal against the Independent Whig. And when Mankind shall remember by no other Means, what a meek and Christian Prelate governed that Island in our Generation, these precious Memorials will exhibit in so lively a manner his Candour and Learning, his great good Sense and Humanity, his Charity and Piety, that I know not to which they will do the greatest Service, his own Reputation, or that Religion which he pretended to serve, and which it was his Duty to support, not to the Ends of priestly and worldly Ambition, but to the great and beneficent End of its divine Institution; not by the Means of Authority and Persecution, which it was instituted professedly in Opposition to, and which the very Genius of it abhors, as every Precept of it condemns them; but it was his Duty to support it, as his Lord and Master dispensed it, by the Force of Argument, and by the Influence of Persuasion, by exemplary Meekness, Patience, and Charity, which are the Spirit of the Gospel, and the Essentials of true Religion.
Instead of this, you have seen, that the Bishop of Mann, having taken Offence at a Book which was wrote in Opposition to the Claims and Conduct of Popish and Popishly affected Clergymen, first brands it with an infamous and odious Design of beguiling the Souls of Men; and then calls in the Aid of the Secular Arm to second his defamatory Censure, by pretending that his Majesty’s Directions had condemned this Book, even before it was wrote; and had impowered him to suppress it as a blasphemous Book, without any legal Trial, against the Laws of the Realm, and against the Rights of the People.
To colour this unjust and most dishonest Attempt, the Bishop of Mann thought fit to charge it, in the most avowed and licentious Manner, against the Authors of this Book, that their great Design therein was to undermine the Christian Religion; and, in Proof of this bold Detraction, he says, that it appears from their having represented all Religion as a mere Contrivance of Ecclesiastics for their own Interest.
This is a Calumny supported by a Falshood, a Scandal maintained by gross Misrepresentation. The Authors of the Independent Whig had no-where said, had no-where suggested, that all Religion was a mere Contrivance of Ecclesiastics for their own Interests. On the contrary, they represented true Religion as the most useful, the most amiable and excellent Thing in the World; far from being contrived by Priests, but altogether founded in Reason, dispensed by the All-wise God, and perfectly agreeable to his divine Goodness. If any Religion, or any public Establishments, have at any time been contrived or modelled by Ecclesiastics, merely for their own Interests, could it be a Crime in these Authors to represent them, as they are, hateful to God, and injurious to Men? Are there indeed no such Institutions, no such pretended Religions upon Earth? Can the Bishop of Mann himself venture to say, that there is any established Religion in the World (beyond the Pale of the Protestant Churches) which is not almost wholly the mere Contrivance of Ecclesiastics for their own Interest? And is it not the Duty of all who profess, of all who love, or would serve, that Religion which hath Truth and Purity on its Side, to destroy, as far as they are able, the false, the corrupt and knavish Institutions, which so much abound in other Countries, and from which our own hath not always been free?
But for the Christian Religion, which the Bishop undoubtedly includes in that comprehensive Term of all Religion, can there be more glaring Falshood or Folly, than to charge the Authors of the Independent Whig, that they undermine this Holy Religion, by representing All Religions as the mere Contrivance of Ecclesiastics for their own Interests, when, through the whole Tenour of the Book, almost in every Paper, it is undeniably proved, that the Interests of selfish Ecclesiastics are utterly irreconcilable, and even destructive, to the Christian Religion; proved, that Jesus Christ was the greatest Enemy which they, or their Contrivances, ever met with; that his Gospel still remains, as formidable as himself was, against all their Schemes of Ambition and Avarice? And could the Authors of this Collection, by inveighing against false Religion, as the Contrivance of Ecclesiastics for their own Interests, represent Ecclesiastics as contriving that Religion for their Interests, which is utterly opposite to all their Interests? Could they represent Christianity as an Ecclesiastical Contrivance, when the Divine Founder of it, both by his Example and Arguments, contributed more to the Downfal of such Contrivances, than all the Lawgivers, than all the Prophets, from the Creation to his own Times had done; and when this divine Example, these invincible Arguments, were the Authorities continually made use of in the Independent Whig against ungodly Ecclesiastical Interests, which are every-where in the Book treated and condemned as unchristian Contrivances?
So little Truth, so little Candour and Consistency, was found in the Bishop, when he defamed the Authors as Underminers of the Christian Religion. And sorry I am to say it, but from his Behaviour in this Instance, the Reasonings made use of in these Papers too fatally appear to be true; since here is a Bishop, whom neither the Imposition of Hands, nor his receiving the Holy Ghost, could inspire with Truth, or Temper, or Candour, or Patience; and since, notwithstanding that solemn Ceremony, that sacred Fiat, he seems as prone to Slander and Falshood, as the most unconsecrated Layman.
Nor is the following Paragraph, in this spiritual Libel, better supported with Truth, or less chargeable with Defamation; I mean that Rage and Malice which he pretends to be in the Independent Whig against the antient Creeds, even that called the Apostles not excepted, as if they had treated all such as have at any time contended for the Faith, as the Tools of Princes, and as the Pest of Mankind.
For the Authors of these Papers have not, as I know of, objected to any such Creeds, or treated them with Rage and Malice. But if they treated them as no Part of Holy Writ, as no Divine Institutions, as Systems and Forms composed by Men, and free for Mankind to receive or reject, so far they had Truth and Evidence on their Side. If they further shewed, That no Creed or Composition of Belief, no System of Faith, can compel the Assent, where it does not convince the Understanding; that it is Blasphemy against God, and Tyranny over Men, to command us in his Name to believe that which it is impossible to believe, or to damn, by his Authority, all those who cannot comprehend that which is commanded in his Name: If they shewed, from the Justice and Equity of the Supreme Being, from the necessary and unalterable Goodness of his Almighty Will, that no Man could be ungracious in his Sight by making use of his Reason in the highest Concerns of Religion, or by differing from others in that which only related to himself, or by disbelieving Creeds, if he could not possibly believe them, or by not understanding that which to him appeared unintelligible: If they shewed, that it was contrary to Reason, to Humanity, and to true Religion, to distress and to harass any Man for Opinions which could neither injure his Neighbour, nor offend his God, for Convictions of Mind which were irresistible to himself, and uncontroulable by others: If they shewed, that no Form of Words, nor any Antiquity of Creeds, nor even that which some are pleased to call the Apostles Creed, could alter the Nature of Right or Wrong, of Just or Unjust; but that, however true or certain they might be in themselves, yet those who conceived them otherwise through unavoidable Apprehensions, ought no more to be punished in this World, or damned in the next, than for disbelieving any other Proposition, or authoritative Opinion, which, however demonstrative in its Nature, or however supported by Evidence, by the Belief of Multitudes, or by Rewards annexed to it, cannot possibly appear equally true to all Men, nor will ever be universally agreed on by them: If this was the Reasoning of the Independent Whig, was this what the Bishop calls Rage and Malice against the antient Creeds? Or, though his clear Understanding is capable of receiving all the three Creeds together, as unerring Standards of Faith; yet is it any Affront, and Indecency to those Creeds, or any Misdemeanour against them, if any other Person in the World should be not altogether so clear in Opinion as this intelligent Prelate?
Suppose that any Man should be so unorthodox as to differ from the damning Clauses of the Athanasian Creed, must he be damned himself for not consigning other Men to Damnation? And though the tender Mercies of the Bishop of Mann should send poor Mortals quick to Hell, in consequence of that extraordinary System; does it flow from Rage and Malice against the antient Creeds to say, that the just, the good, and beneficent Author of the Universe created Men for other Ends; and whatever their Opinions may be in Matters which they judge differently of, and cannot all agree in, that still this merciful Being will finally send them to a milder Place, and provide them better Company? Does this then undermine the Christian Religion, or does not the contrary Doctrine more undermine it, more blaspheme it, than all the Attempts of its Enemies collected together?
Who then is the bitterest and most implacable Adversary to the Christian Religion, the Authors of the Independent Whig, who vindicate Almighty God, and his Revelations, from the absurd, the inhuman and cruel Purposes imputed to them; or the Bishop of Mann, who loads them with all these monstrous and merciless Imputations, making that to be a blasphemous Book, which proves the Deity to be good and just; and that to undermine the Christian Religion, which maintains its Gospel to be as meek and as pure, as beneficent and charitable, as the Person who first preached it? If I were not an utter an Enemy to all Kinds of Power and Persecution in Matters of Opinion, I could put the Laws against Blasphemy and Profaneness in Force against this violent Prelate, who seems to be even guilty of a greater Crime than that of denying the Being of a God; for he denies his great and essential Attributes, those of his Mercy and Goodness, and ascribes to the Deity a wicked and abominable Nature, making the Assertion of God’s universal Benevolence to undermine the Christian Religion. But though I am against the Penal Laws, yet I expect, that whilst the Bishop of Man hopes for Toleration in his strange Notions, which seem to make the Almighty a wicked and arbitrary Being, and the Religion of Jesus more inhuman than that of Moloch; I say, whilst he is tolerated in these wild Opinions, I hope that he will not too rigorously insist, that the Laws be put in Execution against those who believe, that God is not a Tyrant, nor the Christian Religion a Plague.
To me the Bishop of Mann appears to see, and indeed to represent, God and Religion in a monstrous and terrible Light; since he makes it a Mark of Antichrist, to suppose that there can be no Sin in not conceiving rightly of Things which cannot be conceived at all. A Mystery is no longer one, when it is understood; and whilst it cannot be possibly understood by the dark and limited Capacities of Men, how can an Impossibility become their Crime? Does God require Impossibilities as Acts of Duty? Who dare say this? How then can right or wrong Notions of Matters, which are above all Notion, be intitled to Rewards or Punishments? Had they been necessary to have been understood, he who is the Author of them, and who only can explain them, would have explained them. Whatever is utterly without our Reach, can never be Part of our Duty; and whatever is not matter of Duty, is matter of Indifference. This is the Doctrine which the Bishop brands as coming from Antichrist; and by doing so, shews no Christian Spirit.
To damn Men for inevitable Misapprehensions, as it can never be of God, nor of his Son, who loved Men so well as to die for them, favours indeed of the Spirit of Antichrist; which Spirit the Bishop, with notable Confidence and Absurdity, imputes to the IndependentWhig, a Book which every-where endeavours to infuse rational and amiable Ideas of God and his beloved Son. That the good God, who created us, and knows our Weakness, should subject us to everlasting Wrath for the involuntary Motions of our frail Minds; is a Principle full of Horror, and repugnant to the Character of the Divine Being; but has ever been the genuine Characteristic of bold Deceivers, who set themselves up in his stead, and claim a Commission to do every thing that is unlike him, every thing that is unworthy of him, but every thing, however hideous and wicked, that tends to aggrandize themselves, and to cheat or destroy the rest of the Creation.
This Reasoning, which is eternally true, and too well supported with Facts, the Independent Whig strongly inculcates. Does the Bishop answer it? No; he rages, misrepresents, and calls Names.
Before the Mission of Jesus Christ, Mankind are not pretended to have been under other Hazards of Damnation, than what they were liable to through the imputed Guilt of their great Progenitor, and through the personal Guilt of displeasing God by unjust or unreasonable Actions. The Mission of Jesus, that Blessing to Mankind, foretold by the Prophecies of Ages, and ushered in by the Pomp of Angels, was to make the Means of Salvation, and of pleasing God, more intelligible, and more easy. Now if Jesus Christ, the Son whom he sent from his Bosom, had, according to the unhallowed Notions of the Bishop of Mann, dispensed a difficult and unintelligible Rule of Salvation, he had left the Souls of Men in a much more dangerous and precarious Situation than he found them; and had not the right or wrong Conceptions of his Incarnation been intended by him as no Matters of Duty, the Means of Damnation had been multiplied, and Hell would have had an Advantage on its Side, great in proportion to these new Hazards of losing the Souls of Men: So that were the Bishop of Mann’s wild Inferences true, the Devil would be a Gainer by the Gospel.
Now, since the Bishop seems of Opinion, that it is the very Spirit of Antichrist to deny, that Rewards and Punishments follow right and wrong Conceptions of Mysteries, even of such Mysteries as cannot be conceived at all, I would ask him to explain his own Notions about some of them: How (for Example) the Incarnation of the Deity could be effected without the natural efficient Causes; how this Divine Person was conceived without the Work of human Generation; how the Virgin his Mother became pregnant without Intercourse with Man; how the Holy Ghost operated upon that Blessed Woman, or how the Overshadowing influenced her Conception? For these are such abstruse Speculations, that I should not think it concerned any Man alive in Reason, or Conscience, or from Duty to God or himself, to inquire how these prodigious Acts of Divine Power were formed, notwithstanding the Bishop makes it antichristian to treat these Matters as no Parts of Duty, or, as he calls it, as indifferent Matters.
If the Bishop of Mann then means, that certain fond and inexplicable Speculations of his own, are the Faith once delivered to the Saints, well might the Authors of the Independent Whig represent such Hypocrites, who have at any time contended for it, as the Tools of Princes, and as the Pest of Mankind; since Tyranny never had such Chains for the Minds of Men, as the Fears of Superstition; since Tyrants never had such Instruments of Oppression, as holy Knaves, and believing Fools; nor Armies nor Battles have laid waste the Creation in any Proportion to Religious Massacres, and Religious Persecution: Nor hath Conquest by the Sword ever enslaved Mankind in any degree like Monkish Devotion and implicit Belief. But that any of those who have at any time contended for the Christian Religion, as it was delivered by Christ himself; that any of those who have advanced its pure Morals, and its peaceable Doctrines, its beneficent Views, and gracious Dispensations, are at all mal-treated in the Independent Whig; or that they have not been treated by the Authors of that Book with the highest Decency, and with the warmest Elogiums, I defy this railing Prelate, and all his ghostly Abettors, to shew from any Passage in the whole Collection of their Papers.
Indeed the Fathers and Councils, whom it is said that these Authors have ridiculed, are, by the Bishop’s Leave, as far from being venerable, as is his own Spirit and Behaviour in this whole Affair. It is not long Habits that convey Reverence, any more than the Imposition of Hands conveys Holiness. If they have been ridiculed, were they not sufficiently ridiculous? Were not the Reveries of many of those Fathers as wild, and false, and droll, as his own Bull? Were not the Decisions of many of those Councils as absurd? Take Nine Parts in Ten of their Writings and Decrees, you will find, that if they had not been written on the most sacred of all Subjects, the Christian Religion, or at least borrowed that amiable Name, they are so very foolish, so incredibly extravagant, that it would even have been below the Dignity of an Executioner to have burnt them. And is even the most sublime Subject to sanctify the most glareing Stupidity of Hypocrites, or ignorant Visionaries, however cloathed with pompous Names? Or would it not be for the Honour of Truth, and true Religion, that such Gothic Transformers of Religion and Truth, such Enemies to common Sense, had never undertaken to expound the plain and intelligible Precepts of the Gospel? Precepts which had never been made Matters of such Dispute, if these dreaming and wrangling Dotards had not multiplied gigantic Volumes in confounding Human Understanding about them! Is there any thing false or absurd, which hath not Authority from some or other of their Writings? Do any two of them agree with one another, or does any one of them agree even with himself? How few of them have common Sense, or Decency, or Dignity of Style? What Testimony do they give to the Truth? Or what certain determined Sense do they receive the Scriptures in? If their Testimony was worth any thing, or if their Opinions were of Importance, what a doleful Condition must the Christian Religion be reduced to, lost in such a Mountain of illiterate Lumber? And what a more doleful Condition would Christians be in, whom the Holy Scriptures could not sufficiently secure in their Salvation without the Assistance of these voluminous, these unintelligible Collections, filled with idle Rhapsodies, with senseless Commentaries, and endless Controversies; all which are of as little additional Weight to the holy inspired Writeings, as the elaborate and sublime Nonsense of the Mahometan Doctors is of Service to the Reputation of their Impostor’s Alcoran?
How then will the Bishop make it an Undermining of the Christian Religion, to ridicule a Set of Monks and Pedants, of whom and whose Writings the Truth and the Meaning of this Divine Law is, as it ought to be, utterly independent? Or what hath the Power of Hell to do in depriving the Church of Christ of their Assistance, which it doth not want, and when indeed they cannot give it any? If he means, that their mountainous Rubbish is the Assistance and the Support of a Craft; that it keeps up a Science of Juggle and Jargon; that it makes a Trade of Divinity, and proves the Livelihood of Dunces; I confess, that the Study of Fathers and Councils is worthy of his pious Care. The Christian Religion, I hope and am assured, wants no such wretched Support; but we may be allowed to attack these rotten Foundations of Fraud and Priestcraft, without being treated as Underminers of Christianity.
This Undermining Work is charged by the Bishop of Mann on the Authors of the IndependentWhig, in a very extraordinary Instance; namely, “By making a very Jest of the Ordinances of the Gospel, and prostituting the Sacraments ordained by Christ himself to Contempt, magnifying those Heretics who do avowedly reject them.”
This is pure Defamation in the Bishop, who is also very unfortunate and unsuccessful in it, since there is not one Ordinance of the Gospel which these Authors jest with. They indeed treat the Gospel, and all its Ordinances, with high Decency and Respect. But if he means bowing to the East, cringing Postures, long Habits, black Gowns, or white Surplices; so far as these are supposed to have any relative Holiness in them, they are not the Ordinances of the Gospel; and so far as they are pretended to be so, they ought always to be made a Jest of. But such is the everlasting Blindness of Bigots, and such the Chicanery of interested Priests: whatever external Forms or Rites are most agreeable to their own Gain and Caprice, or most proper to dazzle the Croud, and to amuse the Vulgar, such Fopperies are always Gospel-ordinances, and it is Blasphemy to be in Jest on any such ludicrous Subject.
In this manner it is made a Mark of prostituting the Sacraments to Contempt, merely because they are treated as not essential to Salvation, but as Parts of Religion free to be dispensed with by all who are not so sensible of their Soul-saving Importance. But is this undermining Christianity? Is this, which restores its antient Simplicity, and removes its more modern and arbitrary Additions, to undermine it? No, it hath been most undermined by those who have taken away the Morals, and have left us nothing but the Mysteries, of Christianity; which is like removing a Foundation for the sake of a Superstructure; and thus that which was intended for a Rule of Manners, is quite laid aside for a System of Faith; and a perfect Scheme of Moral Virtue is turned into a Ritual of Monkish Devotions.
From hence it is made Antichristian, to plead for those who, observing quite the contrary Method, have shewed more Zeal for the Foundations of Things, and have intirely laid aside ambiguous Mysteries, and vain Ceremonies, for the sake of Morals, and solid Piety. Hence the Quakers are abused as Heretics by the charitable Bishop, and to magnify them, is to undermine Christianity.
It both surprises and alarms me, that one who pretends to act under Authority, and to appeal to the Royal Directions, should dare to treat those as Heretics, whom the supreme Head of the Church, and the States of Parliament, have acknowledged as good Christians: Insomuch that their Religion, their Persuasion and Opinion is as Orthodox by Law, as the Bishop of Mann can pretend his to be, only with the Difference, on his side, of Places and Preferments, and of Men being hired to preach for so much Money a Year. The Quakers, and our other Dissenters, are all Orthodox in the Eye of the Government, which might, if it pleased, establish them as the National Church, from which the Bishop would then be a Dissenter, nay, perhaps, deemed Heretical, unless he turned Conformist to those whom he now brands as Schismatics. There is no End of this mutual Imputation of Heresy; a Charge always denied, and generally returned: To Men of Charity and Sense the very Sound is stale and foolish; and it is scarce ever any other than the Language of Craft and Bigotry, of Knavery and Folly.
Where is the Heresy of not receiving the Sacrament according to the Rites of the Church of England, or, which has the same Effect, not receiving it at all? I hope, at least, that it is not heretical for Men to desire no profitable Employments, no Revenues or Endowments to support their Laziness and Luxury at the public Charge. Pray which are the most useful Body of Men, such who live upon the Labour of the People, without doing any Service to Society, or the Quakers, who by their honest Industry maintain themselves, pay their Proportions in all the Charges of the Commonwealth, and neither have nor desire any Advantage from Power or Favour, but merely common Protection? This is so modest, so reasonable a Request, that I may well wonder to hear one of the Order of Bishops, Men who riot in Thousands per Annum, not acquired by themselves, but drained from the Properties of others, stigmatize innocent and peaceable Men with hard Names and Mob-reproaches, when they desire no more than to enjoy their own, without envying those who live splendidly at other Mens Cost, though perhaps very little to their Profit. I will venture here to call upon this Bishop, one so very orthodox and conforming, and so very angry at Separatists, though he himself is a Separatist to all other Sects --- I say, I call upon this Father of the Church, to distinguish his Zeal by a clear and logical Confutation of what the Independent Whig says of the Quakers, and of what their more copious Apologist Robert Barclay says for them. I call upon him to undertake a solemn and general Confutation of the Independent Whig, especially about the Power of the Clergy, their Oaths and Pretensions, and about the Tendency of Priestcraft and Superstition: Else it will be justly taken for granted, that he rails (and rails in a Corner) at what he cannot answer; and since, by vapouring at a Distance, he has in some sort entered the Lists, is defied to answer.
After this Prelate had in this coarse and uncharitable manner libelled and defamed a considerable Body of Men, protected by the same Laws, incorporated under the same Constitution, and equally useful to the Community with the Members of the Church of England itself, treating them as Heretics, branding them with Mob-reproaches, and cursing them with his great Anathema, as guilty of a prodigious Sin in teaching and embracing Tenets contrary to those Opinions which the Bishop and his Brethren pretend to be the Meaning of the Gospel: After this damning and unchristian Procedure, he goes on to charge it as a most shocking Enormity in the Authors of the Independent Whig, an Evidence of their great Design to undermine the Christian Religion, that they have treated the Peace of the Church, as the Bane of Society; and Unity among Christians, so much required by Jesus Christ, as the very Cause and Badge of Slavery.
This, from the Mouth of the Bishop of Mann, is the most extraordinary Charge that could be broached. It is a Confutation of his whose Libel, an ample Vindication of the Authors whom he thus defames. For he has through the whole Rhapsody shewn us in a lively manner what he means by the Peace of the Church, even that it is an intire Submission to authoritative Opinions; that it consists in implicit Belief, and unconditional Obedience, yielded to a Set of Men, who, without ever appearing to be wiser or better, but on the contrary, too frequently weaker and more wicked, than the rest of the World, have confidently claimed the supreme Direction of Mankind, a dictatorial Power over the Understandings and the Morals of Men; which Power they have constantly employed for the Gratification of their own Ambition and Avarice, grosly deceiving the Understandings, shamefully corrupting the Morals, of all who have been in Subjection to their Sway, or influenced by their Persuasion.
This Peace of the Church (if Blindness and Vassalage can be called Peace) is the Desolation of the whole World; and preaching this Peace is making War on Mankind. It is drawing a Sword against the Rights of Nature and Nations; it is arming a Body of Men with Damnation; with the Magazines of Confusion and Uproar, which they never fail to hurl about against all who think fit to withstand them. It is a Prerogative vested in them, to set all Men at Variance and Strife, marking out those who are weak enough to be blinded and misguided by them, as Inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven; sending others quick to Hell, only for being the Subjects of their private Dislike, or Opponents to their unrighteous and most impious Usurpations. And when these arbitrary Distinctions of Heresy and Orthodoxy have made the World quite drunk with religious Rage; when this Rage, this cruel and wide-wasting Pestilence, hath destroyed all before it; when the Orthodox, armed with Inquisitions, and strengthened by Massacres, have gained the Possession of the Earth; and those pious Ecclesiastics, who led them on to slaughter others, bind them down in Chains themselves; then is the Church at Peace; and this is that Peace, which the Independent Whig hath treated as the Bane of Society. God knows, and the World sadly feels, that it has eternally proved so.
Certainly such an Unity among Christians must be the very Cause and Badge of Slavery; an Unity which is defined and described by a Standard of Faith made to govern even the involuntary Conceptions of all Men, and to require the Assent of all to it, whether they at all conceive, understand, and believe it, or otherwise. To require Unity among Christians in this extravagant manner, to command them all to agree in one or more Opinions, when they were created and constituted to differ and disagree in all Opinions, by the Make of their Bodies and Minds, by the Manner of their Apprehension, and by various Circumstances formed or educated to see Things very differently from each other—I say, to require this, would be setting up the Law of Revelation against the Law of Creation, would be imputing a wild and wicked Part to the gracious Author of the Universe, in first creating Men to differ unavoidably, and then commanding them, on pain of Damnation, to conceive alike. So that, as they cannot live or breathe in one World without Disagreement of Opinion, neither can they be saved or forgiven in the other, without Agreement of Opinion. Against the Powers and Terms of Nature, they are required to make their Terms and Peace with God; and, born to Variety of Opinions, are commanded to an Unity of Opinions. Under which Command no Man can live; and yet by transgressing that which cannot be obeyed, all Men must be damned.
Is not this a noble, an illustrious System of Divinity? Is not this a most extraordinary Summary of the Christian Faith? Yet this is the Bishop’s System; a System formed by the vain and foolish Pride of Man, in Opposition to the Spirit and Gospel of Jesus Christ, and yet confidently fathered upon him. From this Imputation the Authors of the Independent Whig defended and cleared the holy Name of JesusChrist, who never commanded such unreasonable and shocking Laws, as would have been the Confutation of every Claim to a divine Mission. The Unity which he so worthily preached, in his glorious Capacity as Saviour of Mankind, was an Unity of Affections, which all Men are infinitely more capable of forming, than Unity of Opinions. Neither the Author of the Independent Whig, nor one honest or rational Man in the World, could ever treat it as the Cause or the Badge of Slavery, to propagate universal Love, Benevolence and Humanity; but in commanding universal Assent to Notions, and arbitrary Propositions, every thing social and humane hath been rooted up and destroyed, every thing free and virtuous oppressed and enslaved. The Love of Mankind was never the favourite Passion of superstitious Priests; far otherwise: Their Affections regarded only themselves; and that Unity among Christians, which would have been the Blessing of Mankind, if preached and improved in the Terms of the Gospel, by reconciling them to mutual Benevolence, Forbearance and Tenderness for each other, was an Unity less gainful to selfish Priests, than beneficial to the World; and Christian Unity became no longer considered as consisting in brotherly Love, but in implicit Belief, which was to spread itself by destroying all who would not submit to the Yoke.
Here it was that Unity indeed was lost, and Men, who differed before without dividing from one another, were armed against each other by the Influence of such Priests and Parricides; their Differences of Opinions became improved into the Division of their Interests; and all who assented to, or disagreed with, Ecclesiastical Systems, were ranged on the Side of Heaven or of Hell, merely for advancing or opposing the Cause of Priestly Authority. Hence God, and the Son whom he sent, were rendered Names of Discord and Confusion: Hence those whom these holy Deceivers had denominated Saints and Heirs of Glory, became zealous for the Extirpation of all who had not such gracious Marks of Distinction; and, had they fought under the Banners of Satan himself, they could not have possibly been more zealously active for human Havock, and for desolating the Creation.
Such Agents of Iniquity, such flaming Instruments of Barbarity, roused the Indignation, and engaged the Hands, of the Independent Whig to oppose their Claims and Encroachments in every Shape. It became his Duty to do this, as a Lover of his Country, as a Friend to Mankind; and the Season most proper for such Opposition, is undoubtedly this Time of Liberty, whilst it is safe to speak, and whilst the Mischiefs, which he speaks of, are in our Power to prevent. To this remotest Corner of the World have Truth and Freedom fled. All the Nations round us know them not, nor are they permitted to know them. All those Countries subject to this Desolation and Slavery, were once as free as ourselves; but they became ensnared by Priests who LYED; and deceived them in the Name of GOD; and they are still enslaved by the Power of the Church, which rose by that impious Method of deceiving and enslaving. We that are free, as they were once, may become as much enslaved as they are now; nor are there any Means in our Hands to preserve our Freedom, and our Happiness, but by guarding against those Arts which subverted theirs; namely, the direful Arts and Practice of Lying and Ensnaring in the Name of God.
This Practice, and these Frauds, thus exposed by the Independent Whig, drew that Rage upon its Authors, which must be natural to all, whose Interests and Importance consist in the undue Advancement of Ecclesiastical Power. Among these stood foremost the Bishop of Mann, who published his Bull and Anathema against a Collection of innocent Papers, which advanced no other Propositions than those which our first Reformers avowed, and without which the Reformation itself can by no Pretence be justified: Nay, these Papers advanced nothing about Church-Power but what all the Clergy had sworn, and daily swear.
The Inconsistency of this Bishop, who on other very important Occasions had manifested no such warm Zeal for his Majesty’s Interests, and Royal Authority, appeared in the Instance before us abundantly gross, where he laid hold on that sacred Name, and on his Royal Orders for suppressing Blasphemy and Profaneness, to suppress a Book altogether written against Superstition and Priestcraft.
In the Time of the Preston Rebellion, the Bishop of Mann, contrary to his Promise, contrary to his Duty, would not make use of the Prayers appointed to be used in all Churches and Chapels for the Success of his Majesty’s Arms, for the Defeat of the Popish Pretender, who made War against him, and for the speedy Conclusion of that unnatural Scene of War. With equal Indifference, he saw the Clergy of his Diocese refuse to subscribe the Declaration in favour of the Protestant Succession, and against all Popish Pretenders. It never once drew from him any Exhortations to their Duty, as Christians or as Englishmen. The present Establishment, and the Prince on the Throne, were the least of his Care; and on their Behalf he shewed all the Coldness and Moderation imaginable: Here he denounced no Anathema’s; here he issued no Bulls. But when High-Church and Priestcraft, which had so long been acting for the Pretender against the House of Hanover, when these were attacked, he cried aloud, and spared not. He even took Refuge in the King’s Authority, pretending the highest Regard for his Pleasure, and Obedience to his Commands; and, after having shewn a notorious Contempt, a most indecent Indifference, for these Commands, where they concerned the Pretender, he shewed the highest Zeal for them, and Devotion to them, that he might stretch them to censure and suppress the Independent Whig.
Can any one believe, that this Bishop had any Regard for the King in this Instance, when he had shewn so little Respect to the Royal Cause in Matters of the nearest and most immediate Concern to the Title, the Safety and Preservation of his Majesty? I fear, not. Did he not boldly prostitute, and indeed profane, the Name of the King, to serve his own vile Ends and Passions? And can it be well conceived, that he was more sincere, with relation to the Name or the Cause of that God, whom he drew in to authorize his unchristian Curses, than with relation to the King, whose Orders he would have strained to justify his lawless and arbitrary Proceedings? And is there not room to doubt, that it was neither God nor the King whom he was inspired with Zeal for? Did he not rather want the Assistance of the most tremendous Name in Heaven, and that of the supreme Power on Earth, to advance his own spiritual Authority, and to countenance him in the Exercise of temporal Tyranny? Indeed, thus it often happens, that Religion and Government are wickedly made the Pandars to the Ambition, and worst Appetites, of false and corrupt Men.
To serve these discreet and virtuous Projects, the Bishop of Mann bellowed out his Curses against the Independent Whig, calling the whole Book “One continued Design, in which the Deviland the Authors have shewed the utmost Skill to lay waste the Church of Christ, to overthrow all revealed Religion, to reduce Men to a State of Nature, and to bring all Things into Confusion, both Sacred and Civil.”
What then was to be done upon this dreadful Occasion? Why, “To put a Stop, if possible, to the Beginnings of Profaneness and Infidelity, the Clergy of his Diocese were injoined to convince the People, from the Word of God, of the Necessity of holding fast the Mystery of Faith in a pure Conscience, that is, Believing well, as well as Living well.”
Now I humbly apprehend, that this holding fast the Bishop’s Mystery of Faith, this implicit Assent, which he so arrogantly requires, is the Essence of all Superstition, and the Engine of all Priestcraft. This Prohibition of Inquiry, and of the free Use of human Judgment, is exactly the very same Mandate which the Bishop of Rome would have given to his Diocese, with almost as much Warmth as the Bishop of Mann.
Tobelieve well was undoubtedly meant to induce the laudable Practice of living well; and good Morals were the very Doctrines which Revelation was to enforce, and not to supersede. But whatever the Morals of Men are, or whatever the Integrity of their Lives may be, yet if they teach, countenance, or embrace any thing against the Bishop of Mann’s Opinion, let them beAnathema, says the Bishop; which, I presume, will influence Heaven, and convince the People, just as much, as if he had said, let them beAbracadabra.
The People thus secured, we are next to inquire, What is to be done with the wicked Writers, who have been the Authors of all the Mischief that provokes the Bishop of Mann? First then, They are to be convinced of their Error in the Spirit of Meekness; or,They are to be cut off from the Body of Christ, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
TheSpirit of Meekness is so prevailing in the Bishop and his Bull, that he cannot but rely on its certain Effect in convincing our Authors of their Error. To treat them as Heretics, as Infidels, as Underminers of the Christian Religion, as worse than the very Plague, as Coadjutors with theDevil,&c. is so wonderfully meek and charitable, that I know not how any Man can resist Conviction when the Spirit is so meek, and the Arguments so strong, in the Person confuting our Errors.
But I must freely acknowledge, that I am not so clearly of Opinion, that cutting off People from the Body ofChrist, will learn them not to blaspheme: For, waving the Question, Who is impowered to dismember Jesus Christ, or to cut off any Parts of his divine Body? I do not see how Men may be taught not to blaspheme by Censures or Persecution. I rather apprehend, that the worse they are used, the more angry they will be; and therefore cutting their Throats would be a more effectual Remedy, than cutting them off from the Body ofChrist. Nay, I am apt to fear, that it is the Bishop’s Meaning: For I believe he must have been often convinced, that Excommunication stops no Man’s Mouth, nor does giving him up to the Devil ever bring him back to God. What then can be meant by cutting him off, so that he may learn not blaspheme? How is he to be cut off? There is in this Part of the Bull something so candid and christian-like, as well as so humane and merciful, that will ever convince us, that it could be coined no-where except in the dark Diocese of Mann, or in the bloody Inquisition of Portugal.
Lastly, We are to consider what the Bishop proposes to be done by himself and his Brethren: Verily all that the Independent Whig ever desired of them, or of their Order; even to endeavour, byWell-doing,to put to Silence the Ignorance of foolish Men, holding fast the faithful Word, as we have been taught, that we may be able, by sound Doctrine, both to exhort and convince the Gainsayers.
This is a tacit Confession of all that the Independent Whig ever advanced: This allows, that they are apt, by Ill-doing, to raise Objections against themselves; and if they would all of them receive and practise the useful Lesson of Doing well, they need never be afraid of any kind of Books, as capable of doing more Mischief than the Plague. But whilst they continue those Enormities, and arrogant Claims, which justly provoked the Authors of the Independent Whig to appear against them, they will never be able to put Men to Silence, unless by the Bishop of Mann’s Expedient of Cutting them off, that they may learn not to blaspheme. For, whilst any honest Man hath Power to speak, I know not how he can be silent, when he sees the Iniquities of those who pretend they are commissioned to preach and declaim against the Sins of all Mankind. Is it not some Matter of Wonder, such as deserves our Attention, that though the Church of England was never endowed with the Title of Infallibility, even in its whole Body, yet, as if every particular Member (provided he be Ordained) were Infallible, every the meanest Priest, within the Pale of our Church, should pretend to do that which the Pope and all his Cardinals are not allowed a Right to, should curse and damn at Will and Pleasure, declare any one a Rebel against God, and give whom he pleases to the Devil! But, amidst all these monstrous and unchristian Absurdities, one Comfort still remains, one Privilege is the Lot of Englishmen, and I hope it will always be, That however such bold Hypocrites may damn, they cannot cut off; and therefore however they may rage and declaim, we have the less Reason to fear them.
It is with great Pleasure that I can finish my Observations on such a Libel, with Animadversions of another Nature; I mean with regard to the then Governor of Mann, Capt. Horne, who shewed himself on this Occasion an honest and a brave Magistrate, protecting the People under his Care from the Insolence and Usurpation of this small, assuming Prelate, whose Incroachments he controuled, and whose little Arts he detected, with so much Resolution and good Sense, that this Instance of his Administration in that Island, will remain a Monument of his Abilities to sustain a much superior Character.
To you, Sir, I have therefore sent these Papers; and I hope, that Captain Horne’s Example will powerfully recommend itself in every Country, where the Liberty of the People, or Inquiries after Truth, are looked on as worthy of Attention: May it ever be esteemed as it ought to be! And, whenever a haughty, aspiring, and time-serving Prelate shall invade the Rights of the People, to protect the Enormities of his own Order, and attempt to suppress all useful Writings, which strike at the Vices and Corruptions of the Clergy, cloaking his Malice and bad Designs under the fraudulent Covert of Zeal for the King, and Affection to the Government, perhaps without the least sincere Good-will to either; like Land, the Flatterer, Misleader, and Undoer of King Charles the First; may there never be wanting a faithful and an able Minister, willing and active, like CaptainHorne, to abate his Pride, defeat his Malice, and confound his Devices!
Your most humble Servant,
Decemb. 14. 1731.
Dr. Benjamin Hoadley, now Lord Bishop of Winchester.