Front Page Titles (by Subject) At Castle Rushen, the 2d of February 1721. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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At Castle Rushen, the 2d of February 1721. - Thomas Gordon, The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743) 
The Independent Whig: or, a Defence of Primitive Christianity, And of Our Ecclesiastical Establishment, against The Exorbitant Claims and Encroachments of Fanatical and Disaffected Clergymen. The Seventh Edition, with Additions and Amendments (London: J. Peele, 1743). Vol. 1.
Part of: The Independent Whig, 4 vols.
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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!