Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number I.: The Introduction. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number I.: The Introduction. - 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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Wednesday, January 20. 1720.
WHOEVER goes about to reform the World, undertakes an Office obnoxious to Malice, and beset with Difficulties. It speaks a Confidence of his own Capacity, which prompts him to set up for the Schoolmaster of Mankind; and it infers a Charge of Corruption or Ignorance in his Pupils, out of which he assumes to whip them. As every Man has a good Conceit of his own Merit, he thinks himself undervalued by Instruction, and is provoked by Correction. The Confession of our own Weakness, and that of another’s better Sense, is generally, both, contained in the taking of Advice, which is seldom taken for that Reason.
Besides, Blindness and Prejudice are seldom to be resigned but with Pain: and therefore, for the most part, are not resigned at all. It is but an unacceptable Civility to offer to let in the Rays of Understanding upon those Minds, which are us’d to subsist in the Dark. It is like opening Day-light upon a Nest of Owls, it always sets them a Screeching.
The Difference, however, is considerable between natural and acquired Ignorance, and the last is much more incurable than the first. The one is capable, and often willing, to be informed; whereas the other thinks itself above it, and is too wise to learn. There can be no Cure for one who is taught to be a Blockhead: His Ignorance is the Fruit of Instruction, and has cost him great Pains; and so his Pride is engaged to support it. As he has improved his Mind into learned Darkness, he stands upon his Guard against Common Sense, is Proof against all the Assaults of Reason, and scorns its Power. If he do not take you for his Enemy, and use you accordingly; yet, at least, he will pity your Mistakes, and, perhaps, pray for your Illumination.
It will probably be said, by some of my Readers, that I here describe myself and my own Performances, and perhaps with too much Truth. There lived, not long since, a Poet, who made excellent Criticisms upon the most applauded Plays, and afterwards writ one himself obnoxious to them all.
But neither these, nor any other Difficulties or Discouragements, shall hinder me from the generous Attempt of endeavouring to reform Mankind. I have the Magnanimity to face them all, and set about the Work; though I am sufficiently sensible of the Greatness of the Design, and have long wished, that some abler Genius would have undertaken it.
I confess there have been some seeming Attempts of this kind, which were carried on with great Dexterity and Wit, and brought great Credit, and other valuable Advantages, to the Authors; but I should be glad to know what Service they have done to the Public. The exposing of small Faults can do but small Service; and People may be singular in their Humours, and vain in their Dress, without hurting human Society. A Beau may wear a fine Coat, and a gaudy Sword knot, without prejudicing the Commonwealth, or indeed any one Member of it: Nor can I see any dreadful Malignity in a hooped Petticoat. A Lady may keep a Squirrel, and diversify her Face with fifty Patches on a Side, without invading private or public Property. There is no Mischief in a harmless Snuff-box, or a Diamond-ring; nor do laced Cloaths, or a clouded Cane, prejudice Trade; nor the Flirting of a Fan shake our Constitution. A terrible Fellow with a long Sword may be a peaceable Neighbour; and a Coquette may salute her Lap-dog, and yet not endanger our Liberties.
These little Sallies and Excrescences of Humour, as they give real Pleasure and Happiness to the Proprietors themselves, so they often entertain wiser People, who might otherwise grow too severe for want of a little Laughing. And yet, I will own, that many Papers upon that Subject have justly merited universal Esteem and Admiration.
But the greater and more important Mischiefs, which afflict human Society, have been, for the most part, left untouched by our finest Writers: Priestcraft and Tyranny have been seldom attacked by any, but rather flattered and supported. Mr. Saville is said to have replied to a Frenchman, who exulted upon the fine Writings of his Countrymen, That there werebut Two Subjects in Nature worth a Wise Man’s Thoughts, namely, Religion and Government; and they durst speak of neither. But it is our peculiar Happiness to live in a Country, where we may speak our Minds freely and openly upon any Subject, within the Bounds of good Manners and Virtue; which, I hope, I shall never transgress.
I own, the Free-Thinker is an useful, as well as a fine Paper. I have seen some Discourses of his, which, in my Opinion, are inimitable; especially those upon Superstition and Enthusiasm. Most that come from him are instructive, and all are elegant. I hope so worthy a Writer has suitable Encouragement. I have not the good Fortune to know that ingenious and deserving Gentleman; but I am told, that, besides his Capacity and public Principles, and the Work he is now engaged in, he has done personal Services to the Government, which, in any other Country, would intitle him to a very good Station in it: If he have none in This, it is, no doubt, owing to the public Spirit of the Great; who will, by no Fault or Courtesy of theirs, divert him from instructing his Country twice a Week. I shall only add upon this Head, that as no Man is so well qualified as the Free-Thinker himself to execute his own Plan, mine will not by any means interfere with his, as will be shewn in my next Paper.
There was one weekly Paper, which, had it gone on, would have prevented this; I mean the Free-Thinker Extraordinary. It breathed an uncommon Spirit of public Liberty, and shewed sufficiently the Capacity of the Author to do Service to Mankind. But when he had shewed his Skill, and engaged our Attention, he dropped us and his Subject; and made it necessary, though dangerous, to succeed him. It was never asked why he undertook it; for every one saw the Reasons and Advantages of it: But why he deserted it, has been the Subject of Inquiry; and the rather, because it was evident, that he wanted neither Art nor Materials.
For myself, who have no manner of Attachment to any Party, I shall not be afraid to speak my Mind of All, with that Freedom which becomes Truth and Independency; and the Flattering of Power, in any Shape or Hands whatsoever, shall be the last Charge against me.
There is no Power in Names to consecrate Persons or Things, or to alter their Nature; and yet the Majority of Mankind have always worshipped the Idols of Words and Sounds; and a Monosyllable has often done more than an Army, towards keeping them under Awe and Servitude. In Catholic Countries, the Word Pope, or Priest, carries with it more Reverence than does the Old or New Testament, and more Terror than an armed Host. And lately in France, the Words, Grand Monarque, or the Glory of the Grand Monarque, could keep a vast Nation in Misery and Wooden-shoes, and carry a Hundred Thousand of them at a time to the Slaughter.
This blind Devotion to Names, so inconsistent with true Liberty, which shews itself in Judging as well as Acting, has also prevailed in this free Nation to a Degree shameful and dangerous. We know what terrible Lengths the Words Church, Clergy, Divine Right, and the like undefined Nonsense, have gone towards enslaving us; and what a steady and ridiculous Reverence is still paid to them, even when they are evidently applied to Purposes the most impious and tyrannical.
Nor does this Charge of worshipping Words lie altogether at the Door of one Party only. Even that Side, which boasts a greater Share of Reason and Freedom, is manifestly guilty of the like Idolatry to Names and Persons, and in Instances of the greatest Importance. They do not consider the Speech, but the Speaker; nor what is done, but the Door; and consequently praise, by the Great, in their own Leaders, what they would loudly condemn in any others.
Credulity and implicit Belief are equally dangerous in Government as in Religion: They have made the World Slaves, and they keep it so. Every Party has its Pope, and some have several; who, like him at Rome, never fail to make an ill Use of the Faith of their Followers, and deceive those who trust in them.
I have said thus much to apprise the Reader, that this will be an Independent Paper, which will stoop to no Party, nor have any Friends or Enemies, but such as make themselves so, by espousing the Interests of Truth or Falshood.