Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number II.: The Design of this Paper. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number II.: The Design of this Paper. - 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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The Design of thisPaper.
Wednesday, January 27. 1720.
RELIGION was design’d by Heaven for the Benefit of Men alone. It teaches us to moderate our Desires, calm our Passions, and be useful and beneficent to one another; and whatever does not contribute to these Ends, ought not to be called by that Name. For Almighty God has infinite Happiness in himself, which we can neither diminish nor add to; and therefore he can require nothing of us, but for our own Sakes; nor command any thing but what tends to our own Good, both here and hereafter.
I say it with the utmost Sincerity, that no Man living desires to pay a more true and affectionate Esteem and Reverence than myself to those Clergymen, who answer this End of their Institution, and whose Lives and Manners grace and adorn their Profession and Doctrine.
I thank God, I know many such; and perceive, with Pleasure and Transport, a noble Spirit of Liberty and true Religion rising up among them; which will soon flame out far and wide, if it be not stifled by those, whose true Interest and Honour call upon them aloud to give it Assistance and Protection.
That Profession must be always most honourable and deserving from Mankind, which is most useful and advantageous to Men. As it is therefore impossible to shew too much Respect to virtuous Clergymen, so the corrupt Part of them cannot be too much exposed. Since the Possession which they have of the Fears and Panic of superstitious People, and in the tenderest Seasons too, enables them to do the greatest Mischief; the strongest Antidotes ought to be applied to their Poison. It will be ridiculous to call for Protection from that Character, which they constantly disgrace, and to ask Assistance from the Religion, which they neither believe nor practise.
I here list myself under the Banners of the former Sort; and design by this Work to illustrate the Beauty of Christianity, by exposing the Deformity of Priestcraft; to distinguish the good Clergy from the bad, by giving to each his Share of Praise or Infamy, according to the different Deeds done by them. I will lose no Opportunity of doing Justice to the former, nor, willingly, to the latter.
In doing this, I shall go far backward, and, taking Things from the Beginning, shew in the Course of these Papers the infinite Evils brought upon Mankind, from Age to Age, by the Pride and Imposture of corrupt Ecclesiastics. I shall shew what a Babel they have built upon the Foundation of Christ and his Apostles, who were made to father Doctrines which they never taught; and to countenance Power which they always disclaimed. I shall shew by what Arts and Intrigues they came, from being Alms-men of the People, to be Masters of Mankind; and how, by pretending to dispose of the Other World, they actually usurped and ruled This.
I shall shew, that notwithstanding Christianity was first propagated by Miracles and Mildness only, and the Teachers of it had no Power but to persuade; making it withal appear, in the whole Course of their Lives and Preaching, that they sought no manner of personal Advantage, or any manner of Jurisdiction over their Hearers and Converts; yet they who, without their Inspiration and Manners, called themselves their Successors, did by virtue of their Names lay insolent Claim to Dominion, and carried all Things before them, by the Dint of Terror and Excommunication.
I shall shew, that though the Clergy, like other Militia, were raised and paid for protecting Mankind from their Spiritual Enemy, yet they soon made use of the Sword put into their Hands against their Masters, and set up for themselves. I shall shew, that notwithstanding the whole End of their Institution was to make Men wiser and better, yet where-ever They prevailed, Debauchery and Ignorance also prevailed; and the constant Lesson they taught, was blind Belief, and blind Obedience, of both which they made themselves the Objects. So that Superstition was an inseparable Creature of their Power, and the perpetual Issue of it; and tainted Morals, and darkened Minds, were the great Props of their Dominion. A good Understanding, and an inquisitive Spirit, led directly to Heresy; a pious Life was of ill Example, and a Reproach to the Clergy; and if any one gave Offence this way, it was but calling him Heretic, and delivering him over to Satan: The Man was then undone, and the Clergy safe.
I shall shew how they soon banished the meek Spirit of the Christian Religion, and, growing to as great Variance with Mercy, as they were with Reason, perverted Religion into Rage, and Zeal into Cruelty. They made the peaceable Doctrine of Jesus a Doctrine of Blood, and excommunicated and damned by that Name, by which alone Men could be saved. It is true they damned one another as much as they did the rest of the World; for, agreeing in nothing but the great Principle of Interest, though they rode upon the Necks of their People, yet they never could be at Peace, nor Ease, among themselves, so long as each Individual was not in the highest Place. And therefore, because every one of them could not be above all the rest, they were eternally quarrelling, and giving one another to the Devil.
If one of them held any Proposition, true or false, it was Reason enough for another to deny it, and curse him into the bargain. At last, there was not one Principle in their System but what was contested, and they agreed in nothing but their own Power; though, at the same time, they disputed what that was.
In this everlasting Scuffle, and Civil War, they had so mangled Truth, and muffled it up, that few could distinguish it from the false Images which they had made of it. And yet these Men, who, by their constant Discords and Debates, confessed themselves in endless Uncertainties, were the sure and infallible Guides to others, who were obliged to believe their Guesses and Contradictions, on pain of Hell-fire.
I shall shew what a shameful Hand they have always had in bringing and keeping Mankind under Tyranny and Bondage to such Princes as would divide the Spoil with them. In such Case, it was a Point of Conscience, and a religious Duty, for Subjects to be miserable Slaves; and Damnation but to strive to be happy. But if the Prince happened to be a Lover of Mankind, and endeavoured to protect his People in their Civil and Sacred Rights; then were they the constant Incendiaries of every popular and wicked Faction. They preached nothing but Sedition and Blood, till they had worked up their blind and stupid Votaries to Rebellions and Assassinations. To such Conduct is owing a great Part of their Power and Wealth.
I think no one, who is the least conversant with Ecclesiastical History, will deny that this was the Condition of Christianity before the Reformation. The chief Intent of this Paper is to let all the World know it, that they may be upon their Guard against the like Mischiefs. It is certain, that the Demands of the High Clergy, upon the Laity, are as great, if not greater than they were at that Time. As Father Paul says of England, The Horse is bridled and saddled, and the old Rider is just getting upon his Back.
It is Time now to conclude this Paper, by saying, that if my hearty Endeavours shall any ways contribute to detect the Impostures, and expose the wicked Practices, of those, who, under the prostituted Name of Sanctity, are Foes to Truth, to Liberty, and Virtue; I shall think my Time and Pains well spent. But if not, I shall have the internal Satisfaction of having attempted at least to attack Vice and Corruption, however dignified or distinguished; and the worst which can be said of me, is,
---- magnis tamen excidit ausis.