Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number III.: Of the Contempt of the Clergy. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number III.: Of the Contempt of the Clergy. - 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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Of the Contempt of the Clergy.
Wednesday, February 3. 1720.
RING the Bells backward! The Temple, the Temple is on Fire! The High-priests look aghast, and the People stare, and all cry out, The Craft, the Craft is in Danger!
This I expected, and was prepared for, when I first engaged in the Undertaking: Touch a galled Horse, and he will wince, though ’tis in order to cure him. I knew a Gentleman, who found out a Murderer, by looking stedfastly in his Face: When any one is conscious of his own Crimes or Infirmities, he is jealous of every Approach towards a Discovery, and often makes one by it.
It is remarkable, that no Order or Society of Men is so apprehensive of Disrespect, or can so little bear the Examination into their Pretensions, as the greatest Part of the Ecclesiastics. If you ridicule or laugh at the Professions of Law and Physic, the Lawyers and Physicians will laugh with you. The same is true of Soldiers, Merchants, and the Professors of almost all Arts and Sciences, who generally are the first to expose the Knaves and Fools amongst them.
If a Lawyer, Soldier, or Merchant, deserve the Pillory; neither Westminster-hall, the Army, or the East-India Company, are in an Uproar; or complain that the Law, Trade, or the Soldiery, are wounded through his Sides; nor endeavour to raise a Mob in his Behalf, or rebel in token of their unlimited Submission to Government. The Fair Sex do not think themselves ill used, when a Baud is tied to a Cart, or naughty Nymph beats Hemp: The Eleven Apostles lost no Credit when Judas hanged himself; nor would any honest Clergyman, tho’ even so many of the other Sort did the same, or if it was done for them.
But I do not know by what Judgment or Family it happens, that if you but touch the Pretences or Vices of the Meanest of the Ecclesiastics, so many of their Body are in an Uproar: They roar aloud, their Order is exposed, their Mysteries derided and profaned, and Religion itself in Danger of being subverted; and Socinian, Deist, or Atheist, is the best Word, that is often given to their best Friend; and sometimes all of them are given.
All other Societies of Men are contented with the Esteem and Honour, which result from the Usefulness of their Employments and Professions, from the Worth and Capacity of their Members: Yet none stand in such a Situation, none have so many Advantages to acquire Respect and Homage, as the Clergy.
Their Office is evidently adapted to promote the Welfare of Human Nature, to propagate its Peace and Prosperity in this World, as well as its eternal Felicity in the next; so that it is the Interest of all Men to honour it; and none but a Madman will condemn and ridicule what has a manifest Tendency to the Security and Happiness of all Mankind.
The Temporal Condition of the Clergy does likewise place them far above Contempt: They have great Revenues, Dignities, Titles, and Names of Reverence, to distinguish them from the rest of the World; and it is too well known, that Wealth, Power, and Learning, carry to the Vulgar a kind of Mystery, and distant Grandeur, and command not only Admiration and Reverence, but often a superstitious Veneration.
Added to this, they have the Possession and Direction of our Fears; they are admitted in Health and Sickness: Every Sunday they have the sole Opportunity of gaining our Esteem by worthy and useful Instructions, and all the Week by their good Lives: They educate us whilst young, influence us in our middle Age, govern us in our Dotage, and we neither live nor die without them.
A numerous Body of Men, so constituted and endowed, so privileged and posted, are capable of being most useful and beneficent to Society, if their Actions be suitable to their Professions. All the World will acknowledge, and pay a willing Homage to their Merit, and there will be no need of demanding, much less of extorting Respect, or of Complaints and Exclamations for want of it. The Danger lies on the other Side; for there are such Seeds of Superstition in human Nature, that all our Prudence and Caution will be little enough to prevent even Adoration to their Persons. If, therefore, they want that Respect which they are so fond of, they cannot be to seek for the true Reasons, namely, their own Corruptions and Worthlessness, which must be exceeding great, to get the better of so many Advantages.
If Clergymen would avoid Contempt, let them avoid the Causes of it. Let them not be starting and maintaining eternal Claims to worldly Power: Let them not be hunting after Honours, courting Preferments, and bustling for Riches: Let them not be assuming to give Models of human Government, or to adjust and determine the Titles of Princes: Let them not pretend to punish any Man for his Way of Worship, and to give him to the Devil for his Money or Opinion: Let them not join in Factions, and foment Rebellions: Let them not defy Heaven by swearing falsly: Let them not promote Servitude in the People, and Barbarity in the Prince: and let them not flatter wicked Kings, and plague and disturb good ones.
Let them win Respect, and wear it; but let them not earn Infamy, and demand Veneration. Let not those of them, who gratify brutish Appetites, and live in all Vileness, add Want of Shame to their Want of Grace, and bewail that they are contemned, while they are deserving it. If a Man pretending to great Gravity and Regard, should dress himself up in a Fool’s Coat, and a Pair of Horns, would not People laugh at him in spite of themselves? And would not his Resentment and Rebukes add still to their Mirth? A Clergyman, who is drunk on Saturday, will but, with an ill Grace, talk of his Dignity and Embassadorship on Sunday. Ought we to own and reverence that Man as our Guide to Heaven, who is himself going a contrary Road, and rioting in those Vices which his whole Duty is to restrain?
The Honour therefore of the good Clergy is consulted and promoted, by exposing the bad. A profane Priest is the Disgrace and Bane of his own Order, and they who stand by him, adopt his Infamy, and defile themselves. If he neglect God, and disturb Human Society, how do the Clergy suffer, though he be whipp’d or hang’d? His Punishment is their Credit and Security, because by it is lopped off from their Body a gangrened Limb, that incumbred and deformed the rest.
Atheists, who are not restrained by the Fear of God, which is stronger than all the Laws in the World, ought, in the Opinion of Politicians, as well as Casuists, to be expelled from the Society of Men. And shall more Mercy be shewn to those, who are so hardened in Impiety, that though they believe a God, yet dread not his Vengeance, but swear by his great and terrible Name to an avowed Falshood? Or can the Clergy suffer by the Loss of such execrable Company?
An unfortunate Levite, some Years since, had his Head cleft by a Butcher, who caught him in Bed with his Wife; and neither the Number of Reverend Auditors, who attended the Tryal, a due Regard to the Cloth, or an Apprehension of the Carnage it might produce, could hinder the Judge from directing the Jury to call the Crime only Man-slaughter. This so provoked the meek Spirit, and Patience, of a Holy Brother, then present, that he cried out in the Court, Here’s a fine World! If these Things be suffered, there will be no living for us.
No chaste or sober Clergyman could be terrified with such an Example, or think the Church in any Danger by it. Does any virtuous Member of the Holy Order suffer either in his Person or Character, if Biss divert his Spectators in a Pillory, or Parson Paul his Auditors upon a Gallows? None can share in their Disgrace but those who sympathize in their Crimes, or censure their Punishment. How much more honest, as well as prudent, would it be to remove the Guilt from themselves, by throwing it all upon the devoted Head; to put the evil Thing out of the City; and to imitate the Sagacity of the horned Herd, who always drive the blown Deer from amongst them, where he seeks his Refuge, though at the Hazard of involving the whole Tribe in his Misfortune!
T. & G.