Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number VI.: Of Creeds and Confessions of Faith. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number VI.: Of Creeds and Confessions of Faith. - 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 Creeds and Confessions of Faith.
Wednesday, February 24. 1720.
I Have shewn in my Fourth Paper, the Boldness and Absurdity of the Exposition of Holy Scripture, when that Exposition is maintained and imposed for Canonical Truth. I shall here prosecute the same Subject merely as it relates to Creeds and Confessions of Faith.
In our Disputes with the Church of Rome, we contend, that the Scripture alone is a sufficient Rule of Faith and Practice; and our Divines have proved it unanswerably. But when our High-Church Priests argue with Dissenters, and those whom they are pleased to christen Heretics, Holy Writ is not so highly complimented: It is then very subject to lead us into Mistakes, and hard to be understood. It is true, ’tis infallible, and was given us from Heaven to be Light unto our Feet, and a Lamp unto our Paths; but still it is dark and insufficient without human Aid and Explication. For, though it be exceeding plain to us of the Established Church of England, and proves us to be in the Right in every Article, Ceremony and Habit whatsoever; yet it is utterly hid from those who will not accept of our Guideance, and submit to our Authority. And therefore if they refuse to believe and obey our Supplements and Improvements of the Bible, and to accept of the Salvation, which is to be had in our Church, and the Church of Rome, they shall have no Salvation at all. It is fit and orthodox, that Men should perish for following their Consciences, and for understanding the Scripture without the Leave of the Ordinary.
Thus, when they debate with the Papists, they praise the Scriptures, inveigh against the imposing of Opinions, and speak in the Style of Dissenters. But when they are pleased to rebuke Nonconformists, they borrow the Language of Papists, urge the Authority of our Apostolic Church, and hear Divine Right to judge for others; and deal hard Language, and worse Usage, to all that take the same Privilege which they do. There is, however, this small Difference between us Conformists and the Schismatics: We have good Pay for being Orthodox, and the Separatist pays dear for being in the Wrong. If these are not two good Reasons for delivering him over to Satan, I despair of finding better.
In Consequence of this Power in High-Churchmen to be the Mouthsmen of the Bible, which, if we take their Word, cannot speak for itself, they claim a Right to make Creeds for others: And this is what I am now to examine.
I think it but Justice to the Goodness of God to affirm, that Belief or Disbelief can neither be a Virtue or a Crime in any One, who uses the best Means in his Power of being informed. If a Proposition be evident, we cannot avoid believing it; and where is the Merit or Piety of a necessary Assent? If it be not evident, we cannot help rejecting it, or doubting of it; and where is the Crime of not performing Impossibilities, or not believing what does not appear to us to be true? Are Men, who have good Eyes, the more righteous for seeing? Or do they offend in seeing too well? Or do blind Men sin in not distinguishing Colours?
When we clearly see the Connection of a Proposition, or know that we have God’s Word for it, our Assent is inevitable. But if we neither comprehend it ourselves, nor see God’s Authority for it, and yet swallow it, this is Credulity, and not divine Faith, which can have nothing less than divine Truth for its Object. When we are sure, that God Almighty speaks to us, we readily believe him, who cannot lye, nor be mistaken, nor deceive us: But when Men speak, though from God himself, our Belief in them is but human Confidence, if we have only their own Authority, that they had it from God: Their being Bishops, their being learned, their meeting together in Synods; all this alters not the Case: We can judge of their Opinions no otherwise, than as of the Opinions of Men; and of their Decisions, but as of human Decisions.
When the Articles of any Creed appear to be contained in Scripture, whoever believes that, does in Consequence believe them; and then such Creed is unnecessary: But when we cannot, or think we cannot, find them in Scripture, and yet give equal Credit to them, we depreciate and profane the Divine Authority itself, by accepting the Words of Man’s Invention as wiser, and more significant, than the Words of God’s own choosing.
We are sure, that the Scripture-Phrases were inspired by the Holy Ghost, and as sure, that our own Forms and Injunctions are human, and framed by Priests. It is therefore strange, that the former should be insufficient and unintelligible, and the latter infallible, and to be embraced and obeyed on the Pain of Damnation; and that the Priests must do what God Almighty has, without Success, endeavoured to do.
Besides, as the Imposition of human Creeds is contrary to Reason, so is it also to Charity. They were generally made in a Passion, not to edify, but to plague, those for whom, or rather against whom, they were intended. They were the Engines of Wrath and Vengeance, nor could they serve any other Purpose. Those who believed them already, did not want them; and those who disbelieved them, were not the better for them. But this was not the worst of it; for they who did not receive them against their Conscience, were cursed; and they who did, deserved it. So that either the Wrath of God on one hand, or the Wrath and Cruelty of the Clergy on the other, was unavoidable. If People said they believed, and did not, they mocked God, and shipwrecked their Souls; and if they did not believe, and owned it, though they saved their Souls, they provoked their Reverend Fathers, and were destroyed.
Whenever these Dictators in Faith had a mind to be mischievous, and to undo one who gave them signal Offence, either by his good Reputation, or good Bishoprick, they began his Ruin by their great Care for his Soul; and so invented a Creed for him, which ruined him effectually, by giving him, as they said, to Satan, but, in Truth, to Beggary, Stripes, or Flames. He therefore who had any Virtue or Religion, was a certain Sufferer by these Systems of Faith, which were contrived for that Purpose. The Man that had no Conscience nor Honesty, was not worthy of their Anger; or, which is most likely, was on the Orthodox Side; or at least quickly became a Convert to it, being, like themselves, able to swallow any thing.
Thus Creeds, as they were the Result of Revenge, Pride, or Avarice, were the constant Preludes and Introductions to Ignorance, Cruelty and Blood; and the wretched Laity were craftily, as well as inhumanly, made the deluded and unnatural Instruments of butchering one another, to prove the Infallibility of the Faith-makers; who, while they were wantonly shedding Christian Blood, and dooming to Damnation those who called upon the Name of the true God, had the shameless Assurance to miscal themselves the Embassadors of the meek Jesus.
And indeed, what better could be expected from Men so chosen, so unqualified, and so interested, as the Members of these general Creed-making Councils for the most part were? They were chosen from several Parts by a Majority of Votes; and they who were most aspiring, factious or crafty, carried it: They sprung from the meanest of the People: They were bred in Cells: They popped into the World without Experience or Breeding: They knew little of Mankind, and less of Government, and had not the common Qualifications of Gentlemen: They were governed by Passion, and led by Expectation: And, either eager for Preferment, or impatient of missing it, they were the perpetual Flatterers, or Disturbers of Princes.
These were the Men, this their Character. When these Reverend Fathers were got together in a Body, by the Order of a Prince, or a Pope; who, having his Necessities, or the Ends of his Ambition, to serve, chose proper Tools for those Purposes; they were directed to form such Creeds and Systems of Faith, as his present Views or Interests made requisite for Mankind to believe.
In this new Imployment every Member, we may be sure, was forward to shew his Talents in starting new Tenets, or in contradicting those already started, and so to make himself considerable enough for that Preferment which he was resolved to earn one way or another. And this being the great Aim of them all, Jealousies and hard Words were carried to the most violent Pitch. There was no End of their Wrangling and Reviling. Not content to abuse each other by Word of Mouth, they sometimes scolded in Writing; and every Reverend Father drew up a bitter Billingsgate Petition against another Reverend Father. Sometimes, not satisfied with Vollies of Scurrility, unheard of in Assemblies of Gentlemen, they had recourse to Club-law, and made good their Inventions and Distinctions with Blows and Blood. And if the Truth could not be found out by Scolding, Contradiction, and Battle, it was not found out at all.
Thus any Emperor or Pope might have what Creed he pleased, provided he would be at the Pains and Price of it. And for the rest of Mankind, they had this short Choice, To comply, or be undone.