Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number VII.: Of Uninterrupted Succession. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number VII.: Of Uninterrupted Succession. - 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 Uninterrupted Succession.
Wednesday, March 2. 1720.
SINCE all the most idle and visionary Pretences of the Popish and Popishly-affected Clergy, have their Ends, and their Danger, and therefore should be narrowly watched, and vigorously opposed, I shall in this Paper inquire into the Validity of a principal Claim of theirs, I mean that of Uninterrupted Succession; and endeavour to find whether there is any Foundation to support this Corner-stone of their Authority, except in their own wild Imaginations.
One might reasonably imagine, that a Doctrine of so much Importance to the temporal and eternal State of all Mankind should be expresly laid down, and fully explained, in the Holy Scriptures, to prevent all Possibility of Mistake about it. But, instead of this, the Word, as far as I remember, is not once mentioned there, nor any other Word equivalent to it; so that we are under a Necessity of recurring to the Clergy themselves for Information: And here too we are as much bewildered as before; for some of them boldly assert it, and others flatly deny it.
Besides, those who hate and damn one another, claim it equally to themselves, and deny it to others. Those who are Successors to the Apostles in England, disown their Brother-successors beyond the Tweed, and about the Lake; and they their Brother-successors at Rome; and they theirs in Greece and Armenia, as well as every-where else. Now all these, who so confidently assume the Successorship to themselves alone, are as opposite to each other in Sentiments and Worship, as Light is to Darkness. They cannot therefore all have it; and if only one has it, how shall we know who he is? No Man’s Testimony ought to be taken in his own Case; and, if we take that of other People, there are twenty to one against them all.
If the Clergy of the Church of England, as by Law established, be, of all the Reformed, supposed to enjoy this Line of Entail intire to themselves; pray, how came they by it? Not from the Reformation, which began not till near Fifteen Centuries after the Apostles were dead; and Cranmer owned Ordination then to be no more than a Civil Appointment to an Ecclesiastical Office. It is certain, that at that Time this Utopian Succession was not so much as thought of by any who embraced the Protestant Religion. At present, indeed, and for a good while past, the Jacobite High Clergy contend for it with equal Modesty and Truth. But, in order to adopt it, they are forced to drop the Reformation: For,
You must know, courteous Reader, that this same Succession is now deduced from Rome, and the Pope has had the keeping of it, who, by all that adhered to the Reformation, was held to be Antichrist, and the Man of Sin. He was often an Atheist, often an Adulterer, often a Murderer, always an Usurper; and his Church has constantly lived in gross Idolatry, and subsisted by Ignorance, Frauds, Rapine, Cruelty, and all the blackest Vices. It is certain, that she was full of Wickedness and Abomination, and void of all Goodness and Virtue, but that of having kept the Apostolic Orders pure and undefiled for our modern High-Churchmen.
However, I think, they themselves seem to be now sensible, that it will be a difficult Matter to make out, this way, their Kindred to the Apostles, without being nearer akin to Popery. They are therefore forced to own the Church of Rome to be a true Church. Nor ought we to be surprised, if, in succeeding to the Orders of that Church, they also succeed to most of her good Qualities. I confess, amongst us Laymen, it would look a little absurd, if any one should gravely assert, that “indeed Lais was a filthy Strumpet, and no virtuous Woman would converse with her; but, for all that, she was a true Virgin, and all Chastity was derived from her!”
But such Absurdities as these go for nothing amongst some Sorts of Ecclesiastics. We will therefore, in the next Place, inquire what it is which they would succeed to. The Apostles had no Ambition, Jurisdiction, Dignities, or Revenues, to which they could be Successors. We read not in Scripture one Word of Ecclesiastical Princes, Popes, Patriarchs, Primates, &c. On the contrary, our Saviour himself declares, that his Kingdom is not of this World; and when the young Man in the Gospel (St. Matth. chap. xix.) asked of him, What he should do to obtain eternal Life? he answered, that, besides keeping the Commandments, he should sell all that hehad, and give it to the Poor. N. B. He did not bid him give a Peny to the Priests.
In the xxth Chapter of the same Gospel, our Saviour takes Notice to his Disciples, that the Princes of this World exercise Dominion over them; but, says he, it shall not be so amongst YOU; but whoever will be great amongst you, let him be your Minister; and whoever will be Chief, let him be your Servant. Nay, he says, that even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. In the xxiiid Chapter he condemns the Scribes and Pharisees, for loving the uppermost Rooms, and the chief Seats in the Synagogue, and their desiring to be called of Men Rabbi; and he forbids all this Pride to his Disciples, as well as his other Hearers; and orders them not to call one another Master: For one, says he, is your Master, even Christ; and he that is greatest among you shall be your Servant. Nor do I find, that, while he was upon Earth, he laid Claim to any Power but to do the Will of Him that sent him. Indeed, after his Resurrection, he tells his Disciples, that all Power is given to him in Heaven and in Earth; and he bids them teach it to all Nations, and baptize them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; but he does not give them the least Power or Dominion, of any kind whatsoever.
And it is plain, that his Disciples understood him so. St. Paul tells the Corinthians, in his second Epistle to them, Chap. i. that they had not Dominion over their Faith, but were Helpers of their Joy. In the fourth Chapter of the same Epistle, he tells them, that they preach not themselves, but Christ Jesus their Lord, and themselves THEIR Servants for Jesus sake. In the first Epistle to the Corinthians, Chap. iii. he admonishes them not to glory in Men, no not in himself, nor Apollos’ nor Cephas; and tells the People, that even the Apostles themselves, and all Things, are Theirs, and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. In the ninth Chapter he tells them, that though he is free from all Men, yet he has made himself Servant unto all, that he might gain the more. St. Peter also, in his first Epistle, Chap. v. exhorts the Elders to feed the Flock of Christ, and to take the Oversight thereof, not by Constraint, but willingly; not for filthy Lucre, but of a ready Mind; neither as being Lordsover God’s Heritage, but as being Examples to the Flock.
Now either these Elders were Clergymen, or they were not: If they were Clergymen, their pretended Successors may see upon what Terms they are to be Feeders, and Overseers of the Flock of Christ: But, if they were only Laymen, then it is plain, that no other Qualifications were necessary to a Spiritual Shepherd, than a willing, disinterested, and humble Mind; and all Subjection is, in the fifth Verse, commanded to be reciprocal --- Likewise, ye Younger, submit yourselves to the Elders: Yea, all of you be subject to one another, and be cloathed with Humility; for God resisteth the Proud, and giveth Grace to the Humble.
For myself, I confess, that I am not Master enough of any Language to find Words more expressive, or which can more fully renounce all Sorts of Jurisdiction and Dominion, than those in the Passages which I have here quoted: And nothing can be more ridiculous, as well as impious, than to oppose them with equivocal, doubtful, and figurative Expressions. If the Popish Priests could but find out one such clear Text on their Side, how would they exult upon it!
As I have made it fully appear, that the Apostles understood our Saviour in this Sense; so it is evident, that the first Christians had not the least Apprehension, that the Apostles claimed any Power or Authority to themselves. They were poor Men, of mean and mechanical Professions, who left Fathers, Mothers, Children, Families, Trades, and renounced all the good Things of this World, to wander about it, and preach Christ. Their Disinterestedness and Sufferings were powerful Arguments of the Truth of their Doctrines: Whereas, if they had told their Hearers, in the modern High-Church Strain, That “as soon as they became their Converts, they became also their Spiritual Subjects; That they themselves were Ecclesiastical Princes; and that Spiritual Government was as much more excellent than the Civil, as Heaven was than Earth, yea much more so; That the Episcopal Honour, and sublime Dignity, could not be equalled by the Glory of Kings, and the Diadems of Princes; That Kings and Queens ought to bow down to the Priests with their Face towards the Earth, and lick up the Dust of their Feet” ----- With whole Volumes more of such blasphemous Trash, as is vended by Dr. Hickes, Mr. Lesley, and indeed by almost all the High-Church Writers; and yet not publicly disapproved or censured by the Convocation, or any Body of the Clergy, though they have shewn an outrageous Enmity to all who have asserted the contrary Principles: If the Apostles had told them too, That they themselves had a Right, not only to the Tenth Part of their Estates, but of their Labour; and “that since they (their Hearers) administered so many Things to a King, who administers Peace and War for bodily Safety; how ought they not to adminster more liberally to him, who administers the Priesthood towards God, and secures both Body and Soul by his Prayers?”
I say, if any of this choice Fustian had been broached to the World, at the first Opening of the Gospel, what Progress could Chiristianity have made? How could the Apostles have been disinterested Witnesses of the Truth of the Doctrines, which gave them such Jurisdiction, Dominion and Riches? And how justly would the Princes and Powers of the Earth have punished such Usurpations upon their Civil and Ecclesiastical Authority?
The Silence alone of the Enemies to Christianity, is a sufficient Confutation of this wicked and black Calumny, cast upon them by their pretended Successors; but which their bitterest Opposers had more Modesty than to charge them with, though they ransacked Earth and Hell for all other Sorts of Scandal.
T. & G.