Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number X.: Of Ordination. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number X.: Of Ordination. - 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, March 23. 1720.
I Take Honesty and Knowledge to be the essential Talents required for the Work of the Ministry: The one is acquired by Study, and the other depends upon the Disposition of the Heart, or the Grace of God. He therefore who has the Capacity to teach and edify, has a Right to do both.
Those who are Candidates for the Priesthood, carry their Qualifications along with them; and having passed Examination, receive a Power from the Bishop, which he receives from the Law, to put these Qualifications in Practice. But if, upon Trial, they be found insufficient, they are, or ought to be, rejected.
A Physician does not receive from the College an Ability to practise; but only a Declaration that he already has it. Such a Declaration, are Holy Orders: They convey nothing; neither Righteousness, nor Learning, nor Wisdom. They are only a Diploma or Privilege to exercise a certain Calling, during good Behaviour. Any further than this, what signifies the Hand of a Bishop laid upon the Head of a Stripling, who seeks Promotion or a Livelihood? If that Hand puts any thing into that Head, I would ask what it is, and how does it appear? What Alteration for the better is to be found in the Person, or Endowments, or Spirit, of the Party ordained? How does it appear, that he has any Moral Sufficiency which he had not before? Or any Spiritual Gift, besides that which he carries home in his Pocket; and which was conferred by the Bishop’s Secretary, for a Fee? Can there be any new Ability or Character without some Marks of it? Or is there an Alteration without a Change? It is an inconceivable Mystery to me, that the same Man should be another Man! I have known many a Man’s Pride swell, and his Morals decay, after Orders; but very seldom his Manners, or his Capacity, enriched by them. He who has the Spirit, will do the Works of the Spirit: By their Fruits ye shall know them. The Thing, were it true, is very capable of Proof. Indeed, it could not be hid nor disputed. On the contrary, when neither the Heart is mended, nor the Understanding enlightened, it is manifest, that the Holy Ghost has nothing to do with either.
Alearned and virtuous Layman can instruct more effectually, and pray more devoutly and successfully, than an ignorant and profane Priest; and is consequently a more proper and secure Guide to others. To say that he has no Call, is no more than to say that he has not entered his Name: Besides, it is false; for I will lay it down as a Proposition, which I will abide by, that he who has a Power to do Good, has a Call to do Good; and the promoting of Virtue, and securing of Souls, is doing the greatest Good of all. St. James tells us, that the effectual fervent Prayer of a righteous Man availeth much; but he does not say, that he must be in Orders, or that he must perform the same in a consecrated Place: Though the Convocation, in the latter Part of the Queen’s Reign, thought fit to differ with the Apostle in this Point.
Apollos, without any Call at all, but from his own Abilities, being an eloquent Man, and mighty in the Scriptures, and instructed in the Way of the Lord, and fervent in the Spirit, spake and taught diligently the Things of the Lord, and boldly in the Synagogue. It is plain, that he had not the Holy Ghost, for that he knew only the Baptism of John: And it is also plain, that he was not ordained, unless it was by the Tent-maker and his Wife, Aquila and Priscilla: And they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the Way of God more perfectly. (Acts xviii. 24, &c.)
I doubt the Holy Ghost is too often made free with in Popish Countries, upon the Occasion of young Mens taking Orders. I believe it will be found, that their Motives are much more temporal. It is considered as a secular Employment, as much as any other; and the Labour of a Clergyman is as evidently bought and sold, as that of an Attorney, or any Tradesman. Besides, the Way to this Calling is easy and obvious: Where is the Difficulty of learning a little Greek, or chopping a little Logic, and of getting by Heart a few Questions in School-Divinity? Nay, there are many ordained there, even without any of these momentous Accomplishments.
There are some who take the Orders of Clergymen, and yet never exercise the Function of Clergymen, either through Idleness, or Weakness. Does the Holy Ghost call Men to the Work of the Ministry, not to do the Work of the Ministry? Or does he call Men to an Office, without giving them Gifts and Grace to perform it? It was not so in the Apostles Days, when God inspired all whom he sent; and where the Divine Commission or Call was given, a Door of Utterance was also given. But there were then no Sine-Cures, no great Revenues; no great Doctors, nor small Curates.
It is evident, that neither the Church of Rome in general, nor any of its Bishops in particular, believe a Word of this pretended Call of the Holy Ghost, in the Business of taking Orders. For, by the Canons, the Person demanding Ordination, is to be examined as to his Capacity for the Ministry, and must produce a Certificate as to the Innocence and Morality of his Life; both which were unnecessary, if there was any Proof or Assurance of his Call from God. And the Questions asked him upon that Occasion are such as demand no more than ordinary human Aid to answer them. Nor is it at all expected of him, that the Goodness of his Life should exceed that of other Laymen: If it be as good, it is well.
Whenever the Holy Ghost was given, it was given upon some extraordinary Occasion, for the doing of some extraordinary Action; as it was to the Apostles, for converting the Heathen World. They shewed the Power which they had, by the Wonders which they did; and gave effectual Evidences, that they were divinely assisted. But some modern Priests, who have no extraordinary Work to do, assert, notwithstanding, that they have an extraordinary Call from the Spirit; which would also infer his extraordinary Assistance. But they say it without shewing it, and pretend to it without proving it. It is a Happiness, that we are not obliged to take their Word; for though Faith itself be the Evidence of Things not seen, yet still it is the Evidence: that is, Proof must precede Belief.
When the Popish Clergy are charged with Frailties, Vices, and Immoralities, they then confess the Truth, and are pleased to become Flesh and Blood as well as other Men, and subject to the like Infirmities and Passions; if they said greater, we could readily believe them. But when a Point of Gain or Dominion is to be contended for, they grow all of sudden more than Men; they are then the Lord’s Ambassadors, Successors to the Epostles, a sacred Society; and the Lord knows how many more fine Things. Now this Management is very unlucky for them, and full of palpable Contradiction; for if they had a greater Share of God’s Grace and Spirit than others, it would be especially evident in the superior Piety of their Lives, since Holiness is shewn in Practice: Whereas the Spirit of this World manifests itself in the Love of Power and Wealth; and hence those who pursue them are called Worldly-minded, in Opposition to God’s Elect, who are the Spiritually-minded. I need not recommend it to such Clergy, which to chuse, carnal Minds with Riches and Authority, or Heavenly-mindedness without them. It is certain, that the Apostles were as pious as poor.
If, by the Call of the Holy Ghost, on this Occasion, be meant no more than a serious and devout Bent of Mind to administer in the public Worship of God, as some Reverend Divines, Lovers of Truth, do, I think, confess; then is the Claim of a Divine Mission, and successive Right, utterly at an End; and the taking of Orders is no more, than taking a Licence to perform a religious Office; for which every religious intelligent Man is already qualified.
And indeed such a Man is, without the Consent of any Bishop, intitled to be a Pastor, in the Scripture Sense of the Word, though not to receive the legal Wages of a Pastor. He may preach and pray, and deliver the Sacrament, when temporal Laws do not restrain him, but cannot take Tithes, which are annexed to certain Conditions and Opinions established by the State. As every State has its own Religion, so almost every Religion is directed and modelled by some State; and therefore they, who are Orthodox Conformists in one, are often Schismatical Dissenters in another. But such is the singular Modesty and Submission of the Clergy, that they, in most Countries, humbly acquiesce in the established Faith; and not only meekly accept of all the Ecclesiastical Powers and Revenues to themselves, but gratefully condescend to persecute all those Consciences that are not as complaisant and supple as their own. And indeed, it is but generous in them to be zealous for those Notions and Ceremonies, which bring them Reverence and Hire: But, methinks, it is a little unreasonable to expect, that others should, without their Motives, adopt their Zeal.
P. S.Having in my last Paper asserted, that there is no particular Priesthood at all directed by the New Testament; I am told, that it is from thence surmised by some, through Malice, and by others, through Mistake, that I do by this insinuate, that there is therefore no Occasion for any Church-Ministry whatsoever, notwithstanding my former Declarations upon this Head. I particularly say, in my Third Paper, speaking of the Clergy:
“Their Office is evidently adapted to promote the Welfare of human Nature, and 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.”
I say also in my Fourth Paper, that I sincerely think their Office to be absolutely necessary to the Peace and Happiness of Society. I could likewise refer to other Passages. But to give full Satisfaction, once for all, to such as will be satisfied, I declare, that I do only contend for the Right of every national and voluntary Society to appoint their own Pastors, and to judge of their Doctrines and Behaviour: Further than this I have no Aim. Nor do I desire to lessen the Respect due to the Clergy from their Merit and Usefulness; or the Dignities, Privileges, and Revenues, which they derive from the Law, or from the Good-will and Contributions of the People. And I intend very soon to defend the Church of England, upon the Principles and Authority of the Scripture and the Law; as well as the Toleration granted to Dissenters, by the same Law, and the same Scripture.