Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XI.: The Advantageous Situation of the Clergy, strangely inconsistent with their common Cry of Danger. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XI.: The Advantageous Situation of the Clergy, strangely inconsistent with their common Cry of Danger. - 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 Advantageous Situation of the Clergy, strangely inconsistent with their common Cry of Danger.
Wednesday, March 30. 1720.
VIRTUE and Innocence were created naked and undisguised; nor did our First Parents cover themselves till they had offended. Truth can never sin, and therefore need not, and ought not, ever to appear in Masquerade: She is most amiable, when most uncovered; and appears truly majestic, and in greatest Lustre, when disrobed of all gaudy and affected Ornaments: Her natural Features want no Varnish or Colouring, nor has she any Need of Dressers and Tire-women.
Knavery and Deformity alone want Daubing and Disguise. Actors do not care, that any one should look into the Tiring-room, nor Jugglers or Sharpers into their Hands or Boxes; whereas Honesty and Sincerity appear always barefaced, and shew themselves most in open Day; they scorn all indirect Advantages, and borrowed Helps; but trust alone to their own native Beauty, and intrinsic Strength: The Lion is never known to use Cunning.
I confess, that I am not Master enough of my Temper, to avoid Laughter, and Indignation, by Turns, at the noisy Clamours of the High Clergy, against the Freedom of the Age, and the Liberty of the Press; as if Virtue was inconsistent with good Sense, or Truth could suffer by Knowledge, or Religion by a free and thorough Examination. What Figure would a grave Lawyer make in Westminster Hall, if, after he had been tiring his Auditors for two Hours together, he should desire the Judges not to hear the Counsel of the other Side, lest they should perplex the Cause, and mislead the Court?
Every Stander-by would take it for granted, that he was conscious of the Weakness of his Client’s Cause, and that it could no otherwise be defended, than by being not understood. This is, in Point, the Case of those, who demand of all Mankind to be heard by the Clock, and will yet hear nobody; who talk and rail by Wholesale, whilst they cannot bear a single Jest, or ludicrous Expression; and who write Volumes by the Yard themselves, and are in an Uproar, and outrageous, at a single Half-sheet of other Peoples.
How absurd would it appear for an Army of an Hundred thousand Men, intrenched up to the Ears, to call aloud for the Assistance of the Constable and Watch to defend their Camp against the Assaults and Storms of Highwaymen and House-breakers! Just such a Request do the Popish Clergy abroad make, when they cry out, Fire, Fire! Help, Help! when they demand the Assistance of the Secular Power; and insist, that no Sermons be preached, Books printed, or Harangues made, but their own. They have already more Advantages than Truth can desire, and indeed enough to offend her Modesty, and to make her ashamed and blush; they are too well armed for a fair Adversary, and yet are always complaining of the Shortness of their Weapons; and declaring themselves overcome by calling out for more Help.
Besides the Piety and Example of their Lives, they are vastly aumerous, and in Possession of great and various Dignities, of immense Revenues and Dependencies; are all bred up to Letters; have the Prejudices of the People, the sole Education of Youth, the Fears as well as the Favours of the Fair Sex on their Side; and have the Weekly Opportunity of haranguing to the People upon their own Usefulness and Importance: And they tell us too, that they have a sole Right to the Scripture Prophecy, That the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against them.
Crowned Heads always have thought it their Interest to keep Measures with them; Ministers of State are not able to trick succesfully, and play the Knave, without their Leave and Assistance: They take Advantage, and make their Market, of all Factions and Disturbances in States, and apply them to their own Benefit: Knaves shelter themselves under their Protection; Hypocrites court and seem to admire them, and Bigots and Enthusiasts adore them. Every Event of Life contributes to their Interests: They Christen; they Educate; they Marry; they Church; they Bury; they Persuade; they Frighten; they Govern; and scarce any thing is done without them. Notwithstanding all this, they roar aloud, that they cannot keep their Ground, but that Contempt and Infidelity pour upon them like an Inundation.
It is very remarkable, that the first Christians were not only destitute of all the before-mentioned Advantages, but their Enemies enjoyed them. They themselves were persecuted and contemned, buffetted, ridiculed and calumniated constantly in Books and Libels, published by the greatest Philosophers and Wits of the Heathen World. Yet Christianity every Day spread far and wide, and made a wonderful Progress; insomuch that, in an Age or two, Superstition and Idolatry were driven from a great Part of the Earth.
A Speculation upon this Head, and an Inquiry into the Causes of so prodigious a Change, would be worthy the Endeavours of the brightest Wits and Genius’s of our Age and Country, who undoubtedly must be found amongst our own genuine Clergy. I have long wished to see a Dissertation upon this great and useful Subject; and with the greatest Humility propose to the Consideration of the Lower House of Convocation at their next (so much desired) Meeting, to give the World their Thoughts upon it, in a second Representation of the Causes of Vice and Infidelity. In Hopes to encourage them in so public an Undertaking, I intend before that happy Day to give them my poor Assistance, and in some measure to alleviate their Labours, by endeavouring to prove, that no Part of this Misfortune ought to be laid at the Door of the Laity.
Indeed, it would be unbecoming the Respect and Reverence which I have always professed, and hope shall always pay, to these Reverend Gentlemen, even to hint at any thing so improbable as the contrary Conjecture: For since human Nature is always the same, who can entertain so indecent a Thought of their Designs, or have such a Contempt of their Performances, as to imagine, that Mankind can grow worse under the Light of the Gospel, in Defiance of their pious Lives and Examples; of the numerous Forms of public and private Prayer; of their constant Sermons, and godly Exhortations; of so many Creeds, Catechisms, Systems, Commentaries, and whole Cart-loads of other ghostly Geer, which the World is every Day blessed with from the laborious Endeavours of above a Million of Ecclesiastics, or more; who have always, and do still, cost the People more than their whole Civil and Military Expence put together? Since, therefore, we may be sure, that this great Change and Degeneracy cannot be owing to any remaining Defect amongst the Laity, it may well be expected from Persons of their Penetration and Perpiscuity, to let us into the true Causes of so surprising a Phænomenon
In the mean time, (though with all the due Submission of an humble Votary) I shall for once presume to advise them, not to level so many Batteries against good Sense, and human Reason, which are impregnably fortified and secure against the fiercest Assaults. A great Philosopher tells us, when Reason is against a Man, a Man will be against Reason. I therefore much fear, if these my Friends and Patrons should continue to hold forth, and exert their Eloquence, against private Judgment, Freedom of Inquiry, and a daily and diligent Search after a religious Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, that the World may mistake their Endeavours, and imagine that all these good Things make against them; and yet unfortunately they are in such Repute, that there are little Hopes of depreciating or putting them out of Countenance.
Besides, I humbly conceive it to be impolitic upon other Accounts too. It appears to me to be very indiscreet in Persons Militant, to endeavour to put an End to a War, which, for the most part, puts an End to themselves, and their own Pay. A jovial Country Parson, once, in a merry Mood, passing by a Waggon which was overturned, told the Carter, That he had killed the Devil; to which the profane Wretch replied, That he was glad of it with all his Heart, because then, quoth Ralph, I have spoiled your Trade. A Word to the Wise is sufficient.
Methinks also, it should be doing too much Credit to his Satanic Majesty, to suppose him more than a Match for a Million of consecrated Persons, with all their Hierarchical Powers, and, as they say, Divine Assistances about them.