Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XII.: The Enmity of the High Clergy to the Reformation, and their Arts to Defeat the End of it. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XII.: The Enmity of the High Clergy to the Reformation, and their Arts to Defeat the End of it. - 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 Enmity of the High Clergy to the Reformation, and their Arts to Defeat the End of it.
Wednesday, April 6. 1720.
MACHIAVEL advises any one, who would change the Constitution of a State, to keep as much as possible to the old Forms; for then the People, seeing the same Officers, the same Formalities, Courts of Justice, and other outward Appearances, are insensible of the Alteration, and believe themselves in Possession of their old Government.
ThusCæsar, when he seized the Roman Liberties, caused himself to be chosen Dictator, (which was an antient Office) continued the Senate, the Consuls, the Tribunes, the Censors, and all other Powers of the Commonwealth; and yet changed Rome from the most free, to the most tyrannical Government in the World.
This Policy is yet more necessary to be observed in altering the Religion of a Country; for very few Persons, of any Sect or Party in Faith, are conversant with the Speculations or distinguishing Tenets of their own Church, or so much as know what they are.
Whilst they see the same broad-brimmed Hats, Bands, Cassocks, and long Gowns; and hear the same Psalms sung in the same Tone, and in the same fashioned Buildings; they think that they have the same Religion, and will be angry with any one who shall tell them the contrary.
But if the Ceremonies or other Forms of Religious Worship are to be altered too, the Change must be made insensibly, and by Degrees, that the Difference may be unobserved, or thought of no Consequence; and all Advantages must be taken of Revolutions in Government, of public Calamities, and of Factions, when they beat high, and are ready to fall into any Measures to oppose and mortify each other.
The Priesthood in all Ages have made these Arts, and a Thousand others, contribute to their Greatness; the High-Church Jacobite Clergy of England have put them all in Practice to regain every thing which they lost at the Reformation; and if they could but have prevailed upon their Flocks to have followed them, they had long ago sold them again in the Roman Market: But since we of the Laity are so refractory, and hang backward, they now seem resolved to gallop away by themselves, and leave us to come our own Pace after; insomuch that a Clergyman of the Church of England, as by Law established, is, at present, become, I am far from saying an uncommon, I am sure I may say, a most agreeable Sight, and many of his Brethren treat him as a Monster.
It must be evident to any one, who has read our Ecclesiastical Story, that the Reformation in England was carried on, not only without, but against the Consent of the whole Body of the Clergy, (very few excepted) who always opposed every Step towards their own Amendment: It was, indeed, every-where, properly speaking, an Effort or Insurrection of the Laity, against the Pride and Oppression or the Priests, who had cheated them of their Estates, imposed upon their Consciences, debauched their Wives, and were ever insulting Persons.
The poor injured People had long felt the Malady, but were so intimidated by their own Superstition, and the over-grown Power of their haughty Masters, that they durst not think of a Remedy, till a bold and disobliging Frier or Two dissolved the Inchantment; and then the whole Christian World seemed to rise at once against this Fairy and Fantastical Empire.
But People long used to Servitude, knowing not what Freedom is, or how to preserve it when thrown into their Laps, have always recourse to some Leaders, of whose Honesty and greater Wisdom they have conceived an Opinion; and these for the most part abuse such Confidence, to advance their own Views of Wealth and Power.
So it happened in this Case; and consequently the Reformation went partially on, according to the Direction under which it fell. Where Priests were at the Head of it, they attempted only to make it a Reformation of Sounds and Distinctions: They took no Offence at the Riches and Grandeur of the Clergy, (which was the Source of all other Evils) but were angry, that they had not their Share of them; and so looked upon the Revolt only as a Means to aggrandize themselves: They condemned not the Tyranny, but the Tyrants; and attempted to usurp that Power in their own Persons, which they loudly exclaimed against in the Romish Priesthood: Most Sects of them wonderfully well agreed, that there was a Divine Right in the Clergy to dictate to the Laity in Religious Matters; but every Sect claimed that Power to themselves, independent of all others.
They could not agree about sharing the Prey, but each would have had the Whole; which had this good Effect, however, that they were all obliged to abate much of their Pretensions, in order to engage Customers; and, I thank God, they have not yet been able to raise the Price again to the old Market; though, to do them Justice, they are no ways answerable to their Successors, for having let slip any Opportunity to that Purpose.
But whilst they were thus carrying on their Project for Dominion, they found it necessary to throw out a Barrel to the Whale, and keep the People’s Minds busied, and their Passions afloat, with Metaphysical Subtilties and Distinctions, of no Use to true Religion and Morality, though very conducive to their own ambitious tyrannical Designs.
I would gladly know, from these Reverend Venders of Trifles, Whether it would have been worth the Thousandth Part of the Combustion which has been made, or the Blood which has been spilt, only to have settled a few Speculations, if they could have been settled? Pray where is the essential Difference between Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, and the RealPresence? What the Consequence, whether a Child be baptized by one sort of Priests, or by another? Or of what Use to Mankind are the abstruse Questions about Predestination, Free-Will, or Free-Grace? What is the Difference, as to the Duties or Ordinances of Christianity, if they be administred under the Direction of a single Person, a Bench of Bishops, or a Lower House of Convocation, or none of them all, so they be piously administred? Or whether the chimerical Line of Succession be broken, or ever had a Being?
Since ’tis agreed amongst all our present Sects of Christians, that the Saviour of the World is the Son of God, descended from Heaven to teach Virtue and Goodness to Men, and to die for our Redemption; how are we concerned in the Scholastic Notions of the Trinity? Will the Scripture be more regarded, or the Precepts of it be better observed, if the Three Persons are believed to be Three Divine distinct Spirits and Minds, who are so many real subsisting Persons? Whether the Son and Holy-Ghost are Omnipotent of themselves, or are subordinate, and dependent on the Father? Or, if they are independent, whether their Union consist in a mutual Consciousness of one another’s Thoughts and Designs, or in any thing else? Whether they are Three Attributes of God, viz. Goodness, Wisdom and Power? Or Three internal Acts, viz. Creation, Redemption and Sanctification? Or Two internal Acts of the One subsisting Person of the Father; that is to say, the Father understanding and willing himself and his own Perfections? Or Three internal Relations, namely, the Divine Substance and Godhead confidered as Unbegotten, Begotten, and Proceeding? Or Three Names of God ascribed to him in Holy Scripture, as he is Father of all Things, as he did inhabit in an extraordinary Manner in the Man Jesus Christ, and as he effected every thing by his Spirit, or his Energy and Power? Or lastly, Whether the Three Persons are only Three Beings, but what sort of Beings we neither know, nor ought to pretend to know? which I take to be the Trinity of the Mob, as well as of some other wiser Heads.
As far as I can remember, these are the important Questions which have set Mankind together by the Ears, for so many Ages; and it seems are yet thought of Consequence enough to create new Feuds, and mortal Dudgeon, amongst all our Sects of Ecclesiastics. But why must we of the Laity quarrel about them too? What have Beaux and Belles, old Women, Coblers, and Milk-Maids, to do with Homo-ousios, Consubstantiality, Personality, HypostaticalUnion, Infinite Satisfaction, &c.? none of which hard Words, or any like them, are to be found in Scripture; and therefore, I think, we may even return them to Rome, that being the Place from whence they came, and be contented to be good Christians without them.
We ought to shew our Faith and Obedience to God, by a chearful Submission to his Commands, and not affect a vain Curiosity of prying into his Secrets; pretend to philosophize upon his abstracted Nature and Essence; and, with our limited and corrupt Understandings, assume to comprehend infinite Wisdom and Power, and define the Modus of its Existence and Operations. Almighty God would not make himself farther known even to Moses, nor suffer himself to be otherwise described to the Children of Israel, (though to get them out of the Land of Bondage) than by the comprehensive Words, I am that I am; which methinks might baffle our officious Impertinence, and put us in mind of the Danger of peeping into the Ark.
The above Disputes make us neither wiser nor better. Men are not intended for Speculation; exceeding few are capable of it. The Faculties of our Minds, as well as the Frame of our Bodies, are adapted to Labour, and to supply the Exigencies of our Nature. We are formed for Society and mutual Help, and the Goodness of God has implanted in us Qualities suited to these Ends; he has, besides, given us Precepts for our Assistance, and annexed infinite Rewards to the Observance of them. We know how to be good Parents, good Children, good Neighbours, and good Subjects: But how small a Part of Mankind understand, or are capable of understanding, Metaphysical Questions! When they use the Terms, it is plain, that they have no Ideas annexed to them, but fight at Blind-man’s-buff, and quarrel about what none of them understand. It is evident therefore, that the All-wise Providence could not intend to perplex and confound weak Minds with such Subtilties, for the Knowledge of which he has not given them suitable Qualifications.