Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XIII.: The Church proved a Creature of the Civil Power, by Acts of Parliament, and the Oaths of the Clergy. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XIII.: The Church proved a Creature of the Civil Power, by Acts of Parliament, and the Oaths of the Clergy. - 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 Church proved a Creature of the Civil Power, by Acts of Parliament, and the Oaths of the Clergy.
Wednesday, April 20. 1720.
I Have observed, in my last Paper, that many of the Protestant Priests endeavoured to divert the growing Spirit in the Christian World for Reformation, to metaphysical and useless Speculations, of no Benefit to the present or eternal Happiness of Mankind, whilst they were seating themselves at leisure in the Chairs of their Predecessors.
But far otherwise was it, where it fell under the Direction of Laymen; who considered it as an Opportunity put by Heaven into their Hands, to free themselves from the Usurpations, and unjust Domination, of the Priesthood. They made no Scruple (notwithstanding the loud Cry of Sacrilege) to seize, and apply to public Uses, a great Part of those Riches, which the Clergy had extorted from old Women, and superstitious and inchanted Bigots; the Compositions for Murders, for public and private Robberies; the Plunder of dying and despairing Sinners; and the Supports of their own Idleness, Pride, Ignorance, and Debauchery.
A bold and honest Physician (whose Name was Erastus) at this time started up, and told the World, that all these Squabbles of the Clergy about their own Power, were Disputes de lana caprina, (concerning a Non-Entity) and that none of them had any Right to what they almost all claimed: That the Quarrel amongst them was only which of them should oppress the Laity, who were independent of them all; for that their Ministers were their Servants, Creatures of their own making, and not of God Almighty’s. He shewed them from Reason and Scripture, that every State had the same Authority of modelling their Ecclesiastical as Civil Government; that the Gospel gave no Pre-eminence or Authority to Christians over one another, but every Man alike (who had suitable Abilities) was qualified to execute all the Duties and Offices of their most holy Religion; and that it was only a Matter of Prudence and Convenience to appoint particular Persons to officiate for the rest, with proper Rewards and Encouragements; which Persons would be intitled to no more Power than they themselves gave them.
This Doctrine, as little as it pleased the Clergy, yet prevailed so far with the Laity, that most Protestant States modelled their Ecclesiastical Polity according to their own Inclinations or Interests; and particularly, in England, the whole Reformation was built upon this Principle, which ever, till lately, was esteemed the great Characteristic of the Church of England; and therefore ’tis the last Degree of Priestly Insolence for a Body of Men to call themselves the only true Churchmen, at the same time that they deny, and every-where exclaim against, the fundamental and essential Article which distinguishes it from most other Churches, and particularly from Presbytery; for as to the rest of the Articles, the Calvinists are more Orthodox than the Churchmen themselves.
At the very Beginning of the Reformation, the Clergy here in England, conscious of their own Enormities, and the just Vengeance which hung over their Heads, were contented to disgorge their ill-gotten, and as ill-used Power; and, in full Convocation, threw themselves upon the King’s Mercy, acknowledging his Supremacy in the fullest and most significant Words; and promised in verbo sacerdotii, that for the future they would never presume to attempt, alledge, claim, or put in Use, enact, or promulgate any Canons, Constitutions, or Ordinances, without the King’s most Royal Licence and Assent had thereunto; and humbly besought his Majesty to appoint Thirty-two Persons, half Clergy and half Laity, to examine the Canons and Constitutions in being, and to abrogate and confirm them, as they should think good.
This Petition was changed into an Act of Parliament by the 25th of Henry the VIIIth, Cap. 19. But it is there declared, That the Crown and Convocation together shall not put in Execution any Canons, Constitutions, or Ordinances, which shall be contrariant or repugnant to the King’s Prerogative, or the Laws of the Kingdom: The same Statute also gives an Appeal from the supreme Ecclesiastical Court, to the King’s Commission.
In the same Session of Parliament, the Manner of Proceeding upon the Congé d’Elire is directed; viz.* A Licence from the Crown is to be sent to the Chapter, to chuse or elect an Archbishop or Bishop, and a Letter missive with it, to nominate the Person whom they are to chuse; which if they do not obey, nor signify the same, according to the Tenor of the Act, within twenty Days, they are subjected to a Præmunire; and if the Election be not made within Twelve Days, the King may nominate a Bishop by Letters Patents, without any Election at all, as is now done in Ireland, and formerly was so in Scotland, where their Bishops were durante beneplacito.
The next Year the Parliament* , reciting, That the King justly and rightly is, and ought to be, supreme Head of the Church of England, enact the same; and that he shall have full Power to visit, redress, reform, correct, and restrain all Errors, Heresies, Abuses, Offences, Contempts, and Enormities, whatsoever they be, which, by any manner of spiritual Authority or Jurisdiction, ought or may be reformed, redressed, &c.
Afterwards, in the 37th Year of the same Reign, the Parliament, reciting, That the Bishop of Rome, and his Adherents, minding utterly to abolish, obscure, and delete the Power given by God to the Princes of the Earth, whereby they might get and gather to themselves the Rule and Government of the World, had decreed, that no Layman might exercise Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, lest their false and usurped Power, which they pretended to have in Christ’s Church, might decay, wax vile, and be of no Reputation (which Power they affirm to be contrary to the Word of God, and to his Majesty’s most high Prerogative); and reciteing also, That Archbishops, Bishops, Archdeacons, and other Ecclesiastical Persons, have no manner of Jurisdiction Ecclesiastical, but by, from, and under the King’s Majesty; enact, That Laymen qualified as the Law appoints, may exercise all Parts of Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, and all Censures and Coercions appertaining, or in any wise belonging thereunto.
The 2d and 3d of Edward the Sixth, Cap. 1. enacts the Common-Prayer Book, (which was before compiled and drawn up the King’s Authority) and makes it a Law.
The 3d and 4th of Edward the Sixth, Cap. 12. appoints such Form and Manner of making and consecrating Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, and other Ministers of the Church, as by Six Prelates, and Six other Men of this Realm, by the King to be appointed and assigned, or by the greater Number of them, shall be devised, &c. and none other. These two Acts were confirmed with some Alterations, in the 5th and 6th Year of this Reign.
The 1st of Queen Elizabeth, Cap. 1. establishes and enacts, That all Jurisdictions, Privileges, Superiorities, and Pre-eminences, Spiritual and Ecclesiastical, at any Time lawfully used or exercised, for the Visitation of the Ecclesiastical State or Persons, and for the Reformation, Order, and Correction of the same, and of all manner of Errors, Heresies, Schisms, Abuses, Contempts, Offences, and Enormities, shall be annexed to the Imperial Crown of this Realm; and gives Power and Authority to it to appoint any Persons, being natural-born Subjects, to exercise all forts of Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction; and declares at the same time what, and what only, shall be deemed Heresy.
The Oath of Supremacy (which is an Assent to these Laws, and obliges those who take it, to assist and defend them) is appointed in this Act; which Oath all Ecclesiastical Persons, as well as any others, who shall be promoted and preferred to any Degree or Order in the University, are to take under severe Penalties.
The 8th of Queen Elizabeth, reciting, That the Queen had in her Order and Disposition, all Jurisdiction, Power, and Authority, Ecclesiastical as well as Civil; and had caused divers Archbishops and Bishops to be duly elected and consecrated; does confirm all the said Elections and Consecrations; as also the Common-Prayer Book, and the Orders and Forms for the making of Priests, Deacons, and Ministers, which were added to it in the Fifth and Sixth Years of Edward the Sixth.
All which before-mentioned Acts are now in being, in full Force, and sworn to by all the Clergy, who are subjected to a Præmunire, if they contradict them.
Thus our Parliaments, at or just after the Reformation, whilst the Memory of Sacerdotal Oppressions continued in their Minds, were resolved to pare their Claws, curb their Insolence, and not leave it in their Power to corrupt Religion any more; and therefore put it under the Care of the Civil Magistrate, who could seldom have any Interest in perverting it: Whereas there is not any Instance, where, when it has been left to the Conduct of any Set of Ecclesiastics whatsoever, they have not abused and sacrificed it to the Advancement of their own Wealth and Power.
EvenAaron himself, (though a High-Priest of God’s own Appointment) when Moses, the Civil Magistrate, was but a little while absent, to receive the Almighty’s Commands, cheated the Israelites of their Ear-rings, melted them into a Golden Calf, and encouraged the Dupes to say, These were the Gods which brought them out of the Land of Egypt. He built an Altar before his Idol, proclaimed a Fast, and then made use of all this Deceit to extort from that stupid and superstitious People, Burnt-Offerings and Peace-Offerings. This provoked Almighty God to that degree, that his Wrath was kindled against the whole Nation, and he was inclined to consume all, till Moses, the Lay-Sovereign, turned his fierce Wrath by his Prayers, and by remembring him of the Oath he sware to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, namely, that he would multiply their Seed like the Stars in Heaven, &c. And then it is true, that the Lord repented of the Evil which he thought to do unto them: But no Thanks to the Priest, who had drawn them into this Scrape. Exod. Chap. xxxii.
[* ]25 Hen. VIII. Cap. 20.
[* ]26 Hen. VIII. Cap. 1.