Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XVI.: The Inconsistency of the Principles and Practices of High-Church; with some Advice to the Clergy. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XVI.: The Inconsistency of the Principles and Practices of High-Church; with some Advice to 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 Inconsistency of the Principles and Practices of High-Church; with some Advice to the Clergy.
Wednesday, May 4. 1720.
IF the Ecclesiastics have any Divine Right which is neither derived from the Civil Magistrate, nor the Consent of voluntary Societies, it must be vested in a single Person; in a certain Number of Persons, which we all call Bishops; or in common to them all: The First is Popery, and the Last Presbytery. But I think, that there is no Establishment which now subsists, or ever did subsist in the World, which does, or did, assert the Divine Right of Bishops, independent of the Pope; and consequently it is the Proprium or peculiar Whimsy of our own perjured High-Churchmen, not only in Opposition to their Oaths and Subscriptions, (as I have shewed already) but to the most applauded Actions of their greatest Champions; which ’tis the Business of this Paper to make out.
If there be a Divine Right in the Bishops to govern the Church, it is spiritual Rebellion, and the highest Sacrilege, to usurp upon this great Authority; but then, what will become of all the daily Daubing, and fulsome Panegyric, upon the best established Church in the World? Since I think it is agreed by all the Clergy, that the Power of Legislation, as far as they have any thing to do with it, is vested in the Convocation, which consists of two Houses, one of Bishops, the other of Presbyters; a Constitution utterly inconsistent with this Divine Right; which the High-Clergy have been so far from regretting, or complaining of, that it is one of their most essential Characteristics, to maintain the Power of the Lower House against the Upper; that is, of Presbyters against their own Diocesans.
They claim a co-ordinate Power with them in the supremest Acts of Church-Government; an Authority of acting by themselves, to chuse their own Time of meeting, to sit as often and as long as they please, to adjourn by their own Authority, to begin what Business they think sit, to chuse their own Committees, excuse Absence, receive Proxies, judge of Elections, censure their own Members, and do all other Acts, which ought to be done by the sole Authority of a House which is its own Master and Judge: All which, though they are rank Presbytery, yet are also become the genuine Principles of modern High-Churchmen: At the same time that they assert a sole, divine, apostolic, and independent Power in the Bishops to govern the Church.
The asserting of these Rights of the Lower House, is the Merit of their present Champion* , supplies the Want of Charity in him, and covers a Thousand Faults; and ’tis much to be feared and lamented, that all the late Zeal of a much greater Man† , and the present Services which he is doing, will scarcely atone for his having acted formerly upon Low-Church Principles, in defending the Prerogative of the Crown, and maintaining the Power of the Upper House over the Lower.
What Persons or Party have supported the Bishops, and their Authority, ever since the Revolution, against their own Presbyters? All Low-Churchmen. Who were those who have been always aspersing, calumniating and libelling the Two last Archbishops, our present Metropolitan, till very lately, the last Bishop of Salisbury, and indeed every worthy Prelate, but the High-Church Priests, and their Followers? And who have honoured and defended their Persons and Characters, but Low-Churchmen?
Who exhibited Articles against a present Bishop, for having preached the King’s Supremacy in Ecclesiastical Affairs, (wholly inconsistent with the Divine Right of Bishops) but the High-Church Clergy? Who supported the late Dean of Carlisle against his own Diocesan? All High-Churchmen. And who defended both these Bishops? All Low-Churchmen. Who burnt by the Hands of the common Hangman, a Book written by a Right Reverend Bishop, which asserted King William’s Title upon the once genuine Principles of Conquest, and passed a scandalous and groundless Vote upon the late learned Bishop of Worcester, but High-Churchmen? And who voted for these Bishops? All Low-Churchmen.
Such open Blunders, and glaring Inconsistencies, must these Men be reduced to, who measure all Opinions by their present Interest and Passions; and who have no other Standard of Right and Wrong, but what most gratifies their Ambition, Pride, Covetousness, or Revenge.
I can safely say, that, as I had no Interest in entering upon this Design, nor can have any in continuing it, but to promote the Cause of Virtue and Truth, and to support our present legal Establishment; by shewing the Laity, that they are free, both by the Laws of God and their Country, from all the wild and enthusiastic Pretensions of the high-flown Ecclesiastics: As I was willing also, not wholly to despair of being able to restore again the Apostate Clergymen to the Church of England, and to make them really of the Principles which they swear to, pretend to monopolize, and yet constantly oppose; so I shall have the utmost Pleasure, if I can contribute to these great Ends, and shall rejoice over such an Occasion, to drop this Paper.
As the High Clergy can have no other Motive to pursue these Principles, but the temporal Interest of their Order, in Opposition to Christianity, and the apparent Laws of their Country; so I shall endeavour to convince them, that they are grasping at what they can never reach; and, with the Dog in the Fable, losing a Substance to catch at a Shadow.
It was a Saying of the wise Lord Halifax, that Dr. Echard, in his Treatise of the Contemptof the Clergy, had omitted the chief Cause of it, namely, (not their Ignorance, but) the Knowledge of the Laity; and it is very true, that the Mists of Superstition and Fear, which have been so long raising before our Eyes, are pretty well dissipated and dispersed; nor will an horizontal Hat, a starched Band, and long Petticoats, pass in this Age for essential Marks of Wisdom and Virtue.
TheRehearsal has long since told us, that the gravest of all Beasts is an Ass, and the gravest of all Birds is an Owl; and indeed the World seems generally of Opinion now, that sound Sense, polite Learning, good Breeding, and an easy and affable Conversation, are not only consistent with true Religion, but are most productive of it; and sure it cannot be denied, that the Laity, for the most part, exceed in these Qualities.
They are resolved, at last, to see with their own Eyes, hear with their own Ears, and feel with their own Hands: Ipse dixit will pass no longer. It is a ridiculous Attempt to endeavour to deceive any one, who will not consent to be hood-winked: A Jade will not be put into an Horse-Mill, till she is blinded; nor could Samson be led about by the Philistines, till they had put out his Eyes. I would therefore give my old Friends a Hint, though, I doubt, to little Purpose, namely, to change the Course of their Sailing, according to the Shifting of the Winds and the Tides, and not run the Danger of Shipwreck upon those Coasts, where their Predecessors formerly found deep Water, and safe Riding.
I am sensible, that many of the High-Church Popish Clergy will laugh in their Sleeves at this Advice, and think there is Folly enough yet left among the Laity, to support their Authority; and will hug themselves, and rejoice over the Ignorance of the Universities, the Stupidity of the drunken ’Squires, the Panic of the tender Sex, and the never to be shaken Constancy of the Multitude; but I would put them in mind, that all these fine Visions have once already misled and deceived them, and therefore may again.
I desire that they will count their Gains, and recollect what Addition of Power they got, or were like to have got, by the late great Revolution of temporal Politics, which they were so instrumental to bring about: Indeed they were called together, and had a Liberty given them to scold and quarrel with one another; but they were not suffered to hurt so much as a Mouse; and even Mr. Whiston laughed at them. Whilst their Patrons were making their Court to France and the Pretender, for Preferments; the Lower House of Convocation was very usefully employed and diverted, in compiling Forms of Prayer for consecrating Churchyards, and for Criminals who were to be hanged; which, ’tis said, a certain great Person then called, Throwing out a Barrel to the Whale.
I am afraid, that they are not well informed of what it much concerns them to know, namely, that even the Tories themselves will not be Priest-ridden; and that those amongst them, who have any Sense, laugh at High-Church Principles in private, though they bow to the Broachers of them, and seem to admire them, in public; of the Truth of which I myself have been frequently a Witness: So that of whatever Importance they may seem to themselves, they are, in Truth, but Tools to factious Men; are only employed to do their Drudgery, and run down their Game; and will scarce have for their Pains even the picking of the Bones, when (like Jackals) they have hunted down the Lion’s Prey.
I should not have thought myself at Liberty to have unburdened my Mind thus freely, if it had not been to have served some of my Friends among these High-Church Clergy, by helping them to a little of that Understanding, which is not to be learnt in Universities, and in Conversation with one another; and I wish, (tho’ I cannot hope, much less persuade myself to believe) that when they have duly considered what I have said, they will change their Style, and endeavour to atone for all the Mischiefs which they have hitherto done, by being hereafter Advocates for Civil and Ecclesiastical Liberty; will make use of the Influence they have over the poor deluded Multitude to promote true Religion, as well as Peace and Happiness, amongst Mankind; and be no longer the Boutefeus or Incendiaries of every popular Faction and Tumult. Which God, of his infinite Mercy, grant, &c.
[* ]Dr. Francis Atterbury, late Bishop of Rochester.
[† ]Dr. William Wake, late Archbishop of Canterbury.