Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XVII.: Reasons why the High-Church Priests are the most Wicked of all Men. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XVII.: Reasons why the High-Church Priests are the most Wicked of all Men. - 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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Reasons why the High-Church Priests are the most Wicked of all Men.
Wednesday, May 11. 1720.
IT seems natural and reasonable to suppose, that Clergymen, who have a learned, ingenuous and Christian Education; who are bred up in strict Discipline; who, in their Youth, study the Works of PLATO, ARISTOTLE, CICERO, and other Heathen Moralists; as also the Books of the Old and New Testament, which they believe to be divinely inspired; who attend daily Prayers, and frequent Sacraments; who pretend to have a Call from the Holy Ghost, to teach the World; who spend a great Part of their Time in composing divine Discourses or Sermons; who are obliged to pray and converse daily with weak, sick, and scrupulous Parishioners, about heavenly Matters; who, by Conversation and close Union with one another at Visitations, and other holy Meetings, and (I presume) by Prayers together, have great Opportunities of improving themselves in Virtue and Godliness; and who are under a particular Obligation to set good Examples, and under a sort of Necessity to observe some Decorum; should be better, than other Men. But yet, it is a Matter of common Observation, that they are not so; almost all in the Roman Church, and too many in other Churches, being in an eminent Degree notoriously guilty of those Vices, which are of most pernicious, or most extensive ill Consequences, and most Antichristian; such as Ambitior, Pride, Anger, Hatred, Malice, Revenge, Litigiousness, Uncharitableness, Hypocrisy, Persecution, Sedition, Treason, Equivocation, and Perjury (whereof Multitudes of the Laity are not only wholly innocent, but remarkable for the Virtues opposite to them); to say nothing of their equal Guilt with other Men in respect to the inferior Vices of Swearing, Drunkenness, and such-like. And this Fact is honestly confessed by the late Bishop of Sarum, who in his Memoirs (which we expect with the utmost Impatience soon to see published) tells us, “That he always believes well of Laymen, till he sees Cause to change his Mind; though as to Churchmen, it is otherwise with him; for he has seen so much amiss in that Profession, that he is inclined always to think ill of them, till he sees Cause to think otherwise.”
Whereupon it is a frequent Subject of Inquiry, how it comes to pass, or what are the Causes of this Fact, which would never be credited, if it was not very manifest. Some are at a Loss about this Matter; but, for my part, I am not. And the Fact is no more surprising to me, than are other common Facts concerning Men; which, by being common, must have plain and manifest Causes. The Causes of this Fact, in particular, are so plain to me, that from the mere Consideration of them, I should wonder if I found the Clergy better than they are; and I esteem those Causes to be so necessarily productive of their Effect, that I do not think it Presumption to pretend to know the Doings of the High Clergy, in all Ages, to have been wicked, even without History or Testimony, which are requisite to give us the Knowledge of other Mens Crimes. Grotius’s Observation,*Qui legit Historiam Ecclesiasticam, quid legit nisi Vitia Episcoporum? must be true, and justly applied to all other Clergy as well as the Christian.
It is not the Design of this Paper, to assign the general Causes of this Fact, or all the particular Causes, which render so many of our Clergy so bad as they are. That Subject I reserve for a Treatise by itself. I shall at present only assign some of those Causes, which I conceive to have the most direct Influence on the Morals of so many of our Clergy.
Youth is the great Opportunity of Life, which settleth and fixeth most Men either in a good or bad Course; and the Impressions, especially bad Impressions, then made, are usually lasting. Youth is also a Time of Innocence, when Men have Horror for Vice, which they never commit at first without offering Violence to themselves. The first and most natural Thoughts of Man are to be honest, and just, and reasonable, as the best Things which he can do for his own Sake; and it is the Influence of ill Example, and of the common Practice of the World, which, for the most part, changes his Sentiments, and puts him upon ill Actions. But the natural Innocence of Youth being once broken in upon, Man, by Degrees, grows hardened and impudent in Wickedness, and commits it without Shame or Remorse.
Nothing therefore has so direct a Tendency to debauch the World, as to debauch the Youth: And the earlier, the more effectual; for thereby Innocence and Virtue may be so effaced, as in a little time to leave no Memory or Trace of them, no more than QUARTILLA in PETRONIUS ARBITER had, who, though a young Woman, did not remember, that she had ever been a Maid.
Now it seems to me peculiar to the Clergy, in most Parts of Christendom, to begin the World with the greatest Breach upon the natural Honesty and Integrity of Youth, and with the greatest Violence upon their own Consciences, that can be imagined; as will be evident from the following Particulars.
1.First, the Youth who are sent to Universities, are early initiated into Perjury, by being obliged to take College-Oaths, in some respects impertinent or ridiculous, in others wicked, or impossible to be kept; by which means, false Swearing becomes familiar to them, and they esteem Oaths only as Matters of Form, and their Breach to be but common Qualifications for Preferment.
2.Secondly, When they go into Holy Orders, they profess, that they are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon them their Office: though nothing is more notorious, than that many are inwardly moved by the Prospect of Power and Wealth, and by Necessity of a Maintenance; and that many use all the Arts and Means, to no purpose, to procure to themselves Law and Physic Fellowships in Colleges, in other Lay-preferments, (where no Engagements contrary to their Judgments and Consciences are requisite) in order to avoid the Burden of going into Orders: And by Consequence, that they feel no inward Motions of the Holy Ghost; unless the Holy Spirit can be supposed constantly to concur, just as serves the Purposes of Men engaged in the Pursuit of their temporal Interests. Here then is a solemn Lye, and Prostitution of the Conscience, in all those who do not feel themselves moved by the Holy Ghost.
3.Thirdly, Many of the Clergy abroad subscribe Articles of Religion, which they do not believe. Mr. WHISTON (Essays, &c. p. 237.) says, “he believes there is scarce one Clergyman, even of our reformed Church, that has considered and examined Things with any Care, who believes all the 39 Articles in their proper and original Meaning.” This implies, that the Unbelievers, among the Clergy, of the Articles, are very numerous; unless it be supposed, that few of the Clergy consider and examine Things with any Care. But the Thing is manifest, from the Sophistry and Knavery used by many of them to palliate their Subscription to the Articles; which imply, that they do not believe those Articles. (1.) Some pretend to subscribe them as Articles, which, though in Part erroneous, they oblige themselves not to contradict. (2.) Some pretend to subscribe them in any Sense, wherein they can understand them according to the Rules of Grammar. (3). Some pretend to subscribe them in any Sense, wherein they can reconcile them to Scripture. (4.) And others chuse the Sense, which they pretend to subscribe them in, out of the several Senses which they suppose intended to be held forth by the same Articles. And I wish more of them pretended to subscribe them honestly and fairly, namely, in the Sense really intended by the Imposers, who, to prevent Diversity of Opinions, impose their own Sense, as agreeable to Scripture; and therefore cannot be supposed to have intended, that the Articles should differ from all other Writings, which all Readers endeavour to understand in the one Meaning intended by the Authors. Nay, to subscribe the Articles without believing them, is so reputable among the High-Church Priests, that a fair Subscriber, that is, one who subscribes in the one Sense, which he supposes originally intended, passes among them for the worst of Men, namely, a Presbyterian, and an Enemy to the Church.
4.Fourthly, Every Clergyman instituted into any Benefice, swears, That he has made no Simoniacal Payment, Contract, or Promise, directly or indirectly, by himself, or by any other, to his Knowledge, or with his Consent, to any Person or Persons whatsoever, for or concerning the procuring and obtaining of his Ecclesiastical Dignity, Place, Preferment, Office, or Living, (respectively and particularly naming the same whereunto he is to be admitted, instituted, collated, installed, or confirmed) nor will at any Time hereafter perform or satisfy any such kind of Payment, Contract or Promise, made by any other, without his Knowledge or Consent: So help him God, throughJesus Christ. Now, whether any of them break this Oath, I leave to the Consideration of the Reader, who ought to esteem all Clergymen taking it guilty, that either make Presents to any body, or marry, or compound with the Patron about Tythes, in order to get the Benefice; no less than those who, by Bargain, pay Money before or after the Benefice is procured, are guilty.
5.Fifthly, An Oath of Allegiance to his Majesty King GEORGE is taken by all Beneficed Clergymen; who may be justly deemed perjured, if they do not pay the same Regard to his Majesty, which they pretend to have been due to King CHARLES the First or Second, or to Queen ANNE, at the Beginning and latter End of her Reign. The Popularity and Credit to which this Perjury intitles the High-Church Clergy among one another, and the Disgrace attending those who are faithful to the Oaths which they have taken, (the former being dubbed by them honest Men, and good Churchmen, for breaking their Oaths; and the latter Rogues, and Betrayers of the Church, for keeping them) leaves us no room to doubt, that the Perjured of this Kind are but too numerous. However, I am willing to think, it would be Injustice to say, that many Laymen need not go out of their own Parishes, to find one at least, and often more, where there are Lecturers and Curates.
The Difficulty therefore mentioned in the Beginning of this Paper, admits of a plain Solution; and it is as easy to conceive, that Men, who begin the World in this manner, should exceed others in Wickedness, who either begin the World innocently, or are under no Necessity to begin it wickedly; as it is to conceive, that Butchers and Soldiers should be less humane than others; or that young Women, once prostituted, should lose all Modesty.
[* ]Ecclesiastical History, nothing else but a Detail of the Villainies of Priests.