Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XVIII.: A general Idea of Priestcraft. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Number XVIII.: A general Idea of Priestcraft. - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain. It was scanned and originally put online by Google for non-commercial, educational purposes. We have retained the Google watermark as requested but have added tables of contents, pagination, and other educational aids where appropriate.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
A general Idea of Priestcraft.
Wednesday, May 18. 1720.
I Have, in my Eighth and other Papers, vindicated the Almighty from the Imputation of Obscurity in revealing his Will to Mankind; and shewn, that he is plain, exact, and even circumstantial, when he delivers his Precepts to them. I shall now expose the contrary Proceedings of weak and corrupt Men; by giving a general Idea of the principal Arts, by which the designing Priests of all Religions have kept their Craft and Impostures from a Discovery, and made the Truth, as far as they could, inaccessible.
Every mad Action, or Principle, in Religion and Government, must have some appearing Cause assigned for it, proper to make the People stare, and to hide the true one. Mankind, as tame as Priests and Tyrants have made them, will not be content to be deceived or butchered without having a Reason for it. The Pope, who assumes a Power to judge for all Men, and devotes whole Nations to Damnation and Massacre, and sends People to Heaven or Hell in Colonies, just as their Money or Disobedience determines him, acts a very consistent Part in tying the Keys of both Worlds to his Girdle, and in styling himself God’s absolute Vicar General. These are his Reasons; and the Catholic and more Orthodox Parts of Europe are well content with them.
In former Reigns, when many of our English Clergy thought fit to tye us Hand and Foot, and deliver us over to our Kings, as their proper Goods and Chattels, to be fed or flayed according to their sacred Will and Pleasure, they told us, it was the Ordinance of God, that one Man might glut his Lust, or his Cruelty, with the Destruction of Millions; and if we kept out of Harm’s way, we were assuredly damned. And these were their Reasons then. Of late, it is true, many of them have changed their Doctrine, and their Behaviour. We are, it seems, at present, living in the Guilt of Rebellion, which is a damnable Sin; and so we are to rebel upon Pain of Damnation, to free ourselves from the Damnation which follows Rebellion. These are their Reasonings now.
Formerly, when some certain Persons were content to be Protestants, the Church of Rome was the Spiritual Babylon, and the Scarlet Whore, and Sodom; and the Pope was Antichrist; for he sat in the Temple of God, and exalted himself above all that is called God. But this was Truth, and could not hold long, considering into whose Hands it was fallen; and therefore in a little time, when they had a Mind to get into the Pope’s Place, and to do and say as he did, the Church of Rome became all of a sudden a true Church, and an old Church, and our Mother Church. In short, the old withered Harlot, and Mother of Whoredoms, grew a great Beauty, and her Daughter here in England resembled her Mamma more and more every Day she lived, and gave the foregoing Reasons for it.
From hence it is plain, that though for every Imposture some Cause must be assigned, yet a very indifferent one will serve the Turn. The Gross of the World are dull and credulous: Few make any Inquiries at all, and sewer make successful ones. It is, however, still best, if the Cheat stands upon such a Foundation, that it cannot be searched nor examined by any human Eye.
WhenNuma Pompidius told the Romans, that he conversed familiarly with the Nymph Egeria; which of them could pay her a Visit, and ask her, whether the Prince and she were in earnest such very good Neighbours? And when Mahomes took such a wide Range [Editor: illegible word]’ the other World upon his Nag Elborach, and told Wonders at his Return; there was neither Man nor Horse in all Arabia, that could take the same Journey to disprove him; or, when he was pleased to be thought conversant with the Angel Gabriel, I do not hear, that ever the Angel signed a Certificate, that they were no-wise acquainted. The Quack, who had found out the true Fern-Seeds [Editor:?] and the Green Dragon, thought it, no doubt, a hard Matter to prove him a Lyar.
In the Heathen Temples of old, neither the Sibyls, nor any other Priests or Belchers of Prophecy, Male or Female, were answerable for the Oracles, and dark Sayings, which they uttered. They had what they said from God, who never once contradicted them. It was impossible to come at him for personal Information; and a very profane Crime not to believe his Priest; and to distract the Deity himself, was almost as bad: You had nothing to do, but to captivate your Reason to your Faith, and swallow the Verdum Sacerdotis. If you did not, the Judgment of the God, that is, the Anger of his Priest, was sure to pursue you.
The same Policy has been ever practised by the Deluders of Mankind in all Names and Shapes. They have always entrenched themselves behind the Ramparts of Mystery, Uncertainties and Terrors. The Romish Clergy maintain all their Pretensions and Power by Doctrines which are calculated to make the People either wonder or tremble. And when a Man has lost his Courage, and his Understanding, you may easily cheat or terrify him into as tractable an Animal as the Creation affords. The Doctrines of Purgatory, and of the Priests Power to forgive or damn, are alone strong enongh to frighten most Folks into what Liberality and Submission the Church thinks fit to demand of them. And we all know, that she is not over-modest upon such Occasions: Bring me all thou hast, and follow me, is her Style.
I wish I could keep these Impostures, and wild Claims, altogether out of England, and confine them to Popish and Infidel Countries only. But that which is obvious and avowed, cannot be hid. Very many of our high Jacobite Clergy aim at Dominion by the same wicked Means, and hood-wink and alarm us all they can. They lead us out of the Road of Reason, and play their Engines in the Dark; and all the Illumination we can get from them is, that we are all in a Mist. Without their Guidance we go astray, and with it we go blindsold. All their Arguments are fetched from their own Authority. Their Assertions are no less than Rules and Laws to us; and where they lead, we must follow, though into Darkness and Servitude. If we grow wilful, and break loose from our Orthodox Ignorance, we are pursued with hard Names and Curses. Doubting is Infidelity, Reason is Atheism. What can we do in this Case? There is no Medium between a Blockhead and a Schismatic: If we follow them blindly, we are the First; the Second, if we leave them. We want Faith, if we will not take their Word; we want Eyes, if we do.
They indeed give a Sugar-plum, and refer us to the Bible for Proof of all that they say. But, in Truth, this Privilege, if we examine it, will appear none at all; but, on the contrary, an arrant Trick, and gross Mockery. For when they have sent us to a Text, will they allow to construe it our own way? No such Matter: They have nailed a Meaning to it, and will permit it to bear no other. You may read, provided you read with their Spectacles; and examine their Propositions freely, provided you take them every one for granted. You may exert your Reason freely, but be sure let it be to no Purpose; and use your Understanding independently, under their absolute Direction and Controul. I wonder how these Men could ever have the Front to accuse the Church of Rome for locking up the Bible in an unknown Tongue!
The eternal War that they wage against Reason, which they use just as they do Scripture, is founded upon good Policy; but it is pleasant to observe their Manner of attacking it. They reason against Reason, use Reason against the Use of Reason, and shew, from very good Reason, that Reason is good for nothing. When they think it on their own Side, then they apply all its Aids to convince or confound those who dare to think without their Concurrence: Therefore, in their Controversies about Religion, they frequently appeal to Reason; but we must not accept the Appeal, for if our Reason be not their Reason, it is no Reason. They use it, or the Appearance of it, against all Men; but no Man must use it against them. As there is no such thing as arguing and persuading without the Assistance of Reason, it is a little absurd, if not ungrateful, in these Gentlemen, to decry it at the same time that they are imploying it; to turn the Batteries of Reason against Reason, and make itself destroy itself.
Neither Scripture, therefore, nor Reason, by these Rules, signify any thing till the Priests have explained them, and made them signify something; and the Word of God is not the Word of God, till they have declared its Sense, and made it so. Thus, by the time that Scripture and Reason have been modelled, and qualified, and cooked up by the High-Church Jacobite Clergy, they are neither Scripture nor Reason, but a perfect French Dish, or what the Spiritual Cooks please; an Oleo or Hodge-podge of Nonsense, Jargon and Authority.
From all that has been said, the following Conclusions may be drawn: Such Clergymen as I have been above describing, prove every thing by asserting it, and make any Pretence support any Claim. They build Systems upon pretended Facts, and argue from Propositions which are either highly improbable, or certainly false. When they cannot convince, they confound us; when they cannot persuade, they terrify. We have but two Ways to try the Truth of their Doctrines, and the Validity of their Demands, namely, Reason and Revelation; and they deprive us of both, by making the one dark, the other dangerous.
WHAT a Contempt must this Tribe have for Mankind!