- To the Lower House of Convocation.
- To the Publisher of the Independent Whig.
- Lib. Causarum Per Ann. Dom. 1721.
- To the Reverend Mr. Woods, Episcopal Register, to Be Communicated to the Clergy of This Diocese, 30 Januarii 1721.
- To the Honourable Alexander Horne, Esq; Governor of This Isle: the Remonstrance of Tho. Bp. of Sodor & Mann.
- At Castle Rushen, the 2d of February 1721.
- The Preface.
- The Independent Whig.
- Number I.: The Introduction.
- Number II.: The Design of This Paper.
- Number III.: Of the Contempt of the Clergy.
- Number IV.: Of the Explication of the Scripture.
- Number V.: The Unfitness of the Clergy to Teach Others.
- Number VI.: Of Creeds and Confessions of Faith.
- Number VII.: Of Uninterrupted Succession.
- Number VIII.: Of Uninterrupted Succession. P T . II.
- Number IX.: Of the Clearness of Scripture.
- Number X.: Of Ordination.
- Number XI.: The Advantageous Situation of the Clergy, Strangely Inconsistent With Their Common Cry of Danger.
- Number XII.: The Enmity of the High Clergy to the Reformation, and Their Arts to Defeat the End of It.
- Number XIII.: The Church Proved a Creature of the Civil Power, By Acts of Parliament, and the Oaths of the Clergy.
- Number XIV.: The Clergy Proved to Be Creatures of the Civil Power, By the Canons, and Their Own Public Acts.
- Number XV.: The Absurdity and Impossibility of Church-power, As Independent On the State.
- Number XVI.: The Inconsistency of the Principles and Practices of High-church; With Some Advice to the Clergy.
- Number XVII.: Reasons Why the High-church Priests Are the Most Wicked of All Men.
- Number XVIII.: A General Idea of Priestcraft.
- Number XIX.: Ecclesiastical Authority, As Claimed By the High Clergy, an Enemy to Religion.
- The Following Queries, and Letters to a Clergyman, Written By the Author of the Foregoing Paper, and Never Before Printed, Are Thought Proper to Be Here Inserted.
- A Letter to a Clergyman, Shewing the Impossibility of Assenting to What We Do Not Understand.
- Number XX.: Of Chaplains.
- Number XXI.: A Comparison Between the High-church and the Quakers.
- Number XXII.: Priestcraft Corrupts Every Thing, and Perverts the Use of Words.
- Number XXIII.: Of Zeal.
- Number XXIV.: Of Persecution.
- Number XXV.: Of Consecration.
- Number XXVI.: Of Faith and Morality.
- Number XXVII.: Of Fasting.
- Number XVIII.: Of Authority.
- Number XXIX.: Of Education.
- Number XXX.: Of Education. Part II.
- Number XXXI.: Of Ceremonies.
- Number XXXII.: Of Ceremonies. Part II.
A Letterto a Clergyman, shewing the Impossibility of assenting to what we do not understand.
LAST Night I was surprised with yours of the 24th, relating to a Conversation between us at Mr. B——’s, (above a Year since) wherein you say, That I maintained several Paradoxes, the main whereof was, That a Mancannot possibly give his Assent to what he does not understand: But that you might possibly fall short in the Defence of what you espoused; and besides, was not solicitous what Answers you gave me; and therefore now write to me to prove the Falshood of the Paradox before-mentioned, and (if I think you fail in it) to desire me to lay your Mistakes before you.
I have read over your Letter four or five times, in order to comply with you; but not understanding what it is you say with respect to the Point in question, I cannot possibly do it: For while I understand not, I can neither submit to the Force of what you say, nor can I give you any Answer to it. Understanding is with me not only a necessary Part of religious Belief, but ought to be an Ingredient in all Reasoning, and common Discourse; and I can no more propose to talk about what I do not understand, than I can believe what I do not understand.
However, determining to write to you, I will endeavour to put you in the best Method of Conviction I am able, though without any manner of Design to convince you. For I desire you only to understand this Letter, as a Letter for a Letter.
Since you proposed to convince me of the Falshood of a Proposition which I advanced and explained at large to you, your Business was to refute it in the Sense which I explained it. But, as far as I can understand your Letter, you seem not to me to enter at all into the Question.
For,First, If you did, How could you make my Assent to Relations of Matters of Fact done before I was born, and Relations of foreign Countries which I never saw, to be proper Instances to convince me, that I can’t assent to what I do not understand; and appeal to my Experience in the Case? which I must tell you is against you: And I assure you, That I know not, that I assent to any Proposition about Facts, whether they be past or present, or about Things done at Rome or in England, but what I understand.
2dly,If you did enter into the Question, How could you imagine it incumbent on me to shew, That whatever bears no Relation to my Understanding, can bear none to any other? What has that to do with the Question in Dispute? The Question in Dispute is as consistent with our Ignorance of Ten thousand Things that exist, and with the Supposition of other Beings knowing more than we do, as any Proposition that can be advanced, and by no means supposes our Knowledge to reach the Extent of Things. What I affirm is, “That what cannot be understood by me, cannot be expressed to me in a Proposition; and what cannot be expressed to me in a Proposition, cannot be assented to by me.”
3dly,If you entered into the Question, How could you imagine these Words of St. Paul, We know in part, and we prophesy in part, to be decisive against me? Where is the Connection, We know in part, and we prophesy in part; Ergo, We can assent to what we do not understand? For my part, I am so much a Stranger to this way of arguing, that the Connection is to me as remote, as if you had argued; I am a Divine of the Church of England, as by Law established: Ergo, The Laity must assent to what they cannot understand.
But to proceed to what I principally intend: The Proposition which you call a Paradox, is, in my Opinion, self-evident to those who are capable of Thinking, and understanding the Terms; is the Foundation of all Discourse and Reasoning; and unless Two Men agree in it, they want a common Principle whereby to discourse and reason with one another, unless Discourse among Men be like Discourse among Jack-daws and Parrots, mere Sounds without Sense or Meaning (which I own is an Opinion I am not very remote from). And therefore I can think of no better way than to explain the Proposition in such a manner as you may understand it: And if what I say supposes the Thing in Dispute; viz. That you must understand what I say, before you can assent to it; I cannot help it, till I can find out a way to inform you without making you understand.
1.All Assent, whatever, is to some Proposition.
2.All Propositions whatever, whether they relate to Speculations or Matters of Fact, consist of Words or Terms that have each of them a distinct Meaning; and every Proposition must at least have Three Words or Terms, the Extremes whereof are either denied or affirmed to have some Agreement with one another.
3.Assent to a Proposition is an Assent to the Meaning, or the Thing signified by the Terms of a Proposition, and to no more than is signified by the Terms.
4.Knowing the Meaning of the Terms of a Proposition, is what I call understanding a Proposition.
All this I take to be self-evident with relation to all Propositions, whether they proceed from God or Man, whether they teach us Matter of Fact or Speculation; and to put you in a way of apprehending it, I will put Three Cases, which will comprehend the whose Dispute abont Mysteries.
First,Suppose God, for the Information of all Mankind, causes a Book to be published in Welsh, which, among others, contains the following Proposition, Three distinct Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, (each of which is perfect God by himself) constitute one God. Now the State of my Mind, with respect to this Case, while I understand not the Sense of the Words in Welsh, is, that I am ignorant of the Meaning of God’s Words, and consequently, do not assent to that Meaning, which is signified by them; but knowing God to be Truth itself, as soon as I do understand what God says, I am ready to give my Assent to it.
2dly,Let the Proposition be in English, the Case is just the same. If the Terms are used in Ten thousand Senses, and no Two English Authors agree in putting the same Sense or Meaning on them, and God does not any-where declare what he means by those Terms, I am as much at a loss as if he spoke in Welsh, and must only say, that I am ready to assent as soon as I know to what.
Thirdly and Lastly,Let us suppose, that God publishes the foregoing Proposition, and does at the same time only give us a partial and inadequate Conception of the Meaning of the Terms, in respect of what they signify in the Minds of Angels, and other Beings more enlightened than ourselves: It is evident, that our Assent can only be to what God thinks fit us reveal; what he with-holds from us, is not signified to us by those Terms; and as to that dark Part, we can only profess our Ignorance, and be ready to assent to more whenever he reveals more. And here I think it proper to answer a Question you put to me, Whether I admit or assent to any thing as true or probable, which is not in all its Parts the Object of my Understanding? To which I answer, That so much Sense and Meaning as is conveyed to me about any thing by the Terms of a Proposition, I may admit or assent to as true or probable: But that Part of any thing which is not conveyed to me by the Terms of a Proposition, is not a Part of a Proposition to me, and by consequence not the Subject of Assent.
So that, upon the Whole, I take it to be clear, self-evident Matter of Fact, that a Man cannot possibly assent to what he does not understand; and by consequence, all perfectly mysterious Propositions, and so much of any Proposition as is mysterious, are Matters about which we can exercise no other Act of our Minds but of Humility, in professing our Ignorance, and a Readiness to be informed about them.
Pursuant to these Notions, I readily profess to you, (and I think I may do it without Vanity, since it is all Mens Duty to be Christians) That I think I understand all the fundamental Articles of the Christian Faith; and that hereby I am ready to give a Reason of the Hope that is in me, and defend it against all Objections; which I think every Man is the more able to do, with respect to any Cause, the better he understands it: But how any Man can think himself a Christian, who owns that he understands not some of the Articles necessary to be believed to make him one; how he can preach a Religion to others, which he professes not to understand; that is, how he can make others understand what he does not understand himself; and how others can be persuaded to think themselves either the wiser or the better for hearing what they don’t understand, (one of which you must allow to be the End of Preaching) would be great Mysteries to me, did I not, by conversing with Mankind, see, that they generally consist of Two Sorts, learned Parrots, and unlearned Parrots: To the first whereof, Absurdity is the peculiar Privilege; and to the latter, Ignorance: For they have few or no Notions, and no Opportunity of taking those Academical Pains, which are absolutely necessary to make Men absurd to any Degree.
Another Paradox that you fansy I advanced was, That the Distinction of Things above and contrary to Reason, is a Distinction without a Difference. Whether I said so or no, I remember not: But as to the Distinction, I answer briefly, That tell me clearly and distinctly what you mean by the Words, (for I understand not your Explication of them) and then I will tell you whether it be a Distinction without a Difference. Till you define the Terms, so that I can know what you mean, I can understand nothing by them, and by consequence neither affirm nor deny any thing about that Distinction.
Though your Letter contains so much which I do not understand, yet, for your Satisfaction, I will point out some Questions started by you, which I do understand: As,
First,Whether I am sincere or no (implied in these Words, that You hope I am sincere).
2dly,Whether I was in Jest, or in Earnest (implied in your doubting whether I was serious with you).
3dly,Whether I believe the Scriptures or no (implied in your saying, If the Authority of St. Paul might decide the Controversy, I must be silenced for ever, &c.).
But these Matters being purely personal, and no ways relating to the Question, I give you no Trouble about them. Besides, they are of no Use in a private Letter, how good Arguments soever they may be thought to clear a Point in Divinity, either from the Pulpit or the Press.
I am, SIR,
Your humble Servant,
Wednesday, June 1. 1720.
AS between the several Acts of the most grave and solemn Tragedies, it is allowed to divert the Company with a Dance, or a Song, so in this Paper, I shall descend to entertain my Readers with a Dissertation upon Chaplains, who are a Sort of expensive Domestics, which none but great Families can entertain. How or when this venerable Piece of Houshold-stuff became first in Use, is not certainly determined, that I know of; but it is certain, that he is left intirely out of the Roll of Ecclesiastical Officers mentioned in the New Testament; his Use and Importance being not thought of, or forgot to be mentioned, by St. Paul, though not by Mr. Collier, who has supplied the Omission of the Apostle, and discovered the same.
It is likely, That Chaplains were first invented and brought into Fashion, in the dark and barbarous Ages; and so Custom has continued what Ignorance began. To these Days of Darkness is owing the marvellous Increase of lazy Monks, and cheating Friers; in which black Swarm of Reverend Idlers, probably, first crept in this supernumerary Levite. It is well known, that worthless and designing Priests have always advanced and nourished Superstition, being very sensible, that it would in Return nourish and multiply Them. Thus Priestcraft and Bigotry beget each other; and being so near a-kin, perpetually maintain the mutual Relation.
The Office of a Chaplain is, according to Mr. Collier, to Pray for, Bless, and give Absolution to those he is concerned for ------ “All which, says he, are Acts of Authority and Jurisdiction.” If this last Assertion be true, it is enough to destroy all Charity; since at this rate of Reasoning, I ought to be afraid of throwing a Farthing to an Alms-woman, lest she should be thereby provoked to Pray for and Bless me, and by that means acquire Jurisdiction over me. And who would not rather deny his Charity, than give away his Liberty?
To shew that Mr. Collier is very much in Earnest in bestowing this same Authority upon this his Domestic Parson, he puts a Rod in his Hand against the Master of the Family himself, whom, it seems, it is his Right to counsel, exhort and reprove; which Offices, he says, are “inconsistent with the Condition of a Servant.” The Chaplain therefore is, in the first Place, a much Wiser Man, as well as a more Holy, than my Lord is; and in the second Place, it is his Duty to owe my Lord no Duty at all in the Capacity of a Servant to a Superior.
After he has put the Clergy in “joint Commission with the Angels themselves,” as he says God has done; it is no wonder that he will not allow the meanest of them to be any Man’s Servant, how great soever. He therefore reasons against the 13th of Henry VIII. because it calls the Patrons of Chaplains their Masters. If some of them “formerly were Stewards and Clerks of the Kitchen to People of Distinction,” as he says Bishop Latimer complains some of them were forced to be in his Time; I cannot see for all that how they could, according to Mr. Collier, suffer by it in their Dignity and Reputations; because, for as good Reasons as before, their gathering the Rent, and going to Market for Provision, might give them Jurisdiction over the Person who employed them. I cannot therefore join with some of the Critics in censureing the Author of the Scornful Lady, for dispatching Parson Roger in a Morning, with his Basket under his Arm, to scour the Roosts, and gather Eggs; the same being a primitive Branch of his Office, if we may believe the aforesaid Bishop.
But though “People, misapprehending the Priest’s Office, entertain a Chaplain upon the same Account they do their Footmen, only to garnish the Table, and stuff out the Figure of the Family” (Collier’s Essays, Part I. p. 204, 205.); yet “for a Patron to account such a Consecrated Person his Priest, as if he belonged to him as a Servant, is, in effect, to challenge Divine Honours, and to set himself up for a God” (p. 207.). Mr. Lesley puts the same Thing stronger, in fewer Words, and will not suffer any Man (Prince or Subject) to say, my Parson, or my Chaplain, in any other Sense than we say, my King, or my God.
So that, in the Sentiments of these Reverend Gentlemen, every one who hires a Chaplain, hires a Master. Take Warning then, O ye rich Men, Nobles, and Princes of the Earth; and due Submission and Allegiance pay unto these your Spiritual Sovereigns, whom you have taken into your Service to be your Superiors; and to whom you give Bread and Wages to exercise Dominion over you.
After all, Mr. Collier is so good as to allow “the Master of the Family, in the Absence of the Priest, to supply his Place, as far as lawfully he may, that is, in Praying and giving Thanks at Meat” (p. 200). But he must not Pray to God to Bless his Family, and to forgive them their Sins; for this would be to Usurp the Authority of his Lord, the Chaplain.
Before I have done with Mr. Collier, I would ask him one Question, and that is, Whether the Chaplains of Bishops are of the same superior Importance and Authority with the Chaplains of Laymen; because the Bishops themselves are qualified to be their own Chaplains; if the saying of Domestic Prayers, and Blessing their own Table, is allowed by him to be consistent with their Ecclesiastical Dignity?
Milton, though otherwise a Man of great Parts and Merit, yet wanting either the Sense or the Grace to see the Usefulness and Excellency of these adopted Sovereigns, speaks of them with too much Contempt. He says that “In State perhaps they may be listed among the upper Serving-men of some great Houshold, and be admitted to some such Place as may style them the Sewers or the Yeomen-Ushers of Devotion, where the Master is too resty, or too rich, to say his own Prayers, or to bless his own Table.” (Vol. ii. of his Works in Folio, p. 509.)
But this was the Case only in his Time; for a Chaplain now-a-days is looked upon as a more honourable Piece of Furniture. After a Coach and Six, the next Trappings of Domestic Grandeur are a Page, Plate, and a Parson. He swells the Houshold Pomp and Luxury, and is often taken for Pride more than Prayers. Formerly, his Appetite was uncourteously restrained; he was only permitted to riot in Roast Beef; and Sir Crape and the first Course were removed together. But now he has better Luck, having, for the most part, obtained a general Toleration for Custard.
Nor are the Times mended with Mr. Chaplain in one Instance only: In Days of Yore he was humbly content with Abigail, and my Lady’s Woman was thought a suitable Match for the Houshold Priest (as Mr. Collier Christens him); but now he does not make that Use of her, but leaves her, and flies at higher Game. If my Lady be single, the Doctor has a Chance for making his Fortune; and when he cannot marry her, he can sometimes sell her: of which I could give Instances, but for the Regard which I bear to the Quality and the Priesthood. If my Lady be already married, he has still Happiness and good Fortune in his Eye, provided she be but Young; and even though she be Old, provided but Superstitious and Bigotted: so that whether her Person be agreeable, or her Understanding crazy, he has his Ends; for he has a Parson’s Barn, and nothing comes amiss.
It must be owned farther, that a Chaplain in a Great Family is a useful Body for most Purposes, except that of his Function: He is often a facetious Person, and his Jokes and Puns keep the upper Part of the Family in a good Mood; for, as to the Inferior, he deigns not to speak to them; unless to insult them, and thereby teach them the great Respect which they owe him. He moreover graciously condescends to pay into all the Actions and Behaviour of the Servants, by which he keeps them in Obedience and Fear, at least of himself.
Scire volunt secreta domus, atque inde timeri.
Besides, he is so courteous, that he meddles with all Family-Affairs, unasked; and interposes with his Counsel and Authority, unthanked. From hence it comes, that he and the Steward can never agree: For the Steward (like a saucy Layman, as he is) will be pretending to know his own Business as well as Mr. Chaplain, who is a Consecrated Person. The Family therefore is eternally divided into Two Factions between them, but the Doctor has the Secret of securing the Women on his Side, and so always gets the Better.
The Doctor is likewise a considerable Person for divers other Arts and Accomplishments. He throws a Bowl with more Skill, and follows it with more Activity, than any Man (not in Orders) upon the Green. He is also a trusty Toper in the Family: He has an uncommon Palate in the Discernment of Liquors, and an uncommon Zeal for their Consumption. Nor is his great Dexterity at Whisk of trivial Moment: His Talent in this Branch of his Duty is so signal, that my Lady seldom fails chusing, or rather requiring him for her own Partner, if he be not altogether snapped up by the Daughter for hers.
After all this, who can wonder that our Houshold Priest holds up his Head, and adores himself? He is an hourly Witness of his own Importance and Figure; and finding himself an extraordinary Body, it is nothing strange, that he demands extraordinary Treatment. As little to be admired is the Erectness of his Mien, and the dignified Primness of his Manner; how else should he be himself, and differ from all other Men? His Authority, and the Custom of the Cloth, give him a Right to Contradiction; and if he love State and courtly Pomp, What Layman does not? If he hate to see a Brother peeping through Timber, or wriggling in a String, who can blame the Workings of Self-love? If the German Princes are under his Displeasure for sacrilegiously admitting their Pages to say Grace; so are all they who make bold to cut their own Corns, under the Frowns of that famous Artist Don Saltero of Chelsea.
To conclude with a grave Paragraph; I am afraid it too often happens, that this same Houshold Priest, who is taken into a Family to sanctify it, proves a Disturber of its Repose, and a Foe to its Welfare. He is a Spy upon the Wealthy and the Great, for the ill Ends of his Order. If he has the Ear of his Patron, he can, by alarming, his Conscience, or stroaking his Vanity, influence him to turn the Patrimony of his Children into a Gift to the Altar: And so a Family of Innocents are streightened, or ruined, to inlarge the Pride and Income of a worthless Vicar, or to rear up a graceless Mob, for the Interest and Support of Priestcraft and Slavery. So that the Public itself suffers in no small Degree from the malignant Influence which designing Chaplains have in Great Houses. How many Noble Families are by them inflamed with an unsocial Bitterness of Spirit, against all those who inoffensively think for themselves; and are tainted with the vile Principles of Vassalage to any Authority, civil or sacred, which these their Spiritual Governors shall plead for!
P. S.This Paper being intended to expose the ridiculous Privileges claimed in Behalf of Chaplains, as if they were of Divine Institution; and the ill Use which they make of their Influence over weak Minds: Nothing here said is meant against any Gentleman’s taking into his Family a pious and agreeable Clergyman, under the Title of a Chaplain; who, if he possesses an honest and beneficent Heart, with Affability and good Breeding, is, no doubt, an amiable Character. But as to those little, sour, unbred Bigots, whom I have frequently seen in that Station, I do not think, that they ought to be admitted into the Conversation of Gentlemen, or suffered to have any Concern, either with their Children or Servants.
A Comparison between the High-Church and the Quakers.
Wednesday, June 8. 1720.
THE Clergy of our National Church are Spiritual Officers, appointed by Order of the Civil Magistrate (like Churchwardens, Overseers of the Poor, Constables, and other Parish-Officers) to act according to his Law; which is their Rule, and which has interpreted the Bible for them in the Thirty-nine Articles, Homilies, Liturgy, Canons, Injunctions, and other Institutions. The chief Design of their Appointment is to instruct Men in Religion and Morality, or to make Men wiser and better than they would be without their Assistance. To that End they are hired, and paid a great Revenue; which, by the means of Lands, Tythes, Rents, Salaries, Fees, and Perquisites, is supposed to amount to Two Millions per Annum; wherein they greatly differ from the aforesaid Parish-Officers, who perform many real Services to Society without any particular Reward, as is, in many Cases, the certain Duty, which Men of the same Society owe to one another. But as making Men wise and good, are the very best Things which can be done for them, both in relation to their Condition in this World, and the next: So every Man ought to think this Revenue well bestowed, if Men are made more wise and good in any Proportion to the Charge; and on the other Side ill bestowed, if Men are not in the least improved in Knowledge and Virtue; much more, if they are rendered more ignorant, and worse, by the Teaching and Influence of their Guides.
We are justly concerned how we part with our Money in other Cases, how it is laid out and managed, and whether what we receive in lieu of it be worth our Money, especially when the Sum is considerable. It is therefore of great Importance to us to consider the State of this Affair, wherein so much is expended; that, in case the Clergy do not answer the Ends of their Calling, and not deserve their Revenues, we may take proper Measures to make them do so: for it is in the Power of us of the Laity, who almost wholly chuse and constitute the Legislature, to make the Clergy useful; and it is either through our Ignorance, or Knavery, or both, if we do not make them useful.
Now it seems to me, that the Toleration or Liberty of Conscience granted by Law in England, gives us an Opportunity of examining this Matter, beyond what can be done in Popish or other Countries, where no such Toleration is allowed. We have a numerous Sect, or People among us, distinguished by the Name of Quakers, who have no Spiritual Officers, with any Wages, Hire, or Salary, whose peculiar Business it is to Teach; but every Man among them does freely of himself, and gratis, communicate his Knowledge, both publicly and privately, according to his Ability, whenever he judges it proper so to do: And therefore we may easily make a Comparison in the Case, between the Wisdom and Virtue of the common People of the National Church, and the Wisdom and Virtue of the Quakers, (who have no Quality or Gentry among them; but consist of Tradesmen, Artificers, Farmers, Servants, and Labourers) and thereby make a just Judgment, whether the Two Millions per Annum are well or ill bestowed.
No Man will deny, that the Quakers are born with the same natural Parts as the Churchmen. It will also be manifest, that they improve their natural Parts by the Knowledge of what the Clergy esteem the most important and sublime Points of Religion, under their general, diffused, unhired Ministry; equally at least with the Members of the Church, under the Direction of their Clergy, hired for Wages: For by free Conversation with both Sorts, you will find, that the Quakers understand as well the Nature and Attributes of God, the Doctrines of the Trinity in Unity, the Satisfaction, the Incarnation of God, and other such Points, and express themselves as clearly about them, as Churchmen; and I presume, that this Matter will appear so clear, as not to admit of the least Doubt. I do confess, that the Quakers have some Errors, (for what Man is or can be free from Error?) But as to those Errors, I think Two Things may be offered in Excuse of them.
First, I observe in general, with the most ingenious and Reverend Mr. NORRIS, (in his Two Treatises of Divine Light, Tract II. p. 32.) who says, That he cannot think Quakerism inconsiderable, as the Principles of it arelaid down and managed by Mr. BARCLAY. That great and general Contempt they lie under, does not hinder him from thinking the Sect of the Quakers to be far the most considerable of any that divide from the Church, in case the Quakerism that is generally held, be the same with that which Mr. BARCLAY has delivered to the World for such; whom he takes to be so great a Man, that he professes freely, that he had rather engage against an Hundred BELLARMINS, HARDINGS, and STAPLETONS, than with One BARCLAY.
Secondly, I observe, that the Quakers seem very excusable in respect to several of the Errors wherewith they are charged; and that their Neighbours, if they would do as they desire to be done unto, may justly pardon them. For, as to their Opinions about Tythes, and paying Wages to Clergy, (which are deemed fundamental Errors, and judged by the Clergy in their Books against the Quakers to be a sort of Atheism) they have it to say in their Excuse, that Tythes, which were a Part of the ritual Law of the Jews, are, as such, abolished under the Gospel, which has repealed the whole ritual Law. It seems also strange to them, that Embassadors, (as the Clergy pretend to be) or Negotiators, should claim Money from those to whom they are sent; that it appears more strange, that the Clergy, who pretend to be Successors in Embassadorship to Christ and his Apostles, should claim Tythes or Money; and thereby suppose our Blessed Saviour himself, and his Apostles, to have begun that Claim: Therefore they allege, that if the Clergy are only voluntary Embassadors or Negotiators, they ought to bear their own Charges; and if only Ministers or Servants, they should be paid their Wages by those who hire them, and not claim an independent Maintenance; and herein they pretend to follow the Primitive Christians, who (according to the Reverend and Learned Dr. REEVES, in his Apologies, &c. Vol. I. p. 44.) would not pay Taxes for the Maintenance of the Heathen Temples. And indeed, there is no Colour to make Tythes due Jure Divino, that Point being fully determined on the Side of the Quakers, by that accomplished Scholar and Divine, Dr. Prideaux, in his Original and Right of Tythes; and besides, it is a Matter of Contest among the Clergy, to which Sort of them an independent Maintenance does by Divine Right belong.
As to the Quakers Doctrines of Passive Obedience, or taking patiently all manner of Affronts and Injuries, and refusing to bear Arms on any Occasion; it is known, that herein they follow St. JUSTIN MARTYR, ORIGEN,TERTULLIAN, St. CYPRIAN, LACTANTIUS, St. BASIL, SALVIAN, and others the most Learned and Antient of the Primitive Fathers.
And as to their Principle of not Swearing at all, they follow the Fathers of the Five First Centuries, who (according to the most learned Dr. WHITBY, in Dissert. de Script. Interp. p. 164.) all agreed, that Oaths of all Kinds were Unlawful to Christians; those Fathers understanding our Saviour’s Words, Swear not at all, universally; which, indeed, seem suited to the Notion, as they were the very Language, of the Essenes, a Sect of Jews in our Saviour’s Time, who maintained all Oaths to be unlawful.
It will be difficult to find one Quaker that cannot read, unless he has been educated and bred up in the Church, and became a Convert to Quakerism: Whereas I will venture to affirm, that Half the Common People of the Church, especially in the Country, cannot read a Word.
TheQuakers are great Readers of the Bible; and it is their Principle to endeavour to make the Best of that Divine Book; which, though containing infinite Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge, yet as it is a perfect Rule of Faith to the whole Word, is a plain and most intelligible Book, and must naturally improve the Quakers, more than it does those Churchmen, who either cannot read, or do not read the Bible at all, or not so much as the Quakers; or that think they are not to make the Best of their Bibles without any Restraint. I dare to be so unfashionable as to assert, that the Bible may, and will, improve the Readers thereof; notwithstanding Dr. SOUTH says of a Part of that Holy Book, that it either finds Men mad, or makes them so; and that Dr. REEVES, in Derogation of its Divine Precepts, thinks fit to suppose, that Quakers, by reading the Bible, become stark Bible-mad (Preface to Apologies, &c. p. 11.).
But there is one Point wherein the Quakers greatly exceed the Churchmen in Understanding, and whereof the meanest among them is firmly persuaded; and that is, that Every Man is to judge for himself in Matters of Religion: Whereas few Churchmen are clear, as Men, Christians, and Protestants, ought to be in this Matter; which is the Foundation of all good Sense, Christianity, and our glorious Reformation from the Worst Priestcraft,Popery. This Principle naturally produces Knowledge. For the Use of the Understanding improves the Faculty; as delivering up the Understanding to Priests or Guides, sinks and debases it. And accordingly the Quakers reason and act very nicely in their Affairs, as a Politic Body, in relation to Marriage, Orphans, Care of their Poor, &c. and Particulars among them; understand Trade, and the Business of the World, and how to live in it, as well as any Men whatsoever.
As to the Comparison, which are the Best Men, Quakers or Churchmen; I suppose, it will not be denied, but that the Quakers are as good Men; as good in their Families; as good Neighbours; as Quiet, Temperate, Chaste, Sober, free from Passion, Industrious; as clear from the gross Crimes which fill the Gaols, and expose Men to the Pillory and Hanging; as Charitable in their Sentiments to those who differ from them; as great Enemies to Persecution; as true to Liberty and Property, as any Churchmen; and, in fine, as good Subjects, and as loyal to King GEORGE, (though Loyalty be the distinguishing Principle and Glory of our Church) as any professed Follower of Dr. SACHEVEREL, LUKE MILBOURNE, or other swearing loyal Divine.
Since, therefore, it is undeniably evident, that the Quakers are at least as wise and as good, without any Charge to the Public, as Churchmen are with it; I conceive that it is incumbent on every one, who does not envy the Clergy their Preferments, to endeavour to find out some other Way to make them as useful as possible to Mankind, and to put them upon such an Establishment as may enable them to deserve all their Power and Riches; which shall be the Subject of some future Papers.
Priestcraft corrupts every thing, and perverts the Use of Words.
Wednesday, June 15. 1720.
POETS tell us, that Midas changed every thing which he touched into Gold, and Medusa’s Head, every one who saw it, into Stone: But Priestcraft is yet of a more mischievous Nature; for That converts all who come within its Influence into Idiots or Lunatics; and every Virtue or good Quality of the Mind into Nonsense or Roguery.
Every Creature and Plant assimilate the Food or Nourishment which they receive, into their own Substance: The Toad converts into Poison the same Juices, of which the Bee makes Honey: The same Breath, blown into different Instruments, makes good or harsh Music; it is no wonder therefore, if that which is all Corruption itself, should corrupt and spoil every thing else which touches or comes near it.
It has so mangled and perverted the Signification of Words, and the Nature of Things, that Language is rendered useless, or rather a Snare to Mankind: There is scarce a Sound or an Action, which has received the Stamp of a general Approbation, that has not lost its Meaning; and is stript of all Honesty to become Orthodox, and be made free of the sacred Society, as the Popish Priests are pleased to call themselves.
A becoming Zeal for the Glory of God, which ought to be a fervent Disposition of Mind to promote Holiness and Virtue amongst Men, by Softness, Persuasion, and Example, is now nothing but Party-Rage, an implacable and furious Hatred, and the Denunciation of Woe and mortal War against all, who do not believe just the same with us, and cut their Corns as we do: Moderation is become a Vice, and esteemed to be Lukewarmness, and an Indifference to Religion and Goodness.
An obstinate Bent of Mind, and a determinate Resolution to adhere to Opinions, the Truth of which we have never examined, never intend to examine, and for the most part, are not able to understand if we did, is what is called Constancy in the Faith; and to burn ourselves, or to fight with our best Friends till we can burn them, passes for Heroic and Christian Courage.
We must shut out the Sun at Noon in a Summer’s Day, to make use of Candle-light; and give up all our Senses, to submit to frail Authority. We are to believe every thing in exact Proportion as we cannot understand it, or as it appears absurd; and allow that alone to be true Faith, which contradicts the first Principles of Science. Reason, the only Light which God has given to Men, to distinguish Truth from Falshood, Virtue from Vice, Religion from Imposture, is decried; and the Use of it deemed impious and dangerous.
Persecution of our Fellow-Creatures, Fellow-Subjects, and Fellow-Christians, for doing the best Actions which they are capable of doing, (that is, worshipping God in the Manner which they think to be most acceptable to him) is called serving the Almighty, and promoting his Religion. The ruining and destroying our Neighbours, (whom we are commanded to love as ourselves) and cutting their Throats, is having Pity upon their poor Souls; and the acting against all the Dictates of Nature, and Precepts of the Gospel, is Christianity, and doing the Will of our Saviour.
Enthusiasts, fanatical, melancholy, monkish, recluse and sequestred Persons, are esteemed the Religious; and are supposed to know the other World, in Proportion as they know little of this. Philosophers, and Men of Wit or sound Knowledge, are generally accused of Infidelity and Atheism: Nay, the cardinal Virtues themselves cannot escape; but without the Belief of certain fashionable Speculations, are accounted only splendida Peccata, and those who possess them are treated with Ignominy; and indeed, none are thought fit for Heaven by Gentlemen of this Cast, but such as no Man of common Sense would care to keep Company with upon Earth.
Celibacy is esteemed a Virtue in some Churches, and not discouraged in others; and the disobeying the great Dictates of Nature, and the positive Command of God, to increase and multiply, is miscalled Chastity; and the wasting our Time in running up and down from Church to Chapel, from Chapel to Church, to hear Masses, and idle Harangues, and being perfectly useless to Society, and good for no one Thing in the World, is called by the Popish Priests Devotion and Godliness; as if the Almighty could be any way served but by doing good to his Creatures.
Poorness and Dejection of Mind is called Meekness of Spirit; and a Readiness to submit to Injuries and Impositions is Christian Humility; Stifling our Senses is Submission and Deference to Authority; and our best Searches, and most sincere Inquiries after Truth, are called the Desires of Novelty, and curious and forbidden Studies: The doubting of any thing, which our Guides think it their Interest to tell us, or shewing the Weakness of their Arguments, is Scepticism, and renouncing the Faith; and a hearty Concern for the Honour of Almighty God, and the Good of Men, is often interpreted to be downright Atheism; and to communicate with our Christian Brethren, when we can do it with a good Conscience, is Hypocrisy; unless we do it too when we think it sinful.
An Attempt to oblige the Clergy to keep the Laws, which they have sworn to, and the Articles which they have subscribed, is to oppose received Opinions, and to disturb Points already settled. An Endeavour to preserve our legal Constitution is Sedition, Faction, and being given to Change; and a generous Love for all Mankind, and the Liberty of our Country, with a noble Resolution to venture Life, and all which is valuable here below, for that glorious Cause, is Rebellion, and worse than the Sin of Witchcraft.
Wasting, macerating, and torturing our Bodies by Fasting and Penances, is sanctifying our Souls; and to reject and throw back the Benevolence and bountiful Gifts of indulgent Providence, is to shew and pay our grateful Acknowledgments to his Goodness; as if he gave us any thing, not to use and enjoy it; but we were to accept these Blessings only in Trust for the Clergy, and so live poorly our selves, that they may riot in Luxury, Profuseness and Pride: Which they have seldom failed to do, when they have had the Means of doing it; carnal Things being observed best to suit with spiritual Minds.
Playing Monkey Tricks at Church passes amongst the Papists for the Worship of God; and they go to ghostly Dancing-masters to know how to accost Him fashionably: The Failing in a Ceremony, the Omission of a Bow, the not Filing to the Right or Left readily, or not Adjusting their Motions to the Tune and Time of the Organs, are all dangerous Errors, and savour much of Heresy; and the Worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth only, is Disobedience to the Church, and little better, if not worse, than Atheism: The decking up, and dressing of Churches, and giving the Deity fine Cloaths, is Decency, and doing him Honour.
Consecration, which is the Appointment or Approbation of Places, Persons, or inanimate Things, to be used only in the immediate Service of God, (and which may be so applied indifferently with any Ceremony, or with none at all) is turned by the Romish Priests into a sort of Incantation or spiritual Juggling. By Virtue of a little Holy Water, looking towards the East, mumbling over a few cunning Words, certain Motions of the Hand and Head, and by the Force of Grimace and Mummery, the said Places, Persons and Things become sacred, and the Holiness is transferred from the Minds of the Communicants to the Ground, the Wainscot, and the Carcass and Cloaths of the Priest; and so the Devotion due to Almighty God is changed into a senseless Idolatry to as senseless Men and Idols.
Prayers are turned by them into Curses, and Sermons into Invectives and Libels: Benevolence and Good-will towards Men, and even Charity itself, which is comprehensive of all the Virtues, and without which Faith and Hope signify nothing, and which is not confined to Persons, Nations, or Languages, to Sects nor Opinions, but ought to be as free as the Elements, and diffusive as the Animal Creation, is changed into Faction, Partiality, and often Profuseness, to support a Party, and a Combination against Mankind, who do not think and act as we do.
But no Parts of Speech have had so ill Fortune, as Scripture-Language, and even amongst some Protestants: Appellatives, and the Names of complex Ideas, are often left untranslated, that they may pass for real Beings, and signify whatever the Priests have Occasion for; and sometimes, where they have been translated, false or unfair Meanings have been assigned to them, and they have been made to convey a quiet different Sense from what they import in Scripture: The Word Ecclesia or Assembly is translated Church, which there always signfies the Christian People, and in our Articles is defined to be the Congregation of the Faithful, but is now generally used only for the Clergy; and the Word Episcopos (which in English is Overseer) is Englished Bishop; so that Women, and the ignorant Croud, are fully satisfied, that they have found in Scripture a Lord of Parliament, and a Diocesan Prelate, with a Mitre upon his Head, and a Crosier in his Hand; and whenever they hear or read the Word Presbyter, they fansy they see a Parson beating his Cushion in a Pulpit, and believe him to be Jure Divino: Instances of this kind are endless.
Even Literature itself is perverted, and instead of being made to improve Mens natural Faculties, is used to extinguish or stifle the first Principles of Knowledge. Seminaries have been erected and endowed to teach Men backward: The Youth, at a very great Expence, learn to be Blockheads, and accomplished Dunces; and spend the first and most improveable Part of their Manhood to be finished in Folly. The Discovery of Printing, which brought about the Reformation, is used to destroy it; and, like the Scotchman’s Monkey, is made to bite every one but him who has the sole Custody of the Machine.
Of all, or most of these Heads, I shall treat separately, in order to undeceive Mankind, and to manumit them from the Fraud and Tyranny of Popish and popishly-affected Clergymen; by shewing, that they now do, and ever did, make use of all their Influence over the stupid and unhappy Laity, and of all the Power and Riches which they have been ever trusted with, to drive Religion and Virtue from the Face of the Earth; and therefore have always endeavoured to turn the worst Things into the best, and the best into the worst.
One Drop of Priestcraft is enough to contaminate the Ocean.
Wednesday, June 22. 1720.
I Do not know any Word, in any Language, which, next the Word Church, has so much Wickedness and Roguery to answer for, as the Word Zeal. It is indeed an important and dreadful Monosyllable, which, when used with proper Gestures and Emphasis, can turn a Cutthroat into a Saint, and a Madman into a Martyr. It can commit Bloodshed and Butchery with innocent Hands, destroy Life and Property with a good Conscience, and dispeople Nations with Applause.
TRUE Zeal is a sincere and warm Concern for the Glory of God, and the Spiritual Welfare of Mankind. This Desinition seems to me to take in every Idea which ought to be annexed to the Word Zeal; and shews it to be a Virtue full of Affection, Meekness, Humanity and Benevolence, and void of all Choler, Bitterness, Ill-will, and Severity. This is its Character; and whatever contradicts it, is not Zeal, but Rage.
Especial Care ought therefore to be taken, effectually to distinguish true Zeal from false, and the Thing from the Pretence of it. For if it be not well grounded, it falls under the Apostle’s Censure of a Zeal, which is not according to Knowledge. Of the latter Sort is that with which crafty Men infatuate the credulous Multitude, who take their Religion upon Trust, and their Faith and Zeal at second Hand. Their Godliness consists in Prejudices, and a Set of Names. They hate Dissenters, because they do not come to Church, and because they are strict Observers of the Lord’s-day, and seek God without Book: And they are zealous for the Church; but if you ask them what they mean by it, you will find it to be either the Organs, the Ring of Bells, or the Parson. They have a zealous Antipathy to a black Cloak, which is a certain Sign of a wrong Religion; and they have a doating Fondness for a black Gown, which is an infallible Mark of the true Church: They therefore abhor and insult the former, and honour and bow down to the latter. This Temper and Behaviour in them are wonderful Demonstrations of the Spirit of the Gospel; and intitle them to the highest Favour and Approbation of their Spiritual Governors. At the time when Dr. Sacheverel was suffering the Law for Sedition, I asked one of his Mob, who was straggling at some Distance from the rest, in Lincolns-Inn-Fields, (as they were proceeding to demolish Daniel Burgess’s Meeting-house) What provoked him to so much Outrage against Daniel, and his Congregation? He answered, Because they had murdered King Charles the First. I then asked him, What he knew concerning King Charles the First? Why, quoth he, he was one of the Twelve Apostles; and Dr. Sacheverel is the best Friend he has in the World. Here he swore a great Oath, and left me to pity the Ignorance and Frensy of the inchanted Crowd.
Ignorance is the Mother of this sort of Zeal, and Craft its Father: And as its Pedigree is vile, so is its Behaviour brutal and abominable. It is the Tool of Knavery and Design, and operates by Folly, Wickedness and Force. It is a Mastiff uncoupled, and hallooed at Conscience, Sobriety, and Peace; and set on to devour every good Quality, itself possessing none. It is roused by Lyes, and animated by Liquor. It combats Truth with Curses, and Moderation with Blows. Its Courage is Madness, and it is bold through Blindness. It has never any Mercy upon others, and seldom upon itself. It takes the Word of its Driver; and mistakes Mischief for Merit, and his Word for God’s. It is the most miserable of all Slaves; it is blind, and it is distracted; and its only Freedom is to act Outrages, and shed Blood. It is neither blessed with Enjoyment nor Rest. It boils with Anger; it burns with Envy; it is tortured with Hatred; it is hurried headlong by all the worst Passions. It is incapable of Happiness, and either deaf to Instruction, or undone by it: For the Moment it grows wiser, it dies.
How often do Ambition and Design work their own impious Ends, under the plausible Disguise of sanctified Zeal! Men are never weary of being deluded with Sounds; and a pious Word, artfully prostituted, and devoutly pronounced, will at any time lure them into the grossest Impostures, and push them on to commit the most inhuman Barbarities. Thus the Papists are first taught, that the Pope is a Vice-God, and the Representative of Jesus Christ; and that his Zeal for his own Revenues and Dominions is Zeal for Christ, and his Church; and then it is an easy matter to persuade these poor Slaves and Bubbles to adopt such a Portion of the same Zeal, as will prompt them to poison, and murder, and plunder, and burn all those unhappy Schismatics, who continue so, rather than abandon their Senses, their Humanity, their Charity, and the Fear of God; all which are destructive of the Character of a Zealot. And thus both Papists and Protestants, being persuaded by their Priests, that all who, either through Reason or Grace, think differently from the said Priests, are in a State of Damnation, become further persuaded, that because they are to be damned, therefore they are to be undone; and so anticipate the Labour of the Devils, and add Misery to the Miserable. By this means, as Satan is the Almighty’s Executioner, they make themselves Satan’s; and such Zeal is at once the Instrument and Qualification of a Dæmon.
When I see a grave Doctor proudly urging upon his Hearers the Divine Right of Episcopacy, which is just of as much Importance to Mankind as the Divine Right of Geography; I see presently into the Heart of the Man, and would lay any Wager, that he has a burning Zeal to succeed St. Peter in the Divine Revenue and Lordship of some human Diocese; or else courts some Bishop, with great Zeal, for his Lordship’s Niece, or for a fat Benefice. And I cannot but own, that a Christian Zeal for a Thousand Pounds a Year, or even for Two Hundred Pounds a Year, or even for a rich Wife, gifted with a good Apostolic Fortune, is a very commendable and very prevailing sort of Zeal; but I cannot see that it equally affects the whole Congregation. Pray, of what Moment is it to a harmless, well-meaning Flock of Sheep, whether their Shepherd be called Pastor or Overseer? or, Whether he have Twenty Pounds a Year Wages, or Twenty times as much? or, Whether he be hired by the whole Village? or only the chief Man of the Village? or, Whether he wear a plain Hat, or a high crowned Cap? or, Whether he wear Linen or Woolen? But it is of great Moment to them, whether he feed them or starve them; or, whether he defend or plunder them; or, whether he utterly neglect them himself, or only leave them to the Care and Command of his Dog; or, whether he seek their Safety and Happiness, or only their Flesh, and their Fleeces.
But further: The Tempers of Men being either naturally warm, or quickly made so, it is easy to mistake a hot Head for a devout Heart, and an angry Heart for a devout Zeal. But, alas! how different is the meek Spirit of the Gospel, from that Fury which is raised by strong Beer, or passionate Sermons! How little do Men consider, that the same Arteries do often beat with equal Vigour for a Punk as for the Church, and occasion broken Heads for the one as soon as for the other!
True Christian Divine Zeal is inspired by God Almighty, and comes attended with every other Christian Virtue, and subdues every unruly Passion. It is inseparable from Charity, the highest Christian Grace, and the chief Characteristic of a Christian; that Charity which wisheth all Things, hapeth all Things; which forgives all Men, but hurts none. It neither burns nor imprisons Men Bodies; nor plunders their Goods, nor rails at their Persons, nor stirs up Mischief against them, nor marks them out for Damnation. It is not raised by cruel Language, nor increased by Bottles of Brandy; it is modest, it is merciful, it is temperate, it is discerning.
On the other hand; There is not in the World a more cruel, debauched, or more ignorant Passion, than false Zeal. It is void of Pity, of Grace, of Knowledge, and of Charity; it is outrageous; it delights in Blood; it commits Massacres, and murders Innocents; it dispeoples Nations. Nothing can restrain it, neither Kindred nor good Qualities, nor Pity nor Tears. It usurps the Name of Religion, and destroys all Religion; it commits Abomination in a Style of Devotion, and talks Blasphemy in the Name of the Lord. It prostitutes God’s Authority to destroy God’s Works; and, in the Name of Christ, damns and destroys those whom Christ died to save.
If People would but look a little into their own Hearts and Constitutions, they would too often find, that their Zeal is only Anger, and that this hot Devotion resides altogether in the Blood. I have long observed, that your choleric Fellows are your most zealous Fellows, and are always the warmest Churchmen; and that, amongst the Ladies, the most amorous are ever the greatest Bigots. He who is peevish at his Table, will be peevish in his Pulpit; and as highly offended at an ill Dinner, as at a Conventicle. I once caught a great fat Doctor at St. Paul’s, cursing and storming against Presbyterians, whom he consigned in a Body over to Satan, with great Zeal, and no Remorse. Says I, to myself, This Reverend ill-tongued Parson will certainly quarrel and kick over his Claret as well as over his Cushion. In order to try, I got into his Company at the Baptist’s-Head, and by the Humility of my Behaviour, and the Divinity of the Hermitage, I sat at tolerable Ease with the Doctor, till the middle of the third Bottle, and then he swore at the Drawer for not answering before he was called; and, before it was out, he drank Confusion to Fanatics, and a Health to Sorrel. The Doctor then shewed a violent Appetite for Quarrelling; but meeting nobody in the same Humour, he only eased himself in Oaths; till an honest Citizen drank to him, The Glorious Memory of King William; which the Doctor pledged, by throwing a wild Duck just hot from the Spit, full in the Citizen’s Face, and got up at the same time to fall upon him with his Hands; but as soon as he got up, he fell, and we left him upon the Floor, to the Care of the Drawers.
How long are Mankind to be deluded with Sounds? And how long will Uncharitableness and Outrage, which are Enemies to the Nature of Christianity, pass for Zeal for Religion? Are Men to be cursed, or punished, or destroyed, out of Zeal for the Gospel, by which all Severity is forbid? Where are we commanded to quarrel for the Peace of the Church? or to run mad for the Reasonableness of Liturgies? or to fight for the Divine Original of Human Forms? or to deliver Men to the Devil, for the Saving of their Souls?
How unlike is our Modern Zeal to that of the Apostles, and how unworthy to be called by that Name! They lived under Hardships and Stripes, and ventured their Lives to convert Unbelievers: Our present Zealots live at Ease, and in Plenty: And their Zeal is devoutly employed about Tythes, Honours, Garments, and Forms. They do not pretend to venture their Livings, and their Lives, to convert either Pagan, or Papist, or Mahometan. The Idolatry and Infidelity under which the miserable World lies, do not seem to interrupt their Quiet, and their Enjoyments. But if a Dozen harmless Christians presume to worship God in a Barn; or to pray to God without Book; or to commemorate Christ’s Death with Praises and Prayers, such as a devout Heart dictates; or to refuse complying with a Rote of Words, which they judge neither edifying nor warrantable; or to follow their Consciences, which alone can justify them in the Sight of God; and not the Authority of Men, which cannot justify them in the Sight of God; they are alarmed: And their Church totters, if Conscience be protected.
If this be the Spirit of Christianity, I must own myself to have been hitherto a Stranger to Christianity; and yet these Men go on to tell us, that they are the only true Church, though they possess not one Grain of that Charity which distinguishes a Christian from a Reprobate, as much as a rational Soul does a Man from a Monkey; and to damn all other Churches, that is, the whole World, without taking one Step towards bringing them into a State of Salvation.
Wednesday, June 29. 1720.
THERE are but Two Ways of propagating Religion, namely, Miracles and Exhortation. The one depends upon Divine Power, and the other upon the Strength of Reason. Where the Finger of God appears, all further Testimony is needless; and where the Truth is obvious to Reason, Miracles are needless. God never wills us to believe that which is above our Reason, but he at the same time commands our Faith by Miracles. He does not leave necessary Things doubtful; and for this Reason alone it is, that Men are said to be left without Excuse.
Every Point of Belief therefore must be supported either by Reason or Miracle, or else it is no Point of Belief at all. Both the Jewish and the Christian Law were delivered and enforced with manifest Signs and Demonstrations of God’s extraordinary Presence and Power. And it has been very justly boasted of the Christian Religion in particular, that it spread and prospered by Miracles, Persuasion, and Clemency, in Opposition to Violence and Cruelty.
But when Christianity became tainted and defaced by Priestcraft, it grew necessary to have many Points believed, which contradicted both Revelation and common Sense: Therefore its Foster-Fathers, who to the Worship of God added the Worship of themselves, had no other way to prove their System but by Wrath and Vengeance. Reason was against them, and Miracles not for them: So their whole Dominion stood upon Falshood, guarded by Force. This Force, when it is exercised upon a religious Account, is called Persecution; which is what I am now to consider and expose.
To punish Men for Opinions that are even plainly false and absurd, is barbarous and unreasonable. We possess different Minds, as we do different Bodies; and the same Proposition carries not the same Evidence to every Man alike, no more than the same Object appears equally clear to every Eye. A choleric Temper, when it is not corrected with Reason, and seasoned with Humanity, is naturally zealous. A phlegmatic Temper, on the other side, as it is naturally slow, so it is lukewarm and indifferent. Is there any Merit in having a warm Complexion, or any Sin in being dull?
But further, to punish a Man for not seeing the Truth, or for not embracing it, is, in the first place, to make him miserable, because he is already so; and in the second place, to pluck Vengeance out of God’s Hands, to whom alone it belongs, if we will take his own Word for it. If this Severity is pretended to be for his Good, I would ask, Is manifest Cruelty any Token of Kindness? or was it ever taken for such? Does it not always increase the Evil, which it is employed to cure? Is Destruction the Means to Happiness? Absurd and terrible!
But what if, after all, the Person persecuted should be found an Adherent to Truth and Honesty, and his Enemies should prove their Enemies? Would not this be adding Cruelty to Falshood, and heaping up Guilt with both Hands? This indeed is often the Case. And where it is not altogether so, the Persecutors are still inexcusable. He who, in the Search of Truth, does all that he can, does as much as he ought. God requires no more; and what Man dares do it, who fears Him? When He acquits, Who is it that condemns?
Besides, he that suffers, or at least dies, for Religion, gives a Testimony by so doing, that his Conscience is dearer to him than Ease or Interest: Whereas the Patrons of Persecution have manifestly personal Motives and Self-Ends in it. It gratifies their Pride, awes Mankind, and brings them Obedience and Gain.
Our blessed Saviour, who had no View but the Redemption of the World, never used his Omnipotence, or the least Force, to subdue his Enemies, though he knew their Hearts to be malicious and implacable. He neither delivered them to Death nor the Devil, even for their hellish Designs to kill him; much less for Points of Error or Speculation. He reasoned with all Men; but punished none. He used Arguments, he worked. Wonders; but Severities he neither practised nor recommended. His was a different Spirit. He rebukes his Apostles with Sharpness, when, being yet full of the Spirit of this World, and void of the Spirit of God, they were for bringing down Fire from Heaven upon the Heretical Samaritans. The merciful Jesus would not hurt these half Heathens, though they rejected him in Person; for he came not to destroy Mens Lives, but to save them: And they who take another Method, give the Lye to the Lord of Life, and disown him for their Head.
His Apostles, as soon as they had received the Holy Ghost, grew wiser and more merciful. They shewed by Miracles, that they were endowed with the Divine Power; but they never used either to compel or to burn, though they were beset with false Teachers, and opposed by Gainsayers. They were so far from giving ill Usage, that they never returned it. The Exercise of wholsome Severities was no Part of their Doctrine. Prayers and Persuasions were their only Arms, and such as became the Gospel of Peace.
This was the mild and heavenly Behaviour of Christ, and his Apostles, towards those who did not believe, or believed wrong; and it was followed by all their Successors, who aimed at the Good of Souls. But those who used the Sacred Function as a Ladder to Power and Gain, made a new Gospel of their own Decisions, and forced it upon the World, partly by Fighting, and partly by Cursing. The Apostles taught Christ, and their Successors taught themselves. It was not enough to believe the Doctrine of Christianity, but you must believe it in Words of their inventing. To dispute their Decrees, though they contradicted common Sense, and the Spirit of God, was Heresy; and Heresy was Damnation. And when, in consequence of this, they had allotted a pious Christian to eternal Flames, for his Infidelity in them, they dispatched him thither with all Speed; because he was to be damned in the other World, therefore he was to be hanged of burned in this. A terrible Gradation of Cruelty! to be cursed, burned, and damned! But it was something natural; it began from persecuting Priests, and ended in Hell, and the Devil was the last and highest Executioner.
Thus they became Prelates of both Worlds, and Proprietors of the Punishments of both. Even where the Civil Sword was not at their Command, their Vengeance was as successfully, and, in my Opinion, more terribly, executed without it, by the temporal Effect of their Excommunication. For the Person under it was looked upon as a Dæmon, and one in the Power of the Devil; and so driven out, like a wild Beast, from all the Comforts of Life, and human Society; to perish in a Desart, by Hunger, or the Elements, or Beasts of Prey. And all this, perhaps, for denying a Word, or a Phrase, which was never known in Scripture, though impudently pretended to be fetched from thence.
Such dreadful Dominion had they usurped over the Bodies and Souls of Men, and so implacably did they exercise it! And, to fill up the Measure of their Falshood and Cruelty, they blasphemously pretended to be serving God, when they were acting as if there were none.
Those who set up for Infallibility have found a good Excuse, if it were true, for the insupportable Tyranny, infinite Murders, and wide Devastations, which their Religion has every-where introduced. But those, who exact a blind Obedience to Decrees, which they own to be human, and annex Penalties to Positions, which we know to be false, and they know to be disputable; and, in fine, act and dictate as if they were infallible, without pretending to be so; are so utterly without all Excuse, that I know no Language which affords a Name proper for their Behaviour.
TheMahometan Imposture was professedly to be spread by the Sword. It had nothing else but that and Libertinism to recommend it. But to propagate the Christian Religion by Terror or Arms, is to deny it. It owns no such Spirit. It rendered itself amiable, and gained Ground, by a Principle of Peace and Love. These were the Means instituted by Christ, for the Recommendation and Defence of his Gospel; and they, who would chuse contrary ones, charge him with Folly, and have Ends to serve very different from his. Ambition, Pride, and Revenge, may make good Use of Violence and Persecution; but they are the Bane of Christianity, which always sinks when Persecution rises. The vilest and most profligate Men are ever the greatest Promoters of it; and the most virtuous are the greatest Sufferers by it. Libertines stick at nothing, but they who have the Fear of God, cannot comply with all Things.
Persecution is therefore the War of Craft against Conscience, and of Impiety against Truth. Reason, Religion, and Liberty, are its great Foes; but Ignorance, Tyranny, and Atheism, its great Seconds and Support. We ought then constantly to oppose all Claims of Dominion in the Clergy; for they naturally end in Cruelty. I believe it will be hard to shew, that ever the Priesthood, at any Time, or in any Place, enjoyed the Power of Persecution, without making use of it.
Wednesday, July 6. 1720.
HOLINESS is that Character of Purity, which originally and essentially appertains to God Almighty (as a Being utterly incapable of Stain and Imperfection); but is also ascribed, in a restrained and relative Sense, to every Act of Devotion, and every Person performing it. It is an active and rational Thing; and where it is attributed to Things inanimate or irrational, it is either merely in a figurative Sense, or in no Sense at all.
Thus, when the Elements in the Sacrament are said to be Holy, it is meant only of the Uses to which they are applied, and the Purposes for which they are taken; for, though they were consecrated over and over again; yet, if they are never taken, or never devoutly taken, they have in themselves no more Holiness than a common Roll, or a Cup of cold Water.
And thus, when a People are said to be a Holy People, it is meant of their sincere Love of God, and Conformity to his Will, and of the Actions by them performed in consequence of these good Affections. But if such Actions, though feemingly devout, are superstitious, or hypocritical; there is no more Holiness in them, than in the Indians worshipping the Devil, or in a Boy’s saying his Prayers to avoid Whipping.
And thus, when a House, or a Piece of Ground, is said to be Holy, it is understood only of some Mark of Holiness there shewn, either by the extraordinary Presence of God, or by some Act or Acts of Worship performed there to him. But when these Marks of Omnipotence, and these Acts of Devotion, cease, that Ground is no more than common Ground, and that House is a common House.
And thus, Lastly, When the Priests are called Holy unto the Lord, it is meant only of their assisting at the solemn Acts of Adoration which are paid to him. At other times, they are as other Men; as is evident from their living after the manner of other Men.
Holiness, therefore, consists only in a virtuous and pious Disposition towards God, and is only shewn by the Actions which it produces. But as Superstition, especially when governed by Craft, never fails to see, or to think that it sees, Effects and Operations, which neither Religion nor common Sense can shew; hence Men have been generally persuaded, that Places, Buildings, Utensils, and Garments, did actually possess a real Holiness; that Stones and Brickbats are blessed; and that Timber, Surplices and Bells are exceeding godly Bodies.
To help on this wretched and senseless Credulity, the Pagan and Popish Priests have gone so far as to compose Farces of Legerdemain, called by them Offices of Consecration; the whole End of which was, they pretended, to bestow Godliness upon dead Earth, and Things inanimate. Thus they deceived the People in the Name of the Lord, and gravely made Speeches (which they called Prayers) over Wood, Stones, and Iron; by virtue of which, the said Wood, Stones and Iron were obliged to become good Orthodox Lumber, and as sanctified Bodies as the other Members of the Congregation.
If one was to demand of these Reverend Worthies, Who required these Things at their Hands? I doubt it would prove a hard Question; and probably, the impertinent Inquirer would be dispatched for Satisfaction to Satan, or the Inquisition ----- An effectual and orthodox Answer to such busy Unbelievers, and often practised with terrible Success!
But as I live in a Nation where such Superstitions and Cruelties are, I bless God, at an End; I take Leave to be amazed at the Assurance of those Popish Consecrators, who thus impiously pretend to draw down an Attribute of the Almighty, and endow with it what Spot of Earth they please. Will these insolent Deceivers say, that God Almighty cannot hear as well, and as favourably, a Prayer put up from a Ship as from a Chapel? Or in what Part of Scripture are we told, that he will be rather worshipped at St. Peter’s than upon the Alps; or at Loretto, or any other consecrated Place, rather than in a Booth, or a Barn; provided the Worship be performed with equal Piety? Or does e’er a Text in the New Testament inform us, that one Piece of Earth is holier than another? or that any Man, or Society of Men, can make it so?
If consecrated Ground have no more Holiness in it than other Ground, how is divine Worship more acceptable in it than in other Ground? And if it have some uncommon Sanctity in it; let those concerned tell us what it is, how it is, and by what certain Signs we shall know it: And whether it keep all the said Holiness to itself, and amongst its own inanimate Heap of Stones, Timber, and Nails; and then what are We the better for it? Or whether the religious Bricks and Mortar do in good earnest communicate Part of their Piety to the People: And if so, In what manner do they perform this? And how does it appear first, and operate afterwards? But if all this be a Mystery, let them shew us where it is revealed in Scripture, wherein all other Mysteries are revealed.
If by Consecration any Change be made, the same must be either visible, or only mystical. If the Change be visible, then it comes under the Test and Examination of our Senses, and must be evident to all Men: But if the Change be purely mystical, it must be revealed to all. So that we must either have the Evidence of Sense, or the Evidence of God’s Word and Authority, which is as good. But where neither of these Proofs appear, our Faith and Assent ought neither to be demanded, nor given, if demanded.
If Prayers be more prevailing with God, and divine Service more welcome to him, when they come from consecrated Ground; then all Worship and Devotion ought to be performed only at Church; and Family Religion ought either to be neglected, (as lame and insufficient) or every private House should be consecrated, and then every House would be a Chapel, and every such Chapel a Church. I would be glad to know, why only one House in a Parish should be consecrated, that is, made fit to pray in; and why not every House, for the same Reason? For, nothing that helps Devotion ought to be omitted, such Omission being doubtless a great Sin.
But if it be allowed, that People may pray to as good Purpose out of consecrated Ground, as in it; how are Prayers at Church better than in a Chamber, or the Fields? Or, why should the Prayers of Five hundred have more need of consecrated Ground, than the Prayers of One, Two, or Three? Or, if a Place become Holy by the Devotions performed in it, then every Place where Devotions are performed, is as Holy as another; and if so, pray what Use of a Form of Words, and a particular Office, for that Purpose?
Suppose a Church to be consecrated, and yet never after used; is it, for all this, Holy? Or, suppose that it has been used for all the Purposes of a Church, and yet was never formerly consecrated; is it, for all that, not Holy?
Either the Scripture is not a sufficient Rule of Worship, or this Business of Consecration, in Popish and Pagan Countries, is a needless, empty, superstitious Foppery, an evident Trick of Priestcraft; as if the Priests could change the Nature of Things, and confer the Grace which they have not themselves, upon Stocks and Stones, that have not, nor can have, the least moral Goodness, or Pravity, in them. A General of an Army may as modestly and rationally contend, that the Ground, on which his Pavilion stands, is valiant Ground; and that the Ticking, of which it is made, is courageous Ticking. And, according to the same way of Reasoning, there is prodigious Policy in the Boards that compose the Council-table: The Carpet is a long-headed Carpet, and the Wainscot and Chairs understand wonderfully well the Interest of Christendom.
If Devotion communicate a Tincture of itself to Wood and Walls; the Pravity of ill Actions must, by the same Rule, diffuse itself, and taint all the House or Fields were such ill Actions are committed. A Jobb of Lewdness must needs debauch the Curtains greatly, and the Bed-cloaths must partake of the Iniquity; and were justly punished by Fire in Herefordshire for that Reason: At which Execution, I am told, a certain devout Person now living, was a very zealous and useful Assistant. Every Counter and Shop-board in the City must, for the like Reason, be guilty of unpardonable Tricking and Lying; and for Falshood and Dissimulation, Heaven have Mercy upon some great Buildings at the Court-end of the Town!
I would here be glad to know the precise Extent of the Influence which Holiness and Vice have upon the inanimate Creation. Is a thick Church-wall as quickly and fully impregnated with them as a thin one? And do they never extend an Inch beyond the Church and Churchyard? Or is the Church equally Holy, whether much Devotion, or little, be performed in it? Or have the Popish Priests set Bounds to the Godliness of the Ground, and the Building; and said----Thus far, or thus deep, O Ground! shall thy Holiness extend, and no farther?
If Consecration signify any thing more than a Declaration, that such a Place is set aside for the Worship of God, I wish it could be explained and proved; and the rather, because Things of the most simple and obvious Nature have, by the Guile or Superstition of designing Churchmen, been rendered, to the credulous gaping Multitude, mysterious and tremendous; the natural Enthusiasm which resides in the Mind of Man, having always made him the Prey and Property of Delusion and Deluders.
Happy, thrice happy, are we, who live in a Country where all this Pagan Idolatry, and these Monkish Fooleries, receive no Countenance from our Laws; but, on the contrary, are forbid and punishable by them. The Laity at the Reformation had seen what Use the Priests made of this dark Juggling, and of these Hocus Pocus Tricks; and, therefore, would not suffer them to be played over again, to deceive superstitious and inchanted Bigots, by making them pay great Prices to be buried in consecrated Ground, which rose, like the Value of Jewels, as they approached nearer to the Bodies of Saints, or to the Altar, where it seems the Devil could not come at them; with many other advantageous Frauds, which I shall hereafter expose to the World, when I treat again upon this prolific Subject.
Wednesday, July 13. 1720.
REligion and Virtue consist in doing good Actions, or in a Disposition to do them. These being in our Power, as we perform or neglect them, we merit Praise or Blame. But in Matters of Speculation, or Doubt, or such as are not necessarily attended with some Consequences, it is of no Moment on which Side of the Question we stand. Where there is no Certainty, or Significancy, there can be no Duty. Faith without Works, in Scripture, has but a very indifferent Character: It is said to be dead; and we all know, that what is dead, is useless.
If you would know any Man’s Affections towards God, consult his Behaviour towards Men. Though his Professions be ever so voluminous; though his Zeal be ever so noisy; though he believe by the Lump, and swallow Creeds by Dozens; yet if he be immoral, he is worse than an Infidel. What is the Use of Belief, but to govern our Practice, and beget good Deeds? We all see the Necessity of living well; but to believe well, and do no more, is the same Thing, with regard to others, as not to believe at all: And, with regard to ourselves, worse.
A worthy Life infers worthy Principles; but a base Behaviour contradicts and dishonours an honest Profession. Will any one tell me, that a virtuous Heathen is not a better Man, and more in the Favour of God, than a profligate Christian? A Pagan, who violates not the Laws of Truth and Peace, is, in my Eyes, an infinitely more religious Person, than a turbulent and forsworn Christian Priest, though he wear a Mitre.
SOCRATES, Plato, Cato, and Brutus, were excellent Persons, though they were only governed by the simple Dictates of human Reason, and were utter Strangers to Creeds and Fathers, and our present Orthodox Notions established by Law. Who, that has any Care for his Soul, any Honour for his God, or any Love for Mankind, would not rather chuse to be animated by the rational and beneficent Sentiments of these righteous Gentiles, than he possessed with the fierce and inhuman Spirit of Father Laud, Frier Francis, or Doctor Bungy, though they were all sound Believers? I would have mentioned Aristotle here with the other Antients; but I find, that though he was very Orthodox, and a great Enemy to Dr. Clarke’s Arian Principles , yet this true Believer was a very wicked Liver. However, as a true Friend to the Church, he died the Death of the Righteous, and, ’tis said, enjoys everlasting Life .
Besides; saying, is not proving. If we would be thought Christians, we ought to shew ourselves Christians. Living well, is the best and only Evidence we can give, that we believe well. If a Man profess his Faith in Jesus Christ with one Breath, and swear falsly by his Name with another, Why should I give credit to one who so effectually contradicts himself? We do not credit the Propositions of Mathematicians, till they have gained our Assent by Demonstration: And why should we trust any Man’s Professions of Faith and Morality, before he has, by Works of Faith and Morality, proved them sincere? If we hear a Man full of the Praises of Loyalty, and yet see him every Day rebelling, would we not take him for a Madman, or a Deceiver? A good Life is beneficial both to ourselves and others, but a good Belief, without it, is neither.
But besides, this same Belief is perhaps the necessary Consequence of Evidence; and if so, what is unavoidable, is not virtuous. Where is the Praise or Merit of feeling the Heat of the Sun, or the Severity of the Winter; or of hearing Sounds, when our Ears are open? To believe in Christ was and is inevitable: His Miracles command Assent. But to do his Will, is a Trial of our Piety and Virtue. And for our Saviour himself, would his Law have been ever received, or his Doctrine believed, had he contradicted both by his Example? Or could the Apostles, without leading the Lives of Christians, have gained Converts to Christianity?
I have placed Faith and Practice in this Light, to shew how little valuable the Pretence of believing well makes Men, unless they also live well. I would therefore bring our High Clergy to be tried by this Test. If they be more zealous for Orthodoxy than Piety; if they abhor a virtuous Man, who prefers the Dictates of his own Conscience before those of their Ambition and Authority; and openly court and honour any Person, who is observant of the Priesthood, though he live at manifest Defiance with Heaven; if they treat Unbelievers and Debauchees as pure Churchmen, and devout Christians as Schismatics, Heretics, and the Lord knows what; their Faith is selfish and vain, and such Religion is false and absurd.
Conformity is the Word! It is the Mother of all Virtues, and the Sanctifier of all Crimes. It is, in fine, All in All. And yet, so weak and blind am I, that I take this same applauded Conformity to be in some Cases a very great Sin. If a Man, for Instance, in the Worship of God, follow the Authority of any Church whatsoever, and dissent, at the same time from the Suggestions and Persuasions of his own Conscience; it is certain, that he does not worship God at all, but mocks him; adores Men, and condemns himself. If, on the other hand, he think his Soul in Danger, or in no way of being edified in any Church, though ever so Orthodox; he ought to desert it, and join with that which appears to him better. If I should thwart or disturb my Conscience, by bowing fashionably to the Altar, I would ask the Clergy, Whether ought the Altar, or my Conscience, to be first or most regarded? He who believes at random, and obeys blindly, may give great Satisfaction to Churchmen; but he neither knows the Gospel of Truth, nor obeys the Precepts of the Holy Ghost.
It is a surprising Thing, the Selfishness and Pride of Man. What Priest is there, that (in Disputes of the most trivial Nature) does not grow hot and eager for Victory, and angry if his Opinion does not prevail? In Spiritual Affairs, this Spirit of levelling all Men to our own Conceits, is still fiercer; and Religion, which was given and intended to subdue the Passions, is turned into an Engine to raise them. We are much more zealous, that Men should conform to us, than to Holiness; and would rather have them obedient, than godly. How many High-Church Parsons would not rather see their Parishioners drunken Churchmen, than sober Dissenters!
Laymen are at least as capable of judging of Error as the Clergy, and more proper, as having no Interest on either Side of the Question. However, the latter have usurped this Privilege wholly to themselves, and with good Policy; for it has wonderfully answered their great Ends of Power and Wealth. We are not therefore to wonder, that many of them give much more Countenance and Quarter to the most heinous Immoralities, which are only Sins against God, than to the least Variation from an Orthodox Opinion, which is an unpardonable Sin against themselves. The greatest Mistakes, when involuntary, are innocent in the Sight of God; but in the Eyes of the Priests, the smallest are often damnable. Nay, many a Man has been pronounced a Heretic, and delivered to Hell and the Devil, for his pious Searches after Truth, and his devout Adherence to it.
Thus we see, that God may be pleased, and some of the Clergy provoked, by one and the same Action. From hence it wofully happens, that weak Men and Profligates, who will do and say as they are bid, without any Biass from Reason and Conscience, are caressed, encouraged and promoted; while the Wise and Virtuous, who cannot abandon Truth, and the Fear of God, to promote the Craft, and humour the Pride, of assuming Men, are brow-beaten, reproached, and persecuted. Mr. Whiston, and the Parson of his Parish , are known Instances of this shameful Truth.
I know several, who, notwithstanding their avowed Disbelief of the Gospel, and all Revealed Religion, are in high Esteem with the High Clergy; because, though they deny our Saviour, they reverence his Successors; and are zealous for the Hierarchy, though they laugh at Religion. The Truth is, if a Man be but a hearty Churchman, it is never asked whether he be a Christian. Profligates, void of common Honesty, and common Sense, have been, and are still, reckoned true Friends to the Church, and courted by the Ecclesiastics, as their Patrons and Defenders. And indeed, where Religion is turned into Faction, such Measures and Alliances are natural and necessary.
But in the Opinion of us Christians, a wicked Liver, whether he be a Believer or no, is an Enemy to Religion, which is propagated and supported by Example; and to human Society, which is maintained by the Bonds of Morality. Whereas a good Man, though a Heretic, is a Friend to Religion, Virtue, and his Country. To conclude: He who is a Rebel to the King of Kings, is like to prove but an ill Subject to his Vicegerent; and as bad a Pattern to his Fellow-subjects.
Wednesday, July 20. 1720.
DR. Burnet tells us, in his Letters of Travels, that the Priests of Italy have found out a Secret to make Men miserable, in spite of all the Abundance and Profusion wherewith Nature hath blessed that happy Climate. They measure their own Happiness by the People’s Calamity; enjoy no Pleasures in which they take any Part; nor are satisfied with all the Plunder and Depredations which they make upon them, unless they can also heighten their own Relish, by making the Little which they leave to the Laity, insipid and tasteless.
As one Instance of this Truth; he informs us, that the Priests have made it a Principle of Religion in the People, to mingle Water with their Wine in the Cask, which soon sours it; whereas they always keep their own pure and unmixed, because they say, that it is to be used in the Sacrament: And so he observes, that Travellers can drink no good Wine, but what they buy from the Convents.
For this, and such-like Reasons, they preach Penances, Mortification, Fasting, and a Contempt of worldly Riches, and of all those earthly Blessings, which indulgent Heaven has given to wretched Mortals, to alleviate their Sorrows, sweeten their Calamities, and make the nauseous Draught of Life go down; whereas we cannot better shew our Acknowledgment and Gratitude to the Author of them, than by making a proper Use of the good Things which he has given us, and by enjoying them in every Degree, which will not destroy that Enjoyment, and change it into a Misfortune.
If we drink or eat more than our Heads will carry, or our Stomachs digest, Distempers, Indiscretions, and sometimes Murders, succeed; and, if we spend faster than our Incomes will supply, there is a sure Foundation laid for future Want and Misery: But nothing can be more absurd or impious, than to make Abstinence from Food or Pleasures meritorious, any farther than it conduces to Health, or qualifies us for Business. Almighty God reserved but one Tree in all Paradise from our first Parents, but the Priests would keep them all from their Posterity.
Besides, the Luxury of the Rich (when it does not exceed the Bounds of Virtue and Prudence) is the Wealth and Support of the Poor, and the best-judged Charity: For, what we give in gross Sums to, or for the Use of, those who appear to be in Necessity, is often mistaken, and applied to maintain present Idleness, or reward past Extravagance; and sometimes too, I doubt, is pocketed by those who are trusted to distribute it: Whereas whatever is laid out upon the Produce of Labour, and for such Manufactures as employ Multitudes of People, can never be misapplied. It might easily be made appear, that there is not a Piece of wrought Silk, Linen, or Woollen Cloth, which has not contributed to the Maintenance of more than an Hundred thousand industrious People, who must be all kept alive one way or other.
As it is the highest Crime to destroy our Beings, so it is proportionably wicked to endeavour to make them miserable: The Glory and Honour of God are best consulted, in promoteing the Happiness of Mankind. It is profane, and a kind of Blasphemy, to attempt to persuade People, that the good God takes Pleasure in the vexing and tormenting his Creatures. He is not pleased by human Sacrifices, nor by human Sufferings of any Kind: A pale Aspect, the Griping of the Guts, wry and distorted Faces, and being Ghosts before our Time, will contribute to no Ends of Religion; and therefore, I confess, that I cannot see how Fasting can serve God, or answer any Purposes of Devotion, or indeed can enhance any Appetite, unless to a good Dinner.
Nothing consequently can be more ridiculous, than for the Romish Clergy to tell us, that any Part of Religion consists in fasting Days, and fasting Weeks; which oblige the wretched People to insipid and unwholsome Diet, whilst they indulge themselves, and riot in the richest Wines, and the luxurious Dishes of Salmon and Turbot; with all the costly Inhabitants of the liquid Element. Besides, it is impolitic, as well as uncharitable; it discourages Trade and Industry, depopulates Nations, and depreciates Matrimony, by rendering the People unable to maintain and raise their Families.
Riches and Labour are two Words which signify the same Thing. Nature spontaneously supplies but little to the Use of Man; all the rest is the Produce of Invention and Industry: And therefore whatever does contribute to make Mankind idle, and less useful to one another, conduces so far to their Want and Misery. One Holy-day, strictly kept, robs the Poor of more than a whole Year’s Charity will supply. A little loose Money picked up at the Church-doors, and afterwards divided between the Parson, Churchwardens, and a few favourite Objects, will make but poor Amends for the Taxation of the Nation, and of every Person in it, with the Loss of a Day’s Labour, and Profit of his Trade; which Loss probably cannot amount to less than Two hundred Thousand Pounds, without having any regard to the Extravagance and Debaucheries committed upon those Days; which often consume the Acquisitions of a Week, and render the common People listless, and unwilling to return to their Labour again. I may therefore venture to affirm, that there is more Charity in taking away one Saint’s Day, than in building and endowing Twenty Colleges.
However, to do Right to my Countrymen, and their genuine Clergy, I must freely confess, that we suffer very little from the penitential Observance or fasting Part of our Holydays; for the Poor do not fast at all, unless they can get nothing to eat; and the Rich, in Imitation of their Guides, hold out no longer than is necessary to digest their former Excesses, and get better Stomachs to a double Dinner; as old experienced Sinners often live a Day or two with Sobriety and Innocence, to enjoy a Debauch the remaining Part of the Week. At the Universities, as I am told, it is quite given up, and there is not more Epicurism than on those Days; and to their Churches there are antient Vestries annexed, which are the consecrated Repositories of Pipes, Sack, and Tobacco, where the Reverends take regularly a Whiff and a Cup, to prepare them for the Fatigues of the the ensuing Service.
But how little soever Holy-days, and stated Fasts, contribute either to the temporal or eternal Happiness of the Laity; yet the Romish Clergy have been able sufficiently to find their own Account in them. When all other Shops are shut, theirs are open; where they sell their Spiritual Cargo of Grimaces, Visions, Beads, Indulgencies, and Masses, for Silver and Gold, Lands and Tenements; and, to enhance the Value of their Merchandize, and persuade the People of the Reasonableness of such an Exchange, they make it their Business, and exert all their Endeavours, to depreciate worldly Happiness, and cry down all the good Things of this Earth, that they may have them all to themselves. If they can extinguish the Appetites which God has given us, and teach us the Secret to live without our Estates, or to make us think it dangerous to live on them, they hope to have them for their Pains: For who can have a better Title to our Superfluities than our spiritual Guides, who have inspired us with so much refined Devotion, and have given to us lasting Estates in Paradise, in lieu of a few momentary Pleasures, and frail and earthly Tabernacles below?
By these Arts, and many others, which I shall shew in the Progress of this Paper, the Priests are become possessed of so much Dominion and Wealth.
Wednesday, July 27. 1720.
BY Faith is often, if not most commonly, meant, An inward Persuasion, or determined Assent, of the Mind to a religious Proposition, affirmed or denied; and such Consent can never be given but by the Conveyance, and from full Conviction, of the Senses, or the manifest Operation of the Holy Ghost; and therefore must depend wholly upon what appears to be infallible Inspiration, or infallible Information. In this Sense of the Word, I doubt there can be no such Thing in the World; for as no Man living ever saw the Miracles of Christ and his Apostles, or can prove his particular System from self-evident Propositions, or can be sure that he is inspired by the Holy Ghost; so he cannot have Faith in this Sense, whatsoever he himself may imagine.
Therefore the only reasonable Sense of the Word is, An Assent of the Mind to the Truth of a Proposition, upon probable Arguments, or upon the Testimony of other Persons; which can never produce Certainty, but only Opinion or Belief; which must be stronger or weaker, according to the many Degrees of Probability. A probable Evidence can only produce a suitable Assent; and when any thing does not appear at all probable to us, we cannot avoid dissenting as to the Truth of it. Almighty God does not require of us to give the Lye to our Understandings, and to put out and extinguish the only Light he has given to Men, by which they can discern Truth from Falshood, and Virtue from Vice.
The Apostles and Evangelists, who were evidently endowed from Above with extraordinary Gifts and Graces, were undeniable Witnesses of the Truth of the Gospel, to those who saw their Miracles: And their Writings, and the Testimony which they bequeathed to their Followers, sealed, as it was, with their Blood, have passed the Examination of many Ages, and constitute the highest Degree of human Probability, and confequently carry along with them an irresistible Authority, and can admit of no Disobedience or Dispute: They are a real Authority, in the most strict Sense of the Word; I mean, as it is applied to the Propagation of religious Opinions, and as producing a lively Faith next to Persuasion.
But no Decisions or Resolutions of uninspired Men are, or ought to be, of any Weight with us, but so far as they will bear the Examination of our Senses, and our Reason. The only Motive which any Man can have to believe, or to put this Confidence in another, is, that the Person trusted is not deceived himself, and will not deceive him; neither of which he can have any tolerable Assurance of: For no Man is infallible; and the gravest and most solemn Pretenders are as easily cheated as the mere Vulgar; and, what is more, will as often lye, and cheat others; and therefore there can be no such thing as Authority in this Sense amongst Men. For let a Matter in itself be ever so certain, I am by no Precept human or divine obliged to believe it true, till it is proved true; and it is the Business of my Reason alone to distinguish what is so from what is otherwise.
God’s Word, though to be believed without Proof, yet ought first to be proved to be his; which Proof it is the Province of my Understanding to examine. The Words and Allegations of Men, or of the Church, ought, before they are believed, to be proved, either by Divine Authority, or by Reason: If by Reason; then Reason must judge of Reason, and every Man who has it, is a Judge: If by Divine Authority; even here our Reason must be satisfied, whether it be Divine Authority or not. So that human Authority is either nothing at all; or at most only an Opportunity given, or an Invitation made, to examine by private Judgment, the Truth of what it says.
All Books, therefore, except the Holy Scriptures, and all Names, except those of our Blessed Saviour, and his inspired Followers, ought to be of no Authority with us, any farther than to convince our Understandings by solid Arguments, and self-evident Truths; and a Beggar, or a Cobler, when he can do this, is so far intitled to equal Credit, or, if you will, to equal Authority, with Councils and Fathers.
Every Man, that reasons with you, appeals to your Reason, and his Arguments lie at your Mercy, whether you will believe them or no; and every Man, who brings you only his Assertions, ought also to bring you his Proofs, or else you are at full Liberty to reject or despise them: It adds nothing to his Weight in this matter, that perhaps he wears a cloven Cap, or a sable Gown: There have been no greater Deceivers of Mankind, than such as have worn these Emblems of Gravity; and indeed Gravity has ever been one essential Characteristic of Imposture.
There is no Authority in sounding and sanctified Names, whether they be those of Archbishops, Bishops, Priests or Deacons. It is very certain, that these goodly Words are so far from having any Charm in them against Deceit and Roguery, that the completest of all Villainies, and the most masterly and mischievous of all Delufions, have been, and still are, protected and propagated by them in Popish and other Priest-ridden Nations. His Holiness, and Most Holy, are Terms appropriated to St. Peter’s Chair, (and in our precious Pope Laud’s Days they began to be current at Lambeth) although most that filled that Chair, have lived at Defiance with God and Man, and were the greatest Deceivers and Disturbers of the World.
Nor is there any certain Authority in Learning of any Kind or Degree. Who are better Scholars, or greater Rogues, than the Jesuits? Who was a more learned Man, or a greater Simpleton, than Mr. Dodwell? And, as to his genuine Ancestors, Aquinas and Scotus, those celebrated Founders of the Schools, who have been long the infallible Guides of the infallible Church, they were the most voluminous and most unintelligible Dunces, that ever dabbled in Sophistry, and darkened common Sense.
Pray what Evidence of Truth necessarily attends the Knowledge of the Oriental Tongues? The Jews understand Hebrew, and the Turks Arabic; and yet both continue fierce and obstinate Enemies to Christianity.
Nor are Men the more to be trusted, merely because they are acquainted with Ecclesiastical History, and the Fathers. As to the Fathers, they are guilty of grievous Errors against Orthodoxy, and Church Power; insomuch that Father Petavius the Jesuit has pretended to prove, that most of them were infected with Heresy, especially in their Notions about the Undivided Trinity. We all know, that St. Austin (the Foreman of all the Latin Saints and Fathers) was for admitting Children to the Lord’s Supper, contrary to the Doctrine and Practice of our Church of England as by Law established. St. Jerom derives Episcopal Power from the Instigation of the Devil, which is also an impudent Reflection upon our Orthodox Church. St. Basil (I think it was) very fairly challenged the Emperor, his Liege Lord, to fight him; in Defiance of the Doctrine of Passive Obedience, which is the peculiar Doctrine of our High Churchmen; and which unless a Man believes and practises, he cannot be saved. St. Ambrose bullied Theodosius, the Lord’s Anointed; and refused to admit his Imperial Majesty to partake of the Lord’s Body, till he had made his humble Submission. St. Gregory Nazianzen gives a miserable and vile Character of Synods and Councils; and his Grace of Canterbury , when he was Bishop of Lincoln, and before, did the same. Dr. Prideaux shews Tertullian to have been a credulous weak Man, often mistaken and misled.
As to Ecclesiastical History, which is nothing but many large Volumes, containing some few of the Squabbles of the Bishops and inferior Clergy with one another, and all the World; I know not whether the Use of it can much alter for the better any Man’s Life and Principles; since the most which he can learn by it is, that the Reverend Heroes of the Story were eternally cussing and contradicting one another. Nothing of Humility, nor of Charity, nor of Uniformity, nor of Certainty, is to be found amongst them, or learned from them. And I know not at this Day any prevailing Opinion of any Sect of Christians, but what is both countenanced and condemned by one Father, or another.
Lastly; even the most apparent Piety, the most disinterested Mind, and the most unblameable Life, though to me certain Signs of a good Man, yet in the Eye of our best High Churchmen, are only shining Sins, and cannot intitle the Possessor to the least good Word or Tenderness, much less to any Authority amongst Men. Dr. Clarke, Mr. Whiston, and others, are undeniable Instances of this Truth.
Upon the Whole, Authority, as it is generally understood, is a Word pregnant with Danger and Nonsense. It is a false misleading Light, or rather none at all; for those who follow it, do only grope in the dark: When we blindly trust to another, our own Eyes grow useless, or may give Offence.
This shews its Peril; and for its Absurdity, it will appear from hence, that it is impossible to trust to one Authority, without trusting to more. For, either my own Reason must be consulted and followed; and if so, there is an End of all Authority: Or else, I must trust to some Authority to direct me what Authority I must trust to. And, if I have Liberty to chuse my first Guide, why not also my second, and so on? For no Reason can be given, why I may rely on my Judgment in one Case, and yet must resign it in just such another Case.
But if no Choice at all is left us in these Matters, pray how shall we discern Heresy from Orthodoxy, and a regular Set of Ecclesiastics, from an irregular? If I am born in Scotland, and educated in the Presbyterian Way; must I continue in an invincible Antipathy to what is there called proud, lordly, Prelacy, and superstitious Surplices, and Popish Ceremonies? Or, have I a Right to examine and embrace the Doctrine and Discipline of our Orthodox, Established Church? Or, am I to embrace them without examining them? And is my Judgment to approve and condemn, only what the Parson approves and condemns; and, in all other Spiritual Matters, to lie still, and take its Rest? If I leave one Church for another, out of Judgment; how am I to behave myself when my Judgment changes? Or, is it our Duty to conform in spite of our Inclinations? And have we no Right to dissent with Conscience and Conviction on our Side?
To conform without consenting, is a Contradiction, and a Mockery to the Spirit of Religion: And to conform, because I approve, is no Compliment to Authority, but, indeed, destroys it, and justifies every Man in every Religion, provided he have taken all necessary Pains to find out the true one. If I have a Liberty to inquire which is the best Church, I have also a Liberty to blame its Errors, if I see any, as well as to admire its Excellencies: And the Authority of no Man or Men shall determine me in either, in Opposition to my Reason. If I praise the Advantages of any Church, I am myself praised by its Votaries, for doing Justice to those Advantages, which my Reason shews me: But if the same Reason discover Blemishes in it, I am condemned by the same Votaries, for what I cannot help: So that I am applauded for Seeing, and damned for Seeing, at the same Time, and from the same Principle; namely, that of Passion and Partiality.
There is therefore no Authority but Two, Scripture and Reason. The Scripture is our Rule of Faith; and Reason, where God gives not his Spirit, is our Rule for understanding the Scripture.
Wednesday, August 3. 1720.
IT has often been the Subject of my serious Thoughts, to what Causes are owing the Depravation of Virtue and Morality in the World, and the seeming Decay of human Understanding. If we read the Greek, Roman, and other antient Histories, we shall find another Race of Men, than seem to be now existing upon the Face of the Earth. Alexander had conquered the East before Thirty: Scipio and Hannibal performed Actions of great Eclat before Twenty: Pompey triumphed over Europe, Asia and Africa, long before his Middle-age. Indeed, through the whole Roman Story, we find that their Generals, Orators, and Statesmen, shone in full Lustre in their early Youth; and could demand their Discharge from public Business, before the Age at which we are often thought qualified to enter upon it.
This Difference sure cannot be owing to any real Decay of Human Nature, which undoubtedly has been always the same since the Flood; on the contrary, ’tis to be presumed, since Almighty God hath communicated to us the marvellous Light of his Gospel, and has made himself more known to Men, that their Faculties are bettered and improved. Besides, this Difference is observable only in such as are intitled, by their Birth and Fortunes, to the most liberal Education; for, as to Arts and Sciences, the Moderns eminently (as I conceive) exceed the Antients: They are better Mathematicians and Mechanics, better Navigators, better Musicians, and better Husbandmen, and they attain early to their greatest Perfection in these Arts; and therefore we must look out for other Causes to account for this Phænomenon, which I conceive to proceed only from their different Manner of Education.
The Antients were instructed by Philosophers; and the Moderns are taught by Priests: The first thought it their Duty to make their Pupils as useful as possible to their Country, and the latter as subservient to themselves, and the Interests of their Order: One endeavoured to inspire them with noble and generous Sentiments, equally fit for Dominion or Subjection; and the other always instil into them abject, sordid, and pusillanimous Principles, to qualify them to be proper Tools for their own low Purposes: In short, the first made it their Study and Business to inlarge and improve their natural Faculties, and growing Reason; and the latter to pervert, stifle, and extinguish, every Approach towards true Knowledge, and public Virtue.
As soon as the Emperors and their Courts came into the Church, Ambition and Pride got in too; and the Innocence and Simplicity of primitive Christianity became corrupted, and changed into outward Pomp and Pageantry: The Clergy bethought themselves how (in the modern Phrase) to make the best of their Bible: Unluckily it was all against them; and though they read it over and over, they found it everywhere levelled against spiritual Pride and Domination, and they could not so much as pick out one direct Text for their purpose.
What must be therefore done in this momentous Affair? The Holy Writings were dispersed abroad, and could not be suppressed, and yet Riches and Power were of indispensable Necessity to the Good of the Church. Why! since they could not get them out of the Peoples Hands, they contrived how to render them of as little Use as possible there; and, in order to it, they pointed all their Batteries against human Reason, and polite Learning, and made it an heinous Sin to read any Heathen Authors: By which means, in an Age or two, few could read at all: And the Romans, once so famous for Knowledge, Virtue and Humanity, became (for the most part) sunk to the lowest Dregs of Barbarism, Superstition, and Ignorance.
But lest the curious and inquisitive Part of Mankind should not be wholly diverted from the Search after Knowledge, they invented, and substituted in its room, a senseless Jargon of undefined, insignificant, and canting Terms, confused Ideas, and indistinct Images; which they persuaded the World to esteem profound Learning, and deep Wisdom: And then they reduced and determined all Questions in Philosophy and Religion by this Gibberish; and he got the Victory, who could hold out longest, and most confound his Auditory, by entangling them in an endless Labyrinth of Nonsense. Men of Wit and Genius were distasted at a Study, which would cost them so much Pains to attain, when they could find neither Pleasure in the Pursuit, nor Profit or Improvement in the Conquest; and having no Notion of any other Learning, they consented to let the Clergy have it all to themselves.
When they had so reduced the Laity to this happy and desirable State of Stupidity and Submission, they took away their Bible from them too; or, which was the same thing, they continued it only in a Language, which by the many Conquests upon the Empire, and the Revolutions of Time, was understood by none but themselves. And now, having converted their Hearers into Asses, and Beasts of Carriage, they bridled them, they saddled them, they yoked them, and put heavy Burdens upon them, till they so overloaded them, that they grew resty, and overturned their Burdens, and Riders too.
Thus the World came by the Reformation; which dispersed the thick Mist of Superstition and Ignorance, that then overshadowed all Christendom: The Laity were resolved to be no longer hoodwinked; but a general Disposition arose in Europe, to revive antient Learning, and useful Knowledge: And the Greek and Roman Authors were sought after, rescued from Dust and Worms, and diligently read. Many Princes promoted these Studies, and gave all due Encouragement to Virtue and Learning: But this noble Spirit of Liberty lasted no longer than the Lives of those Princes, and while the Images of sacerdotal Oppressions were deep engraven in Mens Minds; which, like all other Things, wore out by degrees.
The principal Expedient, necessary to secure all the rest, was never thought of, or, at least, quite forgotten; namely, that of retrieving the Education of Youth out of the Hands of the Priesthood, and of reforming the Universities, which were contrived and established by Popes, to support their own Pride and Power over the unhappy Laity. Instead of suffering these to continue Seminaries of Faction, Tyranny, and Ecclesiastical Usurpations, they should have been converted into Schools of Virtue, Liberty, Knowledge, and true Religion: But the old Leaven was permitted to remain, and the Clergy had still left to them the Education of the Nobility and Gentry in most Countries; and they were educated accordingly.
It became a Maxim in the Universities abroad, That those, who were born to large Possessions and Estates, had no need of Learning; and such were always encouraged or connived at, in mis-spending their Time in Idleness and Luxury, and were generally made the Companions of their Governors and Tutors in their Pleasures, who were perpetually instilling into their tender Minds tyrannical or slavish Principles. But when they met with Youths of sprightly Wit and Genius, who either from their own Inclinations, or the Impulse of their Relations, would not be diverted from the Pursuit of Knowledge; they industriously put them upon a wrong Scent, and perplexed and confounded their Understandings with metaphysical Whimsies, and an artificial Cant, out of which many of them could never extricate their Senses; and such as did; spent often as many Years after they came into the World to do so, as they lost before in the Universities, to be upon the Level with those who had never been there.
This soon became again the State of Learning and Knowledge amongst the Nobility and Gentry: Either they had none at all, or such as they were the worse for having: Insomuch that those, whose Birth and Fortunes intitled them to be Legislators and Governors of Mankind, were themselves the Slaves and Dupes of Pedagogues and Chaplains, were contented to do all their Drudgery, and be humble Instruments of their Pride and Luxury.
However, as the Priests could not agree amongst themselves about sharing the Laity, and as Printing was before this Time invented in Christendom, which made it impracticable to suppress all Copies of useful Books, or to hinder them from being read; many Persons had the Virtue and Resolution to oppose Clerical Usurpation, and kept alive some Spirit of Liberty, in spite of all the Efforts of Priestcraft and Delusion, ever supported by worldly Interest, and too often by worldly Power.
It is a hard Circumstance for Truth, that in most Countries it must subsist upon Converts; and Education, Interest, and Authority, must combine against it: But if, notwithstanding all their Efforts, its own clear Evidence, and irresistible Authority, can make such a Progress in the World, what might we not expect, if the Approaches and Passages to it were made easy and advantageous, and proper Rewards and Encouragements given to the Promoters and Discoverers of such Philosophy and Knowledge, as will make Men useful to themselves and their Country? It cannot be doubted, but antient Virtue, and antient Eloquence, would then revive again; the Nobility and Gentry of Christendom would resume their proper Stations, and exceed the inferior Part of Mankind, as much in public Spirit, Courage, and Wisdom, as they do in Fortune and Quality; and possibly might in time as much outshine the Greeks and Romans in those great Endowments, as they evidently surpass them in those Arts and Sciences, which the Priests do not pretend to teach, and seldom know any thing of.
Wednesday, August 10. 1720.
NOT all the Cruelty of Tyrants, the Subtilty and Craft of Priests, or the Malice of Devils, have ever invented or brought a greater Plague or Mischief upon Mankind, than false Learning. We may be upon our Guard against all other Calamities; but here the Enemy is within us, and admitted at all times to the innermost Recesses of our Souls; where he acts the Part of a treacherous Friend, betrays us under the Pretence of serving us, and administers Poison in Cups of seeming Nectar and Ambrosia: We are gradually deprived of our Senses, whilst we think we are improving them; become Fools by Industry, and great Application; like Tantalus, are starved with an imaginary Banquet at our Mouths; and, in the midst of an appearing Profusion of Knowledge, want common Sense; and, what is yet worse, are insensible of our Distemper, and consequently are incapable of a Remedy.
Our Minds, as well as Bodies, are easily distorted, and put out of their natural Frame; Absurdity and Nonsense is to be learned, and good natural Faculties may be improved into foolish ones, or none at all. A Man, like a Vessel, is capable of holding only a certain Quantity, which, when it is full of one Liquor, is incapable of receiving another; and even when the first is drawn out, it generally leaves a Tincture behind it. The Mind, when rightly set out, usefully employed, and upon proper Objects, will improve, and every Day strengthen; but when conversant only with Visions, Phantoms and Whimsies, will assimilate with the Company which it keeps, and thus by degrees loses its distinguishing Faculty.
A proper Exercise, and a natural Use of the Limbs, give Health and Vigour, as well as Gracefulness, and becoming Motion; whereas Grimace, and absurd Posture, are Qualifications only for Jack-Puddings and Merry-Andrews. One who has been long taught by an ill Master, is farther from a good Dancer, than another who has never begun, because he must unlearn all his ill Habits, to be in the Circumstance of him who has not learned at all; as a Man, who gets out of his Road, is farther from his Journey’s End, than if he had staid at home; and commonly must return thither again, to find out his right Way.
Whoever spends his Time in reading foolish Books, and in studying useless or false Speculations, will grow the greater Coxcomb, the greater Progress he makes: He is learning backwards, and undermining and destroying the first Sparks of Knowledge, and in time will be fortified and impregnable against common Sense. A great Philosopher tells us, that Ignorance is a middle State between Knowledge and false Learning; that is to say, one who is wholly untaught and unimproved, is as much above a learned Man, in the common Acceptation of the Word, as a Man well educated does exceed another who has had no Education at all: The Capacity of the first is intire, and susceptible of Information; whereas in the other, all the Avenues and Passages to Wisdom are destroyed or locked up, and he is so puzzled, perplexed, and confounded in a Maze of improved Nonsense and Absurdity, that he never can get through it, or out of it. The Acquisitions in such Learning have been aptly compared to the Fluttering and Rumbling of a Swallow falling down a Chimney, who, when he is at bottom, flies about, and hurries backwards and forwards to every Window, and every Corner of the Room, to make his Escape; but never thinks of the Way by which he came in, and so becomes an easy Prey to the first Enemy which assaults him.
Whoever is conversant with Scholastics, and has any Understanding of his own, (if such a Correspondence can possibly be) must readily assent to this Truth. It is even grown a Proverb in the learned Language, that Merus Scholasticus est merus Asinus: What an Appearance do these Reverend Drones, and accomplished Dunces, make amongst Mankind! How are they exceeded in Conversation, agreeable Address, and useful Knowledge, by the youngest Gentlemen, by Soldiers and Merchants, and often by Mechanics and Tradesmen, who can only write and cast Accompts! Nothing but the Solemnity of their Habits, and the austere Gravity of their Phiz, Mien, and Behaviour, hinders them from being the Jest and Contempt of Women and Boys. It is said, that Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, once took a Conceit to invite all the deep Chins about the Town to a magnificent Entertainment spread upon a long Table; and he made himself amends, by sitting at the Upper end, and enjoying the Visto. Indeed I cannot deny, but I have sometimes had such a sort of ill-natured Pleasure, in imagining that I saw some of the Governors of the Two Universities (with others of their Betters, who shall be nameless) uncased of their reverential Robes, and dressed up with Hats and Feathers, Sword-knots, and laced Coats, and in that Equipage marching in solemn Guise, like a Call of Sergeants from Temple-Bar to Westminster.
They give us, in some degree, the same Figure, when they shew themselves in the World abroad: Like Snails, they carry their Houses about them, and bring Pedantry, Conceit, sour Humour, Bigotry, magisterial Grimace, and ill Manners, into all Conversations where they mix; and indeed are seldom fit for any polite Conversation whatsoever. They have neither the Temper of Christians, the Reason of Philosophers, or the Affability of Gentlemen, and therefore are justly despised by them all. Frier John, as I remember, asks of Panurge or Pantagruel, in Rabelais, What is the Reason that the Houshold Priest is used worse than any one else in the Family? And, I think, he answers; Because he neither ploughs the Ground like the laborious Ox, nor carries Burdens like the useful Horse, nor keeps the Door like the faithful Dog; but, like the Monkey, runs about every-where fouling the House, chattering and making a Noise, biting Peoples Fingers, and doing nothing but Mischief; and so every body has a Stroke at him, and gives him a Knock as he passes by.
The Writings of many of these solemn Gentlemen are of the same Kind, and carry the same tragical and grim Aspect. They would be Dictators in Faith and Science, and so their Books are full of the Spirit of Pedantry, false Zeal, and Illbreeding; and, under the Appearance and Affectation of Learning, contain only Paradoxes, Uncertainty, harsh Severity, or aukward Buffoonry. Any one who is the least acquainted with these dogmatical Zealots, these punning Inquisitors, must own that I have done Justice to their Characters, and the Merit which runs thro’ them; unless in some Instances, mostly about this great Town, where an uncommon natural Genius, Liberty of Mind, generous Birth, or a free Conversation, has got the better of a constrained and corrupt Education.
I thank God, such as have of late Years had the Honour of being admitted to great Dignities, and been brought into the Legislature or Royal Councils, are of the latter Sort: But what Figure have others formerly made in the Senate-house, or Council-board? How much below young Noblemen, who had never been at the Universities, or had just forgot what they had learned there, and rubbed or filed off College Rust by polite Conversation? In one, you might have observed an Easiness of Address, Softness of Speech, and Freedom of Thought; in the other, Starchness of Behaviour, Sourness of Looks, and starved Conceits, urged with fierce and impetuous Rage. A late noble and great Genius of our Age and Country compares them to those Grotesque Figures, and Dragon Faces, which are often seen in the Frontispiece, and upon the Corner Stones of old Buildings: They seem placed there as the Defenders and Supporters of the Edifice; but with all their Grimace, are as harmless to People without, as they are useless to the Building within.
Wednesday, August 17. 1720.
PLainness and Simplicity are not more inseparable Marks of Truth, than they are of true Religion, which wants neither Paint nor Pageantry to recommend itself to the Hearts of Men. It wins the Affections, by the Force of its Persuasions; and the Understanding, by the Reasonableness of its Precepts. It abhors Violence, as opposite to its Nature; and despises Art and Policy, as below its Dignity. Human Ornaments may hide and disfigure, but cannot preserve nor improve its intrinsic Beauty, and divine Lustre: And Pomp and Grimace, as they are no-wise a-kin to it, so neither are they the Effects of it, nor bring any Advantage to it. On the contrary, they tend to fill the Mind with gross Ideas, or sullen Fear; and so create Superstition instead of Piety, and Farce instead of Worship.
God himself has told us, that he will be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth: Which shews, that Love and Sincerity constitute Devotion, and that Religion resides in the Mind. As to bodily Religion, and corporeal Holiness, the Gospel is silent about them; leaving every one at full Liberty to behave his own way in the Practice of Piety.
It is justly esteemed the Glory and Felicity of the Christian Religion, that by it we are released from that grievous Yoke and Bondage of Ceremonies, which neither we nor our Fathers were able to bear. It is a Religion of Reason, void of all Superfluities, and trifling Impertinences.
Men cannot judge of one another’s Thoughts and Inclinations, but by Words and Actions: And, because it would be both troublesome and silly to be on every Occasion haranguing our Friends and Superiors, upon the profound Veneration which we profess for their Persons or Characters; it has become necessary to agree upon some outward Forms, to denote internal Respect. And this I take to be the only good Reason which can be given for such Manner of Address or Ceremony. It is ridiculous, either by Sounds or Gestures, to tell a Man over and over again, what he knows already; and therefore, the most intimate Friends, and old Acquaintance, make but little Use of Shew or Compliment; and those who make most, are ever found the least sincere. But how senseless and absurd must it be to entertain Heaven with such Grimaces! that Heaven, which searches our Hearts, and knows our most hidden Thoughts; and will not be deceived by outward, arbitrary and fallacious Marks of inward Disposition!
It can never be conceived, that the All-merciful and Omniscient God should, by the sending of his Son, abolish, or suffer to be abolished, the whole Jewish Legion of Ceremonies, though appointed by himself in Person; and should graciously condescend to establish a new Dispensation, destitute of all Ceremony, and exterior Grandeur; and yet should leave it to the Ambition of designing Men, or to the Folly of weak ones, to invent and impose a fresh Load of Rituals, in Opposition to the plain Genius of the Gospel. This would be for the All-merciful to be merciful in vain; for the Creator to resign his Power to the Creature; and for God to recall his own Injunctions, which he once gave for a gracious and wise End, since ceased, that Men may enforce theirs, for a weak or a wicked one.
Nothing is, or can be, pure Religion, but either what God commands and tells us he will accept; or what is dictated by eternal Reason, which is the Law of Nature: And whatever is superadded, however dignified by a venerable Name, is no Part of true Religion; which, as has been said, can be supported by nothing but Divine Revelation, or Divine Reason. When both these are wanting, we wander in the Dark, and worship blindfold; being led by the Hand of Conjecture and Invention, which are uncertain and endless.
This is so true, that where-ever there is true Religion, there are few Ceremonies: And, on the other hand, where Ceremonies abound, there Religion is either utterly lost, or miserably decayed; and, in Popish Countries, it is more or less visible, according as Ceremonies and Bigotry (which, like Cause and Effect, go always Hand in Hand) are more or less practised or promoted. Thus, in France, where, through the Commerce of that Kingdom with Protestants, there are still some Remains of common Sense, and consequently of Religion; God Almighty is worshipped as well as dead Men, though not so much: Whereas, in Italy and Spain, the Saints have deprived their Maker of all Devotion; and the Blessed Virgin, St. Dominic, St. Jago, and St. Antony, are, by these hot-headed Bigots, made Governors of Heaven and Earth, and the Givers of eternal Life; and consequently are become, next immediately after the Priests, the only Objects of their Adoration. If you deprive them of their Saints and their Ceremonies, there is not the least Face of Religion left amongst them.
So little has Christianity gained by Ceremonies, that a great Part of Mankind have, by adopting them, banished all true Religion. If they were introduced, as it is alleged, to kindle Piety; I am sorry to say; it has so happened, that this Heat of Devotion has quite drank up the Truth and Vitals of Religion; and the blind Compliance with a senseless Cringe, invented and injoined by a Popish Priest, is made of more Importance and Merit, than the Possession of all Moral and Christian Virtues, without it. Religion, good Sense, and Humanity, are inseparable Friends; but a superstitious Fondness for Ceremonies is a Contradiction, and an Affront to all the Three.
The Teachers of Mankind have, for the greatest Part, been the most unteachable of all Men; and these our Guides to Peace have been always the foremost to break it. They have seen, from time to time, the Violence and ungodly Effects produced by their Contention for human Forms, Habits, and Decisions; and yet, where the religious Laity and the Law did not interpose, to restrain this unchristian Behaviour in Churchmen, they have not only still adhered with Obstinacy to their Inventions and Impositions, but frequently made it their Business to broach new ones, and to throw about fresh Balls of Strife and Cruelty.
Ceremonies were first brought in under a very plausible Pretence; namely, that of aiding and promoting Religion. But we have seen, by above a Thousand Years Experience, that these its pretended Friends always become its real Rivals, and successful Enemies; and, by the Help of those, whose Interest it was to contrive and support them at any rate, never failed to banish it as far away as their Power extended.
It is pretended, that the Invention of stated Ceremonies and Garments is justified by these Words of St. Paul to the Corinthians, Let all Things be done decently, and in Order. Which Words are only a Precept to avoid Immodesty and Confusion, in their religious Assemblies. Two, for Example, were not to speak at the same time: One was not to sing Psalms, while another prayed. Neither Love nor Trade was to be the Business of their Meetings; nor Tythes and their own Power the Drist and Business of the Preachers: Christ was not to be confounded with Belial; nor Pride and Dominion with Meekness and Christianity: Exhorting was not to be mixed with Railing, nor Praying with Cursing; nor were the People to be taught to hate one another: In short, God was to be adored with the Heart and Affections, and not with a Fiddle, or a Pipe and Tabor.
I do not find, that the Apostle’s Words were understood in any other Sense than this, by those to whom they were addressed: It does not appear, that immediately upon the Sight of St. Paul’s Epistle, the Corinthians concluded, that Prayers should be said in Surplices; and that the Faithful, as soon as the Word was given, should kneel, stoop and stand, or turn to the Right or Left, like a File of Musqueteers; or that they were to nod towards the East, as if the Almighty kept his Court only there.
Nor were the Corinthians directed by this Text to play Popish Tricks over the Forehead of a Babe baptized, as sure and certain Signs of Regeneration: Nor were they commanded to put up their Petitions in Quavers, and to sing their Prayers as well as say them; nor was that subtle Distinction then and there found out, of bowing at the Name of Jesus, but not at the Name of Christ, or of God.
All these pretty Fashions were unknown to the Apostle and his Correspondents; and their Genteelness and Significancy have been long since discovered by the Romish Clergy in the latter Days; and indeed, it is now become impossible to make one’s Court well without them.
The Words Decorum and Significancy, which are made use of to justify the Celebration of Ceremonies, are Words of such prodigious Latitude, that the World does not agree, nor ever can agree, what it is that does come properly under their Denomination, and what does not. With the Turks, it is decent to be covered at Devotion; with us, to be bare-headed. How is the wearing of a Perriwig, or a Cap, more decent and orthodox than the wearing of a Hat? How is a Prunella Gown, or a Lawn Frock, more significant than a Cloth Coat? Is God Almighty better pleased with a Cambrick Band than with a Muslin Cravat? And is an Organ-Loft more acceptable to him than plain Country Piety, that has neither Motion nor Music in it?
If Men be at Liberty to invent and injoin One unnecessary Ceremony, Why not Two? And if Two, Why not Two thousand? When such a Power is once granted, it cannot be easily, nor indeed reasonably, limited. If the Clergy can oblige me to throw my Head into my Bosom, upon their pronouncing certain Sounds; they may, by the same Right, upon pronouncing different Sounds, oblige me to run it against a Stone Wall: Nay, which is still worse, whoever has an Authority to direct my Manner of Worship, must have also a Power to direct the Matter of it, and may command me Whom to worship as well as How.
Superstition in the People, and Power in the Priests, were the true Ends and Consequences of creating Popish Ceremonies; for as to their Significancy, it was a mere Bubble and Pretence. Such a Plea would justify endless Phrensy and Fooleries; and every Madness would be made a Mystery. For Instance, we might be made to walk bare-footed into the Church, to signify the Sanctity of the Place; and to crawl upon all Four out of it, to signify the Humiliation of our Hearts. A Match of Cudgel-playing every Sunday might be instituted, to signify our spiritual Warfare; and a Game at Blindman’s-buff, to signify the Darkness of our Understandings. In short, any thing might be made to signify every thing; and any Punishment be inflicted upon the profane Gainsayer: And upon this foot may be justified all the Pagan and Popish Fopperies that ever were, or ever could be, invented; and nothing can be said against all the many Garments, and many Colours, and many antic Gestures used by the Romish Priests at this Day.
It must be evident to every intelligent Man, that all this pretty Pageantry and Raree-shew can never make Men more acceptable to God, who will not be gratified or obliged by a Jigg, or a Tune. But, I believe I may safely affirm, that if all this Merry-making, and jovial Devotion, in the Popish Churches, do no manner of Good, they must needs do Harm, because they divert the Mind from deliberate Devotion, and calm Repentance, and can at best only work it up to a wild and enthusiastic Worship.
However, though this pompous Parade in Piety does no Service to Religion, it effectually answers the End proposed by it; and contributes vastly, as every thing else does, to the Advancement and Grandeur of the Romish Clergy, as it turns Mens Thoughts from divine Objects to a superstitious Veneration for Postures, Habits, Grimaces, Cringes, Utensils, &c. all invented by Priests, who are always sure to appoint themselves Masters of the Ceremonies, and to be well paid for their deep Knowledge in this momentous Science. Besides, it lists into their Service great Numbers of People; such as Organists, Fiddlers, Singing-men, with all the piping and chanting Crew, as well as Artificers of various Kinds. It engages Men of Pleasure, and Ladies, in their Interests; it catches the Multitude by the Ears, and the Eyes, and sets them a staring; and it alleviates their own Drudgery of frequent Preaching and Praying: It also serves the Purposes of Interludes in the perpetual Tragedies they are acting; which they render less terrible, by playing, like Nero, upon their Harps, in the midst of Conflagrations of their own making.
What a Blessing is it to this Church and Kingdom, that all this Farce in Devotion is forbidden by the Act of Uniformity, as well as by our Homilies! As shall be further taken notice of, when I treat again upon the same Subject.
Wednesday, August 24. 1720.
MY last Paper treated of superstitious Ceremonies; and this shall contain a Prosecution of the same Subject.
The Pagan Religion consisted altogether in a vast Number and Variety of strange and senseless Ceremonies; and, being foolish and false, it could consist of nothing else. Its Votaries had, for their Religious Task, certain frantic Actions to perform, certain wanton Motions to make, or certain mad Races to run; sometimes galloping about the Streets like Lunatics, stark naked, and sometimes half naked; or in a religious antic Dress, significantly suited to their Behaviour. They were to be religious with their Heads, Feet, Joints, and their other Organs: They were also to utter certain harsh and devout Sounds, which had no Meaning, but were prodigious significant, and, being very ridiculous, were very decent.
During all this holy Exercise, which was edifying in proportion as it was mad, their Minds were possessed with a drunken Festivity and Wantonness, or with Craziness and enthusiastic Fear. They were either lewd or raving, Rakes or Fanatics. It never entered into their Heads, nor did their Priests ever put it into them, that Religion was a sober Thing, consisting in the Exercise of Reason, and the Practice of Virtue. No; a Spirit of Sobriety, or a Ray of Understanding, would have blown up the Authority and Dominion of the Heathen Parsons; and therefore, the poor Lay Pagans were not suffered to know, that a Man might be a religious Man, without being a good Dancer, and please God without roaring and running Races.
This was the godly and wholsome Discipline; invented and instituted by the Pagan Clergy, for the Use and Edification of the deluded and idolatrous World. Action and Outside was all that they knew of Religion; and therefore their Superstition took great Delight in building and beautfying Temples. They imagined, that the doing of a thing which had any Reference to Religion, was actually a Piece of Religion; and that any Jobb of Work about a holy Place, was, in good earnest, a Jobb of Holiness. They might have as rationally believed, that Masons, Joyners, and Plaisterers, employed about a Temple, derived Piety and Merit from that Employment.
Had not Pagan Ceremonies (and Pagans were the first Inventors of Ceremonies) signified nothing, or rather something very bad, as indeed it was evident to every Eye, that they were either senseless or impious; our Saviour would never have instituted, as he did, a Religion without one Ceremony in it. The Religion of the Gospel is as pure from Fancies and Ceremonies, as from Pride, and the Spirit of Dominion.
Our Blessed Saviour knew well, that the crafty and profane Priests had, by their shameless Inventions, and filthy Ceremonies, polluted or abolished all Religion; and therefore, in Mercy to Mankind, founded a Religion without Priests, and without Ceremonies (as shall be fully shewn hereafter). For, it is to be observed, that while the Established Church of Paganism flourished, Priests and Ceremonies always flourished or increased together.
Such was the simple Institution of the Gospel: But when Popery began to expel Christianity, Ignorance and Ceremonies were some of the principal Engines by which it effected the same. For as the Meekness of Christians was then converted into the Cruelty of Barbarians, and the Plainness of the Gospel into all the detestable Fopperies of Paganism; so Holiness of Heart was changed into Holiness of Posture; the Humility of the Soul into bodily Bowings; the Worship of God into the Worship of Bread, and the Piping of Organs: And the Clergy, as they had called themselves, were no longer cloathed with Meekness, but with Surplices, &c.
Nor was this mighty Revolution, this unnatural Transition from the Beauty and Gentleness of Christianity, to the unhallowed Spirit and abominable Rituals of the Heathens, at all hard or impracticable. The People had, by the Idleness, Insufficiency, and Debaucheries of the Ecclesiastics, become corrupt and blind to the last Degree, and therefore ran readily and chearfully into every new Absurdity. Whatever the Bishop pronounced decent, though ever so vile or silly, his conforming Flock received as reverend and edifying. A gross and sensual Manner of Worship suited best with the Grossness of their Understandings, and the Sensuality of their Minds. They had no Conception of the spiritual Nature of the Gospel, and of that evangelical Grace, which operates internally, and is wholly employed about the Soul, but produces neither Cringes nor Dances, nor Grimaces.
A Religion therefore of Ceremonies, which is no Religion at all, agreed well with those carnal Christians, who were taught to place all Religion in Ceremonies. When the ignorant Vulgar are once persuaded, that Ceremonies are good for any thing, they come quickly to think them good for every thing, and the more, the merrier! They are delighted with Shadows, and Mystery, and Juggling. Ignorance, like every other Habit, is daily improving itself, and increases in Strength as in Years; it delights to be still plunging into farther and deeper Darkness. The less People understand, the more they stare; and because there is nothing in the Gospel but plain Piety, plain Reason, and plain Matter of Fact; therefore it can raise no Wonderment in them, and consequently no pleasing Piety: But strange and mysterious Ceremonies can do all this; and, for that Reason, have always got the better of Religion in all bigotted Countries.
Here therefore is a glorious and ample Field of Gaping, Sottishness, and Credulity, for crafty Priests to play their Tricks, and sow Superstition in. And, indeed, they have topped their Parts, in this Undertaking, with such Dexterity and Success, that their humble and resigned Votaries do not any longer pretend to carry their own Eyes or Understanding: Their very Palates and Noses are Priest-ridden, and dare neither taste nor smell, without an Ecclesiastical Licence. Thus even the invincible Operations of the animal Spirits, and of the Five Senses, must stand still, when commanded by the Priest, who can annihilate the Creature, and create his Creator.
As, under the sacred Name of God and Religion, the greatest Irreligion and Impieties have been propagated; so, under the Colour and Umbrage of significant and decent Ceremonies, the most ridiculous and immodest Usages have been introduced. It would require more than a whole Paper to expose all the many apish Gesticulations of the Romish Mass; I shall only run over a few of them.
The Priest, in the Administration of Mass, must wear a white Linen Garment, which, I suppose, must signify Whiteness; for I cannot see a more obvious Meaning in it. The same was also worn by the primitive Heathen Clergy, when they butchered Bullocks, to appease their Deities.
As he approaches towards the Altar, having great Devotion in his Back-bone, he bows, and bows, and ducks his Head, as if he was playing at Hop-Frog. The Altar is also covered with a Surplice, or white Cloth, which, doubtless, signifies some great Mystery; but, in profane Eyes, typifies only a Damask Table-cloth. It moreover stands towards the East, which, to be sure, has a deep Meaning, and seems to imply, as if God Almighty was either more merciful or more powerful in that Quarter of the World, (though he made it All) than in any of the other Three; or, as if he liked that Climate best, and All those who bow to it.
He then, after many monkish Gestures and Scrapings, says a World of short Prayers, (the whole Service being judiciously sliced into pretty little Morsels of Devotion) and reads Scraps of Scripture; all which Prayings and Readings would not be half so wholsome any-where else, as they are just at the Elbow of the Altar. Their there is a lighted Candle standing by him at Noon-day, probably to signify, that there is Light enough without it. Now, in some other Churches, the Altar is only illuminated with dark Candles, which, for aught I know, may be equally mysterious and significant. But, upon this great and essential Point, I shall pronounce nothing dogmatically.
The Priest then mutters Words over the Bread and Wine, which thereupon start into Omnipotent Flesh and Blood; and the living Jesus is swallowed Whole, in Remembrance of the dead One; and the Priest makes his Maker; and the People eat him. The Wine, which the Priest very naturally keeps all to himself, must not be poured out of a Bottle into a Glass, which would not be significant enough; but out of a Flaggon, which, being of Silver or Gold, and holding more Liquor, is consequently very significant. He repeats, Lord have Mercy upon us, very often, to signify that he does it more than once; and speaks loud, to signify that he may be heard.
But I am quite sick of this strange significant Stuff, before I have gone through the tenth Part of it. The whole Performance is perfectly Theatrical, and improperly and impiously called a Sacrament. It is indeed a wretched, unentertaining Interlude; a stupid Farce, of which the Priest is the chief Mimic; for mumbling and making Mouths does not deserve the Name of Acting.
We have had several Attempts made to revive among us this infamous Mummery in Devotion, and these apish Ceremonies; which are an Affront to common Sense, and below the Dignity of human Nature, much more of Religion: But such Attempts can never succeed, while we enjoy either Liberty or Knowledge. Archbishop Laud, therefore, when he had bewitched the Court, swayed the Sceptre, and destroyed the Liberty of the People and of the Press, took the best Opportunity he could get, to transport Rome to Lambeth; and having married the Harlot, he adopted her Trumpery.
A Sample of this Man’s Genius for Popery may be seen in his mad Manner of Consecrating some new Brick and Mortar, which had been used in the Repair of St. Catharine Creed-Church, London; as the same is related at large by Rushworth. At his Approach to the Westend of the Church, the Doors flew open, upon pronouncing certain Words out of the Psalms, That the King of Glory might enter; and then entered the Bishop, and, falling down upon his Knees, baptized the Ground, or, which is the same thing, pronounced it Holy, in the Name of the Father, of the Son, and Holy Ghost. Then he threw Dust in the Air, and played some other pious Pranks. Then he pronounced many Curses, and called upon the People to curse with him. Then he scattered a Basket-full of Blessings amongst all the Masons, and other holy Mechanics, who had helped to make that Church fine. He also went round the Church in Procession, and told God Almighty and the People, over and over, that that was holy Ground. At last, after a Bead-roll of Prayers, and a hundred and fifty Bowings; and after many wild Gestures, sometimes advancing, sometimes recoiling, like one affrighted and crazy, he gave the Sacrament.
Besides all this, he removed the Communion-Table, and placed it in the Chancel Altarwise, contrary to the express Direction of the Rubric; which says, that it shall stand where Morning and Evening Prayer is directed to be said. He made Pictures of the Trinity, and caused them to be hung up in Churches; and was guilty of many other Popish Innovations, all tending to create Fanaticism and Superstition.
This Paper grows too long, and leaves me no room to do Justice to Crosses, Square Caps, and fantastical Garments: All which, I warrant you, are profoundly mysterious; though, to carnal Eyes, they seem only to signify to make the People stare: For every odd Sight strikes the Imagination, and disposes the Beholder either to Laughter or Reverence. Nor have I Time to honour, with a proper Encomium, that ingenious and ecclessastical Device, of explaining the sublime Mystery of the Trinity by a Pair of Compasses, though it is above all Explication, and even of Conception, unless through Faith; and of representing the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by a Triangle in a Circle over the Communion-Table. Was there ever such a pretty Piece of pious Cunning! By the said Triangle is typified and held forth to us, that the said Triangle consists of Three Angles; which is exceeding plain and edifying: And by the Circle is signified, that the said Circle is but One Circle, which is prodigious good again! But, that a Triangle is a Circle, and a Circle is a Triangle, Dr. Waterland saith not.
I must, for the same Reason, pass over unobserved, the praising of God with Organs, which our Homilies very uncivilly call superstitious; Cuts in the Common-Prayer Books, tending to prepare People for Idolatry; and Pictures in Churches, for the same devout Purpose.
The End of theFirst Volume.
Emanuel de Moura, and some other Orthodox Writers say, that Aristotle was a steady Believer of the Trinity.
This is the Opinion of Sepulveda, a learned Man in the 16th Century.
The whole Article of Aristotle, in Mr. Bayle’s Dictionary, is well worth reading.
St. Andrew’s Holbourn, where the late Dr. Sacheverell was then Rector.
The late Dr. William Wake.