Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XX.: Of Chaplains. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XX.: Of Chaplains. - Thomas Gordon, The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743) 
The Independent Whig: or, a Defence of Primitive Christianity, And of Our Ecclesiastical Establishment, against The Exorbitant Claims and Encroachments of Fanatical and Disaffected Clergymen. The Seventh Edition, with Additions and Amendments (London: J. Peele, 1743). Vol. 1.
Part of: The Independent Whig, 4 vols.
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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.