Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XXI.: A Comparison between the High-Church and the Quakers. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XXI.: A Comparison between the High-Church and the Quakers. - 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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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.