Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XXII.: Priestcraft corrupts every thing, and perverts the Use of Words. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XXII.: Priestcraft corrupts every thing, and perverts the Use of Words. - 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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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.