Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XXIII.: Of ZEAL. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XXIII.: Of ZEAL. - 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 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.