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