Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XXVII.: Of Fasting. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XXVII.: Of Fasting. - 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 20. 1720.
DR. Burnet tells us, in his Letters of Travels, that the Priests of Italy have found out a Secret to make Men miserable, in spite of all the Abundance and Profusion wherewith Nature hath blessed that happy Climate. They measure their own Happiness by the People’s Calamity; enjoy no Pleasures in which they take any Part; nor are satisfied with all the Plunder and Depredations which they make upon them, unless they can also heighten their own Relish, by making the Little which they leave to the Laity, insipid and tasteless.
As one Instance of this Truth; he informs us, that the Priests have made it a Principle of Religion in the People, to mingle Water with their Wine in the Cask, which soon sours it; whereas they always keep their own pure and unmixed, because they say, that it is to be used in the Sacrament: And so he observes, that Travellers can drink no good Wine, but what they buy from the Convents.
For this, and such-like Reasons, they preach Penances, Mortification, Fasting, and a Contempt of worldly Riches, and of all those earthly Blessings, which indulgent Heaven has given to wretched Mortals, to alleviate their Sorrows, sweeten their Calamities, and make the nauseous Draught of Life go down; whereas we cannot better shew our Acknowledgment and Gratitude to the Author of them, than by making a proper Use of the good Things which he has given us, and by enjoying them in every Degree, which will not destroy that Enjoyment, and change it into a Misfortune.
If we drink or eat more than our Heads will carry, or our Stomachs digest, Distempers, Indiscretions, and sometimes Murders, succeed; and, if we spend faster than our Incomes will supply, there is a sure Foundation laid for future Want and Misery: But nothing can be more absurd or impious, than to make Abstinence from Food or Pleasures meritorious, any farther than it conduces to Health, or qualifies us for Business. Almighty God reserved but one Tree in all Paradise from our first Parents, but the Priests would keep them all from their Posterity.
Besides, the Luxury of the Rich (when it does not exceed the Bounds of Virtue and Prudence) is the Wealth and Support of the Poor, and the best-judged Charity: For, what we give in gross Sums to, or for the Use of, those who appear to be in Necessity, is often mistaken, and applied to maintain present Idleness, or reward past Extravagance; and sometimes too, I doubt, is pocketed by those who are trusted to distribute it: Whereas whatever is laid out upon the Produce of Labour, and for such Manufactures as employ Multitudes of People, can never be misapplied. It might easily be made appear, that there is not a Piece of wrought Silk, Linen, or Woollen Cloth, which has not contributed to the Maintenance of more than an Hundred thousand industrious People, who must be all kept alive one way or other.
As it is the highest Crime to destroy our Beings, so it is proportionably wicked to endeavour to make them miserable: The Glory and Honour of God are best consulted, in promoteing the Happiness of Mankind. It is profane, and a kind of Blasphemy, to attempt to persuade People, that the good God takes Pleasure in the vexing and tormenting his Creatures. He is not pleased by human Sacrifices, nor by human Sufferings of any Kind: A pale Aspect, the Griping of the Guts, wry and distorted Faces, and being Ghosts before our Time, will contribute to no Ends of Religion; and therefore, I confess, that I cannot see how Fasting can serve God, or answer any Purposes of Devotion, or indeed can enhance any Appetite, unless to a good Dinner.
Nothing consequently can be more ridiculous, than for the Romish Clergy to tell us, that any Part of Religion consists in fasting Days, and fasting Weeks; which oblige the wretched People to insipid and unwholsome Diet, whilst they indulge themselves, and riot in the richest Wines, and the luxurious Dishes of Salmon and Turbot; with all the costly Inhabitants of the liquid Element. Besides, it is impolitic, as well as uncharitable; it discourages Trade and Industry, depopulates Nations, and depreciates Matrimony, by rendering the People unable to maintain and raise their Families.
Riches and Labour are two Words which signify the same Thing. Nature spontaneously supplies but little to the Use of Man; all the rest is the Produce of Invention and Industry: And therefore whatever does contribute to make Mankind idle, and less useful to one another, conduces so far to their Want and Misery. One Holy-day, strictly kept, robs the Poor of more than a whole Year’s Charity will supply. A little loose Money picked up at the Church-doors, and afterwards divided between the Parson, Churchwardens, and a few favourite Objects, will make but poor Amends for the Taxation of the Nation, and of every Person in it, with the Loss of a Day’s Labour, and Profit of his Trade; which Loss probably cannot amount to less than Two hundred Thousand Pounds, without having any regard to the Extravagance and Debaucheries committed upon those Days; which often consume the Acquisitions of a Week, and render the common People listless, and unwilling to return to their Labour again. I may therefore venture to affirm, that there is more Charity in taking away one Saint’s Day, than in building and endowing Twenty Colleges.
However, to do Right to my Countrymen, and their genuine Clergy, I must freely confess, that we suffer very little from the penitential Observance or fasting Part of our Holydays; for the Poor do not fast at all, unless they can get nothing to eat; and the Rich, in Imitation of their Guides, hold out no longer than is necessary to digest their former Excesses, and get better Stomachs to a double Dinner; as old experienced Sinners often live a Day or two with Sobriety and Innocence, to enjoy a Debauch the remaining Part of the Week. At the Universities, as I am told, it is quite given up, and there is not more Epicurism than on those Days; and to their Churches there are antient Vestries annexed, which are the consecrated Repositories of Pipes, Sack, and Tobacco, where the Reverends take regularly a Whiff and a Cup, to prepare them for the Fatigues of the the ensuing Service.
But how little soever Holy-days, and stated Fasts, contribute either to the temporal or eternal Happiness of the Laity; yet the Romish Clergy have been able sufficiently to find their own Account in them. When all other Shops are shut, theirs are open; where they sell their Spiritual Cargo of Grimaces, Visions, Beads, Indulgencies, and Masses, for Silver and Gold, Lands and Tenements; and, to enhance the Value of their Merchandize, and persuade the People of the Reasonableness of such an Exchange, they make it their Business, and exert all their Endeavours, to depreciate worldly Happiness, and cry down all the good Things of this Earth, that they may have them all to themselves. If they can extinguish the Appetites which God has given us, and teach us the Secret to live without our Estates, or to make us think it dangerous to live on them, they hope to have them for their Pains: For who can have a better Title to our Superfluities than our spiritual Guides, who have inspired us with so much refined Devotion, and have given to us lasting Estates in Paradise, in lieu of a few momentary Pleasures, and frail and earthly Tabernacles below?
By these Arts, and many others, which I shall shew in the Progress of this Paper, the Priests are become possessed of so much Dominion and Wealth.