Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XXXII.: Of Ceremonies. Part II. - The Independent Whig, vol. 1 (7th ed. 1743)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Number XXXII.: Of Ceremonies. Part II. - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain. It was scanned and originally put online by Google for non-commercial, educational purposes. We have retained the Google watermark as requested but have added tables of contents, pagination, and other educational aids where appropriate.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Wednesday, August 24. 1720.
MY last Paper treated of superstitious Ceremonies; and this shall contain a Prosecution of the same Subject.
The Pagan Religion consisted altogether in a vast Number and Variety of strange and senseless Ceremonies; and, being foolish and false, it could consist of nothing else. Its Votaries had, for their Religious Task, certain frantic Actions to perform, certain wanton Motions to make, or certain mad Races to run; sometimes galloping about the Streets like Lunatics, stark naked, and sometimes half naked; or in a religious antic Dress, significantly suited to their Behaviour. They were to be religious with their Heads, Feet, Joints, and their other Organs: They were also to utter certain harsh and devout Sounds, which had no Meaning, but were prodigious significant, and, being very ridiculous, were very decent.
During all this holy Exercise, which was edifying in proportion as it was mad, their Minds were possessed with a drunken Festivity and Wantonness, or with Craziness and enthusiastic Fear. They were either lewd or raving, Rakes or Fanatics. It never entered into their Heads, nor did their Priests ever put it into them, that Religion was a sober Thing, consisting in the Exercise of Reason, and the Practice of Virtue. No; a Spirit of Sobriety, or a Ray of Understanding, would have blown up the Authority and Dominion of the Heathen Parsons; and therefore, the poor Lay Pagans were not suffered to know, that a Man might be a religious Man, without being a good Dancer, and please God without roaring and running Races.
This was the godly and wholsome Discipline; invented and instituted by the Pagan Clergy, for the Use and Edification of the deluded and idolatrous World. Action and Outside was all that they knew of Religion; and therefore their Superstition took great Delight in building and beautfying Temples. They imagined, that the doing of a thing which had any Reference to Religion, was actually a Piece of Religion; and that any Jobb of Work about a holy Place, was, in good earnest, a Jobb of Holiness. They might have as rationally believed, that Masons, Joyners, and Plaisterers, employed about a Temple, derived Piety and Merit from that Employment.
Had not Pagan Ceremonies (and Pagans were the first Inventors of Ceremonies) signified nothing, or rather something very bad, as indeed it was evident to every Eye, that they were either senseless or impious; our Saviour would never have instituted, as he did, a Religion without one Ceremony in it. The Religion of the Gospel is as pure from Fancies and Ceremonies, as from Pride, and the Spirit of Dominion.
Our Blessed Saviour knew well, that the crafty and profane Priests had, by their shameless Inventions, and filthy Ceremonies, polluted or abolished all Religion; and therefore, in Mercy to Mankind, founded a Religion without Priests, and without Ceremonies (as shall be fully shewn hereafter). For, it is to be observed, that while the Established Church of Paganism flourished, Priests and Ceremonies always flourished or increased together.
Such was the simple Institution of the Gospel: But when Popery began to expel Christianity, Ignorance and Ceremonies were some of the principal Engines by which it effected the same. For as the Meekness of Christians was then converted into the Cruelty of Barbarians, and the Plainness of the Gospel into all the detestable Fopperies of Paganism; so Holiness of Heart was changed into Holiness of Posture; the Humility of the Soul into bodily Bowings; the Worship of God into the Worship of Bread, and the Piping of Organs: And the Clergy, as they had called themselves, were no longer cloathed with Meekness, but with Surplices, &c.
Nor was this mighty Revolution, this unnatural Transition from the Beauty and Gentleness of Christianity, to the unhallowed Spirit and abominable Rituals of the Heathens, at all hard or impracticable. The People had, by the Idleness, Insufficiency, and Debaucheries of the Ecclesiastics, become corrupt and blind to the last Degree, and therefore ran readily and chearfully into every new Absurdity. Whatever the Bishop pronounced decent, though ever so vile or silly, his conforming Flock received as reverend and edifying. A gross and sensual Manner of Worship suited best with the Grossness of their Understandings, and the Sensuality of their Minds. They had no Conception of the spiritual Nature of the Gospel, and of that evangelical Grace, which operates internally, and is wholly employed about the Soul, but produces neither Cringes nor Dances, nor Grimaces.
A Religion therefore of Ceremonies, which is no Religion at all, agreed well with those carnal Christians, who were taught to place all Religion in Ceremonies. When the ignorant Vulgar are once persuaded, that Ceremonies are good for any thing, they come quickly to think them good for every thing, and the more, the merrier! They are delighted with Shadows, and Mystery, and Juggling. Ignorance, like every other Habit, is daily improving itself, and increases in Strength as in Years; it delights to be still plunging into farther and deeper Darkness. The less People understand, the more they stare; and because there is nothing in the Gospel but plain Piety, plain Reason, and plain Matter of Fact; therefore it can raise no Wonderment in them, and consequently no pleasing Piety: But strange and mysterious Ceremonies can do all this; and, for that Reason, have always got the better of Religion in all bigotted Countries.
Here therefore is a glorious and ample Field of Gaping, Sottishness, and Credulity, for crafty Priests to play their Tricks, and sow Superstition in. And, indeed, they have topped their Parts, in this Undertaking, with such Dexterity and Success, that their humble and resigned Votaries do not any longer pretend to carry their own Eyes or Understanding: Their very Palates and Noses are Priest-ridden, and dare neither taste nor smell, without an Ecclesiastical Licence. Thus even the invincible Operations of the animal Spirits, and of the Five Senses, must stand still, when commanded by the Priest, who can annihilate the Creature, and create his Creator.
As, under the sacred Name of God and Religion, the greatest Irreligion and Impieties have been propagated; so, under the Colour and Umbrage of significant and decent Ceremonies, the most ridiculous and immodest Usages have been introduced. It would require more than a whole Paper to expose all the many apish Gesticulations of the Romish Mass; I shall only run over a few of them.
The Priest, in the Administration of Mass, must wear a white Linen Garment, which, I suppose, must signify Whiteness; for I cannot see a more obvious Meaning in it. The same was also worn by the primitive Heathen Clergy, when they butchered Bullocks, to appease their Deities.
As he approaches towards the Altar, having great Devotion in his Back-bone, he bows, and bows, and ducks his Head, as if he was playing at Hop-Frog. The Altar is also covered with a Surplice, or white Cloth, which, doubtless, signifies some great Mystery; but, in profane Eyes, typifies only a Damask Table-cloth. It moreover stands towards the East, which, to be sure, has a deep Meaning, and seems to imply, as if God Almighty was either more merciful or more powerful in that Quarter of the World, (though he made it All) than in any of the other Three; or, as if he liked that Climate best, and All those who bow to it.
He then, after many monkish Gestures and Scrapings, says a World of short Prayers, (the whole Service being judiciously sliced into pretty little Morsels of Devotion) and reads Scraps of Scripture; all which Prayings and Readings would not be half so wholsome any-where else, as they are just at the Elbow of the Altar. Their there is a lighted Candle standing by him at Noon-day, probably to signify, that there is Light enough without it. Now, in some other Churches, the Altar is only illuminated with dark Candles, which, for aught I know, may be equally mysterious and significant. But, upon this great and essential Point, I shall pronounce nothing dogmatically.
The Priest then mutters Words over the Bread and Wine, which thereupon start into Omnipotent Flesh and Blood; and the living Jesus is swallowed Whole, in Remembrance of the dead One; and the Priest makes his Maker; and the People eat him. The Wine, which the Priest very naturally keeps all to himself, must not be poured out of a Bottle into a Glass, which would not be significant enough; but out of a Flaggon, which, being of Silver or Gold, and holding more Liquor, is consequently very significant. He repeats, Lord have Mercy upon us, very often, to signify that he does it more than once; and speaks loud, to signify that he may be heard.
But I am quite sick of this strange significant Stuff, before I have gone through the tenth Part of it. The whole Performance is perfectly Theatrical, and improperly and impiously called a Sacrament. It is indeed a wretched, unentertaining Interlude; a stupid Farce, of which the Priest is the chief Mimic; for mumbling and making Mouths does not deserve the Name of Acting.
We have had several Attempts made to revive among us this infamous Mummery in Devotion, and these apish Ceremonies; which are an Affront to common Sense, and below the Dignity of human Nature, much more of Religion: But such Attempts can never succeed, while we enjoy either Liberty or Knowledge. Archbishop Laud, therefore, when he had bewitched the Court, swayed the Sceptre, and destroyed the Liberty of the People and of the Press, took the best Opportunity he could get, to transport Rome to Lambeth; and having married the Harlot, he adopted her Trumpery.
A Sample of this Man’s Genius for Popery may be seen in his mad Manner of Consecrating some new Brick and Mortar, which had been used in the Repair of St. Catharine Creed-Church, London; as the same is related at large by Rushworth. At his Approach to the Westend of the Church, the Doors flew open, upon pronouncing certain Words out of the Psalms, That the King of Glory might enter; and then entered the Bishop, and, falling down upon his Knees, baptized the Ground, or, which is the same thing, pronounced it Holy, in the Name of the Father, of the Son, and Holy Ghost. Then he threw Dust in the Air, and played some other pious Pranks. Then he pronounced many Curses, and called upon the People to curse with him. Then he scattered a Basket-full of Blessings amongst all the Masons, and other holy Mechanics, who had helped to make that Church fine. He also went round the Church in Procession, and told God Almighty and the People, over and over, that that was holy Ground. At last, after a Bead-roll of Prayers, and a hundred and fifty Bowings; and after many wild Gestures, sometimes advancing, sometimes recoiling, like one affrighted and crazy, he gave the Sacrament.
Besides all this, he removed the Communion-Table, and placed it in the Chancel Altarwise, contrary to the express Direction of the Rubric; which says, that it shall stand where Morning and Evening Prayer is directed to be said. He made Pictures of the Trinity, and caused them to be hung up in Churches; and was guilty of many other Popish Innovations, all tending to create Fanaticism and Superstition.
This Paper grows too long, and leaves me no room to do Justice to Crosses, Square Caps, and fantastical Garments: All which, I warrant you, are profoundly mysterious; though, to carnal Eyes, they seem only to signify to make the People stare: For every odd Sight strikes the Imagination, and disposes the Beholder either to Laughter or Reverence. Nor have I Time to honour, with a proper Encomium, that ingenious and ecclessastical Device, of explaining the sublime Mystery of the Trinity by a Pair of Compasses, though it is above all Explication, and even of Conception, unless through Faith; and of representing the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by a Triangle in a Circle over the Communion-Table. Was there ever such a pretty Piece of pious Cunning! By the said Triangle is typified and held forth to us, that the said Triangle consists of Three Angles; which is exceeding plain and edifying: And by the Circle is signified, that the said Circle is but One Circle, which is prodigious good again! But, that a Triangle is a Circle, and a Circle is a Triangle, Dr. Waterland saith not.
I must, for the same Reason, pass over unobserved, the praising of God with Organs, which our Homilies very uncivilly call superstitious; Cuts in the Common-Prayer Books, tending to prepare People for Idolatry; and Pictures in Churches, for the same devout Purpose.
The End of theFirst Volume.