Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XXXV.: Of Reason. - The Independent Whig, vol. 2 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XXXV.: Of Reason. - Thomas Gordon, The Independent Whig, vol. 2 (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. 2.
Part of: The Independent Whig, 4 vols.
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Wednesday,September 14. 1720.
REason is the only Guide given to Men in the State of Nature, to find out the Will of God, and the Means of Self-preservation. The Senses are its subordinate Instruments and Spies: They bring it Intelligence; and it forms a Judgment, and takes Measures, according to the Discoveries which they make. It compares Things one with another, and chuses them, if they are good; or neglects them, if they are indifferent; or shuns them, if they are bad. It discovers a First Cause, the Maker, Contriver, and Preserver of all Things; and therefore it teaches Submission to his Will, Admiration of his Wisdom and Power, and Thankfulness for his Goodness and Mercy. It distinguishe Subjects from Slaves; and shews the Loveliness of Liberty, and the Vileness of Vassalage: It shews that, as to political Privileges, all Men are born equal; and consequently, that he who is no better than others, can have no Right to command others, who are as good as himself; unless, for the Ends of their own Interest and Safety, they confer that Right upon him, during their good Pleasure, or his good Behaviour.
Reason has invented all Science, pointed out all Commerce, and framed all Schemes for social Happiness. It has polished Mankind, set the Greeks above the Barbarians, and the Romans above the Greeks. It has been observed, in Praise of its great Power and Excellency, by a celebrated Moralist, that we have not sufficient Strength to follow our Reason as far as it would carry us.
To Reason we are beholden for all the Comforts and Conveniencies of Life, next after the first Author of them; and for our Defence against the Assaults of Beasts of Prey, and of one another; and for our Shelter from the Inclemencies of uncertain Weather, freezing us, or scorching us, according to the different Seasons of the Year. The Earth, with all its Abundance, affords but rude and unpleasing Entertainment, without the Dexterity and Refinements of Reason. Thus, even the Gifts of Nature, before they arrive at us, and are made fit for our Use, become also the Gifts of Reason. Without Reason, we had lived like the Brute Creation, upon raw Fruit, tasteless Herbs, and the cold Spring; or exposed to the merciless Jaws of Famine, when a severe Winter had frozen up the Scores of the Earth, and locked the Waters under Ice.
Reason checks tumultuous Passion, the greatest Enemy to the Peace of the Mind, and to the Peace of Society. Hence it has been observed, by the same Moralist, that all our rational Pursuits are temperate Pursuits; and that what we pursue with Reason, we never pursue with Violence.Reason subdues Anger, and prevents Cruelty; it makes a Man less fierce than a Lion, and less ravenous than a Bear. It is not human Shape, but human Reason, that places a Man above the Beasts of the Field, and lifts him into a Resemblance with God himself. Hence it is justly styled Divinæ particula Auræ; a Ray or Impulse of the Divinity. And, in what Sense can a Man be said to be made after the Image of God, unless by his possessing that Reason, which is a divine Particle of the Godhead? We resemble not our Maker in Person or Complexion; and therefore can only resemble him in Reason, and in Mercy, which is the Child of this Divine Reason.
Were we not rational Creatures, we could not be religious Creatures, but upon a Level with Brutes, to whom God has made no Revelation of himself, because they want Reason to discern it, and to thank him for it. Revelation therefore presupposes Reason, and addresses itself to Reason; and God himself, by persuading us, as he does in his Word, by the Voice of Reason, appeals to our Reason. We cannot glorify God but with our Understandings; and we are convinced of his Goodness, before we adore it. To praise him, without Reason, is a Contradiction, and an Impossibility. The Devotion which he requires must be free, rational, and willing; and where it is not so, it is Folly or Hypocrisy.
Nor is there any Opposition between Reason and Grace, whatever some may weakly or dishonestly maintain. In Truth, Grace is never given, but where Reason was already given; and the former cannot subsist, where the latter does not. We may have worldly Wisdom without Piety; but cannot possess Piety without Understanding; nor does Grace, though given in the greatest Abundance, at all supply the ordinary Offices of Reason. We do not find, that St. Luke was a better Physician, for having written a Gospel; or St. Paul a better Sailor, or better Tent-maker, for being an Apostle. But neither could St. Luke have been an Evangelist, nor St. Paul an Apostle, unless God had given them Reason as well as Grace. Indeed they are both the Gifts of God, only the one is ordinary, and the other is extraordinary.
Reason, even without the Light of Revelation, teaches us to investigate Nature, and praise God for the Wonderfulness of his Works. It must judge of Revelation itself, what is so, and what not; and of the Words and Language, in which the Holy Oracles were at first conveyed; and of the Words and Language into which they were afterwards translated. Now Words, many of them, being obscure or equivocal, and signifying different Things to different Men, it is left to our Reason to determine, in what Sense these Words are to be understood. The Spirit of God has invented for us no new ones, or such as carry in their Sound certain and determinate Ideas, which cannot be mistaken, but must infallibly be the same to every Man.
By the Light of Reason, we see about us. It warns us against Craft, and arms us against Force; and the same Reason, which commands us to believe in God implicitly, and obey him passively, does also command us to trust to no Man without Inquiry, and to submit to no Man without Cause. Thus, what is our Duty in relation to God, would be Madness in relation to one another: The good God cannot deceive us; but Men have Pride, Folly, Interest, and Complexion, all conspiring to deceive themselves and others.
Our first Attempt to make Converts is an Appeal to their Reason, by which they are to judge for themselves of the Reasonableness of our Religion, and of the Arguments which we bring for the Defence and Recommendation of our Religion: Which Method would be exceedingly absurd and dishonest, if we did not suffer them to judge of our Religion, with the same Freedom, after they are come into it, as they did before they embraced it. This would be Trepanning one’s Reason into Captivity, with its own Assistance; first to make use of it, and then to vote it useless: A strange inconsistent Piece of Treachery, and a flat Contradiction to that Liberty with whichChristhas made us free! As if we were to receive any System upon the Grounds of our Reason, without which it never can be sincerely received, and then to reject our Reason upon the Grounds of our System.
Pray how do we distinguish the Beauty and Truth of the Gospel, from the Imposture and Absurdity of the Alcoran, but by our Reason? How do we detect the impudent and senseless Doctrine of Transubstantiation, but by our Sense and Reason? Why did we, or how could we, leave Popery, and embrace the Reformation, but because our own private Reason told us, and Scripture, of which we made ourselves the Judges, told us, that we left Slavery, Falshood, and Cruelty, for Truth, Freedom, and Innocence? How did our Saviour prove himself the Son of God, but by Miracles, which every Eye saw, and every Ear heard? He appealed to the Sense and Reason of Mankind; and all were convinced, that would be convinced. How do we know the Scripture to be the Word of God, but by the Deductions and Information of Reason? How can we prove our own Church, as by Law established, to be the purest and best constituted Church in the World, but by the Testimony of impartial, disinterestedReason? For it is plain, from the great Number of Gain-sayers, and Arians, that her gennine Sons have not the miraculous Gift of inspiring, from above, all Men with their own Orthodox Sentiments. How can we distinguish Religion from Enthusiasm, Grace from Superstition, Faith from Credulity, the Love of the Church from the Love of Power, and the Authority of God from the Impositions of Men; but by Reason, or by the Scripture, interpreted by Reason?
In short, all who are Friends to Truth, are Friends to Reason, the Discoverer and Champion of Truth; and none are Foes to Reason, but those who have Truth and Reason for their Foes. He, who has dark Purposes to serve, must use dark Means: Light would discover him, and Reason expose him: He must endeavour to shut out both; and make them look frightful, by giving them ill Names; for farther than Names the Vulgar inquire not.
From this Cause, Religion and Liberty flourish, where Reason and Knowledge are encouraged; and where-ever the latter are stifled, the former are extinguished. In Turky, Printing is forbid, Inquiry is dangerous, and Free-speaking is capital; because they are all inconsistent with the Mahometanismby Law established. Hence it comes to pass, that the wretched Turks are all stupidly ignorant, are all Slaves, all Infidels. Nor have the Papists much Advantage to boast above the Mahometans. Their Guides and Governors lock up from them the Scripture, which is the Book of Knowledge: They teach them, that Ignorance is the Mother of Devotion: They banish Liberty, they brow-beat Reason, they persecute Truth. In consequence of all which, the deluded Votaries of the Romish Church are as ignorant as the Mahometans, as great Slaves, greater Idolaters, and greater Persecutors; that is, in Barbarity they exceed the Turks, who in Barbarity exceed most others.
Here, in England, why are we free, why Protestants; but because we are guided by Reason, and judge for ourselves? And none amongst us complain of the Liberty of the Press, or the Growth of Free-Thinking, but those who would found a Dominion upon Stupidity and Persecution. Vile and woeful is that Cause, which must be supported by Ignorance and Misery! And yet there are those in Great Britain, who, though they wear a holy and venerable Livery, yet have the Boldness and Blasphemy to christen that impious Cause, the Cause of God, and of his Church.
To conclude, Scripture, and Reason, without which Scripture can have no Effect, are the only Tests of every Falshood and Imposture, and every Superstition. Suppose, for Example, a Reverend Doctor is touch’d with an odd Zeal for Bowing to the East; he ought to convince my Reason, that Bowing to the East is injoined in Scripture, before he injoins me to bow also. If he say, that it is injoined by the Authority of the Church, he then must satisfy my Reason, that the Scripture teaches the Church to teach her Members to make Bows. If he answer, that neither does the Scripture teach to bow to the East, but that the Church thinks Bowing decent and edifying; he must then prove, by rational Evidence, that what every Church thinks decent is a Duty. If he reply, that this is only true of the one Orthodox Church; then he must prove, that his Church is the sole Orthodox Church, according to the Rules of the Gospel. And if the Doctor cannot do this to my Satisfaction, then there will be an End of his Argument for his Ecclesiastical Bowings.
As we judge from Scripture, what is Orthodoxy; so we must judge from Reason, what is Scripture.