Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XL.: Of Priestly Cruelty. - The Independent Whig, vol. 2 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XL.: Of Priestly Cruelty. - 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,October 19. 1720.
A Good Man is distinguished by his Humanity, as is the good God by his Mercy. Where there is no Humanity, there can be no Grace: We cannot possess at the same time the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of a Brute or a Demon. Charity itself, the most sublime Christian Grace, seems to be only Humanity guided and animated by Piety: And this is the more likely, for that it is the Business of the Christian Religion, to recover to human Nature those Virtues, which were either lost or lessened by the Fall of Adam. Had Man continued as he was made, perfect, a new Covenant, and another Institution, had been unnecessary.
Humanity then is an amiable Virtue, and the Characteristic of a Man; and of a Man civilized, gentle, benevolent; purged from all Rage, and every unsociable Passion.
But the Appetites and Passions of Men being too powerful for Reason, and the Law of Nature; Religion was instituted to regulate and quell them. For this End, it proposes, as Sanctions and Restraints, the Favour of God to the Virtuous, and threatens his Displeasure to the Wicked, in this Life; and, in the next, still more adequate Rewards and Punishments, even those of Heaven and Hell. This is the great Design of Religion; and it effectually answers the same, where its own honest and simple Dictates are observed and followed; than which Dictates nothing can be more plain and reasonable; the principal Precept of the Gospel, next after our Belief in Jesus Christ, being that of Peace and Love: A new Commandment, says our blessed Saviour, I give unto you, that you love one another.
In Consequence of this Doctnine, and of the Heavenly Temper which it inspired, the first Christians lived together in perfect Concord, Love and Charity; and yet there is no Question to be made, but they differed from each other in their Conceptions about some Points in Religion; as we see the Apostles themselves also differed on several Occasions, and expressed some Warmth in these their Differences.
This same Spirit of Charity and Love continued amongst the first Christians, till lying, crafty, and selfish Men, calling themselves Ministers, and assuming to be Teachers, filled them with the Spirit of Discord, and instructed them to hate one another. They rent them into Parties, inspired them with the Bitterness of Faction, and taught them its Watch-words, by which they were to distinguish themselves from all other Christians: I am of Paul, I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and the like Cant, full of Zeal, but void of Sense and Religion, had a direct and mischievous Tendency to abolish Faith in Christ, and to place it upon Men; and, in fine, to turn Christianity into Caballing. They likewise marked out all who would not be driven nor deceived by them, with malicious and opprobrious Names, proper to expose them to Hatred and ill Usage. Heretic, Apostate, Unbeliever, Schismatic, and the like hard and equivocal Words, were found strangely effectual towards stirring up Rage, Revenge, and relentless War, against those unhappy People who were miscalled by them; so effectual! that the same Set of Men have never suffered the same Set of Words to wax obsolete, but to this Day use them, and cause them to be used, to the same impious and antichristian Purpose, and (where the Law does not restrain their bloody Hands, and guard the Innocent) with the same Success.
When these ungodly and merciless Ecclesiasties had thus, under the Cloak of Religion, craftily raised the blind Resentment, and impious Zeal, of their deluded Followers, against their Christian Brethren, who preferred the Spirit of the Gospel, and the honest Convictions of their Consciences, to the Pride and Commands of Men; there followed such amazing Instances of Cruelty, and such terrible Scenes of Blood, as must affect the Hearts, and the Eyes, of all who read them, or hear of them, if they possess either Christian Grace, or natural Compassion. Christians were, by their Priests, set on to butcher Christians; and to make Havock of each other, in the Name of that Religion, which was distinguished from all other Religions, by a Spirit of Meekness, Mercy, and Love: And all this, perhaps, for their different Manner of explaining a Mystery, which could not be explained; or which, if explained, ceased to be one.
This restiess and unrelenting Rage, which Christians practised, at the Instigation of their Clergy, upon one another, for Thoughts and Opinions which they could not help, was a strong and lasting Stumbling-Block in the Way of the Unconverted; who could have but small Appetite for a Religion, which disowned all Kindred to Peace and Humanity, and inspired its Votaries with such cruel Hatred, and such dreadful Fury: For, in short, that was the Religion which they were to embrace; a Religion no longer to be sound in the Gospel of Christ, but in the ridiculous Systems, and selfish Inventions, of Priests. And it was no wonder that the Heathens were backward and afraid to embrace a Religion, in which the involuntary Mistake of a priestly Distinction, without a Meaning, might cost them their Lives, and ruin their Families.
So terrible and deformed had merciless Christian Priests rendered the merciful and amiable Christian Religion! Their outrageous Zeal was become so powerful, and had such bloody Effects, that the Pagan Persecutions were real Advantages to Christianity, as they gave it a breaching Time from the more fatal Persecutions, and even Adulterations, of its own Priests; who, while the civil Sword was over their Heads, being obliged to abscond or fly, could not throw about their Balls of Contention and War; and therefore, against their Will, left Religion to flourish, as it always did, under those Pagan Persecutions, which their own turbulent and seditious Behaviour had often brought upon it. This is indeed their highest Praise, that the Church reaped Good from their Wickedness.
ThePagan Persecutions no sooner ceased, but the War of the Christian Priests recommenced; and the Persecutions raised by them were ever more merciless, and more dreadful, than those which were raised by the Heathen Princes; forasmuch as they added, as far as they could, the Destruction of the Soul to that of the Body: So complete was their Vengeance! And, besides, it had no End: The Severity of the Heathens had long and frequent Intermissions; but the Cruelty of the Priests was insatiable.
The Persecutions practised by the Pagans, had moreover this Mitigation, that they were occasioned for the most part by the Words and external Behaviour of Christians, who contemned their Gods, neglected their Temples, and ridiculed their Manner of Worship: In all which, though they had Reason and Truth on their Side; yet they provoked by so doing these ignorant Bigots, whose false Religion laid no Restraint upon their Passions, but on the contrary greatly inflamed them. But the priestly War was waged against the Mind itself; the free and independent Mind! They would be controuling the voluntary, necessary, and invincible Motions and Operations of the Soul; and be putting Bonds upon the Imagination, which is as ungovernable as the Wind or the Sea. You must say after them, nay, you must think after them, and believe by their Direction; and either be Slaves or Hypocrites. A terrible and inflexible Tyranny! It was to no Purpose to alledge, that you could not perform Impossibilities, nor see with other Mens Eyes: You must be punished for what you could not help; you must be delivered to Satan, in spite of your Innocence; and rewarded with Hell for your Sincerity, and Well-meaning: And the same honest Qualities which intitled you to the certain Favour of God, provoked the certain Vengeance of his pretended Embassadors; to whose Empire, Virtue and Truth are ever the most formidable Foes. To complete this ghostly Barbarity, not appeased by Death and Damnation, your good Name must be murdered with your Body, and your Memory loaded with monstrous Calumnies, and bitter Defamations; which merciless Treatment could be expected only from that accursed Spirit, who had been a Lyar and a Murderer from the Beginning; or from those who are acted by him. To pity you, was unpardonable; and to speak well of you, was to involve all those who did it, in your Doom. Thus holy Wrath is, of all others, the soonest kindled, the fiercest while it burns, and the slowest in going out, if ever it goes out.
It would be endless to give Instances of the bloody Spirit of such sort of Churchmen. They are the only Body of Men upon Earth who possess least of human Compassion. They have been even ingenious in Cruelty, and shewed vast Invention in their rigid, various, implacable, and exquisite Manner of executing it. Ita feri, ut se mori sentiat, seems to have been the Doctrine and Delight of the Church, as well as of Caligula. Neither he, nor Phalaris, nor Perillus, nor Nero, nor any other Pagan Monster, who made himself Sport with human Agonies and Misery, has exceeded them in the Variety and Inhumanity of his projected Tortures, nor equalled them in the Length.
It is a melancholy Observation, that the Mahometans, who by Principle use the Sword as their great and most prevailing Apostle for the Propagation of their Religion, do yet frankly tolerate Christianity, and every Sect of it, all over their Dominions; and that, on the contrary, Christians, who by the Doctrine of the Gospel are allowed the Use of no Means but those of Gentleness and Persuasion, to promote the Faith of Jesus Christ, do yet exercise Fierceness and Barbarity upon all who differ from them, where-ever the Mercy of the Government does not restrain the Cruelty of the Clergy. Thus far the Turks act, as if they were conducted by Grace, and obeyed the Precepts of our blessed Saviour; and thus far the Christians act, as if they had adopted the Spirit and Fierceness of Mahomet, and renounced the Gospel for the Alcoran.
However, that I may not seem partial to the Mahometans, I shall add this mournful Reflection; namely, That too many of the Christian Clergy do justly share with these Infidels, the infamous Praise of having almost dispeopled the Earth. The Infidels have slain their Thousands, and They their Ten Thousands. They have been the great Promoters of Cruelty, and the Sword; they have been the constant Patrons of Arbitrary Power, that mighty Engine for rendering Mankind few and miserable; they have been the continual Authors of War, Famine, and Massacres; and, in fine, they have been the great Instruments of driving Virtue, Truth, Peace, Mercy, Plenty, and People, out of the World. Kill all, said the Abbot Arnold, a Monk militant, to the Army, which being employed by the Church to slaughter the poor pious Albigenses, had taken the City of Bezeir, and being Laymen, were inclining to have some Mercy; Kill all, cried this bloody Priest: God knows his own, and will reward them hereafter. Accordingly Two Hundred Thousand of these conscientious Christians, and Catholics mixed with them, were instantly butcher’d for the Church.
To conclude, our modern Claimers of Church-Authority do but contend for the same Power and Advantages, which enabled and prompted these their Brethren to execute such numerous and melancholy Mischiefs; and whether they ought to possess that Power, and these Advantages, or no, I take to be the great Point in Debate between the Bishop of Bangor, and his Adversaries.