Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XLV.: Of High-Church Atheism. Part 4. - The Independent Whig, vol. 2 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XLV.: Of High-Church Atheism. Part 4. - 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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Of High-Church Atheism.Part 4.
Wednesday,November 23. 1720.
AS a further Proof of the Charge of Practical Atheism upon High-Church Priests, I proceed to shew how they confound and subvert all Morality and Holiness of Life; which is the main Design of all Religion, and more particularly of the Christian.
1.This they do, in the first Place, by teaching the most immoral and unholy Doctrines, and thereby leading Men to Actions, in the highest Degree, prejudicial to human Society.
To do as we would be done unto, and to love our Neighbour as ourselves, are Moral and Christian Principles, of daily and most general Use. We cannot converse a Moment, without acting agreeably or contrary to them: And the Happiness of Society consists, in great measure, in the Practice of those Duties; as the Misery of Society consists in their Breach. For what is Happiness in Society, but the Prevalency of universal Love, and equal Favour and Justice? And what greater Degree of Love can we shew to others, than that Love wherewith we love ourselves? And what can a whole Society wish for more, than that equal Favour and Justice be distributed among them? And what is Misery in Society, but Malice, and Hatred, and Partiality; and their Consequences, Disorder, Confusion, and War?
Now the High Priest dogmatizes against these fundamental Maxims of Morality, whenever he contends against the Right of Men to judge for themselves in Religion, which he pretends to use himself; whenever he contends for Penalties or Discouragements of any Kind, against those who differ in Opinion from him, which he would not at the same time think just to have inflicted on himself for differing in Opinion from them; whenever he damns Men as Heretics and Schismatics, in Cases wherein he would not damn himself; whenever he judges whole Sects or Bodies of Men insincere, (as is his constant Method towards Dissenters) and would not at the same time be thought insincere himself; and in fine, whenever he preaches contrary to that Love of all Men, that Forbearance, that Forgiveness of Injuries, that Meekness, that Peace and Quiet, that Beneficence to all in Distress, and that Charity (the greatest of Moral and Christian Virtues) which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things, which is the Charity taught in the Gospel: All which he cannot but be willing to see prevail in the World, with respect to himself. How often the High Priest preaches after this manner; or rather how seldom he preaches otherwise; and how successful he is in introducing the Practical Atheism suited to such Doctrines, namely, Factions, Quarrels, Violence, Injustice, Plundering, Partiality, Devastation, and Murder; every Observer may be satisfied by his own Experience.
Rebellion is the actual Dissolution of Order in a Society; and is ever founded either on the Jealousies and ill-grounded Animosities of the People in relation to their Sovereign, or to one another; or on supposed Defect of Title in the Sovereign. Now these our High-Church Priests promote and inculcate, by their constant Lectures of Church Peril; of the sad State of the present Times, beyond all that ever were before them; of their own Want of Power; of Passive Obedience, and Hereditary Right; and several other favourite factious Subjects: and this way they lead the People to Rebellion; and that in Breach of Oaths, which are the most sacred Band of Society.
And as the High Jacobite Priest thus teaches the very worst Vices, so nothing recommends a Layman to him so much as the Practice of them.
2.Secondly, The High-Church Priest subverts Morality and Holiness of Life, by laying an undue Stress on Matters of little or no Importance; and thereby engages the Thoughts and Affections of Men about them, to the Neglect of Morality, and that Holiness of Life, which is the End and Design of all Religion. For whoever places Religion in Trifles, will (like the Jews, who were much concerned to pay to the Priest Tythe of Mint, Anise, and Cumin) neglect the weightier Matters of the Law.
What Work have we in England; what Hatred, Damning, and Uncharitableness is there among us, about mere Ceremonies, and external Forms? And what Arguing and Zeal is there for imposing them; when a general Agreement in them (as it would be managed) would be so far from being of any real Use in Religion, and tending to Peace, that it would be a Conspiracy against the Rights of Mankind, and against that Peace and Charity, which would otherwise prevail? For have not Men a Right to follow their Judgments in Matters of Religion, and especially in such Matters as are allowed to be indifferent in themselves; and is not that Right invaded by imposing them? And would not Peace and Charity (which, we see, exist not under Imposition) prevail, by allowing Men to practise as differently as their Judgments direct them; as we see they do prevail in Countries of Liberty and Toleration, in proportion to the Degree of Liberty and Toleration allowed?
What Work is there at this Time, how many Volumes are there daily published, and how deeply concerned is all England, about certain Speculations, whereof the People can understand nothing, and about which the Priest confounds himself? Can the People understand any of the various Schemes and Hypotheses invented by Divines, in relation to the Trinity in Unity, and the Incarnation of God? Does Dr. Waterland, who is a very learned, acute, and ingenious Person, and has writ two great Books on this Subject, know what he contends for himself, when he expresses the Sum of his Doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, in these Words, “That each Divine Person is an individual intelligent Agent: But, as subsisting in one undivided Substance, they are all together, in that respect, but one undivided intelligent Agent?” That is, One Individual is Three Individuals, One undivided Agent is Three undivided Agents, and One Person is Three Persons? And can any Mortal suppose the People to be in the least concerned about such sophistical Chimeras, crabbed Notions, bombastic Phrases and Solecisms? And must not Zeal about Ceremonies, and unintelligible Speculations, as much supplant and take the place of Morality, as ever Rites did among the Jews, or the religious Trumpery of the Pagans did among them? Even Zeal for Truth in certain Points, is not of such Importance as is commonly supposed. I have been much pleased with the Judiciousness and Charity of the following Passage in a Sermon of the present Archbishop of Dublin, the most worthy and truly profound Dr. King: “Let us suppose one, who takes all the Descriptions we have of God in Scripture literally; who imagines him to be a mighty King, that sits in Heaven, and has the Earth for his Footstool; that at the same Time has all Things in his View which can happen; that has Thousands and Thousands of Ministers to attend him, all ready to obey and execute his Commands; that has great Love and Favour for such as diligently obey his Orders, and is in a Rage and Fury against the Disobedient: Could any one doubt but he, who in the Simplicity of his Heart should believe these Things as literally represented, would be saved by virtue of that Belief; or that he would not have Motives strong enough to oblige him to love, honour, and worship God? The Imperfections of such Representations will never be imputed to us as a Fault, provided we do not wilfully dishonour him by unworthy Notions, and our Conceptions of him be such as may sufficiently oblige us to perform the Duties he requires at our Hands.” The like may be said of a Man who has mistaken Notions of the Trinity in Unity, and of the Person of Christ; provided he do not wilfully dishonour God and Christ by his Notions, and do conceive Christ to be a Legislator, and a Ruler sent from God, than which Conception, nothing can more oblige us to perform the Duties, that both God and Christ require of us.
3.Thirdly, There is no Crime, but what has, at Times, and on certain Occasions, the Support and Encouragement of the Popish Priest; as there is no Virtue which he does not at Times, and on certain Occasions, discourage. Let a Man be Whoremaster, or Drunkard, or Lyar, or Slanderer, or Passionate, or Revengeful, or Cheat; and he may meet with fair Quarter from the High Priest, be seldom or never reproved by him, have his Esteem and Countenance, and the Character of a good Churchman from him, and be sure of priestly Absolution at last; provided he heartily espouse the Interest of the Priest, that is, contend for his Power and Wealth. On the other Side, let a Man have ever so many virtuous Qualities, and let him also be a sincere Believer in Jesus Christ; but without the Quality of espousing the High Popish Priest’s Interest; and he will never stand so fair in the Priest’s Eyes as the aforesaid Profligate-Good-Churchman. This Conduct of the Priests has a mighty Influence on the Actions of Men, and tends to make them as bad as their Inclinations and Temper dispose them to be; inasmuch as the general Esteem and good Name of most Men will depend on the Characters given of them by the Priests, who are the general Gossips, and are reverenced every-where for their inward Sanctity, their external long Gowns, and broad-brimmed Hats, the latter sufficiently manifesting the former. I will not deny, but that the Priests had much rather, that their Followers were virtuous than otherwise; since they must well know, that Credit is to be got by having such Men among them, and that the best Harvest is to be made of the Weakness and Superstition of virtuous Men. But the Bulk of Men being vicious, and the virtuous Man of Sense being in the Interest of Religion, and against Priestcraft; the aforesaid High Priests are reduced to the Necessity of countenancing the Vicious, to carry on their own Interest with a sufficient Party.
4.Fourthly, High-Church Priests, by the Weakness of all Popish States, (except the Commonwealths of Venice and Norica) and of most of the Protestant States, are let into too great a Share of the Civil Governments of Europe; and thus, by becoming acting Politicians, confound all national, public, and political Morality. For, as the late Bishop of Sarum observed, “The Priests have a Secret to make the Natives of a Country miserable, in Spite of any Abundance with which Nature has furnished them. They have not Souls big enough, and tender enough, for Government: They have both a Narrowness of Spirit, and a Sourness of Mind, that does not agree with the Principles of human Society. Nor have they those Compassions for the Miserable, with which wise Governors ought to temper all their Counsels; for a stern Sourness of Temper, and an unrelenting Hardness of Heart, seem to belong to that Sort of Men.”