Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XLVIII.: All Priestly Power inconsistent with the Gospel, and renounced by it. - The Independent Whig, vol. 2 (7th ed. 1743)
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Number XLVIII.: All Priestly Power inconsistent with the Gospel, and renounced by it. - 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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All Priestly Power inconsistent with the Gospel, and renounced by it.
Wednesday,December 14. 1720.
I Have fully shewn, in my last Paper, that as there is but one Sacrifice in the Christian Religion, so there is but one Sacrificer or Priest, who, as our Church declares in the Communion Service, made one Oblation of himself, and once offered up a full, perfect, sufficient Sacrifice, Oblation, and Satisfaction, for the Sins of the whole World; and agreeably to this Declaration, in the 13th Article, she calls the Sacrifices of the Popish Priests dangerous Deceits, and blasphemous Fables.
I cannot with my best Inquiry find out, that in the whole Christian Religion, there are any new Rites and Ceremonies appointed, or any Offices erected; nor in the Gospels, Acts, or Epistles, does any thing like an Institution occur, except that of Deacons; which Office is now quite laid aside, unless it may be said to be revived by virtue of the Act of Queen Elizabeth, which appoints Overseers of the Poor: for as to the modern Ecclesiastical Deacon, he has no Resemblance to the Scripture-Officer, who was appointed to serve Tables, upon Complaint of the Grecian Widows, who were neglected in the daily Ministration, which the Apostles were not at leisure to attend, because of the preaching of the Word, and therefore directed the Congregation to chuse others, whose Business it should be. Acts, chap. vi.
I shall therefore inquire how the Popish World came to be blessed with such a long Train of spiritual Equipage; and see what can be found in the Scriptures, to warrant or countenance their present Pretensions. In order to it, I shall observe, that Promulgation is of the Essence of a Law, which cannot be without Plainness and Perspicuity: It must not be expressed in doubtful and equivocal Terms: It must not depend upon critical Learning, or different Readings; nor receive its Explanation from the mysterious Gibberish, and unintelligible Jargon of the Schools; but ought to be such, as a plain, open, simple-hearted, sincere Man may easily discover, amidst the numerous and contradictory Schemes of the Ecclesiastics.
Weak and corrupt Men may, through Ignorance or Design, frame and enact Laws obscure and unintelligible; but the Almighty cannot intend to mislead his Creatures, or want proper Words to express his Meaning: Even such human Laws as enact Penalties, or restrain the natural Liberty of Mankind, are always construed strictly, and extended no farther than the Letter expresly warrants; and it is much more reasonable, that it should be so understood in divine Laws, upon which the temporal and eternal Happiness of all the World depends; not only because of the Importance of the Subject, but as there can be no unwary Omission, or Defect, in Words chosen by the Holy Ghost. We may therefore be very sure, that whatever is not expressed in Scripture, plain and clear to common Understandings, was not intended for our Instruction, or can become a Duty.
With our Eyes thus cleared up, we will view those Texts and Parts of holy Writ, brought together to support this unwieldy Fabric. And here, for some time, I must beg Leave of my Reader, to stand amazed, and be at a Loss, which most to admire, the Stupidity and Acquiescence of the Popish and popishly-affected Laity, or the daring Insolence and Impiety of their Ecclesiastics, that without Reason, or the Appearance of Reason, without Scripture, or the Colour of Scripture, but directly in Defiance of them both, they could be able to form so complete an Empire over the Bodies and Minds of the greatest Part of Christendom; rob them of their Goods and Possessions, and make them Instruments of their own Ruin, hug their Chains, and mortally hate, murder, or ruin every one who would set them free.
But before I enter upon a particular Disquisition of the Texts produced, I would first inquire what Benefit can accrue to Christianity by such Powers in the Christian Clergy. A Roman Judge is honourably mentioned by Cicero, for always asking Cui bono (for what End or Advantage) an alledged Action was done; by which he could make some Judgment whether it was done or not, and who did it. The same is a reasonable Proceeding in this Case; for though it be no Objection to the Truth of what God has said, that it is not agreeable to the Sentiments of weak Men; yet whilst it remains a Question, whether God said it or not, there cannot be a stronger way of arguing used, than to shew, that it is unworthy of the Divine Wisdom and Goodness, who can say nothing which is trifling and impertinent, or make any Ordinances useless or mischievous to his Creatures.
Nothing can come from God, but what is god-like; and therefore when any Number of Men, combining together, dare tell me any thing in his Name, of no Use to Religion or Virtue, and yet of apparent Advantage to themselves, or their Order, I shall always believe it to be an Invention of their own, forged to gratify their Ambition and Avarice, and shall ever vindicate the Almighty from the imputed Calumny.
Now of what Use is it to Religion and Virtue, that the Clergy should always make one another? Whether the Imposition of Hands be esteemed barely a Ceremony, to denote a Person appointed to an Office, or be the Appointment itself? Or whether he be chosen by laying on of Hands, or by any other Ceremony? Will the same Person, with the same Qualifications, be a better Man, better Christian, or abler Divine, if he receive his Orders in a direct Line from the Apostles, through the Canal of a Popish, High-Church, or Presbyterian Priesthood, or if only from the Civil Magistrate, or voluntary Societies? Or is it possible to believe, that whilst he is administring the Offices of Religion, and doing the Duties of the Gospel, the devout Christian—People shall lose the Effects of their Piety, and the Benefit of Christ’s Promises, for the Defect of any Circumstance, or any Omission or Superfluity in his Adoption; Things which they could neither prevent nor know? Sure we have not so learned Christ!
Can we suppose, that Almighty God should make such an Establishment of Christianity, as must destroy Christianity itself; and put it under the sole Guidance and Direction of a Society of Men, who will have a perpetual Interest to overturn or pervert it, and ever did so, when they had Power?
What can be suggested more absurd, then that the good God should send his Son from Heaven, to teach Virtue and Goodness to Men, to manumit and set them free from the Superstitions of the Jews, and the Idolatries of the Gentiles; who, whilst upon Earth, should not only disclaim all Power and Dominion himself, but suffer an ignominious Death, to make Mankind happy; and yet subject them to a Yoke, the most arbitrary and tyrannical in the World, without Redress, without Remedy; where the Governors have constant Temptations and Motives to oppress, and the Governed no Means to resist or oppose? For no less than this are the Popish and High-Church Demands upon us, and the inevitable Consequences of their wild and wicked Hypothesis.
If they are an Order of Men appointed directly by God, and have the Government of the Church by Divine Right, in all Things which relate to Spirituals (that is, in all Things wherein their own Interest is concerned); if they are to be the sole Judges of their own Powers, and what Doctrines they are to teach; if the People are to receive them implicitly, and to submit to, and be concluded by, their Determinations; and if no human Authority must controul them; which, I think, those whom I write against, all claim (though scarce two of them agree in whose Hands, or in what Part of the Clergy, these Powers are vested); then it is plain, that they are possessed of the most despotic, unlimited, and uncontroulable Sovereignty in the Universe, and which of Necessity must prove, and actually ever has proved, the most cruel and tyrannical in the Exercise.
But if they have not this Power, they can have none at all, but what the Civil Magistrate, or voluntary Societies, trust them with; for, what is the Name of a Power, which every Man is a Judge whether he will submit to or not? Or how can that be said to be Divine, which the Civil Magistrate can controul at his Pleasure? There can be no Medium in Nature betwixt another’s judging for me, and my judging for myself: If another be to judge for me, I must submit to his Determinations, let them be ever so absurd, monstrous or wicked; but if I have a Right to re-examine them, they can amount to no more than Advice, and my own Judgment alone must determine me.
As I think I have amply proved, that it is inconsistent with the Goodness of God to trust the Powers so claimed with the Popish Clergy; so in my two next Papers I will as fully prove, that, in Fact, he has given them no Authority at all.
Indeed, to do them Right, the Popish Priests do not pretend to offer any direct Texts to their Purpose, expressing particularly the Powers given them, and the Persons in whom they are to be vested; as might be reasonably expected in a Case so nearly affecting the Liberties of all Mankind; and as was actually done in the Jewish Dispensation, where every Circumstance relating to their Worship, and the Priest’s Office, was minutely described; but instead thereof, they pick up scattered and disjointed Sentences, and set them together by the Ears, to try what they can get by the Scuffle: They argue from Types, Antitypes, Parables, Metaphors, Allegories, Allusions, Inferences, Patterns, Resemblances, Figures and Shadows; and by such means can fetch every thing out of every thing.
The Bible is a miscellaneous Book, from whence crazed or designing Men, by joining or disjoining; by various Readings, corrupt or ignorant Translations; by far-fetched Interpretations, and putting different Meanings upon Words in Scripture from what they signify in any other Parts of Language; by trifling and knavish Distinctions, metaphysical Subtilties, no Definitions, but shifting the Significations of Words as they have Occasion; by References to antient Customs, and Twenty other Theological Systems of Reasoning, may always fetch Materials to serve their loose or wicked Purposes; as we actually find an Hundred different, and many of them almost contradictory, Religions are pretended to be deduced from that Book; and if the Priests were let alone, they would find a Thousand more, and burn for them all (I mean, other People). But if Men would be contented to judge of the Gospel Style, by the same Rule as they do of other Writings; if they could be persuaded, that God Almighty, when he condescends to make use of human Language, intends to be understood, and consequently uses Words in their common Acceptation; that when he designed to reveal his Will to Babes and Sucklings, (that is, to the Ignorant and Unlearned) he did not chuse to do it in Riddles, to make way for Interpreters, and that the Popish Clergy might have a Pretence for picking the Laity’s Pockets; then I affirm, that the Bible is the plainest, openest, most moral, significant, and intelligible Book in the World, in all Things which can be the Duty of a Man to know; and in no Part of it more so, than in the present Dispute, which has been rendered so perplexed and intricate by Craft and Artifice: And I undertake in my two next Papers to make this out.