Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE CRAFTSMEN. A Sermon, or Paraphrase, upon several Verses in the 19 th Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. - The Independent Whig, vol. 2 (7th ed. 1743)
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THE CRAFTSMEN. A Sermon, or Paraphrase, upon several Verses in the 19 th Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. - 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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THE CRAFTSMEN. A Sermon,orParaphrase,upon several Verses in the 19th Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
I Shall not this Day, my Beloved, as the usual Manner is, accost you with the Scraps of a Verse, or only with a whole Verse, out of any Part of the Gospel; which Method is often made use of in such Places as this, purely to avoid telling what goes before, or comes after; but shall chuse for my Text the greatest Part of the xixth Chapter of the Acts: And in discoursing upon this Portion of Scripture, so fruitful in good Instructions and Examples, I shall confine myself to the following Method.
I.First, I shall make some general Observations upon the Behaviour of the Apostle Paul in his Ministry.
II.Secondly, I shall discourse more particularly upon several Verses in this Chapter: And,
III.Thirdly, and Lastly, I shall draw, from the Whole, some useful and seasonable Inferences, and then conclude.
I.I shall make some general Observations upon the Apostle Paul. And first of all, my Brethren, it is note-worthy, that Paul made the greatest Change that ever Man did, even from a Persecutor to an Apostle; two Characters as opposite as is that of Lucifer to an Angel of Light. As soon as Light from the Lord fell upon him, he no longer breathes Threatnings and Slaughter against the Disciples of the Lord, as he had in Fore-time, nor puts in Execution the Orders he had about him from the High-Priest, or Archbishop of the Jews, to bring the first Christians and Dissenters of those Days bound to Jerusalem. On the contrary, though he was just before an hard-hearted Persecutor for the Church by Law established, on a sudden, he becomes a Lover of the Saints; and now, Behold, he prayeth! Acts ix. 11.
1st,Let us learn a Lesson from hence, dearly Beloved, as we go along; namely, that as soon as the Fear of the Lord entereth into a Man’s Heart, the Sword of Persecution droppeth out of his Hand. Peace, which is the Badge of the Gospel, and Cruelty, which is the Coat of Arms of Satan, cannot dwell together. Behold, he prayeth!
2dly,It is observable, that when a Zealot leaves his Party, and turns Christian, how very apt the High Party are, ungratefully to forget all his former wicked Merit, which made him dear to them; and to persecute him for apostatizing into Mercy and Grace. While Paul continued the fiery Flail of the Godly, the Priests held him in high Favour, and trusted him with their Ecclesiastical Commission: And for what? Why, to bring bound to Jerusalem all those of this Way: Of what Way? Why, all that forsook the established Synagogue, and followed Christ.
3dly,Observe, my Brethren, that Conscience and Non-conformity had the Powers of the World against them seventeen hundred Zears ago. Paul, the Blasphemer, had a Post; but Paul the Convert, Paul the Saint, is allowed no Toleration; yea, they watched theGates Day and Night to kill him; for, Behold, he prayeth!
4thly,It is observable from the whole History of Paul, that the Grace of God makes a Man both meek under Sufferings, and bold for Christ. Here our Convert neither returns the Injury, nor slacks his Pace in planting the Gospel; both hard Tasks! He risqued his Life, and laboured in the Vineyard, without Pay; a rare thing in this our Day! when the first Motive for overseeing of Souls, is so much a Year. The Apostle drove no Bargain about Preaching, nor made a Market of Salvation.
Oh! my Beloved, how many dignified Drones have we in our Time, who set up for a Likeness to the Apostles, without any Likeness; who take great Sums for Mock Apostleship, when nothing thrives by their Ministry, but their Bellies! This, my Friends, is lamentable, but it is lamentably true.
II.I haste now to my second general Head, and will discourse particularly upon several Verses in this Chapter.
I begin with Verse the 8th, And he went into the Synagogue, and spake boldly for the Space of three Months, disputing and persuadeing the things concerning the Kingdom of God.
1st,and he went into the Synagogue. Observe we here, 1st, my beloved Brethren, that as great Bigots as the Jews were, and as great a Dissenter as Paul was, yet they suffered him to preach in their Synagogues or Churches. He had a clear Stage, though perhaps not equal Favour. Now think ye, my Friends, if the same Apostle should come among us here in London, at this time, that he would be permitted to preach in his own Church, unless he first qualified himself according to the Forms and Ceremonies of the Church of England by Law established? Or would he, trow ye, get any Preferment, that the black Dons could hinder him from, in case he persisted to preach what his Master preached before him; namely, that Christ’s Kingdom was not of this World?
2dly,My Beloved, we may see here the great Point of Paul’s Preaching; He disputed and persuaded the Things concerning the Kingdom of God. Not a Word of his own spiritual Dominion; not a Word of Episcopal Sovereigns, who were to descend, as it were, from his Loins, and who, without his Inspiration or Miracles, were to succeed him in what he never had; worldly Wealth, worldly Grandeur, and worldly Power; Things which always mar the Kingdom of God, instead of promoteing it; there being no Fellowship between Christ and Belial.
Let us now proceed to the 9th Verse, and see what that says; But when divers were hardened, (observe he says, when divers were hardened,) and believed not, but spake Evil of that Way before the Multitude, he departed from them, and separated the Disciples, disputing daily in the School of one Tyrannus.
The Priests, no doubt, who traded in Ceremonies, and knew nothing of Jesus Christ, or of inward Holiness, were nettled at a new Religion, which taught Men a plain Path to Heaven, without the Incumbrances of Sacrifices, or Priests, or Fopperies; a Religion, that had a professed Enmity to all secular Gain, and all holy Trifling.
Marvel not at it, my Brethren; a Religion without a Hierarchy, and Godliness without Gain, will never please any Set of High Priests: Nothing will go down with them but Pride and Grimace, and the ready Peny. Poor Paul had nothing about him of all this, nor did he teach a Religion that had. All that he brought, was a Christ crucified, and Salvation in and through him. They therefore spoke Evil of that Way before the Multitude; that is, the Priests told the People, that Paul was an Heretic, and his Doctrine was Schism; but for themselves, they had Antiquity and the Fathers on their Side, with an Orthodox Church full of decent Types and Ceremonies.
There needed no more to prevent the Apostle from doing any Good among them: So he departed from them. This was all the Punishment he inflicted on them, and this was enough. He who had the Holy Ghost, could have inflicted Death or Misery on them; but it was opposite to the Genius of his Religion, which allows spiritual Pastors to feed their Flocks, but not force them, nor to punish them, if they refuse to feed. If a Man has not a Mind to be saved, he has the worst of it himself; and what is it to the Priests? as Master Selden well remarketh.
This, my Brethren, was the primitive Excommunication. If you could work no Good upon a Man; or if that Man worked Mischief to you, or gave you Scandal; why you would not keep Company with him. But to give him to the Devil, because he was already going to the Devil of himself, is to be a Minister of Christ the backward way. Besides, there was no need of it. The Apostle, in my Text, neither curses these unbelieving High-Churchmen, who hardened themselves against him, nor censures them, nor fines them; all which he who had the Power of Miracles, could have done, had he liked it. He barely departed from them. And if he did not damn them for the Sake of their Souls, so neither did he surrender them to Beelzebub for the Sake of their Money. He demanded not a grey Groat of them; so far was he from telling them, Gentlemen, I am your Spiritual Prince; pray pay me my Revenues. Paul was a Witness of the Resurrection, a disinterested Witness, and claimed no Dues; though others since do in his Name, without being real Witnesses of the Resurrection, or disinterested Witnesses of any thing else about it.
disputing daily in the School of one Tyrannus. Mark here, my Beloved, that both Schools and Synagogues, or Churches, were open to him, though he was but a new Comer, and a Non-conformist. Mark, moreover, that he barely disputed, or reasoned. He was a Stranger to the Doctrine of Compulsion. He was an Apostle, by virtue of whose Words and Power, all Clerical Acts are pretended to be done ever since: And yet he himself did none, satisfying himself with saving Souls by Exhortation, and the Assistance of the Spirit, which are not Clerical Acts. He was the chief Pastor upon Earth, and held his Commission immediately from God; but he imposed nothing but his Advice, Reason, and good Words, upon those that heard him. He could have forced them (had the Spirit so directed) to have swallowed implicitly all that he said; and either destroyed or distressed all who refused. But the Lord Christ, my Brethren, in his Dealings with Human Kind, never uses Means that are inhuman.
Here you may distinguish the Spirit of Christ from the Spirit of High-Church. For trow ye, my Friends, that Christ or his Apostles ever delegated to weak and passionate Men Powers and Privileges, which, infallible and inspired as they were, they never assumed to themselves? Let us wonder, my Brethren, at the Impudence of some Men in Black!
AND this continued for the Space of two Years. Observe, it is not said, that he kept a Curate all the while.
Let us go on to some following Verses: And God wrought special Miracles by the Hands of Paul; so that from his Body were brought unto the Sick Handkerchiefs or Aprons, and the Diseases departed from them, and the evil Spirits went out from them, ver. 11, 12.
Observe, here are certain Signs of a Power from God; and they who pretend a Power from him, without manifesting the same by certain Signs, are certainly Cheats and Impostors. For a Power given by the all-wise God, must be given for some certain End, which will infallibly be brought about. It is not consistent with his Wisdom and Goodness to give it, and yet leave uncertain, that he has given it, when a plain Manifestation of it is of the utmost Importance to the World, and to the Purposes for which it is given. If a Man bring not infallible Proofs of his Power, how shall I know, that he has it? Demonstration must go before Conviction, and Conviction before Consent. We cannot embrace for Truth, what we take to be a Lye. All which will farther appear from the following Verses.
then certain of the vagabond Jews, Exorcists, took upon them to call, over them which had evil Spirits, the Name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus, whom Paul preacheth, ver. 13.
We may perceive here, that the Apostles had Apes in their own Time; Fellows who set up for their Successors, before they themselves were dead. They were Exorcists or Conjurers, so called, I presume, from their pretending to dispossess haunted Houses, by the dint of Spells and Forms of Words. They had now got a new Form of Words, and were going to work with them as fast as they could, boasting, no doubt, great things of their own Power. And indeed they took a politic Method to resemble the Apostle, had they succeeded in it; but they miscarried miserably, as will be shewn anon.
But what shall we say of some Moderns, (more shameless than these vagabond Jews) who will, right or wrong, be Successors to the Apostles, without doing any thing that is Apostolle, but what every reasonable Man may do as well? They shew no Signs but those of Gracelesness and Pride; and do no Wonders, but in the Luxury of their Lives.
and there were seven Sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and Chief of the Priests, which did so, v. 14. More Mimickers of Miracles! We see the Trade was growing sweet, but the Sauce proved sour; for the evil Spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? An angry and contemptuous Question, but full of good Sense. But the worst follows: And the Man in whom the evil Spirit was, leapt upon them, and prevailed againstthem, so that they fled out of that House naked and wounded.
1.Observe here, first, That we may easily learn what Power Men have from God, by their Power over the Devil. When Paul gave the Word of Command, the Devil did not stand shilly-shally, nor pretend to parly with one who was employed as the Lord’s General against the Power of Darkness, but was forced to march Bag and Baggage; and glad, no doubt, that he could troop off in a whole Skin.
But it is quite otherwise, when Interlopers and Craftsmen, in Hopes to make a Peny of Satan, pretend to drive him out of his Quarters, though they come in the Name of the Lord. The Devil, in this Case, sets up the Flag of Defiance, and tells them they are Scoundrels to their Faces; Who are ye? Well spoken, Satan! They were Vagabonds, Jews, and Priests, and the Devil chastized them accordingly: They fled out of that House naked and wounded. The Devil got the Day, and remained Master of the Field and the Baggage: He prevailed against them. They forged a Commission, and the Lord Jesus, whose Name they abused, would not stand by them.
2.Let us here, 2dly, my Friends, think it no Shame to learn a Lesson from the Devil, and take no Man’s Word, who pretends to command us in Matters of Faith, and spiritual Obedience, though he come in the Name of the Lord. Let us examine him first, and try our own Strength upon him. Who are ye? A pat Question, and a proper! Let us, Beloved, never lose Sight of it, especially when any Man would controul our Belief. Be not determined by outside Shape and Colour. A long Gown may cover an Exorcist, but let us peep into his Inside, search his Life and Principles; let us try whether he is an Apostle in his Heart, and his Actions; and if he be not, let us despise him; yea, let us prevail against him.
3.Observe, 3dly, What great and solemn Rogueries are carried on in the Name of Christ and his Apostles; even Conjurers and Formalists reap their Harvest, as it were, with the Sickle of the Gospel. And if such bold Cheats could be practised, as it were, under this great Apostle’s Nose; what may not be done now he is so far off? How many Exorcists, how many Sons of Sceva, trow ye, have we at this time among us, and in this enlightened Protestant Country? Great Numbers, God wot! yea, great Societies. Every Man, who, in the Name of Christ or Paul, claims to himself Gain or Dominion, is a Son of Sceva, and can be no Guard against the Devil, who despises him. Judge ye now what Swarms we have!
4.Observe from hence, 4thly and lastly, The true Reason of the great Wickedness which is in the World, namely, because we maintain an Army against the Devil, of whom he standeth not in Awe. In the first Ages he was driven out of every Corner, and now he possesses every Corner; for why? they had Apostles, and we have the Sons of Sceva.
and many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their Deeds, v. 18. that is, many who had been deluded and misled by these Reverend Deceivers, were now undeceived.
and many also of them which used curious Arts, brought their Books together, and burnt them before all Men; and they counted the Price of them, and found it Fifty thousand Pieces of Silver, v. 19.
How fertile must the World then have been in mysterious and conjuring Books! What Systems of Nonsense and Knavery must have been here! What Glosses, Commentaries, and Riddles! For we may be sure, my Beloved, these were not Books of useful Knowledge and Learning, or Books that taught Virtue and Morality, since such, without doubt, the Apostle would have preserved: But they were juggling and conjuring Books, such as contained Heathen Traditions, with false Miracles, and false Doctrines, and were probably full of metaphysical Distinctions, and the controversial Divinity of those Days; such as Bundles of foolish Sermons, Pagan Systems, Articles of their Faith, Formularies, lying Mysteries, Cabalistical Nonsense, and the High Church Pamphlets of that Age; all opposite to the divine Truths uttered by Paul.
so mightily grew the Word of God, and prevailed, v. 20. Take Notice here, Men and Brethren, that the ready way to make the Word of God grow and prevail, was to burn all the Priests Books. Oh, my Beloved, that our Eyes were also opened! What Fuel should we have for Bonfires!
Nothing occurs remarkable between this and the 23d Verse, which tells us, that the same time there arose no small Stir about that Way. And then follows the Reason, v. 24, 25, 26, 27. For a certain Man named Demetrius, a Silversmith, which made silver Shrines for Diana, brought no small Gain unto the Craftsmen, whom he called together, with the Workmen of like Occupation, and said, Sirs, yeknow that by this Craft we have our Wealth: Moreover, ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much People, saying, That they be no Gods which are made with Hands; so that not only this our Crafts is in Danger to be set at nought; but also that the Temple of the great Goddess Diana should be despised, and her Magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the World worshippeth.
A notable Speech, and a fair Confession! He kept a Shop for the Deity, and got a World of Money by this godly Trade; and rather than lose it, he will oppose Christianity, and maintain his Craft against Jesus Christ.
This mechanical Priest, and his Brethren, Retainers to Diana, had lost many kind Customers by Paul’s Preaching; their holy Gear began to lie upon their Hands; Folks Eyes were opened, and the Cheat was disclosed: Upon which the Reverend Dr. Demetrius, and the whole Convocation of Priests and Craftsmen, resolve to accuse the Apostle as an Enemy to the Church, and an Underminer of its Rights and Interests. Sirs, says Mr. Prolocutor, ye know that by this Craft we have our Wealth. “Now if this Paul goes on to persuade People, as he does, that all our Gain is built on Deceit, and that our Trade is of human Institution, our Function will fall into Contempt, and we into Beggary.”
All this was artfully addressed to the Interest and Avarice of his Brother Craftsmen, who sharing the Benefit of the Cheat, and living plentifully upon Ecclesiastical Revenues of the established Church of Diana, had Motives sufficient to engage them in the Defence of the said Church and Cheat.
Now he has a Knack for catching the Bigots, by telling them, what Danger there was of the Church; and lest the Temple of the great Goddess Diana should be despised, and her Magnificence be destroyed, whom all Asia and the World worshipped. What Pity it was, that so pure and primitive a Church, and the most orthodox and best constituted Church in all Asia, should be in such piteous Danger!
1.Observe here, first, dearly Beloved, what false Knaves, and godless Infidels, these priestly Crew were. If they believed, that their Mistress, the Goddess, who had indeed the best accustomed Church in all Asia, was as great as they pretended her to be, why did they mistrust her Power to protect her own Grandeur, and defend herself? Especially against a single Man, whom they represented as an Enemy to the Gods and their Church, and who was consequently the more easy to be defeated or destroyed? But if they knew her unable to defend her Divinity, and support her Church, with them, her Priests, and Tradesmen; then were they in Reality Cheats and Unbelievers, though outwardly grave and zealous Votaries.
2.Take Notice, in the 2d Place, of the wide Difference that there is between these High Priests Church, and the Bible Church! The Priests Church being a Trading Church, and Money being her End, and Grimace her Ware, which were the Source of their Authority and Reverence; whatever enlightened the People, marred the Market of the Priests. By this Craft we have our Wealth: “While we can by Bawling and Lying put off our Trumpery for Religion, it will always sell well; otherwise, it will not be worth a Groat; let us contend for our Trumpery, and cry, The Church!” Accordingly we find the Auditory in the next Verse actually practising the Advice given them by this High-Church Preacher, and roaring for Diana of Ephesus; or, which is the same thing, For the Church. By this Craft we have our Wealth.
This, my Friends, was the Spirit of the Priests Church, so opposite to that of the Bible-Church; which being founded upon a Rock, fears neither Rain, nor Storms, nor Dissenters, nor False Brethren; yea, she is ounded upon a Rock, which Rock is Christ; and whoever trusts in him, and believes the Scripture, cannot think his Church in Danger. Indeed, if his Church is founded upon Hoods, and Caps, and Cringes, and Forms, and filthy Lucre, he may well dread the Judgment of God, and the Reason of Man; for they are both against him and his Dowdy, and his Church will rotter as soon as ever common Sense takes it by the Collar. By fearing for the Superstructure, he owns the Foundation to be sandy. By this Craft we have our Wealth.
TheseCraftsmen keep a Rout about the Danger of their Church. Why, my Brethren, it ought to be in Danger, like a sorry Bundle of Inventions and Gimcracks, as it was. But for the pure, the primitive Church of Christ, the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. Yea, the Craftsmen shall not prevail against it, who are the sorest Enemies which it ever had—It is founded upon a Rock. Paul does not once complain in all the New Testament, that his Church was in Danger, nor does any other of the Apostles or Evangelists. Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but the Word of the Lord abideth for ever. What say our Craftsmen to this? Either they know it not, or believe it not. Paul, whenever he mentions Dangers or Perils, in his Epistles, means Perils to his own Person: Nor did he, by his own Person, ever in all his Life, mean the Church. But Paul had the Spirit of God; he was no Craftsman.
We, my Beloved, who are Christians, trust to the Veracity of God, that he will for ever defend the holy Revelation that he has given us. Let us, on our Part, treat it as becomes its Dignity and omnipotent Author. Let us not turn our Religion into a Play, nor dishonour it with Baubles, as the Manner of the Popish Craftsmen is, who convert their Churches into Puppet-shews and Music-meetings; and then, when they are laughed at, cry they are in Danger. Pretty Fellows! to raise our Mirth whether we will or no, and then make us choak ourselves to keep it in. Their Craft is in Danger to be set at nought. They know its Value, and quake lest other People should know it too. Oh the Impudence of Craftsmen! how boldly they mock God, and in his Name pick Pockets!
3.Let us observe, 3dly, my Brethren, that the Christian Religion, which prevailed against all the Powers of the World, cannot be in Danger from all the Powers of the World: And every Church may be in Danger but a Christian Church. Let us praise the Lord, my Christian Friends, that our Church is safe.
Proceed we now to the 28th Verse: And when they heard these Sayings, they were full of Wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
1.We may remark here, 1st, my Friends, the violent Effects of a hot Sermon, however absurd and villainous. Here is Dr. Demetrius, whose Craft was all his Religion, lugs Heaven into a Dispute about his Trade, and tacks the Salvation of his Hearers to the Gain which he made of his Shrines; yet this awakened no Indignation in the seduced and ill-judging Auditory; but strait they were full of Wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians: The Church! the Church!
2. 2dly,We may remark, that Ignorance is the Mother of Zeal. They were full of Wrath. For what? Why for Diana of Ephesus. A God created by a Stone-cutter; an insensible Piece of Rock, guarded by a Band of Priests; who, hard as it was, picked a fine Livelihood out of it. But Paul had opened some Mens Eyes, and the Loaves began to come in but slowly. This enraged the Craftsmen, and they enraged the People. The Priests lost Customers, and the People lost their Senses. Such is the Power of Delusion over dark and slavish Minds! Let but the Priest point at a Wind-mill, and cry the Church is falling, his Congregation will venture their Brains to stop the Sails. What a rare Army does Zeal raise, when Religion and Reason do not spoil the Muster, or stop their March?
The next is the 29th Verse; And the whole City was filled with Confusion; and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, Men of Macedonia, Paul’s Companions in Travel, they rushed with one Accord into the Theatre.
and the whole City was filled with Confusion. Who doubts it, when Church was the Cry, and the Priests had begun it? Give them but their Way, and allow them but to assert their own Claims, they will quickly turn all things, human and divine, topsy-turvy. Here is a whole City thrown into Confusion, purely because a Branch of the priestly Trade, infamous, forged and irreligious, was like to fall before the Word of God preached by Paul.
1st,This shews, Sirs, that there is nothing so lying, and so vile, that they will not justify. They knew that their Church was a Creature of their own Composing; that the Worship performed in it was burlesque Worship, contrived by themselves, and paid to a senseless Image; and they knew, that the Whole was an impudent Delusion, framed by human Invention. And yet, you see, my Beloved, how they raise Heaven and Earth in Defence of their Forgeries and Superstitions. Not a Tittle will they part with, not a Shrine, not a Ceremony. No, rather than this, they publish Lyes, they deceive the People, they decry sober Piety, they raise a Sedition, and confound all things. By this Craft we have our Wealth.
2.Behold here, 2dly, the different Behaviour of Truth and Falshood! or, in other Words, of Paul and the Craftsmen! When Men contend for Truth, they do it calmly, because they are sure, that it will support itself. But Error, conscious of its weak Foundation, flies instantly, for Support, to Rage and Oppression. Paul reasons peaceably and powerfully; Demetrius deceives, scolds, and raises a Mob. But I defy the Craftsmen to shew me one Mob of Paul’s raising in all the New Testament.
The Apostle wanted no Mob; he neither blended Politics nor Gain with his Doctrine; he had no factious Designs; he meddled not with human Affairs; he taught Peace, and he practised it; he had no Grimace to support; no mock Reverence to acquire or defend; he abhorred pious Fraud, and exposed it; he shewed the People the manifest Truths of the Gospel, and of Reason, and that presently opened their Eyes to see the impious Delusions, and bold Impositions, of the reigning Priests; and hence began the Rage of Dr. Demetrius and his Mob.
3.From this you may learn, 3dly, my Friends, that one Man, with Truth on his Side, is enough to frighten a whole Army, yea, a whole Hierarchy of Craftsmen, and to defeat them, if he has but a fair Hearing. You see also the graceless Methods that red-hot High Priests take, to confute such a Man: First, they dress him up as an Atheist, and an Enemy to the Church, and then set the Mob upon him; for the Law was not against Paul, as we shall see presently, and yet they meant to destroy Paul against Law. An implacable Tribe! No Power can satisfy them, that has either Mercy in it, or Bounds to it: Craft is their Calling, and Lyes, and Violence, the Tools of their Trade.
Oh, my Christian Friends! what Wolves are Men, yea, what Wolves are Priests, when they have hardened themselves against the Grace of God? Without Meekness and Peace there can be no such thing as the Fear of the Lord; Witness Dr. Demetrius, and those that are like him. Let us pray for their Amendment, that it would please the Lord to take away their reprobate Mind.
and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, Men of Macedonia, Paul’s Companions in Travel, they rushed with one Accord into the Theatre.
Gaius and Aristarchus, Dissenters, to be sure, and Non-conformist Preachers! Men of Macedonia; Foreigners too, ever the Aversion of High-Church! Paul’s Companions in Travel. How! bare Companions? Methinks that is something familiar, unless perhaps they were Lords Archbishops of some Country, where they did not reside. But Paul, you see, had no spiritual Pride, nor received his Fellow - Christians upon the Knee, as some who pretend to be his Successors at Rome, and elsewhere, do in our Days.
Theyrushed with one Accord into the Theatre. Ay, they had got their Prey, a Brace of Non-cons, and carried them into the Playhouse to bait them. What hooping and hallooing, I warrant ye, about the two godly Christians! How many Fanatics, think ye, they were called, and Disturbers of the Peace of Diana’s High - Church? Doubtless they were charged with writing Books and Papers against Diana’s Clergy, and the established Gew-gaws; and perhaps Paul was suspected for having a Hand in them, and some of his Epistles were produced to make good the Charge. Well! here they are, the Priests their Accusers, the Mob their Judges, and Truth their Crime! Men and Wickedness are still the same; we have seen the like in our Times.
and when Paul would have entered in unto the People, the Disciples suffered him not, v. 30. Here is, on one hand, the Boldness of a Man, who has God for his Guide; and on the other, the Prudence of Men, who knew the Mercy of Priests and Mobs. And therefore certain of the Chief of Asia, which were his Friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the Theatre, v. 31.
The 32d Verse is pregnant with Instruction: Some therefore cried one thing, and some another; for the Assembly was confused, and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.
some cried one thing, and some another. The true Genius of a Rabble, led by their Priests and their Passions, against Peace and against Religion! They are united in their Zeal to do Mischief, but they differ how they shall go about it. They are for the Church, Diana’s Church, it is true; and shew it by Rage and Noise: But they are under no Rules, except the general one taught them by the Craftsmen, namely, to be fierce for the Church, against the Apostle; for the rest, every Man is his own Master, and every Man will be heard first.
A rare Picture of our present Mob, headed by one of themselves in a Gown; I mean, our modern Demetrius. I think the Man is no great Craftsman; but he has got Diana in his Head, and he himself is in the Head of the Rabble: But, as to the Point of Understanding we may throw him and his Rabble together into one short Prayer, and cry with our Blessed Lord, when the Jewish Priests were putting him to Death, for bearing Witness against their carnal Inventions, their Hypocrisy, and their Cruelty; Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.
the Assembly was confused. There was no Order, no Reason, no Moderation among them. The very Type of our High-Church Mob again! And the more part knew not wherefore they were come together: that is, though, as I said before, they came determined to do Mischief, yet they were at a Loss what Species of it to go about, till their General, the Priest, gave them the Word. Oh, my Beloved, let us lament the horrible State of those poor unregenerate Souls, whose Pastors feed them with Poison instead of the Food of Life, and teach them Rage instead of Religion. Take Warning, Sirs, I say unto you, take Warning; beware of Diana, and her Craftsmen; and cleave to your Bibles, as you love your Souls.
and they drew Alexander out of the Multitude, the Jews (the believing Jews) putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with his Hand, and would have made his Defence unto the People. But when they knew, that he was a Jew, (that is, a believing Jew) all with one Voice, about the Space of two Hours, cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians! v. 33, 34.
Was there ever such a Couple of Twin-Cases as theirs and ours! Verily, our High-Church Bigots and Ragamuffins are the undoubted Descendents of Diana’s Tories at Ephesus sixteen hundred Years ago. Nor is the Breed one whit mended; they are still the Black-guard of the Craftsmen, blind, outrageous, and loud.
We too, my Brethren, would, like the good Alexander in my Text, make our Defence unto the People; and they will not hear us. Pray mark the different Manner of our disputing from theirs, and the contrary Arguments we use; we appeal to the Bible; they cry the Church! and answer the Word of the Lord with a Brickbat: Oh horrible!
great is Diana of the Ephesians! High-Church for ever! and ’tis likely they swore to it. This was the Cry for the Space of two Hours. Poor Souls! it was all that they could say, and all that their Priests had taught them to say, Great is Diana of the Ephesians! Was ever Church more pithily defended! Certainly the Craftsmen of our Days have learned their Logic from their Ephesian Predecessors. Great is Diana of the Ephesians! I have heard a Sermon a full Hour long upon the same Subject, and yet not more said, nor better.
You have already, my Beloved, heard two Speeches, one from the Craftsmen, and the other from the Mob. Dr. Demetrius, being in the Chair, tells his Brethren of the Trade, that by this Craft (observe, by this Craft!) they had their Wealth. This is the first Part of his Sermon; and in troth, he puts the best Leg foremost, and uses his strongest Argument first: He fairly puts the Stress of his Faith upon the ready Rhino, and in the very Dawn of his Discourse, shews himself to be Orthodox. I dare say, the whole Convocation was convinced. He has, however, a rare Gudgeon behind for the Mob; and what should that be, trow ye, but a Charge of Heresy against Paul? The Apostle had the Assurance to publish, forsooth, that they be no Gods which are made with Hands: Terrible Atheism against the Established Divinity! and you see what a bitter Spirit it raised.
This, my Friends, was the Priest’s Speech or Sermon: Now hear the Mob’s Speech once more; for it is a Rarity, as we say in Berkshire. Why they cried out till their Throats were jaded, Great is Diana of the Ephesians; and lugged a Couple of painful Dissenting Ministers into the Bear-Garden, where I am sorry we must leave them to the Mercy of High-Church Men.
Now, my Christian Friends, you shall hear a third Speech, which by its Honesty, Moderation, and good Sense, will refresh you after all the Knavery and Impudence in the Craftsmen, and all this Sottishness and Fury in the People.
and when the Town-Clerk had appeased the People, he said, Ye Men of Ephesus, what Man is there, that knoweth not how that the City of the Ephesians is a Worshipper of the great Goddess Diana, and of the Image which fell down from Jupiter? Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and do nothing rashly: For ye have brought hither these Men, which are neither Robbers of Churches, nor yet Blasphemers of your Goddess. Wherefore, if Demetrius, and the Craftsmen which are with him, have a Matter against any Man, the Law is open, and there are Deputies: Let them implead one another, v. 35, 36, 37, 38.
This is the Speech of a Layman, and a Lawyer! Think ye not, my Friends, that he was a Low-Church Man? I wot he was.
seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against. Right, Mr. Town-Clerk! their dowdy Image was established by Law; and if it had been a Broom-stick, it would have had the Priests on its Side, and must have been worshipped: Where the Carcase is, there will the Ravens be gathered together.
ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly. So they would, if the Priests had let them alone. But the Craftsmen had goaded their Sides with the Cry of the Church, till the poor Reprobates were stark mad.
what Man is there, that knoweth not, &c. Why, every body knew, that Madam Diana’s Palace at Ephesus had more Superstition and Peter Pence paid to it, and consequently had a greater Swarm of Chaplains, than all the Divinity-Shops in Asia besides. She had Men and Money of her Side. What! could not all this secure her? No; her Bully-boys were afraid of Jesus Christ, and Two or Three Dissenting Teachers, his Servants.
and the Image which fell down from Jupiter. Fell down from Jupiter! what great Lyars some Priests are, my Beloved! They will needs fetch all their Fables, and filthy Ware, out of Heaven itself; and yet who has less Interest there? Their very Ballads and Rareeshews are fathered upon Divine Right. Oh Sirs, the brazen Front of some Men! The Town-Clerk here conforms himself to their Manner of speaking: But, take my Word for it, the Man knew better.
theImage which fell down from Jupiter. As I was just now saying, all the Priests Lumber comes from God; and yet they are scared out of their Wits, lest Man should take it from them; as if God could not defend his own Gifts and Institutions. This preposterous Conduct bewrays them. Either they believe not in God; or know that they belye him: Both Cases, my Brethren, are very common. Whosoever feareth the Lord, need not fear what Man can do unto him.
Mr. Town-Clerk proceeds: For ye have brought hither these Men, which are neither Robbers of Churches, nor yet Blasphemers of your Goddess.
Well urged, “If the Men are innocent, why do ye abuse them? If they preach false Doctrine, why do ye not confute them? If they come not to your Established Church, why do ye not convince them, that they ought to come? Or, because ye cannot answer them, do ye therefore mob them? It is plain, that the honest Men have neither stolen any of your Madam’s consecrated Trinkets, nor called her Whore.”
wherefore,if Demetrius, and the Craftsmen which are with him, have a Matter against any Man, the Law is open, and there are Deputies: Let them implead one another.
Better still! This is Reasoning now; a Practice which the Craftsmen do not care for; the Arm of Flesh is their best Argument, and at that too they are generally laid in the Dirt. “Gentlemen, (says the Town-Clerk) it is evident, that ye distrust your Cause, by not trusting the Merits of it to the Law. All external Advantages are for you; ye are in your own Town; ye have most Friends, and most Money; and let me tell you too, Gentlemen, ye have most Assurance; else I should never have found you here bawling for your Church, and breaking the Law, and, to your eternal Scandal, besetting with your Numbers a few harmless Men, whose only Arms lie in the Innocence of their Lives, and in the Force of what they say. If you are vanquished at these Weapons, have the Honesty to own it, or for Shame be silent. If these Men, Gentlemen, speak against the Law, why punish ye them not by the Law? But if ye have no Law against them, neither have they any Transgression.”
What Answer, trow ye, did the Craftsmen, or their Calves, the Multitude, make to this? Why, verily, such an Answer, I guess, as they are wont to make to us every Day: I suppose they damned him for a Whig, and so got drunk, and went home.
Oh, my Friends, the deplorable Condition of Men that are out of Christ! And such are they who take their Religion from the Craftsmen. The Worshippers of Diana would have been as outrageous for one of her Beagles, had the Craftsmen told them, that the Beagle came down from Jupiter. My Brethren, let us cleave to our Bibles; yea, I say unto you, let us cleave to our Bibles.
III. I come now to my third and last general Head, namely, to end my Discourse with a short Word of Application; having, as I went along, anticipated myself, and made several Observations which would else have arisen patly here.
The great Inference I shall make is, that Craftsmen, or High-Church Men, are at Odds with Conscience and Truth, and afraid of them. And indeed, to do them Justice, tho’, in relation to God and Religion, there is no believing what they say; yet, whenever they reason from their own Interests, they reason well: By this Craft we have our Wealth. As to their Flourish about Diana, and her High-Church, it has not, in point of Argument, common Sense in it. All they assert is, that all Asia worshipped her; as if, because Diana was then uppermost, therefore Jesus Christ ought to have been kept undermost. They could not stand Paul’s Logic; he appealed to Facts, he appealed to Reason, he appealed to Conscience.
They therefore (that is, Diana’s High-Priests, or the Overseers of her Fopperies, and Fingerers of her Gain) form a Design to oppress a Man whom they could not answer. There was no bearing it, that Men should be conducted in their Religion by inward Conviction, and the Grace of God, and not by them, who had no Advantage from either, for the Support of their Impositions.
Beside, if all external Trumpery and Grimace in Religion were certainly ridiculous and vain, as the Christian Religion certainly teaches; if Postures, Cringes, Shrines, Music, and the like bodily Devotion, were so far from signifying any thing, that they were a certain and pernicious Contradiction to the simple Institution of Jesus, whose Will was fulfilled by believing in him, and living well; then were the Craftsmen like to be but little reverenced, and to have but little Custom for their Shrines, and their small Wares. A Priest dressed up in an antic Coat, and making Mouths before a dead Image, would make a merry Figure before the People, instead of an aweful one, as formerly; and in the midst of all their holy Hubbub and Solemnity, a Christian need but ask them one short Question, Who required these things at your Hand? and they were confounded.
What do they do therefore in this Case? Do they defend the Church-gear by Reason, or by Reason confute Paul? No: Paul asserted, that they be no Gods which are made with Hands; the most self-evident Truth that ever was asserted by any Man. They cannot answer it; nor yet will they own themselves in the Wrong; but they will punish the Apostle for being in the Right. Well, in order to do this, do they go to Law with him? Not that neither: Paul and his Companions had offended no Law: They were peaceable Men, they were loyal Subjects, and good Livers: They were Contenders for Virtue and Piety; and they had not uttered a Syllable against Diana’s Idol, but what resulted from the eternal Truths which they delivered.
What Course then do the Craftsmen take with them? Why, a very extraordinary one in itself, but very common with them; even the Course of unprecedented Power and Oppression. They were chargeable with no legal Crime: All their Offence was, that they enraged the Craftsmen, by opening the Gospel Day-light upon the dark Minds of the misled Multitude. They therefore shew their Rage, and have the innocent Men seized, and deprived of their Liberty, without the Shadow of any legal Process against them. Nay, it does not appear, that they had yet found a Name for the Crime that they alleged; but the Men were confined at Random, and probably put to great Charges.
This shews their Spirit; and that priestly Rage will be gratified over the Belly of Truth, of Innocence, of Humanity, of Law, and of Religion itself. It cannot brook the least good Office done to human Kind; all its Absurdities are sacred; and yet nothing is sacred enough to mollify or restrain it, ever unforgiving, ever gnashing its Teeth. Truth will perpetually be its Foe, and therefore it will perpetually be in a Flame.
And this shews too the Amiableness of an opposite Spirit; I mean, the amiable Spirit of the Gospel. Where did ever our Blessed Saviour, who held all Power in Heaven and Earth, and could command Legions of Angels; where, or when did he, in the midst of Dangers, Opposition, and Abuses, ever oppress or punish even his unbelieving and implacable Enemies? Where did ever Paul, who had the Power and Assistance of the Holy Ghost, and who had the Power and Assistance of Miracles; where and when did ever he shew any Resentment to his bitterest Foes among the Jews, or his most idolatrous Gainsayers among the Gentiles?
And what Account is to be given for this diametrical Opposition between these two Spirits; I mean, the Spirit of the Gospel, and the Spirit of High Priests? Why, none but this, that Christ and his Apostles sought no Empire but over Wickedness and Error, by the sole Means of Grace, Gentleness, and Persuasion; and they who have opposite Ends to serve, must bring them about by Delusion, Violence, and Force. This, I will maintain, is a certain Criterion to mark out Truth and Falshood, and true and false Teachers: And I defy all the Priests upon Earth to shew, that the internal Religion of Jesus wants, for its Stay, or its Advancement, the external Influence of worldly Power. It was always purest, and flourished most, when all human Power was against it. Slaves and Hypocrites may be made by it; but Religion rejoices in Liberty and Sincerity.
When Men are angry in Defence of their Opinions, and oppress for their sake; let them not belye Christ, and say, it is for him: but let their Passions be made to answer for what nothing but their Passions can produce. Why must Ambition, Avarice, and Revenge, be fathered upon Religion, which abhors them all? Why must Bitterness and Cruelty be laid at the Door of the Father of Mercies? Pudet hac opprobria nobis, &c.
We cannot bear such Violence offered to our Reason, and our Language, as any longer to hear Things called by wrong and unnatural Names; or to see barbarous and impious Actions varnished over with holy Colours, and godly Pretences. It gets the better of our Patience, and is an Affront to our Religion. We cannot find Christ in the Actions of Belial; nor can we see the holy Man in the Oppressor. They that would resemble Jesus Christ, must do as he did, and not do what he never did; and they who will in any Case follow the religious Measures taken here by the Idolaters of Diana, in the Case of Paul, must forego their Title to Christianity, and argue as these Idolaters did, By this Craft we have our Wealth: And then the Religion of the New Testament will not be profaned in their Quarrel.
But why seize Paul, or any body that belonged to him? Is one Man such a Terror to many, that he must be punished before it appears, that he deserved any Punishment at all, and before he is heard? Or is it dangerous to hear him? And are they afraid of his Defence in a legal Trial, as much as of his Preaching, and of his Reasoning?
It is plain, that downright Oppression, that is, Power without Law, was the whole Scope of their Proceedings, and Revenge their only Motive. It is plain, that Paul was not running away: His whole Business was to publish Truth; he was at Ephesus on Purpose; he did it every Day; he preached in Public; he taught in their Synagogues, he disputed in their Schools. And he did all this so publicly and so effectually, that the Arch-Craftsman charges him with having persuaded and turned away much People. Ay, that griped; his Reasoning prevailed, and the Craft was in Danger.
Let us now, my Beloved, mark the very different Situation of Paul and his Adversaries; they were in Possession of an established Church, and of all its Revenues, and of the Superstition of the People, who run mad for the Church at the Pleasure of the Priest. The Law, no doubt, was partial to them, being made by Men of their own Religion; and the Judges and Magistrates were all of the same. The People were of Opinion, that their Church was of divine Institution, and that Heaven was on their Side. The Philosophers, and all they who governed their Schools, and had the Education of Youth, were of that Church, being every one Heathens, except perhaps a few, who judged for themselves, and could distinguish Natural Religion, instituted by God, from the absurd Medley of Rituals, invented by the Priests. The Christian Religion was as yet but in its Infancy. In short, the Craftsmen governed all Things; Earth was in their Possession, and Heaven they pretended was their Champion.
Here are Securities and Advantages enough to put Truth out of Countenance, had Truth been amongst them. In reality, she wants not so many: But Falshood can never have enough. The Craftsmen knew this, and shewed that they did so, by their outrageous Behaviour.
Let us now view Paul, and see what terrible Arms he bears, that are so frightful to the Craftsmen; he was a Stranger, he was a Dissenter; he had no Equipage to dazzle Peoples Eyes; no pompous Garments to win their Reverence, nor Wealth to bribe their Affections; he sought no Popularity, by indulging Men in their Vices, or encouraging them in their Errors. In short, all the numerous Advantages of his Adversaries, the Priests, were so many Obstacles and Disadvantages to him, the Apostle. To conclude, he had only Truth on his Side; which rendered him an Over-match for all the Priests then in the World. All the Privilege, all the Advantage, which he desired, was a fair Hearing. This, it seems, he had obtained of the Town; and it had its Effect. Here was his Crime, and here began the priestly Fury, the fiercest, the most brutish of all others.
Shameless Men! Was it not enough, that Reason and Religion were both against you; and that you would neither be Proselytes to them yourselves, nor suffer, with your Wills, that others should; but must you likewise be proclaiming their invincible Power, and your own Imbecillity and Nakedness, by virulently using direct, undisguised Force, to stop their Mouths? What Impudence! What Folly!
What! you that boasted your Conformity to the Law, and your Establishment by the Law! you that were the Possessors of all Scholarship! that were Proprietors of the Arts and Sciences, and of the great Endowments given for their Support! you that instructed the Young and the Old, and controuled the Consciences of both! you that were the sacred Administrators of Religion! you that shut and opened Heaven and Hell! you that were the Privy-Counsellors of the Gods! In the Name of Amazement what could undermine you; what could annoy you? Or, if you are not hurt yourselves, why do you oppress others? By this Method you do but shew your cloven Feet: Jesus we know, and Paul we know; but who are ye?
The Busy and Assuming Spirit of
Their Extravagant Demands upon the
The Third Edition.
A LETTER TO A GENTLEMAN AT EDINBURGH, &c.
YOU desire to know something of the present Spirit and Conduct of our Clergy; a Curiosity to which you are prompted by the Behaviour of your own, who, you say, are so zealous for the Welfare of your Souls, as to concern themselves in all your Affairs, even in such as relate only to your Persons, Families, and Diversions. That, in former Times, the holy Men their Predecessors were wont to mix their reverend Spite and Impertinence with their ghostly Care, to confound Spirituals with Temporals, and to dictate in all things, is what I have heard; but was in hopes, that a freer Spirit, with an Increase of Liberty and Sense, had put an End to such Ecclesiastical Intrusion, and taught the present Set, that as their Ministry is known to be bounded by the Bible, and the Civil Constitution, they ought to keep themselves warily within the Limits of their Ministry; that if they break the Bounds within which they are placed, and usurp a Jurisdiction which they have not Force to maintain, People will scorn their Fairy Dominion, and they will lose their Credit, by grasping at Power. The Authority of Nurses and Pedagogues is confined to Infants and Pupils; it is stinted in Time, as well as in Measure, and ends where Childhood ends, and where the Years of Discretion begin. Should an old Woman take upon her to direct my Youth, because she fed and whipped me, when I was a Babe; or should my Tutor, who taught me to decline Verbs, or to chatter Logic, when I was a Boy, seek with his pedantic Talents to controul me, when a Man; I should be apt to think the Nurse and the Tutor, though perhaps alike wise, yet alike unfit for Mastership and Government.
The Province of our spiritual Nurses is restrained to Offices purely spiritual. In the Conduct of domestic and civil Life, in the Rules of good Sense and Business, or even in those of just Thinking and Reasoning; they are generally, of all Men, the most unfit to direct or advise. Besides their eminent Inexperience; besides the Narrowness of their Spirit, and that their Judgment is as defective and aukward, as is their Address and Behaviour; they generally meddle with the Affairs of other Men from Motives intirely despicable and selfish, from Pride and Peevishness, from Resentment or Revenge, or for some paltry Advantage, for a Fondness of being courted or feared, of being thought wise and important, or from some other Consideration unworthy of a Man of Sense, or Honour, or Spirit.
It is to no Purpose to say, that they only aim at correcting Vice, and ill Principles. For they often create Vice, and find it where it is not, in harmless Mirth and Amusement, and in Recreations where not only all Decency and regular Behaviour is observed, but where Vice and Impertinence are ridiculed and lashed, and where Lessons of Morality and Honour are recommended and enforced. And for ill Principles, what they call so, are often no other than harmless Speculations and Inquiries after Truth, or the Result of such Inquiries; often the most noble and beneficent Notions, such as represent the Deity uniform, dispassionate, and impartial, abhorring human Cruelties, forgiving human Weaknesses and Mistakes, pleased with a sincere Heart, nor expecting more from his Creatures than he has given them, and disengaged from all little Prejudices in Favour of Sects and Parties.
This creating and multiplying of Sins, and finding Transgressions where the Bible finds none, has what the World calls Policy in it; because the more Sin abounds, the more necessary ghostly Men are thought; and this Policy they have improved so notably, where they have been encouraged, or even suffered, that they have turned almost every thing into Sin, except what is the most wretched and unmanly of all Sins, that of adoring and obeying Priests. But this Policy is attended with one flagrant Inconvenience: Every Man of Discernment will be apt to ask, If Iniquities are thus increasing, and Men grow daily worse, in spite of such numerous Monitors, in spite of their holy Counsels, their pious Examples, their awful and repeated Denunciations; then what avails an expensive Army of Priests, who own themselves daily conquered, and utterly unequal to the adverse Host? This looks like a Confession, that either Satan fears them not, or that they do not all that might be done against Satan.
In Popish Countries there are several Transactions, which appear like palpable Juggles between the Devil and the Friers; particularly in the Business of Exorcism, and casting out evil Spirits: The Devil in Possession often holds out a long and inveterate Siege, and when he is at last ejected, he is free to enter into the same Person again, or into somebody else. If they have indeed Power over the Devil, why do they not cast him quite out of the World, at least out of the Country? Would we not think, that a General mocked us, if he asserted, that he had beaten the Enemies every-where, driven them out of every Town, and every particular Place, but still they were as strong as ever, and still ravaging the Country? I should think, that he and his Troops deserved to be broken, notwithstanding his boasted Skill, and invisible Feats.
Methinks it is not the deepest Craft, for holy Men, armed with such high Powers, to be always appearing in a Fright, and crying for Help from unhallowed Laymen, upon every Phantom of Danger. Against the Cause of God, we are assured by himself, that the Gates of Hell shall not prevail; and to such as maintain his Cause by his own Assistance, what Danger is to be apprehended, what human Assistance can be wanted? The Apostles wanted none against the whole Pagan World, against all the Hosts of Jewish and Pagan Priests, breathing Persecution, and deadly Rage: Yet the Apostles had no Establishment, no Revenues, no privileged Tribunals to harangue in, no Laws against Heretics or Gainsayers, nor even against Blasphemers; and were but a few Men, dispersed over the World, without Money, without Mobs, and even without University Education.
At present, and for many Ages past, we have had Apostolic Men by Thousands in every Country, and Millions of Money they have cost almost every Country to maintain them. They are protected by Laws sufficiently indulgent, and without Number. Schools are erected and supported at the public Expence for their Education; they themselves govern these Schools, and conduct the National Teaching, both in the Schools, and in the Pulpits. The first thing learned by Infants is to reverence them; they catechise us when Children, they instruct our Youth, and when we are Men, we are not manumitted from their Instruction. Young Women are partial to them, Old ones adore them. When we are in Health, we wait upon them for Admonition; and when sick, receive their Counsel and Discipline at home. ’Tis they that exhort, they that rebuke, they that preach to the People, they that pray for them; ’tis they who administer the Seals of the Covenant, work a holy and imperceptible Change in Wine, and Bread, and Water, and they who utter ineffable Mysteries: They bless, they curse; they offer Heaven, they possess Earth; they denounce Damnation; they cry aloud, they threaten, they terrify: They are Embassadors from God; they know his Will; they bear his Authority, they communicate his Intentions, deliver his Commands, distribute his Rewards and Terrors, apply his Blessings and Judgments: They shut the Gates of Paradise; they open those of Hell; they admit us into Christ’s holy Church, they nature us in it, or exclude us out of it, and are daily apprising us of their own Power and Importance.
Now what can annoy, what ought to frighten or alarm, Men thus endowed and reverenced; thus adored and exalted; thus dear to Heaven; thus absolute upon Earth; thus encompassed and guarded by Securities Divine and Human, so signal and many? It is too great a Compliment to the Powers of Darkness, and, in my Opinion, inconsistent with Orthodoxy, to suppose them a Match, much more an Over-match, for the Children of Light; especially for the Envoys and Representatives of the Almighty. This would be introducing a terrible Doctrine amongst Men; it would be finding a Reason and an Apology for the Worship paid by the wild Indians to the Evil Spirit; who being an Enemy to God, and long since vanquished and damned, can never be an Object of Terror to sound Believers: The Wicked one has no Armour that is Proof against a lively Faith, which, as it can remove Mountains, must easily drive away Satan. It is therefore Want of Faith to fear the Devil, whom even Free-thinkers and Unbelievers fear not. It is indeed matter of Lamentation, that Christians, yea, the Directors and Conductors of Christians, should have less Courage than Men who are given up to a reprobate Mind; Men left to uncovenanted Mercy, and without Shield or Fence against the Assaults of the Enemy.
You therefore surprise me, by telling me, as you do, that a Pantomime, a poor Player, tony ashton, and his Comedians, have been able to ruffle and disquiet the Minds of the Reverend Ministers of the Kirk. What Tools he brings with him, terrible to the Hierarchy, I cannot conceive. The Laws, the Gospel, and private Persons, are protected by the Civil Power: And if Tony can hurt and insult neither Religion, nor Cæsar, nor Particulars, how comes he to occasion such Uproar and Alarms?
Doubtless there are several Plays too gross and licentious; and so, sometimes, have been many Sermons: Yet, when a Preacher has abused the Privilege of Preaching, advanced wild Opinions, and uttered dangerous and ridiculous Follies, as, upon Occasions, has happened; it has not been allowed to interrupt or contradict him. Nay, when the Civil Power has questioned him for insulting or calumniating the Civil Administration; his Brethren have waxed wroth and outrageous, that any of their Body should be questioned at any Tribunal but their own: A Right and Impunity, which, I think, are claimed as sturdily by the Fathers of the Kirk, as by our High-Church, or the High-Church in Italy.
But as this extravagant Claim implies, that all Rights and Powers whatsoever do directly or indirectly appertain to themselves, and dooms all Men to a vile and blind Dependence upon the Clergy in all things; so it should warn every Man, who would not blindly tread in the Steps, and hang by the Cloak or the Cassock, of a Pedagogue, to preserve an Independence upon the Clergy in all things where the Clergy have nothing to do. Other Commission, than that of Counselling and Exhorting such as will bear them, I know none that our Blessed Saviour has given them; and this he has given to all Men.
What have the Parsons to do with our Recreations and Amusements? Does the Gaiety and Openness of the Spirit, occasioned by Festivity and Diversion, lead to Sin and Lubricity? Who told them so? Upon me it had never any such Effect; and by what Rule do they judge? In my Opinion, the opposite Commotions of Spirit, those of Bitterness, Ferocity, and Uncharitableness, are in themselves sinful: odious and unsociable, I am sure they are, and the genuine Attributes of Monks and Cynics.
With Pretences equally just, may they claim the Direction of our Persons, Tables, and Dress. The Ladies must not wear fine Silks, nor the Men fine Perriwigs, for Fear of exciting Concupiscence, and alluring one another: Nay, they must not wear fine Linen, nor wash their Faces, for the like Theological Reason. They must not enter a Tavern, for fear of being drunk; nor be merry, for fear of being profane; nor eat a good Meal, nor deal in Sauces and Dainties, for fear of pampering the Flesh.
There is no Length to which such impertinent Reasoning, when it is once admitted, will not go: And, in Effect, we see that in every thing which passes within the Heart of Man or Woman, or in their Dress, Eating, Drinking, and general Oeconomy, the Romish Priests act the Busy-body, and assume to be Comptrollers. Even in the conjugal Pleasures, those between a Man and his Wife, they assert a Right to be informed, and to dictate. They of that Religion know this by Experience; and by reading their Books of Confession and Casuistry; every one may know it. What, in the Name of Wonder, is it to a Man who deals in Spirituals, whether, when a Woman, in Bed with her Husband, lays her Leg upon his, he is to take it for a Signal, and obey it, though she say never a Word? Yet this Query is put by a grave Casuist, and answered in the Affirmative; Imo, certe, says he, propter Modestiam Sexus: So favourable was the good Doctor to the Ladies!
This meddling of theirs in every thing, and meddling like Masters and Governors, will make People tired and uneasy to be under their Direction in any thing: So that where they are not armed with the Civil Sword, and the Terrors of an Inquisition, as, I thank God heartily, they are not like to be with us; they will lose the Credit which they might otherwise preserve, and grow contemptible, by being troublesome and impertinent. The Pulpit is their Province, and even that is a Province which they should exercise with Modesty and Wariness; especially in a Generation like this, when People have learnt to assert their natural Liberty, and the Use of their Senses, and to dispute the Truth of Positions which they judge to be doubtful or false, however imperiously maintained by Men of Reverence and Name.
That Authority which depends only or chiefly upon the Esteem and Opinions of Men, is exceeding precarious, and will decay or perish, as those Opinions alter, or that Esteem is lost, or lessens. Many have lost all Credit by carrying it too high, or by maintaining it by false and deceitful Supports. What has been the Consequence of all the wild and unmeasurable Claims contended for in behalf of Churchmen, by Dr. hickes, Mr. lesley, and the other Champions of that Cause? It is true, they were greedily swallowed by many of the selfish and aspiring Clergy; infatuated many weak Brains amongst them, and deceived several of the People, chiefly the Vulgar in Condition of Understanding: But their Triumph was short and contemptible. These extravagant Demands for extravagant Power in Ecclesiastics, occasioned a Number of such Answers, as have not only set the Authority of Churchmen very low in the Opinion of almost all Men, and demonstrated, that from Christ they derive no Power or Revenue at all, but, for all that they have, must be beholden to Laymen and the Law; but they have likewise, by Reasoning and Examples upon that Subject, shewn the Spirit of the Ecclesiastics almost in all Times, to have been so tyrannical, vindictive, and rapacious, that most Men are become loth to trust them with overmuch Wealth or Power, or indeed with any, independent upon the Civil Government.
As the Writings of these Divines were visionary, absurd, and indeed arrogant, full of Principles destructive of Civil Liberty, and all Liberty, opposite to the Spirit of the Reformation, and contrary to all good Sense, and all Modesty; and yet greedily read and approved by Numbers of the inferior Clergy; Men who had better Sense and Discernment, and wished well to the free Constitution of their Country, conceived Indignation at the propagating and encouraging of Notions so wild and mischievous; and have exposed them so effectually, that such Notions, and the Authors of them, are now as much contemned, as they were insolent and chimerical. Such, in Truth, was the Scheme of these Nonjurors, and their Followers; so exorbitant and wicked it was, that nothing but blind Popery, settled in the Church, and absolute Tyranny in the State, could have supported it: and I think, it is plain, that both these Supports were intended to be introduced. Indeed, the Scheme itself necessarily implied them; and without them, it was a mere Dream.
It is true, that some of these high Contenders for unbounded Power in the Church and the Crown, wrote against Popery, and set Bounds to the Prerogative in Church-Matters. But it is equally true, that they only contended against the Popery of the Pope, and against owning the Jurisdiction of Rame: They, at the same time, boldly asserted a Power to themselves equal to that of the Pope; asserted all the dreadful, all the selfish and lucrative, and most of the extravagant Positions of Popery; such as the Right of knowing Hearts by Confession; the Power of Damning and Saving; Prayers for the Dead; Extreme Unction; great and princely Power and Revenues, all holden in their own Right, without depending upon the Civil Power, and even in Spite of it. It I must be enslaved or oppressed by an imperious, assuming Priesthood, what is the Difference to me, whether my Oppressor live at Rome, or Canterbury, or Edinburgh?
The Manner also in which these High-Church Writers treat the Crown, is most insolent, shameless, and dishonest. They exempt themselves, and all that is theirs, which is whatever they have a Mind to call so, from all Cognizance or Authority of the Civil Power of the Prince. Their Persons, they say, are sacred, as well as his; nay, more sacred, and their Possessions defended by Privileges divine: So that though they surrender him the Laity, to be used or spoiled, fleeced or flayed, as he pleases; though they belye the holy Name of God to sanctify Oppression, to secure the Oppressor, and to terrify the poor abused Sufferers from lifting up their Hand, or even their Voice and Complaints, for Relief; though they call every Attempt to preserve their Persons and Property, and to resist insulting Spoilers, a resisting of God, and for it threaten Damnation; yet, if he dare but to touch themselves, dare to meddle with their Revenues, to enter the Sanctuary, or to claim any Share of their Wealth or Jurisdiction, Heaven and Earth are summoned to assist them, and to resist him; Woes are denounced against the faint Heart, and feeble Hand; and the Crosier is reared against the Sceptre.
Is not such impudent Conduct enough to open the Eyes of all Men, even of the most stupid, bigotted, and blind? To see Religion turned into a manifest Market of Power and Wealth; the great God made the Voucher of an execrable Bargain between the Oppressors of Men in their Persons, and the Oppressors of Men in their Consciences; to see Men tied up or let loose, made tame or furious, crouching under unrelenting Tyranny, or armed against legal Power, just as they are directed, scared, or inflamed by Priests! To see these Priests claiming to themselves all sorts of Privileges, and Wealth and Power without Bounds; to see them assuming Principalities and Power, by virtue of Successorship to the poor, wandering, and persecuted Apostles; and yet denying the abused Laity, from whom they have all things, to have a Right to any thing, not even to their Property, and their Senses! Will such Clergymen, after this, complain that such Clergymen are not reverenced? Men, who by their extravagant and selfish Positions, discover a Spirit so unchristian and unsociable; such a one as undermines all the Rights and Pleasure of human Society, and of human Life. They are, indeed, contemned; and upon themselves they have drawn that Contempt. Will they complain of the Growth of Infidelity and Profaneness, when, by their Example and Principles, they had shewn, that they meant to debase Religion as far as it could be debased, by turning it into an Engine for Dominion and Opulence; and perverted the Gospel into a Scheme of Grandeur, Absurdities, and Persecution? What has propagated Infidelity so much as their own selfish Tenets and Conduct, and the vile Use which they made of the Bible; as if it had been nothing else but a Patent to exalt Priests, and enslave the Laity? Of all the Latitudinarian Books in the World, the Writings of High-Church Men are the most fraught with mischievous and horrible Positions.
I wish, for the Honour of the whole Body of the Clergy, that the Convocation had at any time branded such infamous and pestilent Doctrines, by some just and public Censure, such as they have been very free to bestow upon Books and Propositions which defended the common Rights of Conscience and Society. By their utter Silence in this Matter, they have a ministered a Handle to some for suspecting, (I hope, unjustly) that, to Assemblies of Clergymen, the Happiness of the Laity was of little Concernment, and Liberty of Conscience a Matter of Offence: That they had Views irreconcileable to the Reformation, and the Establishment, and were pursuing an Interest opposite to that of the Public. What heightened this Suspicion, was the manifest Partiality of their Conduct: While they were assiduously searching after Books which defended the Civil Rights of Society, and the unalienable Right of all Men to think for themselves, in order to censure them; and in doing it, did notoriously misrepresent them; they thought fit to pass over Books which asserted the blackest of all Iniquities, that of Persecution; Books which reviled the Constitution, struck at the Root of public Liberty, contended for public Servitude, (in the Laity only) and boldly revived and maintained the most dangerous and impudent Opinions of Popery. And when such impious Writings were laid before them, their Boldness and pestilent Tendency shewn, and Passages quoted out of them, shocking to the Ears of Freemen and Protestants; still that Reverend Body persisted to make no Animadversions.
What Conclusion, advantageous to their Reputation, could be drawn from a Proceeding so evidently unequitable and unjust, when a Set of Men, assuming to be Judges, were apparently Parties, and had so little Regard, or rather so much Aversion, to righteous Judgment, that upon Truths the most obvious, upon Principles the most benevolent, their Wrath and Anathemas fell; while the most daring Arraignment of private Conscience, and the most bare-faced Insults upon public Liberty, Civil and Christian, incurred no Blame? In one, for Example, it was a heinous Crime, and loudly censured, to have said, “That our Saviour’s Kingdom was not of this World;” though after our Saviour himself he said it. But it proved to the Convocation no Matter of Offence, for another to have impiously maintained, that “Heaven itself waited for the Sentence from the Priest’s Mouth, and God himself followed the Judgment of the Priest” ——— That “Kings and Queens are to bow down before the Priest, with their Faces towards the Earth, and to lick up the Dust of his Feet;” with many other mischievous and unhallowed Extravagancies, to the Disgrace of Religion, and common Sense. Was this the Way to be reverenced, to utter as the Oracles of God, such impudent and poisonous Falshoods, or to defend them, or not to stigmatize them: Was it not rather a way to forfeit all common Respect, and to incur universal Indignation and Scorn?
A Family is a small State, as a State is a great Family. Now, suppose the Master or Prince of a Family take into his Service a Chaplain, and give him Bread and Wages; Does this same Chaplain take a Method to be reverenced or believed, if he tell the Man who maintains him? “I am your spiritual Prince; you are my spiritual Subject; I can absolve or damn you: You must tell me all the Secrets of your Heart, let me judge of your Thoughts; submit without Murmuring or Hesitation to my Dictates and Censure, and be obedient to my Discipline. You must call me your Chaplain in no other Sense than you say, my Lord, and my God. You ought to fall down before me, and lick up the Dust of my Feet. My Government in your Family, as a Priest, is farther above yours, as you are a Layman, than Heaven is above the Earth; and my Revenue ought to be greater than yours, though you are a Prince in your House.
“And to make you Amends for thus shareing with you in your Power and Riches, I do hereby, in the Name of Heaven, doom all your Children and Servants, that is, all your Lay-Domestics, to be your Slaves, without Reserve; and I do assert your Authority over them, be it ever so cruel, unnatural and destructive, to be the Ordinance of God; and you to be his Vicegerent, however wicked and unlike God you prove. But my Person and Property you must not touch; for I am a sacred Person; in all the Money and Power which I take from you, I am independent and unaccountable; for I am the Lord’s Priest, and my Wealth is God’s Wealth. It would be Sacrilege in you to meddle with either: If you do, you will be damned. And if I can persuade your Lady, or your Son, to give me any Lands or Treasure, for the Good of their Souls, whatever Artifices I use to draw such Donations from them, you must protect me in the Possession, against your Grandchildren, or any other Claimant whatsoever: For, to take it from me, or from any future Chaplain for ever, would be to rob God and the Church.
“Moreover, if any of your Family, your Lady, Children, or Servants, should presume to differ in Opinion from me, and follow their own Conscience, this is Schism, it is a damnable Sin; for out of the Church, that is, without my Permission and Management, there is no Salvation: And such Schismatics, Hereties, and Gainsayers, you must prosecute, that is, fine, imprison, whip, hang, or burn, as I shall direct you: If you do not, you favour Heretics and Schismatics, and I will excommunicate you, that is, deliver you to the Devil; and then you are unworthy of any Authority, and I will excite your Family to turn you out of your House, unless by Submission to me you shew yourself penitent, and worthy to be restored: Upon this Condition I will recall you, and turn off the Person that I put in your Room, whom I will call an Usurper, if he do not humour me in all things. For, ’tis I who can preserve Obedience, or stir up Strise and Fighting in your Family, and teach them the Necessity of obeying or resisting, by the Terrors of Divine Vengeance, which is always armed when I am angry, and asleep when I am pleased.”
Now, would Pretences and Claims, thus impious and shameless, be borne from any particular Chaplain, by his particular Lord or Patron? And yet are not such Claims asserted by the High Clergy in general? And do they not affect every individual Layman, by affecting the whole Body of the Laity? They treat us to our Faces, like Vassals blind and tame, and doom us without Ceremony, to bear Invasion and Tyranny with meek Hearts, and Hands bound. All that we have, is hardly enough for them. Yet were we to treat them as they treat one another, a very small Competency would appear a sufficient Appointment and Maintenance for the Successors of the Apostles. Do we not frequently see a Reverend Doctor possess Three, Five, nay Eight hundred Pounds a Year, sometimes more than a Thousand; and yet out of this great Revenue, which he thinks not too much, and hardly enough, though he do nothing for it, give no more than Fifteen, Twenty, Thirty, or at most Forty Pounds a Year to a Curate, for doing the whole Duty of the Parish? If this be enough for the Labour of a Clergyman, why do the Laity give any-where more? If it be not, why does the rich Doctor give so little? The Curate is furnished with all necessary Abilities and Qualifications as well as the Doctor, and has the same spiritual Powers, to baptize, to give Absolution and the Communion, to marry, preach, pray, bury, visit the Sick, and to take Tithes, if he had any to take.
Thus, in the Opinion of former Bishops, (Governors of the Church) who often kept Curates themselves, when they still retained a good fat Living in Commendam; and thus in the common Practice of the inferior Clergy; Wages sometimes not much higher than those of a Carter, scarce ever so high as those of an Exciseman, are sufficient for doing all the Functions of a Clergyman. Would this not seem a Rule to the Laity, a Rule taken from the best Authority in the World, that of the Practice of the Clergy, how to rate the Work and Worth of a Clergyman? Why should they expect, that Laymen should value the Labour and Use of a Clergyman higher, than the Clergy themselves do in Fact value it? They will not say, That Three, or Five, or Eight, or Ten Hundreds a Year, is little enough for the Sagacity of chusing, and the Trouble of hiring, a Curate for Twenty, or Thirty, or Forty; though sometimes things equally foolish and absurd are said; for there are many Laymen who can drive a hard Bargain, and pinch their Workmen, and we too often find the Reverend Deputy of a great Doctor full as bad and insufficient, as if the Church-wardens had picked him up, and hired him. I would therefore be glad to know why any Man, why especially a Minister of the Gospel, who should labour in Season, and out of Season, should have any Revenue, especially a great Revenue, for nothing?
But I ramble from my first Design, though perhaps, had I pursued it, I should not have tired you less. But I am like other Authors, who, whilst they please themselves, think that they are furnishing Delight to their Reader. To your Information I pretend not to add any thing, not even in telling you, that I am, with great Affection and Sincerity,
Your Faithful Servant,