Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number LVII.: The Vanity as well as Wickedness of Persecution. - The Independent Whig, vol. 3 (2nd ed. 1741)
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Number LVII.: The Vanity as well as Wickedness of Persecution. - Thomas Gordon, The Independent Whig, vol. 3 (2nd ed. 1741) 
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 Second Edition (London: J. Peele, 1741). Vol. 3.
Part of: The Independent Whig, 4 vols.
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The Vanity as well as Wickedness of Persecution.
IGO on with my Thoughts upon Charity, the want of which works such woeful Effects amongst Men; and makes such melancholy Additions to the Evils of human Life. As if the Heats and Contentions amongst Men were too few, or the Passions that produce them too weak, this sacred Anger and Uproar about Thoughts and Notions, is every-where brought in to swell and aggravate the ugly Reckoning.
That any Man’s Opinion, which hurts no Man’s Person, touches no Man’s Property, but is only a Speculation or Belief concerning God and the World to come, should be able to provoke any Man’s Passion, is so opposite to all the natural Ideas of Society, to Humanity, and to all common Sense, that did not one see it, it would in Theory appear impossible. But common Sense is out of the Case, and has nothing to do with it, but to condemn it. It is the Ingraftment of Bigotry and Delusion upon the Folly and Weakness of Nature, and by inveterate Custom, and ungodly Arts, made a Part of Nature. It is infused into the tender Spirits of Infants, grows up with them, and haunts and infatuates them to their Graves: It begins and ends with Life, and taints every Part of it. But that it is not originally in the Soul of Man, will appear from considering what the Soul of Man is naturally prone to. Her first Care is that of Self-preservation; which includes the Means of Living, of Food, Covering, Generation, and Defence against Injuries: And as the first Thought is how to live, the next is how to live well; the Desire of Necessaries is followed by the Desire of Conveniences; and as soon as Men have arrived at a Life of Security, the next Study is a Life of Splendor: And because Splendor consists in Comparison, and one Man has more, as another has less, hence arises Emulation in Men to exceed one another; and from this Emulation proceeds a Passion for Riches, Fame, and Power, which are the Means and the Ends of Splendor: Nor does this Passion usually stop till one Man has mastered all Men, or all that he can. And thus far Nature, which has given Men Desires without Bounds, will prompt them to go.
But the utmost Power that mortal Man can possess, is limited to Things visible, and must stop at the Persons, Actions and Properties of Men. It can never controul that which depends not upon the human Will, and consequently upon no human Power: Such are the Thoughts raised within us by the Motion of Objects about us. Alexander and Cæsar conquered the best Part of the World: But, mad as they were with Ambition, and one of them very superstitious, it never entered into their Hearts to set up a spiritual Monarchy over the religious Conjectures and Rovings of the Hearts of Men: Nor has the successful and armed Phrenzy of the Mahometans been ever able to effect it: They have given it over as an Impossibility, and not only tolerate numerous Sects of their own, but every Sect of Christians in their Dominions. The Catholic Princes, who have attempted it, have extirpated and destroyed the best Part of their People; yet their Success, gained by so much Blood and Desolation, is never like to be complete as long as they have any People left. France still abounds with concealed Heretics, Spain and Portugal with disguised Jews and Moors: So that by a Conduct more tyrannical and infamous than that of the Pagans and Mahometans, they have only established an Uniformity of barbarous Ignorance and Hypocrisy. The Attempt is waging War against Nature and the Creation. The Soul, which acts by the Organs, must act differently where the Organs differ, as the Organs of all Men do. Nor is it credible, that two Men were ever born with the same Tastes, Appetites and Discernments, or were ever equally affected by the same Objects.
The setting up a Standard for thinking and imagining, and the hating and harassing those who cannot bring their Thoughts and Imaginations to that Standard, has an ugly Resemblance of the old Nonsense of Chivalry, where the Knight set up his Mistress for the Perfection and Queen of Beauty, and declared War against every mortal Wight who did not own it, and the same War against all who made Love to her: So whether you loved her not, or made Love to her, he stood ready mounted and armed to thrust you through with his Lance. Our visionary Champions do as mad a Thing, or rather more mad: They dress you up an imaginary Dulcinea, nay, often make a fulsome deformed Piece of her, without Symmetry or Loveliness; and pronouncing her the most peerless and accomplished Lady in the Universe, pursue you with Bitterness and Cruelty, unless you embrace her as ardently as they do, and defile yourself with a Monster. The Champion in Romance is the much more reasonable Man of the two, and a Mad-man of the sounder Sense. The Difference between the Quinote and the Bigot is, that the first Mad-man forces you on Pain of Death to admire without enjoying, and the second Mad-man forces you both to admire and enjoy on Peril of double Death, temporal and eternal. With this sort of Lunatic an Impossibility is no Objection; and you must do the Thing, whether you can or no. If you do not, he does God good Service by persecuting and burning you. Without doubt there never was a Man of common Sense, or of any Sense, at any Time, who, were all his Thoughts to be known, was not liable to be burnt by the Laws and Spirit of the Inquisition, and by the Spirit of every Bigot of every Profession under the Sun.
The Persecutor is always a Mad-man, even where the Opinions for which he persecutes are true. The most of religious Truths, especially the Truths of revealed Religion, however evident after Examination, yet, where they are believed upon Principle, depend upon a long Train of Reasoning, a Series of Facts, and collateral and subsequent Testimonies, too intricate and sublime for the Leisure and Capacities of the Bulk of Mankind throughout the World. To settle therefore these Truths in the Hearts of Men, the Grace of God is the chief Thing required: Nor do I believe, that ever any Man became a real Christian, till Grace made him so. We see, that in the Apostles Time Grace always entered with Conviction, and brought Conviction, and nono believed but those upon whom the Spirit fell: Nor had the Apostles any other Help, after they had proposed their Doctrine, but Miracles and the Spirit. And they who have such Helps need no other; and no Helps without the Spirit will do. It is therefore the Grace of God that changes the carnal. Disposition of the Soul, and makes Men Christians; and it is most absurd and barbarous to hurt or to hate those who want that which God only can give. Where he does not give it, all the Arts and Power of Men to propagate Christianity avail nothing: Nor did it ever proceed from the Grace of God, that any Man hurt or hated another: And let him who is persecuted be as bad as he will, they that persecute him are worse, by putting in Practice that Pravity of Spirit, of which they do but accuse him.
Persecution can promote nothing but either utter Destruction, or Hypocrisy and Servitude, which are direct Contradictions to the peaceable, free, and sincere Spirit of Christianity. No Christian can bear any other Yoke in the Matter of Religion, than the Yoke of Christ, who can alone work in him to will, and to do, and requires no more of any of his Subjects, than Sincerity and a good Conscience. These are Graces which no human Tribunal can confer or judge, and are therefore subject to the Tribunal of Christ only. They are Things about which no Testimony can be given; they lie out of Sight, and what is invisible, is exempted from all human Cognizance. To endeavour therefore to subject the Soul to any human Judgment is a monstrous Iniquity, and must eternally have most wicked Consequences, as it tempts Men to Deceit and Insincerity, destroys natural Honesty, and lays Baits for Lying and Perjuries.
The Terror of the Inquisition makes Multitudes of Families, who are real Jews, false and professed Christians, In being Jews, they are only mistaken; but in professing Christianity, without believing it, they are great Sinners and Hypocrites; though others, those impious Men, those nominal Christians, or rather those Reproaches to Christianity, who frighten the Jews into this Hypocrisy, are more flagitious Sinners than they. Scandalous and execrable is that Unity which is the violent Effect of Rage and Fire on one hand, and of ungodly Dissimulation on the other. Every Man must abhor that Religion, and those Men, who hold him under Fears, Hardships and Shackles, and restrain him from a candid Profession of that Faith, which, however false or ridiculous, he thinks the best, and the most acceptable to God. It is tempting and terrifying Men into Falsehood and Impiety, and making them Knaves and Deceivers in the most tender and the most sacred Instances. No Man who tempts and frightens another Man to be a Dissembler and a Knave, can himself be an honest Man. A Man who is honest, would have all Men honest; and none but a Hypocrite in Religion can take Methods to make Men religious Hypocrites, as all Men must be, who conform and submit to any Religion, even the best and the truest, without Conviction, which is never wrought by Force, nor by Fear, but is the pure Effect of Persuasion, or the pure Gift of God. Is Bitterness and Barbarity Persuasion? And what Man’s Person, Name or Property, is hurt by the Grace of God? The Ways of Force and Fury are therefore irreconcileable Enemies to Grace, and to Sense. They are Enemies to Religion, which delights in Meekness and Sincerity, and to human Society, which subsists by Peace, mutual Forbearance, and moral Honesty.