Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number LXIII.: The consuming Nature of Persecution. Persecutors generally religious Mad-men. Their egregious Want of Shame, and utter Unfitness to make Converts. - The Independent Whig, vol. 3 (2nd ed. 1741)
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Number LXIII.: The consuming Nature of Persecution. Persecutors generally religious Mad-men. Their egregious Want of Shame, and utter Unfitness to make Converts. - 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 consuming Nature of Persecution. Persecutors generally religious Mad-men. Their egregious Want of Shame, and utter Unfitness to make Converts.
THE Practice of some of the ancient Heathens, who offered human Sacrifice, and butchered Men to please their Gods, was a dreadful Barbarity, not capable of Aggravation by Words: yet this Barbarity had Mercy and Mitigation in it, compared to the more unrestrained and merciless Genius of those Pagan Christians, who, from a Principle of Religion, or from any Principle, avow and promote the killing, punishing and distressing of Men for the free Sentiments of their Souls, and for their Notions of God and Religion.
The ancient human Sacrificers confined themselves to a stated Number; one or a few generally sufficed: And this brutish Devotion was either extraordinary, by the Direction of some lying Oracle, or repeated at large Intervals. But the Christian Sacrificers of Men have rarely known such Moderation, rarely set such Bounds to their devout Thirst of human Blood. All who did not say with them, and dream with them, and practise their Jargon and Postures, were proper Victims: Hence Myriads have been butchered to assuage their holy Fury; and the Blood of Nations let out, has not been enough to assuage it: Hence the Irish Massacre, a human Sacrifice to Popery of some hundred Thousands: Hence the like Sacrifice of thirty Thousand at Paris; and of three times as many all over France at the same time: Hence the long continued Murder of the Waldenses and Albigenses, the Destruction and Expulsion of the Moors in Spain, and of the Hugonots in France: Hence the dreadful Ravages committed by the Inquisitors, who act so much like Devils, that they can scarce be thought Men: Hence all the mad and cruel Wars for Religion; and hence the Oppressions, Imprisonments, and Executions any-where upon any religious Account.
TheMahometan Faquirs in the Indies are such distracted and bloody Villains for their Religion, which indeed was founded in Phrenzy and Blood, that when they return from their pious Pilgrimage to Mecca, drunk with Devotion, and flaming with Zeal, many of them run through the Streets, or into the first Crowd they meet withal, stabbing and killing with a poisoned Dagger, all that are not Mahometans, till they themselves are killed; and when they are, they are reckoned Saints and Martyrs by their Priests and the Rabble. They are solemnly buried; Tombs are built for them, and richly adorned, where Devotion is paid, and Alms are given; and a good Livelihood is got by the Dervises that look after them. This is all pure Zeal, both the Murder, and the Worship paid to the Murderer.
What are all Persecutors but furious Faquirs? only most of them are not so much in Earnest, and will run no Risques to be Martyrs. Will any Man, who is not a Mahometan, say, that these Faquirs are not Mad-men and Villains? And yet are not all Persecutors apt to do the same thing, and to use the same Plea with the mad Faquirs? They are sure that their Worships and Opinions are true; that the Way and Religion of those whom they hate and persecute are false; and that the punishing of Infidels and Heretics is pleasing to God. Just so reasons the Faquir, and seals his Testimony with his Blood: So that whether Men be right or wrong in their Faith and Worship, they have just the same Argument, and indeed the same Right, to plague and oppress one another; namely, a firm and selfish Persuasion on all Sides, that they are all in the right; an Argument which would keep up the Rage of Violence, and of Fire and Sword amongst Men, as long as there was any left.
These raging Faquirs of all Denominations have almost as much Reason to kill their own Brethren, who want Zeal to do as they do, as to kill those of a different Persuasion; and, in Fact, we have often seen those Sons of Violence shed their Bitterness and Venom upon the Children of their own Houshold, merely for their Candor and Forbearance. It is well known how bitterly Tillotson and Hoadly, with other the best Fathers of our Church, have been traduced and reproached by the sour Assertors of Persecution, or (which is the same thing) of Pains and Penalties, for their noblest and most christian Sentiments in favour of private Conscience, and religious Liberty. They shewed them no Mercy, for their daring to be merciful. This is the true Nature and Extent of Persecution, to have no Bounds at all, but to persecute all who will not persecute. In this respect, as in many others, Persecutors are all alike. They are all Faquirs, whatever opposite Names and Badges they may wear; and I defy the most learned and subtle of them all, let him profess what Religion he pleases, to defend himself and his Persecution by any one Argument, by which the bloody Mahometan Faquir will not be equally defended. If their Religion be a good Religion, they depart from it by doing Mischief for it, and are wicked Men for a Religion that abhors Wickedness; and it is more wicked and infamous to draw a Dagger for Christianity than for Mahometanism.
But, say some of them, we are not for drawing Blood; we are only for smaller Penalties. Which Plea is full of Deceit and Falshood; for if those Penalties fail to subdue that Spirit which they would subdue, the Sword is the last Remedy, and Death comes to be one of their Penalties, and the only sure one. When Scarification and Lancing will not do, Ense recidendum est; the whole Limb must be lopped off. This most of them know, and are always ready to preach. Death or Banishment is the only effectual Cure: All the other Process is but preparatory. If any thing less than the highest Cruelty would suffice, Popery would want no Inquisition. The Court of Rome are too refined. Politicians to desire the Infamy and Reproach of that horrible Tribunal, if moderate Penalties, or any Penalties on this Side Death and utter Destruction, would serve their Turn. Whoever, therefore, would send me to Gaol for my Opinion, would send me to the Gallows, though perhaps he do not at first think so. If a Gaol do not alter my Opinion, he must either condemn himself for sending me to Gaol, or condemn me to something worse. So that he who is for the smallest Penalties, if he has Sense or Thought in him, must be for the highest. What signify Penalties that have no Effect?
Such are the Impressions which we must naturally entertain of those cruel Men, who fly to Force in Behalf of their Faith; and with such an ill Grace do any sort of Men, who are for any sort of Severity in Cases of religious Opinions, rail at the Inquisition, which is only the highest Improvement of their own Reasoning. It is their own Scheme successfully executed. The Inquisition did not arise all at once; Cuncta prius tentanda. Excommunication, Cursing, and other Sorts of Church-discipline were first tried; then followed Fines and Imprisonments, and the like Methods to secure the Papal Church against Schismatics: But as all these wholsome Severities could not persuade Men out of their Senses, the last and surest Attack was upon their Lives. The Sword of Persecution was then openly drawn, its Fires were publicly kindled, and downright Butcheries were avowedly and piously preached. These were, and for ever must be, the natural Gradations; and such Beginnings, if they are at all pursued, must for ever have such Ends.
It is not the least provoking Part of these ungodly Barbarities, that those who practise them, or desire to see them practised, have the inimitable Impudence, all the while their Hands are thus lifted up against God and Man, to talk of Religion and Reason; to pretend Mercy and Peace in the Heat and Excesses of Bitterness and Rage; and to plead a Regard for the Souls of Men, when they are acting the blackest Hostilities against their Bodies, Fortunes, and Consciences, and sacrificing their Lives to Hate and Virulence, and to every wicked and worldly End. This is to heighten Impiety by Hypocrisy, to aggravate Cruelty by Mockery.
You talk of Revelation and Reason; you that are Persecutors, or Advocates for Persecution; but how idly, how shamelesly do you talk? What has Faith to do with Violence? What has Revelation to do with the Sword? If your Religion be supported by Reason, why seek you any other Support, and such a Support as is only wanted where Reason is wanting? If your Religion be grounded upon Revelation, how can it be proved but by Revelation? And how is Revelation tried but by Reason? What Revelation tells you, or does any Revelation from God tell you, that Force teaches Faith? Or in what Instances does Reason teach, that Truth is the Offspring of Violence, or akin to it! Where does Force explain one mathematical Proposition, one Doctrine of Christianity, or any Doctrine? Christ and his Apostles are your only Guides in Christianity. Did Christ and his Apostles ever direct you to beget Faith by Violence, or to hurt any Man for his Faith? Did they themselves ever do so? And will you dare to do what they never did, but constantly forbid? From what Part of the Gospel do you bring your Axes, Ropes, and Dungeons, or even your Fines, Civil Exclusions, and negative Penalties, or even your Anger and Railing? You know that the Gospel renounces them all, and you, if you use them.
Confess the Truth; say that you employ, or would employ, those savage Engines in spite of the Gospel, for Ends purely human, and from a Spirit intirely secular. Set up avowedly Pride and Domination against the Laws of Christ and Nature, and do not increase your Guilt, by adding Deceit to Violence, by pretending to convert and reconcile Men, while you oppress, alienate, and persecute them. Do not mock God and Man, and pretend to gain Souls by Methods so monstrous and contradictory, which only shew, that you seek Empire over Men, and the Souls of Men. Is it thus that you would convert Pagans, if you made that any Part of your Business or Care? What Nation of Pagans would bear you, or forbear stoning you, if when you went about to convert them, you accosted them with your Whips, and Chains, and human Penalties, and declared your Errand in the following Style?
Gentlemen, “These are the Auxiliaries of our Faith: Let us persuade you to embrace it, and take us for your Guides and Governors; and if afterwards you contradict us, or vary from us in the Explication of our Doctrines and Mysteries, which cannot be explained, though we ourselves are always explaining them, and always at endless Variance in these our Explications, these Rods and Fetters abide you; these Penalties shall chastise and coerce you. In Return for all which pastoral Care and Tenderness, we only desire you to be our Subjects blindfold, and without Reserve; to give us great Dignities, Pomp, and Revenues, and never to differ from us in any thing, however false, foolish, cruel, or wicked you may think it. At present we can only persuade you, and reason with you: But when you have established us amongst you, and set us over you, and given us a great Part of all that you have, and all that we can have, then you may hope for full Proofs of this our fatherly Correction, and for all these our temporal Terrors; and never afterwards to be suffered to have the Trouble of using your Reason, which God has given you, against our Authority, which you will have given us, or which we shall have taken to ourselves, at first by your Connivance or Consent; but thenceforth to be exercised over you, whether you will or no: And though we must judge you, and censure you, and punish you as we think fit; and though we accept of all your Gifts and Bounties; yet you must not dare to judge nor to censure us, much less to degrade or chastise us, let our Tyranny be ever so severe, our Lives ever so enormous; nor expect back from us any Part of the Wealth, which you will have given us, whether it was obtained by Force, or Fear, or Fraud, or by whatever other Means. Upon these Conditions, Gentlemen, out of our tender Regard for your Souls, we are willing to accept you for our Slaves.”
I appeal to all Men, and to the Experience of all Men, whether, when any Man who is for Penalties and Persecution, goes about to convert a Nation of Pagans, or any Nation, these are not, upon his Principles, the comfortable Terms and Fruits of their Conversion. Let him consider what People upon Earth would not dread and reject him, if he escaped so well: But if he apply to them with Persuasion and Gentleness at first, and basely conceal from them these his severe and proud Purposes, then he is a Deceiver, and justly deserves all the ill Usage which he unjustly intends for others.
But quite different and contrary must be the Speech and Behaviour of a Man who would only propagate Christianity without low or high Regards to himself, or without mixing his own selfish Passion with his Zeal. Such a Man would tell them honestly and openly:
Gentlemen, “You are in a very wrong Way: Your Religion is ill-grounded, and only serves to deceive you, and to frighten you: If you will hear me, I will teach you a better, and the only one that is good: If you like it, I have my End; if you do not like it, the worst will be yours, and I have done you no Harm. Over those who embrace it, I claim no Power: You are to continue Christians by the same Means that made you Christians; that is, by Meekness, Arguments, and the Grace of God. I will not be such a Deceiver as to turn the Persuasions which I now use with you into Violence and Power afterwards. If any of you or yours desert my Religion, after having tried it, or exercise it in a manner different from mine, I will pray for you, and persuade you: But Force and Bitterness I abominate. They are against the Genius of the Religion which I bring you; as impotent and improper to bring back into it those who are lapsed from it, as to drive them into it at first. If any of you believe not my Religion, he is an Hypocrite if he assent to it; and if I tempted him to do so by Gain, or frightened him by worldly Pains and Threats, I should share in his Hypocrisy: But if he believe it, he will want no Terror or Temptation to profess it. For myself, Gentlemen, you will judge when you have heard me, whether it is worth your while to support me amongst you. Other Provision than this, the disinterested Religion which I teach makes none for me.”
I leave it with my Readers to consider which of these two Speeches would be the most christian, and which would be likely to be best heard, and to make most Proselytes in a Country of Unbelievers.