Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number LXIV.: Mutual Bitterness and Persecution amongst Christians, how repugnant to the Gospel, and how shocking to a rational Pagan. - The Independent Whig, vol. 3 (2nd ed. 1741)
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Number LXIV.: Mutual Bitterness and Persecution amongst Christians, how repugnant to the Gospel, and how shocking to a rational Pagan. - 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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Mutual Bitterness and Persecution amongst Christians, how repugnant to the Gospel, and how shocking to a rational Pagan.
REASON is not the only Thing in which Men exceed Brutes: Their Passions, as well as their Reasons, are stronger than those of the dumb Creation, and prompt them to commit more abominable things. To qualify and restrain those Passions is the Business of Religion; and where it has contrary Effects, it is either a bad Religion, or they are very bad Men who profess it. By this Rule, all Men may know what sort of Christians they are: Except ye love one another, says our blessed Saviour, you cannot be my Disciples. How different from the Style of many who call themselves his Successors! “Unless you hate, kill, and destroy one another, you cannot be our Followers.”
The only End of Christianity, as to this Life, was to teach Men Peace, Charity, mutual Forbearance, and the Forgiveness of Injuries. This was the New Commandment, which Jesus Christ gave to his Apostles, and to all Christians. How ill it has been observed, or rather, how impiously it has been violated, let those whose Duty it more especially was to see it obeyed, consider; whether they have not inflamed, instead of calming, the natural Heat and foolish Passions of Men? and, far from instructing them to forgive Injuries, have not taught them never to forgive Things which were no Injuries, namely, the Faith and Opinions of one another; and to commit real Injuries to revenge nominal Injuries?
If a Man halt in his Understanding, how is any one injured by his intellectual Lameness, more than by the Lameness of his Limbs? If his Opinions are crooked and wild, what Offence is that to another, more than if he squinted, or had a wild Look? Error is an Infirmity of the Mind, as Pain, Halting, and Crookedness are of the Body; why should his internal, any more than his external Defects, provoke any rational Man? Would not he who went about to persecute, or invent Penalties for Crookedness, be looked upon as a Monster equally cruel with those Savages, who drown all their innocent new-born Babes, whose Make does not please their Eye? And is not hating, hurting, or killing, for the natural or habitual Weaknesses of the Soul, equally monstrous and savage? What is it to any Man what I think of Colours; and whether I like or dislike White or Black? or what Sentiments, which are the Colours of the Mind, fit mine best? or with what Words I cloathe these Colours? or what Actions or Gestures they produce in me, provided my Actions and Gestures hurt not him? Does he, by hating or distressing me, fulfil our Saviour’s Commandment of loving one another? Are his own Notions right? Let him enjoy them: He is happy. Are my Notions wrong? I am unhappy. Why does he persecute me? Perhaps Fortune has been kinder to him than to me, and he is richer and handsomer: Why does he not chastise me for this Fault too, because I cannot force Fortune any more than Nature? But the Truth is, none persecute but the worst, the most ignorant, or the most barbarous Men. By this Mark we know a Nero from an Antoninus, and a fatherly Pastor from a bloody Inquisitor.
The perverting of no one Thing upon Earth is so bad, and so sinful, as the perverting of Christianity; because Christianity is the best Thing upon Earth. He therefore who makes use of Christianity to raise Heats, Feuds, and Hatred amongst Men, is a much worse Man than he, who, having no Christianity, can make no ill Use of that which he does not use at all. It is like turning the best Medicine into Poison; and a Physician who does so, is worse than a Peasant who knows no Physic. It is a strange and astonishing Sight to see a Man in a Rage, with the New Testament open before him, justifying his Rage out of the Testament, and raising from thence in his Hearers a cruel and angry Spirit like his own; and yet such Sights are far from being rare. I have frequently seen a Text from the pious and peaceable Gospel, quoted and explained to rouze all the most barbarous and unsocial Passions, to authorize all the worst and most inhuman Effects of those Passions: And this has been confidently called Preaching the Gospel, and this Herald of Wrath a Preacher of the Gospel, and his raging Hearers a religious Assembly.
I have sometimes fansied to myself what a sensible Chinese would think of the Gospel upon reading it; in what Manner he would conceive it must be preached, and what Consequences he would expect from that Preaching. “Here, he would say, is the most meek and benevolent System that ever appeared in the World: A System, contrived to root out the Roughness, Malignity, and Selfishness of human Nature, to extinguish or restrain all its sour Passions; to destroy for ever all the Seeds of Strife, Anger, and War; and to make all Men Friends. Happy are they who receive this System! more happy they amongst whom it is continually preached and inculcated! Here is no Pretence for Divisions, at least for quarrelling about them. Here all the Pomp and Tyranny, affected by Men over Men, are expresly forbid, and Love, even to our Enemies, is strictly injoined. This is admirable! Without Doubt, it is from God. The Divine Being, in Pity to the ill-natured, jarring and tempestuous World, has here offered them a divine Calm, and restored them to a State of Perfection and Innocence, by giving them these celestial Rules for bearing and forbearing all manner of Evils. Would I could be a Witness of the happy State of Christendom!”
I have fansied this same Chinese in Christendom; and first in Rome, the Centre of Christendom, the Residence of his Holiness, and the Seat of all Abominations, Poisonings, Assassinations, unnatural Lust, Pride, Ambition, Divisions, Tyranny, Luxury, Poverty, and Oppression. There he sees an old Frier, who calls himself the Vicar of the meek Jesus, covered with all the Ensigns of savage Tyranny, supporting his monstrous and motly Domination, with dark Intrigues, and every pious and worldly Fraud; holding his own Subjects under severe Fetters and Famine, scattering every-where Firebrands, and the Spirit of Slaughter and War amongst Christians; animating Sovereigns against their People, the People against their Sovereigns; and giving his Apostolic Benediction to human Rage and Malice.
TheChinese asks if his Holiness be a Christian according to the Gospel? Yes, he is answered, he is what he is from the Gospel, and all that he does is for it. The Chinese blesses himself, and the more christian Spirit of good old Confucius. He is just ready to return to China again, to a happier People, and more virtuous Paganism; but meets with a Protestant, who tells him, That all the Wickedness which he finds at Rome, is the Abuse of Religion, and the natural Effects of the Pope’s lying Pretensions and Usurpations; and begs him to visit Protestant Countries, which abhor the Pope, and all his Doings.
TheChinese, ravished to hear that the Gospel does not fare every-where alike, and in Hopes of beholding Societies of Men, who are Christians according to the Gospel, travels through Part of the Empire, where he finds Lutherans and Calvinists, headed by their Guides, at mortal Enmity. They both believe the Gospel; but rail at one another out of it; hate one another for it; and are only restrained by their Princes from contending even to Blood about Words which are not in it. In Denmark and Sweden he finds the Lutherans still fiercer, and suffering no Sort nor Name of Christianity among them, but their own, and treating all others with the highest Pitch of Fury and Ignorance.
TheChinese, who thinks the Lutheran Popes as little justifiable as the Popish Pope, since they alike set up for spiritual Dominion, which the Gospel gives to no Man upon Earth, does once more praise old Confucius; and, resolved to find, if he can, the Spirit of Christianity in some christian Country, fails away for Great Britain, and lands in Scotland. There he beholds a rigid Gravity in the Countenance of the Kirk; she affects great Sanctity, has an eminent Conceit of her own Righteousness; but finds Righteousness no-where else: She has a very strong Stomach for Dominion; but sweetens it with a soft Name, and calls it Discipline; which she exercises with little Tenderness upon such as offend her, or gainsay her; and towards all other Churches and Opinions, her Looks are sour and unforgiving: She talks much of the Lord, and contends, that nothing is to be done by any Man without God’s Grace moving in him, and assisting him; which is in no Man’s Power: But, for all that, if you want that Grace, of which she is Judge, or if you do not learn it from her, and submit implicitly to her, though she be not the Giver of Grace, you will find, that she asserts a Claim, as well as his Holiness, to chastise wrong Faith and Obstinacy; for though the Pope, being the Man of Sin, has no such Right, yet she, who is the Daughter of Zion, is intitled to it.
TheChinese cries, That here is much loud and warm Zeal, very long Prayers, a World of Bitterness, but no Charity. In England, says he, there is more Knowledge and Freedom: I will try England. In it he finds great and free Liberty of Conscience, and rejoices in it; but sees those who should be most for it, most implacable against it: He sees Churchmen nobly provided for; but many of them not satisfied; on the contrary, claiming ten times more, and wildly supporting those Claims by the Gospel, and by the Example of cheating and usurping Popish Monks; sees them railing at private Conscience, damning all that have it, and calling for the temporal Sword to destroy them: He sees great Part of the Dissenters, who, after much Suffering, enjoy this precious Liberty, not contented with it, nor mended by their Sufferings, but setting up for this same antichristian spiritual Domination, and taking, as far as they can, the Blessing and Protection of the merciful Law from one another. The Chinese applauds the Wisdom, Gentleness, and christian Spirit of the Legislature, and finds the chief human Security for the Gospel in an Act of Parliament, by which every Man has the natural and christian Privilege to read, understand, and apply it his own Way. “This (says he) is Christianity according to the Gospel, which, by Observation, I find, can only subsist where all Sorts of Consciences, the Wise and the Weak, are intirely unmolested; where no Sort of Power is exercised over the Soul, and where every Man understands and interprets with Security the Words of Christ, and of Paul, as he judges Christ and Paul meant them. No two Things, not Heaven and Hell, not Good and Evil, are more opposite than Force and Faith. The one is only from the good God, the other only from the worst Passions of the worst Men.”