Front Page Titles (by Subject) A Letter to the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury; proving, That his Grace cannot be the Author of the Letter to an eminent Presbyterian Clergyman in Switzerland; in which Letter the present State of Religion in England is blackened and exposed. - The Independent Whig, vol. 3 (2nd ed. 1741)
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A Letter to the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury; proving, That his Grace cannot be the Author of the Letter to an eminent Presbyterian Clergyman in Switzerland; in which Letter the present State of Religion in England is blackened and exposed. - 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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A Letter to the Lord Archbishop ofCanterbury;proving, That his Grace cannot be the Author of the Letter to an eminent Presbyterian Clergyman in Switzerland; in which Letter the present State of Religion in England is blackened and exposed.
Non potuit celare piæ Ludibria Fraudis.
Written in 1719.
THERE is lately printed in Switzerland a Book intituled, Oratio historica de Beneficiis in Ecclesiam Tigurinam collatis: “An Historical Oration concerning the Mercies bestowed upon the Church of Zurich.” In the 14th Page of which Oration the Author gives an Account of the present State of the English Church, as the same was transmitted from hence, in an Epistle to a principal Person (or Ruler) there, from one of the like, or greater Character here.
As this Epistle gives a frightful Representation of the State of Religion amongst us, in general; and, more particularly, of the Distresses and Dangers, which accrue to the Church of England, from Schism, Heresy, and the Ministry; I herewith send it to your Grace. I have translated it for the Benefit of my less learned Readers, and added some Observations of my own, to expose a lurking Author, who deceives and prejudices the World abroad with a base Image of our Church Affairs under your Grace’s Administration. And I do it the rather, because, my Lord, some People are so very ignorant and malicious, as to surmise, that your Grace was the Author of that Letter, so inconsistent with your former Life and Character.
OratioHistorica de Beneficiis in Ecclesiam Tigurinam collatis, p. 14.
“ECCLESIA Anglicana divisionibus perrupta est, & Schismatibus divisa; tot ac tam variis hominum ab ipsis sacris sese segregantium generibus confusa, ut nullis propriis nominibus vel ipsi se distinguere valeant, vel aliis describere. Atque utinam etiam hoc ultimum nobis querelæ argumentum esset! Sed impleri oportet quæcumque Spiritus Dei olim futura prædixit; adeo ut inter nos ipsos exsurrexerint viri loquentes perversa. Et quid dico, viri? Immò Pastores, Episcopi ipsi manibus Ecclesiam diruunt, in quâ ministrant; ad cujus doctrinam pluries subscripsere: Quibus defensio Ecclesiæ commissa, quorum munus est invigilare contra hostes ejus, eosque pro meritis redarguere, compescere, punire. Etiam hi illius Ecclesiæ auctoritatem labefactare nituntur, pro quâ non tantum certare, verùm, si res ita postularet, etiam mori debuerint. Quæ sint horum novatorum placita, ex duobus nuperis scriptis Gallico sermone libellis aliquatenus discernere valeatis. Uno hîc verbo dixisse sufficiat, his hominibus omnes Fidei confessiones, omnes Articulorum subscriptiones, animitùs displicere. Velle eos libertatem, seu verius licentiam omnibus concedi, quæcumque libuerit non tantùm credendi, sed dicendi, scribendi, prædicandi; etiam si Gratia Spiritûs Sancti, Christi Divinitas, & alia omnia Religionis nostræ principia maximè fundamentalia, exinde forent evertenda. Quis hæc Christianus, de hominibus nomine saltem Christianis, dici non obstupescat! Quis non doleat hujusmodi λύϰ[Editor: illegible character]ς βαϱεῖς non tantùm non ab Ovili longè arceri, verùm etiam intra ipsa Ecclesiæ pomœria recipi? Ad honores, ad officia, ad gubernacula ejus admitti? At vero ita se res habet. Dum ad ca, quæ sunt hujus seculi, unicè respicimus, prorsùm obliviscimur eorum quæ ad alterum spectant. Et quia horum hominum tolerantiâ & promotione quidam se populi savorem conciliaturos sperant, quibus id unicè cordi, ut in suis sese dignitatibus & potentiâ tueantur, parùm curant quid de Ecclesiâ, de Fide, de Religione, de ipso denique Jesu Christo, ejusque veritate eveniat. Ignoscas, vir spectatissime, si, dum justo animi dolori indulgeam, indignationem meam contra hosce Religionis nostræ inimicos paulò asperiùs, quàm pro more meo, expresserim. Reum me putarem proditæ Fidei, si non his Hæreticis, quâvis occasione oblatâ, Anathema dixerim, &c.
In English thus.
“THE Church of England is broken by Parties, and rent by Schisms; in short, distracted with such a Number and Variety of Separatists, that they want apt Names to distinguish themselves from one another, and to describe themselves to the rest of the World.
“And I wish even this were our highest Ground of Complaint! But it must be fulfilled, what the Holy Spirit foretold in Times past; so that among ourselves, Men have arisen, speaking perverse Things. But why do I say Men? When even Pastors, nay, Bishops themselves, pull down with their own Hands the Church in which they minister, and to whose Doctrine they have over and over subscribed, even they to whom the Preservation of the Church is committed, and whose Business and Duty it is to watch against her Enemies, and to oppose, and restrain, and punish them. Yes, they strive to undermine and over-turn the Authority of that Church, for which they ought not only to contend, but, if Occasion were, to lay down their Lives.
“What the Pleas and Pretensions of these Innovators are, you may in some measure learn, from a couple of French Pamphlets lately published. Let it here suffice to say, in one Word, that these Men are angry at all Confessions of Faith, and all Subscriptions of Articles, and are for granting a general Liberty, or rather a general Licence, to all Men, not only to believe, but to speak, and write, and preach whatever they please, tho’ at the Expence and Ruin of the Grace of the Holy Spirit, the Divinity of our Blessed Saviour, and all the other Fundamental Principles of our Religion.
“Who, that is a Christian, can without Astonishment hear these Things, of Men that call themselves Christians? And who can avoid lamenting, that these ravening Wolves (λύϰ[Editor: illegible character]ς βαϱεῖς) are not only not driven far away from the Sheepfold, but even received within the very Inclosures of the Church, and admitted to her Honours, her Offices, and her Government? And yet so it unfortunately is.
“But while we only strive for the Things of this Life, we wofully neglect those which belong to another. And because some hope by the Toleration and Advancement of such Men, to acquire the Favour of the People, and, by that Means, maintain themselves in that which they have only at Heart, their Power and Places, they care not what becomes of the Church, or of the Faith, or of Religion, or indeed of Jesus Christ himself, and his Cause.
“You will pardon me, Sir, that to gratify a just Sorrow, I thus express my Indignation, with more than usual Bitterness, against these Enemies of our Religion. I should accuse myself of betraying the Faith, did I not, on every Occasion, denounce Damnation against these Heretics, &c.”
Thus far the Letter, as it is quoted in the Oration above-mentioned. Your Grace will perceive in it a Spirit, which shews what blind Zeal, and Uncharitableness, go to the Composition of a High Churchman, who must see double, and represent at Random; else it would be impossible for him, either to discover the Danger of the Church himself, or to shew the same to others: A Character by no means becoming your Grace.
A high Churchman may be denominated from divers Marks and Exclamations. He must be devout in damning of Dissenters; he must roar furiously for the Church, and its great modern Apostle, the late Duke of Ormond, with some other pious and forsworn Gentlemen, who are well affected to the Pretender and the Convocation; he must rebel for Passive Obedience; he must uphold Divine Right by diabolical Means; and he must be loud and zealous for Hereditary, Indefeasible, and the like Orthodox Nonsense. But there is one Sign more of a true Churchman, which is more lasting and universal than all the rest, and that is a firm and senseless Persuasion, that the Church is in Danger. If a Man believe this, it is enough; his Reputation is raised; and, tho’ his Life shew more of the Dæmon than the Christian, he shall be deem’d an excellent Churchman. This is so true, that, if an honest, atheistical Churchman, will but curse and roar against a Toleration of Dissenters, he shall be sure to find a Toleration himself for the blackest Iniquities, be rewarded with Reputation, and, if possible, with Power.
There was a Fellow in Oxfordshire, one Jack Brunt, who had made himself famous for Zeal and Roguery. His whole Life was religiously wasted in getting drunk for the Church, and robbing of Hen-roosts and Gardens. In short, he was the best Churchman, and the greatest Thief, in all the Neighbourhood, and in high Esteem with every one that honoured the Cause of Drunkenness and Orthodoxy. But for all this Merit, as Jack was carrying off half a dozen Cabbages from Farmer Shepherd’s Garden, he was unluckily apprehended, and carry’d before Justice Plowden. However, as Jack was upon his Examination, and nigh his Commitment, the Parson of the Parish, hearing of his Tribulation, came to intercede for so worthy a Fellow-labourer in the Cause of Tippling and Conformity. The first thing the Doctor said was, that tho’ Jack was addicted to Roguery, yet he was honest. How, Sir! an honest Thief! replied the ’Squire, spitting and staring. I mean he is for the Church, answer’d the Parson. The Church, Man! says his Worship———I hope the Common-Prayer Book does not feed on Cabbages. But consider, Sir, said the Doctor again, the Prosecutor is a notorious Dissenter. And what if he be, quoth the Justice? Have not Presbyterians a Toleration to eat their own Cabbages? Away, away, Mr. What d’ye call; I love the Church very well, and yet I’ll have this Fellow gaoled and whipped. Jack was accordingly committed; and all the while he peep’d through the Grate, he modestly acquainted every one who came to see him, that his Sufferings wereall for the Church. And in this the Parson joined with him, and collected Money all round the Country for Jack, by the Name of an honest Churchman, who was persecuted by a Fanatic. He particularly told a zealous Gentlewoman, the better to dispose her to be liberal, that Jack had cursed King George, at a public Alehouse in Ab———n.
My Lord, I have repeated this Story, to shew you what you no doubt know and lament; namely, that this mad Fondness for the Name and Power of the Church, has dissolved the Bonds of Justice and Charity, and confounded Merit and Villainy, and fanctified the vilest Immoralities.
Your Grace does, without Question, behold, with Grief and Shame, that those who are employed, and even greatly rewarded, to keep up the Land-marks between Virtue and Vice, do, notwithstanding, often trample upon Peace and Truth, and animate the mad Multitude to seek their Salvation in the Paths of Wickedness and Destruction.
Had your Grace been the Author of the Letter, instead of bewailing Notions and Opinions, which nobody can help, and which hurt nobody, you would have lamented and rebuked what is truly lamentable, that shameless Corruption of Manners, and that horrid Prostitution of Conscience and Oaths, which are countenanced and practised by many who are fond of the Word, Church, but are at great Enmity with Religion and Liberty.
I grant that such Persons are Orthodox Conformists to all the Ceremonies and Bowings injoined by Authority, and true Believers of all the Mysteries which the Church has thought fit to maintain in Opposition to carnal Reason, that being no Guide in spiritual Matters, which being inconceivable, ought therefore to be believed. But as a good Life, and righteous Behaviour, are of some Use and Importance to human Society, your Grace to be sure wishes, that all your Clergy were of my Mind, and would not only believe well, but, if it may be, live well also.
I am, perhaps, proposing a Task to them, for which some of them will not thank me. But as the Advantages which arise from Virtue, and good Conscience, are many and obvious to me; and as the dreadful Practice of Perjury is not only very common, but even impiously justified in some of our Pulpits, by those whose Duty it is to shew its Horror, and press its Punishment, were Religion any Part of their Aim; and as all Sorts of Lewdness and Vice accompany this infamous Departure from common Honesty, this truly damnable Schism from the Spirit of Christianity; I cannot love Religion and my Country so little, as to be altogether silent on these important Heads.
With what Face and Conscience can that Man, or Minister, who breaks avowedly the third Command, persuade the keeping of the other Nine? And are there not Clergymen who pray for his Majesty in the Desk, and damn both him and his Title in the Pulpit? Who swear to him, and betray him? Who pledge their Souls for their Allegiance to him, and yet think him an Usurper; and do their hellish Endeavours to dethrone him? And are not such Atheists zealous for the Church, and loud in the Cry of her Danger?
Are not such Men manifest Foes to Christianity, and all social Virtues, who, by their blasphemous Practices, and their unhappy Power over the stupid Vulgar, do what in them lies to break the Bonds of human Faith and Society, and to banish Truth, Good-nature, and Morality, from the Face of the Earth?
Is not this, my Lord, a shocking Scene? And are not these diabolical Teachers? And yet they are all Orthodox to a Degree, and far from pulling down the Church with their own Hands, tho’ they are Enemies to God and Man.
It is plain that these are not the Men meant by the Complainer, who only laments the Diversity of Opinions amongst us; as if our Belief and Sentiments, which are perhaps the Effects of Education or Complexion, were such terrible Things, tho’ all their Guilt consists in provoking the Pride of the worst Sort of Priests, who, by their Lives, seem to know no Religion but Superstition and Cruelty.
TheseJacobite Parsons, who take the Oaths to a Prince whom they abhor, and are perpetually betraying, shew, that their Consciences are either seared beyond feeling, or that they have none at all. Can such Monsters, who are the Pests and Shame of their own Species, tell us that they are Christians? (for as to their being true Churchmen, we make no doubt of it) and yet go on, as they do, to make void the eternal Laws of God and Nature, by swearing falsly, and using the great and solemn Name of God purely to deceive? How little do they seem to believe of that Divine Vengeance and Damnation, which they so liberally denounce against others?
Their other Morals are of a Piece with their dreadful and repeated Perjuries. To come drunk to the Sacrament; to debauch and play at Cards on Sunday; to be perpetually wrangling with their Neighbours; to be ever sowing Sedition and Falshood, and fomenting Strife; to be perpetually flinging Hell-Fire at all who will not be Forsworn like themselves; to be Idle, Riotous, Drunken, Forsworn, are all so many current Symptoms of a Conscience prostituted, or dead. Quis hæc Christianus, de hominibus nomine saltem Christianis, dici non obstupescat! &c.
Of all these crying Enormities, tho’ manifest and far spread, this Mourner, this Mouth and Representative of the Church, takes not the least Notice. It is Orthodoxy, it is Jurisdiction, which he contends for; Things, which however void of true Piety, or inconsistent with it, yet are the Limbs and Citadels of a corrupt Priesthood.
To put this Business of Orthodoxy and Impiety still in a stronger Light, I will beg Leave to suppose, that there are, or may be, such Characters as the following; and by them it will appear how a very ill Man, when he is for the Church, becomes a very good Man; and, on the contrary, how a very good Man, when the Church is against him, is made a very ill Man. For Instance:
One Parson is drunken and quarrelsome: But then he bows to the Altar, and thinks King William is damned.
Another cheats every body, and pays nobody. It is true, but he drinks to the Royal Orphan, and cannot abide King George.
A Third neither preaches nor prays, but he does a more meritorious Thing———he fervently curses the Germans, and the Presbyterians.
A Fourth has hot Blood, and loves unnatural Pleasures; but he has chaste Principles, and swears that Bishops are by Divine Right.
A Fifth lets his Father starve in a Gaol; and the old miserable Man, who had impaired his Substance, to breed his Son a Parson, writes a Petition to this hopeful Child, to send him Bread, or a Coffin; and can procure neither, but perishes. But for all that, this unnatural, pious Priest, roars for the Danger of the Church, and is a dutiful Son of it.
A Sixth is an Evidence upon a Trial, and forswears himself; but the Cause was for Tythes, and he did it out of Love for the Church.
A Seventh is a Scoffer, who laughs at Religion: But he hates the Whigs, and gets often drunk for the Prosperity of the Church.
Now for the Low-church Clergy.
One is a pious Man, and lives in the Fear of God; will that do? No, he thinks Dissenters may be saved.
Another has great Learning and Industry, and employs them both honestly and usefully. That’s nothing———he came over with King William, and opposed King James and Popery.
A Third is a great Master of Reasoning, his Life unblameable, and his Sincerity and Integrity are unquestionable. What then? He is not a good Churchman——He says, Presbyterians should not be hanged for following their Conscience, and keeping the Sabbath.
A Fourth is a pious Person, a constant Attendant upon the Service of the Church, and charitable beyond Belief. What then? That Bishop is a Presbyterian——He said, the Duke of Ormond was a Traitor.
A Fifth is strictly devout and religious, an unmoveable Adherent to Truth, and one who sacrificed his All, even his daily Bread, to his Conscience, which is neither fashionable, nor conforming; therefore he should be burnt, because he would not forswear himself, and say that he believed in St. Athanasius.
A Sixth is a great Champion for Natural and Revealed Religion, the Truth of which he has demonstrated, and his Piety and Parts are admirable; a Man who has missed the Mitre by deserving it! Why, he ought to be burnt too, because he is for founding Faith upon Scripture ONLY.
A Seventh is an aged Person, venerable for Learning and Piety, who has done Service to Religion and Mankind, by his infinite Labours in History Sacred and Profane. But notwithstanding all this, he is no Churchman; he is tainted with Moderation.
Thelast I shall mention is one, who gives up his Life to good Works, and his Income to Charity. But this excellent Christian is a bad Churchman; for he was heard to say, once upon a Time, that King Charles the First, and Archbishop Laud, were but MEN.
This, my Lord, is the State of the Case between High Church and Low Church; and let common Sense determine, which is the more material to Religion, the Belief of a Point of Speculation, perhaps false, perhaps insignificant, perhaps blasphemous; for ’tis unproved, and may be any thing; or, the utmost Sincerity and Goodness in Life and Opinion.
Having thus taken a general View of our Mourner’s Declamation, I shall now consider it more particularly, Piece by Piece; and in doing this, I shall be greatly helped by your Lordship’s Judgment and Authority, since out of your Writings alone, I shall be able to shew sufficiently the Deceit and groundless Clamours of this lurking Author.
First, He says, That the Church of England is broken by Parties, and rent by Schisms; in short, distracted with such a Number and Variety of Separatists, &c.
And here I think it is plain, that the Author does not by the Church mean Religion; for as Religion does not only permit, but even command, Men to act from Conviction, there will ever be different Opinions about Spirituals, so long as there are different Complections, and different Understandings, amongst Mankind. All Religion infers Conscience, and voluntary Choice; and he, who has not these for his Motives to Devotion, but stupidly follows the uncertain Authority of Names and Persons, may indeed be a very good Conformist, and pay great Reverence to the Clergy; but will never bring along with him an acceptable Worship to God, or Benefit to his own Soul; which, I think, with humble Submission to the Author, are two Things worth minding, tho’ Obedience to Church Authority seems with him to be of much greater Moment.
If I think I am certainly, or most probably, in the Right, and yet act contrary to what I think so, I am then as certainly in the wrong.
I wishthis Author (whoever he be) had consulted your Grace’s Judicious and Christian Defence of the Exposition of the Doctrine of theChurch of England, in the several Articles expounded by Monsieur De Meaux, as well as your admirable Sermon, intituled, False Prophets, &c. before he had thus treacherously betrayed his native Country, basely misrepresented the Church of England to a Presbyterian Clergy Abroad; and factiously vilified and traduced the best Law which was ever enacted for the Honour and Defence of the Protestant Religion, and of those Principles which have deservedly advanced your Grace to the most eminent Station in the Church and Kingdom.
In the first of these Books* your Grace excellently observes, that “In Matters of Faith, a Man is to judge for himself, and the Scriptures are a clear and sufficient Rule for him to judge by; and therefore if a Man be evidently convinced upon the best Inquiry he can make, that his particular Belief is founded upon the Word of God, and that of the Church is not, he is obliged to support and adhere to his own Belief, in Opposition to that of the Church.” And (as your Grace proceeds in the same Strain of good Sense and Charity) “the Reason of this must be very evident to all those who own, not the Church, but the Scriptures, to be the ultimateRule, and Guide of their Faith. For, if this be so, then individual Persons, as well as Churches, must judge of their Faith according to what they find in Scripture ---- and, if they are convinced that there is a Disagreement in any Point of Faith, between the Voice of the Church and that of Scripture, they must stick to the latter rather than the former; they must follow the superior, not inferior Guide ----- This Method is most just and reasonable, and most agreeable to the Constitution of the Church of England, which does not take upon her to be absolute Mistress of her Members; but allows a higher Place and Authority to the Guidance of the Holy Scriptures, than to that of her own Decisions.”
Quorsum mihi mea Conscientia, si mihi secundum alienam Conscientiam vivendum est, & moriendum? said John Gerson, Chancellor of Paris. “To what purpose have I a Conscience of my own, if the Conscience of another Person must be my own Rule of Living and Dying?
Your Grace, in your Sermon, preached at St. James’s, Westminster, on the Fifth of November, 1699. and intituled, False Prophets tried by their Fruits; I say, your Grace, ever zealous for Truth and Liberty, does there assert, in Opposition to the Pretensions of designingMen, who call themselves the Church, and have usurped Authority over the Consciences of Men;* “That the Right of examining what is proposed to us in Matters of Religion, is not any special Privilege of the Pastors, or Governors of the Church, but is the common Right and Duty of all Christians whatsoever.”
And if, in Consequence of this Examination, a Man be convinced, “that his particular Belief is founded upon the Word of God, and that of the Church is not;” your Grace has told us, in your Defence of the Exposition above cited, “That such a Man is obliged to support and adhere to his own Belief, in Opposition to that of the Church.”
Here we have your Grace’s public Opinion, that we are obliged to follow a private nonconforming Conscience to a Conventicle, whenever we think the established Church is in the wrong. For, as your Grace further observes,† “Every particular Person is to answer to God for his own Soul, and must examine, as far as he is able, both what he believes, and how he practises, and upon what Grounds he does both; and not follow any Assembly, tho’ of never so much seeming Authority.”
‡ “And yet (continues your Grace) how confidently do some Men tell us, that we must believe them before our own Reason ---- that it is Schism and Heresy, and I know not what besides, to doubt of, or differ with them in any thing that they require us to believe; and that much better were it to shut our Eyes altogether, and go on blindfold under their Conduct, than to follow the clearest Light that Scripture, or Reason, or even Sense itself, can give us.
* “But let them (says your Grace) assume what Authority they please to themselves, and raise what Clamour they can against us; when all is done, this Conclusion will remain firm as Heaven, and clear as any first Principle of Science, that, if the Scriptures be, as we all agree that they are, the Word of God, and were written for our Instruction; then we must follow the Conduct of them, and hold fast to the Truth which they deliver, tho’ not only a Company of assuming Men, calling themselves the Church, but the whole World, should conspire against us.”
In this unanswerable manner has your Grace, long before you came to be at the Head of the Church, shewn the Reasonableness, and even the Necessity, of Separation; and ridiculed the stale and deceitful Cry of Heresy and Schism, which being nothing else but a Departure from the Way of thinking established by Law, and an Adherence to Truth as it appears, and not as it is represented by human Authority, are not only the most harmless, but the most commendable Things in the World. Taking them in this View, they are not only true Friends to Christian and Civil Liberty, but even the necessary Effects of it; and nothing but the fiercest Tyranny can try to oppress them. I am almost of Opinion, that if it had not been for the Puritans, we should have been long since, not only without the Protestant Religion, but without any Religion at all. It is certain, these old Fellows, as queer and fanatical as they were, always opposed the Growth of Ceremonies, and Arbitrary Power; and, if your Grace’s Predecessor, Archbishop Laud, when many peaceable and industrious Protestant Dissenters fled from his Fury to the Wild-beasts and Rattle-snakes of America, could have sent all the rest after them, he might have successfully Popified us into that abject Slavery and Uniformity, which his good Catholic Christianity had projected for us.
And therefore, without disguising the Matter, or falling into the senseless Ditty of lamenting our Divisions in Opinion, I heartily thank God, that we have Dissenters; and I hope we shall never be without them. They are Centries and Watchmen against the sly Intrigues and Conspiracies of designing Churchmen, who, could they but wheedle, or drive all Men into one Belief, would soon grow as independent and uncontroulable as the Pope or the Czar. Bigotry, Chains, and Cruelty, are always, and in all Places, the certain Issue of Uniformity; which is itself of an infamous Race, being begot by the Craft of the Priests upon the Ignorance of the Laity. I think that it puts Uniformity, and what is generally called Schism, in a true Light; that Tyranny can never subsist without the first, nor Liberty without the latter.
For my Part, I do not know one Dissenter in England, but who sincerely believes the Scriptures, and faithfully adheres to King George, and his Government; and, in Consequence of both, prays to God heartily, and pays his Taxes chearfully. Let the Church boast as much of her conforming Sons, if she can.
Oh! but Schism and Dissenters break the Peace of the Church! --- I never much liked this same Phrase, the Peace of the Church, because there is always something very bad tacked to it. For, in short, those who have the Impudence to appropriate that Name (the Church) to themselves, will never be at Peace till they have got the Possession of our Estates, and the keeping of our Senses; so that Religion, and Property, and Reason, and Conscience, must all go to Ruin, to give such a Church Peace. Nothing else will do. At this present Time, the Church, besides the great Increase of her Revenues, enjoys all the Advantages which she ever had since the Reformation, except that of worrying Schismatics; and yet by daily Experience we see, and by this very Letter we see, that the High-church Parsons will not be at Peace.
I have thus far spoken my Mind frankly upon the Topic of Schism, emboldened so to do by your Grace’s great Name and Example, who have, in many Places and Discourses, taught Mankind not to be alarmed with Words and Bugbears. Your Grace* “accounts it a Meanness of Spirit, to desert the Truth, or be afraid to own it, tho’ never so much clamour’d against by ignorant or designing Men;” of which Truth, you say, every Man must judge for himself; as I have quoted it already.
The next Complaint in the Letter is, Of Men who speak perverse Things, and of Pastors, nay Bishops, who pull down the Church, and undermine its Authority, tho’ they have subscrib’dto its Doctrine, and therefore ought to contend for it, and even die for it.
Here is the most rank, tho’ impotent Malice shewn against the best Bishop, best Protestant, and best Man, who ever adorned the Mitre; and for the best Actions which he was capable of, viz. for his comprehensive Love to Mankind, and for strenuously supporting those Principles, upon which alone the Protestant Religion, his Majesty’s Title, and the Liberties of the World, can be defended; all which intitles him in a particular manner to your Grace’s Protection, who have always maintained the same, and now worthily enjoy the Rewards of your Virtue.
But it is no wonder, that my*Lord Bishop of Bangor should suffer under the Rage of a wicked and despairing Faction, when even your Grace’s great Post and Character do not protect your Innocence from their feeble Assaults; otherwise they could never have surmised your Grace to be the Author of so senseless a Declaration against one of your own Order, and in Contradiction to the whole Tenour of your Life, the Expectations of your Friends, I will not say Engagements to those who had the Honour to prefer you.
Your Grace has always, in your excellent Writings, asserted the contrary Principles; and therefore this foolish Paper must have come from some foul-mouthed High-church-man, and one of that new sort of Disciplinarians, who, your Grace, in your Appeal, assures us, are risen up from amongst ourselves; who seem to comply with the Government of the Church, much upon the same account as others do with that of the State, not out of Conscience to their Duty, or any Love they have for it; but because it is the Established Church, and they cannot keep their Preferments without it. They hate our Constitution, and revile all that stand up in good Earnest for it; but for all that, they resolve to hold fast to it, and so go on to subscribe and rail.
These are the Church-monsters, or many headed Hydra’s, heroically vanquished by your Grace, and the Bishop of Banger, who have ever maintained the King’s Supremacy, and the total Dependence of the Clergy upon the Laity; and have manfully opposed Civil and Ecclesiastical Tyranny, in all their Shapes; for which you have been falsly represented as Judas’s, Church Empsons, and Church Dudleys, and what not? And now, my Lord, you having disarmed them of all fair Weapons, they have recourse to the blackest Calumny, and the fiercest Railing.
TheLetter-writer comes next to shew What are the Pleas and Pretensions of these Innovators, as he calls them; and these, he says, may be learned from a Couple of French Pamphlets lately published, the Authors of which, and their Confederates, whom he has before described, are angry at all Confessions of Faith, and all Subscription of Articles, and are for a general Toleration, which he invidiously calls a general Licence; and he might, with the same Candour, have christened it a general Libertinism.
One of the Treatises here referr’d to, is written by Mr. Durette, and, I suppose, the other by Mr. De la Pilloniere, and both intended to expose the Absurdity, and shew the Ridicule, of broad-brimm’d Hats, and grave Faces, meeting in Synods to reveal the revealed Will of God; and to make Creeds and Confessions of Faith, and carry them by a Majority of Voices (often of Proxies); which Creeds the Laity are to believe at present, and in all Generations to come.
I very much suspect, the virulent Libeller, under the Shelter of opposing these poor French Refugees, intends to level his bold Invective against your Grace’s Person and Writings, in which you have so openly and significantly declared your Opinion of what is to be expected from such Assemblies of Clergymen, who have no other Business there, but to spread Uncharitableness and Dissention amongst the People; and to usurp Wealth, Dominion, and Power, to themselves.
In your Authority of Christian Princes, you excellently well observe, That*nothing more exposed our Christian Profession heretofore, or may more deserve our serious Consideration at this Day, than the Violence, the Passion, the Malice, the Falseness, the Oppression, which reigned in most of the Synods held by Constantine, and after him by the following Emperors, upon occasion of the Arian Controversy. Bitter are the Complaints which we are told that great Emperor made of them: The Barbarians, says he, in a Letter to one of them, for fear of us, worship God; but we mind only what tends to Hatred, to Dissention, and in one Word, to the Destruction of Mankind.
You further observe of Synods in general† ; What Good can be expected from the Meeting of Men, when their Passions are let loose, and their Minds disorder’d; when their Interest and Designs, their Friends and Parties, nay, their very Judgments and Principles, lead them different Ways; and they agree in nothing so much, astheir being very peevish; when their very Reason is deprav’d, and they judge not according to Truth and Evidence, but with respect to Persons, and every one opposes what another of a different Persuasion moves or approves of?
I heartily concur with your Grace in your Opinion of such Assemblies; and, indeed, I cannot see what Good they can do, were it possible that they were inclined to do it: The common Pretence is, to make Faith to explain Religion, and to teach the Holy Ghost to talk intelligibly. Vain and weak Men! as if the Almighty was not capable of making himself understood without their Help, when he intends to be understood; or, as if a few fallible Mortals, neither more wise, or more honest, than other Men, were capable of discovering what the Almighty has a mind to conceal; or as if the Divine Goodness would cruelly hide from us what is necessary for us to know.
If the Scriptures are so abstruse, and want so much Explanation, how are they so plain, that he who runs may read? And how can God Almighty (whose Laws they are) be said to will that all Men should come to the Knowledge of the Truth? And how are the great Things of Religion revealed to Babes and Sucklings, and hid from the Learned and Wise?
TheRomish Clergy act consistently with themselves, when they pretend to believe, that the Holy Ghost presides in their General Councils, and consequently may be allowed to explain his own Meaning. But it is incorrigible Impudence in Protestant Priests, to assume to talk or write better than the Holy Spirit himself, when they pretend not to his Assistance, nor will accept of any other, if they can help it.
And therefore I shall conclude this Head, and stop this Reviler’s Mouth, by telling him, in your Grace’s Words;* “That nothing at this Day preserves us from Ruin and Desolation, but that we (the Clergy) have not Power of ourselves to do the Church a Mischief; and the Prince, who sees too much of our Temper, is too gracious to us, and has too great a Concern for the Church’s Good, to suffer us to do it.”
The Letter goes on, and the next Passage is pregnant with Anger and Scurrility. “Who (says the Author) that is a Christian, can avoid lamenting, that these ravening Wolves (I wish he does not mean such Men as your Grace, and the Bishop of Bangor, &c.) “are not only not driven far away from the Sheepfold, but even received within the Inclosures of the Church, and admitted to her Honours, her Offices, and her Government? But so it unfortunately is, while we only strive for the Things of this Life, we wofully neglect those which belong to another. And because some hope, by the Toleration, and Advancement of such Men, to acquire the Favour of the People, and thereby maintain themselves in that which they have only at Heart, their Power and Places; they care not what becomes of the Church, or of the Faith, or of Religion, or indeed of Jesus Christ himself, and his Cause.”
Here is a Volley of Rage, and ugly Names, enough to distance Billingsgate, and to put all reasonable and moderate Railing out of Countenance for ever. How! thought I, when I read it first, have we got* Bungey here? It savours filthily of the Sermon at St. Paul’s, and breathes the very same Truth, and good Sense. Pray God the poor Orthodox Lunatic may come off no worse than he did last Time!—I know a galled Back will not agree with his choleric Soul; and I see no Hopes of escaping. Blessed Memory is no more; and within these five Years we have had one rebelling Priest hanged, and another seditious Priest set in the Pillory———Once more, Heaven preserve poor Bungey! But while I was in the midst of my Soliloquy, I happily remember’d, that the Letter was written in Latin; and so I cleared myself of my Fears, and the Doctor of the learned Scandal.
From the Falshood of the Assertions, and the Bitterness of the Style, I should have suspected Frier(a)Francis for the Author; but as it bears no Tincture of his Spirit and Parts, I am sure none of this dull Dirt is of his flinging.
Upon the Whole, my Lord, I am come to a Persuasion, that this wretched Author is some wooden Implement of the late Reign; some Northern Genius, some holy Bigot, and(b)Bungler of Peace, made use of by his Masters, as a foul Hand to sign away the Protestant Religion, and the Liberties of Europe.
Supposing this Author to be a Papist, (which is most likely) this doleful Ditty of his will run most naturally, in the following Style, into which I have paraphrased it.
“Who, that is a good Catholic, can avoid crossing himself, and saying his Pater Noster, when he sees, that, tho’ the titular Bishop of Bangor’s Heterodox Principles are the Barrier of the great Schism, call’d the Reformation, and are the Gulph over which no rational Englishman can pass into the Bosom of Mother Church; yet that Arch-heretic is not only not burnt, but even sacrilegiously exercising the Office of a pretended Bishop, and poisoning the People with the damnable Doctrines of private Judgment, and Liberty of Conscience; and falsly asserting, that the Priests cannot forgive Sin, and command Heaven. But so it unfortunately happens, that while we only strive for Religion and Liberty, we wofully forget those Things which belong to the Church; and because some hope, by their favouring and protecting of Protestants, to gain the good Will of Protestants, and thereby gratify their Schismatical Ambition of being at the Head of the Protestant Interest, they care not what becomes of his Holiness the Pope, nor of Tradition, the Real Presence, nor indeed of Transubstantiation itself.”
Your Grace, my Lord, will perceive how naturally this silly Declamation, full of Froth, and empty of Reasoning, runs into Ridicule. And, in short, there is no other way of answering it, but by giving it a Turn of this Sort; for it is all Noise and Scolding, it fixes upon no certain Point, nor does it state or confute any particular Error.
Our Author’s concluding Words are remarkable ones. Says he, “You will pardon me, Sir, that, to gratify a just Sorrow, I thus express my Indignation, with more Bitterness than usual, against these Enemies of our Religion. I should accuse myself of betraying the Faith, did I not on every Occasion denounce Damnation against these Heretics.”
Here is a true Image of a priestly Spirit, destitute of all Humanity, and the Fear of God, and fraught with Fire and Brimstone, which he scatters so freely among the Sons of Men. ’Tis (I had almost said) well, that the more merciful Devils have the Custody of these flaming Materials. Dreadful! that honest Men, and sincere Christians, should be wantonly consigned over to Eternal Flames, for adhering to the Truth, or what appears to them to be so, which is all that is required of them! This, in short, is the Case———They please God, and make the Parsons mad.
Your Grace perceives, and, no doubt, with Horror, the execrable Genius and Malice of this Author, who, by the assuming Style of his Cursing of Christians, seems willing to be thought a Firebrand of Authority, and an Atheist of Power. What a Blessing it is to this Church and Nation, that such a ravening Wolf does not fill your Lordship’s Chair!
Gratulor huic Terræ———
I wish that this Curser would be instructed by your Lordship’s excellent Words, particularly where you so warmly, so christianly, recommended a mutual Charity, which alone; you say, can secure us amidst all our Errors; and which, with an Agreement in what is most necessary, will, to the Honest and Sincere, be sufficient for our eternal Security. This, your Grace adds, should make us more sparing in our Anathema’s, and more zealous in our Prayers for one another. With much more excellent Advice to the same Purpose, your Grace also, in your excellent Sermon printed in 89, has this Remarkable and Christian Passage: “Who am I, that should dare to pronounce a Sentence of Reprobation against any one, in whom there will appear all the other Characters of an humble, upright, sincere Christian, only because he is not so wise, and it may be, wiser than I am, and sees further than I do, and therefore is not exactly of my Opinion in every thing?”
To give a Man to the Devil, is an odd way of keeping him from the Devil; which I ignorantly imagined was the Profession and Duty of every Clergyman.
I have thus, my Lord, taken to Pieces this venomous Author, and shewn his Spirit. He has reviled, beyond Sea, one whom he dares not attack, at home: And he sculks and scolds in Switzerland, because his base Spirit must breathe somewhere.
But, praised be Almighty God! however he may gratify himself by reviling other Bishops, the Nation is blessed in your Grace with a Metropolitan of such Uniformity in Life and Principles, as must ever baffle Calumny, and confound the Malice of his and the Church’s Enemies; and who will never give Occasion to such a Story as is told of a Western Bishop at the Revolution, who fled from the Protestant Religion, and the Prince of Orange at Exeter, to King James and Father Peters at London, and was made an Archbishop for his Loyalty and Passive Obedience. But, as he was going Northward to take Possession of his new Dignity, he bethought himself, that the Bible was better, and like to get the better of his Holiness and Popery; and so he declared for the Prince, and a Free Parliament, upon the Road.
I have the Honour to be, with profound Veneration,