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PREFACE. - Thomas Gordon, The Independent Whig, vol. 4 (1747) 
The Independent Whig. Being a Collection of Papers All written, some of them published During the Late Rebellion (London: J. Peele, 1747). Vol. 4.
Part of: The Independent Whig, 4 vols.
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THE following Papers were produced, several of them occasionally published, during the late Rebellion. Many more are added upon Subjects very interesting to all Protestant Readers, and all true Englishmen.
The late Rebellion, like the former, was nurtured and defended by the same impious Positions, which had been poisoning the Minds of Men for near a Century before the Revolution; often revived, and confidently propagated, since the Revolution; and at all times pestilent to Civil Liberty and Human Reason, as well as to Religion. Transubstantiation is not a higher Insult upon Christianity and Common Sense, than are the Doctrines of Indefeasible Hereditary Right, and of unconditional Obedience to the Will of a Royal Madman, impiously stiled God’s Vicegerent, whilst he is violating all the Laws of God, and defacing God’s Works. To warrant, by God’s Word, such godless Flattery and Outrages, was obvious Blasphemy, as it was in the Flatterers to call themselves God’s Ministers, or to throw God’s Judgments, as they generally did, at all rational and godly Gainsayers. Nor can there be a more manifest Engine of spiritual Mountebankry, in the whole Trade of spiritual Mountebanks, than to monopolize the Terrors of the Lord, and to inflict his Wrath where-ever they point their Spleen. It is the common Track of all Impostors, as well as of all Enthusiasts; the common Theme and Policy of all who claim implicit Belief; the Creed of all implicit Believers. It is indeed the sure Art and Mystery of governing and pillaging Mankind. When Men are thoroughly intoxicated and terrified, they are not only easily enslaved, but rejoice in their Slavery. Such complete Slaves are thenceforward the ready Instruments of universal Slavery, zealous to subdue, to afflict, and to damn all that are Free and Rational.
The best Minds, when deluded, are capable of doing the greatest Mischief. In the Work of Persecution (the most impious and most aggravated Wickedness under the Sun) Men of Conscience are often the keenest Destroyers of Men of Conscience: The best Men then murder the best; contrary to their Meaning, and at their own Peril. They think themselves the only true Servants of the Living God, in destroying his only true Servants. They are thus blindly led by Impostors to defy Almighty God out of Zeal for him, and to undo and kill their Brethren out of pure Love to them. Who will serve Satan lukewarmly, when by it he concludes that he is serving God?
All sincere Persecutors are Madmen. Their Fury is bent against Conscience, because Conscience condemns their Fury. Whatever Cause, or Cant, is recommended by holy Men, will by holy Dupes be esteemed Holy: And then ’tis glorious to fight for it; it is Martyrdom to die for it. Can there be a greater Impostor than the Pope? Yet all good Catholics are Champions unto Death for him.
If in England, and in our English Schools, we could suppose a Spirit so incredibly wicked to reign, that our Youth were taught to be Jacobites there, or, coming thither Jacobites, they were rather further hardened than untaught; that in Places of Learning they were improved in Ignorance; poisoned with impious Principles, by those who taught Religion; and animated to Rebellion and Perjury, by such as were largely encouraged, and nobly endowed, to propagate Peace and Loyalty; would it not look as if we were threatened with Perdition as a Nation; and that an utter Dissolution of Society must follow such an utter Dissolution of Religion and Morals? Would it sound credible, that such shocking Profligacy should be stiled Religion, such godless Profligates the Ministers of God? That such profane Falshoods should be derived from the Gospel of Truth; such hellish Frauds from the Simplicity of God’s Word; such unexampled Cruelty from the Meekness of Christianity; and such endless Darkness and Difficulty be found in the revealed Will of God, by Men who profess themselves called by the Holy Ghost to clear and explain it?
An University is an Association of Schools and Schoolmasters: Can any thing be more preposterous and daring, than for such Men, Tutors of Boys, Teachers of Words, and dry Science, Men generally aukward and unpractised in the World, to set up for governing the World? Laud was a bigotted Priest, raised by a bigotted Prince above himself, and unnaturally aided by him to set the Mitre above the Crown, in Return for his setting the Crown above the Law. The Clergy in his time, by his Craft and Assistance, strove to engross all Civil Employments. When Dr. Juxon was made Lord Treasurer; upon this strange Promotion, Mr. Garrard tells Lord Wentworth, Lord Deputy of Ireland, “That the Clergy were so elated, on joining the white Sleeves to the white Staff, that they were sure of more ecclesiastical Ministers of State; Bishop Wren to be Secretary of State, Bishop Bancroft Chancellor of the Exchequer; and the Master of the Rolls was proposed to be supplied out of the Clergy.” Mr. Garrard further observes to Lord Wentworth, “That they were grown so foolish at Oxford, as to have a Question proposed there about the Legality of Ship-Money; and another Question about the Tumults in Scotland, whether the new Church Service there was a just Cause of Scandal.” This was setting up for Umpire between King and People, or rather over both, and for supreme Legislators* .
In Consequence of this Phrensy, every Parish Priest was a Limb and Mouthsman of the Legislature, or rather a Champion against Law itself. Harrison, Parson of Creek in Northamptonshire, under this Possession, appeared at the Bar of the Common Pleas, and boldly arraigned Judge Hutton, then sitting there, as guilty of High Treason, for giving his Opinion against Ship-Money. This mad Priest, when committed for this Outrage, justified what he had done, “as done in Defence of the King’s supreme Power, such as he asserted was held by all Orthodox Divines (special Judges!) to be inherent in the King, who had Power to tax his Subjects in whatever Sums he thought fit—That all Statutes were but Acts of Favour from the King, such as he might break or recal at his Pleasure.” The same impious Phrensy then possessed the Body of the Clergy, or was more impiously counterseited by them: For they, at the same time, maintained a Tenet directly contradictory; namely, “That the Clergy had a Power independent upon the Crown.”—They were obliged to the Revolution, and the Hanover Succession, for restoring the Constitution, Christianity, and common Sense.
Of the same impious Tendency was their implacable Rage against Dissenters, their Fines, Gaols, and penal Laws:—An absurd, as well as a godless Spirit! They might as rationally have contended for a Uniformity of Faces, Features, and Fashions, as for a Uniformity of Consciences; and a Canon for Conformity of Looks and Dress would have appeared no incredible Stretch of the then Clerical Policy: Nor would it have proved any unusual Strain of priestly Persuasion, to have heard an Orthodox Priest, zealous against private Conscience, cry with Indignation, “Men and Brethren, why, O stubborn and accursed, change ye not your Stature and Aspect, and conform yourselves to the Orthodox Standard of Looks and Size, without which there is no Salvation!” The Man who has no Conscience, is qualified to deal rigorously with Conscience: And no Man is fit to be a Persecutor but an Impostor or an Enthusiast.
Dr. BYFIELD, a noted Empiric, famous in his Day for haranguing in Coffee-houses upon Religion, and thence gaining a Croud of Customers for his Sal Volatile, used to urge the best Argument that ever was offered for Persecution; “Reason, he said, was an impotent Way of Conversion; so was Tenderness and Mercy: Did God Almighty reason with St. Paul, when he meant to convert him, or did he spare him? No, says the Doctor; in order effectually to convince him, He knock’d him down.” To make this Reasoning complete and unanswerable, the Doctor need only have added, that every Persecutor has the Power and Wisdom of God; the only Principle that can ground the Claim of Infallibility upon the Claim of Spiritual Power in mortal Man. This is the only consistent Contradiction, or rather Blasphemy: Any Position short of this is Impudence and Jargon. It is an Indication of being real Papists, yet renouncing Popery.
FatherFrancis Macedo, a Portuguese Jesuit, famous for Fecundity of Brain and Books, composed a Volume in Praise of the Inquisition; and in it discovers God to have been the first Inquisitor. Under that Character he represents the Almighty sitting upon Adam and Eve, in Paradise; next upon Cain, out of Paradise; afterwards upon the Founders of the Tower of Babel. The discerning Father finds St. Peter to have been an Inquisitor in the New Testament, exercising Inquisitorial Vengeance upon Ananias and Sapphira. He maintains that St. Peter transmitted this Power to the Popes, and they to St. Dominic. So daringly do selfish or crazy Divines find sacred Warrant for Rogueries and for Iniquity, too flagrant and barbarous to come from any Spirit but their own, or that of Moloch. As consistent, and not more impious, was the Reasoning of the Thief under Sentence of Death, when he told the Ordinary, that God was the Father of Felony; for he had taught the Jews to rob the Egyptians.
Hell is the last Inquisition of Popery, its last and eternal Penalty for any Offence against the Church: Nor does that Church know a more heinous Offence than Reason and Conscience, except Property and Power in the Hands of the Laity. As Hell is her Inquisition to come, she exercises a temporary Hell in her present Judgments and Tyranny: And for the greater Rein-forcement and Terror, the Judgments of God are boldly usurped, and confidently applied:—The usual Policy of all pious Craftsmen, as well as of those of Rome!
Here in England, in some former Reigns, when Passive Obedience was the courtly Flattery of pious Sycophants, when Self-defence was Rebellion, and Truth was Treason, Divine Judgments were denounced against all who contradicted the Blasphemers Strams in Fashion Did a lawless Sentence pass by a corrupt Tribunal upon a worthy Man, obnoxious to the Court? It was a Judgment upon him, for having maintained Law against arbitrary Will, and preferred equal and manly Liberty to beastly Vassalage. The Verdict of a packed Jury, the Breath of a servile Lawyer, the Displeasure of an angry Tyrant, were all the Heralds of Wrath Divine; and the God of Mercy was represented as afflicting and crushing his best Servants. Every Patriot was a Republican; all Republicans were Rebels; all Rebels were damned. Conscientious Men were Fanatics: Rational Inquirers were Freethinkers: Both Sorts were out of the Pale of the modish Orthodoxy, and therefore in the Clutches of Satan. For the most trifling Pleasure and Humours of such Divines, the Divine Judgments were seen inflicted: Men have died before their Time for not making Bows at Church, and broken their Legs in a Frost, or lost their Eyes by an Inflammation, or their Children in the Small Pox, or their Lands in a Law-suit, or their Cattle in the Murrain, or a Ditch; all for obstinately refusing to perceive Sanctity in a Garment, though worn by a Priest; or in a Table, though placed at the most religious End of the Church; or in Forms and Repetitions, however established by human Laws, and declared to be decent and edifying by learned Men, listed to prove them lawful.
I have largely, I hope clearly, discoursed in the following Sheets, of the Rashness and Folly of playing thus wantonly with the Divine Judgments. Let me add here, that the Application of God’s Judgments is generally a Contradiction to the Character of his Wisdom, and Justice, and Goodness, and indeed of all his Attributes: It is surely an Insult upon all the Reason of Man. But Enthusiasts consider themselves as the only Favourites of God, and his Providence only exerted for them. Pious Impostors only attend to the Gratification of their Craft and Passions. The Mate of a Ship impiously affronted a Catholic Missionary on board, by questioning the Truth of a Miracle wrought by the Parings of St. Francis’s Toe-nails. The Missionary threatened the Mate with some Divine Vengeance, which soon overtook the unbelieving Blasphemer; for in some Weeks after he fell over a Gun, and broke his Shin. The Missionary perceived a dreadful Judgment in this small Accident, and glorified St. Francis. The holy, hot Fanatic was convinced, that the Almighty was as angry at the Mate as he himself himself was: The blind Monk thought, that he himself only saw clearly. But the Jesuits in India, Men of Science, and professed Astronomers, were great Knaves, and wilful Impostors, when they urged an Eclipse of the Sun as a Miracle wrought in favour of their Mission, and a Judgment sent against Gainsayers.
It was a very curious Judgment which a holy Minister of the Kirk saw falling upon a Lady in his Parish. He had pressed her to drink a Glass of his Raisin-Wine: She found it four, made Faces at it, but drank it, and got the Colic. The Lord hath visited her, quoth his Gravity, for turning up her Nose at God’s good Creature. So he called his bad Vinegar.
There is no End of Disputes and Heats upon Religious Subjects, of great or of small Moment. Every Man’s Way of Worship is best in his own Opinion; and all are, or seem, in some Sort defensible. Let every Man enjoy his own. If he be in Earnest in it, he cannot offend that Divine Being, who, having created us all frail, will make Allowances for human Frailties. The Man who prays from the Heart, surely cannot offend him, in whatever indelicate Language he does it. The Man who has studied a politer Phrase, must please him by studying to please him: But let him not condemn another, who exercises equal Devotion in a ruder Stile.
PLINY the Orator, in his Panegyric upon Trajan, has made a just Distinction upon this Head, such a one as would have done Credit to our squabbling Divines, and even cured them of their Squabbling, had they been blessed with as much Temper and Discernment as this candid Heathen. He mentions it “as worthy of Observation, that the Deities themselves are not so much delighted with elegant Strains of Speech from those who worship them, as with Probity and Devoutness.” He adds, “That such who frequent their Temples with righteous and sincere Hearts, are better accepted there, than they who offer composed Forms.” Animadverto etiam Deos ipsos non tam accuratis adorantium Precibus, quam Innocentia et Sanctitate laetari; gratioremque existimari qui Delubris eorum puram castamque Mentem, quam qui meditatum Carmen intulerit.
PLINY speaks the Voice of Reason, concerning the Manner of Worshiping the Divine Being: And sound Reason is always a sound Rule, the only Rule to know his Will, when he has given us no other. With any Mode of Worship composed by God, every reasonable Man will comply. With Forms composed by Men, lie obliges no Man to comply. Private Conscience is the safest Guide. Every Thing is sinful to those who think it sinful. No sincere Christian, therefore, can be a Schismatic: In joining in a Worship which his Heart condemns, he condemns himself, and God will condemn him. Every Christian is the best Judge, what it is that does, or that does not, edify him.
To say that Forms are essential, is as ridiculous, as it would be uncharitable to say, that we cannot be saved without them. The Nonjuring Part of the Jacobite Clergy (perhaps the most innocent Part of them) maintain a most absurd, antichristian, and fanatical Position, that without the Form of a Bishop’s Hand, no Man, however pious or learned, can preach the Gospel, or administer the Ordinances; and that whoever has passed through that Form, however ignorant or wicked, is a Minister of Christ. Neither can this Form be obtained, without an awful Declaration, which I doubt no Man in his Senses could make, with a safe Conscience, “that in applying for it he is called by the Holy Ghost.”
By what certain Proof can any Man know, that he has this Call? Whoever asserts it, is a bold Man: Whoever believes him, is a credulous Man. It has been often the Cant of Hypocrites, often the Cry of Fanatics. Men do not need an extraordinary Call from God, to get a Livelihood, to accumulate Wealth, and to raise their Rents. Their Care and Industry to serve themselves do not infer an immediate Commission from him. The humble, the charitable Christian makes no such high Claims. Selfish, fierce, and ambitious Professors, generally do. Had that hot-headed Zealot, Dr. Sacheverel, any Call from Heaven to revile the Government, and rail at Protestant Dissenters? Whoever wants a meek Spirit, cannot have God’s Spirit, a Spirit always pure and peaceable. Wrath, and Pride, and Railing, are sure Marks of an opposite Spirit. By their Fruits you shall know them. If their Hearts be haughty and uncharitable, their Behaviour imperious, their Language passionate, or petulant; their Call is manifestly not from God, but from their own ungodly Passions.
It wants little Discernment to conclude, that any Man, manifestly addicted to this World, came not from that above, and that he cannot be a proper Instrument for carrying other Men thither. He who is bitter and peevish towards Men, and treats any Man with Rancour or Indecency, is only the Herald of his own Wrath and Ill-manners, and can never be an Advocate for Truth or Religion: It is base enough to vent his Spite, and display his savage Breeding; and ’tis foolish enough to think, by doing so, to serve or entertain Mankind: But it is downright Assurance or Craziness, to warrant his Brutality and Spleen with the unnatural Pretence of God’s Glory, or the Love of Truth. When I see Abuse, Ill-nature, and Insolence, in the Writings of a Divine, I consider him as a Layman spoiled, and pity any Cause in such Hands. Saucy Language and Invective are not apt to convince: They prove nothing but an angry Spirit, and an ill-bred Man. Railing for Truth and Religion is a backward Way of propagating either. What would a sensible Pagan say of such fierce Writers, but that they were pious Wasps; not Preachers, but Scolders of the Word? Surely Good-nature (to say nothing of Good-breeding) is inseparable from Christianity; nor can that be Religion, which wants Meekness and Humanity. But as Superstition is a Substitute for Religion and Virtue, and easily practised by the most virious; Scurrility and Wrath pass with Enthusiasts for Zeal; and they assume a high Character, whilst they act a mean Part in a vulgar Strain.
As to the Doctrines combated in the following Papers, the Doctrines of Popery, or those taken from Popery, and tending to support it, I think it of infinite Concern to Society to have them clearly displayed and exposed; since they strike at the very Being, at least at the Well-being, of Society. They manifestly debauch weak Heads, and inflame weak Minds. They are the Pillars and Prompters of Superstition. What Friend, Follower, or Well-wisher, would the Pope, or King James, or the Descendants of King James, have found in these Kingdoms, but for the Prevalence and Poison of such Doctrines, the Cant of Infallibility, and of Indefeasible Hereditary Right, and other such factious, senseless By-words of Superstition and Party?
I hope I have demonstrated, how repugnant to Religion, to Liberty and Property; indeed, how frightful to Britons, and all Rational Men, the Pretensions of King James and of Popery are; Pretensions evidently founded upon Impiety, Fraud, and endless Contradictions. Can there be higher Nonsense, or a stronger Doctrine of Impiety and Immorality, than that any Man has any Right to violate a Trust; nay, that such Right is Hereditary and Unalienable? It might be maintained, and maintained with higher Consistency, that if the Arch-fiend were mortal, and had Descendants, he and they would be intitled to Hereditary, Satanic Misrule in the Kingdom of Darkness. He is originally from Heaven, and justly banished elsewhere: He and his Fellow-fiends, ever raging against the Divine Being, for their just Expulsion and Torment, are said to be incessantly plotting and striving for Re-admission, and consequently for overturning all the Laws and Government of Heaven. Were any of the Inhabitants there, insensible and unworthy of their happy Lot, disposed to join in the horrid Treason, would they not merit the same Vengeance?
The most promising Method of makeing People Jacobites, is to make them Papists; and then no Nonsense can shock them. It will be then safe, nay, acceptable, to tell them, that King James is a ruling Hierarch above, complimented with a larger Dominion in the Sky, than what he lost below it. Nor would such a Position be more absurd and incredible than what Pope Leo (distinguished and worshiped in the Roman Church, by the Title of Saint Leo) has asserted; namely, that God has taken St.Peterinto theFellowshipof theIndivisibleTrinity. Neither is this Blasphemy and Impossibility more glaring than those of Transubstantiation, of the Pope’s Infallibility, &c. &c. &c.
If King James had Numbers adhering to his Cause, the Thing is not strange, nor without Example. Faction, and Fraud, and Superstition, can always do Wonders amongst the Populace every-where: The Death of Nero, that Imperial Butcher, and Monster in all Bestiality, though it was a Blessing to the Roman Empire, and a Relief to Mankind, was lamented by the Rabble at Rome, and long lamented. Nay, they treated him as a Deity, reared Altars to him, and appointed him Sacrifices and ministring Priests. Neither was Nero a worse Character than several of the Popes, and Popish Saints. I think King James was believed to have worked Miracles when he was dead: Probably he may, in time, be sainted. He had many Qualifications for an eminent Popish Saint, small Capacity, blind Credulity, Zeal without Knowlege, above all Oaths and Faith to Heretics, devoted to all the Calls of Popery, and to all the Craft of Popish Priests.
Every genuine Papist must hate every heretical Government, consequently this Government. Every converted Papist is therefore an Enemy to the Government. Disaffection prompted by Bigotry, and the Craft of Impostors, is the most dangerous Disaffection. He must be a Traitor at the Peril of his Salvation: What can be a stronger Motive? This shews the dangerous Tendency, and mischievous Effect, of separating Religion from Reason; as such Separation makes Men Dupes to Deceivers; who, where-ever Reason is consulted, or Religion is interpreted by Reason, can never mislead those who adhere to either.
I bless God, no Time was ever known which afforded Reason more Scope, or Conscience more Ease, than the present Time; a very improper Time, therefore, for the late Adventurer. Had he come in an Age when Gods and Heroes sprang out of the Earth; when Goddesses courted or stole the Embraces of Men, who, though mortal, were beautiful and strong; and when a jolly Trojan could rival Mars; had he arrived amongst a People void of Eyes and Laws, and assured them, “That he had come from afar for their Good; that he was a near Relation of Jupiter, the chief Ruler of the Skies, who, out of Kindness to the Nation, had sent this his Kinsman to be their King;” he might perhaps have found Admission from a People living in Blindness, and prone to Superstition. But to come recommended by the Pope, the Enemy of our Religion; by France, the sworn Foe to our Liberty and Laws; or to recommend himself, as the Grandson of King James; was to frighten, rather than to gain, free and discerning Protestants, who hated Popery and France, had bravely expelled King James as a Bigot, and an Oppressor, and solemnly abjured for ever all his Popish Descendants.
Wonderful is the Force, rather the Enchantment of Party. It finds Crimes in Virtues, when Virtue is against Party: It sees Virtue in Crimes, where Crimes favour Party. At best, it lessens the Horror of the most horrible Crimes. What can be more so, than unprovoked Disaffection, Perjury, and Rebellion? Compared with those, what are Felony and Robbery more than venial Offences? Yet many, who abhor Robbers and Felons, pay great Honour to Traitors, and justify Perjury and Treason: Whilst a Person forsworn in a private Cause, in which one Man suffers, is detested, a Person who takes a false Oath to the Community, and is thence an Enemy to every Man in it, is often caressed, and deemed the more worthy of public Trust for betraying the Public: Numbers defend the dreadful Treachery: General Practice makes it at least less hideous, sometimes popular. I have heard of famous Communities, where Oaths to the Government were never forgiven, when taken to be kept, but popular when broken as soon as taken; and taken in order to be broken. Yet a more harmless Character, that of a Knight of the Post, was by no means honourable there, unless when employed for the Service of Party; and then it was meritorious. What ought, what can, alarm Society more, than such a Spirit? What can be more threatening to Society, than such Practices? What more alarming to Protestants, than the Advances of Popery?
Whatever favours the Progress of Popery, must be dreadful to all sincere, to all thinking Protestants. What can be more so, than the bold and impious Claim in Priests to save and to damn; or, indeed, to do any thing, which any Man else cannot do, when called or permitted by the Civil Power? This is downright Popery, the very Pith and Vitals of Popery. Whoever asserts it, is at best an unsound Protestant, a Papist without the Name, or perhaps the Intention. Apostolic Succession is another wild Claim maintained by such visionary Men, Protestants in Name: A Claim to succeed the Apostles in being very unlike the Apostles; not in working Miracles; not in wandering over the World, in Poverty, Humility, Distress, and Danger, to preach the Gospel where it is not known; but in telling People over and over what they already know; in uttering Words which any Man may utter; in reading Books which any Man may read; in performing Actions which any Man may perform; and in deriving great Revenues, Pride and Pomp from the poor, humble, despised Apostles. Neither is the Craziness and Contradiction of such a Claim the worst Part of it. It is the Broadway to Popery, and is Popery. Without deriving themselves from Rome, they think that they cannot derive themselves from the Apostles. To be thoroughly consistent, they must go back to Rome. Whoever allows Apostolic Succession to the Church of Rome, condemns Protestants, declares them Schismatics, and himself to be no Protestant.
This Claim of Apostolic Succession, at best wild and false, comes with the better Grace from the Church of Rome, as that Church pretends to work Miracles: A Power which she proves by asserting it, and by cursing all such as deny it. Just so she proves Transubstantiation, Infallibility, and all her other Nonsense, and pious Impossibilities. In truth, all her priestly Power, all Power over the Soul, except that of rational Conviction, implies Infallibility, and is dowmight Nonsense, or downright Craft. These are the great Props of Popery. What can never be proved, ought never to be believed. What will not bear Examination, ought to be rejected absolutely, or must be swallowed implicitly. How can the Heart of Man consent to what the Mind of Man cannot conceive? Lay aside your Reason, and be convinced by our Authority, is a Precept truly Popish: That is, put out your Eyes, and we will shew you rare Sights. Yet this is the Spirit and Strain of Popery, and of such as embrace its Principles, without adopting or owning its Name. Widely opposite is the Principle of genuine Protestants; “Nothing to be admitted without Evidence; no Evidence inconsistent with Reason.”
But, dropping all further Pursuit of this Subject here, I leave my Readers to their own Reflections upon it, and upon every other Subject handled in the ensuing Papers: In them I hope they will find nothing unworthy of a good Protestant, and a good Subject.
If amongst one Sort of Readers I have some Enemies, it is my Misfortune, but their Fault. In all my Writings I have treated Religion, not only with Decency, but with true Respect; as I have Superstition, Bigotry, and ecclesiastical Craft, with Freedom; since these are the Bane of Reason, and consequently of Religion, which is always perverted and lost when Reason is banished. Where this great Standard of all Things is gone, the Fraud and Interest of particular Men become the general Law, and ensure the Bondage of all Men. When Men, interested in disguising Religion, interested in making it subservient to their own Ends and Passions, cannot defend their religious Opinions by Reason, they will sacrifice the Reason of all Men to their Opinions: And then they need not reason, but hang and burn. Power in Things purely spiritual, is and must be spiritual, or rather secular Tyranny. Whoever can persuade others, that what he says comes from God, that what he does is warranted by God, sets himself up for God, and becomes in Effect the Object of their Worship. From this wild Claim, dreadful and mis-shapen as it is, the Roman Babel hath arisen, with all the bloated, the barbarous and contagious Train of Imposture and Tyranny; the People blind, chained, and starving; their Masters gorged and triumphant, and Christianity turned into Cant, Commerce, Juggling and Cruelty: And the same Claim would have every where the same Effect, to exterminate Religion, and to inslave Men. It is the great Foundation, as of Popery, so of Mahometism, and of all Imposture, of all spiritual Empire.
Upon this Subject, where nothing too strong can be said, I have said no more than what many of the Clergy have said; no more than what all the Clergy have submitted to, declared, and sworn. I have written against all Clerical Power: They have renounced it upon Oath. Can they be decently offended with me, for justifying their Oath, and them for taking it? I have done no more than the ablest and best of their Body, and consequently the greatest Ornaments to it, Chillingworth, Tillotson, Whitchcot, Burnet, Wake, with many more venerable Fathers, some still remaining, have done.
Whoever maintains contrary Principles, is not a true Member of this Protestant Church, is not a good Subject.
I have dealt freely with Superstition, which is religious Fear without Ground, and religious Folly without End, an Indignity to the Deity, a Forfeiture of right Reason, and an utter Departure from true Religion: None but such as are Slaves to Superstition, or would gain by Superstition, can be offended with me, for exposing so odious, so gross, so dangerous, an Evil.
I have dealt freely with Bigots, sour, narrow Men, who would contract the noble diffusive Spirit of Christianity, would make the Deity delight, as they do, in Peevishness, Grimace and Jargon, in Cant and Sound, in Sternhold and Hopkins.
I have been free, very free with the Persecutor, that is, with the Bigot in Wrath, and armed to destroy: An infernal Instrument under a celestial Disguise, damning human Souls, butchering human Bodies, yet blasphemously preaching Salvation and Mercy. What a diabolical Groupe of Hypocrisy, Cruelty, and atheistical Zeal! Whoever would influence or alter religious Opinions, by Gaols and Fines, or, which is a further Strain of the same impious Policy, by Torture and Execution, hath already renounced the Spirit of Christianity, disowned Conscience, mocks God; deifies himself, and proclaims everlasting War amongst Men.
These are the three pestilent Foes which I have chiefly attacked, Superstition, its Child Bigotry, and the baneful Issue of both, Persecution. Can three more furious, more desolating Curses, visit those who dwell upon the Earth? What Havock they would make, is notorious from what they have made. In being a declared Enemy to these, I am but a Champion for Religion, and human Society; and therefore a good Subject in Church and State. I have never used any Clergyman indecently, much less any of them ill; however some of them have used me. With many of them I live upon good Terms: Nor would I hurt even those, who have so little of the Gospel Spirit as to hurt others for differing from them. I sincerely regard our religious Establishment. Though far from perfect, it is the best I know: I truly esteem all the worthy Members of it; all who have the Temper of Christians, and the Manners of Gentlemen. As to those who distinguish themselves by Scurrility and Perjury (if there be any such); Men who pervert the Dignity of Preaching into Scolding; who take Oaths to the Government, and act like Traitors to it; no one who regards God and the Government, can reverence them: What good Christian, what loyal Subject can?
To conclude this Head, I shall take upon me to aver, That, in whatever I have written of the Church and the Clergy, I have the Bible, Reason, the Law of the Land, together with the best, and most learned, of the Clergy, on my side.
I must caution, and assure my Readers, that, whatever Asperity they find in these Papers against Popery, I bear no Ill-will, not the least Disgust, to the Person of any Papist, nor would I hurt any Papist for being such. Some of them are my Friends; I know many worthy, many well-bred, Men amongst them; and I am sorry from my Soul, to see any of them subject to the Witchcraft of their Religion, to the blinding Influence of their Priests, and to so furious a Faith. I would gladly reconcile them to this free, this mild Government, by beseeching them to consider, how differently every Popish Government uses Protestants, from what this Government uses Papists; that every Man in every Country thinks his own Religion as good as they think theirs: And then what would be the dreadful, the barbarous and desolating Consequence, if every Man were to punish every Man for any Religion?
I would likewise observe to my Readers, that, whatever I have said against Nonresidence, I heartily esteem many Nonresidents. The thing is surely liable to Censure and Complaint. But Exceptions may be allowed for Men of superior Merit. In such Merit I always comprise Moderation, mutual Charity, and universal Benevolence; Principles which I perceive with Pleasure prevailing amongst the present Clergy. The chief amongst them for Conscience and Character, despise the Narrowness, the unchristian Fierceness, and Party Spirit, so long and so lamentably reigning amongst their Predecessors, perverting and poisoning most Part of the Nation, reviling and persecuting the other; maintaining Systems of Craziness and Contradiction, mistaking Rage and Nonsense for Religion, and fathering upon the God of Wisdom Priestly Folly, Fanaticism, and Dreams.
I never had any Quarrel to any Clergyman, who had none to Conscience and the Government; and I desire to keep Peace with all of them, who keep their Oaths. Even to such as have used me scurrilously, I have made no suitable Returns, nor any Return but that of Pity and Silence, with my unfeigned good Wishes, that, if they would not condescend to the Temper of Christians, they would at least aspire to the Language and Decency of Gentlemen. Neither do I boast of such Forbearance as Matter of Merit. I bless God, it is natural to me. I should be very sorry to be angry at any worthy Man: I should be ashamed to be angry at a worthless and despicable Man: Hatred I bear to no Man. Personal Distaste is an unmanly, indeed a scandalous Motive for writing. I have no Disgust to Papists, but should grieve to see Popery increase. That Men, who call themselves Protestants, should contribute to that Increase, is a melancholy Consideration: The Fact is too true.
Whoever promotes Superstition, promotes Popery: Whoever contends for Power in Priests, is an Advocate for the Papal Power: Whoever asserts, that Presbyterians (that is, Protestants) are worse than Papists, is himself no Protestant; nay, is directly serving the Cause of Popery. Yet this has been the Style, and constant Cry, of those, who called themselves the only true Churchmen, for more than a Century; and by it they have directly encouraged weak People (and, God knows, in these Points most People are weak) to embrace Popery. By this false Cry they have promoted the Popish Cause much more successfully, than all the secret Popish Missionaries have been able, or ever will be able, to do, by all their mean Converts cheated or bribed into Popery in Lanes and Corners, chiefly from Stables, Sculleries, and the Rabble.
Panegyrics upon Popery by Protestant Divines, have been a common, nay, a fashionable Monster: Writings against Popery by the same Hands (for that Monster too has sometimes, nay, often, been seen) were not so monstrous. An Epicure, who praises Luxury, or an Indulgence in Meats, Drinks, and Women, may very consistently blame, and except to, particular Dishes, Liquors, and Ladies; yet be still a thorough Epicure.
[* ]In the latter End of Queen Anne’s Time, when the Jacobite Priests were raging with the Fanaticism of Divine Right in Popish Princes, and the like impious Cant of Faction, a Gentleman of Distinction recommended a young Clergyman to Archbishop Tennison for a small Preferment; and was surprised to hear his Grace ask, with an earnest Look, Whether the young Man bad not gat the Plague? The old Primate quickly explained himself, by adding; “He has some of the Tokens upon him; he comes from O—d.”