Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XIX.: How boldly the Popish Clergy abuse their Followers, by teaching them to deny with a Curse, the most obvious Impieties of their Church. - The Independent Whig, vol. 4 (1747)
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Number XIX.: How boldly the Popish Clergy abuse their Followers, by teaching them to deny with a Curse, the most obvious Impieties of their Church. - 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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How boldly the Popish Clergy abuse their Followers, by teaching them to deny with a Curse, the most obvious Impieties of their Church.
I HAVE lately read a very seasonable Pamphlet, of real Use, good Sense and Knowlege, called An Inquiry how far Papists ought to be treated here as good Subjects, and how far they are chargeable with the Tenets commonly imputed to them. It is written in answer to a Popish Pamphlet, carefully distributed, full of glaring Deceit, boldly denying all the detestable Tenets and Horrors of Popery; and, still further to cheat the Ignorant, denying them with a Curse, as Peter did his Master, and with the same Sincerity. For Example:
cursed be he (says the Popish Apologist) that commits Idolatry, that prays to Images or Relics, or worships them, for Gods. To this Curse, and to all that follow, he makes his miserable Votaries say, Amen.
This sounds strong, and is indeed strong Fraud. Do not Papists adore Relics? Do they not openly worship Images, and pray to Saints? as the Author of the Inquiry clearly proves. Yes; but it seems that this is no Idolatry, for they do not worship them as Gods; that is, they do not call them God Jehovah, nor God the Creator of all Things; they only invoke them as Deputy Deities, generally in the same high devotional Strain: And such Divine Invocation, implying a Divine Prerogative to relieve and save the Invoker, is a Declaration of Deity in the Being invoked: It is therefore Idolatry, when made to any Being except the Supreme.
They ascribe Godlike Power to their most ridiculous Relics, Stocks and Stones, old Iron, Bones, Nails and Hair, by making them work Miracles, heal the Sick, raise the Dead, and exert the like Acts and Attributes of Omnipotence. Neither do they pray to their Saints as only Mediators and Intercessors with God, as is sometimes pretended; they pray to them directly, and for what none but the Godhead only can grant, all the Blessings of this Life and the next. This is all obvious in their Breviaries and Catechisms, where Prayers are framed immediately to the Saints, and in a Stile as high and rapturous as to God himself, as is at Length explained in the Inquiry.
This Apologist pronounces another bold Curse upon every Goddess-Worshiper, who believes the Virgin Mary to be more than a Creature. I must own, that amongst all the Extravagances of the Papists, I never knew a Papist deny that God created the Virgin Mary; but I never heard of a Papist who did not treat her beyond the Quality of a Creature, and with all the awful Epithets of a Deity. They all pray to her, they all worship her. Is such Divine Treatment due to any Creature?
But there follows a Reserve that justifies all;—Cursed is he who honours her, worships her, or puts his Trust in her as much as in God. A curious Come-off! He makes his Votaries own, that the Omnipotent God is superior to one of his Creatures; but still they are to adore and invoke this human Creature with the Worship and Language due only to God, her Creator. They implore her in Form, “to deliver them from Sin, “to protect them from Evil, and to receive them at the Hour of Death.” What could they ask more of their Maker? Is not all this treating her as a Deity, a Sovereign Deity? Did the blindest Heathens ever apply such Strains of Adoration to any of their Deities, even to the Highest of all, Jupiter Optimus Maximus!
The Curse is, however, repeated upon him who believes her above her Son, or that she can in any Thing command him. Above her Son, is an odd Phrase, but hath its Art and Meaning here.—It founds as if they denied the Idolatry of worshiping her as well as the Son. We know it to be Idolatry to worship her at all, and we know that they worship her. This is enough to fix the Charge upon them.—Or, that she can in any Thing command him. If she can protect and pardon Sinners, and receive their Souls into eternal Bliss, without him, she need not command him; she hath thus sufficient Godlike Power without him. But, if I am not mistaken, I have seen a Popish Prayer, invoking the Virgin to command her Son, in Terms, Impera Filio tuo: Nor can such Language appear strange in Popery.
The next Curse is upon him who believes the Angels and Saints in Heaven to be his Redeemers, who prays to them as such, or who gives God’s Honour to them, or to any Creature whatsoever. Was ever such mock Defence! We do not charge them with believing Saints and Angels to be their Redeemers, but with worshiping Saints and Angels: Nor can they deny that they do. It is the constant Practice of their Church, and it is injoined by the Authority of the Church, to worship and invoke the Angels, who are always in the Presence of the Lord, and willingly watchfor our Security, which is committed to them. They are also ordered to invoke the dead Saints, and to reverence their Relics. All this is amply proved in the Inquiry.
’Tis a miserable Subterfuge to say, that they reverence the Deity more, or, in their own Words, that they do not give God’s Honour to them; and yet, in reality, they do it, by putting them in God’s Stead, and complimenting them with God’s Power. Out of the vilest amongst dead Men they chuse their heavenly Protectors and Idols. The implacable Traitor, Becket, had infinitely more Worship and Oblations paid him than all the Host of Heaven; not only than Jesus Christ, but even than the Mother of Christ, though she was then infinitely more revered than the Deity. Indeed, for many Centuries, consummate Madness, or consummate Villainy, was the chief Recommendation to Saintship; and the blackest Character upon Earth, the Roman Pontiffs presumed to furnish Heaven with such Rivals to the Deity, as were too infamous to live amongst Men. It is certain, that many who had adorned Gibbets, or deserved them, helped to swell the Roman Calendar, and were complimented with a Seat on the Right-hand of God, with the Title of His chief Favourites and Counsellors.
The pleasantest Curse follows: Cursed be he that worships any Breaden God, or makes Gods ofthe empty Elements of Bread and Wine. A safe Curse! Well may the Framer of it make his true Catholic say Amen to it! Before it is consecrated ’tis not God; and he deserves to be cursed who will worship bare Bread as God. After it is consecrated ’tis God, our Blessed Saviour in Person; and who can be cursed who worships our Blessed Saviour?
This Fallacy is too gross; but a gross Imposture will bear no better. A Wafer is no God; but a few Words and Grimaces of the Priest make it a God; whilst, to Taste and Touch, and Sight, and Smell, ’tis still a Wafer. Weigh it, dissect it, separate and examine its Parts, ’tis a manifest Composition of Flouer and Water, just as it was before. But you are damned if you believe Demonstration. These very Particles of Water and Flouer are, in spite of Demonstration, changed in an Instant, without the least Alteration, into the whole Body of Jesus; and, tho’ there be but one Jesus, he is multiplied into Millions every Day.
At this Rate a Priest has Power over God himself, and more Power than God himself can have; for God cannot reconcile Contradictions, nor convert Bread into Flesh and Blood, whilst it continues still to be Bread. There never was such an impudent Imposture in all the Visions and Chimeras of Paganism. The many Transformations of Vistnum, God of the Indian Bramins, into a Fish, a Hog, a Lion, a Bramin, a Flying Horse, are credible Impossibilities, compared to Transubstantiation, the highest Affront to the Eyes and Reason of Man, and the most shocking Indignity to the Deity, every offered or invented by the most daring Impostors known amongst Men.
The next Curse is not more modest or sincere:—Cursed is he that believes, that Priests can forgive Sins, whether the Sinner repents or no; or that any Power in Heaven or Earth can forgive Sins, without a hearty Repentance, &c.
A repenting Sinner has satisfying Assurance, from the Word of God, that “God forgives all who truly repent.” The Almighty does not add, That he wants the Interposition of a Priest. His Mercy is not mock Mercy, to be awakened or applied at the Request of the Priest; the All-seeing Eye needs no Voucher for the Sincerity of the Sinner’s Heart. When the Framer of the Curses denies, that any Power in Heaven or Earth can forgive Sins without Repentance, he seems to put God upon the same Foot with the Priest, and disables him equally with the Priest from bestowing Mercy. Surely the Almighty can pardon, if he will, even the Impenitent; but a Priest cannot pardon the Penitent, already pardoned by God, who does not create Souls to be the Vassals of Priests, less still their Dupes and Property.
If Repentance opens Heaven to Sinners, as God himself has told us it does, all the Use of a Priest to a Sinner, dying or living, is to exhort him to repent; an Office to be performed by any pious Relation or Friend. Yet, for asserting this Truth in a Popish Country, you would be burned alive in the Inquisition. But such bloody Cruelty is never to be owned in England, at least this is not the Time; therefore careful Hypocrisy, and all false Softenings, are to be employed.
I know not how this Casuist can exempt the Council of Trent from his Curse. Those Reverend Faith-makers have decreed Absolution from a Priest to be a Judicial Act, that is, final and peremptory. A most blasphemous Decree! divesting the Almighty of his Prerogative, and conferring it upon a Priest; yet a Decree naturally made by Priests. The Fathers of that Council were chiefly the Pope’s Implements and Registers; and it was too truly said, that the Holy Ghost was, from time to time, conveyed from Rome to Trent in a Portmantua.
ThisPopish Advocate yields too much; yet I doubt not but he knows what he does. A Popish Dispensation to deceive Protestants is no new Thing; and I defy the ablest Missionary to convert any sensible, well-informed Protestant to Popery, without deceiving him. He dare not tell all; no, not to Papists. I doubt few Papists know that it is another decreed Point and Doctrine of the Church of Rome, That, in performing the Office of the Sacrament, of any Sacrament, the Words and Gestures and Operations of the Priest, however full and formal they be, yet are of none Effect, without his Intention accompanying them. No; the most momentous Ordinance of Religion is invalid and none, unless the Priest pleases to make it so, by intending it to be so.
As these Sacraments, Seven in Number, are all necessary to Salvation, and the Priestly Performance necessary to the Sacrament, so is his Intention and good Pleasure necessary to make a Sacrament; and the eternal Fate of immortal Souls depends upon his Caprice. An impious, or a revengeful Priest (both very common Characters) may damn his whole Flock. Is not this representing the good God as a terrible Tyrant to his Creatures, and a Confederate with cruel Impostors?
Thus high is the Power of Priests carried in that godless, that apostate Church, where it is safer to be a Traitor, a Sodomite, a Poisoner, or an Assassin, than to follow Christ and Conscience, in Opposition to Fraud and Idolatry. Yet a Priest of that very Church ventures, in this enlightened Country, to represent the Romish Priests as Lambs, Lovers of Truth, and claiming no other Privilege, no Power, no offensive Weapons. Even the Pope is a disinterested Soul; and cursed is he who believes that there is Authority in the Pope to forgive Sins, or to give Leave to commit Sins, for a Sum of Money. The Pope needs not pretend to it; he has other Pretences, even when Money is the Motive. Offenders submit, they beg Pardon, and the Money convinces him that they are sincere. There is a Rate for Sins, according to the Quality of each, fixed in the Office of the Rota at Rome, where the most heinous and hideous are not excepted, even the Murder of a Parent, or the Debauching of a Sister.
This pecuniary Traffic for Sins is claimed and practised by the Priests, under the soft Title of Commutations; and why not by the highest of all Priests, the Sovereign Pontiff? Whoever takes Money to absolve Sinners, gives them Leave, nay Encouragement, to commit Sin; and the Pope, for a round Sum, given not to him, but to the Church, though he fingers it all, grants Indulgences for many Generations: And because this is not called Absolution nor Forgiveness, but is only an Exemption from Perdition, and equally effectual with Absolution, therefore this candid Defender of Popery curses all who believe that the Pope claims Authority to forgive Sins for a Sum of Money; or any Priest to grant present Absolution for future Sins.
Mind what Art and Reserve in the Expression, Present Sins, and Sins in Time to come! Does not the Pope make a Market of the Sins and Souls of Men? And do not the Priests (his Brokers, and their own) retale Pardons, for a Price, to Sinners and their Heirs? What set the Reformation on foot in Germany, but the scandalous Traffic of Indulgences, sold openly at Wirtemberg by the Pope’s infamous Agents, the strolling Friars, living in Debauchery, practising all Frauds and Falshoods to cheat People of their Money, by such tempting Baits as the Pope’s infallible Receipts for Salvation? They were sold in Parcels to the best Bidders, who, to make the most of their Bargain, hired the popular preaching Friars to extol their sublime Excellency as infallible Passports to Heaven, and to revile and frighten all who hesitated a Moment to save their Souls by so cheap a Commodity.
The Curses go on: Cursed is he that contemns the Word of God, or hides it from the People, on design to keep them from the Knowlege of their Duty, and to preserve them in Ignorance and Error.
“Here, says the Author of the Inquiry, is a most shameful Account of the Papists biding the Scriptures from the People. The Question is, Why are the Scriptures kept at all from the People? The Answer, continues he, is, that they do not so keep them for this or that particular Purpose. It may be so; but you may have other Purposes, other Ends, other Designs, all bad in themselves.”———He then shews, “That the free Use of the Bible is restrained from the People by the Authority of the Council of Trent, and the Constitution of Pope Pius IV. and that the same Restraint extends to every particular Layman, without Leave from the Bishop or Inquisitor; nor then without the Advice of the Minister or Confessor, nor after all this, without a Licence in Form; and whoever presumes to read or have the Bible without such Licence, cannot receive Absolution of his Sins, unless he first surrenders up his Bible to the Ordinary.”
After some lively and unanswerable Expostulations, our Protestant Author adds upon this Head: “Now, if for these, or for such-like Reasons, you do in fact hide the Scriptures from the People, is it not a most shameful Chicanery, solemnly to curse those who hide them for other Reasons?—A Man charged for robbing on the Highway, to clear himself, wishes that he may be hang’d if ever he robbed on Design to keep People from travelling such a particular Road, or from travelling with Money about them; but still he is a Robber, which is what he is charged with.”
In my next I shall continue the Chace of this Romish Fox, with the Assistance of my Protestant Coadjutor.