Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XXIII.: The intimate Resemblance between the Popish Clergy, and those of modern Paganism in the East. - The Independent Whig, vol. 4 (1747)
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Number XXIII.: The intimate Resemblance between the Popish Clergy, and those of modern Paganism in the East. - 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 intimate Resemblance between the Popish Clergy, and those of modern Paganism in the East.
THE learned Dr. Middleton hath, with unanswerable Strength and Clearness, demonstrated at large the Conformity of Popery to antient Paganism. I shall here shew the intimate Resemblance between the Popish Clergy and those of modern Paganism in the East; and I shall take my Proofs from Popish Authors only, even the Eastern Missionaries, Authors highly esteemed, and their Works highly approved by the Romish Church.
The Bonzes, Lamas, Talapois, are much the same Sort of Priests with different Names in different Countries in the East; Bonzes in Japan and China, Lamas in Tartary, Talapois in Siam. They profess to adore Two Divinities, Fo and Omito, Father and Son, and hold, that the Invocation of these Two is sufficient to expiate all Crimes the most enormous, and to procure their Votaries a happy Regeneration, or Renascence, according to their Notions of Transmigration.
They have a Table of Five very laudable, moral Precepts, or Commandments: First, To do no Murder. Secondly, Not to commit Adultry. Thirdly, Not to covet. Fourthly, Not to bear False Witness. Fifthly, Not to practise Intemperance. But above all, they recommend Alms-deeds, especially to themselves; and preach up the Duty of furnishing the Priests with Wealth and all Things; of obeying them in all Things; and of building them Temples; “Since (they allege) that it is by Their Prayers, and by the Penance which they impose, that you are redeemed from eternal Torments.”
What unlimited Power must not such revered Impostors gain over their blind Followers? The Soul of a Man they hold goes, when he dies, into some other Creature, a better or a worse, according to his Merit or Defaults; and this Character of him depends upon the Word and Pleasure of the Priests.
A Pagan, who thought himself dying, sent for a Romish Missionary. “Father, says the poor Man, the Bonzes, who know perfectly what passes in the other World, and our Lot after Death, assure me, that as I lived a Pensioner upon the Emperor’s Bounty, I shall be transformed at my Death into a Post-horse, to carry his Dispatches into the Provinces. They exhort me therefore to beware of starting and stumbling, biting and kicking; but to be obedient and submissive, to run chearfully, and to eat sparingly. Thus, they say, I shall earn the Compassion of the Gods, who often bring a Man of Quality, and a great Mandarin, out of a dumb Beast. Now, Father, my next State startles me, and I dread the Thought. In my Sleep I find myself already saddled, trembling, and ready to fly at the first Lash of the Post-boy; I wake in Sweat and Horror, and continue to fansy myself a Horse. I am told, Father, that in your Religion there is more Tenderness, that by it Men in this World continue Men in t’other; and I would rather be a Christian than a Beast.”
It is Father Le Comte who tells this Story, without seeing the obvious Analogy between the Bonzes of China and the Bonzes of Rome. Father Du Halde, who repeats it from him, as little sees how naturally his own Reflections upon these Eastern Cheats return upon the Cheats of his own Order, and upon all the Orders of his Church. “It is manifest, says he, that if the Chineses be thus Bubbles, and the Believers of a Doctrine so absurd and ridiculous, as that of the Metempsychosis; the Bonzes, who so zealously spread it, derive no small Advantage from it. It marvelously supports all the Rogueries which they employ to extort Almsgifts, and to swell their Revenues. As they come from the lowest Populace, and are inured from their Infancy to an idle Profession, they find that this Doctrine warrants all the Tricks and Frauds which they practise to excite the Liberality of the People.”
What a true Picture of the Popish Monks! This lying Doctrine, and all the knavish Devices of the Bonzes, however copious, impudent and lucrative, are barren, impotent and modest, compared to Purgatory, Transubstantiation; the Penances, Absolutions, and all the infinite and incredible Rogueries of the Pope and the other Romish Bonzes. Those in the East must be owned to be tolerable Proficients in all the Arts of pious Knavery, their Intrusion into Courts, their Flatteries to great Men, their Cajoleries to weak Women; their Gravity, Hypocrisy and eternal Avarice; nightly Devotions, Austerities, Fastings and Mortifications; their Pilgrimages; the Magnificence and Decorations of their Temples; their many Postures, Genuflections and Prostrations; their Incense, Perfumes, and Wax-Candles; their Idols, Pictures and endless Repetitions: For in all these Tricks they abound, as those of Rome do. But in all these Grimaces and Efforts of Fraud, though full and fond of them, they are but Babes to their elder Brothers of Rome.
Almost all spiritual Rogueries do, in many Instances, resemble one another: Even in China you would take yourself to be in Spain or Portugal. Such a common Sameness you find in the Devotion of the Eastern Bonzes and the European Monks, and in the Credulity of the People, Catholic or Pagan. You see these solemn Drolls, the Bonzes, scourging themselves with Rods, flashing themselves with Knives in the Streets; dragging heavy Iron Chains; battering their naked Bodies with rough Stones; stopping at every Door, and Canting:—“All this we suffer for the Expiation of your Sins! Can you refuse us moderate Alms?”
The same Le Comte says, he saw “a young Bonze, of a very genteel Air, and of a proper Address to deceive the Crowd, in the Middle of a Town shut in and standing upright, in a close Chair, driven thick all round with long iron Nails, the sharp Ends inward; so that he could no way lean against it without a Thousand Wounds. Two Fellows whom he had hired, carried him from Door to Door; and at every Door he made his Speech: You see me thus inclosed and tortured for the Good of your Souls: Nor will I ever relinquish this my Prison, till you have bought all these my Nails. Each Nail will cost but Six-pence; a small Price for such a Treasure of Benedictions as it brings! In purchasing them you will do an Act of heavenly Merit, not to us theBonzes,but to the GodFo,to whose Honour weBonzesare building a Temple.”
Observe that the holy Penitent had above Two thousand of these Nails to sell. By this precious Commodity, though he lost some Blood he got Money, with the Odour of Sanctity, perhaps more Mistresses, and notable Credit with his Order, as well as to it.
The Nails had certainly an intrinsic Value, however far short of their religious Value. But how superior is the intrinsic Value of a Thousand Masses; and who but Priests can retail them for a single Farthing? Do not the Popish Priests likewise turn into ready Money all the Supernumerary Merit and Sufferings of their Saints and Confessors? According to their Doctrine and Marketing, all rigid Disciplinarians and Martyrs are so many new Redeemers of Souls, and so many Benefactors to the Monks, who turn their Blood and Penance into ready Cash.
Let them produce what Instances of Superstition they can (be the same ever so extravagant, ever so scandalous and blasphemous) from the Fooleries and Frauds of the Pagans, the most idolatrous Pagans, and of all the Pagan Priesthood; the Whole will come infinitely short of their own. And as to priestly Tyranny, Cruelty and national Havock, Popery has committed more in a Day than Paganism in a Thousand Years. All the Roguery and Rapine of the Bonzes have not visibly lessened the mighty Numbers of People in China; Numbers, perhaps, equal to all those upon the rest of the Globe.
america, which, though called but a Quarter of the World, is almost a Half, swarmed once in many Parts of it with Inhabitants, but is now nigh desolate, many of its best Regions utterly desolate, rendered so by Catholic Cruelty. Spain, by the Expulsion of the industrious Moors, some Millions, first and last, and by the daily Butcheries of the Inquisition for some Centuries, has long found a very natural Return of Beggary and dismal Solitude, instead of Multitudes and Plenty; many of her fertile Plains as desert as her most barren Mountains; and nothing prospering but Priests, who mar and damp, and banish all Prosperity, and blast all the Blessings of Nature, as they thwart and curse all the Wisdom and Virtue of Man. In France, and all over Christendom, their Outrages, Devastations, their Antichristian Spirit and boundless Cruelties, are sadly remembered and felt.
As to the lewd Arts and Debaucheries of the Bonzes with Women, and one another, their Monasteries, and their Tricks to maintain them; their Hermitages and priestly Retreats; their hard-hearted Unconcern for all the rest of the World, even for Parents and Relations: All these, the common Curses of Priestcraft every where, are still more visible in the Popish Countries of Europe, more prevalent and more pernicious.
The Popish Missionaries in the East mention with Horror the Use which Libertines, Priests and other Fanatics, make of the Doctrine of Transmigration, in order to commit Whoredom and Self-Murder. Such a one need only represent to a young Nymph, tender of her Person, and loth to prostitute it, that her Body is hardly any Part of her, at least the meanest Part, a transient Covering and Vehicle, soon of itself to perish, the Slave and Off-cast of the Soul, and not to be regarded: And having thus taught her to despise her Person, he enjoys it. If she still refuse, he has another Argument, “That in her last State she had promised him to be his, and then, by dying, deprived him of his Right;” which he therefore claims, and often regains in her present State.
No doubt such Craft and Lewdness are abominable, but not peculiar to the Eastern Bonzes. Many Debaucheries, more hideous, have been practised by our Romish Bonzes, and by Artifices as impious; all under the Cloke of Religion: Witness Father Girard, Confessor and spiritual Director to Madamoiselle Cadiere, famous as he is for making a Bawd of Devotion to debauch her Person, and turning her frantic spiritual Raptures into Raptures of real Carnality. Any lewd Priest having the blind Guidance of a fine Lady’s Conscience, may too easily guide her into his own Arms.
Neither were the ancient Pagan Priests the only sacerdotal Procurers for the God of their Temple, or the only ones who gratified their own infamous Passion, by pretending to carry a lovely Lady to the Embraces of the Idol. It is no more than what the Romish Priests have done, under the Name and pretended Demand of some popular Saint. And when a blessed Saint condescended to visit a charming She-Votary, long his passionate Adorer, could she help being transported with so heavenly a Favour, or be either incredulous or unthankful to the holy Instrument who managed the Amour and procured it?
jetzer, a visionary Monk in Swisserland, just before the Reformation, was visited, as he for some time verily believed, by the Virgin Mary in Person, in all her Glory, attended by Angels. The awful, but fond Apparition, gave him several wonderful Marks of Distinction, and even promised him every Favour but the last. Some of these Favours seemed too painful and butcherly to come from the Queen of Heaven, and by cruelly piercing his Feet and Hands with a Knife (in order to honour him with our Saviour’s Wounds upon the Cross) the poor deluded Dotard, after several Visits, much Suffering, and long Belief, was at last undeceived, and discovered the supposed Virgin speaking in the Voice of the Sub-prior, the Contriver and chief Manager of the infernal Cheat, though the whole Convent was engaged in it. The Contrivers had all formally renounced God under their Hands, in order to learn Sorcery. To prevent all Inquiry, they several times gave their poor Victim Poison, without Success. The holy Reprobates were soon after burned at the Stake*
It is observable, that this diabolical Plot was framed out of pious Zeal to advance the Glory and Interest of the holy Order: And the General of the Order, who had laboured in vain to prevent the Discovery of the sacred Villainy, was supposed to have died broken-hearted, or by his own Hands, because the Discovery was made, and the atheistical Zealots executed.
As to the Austerities which cost some of the crazy Bonzes, and their as crazy Followers their Lives, for which the Missionaries charge them with promoting Self-Murder; the Charge comes with great Impropriety and want of Modesty from them. The Romish Church has produced many such Self-Murders (I wish that she had never produced any other:) Many of her Votaries have emaciated, starved, and even destroyed themselves with the mad Rigor of Penance.
Her Policy is such, that whilst she indulges the most Voluptuous and Licentious in all their Excesses (for a proper Consideration!) she encourages the most shocking Austerities, even the incredible ones of La Trappe, where the miserable Devotees daily accelerate their own Death. Such Saint-like Men bring her Credit: Debauched Men bring her Money: And whatever Men suffer, however they sin, she thrives by the great Blessings of Wealth, and Fraud, and Tyranny.
[* ]The whole Story is well told by Bishop Burnet in his Travels. He extracted it from the Record of the Process, still kept at Bern, and signed by the Notaries of the Delegates appointed by the Pope to try the Friars.