Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XXIV.: Of the many good Sermons preached and published against the Rebellion. A Sermon of singular Tendency, by an eminent Hand: The strange Doctrines advanced, and the observable Omissions, in it. - The Independent Whig, vol. 4 (1747)
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Number XXIV.: Of the many good Sermons preached and published against the Rebellion. A Sermon of singular Tendency, by an eminent Hand: The strange Doctrines advanced, and the observable Omissions, in it. - 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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Of the many good Sermons preached and published against the Rebellion. A Sermon of singular Tendency, by an eminent Hand: The strange Doctrines advanced, and the observable Omissions, in it.
AMONGST the many good Sermons (some of them excellent ones) published upon the present Conjuncture, I have seen one from an eminent Hand, which would serve upon any public Conjuncture, and expose the Author to no Hazard, whatsoever the Issue happened to be. He leaves others to rouse and alarm, to inflame the Heart, to paint the Horrors of Popery and Tyranny, and to defy all the Patrons and Powers of either. He deals chiefly in Generals, about the Vices and Apostasy of the Jews, the Calamities following the same, and the Warning we should take from thence.
He likewise enters into our own History; gives us Examples of our own happy Escapes by the kind Interpositions of Providence, in the Midst of surrounding Dangers; and says as much of our present Danger as became a prudent Preacher, unwilling to lose old Friends, or to make new Enemies. Perhaps his Performance might have been stronger and less guarded, had he postponed it till the Rebellion had been extinguished: A Precaution which a renowned Doctor took during the former Rebellion Thirty Years ago. After the Rebellion was over he published a good Sermon against Rebellion, and by it merited his first Dignity in the Church.
He calls upon us to bear our Testimony against prevailing Corruptions———But if we grow careless and indifferent,—and suffer a Spirit of Irreligion to prevail over the Nation, we forfeit our Title to God’s Protection. He mentions with Detestation the Blasphemy, which, he says, has swarmed from the Press, and names a Burlesque upon the Christian Hymn, called the Te Deum. It was, indeed, a licentious and scurrilous Libel. But as it was a weak and wild Production, I think it below the Dignity of the Pulpit to mention it, especially with such pompous Abhorrence. Are all Men to expect Divine Judgments for what all Men condemn? Is the wife God to afflict a whole People, because a libertine Poet writes a licentious Ode?
When he represents Blasphemy as swarming from the Press, and only quotes a rash Rhapsody, universally condemned, as much as the Writer of it was pitied; the Terrors which he had raised, vanish in Consolation from the probable Hopes that he can quote no more, or none so terrible.
What other Productions from the Press he means, I know not. Sure he is too candid to mean all that offend the hot Men and Bigots amongst the Clergy, who are apt to blacken the Best, when the Best thwart them. I have seen bitter Invectives from many of them, some of them of Name and Distinction, against the fairest Reasoning, against Christian Charity and Moderation; against all Men who differed from them in their most narrow Conceits, and most interested Schemes. Locke has been reviled as a Socinian, for his noble Attempts to improve human Reason, and even for shewing the Reasonableness of Christianity; Tillotson as an Atheist, for his Rational Divinity; Hoadly as a Presbyterian, for supporting the established Episcopal Church upon the Principles of the Constitution. All these, and many more, have been mercilesly used only for their eminent Merit, for their calm Tempers, their charitable Principles, and their invincible Reasoning.
The Preacher knew, that the most opprobrious Names, even these of Atheist and Blasphemer, are often no more than Names of Abuse, scolding Terms, thrown at Random, often falsly, by angry Bigots, sometimes by grave Impostors, upon Men who love Truth, and therefore seek it and defend it, for its own sake only, without other View, Claim or Reward. By-words and Prejudices govern the Many of all Conditions. Credulity passes for Conformity, Antipathy for Zeal. The Fox-hunter (a High-churchman) in one of Mr. Addison’s Freeholders, boasts how happy they were in that County, for that they had not a Presbyterian in it, except the Bishop; and how popular, a keen Spaniel of his was amongst the Country Gentlemen, for having once almost worried a Dissenting Teacher.
Never was Man more scurrilously and more bitterly treated by passionate Divines, than that great Ornament to his Profession, that Divine Reasoner, Mr. Chillingworth. His Arguments were stiled subtle Atheism; his Defence of Reason declared worse than Popery, at least as bad; “For what Advantage would it be to the Protestant Cause, were the Pope deposed from his infallible Chair, if Reason be inthroned in it?” says Dr. Cheynell: “This, said he, will only serve to advance Socinianism.”
chillingworth had other Revilers without Number: But Cheynell was the most remarkable. He was personally kind to him, yet refused to bury him, but eagerly buried his Book.
When the Preacher quotes one blasphemous Performance, yet talks of others, he leaves his Hearers and Readers to guess what they are; and they who have heard very good ones, nay the best railed at by Men whom they implicitly believe, will fix the Imputation there. Books that expose Ecclesiastical Craft and Encroachment, which are surely as mischievous Weeds as ever choaked the Field of the Gospel, are vehemently decried by weak or designing Men, and treated as furiously as ever Chillingworth’s Books were treated. And as Men have been often reviled as Atheists for defending God’s Truth against Impostors; the Nation has been threatened with God’s Wrath for encouraging such Truth.
Liberty will always be abused most, where it abounds most. But no Abuse of it can atone for its Loss. Reason and true Religion will always gain by Liberty, and be able to defend themselves against all Attacks: Folly, Virulence and Scurrility, when discharged against them, will only serve to shew their Strength and Beauty: Even Blasphemy will appear more detestable, when examined by Reason. They who admired the Te Deum most, saw the Burlesque of it with the most Indignation; and any one will see, by comparing them, the Impotence as well as Impiety of the Attempt.
Are we to bear our Testimony against prevailing Corruptions, and to see none amongst the Clergy? The Preacher is silent upon this Head. Is it not a great Corruption, this which I have mentioned, the virulent Behaviour of some of them (I fear I might say many of them) towards such as differ from them, even in Matters of Conscience, and such as blame and would amend the most unwarrantable Parts of their Conduct? How barbarously have they used the Advocates for Toleration and diffusive Christian Charity? Strange Unchristian Proceedings! By defending the most indefensible Things, Persecution, secular Pride and Power in spiritual Hands (the constant Curse and Bane of Religion in all Ages, the Parent of the Inquisition, and even of Popery) they forfeited the Character of Christian Teachers; and by debasing Religion into Party, were justly considered, not as Preachers of Christ, but of Faction. Could there be a worse Spirit, or greater Corruption? And could the Preacher inadvertently omit them? Could he conceive them to be the less provoking to God, because they came from the Clergy?
Was it not natural, at least was it not just, in the Preacher, when he was complaining of public Corruptions, to have inquired into those of his own Order, whether many of them be not slack in the Performance of their Duty; many too indifferent about it; many of them performing none; yet all zealous to claim Dignity from their Cloth, and Divine Respect to their Persons, though nothing Divine appear in their Practice? Not a Word of Non-Residence! Is not Non-Residence a very crying Corruption, yet what more common; to undertake the Care, that is, the Salvation of Souls, to be paid for it, often greatly paid, to answer to God for it, yet transfer that interesting, that awful Trust to another, discouraged by small Wages not to perform it?
Is this a Way to prevent the Growth of Popery (of which the Preacher complains) or to procure Reverence to Churchmen? Is this an Expedient to prevent the Growth of Irreligion, if there be any Teachers of Religion, who convert Religion into Commerce, and prostitute a sacred Trust to worldly Ends, to Voluptuousness, Avarice, Strife? These are they who make Unbelievers. The want of Respect to such irreligious Teachers will never pass for Irreligion with any Man, who has Religion or common Sense: And it is too common a Practice for Clergymen who exercise the least Religion, to complain loudest of the Want of it in others. Or, is it not rather Artifice, to hide such Want in themselves?
I dwell no longer here upon the great Corruption of Non-Residence, so introductive to all other Corruptions, especially to all Corruptions in Religion and good Morals, and consequently the greatest that affect and ruin human Society. Let me observe to the candid Christian Reader, that our Preacher, who puts on such Concern for Religion, and against Irreligion, says not a Syllable about this prevailing, this irreligious Custom, much less against it. So far is he from raising any Alarm, or apprehending Divine Judgments for such unhallowed Neglect of Divine Duties, Neglect so affrontful to God, and pernicious to Man.
His Censure of the Errors and Faults of the Clergy would have appeared candid, after he had been praising them for their Defence of the Doctrines of the Reformation in King James’s Time: And it would have looked equally candid in him, had he owned the Heat and persecuting Spirit of the Clergy before and after the Revolution, with their mad Partiality to a Popish Successor, and their having helped him to destroy the Nation and themselves. As it did the Clergy Honour at home and abroad, to have behaved like Englishmen in King James’s Time, it would have been for the Credit of the Preacher, had he owned their great Weakness and Iniquity in having flattered that King and his Brother, in their worst and most unprotestant Measures, and sanctified all their lawless, ungodly Doings: Threatening and godless Flattery! Big with terrible Consequences, almost fatal to the Nation, surely more interesting to us, in this Generation, than the Backslidings of the Jews some Thousand Years ago!
What he says about the Jews is as foreign to us as their Constitution and Government were to ours. They worshiped Idols, graven Images, and strange Gods, and thus provoked the true God. These are not the Sins of Englishmen, at least of those who adhere to our present English Government; and I hope the Nation in general will not be doomed to the heavy Judgments of a just God; for the Idolatry of Papists, and the Rebellion of apostate Protestants.
The Preacher therefore in vain rouses Terror from false Objects. An honest and well-affected Citizen of London, of Edinburgh, of Carlisle, or of Sarum, or any where, I hope, is not threatened with Divine Judgment, because the Ruffians in the Highlands have renounced God and the King. This would be strange Divinity: I wish it were less urged. It can serve no Interest but the Interest of Craft, or of Enthusiasm: And generally, from one or other of these Motives, the awful, the inscrutable Judgements of God are boldly denounced and applied. This Rashness, indeed Impiety, has been often exposed, and always will be, as often as ’tis attacked, yet is always confidently resumed by Demagogues, Fanatics and Craftsmen.
The Nonjurors have been threatening the Nation with Divine Judgments, ever since the Revolution. The People and Clergy are by them declared to be in a State of Schism and Damnation; the Kingdom under an Usurpation, and both King and Subjects intitled to God’s avengeing Wrath: A Doom particularly denounced by Dr. Brett, whose Popish Doctrine of authoritative Absolution, was moved to be approved by the Convocation in a late Reign, and no Censure passed upon the Motion. I know not that our Preacher was then a Member of it: He was certainly one soon afterwards, one of the zealous Committee for censuring and misrepresenting that truly Protestant and Christian Sermon of Bishop Hoadly, defending Christ’s own Doctrine, that “His Kingdom is not of this World.” Not a Word from that pious Synod against the Nonjurors Clergy, nor against the other Incendiary Preachers, who raised the former Rebellion; so far from threatening them with Judgments!
One Comfort, however, the Preacher finds in the general Aversion of the Nation to Popery, but a Comfort that hath an Abatement in it, namely, “That a Fear of Popery is not always a Concern for the Purity of the Gospel, but a Fear merely of the Powers of a Popish church.” Strange Reasoning in an Englishman, and a Protestant Preacher! Whatever sincere Protestant knows Popery, must fear it; whoever fears it, will oppose it. Whoever opposes Popery, serves the Interest of the Gospel, and of Liberty, and consequently serves his Country, both in its spiritual and temporal Interest. What would the Preacher have more? Can he himself do more? Or ought he to mistrust the Intentions of any Man in serving so just, so Divine a Cause? How would he like to be charged with a bad Design, or with an hypocritical Meaning; in this or any other of his pious Labours? Does not he himself fear Popery? So much the greater Cause have his Readers to fear it: As Cato pertinently said to Cæsar, in relation to Catiline’s Conspiracy, which Cæsar secretly encouraged, yet publickly railed at the Conspirators, whilst he was striving to save them from capital Punishment, by artfully transferring the present Dread of the Senators upon other Objects.
If Popery be the Bane of the Gospel, as I think it is; he who assaults Popery is an Instrument to restore the Purity of the Gospel. Popery is worse than no Religion, as our best Divines allow and assert; and its bitter, unsociable burning, damning Spirit, is pernicious to all Religion, to Reason, Peace and Mercy. Ought not Religion, ought not Reason and Humanity all justly to fear, what they all have Cause to abhor, and what destroys them all, the Power of a Popish Church? And can there be higher Merit than exposing and crushing the most dreadful Devices and Engines of human Misery?
The Preacher seems fond of this unfair, inconclusive Reasoning, and adds, that “those who have the least Religion, have reason to be apprehensive of Ecclesiastical Courts and Inquisitions,under the Direction of Popery.” I hope he will not deny, that all who have any Religion, or the most Religion, have ample and equal Cause for such Apprehensions. Does he know any thing more terrible, more diabolical, than the Inquisition, to any reasonable Man, who would not shipwreck his Conscience, his Liberty, his Life and Fortune? It is so far from being chiefly terrible to Men of little or no Religion, that such only are the safest from it. Men of no Conscience will submit to any System, take any Oaths, and die for no Creed. The greatest Atheists are known to be the most cruel Inquisitors: The greatest Hypocrites are generally the loudest Professors everywhere; and he who has the least Religion or Honesty, is generally the readiest to charge others with the Want of them.
BUT in this (that is, in the Apprehension of the Inquisition, under the Direction of Popery) says the Preacher, still more strangely, there is no Virtue or Merit. Surely there is little Candor, and great want of Charity in this Assertion. Is there no Virtue in Anxiety for public and private Liberty; in a Passion to save our Country, in an Abhorrence of Slavery, Imposture, Idolatry, Persecution? No Merit in the Love of Truth and Freedom, in rescuing and defending all that is dear to Men and Society? If the Preacher thinks all this not to be Religion, namely, to love, to serve, and to endeavour to save the Public, by opposing and pulling down what destroys the Public, and extirpates Religion itself, he had better have kept his Opinion to himself.
The famous Doctor Gainham, many Years Resident in the Fleet, hearing the Reverend Dr. L———commended for his great Humanity, and great Piety; cried out, with his usual Modesty, “Who the D———I thanks him for that? His Wise beats him. It is she that keeps him humble, and he appears pious by being sad.”
What higher Virtue can be required in Society? What better Religion in any Member of it, than a warm Zeal for his Country, its Religion and Liberties, and a suitable Detestation of Slavery, Imposture and Idolatry? Will he oppose to so much useful Merit, dry Speculations, Monkish Distinctions, and the Repetition of Creeds? Will he set up any narrow Bigot against so noble a Character; a Character justly esteemed beyond all others in all free, polite and rational Nations? The antient Greeks and Romans never inquired, concerning a Friend to the State, a Hero in the Field, a Patriot in the Senate, what Form of Prayer he used, or what Mode of Worship he practised, or what Articles of Belief he professed? His public Services, his virtuous Dealings, were all that the Public wanted from him; and whoever had Virtue was reckoned to have Religion.
Virtue is Religion, at least the surest Proof and Indication of it: Whoever has Virtue is a good Citizen and a good Man: Nor need Society or his Neighbours inquire further about him. The contrary Reasoning strikes at the very Root of Religion itself, and of all private and social Virtue: Thus the best Man may be said to be just only from Dread of the Laws; the best Women to be chaste from Fear of Obloquy; the most pious Preachers to be disguised Hypocrites, only courting Preferment, or popular Applause; the bravest Soldiers animated by nothing but the Love of Glory or of Pay; and the most devout Christian by the Terrors of Damnation.
ARISTIDES, Epaminondas, Scipio, Paulus Æmilius, Cato, Cicero, all Friends to Mankind, all virtuous Benefactors to their Country, naturally loved Liberty, naturally abhorred Tyranny; animated to both by a Principle of Virtue. Was not this Religion? Will it be said, that they acted against Tyrants, only from their Fear of Tyranny, and from no Regard for Liberty? And was it a lucky Circumstance to Rome and Athens, that Tyranny had something in it to be feared by Men, who had no Impulse but what led them to Virtue and the public Good?
The Wise, the Just, and the Brave, have at all times been the Aversion of Bigots and Craftsmen, two Characters ever famous for little Service to Mankind, yet always loudest to profess it. What Exploits did the common Tribe of enthusiastic Saints and designing Faith-Makers, ever perform for the Age they lived in, but to darken, divide and enthral it?
“Ecclesiastical Courts and Inquisitions, under the Direction of Popery,” is a suspicious, at best an odd Phrase, though perhaps not odd from him. He is noted for his Zeal for Ecclesiastical Powers, and for Penalties upon such as differ from him, even in Religious Modes and Trifles invented by Men: He is a known Advocate for severe Laws against Tender Consciences, who boggle at Forms and Rituals, though agreeing with himself in all fundamental Principles, and equal to himself in all Points of Morality. He is therefore a Champion for someEcclesiastical Courts and Inquisitions; and whoever is for any, where Conscience is concerned, is for the worst and the highest, since where small Penalties do not avail, the greatest must be applied. Nor doth it import the poor Sufferer, by what Name his Sufferings are called, or under whose Direction he suffers.
AllPersecution is a Departure from Christianity, and the Bane of it. All Persecutors are alike; and where they are equally Masters, would go equal Lengths. They would be all Inquisitors. In this Protestant Country they have formerly rioted in Fury and Oppression, in Fines and Dungeons, by the mad Assistance of the then Civil Magistrate, who favoured Popery, because Popery was the Support of Tyranny. That they failed in this their natural Progress to erect an Inquisition, was owing to Christian Checks from the Civil Power better directed. Such Ecclesiastical Inquisitions underthe Direction of Popery know no Bounds, because they own no Controul: They are independent upon, and absolute over, the Civil Power: An Independency long claimed, and sometimes confidently usurped in this free Protestant Country, even since it enjoyed its highest Freedom, derived from the Revolution.
AgainstEcclesiastical Inquisitions, even under the Direction of Popery, the Preacher says nothing: Though it fell so naturally in his Way, at this alarming Conjuncture, when Popery was making hideous Advances to devour us, he only adds, very coolly, with the cautious Softening of a perhaps, and a may be, that “it is a happy Circumstance at present, that there is something in Popery, for those to be afraid of, who have no Regard for Religion.”
I thought that almost every Thing in Popery was dreadful and shocking to those who have the most Religion. The Doctrines of Popery are Antichristian, robbing the Almighty of his highest Attributes, and vesting them blasphemously in Impostors: The Powers of Popery are Murderous and Implacable: The Worship of Popery is Buffoonery and Idolatry. Popery pretends to make God, and eat him: Popery locks up God’s Word: Popery butchers Protestants. Such is the Religion of Popery; such are the Ecclesiastical Courts and Inquisitions, under the Direction of Popery.
Our Author has therefore judiciously discovered that there is, or rather suggests, that there may be, something in Popery to be feared. I hope he would not restrain it to such as have no Regard to Religion. He would have done well, and it lay directly in his Way, to have told us, how dreadful the Whole of Popery was to every Man of any Religion, or of any Sense. It is the only Sermon which I have seen upon this awakening Occasion, where the Horrors of Popery were not the just and chief Scope and Theme of the Preacher. I have seen many excellent ones from many of our Prelates, many excellent ones from the inferior Clergy, with great Pleasure and Edification, all full of tremendous Descriptions of Popery, and of warm Indignation against it, pertinently adapted to the Time, and to the People.