Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XXV.: Our National Sins no wise analogous to those of the Jews, nor meriting equal Punishment. The Rashness and Danger of ascertaining and applying Divine Judgments. - The Independent Whig, vol. 4 (1747)
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Number XXV.: Our National Sins no wise analogous to those of the Jews, nor meriting equal Punishment. The Rashness and Danger of ascertaining and applying Divine Judgments. - 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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Our National Sins no wise analogous to those of the Jews, nor meriting equal Punishment. The Rashness and Danger of ascertaining and applying Divine Judgments.
THE Preacher referred to in my former, urges the Idolatry of the Jews, and the Judgments following it, in order by them to awaken us; us, who have nothing similar to the Jews, and do not run after false Gods. Another Preacher in his Sermon upon the General Fast, has unanswerably shewn us the Vanity and Danger of such idle Reasonings and false Comparisons.
“From the Character given of the Holy Scriptures, of the Old Testament, in several Places of the Apostolic Writings, Men, he says, have not only been accustomed to regulate God’s Proceeding with Particulars, but also to judge of the Fate of Kingdoms and Societies, upon their Ideas of his Administration of the Jewish Commonwealth. This, saith he, hath been the Source of numberless Superstitions, burtful both to Religion and Government; some even derogatory to the Justice of God, others to the Rights of Mankind; but all of them violating the rational Conclusions of that Learning and Instruction we are bid to seek for in Scripture, which is so abundantly able to make us wise unto Salvation.”
He proceeds to acquaint us, that though, in the Jewish Dispensation, God might, with the highest Justice, punish the Children for the Crimes of their Fathers; yet in the present Disposition of Things, such a Dispensation would, according to all our Ideas of Right, intrench on that Divine Attribute (the Justice of God.) He then shews how much “the Title of the Lord’s Anointed, given to the Jewish Kings, who were pointed out by Name by God himself, and anointed by the express Direction of God himself, has been perverted by Court-Flatterers, to support modern Tyranny, and so became a principal Prop of that absurd and destructive Doctrine of Divine, Indefeasible, Hereditary Right.”
All this is true and plain, and justifies what the Author had said before, that “to conclude of God’s Dealings with States and Societies, from his Dispensations to the Jewish People, will be the Occasion of our turning to our Delusion that Scripture, which was written for our Instruction; at this Juncture, says he, it would be turning it to our apparent Damage.” Religion (says he afterwards) was, amongst the Jews, incorporated with their Society, and had a public Part. Hence Vice and Impiety became public Crimes, and, as such, were severely punished on the State. But the Christian Religion has no public Part; it hath not the State for its Subjects. Hence Vice and Impiety are not now public Crimes, but only private Crimes.” He concludes therefore, as reasonably as charitably, “that Great Britain, in its present Circumstances, may reasonably aspire to the distinguished Protection of Heaven.”
It is a daring Undertaking, to settle the Judgments of an infinitely wise, just, and merciful God; to ascertain what they are, or where it is that they fall. I hope and believe, that no National Calamity can be called a Judgment from God; since, during such, the most Innocent are seen to suffer equally with the most Guilty, often more; sometimes the Guilty escape, and the Innocent perish. Can we suppose, dare we presume, that his unerring Justice makes no Distinction between Guilt and Innocence, and weighs not exactly the Degrees of both? It seems to be an Affront to the Almighty, and a Denial of his Providence, to maintain the contrary: It represents Religion to be without Sense, and the great Judge of all the Earth to be void of Equity.
Enthusiasts, who see the Almighty pleased or angry, just as they themselves are, may arm him with Vengeance against Times which they dislike, and against Persons whom they hate: They may even behold him slaying the Cattle and desolating the Soil, and confidently ascribe all this general undistinguishing Havock to the Sins of particular Men. Impostors, such as Romish Monks, may represent him as actuared with human Passions, and themselves directing and restraining his Passions; represent him launceing his Judgments, and themselves stopping his Hand; thus guiding and controuling the Almighty, and thence governing his Creatures. But a Protestant Divine scattering Judgments makes a very Unpretestant Figure, and borrows the Colours and Character of a Popish Priest, who controuls the Deity, creates his Creator, eats his Creator, and directs his Creator whom to punish and whom to damn; whom to protect and whom to save; foresees Judgments, applies Judgments, and charms away Judgments.
There cannot be a more lucrative Branch of Priestcraft than a Monopoly of Divine Judgements. It infers the sovereign Direction of Superstition, of vain Credulity, of pannic Fears, and of all the unaccountable Whims and Weaknesses of the poor human Soul, the constant and liberal Bubble of such pious Traders.
As the Jesuits were busy in advancing this their Staple spiritual Traffic amongst the poor Indians, the Dutch, who are themselves keen Traders, but Traders of another Sort, were too hard even for these vigilant Fathers. The Apostolic Factors taking a pious, knavish Advantage of an approaching Eclipse of the Sun, threatened the poor Savages (led by the Light of Nature to despise the Absurdities of Popery) “that God, at the Request of his Monitors, the Fathers, would visit them for their Obstinacy, with a dreadful Warning: The Sun should be darkened in the Midst of his Career and Glory, as a Mark of Divine Wrath, and a Presage of Divine Vengeance to follow.” The Indians acquainted the Dutch with the terrible Threats of the Fathers. “Bid them, said the sly Hogan Mogans,put off this Presage of their mighty Judgment for a single Day, and we will be their Converts as well as you.” The Indians made the Jesuits the fair Offer: The Holy Dealers in Judgments were taken in their own Snare.
Our Preacher plainly insinuates, that Judgements threatened us, and approached us, for the Depravity of certain Opinions and Writings; a Sort of Sins which infer but few Sinners, at least in Comparison of the Nation.
The Number of Authors, good and bad, is but a Handful when compared with the People. I have heard that a few righteous Men may save a Nation; but never, that a few Sinners will damn a Nation. All Nations are Sinners at all Times; and ours particularly; else our Common Prayer is very rashly framed. But still we are not greater Sinners than any of our Neighbouring Nations: Yet these Nations are not all visited with Highlanders; though some of these Nations entertain very great Sinners, even scribbling Sinners, as scurrilous and licentious as ours! France abounds with more Deists, or (which is the same Thing in the Eyes of Bigots) Atheists, than any Country in Europe; yet France is too hard for its Neighbours, and even assists the Highlanders: There are more blasphemous Songs made in a Year, and sung every Day in Paris, than were ever made in England since the Begining of Time. This cannot be owing to want of Power in France, either Civil or Religious. No Ecclesiastical Courts are wanting there, no Power in King or Clergy!
We are certainly less corrupt, less debauched, than we were immediately after the Restoration. Was the Restoration a Judgment? Was not Charles II. our most Religious, as well as most Gracious King; and had he not that Character given him by the Clergy? Or was his Restoration, at first at least, reckoned a Curse by any but a few Enthusiasts, chiefly Fifth-Monarchy-Men? But Enthusiasts are not confined to any Party; they are found in all Sects, amongst Churchmen, as well as amongst Dissenters; and Enthusiasts will be always spying Judgments falling, or ready to fall, upon such who thwart their Favourite Notions and Pursuits.
As pious Enthusiasts act, so do pious Impostors, with Zeal equally strong, though not equally sincere, generally with more Art. We can therefore never see, never expect a Time, when such Men will not be boldly denouncing God’s Judgments. Mankind will never be without Sin: The Crazy and Artful will always make Mankind worse than they are, and will be always threatening them with Judgments. Heresy is the great Cry of the Romish Craftsmen; who confidently denounce God’s Judgments against all that entertain it. Most of those who are Heretics to Rome, are Heretics or Schismatics to one another, all threatening one another with the same awful Vengeance. This Consideration alone is sufficient to shew the extreme Rashness or Knavery of those who scatter and apply such Names, and the extreme Folly of those who are affected by them.
The Arians were charged by the Orthodox with denying our blessed Saviour, God the Son, his due Share of the Godhead: They were threatened with Divine Vengeance for such damning Heresy, and found their Accusers the keen Executors of that Vengeance. The Orthodox had Divine Vengeance equally denounced against them by the Arians, for denying due Honour to God the Father, and felt in their Turn that Vengeance inflicted on them without Mercy or Measure, by the Denouncers. Both Sides thought themselves bound to punish as well as to accuse. Here was a Source of Rancour without End; of Blood, which has scarce ever ceased to run: All the natural Consequence of Zealots interpreting Judgments! For they who presume to foretel them, do often call for them, generally inflict them, or suborn others to do so.
Did the Highlanders come commissioned from God, as well as from the Pretender, to scourge a Nation who had renounced the Pretender, and were praying to God against the Highlanders? What Part of the Jewish Story is analogous to this? Had any of our Prelates, like the Prelate Aaron, set up molten Images, or a golden Calf; for the English to worship? I do not find that one Magistrate, or one Inhabitant of Glasgow, had paid the least Divine Worship to Baal Peor, or any Burgess of Dumfreis, made his Children pass through the Fire to Moloch: Yet both these Towns were terribly ravaged by the barbarous Rebels. The Barbarians are now routed by the Sword of our young Joshua, whose Hand, strengthened by the Lord Jehovah, hath prevailed against those reprobate Philistines. It is hoped that their own Rocks and Dens will yield up the prosane Tribe to the avenging Rod of Justice.
But whatever they suffer (and they who made so many suffer so grievously, cannot suffer too much) their Sufferings and Punishment cannot properly be called a Judgment; since some of them are more innocent than others, did less harm, and meant none, nay meant well, thought themselves asserting a just Cause and doing their Duty. Such is the Force of Prejudice, handed down from Father to Son, and reckoned Honour and Loyalty; and such is the Power of Delusion in believing what they are taught by Impostors, whom they account pious, and who perhaps think themselves so.
This Plea, which the Frame and Safety of human Society cannot allow to pass at the civil Tribunal, as by it the greatest Malefactors, and worst Parricides would escape the Censure of Society, and thus be enabled and even encouraged to destroy Society; will yet find Allowance at the Divine Tribunal, where all Hearts are open, and no Deceit can be hid. Guilt may be so disguised, so befriended and defended, as to appear innocent, sometimes meritorious, in the Eyes of Men: Such were human Sacrifices of old; such the lasting Tyranny and Cheats of Rome, with all other pious Fury and Fraud everywhere: Rebellion against the best Government, and Passive Obedience to the most lawless Tyranny. Innocence and Virtue may be so misrepresented, so traduced, and so painted by Art and Malice, as to be odious, persecuted and murdered, often with popular Applause; witness our blessed Saviour, and the first Martyrs, with all the succeeding Victims to Priests and Tyrants; Sir John Oldcastle and Admiral Coligni. I have heard Dr. Tillotson reviled, Dr. Sacheverel adored; King James extolled, King William cursed.
We can never know that God sends his Judgments, when he does not tell us: It is great Presumption in us to pretend to tell, when He does not tell. If we might with Modesty make any Conjecture, it seems probable, that his extraordinary temporal Interposition with Divine temporal Punishment, is in Cases where human Laws are not, or cannot be exerted. This is, Deo dignus vindice nodus.
Amongst several popular Topics for invoking Divine Vengeance, and applying it to Things below, I have often thought that the black Behaviour of the high Clergy for near a hundred Years before the Revolution, and long after, was an obvious and tempting one; I mean their unchristian Enmity to Conscience and Dissenters, and their infamous Doctrines of Slavery. They set our Princes (the weakest and the worst) above Law; made them the only Authors and absolute Masters of Law, consequently of the Lives and Properties of Men, and prompted them to Perjury in order to exert Tyranny.
They were not ashamed to extol James I. (the weakest, the falsest, and the most heartless Prince that ever misbecame a Crown) as the Solomon of the Age, the Pattern of Learning and of Religion, acting by the Wisdom, and speaking by the Spirit of God: Wicked and pernicious Flattery, and the Consequences terrible! The vain Monarch, a constant Bubble, and the sure Property of Flatterers and Favourites, claimed despotic Sway; claimed to set aside Parliaments, or to over-rule their Counsels, to levy Money without them, and to govern by Proclamations.
HIS Son prompted by the same pious Flatterers, and delighting in the same impious lying Doctrines, grasped the same lawless Authority. He hugged and exalted the Preaching Parasites, who represented him sacred and irresistible as the Godhead, the Laws as Sedition, his People as Slaves. Such of the Clergy as adhered to Liberty and the Laws, and ventured to maintain them, were the constant Objects of his Frowns and Indignation, and persecuted without Mercy by their more fashionable Brethren.
I enter not into the Particulars of his Reign, no Part of it wise, the greatest Part of it arbitrary and wicked, the last Part of it miserable. For a great Share of the Mischief, of the Violence and the Misery of it, the Clergy were answerable, as they animated and justified him in all his lawless Pretensions, and all his violent Doings. His cruel Death, though immediately chargeable upon a usurping Army, the only Authors of it, was for almost a Century charged as a Crime upon the Nation, and the Nation constantly threatened with Judgments for it, even after all were dead, who either saw it, or consented to it. This was the Language of the disaffected Clergy (I mean disaffected to the Constitution) till the Revolution, and by all the Disaffected to the Revolution ever since. Not a Word of any Judgment upon themselves, who had all along led these weak, depraved Princes to their Destruction, with pious false Strains of Loyalty in their Mouths, the Word of God perverted, Liberty spurned under Foot, the Laws sacrificed to Will and Lust, the Crown misled, and its worst Enemies, the Preachers, caressed.
How frequent and fashionable Ecclesiastical Perjury became after the Revolution; how much it was fostered and propagated in Places of Learning, by learned and holy Men; how zealously, how fiercely and industriously King William and the late King George were opposed, blackened and even marked for Destruction, for the glorious Offence of saving and securing our Religion, our Liberty, and our All; all this chiefly by Reverend Men, who had taken the most solemn Oaths to be true and faithful to these Princes, our temporal Redeemers; and how highly they cherished and practised all Disloyalty, Perjury and Rebellion; all Men remember, and it is shocking to Memory: Surely it could never escape that of our Preacher. Nor could the Jewish Story furnish him with a more shocking Instance of National Ingratitude and Revolt against God, or of more impious Defiance of the Almighty and his Judgments. Yet here our prudent Preacher neither rouses popular Indignation, nor perceives any Divine Vengeance threatened.
With what Face could such Men appear in a Pulpit, as Teachers of Religion, they whom the most emphatic Ties of Religion could not bind; they who distinguished themselves by the blackest Perjury; they who promoted Perjury by Doctrine, as well as by Example; they to whom Perjury was Merit and a Recommendation, and who railed at all such as refused to be perjured? What bold Mockery in such profane Reprobates, to pretend to Divine Right, or to any Respect amongst Men, or to any Reputation from a Phantom of Orthodoxy? Could they who violated the most sacred Oaths, be influenced by any Principles, Orthodox or Moral? Yet who so craving after high Respect, so loud for Orthodoxy, so void of Charity, so prone to damn Men, or so unfit to save Men? They were even wicked in assuming any favourable Character; as they did it to deceive others, by disguising their own Iniquity. Could such Men recommend a good Life, when they were daily renouncing the Precepts of the Gospel, and propagating the most hideous Morals, Perjury, Rebellion, Treason? What availed their Orthodoxy if they really had it, since it restrained them not from defying all the Laws of God and Man? They were implacable to pious Dissenters, and to all moderate and charitable Churchmen: And Orthodoxy without Charity is a Contradiction, and disgraces itself.
What saved Religion, thus abandoned and perverted by its pretended Guides, but the mighty Blessing of Liberty, which left us the full Use of our Reason, our Bibles, and our Consciences; the natural Blessings of the Revolution? No wonder they hated it, devoutly damned it, swore to it, and laboured to overturn it, with all the heavenly Blessings derived from it, particularly, the highest and best, Liberty of Conscience and Civil Liberty. What saved the Credit and Character of the Church, but the sound Principles, virtuous Lives and Christian Charity of Tillotson, Tennison, Burnet, Lloyd, and Wake, and other Low-Churchmen, all hated and libelled by such as called themselves the only true Churchmen, chiefly distinguished by the great Characteristicks of Perjury and Persecution? Even the Dissenters contributed by their Religious Loyalty and sober Lives, to preserve the National Religion, and consequently the Church, from perishing by the desperate Impiety and Immoralities of her own apostate Sons.
Dr. hickes, who knew them well, says, “That those Clergy have set open the Floodgates to a Deluge of Atheism and Impiety;” and he owns the Charge brought against them, that “their Behaviour had made Men sceptical, and gone further towards eradicating all the Notions of a Deity, than all the Labours of Mr. Hobbes——Made some Men suspect Religion as a Cheat, and laid them under a Temptation to call the Whole of Religion in Question.” Yet the same learned Man, who was a flaming Enthusiast for Party, turns this Reproach into a Compliment, and thanks God, that the main Body of the Clergy were Jacobites in their Hearts. Nor was it at all strange, to hear such an impious Strain from this Reverend Divine, thus to thank God for the Perjury of the Clergy. Mr. Lesly defied the Parliament to make an Oath which the Clergy would not take——He makes them worse than Atheists, as “they mocked God to his Face, since it was better, says he, to have no God at all, than set up one to laugh at him.”
I could bring many other Testimonies against them from the best Men amongst them, even from their most favourite Authors, particularly from Bishop Kenn, a Non-swearing Jacobite, and a sad Spectator of their Apostasy from Conscience and Oaths, the sacred and tremendous Pledges of Conscience; Kenn, their avowed Monitor, full of paternal Invectives against their ungodly Conduct, and of warm Sighs for it. But their atheistical Carriage was too notorious to want Proof.
Where they presided in the celebrated Nurseries of Education, their first Care was to corrupt and poison the Minds of Youth (often of the first Quality in the Nation, a dreadful Presage to their Country!) and to teach them for their first Lessons, nay as a first Principles, to banish Conscience, to hate the Government, and to defy the Living God, by swearing falsly by his Name. We may guess the lamentable Effects of this upon the Minds of Youth.
This was the forlorn, this the impious State of many of the disaffected Clergy, within the Memory of Man. Could they be more ripe for Divine Judgments, or could there be a more cogent Call to threaten them with such? Could any public Disaster befalling the Jews some Thousand Years ago, be of such an alarming Example to Englishmen? The Jews, stiff-necked, disobedient and ungrateful as they were, incurred not more aggravated Guilt. Idolatry, their most enormous Crime, inferred wrong Conceptions of the Deity; and their Ignorance (though their own Fault) was some Extenuation. Under right Notions of the true God, they could never have worshiped false Gods.
Our Case was, perhaps, more crying: In the midst of the Sun-shine of the Gospel, in this Christian Country, many who preached it renounced in Practice (the most effectual Way of renouncing) all the most essential Precepts of the Gospel, as they did those of the Constitution, and were at once Traitors to Religion and the State. Neither was their Apostasy more notorious than their Hypocrisy: Whilst thus they lived in open practical Atheism, they loudly complained of the natural Effects of their own atheistical Doings, the Growth of Irreligion, and the Danger of the Church. Who were, who could be, such successful Promoters of all Impiety as themselves? Who, who but they could so effectually endanger any Christian Church? Without Conscience, which is the Seat and Centre of Religion, there can be no Religion. Besides their own want of Conscience, they would allow none to other Men, and were implacable, indeed professed Enemies to tender Consciences: A sad Proof, that they were themselves unacquainted with any such Tenderness!
The Cry of Atheism, a Cry much in their Mouths, as ill became them. Men who live as if there were no God, are the most likely to disbelieve the Being of a God. And by this Rule, they themselves had the best Claim to that Character, which they so freely bestowed upon Men unresembling themselves. It was therefore no wonder to hear Dr. Hickes call Dr. Tillotson an Atheist, and publish him in Print as the gravest Atheist that ever lived. For Hickes, though he had not taken the Oaths, was as furious a Jacobite as those that had. He entertained all their uncharitable Fierceness and infamous Principles; and I do not believe that any Set of Men, not owning the Romish Communion, ever entertained so bad Principles, or laboured so vehemently to introduce every public Crime and Curse, Invasion from France, the Restoration of a Popish Tyrant, the Deposition, nay the Assassination of a Protestant Hero and Deliverer, with the Resettlement of the worst Parts of Popery, and the Exertion of all Barbarky against Protestant Dissenters.
Mr. collier had the Traiterous Assurance and Impiety, to exercise openly in the Face of the Day and the Crowd, one of the most dangerous and detestable Articles, or rather Abominations of Popery, in absolving at the Gallows an Assassin hanged for a Conspiracy to have murdered King William. That Divine thus committed such an Insult upon the Godhead and the Government, as was new in the Creation, at least in the Eyes of Englishmen. What were all the Offensive Drolleries of the Stage, which Mr. Collier has passionately treated as profane, compared to the Devilish Crimes of Treason, Civil War, National Desolation, Popish Tyranny, and the Murder of a King, all pardoned by Mr. Collier in the Person of a bloody Traitor?
All this shews, that our Preacher might have found National Provocations at least as shocking as those of the Jews, nearer Home, and not so long ago; such dreadful Provocations to God as must make the Ears of a Christian to tingle. Here he had ample Room to have displayed his Discernment, his Judgments, and his Eloquence, upon such as deserved them. A contemptible Libel is a contemptible Topic for so able a Preacher.
Here too he had an ample Field for Panegyric upon the present Clergy, who have gloriously departed from the Corruption, Disloyalty, Uncharitableness, and all the profligate Principles of the former; their sincere Zeal for this Protestant King, Church and Government, their Abhorrence of Popery, and their Alacrity to defend it, their excellent Sermons, and all the noble Testimonies they have so seasonably borne.
For myself, I truly honour, I shall ever honour, all such of them as have thus distinguished themselves; as I shall ever heartily despite all mean halting Temporizers, and thoroughly detest all Particides, who longed for a Change, and wished our Misery complete, by the Success of the Rebels, whom God, of his infinite Mercy to this Nation, disappoint and confound! and in order to it, disclose and punish all their secret Abettors and Favourers!
But I return to say something more of the Half-Protestant Clergy before the Revolution; and then proceed upon the Behaviour of those after it.
These prostitute Preachers, formerly, surrendered the poor People, who fed them, to Beggary and Slavery, and the Crown, which promoted and enriched them, to Delusion, desperate Courses, and final Ruin. I owe, there were then, and always, excellent Men amongst the Clergy, but what an unequal Portion of the Clergy they then were, any Man that can read may see. One Thing was very remarkable and very shameful (if any Thing could have been so to Men so lost to Truth and Shame) whilst they were zealously dooming all Men to be absolute Slaves to the Sovereign, they excepted themselves, and confidently asserted an independent Power in themselves; a Power destructive of Sovereignty as well as of Liberty.
Who were the greatest Sinners then in the Nation, and who so properly the Subjects of Divine Judgments? But they who most freely scatter such Judgments, never fix them where most due. Could there be a more National, a more Crying Sin, than such an open, such a pernicious Attack upon the Happiness of all Men, upon their Laws, Liberty and Conscience? Could there be higher Mockery of God, than to preach up Tyranny (the Root and Engine of all Evil under the Sun) as the Ordinance of God? To leave it implicitly to the Will of a weak, passionate, or debauched Man, to make and unmake Laws, to exalt the worst Men, and to reward the best with Gaols and Gibbets? To damn the best and only Remedy against the most direful Curse that can befal Society? To compliment a Prince void of Probity and Morals, a Charles II. with the Modelling or Mangling of the Constitution, and with the Fate and Fortune of all Men?
When such Parasites (the more malignant as well as more inexcusable for their holy Character) had tempted their Sovereign to provoke his Subjects to rebel, it was high Assurance in them to condemn Rebellion, to condemn what they had really caused. They were the original Incendiaries, and laid the Train. Rebellion was but the Explosion, and naturally followed.
The same Incendiaries, who led, or rather drove, our Princes into violent and despotic Counsels, before the Revolution, incensed the People into unprovoked Disaffection, after it. They misrepresented the Public Saviour as a Public Usurper. They took all Oaths: They taught their Hearers to break all, and shewed them the Way.
What could be a more hideous Iniquity, a more threatening Curse, a bolder Disowning of the Living God; a more impious Insult upon the Reason of Man; a more dangerous Assault upon Civil Society, or a more desperate Renouncing of all Morals, and Defiance of all Shame?
Was not National Perjury a Crime terribly complex, pregnant with Guilt and Woe, a National Provocation of Divine Justice? Yet upon this alarming Subject Auditories were rarely roused. What is still more monstrous, Perjury was accounted Merit: And whilst the most conscientious Dissenter, religiously true to the Government and his Oath, was traduced and damned; a perjured High-Churchman, brutal and debauched, was a Favourite Character.
COULD there be a broader Way to National Perdition, than what I have above specified? Or could the Terrors of Divine Vengeance be more seasonably urged? Yet this was a Topic not in fashion, and whoever would have presumed to have urged it, would have not only passed, but been damned, for a False Brother.
Very different Offences, none against God, but high ones against themselves, were the Burden of their Outcries for Divine Wrath; airy Notions, crabbed, unmeaning Distinctions; Tithes given by Men, not allowed to be of Right Divine; Rituals, Postures, Cloth and Colours; Blood shed an hundred Years ago; a vitions Jacobite Priesthood, not respected as the Vicegerents of God, though daily forswearing by his holy Name, and propagating Perjury and Treason: For such impious Crimes as these, public Woes and Wrath Divine were usually denounced, and seen just approaching.
It may be easily remembered what a malignant Spirit possessed the then bigotted, factious Clergy in the former Rebellion; how little the Duty of Loyalty, and their sacred Oaths, influenced such Men. Could there be a greater Sin, personal or national? Yet I do not remember, that it was then the common Subject of Declamation from the Pulpit, or menaced with Divine Judgments.
The Ministers of the Kirk of Scotland, an Hundred Years ago, threatened all who took not the Covenant, or forsook it, with the fearful Judgments of the Lord, and were wonderfully quick-fighted in perceiving the same dreadfully overtaking all Backsliders; that is, all who would not form their Opinions, their Religion and their Politics, just according to the fieroe Humours and narrow Pattern of the Saints. The English Clergy reviled the Saints, as Traitors and Hypocrites, and derived all National Judgments from the Sins, the Frenzy and Rebellion of the Saints, consigning them freely to eternal Wrath, as the Saints did these their Enemies, returning Curse for Curse, as well as angry Names, Lordly Prelates, Priests of Baal, Dumb Dogs, and Persecutors of the Brethren.
The Almighty was claimed as a partial Champion on either Side: Both Sides defended Injustice by Religion; ingrossed Christianity whilst they wounded Charity, besought the merciful God, in Wrath, to blast one another, and applied the Divine Thunder with infernal Fury. The Gross of both Parties blindly believed, and devoutly confirmed the Voice and impious Censure of their lying Leaders: And the same Eyes who clearly saw Roguery and Fanaticism in the opposite Party, perceived not the same Roguery and Fanaticism as obvious in their own.
Could there be more Antichristian Bigots than such Clergymen, on both Sides? What would become of Religion, and of Mankind, were such Madmen left to govern them? Yet, who so eager as these Madmen to govern the World, Religion, and Human-kind?
A Clergyman in the West, hearing that a Farmer in the Village had perished by Lightening, cried, with Extasy and uplifted Hands, “The Lord will be glorified in all his Doings: This Man was an unchangeable Anabaptist, and could not be brought into the Way of Salvation. Whither he is gone, I do not say; but I would not follow him for the Empire of the Globe.” He scarce had finished this pious uncharitable Rant, before he was told, that Sympson the Parish-Clerk, a zealous Churchman, who suited proper Psalms to Jacobite Holy-Days, had fallen even as the Farmer had fallen, close by his Side, and by the same Stroke—“The Lord giveth, said the good Doctor, and the Lord taketh away: Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”
This gloomy Bigot and Party-man (for he had been on both Sides, though strongly suspected to be still of that which he had upon Oath renounced) treated the great Sovereign of universal Nature, like a Party-man, narrow and prejudiced as himself! He presumed to apply everlasting Mercy and everlasting Wrath, just according to the Measure of his own Peevishness and Partiality.
These Dealers in Judgments never see, nor apprehend any, for their own Enormities and Excesses, however scandalous, however affecting the Public Weal. They generally apply them to Persons and Opinions, which they themselves dislike; to Opinions which discredit and cross their interested Maxims; to Persons who expose clerical Faults, and call for clerical Amendment, and therefore are proper Objects of clerical Vengeance, consequently of Divine Judgment. All such Reformers are terrible Atheists and unpardonable Sinners, and with John Huss, our Cranmer and Ridley, consigned to temporal and eternal Flames; the best Men cursed and martyred by the worst.
This Wantonness in applying at random the awful Judgments of God, where he himself does not declare them such, would appear as ridiculous as it is bold (generally blasphemous) were it not for the dangerous and cruel Use, which the pretended and designing Explainers make of it. For, it is a special Market for Craftsmen.
An idle, romping School-boy trod upon his Grandmother’s Toe, and put a capital Corn into a raging Fit. The old Woman lost all Temper, and in a Fury as bitter as her Pain, told him, “That the Lord would requite him.” The Lad, in infinite Confusion and Affright, had Recourse to his Heels, and sprang down Stairs in such a Hurry, that he fell and broke his Leg. “Did I not tell you so, Sirrah?” says his Grandmother, falling into a fresh Passion with him for his Misfortune. She, however, prayed the Almighty to forgive the poor Child, and to correct him no further; “For that She had forgiven him.”
Vice is usually followed by Misfortunes: Evil Doings, both in a Nation and in the Individuals of a Nation, produce evil Consequences and punish themselves. Debauchery brings Diseases, as Idleness and Profusion do Penury. That all Evil is displeasing to God, we all know, and he is no Respecter of Persons. Doubtless he considers and hates Crimes according to their Malignity and Degrees. As nothing can hurt Him, it is probable, that the Men who offend him most, are they who do most Hurt to one another; that consequently, all Oppressors, all Persecutors and Deceivers, are the most odious in his Eyes: That mental Errors and erroneous Worship, well meant, cannot displease him; and that Sincerity in Devotion, is ever acceptable to him; that no Religion but that which plagues and punishes Men (as all cheating Religions do) can be offensive to him; that Living well, and Doing well to one another, are the capital Duties amongst Men, and the most acceptable to God: That whoever does these Duties, need fear no Judgements.
As to Words and Professions and Symbols, it is in the Power of the worst Men to utter and perform them; and such Utterance and Performance, however solemn and seemingly devout, are no Proofs of a sincere or devout Heart. The greatest Impostors are always the most pompous, pathetic and grave.
It was a rational and an honest Answer, which the Oracle returned to a State of Greece, going to War with another Greek State, and desiring to know, what they must do to make Apollo their Friend? “If you will but act like honest Men, and fight like brave Men, Apollo will always be your Friend,” replied Apollo’ Priest, tho’ generally a Lyar, and always a Cheat: Yet in the Language of these Cheats, Heaven was constantly interposing and sending down Judgments, in their Defence, upon all Lovers of Truth, who profanely laughed at their Trade, and detested their Imposture.
An Emperor of China was superstitiously alarmed to see a Mulberry-Tree in his Garden covered with Leaves in the Space of Seven Days; then wither and lose them all, in Three Days more. The solemn prophesying Bigots about him, increased his Panic with a doleful Tale of terrible Judgments to ensue. His Minister, to whom he communicated his Fears, and the terrible Presages of his pious Fortune-Tellers, calmed his Mind with the Argument of an honest and a rational Man: “Virtue, said he, rules all Presages, and renders them Good or Evil: Govern your Subjects with Equity, and nothing can shake your Repose.”
A Pagan Priest of old, and Interpreter of Omens (which all Men alike misunderstand and misconstrue) would on such an Occasion have filled the Temples with the Smoke of Incense, which had signified no more than so much Air; or made them flow with the Blood of Victims; of just as much Use as so much Water: A Popish Priest would have enjoined Fasts, Processions, Masses and Penance; proper Means to make the People idle, superstitious, and Idolaters of their Priests; but, above all, Riches and Oblations to the Church, fresh Honours and Prerogatives to the Clergy, with the Lives and Estates of all such as had offended the Clergy, confuted their Lyes, laughed at their Grimaces, and detested their bold Mockery of God and Man.
Such are the Profit and Advantages accruing to crafty Men from the System of Judgements; no wonder it is never dropped; a System which makes Priests the Privy Counsellors of the Almighty, the Oracles of his Will, the Heralds of his Wrath, the Intercessors for his Mercy, armed with a Divine Claim to all Means of supporting their Dignity, and executing this their high Deputation below; a Claim to princely Revenues, implicit Reverence, all secular Authority, Ecclesiastical Courts and Inquisitions; Powers to crush all Gainsayers, and all such as presumed to think or to dream contrary to their Standard of thinking and dreaming; a Presumption which, in the Cry of Craftsmen, will always be the crying Profaneness and great Curse of the Age, and always be drawing down Judgments upon the Nation.
This Cry answers another End, equally wicked; it constantly serves the outrageous Spirit of Faction. The Decay of Religion and the Contempt of the Clergy, was a popular Engine in Queen Anne’s Time, employed to change the whole Administration (the most Glorious that ever England had seen) and threatened the most destructive Change that ever England could see. The Convocation were loudest in the Cry, and drew up an Invective against all the sober Part of the Nation; indeed a Libel against the Nation itself, under the Charge of growing Irreligion and Infidelity; a Charge full of Falshood, Bitterness and Calumny; chiefly composed by a lively, learned and restless Incendiary, nurtured in Faction, and hardened in Perjury, afterwards convicted of Treason and banished for it, yet reckoned a Champion for the Church against Religion and Morals; supported and lamented as a Confessor, after he was condemned as a Parricide; and adored as a Martyr, though he died in the Service of Rebellion.
Yet it has been common to hear this Incendiary, with all this complex Guilt, applauded as a Pastoral Pattern, by Men of the same Spirit; and I have lately seen a Panegyric in the public Papers, upon a dead Vicar in Kent, for having strictly adhered to the Discipline of that Incendiary, and thence shewn himself worthy of such a Patron: As if Treason and Perjury were no Stain upon a Bishop, much less a Disqualification for a Bishoprick. Hath there been more abandoned Casuistry found amongst the Jesuits?
No Wonder that in a Libel from him there were palpable Falsifications in Fact, and not a Sentence of fair Truth; yet his Brethren concurred irreligiously and factiously with the Libeller. They were most incensed against what had gained Glory to the Nation and apparently made it prosper, namely a Toleration to Tender Consciences. They therefore reviled the Ministry, who supported it, and misrepresented them as little better than Atheists.
I will not charge our Preacher with any such Intention, when, complaining of the prevailing Impiety, Blasphemy; and undisguised Profaneness, appearing, as he says, in many Instances; he adds, “how deplorable must the State of a Nation be, when Men find Encouragement to provide such Entertainment for the Nation!”
He had just mentioned the Burlesque upon the Te Deum, which was not encouraged by the Nation, but universally decried, as I have before observed. He had therefore no Cause to deplore the State or Taste of the Nation upon that Score. It is strange that he gives no more Instances of the Prevalence of Blasphemy, when he says, Blasphemyswarms. The mad Books about the Trinity are not blasphemous, but only the different Guesses of Men about a Mystery, which no Man can explain. No wonder they eternally vary in their eternal Explanations.
He does not, he says, condemn a sober Inquiry into the Truth of Religion; but I presume he will take upon him to judge whether it be sober or no, and readily condemn it, if it appear to him not to be sober. It will be easy, perhaps good Policy, to call it ludicrous and profane, though the Author meant sincerely, and studied Decency. Suppose the Objections be ever so candid and strong; will a Zealot like them the better for that Character? Perhaps their very Strength may be the greatest Crime: They may be therefore faulty, because there is no Fault to be descried in them; and they may be punishable for being unanswerable. Calvin needed not have burned Servetus (and probably, for his own Reputation, would not) could he have answered him.
Whatever there is in Religion agreeable to eternal Reason, every reasonable Man will embrace and defend. Whatever is against Reason it is pardonable to doubt; it is reasonable to examine. Every Man will readily consent to what is obviously his Interest. There is no Merit, but rather Blindness and Folly and infinite Danger, in resting our Faith upon Names and Authority. Implicit Belief is Credulity, which subverts Religion, and establishes Priestly Tyranny.
FALSE, scurrilous and foolish Attacks upon Religion, will be ineffectual, scorned and shocking. The Many will always have Religion, which is rarely gained by Inquiry, but generally taken implicitly, and retained by Rote: There are few that have not some System of Speculations, which is Religion to them, and answers the Purposes of Religion to Society, as it infers an Awe of a superior Power. At worst, every Man professes Morality, which is the surest Demonstration of having Religion, and is itself Religion; generally found the purest, as it is not tainted with Superstition and Craft, two pestilent Ingredients that pervert Religion into Farce and Interest. Religion so perverted is none, or worse than none.
Is a Papist the better Neighbour for believing the huge Lyes of Transubstantiation and Infallibility; when by the same Spirit and Authority which persuades him to think that he believes Impossibilities (for the Thing is impossible) he is led to punish and destroy his Neighbours for not doing what they cannot do, or for not prosessing what their Conscience abhors?
I would much rather confide in a Man who does not believe a future State, than in one who trusts to Absolution for gaining him everlasting Bliss. The former has the Motives of natural Honesty, Credit and Friendship amongst his Neighbours, with Security from Starving, Stripes and Infamy, to hold both his Heart and his Hand from Enormities. The latter, though he believes that his Sins will damn him, will commit the worst, if by committing the worst he can induce his Priest to absolve and save him. To murder Heretics, is Merit; to murder an heretical Prince, is the highest Merit. No temporal Reward that the Jesuits could have given, would have tempted Ravillac to have stabbed Henry IV. of France: But he was effectually tempted with an Assurance of a Retribution in Paradise, which no worldly Power could have offered him.
The Religion of most Nations is rather Chance and a Lot, than a Choice; much less the Effect of anxious Examination. It descends from the Parents, like the National Language; and all Nations think their own the best, though not one in many Thousands can prove it to be so, even where it is so. They never once doubt it, yet pay great Sums to certain Persons to maintain to them what they are already sure of, and for repeating to them what they already know; nay, what they would kill any one for calling in question; or, that would charge them with questioning.
The Christian Populace, I doubt, would have been mostly Mahometans, had they been born Mahometans: The Mahometans would have been English Christians, had they been born Englishmen; the Jews been persecuting Catholics, and the Catholics persecuting Jews, had their Births been exchanged. A late Grand Monarque, if born amongst Hugonots, in lower Life, and with a better Education, would have been a zealous Calvinist, or probably scared into Popery by the converting Dragoons. Daniel Burgess might have been a Cardinal; Richard Baxter a mortified Capuchin; George Fox Pope of Rome; Archbishop Laud a keen Son of the Kirk; Dr. Sacheverel a raging Faquir, scattering Death and Damnation; and our Preacher an accomplished Mufti.
It is impossible and against Nature, to settle a Uniformity of Opinions any more than of Tastes, Faces and Complexions. Where the most cruel and wicked Pains are taken about it, and the most knavish and sanguinary Instruments employed to effect it, Success is most notoriously wanted. Cruelty to increase Religion, mars Religion. Violent Methods used against Atheism, make Atheists (if there be any such) and teach them to dissemble and to hide their Sentiments. You cannot confute what they do not own, and they continue incurable by not daring to confess and to reason. The best Men often bear this Brand, who seeing Impostors imposing the holy Name of Religion upon their own Pursuit of Power and Gain, by bearing their Testimony against such Impiety, provoke the Impostors to render them odious to Bigots and to the gross Vulgar, who always believe what their own Impostors tell them, and never see further than their own Impostors let them. The Cry of Craft becomes the Cry of the Vulgar: He is always an Atheist whom the Craftsmen pronounce to be so; and then Curses, Dungeons and Flames, are proper Punishment for Atheism.
Where is there less Religion than where Religion is most awfully guarded, with all human Restraints and Terrors, by all the Arts of Men, and all the Malice of Devils; by lying Miracles, stupendous Ignorance, a tame, stupid and zealous Populace, a riotous omnipotent Priesthood, vested with boundless Power and Wealth? In the most Catholic Countries you find pompous, deceitful Devotion; no rational Piety; no Signs of the plain Religion of the Gospel; the Spirit of the Gospel disowned and extinct; the very first Principles and Sources of Religion shut up and held in Chains; Freedom of Opinion, Tender Consciences, Voluntary Worship, all accounted the most heinous Crimes against Religious Men, damned and punished with Racks and Fire; Idolatry the only Devotion in fashion; and more Safety in living a Sodomite and a Murderer, than a pious Dissenter.
Men of Inquiry and Penetration cannot be Papists; and, finding no Religion to be better than Popery (since a Man who has no Religion, has no Temptation to do Mischief for Religion) such Men are of Course led towards Atheism. For I sincerely believe, that few Men were ever led into it: An eternal Power cloathed with all suitable Attributes, is evident from the Light of Nature. Who would not rather believe that there was no God, than a God who did or delighted in Cruelty and Folly, or impowered any Men, under any Pretence or Name, to cheat and inthral all Men, or to afflict and torture any Man? The Name of Atheist given to Men of fair Characters, noted for Parts and Knowlege, as it often is by Bigots and Knaves, ceases to be odious in the Eyes of many, and becomes sometimes eligible and pleasing in those of most.
Thus Religion is banished out of the World under Colour of securing Religion in it. This Security, in truth, is all meant, not for Religion but for Religious Men, impudently so called by themselves, hypocritically by all whom they terrify, and slavishly by all whom they bewitch. By this selfish, cruel, impious Policy, they who have the Assurance to send Missionaries to convert Nations, warn all discerning Nations never to be converted. But they trust to the Lyes of their Priests, and to the Ignorance or Credulity of the People. They dare tell no People, however stupid, that when once they become Catholics, they must become Slaves, be plundered and oppressed to support and exalt their Catholic Perverters; that they must not entertain the most rational Thought; but, if they change their Opinion, must either be Hypocrites, or burned for their Sincerity. This is the eternal Fate and Disgrace of all who hold persecuting Principles, that none who do so can offer to make Converts with any Consistency or Honesty; or with any Success, when once they are known: This is the just Curse always attending Persecutors.
The Many, especially the mere Vulgar, will have the Religion in fashion, and always believe that to be Religion, which their Priests tell them is so. Men of free Opinions will always be charged by Bigots and the Croud, with having no Religion: Though without Freedom of Opinion there can be no rational Religion: Opinions taken upon Trust, as they are void of Reason, do no Credit to Religion, nor ought to be received, much less reverenced, for such.
It is therefore a Liberty belonging to all Men, to examine by Reason what is proposed to them for Religion: If they find it true, they will embrace it; if it appear false or foolish, they ought not. It is repugnant to our Idea of God, that he can injoin what is not true, or expect from Man to assent to what the best Light, which God has given to Man, cannot comprehend.
There can be no Merit, but, on the contrary, great Folly, in swallowing any Notions implicitly: They may be false as well as true; and he who takes the Word of another for any Thing which he tells him, may as well take his Word for all that he tells him, and thence become the Slave and Property of his Leader. If we once give up Reason, there is no End of Wandering and Misguidance; and the Disuse of Reason encourages and even invites false Lights and false Teachers. Even before we can believe God’s Word we must know it to be his; nor is there any sure Rule to know it by but Reason. When it appears to Reason, that it is God’s Word, the Reason of Man must assent to it. If we believe it upon the Authority of Men, we can never be certain but that Men may deceive us.
Thenceforward it is not Reason, not Religion, that governs you, but they who are Guides in Religion, and may, if they will, make your Religion, a Religion to their own Purposes, as the Popish Priests literally do. You are then absolutely at their Mercy, what to believe, what to fear, and what to adore. This is the great Source of Popery. They who assume the absolute Explanation of Scripture, are in effect the Makers of Scripture; as the sovereign Explanation of Laws implies Law-making. Both these Powers establish Tyranny at once. No Papist can he said to have any Religion. He says after the Priest by Rote, and is the Priest’s Bubble and Slave.
Such Credulity has been indeed the grand Source of the most crying and desolating Evils that have laid waste the Creation, and afflicted and enslaved Men; the Source of all Idolatry, pious Frauds, and Persecution; of Tyranny, and of (what comprehends them all) Popery.
The Pagans adored as Deities the Host of Heaven, infernal Spirits, Beasts wild and tame, devouring Serpents, Birds of Prey, stinking Herbs and Diseases; all upon the Credit of lying Priests, and by the senseless Force of Fashion.
The Papists worship Bread and Bones, and Dead Men: And the Impostors, their Priests, who poison and bewitch them with such Trumpery, Mischief and Nonsense, as if it were all real Religion, pass with their blind Votaries as Vice Gods, who can do whatever God himself can do, bless and curse, blast and prosper, save and damn, and dispose of Heaven and Earth.
Ought such Blindness, such Fraud and Villainy, to be called Religion? Yet have the Papists any other? Are they, can they be, the better for so devilish a Religion, that keeps them in all Grossness and Ignorance, and prompts them to all Impiety, and to the worst Barbarities? Are they better Subjects for being ready at the Priest’s Command, to rebel against their Prince, to depose and stab, and murder him; nay, for thinking such horrible Crimes to be meritorious? Can they be good Neighbours, who hate and damn, persecute and kill their Neighbours, for following Reason and Conscience; and worshiping God, as God requires to be worshiped, in Spirit and in Truth?
Is their Religion any Restraint from Crimes, when it prompts them to commit the highest, and absolves them from all Guilt when they have contracted the most hideous? This very Power of Absolution usurped by their Clergy, is a Dissolution of Religion itself, and defeats all its Purposes and Influence. What Criminal, threatened with Damnation, and the Gallows just expecting him, will not be sorry to be so near Pain and Death, and unceasing Torments after Death? Yet for this mechanical Sorrow, or even for professing it, all his Guilt is discharged, and he thus more encouraged to contract a fresh Score, not the less secure from being ever so black. Still a new Pardon is ready upon every new Peril, which will naturally lead him to apply for it, and to declare his Fitness to receive it.
Here is an everlasting Warrant for everlasting Transgression; and every such Warrant a certain Incitement to Sin. The Religion of Popery, therefore, acting up to all its Principles, far from being a Check to Crimes, is a Call to all Crimes and Immorality; nay, an Office for all Mischief, all Cruelty, and all Abominations; and thus dreadfully may every Religion be perverted, where the Priests claim such absolving Power, and thus abuse it.
That there are not more Mischiefs daily flowing from this horrid Fountain (as God knows there have been, and are, too many and too dreadful) must be ascribed to natural Impulse, to innate Tenderness, the Child of Humanity, not quite extinguished, nor hardened even by Craft into Brutality and Cruilty. A Papist, left to Nature and the Rules of Honour, is capable of high Generosity, Trust and Friendship: But the best-hearted Papist, under the Influence of his Priest, inflamed by false Fears or false Hopes (the stronger with Bigots for being false) Heaven opened to receive and reward him, if he be obedient, and Hell to swallow and burn him, if disobedient; will zealously sacrifice all Faith and Friendship, and perpetrate the most inhuman, the most infamous Enormities.
The noblest, the most religious Character, charged with Heresy, is horrible to all who are taught to hate Heretics; as the Papists are earnestly taught; and where Paradise is the Reward of destroying Heretics, there will be Numbers ready to earn it. When the Pope had damned the poor pious Albigenses, the Proto-martyrs of the Reformation, and had published a Croisade against them, half a Million of Men, drunk with Zeal, thirsting for Blood, and urged by murdering Monks, took Arms to destroy those Primitive Christians. The most vicious and profligate Criminals, the most abandoned Outlaws and desperate Cut-throats, were the keenest Adventurers and deepest in the Slaughter, as by it they gained a plenary Pardon for all their Sins.
Could there be a more awakening Call to Mankind, to combine together for the utter Extirpation of such a hellish Hierarchy? Can all the internal Spirits together, boast such Myriads of Murders, such successful Outrages against Men and the Creation, in a Thousand Years, as the more infernal Spirit of Popery has produced and gloried in, every Century? Yet so blinding is Superstition, so bewitching is Priestcraft, that the Father of the Assassins of Christians was reverenced as the Father of Christendom, and adored like a God: Rome, the Sink of Abominations, the Seminary of Frauds, Sodomy, Cruelty and Tyranny, passed for the Holy City. What Mockery of God! what Infatuation in Men!
Could the Want of Religion have thus intoxicated, thus enslaved, thus butchered Mankind, thus defaced the Creation, thus mastered, or banished Reason? It does not appear that the greatest Disturbers and Pests of the World, have been so from want of Religion. Most of them were Slaves to Superstition, Tyrants to their Fellow-Creatures, some of them Sacrificers of Men; and, which is much the same Thing, most of them Persecutors of Conscience.
ferdinando the Catholic had great Zeal, without common Honesty. Philip II. was drenched in Perfidy, Incest and Blood; a bigoted Papist, an implacable Enemy to Protestants; a flaming Patron of the Inquisition; an eager Burner of Jews and Heretics. His Son made his Kingdom a Desert, by the Expulsion of the Moors, his most industrious Subjects, not made idle by keeping Holy Days. This weak Prince, in spight of all Warning from his wisest Nobles, gave way to Bigotry, to the lying inflammatory Invectives of the Clergy, threatening him with terrible Judgments, and rousing him by forged Miracles, particularly of a Bell, which being a good Catholic, rang to the same Tune of its own accord.
lewis the Eleventh of France was drunk with Superstition; a Bigot to Saints and Relics; faithless to God and Man; a Tyrant to his People. Whilst he was once treating of a Peace with Charles Duke of Burgundy, who from eternal Experience knew that no Treaty would bind him, the Duke insisted that, besides the usual Oath on such Occasions, Lewis should swear by St. Claude. Lewis, who would readily invoke God and Angels, and all the other Saints in Paradise, to any Falshood, shewed an utter Aversion to forswear himself by St. Claude. He had a notable Reason for this Distinction and Difficulty: There was a current Tradition, which he firmly believed, “That whoever swore falsly by that Saint, would infallibly die within the Year.” A Successor of his, wanting his Sagacity and Courage, surpassed him in Bigotry. To prove himself a complete Bigot, he acted like a miserable Politician, by lightening his Country of a Million of People; as bad a Neighbour as a King; a persidious and extensive Ravager, without other Check than the Safety of his Person; for, though he was lavish of Blood, he had none of his own to spare.
Had these Tyrants wanted Religion (for their Superstition passed with themselves for such, as it does with all Men who have it) would they, could they, have done more Mischief? I think it evident, that they would have done less, had their Bigotry been less. Bigotry justifies every Iniquity: Absolution discharges all.