Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number XXVII.: To what I have said above upon the Excesses and Unchristian Spirit of the Clergy in the Reign of King Charles I. I shall add the following Observations upon their incredible Canon, injoining an Oath to an Et Cætera. - The Independent Whig, vol. 4 (1747)
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Number XXVII.: To what I have said above upon the Excesses and Unchristian Spirit of the Clergy in the Reign of King Charles I. I shall add the following Observations upon their incredible Canon, injoining an Oath to an Et Cætera. - 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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To what I have said above upon the Excesses and Unchristian Spirit of the Clergy in the Reign of King Charles I. I shall add the following Observations upon their incredible Canon, injoining an Oath to an Et Cætera.
THE English Convocation at that Time, amongst their other Antichristian Measures, scarce credible, too wicked for the wickedest Tyrants and Persecutors till then, injoined an Oath, by which besides other Extravagancies, all Ministers were to swear to an Et Cætera. You were to swear “never to consent to an Alteration of the present Government of the Church by Archbishops, Bishops, Deans, Archdeacons, Et Cætera.” If you refused this monstrous Oath, you were to be forfeited and starved.
Strange, unchristian Proceeding! Could there be greater Injustice, indeed greater Folly, than for the King to confirm it? It was not only an Oath, which no Man of strict Conscience could take, “to swear to he knew not what;” but by it the King gave up his Power and Supremacy. It was the King and Parliament that made and consequently governed the Church; so that in agreeing to this Canon and Oath, he gave away his own Prerogative, and sacrificed the Rights and Power of Parliament, as he had indeed Parliaments themselves. It was encouraging universal Perjury; as it certainly is such, to swear at random to what is not explained, nor even expressed. It was forcing Men to swear to what they disliked or might come to dislike, and never to change what many thought grievous and even sinful. It was taking an Oath to resist King and Parliament, whenever they, who had formed the Church, should attempt to change or reform it. It was engaging by an Oath to be Rebels, whenever the Supreme Power should alter or intermeddle in Church-Matters. It was giving up the Right of the Subject to petition for Redress of Grievance, at a Time when the Administration of the Church was one of the principal Grievances of the Nation: A Grievance so sharp, so general, and so resented, that the Motion to impeach Archbishop Laud, found not one negative Voice* .
The Government of the Church, by this Oath, never to be altered, was then, and had been long oppressive and barbarous, and the Morals as well as the Doctrines of many of the Clergy, very shocking. Could these Men, so fond of assuming a Divine Right, be said to feel the smallest Influence of the Divine Spirit amongst them, whilst they were indulging their Pride and Passion against the soberest and most serious Christians, reproaching them, and exposing them to popular Hate, to Fines, Prisons, and the Want of Bread, all for a Ceremony, a Posture, or a Garment? Could Truth or Virtue be found in those Men, who justified Falshoods out of the Divine Word; told the King, who was sworn to rule by Laws, that he was bound by no Law, and damned the Subject for defending his Property, when it was assaulted against all Law.
The private Manners of many of the Clergy were then so corrupt and scandalous, that the Accusations and Petitions, and Charges against their ill Lives, sent up to Parliament, and many of them published, are too long as well as too shocking to be repeated. I shall only add, that it is hardly credible how insufficient, how vicious, how superstitious, many of them were; and the more so, the more conforming, and always the bitterest Enemies to Non-Conformists.
If these Men were the Men in Fashion and Favour with the King, it is no Compliment to him, or them, that they were so by the most pestilent and falsest of all Flattery, as well as through his great Weakness in believing and caressing them. It shewed what best pleased him, not the Observance of his Oath, not the Execution of lawful Power, not the Protection of his Subjects in their lawful Rights, but the Exertion of a Power without Bounds, against Law and Oaths and the Rights of his People, all by the Persuasion and Flattery of the Clergy, in Return for his extreme Complacency to them. Had he used them, as he did his other Subjects, they would have convinced him that they were the worst Subjects he had.
What was this but a Spirit of Tyranny in him? And what Sort of Men, what Sort of Christians were they, who flattered and encouraged this Spirit, so destructive to Christians and Men? It was a persidious Compliment even in them; since whilst they allowed and even animated him to fleece the Laity at his Pleasure, he was not to lay a Finger upon any of their meanest Claims; and they claimed, even exercised over the Laity an Usurpation equal, nay superior to his, not only over a good Measure of their Property, but an undivided Sovereignty over their Minds.
When this their Spirit, and his, was so apparent in their Actions, as well as in their Declarations, how could either he or they be popular, or even tolerable, to a Free People, daily incensed by both, for depriving them of their precious Freedom of Body, Property and Conscience? And under such Circumstances, so much Suffering on one Side, so much Encroachment and Violence on the other, how could such an Oath be relished or received, an Oath big with Absurdity, Perjury and Treason; impossible to be kept or understood, deifying the Handiworks of Men, and defying the Legislature? It could not fail of giving a fresh and terrible Alarm, and heighten popular Disgusts, already extremely high. Nay, the Bishops would needs oblige the Clergy to swear to the Approbation of Ship-Money, and all such lawless Measures of the Court.
The High-Commission Court acted with the Rage and Inhumanity of Inquisitors. The Sabbath was violated by Authority and Royal Command, at the Suit of the Clergy. The soberest and most holy Ministers were branded with the Name of Puritans, persecuted and turned out of the Ministry and Bread.
How little Religion was concerned or aimed at in these Practices and Proceedings of Churchmen, was manifest; since hardly a Drunkard, or an Idler, Non-Resident, or an Ignorant amongst the Clergy, was turned out, though many such there were, as was too fully proved soon after, whilst the most learned, the most exemplary, diligent and most scrupulous Teachers, were daily disgraced, stripped and undone.
The more Wealth or Power in Priests, always the less Morals. It is then not Morality, or Knowlege, or any good Quality, that recommends Men to their Favour, but Acquiescence in Modes and Discipline, and Zeal for a Party.
This was too manifest at that Time, and gave infinite Scandal to all sober Men, to see Ministers of Parts and Piety, punished, silenced and undone; and such as were very vicious and loose, very ignorant and insufficient, caressed and preferred. For Fasting and Praying, and a religious Observance of a religious Day, Men were subjected to Gaols and Fines, and the Fury of the High-Commission and Episcopal Courts; persecuted and undone for not reading and publishing Orders for profaning the Sabbath, or not paying Worship to an Altar.
The Exercises of Piety and Devotion were suppressed, such as Lectures and Afternoon-Sermons, and Expositions of Scripture on the Lord’s-Day. The Communion-Table of Protestants was turned into an Altar, conformably to the Superstition of the Papists: Bowings were practised towards it, and recommended as an Essential in Religion: Pictures were set up in Churches, with other terrible Symptoms to the Reformed Religion, and so many apparent Advances towards Popery. What availed it, that they who made them, disavowed the Imputation of Popery, when they thus pursued its Spirit and its Practices? What is Popery, the dangerous Part of Popery, but its Idolatry and superstitious Rites, and chiefly its Power usurped over Consciences? Even the Superstitions, the Fooleries of Popery, are so far formidable as they tend to introduce Papal Power; since Priests have always directed Superstition so as to profit by it.
It is worthy of Observation, that after the Overthrow of the Church and Monarchy, many of the Episcopal Clergy not only signed the Engagement, to be true and faithful to the Commonwealth, as then established without a King or House of Lords, but printed and published their Reasons for doing so. In this Proceeding they eased and assisted their Consciences with a Distinction, between a Government de Facto, and one de Jure. A Distinction against Conscience, and of great Service to Faction and Perjury after the Revolution in 1688. ’Tis equally remarkable, that the Presbyterian Ministers refused so to subscribe the above Engagement, and many of them published their Reasons for such their Refusal; yet were boldly branded, after the Restoration, as Republicans, by the very Men who had sworn to be true to the Republic.
[* ]See Lord Falkland’s Speech in Rushworth.