Page images
PDF

plea against kings ; let them be eternally armed with the scales of the Leviathan, against the barbed irons to which they are exposed, from those who think themselves the only persons enlightened with the rays of gospel knowledge. Nothing then is to be apprehended from popes. Less is to be apprehended from spurious canons, or the memory of councils which gave up the ghqst fix hundred years ago. And any inference from

the proceedings of the fathers of the council of'

Lateran, or obsolete texts of the canon law, against former heretics, to alarm the Protestants of our days, is the fruit of ignorance or malice, or both. The Protestants of our days sway-the sceptre of authority. Kipgdoms and republics, laws and institutions, fcrderal

[graphic]

unions, and civil compacts, bleffings in peace;

and triumphs in war, the allegiance of their subjects, and protection the result of allegiance, record them in the annals0f fame, and put them on the same level with the Ceesars to whom tribute and submiffion are due. How are they connected with the motley rabble of heretics, who appeared and disappeared in former times, overturning and attacking church and state, and attacked by both in their turn. No'state acknowledged their power. i No band of civil union linked them together ;_no subjects swore allegiance to them ;-no Catholic recognized a king, parliament, or magistrate

amongst

amongst the Albigenses, whom people dignify with the title of Protestants; and whom Protestant powers would consider as the pest and bane of society, if such were now in their dominions. Disciples of the Manicheans, they admitted two supreme and independent principles; and granted two wives, called Colla and Colliba, to the God of Truth. Had their doctrine been confined to meer speculations, in an age more enlightened than the thirteenth century, when the council of Lateran was held, in all appearance, humanity would pity them, and philosophy would smile at their _errors.

But this wild theory was still surpassed by the

' most monstrous practices. They Gonsidered

marriage as a state of perdition; but chastity was not one of their vows.

More could be said , but I am afraid that my readers already blush : and whoever dignifies the Albigenses with the title of Protestants, in order to inflame the rage; and kindle the rancour'of fellow-subjects, by a recital of the ill treatment of those pretended martyrs, should not only blusl\t,b'ut hide himself.

Let none' imagine, that whatever is mentioned in the seffions of a general council, is an article of faith. There are decrees of disciplinewhich are at the discretion of kingdoms or provinces either to'reject or adopt. There are articles

of of faith which, in our opinion, neither time, place', or circumstances can alter. Thus, the council' of Trent, which commands the Roman' Catholics, under pain' of anathema, or. curse, to be" lieve the neceffity' of baptism, and the reality of original sin, is universally received in all Catholic countries, as far as it confines itself to the decision of speculative points, and proposes them as articles of belief : but, where the same council decrees, that the manor or land on= which a duel is fought, with the connivance of the owner, should be confiscated and applied'to pious uses, it is rejected. Though the motive of the decree is laudable, as it tends to suppressvice and restrain the paffions ; yet, as the means, such as the forfeiture of lands, &e. are quite out of the spiritual line, this decree of distcipline is not received. By the same rule, two things are to be considered relative to the council of Lateran, often quoted, and as often misapplied. The fathers of that council have anathematized the errors of the Albigense's so repugnant to reason, morality, and the principles of revealed religion, and every similar error extolling itself against the orthodox saith. So far they confined themselves within the limits. of their spiritual provinces, and so far every Roman Catholic submits to their decrees. But when they proceeded further, and granted the lands of the persons whom they condemned as

heretics, he'ctics, to the Catholics who would take possess ,

sion of them; no Roman Catholic is concerned in a verdict that disposes of temporal property : for, neither popes nor councils have been appointed as the supreme and infallihle arbiters of succeffion to thrones, the transfer of property, or temporal affairs, by Him who refused to compromise matters between two brothers, and declared, that his kingdom is no! of this world. Nor is it to be presumed, that the ambassadors who afiisted at the council, would betray the interests of their kings, who often excepted against

the competency of spiritual tribunals, as to the

decision of temporal rights. And as to the distinction between articles of saith, and'canons of discipline, we find it even in the New Testament

The same apostles, who preached the divinity

of Christ, which we all believe, decreed in a_

council, that the Christians should abstain from the use Of blood, and the fiesh of strangled animals.* \V e believe the doctrine they preach

ed: we overlook the discipline they established, v because the prohibition was temporary. The '

Doctrine is permanent: opinions are fug'itive:

laws, discipline and decrees vary with time. '

We are but little concerned in the transactions

* Acts, lSth Chap.

of'

Qf the twelfth or thirteenth century. We are; anew world raised on the ruins of the former;andis hitherto we could not agree as Christians,it is _.h1_*gh time rosive together a: man. There is' land enough for us all; and it' is lay'far better tojsee-towns and' cities tearing their heads'on' the banks of our rivers, 'than to: see our fer-tile country depopulated by intolerance. 'Let reli

. gion be left out of the case. Whigs and Toi

ries, Guelphes and Gibelins * may repeat the flame creed and be still divided. The' French and Sicilians went to the same churches to sing' their balleluiahs upon an Easter Sunday, when soon after, the groans of bleeding victims be-e gan to mingle with the harmonious sound of chimin'g bells. The Dutch and English were Protestants, when the first massacred the latter in the ifland of Amboyna. Had the sufferers been of a different persuasion from that of the aggressors, religion would appear as the chief' character in the two tragedies. If speculative errors. be punishable,_there is a day of reckoning ':

and eternity is long enough for retribution. But

during the short span of. life, checkered with so many anxious cares, let us not resemble those

-savages who glory in dispeopling the earth, and

carrying the mangled heads of their fellowcreatureson the tops of their reeking spears,'as

* Two fnrmidable faction: in the time of the disputes

between the popes and empernrs. s o

« PreviousContinue »