Page images
PDF

pamphlets, chalenges peculiar attention. We shall examine it with as much precision as possible, and with the more impartiality, as strict justice shall be done to all parties. Mr. Wefiey knows that we are all Adam's children, who feel the fatal impreffions of our origin, and that ambition which took its rise in Heaven itself, osten

' lurks in a corner of the sanctuary where the

ministers of religion offer up their prayers, as well as in the cabinets of kings, where shrewd courtiers form their intrigues. At a time, then, when ambition, that insatiable desire of elevation, that worm which stings the heart, and never leaves it at rest, presented the universe with the extraordinary sight of three prelates reviving the restless spirit of the Roman triumVirate, and disturbing the peace of mankind as much with their spiritual weapons, as Octa-* vius, Anthony, a'nd Lepidus had disturbed it' with their armed legions. At a time when the broachers of new doctrines were kindling up

the fire of sedition, and after shaking the foun- _

dations of what was then the established religion, were shaking the foundations ofthrones and empires. _ At that critical time, in fourteen hundred and fourteen, was held the council' of Constance, with a design, as the fathers of that council express themselves, to reform the church in her head and members; . and put an

end to the calamities which-the restless pride of *

three

three bishops, assuming the titles of popes by the names of Gregory the twelfth, Benedict the

thirteenth, and John the twenty-third, had

brought on Europe, split into three grand factions by the ambition of the above mentioned competitors. Such transactions in the rninisters of a religion that preaches up peace and humility as the solid soundations on which the structure of all Christian virtues is to be raised, may startle the unthinking reader, and give him an unfavourable idea of religion : but we are never to confound the Weakness of the minister with the holiness of his minifiry.-We respect the sanctuary in which Stephen officiated,-though Nicholas prosaned it: we revere the place from whence Judas fell,-_and to which Matthias was promoted : the scriptures respect the chair of Moses,-_though theycensure several pontiffs who sat in it; andino Catholic canonizes the vices of popes,_though

. he respects their station and rdignity. _ The'

pontifical throne is fiill the same, whether it be filled by a cruel Alexander the sixth, or a benevolent Ganganelli.

To the council of Constance was cited then John Huss, a Bohemian, famous for propagating errors tending to' tear the mitre from the heads of bishops, and wrest the sceptre from the hands of kings : in a word, he was ob

noxious noxious to church and state ; and if Mr. Wesley and I preached up his doctrine in the name' of God, we would be condemned in the name of the king. The Protestant and Catholic divines would banish us from their universities, and the judges of affize would exterminate us from civil society. Such a doctor had no indulgence to expect from a council, which, after deposing two rivals for the popedom, condemned a third for contumacy, and elected another in his room.

But in mentioning John Huss, whose trial and execution at Constance have given rise to the foul charge of violation of faith with hererits, let none imagine that I 'am an apologist for the fiery execution of persons, onthe score of religious opinions. Let the legisiators

who were the first to invent the cruelvmethod *

of punishing the errors of the mind with the excruciating tortures of the' body, and anticipating the rigor of eternal justice, answer for their own laws. I am of opinion, that the true religion, propagated by the effusion of the blood of its martyrs, would still triumph without burning' the flesh of heretics , and that the Protestant'* and Catholic legislators who have

* The imperial laws which condemned hereties to the flames, have been put into execution by Calvin, queen Elizabeth, james the first, &c.

substituted

fubstituted the blazing p'ile in the room of Phalaris's brazen bull, might have pointed out a more lenient punishment for victims who, in their opinion, had no prospect during the interminable space of a boun'dless eternity, but that 'of paffing from one fire into another; If in enacting such law's, they had consulted the true spirit of religion, I believe the reformation of their own hearts would have been a more acceptable sacrifice to the Divinity, than heca'tombs of human victims; " No God nor mah,"

says Tertullian, ." should be pleased with a _

" forced service." "vWe are not to persecute ** those whom God tolexates," says St. Augustine. That faith is fictitious which' is inspired by the edge of the sword,

But still the nature of society is such, that

. when once the common land-marks are set up, '

it opposes the hand of the individual that attempts to remove them. Where one common mode of worship is established, and fenced by

the laws of the state, whoever attempts to over- i

throw it, must expect to meet with opposition and violence, until Custom softens the rigour of early prejudices, and reconciles us to men whose features and lineaments are like our own, but still seem strange to us, because their thoughts are different.

He w

How sar opposition to religious innovations isjustifiable, is not our business to discuss. But the experience of ages evinces the fact ; and in disfimilar circumstances, Mr. W'esley has made the trial. In kingdoms, where, as in the Roman Pantheon, every divinity had its altars, speculative deviations from the religion established by law, the singularity of love-feasis and nocturnal meetings, so unusual among the modern Chriffians of every denomination, roufed the vigilance of the magistrate, and infiuenced the rage ofi the rabble. Now, that custom has rendered Mr. Wefley's meetinghouses and mode of worship familiar, and that all denominations enjoy a share of that religious liberty, whereof he would fain deprive his Roman Catholic neighbour, his matin hymns

give no uneasiness either to the magistrate, .

or his neighbours. But had Mr. Wefley raised his notes on the high key of civil dzscordancehad he attempted by his sermons, his writings and exhortations, to deprive the bishops of the

established religion, of their croziers; kings of their thrones; and magistrates of the sword of

jultice, long ere now would his pious lahours have been crowned with martyrdom, and his name regiftered in the kalendar of Fox's faints. Such, unfortunately, was the case of John Hufs. Not satisfied with overthrowing what

was

« PreviousContinue »