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means, &e. are rights founded in nature: and the rights of nature are'not reversed by the religion founded by Him, who declares, that he came not to destroy hut to saw. Much less can they be reversed by civil rulers, who are born like other men, and who would not be
distinguished above the crowd, were it not for _
the social compact, by which they bound themselves to protect those rights, and preserve them inviolate. If they do otherwise, as often they have done, and do to this very day, it is by a stretch of power, not by the rule of right ; and their only plea is that mentioned in Tacitus, " Id enim est aaquius quod est fortius."
From the earliest ages the boundaries of religion, and the concerns of the civil magistrate were kept distinct. If in the Jewish theocracy alone, they happened to be interwoven, and that a seceffion from the established religion was made capital; it was by a special commission from God, which Jefus Christ repealed in the new law, as we shall hereafter prove. Scattered tribes, before they subjected themselves to civil institutions, believed in a God, at whose hands they expected the rewards of their virtues, and dreaded the punishment of their misdeeds,
Religion, and conscience, its immediate interpreter, were anterior to society, and allars
recked with the gore of victims, before the ' block block was dyed with the blood of malefactors, spilled by the sword of the stern magistrate.
For his security and defence, man, on entering into society, gave up part of his liberty to dispose of his actions, his acquisitions, his time, which in the state of nature were at his own disposal. But he could never give up his way of thinking, or submit the dictates of his conscience, to the magistrate's controul. It is an interior monitor, whose voice cannot be silenced by human laws, and which our very paffions, our inclinations, our temporal interest, can seldom bribe, how prone soever we may be to the collusive compact. Hear this, O ye rulers of the earth ! Usurp no authority over God's inheritance. He alone can water and fertilize it with his grace, or from a hidden judgment, not cognizable by any earthly tribunal, strike it
i with barrenness and sterility. In this life you
have power to kill, or to save the body: lbut leave the foul of man to the God who gave it, Call to mind that your power must be regulated byjustice. Illustrious culprits, whose authority screens you from the rigour of human laws, if you violate the sacred rules of order, you are also to be judged. The splendor that surrounds you made the prophet cry out, T e are gods, andfimr of the Mcyi Hzgh ; but he afterwards eclipses this splendor with the veil of death, T e also must
die. die. Let not bleeding victims, and famished
' objects, for the sake of a religion, which the
rulers of the earth are the last to observe in their morals, be presented to you by your judge, who will call for your commiffion, and confront you with the works of your hands.
'The authority with which you are invested is
delegated by the people, and while you enjoy it, you claim the_ sanction of Heaven. But neither Heaven nor man has granted you a power to punish any but malefactors. And no man is less liable to the imputation,than one who follows the dictates of his conscience. To him it is the oracle of the Divinity. In abiding by its dictates, he imagines to please his creator. An intention to please God is no crime. Mistaken he may be; but every mistaken man is not a malefactor or cheat.
If in a wanton fit of cruelty, you imitated those African kings, who leaping into their saddles, cut off their squires' heads with one blow, to dis play their dexterity ; or that Turkish emperor, who to shew the limner his mistake in painting the vdecollation of John the Baptist, called for a slave, and striking off his head, compared it with the picture; saying to the painter, you see by this head, that the veins in that picture are not sufficiently shrivelled-would your power screen you from the guilt of murder? If I am doomed to the stakc, or deprived
of of my horse, for not swearing to what I do not believe, the laws will justisy the informer and executioner, who will say : " the laws of your " governors have so decreed." It is, then, incumbent on governors to examine how far God will justify themselves. Nor is it a susficient plea, that such laws were made by others, when it is by their own authority, they are put in execution. It is equal to the individualwyho is deprived of his life or his property, whether it be by the highwayman or the officer of justice, when life or property falls a sacrifice to the integrity of his conscience.
God rejects a homage which the heart belies: and woe to the conscience liable to the magistrate's control. It would be no longer the impiegnable fortress that/1 should never surrender, but on conviction that such is the will of its Master. It would be the ductile wax, on which every new impreffion would erase the former, and resume it by turns. It would believe the real presence in Rome and Upsal. It would deny it in Geneva and Edinburgh. In Paris, it would hope for an empyreal heaven, and joys spiritual and unspeakable, through the merits of Christ, in a future state; an earthly paradise and a seraglio of women, amongst never-Fading
bowers, bowers, if it worshipped the great Alla, and Mahomet his prophet, in Constantinople. It would worship a living man in Tartary, and evil genii in Africa: An evident proof that
God has never granted any control to kings.
or governors, over the conscience of man; and that it must be left to itself, and to the grace of him who gave it.
For, in every kingdom and government, the magistrates would claim the same power. Every one of them believes himself in the 'right : and should all of them be in the right, I am still in the wrong, when I act against my conscience. Instead of making a sincere convert, they will only make a perjured impostor of me. Hence, the wise Theodoric and other monarchs would never confer any extraordinary privileges on those who conformed to their religion. When one of his courtiers embraced Arianism, (that king's religion), ** How would you have me trust " you," said the monarch, " you, who betray " your conscience, and Christ whom you " have worshipped from your early days ? " He '' preferred steady virtue, blended with whathe deemed error, to deceitful hypocrisy, assuming the mask of truth; and never con
sidered a man's religion as a' sufficient plea
for excluding him from the rights of a subject.