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(ADDRESSED AS THE FORMER.)
FANATICISM is a kind of religious folly. We laughed at it in a former letter. Whoever has a mind to indulge his humour at our expence, is heartily welcome. You now expect a serious answer to a serious charge. I fend you such as occurs.
"The council of Constance has openly "avowed violation of faith with heretics. But ** it has never been openly disclaimed. There"fore," concludes Mr. Wesley, "the Roman "Catholics should not be tolerated amongst the "Turks or Pagans."
A council so often quoted in anniversary
sermons, parliamentary debates, and flying
pamphlets, challenges peculiar attention. We shall examine it with as much precision as possible, and with the more impartiality, as strict justice shall be done to al! parties. Mr. Wesley knows that we are all Adam's children, who feel the fatal impressions of our origin, and that ambition which took its rife in Heaven itself, often 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 Octavius, Anthony, and 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 foundations of what was then the established religion, were shaking the foundations of thrones 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 bishops, assuming the titles of popes by the names of Gregory the twelfth, Benedict the thirteenth, and John the twenty-third, had brought ou Europe, split into three grand factions by the ambition of the above-mentioned competitors. Such transactions in the ministers of a religion that preaches up peace and humility as the solid foundations 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 ministry.—We respect the sanctuary in which Stephen officiated,—-though Nicholas profaned it; we revere the place from whence Judas fell,—and to which Matthias was promoted: the scriptures respect the chair of Moses,—though they censure several pontiffs who fat in it; and no Catholic canonizes the vices of popes,—though he respects their station and dignity. The pontifical throne is still the same, whether it be filled by a cruel Alexander the sixth, or a be"nevolent Ganganeili,
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 obQ^a 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 assize would exterminate us from civil society. Such a doctor had no indulgence to expect from a council, which, aster 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 failh with heretics, let none imagine that I am an apologist for the fiery execution of persons, en the score of religious opinions' Let the legislators who were the first to invent the cruel method of punishing the errors of the mind with the excruciating tortures of the body, 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 substituted the blazing pile in the room of Phalaris's brazen bull, might have pointed out a
more * The Imperial laws which condemned heretics to the flames, have been put into execution by Calvin, queen Elizabeth, James the first, &c.