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thens. Since that time, at different intervals, error, backed by power, persecuted truth. And the partizans of truth, forgetful of the moderation which reason and religion prescribe, committed the same excesses with which they upbraided their oppressors. Sovereigns blinded by dangerous zeal,-or guided by barbarous policy, or seduced by odious councils,--became the executioners of their subjects who adopted religious systems different from those of their rulers; or persevered in ancient systems, from which their sovereigns had receded.....
Had those horrors been confined to one sect of Christians only, infidels would not have been so successful in their attacks on the system at large; though religion disclaims the odious imputation. But all sects execrated and attempted to extirpate one another. Europe became one wild altar, on which every religious sect offered, up human victims to its creed. * The ministers of a religion that had triumphed over the Cæsars, not by resistance, but by suffering, became the apologists of calamities that swept from the face of the earth, or oppress to this very day, God's noblest images upright, virtuous, and dauntless men. Like the warrior in the scriptures, they stept into the sanctuary, to grasp the barbarian's sword wrapt up in the ephod. The code of temporal laws, teeming with sanctions against robbers and murderers, was sweiled, to the surprise and destruction of mankind, with additional decrees against heretics and Papists. The inoffensive citizen who, from an apprehension of offending the Deity, by acting against his conscience, was confined in the same dungeon, or doomed to the fagot or axe, with the parricide who laid aside every restraint of moral obligation : and the scriptures were adduced in justification of the sanguinary confusion. The wreath and the rod have been held forth, not to crown the worthy, and punish the pernicious, but to scourge to conformity, candid and steady virtue. The priest gave the sanction of Heaven to the bloody mandates of the civil magistrate : and the civil magistrate unsheathed the sword to vindicate the cause of the God of Heaven, who reserves to himself the punishment of man's conscience. No person has a greater respect for the clerical order, of every
denomination, than I have. I am of the number, and feel myself wounded through their sides, when the Deist and free. thinker, who hold them all in equal contempt, contend that in all ages, and in all countries, the clergy are the main props of persecution. That had they been as solici: tous to heal, and conciliate men's hearts, as they have been 'to inflame and divide them, the world would by this time "bear a different aspect. That they should have left the laity. in peaceable possession of good neighbourhood, mutual charity, and friendly confidence. That instead of enforcing the great principles of religion, the very basis whereof is charity, peace, and love, they are ever and always the first Soppressors of those who differ from them in opinion; and
the active and impelling spring that gives force and elasti.city to the destructive weapons of the civil power. In corroboration of the charge, the free-thinker will unfold the page of history, and open those enormous volumes, made up of religious declamation. He will prove from both, that if popes, and their apologists, have scattered the fire-brand, their spiritual brethren have faithfully copied their example, . in succeeding times, wherever their power and influence prevailed.'
Though the Protestant divines,' says Hume, had vėntured to renounce opinions, deemed certain for so many "ages, they regarded in their turn, the new system so certain, that they could bear no contradiction with regard to it: and they were ready to burn in the same flames, from which they themselves had so narrowly escaped, every one that had the assurance to oppose them."* Hence the scaffolds reeking in Holland with the blood of many illustrious men, who, after opposing Philip the Second's efforts to introduce conformity by fire and sword, fell themselves by the hand of the executioner, for denying Gomar's predestination. Hence hecatombs of victims offered upon the gloomy altar of the Scotch league and covenant, and peopling: the regions of the dead, for differing in opinion. Out of every contested verse,' says the satirical Voltaire, there issued fury armed with a quibble and a poniard, who in'spired mankind at once with folly and cruelty.''
• Hume's History of England, Vol. 4. p. 161.
The same demon that poured the poisonous cup over the kingdoms and provinces of Europe, took his flight over the Atlantic, and spread his baneful influence amongst colonists who had themselves fled from the scourge. Their new built cities, like so many Jerusalems, were purified from idolatry. There no Popish priest dared bend his knee to his idols, or transfer to stock or stone, the "worship due to the God of Israel.' There the Quakerwoman's silent groans were raised on the high key of loud shrieks, when the Lord's deputy ordered her profane breasts to be whipt off by the Gospel scourge, that whipped the profaners out of the temple. There the Quaker was seen, suspended by the neck on high, for daring to pollute the sacred streets with his profane feet, moved by Baal's spirit. The holy city,* thus purged from the Jebuseans, and Pheriseans, was split soon after into two factions. The two famous covenants, the covenant of grace, and the covenant of works, soon divided the spiritual militants. The jarring of divinity caused such dissensions, that in the presence of sixty thousand savages, headed by their warriors, giving the signal for scaling the walls, to bury the contending parties under their ruins, grace would not permit works to lend the least assistance for repelling the common foe. It became victorious over the Indians and Christians. It drove the first from its walls, and banished the latter from the city into savannahs and deserts, to procure themselves subsistence by the works of their hands.
In a word, persecution on the score of our conscience, has thinned the world of fifty millions of human beings, by fire and sword. Thousands, who have escaped the sword and fagot, have perished, and are daily perishing with hunger and want, for their mode of worship. The London riots, occasioned by a pretext of religion, have added about four hundred more, deluded by religious frenzy, to the enormous number. And though they suffered as plunderers and incendiaries, yet religious intolerance in their leaders, occasioned the deluded people'e destruction. The history of the calamities, occasioned by the gospel of
* See the History of Massachusets Bay, or Bostons
peace, could be concluded with the poet's Epiphonema.--. : Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum. Such devilish .acts religion could persuade!**
The Quakers, to their eternal credit, and to the honour of humanity, are the only persons who have exhibited a meekness and forbearance, worthy the, imitation of those who have entered into a covenant of mercy by their baptism.--William Penn, the great legislator of that people, had the success of a conqueror in establishing and defending his colony amongst savage tribes, without ever drawing the sword; the goodness of the most benevolent rulers, in treating his subjects as his own children; and the tenderness of a universal father, who opened his arms to all mankind, without distinction of sect or party, In his republic, it was not the religious: creed, but personal merit that entitled every member of society, to the protection and emoluments of the state. Rise from your grave, great man! and teach those govereigns who make their subjects niiserable, on account of their catechisms, the method of making them happy. They, whose dominions resemble enormous prisons, where one part of the creation are distressed captives, and the other their unpitying keepers.
Ishall examine the charter which is pleaded in justifica. tion of restraints on the score of conscience. The Protesa tant and Catholic are equally concerned in the discussion. Each would plead for toleration in his turn; and the honour of religion, should be vindicated from the imputation of enormities, which should be transferred to their real principles--I mean the passions of men, or their ignorance of the limits which religion itself prescribes to their power. I know the difficulty there lies in encountering prejudices which have a long prescription to plead. I shall be asked whether I am ignorant of the rescripts of Popes inserting in the directory of the inquisition the imperial constitutions, dooming heretics to the flames; the authority of Catholic and Protestant canonişts, divines, and Civilians, Calvin, Bellarmin, Gomar, benches of Protestant bishops, who gave their votes for enacting the law that doomed myself to transportation,
and to death if ever I return to my native country; though I am conscious of no crime against the state, but that crime of a legal creation, viz. saying my prayers whilst others are cursing! Am I ignorant of the practice of ages, which has given a sanction of fines, forfeitures, imprisonments, and death itself, on the score of religion? A practice, supported by the most learned writers of every denomination, and legible in bloody characters in the annals of Protestant states, as well as in the registers of the inquisition? I answer, that I am not ignorant of the sanguinary rubric that first taught the manner of preparing the human victim for the altar of religion, in honour of a God, who instead of requiring such a sacrifice, died on the cross for his creatures, and with expanded arms prayed for his enemies: Neither am I ignorant of the gloomy ritual, substituted in certain king. doms in the place of the fagot, and which prescribes the manner of stripping the man, in honour of a gospel, which commands to clothe the naked. They must both come under the same description. For if religion authorises to deprive a man of the means of supporting life, and providing for the education of his children, and the maintenance of his family; the same religion authorises to deprive him of life. itself. Religion is alleged on both sides, and as the degree of punishment is arbitrary, and lies at the discretion of the legislator, he can extend, or reduce it to what compass he thinks fit; and it is well known that a speedy death is preferable to a tedious agony. .
But what if I oppose practice to practice; pope to pope; doctor to doctor? Without a cardinal's robe, or a bishop's rochet, what if my arguments in favour of the rights of mankind, should outweigh the reasoning of the purpled or mitred apologists of its oppressors? What if my authoritics should prove more numerous and illustrious than theirs ? What if I should happen to demonstrate, that when they allege religion as a sufficient motive for the exertion of oppressive power, in such an age, or in such a country; it must be the religion of time, or place, but not the religion of the gospel. • Fides temporum, non evan* geliorum.'',