« PreviousContinue »
in theaven on the quested perage for bei tew discipld charity.
the son should be put in the way of salvation, by the perjury and hypocrisy of the father; religion propagated by crimes, and evil committed, in consideration of the good which may arise from it, in express opposition to the tenets of that religion which forbids it. The religion of Jesus Christ is proposed to all; and the more universal it is, the less it employs terrors or constraints to enforce obedience to its injunctions. It stamps the sentiments of humanity, dictated by the law. of nature, with a peculiar character of sweetness and charity,
Scarce had its founder assembled a few disciples, when two of them, storming with rage for being refused the rights of hospitality, requested permission to bring down the fire of heaven on the inhabitants. They imagined themselves in the times of Elias, when God punished with visible chastisements the insults offered to his prophets. Jesus Christ undeceives them :..you know not to what spirit you belong; 4 the son of man is not come to kill, but to save. As if he said, both to them and their successors : • It is no longer
the time of menaces and torments. You live under a law 6 whose spirit is not the spirit of error, but the spirit of con
fidence and love. The Master whom you serve, does not
thirst after the blood of his enemies; he does not choose , "to see them at his feet, in a fit of rage and despair. « Forced homages are odious in his eyes : thunder and the 4 exterminating sword are not his arms; he is only come to
convert and save souls : but not to destroy or famish the & bodies of men. .. .
Hence, he has not given to those whom he charged with the commission of extending and propagating his religion, any instruction but that of imitating his zeal, his patience, and his charity towards mankind. He has furnished them with no other means of making proselytes to his religion, but persuasion, prayer, and good example. The theocratical government is no longer confounded and interwoven with civil and political institutions. The kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world: he leaves the rulers of the earth the full enjoyment of their prerogatives, whether they know him, or whether they blaspheme his name: and he leaves their subjects in full possession of their rights, as men.
Jesus Christ does not choose for subjects but such as freely list in his service. Those who are rebellious to his voice, he terrifies with the punishment of a future state ; and has not commissioned any power on earth to enlarge, by force, the boundaries of his kingdom. However his creatures may be divided in opinion about speculative points, he has left them one law which is liable to no interpretation, and must ever be interpreted in the literal sense : love one ano! ther; and do not to others, what you would not have others do unto you.'. -.
Calvin and Bellarmin's remaining arguments consist in similies, and some misconstrued passages of the fathers, who, in their homilies, inveigh against errors in faith, as against adultery, forgery, &c. on account of the divorce, a breach of divine faith causes between God and the Christian soul, and the enormity of forging or counterfeiting the divine credentials, with the hand of error. But the disparity is obvious. Adultery, forgery, and similar crimes, fall immediately under the jurisdiction of the civil magistrate, on account of the injury offered to society, by invading the property of individuals committed to his care. The man who is in error, hurts none but himself. If others be misled by him, it is their own choice, and the result of their free will, over which the civil power has no controul; nor the ecclesiastical power, but as far as it can refuse such persons the sacraments and the other religious symbols of her communion, which no other church will give those out of her pale, and which no person, out of her pale will require. ,
But, in every state, is not blasphemy punished, though of a spiritual nature ?
Blasphemy is punished, because it is an open irreverence to the Deity, the knowledge of whose attributes, and the dread of whose justice, is the very basis of civil society. But an er. roneous opinion, in religion, can subsist with the respect due to the Deity.
A man, engaged in error, proposes to himself to serve God in the manner he thinks most pleasing to the Sovereign Being. Though he mistakes the right road, yet his intention is sincere. Moreover, blasphemy involves a breach of manners, which has a natural tendency to disturb the peace
of society: ' A friend takes offence, if his friend is abused in his presence; a brother, if his brother is used in an indecent manner. ;
A Jewish rabbin may preach in his synagogue, that the Messiah is not yet come, and extricate himself as well as he can, by doing away the weeks and days of the prophet Da. nielNo Christian can blame him : for we all know that it is the man's belief; and that he is sincere, though in error at the same time. But this Jew, convinced that Christ is respected by the Christians, and worshipped by them, as their God, would expose himself to the rigour of the magis. trate, if he openly called Christ an impostor: because he in. sults the magistrate more than if he gave this denomination to his father or brother. . . . . .
::. The inost monstrous absurdity, then, that ever met with apologists in church or state, is the misdirected żeal that punishes the body for the sincerity of an erroneous conscience. Whereas, no person deserves more the severity of human laws, than the impostor who betrays it. The divines themselves, whose forced interpretations of scripture, and theological disputes, have armed sovereigns against their subjeets, agree that no person can act against the immediate dictates of an erroneous conscience. Hence, the Jew, who is under a conviction that Christ is not God, would be guilty of gross idolatry, if, from motives of worldly interest, he worshipped him with the Christians. In punishing him for noti worshipping Christ, you punish the candour, sincerity, and uprightness of a deluded man, who is afraid to offend his Creator. The same can be said of all others who dissent from any established religion. .
But I will be told, that, in reasoning thus, I renounce my own creed; whereas the rescripts of Popes, the establishment of the inquisition, and numberless texts of the canon law, relating to heretics, shew what a Catholic clergyman ought to believe.
I have already declared, and sufficiently proved, that the rescripts of all the Popes that ever sat in Peter's chair, or ever will, can never make an article of faith for Roman Catholics ; no more than a king of England's proclamation can make an
similar ke bis his prope
article of faith for English Protestants, though he is head of their church.
Positive laws and human establishnients, temporary sanc. tions and local regulations, are no creeds, nor articles of religion: and, happy for the honour of the Protestant religion in these realms, that they are not. No Catholic divine ever attributed such power to a general council, as Sir William Blackstone attributes to the British Parliament.
It can change,' says he, the religion of the land, and do every thing under heaven, that is possible.' If all its acts were to be considered as articles of faith, (as some paltry scribblers would fain obtrude on the public, the texts of the canon-law, and the rescripts of Popes, as articles of Catholic belief,) the world has never seen such a religious creed.
The reader would see, in Gothic characters, imprisonment and death decreed against the priest, for saying his prayers'; to pervert or be perverted to the see of Rome, punished as high treason ; a second refusal to take the old oath of supremacy, liable to a similar punishment. He would see the neighbour authorised to take his neighbour's horse; the son authorised to strip the father of his property; the articles of Limerick, under the solemn faith of a capi. tulation, violated without the least provocation on the part of the inhabitants. From those he would pass to others of less importance. He would see a solemn act of the legislature, commanding women to declare their own shame, and making it high treason in them to marry the king, if they were not virgins,* another making it high treason in people who saw the nuptial rites performed, and the monarch go to the nup. tial bed with his spouse, to believe that he was married to Anne of Cleves..
The Catholic orator, who would fain be on equal terms with his Protestant brother, either in the pulpit or in print, would amplify his theme, enumerate the circumstances, and in a long strain of invective, hold forth that it is a principle of the Protestant religion, to persecute to death those of a different religion; to encourage disobedience and rebellion in children to their parents; to rob a man of his property; toviolate the laws of nations; to be so incredulous as not to be
* See the monstrous Acts of Parliament, in the reign of Henry VIL.
lieve their own eyes; and to administer to the passions and lust of their kings: thon to produce extracts of their statutes, in corroboration of the charge, and to cast those hortors on all the Protestants in the world!
The candid, impartial man, would be more nice than to confound the actions of men, and their positive laws, with . the principles of the Protestant religion. And candour should induce the ministers of the gospel, not to revile the body of Catholics, by extending local regulations, exagge. rating facts, and erecting the mistakes and prejudices of a few, into a religious creed and a symbol of orthodoxy for the whole.
Those laws, then, that doom heretics to death, as well as the establishment of the inquisition, are no parts of a Ca. tholic's creed; no more than the fore-mentioned acts of par. liament are part of the church of England's creed.
The true religion should be preserved and perpetuated by the same means that established it-by preaching the word of God, attended with prudence and discretion the practice of all Christian virtues-boundless peace and charity.
Machiavel is of opinion, that disarmed prophets never made any conquests.' Whatever respect is due to him, on account of his skill in sanguinary politics and literature, in this maxim he betrays equal ignorance and impiety. No prophet ever appeared more destitute of arms than Jesus Christ : no prophet ever made such rapid and extensive con. quests--I mean conquests such as he intended to make, by winning the hearts, changing the interior dispositions of men, and, from bad and wicked, making thein better and more virtuous.
The Christian religion gained ground under the heathen emperors, in the midst of the most violent persecutions, during three centuries.
The reverend gentlemen, who thought it lawful for kings. to handle the sword, in vindication of the Deity, should have recollected that all the fathers, during five centuries, took this famous saying of Tertullian for their motto: “Non est Ereligionis, religionem cogere. It is not the province of religion, to force religion: it is needless to crowd my page with them. St. Gregory the Great, who lived in the sixth cen.