Page images

4all those Popes. Repent, repent: for your deliverance is 'at hand.'* However extraordinary such a character would appear now, yet at that time, inspiration was so frequent, that one would imagine all Germany was a nation of prophets; and Hermannus, who was afterwards put to death by Charles, lord of Guelderland, had credit enough to make proselytes.

The Pope, thus aimed at, as an object of destruction, from all quarters—and seeing, almost in every nation in Europe, a nursery of prophets foretelling his ruin, and animating the candidates for sanctity to undertake the piou6 task—began to tremble, not only for his territories, but moreover for his personal safety. He knew that the imaginations of his Italian subjects were naturally warm; and that, if but one of them caught the prophetic flame, the stiletto would soon be darted into Antichrist. He found Imperial jaws already enacted, and as he was a temporal prince whose person was more exposed than any highwayman in Europe, he copied those laws into his directory; and erected the Inquisition as a barrier between himself and the formidable foes, who not only foretold his downfal, but encouraged their followers to fulfil the prediction. . . ,

The impartial reader, in tracing this formidable tribunal, will discover a political establishment, and a temporal safe.

fuard. None can infer from its institution, that it is lawful y the principles of religion, to deprive a man of his life, precisely on account of his worship: and every one must acknowledge, that, if ever a prince, whose life and territories were in danger, was authorised to take the severest precautions to secure both, no mortal could plead for greater indulgence in having recourse to rigorous measures, than one who united in his person the dignity of a prince, which at that time was both an object of envy and detestation to people who considered sovereignty as subversive of Christian liberty—and the character of a sovereign pontiff, which made him pass for an outlaw, and the great enemy of Christ, in whose destruction the world was so deeply concerned. Let any person put himself in his case, and judge for himselC

* Ron's Vi«w of Religions. In the appendix, p. 31.

It is then, to those authors who disgraced themselves* and exposed the oracles of the Christian religion to the derision of infidels, with their fanatical calculations, their beasts, horns, and strained allegories of seven hills-—it is to the rage of people who could not take more effectual steps to get him stabbed in his church or his palace—and to me terrors of a man who thought himself justifiable in providing for his personal safety—that the world is indebted for the inquisition in Rome. Its fires are daily extinguishing, in proportion as prophecy is diminishing; and the liberty of a refined age discovers no horns on the head of a Gangannelli, or Benedict the Fourteenth, who united in their persons the grandeur of kings, the discretion of bishops, the elegance of courtiers, and the learning of philosophers.

The two last prophets I have read who have brought the Pope's destruction nearer our own times, are Whiston and Burroughs. The first foretold that the Pope's destruction would happen in seventeen hundred and twenty-four. And the second finding Mr. Whiston's prophecy contradicted by time, began himself to prophecy that this great event was to happen in seventeen hundred and sixty. Yet, since those two prophets 4 have been gathered unto their father,* the air of Rome has not been embalmed with the effluvia of the smoking blood of a Jew; and in Spain and Portugal, we hear no longer of human victims being offered up as 'a sacrifice of agreeable odour to the Lord.'

In those two kingdoms, the inquisition owes its origin to causes much similar to those which gave it rise at Rome; but causes, however, which did not so immediately affect the sovereign, who was blended with the common mass of monarchs, without any peculiar distinction to expose him to the hatred of mankind; or to afford his assassin a plea of impunity, by alleging that he was the deliverer of the world, by ridding it of the enemy of the Son of God, described in the prophecies of Daniel, pointed out in the Revelations, and whose downfall was foretold at such a time, by the most celebrated interpreters of scripture.

The Spaniards struggling for a long time with Mahomet's followers who had invaded their country, and reduced them not only to the most abject slavery, but moreover forced them to supply the fire of their lusts with continual fuel, by sending an annual tribute of Christian virgins to their seraglios, made at last that great effort so memorable in'history.

It is well known that before the defeat of the Moors, and their total expulsion from the Spanish dominions, they were preparing, under hand, for war, and had their leaders already chosen. Banished for ever from a kingdom where they had trampled on the laws which all Christians, and even heathen fathers deemed most sacred, a barrier to their return was erected; and, as by their own laws, every Christian who has any connexion with a Mahometan woman, is to pass through the fire, the tables were turned on themselves, and the expectants of an earthly paradise were threatened with the fagot, if they returned to initiate the children of Christians in their mysteries.

The most effectual way to remove prejudices, is—to put one's self in other people's situation. And if the establishment of the inquisition seems severe and unreasonable, it must be acknowledged, that the love of life, and the abhorrence of oppression, are passions that very often overpower reason itself. No man would choose to be considered as an outlaw on whose head a price was set, and to whose destruction thousands were animated, under the sanction of scripture. Neither is it in the nature of Christian Kings, who often destroy their own relations, when they suspect them for aspiring to their throne, to suffer the sworn enemies of the Gospel, and the corrupters of the morals it enforces, in possession of their provinces and palaces, when they can recover what they deem their right. It was, then, dread of danger, and love of liberty, a deep sense of injuries, and a provisionary caution against death and oppression, not a principle of religion, that gave rise to the inquisition in Rome, Spain, and Portugal-. It is not from the church it can derive any power: and if it has any other motive in view than to secure the peace of society by temporal meansj it exceeds the limits of its authority. For error in faith is not a crime, but relatively to a supernatural order, which does not come within the verge of civil jurisdiction: and the last resource of the church is only a canonical censure. Those censures she never denounces, but against her own rebellious children, reared up in her bosom: and with regard even to those, she is bound to Ujse the greatest precaution. *

Her spiritual weapons should not be drawn but against the enormities of individuals; nor against those, when they are powerful enough to raise a faction or party; nor against any one, when it is probable they will not obtain the end proposed—I mean, the correction of the sinner. 'With regard to the multitude, censures are 4 never employed,' says St. Austin. Exhortations, not commands—instructions, not menaces—are, then, her only weapons. And when any of her popes or bishops adopted any other plan, they consulted more their power, and the rigour of the law, than the rules of prudence. They behaved like those hot headed princes, who, finding a great number of their subjects guilty of insurrection, would put them all to the sword, at the hazard of seeing their kingdoms depopulated. . >- f

Whence, then, came those rigorous laws on the score of religion to be introduced? If speculative errors, unconnected with principles subversive of subordination and morality, have been the only motives, it must be acknowledged, that they originated in an abuse of power, and an error of fact, as well as of right, which made princes believe that, as they were the arbiters of life and death they could punish all kinds of crimes, whether against God, or the peace of civil society. In matters more immediately within the reach of the civil magistrate, the laws of all nations afford instances of power extending beyond the limits of reason, and confounding the sacred rules of equity, which proportion the punishment to the offence. Thus, in Holland, a subject forfeits his life, if he kill a stork, when a few dollars would be a sufficient penalty: especially for a Dutchman. In jEngland, the cutting down a cherry-tree iu an orchard i%;a capital offence. And in Ireland, I have seen two men put to death—the one, because a sheep was found

', EE

in his bam, which the real thief hau left there; and the other, for a miserable calf-skin, which he bought on the highroad, from the man who stole it; and who, doubtless, did not inform the purchaser of the manner in which he had acquired it:—when the laws dictated by God himself, decreed no more than the restitution of an ass) against the thief who had stolen one from his neighbour; and a four-fold restitution against the man who stole an ox.

If princes and other rulers, then, magnify objects in such a manner a9 to make trifles capital, in consequence of their power, to which they imagine no bounds should be prescribed; let us not be surprised if monarchs, who thought themselves the delegates of Heaven, and answerable for any crime against the divinity, which they would countenance in their state, have enacted laws which torture the body for the errors of the mind.

It was with difficulty that king Edward the Sixth was prevailed on, not to commit his sister Mary to the flames. For he could not reconcile his conscience, to permit his sister to live in idolatry, when it was in his power to check the progress of such a disorder. *

We see, by the different edicts against heretics, in the Theodosian code, that the first Christian emperors did not, however, consider religious error as a sufficient cause for capital punishment Constantine grants a free toleration to all Christians, in one of his edicts: in another he restrains this indulgence to Catholics alone. In one edict, he orders the churches to be taken from the Donatists: in another, he moderates the rigour of this edict, by permitting them to return to their country, and to live there quiet; 'reserving 4 to God the punishment of their crime.' Remarkable words! We have seen before, how the primitive fathers opposed sanguinary executions, and pleaded for liberty of conscience. St. Hilary earnestly requests the Emperor Constantius to grant his subjects liberty of conscience, whether they be Ariens or no

If, then, in an age enlightened by the works of the fathers, and after the example set by Constantine, the Emperor Theodosius condemned Manichaeans to the fire; it must be

« PreviousContinue »