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palians, yet Episcopacy lives. Truth, when persecution is carried to its extremest length of extirpating heretics, may be extinguished in one place, as the Reformation was in Spain and Portugal, but it will break out in another, as it did in Germany and England. If opinions cannot be put down by argument, they cannot by power. Truth gains the victory in the end not only by its own evidences but by the sufferings of its confessors ; the flames of the martyrs' stake have thrown over it an awful glory, which while it enlisted the sympathies of men's hearts, has excited their admiration and produced conviction in their judgments. The passive power of the sufferer has subdued the opposition of the spectator, and led him to conclude there must be something divine in that which produced such a scene.
This double crime against God and man has been more extensive than many suppose. Its root is the selfishness of our depraved nature. We have all something of it in our corrupt hearts. How ill we bear contradiction. While engaged in argument with those who oppose our views, how many risings of indignation do we feel, especially if we are worsted and wounded in the conflict. What would we do, if we could, to silence an antagonist, especially when the struggle is carried on with one supposed to be inferior to ourselves, and before others ; is there no kindling wrath, no petty malignity, no paltry wish that we could stop his mouth? There, in that state of mind is persecution in its seminal principle and germ. This in the full strength of magisterial office combined with mistaken views of the Old Testament dispensation, and of the province of the magistrate, is persecution full grown. And what public bodies have not been guilty of it by turns, in a greater or lesser degree ? People that boast loudly of their attach
ment to religious freedom are often persecutors. In proof of this we need only look to the democratic rationalists of Switzerland, and to the infidels of Germany, by whom with all their cry for liberty, evangelical religion is persecuted in one way by mobs, and in the other by law. But we may look nearer home, and find in the contempt and scorn, with which professors, of this same creed are treated, a similar spirit, though not always carried to the same extent, nor expressed in the same outrageous manner. How much bitterness and wrath are cherished by many high churchmen of the present day towards Nonconformists. How much of exclusive dealing; of refusal of public charities; of dismissal from places of trust and emolument; of determination not to admit dissenting tenants to farms; of vilifying misrepresentation of Nonconformists in public prints; of contumelious conduct in private life, is ever going on; and what is this but persecution? What would not the persons who act thus do if they could, in the way of abridging our liberties, and punishing our nonconformity? Nor am I quite sure that all Nonconformists are quite free from the charge of bigotry and intolerance, if we may judge of the tone and spirit, with which some of them carry on the struggle against establishments. Every departure from the line of calm, Christian, and courteous discussion, into coarse, vituperative, and insulting language; every attempt to hold up good and conscientious men to scorn and contempt, by impugning their motives, and judging their hearts, because they are supporting, injuriously it may be, yet ignorantly, a bad system of polity, is also a species of persecution, which neither reason nor revelation can justify. The faithful page of history exhibits nearly all parties involved in this sin, though not in an equal degree. But wheresoever and
with whomsoever found, it is a sin of the deepest die, and most criminal in those who live in times and countries of greatest light.
III. This sketch proves the danger of entrusting the civil magistrate with power to interfere with matters of religion, or in other words, the all but invariable and necessary tendency of religious establishments to originate a spirit of intolerance, and to carry it out in the way of legalized persecution. An unestablished church may be intolerant in spirit, but it cannot be persecuting, at least in the way of inflicting civil pains and penalties, or depriving the subjects of the realm of any of the rights and immunities of citizenship. This cannot be done but by the power of the State. And it is, therefore, only when the Church is supported by the State that it can be, in the usual meaning of the word, a persecuting church. Take the sword out of the hand of the Church of Rome, and its councils and decrees, and anathemas, are all innocuous, mere brutum fulmen, thunder and lightning upon paper.
In all its antient atrocities by the auto-da-fé it pretended to clear itself of the guilt of putting the heretic to death, by handing him over to the secular arm, without which indeed its bloody sentence would have been but a sentence. The testimony of history proves that the Romish Church is not the only one which, when it had the power of the State at command, employed and abused it for the purpose of persecution ; nor is the Church of England the only one that has imitated the example of the Church of Rome; for we have seen in pursuing this history, that neither Presbyterianism nor Independency could be safely trusted with the sword of the magistrate, since both have employed it for the purpose of persecution. No matter what system of religion is in the ascendant,
give it the power of the state, and it will employ it, or be strongly tempted to do so, unless restrained, to crush the liberty of the dissidents. We see this exemplified, as we have already remarked, in the rationalism of many parts of the continent of Europe, than which nothing is more intolerant.
And we are entirely persuaded that if infidelity could wield the sword and the sceptre, notwithstanding its boasted attachment to freedom, the liberties of spiritual Christians would not be safe for an hour. Political power is a dangerous thing in the hand of religion. Men, from mistaken views, may, by employing it to suppress heresy and to encourage sound doctrine, think they are doing God service, and be conscientiously wrong. Mr. Baptist Noel, in his recent work on the Union of Church and State, truly remarks that “The Union tried through long centuries of misrule, and found everywhere to be potent for evil only, should at length give place to Christ's own spiritual law of liberty, through which alone his churches can accomplish their beneficial mission to bring the nations of the earth into the service of the Redeemer, and to make all intellects and all hearts tributary to his glory."
It will, probably, be replied to this, that persecution though generally an adjunct of state religion, is not invariably nor necessarily so, as is proved by the toleration of our own.
We willingly concede the fact that our establishment was among the first in the history of the world to set the example of toleration. But then it may be asked, whether toleration itself is not, with all its blessings, in one view, a refined and subtle species of persecution, by placing its subjects below the tolerating party and representing them in effect, as an evil that can be just borne with and permitted, which is to exist by the exercise of a generous forbearance; so that the elements of intolerance may be detected even in toleration itself. Abridged liberty is persecution, and the “ Toleration Act” has still left the liberties of Dissenters incomplete in many respects; and even this boon of toleration is denied to the ministers of the church ; for, however clearly convinced a clergyman may be of its errors, and however conscientious in his secession, he cannot at present escape from her communion without exposing himself to civil pains and penalties, and will not be allowed to do so in future without degradation.
Nor is this all, for though toleration is the law of the land, it was granted rather by the state than the church, as is evident from the fact that the canons which still regulate ecclesiastical discipline, excommunicate all who dissent from the established religion. Practically, these obnoxious rules are abandoned, but not really.
Moreover, as long as the right of the civil magistrate in religious matters is allowed, liberty of conscience must ever be a contingency dependent upon the spirit of the age, and may at any time be destroyed if intolerance should gain the ascendant in the legislature. It is very improbable, certainly, but not impossible that changes may take place in the views, spirit, and temper, of the legislature, very unfriendly to religious liberty ; and we cannot observe the workings and animus of the Puseyite party in the Church of England, without feeling there is ground if not for alarm yet for vigilance and caution. Let that party be dominant, and the full unrestricted liberties of neither the Dissenters nor the Methodists, no, nor of the Evangelical Clergy would be safe. So that there seems to be no absolute protection of religious liberty, no certain exemption from the evils of persecution, but by taking religion itself as a matter of