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Of Toleration without an Establishment.
We shall first state what is here meant by toleration, and who are the persons understood to be the proper subjects of it; and, secondly, we shall consider it in the relation it bears to the progress, together with the political effect of christianity in a country, where there is no ecclesiastical establishment,
I. Toleration has been distinguished by some into complete and partial. They consider it as complete, when a subject, beside the undisturbed profession and exercise of his religion, is admissible to every privilege and office belonging to the civil government; and as partial, when he is left under any political incapacity, though he may be permitted to enjoy his religious liberty in the fullest extent. This distinction and expla
nation, for the sake of perspicuity, we shall
Accordingly, we allow no place in the scale of toleration, either to men who deny those fundamental principles of morality which are necessary to the very existence of society; such, for instance, as bind us to the performance of our engagements, or prohibit any external injury to others: or to professed atheists: or to those who hold the doctrine of intolerance. Not to the first, since it is evident they can give no valid security to the state for their good behaviour, who deny that any such can be given ; not to the second, because (as Locke observes) promises; covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist; neither to the last,
since it can never be consistent with the public safety to tolerate those who only wait for power and opportunity to tyrannize over others, and deprive them of their most sacred liberties. These are exclusions whose necessity and justice is so apparent, that they are strenuously defended by many. of the most zealous champions of freedom; among whom the name of Locke stands highly distinguished.
The question, as it respects the toleration of papists, is not so easily settled. Whether the members of a church which, for nearly a thousand years, has arrogated to itself, besides other dangerous claims, a right of deposing heretical princes, and of releasing their subjects from every bond of allegiance, may be safely admitted, in a protestant state, to a civil equality with the rest of its members, or even to an open profession of their religion, is, at the present period, a point of particular importance, of very difficult consideration, and of hazardous decision. Locke, in his time, thought that popery was no fit subject of toleration; whether it is fitter now, will doubtless be well weighed by our political rulers, before they take any further steps in its favour. For, notwithstanding that it is regarded by some as an interest ready to die away of itself, it would seem not a little improbable, that an interest which has lived so long, and prevailed so much in the world, should finally expire' without some conyulsive, or, perhaps, some dreadful struggle. And I cannot forbear, on this occasion, to cite a passage from a French writer, who, though in religion a lying oracle, was certainly not wanting in political sagacity : “ There is only one case,” says he,“ in which toleration may become fatal to a country; it is when it tolerates an intolerant religion ; and such is the Roman catholic. This religion no sooner obtains the ascendant in a state, than it is sure to shed the blood of its stupid protectors; it is a serpent which stings the bosom which cherishes it. Let Germany be aware of this, as its princes have a particular interest to enter into a communion which offers them large establishments; and when they are become catholic, they will not fail to compel the faith of their subjects, even by the most violent methods, should gentler ones prove ineffectual. The fires of superstition and intolerance are not yet thoroughly extinguished; a light breath would kindle them afresh, and set Europe in a blaze. Where the conflagration would stop, it is impossible to foretel. Would Holland be sure to escape? Would Great Britain be able from the height of her cliffs to brave the catholic fury? The ocean is but an impotent barrier against fanaticism. What should hinder it from preaching a new crusade; from arming Europe against England; from there striking root, and one day treating the British, as it formerly treated the Albigenses *?"
* « Il n'est qu'un cas où la tolérance puisse devenir funeste à une nation ; c'est lorsqu'elle tolere une religion intolerante: telle est la catholique. Cette religion devenue la plus puissante dans un etat, y repandroit encore le sang de ses stupides protecteurs ; c'est un serpent qui piqueroit le sein qui l'auroit réchauffé. Que l'Allemagne y soit attentive! Ses princes ont intérêt d'embrasser le papisme: il leur offre de grands etablissements pour leurs freres, leurs enfants, &c. Ces princes une fois catholiques, voudront forcer la croyance de leurs sujets ; et dussent-ils encore yerser le sang humain, ils le feront