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May heaven manifest in the event the fallibility of human foresight; and pour down both on papist and protestant such a measure of knowledge and charity, as shall dispose them to lay aside their mutual prejudices and animosities, with whatever is erroneous or corrupt in faith or worship, and unite them in the bonds of truth and peace !
II. Having thus briefly pointed out the nature and limits of toleration, we proceed to consider it in the relation it bears to the progress, and next to the political effect of christianity, in a country where there is no ecclesiastical establishment.
de nouveau couler. Les flambeaux de la superstition et de l'intolerance fument encore. Un leger souffle peut les rallumer, et embraser l’Europe. Où s'arrêteroit l'incendie? Je l'ignore. La Hollande seroit-elle sûre de s'y soustraire ? Le Bréton lui meme pourroit il du haut de ses dunes longtemps braver la fureur du catholique? Le fossé des mers est une barriere impuissante contre le fanatisme. Qui l'empêcheroit de prêcher une nouvelle croisade, d'armer l'Europe contre l’Angleterre, d'y prendre terre, et de traiter un jour les Bretons, comme il traita jadis les Albigeois ?” Helv. ch. 21. de l'Homme.--Euvre posthume.
M. Helvetius, mourut en 1771.
It would seem probable in speculation, that the native power of truth was sufficient to ensure its success in the world. “ Truth,” says Mr. Locke, “ would certainly do well enough, if she were once left to shift for herself;” and others speak the same language. But here it is necessary to distinguish between those truths, which, being merely theoretical, are able to make their way by their own evidence; from others, which, from their nearer relation with our interests or passions, will, of course, be more facilitated or obstructed in their progress. An instance or two, in each of these cases, may serve both for proof and illustration.
1. The elements of Euclid need no recommendation or enforcement beside their own evidence; they are sure to find admission into every mind which is not naturally incapable of understanding them; and the same may be asserted of many self-evident or demonstrative truths in other branches of science.
2. Those truths which are concurrent with any passion or interest, of which there are numbers both in morality and politics, will be received with still greater facility. That a servant ought to obey his master, a son his father, or a subject his prince; or that a disobedient servant, an undutiful son, or a rebellious subject, deserves to be punished; are positions whose verity will readily be acknowledged by the parties severally interested, or against whom the offence is committed. In general, we are forward to admit any truth so far as it is binding upon others, and favourable to ourselves. | 3. When a truth happens to cross any. interest or passion of our own, the case is altered; then our perception is dulled, we hesitate in the face of the clearest evidence, and (according to a remark of Hobbes) are ready to dispute even the plainest mathematical proposition, and still more those which are of a moral and practical nature. When one, for instance, who has suffered a bankruptcy, is told of the equity of making a full restitution to his creditors, whenever
he is able, notwithstanding any legal acquittance he may produce; or one who has rashly entered into engagements which are highly to his disadvantage, that he is bound to use every effort to fulfil them; or one who has received a challenge, with every circumstance of insult, that it is his duty to refuse it, and to forgive the man who thus attempted to disgrace his character, or take away his life: in these or similar cases, it would be no surprize, if passion and interest cast a cloud over his understanding, and prevailed upon him to reject truths to which they stood in direct contrariety. And should we ascend still higher to those truths which are more peculiar to christianity, we should probably find them exposed to the same or still greater opposition.
It is therefore a position not to be universally admitted, that “truth would do well enough if left to shift for itself;” nor does Mr. Locke appear to have understood it in this unlimited extent. In his second letter on toleration he says, “ God alone can open the ear that it may hear, and open the heart that it may understand ;” and a little afterwards he observes, “ Faith is the gift of God; and we are not to use any means to procure this gift to any one, but what God himself has prescribed.” Again, in his third letter upon the same subject, speaking of salvation, he tells us, “ There can be no necessity of any other means than what God expressly appoints, in -a matter where no means can operate effectually, without the assistance of his grace; and where the assistance of his grace can make any, outward means he appoints effectual.” In these passages, the necessity of grace, in addition to all outward means, or mere rational evidence, to render divine truth efficacious to salvation, is clearly asserted; and in this sentiment, I apprehend, he is in full agreement with all who now bear the christian name, or who have borne it in former ages, if we except the Pelagians and Socinians.