Sidor som bilder

valency of religious establishments in the pagan as well as in the christian world, and also one chief point in which they differed from one another.

Nor was it less usual in pagan nations to tolerate other religions, than to establish their own. As it was a common principle among them, that all religions are good, they were ready to receive any of them, upon easy terms, within their respective territories; nay, the same principle led them to a general intercommunity of deities and worship; so that, upon occasion, they would adopt a foreign god into their establishment, in addition to those they had already. Thus the emperor Tiberius is said to have proposed to the senate, upon receiving the acts of Pilate, to enrol Christ in the number of the Roman deities; a proposition at that time perfectly natural and agreeable to the Roman custom *. But after they became a little better acquainted with christianity, and found it to be a religion which condemned, and would hold no fellowship with their own, they began to hate and persecute it purely on that account; for it does not appear that, in the first instance, it was opposed as false, but as unsociable and exclusive; a charge which is not improbably supposed to be intended by Tacitus, when he says, “That the christians were condemned, not so much for the burning of Rome (of which they were accused) as for their hatred to mankind in general *" Hence we may learn to correct a notion propagated by some modern infidels, namely, that pagan toleration left all religions open and unrestricted; whereas it was generally extended only to such as were subservient, or at least not adverse, to the religion established t; and was so far from exceeding, (as is pretended) that it fell short of what is practised in many christian countries, where rival re. ligions, or, at least, rival forms of the same religion, are in some degree authorised and permitted.

* See Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. vol. i. p. 53, and the authors there referred to.

[ocr errors]

* “ Haud perindè in crimine incendii, quàm odio hu. mani generis convicti sunt.” Tac. An. lib. xv. ch. 44.

+ Div. Leg. vol. i. p. 268-9. , ' A

And here it may not be improper to introduce a few testimonies, both of individuals and of public bodies among the Roman catholics, who, of all those that have borne the christian name, are known to have been least favourable to toleration. “ Remember,” says the cardinal Camus, “ that the maladies of the soul are not cured by constraint and violence *” And it is observed by Dirois, a doctor of the Sorbonne, “ That to compel religion is to be an enemy of truth f.” Their famous ecclesiastical historian, Tillemont, remarks, “That persuasion is not wrought by menaces, and that violence can only produce hypocrites§.” The excellent Thuunus, in the dedication of his history to Henry the Fourth, has many admirable observations to the same purpose: “ We are taught,” says he, “ by experience, that force is more likely to irritate than to cure those evils whose seat is in the mind *.” To these testimonies of individuals, let me add one more from Montesquieu : If heaven," says he, “ has shown you the truth, it has shown you a particular favour; but does it therefore become you, because you enjoy this heritage of your father, to hate those who enjoy it not t?" Further, the French clergy, in the year fifteen hundred and sixty, declared in a body, “ We have always disapproved of rigour in the cause of religion (.” And again, in their address to Lewis the Thirteenth, they disavow “all thoughts of destroying errors by violence g.” Lastly, in

* « Souvenez vous que les malades de l'ame ne se guerissent point par contrainte et par violence.”

+ “ L'exaction forcée d'une religion est une preuve evidente que l'esprit qui la conduit est un esprit ennemi de la verité.”

I “ La violence peut faire des hypocrites ; on ne persuade point quand on fait retentir partout les menaces.”

* “ L'expérience nous apprend que la violence est plus capable d'irriter que de guérir un mal qui a sa racine dans l'esprit.”

† “ Si le ciel vous a assez aimé pour vous faire voir la verité, il vous a fait une grande grace; mais est-ce á ceux qui ont l'heritage de leur pére de haïr ceux qui ne l'ont pas ?"

I “ Nous avons toujours desaprouvé les voyes de


Ş« Nous ne prétendons point détruire les erreurs par la violence.”

agreement with these declarations of the clergy, the parliament of Paris thus remonstrate to Henry the Second: “ It has appeared to us conformable to equity and right reason, to tread in the steps of the ancient church, which has never used violence to establish or extend her religion *.” After these testimonies, and others of a similar nature, whose sincerity, at least in some of the instances, is unquestionable, Voltaire, from whom I have extracted them, thus concludes : “ By what fatality can it be, that we belie in our conduct a theory which we proclaim every day with our lips? When our practice contradicts our doctrine, we must imagine there is some advantage in acting contrary to what we teach; but certainly it can never be to our advantage, to persecute those who are not of our opinion, and to draw upon us their hatred. I must therefore again assert the absurdity of

* « Il nous a paru conforme á l'équité et a la droite raison, de marcher sur les traces de l'ancienne eglise, qui n'a point usé de violence pour établir et étendre la religion.”

« FöregåendeFortsätt »