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rations, and rely on your candour cal “ well-being of the community," and liberality for their insertion and is usually connected with seri.
J. I. condemns the opinion of ous injury to the individual who is those who maintain the unlawful- affected by it; the latter must be ness of prosecutions for infidelityt left to Him who has said, “ Venas a “ popular mistake." I hope to geance is mine, I will repay." prove ibat it is no mistake at all; According to J. I.'s reasoning, and, I am persuaded, be it what it atheists and infidels, who “ cannot may, that it will become increasingly feel the obligation of an oath," and popular.
therefore cannot be trusted, are not J. I. affirms that “ this is not an fit to be members of civil society. ecclesiastical, but a civil or political But what is to be done with them? question." Persecutors have always Shall we banish them from the found it very convenient to treat as country, lest, if they stay, they political crimes those actions which should commit perjury, and ruin have been deemed offences against their neighbours? or, shall we wait the protected religion. This conduct till we see how they behave ibemof theirs has resulted from the con. selves, and defer punishment till viction, that a contrary mode of the crime is commiited ? It is not proceeding would lead people to difficult to determine what decision suspect that the religion thus de. common-sense will come to on such fended, was unable to support itself a point. If all were to be expatri. by fair argument: thus prophets ated who “ cannot feel the obligaand apostles have suffered as male. tion of an oath,” we should be factors- see Amos vii. 10-13. Acts frightened at the desolation of the xvii. 6,7. But Christianity disdains land, and strangers, passing through the use of such a weapon, though it it, night suppose that some direful has been employed with so much famiise, or pestilence, bad raged cruelty against herself.
amongst us. But J. I. does not J. I. asserts, that blasphemy “is seem to be aware that he is arguing of the same class of crimes, and is from the tendencies of actions; he so considered by the common and wishes us to be convinced that, bestatute laws of the kingdom, as per- cause the principles of infidels tend jury and profane swearing :" and to falsehood and perjury, they are The argues, that, if the magistrate is to be punished. But, let J. I. beto punish perjury and profane ware, and let Protestant Dissenters swearing, much more ought be to beware, and let all Englishmen bepunish blasphemers. My mental ware, of the doctrine of tendencies ; vision may be dim, but I must con- it is a most ensuaring and dangerfess that I cannot clearly discern ous doctrine. If men are to be this supposed analogy. It appears punished, not for overt actions, but to me ihat perjury and profave for the tendencies of their actions, swearing, or blasphemy, are not then farewell freedom-our boasted “ of the same class of crimes." The liberty is gone! first is an offence against man, as a My opponent argues from the less breach of the ninth commandment; to the greater. He says, “ Shall libel the others are direct offences against be a crime to be punished by the God: the former ought to be pa- judges, and shall the name of Jehonisbed, because it regards the politi- vah be contumeliously reproached,
-- and his providence denied, and the + What J. I. has written, does not refer
* Christian magistrate manifest no reto infidel opinions, but acts of blasphemy.
EDITORS. gard for his honour, nor respect for
his government ?" I answer, Yes; Christianity made any alteration in let him show his regard for the ho. civil government? Has it invested mour of God, by refraining from the the magistrate with powers which use of unhallowed weapons in the be did not before possess? defence of his cause, and by ceasing Notwithstanding J. I.'s endeavour to visit offences against religion to persuade us to regard this as a with temporal penalties. He who “ civil, or political, question," he Jibels his neighbour may go to jail must be aware that it is not so refor it; he who libels God, will, garded by the law of England. unless he repent, suffer everlasting Blackstone says, that blasphemy is imprisonment in the dungeon of “punishable by fine and imprisonhell :-has the civil magistrate any ment, for Christianity is part of the thing to do with this ?
laws of England.” On this subject, there are two im Now, I think, it may be easily portant questions to be considered ; shewn, that Christianity does not first, what is the design of civil go- interfere, in the least, with civil government? Secondly, has Christi- vernment. It leaves it as it finds it, anity made any alteration therein ? with this exception, that the mild
As to the first, we shall generally and gentle influence of the gospel, agree. Civil government is a wise by softening the rugged heart of and beneficial institution, intended man, has led to the amelioration of for the preservation of life, liberty, human laws, and destroyed much of and property. It regards man as a the cruelty which formerly accomsocial being, recognizes his rights, panied the exercise of power. But, protects him from injury. But, with waving this, and understanding that religion it has nothing to do. The Christianity is “ part of the laws of magistrate is not to inquire, whether England,” we come immediately to his subjects are of this, or of that the inquiry, “Wbat injunctions does religion, or of any religion at all; Christianity itself give, relative to here he has no right of interference, its propagation and defence ?" For So long as they maintain peace and if Christianity be the law of the good order, and refrain from injur- land, that law must be agreeable to ing one another, they are to be re- Christianity, garded as good subjects, whatever “ What saith the scripture ?" Let be their religious opinions, or even the advocates of prosecutions for though they have no religious infidelity, bring forih their“ strong opinions.
reasons," and summon all their bib. If this statement be correct, and I lical knowledge to the contest. Let apprehend that no Protestant Dis. them produce the passage in which senter will object to it, the question the Lord Jesus Christ, and his aposbefore us is not a “ civil or political tles, have directed us to defend a question ;” it is purely religious, and spiritual religion by carnal weapons, must be treated accordingly. I an. to substitute a sword of steel for the ticipate an objection, derived from sword of the Spirit, and to immure the peculiarities of the Mosaic eco- an adversary in a gloomy dungeon, nomy. But are my opponents will. rather than to endeavour, by a proing to go all the lengths of their own cess of conclusive reasoning, to argument ? Are they content that “shut him up unto the faith ?" But blasphemers should be punished it is needless to pursue the arguwith death, according to the Jewish ment further; I will only refer to law ?
Luke ix, 49—56; John xviii. 36 ; The second question is, has 2 Tim. ii, 24--20.
A truly Christian government subject of morals, it may be neces. will be guided by Christian princi- sary, that the crime, which I have ples, and will use no other mode of contended is cognizable by the civil defence of those principles than magistrate, should be yet more Christianity itself warrants. Most plainly defined. In the book of cordially do I agree with our im. Leviticus, chap. xxiv. verse 16, it is mortal Milton, that “ to uphold re. said, “ And the Israelitish woman's. Jigion otherwise than to defend the son blasphemed the name of the religious from outward violence, is Lord, and cursed:" that is, as may no service to Christ, or his king. be seen in verse 15, (O! the awful dom, but rather a disparagement, depravity of man!) “cursed his and degrades it from a divine and God !” which is twice in verse 16, spiritual kingdom to a kingdom of called “ blaspheming the name of this world, which he denies it to the Lord !” In accordance with this be, because it needs not force to description, I defined blasphemy, confirm it.” See his “Treatise of in my last paper, as being committed Civil Power in Ecclesiastical by those persons " who had denied Causes.” Works, Vol. I. p. 552, the being, and had spoken in terms folio edition.
of impious irreverence of God;"J.I, maintains, that, in “ discoun- or," who had published such blas. tenancing and suppressing impiety phemies.” Our great lexicographer and irreligion," there is a “ legiti. calls a blasphemer, « a wretch that mate exercise" of the magistrate's speaks of God in impious and irreauthority; that is, as a magistrate, verent terms;" and defines blasphehe is bound to suppress impiety. my to be “an offering of some inThe Roman Emperors thought so, dignity unto God himself.” BLACKand, therefore, persecuted the STONE, in his Commentaries, deChristians, who, in their view, were scribes blasphemy against the Alimpious atheists. We have been mighty as being committed“ by accustomed to consider those Chris. denying his being or providence ; tians as martyrs ; according to J. or, by contumelious reproaches of I.'s reasoning, they were criminals. our Saviour Christ :"-as, also, " by Our Missionaries, too, if this argu- profane scoffing at the holy scripment be valid, must not complain ture, or exposing it to contempt and of bonds, imprisonment, or death, ridicule.” To this statement, that for ridiculing the heathen gods. In- profound lawyer, and constitutional deed, the consequences of J. I.'s writer, adds: “ These are offences theory will lead him much further punishable at common law by fine than he seems to be aware. I have and imprisonment, or other infamattempted to point out some of his ous punishment; for Christianity is mistakes, and, by so doing, to coun- part of the laws of England.” teract the injurious tendency of his for the purpose of proving, that system.
the laws of England, in respect to
J. M. C. blasphemy, are opposed to the laws Southwark, Nov. 18, 1824. ; of Christianity; and that I have
acted the part of a “ persecutor," Blasphemy not cognizable by the in attempting to shew that they are Civil Magistrale,
perfectly compatible, is the object AN INDEFENSIBLE POSITION
of J. M. C. in the paper to which
this is a reply. In order that a proper judgment As to the charge of persecution, I might be formed on this important hope to be able to prove, that it rests on no evidence; and, therefore, I sufficient evidence, that utiering expect to obtain from every iinpar- blasphemy in Janguage, or publishrial reader a verdict of acquittal! ing it in books, is subversive of But, had I undertaken, as J. M. C. “ peace and good order," and that has done, to prove, that the legal it is “injurious to the well being of prosecution of blasphemers is op- the community;" that my position posed to the laws of God, and to the is untenable, and I shall abandon spirit of Christianity, I should feel the argument. I am fully of opinthat the rebuke once given to a king ion, with Blackstone, ihat “all of Judah, who had made common crimes ought to be estimated merely cause with the enemies of God, ap- according to the mischiefs which plied to my conduct:-“ Shouldest they produce in civil society: and, ihou help the lingodly, and love of consequence, private vices, or them that hate the Lord ?” 2 Chron. breach of mere absolute duties, xix. 2.
which man is bound to perform), There are several things in the considered only as an individual, letter of J. M. C. which, being little are pot, cannot be, the object of more than mere assertions, without any municipal law; any farther evidence for their support, that I than as, by their evil example, or shall leave to the impartial decision other pernicious effects, they may of the reader : viz. That“ blasphe- prejudice the community, and theremy is not of the same class of crimes, by become a species of public and is not so considered by the crimes ?" He then gives instances common and statute laws of the of the difference between “ private kingdom, as perjury or profane vices," as drunkenness and lying, swearing ;"—that blasphemy is not and the same sins, when attended an“overt action;" i. e, not an open, with “ public inconvenience;" and public, apparent crime;—that “the thus concludes : “ The only differmagistrate should shew his regard ence is, that both public and prifor the honour of God, by refrain. vate vices are subject to the vening from the use of unhallowed wea- geance of eternal justice; and pubpons in the defence of his cause, lic vices are besides liable to the and by ceasing to visit offences temporal punishments of human against religion with temporal pe- tribunals. nalties ;"--and, that blasphemy " is Now the simple question is, not a civil or political question.” “Whether blasphemy, uttered, or
In confirmation of the last of published, be not prejudicial to the These positions, that the question, as community; an evil example, proto blasphemy, “is not a civil or ducing pernicious effects: and, therepolitical question,” J. M. C. remarks fore, a public crime? Surely J. concerning those who are subject M. C. will not deny, that, if a man to the magistrate's authority; “ So be legally convicted of having ong as they maintain peace and publicly “ cursed his God," he has good order, and refrain from injur. committed an open and apparent ing one another, they are to be con- crime? nor, that it is equally sidered as good subjects, whatever with " the breach of the ninth be their religious opinions, or even commandment, an offence against though they have no religious man, as well as a direct otience opinions.”
against God !” Are there no other I feel no objection to adopt this ways, I inquire, in which the com. statement, and am free to acknow Chapter on Public Wrongs, Vol. IV. ledge, that, if I cannot shew, by Pages 41-42.
munity can be injuriously affected, liament, so strongly commended by besides in their “ property,” their this strenuous assertor of rational “liberty,” or their “ life"? May not liberty. It is thus entitled : “Aů ibeir principles be corrupted, and Act against several Atheisticat, their reverence for their Creator be Blasphemous, and Execrable Opindestroyed ? May they not, by such ions, Derogatory to the Honor of profanity and impiety, be drawo God, and destructive to Human into similar wicked courses; and Society.” A few extracts follow :thus be changed from good to bad “ Finding, to their great grief members of the civil community ? and astonishment, that there are Does J. M. C. forget, that an divers men and women, who have apostle has said, “ Evil commu- lately discovered themselves to be nications corrupt good manners ?" most monstrous in their opinions, and will he undertake to prove, that and loose in all wicked and abominblasphemy, because a crime which able practices ;-not only to the subjects persons “ to everlasting notorious corrupting and disorderpunishment in the dungeon of hell,” ing, but even to the dissolution of all is not, also, as a public vice,“ liable human Society; who, rejecting the to the temporal punishment of a use of any gospel ordinances, do human tribunal ?”
; deny the necessity of Civil and I am a little suprised, that J. M. Moral Righteousness among men, C. should make a quotation from To be most ready to testify their Milton, which relates solely to displeasure and abhorrence of such “ liberty of conscience in religion," offenders, by a strict and effectual when, in ihe same work, that great proceeding against them, who should . man imakes a marked distinction abuse and turn into licentiousness, between that subject, and “blas- the liberty given in matters of phemy, or evil speaking against God conscience." inaliciously.” Would any one have The Act then enumerates various imagined, that, in the very same "execrable opinions,” which are Treatise, MILTON should have thus described as “ Acts of denying and defended the prosecutions of blas. blaspheming God, or of swearing pbemers against those who thought prophanely, or falsely, by the name his arguments, for unrestricted liber. of God;" and enacts, as the punislaty, of conscience, necessarily led to ment for the first offence impri. tbe result, that blasphemers must sonment for six months; if the crime go unpunished ? “I refer such,” were repeated, banishment from the says Milton, “ to that prudent and country; and, if they returned, with. well-deliberated Act, August 9, out the permission of Parliament, 1650, where the Parliament defines to suffer as in case of felony, witli. Blasphemy against God, as far as out benefit of clergy. it is a crime, belonging to civil judi- Let it be observed, that this Act cature, plenius ac melius Crysippo of the Long Parliament was not to & Crantore; in plain English, punish persons for their opinions, more warily, more judiciously, more i bough atheistical, but for acts of orthodoxly than twice their num- blasphemy, profaneness, and perber of divines have done, in many jury; not for private vices; but for a prolix volume."*
those vices when they became pub. With some difficulty, I, at length, lic crimes ; not for the purpose of procured a sight of this Act of Par- defending Christianity, but to ex
press their concern for the honour * A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesi. astical Causes. Folio, p. 744.
· of God, and to preserve the well