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CHAPTER IV. ( continued ).: ON PERSECUTION. Part II. The GHistory of Persecution - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe, vol. 2 
History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe, vol. 2, Revised edition (New York: D. Appleton, 1919).
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CHAPTER IV. (continued).
THE HISTORY OF PERSECUTION.
The considerations I have adduced in the first part of this chapter will be sufficient to show how injurious have been the effects of the doctrine of exclusive salvation. We have still, however, one consequence to examine, before which all others fade into insignificance. I mean, of course, religious persecution. This, which is perhaps the most fearful of all the evils that men have inflicted upon their fellows, is the direct practical result of the principles we have hitherto considered in their speculative aspect. If men believe with an intense and realising faith that their own view of a disputed question is true beyond all possibility of mistake, if they further believe that those who adopt other views will be doomed by the Almighty to an eternity of misery which, with the same moral disposition but with a different belief, they would have escaped, these men will, sooner or later persecute to the full extent of their power. If you speak to them of the physical and mental suffering which persecution produces, or of the sincerity and unselfish heroism of its victims, they will reply that such arguments rest altogether on the inadequacy of your realisation of the doctrine they believe. What suffering that man can inflict can be comparable to the eternal misery of all who embrace the doctrine of the heretic? What claim can human virtues have to our forbearance, if the Almighty punishes the mere profession of error as a crime of the deepest turpitude? If you encountered a lunatic who, in his frenzy, was inflicting on multitudes around him a death of the most prolonged and excruciating agony, would you not feel justified in arresting his career by every means in your power—by taking his life if you could not otherwise attain your object? But if you knew that this man was inflicting not temporal but eternal death, if he was not a guiltless though dangerous madman, but one whose conduct you believed to involve the most heinous criminality, would you not act with still less com punction or hesitation?1 Arguments from expediency, though they may induce men under some special circumstances to refrain from persecuting, will never make them adopt the principle of toleration. In the first place, those who believe that the religious service of the heretic is an act positively offensive to the Deity, will always feel disposed to put down that act if it is in their power, even though they cannot change the mental disposition from which it springs. In the next place, they will soon perceive that the intervention of the civil ruler can exercise almost as much influence upon belief as upon profession. For although there is indeed a certain order and sequence in the history of opinions, as in the phases of civilisation it reflects, which cannot be altogether destroyed, it is not the less true that man can greatly accelerate, retard, or modify its course. The opinions of ninety-nine persons out of every hundred are formed mainly by education, and a Government can decide in whose hands the national education is to be placed, what subjects it is to comprise, and what principles it is to convey. The opinions of the great majority of those who emancipate themselves from the prejudices of their education are the results in a great measure of reading and of discussion, and a Government can prohibit all books and can expel all teachers that are adverse to the doctrines it holds. Indeed, the simple fact of annexing certain penalties to the profession of particular opinions, and rewards to the profession of opposite opinions, while it will undoubtedly make many hypocrites, will also make many converts. For any one who attentively observes the process that is pursued in the formation of opinions must be aware that, even when a train of argument has preceded their adoption, they are usually much less the result of pure reasoning than of the action of innumerable distorting influences which are continually deflecting our judgments. Among these one of the most powerful is self-interest. When a man desires very earnestly to embrace a certain class of doctrines, either in order to join a particular profession, or to please his friends, or to acquire peace of mind, or to rise in the world, or to gratify his passions, or to gain that intellectual reputation which is sometimes connected with the profession of certain opinions, he will usually attain his desire. He may pursue his enquiry in the most conscientious spirit. He may be firmly resolved to make any sacrifice rather than profess what he does not believe, yet still his affections will endow their objects with a magnetism of which he is perhaps entirely unconscious. He will reason not to ascertain what is true, but to ascertain whether he can conscientiously affirm certain opinions to be true. He will insensibly withdraw his attention from the objections on one side, and will concentrate it with disproportionate energy upon the other. He will preface every conclusion by an argument, but the nature of that argument will be determined by the secret bias of his will. If, then, a Government can act upon the wishes of a people, it can exercise a considerable influence upon their reason.
Such are some of the arguments by which the persecutor in the earlier stages of Christian history might have defended his acts. And surely the experience of later times has fully corroborated his view by showing that, in the great conflicts between argument and persecution, the latter has been continually triumphant. Persecution extirpated Christianity from Japan; it crushed the fair promise of the Albigenses; it rooted out every vestige of Protestantism from Spain. France is still ostensibly, and was long in truth, the leading champion of Catholicity, but the essential Catholicity of France was mainly due to the massacre of St. Bartholomew and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. England is justly esteemed the chief pillar of Protestantism, yet the English people remained long poised indecisively between the two creeds till the skilful policy and the coercive laws of Elizabeth determined its vacillations. At the Reformation almost every Government prohibited one or other religion; and whereas the members of the State religion formed at first but a doubtful and wavering majority, and sometimes not even a majority, a few generations produced substantial unanimity; and since the policy of coercion has been generally abandoned, and the freest scope been given for discussion, the relative position of Protestants and Catholics has not been perceptibly changed.
Before such broad and patent facts as these, the few exceptions that may be adduced can have no great weight; and even those exceptions, when carefully examined, will often be found far less real than is supposed. Thus, for example, the case of Ireland is continually cited. The Irish Catholics, we are told, were subject at first to a system of open plunder, and then to a long detailed legal persecution1 which was designed to make them abandon their faith. All the paths of honour and wealth were monopolised by Protestants, while shackles of every description hampered the Catholics in all the relations of life. Yet these only clung the closer to their faith on account of the storms that assailed it. That very acute observer, Arthur Young, declared at the close of the penal laws, that the relative proportion of Catholics to Protestants had not been at all reduced—if anything rather the reverse—and that those who denied this admitted that, at the past rate of conversions, 4,000 years would be required to make Ireland Protestant. In the Irish Parliament it was stated that 71 years of the penal system had only produced 4,055 converts.
This statement may at first sight appear to furnish an extremely strong argument, but it completely omits the most important element of Irish ecclesiastical history. In Ireland the old faith marked the division between two races, it was the symbol of the national spirit, it was upheld by all the passions of a great patriotic struggle, and its continuance simply attests the vitality of a political sentiment. When every other northern nation abandoned Catholicism, the Irish still retained it out of antipathy to their oppressors, and in every great insurrection the actuating spirit was mainly political. Of all the outbreaks against the English power, that of 1640 was probably the most passionate and most vindictive. In that rebellion one Englishman of distinction was exempt from the hostility that attached to his race. He was treated with the most respectful and even affectionate deference, and when he died, he was borne to the grave with all the honours the rebel army could afford. That Englishman was Bishop Bedell, the counsellor of Sarpi and of De Dominis, and the founder of proselytism in Ireland.1
Such was the spirit that was displayed by the Irish Catholics in the midst of one of their most ferocious outbreaks; and surely no one who is acquainted with the history of Ireland since the Union will imagine that the repeal of the persecuting code has in any degree mitigated their zeal. While their influence in the State has been immeasurably augmented, while their number has increased with a rapidity that was only broken by the frightful famine and emigration that more than decimated their ranks, the sectarian spirit that sctuates them has become continually more conspicuous. It may indeed be truly said that Ireland is now the only civilised country where public opinion is governed, not occasionally but habitually, by theological considerations, where the most momentous secular interests are continually subordinated to the conflicts of rival clergy, and where there is scarcely a chord of purely patriotic feeling that vibrates in the national breast. The causes of this deplorable condition I have not now to investigate.1 It is sufficient to say that it exists in spite of the abrogation of the persecuting laws. If there was one secular question which the Irish Catholics pursued with an intense and genuine ardour, it was the struggle for the repeal of the Union. For a long series of years they maintained that struggle with a combination of enthusiasm, of perseverance, and of self-sacrifice, such as has been seldom evinced in a political contest; and they invariably based their claim on the broad principle that the form of government in any country should be determined by the majority of its inhabitants. But no sooner had that principle come into collision with the Church, no sooner had its triumph menaced the security of the Vatican, and wrested two provinces from the Pope, than all this was changed The teaching of Davis and of O'Connell was at once forgotten. The bond that had so long connected the Irish Catholics with liberalism was broken, and the whole party pressed forward, with an alacrity that would be ludicrous if it were not pitiable, to unite themselves with the most retrogressive politicians in Europe, and to discard and trample on the principles they had so long and so enthusiastically maintained.
These considerations show that the intense energy of Irish Catholicism cannot be altogether attributed to religious persecution. Much the same qualification may be applied to the case of the English dissenters. The Anglican Church, it is sometimes said, persecuted with great cruelty those who separated from her ecclesiastical government; yet, nevertheless, the dissenters became so powerful that they shattered both the Church and the Crown, and brought the king and the Archbishop of Canterbury to the scaffold. But this is a palpable misrepresentation. The extreme servility which the English Church manifested to the most tyrannical of sovereigns, and the bitter persecution it directed against all adverse communions, had together made Puritanism the representative and the symbol of democracy. The rebellion was simply the outburst of political liberalism, intensified, indeed, but by no means created, by the exasperation of the dissenters. It represented the hatred of political tyranny much more than the hatred of episcopacy. After two or three fluctuations, a period arrived when the Church of England was greatly depressed, and the Toleration Act was passed, which, though very defective in theory, accorded a large measure of practical liberty to all classes of dissenters. Those who maintain that persecution can only strengthen the system against which it is directed, might have expected that this act would have produced a diminution of dissent, or, at least, a relaxation of its principles. But the result was precisely opposite. About the time when the act was passed, the dissenters were estimated at rather more than one twenty-third of the population of England; less than a century after they were estimated at one-fourth.1 In zeal the Methodists will bear comparison with the Puritans, and if the animosity between Anglicans and dissenters is mitigated, this has not been because dissent has been attracted to the Church, but because the Church has been penetrated by the doctrines of dissent.
The foregoing arguments appear to me to prove, not, indeed, that persecution is a good thing, or even that it can invariably effect the object for which it is employed, but that it has, as a matter of fact, exercised an enormous influence over the belief of mankind. The two main causes of theological changes seem to be the appearance from time to time of great religious teachers, and the succession of the phases of civilisation. The first cast abroad the seeds of religious truth; the second provide the different atmospheres by which those seeds are in turn developed. But, while this law is producing a continual modification of opinions, which is more or less felt through the entire community, it leaves free scope for the operation of many minor influences, which cause in the same period a considerable diversity of realised belief, and a still greater diversity of profession. Of these influences, the intervention of government is probably the most powerful. It is certainly far more powerful than any direct polemical discussion. Millions of devoted Catholics and millions of devoted Protestants would, at the present hour, repudiate indignantly their present belief but for the coercive enactments of former rulers; and there is scarcely a country in which the prevailing faith is not in some degree due to bygone legislation. But whether or not this be true is, in reality, immaterial to my argument; for, however strongly the reader may deny the efficacy of persecution upon belief, it is certain that until lately it was deemed indisputable. It is also certain that, in ages when the doctrine of exclusive salvation is fully realised, the spirit of faith will be so exalted that the ruler will never question for a moment the justice of his belief. Now, when men are firmly convinced that the highest of all possible objects is to promote the interests of their faith, and that by the employment of force they can most fully attain that object, their persecution will be measured by their power and their zeal.1
These are the general logical antecedents of persecution, and they are quite sufficient to account for all its atrocities, without imputing any sordid motives to the persecutor. There is, however, one other consideration that exercised a very important influence in the same direction—I mean the example of the Jewish legislators. When we now read of such scenes as the massacres of Canaan, the slaughter of the priests of Baal, or the forcible reforms of Josiah, they can scarcely be said to present themselves to the mind as having any very definite application to the present. Those who do not regard them as the natural products of an imperfect civilisation, regard them at least as belonging to a dispensation so entirely exceptional as to be removed altogether from the ordinary conditions of society. But in the early Church, and in the sixteenth century, they were looked upon in a very different light. The relations of an established religion to the State were mainly derived from the Old Testament. The Jewish was deemed a type of the Christian Church, and the policy that was commended in the one was regarded as at least not blamable in the other. Now the Levitical code was the first code of religious persecution that had ever appeared among mankind. It pronounced idolatry to be not simply an error, but a crime, and a crime that must be expiated with blood.1
The opinions of the Fathers on the subject were divided. Those who wrote when a pagan or heretical power was supreme were the champions of toleration. Those who wrote when the Church was in the ascendency usually inclined to persecution. Tertullian during the pagan,2 and Hilary of Poitiers during the Arian3 persecution, were the most conspicuous advocates of the duty of absolute and complete toleration; and several passages tending, though less strongly, in the same direction, emanated from other Fathers during seasons of adversity.4 It should, however, be mentioned that Lactantius, in the reign of Constantine, asserted the iniquity of persecution quite as strongly as any previous writer,5 and also that the later Fathers, while defending the milder forms of coercion, seldom or never wished death to be the penalty of heresy. In this respect the orthodox seem to have been for a time honourably distinguished from the Arians. On one occasion in the reign of the Arian emperor Valens, no ess than eighty Catholic ecclesiastics were imprisoned in a ship at sea and treacherously burnt.1
Still, from the very moment the Church obtained civil power under Constantine, the general principle of coercion was admitted and acted on both against the Jews, the heretics, and the pagans. The first had at this time become especially obnoxious, on account of a strong Judaising movement which had produced one or two heresies and many apostasies, and they were also accused of assailing ‘with stones and other manifestations of rage’ those who abandoned their faith. Constantine provided against these evils by a law, in which he condemned to the flames any Jew who threw stones at a Christian convert, and at the same time rendered it penal for any Christian to become a Jew.1 Against the Arian and Donatist heretics his measures were more energetic. Their churches were destroyed, their assemblies were forbidden, their bishops banished, their writings burnt, and all who concealed those writings threatened with death. Some of the Donatists were actually condemned to death, but the sentence was remitted, and any blood that was at this time shed seems to have been due to the excessive turbulence of the Circumcelliones, a sect of Donatists whose principles and acts appear to have been perfectly incompatible with the tranquillity of the State.2
The policy of Constantine towards the pagans is involved in considerable obscurity, and I have already in a former chapter sketched its principal features. During the first years of his reign, while the ascendency of Christianity was very doubtful, and while the pagan Licinius was still his colleague in the empire, he showed marked tolerance towards the adherents of the old superstitions; and when his law against private or magical sacrifices had created a considerable panic among them, he endeavoured to remove the impression by a proclamation in which he authorised in the most express terms the worship in the temples.1 Besides this, he still retained the old imperial title of Pontifex Maximus,2 and does not appear to have altogether discarded the functions it implied. As, however, his position became more strong, and especially after the defeat of Licinius in 324, he gradually changed his policy. By forbidding the prefects and governors to pay any respect to the idols, he placed the government of the provinces in Christian hands.3 About 330, he went still further, and if we believe the unanimous testimony of the ecclesiastical historians, he prohibited the temple worship. This enactment has not come down to us, but the prohibition is expressly and unequivocally asserted by both Eusebius, Sozomen, and Theodoret,4 and Libanius tells us that the penalty of holding converse with the old gods was death. Eusebius notices some temples that were at this time closed, and speaks of similar measures as being very common; but, at the same time, we have decisive evidence that the pagan worship was connived at in many and probably most parts of the empire, that temples were dedicated, and the ceremonies performed without molestation or concealment.1 It is only by taking into account the extreme laxity of the administration of law at this period of Roman history, that we can estimate aright the position of the pagans. The government was strongly hostile to their faith, but was as yet restrained by their numbers; the habitual policy was therefore gradually to destroy their political importance, and by laws directed ostensibly against magic to suppress those portions of worship which were not indeed the essentials, but formed what may be called the religious luxuries of paganism. Other and more stringent laws were made, but they were generally in abeyance, or at least their execution depended upon political circumstances, or upon the disposition of the governors. Constantius made laws distinctly prohibiting every form of pagan worship,2 but yet there is no fact more certain than that this worship continued till the period of Theodosius.3
It is not necessary to follow in detail the persecuting laws of the first century of the Church's power, and indeed such a task would be intolerably tedious on account of the activity that was displayed in this department of legislation. The Theodosian Code, which was compiled under Theodosius the younger, contains no less than sixty-six enactments against heretics, besides many others against pagans, Jews, apostates, and magicians. It is sufficient to say that at first the Arian measures seem to have been rather more severe than the Catholic ones, but that the scope of the latter was steadily enlarged, and their severity increased, till they reached a point that has seldom been surpassed. First the pagans were deprived of offices in the State; then their secret sacrifices were prohibited; then every kind of divination was forbidden; then the public sacrifices were suppressed; and finally the temples were destroyed, their images broken, and the entire worship condemned.1 The enforcement of these measures in the country districts was the last, the most difficult, and the most melancholy scene of the drama. For in those days, when means of communication were very few and ignorance very general, it was quite possible for a religious movement to gain a complete ascendency in the towns while the peasants were scarcely aware of its existence. In their calm retreats the paroxysms of change were seldom felt. They still continued with unfaltering confidence to worship the old gods when a new faith had attracted the educated to its banner, or when scepticism was withering the beliefs of the past. Multitudes had probably scarcely realised the existence of Christianity when the edict arrived which doomed their temples to destruction. Libanius, who, as the minister of Julian, had exhibited a spirit of tolerance even more remarkable than that of his master, pleaded the peasants’ cause with courage, dignity, and pathos. The temple, he said, was to them the very eye of nature, the symbol and manifestation of a present Deity, the solace of all their troubles, the holiest of all their joys. If it was overthrown, their dearest associations would be annihilated. The tie that linked them to the dead would be severed. The poetry of life, the consolation of labour, the source of faith would be destroyed.1 But these pleas were unavailing. Under Theodosius the Great all the temples were razed to the ground, and all forms of pagan and heretical worship absolutely prohibited.2
Such was the persecuting spirit displayed by the Christians of the fourth and fifth centuries. It is both interesting and important to observe how far it was the consequence of a theological development, and what were the stages of that development. The noble protests against persecution which the persecuted prelates had uttered form indeed a striking contrast to the measures I have related; but, unfortunately, new circumstances produce new opinions, and when the bias of the will is altered, a change will soon be manifested in the judgment. Still, in justice to the persecutors, it must be admitted that they were but the logical exponents of principles that had before existed in the Church. These principles were the doctrine of exclusive salvation, and the conceptions of the guilt of error and of ecclesiastical authority. It is very remarkable, too, that even before Constantius some theologians had begun to deduce their rule of conduct towards heretics from the penal enactments of the Levitical law. To excommunicate the heretic was, they said, to consign him to eternal damnation; and they were justified in inflicting this frightful punishment upon those who rebelled against their authority, because the ancient idolater had been punished with death.1 From such a doctrine there was but a step to persecution. The premises were already formed; it only remained to draw the obvious conclusion.
There cannot, I think, be much doubt that the minds of the leaders of the Church were so prepared by these modes of thought, that the eulogies which Eusebius unceasingly lavishes upon the persecuting edicts of Constantine were a faithful expression of their sentiments. But the writer who was destined to consolidate the whole system of persecution, to furnish the arguments of all its later defenders, and to give to it the sanction of a name that long silenced every pleading of mercy, and became the glory and the watchword of every persecutor, was unquestionably Augustine, on whom more than any other theologian—more perhaps even than on Dominic and Innocent—rests the responsibility of this fearful curse. A sensualist and a Manichæan, a philosopher and a theologian, a saint of the most tender and exquisite piety, and a supporter of atrocious persecution, the life of this Father exhibits a strange instance of the combination of the most discordant agencies to the development of a single mind, and of the influence of that mind over the most conflicting interests. Neither the unbridled passions of his youth, nor the extravagances of the heresy he so long maintained, could cloud the splendour of his majestic intellect, which was even then sweeping over the whole field of knowledge, and acquiring in the most unpropitious spheres new elements of strength. In the arms of the frail beauties of Carthage, he learned to touch the chords of passion with consummate skill; and the subtleties of Persian metaphysics, the awful problems of the origin of evil and of the essence of the soul which he vainly sought to fathom, gave him a sense of the darkness around us that coloured every portion of his teaching. The weight and compass of his genius, his knowledge both of men and of books, a certain aroma of sanctity that imparted an inexpressible charm to all his later writings, and a certain impetuosity of character that overbore every obstacle, soon made him the master intellect of the Church. Others may have had a larger share in the construction of her formularies—no one since the days of the apostles infused into her a larger measure of his spirit. He made it his mission to map out her theology with inflexible precision, to develop its principles to their full consequences, and to coördinate its various parts into one authoritative and symmetrical whole. Impatient of doubt, he shrank from no conclusion, however unpalatable; he seemed to exult in trampling human instincts in the dust, and in accustoming men to accept submissively the most revolting tenets. He was the most staunch and enthusiastic defender of all those doctrines that grow out of the habits of mind that lead to persecution. No one else had developed so fully the material character of the torments of hell, no one else had plunged so deeply into the speculations of predestinarianism, very few had dwelt so emphatically on the damnation of the unbaptised. For a time he shrank from, and even condemned, persecution; but he soon perceived in it the necessary consequence of his principles. He recanted his condemnation; he flung his whole genius into the cause; he recurred to it again and again; and he became the framer and the representative of the theology of intolerance.1
Strange indeed has been the destiny of this man! The most illustrious of his contemporaries, in a few centuries, lost their ascendency. Their names, indeed, still continued in honour, their works were read by monkish scholars, but changing modes of thought and feeling soon isolated them from the sympathies of mankind. Alone by the power of his genius, Augustine traversed the lapse of ages with unfading influence; but he survived to be the watchword of the most opposing doctrines, the promoter alike of the best and worst sentiments of our nature. From his teaching concerning imputed righteousness, predestinarianism, and good works, the Protestants drew their most powerful weapons. In the intolerant rigidity of his doctrines, in his exaltation of authority, and in the imperious character of his genius, Catholicism recognised her most faithful type. Both sects found in his writings the purest expressions of their religious sentiments, and both sheltered their intolerance beneath his name.
The arguments by which Augustine supported persecution were, for the most part, those which I have already stated. Some of them were drawn from the doctrine of exclusive salvation, and others from the precedents of the Old Testament. It was merciful, he contended, to punish heretics, even by death, if this could save them or others from the eternal suffering that awaited the unconverted. Heresy was described in Scripture as a kind of adultery; it was the worst species of murder, being the murder of souls; it was also a form of plasphemy; and on all these grounds might justly be punished. If the New Testament contained no examples of the apostles employing force, this was simply because in their time no priest had embraced Christianity. But had not Elijah slaughtered with his own hand the prophets of Baal? Did not Hezekiah, and Josiah, and the king of Nineveh, and Nebuchadnezzar after his conversion, destroy by force idolatry within their dominions, and were they not expressly commended for their piety? St. Augustine also seems to have originated the application of the words. ‘Compel them to enter in,’ to religious persecution.1
It is, however, worthy of remark, that although Augustine defended the measures that had been taken against the Donatists, and although he maintained that heresy was the worst of crimes, and that it should be punished according to its enormity, he still, with an amiable inconsistency, exerted himself much to prevent the penalty from being capital. He exhorted, he even commanded as a bishop, those in authorit to restrict it to banishment; he threatened, if they refused to do so, that the bishops would cease to inform against heretics; and he laboured not unsuccessfully to save the lives of some who were condemned.1 In this respect the manner in which heretics and pagans were treated presents a remarkable contrast. In a passage which occurs in one of his letters to the Donatists, St. Augustine informs us of two striking facts. The first is, that, in his time, the sentence of death was incurred by any one who celebrated the rites of the religion which had a few centuries before been universal in the empire. The second is, that this sentence was unanimously applauded in the Christian Church.2
The reluctance of the clergy to sanction the death of heretics for a long time coexisted with the most earnest desire to suppress their worship by force, and to banish their teachers from the empire. The first execution of heretics in which ecclesiastics took any part seems to have been in A.D. 385, when some Priscillianists were put to death at the instigation of two obscure bishops named Ursatius and Ithacus. St. Ambrose, though one of the most active in procuring the suppression of the Jewish and pagan worship, protested strongly against this act; and St. Martin of Tours denounced it with almost passionate vehemence as an atrocious crime, and refused to hold any communion with the offending bishops.1 The indignation that was excited on this occasion resulted, perhaps, hardly so much from the fact that heretics had been put to death, as from the part the bishops had taken in the transaction; for from an early period there was an opinion diffused through the Church, of which Tertullian and Lactantius were the principal exponents, that a Christian should under no circumstances slay his fellow-men, either by bringing a capital charge, or by acting as a judge, a soldier, or an executioner. When the triumph of Christianity had been attained, it was of course necessary that this rule—which, indeed, had never been generally adopted in its full stringency—should be relaxed as regards laymen, but it still continued in the case of priests. All ecclesiastics who delivered up a culprit to the civil power, without supplicating the judges that he should not be punished by death or mutilation, were regarded as guilty of a gross irregularity, and were in consequence liable to ecclesiastical censures. At first this rule was the expression of a pure philanthropy, and was intended to save the life of the accused, but it at last degenerated into an act of the most odious hypocrisy. Boniface VIII. decided that a bishop might safely deliver up a culprit, though he was certain his intercession would not be attended to; and the same form of supplication continued to be employed by the Inquisitors, though they had themselves condemned the heretic to death, and though Innocent VIII. had excommunicated any magistrate who either altered their sentence, or delayed more than six days in carrying it into execution.1
During the latter half of the fourth century there were two causes which contributed especially to the increased severity of the persecution. The first was the great development of the corporate action of the clergy, as evinced by the multitude of councils. A large proportion of these, and among others those of Ephesus and Constantinople, which were esteemed œcumenical, called upon the civil power to banish or otherwise punish the heretics,2 and their decrees had a considerable influence upon the government. The second cause was the establishment and rapid growth of the monastic system, which called into existence a body of men who, in self-denial, in singleness of purpose, in heroic courage, and at the same time in merciless fanaticism, have seldom been surpassed. Abandoning every tie of home and friendship, discarding all the luxuries and most of what are deemed the necessaries of life, scourging and macerating their bodies, having in filth and loneliness and desolation, wandering half-starved and half-naked through the deserts with the wild beasts for their only companions, the early monks almost extinguished every natural sentiment, and emancipated themselves as far as is possible from the conditions of humanity. Ambition, and wealth, and ease, and all the motives that tell most powerfully upon mankind, were to them unmeaning words. No reward could bribe them, no danger could appal them, no affection could move them. They had learned to embrace misery with a passionate love. They enjoyed a ghastly pleasure in multiplying forms of loathsome penance, and in trampling upon every natural desire. Their imaginations, distempered by self-inflicted sufferings, peopled the solitude with congenial spirits, and transported them at will beyond the horizon of the grave. To promote the interests of their Church was the only passion that remained, and to gratify it there was no suffering that they were not ready to endure or to inflict. The pagan historians have given us a graphic description of the zeal they manifested in destroying the temples. Sometimes a bishop led the enterprise from which the civil authorities recoiled, and one prelate, named Marcellus, perished in a conflict with the peasants who were defending with despairing courage the altars of their gods. A few years of such zeal sufficed, and paganism as a distinct system perished in the empire.
After the suppression of paganism in the Roman empire, a period of many centuries occurred during which religious persecution was very rare. The principle was indeed fully admitted, and whenever the occasion called for it it was applied; but heresies scarcely ever appeared, and the few that arose were exceedingly insignificant. A few heretics whose doctrines were merged in the charge of magic, two or three who were burnt by Alexius Comnenus, some more who were burnt in France in the beginning of the eleventh century, and some Cathari and sectaries with kindred views who were burnt at Cologne1 or in Italy, seem to have been all or nearly all who perished for heresy during several centuries before the Albigenses. Catholicism was then perfectly in accordance with the intellectual wants of Europe. It was not a tyranny, for the intellectual latitude it permitted was fully commensurate with the wants of the people. It was not a sect or an isolated influence acting in the midst of Europe and forming one weight in the balance of power, but rather an all-pervasive energy animating and vivifying the whole social system. A certain unity of type was then manifested, which has never been restored. The corporations, the guilds, the feudal system, the monarchy, the social habits of the people, their laws, their studies, their very amusements, all grew out of ecclesiastical teaching, embodied ecclesiastical modes of thought, exhibited the same general tendencies, and presented countless points of contact or of analogy. All of them were strictly congruous. The Church was the very heart of Christendom, and the spirit that radiated from her penetrated into all the relations of life, and coloured the institutions it did not create. In such a condition of society, heresies were almost impossible. For while the particular form that a heresy assumes may be dependent upon circumstances that are peculiar to the heresiarch, the existence and success of heretical teaching always proves that the tone of thought or measure of probability prevailing at the time has begun to diverge from the tone of thought or measure of probability of orthodoxy. As long as a church is so powerful as to form the intellectual condition of the age, to supply the standing-point from which every question is viewed, its authority will never be disputed. It will reflect so perfectly the general conceptions of the people, that no difficulties of detail will seriously disturb it. This ascendency was gained by mediæval Catholicity more completely than by any other system before or since, and the stage of civilisation that resulted from it was one of the most important in the evolutions of society. By consolidating the heterogeneous and anarchical elements that succeeded the downfall of the Roman empire, by infusing into Christendom the conception of a bond of unity that is superior to the divisions of nationhood, and of a moral tie that is superior to force, by softening slavery into serfdom and preparing the way for the ultimate emancipation of labour, Catholicism laid the very foundations of modern civilisation. Herself the most admirable of all organisations, there was formed beneath her influence a vast network of organisations, political, municipal, and social, which supplied a large proportion of the materials of almost every modern structure.
But though in many respects admirable and useful, this stage was manifestly transitory. It could only exist by the suppression of all critical spirit, by a complete paralysis of the speculative faculties. It was associated with conceptions of the government of the universe, the history of the past, and the prospects of the future, that were fundamentally false, and must necessarily have been dissolved by advancing knowledge. As soon as the revival of learning commenced, as soon as the first pulsations of intellectual life were felt, the movement of decomposition began. From that moment Catholicism, aiming at an impossible immobility, became the principle of retrogression. From that moment she employed all the resources that her position and her great services had given her, to arrest the expansion of the human mind, to impede the circulation of knowledge, and to quench the lamp of liberty in blood. It was in the course of the twelfth century that this change was manifested, and in the beginning of the next century the system of coercion was matured. In 1208, Innocent III. established the Inquisition. In 1209, De Montfort began the massacre of the Albigenses. In 1215, the Fourth Council of the Lateran enjoined all rulers, ‘as they desired to be esteemed faithful, to swear a public oath that they would labour earnestly, and to the full extent of their power, to exterminate from their dominions all those who were branded as heretics by the Church.’1
It is in itself evident, and it is abundantly proved by history, that the virulence theologians will display towards those who differ from them, will depend chiefly on the degree in which the dogmatic side of their system is developed. ‘See how these Christians love one another,’ was the just and striking exclamation of the heathen in the first century. ‘There are no wild beasts so ferocious as Christians who differ concerning their faith,’ was the equally striking and probably equally just exclamation of the heathen in the fourth century. And the reason of this difference is manifest. In the first century there was, properly speaking, scarcely any theology, no system of elaborate dogmas authoritatively imposed upon the conscience. Neither the character of the union of two natures in Christ, nor the doctrine of the atonement, nor the extent of the authority of the Church, had been determined with precision, and the whole stress of religious sentiment was directed towards the worship of a moral ideal, and the cultivation of moral qualities. But in the fourth century men were mainly occupied with innumerable subtle and minute questions of theology, to which they attributed a transcendent importance, and which in a great measure diverted their minds from moral considerations. However strongly the Homoousians and Homooisians were opposed to each other on other points, they were at least perfectly agreed that the adherents of the wrong vowel could not possibly get to heaven, and that the highest conceivable virtues were futile when associated with error. In the twelfth century, when persecution recommenced, the dogmatic or ecclesiastical element had been still further aggrandised by the immense development of ecclesiastical ceremonies, and the violence with which it was defended was proportionally unscrupulous. The reluctance to shed blood which had so honourably distinguished the Fathers completely passed away; or, if we find any trace of it, it is only in the quibble by which the Church referred the execution of her mandates to the civil magistrate, who, as we have seen, was not permitted to delay that execution for more than six days, under pain of excommunication. Almost all Europe, for many centuries, was inundated with blood, which was shed at the direct instigation or with the full approval of the ecclesiastical authorities, and under the pressure of a public opinion that was directed by the Catholic clergy, and was the exact measure of their influence.
That the Church of Rome has shed more innocent blood than any other institution that has ever existed among mankind, will be questioned by no Protestant who has a competent knowledge of history. The memorials, indeed, of many of her persecutions are now so scanty, that it is impossible to form a complete conception of the multitude of her victims, and it is quite certain that no powers of imagination can adequately realise their sufferings. Llorente, who had free access to the archives of the Spanish Inquisition, assures us that by that tribunal alone more than 31,000 persons were burnt, and more than 290,000 condemned to punishments less severe than death.1 The number of those who were put to death for their religion in the Netherlands alone, in the reign of Charles V., has been estimated by a very high authority at 50,000,1 and at least half as many perished under his son.2 And when to these memorable instances we add the innumerable less conspicuous executions that took place, from the victims of Charlemagne to the free-thinkers of the seventeenth century; when we recollect that after the mission of Dominic the area of the persecution comprised nearly the whole of Christendom, and that its triumph was in many districts so complete as to destroy every memorial of the contest; the most callous nature must recoil with horror from the spectacle. For these atrocities were not perpetrated in the brief paroxysms of a reign of terror, or by the hands of obscure sectaries, but were inflicted by a triumphant Church, with every circumstance of solemnity and deliberation. Nor did the victims perish by a brief and painless death, but by one which was carefully selected as among the most poignant that man can suffer. They were usually burnt alive. They were burnt alive not unfrequently by a slow fire.3 They were burnt alive after their constancy had been tried by the most excruciating agonies that minds fertile in torture could devise.1 This was the physical torment inflicted on those who dared to exercise their reason in the pursuit of truth; but what language can describe, and what imagination can conceive, the mental suffering that accompanied it? For in those days the family was divided against itself. The ray of conviction often fell upon a single member, leaving all others untouched. The victims who died for heresy were not, like those who died for witchcraft, solitary and doting women, but were usually men in the midst of active life, and often in the first flush of youthful enthusiasm, and those who loved them best were firmly convinced that their agonies upon earth were but the prelude of eternal agonies hereafter.1 This was especially the case with weak women, who feel most acutely the sufferings of others, and around whose minds the clergy had most successfully wound their toils. It is horrible, it is appalling to reflect what the mother, the wife, the sister, the daughter of the heretic must have suffered from this teaching. She saw the body of him who was dearer to her than life, dislocated and writhing and quivering with pain; she watched the slow fire creeping from limb to limb till it had swathed him in a sheet of agony; and when at last the scream of anguish had died away, and the tortured body was at rest, she was told that all this was acceptable to the God she served, and was but a faint image of the sufferings He would inflict through eternity upon the dead. Nothing was wanting to give emphasis to the doctrine. It rang from every pulpit. It was painted over every altar. The Spanish heretic was led to the flames in a dress covered with representations of devils and of frightful tortures, to remind the spectators to the very last of the doom that awaited him.
All this is very horrible, but it is only a small part of the misery which the persecuting spirit of Rome has produced. For, judging by the ordinary measure of human courage, for every man who dared to avow his principles at the stake, there must have been multitudes who believed that by such an avowal alone they could save their souls, but who were nevertheless scared either by the prospect of their own sufferings or of the destitution of their children,1 who passed their lives in one long series of hypocritical observances and studied falsehoods, and at last, with minds degraded by habitual deception, sank hopeless and terror-stricken into the grave.1 And besides all these things, we have to remember that the spirit which was manifested in acts of detailed persecution had often swept over a far wider sphere, and produced sufferings not perhaps so excruciating, but far more extensive. We have to recollect those frightful massacres, perhaps the most fearful the world has ever seen: the massacre of the Albigenses which a pope had instigated, or the massacre of St. Bartholomew for which a pope returned solemn thanks to Heaven. We have to recollect those religious wars which reproduced themselves century after century with scarcely diminished fury, which turned Syria into an Aceldama, which inundated with blood the fairest lands of Europe, which blasted the prosperity and paralysed the intellect of many a noble nation, and which planted animosities in Europe that two hundred years have been unable altogether to destroy. Nor should we forget the hardening effects that must have been produced on the minds of the spectators who at every royal marriage in Spain were regaled by the public execution of heretics, or who were summoned to the great square of Toulouse to contemplate the struggles of four hundred witches in the flames. When we add together all these various forms of suffering, and estimate all their aggravations; when we think that the victims of these persecutions were usually men who were not only entirely guiltless, but who proved themselves by their very deaths to be endowed with most transcendent and heroic virtues; and when we still further consider that all this was but part of one vast conspiracy to check the development of the human mind, and to destroy that spirit of impartial and unrestricted enquiry which all modern researches prove to be the very first condition of progress as of truth; when we consider all these things, it can surely be no exaggeration to say that the Church of Rome has inflicted a greater amount of unmerited suffering than any other religion that has ever existed among mankind. To complete the picture, it is only necessary to add that these things were done in the name of the Teacher who said: ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that ye love one another.’
But while the preëminent atrocity of the persecutions of the Church of Rome is fully admitted, nothing can be more grossly disingenuous or untrue than to represent persecution as her peculiar taint. She persecuted to the full extent of the power of her clergy, and that power was very great. The persecution of which every Protestant Church was guilty, was measured by the same rule, but clerical influence in Protestant countries was comparatively weak. The Protestant persecutions were never so sanguinary as those of the Catholics, but the principle was affirmed quite as strongly, was acted on quite as constantly, and was defended quite as pertinaciously by the clergy. In Germany, at the time of the protestation of Spires, when the name of Protestant was assumed, the Lutheran princes absolutely prohibited the celebration of mass within their dominions. In England a similar measure was passed as early as Edward VI.1 On the accession of Elizabeth, and before the Catholics had given any signs of discontent, a law was made prohibiting any religious service other than the Prayer Book, the penalty for the third offence being imprisonment for life; while another law imposed a fine on any one who abstained from the Anglican service. The Presbyterians through a long succession of reigns were imprisoned, branded, mutilated, scourged, and exposed in the pillory. Many Catholics under false pretences were tortured and hung. Anabaptists and Arians were burnt alive.2 In Ireland, the religion of the immense majority of the people was banned and proscribed; and when in 1626 the Government manifested some slight wish to grant it partial relief, nearly all the Irish Protestant bishops, under the presidency of Usher, assembled to protest in a solemn resolution against the indulgence. ‘The religion of Papists, they said, ‘is superstitious, their faith and doctrine erroneous and heretical; their Church in respect of both apostatical. To give them therefore a toleration, or to consent that they may freely exercise their religion, and profess their faith and doctrine, is a grievous sin.’1 In Scotland, during almost the whole period that the Stuarts were on the throne of England, a persecution rivalling in atrocity almost any on record was directed by the English Government, at the instigation of the Scotch bishops, and with the approbation of the English Church, against all who repudiated episcopacy. If a conventicle was held in a house, the preacher was liable to be put to death. If it was held in the open air, both minister and people incurred the same fate. The Presbyterians were hunted like criminals over the mountains. Their ears were torn from the roots. They were branded with hot irons. Their fingers were wrenched asunder by the thumbkins. The bones of their legs were shattered in the boots. Women were scourged publicly through the streets. Multitudes were transported to Barbadoes. An infuriated soldiery was let loose upon them, and encouraged to exercise all their ingenuity in torturing them.2 Nor was it only the British Government, or the zealous advocates of episcopacy, who manifested this spirit. When the Reformation triumphed in Scotland, one of its first fruits was a law prohibiting any priest from celebrating, or any worshipper from hearing mass, under pain of the confiscation of his goods for the first offence, of exile for the second, and of death for the third.1 That the Queen of Scotland should be permitted to hear mass in her own private chapel, was publicly denounced as an intolerable evil. ‘One mass,’ exclaimed Knox, ‘is more fearful to me than if 10,000 armed enemies were landed in any part of the realm.’2 In France, when the government of certain towns was conceded to the Protestants, they immediately employed their power to suppress absolutely the Catholic worship, to prohibit any Protestant from attending a marriage or a funeral that was celebrated by a priest, to put down all mixed marriages, and to persecute to the full extent of their power those who had abandoned their creed.3 In Sweden, all who dissented from any article of the Confession of Augsburg were at once banished.4 In Protestant Switzerland numerous Anabaptists perished by drowning; the freethinker Gentilis by the axe; Servetus, and a convert to Judaism, by the flames. In America, the colonists who were driven from their own land by persecution, not only proscribed the Catholics, but also persecuted the Quakers—the most inoffensive of all sects—with atrocious severity.5 If Holland was somewhat more tolerant it was early remarked, that while the liberty allowed there was unusually great, the power accorded to the clergy was unusually small.1 As late as 1690 a synod was held at Amsterdam, consisting partly of Dutch and partly of French and English ministers who were driven to Holland by peisecution, and in that synod the doctrine that the magistrate has no right to crush heresy and idolatry by the civil power, was unanimously pronounced to be ‘false, scandalous, and pernicious.’2 When Descartes went to Holland, the reformed clergy directed against him all the force of their animosity, and the accusation by which they endeavoured to stir up the civil power against the author of the most sublime of all modern proofs of the existence of the Deity, was atheism.3 The right of the civil magistrate to punish heresy was maintained by the Helvetic, Scottish, Belgic, and Saxon Confessions.4 Luther, in reply to Philip of Hesse, distinctly asserted it;5 Calvin, Beza, and Jurieu, all wrote books on the awfulness of persecution. Knox, appealing to the Old Tesiament, declared that those who were guilty of idolary might justly be put to death.6 Cranmer and Ridley, as well as four other bishops, formed the commission in the reign of Edward VI. for trying Anabaptists; and, if we may believe Fox, it was only by the long and earnest solicitation of Cranmer that Edward consented to sign the warrant that consigned Joan Bocher to the flames.1 The only two exceptions to this spirit among the leaders of the Reformation, seem to have been Zuinglius and Socinus. The first was always averse to persecution.2 The second was so distinctively the apostle of toleration, that this was long regarded as one of the peculiar doctrines of his sect.3 With these exceptions, all the leading Reformers seem to have advocated persecution, and in nearly every country where their boasted Reformation triumphed, the result is to be mainly attributed to coercion.1 When Calvin burnt Servetus for his opinions on the Trinity, this, which, in the words of a great modern historian, ‘had perhaps as many circumstances of aggravation as any execution for heresy that ever took place,’2 was almost unanimously applauded by all sections of Protestants.3 Melanchthon, Bullinger, and Farel wrote to express their warm approbation of the crime. Beza defended it in an elaborate treatise. Only one man of eminence ventured openly to oppose it, and that man, who may be regarded as the first avowed champion of complete religious liberty, was also one of the most eminent of the precursors of rationalism. He wrote under the name of Martin Bellius, but his real name was Chàtillon, or, as it was generally latinised, Castellio.1
Castellio was a Frenchman, a scholar of remarkable acquirements, and a critic of still more remarkable boldness. He had been at one time a friend of Calvin, and had filled a professorship at Geneva, but the dating spirit which he carried into every sphere soon scandalised the leaders of the Reformation. Having devoted himself carly to Biblical criticism, he had translated the Bible into Latin, and in the course of his labours he came to the conclusion that the Song of Solomon was simply a Jewish love song, and that the allegory that was supposed to underlie it was purely imaginary.2 A still graver offence in the eyes of the Geneva theologians was his emphatic repudiation of the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination. He assailed it not so much by any train of arguments, or by an appeal to authority, as on the broad grounds of its repugnance to our sense of right, and he developed its moral atrocity in a manner that elicited from Beza a torrent of almost frantic invective. Driven from Geneva, he at last obtained a professorship at Basle, where he denounced the murder of Servetus, and preached for the first time in Christendom the duty of absolute toleration, based upon the rationalistic doctrine of the innocence of error. The object of doctrines, he said, is to make men better, and those which do not contribute to this end are absolutely unimportant. The history of dogmas should be looked upon as a series of developments, contributing to the moral perfection of mankind. First of all, polytheism was supreme. Christ came and effected the ascendency of monotheism, in which Jews, Turks, and Christians all agree. Christianity again introduced a specific type of character, of which universal charity and beneficence were the leading features. Questions concerning the Trinity, or predestination, or the sacraments, are involved in great and perhaps impenetrable obscurity, and have no moral influence, and ought in consequence not to be insisted upon. ‘To discuss the difference between the Law and the Gospel, gratuitous remission of sins or imputed righteousness, is as if a man were to discuss whether a prince was to come on horseback, or in a chariot, or dressed in white or in red.’1 To persecute for such questions is absurd, and not only absurd but atrocious. For if the end of Christianity be the diffusion of a spirit of beneficence, persecution must be its extreme antithesis; and if persecution be an essential element of a religion, that religion must be a curse to mankind.1
Such new and startling sentiments as these, coming from a writer of considerable eminence, attracted much attention, and aroused great indignation. Both Calvin and Beza replied in a strain of the fiercest invective. Calvin especially, from the time when Castellio left Geneva, pursued him with untiring hatred, laboured hard to procure his expulsion from Basle, denounced him in the preface to an edition of the New Testament2 as ‘one who had been chosen by Satan to deceive the thoughtless and indifferent,’ and attempted to blast his character by the grossest calumnies. In the friendship of Socinus, Castellio found some compensation for the general hatred of which he was the object, and he appears to have inclined greatly to the doctrines of his friend. Separated alike from the Protestants and the Catholics, his prospects in life were blighted, he sank into a condition of absolute destitution, and is said to have been almost reduced to literal starvation, when death relieved him of his sufferings. A few kindly sentences of Montaigne,1 who pronounced his closing scene to have been a disgrace to mankind, have in some degree rescued this first apostle of toleration from oblivion.
Some years after the murder of Servetus, Beza, in relating its circumstances, declared that Castellio and Socinus were the only men who had opposed it;2 and although this statement is not strictly true,3 it but very little exaggerates the unanimity that was displayed. When we recollect the great notoriety of this execution, and also its aggravated character, so general an approbation seems to show clearly not only that the spirit of early Protestantism was as undoubtedly intolerant as the spirit of Catholicism, which is an unquestionable fact, but also that it flinched as little from the extreme consequences to which intolerance leads. It seems to show that the comparative mildness of Protestant persecutions results much more from the circumstances under which they took place, than from any sense of the atrocity of burning the heretic. And, indeed, while the Romish persecutions were undoubtedly unrivalled in magnitude, it must be admitted that there are some aspects under which they contrast not unfavourably with the Protestant ones. Catholicism was an ancient Church. She had gained a great part of her influence by vast services to mankind. She rested avowedly upon the principle of authority. She was defending herself against aggression and innovation. That a Church so circumstanced should endeavour to stifle in blood every aspiration towards a purer system, was indeed a fearful crime, but it was a crime which was not altogether unnatural. She might point to the priceless blessings she had bestowed upon humanity, to the slavery she had destroyed, to the civilisation she had founded, to the many generations she had led with honour to the grave. She might show how completely her doctrines were interwoven with the whole social system, how fearful would be the convulsion if they were destroyed, and how absolutely incompatible they were with the acknowledgment of private judgment. These considerations would not make her blameless, but they would at least palliate her guilt. But what shall we say of a Church that was but a thing of yesterday, a Church that had as yet no services to show, no claims upon the gratitude of mankind, a Church that was by profession the creature of private judgment, and was in reality generated by the intrigues of a corrupt court, which, nevertheless, suppressed by force a worship that multitudes deemed necessary to their salvation, and by all her organs, and with all her energies, persecuted those who clung to the religion of their fathers? What shall we say of a religion which comprised at most but a fourth part of the Christian world, and which the first explosion of private judgment had shivered into countless sects, which was, nevertheless, so pervaded by the spirit of dogmatism that each of these sects asserted its distinctive doctrines with the same confidence, and persecuted with the same unhesitating virulence, as a Church that was venerable with the homage of more than twelve centuries? What shall we say of men who, in the name of religious liberty, deluged their land with blood, trampled on the very first principles of patriotism, calling in strangers to their assistance, and openly rejoicing in the disasters of their country, and who, when they at last attained their object, immediately established a religious tyranny as absolute as that which they had subverted? These were the attitudes which for more than a century Protestantism uniformly presented; and so strong and so general was its intolerance that for some time it may, I believe, be truly said that there were more instances of partial toleration being advocated by Roman Catholics than by orthodox Protestants. Although nothing can be more egregiously absurd than to represent the Inquisition as something unconnected with the Church, although it was created by a pope, and introduced into the chief countries of Europe by the sovereigns who were most devoted to the Church, and composed of ecclesiastics, and directed to the punishment of ecclesiastical offences, and developed in each country according to the intensity of Catholic feeling, and long regarded as the chief bulwark of Catholicity—although all the atrocities it perpetrated do undoubtedly fall upon the blood-stained Church that created it—it is nevertheless true that one or two popes endeavoured to moderate its severities, and reproved the excesses of Torquemada in language that is not without something of evangelical mildness. Erasmus, too, at all times endeavoured to assuage the persecution, and Erasmus lived and died in communion with the Church. Sir Thomas More, though he was himself a persecutor, at least admitted the abstract excellence of toleration, and extolled it in his Utopia. Hôpital, and Lord Baltimore, the Catholic founder of Maryland, were the two first legislators who uniformly upheld religious liberty when in power; and Maryland continued the solitary refuge for the oppressed of every Christian sect, till the Protestant party, who were in the ascendant in its legislature, basely enacted the whole penal code against the coreligionists of the founder of the colony. But among the Protestants it may, I believe, be safely affirmed, that there was no example of the consistent advocacy or practice of toleration in the sixteenth century that was not virulently and generally denounced by all sections of the clergy,1 and scarcely any till the middle of the seventeenth century. Indeed, even at the close of the seventeenth century, Bossuet was able to maintain that the right of the civil magistrate to punish religious error was one of the points on which both churches agreed; and he added that he only knew two bodies of Christians who denied it. They were the Socinians and the Anabaptists.1
It is often said that Protestantism in its earlier days persecuted, because it had inherited something of the principles of Rome; but that persecution was entirely uncongenial with its character, and was therefore in course of time abandoned. In a certain sense, this is undoubtedly true. Protestantism received the doctrine of persecution from Rome, just as it received the Athanasian Creed or any other portion of its dogmatic teaching. The doctrine of private judgment is inconsistent with persecution, just as it is inconsistent with the doctrine of exclusive salvation, and with the universal practice of all sections of early Protestants in their dealings with error. If man is bound to form his opinions by his private judgment, if the exercise of private judgment is both a duty and a right, it is absurd to prescribe beforehand the conclusion to which he must arrive, to brand honest error as criminal, and to denounce the spirit of impartiality and of scepticism as offensive to the Deity. This is what almost all the Protestant leaders did in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and what a very large proportion of them still do, and it was out of this conception of the guilt of error that persecution arose. Nothing can be more erroneous than to represent it as merely a weapon which was employed in a moment of conflict, or as the outburst of a natural indignation, or as the unreasoning observance of an old tradition. Persecution among the early Protestants was a distinct and definite doctrine, digested into elaborate treatises, indissolubly connected with a large portion of the received theology, developed by the most enlightened and far-seeing theologians, and enforced against the most inoffensive as against the most formidable sects. It was the doctrine of the palmiest days of Protestantism. It was taught by those who are justly esteemed the greatest of its leaders. It was manifested most clearly in those classes which were most deeply imbued with its dogmatic teaching. The Episcopalians generally justified it by appealing to St. Augustine, and Calvin and the Scotch Puritans by appealing to the Old Testament; but in both cases the dominating and controlling cause was the belief in exclusive salvation and in the guilt of error; and in all countries the first dawning of tolerance represents the rise of that rationalistic spirit which regards doctrines simply as the vehicles of moral sentiments, and which, while it greatly diminishes their value, simplifies their character and lessens their number.
The evidence I have accumulated will be sufficient to show how little religious liberty is due to Protestantism considered as a dogmatic system. It might appear also to show that the influence of the Reformation upon its development was but small. Such a conclusion would, however, be altogether erroneous; for although that influence was entirely indirect, it was not the less powerful. To the Reformation is chiefly due the appearance of that rationalistic spirit which at last destroyed persecution. By the events that followed the Reformation, the adherents of different religious creeds became so mingled, that it was the interest of a large proportion of the members of every Church to advocate toleration. At the Reformation, too, the doctrine of the celibacy of the clergy was assailed, and the ministers of the new churches, being drawn into more intimate communion with society, were placed in circumstances far more fitted to develop the kindly affections than the circumstances of the Catholic priests; while in England, at least, the accomplishments of a scholar and the refinement of a gentleman, blending with the pure and noble qualities of a religious teacher, have produced a class type which is scarcely sullied by fanaticism, and is probably, on the whole, the highest as it is the most winning that has ever been attained. Besides this, the Reformation produced a number of churches, which possessed such an amount of flexibility that they have been able to adapt themselves to the requirements of the age, while Catholicism continues to the present day the bitter enemy of toleration. The influence of the first three facts is, I think, sufficiently obvious. A short sketch of the history of toleration in France and England will clearly establish the fourth.
In order to understand the history of religious liberty, there are two distinct series of facts to be considered. There is a succession of intellectual changes which destroyed the conceptions on which persecution rests, and a succession of political events which are in part the consequence of those changes, but which also react powerfully upon their cause. The intellectual basis of French toleration is to be found in that great sceptical movement which originated towards the close of the sixteenth century, and which at last triumphed in the Revolution. In no other country had that movement been so powerful, not only on account of the great ability with which it was conducted, but also from the curious fact that its first three leaders represented three entirely different casts of mind, and acted in consequence upon three different sections of society. The scepticism of Montaigne was that of a man of the world; the scepticism of Descartes was that of a philosopher; the scepticism of Bayle was that of a scholar. Montaigne, looking with an impartial eye on the immense variety of opinions that were maintained with equal confidence by men of equal ability, and judging all subjects by a keen, worldly, and somewhat superficial common sense, arrived at the conclusion that it was hopeless seeking to ascertain what is true; that such a task transcended the limits of human powers; and that it was the part of a wise man to remain poised with an indifferent mind between opposing sects. As a consequence of this, he taught for the first time, or almost for the first time, in France, the innocence of error and the evil of persecution. Descartes had a far greater confidence in human faculties, but he had also a far greater distrust of the ordinary judgments of experience. He taught men that the beginning of all wisdom is absolute, universal scepticism; that all the impressions of childhood, all the conclusions of the senses, all of what are deemed the axioms of life, must be discarded, and from the simple fact of consciousness the entire scheme of knowledge must be evolved. Like many of the greatest philosophers, Descartes did not pause to apply his principles to practical life, but their influence was not the less great. The scepticism which he made the beginning of wisdom, and the purely rational process by which that scepticism was at last dispelled, were alike inconsistent with a system which esteemed doubt a sin, and which enforced conviction by the brand.
The intellect of Bayle was very different from those of his predecessors, and was indeed in some respects almost unique. There have been many greater men, but there never perhaps was one who was so admirably fitted by his acquirements and his abilities, and even by the very defects of his character, to be a perfect critic. With the most profound and varied knowledge he combined to an almost unrivalled extent that rare faculty of assuming the standing-point of the system he was discussing, and of developing its arguments as they would have been developed by its most skilful advocate But while he possessed to the highest degree that knowledge and that philosophical perception which lay bare the hidden springs of past beliefs, he appeared to be almost absolutely destitute of the creative power, and almost absolutely indifferent to the results of controversy. He denied nothing. He inculcated nothing. He scarcely exhibited any serious preference. It was his delight to bring together the arguments of many discordant teachers, to dissect and analyse them with the most exquisite skill, and then to develop them till they mutually destroyed one another. His genius was never so conspicuous as when lighting up the wrecks of opposing systems, exhuming the shattered monuments of human genius to reveal their nothingness and their vanity. In that vast repertory of obscure learning from which Voltaire and every succeeding scholar have drawn their choicest weapons, the most important and the most insignificant facts, the most sublime speculations to which man can soar, and the most trivial anecdotes of literary biography, lie massed together in all the irony of juxtaposition, developed with the same cold but curious interest, and discussed with the same withering sardonic smile. Never perhaps was there a book that evinced more clearly the vanity of human systems, or the disintegrating power of an exhaustive enquiry. To such a writer nothing could be more revolting than an exclusive worship of one class of opinions, or a forcible suppression of any of the elements of knowledge. Intellectual liberty was the single subject which kindled his cold nature into something resembling enthusiasm. In all he wrote he was its earnest and unwavering advocate, and he diffused his own passion among the scholars and antiquarians of whom he was the chief. He had also the merit of doing more than any previous writer to break the spell which St. Augustine had so long cast over theology. The bitter article on the life of that saint was well adapted as a prelude to an attack upon his opinions.
But while the immense learning and the extraordinary ability of the Dictionary of Bayle render it one of the most important pioneers of religious liberty, there was another work in which the same author applied himself more directly to the advocacy of toleration. I mean that treatise on the text ‘Compel them to enter in,’ in which, abandoning for once the negative and destructive criticism in which he delighted, he undertook to elucidate the bases of a rational belief. This book may, I believe, without exaggeration, be regarded as one of the most valuable contributions to theology during the seventeenth century, and as forming more than any other work the foundation of modern rationalism. While the famous argument of Tillotson against transubstantiation is stated as forcibly as by Tillotson, and the famous argument of Chillingworth on the necessity of private judgment as the basis even of an infallible Church as forcibly as by Chillingworth, the main principles of Kant's great work on the relations of the Bible to the moral faculty are fully anticipated, and are developed in a style that is as remarkable for its clearness, as that of the German philosopher is for its obscurity. At the beginning of this work Bayle disclaims any intention of entering into a critical examination of the passage that he had taken as his motto. His refutation of the persecutor's interpretation rests not on any detailed criticism, but on a broad and general principle. There are certain intellectual and moral truths which are universal among mankind, and which, being our earliest and most vivid intuitions, cannot be questioned without universal scepticism.2 Thus, for example, the axiom that the whole is greater than a part, represents the highest kind of certainty to which we can possibly attain, and no message purporting to be a revelation can be received in contradiction to it. For the reality of such a revelation, and the justice of such an interpretation, must necessarily be established by a process of reasoning, and no process of reasoning can be so evident as the axiom. In the same way, the fundamental differences between right and wrong are so stamped upon the mind, that they may be taken as the ultimate tests of all ethical teaching. No positive enactments can supersede them. No interpretation of a Divine revelation that violates them can be acknowledged as correct.1 The intuition by which we know what is right and what is wrong, is clearer than any chain of historic reasoning; and, admitting the reality of a revelation, if the action of the moral faculty were suspended, we should have no means of deciding from what source that revelation had emanated. In judging therefore a moral precept, we should dissociate it as far as possible from all special circumstances that are connected with our passions and our prejudices, and, having reduced it to its simplest and most abstract form, should reject it without hesitation if repugnant to our moral faculty. We should do this even if we can discover no second meaning. But, if tested by this rule, it will appear grossly immoral to compel men to profess a religion they do not believe, and therefore such a course cannot be enjoined by the Deity. Nor is it less irrational than immoral. For one of the first and most obvious consequences of persecution, is to prevent that comparison of the opinions of many classes which is absolutely essential for the discovery of truth. We believe perhaps that our neighbours are immersed in damnable error, but they believe the same thing of us. We may be firmly persuaded of the truth of the opinions we have been taught, but we know that each new research encroaches upon the domain of prejudice, and that the more the horizon of our minds extends, the more necessary we find it to revise both our principles and our arguments. And indeed, when we consider the feebleness of our faculties, the extent to which our conceptions are coloured by the atmosphere in which we live, and above all, the infinite nature of the Being to whom we aspire, it is impossible to avoid suspecting that all our conceptions on this subject must be partial and distorted; that our attempts to classify religious opinions into absolute truth and falsehood are almost necessarily futile; that different men according to the measure of their faculties obtain some faint glimpses of different aspects of the Divine nature; and that no one has a right to arrogate to himself the possession of such an amount of perfect truth as to render it unnecessary for him to correct and enlarge his views by comparing them with those even of the most ignorant of mankind.1
It is not necessary for my purpose to pursue in detail the arguments by which Bayle developed these principles, or to notice the many important consequences he deduced from them. What I have written will be sufficient to show the general character of his defence of toleration. It will show that Bayle, like Montaigne and Descartes, was tolerant because he was rationalistic, and was rationalistic because he was sceptical. Keenly sensible of the weakness of our faculties, and of the imperfection of all dogmatic systems, he resolved to subordinate those systems to the teachings of natural religion, and he therefore protested against a practice which presupposes a degree of certainty that does not exist, and which is repugnant to the dictates of conscience.
The intellectual movement of which these three writers were the representatives, and in a great degree the cause, was clearly reflected in the policy of the two wisest, if not greatest rulers France has ever possessed. By the Edict of Nantes, Henry IV., whose theological zeal was notoriously languid, solemnly established the principle of toleration. By entering into a war in which his allies were chiefly Protestants, and his enemies Catholics, Richelieu gave a new direction to the sympathies of the people, instituted lines of demarcation which were incompatible with the old spirit of sect, and prepared the way for the general secularisation of politics. The reaction which took place under Louis XIV., although it caused intolerable suffering, and, indeed, partly in consequence of that suffering, had eventually the effect of accelerating the movement. The dragonnades, and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, formed the most conspicuous events of a period which was preeminently disastrous to France, and the effects of those measures upon French prosperity were so rapid and so fatal that popular indignation was roused to the highest point. The ruin of the French army, the taxation that ground the people to the dust, the paralysis of industry, the intellectual tyranny, and the almost monastic austerity of the court, had all combined to increase the discontent, and, as is often the case, the whole weight of this unpopularity was directed against each separate element of tyranny. The recoil was manifested in the wild excesses of the Regency, a period which presents, in many respects, a very striking resemblance to the reign of Charles II. in England. In both cases the reaction against an enforced austeriy produced the most unbridled immorality; in both cases this was increased by the decay of those theological notions on which morality was at that time universally based; in both cases the court led the movement; and in both cases that movement eventuated in a revolution which in the order of religion produced toleration, and in the order of politics produced an organic change. That vice has often proved an emancipator of the mind, is one of the most humiliating, but, at the same time, one of the most unquestionable facts in history. It is the special evil of intolerance that it entwines itself around the holiest parts of our nature, and becomes at last so blended with the sense of duty that, as has been finely said, ‘Conscience, which restrains every other vice, becomes the prompter here.’1 Two or three times in the history of mankind, its destruction has involved a complete dissolution of the moral principles by which society coheres, and the cradle of religious liberty has been rocked by the worst passions of humanity.
When the moral chaos that followed the death of Louis XIV. was almost universal, when all past beliefs were corroded and vitiated, and had degenerated into empty names or idle superstitions, a great intellectual movement arose, under the guidance of Voltaire and Rousseau, which was designed to reconstruct the edifice of morality, and which, after a brief but fierce struggle with the civil power, obtained a complete ascendency on the Continent. The object of these writers was not to erect a new system of positive religion, but rather to remove those systems which then existed, and to prove the adequacy of natural religion to the moral wants of mankind. The first of these tasks was undertaken especially by Voltaire. The second was more congenial to the mind of Rousseau. Both writers exercised a great influence upon the history of toleration; but that influence, if not directly opposed, was at least very different. Voltaire was at all times the unflinching opponent of persecution. No matter how powerful was the persecutor, no matter how insignificant was the victim, the same scathing eloquence was launched against the crime, and the indignation of Europe was soon concentrated upon the oppressor. The fearful storm of sarcasm and invective that avenged the murder of Calas, the magnificent dream in the Philosophical Dictionary reviewing the history of persecution from the slaughtered Canaanites to the latest victims who had perished at the stake, the indelible stigma branded upon the persecutors of every age and of every creed, all attested the intense and passionate earnestness with which Voltaire addressed himself to his task. On other subjects a jest or a caprice could often turn him aside. When attacking intolerance, he employed, indeed, every weapon, but he employed them all with the concentrated energy of a profound conviction. His success was equal to his zeal. The spirit of intolerance sank blasted beneath his genius. Wherever his influence passed, the arm of the Inquisitor was palsied, the chain of the captive riven, the prison door flung open. Beneath his withering irony persecution appeared not only criminal but loathsome, and since his time it has ever shrunk from observation, and masked its features under other names. He died, leaving a reputation that is indeed far from spotless, but having done more to destroy the greatest of human curses than any other of the sons of men.
Rousseau had probably quite as strong a sense of the evil of religious persecution as Voltaire, but by a remarkable process of reasoning he justified its worst excesses. He saw very plainly that the intolerance of the past was not due to any accidental circumstances or to any interested motives, but was the normal product of the doctrine of exclusive salvation. He maintained that reciprocity was the condition of toleration; that is to say, that a dominant party is only justified in according toleration where there is some reasonable probability that it will continue when the relative position of the parties is changed. From these two principles he inferred the necessity of the widest intolerance. He told the believers in the doctrine of exclusive salvation that it was their manifest duty to persecute all who differed from them. He told the philosophers that it was necessary to banish all who held the doctrine of exclusive salvation, because that principle was incompatible with the tranquillity of society.1 This opinion was very natural at a time when the experiment of absolute toleration had scarcely ever been tried, and in the writings of one who was essentially a theorist. We now know that religious liberty has an admirable influence in reducing opinions to their proper level; that it invariably acts upon and modifies doctrines which seem subversive to society; and that while it leaves the professions of men unchanged, it profoundly alters their realisations. This Rousseau did not perceive, and his blindness was shared by many of his contemporaries. In the French Revolution especially we find the two tendencies—an intense love of religious liberty and a strong bias towards intolerance—continually manifested In that noble enactment which removed at a single stroke all civil disabilities from Protestants and Jews, we have a splendid instance of the first. In the exile, the spoliation, and, too often, the murder, of Catholic priests, we have a melancholy example of the second. Still it must be admitted in palliation of these excesses that they took place in a paroxysm of the wildest popular excitement, when the minds of men were exasperated to the highest degree by an atrocious and long-continued tyranny, when the very existence of the State was menaced by foreign invaders, and when the bulk of the priesthood were openly conspiring against the liberties of their country. It should also be remembered that the priests had to the very last declared themselves the implacable enemies of religious liberty. At all events, the spirit of tolerance soon regained the ascendency, and when the elements of revolution had been at last consolidated into a regular government, France found herself possessed of a degree of religious liberty which had never been paralleled in any other Roman Catholic country, and which has been barely equalled in the most advanced Protestant ones. As this liberty grew out of the social and intellectual condition which was attained at the Revolution, it was not dependent upon any political combination, and the long series of political changes which have taken place during the last half-cen tury have only fortified and developed it.
The inference to be drawn from this sketch is, that the growth of religious liberty in France was at all times directly opposed to the Church, and that its triumph was a measure of her depression. Once, however, in the present century, an attempt was made, under the leadership of Lamennais, to associate Catholicity with the movement of modern civilisation, and it was supported by all the advantages of great genius and great piety, combined with circumstances that were in some respects singularly propitious. The issue of that attempt is profoundly instructive. It is shown in the abandonment of Catholicity by the greatest of its modern champions. It is shown still more strikingly in the solemn and authoritative condemnation of religious liberty by a pope, who justly attributed it to the increasing spirit of rationalism. ‘We arrive now,’ wrote Gregory XVI., ‘at another most fruitful cause of evils, with which we lament that the Church is at present afflicted; namely, indifferentism, or that pernicious opinion which is disseminated everywhere by the artifice of wicked men, according to which eternal salvation may be obtained by the profession of any faith, if only practice be directed by the rule of right and uprightness…. From this noxious fountain of indifferentism flows that absurd and erroneous opinion, or rather that form of madness, which declares that liberty of conscience should be asserted and maintained for every one. For which most pestilential error, that full and immoderate liberty of opinions paves the way which, to the injury of sacred and civil government, is now spread far and wide, and which some with the utmost impudence have extolled as beneficial to religion. But “what,” said Augustine, “is more deadly to the soul than the liberty of error?” … From this cause, too, arises that never sufficiently to be execrated and to be detested liberty of publication of all books which the populace relish, which some are most ardently extending and promoting…. And yet, alas! there are those who are so carried away by impudence that they audaciously assert that the deluge of errors flowing from this source is amply counterbalanced by an occasional book which, amid the transport of iniquity, defends religion and truth…. What sane man would permit poison to be publicly scattered about, sold, and even drunk, because there is a remedy by which its effects may possibly be counteracted?’1
If we compare the history of English toleration with the history I have just sketched, we shall find some striking points of resemblance; but also some differences which illustrate very happily the nature of the superiority of Protestantism over Catholicism. Among Protestants, as among Catholics, the advance of the spirit of rationalism was, as I have said, the necessary antecedent of the victory of toleration. As long as men believed that those who rejected certain opinions were excluded from salvation, they continued to persecute. When the number of what were deemed fundamental doctrines was very great, the persecution was very severe. When the progress of latitudinarianism diminished the number, the circle of toleration was proportionately enlarged; when the government fell into the hands of classes who did not believe or did not realise the doctrine of exclusive salvation, the persecution entirely ceased. Other influences, such as the conflict of interests, the progress of political liberty, the softening of manners, or the benevolent feelings of individual divines, did no doubt affect the movement; but their agency was so subsidiary that, speaking generally, it may be safely asserted, that as the doctrine of exclusive salvation was the source of that fearful mass of suffering which we have reviewed, so the spirit of rationalism which destroyed that doctrine was the measure of religious liberty. It is also true that in Protestant countries as well as in Catholic ones the great majority of the clergy were the bitter enemies of the movement, that they defended entrenchment after entrenchment with a desperate tenacity, and that some of the noblest triumphs of toleration are the memorials of their depression. But at this point the history of the religions divides, and two very important distinctions attest the superiority of Protestantism. Its flexibility is so great, that it has been able cordially to coalesce with a tendency which it long resisted, whereas the Church of Rome is even now exhausting its strength by vain efforts to arrest a spirit with which it is unable to assimilate. Besides this, as I have already noticed, toleration, however incompatible with some of the tenets which Protestants have asserted, is essentially a normal result of Protestantism, for it is the direct, logical, and inevitable consequence of the due exercise of private judgment. When men have appreciated the countless differences which the exercise of that judgment must necessarily produce, when they have estimated the intrinsic fallibility of their reason, and the degree in which it is distorted by the will, when, above all they have acquired that love of truth which a constant appeal to private judgment at last produces, they will never dream that guilt can be associated with an honest conclusion, or that one class of arguments should be stifled by authority In the seventeenth century, when the controversies with Catholicism had brought the central principle of Protestantism into clear relief, and when the highest genius of Europe still flowed in the channels of divinity, this love of truth was manifested in the greatest works of English theology to a degree which no other department of literature has ever equal led. Hooker, unfolding with his majestic eloquence the immutable principles of eternal law; Berkeley, the greatest modern master of the Socratic dialogue, asserting the claims of free thought against those who vainly boasted that they monopolised it, and pursuing with the same keen and piercing logic the sophisms that lurked in the commonplaces of fashion and in the obscurest recesses of metaphysics; Chillingworth, drawing with a bold and unfaltering hand the line between certainties and probabilities, eliminating from theology the old conception of faith considered as an unreasoning acquiescence, and teaching that belief should always be strictly ‘proportionable to the credibility of its motives;’—these and such as these, even when they were themselves opposed to religious liberty, were its real founders. Their noble confidence in the power of truth, their ceaseless struggle against the empire of prejudice, their comprehensive views of the laws and limits of the reason, their fervent passionate love of knowledge, and the majesty and dignity of their sentiments, all produced in England a tone of thought that was essentially opposed to persecution, and made their writings the perennial source by which even now the most heroic natures are invigorated. A nation was not far from a just estimate of religious controversies when it had learnt to hold with Milton that ‘opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making;’ and that ‘if a man believes things only because his pastor says so, or the assembly so determines, without knowing other reason, though his belief be true, yet the very truth he holds becomes his heresy.’1 It was not far from religious liberty when it could receive the noble language of Chillingworth: ‘If men do their best endeavours to free them selves from all errors, and yet fail of it through human frailty, so well I am persuaded of the goodness of God, that if in me alone should meet a confluence of all such errors of all the Protestants in the world that were thus qualified, I should not be so much afraid of them all, as I should be to ask pardon for them.’1
There does not appear to have been any general movement in England in favour of religious liberty till the time of the Great Rebellion. The tyranny of Laud had then disgusted most men with the system he pursued; the rapid vicissitudes of politics had made all parties endure the bitterness of persecution, and the destruction of the old government had raised some of the ablest Englishmen to power. It would have been strange, indeed, if this great question had been untouched at a period when Cromwell was guiding the administration, and Milton the intellect, of England, and when the enthusiasm of liberty had thrilled through every quarter of the land. The Catholics, indeed, were ruthlessly proscribed, and Drogheda and Wexford tell but too plainly the light in which they were regarded. The Church of England, or, as it was then termed, ‘prelacy,’ was also legally suppressed, though Cromwell very frequently connived at its worship; but with these exceptions the toleration was very large. There was a division on the subject between the Independents and the Presbyterians. The former, with Cromwell himself, desired the widest liberty of conscience to be extended to all Christians, short of the toleration of ‘Popery and Prela y;’ and in 1653 they succeeded in inducing the Parliament to pass a bill to that effect. Supported by the Independents, Cromwell went still further, and gave the Jews once more a legal footing in England, permitted them to celebrate their worship, and protected their persons from injury. The l'resbyterians, on the other hand, constantly laboured to thwart the measures of the Protector. They desired that those only should be tolerated who accepted the ‘fundamentals’ of Christianity, and they drew up a list of these ‘fundamentals,’ which formed as elaborate and exclusive a test as the articles of the Church they had defeated.1 Baxter, however, although he pronounced universal toleration to be ‘soul-murder,’2 and struggled vigorously against the policy of the Independents, was, on the whole, somewhat more liberal than his coreligionists; and it should be recorded to his special honour that he applauded the relief that was granted to the Jews, when most of the Presbyterians, under the leadership of Prynne, were denouncing it.
The three principal writers who at this time represented the movement of toleration, were Harrington, Milton, and Taylor—the first of whom dealt mainly with its political, and the other two with its theological aspect. Of the three, it must be acknowledged that the politician took by far the most comprehensive view. He perceived very clearly that political liberty cannot subsist where there is not absolute religious liberty, and that religious liberty does not consist simply of toleration, but implies a total abolition of religious disqualifications. In these respects he alone among his contemporaries anticipated the doctrines of the nineteenth century. ‘Where civil liberty is entire,’ he wrote, ‘it includes liberty of conscience. Where liberty of conscience is entire, it includes civil liberty.’1 ‘Liberty of conscience entire, or in the whole, is where a man, according to the dictates of his own conscience, may have the free exercise of his religion, without impediment to his preferment or employment in the State.’2
But if Harrington took the widest view of the rights of conscience, Milton was certainly the advocate who was most likely to have advanced the cause, both on account of his high position in the Commonwealth, and because his opinions on the subject were, for the most part, embodied in a tract, which probably represents the very highest point that English eloquence has attained. The Paradise Lost is, indeed, scarcely a more glorious monument of the genius of Milton than the Areopagitica. If, even at the present day, when the cause for which it was written has long since triumphed, it is impossible to read it without emotion, we can hardly doubt that when it first appeared it exercised a mighty influence over the awakening movement of liberty. Milton advocated tolerance on several distinct grounds. In defence of truth he deemed persecution wholly unnecessary, ‘For truth is strong next to the Almighty. She needs no policies or stratagems or licensings to make her victorious. These are the shifts and the defences that error uses against her power.’1 But if persecution is unnecessary in the defence of truth, it has a fearful efficacy in preventing men from discovering it; and when it is so employed, as infallibility does not exist among mankind, no man can assuredly decide. For truth is scattered far and wide in small portions among mankind, mingled in every system with the dross of error, grasped perfectly by no one, and only in some degree discovered by the careful comparison and collation of opposing systems.2 To crush some of these systems, to stifle the voice of argument, to ban and proscribe the press, or to compel it only to utter the sentiments of a single sect, is to destroy the only means we possess of arriving at truth; and as the difficulty of avoiding error is under the most favourable circumstances very great, it may be presumed that the doctrines which it is necessary to hold are but few, and where the error is not fundamental it should not be suppressed by law. All the differences that divide Protestants are upon matters not bearing on salvation, and therefore all classes—Socinians, Arians, and Anabaptists, as well as others—should be tolerated.1 The Catholics, however Milton rigidly excludes from the smallest measure of tolerance, and the reason he gives is very remarkable. The intriguing policy of its priesthood might at that time, at least, furnish a plausible ground, but Milton, though evidently be lieving it to be so, expressly refuses to base his decision upon it. His exclusion of Catholics rests upon a distinct religious principle. The worship of the Catholics is idolatrous, and the Old Testament forbids the toleration of idolatry.2
The last name I have mentioned is Taylor, whose Liberty of Prophesying is, if we except The Religion of Protestants, unquestionably the most important contribution of the Anglican Church towards toleration.3 It is scarcely possible to read it without arriving at an invincible conviction that it expressed the genuine sentiments of its author. Its argument is based upon latitudinarian principles, which appear more or less in all his writings, and its singularly indulgent tone towards the Catholics, its earnest advocacy of their claims to toleration,1 which would hardly have been expected from so uncompromising a Protestant as the author of The Dissuasive from Popery, was certainly not intended to propitiate the Puritans. Besides this, the whole book is animated with a warmth and tenderness of charity, a catholicity of temper biassing the judgment in favour of mercy, which could scarcely have been counterfeited. This was indeed at all times the most amiable characteristic of Taylor. His very style—like the murmur of a deep sea, bathed in the sun—so richly coloured by an imagination that was never disunited from the affections, and at the same time so sweetly cadenced, so full of gentle and varied melodies, reflects his character; and not the less so because of a certain want of nervousness and consistency, a certain vagueness and almost feebleness which it occasionally displays. The arguments on which he based his cause are very simple. He believed that the great majority of theological propositions cannot be clearly deduced from Scripture, and that it is therefore not necessary to hold them. The Apostles’ Creed he regarded as containing the doctrines which can certainly be established, and, therefore, as comprising all that are fundamental. All errors on questions beyond these do not affect salvation, and ought, in consequence, to be tolerated. As far, therefore, as he was a sceptic, Taylor was a rationalist, and as far as he was a rationalist he was an advocate of toleration. Unfortunately for his reputation, he wrote The Liberty of Prophesying in exile, and, to a certain extent, abandoned its principles when his Church regained her ascendency.1
All through the period of the Restoration the movement of toleration continued. The vast amount of scepticism existing in the country caused the governing class to look with comparative indifference upon doctrinal differences; and the general adoption of the principles of Bacon and of Descartes, by the ablest writers, accelerated the movement, which began to appear in the most unexpected quarters.2 The expression of that movement in the Anglican Church is to be found in the latitudinarian school, which followed closely in the steps of Chillingworth. Like the Independents and Presbyterians of the Commonwealth, like the greater number of the opponents of the execution of Servetus, the members of this school usually based their advocacy of tolerance on the ground of the distinction between fundamentals and non-fundamentals, and the degree in which they restricted or expanded the first depended mainly on their scepticism. Glanvil, who was, perhaps, the most uncompromising of these writers, having in his treatise On the Vanity of Dogmatising preached almost universal scepticism, proceeded in consequence to advocate almost universal toleration. He drew up a catalogue of necessary articles of belief, which was of such a nature that scarcely any one was excluded, and he contended that no one should be punished for errors that are not fundamental. The effects of the tendency were soon manifested in the laws, and in 1677 the power of putting heretics to death was withdrawn from the bishops.
It appears, then, that the first stage of toleration in England was due to the spirit of scepticism encroaching upon the doctrine of exclusive salvation. But what is especially worthy of remark is, that the most illustrious of the advocates of toleration were men who were earnestly attached to positive religion, and that the writings in which they em bodied their arguments are even now among the classics of the Church. The Religion of Protestants and The Liberty of Prophesying are justly regarded as among the greatest glories of Anglicanism, and Glanvil, Owen, and Hales are still honoured names in theology. This is well worthy of notice when we consider the unmixed scepticism of those who occupied a corresponding position in France; but there is another circumstance which greatly heightens the contrast. At the very period when the principle of toleration was first established in England by the union of the spirit of scepticism with the spirit of Christianity, the greatest living anti christian writer was Hobbes, who was perhaps the most unflinching of all the supporters of persecution. It was his leading doctrine that the civil power, and the civil power alone, has an absolute right to determine the religion of the nation, and that, therefore, any refusal to acquiesce in that religion is essentially an act of rebellion.
But while the rationalistic spirit had thus found a firm footing within the Church, it was strongly opposed and generally overborne by the dogmatic spirit which was represented by the great majority of the clergy, and which radiated with especial energy from Oxford. Taylor, as we have seen, recoiled before the prevailing intolerance. Glanvil sank into considerable discredit, from which, however, he in some degree emerged by his defence of witchcraft. Heretics were no longer liable to be burnt, but all through the reign of Charles II. and during the greater part of the reign of James, the Dissenters endured every minor form of persecution. At last, James, irritated by the penal laws that oppressed his co-religionists, determined to proclaim toleration with a high hand. That he did this solely with a view to the welfare of his own Church, and not at all from any love of toleration, may be inferred with considerable certainty from the fact that he had himself been one of the most relentless of persecutors; but it is not impossible, and, I think, not altogether improbable, that he would have accepted a measure of toleration which relieved the Roman Catholics, without embarking in the very hazardous enterprise of establishing Catholic ascendency. The sequel is too well known to require repetition. Every educated Englishman knows how the great majority of the clergy, in spite of the doctrine of passive obedience they had taught, and of the well-known decision of Taylor that even an illegal ordinance should be accepted, refused to read the declaration; how their attitude endeared them to the people, and accelerated the triumph of the Revolution; how they soon imprudently withdrew from and opposed the movement they nad produced; how upon the achievement of the Revolution they sank into a condition of almost unequalled political depression; and how the consequence of that depression was the Toleration Act, which, though very imperfect according to our present notions, is justly regarded as the Magna Charta of religious liberty. Those who defended it were of the same class as the previous advocates of toleration. Somers and the other leading Whigs were members of the Anglican Church. Locke was in religion the avowed disciple of Chillingworth, and in politics the highest representative of the principles of Harrington; and it was on the double ground of the sanctity of an honest conviction, and of the danger of enlarging the province of the civil magistrate, that he defended toleration against the theologians of Oxford.1 While the Toleration Act and the establishment of the Scotch Kirk gave virtual freedom of worship to all Protestants, the abrogation of the censorship established freedom of discussion. The battle was thus won. Intolerance became an exception and an anomaly, and it was simply a question of time how soon it should be expelled from its last entrenchments.
We have seen that the spirit of intolerance was at first equally strong in the Church of Rome and in the reformed churches, and that its extinction both in Catholic and Protestant countries was due to the spirit of rationalism. We have seen that in both cases the clergy were the untiring enemies of this the noblest of all the conquests of civilisation, and that it was only by a long series of anti-ecclesiastical revolutions that the sword was at last wrung from their grasp. We have seen, too, that while the Church of Rome was so constituted, that an anti-ecclesiastical movement where she ruled invariably became antichristian, the flexibility of Protestantism was so great, that rationalism found free scope for action within its pale. Discarding more and more their dogmatic character, and transforming themselves according to the exigencies of the age, the churches of the Reformation have in many cases allied themselves with the most daring speculations, and have in most cases cordially coalesced with the spirit of toleration. When a country which is nominally Roman Catholic is very tolerant, it may be inferred with almost absolute certainty that the social and intellectual influence of the Church is comparatively small; but England and America conclusively prove that a nation may be very tolerant, and at the same time profoundly Protestant. When in a Roman Catholic country the human intellect on the highest of subjects pursues its course with unshackled energy, the freethinker is immediately severed from the traditions, the worship, the moralising influences of his Church; but Germany has already shown, and England is beginning to show, that the boldest speculations may be wedded to a Protestant worship, and may find elements of assimilation in a Protestant creed. It is this fact which is the most propitious omen of the future of Protestantism. For there is no such thing as a theological antiseptic. Every profound intellectual change the human race has yet undergone, has produced at least some modification of all departments of speculative belief. Much that is adapted to one phase of civilisation becomes useless or pernicious in another. The moral element of a religion appeals to forms of emotion which are substantially unchanged by time, but the intellectual conceptions that are associated with it assume their tone and colour from the intellectual atmosphere of the age. Protestantism as a dogmatic system makes no converts, but it has shown itself capable of blending with and consecrating the prevailing rationalism. Compare the series of doctrines I have reviewed in the present chapter with the habitual teaching of modern divines, and the change is sufficiently apparent. All those notions concerning the damnation of unbaptised infants, or of the heathen, or of the heretic, which once acted so great a part in the history of Christen dom, are becoming rapidly unrealised and inoperative, where they are not already openly denied. Nor has it been otherwise with persecution. For centuries the Protestant clergy preached it as a duty; when driven from this position, they almost invariably defended its less atrocious forms, disguising it under other names. At last this passed away. Only a few years ago, six ladies were exiled from Sweden because they had embraced the Roman Catholic faith;1 but a striking example soon proved how uncongenial were such measures with the Protestantism of the nineteenth century. An address drawn up by some of the most eminent English opponents of Catholicism, and signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, protested against the act as an outrage to the first principles of Protestantism.
The history which I have traced in the present chapter naturally leads to some reflections on the ultimate consequences of the rationalistic method of investigation as distinguished from the system of coercion. The question, What is truth? has certainly no prospect of obtaining a speedy answer; but the question, What is the spirit of truth? may be discussed with much greater prospect of agreement. By the spirit of truth, I mean that frame of mind in which men who acknowledge their own fallibility, and who desire above all things to discover what is true, should adjudicate between conflicting arguments. As soon as they have distinctly perceived that reason, and reason alone, should determine their opinions, that they never can be legitimately certain of the truth of what they have been taught till they have both examined its evidence and heard what can be said against it, and that any influence that introduces a bias of the will is necessarily an impediment to enquiry, the whole theory of persecution falls at once to the ground. For the object of the persecutor is to suppress one portion of the elements of discussion; it is to determine the judgment by an influence other than reason; it is to prevent that freedom of enquiry which is the sole method we possess of arriving at truth. The persecutor never can be certain that he is not persecuting truth rather than error, but he may be quite certain that he is suppressing the spirit of truth. And indeed it is no exaggeration to say that the doctrines I have reviewed represent the most skilful, and at the same time most successful, conspiracy against that spirit that has ever existed among mankind. Until the seventeenth century, every mental disposition which philosophy pronounces to be essential to a legitimate research was almost uniformly branded as a sin, and a large proportion of the most deadly intellectual vices were deliberately inculcated as virtues. It was a sin to doubt the opinions that had been instilled in childhood before they had been examined; it was a virtue to hold them with unwavering, unreasoning credulity. It was a sin to notice and develop to its full consequences every objection to those opinions; it was a virtue to stifle every objection as a suggestion of the devil. It was sinful to study with equal attention and with an indifferent mind the writings on both sides, sinful to resolve to follow the light of evidence wherever it might lead, sinful to remain poised in doubt between conflicting opinions, sinful to give only a qualified assent to indecisive arguments, sinful even to recognise the moral or intellectual excellence of opponents. In a word, there is scarcely a disposition that marks the love of abstract truth, and scarcely a rule which reason teaches as essential for its attainment, that theologians did not for centuries stigmatise as offensive to the Almighty. By destroying every book that could generate discussion, by diffusing through every field of knowledge a spirit of boundless credulity, and, above all, by persecuting with atrocious cruelty those who differed from their opinions, they succeeded for a long period in almost arresting the action of the European mind, and in persuading men that a critical, impartial, and enquiring spirit was the worst form of vice. From this frightful condition Europe was at last rescued by the intellectual influences that produced the Reformation, by the teaching of those great philosophers who clearly laid down the conditions of enquiry, and by those bold innovators who, with the stake of Bruno and Vanini before their eyes, dared to challenge directly the doctrines of the past. By these means the spirit of philosophy or of truth became prominent, and the spirit of dogmatism, with all its consequences, was proportionately weakened. As long as the latter spirit possessed an indisputable ascendency, persecution was ruthless, universal, and unquestioned. When the former spirit became more powerful, the language of anathema grew less peremptory. Exceptions and qualifications were introduced; the full meaning of the words was no longer realised; persecution became languid; it changed its character; it exhibited itself rather in a general tendency than in overt acts; it grew apologetical, timid, and evasive. In one age the persecutor burnt the heretic; in another, he crushed him with penal laws; in a third, he withheld from him places of emolument and dignity; in a fourth, he subjected him to the excommunication of society. Each stage of advancing toleration marks a stage of the decline of the spirit of dogmatism and of the increase of the spirit of truth.
Now, if I have at all succeeded in carrying the reader with me in the foregoing arguments, it will appear plain that the doctrine of exclusive salvation represents a point from which two entirely different systems diverge. In other words, those who reject the doctrine cannot pause there. They will inevitably be carried on to a series of doctrines, to a general conception of religion, that is radically and fundamentally different from the conception of the adherent of the doctrine. I speak of course of those who hold one or other opinion with realising earnestness. Of these it may, I believe, be truly said, that according to their relation to this doctrine they will be divided into different classes, with different types of character, different standards of excellence, different conceptions of the whole spirit of theology. The man who with realising earnestness believes the doctrine of exclusive salvation, will habitually place the dogmatic above the moral element of religion; he will justify, or at least very slightly condemn, pious frauds or other immoral acts that support his doctrines; he will judge men mainly according to their opinions, and not according to their acts; he will lay greater stress on those duties that grow out of an ecclesiastical system, than on those which grow out of the moral nature of mankind; he will obtain, the certainty that is necessary to his peace by excluding every argument that is adverse to his belief; and he will above all manifest a constant tendency to persecution. On the other I and, men who have been deeply imbued with the spirit of earnest and impartial enquiry, will invariably come to value such a disposition more than any particular doctrines to which it may lead them; they will deny the necessity of correct opinions; they will place the moral far above the dogmatic side of their faith; they will give free scope to every criticism that restricts their belief; and they will value men according to their acts, and not at all according to their opinions. The first of these tendencies is essentially Roman Catholic. The second is essentially rationalistic.
It is impossible I think to doubt that, since Descartes, the higher thought of Europe has been tending steadily in this second direction, and that sooner or later the spirit of truth will be regarded in Christendom, as it was regarded by the philosophers of ancient Greece, as the loftiest form of virtue. We are indeed still far from that point. A love of truth that seriously resolves to spare no prejudice and accord no favour, that prides itself on basing every conclusion on reason or conscience, and on rejecting every illegitimate influence, is not common in one sex, is almost unknown in the other, and is very far indeed from being the actuating spirit of all who boast most loudly of their freedom from prejudice. Still it is to this that we are steadily approximating; and there probably never before was a period since the triumph of Christianity, when men were judged so little according to their belief, and when history, and even ecclesiastical history, was written with such earnest, such scrupulous impartiality. In the political sphere the victory has almost been achieved. In the social sphere, although the amalgamation of different religious communities is still very imperfect, and although a change of religion by one member of a family not unfrequently produces a rupture and causes a vast amount of the more petty forms of persecution, the improvement has been rapid and profound. The fierce invectives which Protestant and Catholic once interchanged, are now for the most part confined to a small and select circle of the more ardent disciples of either creed; and it is commonly admitted among educated men, that those who under the sense of duty, and at the cost of great mental suffering, have changed their religion, ought not to be pronounced the most culpable of mankind, even though they have rejected the opinions of their censor. This is at least a vast improvement since the time when the ‘miscreant’ was deemed a synonyme for the misbeliever, and when apostasy was universally regarded as the worst of crimes. Already, under the same influences, education at the Universities has in a great measure lost its old exclusive character; and members of different creeds having been admitted within their pale, men are brought in contact with representatives of more than one class of opinions at a time when they are finally deciding what class of opinions they will embrace. There cannot, I think, be much doubt that the same movement must eventually modify profoundly the earlier stages of education. If our private judgment is the sole rule by which we should form our opinions, it is obviously the duty of the educator to render that judgment as powerful, and at the same time to preserve it as unbiassed, as possible. To impose an elaborate system of prejudices on the yet undeveloped mind, and to entwine those prejudices with all the most hallowed associations of childhood, is most certainly contrary to the spirit of the doctrine of private judgment. A prejudice may be true or false; but if private judgment is to decide between opinions, it is, as far as that judgment is concerned, necesarily an evil, and especially when it appeals strongly to the affections. The sole object of man is not to search for truth; and it may be, and undoubtedly often is, necessary for other purposes to instil into the mind of the child certain opinions, which he will have hereafter to reconsider. Yet still it is manifest that those who appreciate this doctrine of private judgment as I have described it, will desire that those opinions should be few, that they should rest as lightly as possible upon the mind, and should be separated as far as possible from the eternal principles of morality.
Such seem the general outlines of the movement around us. Unhappily it is impossible to contemplate it without feeling that the Protestantism of Chillingworth is much less a reality to be grasped than an ideal to which, at least in our age, we can most imperfectly approximate. The overwhelming majority of the human race necessarily accept their opinions from authority. Whether they do so avowedly, like the Catholics, or unconsciously, like most Protestants, is immaterial. They have neither time nor opportunity to examine for themselves. They are taught certain docrines on disputed questions as if they were unquestionable truths, when they are incapable of judging, and every influence is employed to deepen the impression. This is the true origin of their belief. Not until long years of mental conflict have passed can they obtain the inestimable boon of an assured and untrammelled mind. The fable of the ancient1 is still true. The woman even now sits at the portal of life, presenting a cup to all who enter in which diffuses through every vein a poison that will cling to them for ever. The judgment may pierce the clouds of prejudice; in the moments of her strength she may even rejoice and triumph in her liberty; yet the conceptions of childhood will long remain latent in the mind, to reappear in every hour of weakness, when the tension of the reason is relaxed, and when the power of old associations is supreme.1 It is not surprising that very few should possess the courage and the perseverance to encounter the mental struggle. The immense majority either never examine the opinions they have inherited, or examine them so completely under the dominating influence of the prejudice of education, that whatever may have been the doctrines they have been taught, they conclude that they are so unquestionably true that nothing but a judicial blindness can cause their rejection. Of the few who have obtained a glimpse of higher things, a large proportion cannot endure a conflict to which old associations, and, above all, the old doctrine of the guilt of error, lend such a peculiar bitterness; they stifle the voice of reason, they turn away from the path of knowledge, they purchase peace at the expense of truth. This is, indeed, in our day, the most fatal of all the obstacles to enquiry. It was not till the old world had been reduced to chaos that the divine voice said, ‘Let there be light;’ and in the order of knowledge, as in the order of nature, dissolution must commonly precede formation. There is a period in the history of the enquirer when old opinions have been shaken or destroyed, and new opinions have not yet been formed; a period of doubt, of terror, and of darkness, when the voice of the dogmatist has not lost its power, and the phantoms of the past still hover over the mind; a period when every landmark is lost to sight, and every star is veiled, and the soul seems drifting helpless and rudderless before the destroying blast. It is in this season of transition that the temptations to stifle reason possess a fearful power. It is when contrasting the tranquillity of past assurance with the feverish paroxysms that accompany enquiry, that the mind is most likely to abandon the path of truth. It is so much easier to assume than to prove; it is so much less painful to believe than to doubt; there is such a charm in the repose of prejudice, when no discordant voice jars upon the harmony of belief; there is such a thrilling pang when cherished dreams are scattered, and old creeds abandoned, that it is not surprising that men should close their eyes to the unwelcome light. Hence the tenacity exhibited by systems that have long since been disproved. Hence the oscillation and timidity that characterise the research of most, and the indifference to truth and the worship of expediency that cloud the fair promise of not a few.
In our age these struggles are diffused over a very wide circle, and are felt by men of many grades of intellect. This fact, however, while it accounts for the perturbation and instability that characterise a large portion of contemporary literature, should materially lighten the burden of each individual enquirer. The great majority of the ablest intellects of the century have preceded him, and their genius irradiates the path. The hands of many sympathisers are extended to assist him. The disintegration around him will facilitate his course. He who, believing that the search for truth can never be offensive to the God of truth, pursues his way with an unswerving energy, may not unreasonably hope that he may assist others in their struggle towards the light, and may in some small degree contribute to that consummation when the professed belief shall have been adjusted to the requirements of the age, when the old tyranny shall have been broken, and the anarchy of transition shall have passed away.
As St. Thomas Aquinas says, ‘Si falsarii pecuniæ vel alii malefactores statim per seculares principes juste morti traduntur, multo magis hæretici statim, ex quo de hæresi convincuntur, possunt non solum excommunicarised et juste occidi.’ (Summa, pars ii. qu. xi. art. iii.)
For their details see Parnell, Penal Laws. In common parlance, the ‘penal laws’ date from the treaty of Limerick, but the legislative assaults on Irish Catholicism began with Elizabeth.
The very curious life of Bedell, by his son-in-law, Alexander Clogy, which was written in 1641–’2, and which formed the basis of the narrative of Burnet, was printed from the MSS. in the British Museum in 1862. We have an amusing instance of the uncompromising Protestantism of Bedell in the fact that when the insurgents who retained him prisoner gave him permission to perform the Anglican service freely with his friends, he availed himself of that permission to celebrate the thanksgiving for the 5th of November.
I have endeavoured to trace them in a book called The Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland.
See a note in Buckle, History of Civilisation, vol. i. p. 385
This was the opinion expressed by Charles James Fox ‘The only foundation for toleration,’ he said, ‘is a degree of scepticism, and without it there can be none. For if a man believes in the saving of souls, he must soon think about the means; and if by cutting off one generation he can save many future ones from hell fire, it is his duty to do it.’ (Rogers, Recollections p. 49.)
On the influence of this command on Christian persecution, see Bayle, Contrains-les d'entrer, pt. ii. ch. iv., and some striking remarks in Renan, Vie de Jésus, pp. 412, 413; to which I may add as an illustration the following passage of Simancas:—‘Hæretici pertinaces publice in conspectu populi comburendi sunt; et id fieri solet extra portas civitatis: quemadmodum olim, in Deut. cap. xvii., idolatra educebatur ad portas civitatis, et lapidibus obruebatur.’ (De Cathol. Instit. p. 375.) Taylor, in noticing this argument, finely says that Christ, by refusing to permit his apostles to call down fire like Elias on the misbeliver, clearly indicated his separation from the intolerance of Judaism. (Liberty of Prophesying, sec. 22.)
Apol. cap. xxiv.
The reader may find a full statement of the passages from the Fathers favourable to toleration in Whitby, On Laws against Heretics (1723, published anonymously); Taylor, Liberty of Prophesying; Bayle, Contrains-les d'entrer; and many other books. The other side of the question has been developed, among other writers, by Palmer, On the Church; Muzzarelli, Simancas, Paramo, and all the other old writers on the Inquisition. There is, I think an impartial view of the whole subject in Milman, History of Christianity. See, too, Blackstone's Commentaries, b. iv. ch. iv.
Inst. lib. v. c. xx. Lactantius embraced Christianity during the persecution of Diocletian, but it appears almost certain that his Institutions were mainly written, or at least published, at Trèves during the reign of Constantine, and he never abandoned the tolerant maxims he proclaimed. This was especially creditable to him, as he was tutor to the son of Constantine, and consequently singularly tempted to avail himself of the arm of power. Unfortunately, this very eloquent writer, who was certainly one of the ablest in the early Church, possessed comparatively little influence on account of his passion for paradox. He maintained that no Christian might engage in warfare, or execute a capital sentence; he was one of the strongest assertors of the opinion that God the Father had a figure (a controversy raised by Origen), and he was accused of denying the personality of the Holy Ghost. ‘Lactantius,’ said Jerome, ‘quasi quidam fluvius eloquentiæ Tullianæ, utinam tam nostra confirmare potuisset, quam facile aliena destruxit!’ (Epist. lib. ii. epist. 14). The works of Lactantius were condemned by a council presided over by Pope Gelasius in the 5th century. See Alexandri, Hist. Ecclesiastica (Paris 1699), tom. iv. pp. 100–103; Ampère, Hist. Littéraire de la France, tom. i pp. 218–223. Some of the peculiar notions of Lactantius appeared at a later period among the Waldenses.
Socrates, lib. iv. c. xvi. The Donatists were also fierce persecutors and Nestorius showed his sentiments clearly enough when he said to the Emperor, ‘Give me the earth purged from heretics, and I will give you heaven.’ The Spanish Arians seem to have originated the intense intolerance that has been perpetuated from generation to generation in Spain.
Cod. Theod. lib, xvi. tit. 8. The apostate ‘sustinebit meritas pœnas.’ Constantius afterwards made the penalty confiscation of goods. A Jew who married a Christian incurred the penalty of death. See, on this department legislation, Bédarride, Hist. des Juifs, pp. 16–20.
Milman, History of Christianity, vol. ii. pp. 372–375. See also the review of these measures in Palmer, On the Church, vol. ii. p. 250. The Arians had to pay ten times the taxes of the orthodox. The first law that has come down to us, in which the penalty of death is annexed to the simple profession of a heresy, is law 9 De Hœreticis in the Theodosian Code. It was made by Theodosius the Great, and was applicable only to some sects of Manichæans. It is worthy of notice that this is also the first law in which we meet the title of ‘Inquisitors of the Faith.’ Optatus in the reign of Constantine advocated the massacre of the Donatists on the ground of the Old Testament precedents (see Milman).
‘Addite aras publicas atque delabra, et consuetudinis vestræ celebrate solemnia: nec enim prohibemus preteritæ usurpations officia libera luce tractari.’—Cod. Th. lib. ix. tit. 16, cc. i. ii.
The first emperor who refused it was Gratian (Zosimus, book iv.).
Eusebius, Vita Const. lib. ii. c. xliv. xlv.
See Eusebius, Vita Const. lib. ii. c. xliv. xlv., lib. iv. c. xxiii.; Theodoret, lib. vi. c. xxi.; Sozomen, lib. iii. c. xvii. Eusebius repeats this assertion over and over again; see Milman, History of Christianity, vol. ii. pp. 460–464 ed. 1840).
See a great deal of evidence of this in Beugnot, Décadence du Polytéisme. But it is absurd to speak of Constantine, as M. Beugnot does, as an apostle of tolerance. ‘Connivance,’ as Burke once said, ‘is the relaxation of tyranny, and not the definition of liberty.’ One of Constantine's proclamations of tolerance seems to have been posterior to the prohibition of public sacrifices.
Cod. Th. xvi. 10, 2–4. The terms of one of these laws seem to imply that Constantine had made a similar enactment: ‘Gesset superstitio: sacrificiorum aboleatur insania. Nam quicunque contra legem divi Principis Parentis nastri, et hanc nostræ mansuetudinis jussionem, ausus fuerit sacrificia celebrare, competens in eum vindicta et præsens sententia exeratur.’ For a full discussion of this very perplexing subject see Milman, Hist. of Christianity, and Gibbon, ch, xxi.
Thus, for example, the pagan Zosimus tells us expressly that in the beginning of the reign of Theodosius his coreligionists were still at liberty to worship in the temples. The history is in a great measure a repetition of that of the persecution which the Christians had themselves endured. Generally they had been allowed freely to celebrate their worship, but from that time, eiths through popular indignation or imperial suspicions, there were sudden out bursts of fearful persecution.
See the laws De Templis.
It is said, however, that, notwithstanding these laws, the Novatians (probably on account of the extremely slight difference that separated them from the orthodox) were allowed to celebrate their worship till A.D. 525, when the Bishop of Rome succeeded in procuring their suppression. (Taylor, Liberts of Prophesying, epistle dedicatory.)
‘Neither let those who refuse to obey their bishops and priests think within themselves that they are in the way of life and of salvation, for the Lord God says in Deuteronomy, “Whoever will act presumptuously, and will not hear the priest or the judge, whoever he may be in those days, he shall die, and the people will hear and fear, and do no more presumptuously.” God commanded those to be slain who would not obey the priests or the judges set overwlhem for a time. Then, indeed, they were slain with the sword while the carnal circumcision still remained; but now, since the spiritual circumcision has begun amid the servants of God, the proud and contumacious are killed when they are cast out of the Church. For they cannot live without it; for the house of God is one, and there can be salvation for no one except in the Church.’ (Cypriani Epist., lib. i. ep. 11.) That excommunication is a severer penalty than death, and that the Church, having the power of inflicting the first, may also inflict the second, was one of the arguments of Bellarmine in favour of persecution, and was answered by Taylor, Liberty of Prophesying. sec. 14.
See his Retract. lib. ii. c. v.; Epist. xciii. (in some editions xlviii.) cxxvii clxxxv.; Contra Gaudentium, c. xxv.; Contra Epist. Parmeniani, c. vii There are many other massages on the subject scattered through his writings.
Epist I. Bonifacio
See especially Epist c. clviii. clix. clx. On the other hand, Augustine bases the right of punishing heresy on the enormity of the crime, which he considered greater than any other (Contra Gaudentium, lib. i c. xix.) He assimilates heresy to blasphemy, and says that blasphemy is justly punished by death. (Epist. ev, otherwise clxvi.) He adduces as applicable precedents all the worst Old Testament persecutions, and he defends the condemnation of some Donatists to death by Constantme, on the ground of justice, though he applauds on the ground of mercy the remission of the sentence. (Contra Parmenianum, lib. i. c. viii.) His general view seems to have been that heretics might justly be punished by death, but that the orthodox should not exact strict justice. However, he vacillated a good deal, and both moderate and extreme persecutors find much in their defence in his writings. Religious liberty he emphatically cursed. ‘Quid est enim pejor mors animæ quam libertas erroris!’ (Epist. clxvi.)
‘Quis enim nostrum, quis vestrum non laudat leges ab imperatoribus datas contra sacrificia paganorum? Et certe longe ibi pœna severior conststuts est; illius quippe impietatis capitale supplicium est.’ (Epist. xciii., is some editions xcviii.) See Gibbon, ch. xxviii.
Ampère, Hist. Lttéraire de la France, tom. i. pp 319, 320; Milman, vol. m. p. 60; Taylor, Liberty of Prophaying, sec. 14. St. Martin, however, was one of the most active in destroying the pagan temples, and used in that employment to range over his diocese at the head of a perfect army of monks (See Gibbon.)
The history of this has been written in a very striking book called La Tolérance Ecclesiastique et Civile, by Thaddeus de Trautsmandorff. The author was a canon of Olmutz, and afterwards Bishop of Konigsgratz in Bohemia. The work appeared in Latin, at Pavia, in 1783, and was translated into French in 1796. It is one of the most remarkable books in favour of tolerance produced by any priest in the 18th century. See, too, on the form of intercession employed by the Inquisitors, Limborch, Historia Inquisitionis (Amsterdam, 1692), pp. 365–367, 372.
On the influence of the Councils see Palmer, vol. ii. p. 333; Muzarelli Sur l'Inquisition.
Natalis Alexander, Historia Ecclesiastica, tom. v. p. 337. The following are all the cases Simaucas could collect: ‘Antiquissima est pœna ignis adversus impios et hæreticos, ut ex actis Chalcedonensis concilii satis constare potest. Illic enim episcopus Alexandrinus dixisse traditur: “Si Eutvches præter dogmata eeelesme sapit non solum pœna dignus est sed et igne.” Anatolium quoque hæretieum igm vivum combusserunt, ut Nicephorus prodidit, lib. xviii Eccl. Hist. c. 4. Gregorius quoque. lib. i. Dialogorum, refert Basilium magum Romæ fuisse combustum et rem gestam laudat. Et propter impiam atque scelestam disciplinam Templarii concremati fuerunt … Et Basilius hæreticus communi suffragio combustus fuit, sicuti Zonaras retulit in imperio Alexii Comneni; alibi quoque hæretici jam olim vivi cremati sunt, quemadmodum Paulus Æmilius, lib. vi de Rebus Francorum, retulit. Item constitutionibus Siculis cavetur ut vivi hæretici in conspectu populi comburantur, flammarum commissi judicio Quod legibus quoque Hispanis constitu tum et consuetudine jam pridem receptum est.’ (De Catholicis Institutis natrus [Romæ, 1575], pp. 363, 364)
The Fourth Council of the Lateran is esteemed œcumenical in the Church of Rome, and exercised very great influence both on this account and because it was the council which first defined the doctrine of transubstaptiation. Its decree on persecution, however, had been anticipated by the Council of Avignon, in 1209, which enjoined all bishops to call upon the civil power to exter minate heretics. (Rohrbacher, Hist. de l Eglise Catholique, tom, xvii p. 220.) The bull of Innocent III. threatened any prince who refused to extirpate heretics from his realm, with excommunication, and with the forfeiture of his dominious. See the text in Eymericus, Directorium Inquisitorum (Romæ 1578), p. 60.
Llorente, Hist. de l'Inquisition, tom. iv. pp 271, 272. This does not include those who perished by the branches of the Spanish Inquisition in Mexico, Lima, Carthagena, the Indies, Sicily, Sardinia, Oran, and Malta Llorente having been himself at one time secretary in the Inquisition, and having during the occupation by the French had access to all the secret papers of the tribunal, will always be the highest authority. One would fain hope, however (and it is very probable), that these figures are overstated, and Prescott has detected two or three instances of exaggeration in the calculations on which they are based. (Ferdinana and Isabella, vol. iii. pp. 492, 493.) At the same time Llorente has adduced some fearful evidence of particular in stances of persecution, which serve to show that his grand total is scarcely as improbable as might be supposed. Thus Mariana says that 2,000 persons were burnt in Andalusia in 1482, the year of the establishment of the Inquisition. An old historian, named Bernaldez, says that 700 were burnt at Seville between 1482 and 1489; and an inscription placed over the door of the Inquisition of Seville in 1524, declares that nearly 1,000 persons had been burnt since the expulsion of the Jews in 1492. (Llorente, tom i pp 273–275.)
Sarpi, Hist, of Council of Trent. Grotius says 100,000
‘Upon the 16th of February, 1568, a sentence of the Holy Office condemned all the inhabitants of the Netherlands to death as heretics. From this universal doom only a few persons especially named were excepted. A proclamation of the king, dated ten days later, confirmed this decree of the In quisition, and ordered it to be carried into instant execution…. Three millions of people, men, women, and children, were sentenced to the scaffold in three lines.’ (Motley's Rise of the Dutch Republic, vol II. p. 155.)
One of the advantages of this being that the victim had more time for repeutance. The following edifying anecdote is from Eymericus: ‘In Catha lonia, in civitate Barchinon, fuerunt tres hæretici, ut impenitentes sed non relapsi, traditi brachio sæculari; et cum unus eorum qui erat sacerdos faisset lgni expositus, et ex uno latere jam aliqualiter adustus, clamavit quod educeretur quia volebat abjurare, et pœnitebat. Et sic factum est: verum si bene vel male, nescio.’ (Directorium Inquisitorum, p. 335.) Castellio notices in his time the bitter complaints of some zealous theologians ‘si quem videant strangulari, ac non vivum lentâ flammâ torreri.’ (Cluten, De Hœreticis persequendis : Preface of Martin Bellius) See for a very horrible instance (produced, however, by aggravated ciscumstances), Sessa, De Judœis (Turin, 1717), p. 96. I may mention here that Eymericus was an Inquisitor in Aragon about 1368 His Directorium was printed at Barcelona as early as 1503; it passed through a great many editions, and with the Commentaries of Pegna was long the standing guide of the Inquisition. The admiring biographer of Eymericus sums up his clims upon posterity in one happy sentence: ‘Hæc magna est et postrema viri laus, eum acri odio hæereticos omnes habuisse.’ Independently of its value as throwing light upon the Inquisition in its earlier stages, this book is remarkable as giving a singularly clear view of the heresies of the time. I have not met anywhere else with so satisfactory a review of the opinions of Averroes. In addition to the brief sketch prefixed to the Directorium, there is a full history of the life of Eymericus (which was rather remarkable) in Touron, Hist. des Hommes Illustres de l'Ordre de St. Dominique
The tortures of the Inquisition I have noticed in the last chapter; but I may add that this mode of examination was expressly enjoined by Pope Innocent IV. in a bull beginning: ‘Teneatur præterea potestas seu rector omnes hæreticos quos captas habuerit cogere citra membii diminutionem et mortis periculum tanquam vere latrones et homicidas animarum, et fures Sacramentorum Dei et fidei Christianæ, errores suos expresse fateri et accusare alios hæreticos.’ Clement IV. issued a bull nearly in the same terms (Eymericus, Appendix, p. 9). It was decided by the Inquisitors that even a heretic who confessed his guilt might be tortured to discover his accomplices (Carena, De Inquisitione [Lugduni, 1649], pp. 69–73) The rule was that the tortures were not to be repeated, but it was decided that they might be continued through three days: ‘Si quæstionatus decenter noluerit fateri veritatem … poterit ad terrorem, vel etiam ad veritatem, secunda dies vel tertia assignari ad continuandum tormenta, non ad iterandum, quia iterari non debent, nisi novis supervenientibus indiciis contra eum, quia tunc possunt; sed continuari non prohibentur.’ (Eymericus, p. 314.) Paramo, a Sicilian Inquisitor, assures us that the Inquisition was like the good Samaritan, pouring into its wounded country the wine of a wholesome severity mingled with the oil of mercy. He was also of opinion that it resembled the Jewish tabernacle, in which the rod of Aaron and the manna (of mercy) lay side by side. (De Origin. Inq. p. 153.)
The following is part of the sentence pronounced upon the relapsed heretic: ‘Tu in reprobum sensum datus, maligno spiritu ductus pariter et seductus, præeligisti torqueri diris et perpetuis cruciatibus in infernum, et hic temporali bus ignibus corporaliter consumari, quam adhærendo consilio saniori ab errori bus damnabilibus ac pestiferis resilire.’ (Eymericus, p. 337.)
It was the invariable rule to confiscate the entire property of the impenitent heretic, a rule which Paramo justifies on the ground that the crime of the heretic is so great that something of his impurity falls upon all related to him, and that the Almighty (whom he blasphemously terms the First Inquisitor) deprived both Adam and his descendants of the Garden of Eden. The children of the heretic were thus left absolutely destitute, and with a stigma upon them that in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was sufficient to shut them out from all sympathy, from all charity, and from all hope The thought that those who were most dear to him would probably be abandoned either to starvation or to the life of the prostitute, was doubtless one of most acute pangs of the martyr, and the hope of preventing such a catastrophe one of the most powerful inducements to recant. In this rule we have also an explanation of those trials of dead men for heresy which the Catholic clergy so frequently instituted. Protestants sometimes regard these simply as displays of impotent malice. Nothing, however, can be more false. They had the very intelligible object of robbing the children of the dead. ‘Juste enim proceditur contra defunctos hæreticos Primo, ut memoria ejus damnatur Seeundo, ut bona illius per fiscum ab hæredibus defuncti seu a quibushbet aliis possessoribus auferantur.’ (Paramo, De Orig et Progressu Sancti Inquisitionis [Madrid, 1598], p. 588.) The confiscation of the goods of the heretic was authorised by a full of Innocent III. (on the ground that children are in the Divine judgment often punished for the offences of their fathers), and again by Alexander IV (Eymericus, pp. 58, 59, 64.) The following passage from an old ecclesiastical lawyer gives a vivid picture of the ferocity displayed towards the children of heretics: ‘Ipsi filii hæreticorum adeo sunt effecti a jure incapaces et inhabiles ad succedendum patri, quod illi etiam in uno nummo succedere non possunt: immo semper debent ir miseria et egestate sordescere sicut filii reorum criminis læsæ majestatis humanæ, adco quod nihil aliud els sit relinquendum, nisi sola vita quæ ex misericordia largitur, et tales esse debent in hoc mundo ut cis vita sit supplicium et mors solatium.’ (Farinacius, De Dehctis et Pænix, p 205; Venice, 1619.) However, it was provided that children who betrayed their parents preserved their inheritance On the laws resulting from these notions, see Prescott, Ferdinand and Isabella, vol. i. pp 262, 263.
Before operating in any district, the Inqui-itors always made a proclamation offering pardon under certain conditions to those who confessed and retracted their heresies within thirty or forty days Mariana says that when this proclamation was made, on the first establishment of the Inquisition in Anda usia, 17,000 recantations followed (De Rebus Hispanicus lib. xxiv. c. 17.)
Hallam, Const. Hist.
Ibid. And then in 1562 it was enacted, that all who had ever graduated at the universities or received holy orders, all lawyers, all magistrates, must take the oath of supremacy when tendered to them, under pain of forfeiture or imprisonment during the royal pleasure; and if after three months they refused to take the oath when again tendered to them, they were guilty of high treason and condemned to death. Now the discontent of the Catholics might be a very good reason for making them take the oath of allegiance, which is simply a test of loyalty. It might even be a reason for making the oath of supremacy obligatory on those who for the future aspired to offices of importance—in other words, for excluding the Catholics from such offices; but to pass a retrospective law which made almost every educated Roman Catholic, if he refused to take an oath which was absolutely and confessedly irreconcilable with the doctrines of his Church, liable to be punished with death, was as sweeping a measure of persecution as any that history records. And this was done many years before the bull which deposed Elizabeth. The misconceptions which ignorance, and worse than ignorance, accumulated around this subject have been so completely dispelled by Hallam and Macaulay that I will onl add one remark. The principal apology which was published for the policy of Elizabeth towards the Catholics, was Bishop Bilson's Christian Subjection, in 1695. In that work the coercive laws were openly justified on the ground of the absolute sinfulness of toleration (pp. 16–29) Nor was it merely the public profession of error which was rightly prohibited. This distinction the Bishop indignantly repudiates. ‘No corner is so secret,’ he says, addressing the Catholics, ‘no prison so close, but your impiety there suffered doth offend God, infect others, and confirm your own frowardness. If your religion be good, why should it lack churches? If it be naught, why should it have chambersty? A Christian prince may not pardon or wink at your falsehood’ (p. 26). See also on the duty of intolerance, pp. 16–29. Milner, in his Letters to a Prebendary, has collected much evidence on the subject. There is much truth as well as bitter eloquence in the taunt of an old persecuted Puritan, when he denounced Anglicanism as ‘the Church that is planted in the blood of her mother.’
Elrington, Life of Usher, vol. i p. 73.
For the circumstances of the persecution in Scotland, see Wodrow's History; and for a summary of the laws against Nonconformists in England, Seal's History of the Puritans, vol. ii. pp. 695, 696.
Buckle, Hist., vol. ii. p. 231; McKenzie, Laws of Scotland.
McCrie, Life of Knox (ed. 1840), p. 246.
Much evidence of this is collected in Buckle, vol. i. pp. 508–522.
Macaulay, Essays, vol. ii. p. 140; Laing, Sweden.
See the history, in Bancroft.
Temple, On the United Provinces.
Bayle, art. Augustine, note H. See, too, on the general intolerance of the Dutch clergy, Hallam, Hist. of Lit., vol iii. p. 289.
Biog Univ., art. Descartes, Voltaire, Lettres Philosophiques, xiv. Considering the writings of Descartes, this is perhaps the most preposterous accusation ever brought against a philosopher, if we except one of which Linnæus was the victim. Some good people in Sweden desired, it is said, to have his system of botany suppressed, because it was based upon the discovery of the sexes of the plants, and was therefore calculated to inflame the minds of youth. (Gioja, Filosofia della Statistica, tom ii. p. 389.)
Palmer, On the Church, vol. i. p. 380.
And also in reply to the Wittenberg theologians. At an earlier period, when his translation of the New Testament was proscribed, he had advocated to’ eration. For a full view of his sentiments, see Henry's Life of Calvin, vol. ii. pp. 232–242.
McCrie's Life of Knox, p. 246. It is in his Appellation that this great apostle of murder most fully expounded his views: ‘None provoking the people to idolatrie oght to be exempted from the punishment of death…. The whole tribes did in verie dede execute that sharp judgement against the tribe of Benjamin for a lesse offense than for idolatrie. And the same oght to be done wheresoever Christ Jesus and his Evangill is so receaved in any realme province or citie that the magistrates and people have solemnly avowed and promised to defend the same, as under King Edward of late days was done in England. In such places, I say, it is not only lawful to punish to the death such as labour to subvert the true religion, but the magistrates and people are bound to do so onless they wil provoke the wrath of God against themselves … And therefore, my Lordes, to return to you, seing that God hath armed your handes with the sworde of justice, seing that His law most streatly commandeth idolaters and fals prophetes to be punished with death, and that you be placed above your subjects to reigne as fathers over their children, and further seing that not only I, but with me manie thousand famous, godlie, and learned persons, accuse your Byshoppes and the whole rabble of the Papistical clergie of idolatrie, of murther, and of blasphemic against God committed it appertaineth to your Honours to be vigilant and carefull in so weightic a matter. The question is not of earthly substance, but of the glorie of God, and of the salvation of yourselves.’ (Knox's Works, Laing's edition, vol. iv. pp. 500–515) In a debate in the House of Lords, July 15, 1864, Lord Honghton stated, on the authority of Mr. Froude, that that gentleman in the course of his researches had discovered addresses from both houses of Convocation to Queen Elizabeth, requesting her to put Mary Queen of Scots to death as quickly as possible, which she might justly do, Mary ‘being an idolater.’
Neal's History of the Puritans (ed. 1754), vol. i. pp. 40, 41.
This is noticed by Hallam and other writers.
Thus, for example, Jurieu, the great antagonist of Bossuet, the most eminent French minister in Holland (he was pastor of Rotterdam), and certainly one of the most distinguished Protestants of his day, calls universal toleration, ‘ce dogme Socmien, le plus dangereux de tous ceux de la secte Sociniennc, puisqu'il va à ruiner le Christianisme et à établir l'indifférence des religions.’ (Droits des deux Souverains en Matiére de Religion, la Conscience et l'Expérience [Rotteidam, 1687], p. 14.) This work is anonymous, but there is, I believe, no doubt about its authorship It was written in reply to the Contrains-les d'entrer of Bayle, with the rather unnecessary object of showing that the French Protestants repudiated the tolerant maxims of that great writer.
I commend the following passage to the special attention of my readers ‘Peut-on nier que le paganisme est tombé dans le monde par l'autorité des empereurs Romains? On peut assurer sans témérité que le paganisme seroit encore debout, et que les trois quarts de l'Europe seroient encore payens si Constantin et ses successeurs n'avoient emploié leur autorité pour l'abohr. Mais, je vous prie, de quelles voies Dieu s'est-il servi dans ces derniers siécles pour rétablir la véritable religion dans l'Occident? Les rois de Suéde, ceux de Danemarek, ceux d'Angleterre, les magistrates souverains de Suisse, des Pais-Bas, des villes libres d'Allemagne, les princes électeurs, et autres princes souverains de l'empire, n'ont-ils pas emploié leur autorité pour abbatre le Papisme? … En vérité il faut être bien téméraire pour condamner des voics dont la Providence s'est constamment servi pour établir la véritable religion; excepté le premier établissement du Christianisme, et sa conservation, dans laquelle Dieu a voulu qu'il y eÛt un miracle sensible; c'est pourquoi iln'a pas voulu que l'autorité s'en mélât; excepté, dis-je, cet endroit de l'histoire de l'Église, on voit constamment partout que Dieu fait entrer l'autorité pour établir la véritable religion et pour ruiner les fausses.’ (Droit des deus Souverains, pp. 280–282.)
Hallam, Hist. of Literature, vol. i. p. 554.
See the collection of approbations quored by Beza, De Hœreticis; McKenkie, Life of Calvin, pp. 79–89; and the remarks in Coleridge, Notes on English Divines, vol. i. p. 49.
His name was originally Châtillon or Châteillon, which, after the fashion of the age, he latinised into Castelho; but at the beginning of his career, some one having called him by mistake Castalio, he was so charmed by the name, which, by reminding him of the Castalian fount, seemed a good angury for his literary career, that he adopted it. See, for a full account of his life, Bayle, art. Castalio, and Henry, Life of Calvin; and, for a short notice, Hallam, Hist. of Literature, vol. i. p. 557. Besides the works I have noticed in the text, Castalio translated the dialogues of the famous Socmian Ochino, and an anonymous German work of the mystical school of Tauler, edited the Sibyline verses (his preface is given to the recent edition by Alexander [Paris, 1846]), wrote a defence of his translation of the Bible (which translation seems to have been an indifferent performance), and published some minor essays or dialogues.
From which he somewhat rashly concluded that it ought not to be resumed in the Bible. ‘For my part,’ said Niebuhi, when a young German pastor expressed his scruples about reading what he believed to be simply a love song ‘I should deem the Bible itself imperfect if it did not include an expression of the deepest and strongest passion of humanity.’ The history of the interpretations of the Song of Solomon would be long and curious—from the Jewish Cabalists, who, regarding heaven as the union of man with the Deity by love, and death as the ‘kiss of God,’ esteemed the Song of Solomon the highest expression of this transcendental union, to the somewhat fantastic criticisms of M. Renan.
On which Beza comments: ‘Hac impietate quid tandem magis impium aut diabolicum ipsæ unquam inferiorum portæ exhalarunt.’ (De Hœreticis a Civili Magistratu puniendis: Libellus advers a Martini Bellii farraginem et Novorum Academicorum sectam , p. 58)
‘Quis non putet Christum aliquem esse Molochum ant cjus generis aliquem Deum si sibi vivos homines immolari, comburique velit? Quis velit servire Christo eâ conditione, ut si in aliquâ re inter tot controversias ab iis dissdeat, qui habent in alios potestatem, vivus comburatur ipsius Christi jussu crudelius quam in tauro Phalaridis, etiamsi in medlis flammis Christum magnâ voce concelebret, et se in eum pleno ore credere vociferetur?’ (Preface of Martin Bellius in Joachim Cluten's De Hœreticis persequendis, ed. 1610.) This work consists of a collection of passages from different authors (two of them by Castellio) in favour of toleration.
See Bayle and Henry. Castellio, when publishing his edition of the Bible, made the preface the vehicle of a warm appeal for toleration (which is given in Cluten). Calvin, among other things, accused him of stealing wood for his fire—an accusation which was solemnly refuted. Bayle has collected much evidence to show that Castellio was a man of spotless character, singularly loved by those about him, intensely amiable, keenly sensible of the attacks of which he was the object. Castellio has himself made a collection of the epithets Calvin in one short work heaped upon him: ‘Vocas me subinde in Gallico libello: blasphemum, calumniatorem, malignum, canem latrantem, plenum ignorantise et bestialitatis, sacrarum literarum impurum corruptorem, Dei prorsus derisodem, omnis religionis contemptorem, impudentem, impurum canem, impiuum, obscœnum, torti perversique ingenii, vagum, balatronem, nebulonem vero appellas octies; et hæc omnia longe copiosius quam a me recensentur facts in libello duorum foliorum et quidern perparvorum’
Essais, liv. i. c. 34.
Beza, Vita Calvini.
It is sufficiently refuted by Beza himself in his answer to Castellio, when he speaks of those who objected to the burning of Servetus (he calls them ‘emissaries of Satan’) as amounting to a sect. He also specifies two or three writers, of whom the principal seems to have been Clebergius. I have never been able to meet with the work of this author, but Beza represents him as objecting absolutely to all forms of persecution, and basing this objection on the absolute innocence of honest error; which doctrine again he rested on the impossibility of ascertaining certainly religious truths, as demonstrated by the continuance of controversy. The following passages quoted by Beza are extremely remarkable for the age: ‘De controversiis nondum certo constat; sienim constaret disputari defuisset.’ ‘Nonne Deus eos amabit qui id quod verum esse putant defenderint bonâ fide? Etiam si forte erraverint, nonne eis veniam dabit?’ (Beza, pp. 65, 93.) Hallam has also exhumed three or four books or pamphlets that were written at the same time in favour of toleration. Acontius (Acanacio) seems to have been one of the most distinguished of these authors. Hallam says (Hist, of Literature) his book is, ‘perhaps, the first wherein the limitation of fundamental articles of Christianity to a small number is laid down at considerable length. He instances among doctrines which he does not reckon fundamental, those of the Real Presence and of the Trinity.’ Acontius was born at Trent. He adopted sceptical or indifferent opinions, verging on Socinianism; he took refuge in England, and received a pension from Elizabeth There is a full notice of him in an anonymous French history of Socinianism or very great research (1723), ascribed to Guichard or to Lamy (pp. 261–264) The hand of Socinus was suspected in some of these works. That of Bellius was by some ascribed to him. So, too, was a work now attributed to an author named Minos Celso, concerning whom scarcely anything is known, except that, like Socinus, he was born at Sienna. (See Biog. Univ., arts. Servitus and Celso.)
If this language should appear startling to any reader, I commend to his attention the following passage from an historian who was accustomed to weigh well his expressions: ‘At the end of the sixteenth century the simple proposition, that men for holding or declaring heterodox opinions in religion should not be burned alive or otherwise put to death, was itself little else than a sort of heterodoxy; and though many privately must have been persuaded of its truth, the Protestant churches were as far from acknowledging it as that of Rome. No one had yet pretended to assert the general right of religious worship, which, in fact, was rarely or never conceded to the Romanists in a Protestant country, though the Huguenots shed oceans of blood to secure the same privilege for themselves.’ (Hallam, Hist. of Literature, vol. i. p. 559.) The same judicious historian elsewhere says: ‘Persecution is the deadly original sin of the Reformed churches, that which cools every honest man's zeal for their cause in proportion as his reading becomes more extensive.’ (Const. Hist. vol. i. ch. 2.)
‘La discipline de nos Réformés permet aussi le recours au bras séculier en certains cas, et on trouve parmi les articles de la discipline de l'Église de Genéve que les ministres doivent déférer au magistrat les incorrigibles qui méprisent les peines spirituelles, et en particulier ceux qui enseignent de nouveaux dogmes sans distinction. Et encore aujourd'hui celui de tous les auteurs Calvinistes qui reproche le plus aigrement à l'Église Romaine la cruauté de sa doctrine, en demeure d'accord dans le fond, puisqu'il permet l'exercice de la puissance du glaive dans les matières de la religion et de la conscience (Jurieu, Syst. ii. ch. 22, 23, &c.); chose aussi qui ne peut être révoquée en doute sans énerver et comme estropier la puissance publique; de sorte qu'il n'y a point d'Ilusion plus dangereuse que de donner la souffrance pour un caractère de la vraie Église, et je ne connois parmi les Chrétiens que les Sociniens et les Ana baptistes qui s'opposent à cette doctrine.’ (Variations Protestantes, liv. x. c. 56.) The Anabaptists, however, were not always so tolerant, and one of the earliest rallying cries of the insurgents of Minister was: ‘Que tous non rebptisez fussent mis à mort comme payens et meschans.’ (Sleidan, liv. x.)
See, for a full development of this, ch. i.
‘Sans exception il faut soumettre toutes les lois morales à cette idée saturelle d’ équité qui, aussi bien que la lumière métaphysique, illumine tout homme venant au monde.’ And therefore he concludes ‘que tout dogme particulier, soit qu'on l'avance comme contenu dans l'Ecriture, soit qu'on le propose autrement, est faux lorsqu'il est refuté par les notions claires et distinctes de la lumiére naturelle, principalement à l'égard de la morale.’ (ch. i.)
‘Tout homme aiant éprouvé qu'il est sujet à l'erreur, et qu'il voit ou croit voir en vieillissant la fausseté de plusieurs choses qu'il avoit cru veritables, doit être toujours disposé à écouter ceux qui lui offrent des instructions en matière même de religion. Je n'en excepte pas les Chrétiens; et je suis persuadé que s'il nous venoit une flotte de la terre Australe où il y eut des gens qui fissent connoitre qu'ils souhaitoient de conférer avec nous sur la nature de Dieu et sur le culte que l'homme lui doit, aiant appris que nous avons sur cela des erreurs damnables, nous ne ferions pas mal de les écouter, non seulement parceque ce seroit le moien de les désabuser des erreurs où nous croirions qu'ils seroient, mais aussi parceque nous pourrions profiter de leurs lumières, et que nous devons nous faire de Dieu une idée si vaste et si infinie que nous pouvons soupçonner qu'il augmentera nos connoissances à l'infini, et par des degrés et des manières dont la variété sera intime (Part i. c. 5.)
‘Ceux qui distinguent l'intolérance civile et l'intolérance théologique, se trompent à mon avis. Ces deux intolérances sont inséparables. II est impossible de vivre en paix avec des gens qu'on croit damnés; les aimer seroit hair Dieu qui les punit: il faut absolument qu'on les ramène ou qu'on les tourmente…. On doit tolérer tous les religions qui tolèrent les autres, autant que leur dogmes n'ont rien de contraire aux devoirs du citoyen; mais quiconque ose dire hors de l'Eglise point de salut, doit être chassé de l'état, à moins que l'état ne soit l'Eglise, et que le prince ne soit le pontife.’ (Contrary Social, liv. iv. c. 8.)
Bull delivered at St. Maria Maggiore on the Feast of the Assumption, 1832. The whole bull is given by Lamennais, Affaires de Rome, pp. 318–357.
Religion of Protestants, p. 44 (ed. 1742).
A full description of them is given in Neal's History of the Puritans. In 1648 the Presbyterians tried to induce the Parliament to pass a law by which any one who persistently taught anything contrary to the main propositions comprised in the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation should be punished with death, and all who taught Popish, Arminian, Antinomian, Baptist, or Quaker doctrines, should be imprisoned for life, unless they could find sureties that they would teach them no more. (Neal, vol. ii. pp 338–340.) The Scotch were unwearied in their efforts to suppress liberty of conscience, and in 1645 their Parliament addressed the English Parliament; ‘The Parliament of this kingdom is persuaded that the piety and wisdom of the honourable houses will never admit toleration of any sects or schisms contrary to our solemn league and covenant;’ and at the same time published a solemn ‘declaration against toleration of sectaries and liberty of conscience’ (Ibid pp. 211–222) Among the notions started by the Anabaptists was that of a sleep of the soul between death and judgment, against which Calvin wrote a book with the barbarous title of Psychopannychia. This very harmless notion was one of those which, when obstinately persisted in, the Presbyterians of 1648 wished to punish with an indefinite period of imprisonment. (Neal, vol. li. p. 339)
‘Popery, Mahometanism, infidelity, and heathenism are the way to damnation; but liberty to preach up and to practise them is the means to make men Papists, Mahometans, Infidels, and Heathens; therefore this liberty is the way to men's damnation.’ (Holy Commonwealth, 2d Preface.)
Political Aphorisms, 23, 24.
A System of Politics, ch. vi. Passages very similar occur in the Oceana, and, indeed, all through the writings of Harrington. The following is, I hink, a very remarkable instance of political prescience: ‘If it be said that in France there is liberty of conscience in part, it is also plain that while the hierarchy is standing this liberty is falling, and that if ever it comes to pull down the hierarchy, it pulls down that monarchy also. Wherefore the monarchy and hierarchy will be beforehand with it, if they see their true interest. (System of Politics, ch. vi.)
‘Truth, indeed, came once into the world with her Divine Master, and was a perfect shape most glorious to look on; but when He ascended, and his Apostles after Him were laid asleep, then straight arose a wicked race of deceivers, who, as the story goes of the Egyptian Typhon with his conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osyris, took the virgin Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds. From that time ever since the sad friends of Truth, such as durst appear, imitating the careful search that Isis made for the mangled body of Osyris, went up and down gathering up limb and limb, still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, Lords and Commons, nor ever shall do till her Master's second coming.’ (Areopagitica.)
See his tract, Of true Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration, published in 1673. He does not, however, seem to have understood the Socinian heresy exactly as it is now understood.
‘As for tolerating the exercise of their (the Catholics’) religion, supposing their State activities not to be dangerous, I answer that toleration is either public or private, and the exercise of their religion as far as it is idolatrous can be tolerated neither way: not publicly, without grievous and unsufferable scandal given to all conscientious beholders; not privately, without great offence to God, declared against all kind of idolatry though secret. Ezech. viii. 7, 8, and verse 12, &c.; and it appears by the whole chapter, that God was no less offended with those secret idolatries than with those in public, and no less provoked than to bring on and hasten his judgments on the whole and for them also.’ (Ibid.) It is of course open to supposition, and not very improbable, that this passage, being written after the Restoration, when Catholicism had become a serious menace to the liberty of England, emanated rather from the politician than from the theologian.
Chillingworth published The Religion of Protestants in 1637, one year before he took orders—which last step he had many scruples about.
Sec. 22. He desires that they should be absolutely tolerated, unless, indeed, they openly preach such doctrines as the non-observance of faith with heretics, or that a pope can absolve subjects from the oath of allegiance, or that an heretical prince may be slain by his people.
On which Coleridge remarks, I think, a little too severely: ‘If Jeremy Taylor had not in effect retracted after the Restoration, if he had not, as soon as the Church had gained power, most basely disclaimed and disavowed the principle of toleration, and apologised for the publication by declaring it to have been a ruse de guerre, currying pardon for his past liberalism by charging, and most probably slandering, himself with the guilt of falsehood, treachery, and hypocrisy, his character as a man would have been almost stainless’ (Notes on English Divines, vol. i. p. 209.)
E. g. in Quakerism—that strange form of distorted rationalism, which, while proclaiming doctrines absolutely subversive of national independence, and indulging in extravagances almost worthy of Bedlam, maintained in the most unequivocal language the absolute inefficiency of mere religious ceremonies, the possibility of salvation in any Church, and the injustice of every form of persecution.
His opponent was Archdeacon Proast, whose pamphlets were printed in the University.
Annuaire des Deux Mondes, 1858, p. 463. In the previous year an attempt had been made by the Government to moderate the fierce intolerance of the Swedish law; but the bill, though adopted by the Houses of the Middle Class and of the Peasants, was rejected by those of the Nobles and of the Clergy. A slight—unfortunately very slight—modification was effected in 1860.
This very painful recurrence, which occupies such an important place in all religious biographies, seems to be attached to an extremely remarkable and abscure department of mental phenomena, which has only been investigated with earnestness within the last few years, and which is termed by psychologists ‘latent consciousness,’ and by physiologists ‘unconscious cerebration’ or the ‘reflex action of the brain.’ That certain facts remain so hidden in the mind, that it is only by a strong act of volition they can be recalled to recollection, is a fact of daily experience; but it is now fully established that a multitude of events which are so competely forgotten that no effort of will can revive them, and that their statement calls up no reminiscence, may nevertheless be, so to speak, imbedded in the memory, and may be reproduced with intense vividness under certain physical conditions. This is especially the result of some diseases Thus, e. g., there is a case on record of an ignorant woman repeating, in a delirium, certain words which were recognised as Hebrew and Chaldaic. When she returned to consciousness she knew nothing of these words, she had no notion of their meaning; and being told that they were Hebrew and Chaldaic, she could recollect no possible way in which she could have acquired them. A searching investigation into her antecedents was instituted; and it was found that when a girl she had been servant to a clergyman who was accustomed to walk up and down his passage reading those languages. The words were hidden in the mind, were reproduced by disease, and were forgotten when the disease had passed. (Carpenter, Human Physiology, p 808.) It is said that a momentary review of numbers of long-forgotten incidents of life is the last phenomenon of consciousness before the insensibility that precedes drowning. But not only are facts retained in the memory of which we are unconscious, the mind itself is also perpetually acting—pursuing trains of thought automatically, of which we have no consciousness. Thus it has been often observed, that a subject which at night appears tangled and confused, acquires a perfect clearness and arrangement during sleep. Thus the schoolboy knows that verses learnt by heart just before sleep are retained with much greater facility than those which are learnt at any other time. Thus, in the course of recollection, two facts will often rise in succession which appear to have no connection whatever; but a careful investigation will prove that there is some forgotten link of association which the mind had pursued, but of which we were entirely unconscious. It is in connection with these facts that we should view that reappearance of opinions, modes of thought, and emotions belonging to a former stage of our intellectual history, that is often the result of the automatical action of the mind when volition is altogether suspended. It is especially common (or, at least, especially manifest) in languor, in disease, and, above all, in sleep. M. Maury, who has investigated the subject with his usual great ability, has shown that in sleep hyperæsthesia of the memory is very common; that not only facts, but processes of thought that belong altogether to the past, are reproduced; and that a frequent dreamer will often be brought under the influence of vices in which he had once indulged, but by which in his waking hours he is rarely or never overcome. There can be little doubt that when we are actively reasoning this automatic action of the mind still continues, but the ideas and trains of thought that are thus produced are so combined and transformed by the reason, that we are unconscious of their existence. They exist nevertheless, and form (or greatly contribute to) our mental bias. It is impossible to review this most suggestive subject without suspecting that the saying, ‘habit is a second nature,’ represents more than a metaphor; that the reason is much more closely connected with the will than is generally imagined; and that the origin of most of those opinions we attribute to pure reasoning, is more composite than we suppose. This important subject was first incidentally pointed out by Leibnitz. After his time it seems, except in as far as it was connected with the animism of Stahl, to have been almost unnoticed till very recently. Sir W. Hamilton (in his Essays) has treated it from a psychological, and Drs. Laycock (The Brain and the Mind) and Carpenter (Human Physiology, pp. 799–819) from a medical, point of view. Mr. Morell, following in the steps of Stahl, has availed himself of it (Mental Philosophy) to explain the laws of generation, ascribing the formation of the fœtus to the unconscious action of the soul; and M. Maury (Le Sommeil et les Réves) has shown its connection with the phenomena of sleep. See, too, Tissot, Sur la Vie and Saisset, L'Ame et la Vie.