Page images
PDF
EPUB

sure of some, who think that protestantism, as established in Germany, in Switzerland, in Scotland, in England, is, in all these, and in other countries, so perfect a system of Christianity, that it is incapable of any amendment in any of them. If this should be the case, I must console myself with reflecting, that the greatest men could not, in their day escape unmerited calumny. Every age had its Sacheverells, its Hickes, and its Chenells, who, with the bitterness of theological odium, sharpened by party rancour, have not scrupled to break the bonds of Christian charity. Hoadiey was called a dissenter, Chillingworth a Socinian, and Tillot, son both Socinian and atheist; and all of them experienced this obloquy from contemporary zealots, on account of the liberality of their sentiments, on account of their endeavouring to render Christianity more rational, than it was in certain points generally esteemed to be. I had certainly rather submit to imputations, which even these great men could not avoid, than he celebrated as the mightiest champion of the church, on the system of intolerance, or the most orthodox contender for the faith, on the system of those who maintain, that onr first reformers have left us no room for improvement in scriptural learning. With whatever assurance other men may be persuaded, that they have attained certain knowledge of the truth of all Christian doctrines; with whatever zeal, in consequence of that persuasion, they may foster the seeds of persecution ; I confess, that there are many points in theology on which I feel myself disposed to adopt an expression of St. Austin, when he is stating the different ways in which he conjectures original sin may have been propagated from pa. rents to children-quid autem horum sit verum libentius disco, quam dico, ne audeam docere quod nescio *.

Herodotus tells us, that Darius asked some of the Greeks, what sum of money he should give them to eat the bodies of their deceased parents, 'after the manner of the Indians. Upon their refusing to comply on any consideration, he asked some of the Indians, who were accustomed to eat the bodies of their parents, what sum they would take to burn the bodies of their parents, after the Grecian manner: but they, setting up a general outcry, desired the king to have better thoughts of them. Thus it is in religion ; every man is attached to the mode of worship, and the system of doctrines, to which he has been accustomed, and he looks upon other modes and other doctrines as bordering on impiety. This disposition is so general, that it may be considered as natural; yet, like many other natural propensities, it may be corrected; it is an evil which may be overcome by good sense. I call it an evil, because it misleads the judgment, and subjects men to the tyranny of prejudice. It was a prejudice of this sort which made Paul a persecutor of Jesus; which made the Jews persecutors of the Christians; which made the heathens persecutors of both Jews and Christians; and which has, at times, rendered the dif. ferent denominations of Christians in this country, and in all other parts of Christendom, persecutors of each other. There can be no question that it is the duty of all men to oppose reason to

• But which of these is true, I had rather learn than teach, best I should rashly teach' a doctrine of which I am ignorant.

Editor.

prejudice; but, unluckily, every man thinks that he does so; he mistakes his own conclusions for truths, which ought not to be disputed, and which cannot be illustrated; and every argument tending to subvert them is rejected without examination. This perversion of the understanding is a great reproach to men of education and learning; we may lament it, and excuse it, in the bulk of mankind, who, letting their reason lie without exercise, go, on most occasions, in matters of opinion, not in the way in which they ought to go, but in that in which they have gone before. But in men habituated to the cultivation of their faculties, and to impartial investigation in otiier branches of knowledge, this prepossession in religion, the most important of all branches, is wholly reprebensible,

Bp. Watson.

PARABLE AGAINST RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION, IN

IMITATION OF SCRIPTURE LANGUAGE. 1. And it came to pass after these things that Abraham sat at the door of his tent about the going down of the sun. 2. And behold a man bent with age, coming from the way of the wilderness leaning on a staff. 3. And Abraham arose, and met him, and said unto him, Turn in, I pray thee, and wash thy feet, and tarry all night; and thou shalt arise early in the morning and go on thy way.' 4. And the man said, “ Nay: for I will abide under this tree.' 5. But Abraham pressed him greatly: so he turned, and they went into the tent: and Abraham baked unleaven bread, and they did eat. 6. And when Abraham saw that the

[blocks in formation]

man blessed not God, he said unto him, "Wherefore dost thou not worship the most high God, creator of heaven and earth? 7. And the man answered and said, 'I do not worship thy God, peither do I call upon his name, for I have made to myself a god, which abideth always in my house, and provideth me with all things. 8. And Abraham's zeal was kindled against the man, and he arose, and fell upon him, and drove him forth with blows into the wilderness. 9. And God called unto Abraham, saying, "Abraham, where is the stranger? 10. And Abraham answered and said, 'Lord, he would not worship thee, neither would he call upon thy name, therefore have I driven him out before my face into the wilderness.' 11. And God said, 'Have I borne with him these hundred and ninety and eight years, and nourished him, and clothed him, notwithstanding his rebellion against me, and couldst not thou, who art thyself a sinner, bear with him one night? 12. And Abraham, said, Let not the anger of my Lord wax hot against his servant: lo, I have șinned, forgive me, I pray thee.' 13. And Abraham arose, and went forth into the wilderness, and diligently sought for the man, and found him, and returned with him to the tent, and when he had entreated him kindly, he sent him away on the morrow with gifts. 14. And God spake unto Abraham, saying, ' For this thy sin shall thy seed be afflicted four hundred years in a strange land. 15. But for thy repentance will I deliver them, and they shall come forth with power and with gladness of heart, and with much substance.'

Franklin.

A HOLY MAN. A Holy man is only happy. For infelicity and sin were born twins; or rather, like some prodigy with two bodies, both draw and expire the same breath. Catholic faith is the foundation on which he erects religion; knowing it a ruinous madness to build in the air of a private spirit, or on the sands of any new schism. His impiety is not so bold to bring divinity down to the mistake of reason, or to deny those mysteries his apprehension reacheth not. His obedience moves still lvy direction of the magistrate: and should conscience inform him that the command is unjust, he judgeth it nevertheless high treason by rebellion to make good his tenets; as it were the basest cowardice, by dissimulation of religion, to preserve temporal respects. He knows human policy but a crooked rule of action : and therefore by a distrust of his own knowledge attains it: confounding with supernatural illumination, the opinionated judgment

the wise. In prosperity he gratefully admires the bounty of the Almighty giver, and useth, not abuseth, plenty : but in adversity he remains unshaken, and, like some eminent mountain, hath his head above the clouds. For his happiness is not, meteor-like, exhaled from the vapours of this world; but shines a fixed star, which, when by misfortune it appears to fall, only casts away the slimy matter. Poverty he neither fears nor covets, but cheerfully entertains ; imagining it the fire which tries virtue : nor how tyrannically soever it usurp on him, doth he pay to it a sigh or wrinkle: for he who suffers want without reluctance, may be

« PreviousContinue »