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THE ERRORS OF THE TIME.
No subject has of late so much agitated the public mind as Toleration ; and, since the voice of reason can seldom be heard in the midst of agi. ‘tation, it is not strange that clamor has so much prevailed. Instead of being cautiously discussed, as one of the most important and difficult points in legislation, it has been the watchword of a party, a bait for popularity. Hence, by the magic of a name, professions have been applauded as generous and disinterested, which would once have been disclaimed by all sects alike, as the effect of apathy, or irreligion ; while the opposing class of virtues, stigmatized by odious names, have been dismissed as ancient absurdities. For
liberality and moderation are such seductive sounds, that few have the coolness to inquire whether they may not be pushed beyond their bounds, nor are aware that liberality may become prodigal, and moderation indifference. But the peculiar complexion of the times has carried matters to still greater extremes. Whoever would now be regarded as liberal, must actually encourage principles which he believes to be false, and practices which he dreads as injurious. Hence a deference to the experience and wisdom of our ancestors is a barbarous superstition: to support a primitive and national church, gothic bigotry; but to educate our children in the truths we revere ourselves, has roused to active opposition, deists, dissenters, socinians, quakers, and hoc genus omne.
Christians must therefore be recalled to a more sober contemplation of things. They must learn not, to seek the praise of men by a disparagement of their zeal towards God. Enchanted by a meretricious liberality, they have hitherto treated truth and error alike, or rather, the latter has experienced a kind of affectionate pity, while the former has been received with cold acknowledgements, little better than a repulse. Yet, however we may pity the person, no countenance should ever be shewn to error: for what each individual deems to be error, that ought he to suppress : it is his duty, considered as a member of religious, or civil society. On the contrary, what he deems truth, it
is equally his duty to support. For genuine charity seeks the real welfare, not the present ease of mankind ; and, with such charity, Christian Toleration necessarily coincides, which it well may do, since Toleration signifies, or at least used to signify, patiently bearing with something wrong. Therefore, whatever a state promises to tolerate, that at the same time it avows to be against her laws, yet, abstaining from the punishment thereof, for certain causes assigned or not.
With respect to religious errors, the cause is, man's inabi. lity to punish them justly. But what the state deems to be truth, and therefore productive of happiness to its subjects, she is bound for, therefore invested with power, to support and encourage. By such means at least are the ruling powers warranted to curb opinions adverse to their
To care for none of these things, and treat all religious sects alike, is an heathenish indifference, a policy arising from a total disregard of all religion, or a latent desire of promoting some particular sect, rather than from enlightened views, and a just estimate of human nature. For every experienced politician must acknowledge how advantageous it would be that an whole kingdom should, as much as possible, be of one mind, and the great danger of contests when the opposing parties are of equal number and strength. The difficulty of adjusting measures so as to inflame none, the different ideas each are apt to form of
politics, the extreme jealousy observed towards government by those whose opinions it does not profess, are all so many sources of embarrassment, which must frequently paralyze or prevent extended plans. And such a government would necessarily fall in any serious internal convulsion. Parties so equally balanced as to admit no superior, or by a temporary union of discordant parts, enabled to match the otherwise predominant division, are ready on all occasions to wrestle for the rod of power. Should it fall a prize to the associates,' they again would contend for its possession, and the land sink under anarchy and misrule. This is no visionary theory, but the history of our own great rebellion. Therefore to inform the public mind on this subject, and guard against the fatal consequences of the present immoderate moderation, the following tracts are republished, in which the subject is considered on different grounds.
In Brett's sermon on Moderation, which stands the first of this division, our subject is treated in a religious light, and the reader will thence learn what kind of toleration Scripture directs individuals to shew each other. He will likewise find clearly pointed out to him, the great difference between opinions and persons, that while no violence should be offered to the latter, no indulgence is due to the former, when they subvert the vital principles of christianity. Such conduct
is required of a sincere Churchman wherever li. ving, for by such only can he separate himself from the error and the punishment of the Laodiceans. The other treatise professedly discusses the duty of that ruling power whose subjects are divided in their religious opinions. The writer begins by shewing that it is in the power of the magistrate to encourage true religion by the means of motives, which, while they control the outward behaviour, insensibly influence the disposition, and affect the mind. That Providence itself uses external motives for internal
arguments of Locke and Bale are considered and answered, and he proves his reasoning by the test of
, historical facts. In the second chapter he shews that the magistrate possesses this right by the law of nature. Because the magistrate, as guardian of the public civil good, is of course concerned with the outward behaviour of his subjects. He cannot therefore be indifferent to their principles, these being the source of action, which, by consequence, extends his superintendence to religious opinions, as more particularly forming those very principles. But the same conclusion may be more immediately drawn from considering why society was instituted; for the support of religion is one of its chief and most impor- tant ends. Having thus laid his foundation in natural religion, he in the next chapter shews its agreement with revealed, and proves from