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religious communion to which they belong. It is a fact, generally conceded in the present day, and acted upon by the benignant and paternal government of our country, that every man has an undoubted right to protection in the exercise of his religious devotion. But we go farther, and submit it, with all deference, to civil authority, whether he ought not to enjoy, not only protection in the profession of his faith, but likewise every privilege of office, and secular advantage, in common with his fellow subjects, without any privation or civil disability whatever?* Far more consistent is it with the principles of a celestial religion to give unbounded scope to the veriest fanatic of the age, and allow him to propagate his opinions, both from the pulpit and the press, with all the zeal he can employ, than suffer the sacred principle of religious freedom to be invaded by his prosecution. You may arrest his course by the arm of civil power, but you have neither convinced him that he is wrong, or his followers that they are deluded. The weapons of truth are not carnal or political. Christianity disdains the adoption of coercive measures in order to subdue her adversaries, or confute gainsayers. She refuses to mingle her bright and celestial glories with the earthly expedients of worldly policy, or the unnecessary aid of temporal power. The truth is light-promote it, and she will dissipate the shades of error. She asks not for human art, or secular auxiliaries; give her an impartial and honest hearing and she will commend herself "to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
It is possible, however, that there may be a society, whose spirit is opposed to this principle of universal
* Since this discourse was preached, the Government of the country have shown their conviction of this truth, by the entire repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts.
liberty. It may be that, among the nations of the earth, professing the Christian faith, there exists a professing church, whose foundation is intolerance; whose ministers are excluded from all domestic sympathies, and who have therefore no bond of social attachment to the nation at large; whose undivided object is its own aggrandizement, and the acquisition of unlimited power; whose ecclesiastical degrees lock up the water of life from the parched lips of the poor and needy; whose decisions are infallible, and unalterable; and whose anathemas are fulminated against every individual who is so audacious as to dissent from its communion. I say, it is possible there may be such a society in existence. And, do you ask what, according to the foregoing principle of liberty, is to be done with such a church? I reply, confine the tiger to its den. The very principle which I have endeavoured to establish, as the right of every man, obliges me to adopt measures of precaution against all who would destroy it. Both civil and religious liberty are modifications of natural liberty. The murderer, in the wood and forest, may plead a right to revenge his wrongs by the infliction of death on the aggressor, but would his plea be allowed at the bar of justice? The unrestricted exercise of such a right would be subversive of every principle of civil liberty. The mighty and the treacherous would prevail against the weak and unsuspicious, and scenes of rapine and blood would every where appear. Now, upon this obvious principle, the necessity of imposing a guard where there is danger of an attack, does religious liberty depend. If any portion of mankind have agreed to obstruct the spread of knowledge, and extinguish the light of revelation, and overturn the sacred principle, that every man is amenable only to God for his religion, and ought not to be molested in its profession, then, against such a conspiracy, it is necessary to place a defence. It is a false charity, a
spurious candour, a species of indifference to religion itself, that would commit the dispensation of the privileges of Christianity, in any measure, to the discretion of such individuals. I would allow them the full enjoyment of their creed, and the unlimited exercise of their religious discipline; but the possession of power, if it were obvious they hold principles which would lead them to wield that power against all Christian freedom, I would not allow them. The philosophy of the French school, of which there is too much in this country, may probably deem these remarks uncharitable, but they are the honest convictions of an humble individual who has endeavoured to explore this difficult subject with all seriousness and impartiality; and who, if he has come to a false conclusion, has come to it, he owes it to himself to declare from a sincere regard to the interests of religious freedom and the prosperity of the cause of Christ.
Before I dismiss this branch of the subject, permit me, however, to observe, that there are other modes of persecution besides those of imprisonment, exile, and death. "The carnal mind," in the manifestation of its "enmity against God," has devised a thousand crafty and cruel schemes for the vexation and embarrassment of the servants of Christ. There have always been more private persecutors than public ones, however numerous the latter may have been. There is persecution by speech, for
the tongue can no man tame." It is recorded of some of the Old Testament believers, "of whom the world was not worthy," that they had "trial of cruel mockings."* To such a trial as this the text alludes. "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake." Masters have sometimes committed this crime with respect
Heb. xi. 36.
to their pious servants, whom they have reviled on account of their religious principles. Parents have also spoken unkindly of their children, husbands falsely of their wives, and one neighbour of another, and all because of a conscientious difference in religion. And yet, it is highly probable, if you were to desire these persecutors to allow you to choose a system of faith, and a mode of worship, for their adoption, they would resent the request with utter indignation, as a deliberate insult to their understanding! inconsistent are the bigots of religion with themselves.
II. THE CAUSES BY WHICH PERSECUTION IS PRODUCED, AND FROM THE EXISTENCE OF WHICH IT IS TO BE NATURALLY EXPECTED.
The first I mention is, the prejudices of both Jews and Gentiles at the time of the introduction of the gospel into the world. "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you," was the obvious conclusion of our blessed Lord. The disciples soon found the prediction of their Master true; but their sufferings were just what might have been expected. The Jews were a gross and carnal people, and could not endure the heavenly and spiritual religion of Jesus of Nazareth. Their authorized guides also taught them to view the doctrines of the Saviour and his apostles as a daring innovation on the only true religion in the world. They proclaimed them a wanton outrage on all the long established and venerable usages of the wor ship of Jehovah; a barbarous profanation of every thing sacred; and impious blasphemy of the God whose special people they thought themselves to be. We make no apology for this violent opposition, but it is, however, easily accounted for. The gospel required the abolition of the whole of the ancient dispensation given by Moses, and the total supercession of all the ceremonial rites which they had been taught to revere and believe. That any men,
therefore, who had such evidence as their sacred writings afforded them, of the divine origin of their faith, who had found its maintenance, especially when coupled with the "traditions of their fathers," so profitable to themselves, and whose eyes were, therefore, blinded by interest and national prejudices-should bitterly persecute the unprotected and obscure individuals, who would venture to propagate a system of truth, which would sap the very foundation of their own, is by no means astonishing. Nor is the case otherwise as it regards the Gentiles. Their polytheism was precisely the same in their estimation, as the theism of the Jews was in their's. What, indeed, they wanted in knowledge, they made up in sensuality; and if their minds were not so completely pre-occupied with a system of worship, yet their hearts were full of all abominations and lusts. In them there were both the uncontrolled dominion of appetite, and the force of false religion to be overcome. Christianity came with the distinct and avowed purpose of turning the devotees to the disgusting rites of heathenism from their "dumb idols to serve the living and true God." It, moreover, condemned all the vices and pollutions of the world, and would stoop to no compromise with the expe dients of human policy, or concede any of its celestial purity, to meet the carnal and ungoverned lusts of the heart. What, then, could be expected, either from the mercenary Jews, who were covetous to a proverb, or the sensual Gentile, but unmodified and unsparing opposition to the gospel?
The second probable cause of persecution must be traced to the character of the gospel itself. From a polluted world, it was too refined, and too unearthy, to obtain a favourable reception. For some, it would be too faithful in its warnings; for others, too pure in its spirit; and for all men, who are not under divine teaching, too sublime in its morality, and its doctrines, to suit their moral taste.