RATIONALISM IN EUROPE.
[Fourth chapter continued from previous file.]
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 compunction or hesitation? [1:12] 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 persecution [1:15] 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. [1:16]
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 actuates 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. [1:17] 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. [1:18] 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. [1:20]
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. [1:21]
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, [2:21] and Hilary of Poitiers during the Arian [3:21] 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. [4:21] It should, however, be mentioned that Lactantius, in the reign of Constantine, asserted the iniquity of persecution quite as strongly as any previous writer, [5:21] 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 less than eighty Catholic ecclesiastics were imprisoned in a ship at sea and treacherously burnt. [1:22]
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. [1:23] 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. [2:23]
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. [1:24] Besides this, he still retained the old imperial title of Pontifex Maximus, [2:24] 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. [3:24] 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, [4:24] and Libamus tells us that the penalty of holding converse with the old gods was death. [5:24] 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. [1:25] 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, [2:25] but yet there is no fact more certain than that this worship continued till the period of Theodosius. [3:25]
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. [1:26] 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. [1:27] 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. [2:27]
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. [1:28] 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. [1:30]
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 blasphemy; 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. [1:31]
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 authority 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. [1:32] 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 recurred 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. [2:32]
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. [1:33] 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. [1:34]
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 cumenical, called upon the civil power to banish or otherwise punish the heretics, [2:34] 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, living 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. [1:35] 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 of 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 Cologne [1:36] 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.' [1:38]
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. [1:40] 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, [1:41] and at least half as many perished under his son. [2:41] 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. [3:41] They were burnt alive after their constancy had been tried by the most excruciating agonies that minds fertile in torture could devise. [1:42] 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 suffenng 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. [1:43] 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, [1:44] 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. [1:45] 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. [1:47] 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. [2:47] 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.' [1:48] 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. [2:48] 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. [1:49] 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. [2:49] 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, [3:49] In Sweden, all who dissented from any article of the Confession of Augsburg were at once banished. [4:49] 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. [5:49] 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. [1:50] 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 persecution, 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.' [2:50] 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. [3:50] The right of the civil magistrate to punish heresy was maintained by the Helvetic, Scottish, Belgic, and Saxon Confessions. [4:50] Luther, in reply to Philip of Hesse, distinctly asserted it; [5:50] Calvin, Beza, and Jurieu, all wrote books on the lawfulness of persecution. Knox, appealing to the Old Testament, declared that those who were guilty of idolatry might justly be put to death, [6:50] 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. [1:51] 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. [2:51] The second was so distinctively the apostle of toleration, that this was long regarded as one of the peculiar doctrines of his sect. [3:51] 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. [1:52] 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,' [2:52] was almost unanimously applauded by all sections of Protestants. [3:52] 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 Châtillon, or, as it was generally latinised, Castellio. [1:53]
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 daring spirit which he carried into every sphere soon scandalised the leaders of the Reformation. Having devoted himself early 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. [2:53] 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 resisted 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.' [1:54] 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. [1:55]
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 Testament [2:55] 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, [1:56] 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, [2:56] and although this statement is not strictly true, [3:56] 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, [1:59] 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. [1:60]
[Fourth Chapter Continued on Next File]