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mind, and shackles free it from prejudice ? Can racking the limbs rectify the judgment, and burning the flesh purify the conscience? As reasonably might a man expect to beat down a wall by an argument, or to set a broken bone by a fine harangue, as to remove the errors of the mind by threats, or convince the understanding by tortures. Besides, persecution tramples on the rights of conscience, invades the prerogative of God, destroys the liberties of man, and spreads devastation and ruin as far as its influence reaches.
The doctrine of propagating religion by external force, has often been put in practice, not only to the laying some negative discouragements and hardships on men, but to the subversion of all their most important privileges and rights, to the violation of all the order and peace of the public, to the committing the most horrid outrages and cruelties, and the turning whole countries into fields of blood. For instance, the barbarous cruelties of the Spaniards, in the West Indies only, would fill a volume. One of their own writers, Don Casas, bishop of Chiapa, who was an eye-witness, thus writes concerning them: “ The Spaniards have ruined ten kingdoms in America, larger than all Spain, by the commission of all sorts of barbarities and unheard-of cruelties. They have driven away or killed all the inhabitants, so that these kingdoms are desolate to this day, and reduced to the most desolate condition, though this was formerly the best peopled country in the world. In the island of Hispaniola there were about three millions of inhabitants, but they are now reduced, by the ravages of the Spaniards, to less than three hundred. Cuba, a large and populous island, is entirely a desert without inhabitants, and nothing but ruin to be seen in it. Within the space of forty years, they have unjustly put
to death above twelve millions of people, counting men, women, and children. They fell on them with the rage and fierceness of wolves and tigers, when pinched with hunger; while the poor victims seemed to be inspired by the Almighty with the meekness and gentleness of lambs. And in one place they set up a gibbet, and hanged thirteen of these miserable people, as they, with horrid blasphemy, expressed it, in honour of Christ and his apostles.” Thus did they sport with human blood, and the miseries of mankind; and thus abused and profaned the sacred name of the holy Jesus! They have delighted in blood and slaughter, and, if they repent not, the glorified Head of the church has predicted, they “ shall have blood to drink, for they are worthy.”
Observe, concerning their murderous conduct, they so acted, “ as they, with horrid blasphemy, expressed it, in honour of Christ and his apostles!" Here let us remark, that such a spirit, is as cruel and destructive in its operations, as highly displeasing to Christ, and unbecoming persons professing the Christian religion. We have no warrant from Christ to have recourse to methods hurtful to men, for promoting his honour in the world. It is, indeed, the duty of Christians to be zealously affected in his service, to vindicate his religion, to bear their testimony against every thing injurious to his name, truth, and interest; and, concerning these, he has given them rules as to the method of proceeding; and, as he has done so, it is a contradiction to the
of disciple of Christ to act without his authority, or to imagine that any plans we may propose should be equally agreeable to him.
We have a striking proof of the temper and spirit of Christ in his conduct towards the Samaritans. The Jews considered the Samaritans as apostates, heretics,
and corrupters of their religion; and so when they would load any one with infamy, they called him a Samaritan, as they did our blessed Lord. This rancorous spirit in the Jews, had a tendency to kindle the same in the Samaritans, who sufficiently evinced it in peremptorily refusing him the liberty to pass through their town, and afford him any refreshment, because they understood he believed, that Jerusalem, and not Gerizim, was the right place of worship—which was the grand controversy between them. This ill usage of our Lord, two of his disciples, James and John, warmly resented ; this inhuman treatment of so excellent a person, so inflamed their spirits, that they wanted nothing but his consent to inflict a most severe and exemplary punishment on the vile persons who had dared to use him so basely; and therefore solicited leave to consume them by fire from heaven,-“ Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, as Elias did ?" But notwithstanding the zeal which the disciples manifested in this motion, for the honour of their divine Master ; and notwithstanding they endeavoured to justify it by the authority and example of Elijah, our Lord was so far from approving it, that he rejected it with holy indignation and abhorrence. He turned quickly, and rebuked them, saying, “ Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” As if our Saviour had said, Ye do not consider what a vile and unchristian spirit now actuates you, which dictates so much inhumanity and cruelty, and how impossible it is for me to comply with your proposal ; since it is utterly irreconcileable with the end of my appearing in the world, which is not to do the least harm to mankind, but, on the contrary, to do them all possible good, not only to
promote their everlasting happiness in another world, but to consult their present welfare and comfort-to establish human society in peace and good order, and to contribute to the security and true enjoyment of life. This, every one will perceive to be our Saviour's meaning, who considers, that he here speaks of his coming to save men's lives, in opposition to that destruction which his disciples intended to bring on those Samaritans, which was to have its effect in this present world.
To suppose that a cruel, fiery, destructive spirit, against any of the human family, is necessary to maintain the honour of Christ and his religion, is attended with the greatest absurdities imaginable. If any have but a small degree of the knowledge of Christianity, it can be nothing but wilful perverseness and blindness, if they see not the repugnancy of all fire and flame, rage, and cruelty, to its design and tendency. And on such a supposition, how preposterous is the thought, that such a method of acting should be necessary to secure the honour of Christ, and extend the progress of the Gospel ! -is it not a downright contradiction and inconsistency? We cannot more effectually dishonour Christ, than by acting in a spirit directly contrary to what is exhibited by his true disciples, and enjoined in his holy word.
The supposition that cruelty and destruction are necessary to maintain the honour of Christ, and the dissemination of his truth, is highly profane, and a kind of blasphemy. To pretend the honour of Christ, as a justification of treating others with ferocity and death, is to make the meek and holy Jesus the patron of wrath, hatred, fury, and violence, which are essentially vicious, and can never be consecrated by any authority, or any pretended purpose or intention. To say, that the end
sanctifies the means, is to speak wickedly for God; it is bold impiety; it is a maxim that may lead persons to attribute any thing, however vile, to Christ, and render him a confederate with the devil. St. Paul mentions this sentiment with the utmost abhorrence, as an odious slander on Christianity,—“We are slanderously reported, for some affirm that we say, Let us do evil that good may come; whose damnation is just.” But not to insist, -it is not Christianity, but popery, that corrupt addition which men have made to it, that needs to be supported by inhumanity and cruelty. To be sure, that is a bad cause, which requires or admits of men going to the devil to defend it.
In short, popery is a religion that sanctions all the methods of deceit and imposition, as is evident from its false doctrines, intentional equivocations, mental reservations, the lawfulness of breaking faith with Protestants, and various other things connected with a spiritual domination. It declares for all the methods of violence, barbarity, cruelty, by which to propagate its dogmas, and encourage its friends to do evil that good may come. Consider this system, in a religious view, and it is irrational, antiscriptural, and oppressive: but, attend to it as a political contrivance, by which to enslave the liberty, and engross the property of mankind, and it will appear a refined scheme, artfully adapted to answer that purpose. To obtain temporal dominion, the Church of Rome begins with spiritual usurpation; it enchains the mind, in order to reduce the body to a state of servitude. Give her all your interest on earth, and she will readily compliment you with whatever influence she has in hea
But to call in question her prerogative, is infidelity and atheism ; to dispute her decrees, is impudent daring