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private judgment in matters of religious opinion. They are unjustifiable, because they are inoperative; and it may not be improper to explain the reason why they are inoperative. "The law," says Paley, "never speaks, but to command, and commands but where it can compel." Now, since belief is an involuntary operation of the mind, it is evidently beyond the reach of law, because no law can alter the nature of man. For how is it possible to controul the thoughts of beings, who, by the peculiar organization of the thinking principle, whatever that may be, are quite unable, by any exercise of volition, to increase or diminish the quantity or quality of their belief? It is said of Procrostes, that after having seized a captive, he placed him on his own bed, and either stretched the limbs, or amputated the extremities of his victims, till their stature corresponded with the admeasurement of his bed. This barbarous custom is a forcible illustration of modern orthodoxy, the absurdity and cruelty of each being precisely similar. For a man is no more responsible to any earthly tribunal for his religious opinions, than he is for the height and weight of his body, or the colour of his skin.
There remains only one more remark, which
indeed scarcely deserves notice; but we are unwilling to leave any objection, however frivolous, unanswered. It has been urged by the enemies of toleration, that though belief is an involuntary operation of the mind, yet that the expression of that belief is voluntary, and that a man is no more authorized to disseminate erroneous opinions, than an individual affected with a contagious disease is justified in appearing in public. This comparison, though it has been frequently used, is founded in a fallacy, arising from the substitution of a metaphor for an argument. Among the sophists, this mode of gaining the victory at the sacrifice of truth, is too common. The fallacy consists in assuming, that the prohibited opinions are erroneous, which is what logicians call a petitio principii, or in plain parlance, a begging of the question. If they were admitted to be erroneous, then they might be assimilated to a disease, and the comparison would hold good. But this is the very point at issue. Bodily diseases manifest themselves by external signs, and these signs are uniform in their appearance, and perfectly well known to physicians. If a vessel were to arrive in any lazzaretto in Europe, infected with the plague, and a dozen physicians, each of a different sect, were appointed to examine the crew, they would all come to the same
opinion; because the peculiar discolouration of the skin from the plague spots would prove at first sight the nature of the disease. None of these physicians could have any reason to tell an untruth, nor would any one dispute their decision. But in matters of religion, the case is widely different. A member of the Church of England might consider a meeting of Quakers an assembly of madmen. But who would submit to his judgment? Where are his proofs? What are the certain and unerring external signs? It is obvious, that all he could say in support of his opinion, would amount to this, and to nothing more: These people worship God in a different manner from myself; I consider my own way right, and every other wrong. And what, let it be asked, would result from establishing any parity of reasoning between a bodily and a mental disease? Evidently, if the consequences were pushed as far as the first admission would justify, it would completely destroy the liberty of the press, which would be sentenced by the orthodox spiritual physicians to an eternal quarantine.
In concluding these remarks on the illegality and inexpediency of prosecutions for religious opinion, it is impossible to express the true spirit of toleration, or to denounce the inhumanity of persecution, in terms more worthy of a Christian and a philosopher, than in the following indignant passage of the Henriade :—
"Je ne decide point entre Geneve et Rome,
Perisse a jamais l'affreuse politique,
Qui prétend sur les cœurs un pouvoir despotique,
Qui veut le fer en main convertir les mortels,
Qui du sang heretique arrose les autels,
Et suivant un faux zele, ou l'interêt pour guides,
Ne sert un Dieu de paix, que par des homicides."
AN APOLOGY FOR THE IMPUTED VICES OF THE LOWER ORDERS.
In the preceding observations, we have endeavoured to establish these two points: First, that the dictum of Lord Hale is not sufficient authority to prove that Christianity is part and parcel of the law of the land. And secondly, that it is highly inexpedient, and opposed to sound legislative principles, to impose any restraints on the freedom of religious discussion. But though we deny both the legality and utility of prosecutions for religious opinion, we are not indifferent to the alarming increase of immorality and deism. We are as fully persuaded as the most thorough paced saint in the Vice Society, that the present, to say nothing of the future, benefits of mankind, require the speedy and complete eradication of those deplorable tenets, which, instead of being, as in former days, confined to the wit and man of fashion, are now diffusing their noxious poison among the lowest orders of the