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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 inhu
manity 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,
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. 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
community. In admitting that the nuisance exists, and that it ought to be abated, we and the Saints are agreed ; but we differ about the remedy. The directors of the Bible Societies, Christian Knowledge Societies, and other institutions of a similar kind, always remind us of that Charlatan who posted over the door of his shop, “ Hic venditur emeticum, catharticum, et omne quod exit in um, præter remedium.”— These gentlemen, and the majority of the subscribers, who are unconscious of being the dupes of designing attornies, satisfy their consciences by the payment of an annual contribution, and never trouble themselves to inquire in what manner the funds are expended. By giving out of the superfluity of their fortunes a trifling sum, the loss of which is never felt, these pious guardians of social order are weak enough to believe, that they are performing an acceptable service to God.
With respect to religious charities in general, we wish to make one remark. The great proportion of advertised subscribers are actuated by two motives : one, the eclat of figuring in the columns of a newspaper; the other, the silly hope of having performed one of the essential duties of Christianity. The first inducement does not require to be reprobated : but let those who are impelled to charity by
the second consideration, ask themselves, whether they would not feel greater mortification in depriving themselves of some favourite illicit indulgence, than in parting with their money? · The true test of sincerity is estimated by making the passions subservient to reason, and the merit is proportioned to the difficulty of the struggle, and the greatness of the sacrifice; but it is puerile to suppose, that because charity is said “ to cover a multitude of sins,” that any acceptable service is rendered to the Deity by distributing printed copies of the Gospel. These Protestant patrons of Bible Associations, laugh at the blind credulity of their Catholic ancestors, who founded abbies and monasteries to secure masses for the salvation of their souls; and yet, with the most monstrous inconsistency, they are satisfied that a life of sin is to be atoned for by sending Bibles and Missionáries to the four quarters of the globe.
It is to be hoped, that the recent proceedings of one of these throne and altar associations have convinced the rational section of the religious public, that individual gain, and not the protection of Christianity, incited to the harassing prosecution of Ridgway; nor does it appear possible, that any man of common humanity and common sense can hesitate to