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one mystery was amply compensated by the stupendous doctrines of original sin, redemption, faith, grace, and predestination, which have been strained from the epistles of St. Paul. These subtle questions had most assuredly been prepared by the fathers and schoolmen; but the final improvement and popular use may be attributed to the first reformers, who enforced them as the absolute and essential terms of salvation. Hitherto the weight of supernatural belief inclines against the Protestants; and many a sober Christian would rather admit that a wafer is God, than that God is a cruel and capricious tyrant.
Yet the services of Luther and his rival are solid and important; and the philosopher must own his obligations to these fearless enthusiasts.41 I. By their hands the lofty fabric of superstition, from the abuse of indulgences to the intercession of the Virgin, has been levelled with the ground. Myriads of both sexes of the monastic profession were restored to the liberty and labours of social life. An hierarchy of saints and angels, of imperfect and subordinate deities, were stripped of their temporal power, and reduced to the enjoyment of celestial happiness; their images and relics were banished from the church; and the credulity of the people was no longer nourished with the daily repetition of miracles and visions. The imitation of Paganism was supplied by a pure and spiritual worship of prayer and thanksgiving, the most worthy of man, the least unworthy of the Deity. It only remains to observe whether such sublime simplicity be consistent with popular devotion; whether the vulgar, in the absence of all visible objects, will not be inflamed by enthusiasm, or insensibly subside in languor and indifference. II. The chain of authority was broken, which restrains the bigot from thinking as he pleases, and the slave from speaking as he thinks; the popes, fathers, and councils were no longer the supreme and infallible judges of the world; and each Christian was taught to acknowledge no law but the scriptures, no interpreter but his own conscience. This freedom, however, was the consequence, rather than the design, of the Reformation. The patriot reformers were ambitious of succeeding the tyrants whom they had dethroned. They imposed with equal rigour their creeds and confessions; they asserted the right of the magistrate to punish heretics with death. The pious or personal animosity of Calvin proscribed in Servetus 42 the guilt of his own rebellion ; 43 and the flames of Smithfield, in which he was afterwards consumed, had been kindled for the Anabaptists by the zeal of Cranmer. The nature of the tiger
against the real presence was obliterated in the original copy, to please the people, or the Latherans, or Queen Elizabeth (Burnet's History of the Reformation, vol. ü. p. 82, 128, 302).
41 “Had it not been for such men as Luther and myself," said the fanatic Whiston to Halley the philosopher, “ you would now be kneeling before an image of St. Winifred."
44 was the same, but he was gradually deprived of his teeth and fangs. A spiritual and temporal kingdom was possessed by the Roman pontiff; the Protestant doctors were subjects of an humble rank, without revenue or jurisdiction. His decrees were consecrated by the antiquity of the Catholic church; their arguments and disputes were submitted to the people; and their appeal to private judgment was accepted, beyond their wishes, by curiosity and enthusiasm. Since the days of Luther and Calvin, a secret reformation has been silently working in the bosom of the reformed churches; many weeds of prejudice were eradicated ; and the disciples of Erasmus 45 diffused a spirit of freedom and moderation. The liberty of conscience has been
& The article of Servet in the Dictionnaire Critique of Chauffepié is the best Account wbich I have seen of this shameful transaction. See likewise the Abbé d'Artigny, Nouveaux Mémoires d'Histoire, &c., ii. p. 55-154. [The remarkable theological heresies of Servet were as obnoxious to the Protestants as to the Catholics. For an account of his system see H. Tollin's Das Lehrsystem Michael Servets, in 3 vois. (1876-8). The documents of the trial of Servet may be conveniently consulted in the edition of Calvin's works by Baum, Cunitz, and Reuss, vol. 8. There is a good account of the transaction in Roget's Histoire du peuple de Genève, vol. 4 (1877).]
+ I am more deeply scandalized at the single execution of Servetus, than at the hecatombs which have blazed in the Auto da Fès of Spain and Portugal. 1. The zeal of Calvin seems to have been envenomed by personal malice, and perhaps enry. He accused his adversary before their common enemies, the judges of Vienna, and betrayed, for his destruction, the sacred trust of a private correspondence. 2. The deed of cruelty was not varnished by the pretence of danger to the church or slate. In his paseage through Geneva, Servetub was an harmless stranger, who Deither preached, nor printed, nor made proselytes. 3. A Catholic inquisitor yields the same obedience which he requires, but Calvin violated the golden rule of doing as be would be done by : & rule which I read in a moral treatise of Isocrates (in Nicocle, tom. i. p. 93, edit. Battie), four hundred years before the publication of the gospel. *Α τάσχοντες υφ' ετέρων οργίζεσθε, ταύτα τοις άλλοις μη ποιείτε. (The part taken by Calvin in the transaction seems to have been chiefly the furnishing of the documents on which Servetus was condemned.]
** See Burnet, vol. ii. p. 84-86. The sense and humanity of the young king were oppressed by the authority of the primate.
** Erasmus may be considered as the father of rational theology. After a slumber of an hundred years, it was revived by the Arminians of Holland, Grotius, Limborch, and Le Clerc; in England by Chillingworth, the latitudinarians of Cambridge (Burnet, Hist. of own Times, vol. i. p. 261-268, octavo edition), Tillotson, Clarke, Hoadley, &c.
claimed as a common benefit, an inalienable right; 46 the free governments of Holland 47 and England 48 introduced the practice of toleration; and the narrow allowance of the laws has been enlarged by the prudence and humanity of the times. In the exercise, the mind has understood the limits of its powers, and the words and shadows that might amuse the child can no longer satisfy his manly reason. The volumes of controversy are overspread with cobwebs; the doctrine of a Protestant church is far removed from the knowledge or belief of its private members ; and the forms of orthodoxy, the articles of faith, are subscribed with a sigh or a smile by the modern clergy. Yet the friends of Christianity are alarmed at the boundless impulse of inquiry and scepticism. The predictions of the Catholics are accomplished; the web of mystery is unravelled by the Arminians, Arians, and Socinians, whose numbers must not be computed from their separate congregations; and the pillars of revelation are shaken by those men who preserve the name without the substance of religion, who indulge the licence without the temper of philosophy. 48
46 I am sorry to observe that the three writers of the last age, by whom the rights of toleration have been so nobly defended, Bayle, Leibnitz, and Looke, are all laymen, and philosophers.
47 See the excellent chapter of Sir William Temple on the Religion of the United Provinces. I am not satisfied with Grotius (de Rebus Belgicis, Annal. 1. i. p. 13, 14, edit. in 12mo), who improves the Imperial laws of persecution, and only condemns the bloody tribunal of the inquisition.
48 Sir William Blackstone (Commentaries, vol. iv. p. 33, 54) explains the law of England as it was fixed at the Revolution. The exceptions of Papists, and of those who deny the Trinity, would still leave a tolerable scope for persecution, if the national spirit were not more effectual than an hundred statūtes.
49 I shall recommend to public animadversion two passages in Dr. Priestly, which betray the ultimate tendency of his opinions. At the first of these (Hist. of the Corruptions of Christianity, vol. i. p. 275, 276) the priest, at the second (vol. ii. p. 484) the magistrate, way tremble !