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a defence, as a revelation of the principle of Christian charity bearing on religious parties. Now, the principles of toleration are sufficiently understood, though ardent sects have not sufficient conscience to practise them. Now, no man would have the face to defend the abstract right of a powerful sect to oppress a weaker, though excuses and palliations are easily found for every case of persecution. It is true, the disposition is strong as ever, and the bigot moves fiercely up to the point, where public opinion says, • Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further’; but it is only by making constant efforts to blind the minds of men, that they can prevent the light of Christian truth from breaking in. In that day the case was different; persecution was considered a very natural and justifiable way of manifesting zeal for the truth; and they who suffered under it, no more contested the right, than the savage complains of his enemy for making him endure the tortures which he would have inflicted, had not the battle gone against him. They lamented their misfortune in losing the day, but never thought of complaining of any abuse of power. It is perfectly surprising,— when we consider that toleration is only an application of the great rule of Christianity which requires men to do to others as they would have others do to them, a rule which stands foremost on the sacred page,- that this gross corruption should ever have existed." But so it was; the Catholics persecuted the Protestants while they had the power, and the Protestants, when they became strong, turned upon them with equal vengeance, and exacted blood for blood. The Church of England, while it stood fast, visited all its wrath upon the heads of the Dissenters; and when the revolutionary storm shook down its walls, and made its foundations tremble, the Puritans rushed in, rejoicing that the time of their revenge was come.
We could mention some of the noblest names of English history, --men renowned as much for excellent feeling as for intellectual light, - who lent their aid and authority to the punishment of heretics, with a coolness, which shows that they considered our Saviour's saying, that the branch which did not abide in him should be withered and burned, as an actual injunction of duty to those who happened to bear sway in the church of God.
In this Letter, Locke showed the religious world what they seem hardly to have suspected before, that belief was not a voluntary thing; that instead of believing whatever doctrines he pleases, a man must believe those which seem to him to carry most evidence with them, - evidence, which the conscientious man looks for in the Scriptures, and which men at large derive by accidental prejudice from authority or example. Moreover, supposing that belief were a matter of choice, and that authority could compel men to embrace the way of truth when they were disposed to wander, there must be some right to interfere, - right derived either from God or man. Man, it is evident, can give no authority except with respect to deeds. Actions are proper subjects of legislation, because the actions of an individual may injure or benefit the society in which he lives; but his sentiments are his own; and, as no man possesses, no man can delegate, the right to another, to interfere with the convictions of his fellow-man. It is equally hopeless to attempt to derive this authority from the word of God. There is not a line in it in which he has conveyed to man, church, or party, any dominion over the souls of others; and whoever assumes it, ought to be more firmly resisted, than the usurper of a throne. And even supposing that this power were given, what
power would it be? There is no power that can reach the soul ; men may crush the body in tortures, or burn it to ashes, if they will, but in this way they cannot affect a single purpose of the heart. They can force the lips to speak, or the hand to sign, a recantation, if they will ; but what value can they attach to a profession, which, if it be necessary to wring it from the lips, is evidently disowned and detested by the heart? These principles, irresistible as they are, were nevertheless contested by a clergyman of Oxford, who, not daring to meet the argument directly, maintained that compulsion, though it could not make men embrace the truth, could at least make them give it an impartial hearing, and therefore might be properly employed among the means of social improvement and order. Locke replied in a ' Second Letter,' and showed that force was not the most winning way, to induce men to examine any contested subject; and that, supposing it were, there must be a right to employ it, or it cannot be justly used. The writer again contended that the magistrate had this right by the law of nature, a position too ludicrous to need reply ; but as a great party were ready
to cheer this advocate, and to be convinced by his arguments, however poor, Locke thought it necessary to sum up his reasoning on the subject once more, which he did, in a manner that would have put an end to the strife, had not the claims of the Church of England been involved in the discussion. Though his reasoning is no longer new, it ought to be kept before the public mind; for, even at the present day, there are coarse and violent minds which are disposed to use all the constraint, which the common sense of the world has left them, to extend their own influence under the name of their opinions, — who are growing more desperate as the progress of intelligence obliges them to renounce certain of their most offensive doctrines, — and hope, that by making every church a fortress, from which spiritual thunders may be poured on those who resist them, they may hold the land in bondage for ages yet to come. But they will be disappointed ; though an apostle of exclusion has threatened the land with tremendous convulsions, unless they put the yoke upon their necks again. We assure him that he can never effect his purpose, till he can make the sun of righteousness go back fifteen degrees in the sky.
In 1695, Locke rendered another great service to the world by publishing his Reasonableness of Christianity.' We have already spoken of the state of religious feeling at that time. The Protestants cried out against the irrational pretensions of the Catholics, but the great mass of them were still Catholics in every thing except the name. They retained the doctrines of grace, as they were called, which were invented by the Catholic, St. Augustine ; they insisted upon the trinity as before, and, in place of infallibility, a pretension which it was not decent to maintain after they had said so much against it, they claimed that they never could be in the wrong. We do not mean to say,
that the Reformation was unavailing, - it was a noble beginning; but, like sudden conversion, it was nothing more than a beginning of a work which will not be completed till ages have passed away. It is going on at the present day; but, even now, there are Protestant churches which retain much more of the doctrine, spirit, and pretensions of the Catholics of former times, than the Catholics themselves in any enlightened country. And in an age like that of Locke, when the extravagances which had been acted in the name of Christianity, had rendered the religion itself a subject of suspicion ; when keen, searching, and unfriendly eyes were bent upon it, expecting to see their suspicions confirmed ; when men of rank and fashion treated it with high disdain, and men of better judgment and feeling lamented that it so little resembled the wisdom from above, —it was well that a philosopher of exalted standing should come forward and declare himself a Christian ;- showing, at the same time, that Christianity was as unlike as possible to the repulsive form of godliness which usurped its holy name; that its purpose was not to oppress nor extinguish, but to employ, enlighten, and exalt the mind of man ; that the Gospel, instead of being a dead letter, was a living, quickening, and prophetic spirit, - a great treasury of all moral science, -a revelation of every thing relating to the nature, powers, hopes, and destinies of man, where every one who imagined himself the discoverer of some great moral truth found that inspiration had anticipated him, and wondered that he had not seen it in the Scriptures, when from his earliest years they had been open before him. By thus representing Christianity as an intellectual subject, and showing that the greatest minds were most deeply impressed with its transcendent greatness, he did much to repair the injury which the folly and ambition of its more ignorant disciples had done. And such is the tendency of faith to degenerate and decay, such the power of its unworthy believers to expose it to open scorn, that the world needs, that, at least once in an age, some highly gifted mind should step forward, -explain, illustrate, and enforce the religion, -point out its adaptation to the times and to all times, - and show that it is proud to give its strength, affection, and life to the forsaken service of the cross.
Such was the duty which this great man undertook; and, instead of receiving the gratitude of every friend of Christianity or of man, he was assailed at once in the most abusive manner. Nothing could be done against his reasoning; but his adversary thought something could be done against his person, by calling him a Socinian, - a resort, which, however unworthy, has often since been practised with some success, as our own region is fully able to declare. We do not comprehend the process of self-degradation by which a man, who calls himself a Christian, stoops to arts so false and
low; but there are those, in every bigoted party, who will break every law of God, sooner than allow the minds of men to throw off their chains. But Locke had noble associates in his warfare ; - men to whom human judgment was a very small thing, and who, though prelates in a church which Locke did not favor, received nevertheless their full measure of slander. One was Jeremy Taylor, and the other Bishop Patrick, who says, 'It is the very same thing, to believe that Jesus is the Christ, and to believe that Jesus is the Son of God; this alone is the faith which can regenerate a man and put a divine spirit into him.' Happy it is for the church, that in ages of darkness such lights have shined before men. With all such men, of whatever sect or name, Locke was ready to unite heart and hand. His whole object was, by treatises like this, and by his · Paraphrase of the Epistles,' to extend the spirit and power of Christianity; and he refused to identify himself with any sect, in order that he might join with good men of every sect, in this great and holy endeavour. He repelled the name of Socinian, because it was affixed to him in scorn, and did not express his opinions ; and he did not avow his Unitarianism, because he was laboring to prove that such distinctions are not important; and that a belief in Jesus as the Messiah is all the faith required of a Christian. There has been one person hardy enough to infer, against the persuasion of his own age and all that have succeeded, that Locke was not an Unitarian, because he did not, in so many words, assume the name. It was a wretched attempt, and we do not believe that it imposed even on him who made it. The papers of Locke now published by Lord King make it impossible that the attempt should be repeated.
We admire Locke as an example of the manly Christian character; and the union of vast intellectual strength with calm and fervent devotion, so beautifully displayed in his life and writings, shows what our religion is when it resides in a powerful mind and an open heart. In the intercourse of the world, his gentleness was like that of childhood ; his object was to make others happy, and while he exerted himself for this purpose, he kept a guard over his manners that he might not give pain by the slightest inattention ; for he well knew, that there are many who will do kindnesses to others, but will not regard the little things on which the com