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dictates of their own consciences; that no laws ought to be enacted, tending in the least to endanger liberty, life or property, on the ground of religious belief or profession. But can men be injured, persecuted and oppressed only in perso. nal liberty, life or property? Is it no persccution to sport with the feelings of men ?-to cavil against, condemn and ridicule principles and ceremonies which they regard most sacred ? Is it no persecution to denounce the members of a dissenting sect or individuals of our own sect whose shihboleth we cannot or will not enunciate, as deluded fanatics or obdurate heretics—as crafty designing hypocrites—as wilful and impudent perverters of gospel language and doctrines—as ambitious conformists to the corrupt maxims of the world—as morose churlish devotees, who would deprive us of every rational enjoyment or as ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing? Is it no persecution to hold men up before the public as objects of scorn and derision—as insidious corrupters of the popular morals, whose society ought, above all things, to be avoided ?—to set a mark of disgrace upon them, which must render their name odious to all but their own particular communion or party ? In a word, to wound their character in the tenderest points ; to destroy their comfort, as far as possible, in this world, and to consign them to perdition in the next ? If this be not persecution, and of no very gentle character too, then the term to us has no meaning and no application. The apostle indeed forewarned the early converts that there must be heresies in the church, that they who are approved may be made manifest : but it does not occur to these fiery zealots, that a system of persecution for opinion is the worst of all heresies, as it violates at once truth and charity.'
But while we thus appear the advocate of charity in opposition to sectarian bigotry, which always results from prejudice of some kind, we would not forget that even bigots and persecutors have a claim upon our charity. They, too, are not unfrequently, rather to be commiserated than harshly condemned. St. Paul, when hurried onward by his prejudices-by zeal without knowledge-to the most revolt. ing acts of cruelty and violence upon the harmless unresisting followers of Christ, was an object of pity rather than of hatred. He was honest, though misguided. His ignorance however could not excuse him, because it was voluntary. He had the means of being better informed. But his bigoted attachment to the system in which he had been educated, shut the door to inquiry and to light. And, without a miracie, he probably would never have seen his errors.
Many examples might be cited to illustrate the difficulty with which men are emancipated from the trammels of prejudice; and our obligations to exercise much tenderness and forbearance towards them. “My own case (says Luther, in a description of his feelings respecting the matters in dispute between Eckius and hirnself,) is a notable example of the difficulty with which a man emerges from erroneous notions of long standing. How true is the proverb : 'custom is a second nature. How true is that saying of Augustin :- habit, if not resisted, becomes necessity. I who, both publicly and privately, had taught divinity with the greatest diligence for seven years, insomuch that I retained in my memory almost every word of my lectures, was, in fact, at that time only just initiated into the knowledge and faith of Christ : I had only just learned that a man must be justified and saved, not by works, but by the faith of Christ : and lastly, in regard to pontifical authority, though I publicly maintained that the Pope was not the head of the church by a Divine right, yet I stumbled at the very next step, namely, that the whole Papal-system was a satanic invention. This I did not see, but contended obstinately for the Pope's right, founded on human reasons : so thoroughly deluded was I, by the example of others, by the title of Holy Church, and by my own habits. Hence I have learned to have more candor for bigoted Papists, especially if they are not much acquainted with sacred, or perhaps even with profane history." “ In the schools (he observes again,) I lost Jesus Christ : I have now found him in St. Paul.”
But even this enlightened reformer and indefatigable inquirer after truth, fell at last far short of a complete victory over the prejudices of the age in which he lived, and in which he had been nurtured. His doctrine of consubstantiation, for instance, is regarded by a large majority of Protestant Christians as not a whit less unscriptural and contradictory than that of transubstantiation which he reprobated. “ Truth is seldom seen at once in its full order and proportion of parts.” And “ strong conviction is much more apt to breed strife in matters of little moment than in subjects of high importance."
Scott, in his Force of Truth, has exhibited his own expe. rience on this subject. His case was somewhat peculiar, and certainly very unpromising. He seemed “lost in error's endless maze." His slow progress, step by step, with much study and research ; reluctantly yielding up, inch after inch, the ground which he had already assumed, and which he seemed resolved, at all hazards, to maintain ; and his final surrender of the whole before the broad day-light and omnipotence of truth ; may serve to expose the despotic power of prejudice, and to point out the proper way to overcome and subdue it.*
* Widely different was the procedure of Dr. Priestley, and widely different also was the result: as the following paragraph from a Quarterly Reviewer of 1812, may show. The rationale here given is characteristic and illustrative of the course pursued by many a superior mind in similar circumstances. It is not uncommon for a man to be great and liberal and just in one department of scientific investigation, while he is quite the reverse in another. There have been but few Ciceros and Bacons and Lockes and Newtons even among the nomina clara of philosophy.
“In his theological and philosophical pursuits, he [Priestley) seemed to be compounded of two different men. It was not to his penetrating genius only that mankind are indebted for his vast discoveries in chemistry, but to a spirit of investigation exact and persevering in this department-proceeding by cautious induction which allowed much slower understandings to keep pace with his own, and guarding against error in his conclusions by frequent repetition of his experiments. It is not a little remarkable, however, that in his theological pursuits, and more especially in those of ecclesiastical history, in which he most disgracefully failed, the conduct of his understanding was precisely reversed. He began with conclusions, and then sought for premises to justify them. Having previously made up his mind that certain doctrines could not have come from God, he proceeded by a species of analysis peculiar to himself, to demonstrate that they were not contained in Scripture. To this end the analogies of language were set aside, grammar tortured, and rules of lax interpretation applied to the most decisive and convincing texts, by which any thing might be deduced from any thing. Above all, mystery was to be discarded, and the philosopher, who knew and acknowledged that the most common operations of
“ The authors of all systems (says a judicious divine) are more or less prejudiced in behalf of some particular and artificial mode of faith. He, therefore, who begins with the study of them, and afterwards proceeds to the sacred volume, sees with a jaundiced eye every text supporting the peculiar tenets of his first master, and acts as absurd a part as he who tries not the gold by the copal, but the copal by the gold. The principles of real theology are to be found only in the word and works of God: and he who would extract them pure and unsophisticated, must dig for them himself in that exhaustless mine."
But should it be objected, that if we were to discard all human auxiliaries and authorities, and to search the Scriptures alone with attention and candor, still there would be no unity in doctrine ; we answer in the words of Chillingworth: “ 1. It is impossible you should know this, considering that there are many places in Scripture which do more than probably import, that the want of piety in living, is the cause of want of unity in believing. 2. That there would be unity of opinion in all things necessary, and that in things not necessary, unity of opinion is not necessary. 3. But lastly, that notwithstanding differences in these things of lesser importance, there might and would be unity of communion, unity of charity and affection, which is one of the greatest blessings which the world is capable of; absolute unity of opinion being a matter rather to be desired than hoped for.” Such catholic sentiments in the reign of the first Charles are worthy of all praise.*
nature quickly ran up into causes and principles, which eluded even his own penetrating research; when he assumed the character of the theologian, and undertook to investigate subjects which are in no degree the objects of sense, would not endure that the Almighty should "veil himself in clouds, and that 'darkness should be the habitation of his seat.'”
*We do not recollect ever to have conversed with an individual, whether of the clergy or laity, who did not claim to be exempt from all prejudice and uncharitableness. The truth is, most men deceive themselves in this matter. They are charitable on a grand scale-towards the heathen, it may beand all the world, afar off. But at hometowards their nearest brethren of another party name—they indulge the temper We are aware that the tenor of this whole discussion is directly opposed to the popular voice on the subject. It is generally esteemed an evidence of a strong, original, independent mind to have settled or firmly established opinions at an early period; a mark of intellectual superiority and moral courage never to doubt, or waver, or change, when once we have adopted our opinions ;-a point of honor to sustain and defend them on all occasions and at all hazards, And this too, nothwithstanding they may oftentimes have been embraced upon the most flimsy grounds, or without any reason whatever. Such a person has effectually closed every door and avenue to the acquisition of knowledge. He has eyes, but he sees not; ears, but he hears not ; understanding, but he perceives not. He moves in a charmed circle. He cannot get out of it, or look beyond it. He is a one-sided, wrong-headed, self-sufficient politician or religionist as long as he lives. Now, an opinionated man-especially a young man who is just entering upon the threshold of liberal inquiry—and, above all, one who is commencing a course of theological study with a view to the sacred ministry—is, at best, but a sorry specimen of adventurous blindfold humanity. We cannot but regard him as a vain deluded creature, who is about to impose on himself a tedious painful drudgery, through which we foresee he will doggedly worry, without the slightest prospect of ever becoming one jot the wiser. He has prejudged the cause, and is fully resolved never to alter one article or clause of his creed. Nay, this creed may have been prescribed to him by authority at the outset; and he may have been required to bind himself and feelings of a Dominic or a Bonner. Thus, a loyal churchman, contemporary with Chillingworth, in a letter to a friend, the chief scope of which would seem to be the exhibition of himself as a paragon of Christian charity, after sundry honeyed phrases, adds, with infinite naivté, the following precious proof: “Difference in opinion may work a disaffection in me, but not a detestation; I rather pity than hate Turk or Infidel, for they are of the same metal, and bear the same stamp as I do, though the inscriptions differ. If I hate any, it is those schismatics that puzzle the sweet peace of our church; so that I could be content to see an Anabaptist go to hell on a Brownist's back.” Letter of James Howell, Esq., to Sir Ed. B. Knight.