Imatges de pÓgina

not wish to press the evidence of a witness who professed such tenets. He would call another. He fully proved the publishing by other respectable witnesses."

Dissenters altogether, when, in fact, he only expressed his disapprobation of that sect to which an Honourable Member belonged (Mr. Butterworth). His acquaintance lying very much among Dissenters, many of whom he knew to be most intelligent and virtuous men, he should have belied his own experience if he had said so. He was of opinion, that general censures were always wrong, and as his feelings had been more excited on the occasion to which he alluded, by the intolerance displayed by that sect of which alone he spoke, he took the opportunity of this cooler moment to explain what he had said. Having done so, he would add, he regretted that any person should have presumed to arraign his conduct, and to have designated him as the advocate of a person whose opinions he was so far from advocating, that if that person had listened to his advice, he would long ago have abstained from publishing them. He was well convinced that to attack prejudices in the way Mr. Carlile had attacked what he considered prejudices, was the best means of diffusing and strengthening them. He did hope that in future no person would take the liberty of endeavouring to represent him as the advocate of such opinions. The petition to which he now called the attention of the House was signed by 2,047 persons, members of Christian congregations, of whom 98 were ministers. Among

the latter were names which the House would agree were entitled to considerable respect, such as those of Dr. Evans, Dr. Jones, Dr. T. Rees, Dr. Barclay, Mr.

Roscoe and others. A more sensible petition, and one more consistent with the spirit of Christianity, had, perhaps, never been presented to the House. He could not conceive that any sincere believer in the doctrines of the Christian

Society for Relief of Evangelical
Dissenting Ministers.

A SOCIETY has been lately formed in London under the above title. It may be wanted, and will no doubt do good. It is lamentable, however, that charity should be connected with subscription to articles of faith. The persons to be relieved by this society must be such as "maintain the sentiments of the Assembly's Catechism, both as to faith and practice," and must produce a certificate of their religious principles! Baptists are as much excluded from this "Evangelical" Society as Unitarians. Even a Basterian cannot derive benefit from it without some subterfuge. The idea of so sectarian an institution was probably suggested by the two or three individuals who objected, at the formation of the Aged and Infirm Ministers' Society, to the union of the Three Dissenting Denominations, inasmuch as it would imply that all three were equally Christian!

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Portuguese Superstition.

"JUNE 24th. The 22d was a day of real triumph, on which their Majestics and Royal Highnesses went in solemn procession to the Church of Santa Maria Maior to return thanks to the King of kings, and the Queen of Heaven," &c. (Morning Chronicle.) Upon this a correspondent observes, "The Protestant smiles or frowns, as well he may, at seeing the wife of a Jewish carpenter worshiped pari passu with God, as the Mother (in Protestant Trinitarian language) of Him, who is the Supreme Being. O the mote in a brother's eye'! Quo fonte ?"


Christians' Petition against the Prosecution of Unbelievers.

(See the Petition at length, pp. 362-


Mr. HUME rose for the purpose of presenting a petition which he considered of great importance. Before he did so, he begged to correct an error which had got abroad respecting what he had said last night. He had been made to say in one publication, that he disapproved of

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religion could doubt that any thing which tended to stamp the character of persccution upon that religion was more calculated to bring it into contempt than all the scoffs and the arguments of its worst enemies. He proposed to follow up the reading of the petition with a motion which he should submit from a sense of duty, and which, if adopted by the House, as he anxiously hoped it would be, would tend to check the mischief which had been caused by recent proceedings.

On the motion that the petition be printed,

Mr. BUTTERWORTH asked by how many ministers of the Church of England this petition was signed, and of what class of Dissenters the other petitioners consisted.

Mr. HUME replied, that it was signed by Dissenters of all classes, and the names of the ministers were in a separate column.

Mr. W. SMITH could not see the pertinency of the Honourable Member's question. The petition was, however, signed, he could assure him, by persons whose religious opinions were as perfectly opposed to each other as possible.

The petition was ordered to be printed. Mr. HUME then rose for the purpose of making the motion of which he had given notice. His object was to obtain the admission of that principle which he had always thought to be part of the law of this country-namely, that every individual was entitled to freedom of discussion on all subjects, whether controversial or religious. At Edinburgh, where he was brought up, it was held that any man might entertain and express his opinions, unless they became a nuisance to society, when, perhaps, they might be brought under the operation of the common law. Since the year 1817 a disposition had been manifested to prosecute persons for the publication of old as well as new works, the object of which was to impugn the authenticity of the Christian faith. He was aware that since the period to which he had referred, the number of such publications had increased; but he thought, also, that the progress which had been made in knowledge, and the extent of education to all classes of persons, had brought with it a remedy for this evil. Looking at the advantages which resulted from the freedom of discussion, and the part which able men were always ready to take in behalf of true religion, he thought it would be doing equal injustice to that religion and to the community to adopt any other means of arriving at the truth than by fair discussion. He had always been led to believe that the greatest blessing which Englishmen enjoyed was the complete freedom with which they were permitted to express their religious opinions, and to follow whatever sect or persuasion their own opinions coincided with. Recollecting, too, that we enjoyed the blessings of a religion which had been established by means of discussion, and by differing from those which had preceded it, he thought the House would act unjustly, and with bad policy, if it should now turn round upon those who differed from us, as we differed from those who had preceded us, and exercise a rigour which in our own case we had been the first to deprecate. Such a course he was convinced was more likely to generate doubts and ignorance than to give any stability to the religion. It was quite evident that persons who wished to inves. tigate religious subjects must meet with a great variety of opinions; some of these might confirm their belief, while others might give rise to doubts. Now, he

wished to ask, whether it was not proper that they should be allowed to state those doubts, for the purpose of having them refuted if they were erroneous ? In Christian charity such an indulgence ought not to be refused to any individual. When he observed thirty or forty sects in this country differing from the Church of England, and differing equally from each other, he thought it was not at all surprising that amongst those who engaged in what might be termed periodical discussion on the subject of religion, many were found who dissented entirely from the great body of sectarians of every description. There was nothing wonderful in such a circumstance; but it was indeed wonderful that they should be prosecuted and punished for promulgating their opinions in the way of controversy. What right had any set of individuals to set themselves up as following exclusively the true religion? Religion, very different from ours, was preached and adopted in other countries; and those who pursued such religion proclaimed it to be the true one. Where there was such a diversity of opinion, they taking the Scriptures as the rule of their conduct and actions, ought to extend to all persons that mer. ciful toleration which The New Testament so forcibly inculcated in every page. They ought not to proceed, in the manner which was now too common, against individuals who differed conscientiously from them on points of religious belief. The perpetration of acts of a physical nature might be prevented by force; but no power, however harshly applied, could controul opinions, or make a man receive doctrines which he did not believe to be correct. The Government of this country had been tolerant to the Jews. To that race of people who denied altogether the Christian religion, who disbelieved in the divinity of its great Founder, the most complete toleration was extended. No one attempted to interfere with their opinions. The Quakers, who differed on many essential points from the Established Church, were tolerated; and the whole body of Dissenters, various as were their doctrines, were suffered to preach them without molestation. This was highly to the honour of this country; and he wished, very sincerely, that every species of disability, whether in the nature of a test or otherwise, which applied to the Dissenters, should be wholly removed. He should be happy to see every human being placed in that situation in which he would be enabled, without any fear of the civil magistrate, to entertain whatsoever religious opinions he pleased; and to endeavour to obtain, by fair and candid discussion, information on those points which might not ap

pear sufficiently clear and satisfactory to him. That was the only way by which any man could arrive at a fair conviction. Religion must be implanted in the mind; and nothing but plain argument,-no. thing but the free discussion of points which an individual couceived to be doubtful,―could either alter his mind, with respect to any new doctrine, or confirm him in the truth of that which he had been accustomed to uphold. Physical force could have no effect whatever, either in eradicating new, or establishing old opinions. If there were any thing unreasonable in his proposition, he should not have brought it forward; but, looking over the pages of the Holy Scriptures, he could not find a single sentence that authorized punishment on account of difference of opinion, or that called on the civil magistrate to interfere. The conduct of the Divine Founder of the Christian religion was entirely at variance with this prosecuting spirit. When he was pursued with bitter hate, because he preached new opinions, his prayer was, "Father! forgive them; for they know not what they do." It was in consequence of that mild spirit of forbearance, that the Christian religion spread and flourished. It was not propagated by the great and the powerful; no, the meek, the lowly, and the humble, were its advocates; and its mild tenets made their way where force and violence must have failed. That religion had advanced in spite of the efforts of power, in defiance of every species of persecution; and, with that great example before their eyes, he demanded, ought they now to renew those scenes of persecution and oppression, which the earlier Christians had suffered with so much fortitude? Were they to immure individuals in dungeons for doing that which their own ancestors had done-for adopting new opinions? He might be told, "Those persons may express their opinions, but it must be done in a proper way." Now, for his own part, he knew not where the line of distinction was to be drawn, at which ribaldry began and sound discretion ceased. With respect to blasphemy, he would ask any one who referred to the Act of James I., whether on that subject a great change had not taken place in the public mind? That act sets forth-"That any stage-player, performer at May-games, or at any pageant, who shall use the name of God, of Jesus Christ, or of the Trinity, shall be adjudged guilty of blasphemy, and shall be subjected to all the penalties by this statute made and provided." Would any man say, after reading this, that a great difference of opinion had not taken place on this point? Was it possible that the provisions of that statute could

now be carried into effect, even if it were attempted by the most rigid sectarian ? Again, by the 9th and 10th of William, it was provided, that " any person denying the doctrine of the Trinity, or contending that there are more gods than one, or impugning the truth of the Christiau religion, shall be adjudged guilty of blasphemy." But they had themselves done this provision away by an act of the legislature. When this was the case,when such an alteration was effected in public opinion,—he was prevented from seeing clearly what was to be considered blasphemous ribaldry, indecent discussion, or calm and dispassionate reasoning. He knew not what line of discussion was to be tolerated, and what ought to be allowed, unless the legislature would define what blasphemy really was. Where there was no definition of that kind, how could any man who reasoned on a religious subject be satisfied that in his argument he avoided blasphemy? How could he tell, let his intentions be ever so pure, that he did not expose himself to the visitation of the civil magistrate? He, therefore, submitted that the uncertainty which prevailed, with respect to what was and what was not blasphemy, ought to put an end to accusations of that nature, and to the punishment arising from them. Doubtless it would be said, that individuals had no right to express opinions which were different from those held by the great mass of the community: but if this principle had been always acted on, Christianity never could have made the progress which fortunately it had done. All the missionaries they employed in foreign parts, all the preachers they sent out to Hindostan, contradicted the correctness of this position. Those persons were sent abroad to expose the follies and absurdities of religious creeds which were reverenced by millions. They declared their dissent from those superstitious doctrines; and were, therefore, doing the same thing as certain individuals did in this country who could not believe all the tenets of Christianity. He thought in this the legislature were holding out two very different measures of justice. On the one hand, they were sending out persons to various quarters of the globe, for the express purpose of calling on the natives to inquire, to investigate, and to ascertain the truth of the doctrines they professed; while, on the other, a similar inquiry was treated here as an offence of very great magnitude. It was only by such inquiry that they could hope to benefit either the Hindoo or Mahometan subjects in India. If they invited the Hindoos to enter into every kind of discussion the most extensive that could be imagined, why should

one of his publications until he had presented his petition, and he had then perused a few numbers of the Republican, in order to judge. He there found some calm argumentative writing; and some articles so exceedingly offensive, that if Carlile had the smallest idea of the feelings of mankind, he would not have published any thing so revolting. He had, however, been most severely dealt with, and the consequence was, that the stream of feeling had been changed; resentment had been kindled against the prosecutor, and compassion had been excited in favour of the prisoner; but for those prosecutions few people would have known the thousandth part of his writings. The Attorney and Solicitor General saw the thing in its proper colours. They had not proceeded against Carlile, because they felt that such a course would be to spread abroad the very poison which they wished to eradicate. But the Society for the suppression of Vice and the Bridge Street Association took the matter up, and became parties to the charge of disseminating those publications. They brought forward prosecution after prosecution, until the individuals who were the objects of punishment left the court of justice, after being sentenced to fine and imprisonment, with the characters of martyrs to the cause which they had espoused. So much was this the fact, that if fifty persons more were in dungeons on account of these opinions, twice that number would be ready to come forward for the same purpose. Carlile, with all his efforts, never could have sold Paine's works to the extent he had been enabled to do in consequence of these prosecutions. When Hone was prosecuted for his Parodies, 20,000 copies were sold, which never would have been the case if they had not been brought into notoriety by legal proceedings. In the same way the poem of " Wat Tyler," which was written by Mr. Southey, the Poet Laureat, in early life, and which he (Mr. Southey) wishing to suppress, had applied for an injunction to restrain its publication, became, in consequence of that step, most widely disseminated, no less than 30,000 copies of it having been sold immediately after the application. The Honourable Gentleman then proceeded to quote Bishop Watson, who held that the freedom of inquiry, which had subsisted in this country during the present century, had been of great benefit to the cause of Christianity; and he also referred to Dr. Campbell, who held "that that man could not be a friend to Christianity who would punish another for expressing his doubts. Every man who doubts should be invited to discussion, that the objections might be an

they in England, because a few persons differed from the general feeling and opiniou, withhold from those individuals the benefit of that principle which was so liberally adopted elsewhere? He thought that Christianity had stood too long and too scrupulous an inquiry to be shaken in the present day. When men of the very first abilities had attempted to impugn it and had failed, he entertained no apprehension of the attacks of men who possessed neither talent nor education. Christianity had marched on with rapid strides, notwithstanding the efforts of men of powerful minds. When this was so, why should they dread the assaults of a few iguorant persons, who, of late years, had excited public attention? It was impossible that they could state any arguments, or adduce any facts, which could endanger the tenets of the Christian religion, when assailants infinitely more powerful had formerly attempted the same thing without effect. The end of discussion was the attainment of truth; and he agreed with those who believed that the more the Christian religion was examined, the more firmly it would be fixed, and the more seriously it would be followed. Those who prosecuted persons for promulgating opinions hostile to that religion, did not check, but aggravated the evil. He would quote the opinions of some of the most learned and pious men that this country ever produced, in support of freedom of discussion. Tillotson, Taylor, Louth, Warburton, Lardner, Campbell, Chillingworth, and many others, had placed their opinions on record with respect to the propriety of allowing the freest investigation of the Christian religion. Tillotson said" that the Christian religion did not decline trial or examination. If a church opposed itself to investigation, that circumstance would be no light ground of suspicion, since it would seem like a distrust of the truth." The Honourable Gentleman then went on to quote the opinions of the several divines whom he had mentioned in support of the principle, that the utmost latitude should be given to discussion. He alluded more particularly to the writings of Dr. Lardner, who, in speaking of the work of Mr. Woolston, said, that the proper punishment for a low, mean and scurrilous way of writing, was neglect, scorn and detestation. That learn ed divine added, that the stream of resentment would always turn against the prosecutor, where opinions were made the subject of complaint, especially if the punishment happened to be severe. In this way, continued Mr. Hume, the writings of Carlile ought to have been treated. He believed that they were scurrilous in a very high degree. He had never read

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munity, and it is unjust and inexpedient to expose any person to legal penalties on account of the expression of opinious on matters of religion."

On the question being put,

swered: so far from objecting to discussion, I believe that the most violent attacks on the religion of Jesus have been of service to it. Let them argue, and when argument fails, let them even cavil against the Christian religion as much as Mr. WILBERFORCE addressed the they please, I have no apprehension of House; but in so low a tone, that very the result." He (Mr. Hume) could not little of what he said could be distinctly conceive why the Bridge Street Associa- heard in the gallery. We understood tion should interfere in the uncoustitu- the Honourable Member to observe, that tional manner they had doue. They had it was the duty of individuals to prosefound a stock-purse to prosecute indivi- cute publications of the nature of those duals, and took upon them that duty alluded to, as they were evidently contra which really belonged to the magistrate. bonos mores. The Honourable Mover They had a great deal to answer for in had observed that he believed there was taking such a course. He regretted to no such a thing as Atheism; but in one see such respectable persons amongst of those very publications there was a them. He was sorry that they had al- passage, in which it was stated that lowed themselves to be misled by inte- Atheism was the only ground on which rested individuals, secretaries and others, a man could find a sound and secure who had only their own profits in view, footing. It was exceedingly unpleasant and cared very little about the objects to quote from any of those works; but which had been contemplated by the perin another number it was declared that sons who subscribed the funds. The Christianity could be proved to demonHonourable Gentleman then quoted the stration to be a gross imposture, and as charge of the Bishop of London to his it was supported for the purpose of clergy last year, in which that Right Re- upholding a bad system of government, verend Prelate stated that he was a friend the author wondered why it had not to discussion, because he thought that it long since been removed; and he went called forth the mental energies of those on to ask whether the inquiring mind of whose duty it was to meet any arguments man could find any sound footing except urged against the Christian religion. With in Atheism. (Hear.) The Honourable so recent an opinion before them, why, Member (Mr. Hume) had quoted from he asked, should they act in a spirit so Bishop Warburton, the Bishop of Lonentirely different ? The Honourable don, and several other eminent divines, Member then alluded to the opinion of with whose sentiments he (Mr. WilberMr. Justice Blackstone, who held that it force) entirely concurred: for no man was contrary to sound policy and civil held more strongly the opinion that it freedom to prosecute on account of reli- was proper to investigate the established gious opinions. If such were the sen- religion of the country fairly. But none timents of the many pious, wise and of those pious and learned men had learned men whom he had quoted, how argued that gross and vulgar abuse of would gentlemen reconcile them with the the religion of the state ought to be prosecutions now going on? Of what tolerated. (Hear.) Dr. Paley's opinion use were those prosecutions when indivi- was clear and decisive on this point. duals gloried in their punishment as an He said "that persecution could proact of martyrdom? Discussion ought to duce no sincere conviction; and under be allowed in the most full and unre- the head of religious toleration, he instrained degree, and the power of the cluded toleration of all serious argument, magistrate ought only to be resorted to but he did not think it would be right to when the safety of the state demanded suffer ridicule, invective, and mockery it. He had not touched upon the questo be resorted to with impunity. They tion of Atheism for this simple reason- applied solely to the passions, weakened because he had never seen any such man the understanding, and misled the judgas an Atheist, and he doubted whether ment. They did not assist the search any person existed who denied the being for truth, and instead of supporting any of a great Creator of the universe. He particular religion, destroyed the infludid not mean to defend any attacks on ence of all." (Hear, hear.) With rethe Christian religion, or any of the pub- spect to Carlile, he had not been harshly lications which had been complained of. treated. No prosecution was instituted They ought to be put down; but put against him until he had placed over down in the way they deserved-by comhis door "The Temple of Reason;" and plete neglect and utter contempt. The the dissemination of irreligious works Honourable Member concluded by moving became too notorious to be overlooked. "That it is the opinion of this House He thought the country owed very great that free discussion has been attended thanks to private individuals (seconded with more benefit than injury to the comby the state) who had endeavoured to VOL. XVIII. 3 R

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