Page images

former period, seven persons in a year, on an average, were executed; in the latter, more than sixty : - consequently, the reign of Mary and the system of Popery were nine times more persecuting than the reign of Elizabeth and the system of Protestantism.

If a man be bigoted and harsh, let him, in a spirit of charity, be deemed ignorant; and if narrowness of mind be not the cause, it must be owing to something worse. Some men are naturally perverse and obstinate.

Firmness is praiseworthy. Demosthenes said, “ The beginning of virtue is consultation and deliberation ; the perfection of it, constancy.” Sometimes a man may have examined doubtful questions with diligence, and a conscientious desire to discover the truth; but, the subjects being obscure, he has not succeeded; he may therefore remain in a state of comparative indecision, that is, he may deem them unessential ; he may lay them aside as apochryphal or hidden matters. Bishop Watson observes, “ The most undecided men on doubtful points are those often who have bestowed most time in the investigation of them, whether the points respect divinity, jurisprudence, or policy. He who examines only one side of a question, and gives his judgment, gives it improperly, though he may be on the right side. But he who examines both sides, and after examination gives his assent to neither, may surely be pardoned this suspension of judgment, for it is safer to continue in doubt than to decide amiss.” But obstinacy, which is often confounded with decision or firmness, is a continuing in a certain course, without a capability of assigning a reason for it, except, “ I will, because I will ;” and then,

“ Once wedded fast
To some dear falsehood, hugs it to the last.”

Cicero exhibited a specimen of prejudice when he declared, he would rather err with Plato than be right with others. Prejudice arises generally from an ignorance of what might be said in the support of another opinion. Thus, persecutors have been the most unacquainted with what they have condemned. Tertullian, in his Apology to the enemies of Christianity, exclaims, “ What can be more unjust than for men to hate that with which they are unacquainted, supposing even that the thing itself is deserving of aversion! For only can any thing be reasonably hated when we are acquainted with its demerits." Jonathan Boucher has wisely observed, that the most unreasonable prejudices of men are generally the strongest. Narrow-minded people are bad reasoners. There is a specimen of sapient logic in the “ Twelfth Night,” which very much resembles the method pursued by these selfsatisfied persons,

66 That that is, is; so I being master Parson, am master Parson. For what is that, but that? And is, but is ?”

There is proof enough that prejudiced men have not been the most virtuous, nor have they been the most consistent in their opposition to others. It is said of the company of fathers that examined the works of Abelard, for the purpose of condemning them, that while some one read those masterly writings, they were all devoutly engaged in elating themselves spiritually from the bottle, until, having reached their zenith of inspiration, they sunk into drunken stupidity. But previously to the consummation of intoxication, they stamped, jeered, and laughed ; and when they heard any thing new, they demanded that the author should not be suffered to live. At last, they answered the reader with only half phrases and half words, and then fell either asleep or under the table !

Good men are very imperfect, consequently there may be found in the black list of persecutors many persons who ought to have known better. Aurelian was a man of learning, and was adorned with a good disposition, and many estimable qualities, but he countenanced persecution. On the other hand, Caracalla was a vile man, and he gave the Christians rest. Moses was led astray by his feelings, when he rashly replied to the Israelites. The eminent Polycarp sinned in a somewhat similar manner. Marcion, the leader of an heretical sect, met him, and said, 66 Polycarp, own me.” “ I do," replied the bishop, “own thee to be the first-born of Satan!” As falsehood may exist in words or actions, so bigotry and persecution may be shown by hints, by bitterness of speech, and by actions; sometimes it may condemn men to punishment, and sometimes to the flames of martyrdom. Sir Thomas More was a bitter opponent of Protestants; and who would have thought that Sherlock was a persecutor? But, however improbable it may seem, he recommended the imprisonment of Baxter.

Uniformity of opinion is impossible. If men

[ocr errors]

statement. Tradition says, that in Bohemia, in the eighth century, a leg-bone of a giant was found, which measured twenty feet !

Liberality will preserve a person from many erroneous notions, and from many improper actions: it will enable him to give to others that credit which is due; whereas bigotry brings into operation all the worst passions of human nature. There is scarcely any thing more contributive to happiness — to a free, calm, and pleasant condition of the mind — than liberality; and scarcely any thing more productive of misery- of credulity and discord — than bigotry.



of repose.

TRANQUILLITY is opposed to anger, in the same way as a calm is opposed to a storm. Tranquillity is rather negative than positive. It is the absence of exciting causes; and thus the gods of almost all nations have been described as existing in a state

The voluptuous Asiatic experiences tranquillity, and this is his highest enjoyment. Tranquillity, however, in the usual acceptation of the word, implies a state of equality; an evenness of disposition, which is the opposite to anger and the influence of unhappy passions. This may be adapted for the bustling engagements of life; there may be an outward energy and an inward calm. Tranquillity implies cheerfulness, good temper, or good humour. Dr. Johnson terms it “ a habit of being pleased, a constant and perpetual softness of manners, easiness of approach, and suavity of disposition.” It resembles the delightful stillness of a summer's evening, when the ocean is tranquil and glassy — the heavens are adorned with brilliant tints — the clouds repose on the horizon — the hills, the vales, and the groves are peaceful. Or it is motion without confusion; as when the stream glides softly, and the birds warble melodiously, or the sun rises and pursues his course, or the heavenly bodies at midnight roll on harmoniously.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »