Sayfadaki görseller

not dependent upon his personal oath. It was well in the Athenians to burn the writings of the atheistic Protagoras, because they had previously prohibited blasphemy ; but in banishing. Protagoras himself, they probably exceeded the bounds which an enlightened reason would draw. Had the majority been atheists, they might with equal propriety have ostracized the rest for their stupid idolatry. Far more tolerant, however, were the Athenians than the French of Toulouse, who condemned and executed Vanini, for his atheism. If it were clear that the Romanist's allegiance to the Pope is of such a nature, as to invalidate his oath of allegiance to a protestant civil power, then Catholic emancipation in England was a false step; and the constitution of North Carolina, which debars from offices of trust and

, profit all who reject the protestant religion, is so far what the constitution of every state in the Union ought to be. If however, the Romanist can honestly take the freeman's oath, or the oath of naturalization, then England in the case referred to, did right, and for her dissenting subjects must do yet more ; while our sister commonwealth ought to revise her constitution. Needless test acts are odious; and such acts are needless, if not evidently called for by the safety of the state. The incumbrance of an ecclesiastical establishment, which must be upheld by the civil arm, is a poor apology for making religious dissent a civil offence. To think as he will in religion, politics, and the sciences, is the prerogative of every man on the globe, for aught that any other ereated being in the universe may say. God, speaking directly, or by the mouth of his ambassadors, does indeed enjoin right faith and feeling, as much as outward propriety; and he enforces his requisitions by promises and threatenings. But that is what man may not do. Human law pauses at the exterior man, and ceases at the grave; the divine law takes cognizance of the inner man, and its force will be unabated when the heavens and

, earth are passed away. Marsyas dreamed that he had cut Dionysius's throat, and Dionysius put him to death ; affirming that he would never have dreamed thus, if he had not contemplated the deed when awake. This, in a man, was the height of human injustice ; but in the eye of the omniscient King, whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer. The limits of the two provinces are sufficiently distinct; and for man to invade the divine prerogative, is disastrous arrogance.

Freedom of conscience and of opinion, so far as human constraint is concerned, ought evidently to be the privilege of all. It is not an item of political expediency; it is the birthright of every human being. All persecution therefore, for opinion's sake, and all attempts at compulsory proselytism, whether Mohammedan or Christian, are deeply repugnant to an enlightened mind. Freedom of speech and of the press follow from this without denial ; for as no man may dictate to another what he is to think, 80 neither what he shall say, or shall not say, the limitations relating to religion, morals, and politics being understood.

It is not maintained that under such liberty there are no incident evils ; but it is contended that they are abundantly overbalanced by benefits, while censorship never has obviated the mischiefs of an unshackled press. But admitting such supervision to be allowable, where shall the qualified censor be found ? Where has he ever been found? What man, what body of men, is removed so far from prejudice and ignorance as to be entitled to judge for the rest of the world ? Is it not preposterous to make a magistrate the umpire of truth? Is criticism a duty of civil government? The freedom of which we speak is evidently indispensable to the higher forms of manliness in character and in thinking, - indispensable to stimulate the general mind to desirable activity, and secure the completest diffusion of intelligence. The freer a community is in this respect, the less need of solicitude is there on the part of magistrates, for what may be said in or out of its own limits. The prince who is nervously anxious as to what may be said of him, and who strives to suppress every thing but commendation, is a pitiable slave to his fears. And the system of previous licensing operates with great detriment upon the independence of those who write, and remotely of those who read. Freedom is the element of activity and enterprise ; but if a man may not be trusted with his own thoughts, if all he produces must be to order, what likelihood is there of valuable discoveries, or or of any general elevation of character ?

Of indolent formalists, who love prescription and a lifeless uniformity, Milton speaks thus : “ Another sort there be, who, when they hear that all things shall be ordered, all things regulated and settled ; nothing written but what passes through the custom-house of certain publicans that have the tonnaging and poundaging of all free-spoken truth ; will straight give up themVOL. III.

18 *

[ocr errors]


selves into your hands, - make them and cut them out what religion ye please. What need they torture their heads with that which others have taken so strictly, and so unalterably into their own purveying? These are the fruits which a dull ease, and cessation of our knowledge, will bring forth among the people. How goodly, and how to be wished, were such an obedient unanimity as this! What a fine conformity would it starch us all into! Doubtless a stanch and solid piece of frame-work as any January could freeze together.” It is a lazy method of guarding truth and the public peace, to suppress error instead of confuting it, and to muzzle the discontented, instead of convincing them. Constrained virtue is no virtue ; and legislating for the tongue and the pen will convert commonwealths into monasteries and nunneries, whose chief excellences are in their walls and their wards. Why did not God set cherubim to keep Satan out of Paradise originally, rather than wait till after the apostacy? The divine method is, to try character. The finest specimens of human excellence are witnessed when loyalty and truth are apparently most endangered. But for Pelagius, we might have had no Augustine ; but for the modern deists, we should be without those incomparable apologies for our holy religion, of which they had been the occasion. Every thing valuable will bear investigation ; why, then, should the constitution or the creed, the State or the church, shrink from the severest scrutiny? If reform is needed, and is practicable, let it be shewn. Let every thing lie open for discussion in its proper place, and liberty, truth, and righteousness will gain by it. If power were lodged only in the hands of the wise and good, the result, though not the principle in the case, would be far otherwise than it actually is. But the lovers of rational liberty, and pure Christianity, have so seldom hitherto had an unrestricted opportunity of doing battle for their principles, that from policy, as well as a sense of right, they must advocate full freedom to preach and print.

Over and above what the patriot and the devotee of science may feel, the Christian has eminent reason to maintain this right. His Lord and Master has given him a commission, which, for its full discharge, requires just such liberty as we now advocate. It was in the discharge of duties thus imposed, that Peter and John, when prohibited to preach, replied : “ Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God,

judge ye.” The council which thus attempted to silence the apostles, was the Sanhedrim,- an ancient court of the StarChamber, the Jewish Vatican, - one of the many bodies in which civil and ecclesiastical intolerance has found its peculiar home. Shortly after, the apostles were again imprisoned ; and after their miraculous release, the council, when they had beaten them, commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Still, daily in the temple and in every house, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus Christ. That instrumentality still is, and will ever be, the leading one in the conversion and edification of souls. As, therefore, every friend of Christ prays and strives for the progress of his kingdom, so must he long and labor that no impediment upon the lips or the press may hinder the free course of the Gospel universally.

In a civil point of view, there is to us, living under a representative government, a particular reason why we should prize the liberty now discussed. It is a great balancing power. Its value is beyond all expression, as an auxiliary and safeguard to other departments of liberty. It is of more importance even than the free discussion in legislative bodies, and hence has the execrations of every fugitive Metternich and every reigning Nicholas. But this daughter of heaven has nothing to fear ultimately from Orion with his club, or from the Ursa-Major of the Northern hemisphere. It is natural that tyranny, civil and ecclesiastical, should frown upon the freedom we now advocate, and for which our fathers suffered the loss of all things. The two cannot coëxist, for the moment despotism can be discussed with impunity, it has ceased to be such ; and evidently a better day is at hand. Of all the hopeful signs of the present time for Europe, no one is brighter to our eye than the emancipation of sentiment now in progress. We hail it as a strange, yet auspicious, development, that in Italy itself, Enrico Montazio, in his recent correspondence with the Archbishop of Tuscany, should use language like this, without as yet suffering imprisonment or assassination : “ You are free, my lord, if you will, to calumniate, to persecute me, to threaten my liberty, perhaps even to plot against my life. I am free, however, to sustain myself in the presence of every peril, every threat, every outrage, by my faith and my principles; and to invoke now and forever, the recognition of the most sacred rights of man,liberty of speech and liberty of conscience."


The object of the present remarks is not to moralize on reading, but to suggest some things which may be useful to those who would read judiciously and with discrimination.

Reading is a duty which it is easy for those to neglect who are pressed by numerous cares. It cannot, however, be long neglected without injury. That ennui of which many complain, is perhaps, owing to their not having interested themselves in some valuable book. In hunger, the gastric juice preys on the coats of the stomach; and an empty mind is affected by a similar pain. Many morbid feelings are owing to a neglect of reading, because when the mind is not occupied with useful subjects of thought, the passions are more easily irritated. There is a self-respect produced by the consciousness of having read, or of being employed in reading, a truly valuable book, which in a measury keeps a man from venting his spleen on others. A reader of useful books is seldom spleeny.

While we are in the preparatory period of a profession, we ought to read certain books merely for the sake of being acquainted with them, and of being able to say that we have read them; for there are books of which it may be said, as of speaking and writing good grammar, there is not so much merit in knowing them, as demerit in being ignorant of them. There would be a difference of opinion what books should be assigned to this class; but probably all will agree that on finding a professional man, in middle life, reading Rollin's Ancient History, or Josephus, for the first time, we should wonder as much that he had not read them before, as though we should find him employed with an arithmetic, learning Discount or Partial Payments. In all our colleges and theological seminaries some instructor should have it in charge to advise young men with regard to their reading; and to see that they be acquainted with certain books which are somewhat like the ordinary but useful stones that compose the cellar-walls of a house, — never to be prominent among the visible proofs of their education, but serving a good purpose out of sight.

After we have entered on the active duties of our profession, our usefulness will depend very much on our reading. Intelligent men judge from our efforts, whether we are readers and students.

« ÖncekiDevam »