Page images

selves they were abundantly disposed to war; and nothing kept within bounds the Pharisees, the Sa ducees, and the Essenes, their three sects, but ter ror of the Roman power. The Christian religion implies toleration in its very nature and princi ples; and yet became prone to persecution above all others. Christian sects were inflamed against each other to a degree of brutality; the most op posite to peace and brotherly love, inculcated in the gospel. It was propagated by the orthodox, that Arius expired in a common jakes, and that his entrails burst out. The same is related of Hu neric King of the Vandals, a zealous Arian; with the following addition, that being possessed with the devil, whom he had glutted with the blood of many martyrs, he tore his flesh with his teeth, and ended his wretched life in the most excruciating, though justly deserved torments. The falsehoods every where spread, during the fourteenth century, against the Jews, such as their poisoning the public fountains, killing Christian infants, and drinking their blood, with many other falsehoods of the same stamp, were invented, and greedily swallowed, through the influence of religious hatred. Through the same influence a law was once made in England, that a Christian marrying a Jew should be burnt alive. The greater part of persecutions have been occasioned in the same manner; for men are not so desperately wicked, as to approve of persecution, unless when blinded by intemperate

intemperate zeal. The same religious hatred pro duced the assassination of the Duke of Guise, and of two Henrys, Kings of France; produced the gun-powder plot; and produced the most horrid deed that ever was perpetrated among men, the massacre of St Bartholomew *.

There is no occasion to be particular on the massacre of St Bartholomew, the circumstances of which are universally known. I shall mention ans other, which happened in Lisbon, 6th April 1506, the effect entirely of bigotry. The day mentioned being Sunday) certain persons in the church of St Dominic, observing that a crucifix in one of the chapels was more than ordinarily luminous, the priest cried out, A miracle! a miracle: A new convert, who had been a Jew, saying slightly that it was but the sun shining on the crucifix, he was dragged instantly out of the church, and burnt. The friars, with vehement speeches, encouraged the rabble assembled about the fire to more mis+ chief; while other friars ran about the streets


Monsieur de Tavannes, afterwards Mareschal of France, was a great partisan of the Queen mother; and so active in the massacre, as with his own hand to murder no fewer than seventeen Huguenots. Having on death-bed made a full confession of his sins, What," said the priest, "not a word of St Bar "tholomew ?" "Of St Bartholomew !" answered the penitent: "the service I did that memorable day to God and the "church, is alone a sufficient atonement for all my transgres*sions.”


bawling out, Heresy, heresy, with crucifixes in their hands. Above 500 men gathered together, and slew every new convert they could find, and burnt them to ashes. Next morning they murdered above 1000 men, women, and children, dragging them from the altars, to which they had fled as a sanctuary. The same fury continued the third day, on which above 400 persons more were massacred.

No false principle in religion has shed more innocent or rather virtuous blood, than that of persecuting heretics; i. e. those who differ in any article from the religion established by law. The doctrine of burning heretics, is in effect the pro-' fessing to burn men eminently virtuous; for they must be so, when they submit to be burnt alive, rather than be guilty even of dissimulation. The Mahometan practice, of converting people by the sword, if not more rational, is at least more manly. Louis IX. of France, one of its best princes, would have been a greater blessing to his people had he been less pious: he had an implacable aversion to heretics; against whom he thought it more proper to employ racks and gibbets, than argument. Torquemada, that infernal inquisitor of Spain, brought into the inquisition, in the space of four-" teen years, no fewer than 80,000 persons; of whom 6000 were condemned to the flames, and burnt alive with the greatest pomp and exultation. Of that vast number, there was perhaps not a single


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

person, who was not more pure in religion, as well as in morals, than their outrageous persecutor. Hunter, a young man about nineteen years of age, was one of the unhappy victims to the zeal of Queen Mary of England for Popery. Having been inadvertently betrayed by a priest to deny transubstantiation, he absconded, to keep out of harm's way. Bonner, that arch-hangman of Popery, threatened ruin to the father, if he did not deliver up the young man. Hunter, hearing of his father's danger, made his appearance, and was burnt alive, instead of being rewarded for his filial piety. A woman of Guernsey was brought to the stake, without regard to her big belly; which bursting by the torture, she was delivered in the midst of the flames. One of the guards snatched the infant from the fire; but the magistrate who attended the execution ordered it to be thrown back; being resolved, he said, that nothing should survive which sprung from a parent so obstinately heretical. Father Paul computes, that, in the Netherlands alone, from the time that the edict of Charles V. was promulgated against the reformers, 50,000 persons were hanged, beheaded, buried alive, or burnt, on account of religion. Some Faquirs, crazed with opium and fanaticism, have been known, with poisoned daggers, to fall upon uncircumcised Europeans, and to put every one to death whom they could master. In the last century, a Faquir at



Council of Trent, Book 5.

Surat, murdered, within the space of a minute, seventeen Dutch sailors with seventeen stabs of a dagger. We think with horror of human sacrifices among the ancient Pagans; and yet we behold them every day, among Christians, rendered still more horrid by the most atrocious torments that religious hatred can devise.

The great motive to such cruelties, is the superstitious and absurd notion, that heretics are God's enemies; which makes it thought an acceptable service to God, not only to persecute them by fire and sword in this world, but to deliver them over to Satan in the world to come. Another circumstance inflames religious hatred; which is, that neighbours are either intimate friends or bitter enemies. This holds, with a slight variation, in sects of the same religion: however minute their differences are, they cannot be intimate friends; and therefore are bitter enemies: the nearer they approach to unison, if not entirely so, the greater in proportion is their mutual hatred. Such hatred, subduing the meek spirit of Christianity, is an additional cause for persecution. Blind zeal for what is believed to be the only true religion, never discovers error nor innocence in those who differ, but perverseness and criminal obstinacy. Two reli, gions totally different, like two countries in opposite parts of the globe, produce no mutual enmity. At the siege of Constantinople by the Turks, anno 1453, the Emperor, in order to procure assistance

« PreviousContinue »