« PreviousContinue »
a famous lawyer, in order to shew the form of proceeding in a court of justice, imagines a process between the devil and mankind. The devil cites mankind to appear at the tribunal of Jesus Christ, claiming them as belonging to him by Adam's fall. He swells in rage, demanding whether any one dare appear in their behalf. Against the Virgin Mary offering herself as their advocate, the devil makes two objections; first, That being the mother of the Judge, her influence would be too great; second, That a woman is debarred from being an advocate: and these objections are supported by numberless quotations from the Corpus Juris. The Virgin, on her part, quotes texts permitting women to appear for widows, orphans, and for persons in distress. She is allowed to plead for mankind, as coming under the last article. The devil urges prescription, as having been in possession of mankind ever since the fall. The Virgin answers, That a mala fide possessor cannot acquire by prescription. Prescription being repelled, the parties go to the merits of the case, which are learnedly discussed with texts from the Pandects. The memoirs of the French academy of Belles Lettres has the following story: A monk returning from a house which he durst not visit in day-light, had a river to cross. The boat was overturned by Satan, and the monk was drowned when he was beginning to invocate the Virgin
Mary. Two devils having laid hold of his soul, were stopped by two angels. "My Lords, said the "devils, true it is and not a fable, that God died " for his friends; but this monk was an enemy to "God, and we are carrying him to hell." After much altercation, it was proposed by the angels, to refer the dispute to the Virgin Mary. The devils were willing to accept of God for judge, because he would judge according to law. "But
from the Virgin Mary," said they, " we expect "no justice: she would break to atoms every gate "of hell, rather than suffer one to remain there a moment who pays any worship to her image. "She may say, that black is white, and that pud"dled water is pure-God never contradicts her. "The day on which God made his mother, was a "fatal day to us.'
People who profess the same religion, and differ only in forms and ceremonies, may justly be compared to neighbouring states, who are commonly bitter enemies to each other, if they have any difference. At the same time, dissocial passions never rage so furiously, as under the mask of religion; for in that case they are held to be meritorious, as exerted in the cause of God. This observation is but too well verified in the disputes among Christians. However low religion was in the dark ages, yet men fought for forms and ceremonies as pro aris et focis. In the Armenian form of baptism, the priest says at the first imCc 4
mersion, In name of the Father at the second, In name of the Son 5 at the third, In name of the Holy Ghost This form is bitterly condemned by the Romish church, which appoints the three persons of the Trinity to be joined in the same expression, in token of their union, Strahlenberg gives an account of a Christian sect in Russia, which differs from the established Greek church in the following particulars: First, In public worship they repeat Halleluia but twice; and it is a mortal sin to repeat it thrice. Second, In celebrating mass, not five but seven loaves ought to be used. Third, The cross stamped upon a mass-loaf ought to have eight corners. Fourth, In signing with the cross at prayers, the end of the ring-finger must be joined to the end of the thumb, and the two intermediate fingers be held out at full length. How trifling are these differences and yet for these, all who dissent from them are held unclean, and no better than Pagans: they will not eat nor drink with any of the established church; and, if a person of that church happen to sit down in a house of theirs, they wash and purify the seat *. There
*Christians, occupied too much with externa! forms, have corrupted several of the fine arts. They have injured architecture, by erecting magnificent churches in the ugly form of a cross. And they have injured painting, by withdrawing the best. hands from proper subjects, and employing them on the legen dary martyrdom of pretended saints, and other such disagree able subjects,
There are few sects founded upon more trivial differences than the Turkish and Persian Mahometans. The epithets given to the Persians by the Turks are," Forsaken of God, Abominable "Blasphemers of the Holy Prophet;" and so bitter is their enmity to the Persians, That the schools of the seraglio are open to young men of all nations, those of Persia alone excepted. The Persians are held to be such apostates from the true faith, as to be utterly past recovery: they receive no quarter in war, being accounted unworthy of life or slavery nor do the Persians yield to the Turks in hatred. Whether coffee be or be not prohibited in the Alcoran, has produced much controversy in the Mahometan church, and consequently much persecuting zeal. A mufti, not fond of coffee, declared it to have an inebriating quality, and therefore to be virtually prohibited by Mahomet. Another mufti, fond of coffee for its exhilarating virtue, declared it lawful; "be"cause," said he, "all things are lawful that are "not expressly prohibited in the Alcoran." The coffee-houses in Constantinople were for a long period alternately opened and shut, according to the taste of the reigning mufti; till coffee at last, surmounting all obstacles, came to be an established Mahometan liquor, Religion thus runs wild, whenever it loses sight of its true ends, worshipping God, and enforcing justice to man. The Hindoos hate the Mahometans for eating the flesh of
of cows: the Mahometans hate the Hindoos for eating the flesh of swine. The aversion that men of the same religion have at each other for the most trivial differences, converts them frequently into brutal savages. Suppose, for example, that a man, reduced to the extremity of hunger, makes a greedy meal of a dead horse, a case so deplorable would wring every heart. And yet, let this be done in Lent, or on a meagre day-Behold! every zealot is instantly metamorphosed into a devil incarnate. In the records of St Claude, a small district of Burgundy, is engrossed a sentence against a poor gentleman named Claude Guillon. The words are: "Having considered the process, "and taken advice of the doctors of law, we de"clare the said Claude Guillon duly convicted "for having carried away and boiled a piece of "a dead horse, and of having eat the same on the "31st March, being Saturday." And he was beheaded accordingly 28th July 1629; notwithstanding a defence above all exception, That he committed that irregularity to preserve his life. How was it possible for the monsters to persuade themselves, that this sentence was agreeable to God, who is goodness itself!
No less prejudicial to morality than the relying too much on forms and ceremonies, is the treating some sins with great severity, neglecting others equally heinous, or perhaps more so. In a book of rates for absolution, mentioned above, no just distinction