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the whole world ; for all in a state of nature are on a level. There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, prince nor subject: the right of one argued from his nature is the right of all. Whether men forfeit this right in a state of society is another question.
A christian not only cannot, but if he could he ought not to dispose of this right, because not only he cannot be a christian without its exercise, but all the purposes of civil government may be answered without it. The power of the magistrate is an article of importance enough to demand a particular discussion, that therefore shall be the subject of a future letter; let the remaining space of this be filled up with enquiring, whether, if this advantage of private judging had been denied to other classes of men, the world would not have sustained infinite damage ?
Choose of the mechanical arts, or of the sciences, which you please, place it in the state in which it was seven hundred, five hundred, or two hundred years ago; let its then present state be defined, its ne plus ultra * determined ; let all future search be prohibited, and what an innumerable multitude of useful discoveries are men deprived of?
When Columbus first imparted his designs relative to the discovery of America to Ferdinand king of Spain, his majesty thought proper to advise with his ecclesiastical counsellors about it. All were against the project, and quoted St. Austin, who, in
* Its utmost bounds.
his book de civitate Deihad declared it impossible to pass out of one hemisphere into another; and had denied that there could be any antipodes. Seneca, Seneca the heathen, had declared long before, that future ages would discover new worlds, and that Thule would not be the farthest region upon earth. In this case it must be owned that St. Austin was an heretic, and Seneca a sound believer. The king and Columbus ventured to dissent, judged for themselves, and found ample r'eward for so doing, notwithstanding clerical decisi
Indeed St. Austin was not the only person who denied the possibility of Antipodes; the church denied it, that is, the head pope Zachary denied it for all the members. And this is the order that he sent to his legate Boniface Archbishop of Mentz, who had accused Virgil bishop of Saltzburg of holding the dangerous error of the Antipodes. “If says
the head of the church, “he should be con“ victed of maintaining that perverse doctrine, “ which he hath uttered against the Lord, and
against his own soul, that is, that there is another
world, other men under the earth, another sun “ and another moon, call a consistory, degrade “him from the honour of the priesthood, et ab ecc" “clesia pelle."*
A fine story for a man to be excommunicated for!
Has not all Europe pitied the fate of Copernicus and Galileo, the fathers of modern astronomy? The first kept his work near forty years before he dared to publish it, and died immediately after it
* And excommunicate him.
was presented to him; the persecution he dreaded being the supposed cause. As to Galileo, he was charged with heresy, first for affirming that the sun was in the centre; secondly, that the earth was not in the centre, but had a diurnal motion. His works were burnt, hiinself imprisoned, and being released was injoined a penance of repeating once a week for three years the seven penitential psalms. As if the penitential psalms said any thing about Galileo's crime! but these are some of the fruits of denying the right of private judginent. The pope, the sole judge, was pleased to think that these discoveries in geography and astronomy clashed with certain doctrines established in the church.
What a condition would all Christendom have been in by this time, had not this extravagant claim been denied, and the right of private judgment established in arts and sciences ? All the received systems of music, astronomy, physic, and of all other arts and sciences, were originally private opinions; probably they would have been so still, had the inventors been prohibited publishing, or the public examining and receiving them. But now, mankind form into societies, impart their own discoveries, offer rewards to other inventors or improvers of arts and sciences; and what follows? What might be expected; the perfection of sci
Thus Cicero accounts for that literary pre-eminence which Greece had over Rome: and thus in all nations and in all ages will the same effects follow the same causes: in England as in Rome the maxim is true, honos alit artes.
Numerous are the objections made to this doctrine; there are however but two that are worth answering. The first is, that Christianity is perfect and entire in the holy scriptures, that herein it differs from human arts and sciences, that therefore the inquisitiveness necessary for the latter would be highly injurious to the former. To which it may be justly answered that many people doubt this, as the church of Rome, whose notion is too fully expressed by Cardinal Hosius, who said that the scriptures were of no more authority than Esop's fables, were it not for the authority of the church: as the people called Quakers, who consider the holy scriptures as a secondary rule subordinate to the spirit; and many others wholly deny their divinity. Now ought not all these people to be allowed the liberty of examining the proofs of the divinity and perfection of the bible? For private judgment which is their malady is also their only medicine. But let the perfection of the holy canon be granted. It will annount to no more than granting the perfection of the works of nature. In both, invisible things, even the eternal power and Godhead are to be seen and UNDERSTOOD by the things that are made. The word of revelation, like the works of nature, present objects to view, but objects to be examined and understood: and how can this be without the right of private judg
* lIonours encourage arts.
ment? You say the scriptures give a perfect account of the nature of God, the nature of man, the vanity of the life that now is, the certainty of the life that is to come; but how is another man to know this unless you allow him to examine and determine for himself? It may be a perfect rule, it may be a subordinate rule, it may be a false rule, it may be no 'rule at all, for any thing he knows who must not examine, or if he examines must not determine ; for to retain the meaning is to retain the book; and there is no real difference between denying the examination and denying the conclusion. You know the story of father Fulgentio : preaching at Venice on Pilate's question What is truth? He told his hearers that at last after many. searches he had found it out, and held out a Newtestament, and said that there it was in his hand; but then he put it in his pocket, and coldly said ; but the book is prohibited. Now what great difference would there have been if he had said, You may read the book, but its true meaning is prohibited ? Yet this is what all the Arminian clergy in England must say, if they speak consistently with themselves; for in the opinion of all impartial judges the established religion is Calvinism.
The other objection is, that this will open a door to all sorts of heresies, and the truth will be oppressed and disappear. Indeed! And is truth such a timorous, cowardly thing? What idle fears are these! Should an honest man be taxed with dissoluteness and impiety, and should any propose to him a fair trial before impartial judges, would he