Sivut kuvina

had the nomination of eighteen archbishops, a hundred and nine bishops, and seven hundred and fifty abbots, and as these dignitaries governed the inferior clergy, it is easy to see that all the popish clergy of France were creatures of the court, and several of them were men of good learning. But the protestants had no fears on this head. They were excellent scholars, masters of the controversy, hearty in the service, and the mortifications, to which they had been long accustomed, had taught them that temperate coolness, which is so essential in the investigating and supporting of truth. They published, therefore, 'unanswerable arguments for their non-conformity. The famous Mr. Claude, pastor of the church at Charenton, near Paris, wrote a defence of the reformation, which all the elergy of France could not answer. The bishops, however, answered the protestants all at once, by procuring an edict which forbid them to print. .

The king, in prosecution of his design, excluded the calvinists from his houshold, and from all other employments of honor and profit, he ordered all the courts of justice, erected by virtue of the edict of Nantz, to be abolished, and, in lieu of them, made several laws in favor of the catholic religion, which debarred from all liberty of abjuring the catholic doctrine, and restrained those protestants, who had embraced it, from returning to their former opinions, under severe punishments. He ordered soldiers to be quartered in their houses till they changed their religion. He shut up their churches, and forbad the ministerial function to their clergy, and, where his commands were not readily obeyed, he levelled their churches with the ground. At last, Oct. 22, 1685, he revoked the edict of Nantz, and banished them from the kingdom. ;

" A thousand dreadful blows, says Mr. Sauriri, were struck at our afflicted churches before that, which destroyed them : for our enemies, if I may use such an expression, not content with seeing our ruin, endeavored to taste it. One while edicts were published against those who, foreseeing the calamities that threatened our churches, and not having power to prevent them, desired only the sad consolation of not being spectators of their ruin. Another while, Aug. 1669, against those, who, through their weakness, had denied their religion, and who, not being able to bear the remorse of their consciences, desired to return to their first profession. One while, May 1679, our pastors were forbidden to exercise their discipline on those of their flocks, who had abjured the truth. Another while, June 1680, children of seven years of age were allowed to embrace doctrines, which, the church of Rome allows, are not level to the capacities of adults, June 1681. A college was suppressed, and then a church shut up, Jan. 1683. Sometimes we were forbid to convert infidels; and sometimes to confirm those in the truth, whom we had instructed from their infancy, and our pastors were forbidden to exercise their pastoral office any longer in one place than three years. Sometimes the printing of our books was prohibited, July 1685, and sometimes those which we had printed, were taken away. One while, we were not suffered to preach in a church, Sept. 1685, and another while we were punished for preaching on its ruins, and at length we were forbidden to worship God in public at all. Now, Oct. 1685, we were banished, then, 1689, we were forbidden to quit the kingdom on pain of death. Here, we saw the glorious rewards of some who betrayed their religion; and there, we beheld others, who had the courage to confess it, a haling

to a dungeon, a scaffold, or a galley. Here, we saw our persecutors drawing on a sledge the dead bodies of those who had expired on the rack. There, we beheld a false friar tormenting a dying man, who was terrified, on the one hand, with the fear of hell if he should apostatize, and, on the other, with the fear of leaving his children without bread, if he should continue in the faith : yonder, they were tearing children from their parents, while the tender parents were shedding more tears for the loss of their souls, than for that of their bodies, or lives.”

It is impossible to meet with parallel instances of cruelty among the heathens in their persecutions of the primitive christians. The bloody butchers, who were sent to them under the name of dragoons, invented a thousand torments to tire their patience, and to force an abjuration from them. “ They cast some, says Mr. Claude, into large fires, and took them out when they were half roasted. They hanged others with large ropes under the arm-pits, and plunged them several times into wells, till they promised to renounce their religion. They tied them like criminals on the rack, and poured wine with a funnel into their mouths, till, being intoxicated, they declared that they consented to turn catholics. Some they slashed and cut with penknives, others they took by the nose with red hot tongs, and led them up and down the rooms till they promised to turn catholics." These cruel proceedings made eight hundred thousand persons quit the kingdom.

If the same actions may proceed from different principles, it must be always a hazardous, and often an unjust attempt, to assign the true motives of men's conduct. But public actions fall under public notice, and they deserve censure, or commenda

tion, according to the obvious good, or evil, which they produce in society. The art of governing requires a superior genius, and a superior genius hides, like a lofty mountain, its summit in the clouds. In some cases, a want of capacity, and in others a fund of selfishness, would prevent a subject's comprehension of his prince's projects, and consequently, his approbation of his prince's measures; and for these reasons, the cabinets of princes should be the least accessible, and their hearts the most impenetrable parts of their dominions : but when the prince would reduce his projects to practice, and cause his imaginations to become rules of action to his subjects, he ought to give a reason for his conduct, and, if his conduct be rational, he will do so, for as all law is founded in reason, so reason is its best support. In such a case, the nature of the thing, as well as the respect, that is due to the rank of the prince, would require us to be either mute, or modest, on the motive ; and the same reasons would require us to consider the reasonableness or unreasonableness of the law, for if it be not reason, it ought not to be law; and nothing can prevent our feeling the good, or ill effects of the whole action.

To disfranchise and to banish, to imprison, and to execute, sometimes members of society are partial evils: but they are also some general benefits, and the excision of a part may be essential to the preservation of the whole. The inflicting of these punishments on the French protestants might possibly be essential to the safety of the whole nation: or perhaps his majesty might think it essential to monarchy : perhaps the clergy might think it essential to orthodoxy ; perhaps the financiers, and the king's mistresses, might think it essential to the making of their fortunes ; but we have nothing to do with these private views, the questions are, Was it essential to the general safety and happiness of the kingdom? Was it agreeable to the unalterable dictates of right reason? Was it consistent with the sound approved maxims of civil polity? In these views, we venture to say, that the repeal of the edict of Nantz, which had been the security of the protestants, was an action irrational and irreligious, inhuman and ungrateful, perfidious, impolitic and weak. If respect to religion and right reason, were to compose a just title for the perpetrator of such a crime, it might call him a most inhuman tyrant : certainly it would not call him a most christian king.

It was an irrational act, for there was no fitness between the punishment and the supposed crime.

The crime was a mental error: but penal laws have no internal operation on the mind. It was irreligious, for religion ends where persecution begins. An action may begin in religion : but when it proceeds to injure a person, it ceaseth to be religion, it is only a denomination, and a method of acting. It was inhuman, for it caused the most savage cruelties. It was as ungrateful in the house of Bourbon to murder their old supporters as it was magnanimous in the protestants, under their severest persecutions, to tell their murderer, they thought that blood well employed, which had been spilt in supporting the just claim of the house of Bourbon, to the throne. It was, to the last degree, perfidious, for the edict of Nantz had been given by Henry IV. for a PERPETUAL and IRREVOCABLE decree; it had been confirmed by the succeeding princes, and Lewis XIV. himself had assigned in the declaration the loyalty of the protestants as a reason of the confirmation : My subjects of the pretended reformed religion, says he, have given me

« EdellinenJatka »