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defend the church of England. Such an engagement implies either a renunciation of the tenet excluding Protestants from the benefits of the Gospel promises, or a shocking indifference to the eternal welfare of men. If your leaders, whom it would be uncharitable to suspect of the latter feeling, have so far receded from the Roman creed as to allow us the common privileges of Christianity, and can conscientiously swear to protect and encourage the interests of the church of England, let them, in the name of truth, speak openly before the world, and be the first to remove that obstacle to mutual benevolence, and perfect community of political privileges—the doctrine of exclusive salvation in your church. Cancel but that one article from your creed, and all liberal men in Europe will offer you the right hand of fellowship. Your other doctrines concern but yourselves; this endangers the peace and freedom of every man living, and that in proportion to your goodness: it makes your very benevolence a curse. Believe a man who has spent the best years of his life
where Catholicism is professed without the check
of dissenting opinions; where it luxuriates on the soil, which fire and sword have cleared of whatever might stunt its natural and genuine growth; a growth incessantly watched over by the head of your church, and his authorized representatives, the Inquisitors. Alas! “I have a mother,” outweighed all other reasons for a change, in a man of genius", who yet cared not to show his indifference to the religious system under which he was born. I, too, “had a mother,” and such a mother as, did I possess the talents of your great poet, tenfold, they would have been honoured in doing homage to the powers of her mind and the goodness of her heart. No woman could love her children more ardently, and none of those children was more vehemently loved than myself. But the Roman Catholic creed had poisoned in her the purest source of affection. I saw her, during a long period, unable to restrain her tears in my presence. I perceived that she shunned my conversation, especially when my university friends drew me into topics above those
of domestic talk. I loved her; and this behaviour
* Pope: see his letter to Atterbury on this subject.
cut me to the heart. In my distress I applied to a friend to whom she used to communicate all her sorrows; and, to my utter horror, I learnt that, suspecting me of anti-catholic principles, my mother was distracted by the fear that she might be obliged to accuse me to the Inquisition, if I incautiously uttered some condemned proposition in her presence. To avoid the barbarous necessity of being the instrument of my ruin, she could find no other means but that of shunning my presence. Did this unfortunate mother overrate or mistake the nature of her Roman Catholic duties? By no means. The Inquisition was established by the supreme authority of her church; and, under that authority, she was enjoined to accuse any person whatever, whom she might overhear uttering heretical opinions. No exception was made in favour of fathers, children, husbands, wives: to conceal was to abet their errors, and doom two souls to eternal perdition. A sentence of excommunication, to be incurred in the fact, was annually published against all persons, who having heard a proposition directly or indirectly contrary
to the Catholic Faith, omitted to inform the in
quisitors upon it. Could any sincere Catholic slight such a command 2 Such is the spirit of the ecclesiastical power to which you submit. The monstrous laws of which I speak, do not belong to a remote period : they existed in full force fifteen years ago: they were republished, under the authority of the Pope, at a later period. If some of your writers assume the tone of freedom which belongs to this age and country; if you profess your Faith without compulsion; you may thank the Protestant laws which protect you. Is there a spot in the universe where a Roman Catholic may throw off his mental allegiance, except where Protestants have contended for that right, and sealed it with their blood? I know that your church modifies her intolerance according to circumstances, and that she tolerates in France, after the revolution, the Hugonots, whom she would have burnt in Spain a few years ago, and whom she would doom to some indefinite punishment, little short of the stake, at this present moment. Such conduct is unworthy of the claims which Rome contends for,
and would disgrace the most obscure leader of a
paltry sect. If she still claims the right of wielding “ the sword of Peter,” why does she conceal it under her mantle? If not, why does she not put an end to more than half the miseries and degradation of Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Spanish America, by at once declaring that men are accountable only to God for their religious belief, and that sincere and conscientious persuasion must, both in this and the neart world, be a valid plea jor the pardon of error 2 Does the Church of Rome really profess this doctrine?—It is then a sacred duty for her to remove at once that scandal of Christianity, that intolerance which the conduct of Popes and councils has invariably upheld ". But if, as I am persuaded, Rome still thinks in conformity with her former conduct, and yet the Roman Catholics of these kingdoms dissent from her on this point, they have already begun to use the Protestant right of private judgment upon ONE of the articles of their faith; and I may hope that they will follow me
in the examination of that alleged divine authority
* Note C.