Page images
PDF
EPUB

lectual sun, before its beams have reached the horizon of common minds; who, standing like Socrates on the apex of wisdom, has removed from his eyes all film of earthly dross, and has foreseen a purer law, a nobler system, and a brighter order of things; in short a promised land ! which, like Moses on the summit of Pisgah, he is permitted to survey and anticipate for others, without himself reaping the full fruition of his hopes.” Thus was it with the Christian heroes who gave birth to Maryland. In all the darkness of superstition ; in all the fury of persecution ; in all the conflicts of ambition; in all the despotism of intolerance, they washed themselves in the laver of virtue, and thus purified, laid their bodies and their souls on the altar of freedom! From their sacrifices have sprung our blessings—from their courage our security-to them we owe a debt of gratitude which taking away cannot diminish, which time cannot release, for it is the debt of children to their fathers, the debt of life and all that liberty without which the glory of a freeman becomes the burthen of a slave. What brilliant contrast this far-reaching wisdom presents to the short-sighted folly which some of the other colonies exhibited. Look, for a moment, at Massachusetts. So soon as the Salem colony was settled, Mr. Higginson drew up their “solemn league and covenant”-the high-sounding name by which a handful of bigots proclaimed the blindness of their fanatacism. Their laws soon struck every semblance of popular liberty from their government, for they provided civil disabilities and punishments founded on religious dogmas. No man could have a share in the administration of the government, or give his voice in any election, unless he was a member of their Church, which they declared infallible, while it was deemed blasphemous to ascribe such quality to the Universal Church. Church membership was dependant on a certain ardour of imagination which could discourse in parables, and a warmth of feeling and self-love which involved the notion of a special inspiration; on grace and gifts, as they called the wild phantasies of heated brains. The possession of those qualities in those who severally desired admittance to the Church, was decided, after examination of their faith and morals, by the elders, whose arbitrary decision was conclusive in the matter. Thus erecting in wilds which freedom was to people and cultivate, that inquisitorial power which was so much dreaded in Europe, and subjecting those who recently were turbulent for liberty to the absolute power of a more than Venitian oligarchy. Slaves in their internal government, they were always disaffected to the authority of the crown. Their opposition was not that which stimulates great minds by noble means to glorious ends, but it was the factious contention of men who cherished the morbid excrescences of religion and politics, as the vulgar always gloat over the impossible and disgusting. They cut the red cross of the loyal colours as a relique of antichristian superstition, and the people disputed concerning the lawfulness of the cross in the banner. Serious treatises were written on the subject and the train bands were divided; some refusing to follow the colours that they might

not do honour to an idol ; while others submitted lest they should be thought wanting in their allegiance.

A compromise was finally accomplished, the cross being retained in the banners of ships and castles, but omitted in the colours of the train bands. “ Lynch law” is not of modern invention, nor has it been improved by modern mobs. It may be found in all the enormity of its most revolting character in the acts of the pilgrims. In 1654 Mary Fisher and other Quakers arrived in Massachusetts and soon made several converts. Without trial by the mere volition of a town-meeting, they were imprisoned and their books destroyed. The court passed sentence of banishment on them all, though there was then no law for the punishment of Quakers—a deficiency which was soon supplied by the act of 1655 and its supplement. These laws, those against Anabaptists, the Jesuits, and heresy and error combined, form a code providing for every possible variance of belief from the orthodox standard, and provide a series of pains and penalties against, not only the heterodox themselves, but their friends and all who should stand to them, in their distress, the common succors of humanity. They were directed against both sexes, and embraced any species of punishment, from the slightest even to the loss of life, graduated and regulated with the nicest ingenuity.

In a few years the Baptists were banished, the Episcopalians put down, the Presbyterians routed, the Quakers hanged, and the poor Catholics confined to that province which was the common refuge of all. It was indeed the citadel of refuge! strong in the immortal truths, reverenced with more than political homage that independence of thought and freedom of worship are the natural rights of man truths struck from other codes of morals-rights trampled on by these who gloried in their shame. The prudence and liberality of Maryland illustrated the consoling doctrine that true rectitude is true policy; that virtue alone is the moral banker that honours every honest draft; for that colony acquired what the folly and bigotry of others, operating on the same principles though on different subjects, had discarded. Mankind then beheld a scene new and uncommon. Several colonies composed of men driven from Europe by the intolerance of the state, and immediately legislating on ecclesiastical government ; each but one, playing the tyrant to all the others; weighing the soul and its sentiments in their varying balances and insisting on an exact conformity with their several standards. It is a striking and, rightly considered, an instructive spectacle, to behold the Puritains persecuting their brethren in New England; the Episcopalians retorting the same severity on the Puritans in Virginia ; and the Catholics, against whom all others were combined, forming in Maryland a sanctuary where all might worship and none might oppress, and where (in the language of Graham) even Protestants sought refuge from protestant persecution. Differing in every other point, hating each other with a bitterness which we can hardly comprehend, they were firmly united in that sweet labour of love, the unrelenting and barbarious per

secution of those who refused to abandon the altars at which their fathers had worshipped. Even Rhode Island, the only other settlement in which the

principle of toleration was at all recognised, for Pensylvania was not then ~ settled, excluded Catholics from participating in the political rights that were

enjoyed by the rest of the community. Penn did for Pennsyleania what Baltimore did for Maryland. We live on a soil, like that of Maryland, hallowed by the virtues of our sires. But while in the reckoning of honour we demand for our honest but not simple, our peaceful but not cowardly Quakers, a vast credit, let us ever recollect that the truth and justice which gave a severe and simple beauty to their acts, existed in the sister colony before the broad-brims shadowed our land with their refreshing shade. The disciple is not greater than his master, and we depart from the humility of our good old fashioned forefathers whenever we claim for them that which their honesty would prevent their claiming for themselves.

The blessing which Maryland extended to all whose distress required her sympathy, availed not her sons when the proprietary influence was subdued. The popular fiction known as “the Popish plot” formed a pretext for imposing additional restraints on English Catholics and founded a national jubilee of falsehood. The influence of those restraints and falsehoods was felt across the Atlantic. The seeds of disaffection were planted on the soil of Maryland, and after alternate fears and hopes, the mild tones of Catholic love and toleration were at length drowned in the hoarse brawlings of a “glorious Reformation" to bitterness and proscription. A viper warmed to life and strength first used its reviving energies to destroy its saviour. Mr. McMahon, the accurate and elegant historian, notices the oblivion in which the process of revolution is shrouded. It cannot be presumed that there were wanting choice spirits who would venture all for the preservation of the original system of government; but “villainy that is vigilant will be an overmatch for virtue if she slumber on her post.” This maxim may explain why here there was another added to the long list of bad causes, which have triumphed over good; another evidence that the partisans of the former, knownig that their cause will do nothing for them, will do every thing for their cause; while the friends of the latter are too apt to expect every thing from their cause and to do nothing for themselves. In 1692 the Assembly, acting under the crown, which had violently assumed the government, passed an act by which all Protestant dissenters were declared to be entitled to the full benefit of the act of toleration, passed at the commencement of William and Mary's reign by the English parliament. “But this grace was strictly withheld (says Graham) from the Roman Catholic; and the Protestants who thus enacted toleration to themselves, with the most impudent injustice and unchristian cruelty, denied it to the men by whose toleration they themselves had been permitted to gain an establishment in the province. Sanctioned by the authority and instructed by the example of the British government, the Legislature proceeded, by the most tyrannical persecution of the Catholics, to fortify and disgrace the Protestant ascendency. Not only were these unfortunate victims of conscience excluded from all participation in political privileges, but they were debarred from the exercise of their worship and the advantages of education. By an act passed in the year 1704 and renewed in the year 1715, it was provided that any Catholic priest attempting to convert a Protestant, should be punished with fine and imprisonment; and that the celebration of mass, or the education of youth by a papist, should be punished by transportation of the offending priesť or teacher to England, that he might there undergo the penalties which the English statutes inflicted on such actions. Thus in their eagerness to deprive others of their liberty, the Protestants of Maryland truly subverted their own pretention to independent legislation.” Stokes.

The following communication of a respected correspondant, contains reflections which deserve attention from the enquirer after the right ways of the Lord,

THE ENQUIRER AFTER TRUTH. I have often endeavoured to imagine to myself, in my day-dreams, the feelings of an individual, who, placed upon this earth, at a mature age, blessed with that share of understanding which we style common sense, and divested of all prejudice, should find himself called upon to direct his attention towards the great end of his creation and the future beyond the grave. Suppose him convinced fully of the existence of one Great Being, to whom he owes his own origin and to whom he is accountable for all his actions : he has read the necessity of a God in the bright works of creation, traced Him in the glowing firmament and recognised Him in the providence exercised towards every living being. Nay, he is aware that God has spoken to man, that he has revealed the nature of His divinity, so far as the wants of men required, and promulgated a law for the government of his creatures. Tracing up the fulfilment of the prophecies, this man has at length reached a new dispensation, in which that law is brought to its perfection and a spiritual kingdom is established, which is to endure to the end of ages.

In the course of such an investigation, it would seem that the mind of such an individual must be deeply impressed with one great fact, one conviction must prevail over all, and that impression, that conviction must be the immediate low of God towards a creature who had rebelled against him, who had refused him his obedience and fallen from that happy state in which he had been originally placed. And how much deeper will that impression become, when he contemplates the boundless mercy which brought a God to earth, clothed him

in the infirmities of our poor weak nature, and prompted him to pay our forfeit with his own blood, and to open to us the eternal gates which had been barred against us.

Hence, such an individual cannot go astray in the conclusion that the spiritual kingdom which a God made man has established upon earth, is a kingdom of charity, and that charity must be the characteristic of a those who acknowledge His dominion, and that to discover the institution which He has left us we must adopt charity as the leading star.

And here it is that our investigator will find occasion for all his sincerity, uprightness of intention, strength of nerve, and perseverance. He looks around him through the wide universe, and he discovers numberless societies, all claiming to be that spiritual kingdom of which he is in search: differing widely in doctrine and in practice, they all pretend to the same origin, to labour for the same end, and to be guided by the same hand. Does he, however, discover the characteristic charity uniting all these various societies in one holy brotherhood? Does no earthly interest, no unholy envy mar that principle which the divine Saviour had laid down as distinguishing his followers ? Alas! he is forced to turn his sickened gaze from the contemplation of the jarring interests, local dissensions, and petty bickerings which, not only hold one society aloof from, and in ambitious contrast with another, but which, uniting with an inborn principle of division, tear from time to time, each of those societies into new fragments.

He must not, however, lose courage at this spectacle. Let him pursue his researches, and perhaps, this very confusion, at which he turns pale, inay lead him to the object which he so earnestly seeks. He must inquire whether there be no principle of union to which these opposing fragments may be recalled; whether there be no rallying point at which, forgetting all their animosities, they may collect in force and throw the cloak of charity over their divisions. And here he will discover that there is one vast society, commensurate with every clime and every age, which not only claims, but also proves its origin in the Divine Founder of christianity; which not only claims, but also proves a continued succession of teachers, from the beginning; and he will further discover that wherever the faith of this society is in question, it is enough to quell, for the inoment, all the dissensions, heart-burnings and bickerings of all the other various societies which he has been contemplating, and to unite them in one vast and bitter war against their older brother. And here, in this unholy confederacy, charity seems no longer a virtue. Nothing is too black in calumny, nothing too distorted in misrepresentation, nothing too atrocious in violence to be used for the destruction of the oldest and first of churches. Happily, in the midst of this confusion, our investigating individual thinks of turning his eyes towards the object of this general vituperation; and he sees written upon her elevated brow which appears bright above the storm: Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice's sake.He beholds

« PreviousContinue »