Page images

the rabbinical interpretation of the Jews, upon the Old Testament, as much as their defection from the New. And truly it is beyond wonder, how that contemptible and degenerate issue of Jacob, once so devoted to ethnic superstition, and so easily seduced to the idolatry of their neighbours, should now, in such an obstinate and peremptory belief, adhere unto their own doctrine, expect impossibilities, and in the face and eye of the church, persist without the least hope of conversion. This is a vice in them, that were a virtue in us; for obstinacy in a bad cause is but constancy in a good. And herein I must accuse those of my own religion; for there is not any of such a fugitive faith, such an unstable belief, as a Christian; (6) none that do so oft transform themselves, not unto several shapes of Christianity, and of the same species, but unto more unnatural and contrary forms, of Jew and Mahometan; that from the name of saviour, can condescend to the bare term of prophet; and from an old belief that he is come, fall to a new expectation of his coming. It is the promise of Christ to make us all one flock; but how, and when this union shall be, is as obscure to me as the last day. Of those four members of religion, we hold a slender proportion; there are, I confess, some new additions, yet small to those which accrue to our adversaries, and those only drawn from the revolt of pagans, men but of negative impieties, and such

(66) Necessarily, because it is a religion of life and of inquiry; not (at least in non-essentials) a cast-iron faith, like that of the Jews and Mohammedans.-ED.

as deny Christ, but because they never heard of him. But the religion of the Jews is expressly against the Christian; and the Mahometan against both. For the Turk, in the bulk he now stands, he is beyond all hope of conversion: if he fall asunder, there may be conceived hopes, but not without strong improbabilities. The Jew is obstinate in all fortunes; the persecution of fifteen hundred years hath but confirmed them in their error: they have already endured whatsoever may be inflicted, and have suffered, in a bad cause, even to the condemnation of their enemies. Persecution is a bad and indirect way to plant religion; (67) it hath been the unhappy method of angry devotions, not only to confirm honest religion, but wicked heresies, and extravagant opinions. It was the first stone and basis of our faith; none can more justly boast of persecutions, and glory in the number and valour of martyrs; for, to speak properly, those are true, and almost only examples of fortitude. Those that are fetched from the field, or drawn from the actions of the camp, are not oft-times so truly precedents of valour as audacity, and at the best attain but to some bastard piece of fortitude. If we shall strictly examine the circumstances and requisites which Aristotle requires to true and perfect valour, we

(67) But, as history clearly proves, religions may be planted by persecution; as they may be partially extinguished. Christianity was thus, pro tempore, extinguished in Japan, though ultimately to triumph; and Protestantism has, by the same means, been kept out of Spain and Italy. Upon the whole, however, Christianity has proved, that no human efforts can suppress our faith-which shows it to be of God.-ED.

shall find the name only in his master, Alexander, and as little in that Roman worthy, Julius Cæsar; and if a any, in that easy and active way, have done so nobly as to deserve that name, yet in the passive and more terrible piece these have surpassed, and in a more heroical way, may claim the honour of that title. It is not in the power of every honest faith to proceed thus far, or pass to heaven through the flames; every one hath it not in that full measure, or in so audacious and resolute a temper, as to endure those terrible tests and trials; who, notwithstanding, in a peaceable way do truly adore their Saviour, and have (no doubt) a faith acceptable in the eyes of God.

Now, as all that die in the war are not termed soldiers, so neither can I properly term all those that suffer in matters of religion, martyrs. The council of Constance condemns John Huss for a heretic the stories of his own party style him a martyr. He must needs offend the divinity of both, that says he was neither the one nor the other. There are many (questionless) canonized on earth, that shall never be saints in heaven; and have their names in histories and martyrologies, who in the eyes of God are not so perfect martyrs, as was that wise heathen, Socrates, that suffered on a fundamental point of religion, the unity of God. (6) I

(66) Though by no means disposed to detract from the merit of Socrates, or to diminish one iota of the respect due to his memory, I must say that Sir Thomas Browne in this place gives him more credit, in a religious point of view, than he probably deserves. He was rather a political than a religious martyr;

have often pitied the miserable bishop that suffered in the cause of antipodes, yet cannot choose but accuse him of as much madness, for exposing his living on such a trifle, as those of ignorance and folly, that condemned him. I think my conscience will not give me the lie, if I say there are not many extant that in a noble way fear the face of death less than myself; yet from the moral duty I owe to the commandment of God, and the natural respects that I tender unto the conservation of my essence and being, I would not perish upon a ceremony, politic points, or indifferency. Nor is my belief of that untractable temper, as not to bow at their obstacles, or connive at matters wherein there are not manifest impieties. The leaven, therefore, and ferment of all, not only civil, but religious actions, is wisdom; without which, to commit ourselves to the flames is homicide, and (I fear) but to pass through one fire into another. (9)

and was sacrified to the envy of the numerous sophists of his time, who wished to take the guidance of the people out of his hands. He narrowly escaped under the Thirty. Critias had already marked him out, and it is difficult to say how he came to spare his old master. Such a murder would have been worthy of the tyrant. But the honour was reserved for Melitus and Anytus-the excellent completers of what Aristophanes commenced in the Clouds. Vice can never sympathize with virtue; and, accordingly, we find, in our own day, persons of Melitus's kidney, who would put the old man to death now, if he lived, and were in their power.-ED.

(69) This betrays a narrowness of mind, and a degree of uncharitableness, which one finds it difficult to reconcile with those passages in the earlier part of the work, wherein he professes his readiness to pray, not only with, but for Jews, heretics, &c. Both reason and Scripture assure us, that with God it is the mo

That miracles are ceased, I can neither prove, nor absolutely deny, much less define the time and period of their cessation. That they survived Christ, is manifest upon the record of Scripture: that they outlived the apostles also, and were revived at the conversion of nations, many years after, we cannot deny; if we shall not question those writers whose testimonies we do not controvert, in points that make for our own opinions; therefore that may have some truth in it that is reported by the Jesuits of their miracles in the Indies: I could wish it were true, or had any other testimony than their own pens. They may easily believe those miracles abroad, who daily conceive a greater at home, the transmutation of those visible elements into the body and blood of our Saviour. For the conversion of water into wine, which he wrought in Cana, or what the devil would have had him do in the wilderness, of stones into bread, compared to this, will scarce deserve the name of a miracle. (7) Though indeed, to speak properly, there is not one miracle greater than another, they being the extraordinary effects of the hand of God, to which all things are

tive that determines the merit of the action, not the "wisdom" of him who performs it; otherwise it would go hard with us all.-ED.

(70) The doctrine of transubstantiation, which the author here exposes, is built on the literal interpretation of a figurative passage. To us, of course, who have rejected it, its features present nothing but deformity; but if, as is our hope, the wise and merciful Creator of the universe will forgive the error of those who believe it, we, who are ourselves conscious of so many errors, may at least tolerate them.-ED.

« PreviousContinue »