Imágenes de páginas

not be bothered even for duty. Railways and punctual starting of express trains would have killed him.*

He thought all Everyone of us

Montaigne is the type of every man of culture at a certain stage of his development. He looked upon mankind, and chiefly upon himself, diversely; and the conclusion to which he came is the same as that to which others had come before. is vanity and vexation of spirit. knows this; but most of us desire to forget it, or will not choose to remember it. Montaigne does not deceive himself. He never gives himself the air of one who is going to reveal secrets. You want to learn what Is? He cannot satisfy you. You must go to others; he can, at the most, only tell you what is not. It is possible that organization is tending to perfection; but he does not know it. He is not sure even of immortality, and carefully abstains from saying that he is. Indeed, with respect to this and the other great problems that interest us, he had no view at all, and with

* "I am extreamele lazie and idle, and exceedingly free, "both by nature and art. I would as willingly lend my "blood as my care. I have a minde free and altogether her owne; accustomed to follow her owne humour. And to this day never had nor commanding nor forced master.

[ocr errors]



I have

gon as farre, and kept what pace pleased me best. Which "hath enfeebled and made me unprofitable to serve others, "and made me fit and apt but onely for my selfe."-On Presumption. Florio's Translation.



unusual wisdom did not, I suspect, think it necessary to have one. Many before and since his time have troubled themselves with these questions, and for certitude have experienced only doubts. Some there are who eliminate these doubts by main force; or, without having them resolved, consent for their peace of mind to believe them soluble, and thenceforward arrogantly assume that the opinions they have abandoned were unsound. This "bridging the gulf," as it is termed, confers on them, they suppose, the right to believe they have performed a stage of progress. A man who has once doubted, but doubts no longer, gives himself a patronising air of superiority. "Ah! my dear friend," says he, "I once "had doubts as you have; but happily they have disappeared. All the depths and shoals of modern thought are familiar to me, and now I feel sure footing. I have successfully bridged the gulf.” But does it follow that he who changes sides necessarily goes from darkness to light? If change of opinion were in itself progress, the popularity and influence of such a writer as Montaigne would never be much. Before we can decide what is truth, we must have an undisputed criterion. Montaigne will be perennial because his subject is perennial.




[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]

HE real meaning of the term religious liberty seems, even at the present day, to be but imperfectly understood. When Earl Russell and others refer to their exertions in the cause of civil and religious liberty, they doubtless consider these two terms as applying to two separate principles; and in this light they are very generally regarded. Little consideration, however, is needed to enable us to perceive that the connection between civil and religious liberty is of the most intimate nature; that the one is comprehended in the other; that the one is, in fact, a portion of the other. If a man is in possession of civil liberty-if, that is he is free to think and act in all respects as he chooses, provided he thereby inflicts no wrong on the person or estate of another-it is manifest that




he also enjoys religious liberty, which implies the right to think and act in some respects as he chooses. Hence, to talk of giving a man civil and religious liberty is much as if one were to speak of granting him a passport for all the countries of Europe and for Spain, or of permitting him to read all Shakespeare's plays and the Merchant of Venice. But although the term is thus misapprehended, the thing signified is not itself unknown or ill understood. In England at least, and wherever our race predominates, the state no longer uses the power at its disposal to repress or interfere with the religious opinions of its subjects; that portion of civil liberty known as "liberty "of conscience"-generally the last to be conceded— is now enjoyed by all; and the doctrine, that none is to be persecuted on account of his opinions on matters of religion, is happily universally entertained.

This noble doctrine is the growth of modern times and of our own land. In Christianity, it is true, the doctrine in question may be said to inhere; but from the moment when Christianity, in the person of Constantine, found itself in possession of power, the doctrine had not been asserted; it had not exhibited itself in the operative working of the religion; it lay latent; it had never been revealed. Many favourable opportunities for discovering it had presented themselves, and more than once did it seem

about to be detected; but on each occasion it was overlooked. It was overlooked even at that great upheaving of the nations at the beginning of the sixteenth century, when men, with minds unhinged, prepared for almost any change, went hither and thither-knowing that something was wrong, but knowing not what. The uneasy feeling that had been excited found rest in change of opinion without having lighted upon a change of principles. Luther, Calvin, Knox, and their associates, whilst endeavouring to acquire for themselves the right to think and act in matters of religion according to the dictates of their own consciences, all regarded themselves as the sole depositaries of truth, and thought it their solemn duty to suppress, even by force, if necessary, what in their judgment was false doctrine in others. They were, in fact, guided by the very principle against which they contended in others; and they defended conduct exhibited by men of their party which they were the first to condemn in their opponents. England, no sooner had the Protestant party under Cranmer succeeded in establishing the right of private judgment for itself as against the Church of Rome, than it proceeded to deny the right to others; and, afterwards, the very men who had suffered severe persecution for their opinions were amongst the most eager to inflict similarly severe persecutions


« AnteriorContinuar »