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Basle, a native of the canton of Vaud, who distinguished himself several years since (as stated in our last number) by an essay on Liberty of Conscience, which received the prize proposed by the Society of Christian Morals in Paris. Although connected with the established church, and opposed to the separation, his patriotic feelings were roused to indignation by these attacks on the liberties of his country; and though resident in another canton, and free from the evils of intolerance, he prepared the reply contained in the pamphlet, which stands first at the head of this article. This he sent to his friend, Professor Monard of the college of Lausanne, a man not less opposed to the separation, but equally ardent in the cause of religious liberty, who procured its publication. The following is a brief analysis of this pamphlet.
In the early part of the article in the gazette, the writer had said,
I do not by any means oppose independence in religious opinions, but it is to be allowed only on condition that it does not manifest itself by acts dangerous to public order, and the peace of the community: Immediately after he adds, The direction of public worship belongs to the supreme police of the state, and society ought to preserve purity and unity of worship.
To this Prof, Vinet replied in his first pamphlet, that an obvious contradiction is here involved.
For the purity and unity of worship are something more than external acts: the direction of worship is quite a different thing from the suppression of crimes arising from worship. A state which directs public wor. ship, which preserves its purity and unity, encroaches obviously upon the domain of conscience, whose inviolability the author has admitted. To preserve unity of worship is to tolerate but one-to exclude all others. What becomes then of the liberty of worship-of the liberty of con. science?
Society it is said ought to preserve unity of worship! You impose a difficult task upon society. History will prove it so. The knowledge of ourselves is sufficient to show it,-common sense declares it. What! You would require society to lead so many imaginations, so many souls, so many moral and voluntary beings to the same form of religion. You choose, that unless they adopt your worship, they should be without any worship. What new power has society acquired ? For fifteen hundred years the most powerful and able princes have attempted this in vain, and have you the courage to advise it? Ye who reproach a few zealots with having kindled discord and laid the train of revolutions, estimate if you can, the evils which this fatal system of unity which you defend has poured upon the world, and then boast of this impious unity!
Impious is the word; for if it is impious to deny God, is it not equally so to deny conscience which is his voice, his organ, his representative in our souls? Is it not to deny himself? For if there is no conscience, there is for us no distinction between good and evil, and if there is not, what becomes of a Deity? And you deny conscience when you make laws which suppose that it does not exist, or which require that it should not speak.
Prof. Vinet then observed, that in these remarks, the writer in fact attacks almost every government of Europe, and even their own, which tolerates the catholic worship-and then proceeds to notice this question of the writer in the gazette.
What name shall we give to the citizen who braves the laws-search for the word.
It is not difficult to find it, (replies Prof. Vinet.) It is seditious, fuctious, rebellious. Yes, rebellious toward him who made the law-rebellious in the eye of the law. But remember, the laws themselves are sometimes rebellious-rebellious against the eternal law of justice, against the supreme law of God. Placed between the two laws, the citizen recollects that he is a man-that he is a believer and then, in the necessity of chosing between his fellows and his master, between man and God, he decides to obey Him by whom kings rcign,-by whom legislators make laws, and magistrates execute justice. Inscribed in the world on the lists of proscription he waits for the day when his name will appear within the book of life on high. He is willing to be a rebellious citizen in the society of men, in order to be a loyal and faithful citizen of the society of saints.
We are far, (he adds,) from contesting the duty of respecting the laws. But a natural distinction presents itself. An unjust law ought to be respected although unjust, if it affects only my interest, and my fellow-citizens owe it the same respect although equally injured. But an immoral law, an irreligious law, a law which obliges me to do that which my conscience and the law of God condemn-it we cannot procure its repeal, we must brave it. This principle far from subverting society is the very principle of its life. It is the struggle of good against evil. Suppress this struggle, and what is there to arrest society on this declivity of vice and misery, down which so many causes are united to make it descend.
It is from revolt to revolt, if they choose to employ this word, that society goes on to perfection—that civilization is established that justice rules and truth flourishes.
The writer in the gazette had in the next place spoken of the disunion in families and agitation in society, produced by new opinions. To this Prof. Vinet replied,
Every intellectual and moral movement produces more or less agitation; every developement of liberty is more or less attended by storms, and those who like the noble Pole, prefer even a dangerous liberty to quiet servitude, will submit to these inconveniences as unavoidable. The liberty of the press, the liberty of industry, the liberty of commerce, the liberty of instruction, all come to us like the fertilizing rains of summer, on the wings of the tempest. A free government ought to take care that no righta should be invaded—but to attempt to prevent an idea from coming into a nation and agitating their minds, would be as senseless as to attempt to stop the winds on the frontier, or submit the birds of the air to the regulations of the custom-house.
Me goes on to say, If this sect holds opinions contrary to reason, it will be easy to prove it. But do not call on the government to assist your eloquence, for tbis would dishonor it.
The writer in the Gazette bad attacked the separated churches
thus : “ See these four or five individuals who without a legitimate title—without vocation form themselves an ecclesiastical power, in the heart of the canton, erect a priesthood, create new churches, delegate powers, appoint missionaries and preachers, send them forth to preach the gospel-arm them against a church which they declare to be opposed to it, and dare to invite men publicly to schism and disunion. To this Prof. Vinet replied,
See those twelve fishermen who without vocation, (from man) without a legitimate title, (in the view of the world) form them. selves into an ecclesiastical body, erect a priesthood, appoint missionaries and preachers. These twelve fishermen were the apostles. See those few men who in the 16th century, without vocation or title, assume the same powers. They were our great reformers. What name did they receive from their cotemporaries? The same which you give to these troublesome sectaries. But time has decided on their character, let us leave it to time to decide this case also.”
We have thus given the substance of Prof. Vinet's first phamphlet without a single remark, in order to enable our readers to derive an individual and unbiassed impression of its character, and to judge more correctly of the spirit and conduct of its opposers. To us it seems the effusion of a superior and elevated mind, rising above the petty distinctions of sect and party, and looking with the discriminating and extended glance of a philosopher, at the distant and future consequences of opinions like those which were announced in the gazette; of one roused by the best feelings of a philanthropist, and a public advocate of religious liberty, to meet and combat an attack upon the dearest interests and highest priveleges of man. We could have wished, indeed, that some of its terins had been modified or explained; but we cannot discover any thing which rightly understood, ought to excite the anxiety or rouse the indignation of a government, which allows the liberty of the press to its own citizens, on subjects of interior policy; which bears upon its banner the proud motto “ liberty and our country;" and which secured these priveleges only thirty years before by a u revolt” against their liege lords. But such were not the impressions produced on the council of state of the canton of Vaud. They immediately ordered the seizure of the pamphlet; they suspended Prof. Monard, as its editor, from his office in the college; and directed him to be tried before the tribunals, reserving to themselves the extraordinary right of afterwards taking such other measures, as they might deem necessary. On learning these circumstances, Prof. Vinet stated them to the government of Basle, under whom he held his office; and asked leave to go and meet his trial at Lausanne, as a native and citizen of Vaud. To this request the government of Basle, whose views and principles appear to be of the most liberal kind, gave their assent in prompt and
flattering terms. Prof. Vinet proceeded to Lausanne, avowed himself the author of the pamphlet in question, and took the place of Prof. Monard, as the accused; but without being able to relieve the latter from the sentence of suspension. The accusation brought forward was threefold, and the author of the pamphlet was charged
1. With insulting the authorities of the canton.
The defense made by Prof. Vinet before the tribunals is the second work, which we have noticed. The first accusation is founded by the council of state, in part on the imputation made “that the government had passed an immoral and irreligious law.” But they should have reflected, that Prof. Vinet, in his remark
we are bound to brave an immoral and irreligious law,” does not assert that such a law exists. He is replying to the general question of the writer in the gazette, “what name shall we give to him who braves the law ?" and while Prof. Vinet frankly admits that such a man is termed a “rebel,” he was bound to modify and explain his meaning as he did, in order not to stigmatize apostles and martyrs with an odious crime.
The council also find an insult concealed in the expression “ do not call in the government to assist your eloquence, for this would dishonor it.” If any serious accusation could be founded on such a hypothetical remark, it is entirely removed by the statement of Prof. Vinet, that in the original manuscript, the article (it) refers necessarily from its gender to the useless “ eloquence,” which it was said would be dishonored by calling in force to its aid.
The next accusation is of a far more serious nature. It charges Prof. Vinet with an outrage against religion,” in maintaining that the unity produced by compelling all men to adopt the same forms of religion, is an “impious unity.” “The outrage against religion,” say the council of state, "consists in the allegation that there is impiety in our religious institutions.” This accusation almost vanishes in the attempt to exhibit it; for to charge a political system which compels men to adopt the same forms of religion, with impiety, surely does not involve an attack on religion itself, or even on the forms established. But let us hear the defence of Prof. Vinet himself.
I have, they say, outraged religion. But what religion ? Is it the religion of Mahomet, subduing all to the belief of the Koran by the bloody argument of the sword? Is it that of Charlemagne, mingling the blood of the Saxons with the water of their baptism? Is it that of Ivan the Terrible, making the waters of a river a vast baptistery into which the Siberians were pushed in successive detachments at the point of the bayonet ? Is it that of Louis XIV. declaring sword in hand, to a million of French protestants, that there should be no more protestants in France? I confess without hesitation that I have outraged the religion of Mahomet, of Charlemagne, of Ivan the Terrible, and of Louis XIV. But if, when speaking of outraging religion, the public has understood, as I am to suppose, the christian religion, such as it is in the gospel, the protestant religion as it is found in the standards of the church; I contend that far from having outraged religion, I have on the contrary, in the very words which are condemned, rendered it homage.
God wills the salvation and deliverance of all men; and he saves and delivers them, by the knowledge which he gives them of the truth. If they receive this truth with humble and submissive hearts, if they retain and preserve it, if they apply it, the merciful work is accomplished in them. But all this conduct of man supposes the use of liberty. God could, with. out doubt, by a miracle, lead all men, at the same time to a knowledge of the truth. God could convert the whole human race at once, and produce instantly, and irrevocably, a unity which no one would have any idea of opposing: but it appears that such a triumph, is not conformable to the views of eternal wisdom.
He has called all men, and forced none. Now as men are differently endowed, and placed in various situations, it results, that uniformity is not naturally established among them. Some arrive at truth sooner, others later, and some, alas ! never attain it. And among those who do attain it, there still remains a great difference, according to the degrees of intelligence, the shades of character, and the difference of education. There exists, indeed, one method of introducing among men a kind of uniformity in matters of religion. This method is the proscription of all knowl. edge. As all colors are alike in the dark, so all opinions are confounded and effaced by the extinction of human thought. There is no longer any difference of opinion, because there are no longer any opinions. But among a people, arrived at a certain degree of civilization, this artificial unity is established with difficulty; or to speak more correctly is never established. In order to its accomplishment, it would be necessary that conscience should be so entirely deadened, as to be totally indifferent, to falsehood or truth, to vice or virtue. Nations have never arrived at this apogee of depravity:
Be that as it may, it is not less impious than absurd, to undertake to create by force this religious unity. It is to encroach on the rights of the Deity to attempt to accomplish by violence, that which he has resolved should be brought about by persuasion. It is substituting an exterior unity for an interior, which is the only one he values. It is annihilating religious feeling, for the advantage of the religious establishment. It is, as I have said elsewhere, to wish to have a church but no religion. To overcome conscience by fear, to purchase it by hope, to deceive it by falsehood, are outrages, equally offensive to him who created conscience, and who has reserved its empire to himself. To place an individual, or a number of men, in the alternative of renouncing temporal advantages, or violating their consciences, is a sacriligious proceeding. And the apparent unity produced by these means is “ an impious unity."
The charge of provoking to crime is founded on the passage before quoted, in which Professor Vinet says, “A law which is immoral, irreligious, and which obliges me to do what my conscience and the law of God condemns, if it cannot be abrogated, must be braved.” The council of state deem this offense so flagrant