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as to require no illustration. To this Professor Vinet replies, that such principles can only be “ a provocation to crime," where iinmoral or irreligious laws exist. Are there such laws, he asks, in this canton? If there are not, there is no provocation in the statement. If there are, will the council demand obedience to them; or stigmatize it as “a crime” to refuse to do an immoral or irreligious act? 6. This” he adds, " is sufficient for my legal defense—but it is not sufficient for my moral justification.” On this point he makes an appeal to his judges which emulates the boldness and elevation of the apostle of the Gentiles.
King Agrippa, said Paul to bim who was to judge him: king Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. And I say to you: My judges, do you believe in God? I know that you believe. Now if you believe in him, let me ask how can you avoid admitting even with reverence, that where it is necessary to make choice between the law of man and that of God, we must decide for Him“ by whom kings reign and princes decree justice?" How can you avoid acknowledging, that there are cases where it becomes a duty, and the most imperious of duties, to disobey the law of man?
Professor Vinet then calls the attention of his judges to the cautious manner in which he has discriminated between an unjust and an immoral law; in order to take away every pretense from those who would say that every unjust law was in its very nature immoral. An immoral law, and it is only such an one he allows to be " braved," is " a law which obliges us to do what conscience and the law of God condemns."
This distinction (he adds,) is calculated to produce the greatest security which a state can claim; indeed even in the case of immoral laws, the state could have nothing to fear, beyond simple disobedience. There is no possibility of commotion, insurrection, or aitack, or of an armed revolt. There are two parts in every such law,—the command which is immoral, and the penal clause which is unjust. On the principle maintained, the first alone would meet with disobedience, and the second would be met with submission. If the believer refuses to perform the act which is enjoined, he submits voluntarily to the chastisement inflicted. If he will not allow you to fetter his conscience, he will always surrender his body to punishment. Command him to deny his faith-he cannot. Tell him to sacrifice his wealth-to descend to the dungeon-to march to the scaffold—and he is ready. The penalty, the prison, the punishment,-all these terrible or bloody tributes which society imposes on disobedience, he pays with joy and without hesitation. Meet him with an impious law, and you will find a lion in resistance; raise the sword over his head, and the lion becomes a lamb in submission to the penaly.
Gentlemen you know well, that this is not an idle supposition. It is not a distinction of to day or yesterday, which I present to you. Written in pious souls, by the hand of God himself, it is strikingly exhibited in the conduct of christians, in every period of persecution. When the primitive church received from the wrath of the Roman emperor, that bloody
baptism promised in the gospel, this constant and straight union of disobedience and submission was seen in the conduct of all its members. Nei. ther their duty as citizens, could make them deny their faith, nor their faith make them forget their duty as citizens. Were they required to adore false gods ? they were found rebels; were they condemned to suffer death, they became citizens.
Professor Vinet next goes on to show the peculiar security arising from requiring (as in his definition) that " conscience and the law of God” should both unite in condemning an act, before the law which commands it should be pronounced immoral. Both he admits are of absolute authority to the individual. But conscience, he remarks, might be said to be variable in its decisions. The law of God might be said by some to be of no authority, by others to be liable to various interpretations. But, he adds,
By uniting and combining these two authorities, each of which is separately received, the one is modified and regulated by the other. What conscience appears to possess of an individual and flexible nature, is corrected by what is general and absolute in the law of God; and the variety of meanings, which passion and interest may find in the clearest passages of the bible, are reduced to a glorious unity by that light of conscience which puts passion and interest to silence.
The council of state laid great stress upon the declaration of Professor Vinet, “ It is from revolt to revolt, (if they chose to employ the word,) that society goes on to perfection, that civilization is established, that justice reigns, and truth flourishes.” They say, " It is difficult to imagine a theory more dangerous to the social state. What shall we say to a doctrine which presents successive and perpetual revolts, as a means of perfection-of a doctrine which finds civilization, and justice, and truth, in the midst of constant and permanent anarchy—for he says, “ the suppression of this struggle would be a principle of death.”
To this imposing attack on the most questionable passage of his pamphlet, Prof. Vinet replies by an exhibition of that forgetfulness of the divine law, which so pervades the feelings and measures of politicians, and an explanation of his own meaning.
In making of morals and politics, two absolutely distinct and independent domains; in not admitting the necessity of rendering the latter in all things, subordinate to the former, we put side by side, two irreconcilable positions—the one that civil authority has a right to absolute obediencethe other, that man does not owe absolute obedience to civil authority. Strange as this result may be, it is found in the institutions of most nations. Hence in almost all countries, every resistance to law, or the orders of the constituted authorities is called revolt, and with good reason, for revolt, let it be remembered, is nothing more than resistance to the orders of authority; and there is not another word in the language to explain this complex idea. England alone has consecrated in her laws the right of re
sistance. But elsewhere, power has not established this barrier against its own oppression. It has understood and wished others to understand, that every order ought to be respected, for the simple reason that it proceeds froin itself. It has made no reserve in favor of any institution, or any principle. Hence it necessarily follows, that in the eyes of those in whom power is vested, and in the rigor of legal language, all resistance is a revolt. All the attempts at resistance, even the noblest and those best founded in morality, have at all times received the name of revolts ; and indeed were so on the hypothesis, universally admitted, of the omnipotence of political councils. It is thus that I was authorized to make use of this term, to designate an act not essentially culpable, an act, which, in the eyes of morality, may or may not be wrong, but in the eye of the state, al. ways is. And at the recollection of a thousand generous revolts, which have elevated the commands of God above the pretensions of men, the claims of truth, above those of error, and the rights of virtue above those of vice, I was authorized to say, that it is from revolt to revolt, that societies are brought to perfection, that justice reigns and that truth flourishes.
Prof. V. closes with the following appeal to the conscience of his judges.
Gentlemen,- I have said enough in my defense,-1 submit my cause to you. If I am condemned, I earnestly wish that the truth which is involved in my pretended crime, may remain unblemished and entire; but I wish it more than I expect it. My accusers do not desire that I should go to prison; but they are anxious that this principle, which places conscience on the throne, should not be sanctioned. It is the principle that they wish to fetter. It is that which they hope to see overthrown by my condemnation.
Under the appearance of attacking a few strong and frank expressions of mine, they have put on trial the most awful as well as the strangest of questions. Ought we to obey God rather than man? A party, who I hope are not concious of all their feelings, urge you to reply in the negative. They wait your answer, as the signal for oppressing all who act sincerely on the opposite principle. Will you give them this satisfaction? From such a concession may God preserve you !
This terminates the personal defense of Prof. Vinet.
We have ventured to make copious extracts, not merely to gratify a natural curiosity concerning this disinterested, and crowned advocate of religious liberty, but because we think it important to come back occasionally to elementary principles on this subject; especially at a moment when the rights of conscience are treated so lightly by some, and when others are ready to mourn over the relaxation of the laws on this subject, as if this were the cause of errors and divisions, which originate in human nature itself. We are in danger, we fear of adopting traditional opinions instead of examining the basis and extent of this privilege, for which our forefathers sacrificed every other.
The remainder of the essay is occupied by a very able and eloquent discussion of the liberty of conscience, the liberty of worship, and the rights of the citizens of Vaud, which our limits do not allow us to enter upon at present. We can only state that the tribunal of examination (tribunal de premiere instance) declared that the Vol. II.
pamphlet of Prof. V. was not liable to the charges brought against it : and this triumph of truth was confirmed by the decision of the court of appeals, with the single remark, that a dangerous theory had been incautiously announced. It appeared, however, that Prof. V. had violated the law which requires that every production of a person not resident in the canton, should be submitted to the censor of the press before publication, and for omitting this, he was adjudged to pay a fine of about thirty dollars with costs.
The legal investigation terminated thus honorably to Prof. Vinet and Monard, in consequence of the independence of the Judiciary in this canton. The council of state, however, do not appear to have acquiesced in their decision, but proceeded to exercise the right of subsequent decision, which they had so singularly reserved, (perhaps in anticipation of the result) and issued a decree, deposing Mr. Monard for one year, and excluding Mr. Vinet for two years from any place in the ministry.
We regret to learn that in addition to this, as was stated in our Jast number, the government and the enemies of evangelical religion still continued their oppressive and persecuting measures, towards the Separatists. In that article we ventured to suggest that our duty towards these associates in the cause of religious freedom, these brethren in the church of Christ, was not comprised in that sympathy which drops a tear and passes by on the other side, with the benevolent wish “ be
ye warmed, be ye comforted,” even in that higher exhibition of christian love, intercession for them, with our common Father. We maintained, and we still maintain, that they are not so beyond our reach, that our duty can be fully discharged in this manner. We stated that even excellent men in Switzerland dread the result of a liberty on religious subjects, which they have never tried. They need to be furnished with evidence from the experience of our own country to enlighten their minds, and we adduced evidence of its effect. We expressed our conviction that resolutions on the part of our ecclesiastical bodies, expressing their views of the impolicy of restraints on the līberty of worship, and affirming those results of our own experience, on which these views are founded—accompanied by a communication in a christian spirit, expressing their sympathy with these sufferers, and pleading with the established church, and with its guardians in their behalf, would console the captive, and weaken the arm of the oppressor, and shorten the struggle which is going
We said, and we repeat our belief, that “ It is time the voice of our country was lifted up in defense of the principles in which we glory.” We again add, “ That voice will be heard," and if this be pronounced the result of national feeling or idle speculation, we appeal to a transatlantic testimony, derived from the splendid and animating work of Douglas, on the Advancement of Society, which we rejoice to state will soon be republished in this country.
Every change in America has occasioned a correspondent change in Europe. The American revolution set fire to a train, which has not yet fully exploded. At every expansion of American influence, the older countries are destined to undergo new changes, and to receive a second character from the colonies which they have planted. The spirit and imitation of American freedom will spread still more rapidly and widely than its power. No force can crush the sympathy wbich already exists, and is continually augmenting between Europe and the New World. The eyes of the oppressed are even now turning wistfully to the land of freedom, and the kings of the continent already regard with awe and disquietude, the New Rome rising in the West, the fore-shadows of whose greatness yet to be, are extending dark and heavy over their dominions, and obscuring the lustre of their thrones.
We know not how we can make a more powerful appeal to the hearts of our countrymen, than in presenting them the closing passage of the interesting essay before us :
I wish the heart of every citizen could be made to feel the cruel injustice of depriving a community of the worship in which it finds its consolations, its hopes, and the motives of its virtues. Opposed as I am to separation, I still plead for liberty of conscience for the oppressed Separatists. I would plead for it for Socinians and Unitarians if (which God forbid) their doctrines should become popular in our country.* I plead with conviction, for no one adopts an unpopular opinion without conviction. But I plead also with confidence, for I know that this cause is approaching the period of its triumph. I read this presentiment in the hearts of those who oppose it. They bave no courage in their work, for they perceive that God does not acknowledge them. They resist with fainting hearts the force of that truth, which has triumphed over adversaries a thousand times more powerful; and which has not survived the struggle of nineteen centuries to come and expire at their feet. They foresee, without avowing it, the fall of a system of oppression disgraced in every civilized country. “ Hæret lateri lethalis arundo.” In a few years, the liberty of worship will be legally established in our canton. A thousand hearts will thrill like mine with joy at this delightful thought. The voice of prayer has called for this triumph. Yes, from every portion of the christian world, prayer has ascended for the liberty of conscience in this little corner of the earth. An Eternal Friend who has appeared on earth, and whom our faith now contemplates in heaven, bas asked this victory for us from his Father. We shall obtain it. His cross is all powerful and we seem to see it like the Roman emperor, with its motto emblazoned in letters of light. · Hoc SIGNO Vinces.”+
Shall not Americans respond to this appeal? Shall we not contribute our share to a result which is thus secured? Let us listen to the beautiful motto adopted by this advocate of the oppressed, “ Open thy mouth for the dumb, in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Plead the cause of the
Plead the cause of the poor and needy." And let us look forward to that day, when the king shall say, INASMUCH AS YE HAVE DONE IT UNTO THE LEAST OF THESE NY BRETHREN, YE HAVE DONE IT UNTO ME.”
* In Vaud as stated page 369, they are not publicly espoused. + With this sign shalt thou conquer.