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For OCTOBER, 1764.
A Treatise on Religious Toleration. Occasioned by the Execution of
the unfortunate Yohn Calas : Unjuftly condemned, and broken upon the TV beel, at Toulouse, for the supposed Murder of his own SA. Translated from the French of Mr.de Voltaire, by the TranTator of Eloisa, Emilius, &c. 8vo. 35. 6d. in Boards. Becket and de Hondt.
MONG the various literary productions that are occasi
only translated into English, it is with peculiar propriety that a treatise on Toleration Mould be naturalized among a people justly tenacious of their civil and religious liberties. it is, indeed, generally supposed, that Writers who live under a popish and arbitrary government, can advance little worth notice, on a subject that hath been so often, and to seriously, treated by those of our own nation. There are few subjects, however, so far exhausted, that men of genius and reflection cannot find in them some additional source of information or improvement.
And with reipect to the restraint which Writers may be supposed to lie under in France, in regard to religious and political topics, the pretent treatise is a proof, among many others, that the difference between France and England in this particular, is at present by no means fo great as is generally imagined. It is very natural for those who are forging chains for the minds or consciences of their fellow-countrymen, to lull them into fecurity, by expatiating on the horrours of the Bastile, and the cruelties of popish inquifitions. These are bad enough, God knows, and may He ever preserve this nation from experiencing the like! But we are often deceived by imaginary diftinctions, without any real difference. We are not apprehensive, indeed, of ever seeing an Auto da fè in Smithfield, but it is possible, that Newgate and the Tower of London may, Vol. XXXI,
under an oppressive British Ministry, be put to as bad an use as ever the Bastile was in France. Nor need we look far back for an instance, of a mistaken Writer's being treated with all the severity of a popish inquisition.
It is not many years since an act of parliament was in force against wizards, witches, and other personal dealers with the devil. Nay, the legislature are still such conjurers, that we have an act of parliament at this day unrepealed, and very lately put in force, that makes it, in effect, highly criminal to assert publicly, that two and two make four. A practical Barrister, indeed, may take upon him to deny the fact, and insist on it, that such affertion is not within the intent and meaning of the act; but, if Barristers were Logicians, and reasoned like other people, it might be fyllogistically proved, that no plainer construction can be put upon the direct and express terms of the faid act. The anathemas which are, at stated times, thundered out in our churches, against those deluded Theists, who are weak enough to believe, that one and two necessarily make three, might in a protestant country, be despised; but acts of parliament are serious things : at least the Lawyers, when they please, can make them fo. It is for this reason, we can assure our Readers, that notwithstanding the many bold and sensible tracts that have formerly been written on the subject of religious Toleration in this country, we conceive that an Author would, at present, run no little hazard of incurring pains and penalties from the laws of England, for saying that which M. de Voltaire hath publicly said, and set his name to, on this subject, in France.
Having given a particular account of the defign and contents of the present treatise, in our last Appendix; we shall now only give a specimen or two of our Author's ingenuity, in treating some problematical passages in history; which have been sometimes made use of, to give sanction to the most destructive tenets, both in religion and politics.
In treating of a religious Toleration among the Romans, and the paucity of primitive Martyrs, Mr. de Voltaire observes, with regard to the martyrdom of St. Ignatius, that nothing can be more improbable, than the relation given us of that fact. · The anonymous Author, says he, of this relation, tells us, that “ Trajan thought something would be wanting to his glory, if he did not subject the God of the Christians to his power." What a ftrange idca! Was Trajan a man ambitious of triumphing over the Gods ? When Ignatius appeared before the Emperor, this Prince is related to have said to him, “ Who art thou, thou unclean spirit?" It is not likely that an Emperor
Thould speak in that strain to a prisoner, nor that he should condemn him with his own mouth; sovereign Princes do not act in that manner. If Trajan sent for Ignatius, he certainly did not ask him, when he came, who he was. Again, the words unclean spirit, are by no means in the style of a Trajan. It is the expression of an exorcist or conjurer, which a Christian hath here put into the Mouth of an Emperor.
· Can it be imagined also, that Ignatius should answer, that he was called Theophorus, because he bore Jelus always in his heart; and that Trajan should enter into a differtation with him about Christ? At the close of the conversation, Trajan is said to condemn the Saint, in the following terms: “ We command that Ignatius, who glories in carrying about him the crucified, be put into irons,” &c. A Sophist, who was an enemy to the Christians, might possibly have called Jesus Christ the crucified; but it is not likely such a term should be made use of in a formal sentence. Crucifixion was so common a punishment among the Romans, that it was impossible, in the stile of the laws, to design exclusively the object of the Chriftian worShip by the general term the crucified. It is not thus that the laws or sovereigns pass sentence.
• We are told afterwards, that St. Ignatius, when in custody, wrote a long letter to the Christians of Rome; to whom he says, “ I write to you, tho' in chains.”
But if he was permited to write to the Christians of Rome, these Christians could not be much secreted nor fought for. - It appears therefore, that Trajan had no design of subjecting the God of the Christians to his authority: otherwise St. Ignatius committed a great blunder, in writing to the Christians, if they rcally were under the rod of persecution, as by this ineans he became an informer against them, exposing them to their enemies.
· The Writers who digested these facts, do not seem fufficiently to have attended to probabilities. The martyrdom of St. Polycarp is liable to still greater objections. It is said, that a voice from heaven was heard to cry out, Polycarp, have courage !" Not that all the by-standers heard it, tho fome Chriftians did. It is related farther, that when he was fastened to the stake, and the pile was set on fire, the flames kept at a distance from his body, and formed an arch over his head, out of which few a dove; that the body of the Saint, in this situation, diffused an aromatic odour, which perfumed the whole affembly; but that after all the reverence shewn to this Saint by the fire, he fell a sacrifice by the sword. Certainly we ought to pardon those who conceive theie is more piety than truth in these relations,
By this judicious method of examining into the probability of facts, our Author hath thrown new lights on many interesting passages of history. For, as he elsewhere observes, it is to no purpose that a parcel of idle tales are successively copied into different books: this by no means renders them more probable. It appears to us, nevertheless, that his desire of calling things into queition, hath sometimes carried him too far. Thus, in speaking of the martyrdom of St. Simon, he doubts the truth of the story, for the following reason:
· St. Simon, says he, was accused before King Saporus, of being a spy for the Romans: on which Saporus proposed, that he should clear himself of the acculation by worshipping the fun. Now, it is well known, fays our Author, that the Perfians do not worship the sun; but that they regard it only as an emblem of the good Principle, Oromales, or the Creator.'
But might not Mr. de Voltaire as well question the truth of any Protestant's having suffered in the popith inquisitions, for refufing to worship images on the same principle? Might he not say, that the Roman Catholics do not really worship the images themselves, but regard them only as emblems of the proper objects of worship?
We should here take leave of this valuable and entertaining work, but cannot omit the short relation of what Mr. Voltaire calls one of the most astonishing instances of fanaticism, that are to be met with in history; the principle of which was, notwithstanding, the best in the world. This was of a little feet in Denmark, who, as our Author informs us, were desirous of procuring eternal salvation for their brethren; but the confequences of this motive were very fingular. They knew that those young children who die without being baptized, must be damned, and that such as are so happy as to die immediately after baptison, enjoy eternal life : they went about therefore cutting the throats of all the newly-baptized infants they could lay their hands on. By this method they, doubtless, procured them the greatest happinefs they were capable of; as they preserved them at once from committing sin, from the miseries of the world, and from hell-fire. But these charitable people did not reflect, that we are not even to do a little evil for the sake of a great good ; that they had no right over the lives of those children; that most fathers and mothers are so carnally minded, that they had rather clasp their fons and daughters in their arins, than see their throats cut, in order to go to Paradile; and that finally, it is the duty of the civil Magistrate to punish homicide by death, however charitable might be the intention of the murderer.'
An History of England, in a Series of Letters from a Nobleman
12mo. 2 Vols. 6s. Newbery.
E are informed, in a kind of epistolary advertisement
prefixed to these Letters, that the greater part of them were for some time handed about in manuscript; having been originally written by a Nobleman, to his son at the university, Who this Nobleman was, we are not informed; nor, indeed, is it any great matter; as the reputation his Grace or his Lordship might justly acquire by this performance, would be no very distinguishing feather in the cap even of a Commoner. The anonymous Editor, however, who hath taken upon him to compleat the Letter-Writer's design, by adding to the number of these epistles, takes upon him also to assure the Publisher, and, at the same time, the public, “ that they are written with more judgment, spirit, and accuracy, than any which have yet appeared upon this subject.” But this encomium, he possibly thought himself entitled to make, on account of his modest confession that his own were inferiour to his Lordship’s. We conceive he might be offended, nevertheless, should we say, ne'er a barrel the better herring : but, in truth, we are so far inclined to be of his opinion, that we think some of the former Letters much better than some of the last; but, whether they are the labours of the same or a different hand, whether of an honourable Peer or a professed Author, we judge it too problematical for us to determine,
Be this, however, as it may, the work seems well enough calculated for the use of schools; for, as the Editor obferves, the more voluminous Histories of England are quite unfuited to a juvenile capacity; and the shorter abridgments are chiefly a crowded collection of facts, totally dry and unentertaining.
How far these inconveniencies are here removed, by throwing history into the form of letters, our Readers may judge from the ensuing specimens.
In one of the Letters, attributed to the anonymous noble Writer, we have the following account of the ancient inhabitants of this isand.
16 All that we find related by credible witnesses and sufficient authority, before the Romans entered this island, is, that the country was filled with incredible numbers of people, and their fields stored with great plenty of animals, favage and domestic. Their houses were meanly built, and scattered, as if accidentally, over the country, without obfervance, distance, or order, The only motives of their choice, were the peculiar fertility of