Page:History of Freedom.djvu/209

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PROTESTANT THEORY OF PERSECUTION 16 5

and then they were justified in persecuting those \vhom the Lutherans also proscribed. For the civil power had no right to proscribe a religion in order to save itself from the dangers of a distracted and divided population. The judge of the fact and of the danger must be, not the magistrate, but the clergy.1 The crime lay, not in dissent, but in error. Here, therefore, Melanchthon repudiated the theory and practice of the Catholics, whose aid he invoked; for all the intolerance in the Catholic times \vas founded on the conlbination of two ideas-the criminality of apostasy, and the inability of the State to maintain its authority where the moral sense of a part of the com- munity was in opposition to it. The reformers, therefore, approved the Catholic practice of intolerance, and even encouraged it, although their own principles of persecution were destitute not only of connection, but even of analogy, with it. By simply accepting the inheritance of the mediæval theory of the religious unity of the empire, they would have been its victims. By asserting that persecu- tion was justifiable only against error, that is, only when purely religious, they set up a shield for themselves, and a sword against those sects for whose destruction they were more eager than the Catholics. Whether we refer the origin of Protestant intolerance to the doctrines or to the interests of the Reformation, it appears totally un- connected with the tradition of Catholic ages, or the atmosphere of Catholicism. All severities exercised by Catholics before that time had a practical motive; but Protestant persecution was based on a purely speculative foundation, and was due partly to the influence of Scrip- ture examples, partly to the supposed interests of the Protestant party. I t never admitted the exclusion of dissent to be a political right of the State, but maintained 1 .. Sed objieiunt exemplum nobis periculosum: si haec pertinent ad magis- tratus, quoties igitur magistratus judicabit aliquos errare, saeviet in eos. Caesar igitur debet nos opprimere, quoniam ita judicat nos errare, Respondeo: certe debet errores et prohibere et pun ire. . . . Non est enim soHus Caesaris cognitio, sieut in urbibus haec cognitio non est tantum magi stratus prophani, sed est doctorum. Viderit igitur magistratus ut reete judicet" (Bretschneider, ii, 712), .. Deliberent igitur prineipes, non cum tyrannis, non cum pontifieibus, non cum hypocritis, monachis aut aliis, sed cum ipsa Evangelii voce, cum probatis scriptoribus" (Bretschneider, iii. 254),