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THE SOVEREIGNS OF EUROPE,
ON THE POWER OF CHRISTIAN PRINCES TO PROMOTE THE
REUNION OF CHRISTIANS :
BEING AN INQUIRY IN WHAT MANNER AND TO WHAT EXTENT THEY MAY
FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF CONSTANTINE, AND PROMOTE, -- BY SOME JOINT ACT OF INFLUENCE AND AUTHORITY,-ON PRINCIPLES FOUNDED ON SCRIPTURE, SANCTIONED BY ANTIQUITY, AND ALIKE USEFUL AND ACCEPTABLE, TO THE SOVEREIGNS, CHURCHES, CLERGY, AND LAITY OF
THE NATIONS WHOM THEY GOVERN (WHETHER WITH or without the coNCURRENCE AND SANCTION OP THE BISHOP OP ROME),--THE PREDICTED UNION OF CHRISTIANS FOR WHICH THEIR COMMON SAVIOUR PRAYED.
1. Introduction. II. Present state of the world. The hope and prospect of continued peace. III. Religious dissensions alone prevent the harmony and love, which is the best
foundation of the hope of continued peace. IV. Some power to lessen these evils is given, by the Providence of God, to the
Christian Sovereigns, who have succeeded Constantine in his Empire. V. Parallel between the condition of the Christian world in the age of Con
stantine and in the present day, in three respects : First. In the very general cessation of the legal infliction of unnecessarily
severe, or cruel, or sanguinary punishments, on individuals or communities, for holding or teaching opinions which are not detrimental to morality nor society ; though they are neither sanctioned by the secular nor Ecclesiastical Government ; while the power to consider the effect or tendency of all opinions, whether civil or religious, is still claimed by
those Governments. Secondly. In the abuses of toleration among Christians, after the cessation
of persecution. Thirdly. In the anticipation of a great and overwhelming religious calamity,
which unavoidably compels the attention, and demands the vigilance of the most tolerant Sovereigns.
VI. The Remedies for the evils, and the plans of good adopted by Constantine,
may be wisely followed by his successors in the Empire, in the following
seven particulars : 1. His impartiality between the Controversialists. 2. His upholding his own supremacy, without acknowledging the supremacy
of the Bishop of Rome. 3. His consulting the Catholic Episcopacy. 4. His adopting a Catholic, but not a Papal Creed. 5. His maintaining the Universal Episcopate, and the Canons of the
Universal, not the Roman, Church. 6. His care to extend the knowledge and reception of the Scriptures. 7. His sanctioning the primitive Liturgies of the Church, and the worship
of Christ as divine.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of the kings of the earth (Rev. i. 5), the only Saviour of the souls of men—whether of the Emperor or Prince on the throne, or of the peasant in the cottage, or of the beggar in the highway--this inquiry, in what manner the example of Constantine, the first avowed Christian Emperor, in endeavouring to promote the union among Christians, may be imitated in the present age; is dedicated to the Christian Sovereigns of Europe, who divide among themselves the chief portions of the dominions of that Emperor;- by one of their fellow Christians who prays for the common happiness and prosperity of the Universal Church of Christ ; and who believes that the Providence of God, by whom alone Kings reign, and Princes decree justice, has entrusted the crowns and sceptres of Europe to the charge of their present holders, for this express purpose ;--that they may remember the Christian name they bear, the solemn account they must give, and the objects for which Christian Sovereigns rule; and endeavour, therefore, to promote the peace of Christ's Church, the extension of Christ's kingdom, the knowledge of Christ's truth, and the union of Christ's disciples.
Present state of the world.
The hope and prospect of continued peace.
This unusual, and therefore as it will be deemed by many, absurd, and unreasonable mode of endeavouring to direct the attention of Christian rulers, and of Christian people, to the accomplishment of the greatest and most glorious service which can be rendered to the Church and to the world, is suggested to the writer by the contemplation of two most remarkable facts which characterize the age in which he lives ; the general cessation of war, and the no less general cultivation of the arts of peace. In every former period of the history of the world, from the day in which Cain killed Abel, to the wars of the French Revolution, with the single exception of the period when the Prince of Peace came upon earth, there has not perhaps been, among the civilized portion of mankind, a discontinuance of war so universal and so continued as that which has prevailed in Europe throughout the present generation. Neither has this peace of thirty years' duration been employed, as all former periods of cessation from war, merely in preparation for renewed combats, and in the anticipations of future battles. Since the termination of the long and angry contest which precipitated France upon Europe, and Europe upon France, a new era may be said to have commenced. The personal caprice or ambition of individual Princes is no longer permitted to be a source of war. The approbation or disapprobation of their people is influential even with the most despotic monarchis. An European public mind has been formed by an European public press ; so that every act of unreasonable persecution, whether political or religious, is discussed by unbribable censors ; and the most powerful Princes are visited with a disgrace and scorn, which, though despised in particular instances, cannot be altogether destroyed; and which, like an external conscience, shall pursue them with reproach and remorse, till they either repent of the past, or avoid the repetition of such persecution for the future. The anxious desire of the most influential commercial nation to remove as much as possible all restrictions on commercial intercourse among nations ;—the singular union of people, hitherto jealous and hostile, by means of railroads ;-—the admission of this principle into the laws of nations, that as an individual
be restrained from murder or violence by the interference of his neighbours, so also an ambitious State, Prince, or Potentate may be restrained by a confederation of endangered neighbours; and, therefore, that a congress of ambassadors may prevent or supersede an appeal to arms ;—the disposition among the states of Christendom to mediate and to arbitrate, as Belgium and Holland referred their disputes to England and France; or as Britain and America referred their disputes to Russia and Holland ; as the United States and Mexico called on the King of Prussia to mediate between them; as the Five Great Powers of Europe mediated between the Grand Sultan and the Pacha of Egypt:—these signs of the times, with many other proofs of the universal desire to cultivate the arts of peace, appear, in spite of some sinister forebodings, to predict the long continuance of peace, and the prolongation of an era which shall secure to the mass of mankind, greater temporal happiness, prosperity, and freedom than they have hitherto experienced; from the days of their primitive barbarism to their present period of improved and refined civilization.
Religious dissensions alone prevent the harmony and love, which are the best
foundations of the hope of continued peace. One dark cloud alone threatens to disturb this fair horizon. The religion of love has been changed into the religion of hatred.-- " See how these Christians love one another," was the language of antiquity. “See how these Christians hate each other," is the language of modernity. Neither mutual interest, nor courtesy, nor kindred, nor refinement, nor the restraint imposed on the manners, the countenance, and the demeanour, by the influence of courts, by the laws of good breeding, and by the self-possession required and imposed by the habits of high society; can prevent the silent expression of the bitterness of inward contempt and scorn which Christian feels for Christian, when a difference of opinion on the doctrines of Revelation, or on the decrees of a Church are suspected or known.—Their souls abhor each other. The clashing of their conclusions is a mutual and hateful crime. Where the freedom of the press is permitted,—and without that freedom there can be no liberty,—the various parties embody their opposite conclusions in their own journals, reviews, and volumes. They stereotype their glosses, their imperfections, their partial, and therefore erroneous, views. Every party has its hypocrites, its saints, and its martyrs. Their hypocrites promote their worldly objects by the affectation of zeal; their saints by their holiness of zeal ; their martyrs by their devotedness of zeal : and the avarice or ambition of the hypocrite, the sincerity of the saint, and the patience of the martyr, unite alike in one painful tendency, the alienation of heart from heart, man from man, Christian from Christian.- Every where is mere attack and defence. Nowhere is there serene and calm discussion; and if we did not believe that the evil of this incessant agitation, in spite of the ignorance of such result by the agitators themselves, has been always overruled to the production of that high mental activity; which is the foundation of the inferior temporal improvements, discoveries, and happiness which adorn and bless the nations; we should indeed have cause to wonder that these great evils are permitted by the Creator and Ruler of all. Where the freedom of the press does not exist, not only are the partial advantages which result from the evils of these agitating controversies annihilated, but other severer, and deeper evils are engendered. So long as there is discussion in any form, there is hope. So long as the mental activity which proceeds from the united zeal of the hypocrite, the saint, and the martyr, is permitted to exist, one ray of light from heaven beams through the contending elements of the chaos. Where there is no freedom of the press, where no deliberating senates permit their arguments to be recorded, where no priesthood allows its teaching to be controverted, examined, and discussed ; there, while equal hatred arises, and more bitter scorn is enforced against the accidental expression of a difference in religious conclusions; there, there prevails also the mental death of intellect, the spiritual death of the soul, the darkness which no light pierces; and which is shown and known to be both death and darkness, by the unconsciousness of their victims to life and light. There the child of God, the spirit of man, never grows. The stationary reason of sloth and jealousy, paralyzes human thought. The mind and soul of man, which the Creator designed to be always progressing in the happiness which arises from the constant exercise of its intellectual powers, is stunted, stultified, and degraded. It is in theology, as it has been, and is, in the studies of astronomy, botany, chymistry, and every science. As the visible creation, revealed in matter to the senses of man, is so formed that the mind perpetually improves in the knowledge of astronomy, botany, chymistry, and every science—though astronomers, and botanists, and chymists, and philosophers bave had their opposing theories, and have hated and persecuted each other-and as the result of their freedom of discussion has ended in the extension of knowledge, the establishing of truth, and in perpetually new discoveries in every department of science, which delight, astonish, and bless mankind ;-so also has the same divine hand formed the invisible creation, which is revealed in His Scriptures to the souls of men. As the mind of man improves by the study of astronomy in the knowledge of the world above him, so the soul improves by the study of Revelation in the knowledge of another world above him, the world to which he is going; where the glory of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier shall be developed more fully; where are the spirits of the departed and other sentient beings, than either God or man.-As the knowledge of botany delights the admirer of the Creator in His lower, though lovelier works, so also does the knowledge of the plants and flowers of the Paradise of God in His Holy Church, in His Holy Scriptures, delight and please us.—As the knowledge of chymistry develops the deep mysteries and the retiring secrets of the visible world; so are there to be found in Revelation the development of the secrets of God, and of the heart, the mysteries of the future state, the profound inquiries, the holy metaphysics relating to the power of God, on the mind of man, from which ever fresh springs of delight in God are found; and ever new motives to good, and ever new causes of inward silent joy and peace, in the studies which are the anticipation of immortality, surprise, and gratify, and bless us. As the studies of science are not intended to be merely the causes of controversy and the fountains of perpetual hatred ; so neither are the studies of theology designed to be merely the causes of controversies, and the fountains of perpetual hatred. Theologians, like astronomers, botanists, chymists, and philosophers, may have long opposed each other; but the final result of their discussions, where the freedom of the press is admitted, shall ever be, that truth shall be elicited, and peace founded upon truth be anticipated. With that freedom, whatever be the evils of discussion and agitation, is perpetual, moral, and spiritual improvement. Without that freedom of the press, is the repose of mental death; but both with and without that freedom, this, and this alone, is common to all, the hatred of Christian to Christian, the deep and bitter enmity of believer against believer, in the common Christianity.