Persecution

Persecution is any pain or affliction which a person designedly inflicts upon another. In its variability it is threefold:

(1.) Mental, when the spirit of a man rises up and malignantly opposes another;

(2.) Verbal, when men give hard words and deal in uncharitable censures;

"Persecution." topical outline.

(3.) Actual or open by the hand; such as the dragging of innocent persons before the civil tribunal.

In its more restricted sense, persecution for conscience' sake concerns us here only in so far as it has occurred within the Church, or the Church has been the guilty, party. The Church of Christ, in her purity, knows nothing of intolerance, and therefore can never be guilty of persecution. Indeed, the unlawfulness of persecution for conscience' sake, under the New- Testament dispensation, must appear plain to every one that possesses the least degree of Christian thought or feeling, "To banish, imprison, plunder, starve, hang, and burn men for religion," says the shrewd Jortin, "is not the Gospel of Christ; it is the Gospel of the devil. Where persecution begins, Christianity ends. Christ never used anything that looked like force or violence except once; and that was to drive bad men out of the Temple, and not to drive them in." Yet would we not overlook that true religion is essentially aggressive and intolerant of error, inasmuch as it "earnestly contends for the faith," and therefore abhors indifferentism and syncretism, believing that their true source is not faith and charity, but the very opposite of these, Laodicean lukewarmness and tacit infidelity. Toleration of error on the part of the Church would render useless God's revelation of truth, would make God the abettor of error — would either destroy the Church as a society of believers, or contradict the divine order which establishes it as the way of salvation. But the Church as such uses only spiritual weapons — the earnestness of entreaty, the force of prayer, the terrors of conscience, the powers of the Gospel. Its punishments, too, are entirely spiritual censures, and the different degrees of excommunication. This is shown from the nature of religion in general and the spirit of Christianity in particular; from the constitution of the Church as a spiritual body; from the tenor of Scripture, which explains the compulsion of Lu 14:23 as being spiritual compulsion only; from Paul's language to Timothy, as 2Ti 2:24, etc. (see Samuel Clarke's Sermons against Persecution for Religion, Serm. 1, p. 659), and from the fathers (see Bp. Taylor's Liberty of Prophesying, § 14). For these very reasons, however, all temporal penalties inflicted by the Church as a spiritual body must be classed as persecution; for such penalties can be meted out only by a power either usurped or wrongfully given. The Church, being a spiritual society, has no power over the physical, i.e. the body. Its capital punishment is deliverance to Satan. It may impose penance, it may enjoin restitution. it may arbitrate, but these sentences it can enforce only by spiritual inducements. Coercive jurisdiction it has none; and if any such jurisdiction be assigned it, it becomes so far a minister of the civil authority which makes the assignation; and so far it leaves its own sphere and becomes a temporal power. Temporal pains and penalties belong only to the temporal power, which moves in the external sphere of overt acts, and does not deal with the will and conscience. The cause of this is that, inasmuch as Almighty God has put man's life into man's keeping, and entrusted him with goods, the society which is to have power over life and goods is not formed without man's concurrence. The Church, on the other hand, is not formed by man's consultation, nor can it be modified at man's pleasure. Man joins it by voluntary submission, without any power of altering its constitution. The Church, therefore, has no power over life and goods; for the power over these which God has once given he will not take away. The concurrence of men in the formation of civil society is properly considered by holding up the ideal of a social contract, a contract perpetually forming and modifying, as the mind of a nation expresses itself in law; and such ordinances of man are ratified by God's providence, which has worked also in their formation. Whence it is said, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." Such compact, then, according to the religious state of those who make it, may be (1) a complete identity of the members of the Church and State; (2) or an established and preferred Church, with toleration in different degrees for other religious bodies (Jeremy Taylor, e.g., advocated toleration for all those who accept the Apostles' Creed); (3) or complete equality of all religious bodies. Any one of these positions the Church of Christ may hold. In any case it ought to retain distinctly its proper position as a society of divine institution in the world, but not of the world. Especially it ought not to usurp in the name of religion the powers and aims of the state law. There cannot be a greater mistake in statesmanship than to confound the temporal and spiritual estates and jurisdictions. The Church as a spiritual body has nothing to do with the state. It continues its own course, neither intruding into the sphere of the state nor refusing to aid the state, but ever rejecting an alliance with the state. SEE CHURCH AND STATE. It is from dogmatism invested with political power, and authorized to use that power for the inculcation of its dogmas, that persecution is sure to spring, aye, really springs. The first community based on freedom of conscience was the Roman Catholic colony of Maryland; yet Roman Catholicism in Maryland was as dogmatic as in Spain. The great consequence from the principles we have tried to establish is that the temporal penalties spoken of can be inflicted only for overt acts. The compact of society does not profess to touch the mind. It leaves the will and conscience to the divine institution of the Church.. Consequently for matters of opinion, for belief privately held, there can be no temporal penalty at all. The temporal penalty is outside the power of the Church; the private belief is outside the supervision of the state. We may therefore define persecution thus: the infliction of temporal penalties by the spirituality as the spirituality, or by the civil power for other than overt acts. Roger Williams has the honor of being the first in modern times who took the right ground in regard to liberty of conscience. It was he who, in 1642, cleared the subject from the subtleties of a thousand years of darkness, and held up to Christian abhorrence in all its forms the "Bloody Tenet" (as he justly called it) of persecution for conscience' sake. John Owen, John Milton, John Locke, and a host of later writers have followed in, his steps. "Persecution for conscience' sake," says Dr. Doddridge, "is every way inconsistent; because,

Bible concordance for PERSECUTION.

1. It is founded on an absurd supposition that one man has a right to judge for another in matters of religion.

2. It is evidently opposite to that fundamental principle' of morality that we should do to others as we could reasonably desire they should do to us.

Definition of persecution

3. It is by no means calculated to answer the end which its patrons profess to intend by it.

4. It evidently tends to produce a great deal of mischief and confusion in the world.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

5. The Christian religion must, humanly speaking, be not only obstructed, but destroyed, should persecuting principles universally prevail.

6. Persecution is so far from being required or encouraged by the Gospel, that it is most directly contrary to many of its precepts, and indeed to the whole of it." SEE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY; SEE TOLERATION.

Romanism has alone stood out in the Christian Church supplying an interpretation of the Scriptures which Protestantism has as steadfastly discarded. Popes and Church councils have repeatedly declared the extermination of heretics a duty, and pronounced execrable and damnable all opinions to the contrary; so much so that there is no doctrine whatever more absolutely asserted by the Church officially than this; and the moderate nominal Romanist who allows himself to dissent from it might just as well set his individual judgment against that of the Church upon any other article of its creed. The liberal Protestant must be told that the very central and fundamental conception of the Roman Catholic system must produce, as its natural and inevitable consequence, wherever it is dominant, those three great objects of sacerdotal ambition in the Middle Ages — persecution of recusants at home, propagation of the faith by force abroad, and the supremacy of the religious over the civil power. If these objects are but partially attainable in our modern world, it is because the principle itself has lost its power over the minds of men; half the world is anti-Catholic, and multitudes, who are Roman Catholics by birth and education, and who, in their indifference, are satisfied with the forms of the religion they have inherited, have never really imbibed its spirit. The doctrine of the Papacy is this: God has entrusted the salvation of mankind to the Church that is, to the clerical order. This salvation is essentially effected by the administration of the sacraments. The spiritual dominion exercised by the Church extends by right over the whole world; every human creature belongs to it as much as he belongs to the civil society of which he is born a member, without any choice of his own, both the one and the other being established of God. Lastly, the great mission of the Church is to make this right a fact, by bringing the entire race to obedience to their spiritual advisers, and to the habitual use of the sacraments, and by obtaining from all local civil governments entire freedom of action for the universal spiritual government. A bad logician may admit this theory, and deny its consequences; but no man can embrace it from the heart, and prize it as the great divine appointment for the everlasting weal of mankind, without approving its consequences, and desiring practically to follow them out. Why scruple at converting barbarians by the sword? The method has been successful; whole populations have thus been brought within reach of sacramental grace; and if the hearts of a first generation are-too obdurate to profit by it, their descendants will. Why shudder at the fearful punishment of heretics? They are rebels, rebels against the highest and holiest authority: we must, cut off the diseased member for the good of the whole body: we must punish those that would poison souls. Why be astonished at the assumption of a priest's superiority over the kings of the earth? Is he not a nearer representative of God, the possessor of a higher order of authority, addressing itself to the deepest powers and susceptibilities of our nature? The king, as well as the peasant, in all his conduct comes under the cognizance of the authorized interpreter of the divine will. "The king of England," wrote Innocent III to Philip Augustus, "thy brother in the faith, complains that thou hast sinned against him: he has given thee warning; he has taken as witnesses great lords, in order to re-establish peace; and when that failed, he has accused thee to the Church. The Church has sought to employ paternal love, and not the severity of a judge. She has entreated thee to conclude a peace, or, at least, a truce; and if thou wilt not hear the Church, must thou not be to us as a pagan and a publican? "It is impossible to adopt the conception of the Church and its agency supposed in the pope's reasoning, and not admit that his conclusion is just and scriptural. An expression constantly recurring in Innocent's letters is that of "the liberty of the Church:" in its use he was not always wrong; for the pretensions of the spiritual power produced reprisals and usurpations on the part of the temporal; but the phrase generally meant that the civil power was to walk out of the Church's way whenever they came into conflict. And so it ought to do, if it were true that the Creator of heaven and earth had founded the sacerdotal body, and given it the mission to take men and save them, as children are carried out of a burning house, with a merely passive cooperation of their own. The priest' does not want to be king; but he claims the right to reign over the king, which is the surest way of reigning; and, from his point of view, the great business of the secular arm — the reason for which it exists — is the repression of heresy. It is an arm, and no more. Here are two systems in presence of each other. On the one, man belongs to himself, that he may give himself to God; the Church is the society formed by those who have freely given themselves to God; individual piety thus logically, even when not chronologically, preceding collective life; the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ being the introduction to the Church, and the ordinances of the latter being means of grace, the blessing of which depends upon the recipient's moral state and personal relation to God. On the other system, man belongs to the sacerdotal order, and the services of the Church are the only introduction to Jesus Christ: she is the nursing mother of his members, receiving them into her bosom before they are conscious of it, and feeding them with ordinances, the blessing of which is independent of the recipient's moral experiences. It is evident that conceptions so utterly at, variance must make their opposition felt throughout the whole series of ecclesiastical relations, in the character of their proselytism, in their manner of dealing with the impenitent, in their attitude toward the heretic or the heathen. As has already been said, religious indifference may make the merely nominal Catholic tolerant, but the real Romanist must persecute wherever he has the power; he must interpret after the letter that favorite text of the Dominicans, "Compel them to come in." That is no misrepresentation which makes him say to his adversaries, "When you are the stronger, you ought to tolerate me; for it is your duty to tolerate truth. But when I am the stronger, I shall persecute you; for it is my duty to persecute error." What are Rome's doings in Spain and Italy at the present moment? Let the Romish hierarchy become dominant in some distant island at the antipodes, away from all foreign influences and all excuse of political interest, and it will immediately exhibit its inevitable tendencies. In 1840 the inhabitants of the largest of the Marquesas, at the instigation of their priests, expelled from the island the minority that had become Protestant. An infallible Church can persecute with a good conscience; for the infallibility of an authority implies its resistless evidence, so that it cannot be resisted without guilt, nor can it ever be mistaken in its blows. This is so true that it is avowed by the most consistent ultramontane organs of England and the Continent, by the Tablet, and more unreservedly still by the Universe. Nay, the zeal of the Anglo-Catholic might shame many a lukewarm Romanist; for one of the symptoms of a thorough appropriation of the sacramental system among recreant Protestants is a cordial approbation of the use of the sword against the Albigenses and their fellows, who dared to mar the unity of the Church. The late dean Hurter retained the presidency of the Protestant clergy L, Schaffhausen for many years after he wrote his Life of Innocent III; yet in that work he boldly advocates the propagation of Christianity by force, and. notwithstanding some hypocritical reserves, can hardly be said to conceal his sympathy with the crusaders of Simon de Montfort and the inquisitors of the Middle Ages. We have an authoritative declaration of Romish doctrine in the bull of Pius VI, A.D. 1794, which condemns the reforming Synod of Ricci, bishop of Pistoia. The synod had affirmed, "Abusum fore auctoritatis ecclesise transferendo illam ultra limites doctrinne ac morum, et eam extendendo ad res exteriores, et per vim exigendo id quod pendet a persuasione et corde, turn etiamn multo minus ad eamr pertinere, exigere per vim exteriorem subjectionem suis decretis;" and this proposition is declared heretical so far as by the Indeterminate words "extendendo ad res exteriores" denenoted an abuse of Church power; and "Qua parte insinuat, ecclesiam non habere auctoritatem subjectionis suis decretis exigendse aliter quam per media quae pendent a persuasione-quatenus intendat ecclesiam; non habere collatam sibi a Deo potestatem, non solum dirigendi per consilia et suasiones, sed etiam jubendi per leges, ac devios contumacesque exteriore judicio ac salubribus poenis coercendi atque cogendi" (ex Bened. XIV in brevi Ad Assiduas, anni 1755; comp. Damnatio Synodi Pistoiensis, art. iv, v, in the Appendix to Canones Conc. Trident. Tauchnitz ed. p. 298). By this determination of two popes must be interpreted the oath taken by a bishop upon consecration: "Haereticos, schismaticos, et rebelles eidem Domino nostro vel successoribus praedictis, pro posse persequar et impugnabo" (Pontificale Ronm.). The claim from the Church of the power of temporal punishment is distinct. The union of civil sovereignty over the Papal States with the ecclesiastical primacy makes such a claim more natural to the head of the Romish Church; but as the history of the Papal States does not recommend such a union of the temporal and civil powers, so neither does the history of the Romish obedience recommend a transfer of coercive jurisdiction from the civil to the ecclesiastical tribunals. That there is no such power divinely given to the Church we have endeavored to show. See Elliott, Romanism; Milman, Lat. Christianity; Leakey, Hist. of Europ. Morals, and his Hist. of Rationalism, 1:74, 156, 331, 350, and esp. 2:11, 99; Thompson, Papacy and the Civil Power (see Index); Riddle, Persecutions of the Papacy (Lond. 1859, 2 vols. 8vo). SEE ROMANISM.

 
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