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content to receive the dogmas of more daring (if not designing) spirits, rather than take the trouble of investigation.
When Galileo declared the sun to be a
fixed body, he was summoned before the Inquisition, and with the threat of fire and faggot ordered to abjure as a “ damnable heresy” that which the immortal Newton confirmed, and which has subsequently been acknowledged by all philosophers.
And did not Martin Luther incur the
danger of an ignominious death, when he accused the Pope with the abuse of indulgences? In the year 1517, this celebrated Reformer promulgated his doctrines in Germany, and immediately drew upon himself the persecuting jealousy of the ignorant priesthood of that period, as well as the unqualified disapprobation of the Emperor Charles V.; and although he was protected by Frederick, the enlightened Elector of Saxony, he could scarcely have escaped the contemplated vengeance, had not the state
of the times been favourable for the further
ance of his views. Charles, though the most powerful monarch of his time, was frequently embroiled in war, and also in disagreements with his subjects. A similar observation may be applied to his formidable contemporary, Francis I., and also to the Pope; while Henry VIII. emancipated himself from the thraldom of the latter, and consequently became his enemy; so that a
fortuitous concourse of circumstances fa
voured the establishment of that Reforma
tion of which Luther laid the foundation.
The minds of men are as various as their
persons, and are thus constituted for the
wisest purposes; for, how can doubts be dissipated and truth ascertained but by unshackled investigation ? Thought is involun
tary; a man may dissemble, but he cannot
avoid, his thoughts : can anything, then, be more preposterous than the attempt to force all men to entertain the same opinion ? Charles V., who had caused rivers of blood
to flow, not for the most amiable purposes,
when old age crept upon him, resigned the crown of Spain in favour of his son, Philip, and amongst the amusements of his latter days was mechanism.
“ He was particularly curious in regard to the construction of clocks and watches; and having found, after repeated trials, that he could not bring any two of them to go exactly alike, he reflected, with a mixture of surprise as well as regret, on his own folly, in having bestowed so much time and labour on the more vain attempt of bringing mankind to a precise uniformity of sentiment concerning the profound and mysterious doctrines of religion.”
As mankind became enlightened, they became tolerant; and as the present age
is distinguished for its increase of scientific attainments, it is reasonable to expect that its liberal feeling has kept pace with its superior knowledge. Dogmatism is not merely injurious, but directly opposed, to
the freedom of investigation ; and as I have freely expressed my opinions on the subjects which the following pages embrace, so I am quite willing that my readers should exercise a scrupulous, but an unbiassed, examination of them. Let these opinions be subjected to the test of reason, and I shall be content, though I unhesitatingly confess I am far from being indifferent to the good opinion of