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been made by government to bring the Raskolniks again into the bosom of the church, Catherine II. at last, in 1785, published a manifesto, in which permission is granted them to use the old manuscript books, and they are entreated to receive regularly ordained priests from the mother church. This proposition has been embraced by many of them, and all openi persecution, since that time, has ceased.
From the above causes it is almost impossible to ascertain the number of dissenters of different denominations in Russia, who are scattered throughout every province, and are particularly numerous in the chief commercial towns, and in the southern parts of the empire ; but, on a moderate calculation, they are supposed to amount to about two millions. Thus, though the great body of these people are, properly speaking, Greek Christians, that is, hold the principal doctrines, ordinances, and ceremonies of this church, and only differ in ceremonial trifles; yet there are other sects, in general, less numerous, who have renounced both the old and the new books and pictures, and have formed 'à peculiar creed for themselves.
Having premised these few observations, we now proceed to the general division of the Raskolniks into Popoftschins and Bezpopoftschins.
I. OF POPOFTSCHINS.
Under this denomination, as was formerly mentioned, are included the different sects who, properly speaking, admit of the ordination of the mother church. Most of their priests, accordingly, are such as have been brought up in the church; but who, from various causes, have left her communion.
The great body of the Russian dissenters belong to this general denomination, which comprehends a number of distinct parties, differing from each other in matters of little moment, compared with those in which they agree. Among these sects, the following are the chief:
1. The churches at Vetka and Staradubofsk, usually denominated Starobredsi, or Old Ceremonialists. We have already noticed when and by whom these two churches were founded. For many years after their formation, they continued to increase daily; and from the great numbers of people that joined them from every quarter, of whom many were slaves, who no doubt were influenced by a desire to escape from bondage, as well as to enjoy liberty of conscience, the government was at last roused to put a stop to this migration
into. Poland, and to prevent separation from the mother church. Accordingly, in 1735, when the civil power began to use coercive measures to draw these people from their retreats, and bring them back again into the bosom of the church and empire, the church at Vetka was found to consist of upwards of 30,000 people of every condition. Here were wives who had left their husbands, husbands who had forsaken their wives; children who had left their parents, parents who had forsaken their children; and the most numerous of all, were slaves who had fled from their masters.
At Staradubofsk, the society was composed as that of Vetka, and was found to consist of upwards of 50,000 members. These were divided into seventeen prosperous villages, many of which were equal to Russian towns.
The dissenters of Staradubofsk have enjoyed peculiar privileges since the time of Peter the Great, to whom they rendered essential service in the time of Mazip the rebel, and at the invasion of those quarters by Charles XII. On this account they have been very prosperous, and many of their members are scattered through every part of the empire, who are zealous in adding to their number and respectability,
But the church of Vetka, though only about sixty miles distant from that of Staradubofsk, was
not so favoured with the Imperial protection. I consequence of having had recourse to some improper means for obtaining a bishop, they provoked the hand of the civil power; and in 1785, a Colonel Sitin was sent against them, who surrounded Vetka with five regiments of soldiers. Numbers of the members he compelled to enter the military service, and the rest he dispersed in small parties into different quarters of the empire. Not satisfied with this, Sitin, in the true spirit of a persecutor, opened the grave of Theodocia and of some others, who had been the founders of this church, took out their coffins and bones, burnt them before the eyes of their disciples, and strewed their ashes to the four winds. He also reduced to ashes their churches and habitations, and no doubt thought that he had at once put an end to the heretics of Vetka.
Persecution, however, whether directed against truth or error, the ignorant or the learned, will ever be held in abhorrence by every liberal mind, because it is a violation of that sacred and innate principle in the mind of man-liberty of conscience. This is the grand reason of its having ever tended to advance the very cause, whether right or wrong, which it endeavours to suppress; and for this reason also, the liberal and enlightened mind will ever compassionate those who suf
fer persecution for adhering to their religious opinions, though these should consist of the grossest errors.
The members of the church of Vetka being thus scattered into every quarter of Russia, wherever they came, naturally proclaimed to others the cause of their dispersion, and the cruel manner in which they had been treated; so that this persecution afforded them thousands of opportunities to make new proselytes to the old faith. Hence, in the course of fwe years, the churches at Vetka were again built, and their members became more numerous than ever. Those also who had been driven from them, and had it not in their power to return, promoted the interests of the common cause wherever they resided, by collecting money, and sending it to their assistance.
This state of growing prosperity was the cause of the new persecution to which they were subjected in the year 1764. The old believers at Vetka, however, got previous information of the storm which was again gathering around them, and many of them fled into Poland, while others took refuge among their brethren of Staradubofsk. Yet, notwithstanding this precaution, about 20,000 of them were seized, and most of them were sent to people the wilds of Siberia. After