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Socrates, who came the nearest to the knowledge of the true God, is said to have suffered on that account, and died a martyr to the Deityi he was the only one whom the Greeks ever put to death on account of opinion. If this was really the cause of his being condemned, it does very little honour to persecution, since he was put to death for being the only one who gave true glory to God, whilst those who taught notions the most unworthy of the Deity were held in high honour: therefore, I think, the enemies of toleration should be cautious how they lay a stress upon the infamous example of his judges.
Moreover, it is evident from history, that he fell a victim to the revenge of an enraged party. He had made himself many inveterate enemies of the lo hifts, orators, and poets, who taught in the public schools, and even of all the preceptors who had the care of the children of diftinction. He himself acknowledges in his dit course handed down to us by Plato, that he went from house to house, to convince these preceptors, that they were a set of ignorant fel lows; a conduct certainly unworthy of one who had been declared by an oracle the wisest
65 of mankind. A priest, and one of the members of the Areopagus, were let loose upon him, who accused him I cannot precisely say of what, as his apology to me seems very vague ; from which however we learn in general, that he was charged with inspiring the youth of the nation with notions contrary to the religion and government of the country: an accufation which the flanderers of all times and places have constantly made use of ; but a court of justice requires positive facts, and that the charge should be circumftantial and well fupported, none of which are to be found in the proceedings against Socrates. All we know is, that he had at first two hundred and twenty voices for him; therefore, there must have been two hundred and twenty out of the five hundred judges, who were philosophers ; a great many more, I believe, than are to be found any where else. At length, however, the majority were for the hemlock potion. But here let us not forget, that when the Athenians came to their reason, they held both his accusers and judges in detestation; made Melitus, who had been the principal author of the sentence pronounced against him, pay for that act of injustice with his life; banished all the others that were concerned in it, and erected a temple to Socrates. Never
was philofophy so nobly revenged, so highly honoured. This affair of Socrates then is, in fact, the most powerful argument that can be alledged against persecution. The Athenians had an altar dedicated to the strange gods, gods they could never know. What stronger proof then can there be, not only of their extreme indulgence towards all nations, but even for their respect for the religion of those nations?
A very worthy perfon, who is neither an enemy to reason, learning, or probity, nor to his country, in undertaking to justify the affair of the massacre of St. Bartholomew, quotes the war of the Phocians, by them called the sacred war, as if that war had been entered into on the score of religion, or a particular point in divinity; whereas it is well known, that it was caused by a dispute about a particular spot of ground, the conftant cause of all wars. A few corn-grounds can certainly never be a symbol of belief; it is as certain, that none of the Greek cities ever made war upon each other for the sake of opinion. After all, what would this mcdeft and humane writer drive at? Would he have us undertake a sacred war?
C HA P. VIII.
Whether the Romans encouraged TOLERA
A Mas of Romulus no chofes in which
MONG the antient Romans, from the
days of Romulus to those in which the Christians began to dispute with the priests of the empire, we do not find a single instance of any person being persecuted on account of his sentiments. Cicero doubted every thing; Lucretius denied every thing; and yet, neither one nor the other, underwent the least reproach from their fellow citizens : nay, so far did this licence go, that Pliny the naturalist begins his book by denying the existence of a God, and saying, That if there is one, it must be the sun. Cicero, in speaking of hell, says, Non eft unus: tam excors quæ credat. “ There is not even an old "woman so filly as to believe it.” Juvenal says, Nec pueri credunt: “ Even our children laugh 46 at it.” And the following maxim was publicly repeated on the Roman theatre: Poft mortem nihil eft, ipfaque mors nihil:“ nought after death, even “ death itself is nought." While we abhor these maxims, let us pardon them in a people, who
were never enlightened by the holy truths of the gospel ; and, while we own them to be false and impious, let us however confess, that the Romans were great friends to toleration, seeing that such tenets never excited any commotions.
Deorum offensa diis curæ, was the grand principle of the senate and people of Rome; that illustrious nation employing their attention wholly to conquer, govern, and civilize the universe. They were our legislators as well as our conquerors ;
and even Cæsar, who reduced us to his subjection, and gave us laws and games, never attempted to compel us to quit our Druids for him, though supreme pontiff of a nation, whose subjects we were now become.
The Romans themselves did not profefs all kinds of religion, therefore they did not give public sanction to all, but they permitted them. Under Numa, nothing material was the object of their worship. They had neither statues nor pictures ; in process of time, however, fome were erected to the Dii Majorum Gentium, with which the Greeks brought them acquainted. That law in the twelve tables, Deos peregrinos ne colunto, was confined to the allowing