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For my religion, though there be several circumstances that might persuade the world I have none at all, as the general scandal of my profession (') the natural course of my studies, the indifferency of my behaviour and discourse in matters of religion, -neither violently defending one, nor with that common ardour and contention opposing another,
(1) The author of certain “ Annotations” on the Religio Medici, attributes the common opinion, that physicians have no religion, to the “ unlearned sort.” But it was not among the unlearned, I imagine, that the notion first took its rise. Men's creeds are almost invariably affected by the nature of their stu. dies; and these, again, must be referred to the original bent of the mind. Imaginative men, that is, persons in whom the higher attributes of genius are found, seldom delight in the sciences conversant with mere matter or form; least of all in me. dicine, the object of which is the derangement, or imperfection of nature, and the endeavour to substitute order and harmony, in the place of their opposites. Brought thus chiefly into contact with diseased organization, surrounded by the worst elements of civil society, (for their experience must in general lie among the intemperate and vicious,) they may be said to exist in an infected moral atmosphere, and it is therefore not greatly to be wondered at that among such persons a highly religious frame of mind should be the exception, and not the rule.“ ED.
yet in despite hereof, I dare, without usurpation, assume the honourable style of a Christian. Not that I merely owe this title to the font, my education, or clime wherein I was born, as being bred up either to confirm those principles my parents instilled into my understanding, or by a general consent proceed in the religion of my country: but having in my riper years and confirmed judgment, seen and examined all, I find myself obliged, by the principles of grace, and the law of mine own reason, to embrace no other name but this : neither doth herein my zeal so far make me forget the general charity I owe unto humanity, as rather to hate than pity Turks and infidels, and (what is worse) Jews ;(*) rather contenting myself to enjoy
(2) This is the charitable spirit which breathes through Pope's Universal Prayer ; and it was, perhaps, inspired in both writers by the secret consciousness that, in the matter of belief, they very much needed the tolerance they exercised towards others. On this subject Locke's Third Letter on Toleration (Works, fol. vol. II. pp. 295–470.) may be studied with great advantage. Respecting the species of persecution put in practice by the various Christian sects, against each other, the philosopher entertained exceedingly just notions, and animadverts severely on those “who narrow Christianity within bounds of their own making, and which the gospel knows nothing of; and often, for things by themselves confessed indifferent, thrust men out of their communion, and then punish them for not being of it.” p. 337. In the same spirit wrote Jeremy Taylor, (Liberty of Prophesying. g. 21. p. 371.) “ As for particular churches, they are bound to allow communion to all those that profess the same faith upon which the apostles did give communion; for whatsoever preserves us as members of the church, gives us title to the communion of saints; and whatsoever faith or belief that is to which God hath promised heaven, that faith makes us members of the Catholic church.” Conf. Montaigne, Essais, liv. I.
that happy style, than maligning those who refuse so glorious a title.
But because the name of a Christian is become too general to express our faith, there being a geography of religion, as well as lands, and every clime distinguished not only by their laws and limits, but circumscribed by their doctrines and rules of faith ; to be particular, I am of that reformed new-cast religion, wherein I dislike nothing but the name;() of the same belief our Saviour taught, the apostles disseminated, the fathers authorized, and martyrs confirmed; but by the sinister ends of princes,(“) the ambition and avarice of prelates,
chap. 56. passim, which I the more particularly refer to, as many of Sir Thomas Browne's fantasies were transplanted from Montaigne's nursery-grounds.- ED.
(3) That is, instead of being called a Calvinist, a Lutheran, a Protestant, &c., he would have preferred being called a Christian; in which I agree with him.---Ed.
() The author here touches upon a point that has never been thoroughly investigated. I mean, the “ religion of kings," which I have long designed to treat in a separate volume. Bayle, who admired the present work of Sir Thomas Browne, remarks, however, that “ ce seroit, je crois, un livre, de bon débit, que celui de la Religion du Souverain : il feroit oublier celui de la Religion du Niedecin.” (Dict. Hist. et Crit. art. Agesilaus, rem. H.) The conduct of the emperor Charles V. furnishes a striking commentary on the text of Browne. Many authors, with apparent justice, maintain, that, much as he pretended to feel for the interests of religion, he willingly abandoned the Christian cities of Belgrade and Rhodes to the Turks, in order to gratify his own persona ambition in the contest with France. Again, while affecting to regard Lutheranism as a heresy, he is said to have connived at its diffusion, since he could profit by the divisions it occasioned, sometimes playing it off against the pope, sometimes against France, and not
and the fatal corruption of times, so decayed, impaired, and fallen from its native beauty, that it required the careful and charitable hands of these times to restore it to its primitive integrity. Now the accidental occasion wherupon, the slender means whereby, the low and abject condition of the person by whom so good a work was set on foot, which in our adversaries beget contempt and scorn, fills me with wonder, and is the very same objection the insolent pagans first cast at Christ and his disciples.
Yet have I not so shaken hands with those desperate resolutions, who had rather venture at large their decayed bottom, than bring her in to be new trimmed in the dock; who had rather promiscuously retain all, than abridge any, and obstinately be what they are, than what they have been, as to stand in diameter and sword's point with them :
we have reformed from them, not against them; - 4 for omitting those improperations, and terms of + scurrility betwixt us, which only difference our af
fections, and not our cause, there is between us one
cessary body of principles common to us both; and therefore I am not scrupulous to converse and live with them, to enter their churches in defect of ours, and either pray with them, or for them.(*) I could never perceive any rational consequence from those many texts which prohibit the children of Israel to pollute themselves with the temples of the heathens; we being all Christians, and not divided by such detested impieties as might profane our prayers, or the place wherein we make them; or that a resolved conscience may not adore her Creator anywhere, especially in places devoted to his service; where if their devotions offend him, mine may please him; if theirs profane it, mine may hallow it. Holy-water and crucifix (dangerous to the common people) deceive not my judgment, nor abuse my devotion at all. (0)
(5) I admire this feeling, and have always, when in Roman Catholic countries, endeavoured to be guided by it. To pray in conjunction with a Romish priest, has never appeared culpable to me; nor have I refused to cross myself, or to dip my finger, on entering their churches, in the basin of holy-water, fixed for the purpose near the door. I have even joined Mohammedans in their devotions; that is, while they knelt to pray, I have silently sent up my own orisons in their assembly. This, however, could not so well be done in a Hindoo or Ghebre temple, where the object worshipped is other than the true God. - ED.
(6) Perhaps, however, it may be found impossible so to purge the ceremonial of any church that no baits or allurements to superstition shall remain. Even in our inward conception there is an infusion of superstition. Finding it beyond our reach to conceive a spirit without form or dimensions, we often represent the Deity, to our thoughts, in the shape of a man ; which, even while doing so, we know to be highly absurd.-Ed.