S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
If the peculiarities of our feelings and faculties be the effect of variety of excitement through a diversity of organization, it should tend to produce in us mutual forbearance and toleration. We should perceive how nearly impossible it is that persons should feel and think exactly alike upon any subject. We should not arrogantly pride ourselves upon our virtues and knowledge, nor condemn the errors and weakness of others, since they may depend upon causes which we can neither produce nor easily counteract. No one, judging from his own feelings and powers, can be aware of the kind or degree of temptation or terror, or the seeming incapacity to resist them, which may induce others to deviate.
But he has praised the tolerating spirit of the heathens. Well! but the honourable gentleman will recollect that heathens, that polytheists, must permit a number of divinities. It is the very essence of its constitution. But was it ever heard that polytheism tolerated a dissent from a polytheistic establishment,the belief of one God only? Never! never! Sir, they constantly carried on persecution against that doctrine. I will not give heathens the glory of a doctrine which I consider the best part of Christianity. The honourable gentleman must recollect the Roman law, that was clearly against the introduction of any foreign rites in matters of religion. You have it at large in Livy, how they persecuted in the first introduction the rites of Bacchus; and even before Christ, to say nothing of their subsequent persecutions, they persecuted the Druids and others. Heathenism, therefore, as in other respects erroneous, was erroneous in point of persecution. I do not say that every heathen who persecuted was therefore an impious man: I only say he was mistaken, as such a man is now. But, says the honourable gentleman, they did not persecute Epicureans, No: the Epicureans had no quarrel with their religious establishment, nor desired any religion for themselves. It would have been very extraordinary, if irreligious heathens had desired either a religious establishment or toleration. But, says the honourable gentleman, the Epicureans entered, as others, into the temples. They did so; they defied all subscription; they defied all sorts of conformity; there was no subscription to which they were not ready to set their hands, no ceremonies they refused to practise; they made it a principle of their irreligion outwardly to conform to any religion. These atheists eluded all that you could do: so will all freethinkers forever. Then you suffer, or the weakness of your law has suffered, those great dangerous animals to escape notice, whilst you have nets that entangle the poor fluttering silken wings of a tender conscience.
Edmund Burke: Speech on Relief of Prot. Dissenters, March 17, 1773.
I may be mistaken, but I take toleration to be a part of religion. I do not know which I would sacrifice: I would keep them both: it is not necessary I should sacrifice either. I do not like the idea of tolerating the doctrines of Epicurus: but nothing in the world propagates them so much as the oppression of the poor, of the honest and candid disciples of the religion we profess in common,I mean revealed religion; nothing sooner makes them take a short cut out of the bondage of sectarian vexation into open and direct infidelity than tormenting men for every difference.
I will stand up at all times for the rights of conscience, as it is such,not for its particular modes against its general principles. One may be right, another mistaken; but if I have more strength than my brother it shall be employed to support, not to oppress, his weakness; if I have more light, it shall be used to guide, not to dazzle him.
We knew beforehand, or we were poorly instructed, that toleration is odious to the intolerant, freedom to oppressors, property to robbers, and all kinds and degrees of prosperity to the envious. We knew that all these kinds of men would gladly gratify their evil dispositions under the sanction of law and religion, if they could: if they could not, yet, to make way to their objects, they would do their utmost to subvert all religion and all law.
Edmund Burke: Speech at Bristol Previous to the Election, 1780.
Religious toleration has never been complete even in England; but, having prevailed more here than perhaps in any other country, there is no place where the doctrines of religion have been set in so clear a light or its truth so ably defended. The writings of Deists have contributed much to this end.
Surely no Christian can deny that every human being has a right to be allowed every gratification which produces no harm to others, and to be spared every mortification which produces no good to others. Is it not a source of mortification to a class of men that they are excluded from political power? If it be, they have, on Christian principles, a right to be freed from that mortification, unless it can be shown that their exclusion is necessary for the averting of some greater evil. The presumption is evidently in favour of toleration. It is for the prosecutor to make out his case.
The strange argument which we are considering would prove too much even for those who advance it. If no man has a right to political power, then neither Jew nor Gentile has such a right. The whole foundation of government is taken away. But if government be taken away, the property and the persons of men are insecure; and it is acknowledged that men have a right to their property and to personal security. If it be right that the property of men should be protected, and if this only can be done by means of government, then it must be right that government should exist. Now, there cannot be government unless some person or persons possess political power. Therefore it is right that some person or persons should possess political power. That is to say, some person or persons must have a right to political power.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Civil Disabilities of the Jews, Jan. 1831.
All men resolved upon this, that, though they had not yet hit upon the right, yet some way must be thought upon to reconcile differences in opinion; thinking so long as this variety should last, Christs kingdom was not advanced, and the work of the gospel went on but slowly. Few men, in the mean time, considered, that so long as men had such variety of principles, such several constitutions, educations, tempers, and distempers, hopes, interests, and weaknesses, degrees of light and degrees of understanding, it was impossible all should be of one mind. And what is impossible to be done, is not necessary it should be done.
Atheism did never perturb States. [Bacons Essay, Of Superstition.] It may perhaps be inferred from this remark that Bacon entertained an opinion, held by some, that persons indifferent about all religion are the most likely to be tolerant of all, and to be averse to persecution and coercion. But this is a mistaken notion. Many persons, indeed, perhaps most, are tolerant or intolerant according to their respective tempers, and not according to their principles. But as far as principles are concerned, certainly the latitudinarian is the more likely to be intolerant, and the sincerely conscientious tolerant. A man who is careless about religious sincerity may clearly see and appreciate the political convenience of religious uniformity, and if he has no religious scruples of his own, he will not be the more likely to be tender of the religious scruples of others: if he is ready himself to profess what he does not believe, he will see no reason why others should not do the same.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Superstition.