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Mutual Persecution

THE Pagans were accustomed to accuse the Christians of being the cause of the evils which affected the Roman empire, as Origen remarks in his C. xxiv. on St. Matthew; St. Cyprian, in the commencement of his book ad Demetrianum; Tertullian, in his 40 C. of his Apology; and Arnobius, in his first book. When, in its turn, Christianity became the prevailing religion, the Christians accused the Jews and the Pagans of drawing on the empire the calamities which then happened.

Crevier, in his History of the Roman Emperors, informs us, that when they prepared in France for the conquest of Jerusalem, and other holy places, the fanatic preachers every where declared that they should begin the croisade by massacring the Jews, which they held to be a most meritorious action. The poor Israelites had been nearly exterminated but for the interference of St. Bernard, who luckily happened to be of opinion that they might be allowed to live. The Jews, when Judaism was more in fashion than it is at present, did certainly treat as ill the Girgashites, the Hittites, and other nations whose names I cannot recollect, For above a century the Catholics and Protestants reciprocally cut each other’s throats, and all this for the Love of God.

I shall close this sketch of mutual persecution with these fine verses of Voltaire,

Je ne décide point entre GENEVE et ROME
—Périsse à jamais l’affreuse politique,
Qui prétend sur les cœurs un pouvoir despotique,
Qui veut le fer en main convertir les mortels,
Qui du sang heretique arrose les Autels,
Et suivant un faux Zèle, ou l’intérêt pour guides,
Ne sert un Dieu de Paix que par des Homicides.

The following is a free attempt to gratify the English reader.

’Tis not ’twixt ROME and LONDON I decide,
To force the human, heart, in saintly pride:
Perish that spirit, whose intolerant rage
Has oft made criminal the sacred page;
Has oft with gleaming sword exulting stood,
And bath’d the altar with a brother’s blood;
Its crimes, as Zeal or Avarice bade increase,
But serv’d with Homicides, a God of Peace.

Editor’s Notes

This article, and the twenty-four pieces that follow, all formed part of the Historical Anecdotes section of the third edition of the first volume of the Curiosities.