1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Russell

Thomas Green, 15 April 1798; Extracts from the Diary of a Lover of Literature (1810) 77-78.



Finished the 2d. Vol. of Russell's History of Modern Europe. I agree with this sensible writer, that the spirit of persecution did not spring, as many have endeavoured to represent, from a decay of Christian piety; and that the first preachers of Christianity would have been persecutors if they could. Nothing, to be sure, can be more adverse to persecution, than the suavity and benignity of soul which Christianity inculcates: but the peculiar and exclusive character of its doctrines, acting on such a creature as man, has a natural and inevitable tendency, I fear, to generate intolerance. If we see, in modern times, but little of this spirit, it arises from the general languor and indifference which prevails on all religious subjects: the pertinacity and zeal, however, with which the distinguishing tenets of their creed are still maintained among sectaries, strikingly evince, what sort of temper and disposition, precise articles of faith, not loosely professed in compliance with general opinion, but frequently embraced as the essential conditions of salvation, will infallibly engender in the human mind. — This is an extremely useful and well written Work.