has been practised, and for the more quiet and peace-
able government of this province, and the better to preserve mutual love and amity among the inhabitants, no person within this province, professing to believe in Jesus Christ
, shall be any ways troubled, molested, or discountenanced, for his or her religion, or in the free exercise thereof.’
Thus did the early star of religious freedom appear as the harbinger of day; though, as it first gleamed above the horizon, its light was colored and obscured by the mists and exhalations of morning.
The greatest of English poets, when he represents the ground teeming with living things at the word of the Creator, paints the moment when the forms, so soon to be instinct with perfect life and beauty, are yet emerging from the inanimate earth, and when but
The tawny lion pawing to get free;
————then springs, as broke from bonds,
And rampant shakes his brinded mane.
So it was with the freedom of religion in the United States
The clause for liberty in Maryland
extended only to Christians, and was introduced by the proviso, that ‘whatsoever person shall blaspheme God, or shall deny or reproach the Holy Trinity
, or any of the three persons thereof, shall be punished with death.’1
No where in the United States
is religious opinion now deemed a proper subject for penal enactments.
The only fit punishment for error is refutation.
God needs no avenger in man. The fool-hardy levity of shallow infidelity proceeds from a morbid passion for notoriety, or the malice that finds pleasure in annoyance.