Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Second Part.: Containing a full Answer to all the Objections which may be rais'd against what has bin before demonstrated.The Second Part.: Containing a full Answer to all the Objections which may be rais'd against what has bin before demonstrated. - A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, 'Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full'
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The Second Part.: Containing a full Answer to all the Objections which may be rais’d against what has bin before demonstrated.The Second Part.: Containing a full Answer to all the Objections which may be rais’d against what has bin before demonstrated. - Pierre Bayle, A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, ‘Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full’ 
A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, ‘Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full’, edited, with an Introduction by John Kilcullen and Chandran Kukathas (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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<149>A Philosophical Commentary On these Words of St. Luke, Chap. XVI. ver. 23.
The Second Part.
Containing a full Answer to all the Objections which may be rais’d against what has bin before demonstrated.
First Objection, That Violence is not design’d to force Conscience, but to awaken those who neglect to examine the Truth. The Illusion of this Thought. An Inquiry into the Nature of what they callOpiniatreté.58
To shew how frivolous an Excuse this is, I shall only endeavor to prove the two following Points: First, That the Means these Gentlemen propose for examining the Truth, is the most unreasonable in the World; Next, That it can be of almost no service in a manner to their Cause, while they<150> keep to those Terms which they seem fully resolv’d to abide by. Let’s explain both these Considerations severally.
All the reasonable part of Mankind, and those who have made the best Observations on the nature of things, and on that of Man in particular, are agreed, that one of the greatest Obstacles in a Search after Truth, is that of the Passions obscuring and disguising the Objects of our Understanding, or making a perpetual diversion of the Forces of the Mind. Hence they so earnestly recommend the getting an intire Command over our Passions, so as to be able to silence and dismiss ’em at pleasure: Hence they suppose it the Duty of a righteous Judg to hear the Reasons o’ both sides in cool blood, and free from all Passion; and even believe him incapable of dispensing exact Justice, without this Disposition. Even Pity and Compassion, Qualitys very useful in Religion and civil Life, they suppose capable of blinding the Judgment, and giving a wrong Biass. It’s certain, where the Mind is calm, and preserving an even and steddy frame, is able to look fixedly on a miserable Object, without those Emotions of Pity, which intender the Soul; ’tis much more capable of sifting out the Truth thro all the Disguises of Artifice and Counterfeit; ’tis plac’d in the true Point of Sight for perceiving the Merits of the Cause. For after all, the Wretch whose melancholy Figure moves Pity, and makes our very Bowels yearn, may have committed the Fact he stands accus’d of: and shou’d there be any thing of a shuffle or slight in the Management, which a dispassionate Judg might be able to see thro, by the Penetration of<151> his Genius; yet he’s utterly disabled, when Pity operates and possesses him with a favorable Opinion of the Accus’d. In a word, nothing is truer than this Maxim of the Roman* Historian; That it behoves those who consult upon things of a doubtful nature, to be free from Hatred, Friendship, Anger and Compassion; for the Mind can’t readily discern the true state of things, where these interfere. I cou’d furnish out twenty Pages with Sentences of the same kind, did I only consult the Polyanthea. But who sees not already how unreasonable the Objection is, which I’m about to confute in this Chapter? It’s not our Intention, say the Convertists, that any one shou’d violate the Lights of his Conscience, to be deliver’d from the Uneasiness we give him: All our aim and all our hopes is, that a Love for the Comforts of Life, and a Dread of Misery will rouze him from his slumber, and put him upon an Examination of the two Religions; being confident that a fair Review can’t fail of discovering to him the Falseness of his own, and the Truth of ours. That is, the business being to pass judgment in a Question of mighty importance, as well with regard to the Reasons o’ both sides, as to the Consequences of a good or a bad Choice; we’l have Men enter upon the Merits of it, not in a state of clear and undisturb’d Reason, when their Passions are calm’d; but under the disadvantage of all those Mists and thick Darkness, which a Conflict of several violent Passions must<152> needs produce in the Soul. Can any thing be more absurd? Were there a difference between two Footmen about three Half-crowns, no body wou’d think it reasonable, that one who was an Enemy to either of ’em, or who fear’d or expected any thing from either, shou’d be the Umpire between ’em: and yet here, where the Glory of God is at stake, and the eternal Salvation of mens Souls, ’tis thought reasonable that the Judges who are to decide between Catholick and Protestant, who is right, and who wrong, shou’d come with Souls full of Resentment, full of worldly Hopes and Fears. It’s thought reasonable, that a Man who is to weigh the Reasons of both sides, instead of applying the whole force of his Facultys in the Inquiry, shou’d be distracted on one hand with the approaching prospect of a Family ruin’d, exil’d, or encloister’d; of his own Person degraded and render’d incapable of all Honors and Preferments, buffeted by Soldiers, and thrust into a loathsom Dungeon; and on the other hand, by the prospect of several Advantages for himself and Family. The Man, you see, is in a fair way of making a right judgment; for if he be strongly persuaded of the Truth of his own Religion, and fears God enough to find a reluctance to the professing a Religion he thinks naught, he’l be but the more confirm’d in his own, by the prejudice he must needs conceive against the other, from the tyrannical methods it employs against him. If he loves the World more than his God or his Religion, one of these two things will undoubtedly follow; either he’l blind himself the best he can, to introduce a dislike of his own Religion; or else<153> quit it abruptly, without troubling his head to examine whether t’other Religion be better or no: he’l determine himself by the temporal Advantages which this offers, and by the Persecutions which that might expose him to. All this is so just, and so obvious to any Man who will but examine himself, and who knows the imperious Sway of our Passions, that I’m afraid People will complain I insist too long upon the proofs of a Point which no body can deny.
But without fearing this Reproach, let’s omit nothing, if possible, which may contribute to render this Truth palpable, and cut off the Convertists from all their Starting-holes. Do they indeed believe, that a Man who compares two Reasons together, one of which is supported by the hopes of temporal Advantage, the other weaken’d by the dread of temporal Misery, is in a good way for finding out either the just Poise, or the true and natural Inclination of the Scale? Do they believe, that were the Reasons really equal on both sides, he wou’d not be determin’d to that which is attended with temporal Advantage? Do they believe, that if the Ballance of Evidence, with respect to him, lies on the side of that Reason which is weaken’d by the fear of temporal Evil, he won’t often counter-ballance with the temporal Advantages accruing from the opposite side? Do they believe, that the Corruption of the Heart is incapable not only of counterpoising that Over-measure of Evidence which appears on one side, but even of making it dwindle, and totally disappear by degrees? Can they believe, that this Counterballancing does not take place more or less in proportion to<154> the Covetousness or Ambition of the Man: so that if three degrees Over-ballance of Evidence on one side yield to a Counterballance of two hundred Crowns with regard to a Man not immoderately covetous; six degrees Over-ballance of Evidence shall do the same with regard to a Man of a great measure of Avarice and Vanity, when put into the Scale with a profitable and glorious Employment? If they believe nothing of what I here suppose as highly probable, I’m at a loss to know what Country they have liv’d in, what Books they have read, and what kind of Understandings they have got about ’em; and truly shou’d be for treating ’em according to the Maxim, Adversus negantem Principia non est disputandum.59
But it is not likely they’l deny the Principles I suppose, and from which I necessarily conclude, that nothing cou’d be more wrong, nothing more untoward, nothing more unworthy even of a moderate Understanding, than ordaining, as a reasonable means for discovering the Truth, that the Party enter upon the examination at the precise time when several Passions were excited in the Soul, and when he must have known, that in case he found one side of the Question true, he shou’d be expos’d to the last degree of Infamy and Misery; in case he found the other, honor’d and rewarded with sundry Favors. All our Ideas of Order, all the Maxims of good Sense, all that Judgment which the Experience of human Affairs bestows, revolt against this Management; and had Jesus Christ appointed that Method of Constraint suppos’d in this Objection, we shou’d not know how to justify his having proportion’d things aright, or adapted the Means to their Ends: An<155> Impiety never to be suggested! The examining two Religions under such Circumstances cou’d only breed Perplexitys and Distraction in the minds of some, new Engagements to their own Religion in others, and a Determination to that which has temporal Advantages of its side, whether it has Falseness to boot, or whether it has not, in all those who are possess’d by the Love of this World.
This is further confirm’d by the following Consideration; to wit, That all the Discourses of Jesus Christ, and his Apostles, tending to prepare us for Tribulations in this World, for the Cross, for a continual Exercise of Patience amidst a froward and perverse Generation; it’s natural for a good Soul, a Soul not to be determin’d by any thing but the Fear of God, to believe that the Truth lies on the suffering side, and not on that which threatens and afflicts ’em if they persevere, and which offers a thousand earthly Advantages if they go over to it. I cannot see that one can find any Obscurity in this Hypothesis, if we consider it well. So that if we suppose a truly Christian Spirit in those who are to enter upon an Examination of the two Religions, the surest way to frustrate their Inquiry, and rivet ’em in their Error, is to tell ’em they must expect Persecution unless they embrace the opposite Faith; for the very thoughts of Persecution will become an Argument, or a very strong Prejudice at least, of their being in possession of that Evangelick Truth which the Scripture has foretold shou’d be hated and persecuted in this World. Thus we see, that the Means which these Gentlemen propose, as ordain’d by Jesus Christ for finding out the Truth, only tend on one hand to confirm in Error (and that from a<156> regard to the Predictions of Christ himself) every good Soul, which sincerely prefers what it believes to be the Truth before any Conveniences of Life; and on the other hand, to tear every weak Soul, and such as are wedded to the World by some strong Passion, from the bosom of Truth, as to the outward appearance at least: whence I conclude, that this Method is stark naught, and that it never was ordain’d by God.
Let’s now proceed to the second Point. I desire the Gentlemen-Convertists to tell me, whether they are in earnest, when they say they don’t mean to force Conscience, but only to put People upon examining both Religions; which they neglected to do, so long as their not examining was of no prejudice to ’em. It’s plain, if this be their whole Intention, that the Penaltys of their Edicts ought to have bin only minatory; that is, they ought only to threaten some Punishment on those, who within a prefix’d time did not get instructed (for if they proceed to actual Execution on those, who at the expiration of the term shall declare, that they have had themselves well instructed, that they are not one jot less persuaded of the Truth of their own Religion than they were before) it’s manifest they originally design’d to violate Conscience, and to force even those to an outward Profession, who upon a thorow Examination had not bin able to change Belief. Now see where our Gentlemen are driven, into a Defilee between the two lowring horns of the following terrible Dilemma.60
Either they mean, that their Constraint shall be limited to the care of getting instructed, or that it shall fall at long run upon Conscience.<157>
If the first, they mean no more than that People shan’t continue in their Religion merely from Habitude and Custom, without examining whether it be true, and comparing it with theirs; but that they shall enter into a nice Examination, and very serious Discussion of both. But when this is done, they can have nothing farther to say against a Man, who having listen’d to their Conferences and Instructions, and having read over their Books, declares at the foot of the account, that tho he is not able to give ’em a satisfactory Answer to all their Objections, yet he remains inwardly convinc’d that they are in a very bad way, and that the Truth is of his own side. Thus all their minatory Edicts are hung upon the tenters without further Virtue or Vigor; the Intention of the Legislator being answer’d and satisfy’d by a careful Examination of the Reasons o’ both sides. Whence it appears, that upon this supposition our Gentlemen recede from the literal Sense of the words, Compel ’em to come in, because in reality they wou’d constrain none; for the Constraint now in question is not that of obliging to dispute, to read, and to meditate.
If they mean the second, they plainly renounce their Objection; they own above-board that they are for forcing Conscience: and then all my Arguments return upon ’em with the same force they were in before they cast up this wretched Intrenchment.
There remains, I think, nothing to be offer’d on their side but this, That the Penaltys which, I say, cou’d be only minatory in their first design, as a kind of Essay to try what Examination might produce, are afterwards justly inflicted,<158> when it appears, that all the Conferences, Missions, Disputes, Books, and Instructions imaginable, han’t bin sufficient to bring a Man to reason: for this is a sign, he’s under a prodigious degree of Opinionatedness and Obstinacy; and tho he mayn’t be justly punish’d for not being of the true Religion, yet he may as an opinionated and obstinate Person. But who sees not how miserable a Come-off this is? Upon the very same grounds*Antiochus put a great many Jews to death, looking on ’em as guilty of a sensless Obstinacy, because the Threats of a terrible Punishment cou’d not oblige ’em to eat Swines Flesh; a thing in its own nature perfectly lawful. On the same grounds Pliny put a great many Christians to Death.†I ask’d ’em, says he, whether they were Christians; and when they confess’d, I ask’d ’em again a second and a third time, with Threats of the severest Punishment, which I order’d to be actually inflicted on ’em when I saw they persisted in confessing. I was satisfy’d, were the Matter never so inconsiderable which they confest, that their Obstinacy and inflexible Stiffness was a just Cause of Punishment.
We see already, that this is but a mere childish Illusion, and a wretched Pretence with which the Pagans wou’d cover over their Barbaritys. But let’s sound this Matter a little deeper. What do People mean when they say, that a Man, who might otherwise challenge some regard, forfeits all Pretence61 to it when he shews himself an errand Opiniater? Do they only mean, that a Man,<159> who persists in his Errors after it’s made appear to him that they are gross Errors, and when convinc’d in his Conscience they are so, deserves no quarter? Truly I am of their mind: I am no Advocate for such a Man’s Toleration, who in reality deserves none; for if he persist in his Opinion, contrary to the Dictates of his Conscience, it’s an infallible Argument, that there’s Caprice and Malice in the case, and that his only Aim is to do despite to his Neighbor, and insult his Superiors while they are taking the pains to convert him. But how can they be assur’d, that they have convinc’d this Man of his Errors? Is the Convertist sharp enough to read in the Book of Conscience? Is he a Sharer with God in the incommunicable Attribute of Searcher of Hearts? ’Twere the most extravagant Impertinence in the World to pretend this: and therefore so long as a Man, whom he has instructed to the best of his Skill, shall say, he’s still persuaded in his Conscience, that his own Religion is the best, the Convertist has no ground to say, he has convinc’d him inwardly and evidently of his Errors; and so long he can’t be reputed an Opiniater, nor obnoxious to the Punishments due to a stubborn Spirit: so that where, after two Months time, or four, or five, according to the term prescrib’d by the Prince for the Work of Instruction, with minatory Clauses of Penaltys on those, who after the Expiration of the term limited, shall persist in their Errors, the Partys declare they are the same they were before, as much persuaded of the Truth of their own Religion as ever, there the Convertist must leave ’em, or proceed to a direct and immediate Force<160> upon Conscience; which is what he wou’d avoid by this Objection, and consequenly the vain Pretext of his being an Opiniatre won’t do.
The Convertist will certainly answer (for these Gentlemen are in possession of all the false reasoning) that tho he is no Searcher of Hearts, yet he is not without a reasonable Assurance, that the Man is under those Circumstances of Obstinacy which we are speaking of, that is, under such a Malignancy as to profess his antient Doctrines, even where he has bin fully convinc’d they are false. He’s thorowly satisfy’d of this, he’l say, because he cou’d not answer the Objections against his own Religion, no nor his very Minister, who was by, and who had not a word to say for himself; beside, that the Truths of the Church are so evident, that ’tis but considering ’em a little without Prejudice, and a Man must needs feel their Divinity, and the Falseness of the Calvinist Opinions for example. Now here are the two ways of knowing that one has enlighten’d a Man’s Intellectuals, tho he dissembles it with his Lips; first, that there had bin Objections made to himself, or to his Minister, which neither of ’em cou’d solve; and next, that the Reasons given to them are as clear as Noon-day. But ’twill be no very hard Task to confute both these ways.
There needs no more to confound these Gentlemen, as to the first, but asking ’em, whether they believe, that a Peasant, a Shopkeeper, or Roman Catholick Gentlewoman, engag’d in an Argument of Religion with a Bishop of Lincoln,62 a Doctor Stillingfleet, a Du Moulin, a Daillé,63 wou’d be able to answer all the Objections made ’em. I consent too, that these ignorant People be as-<161>sisted by the Curate of the Parish, or by his Vicar, or by a Monk, or any other Convertist. Can any one be assur’d in such a Case, that all the Objections propos’d by a learned Protestant, who comes prepar’d, and has cull’d out the knottiest, shall be clearly solv’d; or that the Defendants shall never be at a loss what to offer for themselves, with any color of Reason? One must never have consider’d things, one must be utterly unacquainted with the human Mind, to entertain such a thought; for it’s well known, that in all Disputes, he who has a ready Wit, a voluble Tongue, a subtle Head, improv’d by Logick, and a great Memory, shall always get the better in problematick matters of a Man learn’d indeed, but who wants Utterance, who does not express himself in apt words, who is distrustful of himself, and has neither a Presence of Mind, nor good Memory. To conclude from hence, that he who happens to be foil’d defends the bad Religion, is risking one’s own Cause, and falling into an absurd Consequence, that all Religions are false, or that the same Religion is true in one place, and false in another: since it may happen, that a Minister, disputing in one Chamber with a Monk, may put him to a Nonplus; and a Monk, disputing with another Minister in the next Chamber, may get the better of him: as in Duels with several Seconds, where there happen to be Victors and Vanquish’d o’ both sides. We must therefore clash with all the Rules of good Sense, or agree, that it’s no Mark of Falshood in any Religion, that all who profess it, are not able to answer every Difficulty which a learn’d Controvertist of the opposite side may suggest:<162> and therefore a Protestant, who has found, that neither he, nor his Minister, had given full Satisfaction to some subtle Questions, and which he may even suspect as mere Cavils when coming from a Missionary, may yet be far from believing on this score, that his Religion is false. ’Tis rash judging then to say, that he’s convinc’d in his Conscience of the Falseness of his Religion, when he affirms, that these Disputes have not shock’d him in the least.
In a word, if this first Means of knowing when a Man is convinc’d, were just, there’s no ignorant Catholick, but might be suspected of violating his Conscience, after he had once bin in a Conference with any of our learn’d Divines: for it’s certain, he wou’d not know what to answer to several Points; and that many a Monk wou’d be as much at a loss as he. No Man shou’d be so imprudent as to make his Religion depend on the Address, the Memory, and the Eloquence of his Minister. ’Twou’d alter the case indeed, if any Minister that we cou’d name, disputing with any Papist that can be nam’d; the most learn’d of all our Ministers, with the most ignorant of all the Papists (not quite so low neither, let it be with the most ignorant of all the Monks) were continually so baffl’d, as not to have a word to say for himself: in this case I own, a Man might be tax’d of inexcusable Obstinacy, if he had not some mistrust of his own Religion; but as this case has never hapen’d, and ’tis impossible it ever shou’d, it’s nothing at all to the purpose.
The second Means of knowing when a Man is convinc’d in his Conscience, is not a jot bet-<163>ter than the former: for beside that ’tis going too far, to say Matters of Controversy are clear and evident as Noon-day, every one knows, or ought to know, that Evidence is a relative Quality; and therefore we can’t answer, except with regard to common Principles, that what appears evident to our selves, must likewise appear so to others. That Evidence which we perceive in certain Objects, may proceed from the Situation and particular View by which we consider ’em, or from a proportion betwixt them and our Organs, or from Habitude, Education, or any other Cause: so that there’s no arguing from our own case to our Neighbor’s, because another may not consider things by the same View that we do, has not his Organs form’d exactly like ours, has not had the same Education, &c. Several Persons shall look at a piece of Raphael, and make a thousand different Judgments of it. He who stands in the true point of Sight, and is a Judg, thinks it admirable; others who look at it from another point, and who have no tast nor notion of Painting, see nothing extraordinary in’t. The Man of Skill may laugh at their Ignorance, or pity it as much as he pleases; but ’twere ridiculous to tax ’em of a Lye, or of a malicious design of running down the Piece, whilst convinc’d of its Excellence. Oh, but the Beauty of this Piece is so visible, that there’s no room for not seeing it! Who told you so? and even you, Sir, who perceive this so plainly, do you perceive the Beauty and Goodness of some Stones, which a Jeweller pretends must strike every Body’s Sense? You think Canary perhaps so good a Wine, that you believe it’s only being born with a Palat to find out<164> its Goodness; yet how many Men are there of as good a Tast as you, who can’t abide it? It’s therefore the grossest Ignorance of the World, and of Man in particular, to make a Judgment of the Perceptions of others by our own.
But the Missionarys will reply, This had all bin very right, if it had come before our Instructions; but those we have given are so clear to every Point, that it’s not possible to resist ’em. I answer, That ’tis but just we shou’d have an ill Opinion enough of most of these Gentlemen, to believe they are sincere, when they talk at this rate of the Nature of their Instructions; ’twere doing ’em a greater honor than they deserve, to think they are free enough from the rusty Shackles of their Prejudices, to perceive that their Common-places are wretched stuff, or that they have bin a thousand times solidly confuted. Let’s believe then, that they themselves find ’em very evident, since they say so; but let ’em not pretend, that others, who have bin tinctur’d and educated in different Principles, who see things by a different Light, and have not the same Conceptions with them, shou’d perceive the same Evidence in their Instructions. Whence it appears, that to know certainly when a Man is in a state of Obstinacy and Opinionatedness, that is, when he persists in a Profession after he’s fully convinc’d of its Falseness; or has a formal design of not applying his Thoughts to the Reasons which oppose, for fear of discovering its Falseness; one must be a Searcher of Hearts, that is, he must be God himself: for it’s an extravagant Presumption, to say, that a Man persists in his Religion after several Conferences with the Missionarys, only because he refuses to apply his<165> Mind to the Consideration of their Arguments, for fear he shou’d find ’em reasonable; or having found ’em solid and convincing, that he’l rather betray his Conscience, than give the Convertists the Satisfaction of gaining their Point: This, I say, is an extravagant Pesumption, since there are so many opposite and very probable grounds to believe, that the Missionarys Arguments have not appear’d convincing, either thro a want of Understanding, or thro the involuntary Prejudices of those whose Conversion is endeavor’d. I say, and insist, that none but God alone can judg of the Measures of our Understanding, and the Degrees of Light which are sufficient to each; its Proportion varying infinitely, or at least incomparably more than the Proportions of sufficient Food, with regard to our Bodys. The quantity of Food which suffices one Man, is either too much or too little for another, yet varys not in such a latitude, or within terms so extensive, as the degrees of Light sufficient for the Conviction of such a one, and such a one, &c.
The only Means remaining to convict a Man of Opinionatedness, is, by saying in general, that all Reluctance to the Truth sufficiently explain’d, is downright Opinionatedness. But how shall we make the Application of this Definition? Is not this revolving into two inexhaustible Disputes? The first upon the ground of the Differences, for each Party pretends to have the Truth of its own side; so that before either is pronounc’d opinionated according to this Definition, it has a Right to demand a further Proof of what it refuses to believe as Truth: And when shall we ever see an end of this?<166> The second is upon the Competency of the Explication: for no body having a distinct Idea of Minds, not even of his own; it’s as absurd to say, that such an Explication is a Competency for the Conviction of such an Understanding, as to say, that such a quantity of Food is a Competency for the Man in the Moon, whom we know nothing of. It’s plain, this whole Matter in an imply’d meaning amounts to this, The Reasons of the strongest side are ever best; the Right is of my side because I’m the Lion: and that it’s reducing Men to the ridiculous Controversy of saying by turns, You are very opinionated, since the Truth is of my side, without any common Rule to draw us out of this Strife of Words, this Childrens-play, of ever tossing the Ball backwards and forwards. You see what a fine pass we are brought to by these Gentlemens Principles, left without any Criterion to distinguish Constancy from Opinionatedness, but by begging the Question, or because we are pleas’d to bestow fine names on whatever belongs to our selves, and names of Reproach on what belongs to others.<167>
Second Objection, The literal Sense appears odious, only by our judging of the ways of God from those of Men. Tho the State that Men are in, when they act from Passion, seems likely to lead ’em to wrong Judgments, it does not follow but God, by the wonderful Issues of his Providence, may accomplish his own Work. The Fallacy of this Thought, and what are the ordinary Effects of Persecution.
Before I proceed to Objections of greater Importance, it’s fit I take notice of a Challenge, which may arise upon my saying, that our Saviour had very ill adapted the Means to the Ends, had he appointed the exciting several Passions in the Soul, in order to its discerning the true Religion from the false. They’l tell me, shou’d a Man go this way to work, ’twou’d indeed be very wrong in him; but that the ways of God being not our ways, Jesus Christ might very well have prescrib’d such a Method. When he wou’d open the Eyes of a blind Man, he did the very thing which in all probability must have put out his Eyes, if they had not bin out before, yet he gave him his Sight by a means so seemingly improper: And why not as easily administer the Influence of his Holy Spirit, to a Review of the two Religions in a storm of worldly Hopes and Fears? Let’s scan this Cavil.<168>
In the first place I observe, that the Proposition, The ways of God are not our ways, being incapable of this general meaning, God never operates by the same means which Men make use of, since there are a hundred Instances to the contrary; nothing can be concluded from it in favor of the meaning contended for in the words, Compel ’em to come in, till it be first made appear from other Heads, and by direct Proofs, that we ought to understand ’em in the literal Sense, and that no absurd Consequences hinder our understanding ’em so. If once it were clearly prov’d, that Jesus Christ enjoins Constraint, I own indeed we might justify this Command from the Sovereign Prerogative of God, which makes him sometimes take measures very opposite to those which we shou’d take. But as long as the literal Sense of this Passage is disputed by numberless Reasons, and some of ’em drawn from the very Spirit and Tendency of the Gospel; to plead this Maxim, The ways of God are not our ways, is in truth a degree of Dotage; and what’s worse, ’tis resolving all human Knowledg and divine Revelation into downright detestable Pyrrhonism. For there’s not a Text in Scripture, which by this Rule might not have a Sense given it directly opposite to the ordinary meaning of the words. I might say, for example, that when Jesus Christ promises he’l reward our good Works in Heaven, his meaning is, that he’l damn Men for their good Works; for the ways of God not being our ways, he ought not to speak as we do, but have a meaning to his words quite contrary to what we impose. So that there wou’d be no proving of any thing from Scripture, nor in-<169>deed from Reason; because it might still be alledg’d, that the Principles of Reasoning, which are the Rule of Truth and Falshood when deliver’d by a Father to his Son, ought not to be reputed such when coming from God, who is suppos’d to run counter in every thing to the ways of Man. Away then with these Extravagancys, which our Adversarys are driven to for Objections.
In the second place, I say, that the Example of the Clay made use of for opening blind Eyes, carrys in it two essential Differences: One, that it is a particular Action of Jesus Christ, which we don’t read, that either he or his Disciples had ever repeated, whereas the Command of compelling is deliver’d in general terms; and the other, that Matter having no repugnancy to one Motion more than another, or to one Figure more than another, may very aptly be employ’d in the hands of God to the producing any kind of Effect; but the Soul of Man, guiding it self by Reason, and by a certain scale or gradation of Thought, Order requires, that God shou’d accommodate himself to this Scale. So that if the thought of Danger, for example, or any other Passion, be follow’d with Darkness in the Judgment and Precipitation in the Will, God shall surely never ordain, that the Season for distinguishing Truth from Falshood shou’d universally be that of this Darkness in the Soul, and this Precipitation in the Will.
Will they have infinite Examples of the Conformity of the ways of God with those of Men? let ’em only read the Gospel; so many Verses almost as they read, are so many Instances of it, since it is evident, God speaks there after the manner of a Master instructing his Disciples. A Master<170> speaks; he makes use of terms which are current in the Country, and understood by his Hearers: these are the ways of Man when he teaches. And are not these the ways of God too? Does not he speak the Language of those he addresses himself to; and does not he most commonly use words in the same Sense that others do? But I have other Examples at hand, which are still nearer my purpose.
When God had a design of converting the Pagan World, ’tis certain he made use of Instruments very different from those which Men wou’d have employ’d in such a Work; yet a great many human Means interven’d, Instructions by living Discourse, and by Writings, Censures, Disputes, and other like ways by which Men instruct one another. Nor have we a single Example of any Peoples being converted without the Means of Preaching, any more than we have an Example of a Scholar’s believing all Plato has said, without ever hearing of Plato. The natural and human order is, that a Man be first acquainted with Plato’s Doctrines, either by reading his Works, or by Conversation with those who have. And God so constantly pursues the same methods, that never was it heard, that any Man had known there was such a Person as Jesus Christ, but by reading the Gospel himself, or by the Testimony of others. Don’t imagine, that e’er the People of the Terra Australis shall become Christians, till Christian Preachers come among ’em to preach the Gospel. I say further, that after the Holy Spirit has converted a Man to Christianity, he still strikes in with his natural Temper; whence it comes to pass, that there’s always a Tincture of the Dis-<171>position and natural Temper in the religious Conversation and Actions of every Man: an evident Argument, that God overturns not the Order establish’d upon the Union of Soul and Body, when Religion’s in the Case. Since therefore this general Law of the Union of Soul and Body forms such a Chain or Gradation of Thoughts in the Soul, that the Apprehension of a temporal Evil is follow’d by a Perturbation, which obscures the Lights of the Judgment, weakens the use of the Free-will, and inclines the Soul to that side which promises it Deliverance (I say the same of all the other Passions) it’s reasonable to believe, that God does not thwart this natural Series of the Thoughts: and for my part, I don’t doubt, when he converts a Sinner in an extraordinary way, as he converted St. Paul, but he falls in with the stream of his Thoughts by one side or other, and afterwards follows their natural drift. I don’t deny, that he often makes use of the Passions of the Soul to draw us towards him, and to disengage us from the World; but ’tis in such a manner, that he forbids us to do that Evil to our Neighbor, which yet his Providence makes an occasion of his Salvation. For example, there’s no doubt but God, for the Conversion of a young Rake, may make use of a Blow, which has crippled him; of a Fraud, which has brought him to Beggary; of a Calumny, which ruins his Reputation, and obliges him perhaps to quit this World, and think upon things above: yet the salutary Uses, which God knows how to draw from these Disgraces, lessen not the Sin in him who cripples, or defrauds, or calumniates this Person. Accordingly, shou’d I allow, that Persecutions<172> oblige a great many to examine their Religion, and quit it for the true, yet they are criminal nevertheless, and consequently forbidden by God; so far from being commanded by the Words, Compel ’em to come in.
This single Remark is in my Opinion decisive; for since Fraud, Mutilation, Calumnys, Imprisonment, and such like Practices, wou’d be criminal, if employ’d against these young Rakes, who transgressing no politickal Law of the State, are not justly punishable by the Magistrate: since, I say, these Practices wou’d be criminal, notwithstanding God might draw out of ’em the Repentance and Amendment of the Sufferers; it must be allow’d, that ruining a Man, ordering him to be beaten, imprison’d, tormented, is exceeding criminal in Sovereigns, notwithstanding that God, by the invisible Springs, and incomprehensible Dispensations of his Grace, may make use of those Evils for the enlightening a Man’s Understanding. Whence we can’t but see the gross Illusion that Persecutors are under in believing they are quit of all their Iniquitys, by supposing that God reaps the Advantage of ’em towards the enlightening those who are in Error. But pray wou’d not he reap the same Advantage from their doing the like to a Gamester, to a Whoremonger, to a Drunkard? Wherefore then don’t they think it lawful to quarter a Troop of fifty Dragoons on a Gamester, to spoil him of his Goods, his Wife, his Children, to suborn false Witnesses against him, to brand him with publick Infamy? Is it not because we have a Law of God, prescribing and stating our Dutys, without permitting the Practice of the contrary, under any<173> pretence of God’s drawing out of ’em the Manifestation of his own Glory, and the Salvation of the Elect? Why won’t they apply this to their persecuting on the score of Religion?
But how will this look, if I shew in the third place, that, very far from God’s making use of Persecutions as a means of bringing Men to the knowledg of the Truth, we have all the Experience in the world to the contrary, and all the ground to believe they are of no effect this way: which ought to convince us, that God has not establish’d Violence as an occasional Cause of his Grace. Yet this is what Persecutors must suppose, to give their second Objection the least weight. They ought to say, that Violences consider’d in themselves, and in their own nature, are unjust and forbidden by God: but as the Water of Baptism, incapable in its own nature of sanctifying our Souls, has bin exalted by the Institution of God to the Quality of a moral, at least an occasional, Cause of Regeneration; so Violences have bin exalted, by the appointment of God, to the Quality of instrumental and occasional Causes of the Illumination of Hereticks. And at this rate they must be consider’d as a kind of Sacrament, transubstantiated by the virtue of these Sacramental Words, Compel ’em to come in; and trans-elemented from unjust, as they were by nature, into perfectly holy Actions, and perfectly divine.
Upon this I have two or three things to offer: 1. That it does not seem possible, that an Action repugnant to natural Equity, to the Law, and to the Gospel, evil from an intrinsick Turpitude, and from the Interdiction of God, shou’d be<174> pitch’d on by Jesus Christ for the Instrument of the Salvation of Men, apply’d and put in Execution by the very same Men to whom it is most peculiarly forbidden. Were Persecution a thing purely indifferent in its own nature, as Water, which morally speaking is neither good nor evil, I shou’d not talk at this rate. 2. That were such an Action chosen by God for the instrumental Cause of the Illumination of those in error, it might be expected that the Revelation of it shou’d be made in the clearest and most express Terms, the freest from all Equivoke, and the least liable to any exception; it might be expected, that God shou’d have prevented all our Doubts upon this head, satisfy’d all our Scruples, and reconcil’d all the apparent Contradictions in this Revelation to the general Tenor and Spirit of the Gospel. But so far is he from having reveal’d it in such a manner, that we find but one small Sentence tending this way in the whole Gospel, and that a piece of a Parable too, with the word Compel at the tail on’t; a Word which on a hundred other occasions signifies the pressings of Civility and Kindness to keep a Friend, for example, to dine with us. And this Sentence being only ascrib’d to the Master of the Family, does not directly imply the Constraint of those without, or of Infidels; which yet ’twas but reasonable it shou’d, in a case so inconsistent with the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and his divine Doctrine. In a word, I say, the Experience of all Ages convinces us, that Violences lose not their nature by being employ’d in the service of the true Religion; for they have the very same Effects and Consequences in this, as in all other Cases.<175>
Let’s suppose for a moment, that the Church of Rome is the true Church; and take a view of the Consequences of Compulsion to it, and compare ’em with the Consequences of compelling to any other Religion. As long as the King of France did only alarm his Protestant Subjects, did only publish Edicts to clip their Privileges, and deprive ’em of several common Advantages; did only threaten those who persisted in their Heresy with the roughest Treatment; what came of it? Why only this, that these People, excepting a very few here and there, grew more zealous in their Religion than ever. Nothing was to be seen among ’em but continual Fastings, extraordinary Humiliations, retrenching in Luxury and Superfluity: the last thought that cou’d ever enter into their Souls, was believing God afflicted ’em on account of a false Religion; quite contrary, they were eternally imputing the Evils which fell, or were ready to fall on ’em, both in their Sermons and serious Conversations, to their want of Zeal for this Religion, to their Lukewarmness in its Services, to their disrelish for those Truths which their Ministers preach’d to ’em; and confessing that the only means of averting the Judgments, and appeasing the Wrath of God, was a Change of Life, and a ferventer Zeal in the Protestant way. This is very far from what the Convertists pretend, that Violences open a Man’s eyes to see his Heresys. I’m verily persuaded, shou’d a Protestant Prince treat his Roman Catholick Subjects the same way, that they wou’d just so have recourse to extraordinary Prayers to God and to the Saints, as believing ’em displeas’d only at their Indifference and want<176> of Zeal for their own Religion; and thus become more Popish than they were before. The Turks, in like manner, wou’d but grow more zealous and obstinate in Mahometism; the Jews in Judaism, and so on.
Let’s now take a view of what happen’d, when the King of France let loose his Dragoons, and left his Protestant Subjects only the hard Alternative, either of going to Mass, or leading the Remainder of their Life in a long and almost infinite Complication of Miserys: They sunk almost all under the Temptation, some more persuaded than ever that their own Religion was the true, and the Romish detestable; others by bringing themselves by little and little to an Indifference for all Religions, and believing they might be sav’d in a false one, by not embracing its wicked Worship at heart. Such of ’em as play’d the Bigots, and even Persecutors of their Brethren, were still some degrees worse than the rest: the greatest part acting only from Vanity and Avarice; they wou’d not have it suspected, that their Change was from any other Motive than Conviction; they aspire to Pensions and Benefices, and this in plain English means that they won’t believe in God, but upon an Inventory of what he’s worth. These Consequences are very deplorable, and far from enlightning the Soul, serve only to plunge it into a worse state than the former, supposing the former a Heresy in good Faith. Nothing of what I here suppose concerning the Dispositions of the Lapsed, can be justly deny’d, because we see so few of ’em go to Mass with a good will, and that there’s a necessity of keeping strict guards on all the Fron-<177>tiers and Sea-ports, to prevent their flying out of the Kingdom; and of publishing terrible Edicts against those who refuse the Sacrament in their Sickness: not a day passes but their dead Bodys are drag’d on Sledges, and deny’d Christian Burial. There’s no doubt but a Protestant Prince, who took the same methods with his Popish Subjects, must produce the same effects by his Dragoons; most of ’em wou’d sign whate’er was tender’d, but with a deeper horror for Calvinism than ever, and perhaps some Seeds of Atheism; a great many wou’d hope to be sav’d by their Invocations of the Virgin in secret, by their Pocket Images, and by the Confessions and clandestine Communions from Priests in masquerade; very few enlighten’d. So that now supposing the Reform’d Religion the truest, Persecutions wou’d avail it very little to the making sincere Converts, and propagating the Truth. The persecuting Turks, Jews, Pagans, or their persecuting one another, can have no other effect; Hypocrisys and Irreligion, and nothing more. God perhaps does not suffer Infidels to get ground by their Persecutions. But History abounds with Examples to the contrary: Pliny writes to his Emperor, that several Christians, whom he had summon’d, having at first confess’d they were Christians, deny’d it soon after; professing they had bin so once, but never wou’d again. He adds, that the Pagan Religion, which was in a manner lost in Bythinia, began to take heart.64 Which shews, that the Dread of Punishment had made a great many Apostates. It’s astonishing to think what multitudes of Christians fell away under the Emperor Decius; read Cyprian’s ac-<178>count of it.65 It’s well known, what numbers the Saracens, Disciples of Mahomet, pluck’d out of the Christian Church. Let’s conclude then, that Compulsion never loses its natural tendency, which is that of confirming Men in their Opinions, or teaching ’em to dissemble thro Fear, Vanity, Ambition, or leading ’em to an Indifference for all Religions. Let’s now confound our Adversarys by their own Maxims.
Don’t they say, that the Severity of our Harry VIII was the cause why most of his Subjects renounc’d the Pope’s Supremacy? Don’t they say, that the pretended Reform’d Religion had never bin establish’d in England under Edward VI if the Secular Arm had not bin employ’d against the Catholick? Don’t they say, that after Queen Mary had effectually restor’d the Church of Rome, Elizabeth cou’d ne’er have re-establish’d Heresy, had she forbore Constraint, and not issued the most severe Injunctions, and enacted penal Laws against Papists? Don’t they still believe, as appears by the favorable Construction they wou’d put upon Coleman’s Plot,66 discover’d by Letters under his own hand, that were there a free Exercise of the Popish Religion allow’d in England, and the Penal Laws repeal’d, the whole Kingdom wou’d quickly be of that Religion? Don’t they object against the Truth of the Protestant Religion, that it has bin establish’d by Arms and Violence? They won’t, I suppose, pretend to dispute any of these Facts. And therefore I shall make bold to conclude for ’em, that Constraint and threaten’d Punishment have the very same effects against the true, as against a false Religion. So that ’tis extremely imperti-<179>nent to suppose that God gives his Blessing only to the Compulsion of Hereticks: for if so, the Lot of the persecuted Orthodox wou’d not resemble that of persecuted Hereticks; and even this Absurdity follow, that the Orthodox wou’d be abandon’d of God under their Persecutions, and Hereticks receiv’d into his Arms; the Sheep driven out of the Fold, those who were nurtur’d and bred up in it, and Strangers made to come in. The Successes of the Mahometan Compulsions are enough to confound our Missionarys.
But if we consider only the Consequences of Persecutions between Christian and Christian, we shall find reasons enough to convince us that God cou’d not have establish’d ’em as an occasional Cause of enlightning Grace. The reason is this: Had he constituted ’em such by the Efficacy of the words, Compel ’em to come in; every Christian Sect that had sense enough to take the Intention of the Son of God aright, and Zeal enough to observe it, must persecute the rest, in hopes that God wou’d convert ’em by this means. And thus God might order it so, that the Means of Grace shou’d be much oftner employ’d in favor of Falshood than Truth, and yet have no reasonable ground, it seems, neither for taxing Hereticks with their Abuse of Persecution; because as it is no sin in a Heretick to give an Alms in obedience to God’s Command, so it were no sin in him to compel in obedience to the Command of Jesus Christ. Nor can it be pretended that this Command is given, not to promote the Interests of Error, but those of Truth; and that therefore a Heretick who executes the Or-<180>ders which Jesus Christ has given in his Parable, commits a Sin: for by the same rule it might be prov’d, that a Heretick does very ill in giving Alms to any of the Poor of his own Sect, because this hinders their applying to the Overseers of the Poor among the Orthodox, who might thereby have an opportunity of bringing ’em over by the hopes of Bread. From hence it wou’d likewise follow, that praying and living soberly and vertuously in a heretick Society, wou’d be downright Sin; because this Devotion and good Life promote the Interests of Error. So that the nature of all Christian Dutys wou’d hereby be chang’d and confounded, and the Precepts of the Gospel, addrest to all Christians in general, wou’d concern only the Orthodox, and the obeying ’em be sin in the rest of the World. Was ever so monstrous a Notion fram’d of moral Dutys?
Cou’d there be any ground for a plausible Murmur against the most wise and most adorable Providence of God, ’twou’d surely be his permitting those of the true Religion to be expos’d to Temptations so hard to be resisted, as Tortures and acute Pain; very few Souls are proof against ’em, and few who in the extremity of Suffering won’t betray Conscience. ’Tis true, the Rack is appointed by the Justice of several Countrys, yet all don’t approve it; because the Pain often forces the Party to confess what he ne’er was guilty of, and accuse others who are suspected, and whom it’s design’d he shou’d accuse. Montagne talks very judiciously upon this: It’s a dangerous Invention, says he, this of the Rack, and looks like a proof of Patience rather than Truth.<181> He who is able to bear it, hides the Truth, and he who is not. For why shou’d Pain force me to confess what I do know, and not force me to confess what I know nothing of? On the other hand, if he who is not guilty has patience enough to support the Torment, why shou’d not he who is; so sweet a Reward as Life being propos’d him? … To say the truth, it’s an Experiment of great uncertainty and danger. What won’t a Man say, what won’t he do, to avoid so exquisite a Torture? Etiam Innocentes cogit mentiri Dolor: Whence it often happens, that he who condemns him to the Rack, for fear of making him die innocent, makes him die both innocent and rack’d.67 These are truly the ordinary Effects of those cruel Pains, which a Man is put to by the racking of his Limbs. Will they have him say, he does not believe what he really does; that he is not a Christian, when he is in his Soul? he’l tell ’em, not able to bear the Pain, he’s no Christian. Will they have him say, he believes what he really cannot; that he’s a good Papist, tho he’s a Calvinist, suppose, or Lutheran; or that he’s a good Calvinist, tho in his Soul he’s a Papist? he’l tell ’em he is; overcome by the Torment, and finding that his Dissimulation and Lying will be a present Relief. Monsieur St. Mars, who was beheaded at Lyons for conspiring against Cardinal Richlieu, died with a deal of Constancy, and shew’d a perfect Contempt of Death; but under such a dread of the Question68 at the same time, that it’s probable had they given it him, he wou’d have confess’d what they pleas’d, and perhaps things most opposite to those Notions of Honor which were dearest to him.<182>
Now if this be what our Reason can’t well reconcile, that the same God, who in uniting the Soul to the Body, ordain’d it shou’d be sensible of such a degree of Pain, whenever this Body was strain’d to such a pitch; shou’d permit this Body to be subject to the Rage of Persecutors, who put us to the most exquisite pains, but with this condition, that they’l immediately deliver, and load us with Favors, provided we’l declare our Assent to things which we disbeliev’d before: If, I say, the bare permitting this be hardly reconcilable to Reason, what wou’d it be shou’d Jesus Christ himself have positively ordain’d these Tortures, and under such a Condition? For my part I can’t see, if he had, what cou’d be offer’d, with the least color of Reason, to quiet the Murmurs of a Man, who shou’d go about to reject all reveal’d Religion: whereas by supposing that the Law and declar’d Will of God to Men is this, That they do no wrong to their Neighbor; we may easily reconcile his not forcing ’em to do good by a positive Act, and against their Inclination. Whence it follows, that he may, consistently with his Justice and Holiness, permit ’em to proceed to Persecution: in which case he supports the Faithful by his special Grace, or suffers ’em to yield, that he may raise ’em up again with greater Glory by Repentance.
What I have bin observing about the Rack, may be apply’d in a due proportion to all other Trials; such as those which the French Protestants were put to, when expos’d, beaten, eaten up by Dragoons, and brought into such distress, that they had nothing before their eyes but Dun-<183>geons and Distress on Distress, in case they made the least discovery of the firm Persuasion of their Soul. They say, the Millers were forbad, in some Provinces, to grind Corn for the new Converts; and the Bakers to sell ’em Bread, unless they brought an authentick Certificate of their Catholicity. So that they were put to the hard Choice of starving, they and their Children, or taking the Sacrament; not daring to make their escape out of the Kingdom, on pain, if they were taken, of tugging at an Oar all the rest of their Life. Every reasonable Body will allow, that the Gnawings of Hunger which a Mother suffers, and which she sees her Children suffer before her eyes, are altogether as sharp as the Pains of the Rack, and sharper perhaps in some Complexions than the Rack it self; which if the Party undergoes without confessing, he’s sure of being out of the clutches of the Law.
But if there’s no room to believe that Jesus Christ has enjoin’d Persecution, because by enjoining it he becomes the immediate Cause of all the Evils which Hereticks might bring upon the Orthodox, and the mediate Cause of all the Hypocrisys which these might be forc’d to, in the same manner as he is the immediate Cause of the Alms which Hereticks bestow on their Neighbor, in obedience to the Gospel, and the mediate Cause of all the natural Consequences of these Alms: if, I say, this be incredible from that reason, it’s no less so from this; to wit, that there being intrepid resolute Spirits in all Sects, and strongly persuaded of the Truth of their own Religion, each must have its Martyrs in case of Persecution. Now these Martyrs are the su-<184>rest Support in the world of any Religion, by confirming their Brethren in a persuasion, that they die for the Truth. And therefore if Jesus Christ had commanded Constraint, he had himself left a mighty Obstacle in the way of Truth, because the inflexible Temper of some Men, and their Courage in dying for their Errors, had confirm’d the rest of the Sect more and more in the Belief of ’em. A French Historian has observ’d very justly, that the Martyrdom of Anne du Bourg unsettled more mens Minds, than a hundred Ministers cou’d have done with all their Sermons.69 I know what’s commonly said, that it is not the Suffering, but the Cause, which makes the Martyr. But pray how is this to the purpose? Is it not a bare Dispute about words, or begging the Question? However, without insisting, that the intrepid Joy with which a Man dies for his Religion, may have a retrospective effect upon his Tenets, to the persuading those of their Truth who believ’d ’em most false before; there being no Argument for moving the People like Spectacles of this kind, nor no such Testimony of Sincerity: without insisting, I say, upon this, is it not at least incontestable, that those of the same Religion for which he dies, will reckon him a true Martyr, persuaded, as we suppose they are, of his dying for the Cause of Truth? We are at the same Childrens-play with regard to the nature of Martyrdom, as with regard to a thousand other things. We dispute about mere Words; each Sect supposing, that only they who die in its own Cause are worthy of the name of Martyr. And now, I may presume, the pretended Institution of Violences, as<185> an occasional Cause of Grace, is as fully confuted as any reasonable Reader can desire. So I shall pass to a new Objection.
Third Objection: They aggravate the matter maliciously, by representing the Constraint enjoin’d byJesus Christ,under the Idea of Scaffolds, Wheel, and Gibbet; whereas they should only talk of Fines, Banishment, and other petty Grievances. The Absurdity of this Excuse; and supposing the literal Sense, That capital Punishments are much more reasonable than the Law-Quirks, Pillorys, and Captivitys made use of in France.
Your Reasoning, they’l tell me, is very disingenuous; you eternally suppose, that to obey the Precept, Compel ’em to come in, we must set up a Gibbet in every street, and study the most exquisite Torments. This is not our way of understanding it: tho we think it but reasonable, that a King in whom the whole Legislative Power is vested, shou’d distinguish those of his own Religion by his Favors, and discountenance others; nay threaten, if they obstinately refuse to be instructed, that he shall be forc’d against his Inclination to lay on extraordinary Taxes, exact all the Dutys of Vassalage, quarter his Troops on ’em, &c.<186>
I answer, 1. That they might easily see I did not make the most odious Crueltys, or the most crying in the judgment of the world, my Standard; and for the most part, that I have gone upon the Persecution which our Adversarys wou’d fain have accounted the gentlest that ever was, to wit, the late Persecution in France. 2. That I had a right to guide my self by what is actually practis’d in all the Countrys where the Inquisition is settled, and by what the Popish Princes have ever done at the instigation of the Pope and his Emissarys, as here among our selves under the Reign of Q. Mary, and in France under that of Francis I and Henry II. Fire, and Faggot, and Gibbet was the way then; I suppose they won’t deny this.
But my most significant Answer is this, That the Constraint allegedly enjoin’d by Jesus Christ being impracticable without the Commission of Actions evil in their nature, if the Appointment of Jesus Christ, and the Benefit accruing from ’em to the Church did not rectify; it follows, that in order to judg whether any particular Species of Constraint be unjust, we ought to consider these two things: 1. Whether prohibited by God. 2.= Whether unfit to promote the Good of the Church. And if it lie under neither of these Defects, it evidently follows from the Principles which I impugn, that it is just. If neither the Wheel then, nor any other cruel Punishment, be under either of these cases, it follows they may be very justly employ’d against Sectarys. Now it’s easily prov’d, that they lie under neither.
1. Nothing can be pretended from God’s having<187> forbidden ’em; because we must by a necessary Consequence allow, that no other way of constraining to the true Religion, by Fine, Banishment, Dungeons, and quartering of Soldiers, is warranted by God. It’s evident, these are all prohibited and sinful in other circumstances; but our Gentlemen pretend, that in case they are made use of for bringing Men over to the true Religion, they become lawful, and warranted, and good: consequently the general Reason, That God has forbidden Murder, and detests the shedding of innocent Blood, does not hold against the burning a Heretick; because by the same rule it wou’d hold against the imprisoning him, or bringing him to Beggary: it being evident, that one is as much forbidden by God as the other. If therefore the general Command against oppressing the Innocent ceases with regard to Hereticks; the Command against shedding of innocent Blood must cease with regard to the same Hereticks, unless God himself declares the Exception to his own Law, when he enjoins the compelling to come in. But it’s manifest he makes no such Exception, since he only expresses it simply and absolutely, Compel ’em to come in. There can be no reason then which, in paying obedience to this Command, dispenses with the Breach of another Command, Thou shalt not steal, but shall equally dispense with the Breach of, Thou shalt do no murder. The Command of constraining is general, it must therefore either derogate from no Law of the second Table, or derogate from all; nor can it ever be shewn, why it shou’d dispense with the Transgression of any one, and not dispense with the Transgression of all the rest. This I have<188> urg’d in another place.70 Since Jesus Christ therefore has no where distinguish’d upon the kinds of Constraint, he has left the choice of ’em to the pleasure and discretion of the proper Powers; and it can’t be pretended, that Wheel and Gibbet have had an exclusion.
They’l tell me perhaps, that the Analogy of Faith makes us easily perceive what kind of Constraints are disallow’d by Jesus Christ; and that as the Spirit of the Gospel is that of Gentleness and Patience, common Sense must tell us, when Jesus Christ dispenses with this Gentleness, that he still means we shall keep as near it as possible, and avoid all those barbarous Punishments which Cruelty inspires. This, in my opinion, is the most reasonable thing they can offer, and yet there’s nothing at all in it.
For were we to set bounds to our Constraint by the Analogy of the Gospel Spirit, we shou’d never go beyond lively and pathetick Exhortations, and the pressing in season and out of season the Promises of a future Life, and the Pains of Hell; or at most, not beyond the diminishing some Privileges, when we saw Men make an ill use of their Liberty. We shou’d never think it allowable to depart from the Gentleness of the Gospel so far, as to separate Husbands from their Wives, Fathers and Mothers from their Children, expose ’em to the Pillage of the Soldiery, thrust ’em into Dungeons, and deprive ’em of all means of subsisting. And tho there’s perhaps less Cruelty and Barbarity in Punishments of this kind, than in impaling a Man ’nointed with a bituminous matter, and then setting him in a blaze, or stoving him in Phalaris’s brazen Bull; yet it<189> is certain, there’s Inhumanity and Injustice enough to convince us that Jesus Christ does not approve ’em. Else we must say, he forbids only Crimes of the most heinous, and not those of a lower kind; whereas he condemns the very Thought and Look of Inhumanity and Injustice. Shou’d they say, it’s out of charity that they torment People with their Dragoons, it’s to save ’em so as by Fire; who sees not that as much may be said in behalf of the cruellest Punishments? For what can hinder their answering, that they break a Heretick upon the Wheel out of an excess of Christian Charity, either in hopes that the Dread of the Punishment will make himself comply, or the Example strike a terror into the whole Sect? But we shall speak more fully to this in another place. What I have said, suffices to shew that the first of the two things I suppos’d, to wit, that taking the Parable in the literal Sense, it can’t be pretended the cruellest Punishments are unlawful.
2. The next thing I advanc’d was, that Punishments of this kind are not improper towards promoting the Good of Religion; that is, towards adding to the number of those who profess it. All Constraint is indeed in different respects proper and improper for this end; for there are those who stiffen in their Opinions by being teaz’d about ’em, and on whom the Blood of Martyrs, be they true or false, makes a wonderful impression: but there are many more on the other hand, generally speaking, who stagger, and at last sink under Persecution. It’s hard to lay down any general Rule in this case, because the Effects of Persecutions vary according to the Circumstances of<190> Time and Place, and according to the Dispositions of the Persecuted. The surest I think is this, That if a gentle Persecution can add to a Church, a smart Persecution shall add much more; and therefore tho persecuting by Fine, Prison, and Dragoon, be less estrang’d from the Spirit of the Gospel, than persecuting to the life, as in the Reign of Dioclesian, yet it were more expedient, take one thing with another, to persecute in this last way than the first; because that which on one hand might be less Evangelick in this way, wou’d be abundantly compensated by the Overplus of Advantage to Religion. The better to comprehend this, let us examine what Advantages the Convertists pretend to reap from their mitigated Violences; that is, from Prisons, Banishment, and Confiscation.
1. Say they, These rouze Men from their slumber in a false Religion, such as live in it only because they were born in it, without ever considering the Reasons o’ both sides; and oblige ’em seriously to examine their own Religion: and in this Examination they will meet with the Truth.
But I ask any reasonable Man, whether they shan’t be much better rouz’d by threatning ’em with the Galleys, than by threatning only with a Fine; by threatning ’em with perpetual Imprisonment, than by threatning with double Taxes; in a word, by threatning ’em with the Wheel, than by threatning with Banishment. I don’t think any will deny this; and consequently, that they advance more by the most violent Persecutions, than by the less violent, with regard to the obliging the Incurious, who are of such a Religion only from Custom and<191> Education, to examine wherefore they are of it.
2. They say, the Fear of pinching Want, and slight temporal Affliction, inclines ’em to examine the Reasons without prejudice; it weans from a Fondness for their native Sect, it slackens the Bands of inveterate Habits, to think it may be much for their advantage, shou’d they get thorow this Examination undeceiv’d of their Opinions, and firmly persuaded that the Church which threatens is better for this Life, as well as for that which is to come. Now this happy Disposition is a good step to the finding out the true Church.
But let me ask any reasonable Man in my turn, Whether, if the Fear of a slight Punishment be able to break the Charm of inveterate Habits, and the Power of Prejudices, and inspire a predisposing Desire or implicit Wish, that what the Party had all along believ’d false, might now upon the inquiry be found true: I ask, I say, whether if the Fear of a slight Punishment be able to produce such Effects, the Fear of the Wheel, Gibbet, or Galley, won’t produce ’em much quicker. They who have a mortal hatred for Convertists, need only wish ’em ridiculous enough to answer, No.
3. Say they, Threatning a Forfeiture of Goods and Honors, makes the Ambitious and Covetous quit their Heresy; and tho they shou’d not be inwardly chang’d, not even by habitually going to Mass, which they are oblig’d to do, still their Children and Posterity are gain’d.
But once more, won’t they gain all this, and much more securely, by threatning Hereticks with Death? Won’t they conquer their Obsti-<192>nacy much the sooner, the more terrible the threatned Punishments are? How many Men wou’d submit to pay a heavy Fine yearly, to be redeem’d from the Mass, who yet wou’d not redeem themselves at the price of Life; so that they are sure of gaining the more Children, the more they aggravate the Penaltys? In a word, we need only trace this last Persecution from the beginning to the end, to find that it never produc’d its effects to any considerable degree, till it put Men upon the Alternative, either of starving, dying of lingring Deaths in Dungeons, the Sport and May-game of an insolent Soldiery; or else signing the Formulary. All the Preludes to it by Quirks at Law and vexatious Prosecutions, scarce quitted the Cost of signing, sealing, and registring the Edicts: They must either have bin baffled and lost all their labor, or put the Persecution upon a foot, which if rightly consider’d, was more rigorous than Death it self. Here then is a fresh Example confirming what I had said before, to wit, that the sharper the Persecution, the more it increases the persecuting Communion, generally speaking.
4. Say they, The Church is secur’d from the Scandal of having dy’d its hands in Blood, when they content themselves with a Persecution a la mode de Lewis XIV. Now the being freed from this Reproach is no small gain; the rather, as it preserves the Lives of many who become good Catholicks by Custom and Acquaintance.
I answer, (1.) That as to the Glory of Christianity, I see no great matter in its being rescu’d from the blackest Reproach. To set up for Merit, it is not enough that it fall short of the<193> extremest Point of Evil: its Reputation is low enough, if it be confessedly very bad, tho ’twere possible to be worse. (2.) That the Protestants expostulate in their Writings, that they wou’d rather be persecuted in Francis I’s or Dioclesian’s way, than a la mode de Lewis XIV. And therefore these pretendedly mitigated Persecutions can no more hinder their crying out against the Gallican Church, than if she had actually dy’d her hands in Blood. (3.) That if on one hand it be an advantage to spare the Lives of Hereticks under the appearance of good Catholicks, because in effect they sometimes become such; it is pernicious on the other, because they may corrupt their Children, and instruct ’em privately in their Heresy: whereas if the Fathers and Mothers were all knock’d o’ the head, they might afterwards reckon upon the Children. (4.)= That it’s pure Vanity, or Reasons of State, which hinder their putting Hereticks to death, and make ’em chuse to dragoon ’em into compliance. ’Tis because they wou’d find matter for their fulsom Panegyricks and Poems, and boast that his Majesty had done more without Fire and Faggot, than all his Ancestors with ’em. ’Tis because they are afraid this kind of Punishment might mar the Design, as it did in the days of Francis I, Henry II, Charles IX, &c. Beside that the Death of a Subject is a detriment to the State.
Nothing in nature is more to be pity’d than the Writings of the French Authors against the Spanish, upon their methods of supporting the Catholick Church. The Spaniards glory in their Inquisition, and reproach the French on their tolerating Calvinists. The French (I mean those<194> who wrote before the late Persecution) say a thousand handsom things in answer, cite the antient Fathers thick and threefold, to prove, that we must not force Conscience, and say as severe things against the Inquisition as any Protestant. They’l still cry it down, and reproach the Spaniards, that their Faggots and bloody Tribunal of the Inquisition are a Scandal to Christianity; and that if they must persecute, they ought to follow the methods which were taken in France. I hope I shall live to see some able Spanish Doctor expose the Absurdity and Ridiculousness of this Distinction; for in reality, here’s the fairest occasion in the World for mocking the bitter Invectives of the French Writers against the Spanish Inquisition: not that at bottom they condemn’d it in it self, but purely because not establish’d among themselves; for were it once introduc’d, you shou’d have Panegyricks upon the Inquisition stuck up at the Corner of every street. The truth is, nothing can be more agreeable than the Inquisition to the literal Sense of the Words, Compel ’em to come in, if you only except some want of Formality in the Indictment; nothing more just or more laudable, than putting Hereticks to death, as the Spaniards do; if once it be suppos’d, that Jesus Christ commands to force ’em in. How horrible that some Christians shou’d hold a Doctrine, which once suppos’d, must make the Inquisition the most holy Institution that ever was upon Earth!
It’s possible the greatest part of my Readers may not have consider’d these things thorowly enough, to agree to all I have now said; yet I am persuaded, they can’t but allow what follows.<195>
That the same Reasons which authorize the Dragoon Crusade, and the other Methods in vogue with the French Government, being sufficient to authorize Wheel and Faggot, the Question is only this, to know at what Seasons, and in what Places the first kind of Constraint is preferable to the latter: and after this, in order to know, whether the Spanish Inquisition be a more proper way than the French Dragooning, ’twere requisite to know, which of the two methods is best fitted to the Genius of the Subjects upon whom they are serv’d; for to say, that the Inquisition puts People to death, whereas the Dragoonery only ruins ’em, is saying nothing. The Spaniards will presently reply, that they have to deal with a sort of People, who are never to be reclaim’d but by broiling; whereas the French have to do with more tractable Spirits, and there’s an end of that Dispute: each Nation employs the means which they deem properest; shou’d either be wrong, it is not out of any Disregard to the Command of Jesus Christ, but for want of a thorow Acquaintance with the Character of the Spanish Nation, or from a juster Knowledge of that of the French. Now it’s but a slight Fault in the sight of God, and a very low degree of Vertue, to be more or less ignorant of the Genius of a Nation; and as for the Judgment of Men, the Spaniards are under no pain about it, because they find their own Account in the Tribunal of the Inquisition, they preserve Unity by it as near as possible, and therefore may very well applaud themselves in having wisely adapted the means to the ends. And in case it did happen, that a Prince, in obeying the Command, Compel ’em to come in,<196> shou’d chuse amiss, as the Duke of Alva in the Low Countrys, when he chose the bloody way of Executions with those People; yet ’twere no hard matter to justify him in the thoughts of all equitable Persons, by only saying, that we must not judg of things by the Event, and that those means which in human Prudence are thought the fittest, have very often an unprosperous Issue. One might even insist, that the King of Spain had hit, in the Temper of the Duke of Alva, upon the true means for extinguishing the Reformation in the Low Countrys, had he but the Patience to let him continue for a few Years; and there’s good ground to believe, if Philip made a wrong step in sending such a Man into Flanders, that he made much a worse step in recalling him. He ought either never to have employ’d him there, or have let him go on in his own way. The Convertists of those times, such as were the least unreasonable of the Tribe, wish’d undoubtedly something, not unlike the illustrious*Roman’s Wish touching the Union of Cesar and Pompey. A world of People, and especially the French, talk and exclaim to this Day, against Charles V as tho, thro his Remisness, in not vigorously exerting his Arms early enough against Lutheranism, he had bin the Cause of its taking root in Germany, where, say they, he might easily have crush’d it, if he had bestir’d himself betimes. By this they confess, that generally speaking, there’s no such sure way of duly fulfilling the Precept of the Parable as extreme Severity.<197>
From hence I think it very plainly appears, that the literal Sense which I reject is justly chargeable with Wheel, Gibbet, Tortures, Phalaris’s Bull, and in general, with the most inhuman Executions; since it calls for ’em by a just and very natural Consequence, wherever the less rigorous Methods are judg’d insufficient to the end.
And here I can’t forbear exposing the Conceit of a modern French Monk, who, after†having shewn from Scripture and Ecclesiastical History, that the Council of Lateran was right, in delivering over Hereticks, the Albigenses for example, to the Secular Arm, to be punish’d with temporal Punishments; adds, that the Clemency of Princes, who treat ’em by gentler Methods, to recover ’em from their Errors and incline them to be instructed, is notwithstanding more to be prais’d, and more conformable to the Spirit of the Church: what our great Monarch (Louis XIV) pursues he, practises with so much Wisdom and Gentleness. The whole ground of this Monk’s Moderation was this: He saw the way with the Calvinists of France was, not punishing with Death, but tormenting ’em sundry other ways; this was Demonstration to him, that the Practice was more praise-worthy, and more agreeable to the Spirit of the Church; since else he must have fallen into this capital Heresy, that what is practis’d in France is not more agreeable to the Spirit of God which governs the Church, than what is practis’d in the Countrys under the Inquisition. But what wou’d this Monk mean by saying, that a Conduct, opposite to Scripture, and to Ecclesiastical Histo-<198>ry, is more to be commended, and more agreeable to the Spirit of the Church? This is strange Jargon. Can the Spirit of the Church be opposite to Scripture, and to the History of the Church? And when a Prince won’t do what’s recommended in Scripture and Church-History, can he merit greater Praises, and be more conform’d to the Spirit of the Church than when he does? After all, is it not overthrowing the Authority of Councils to say, it’s more praise-worthy to treat Hereticks, as they have bin treated in France for twenty years past, than to obey the Council of Lateran, which ordains the exterminating ’em?
See what a Lock our Doctors of the Romish Communion are got into. Their Councils have ordain’d Persecution to death, yet a great many Authors dare not condemn those Princes who keep within some Bounds of Moderation; and they who maintain the literal Sense of the Precept, Compel ’em to come in, are yet constrain’d to own upon several occasions, that ’tis more agreeable to the Spirit of the Church, not to compel by temporal Inflictions. This we plainly see in that Passage of the Jacobin71 just now cited. He proves from Scripture, and doubtless he cou’d not have overlook’d the Parable in question, that the Council of Lateran was very right; and yet the King of France, who for three years past has neither obey’d the Council of Lateran, nor the Scripture approving that Council, was more to be prais’d, and more led by the Spirit of the Church, than if he had conform’d to the Council of Lateran, which, according to this Author, was most exactly conformable to Scripture and Tradition. ’Tis not amiss to observe, that<199> the words of the Parable, taken in the literal Sense, don’t import a bare Permission only of compelling, but a most express Command; so that one is oblig’d, in pursuance of it, to force to the utmost of his Power.
I have met with another hitch of this kind, and which has a near relation to these matters, in a Treatise of Justus Lipsius. This Man having bin ruin’d in his Fortune by the Wars in the Low Countrys, fled to Leyden, where he found an honorable Retreat; and was chosen a Professor, making no great scruple of outwardly abjuring Popery. During his stay there, he publish’d some Pieces concerning Government, in which he advanc’d among other Maxims, That no State ought to suffer a Plurality of Religions, nor shew any Mercy towards those who disturb’d the establish’d Worship, but pursue ’em with Fire and Sword; it being better, one Member shou’d perish rather than the whole Body. Clementiae non hic locus, ure, seca, ut membrorum potius aliquod quam totum Corpus corrumpatur.72 This was very unhandsom in a Person kindly entertain’d by a Protestant Republick, which had newly reform’d its Religion; since it was loudly approving all the Rigors of Philip II, and the Duke d’Alva. And besides, ’twas a prodigious piece of Imprudence, and an execrable Impiety: since on one hand it might be infer’d from his Book, that none but the Reform’d Religion ought to be tolerated in Holland; and on the other, that the Pagans were very right in hanging all the Preachers of the Gospel. He was attack’d on this head by one Theodore Cornhert, and put into some disorder;<200> for we find him oblig’d to tack about, and declaring, that these two words, Ure, Seca, were only Phrases borrow’d from Chirurgery, to signify, not literally Fire and Sword, but some smart Remedy. All these Doubles are to be met with in his Treatise de una Religione. It is truly the very worst Book he ever wrote, except his impertinent Legend, and silly Poems written in his old Age, upon some Chappels of the Virgin; his Mind beginning about this time to be moap’d, as heretofore Pericles’s, so far as to suffer himself to be trick’d out Neck and Arms with Amulets, and old Womens’ Charms; being perfectly infatuated to the Jesuits, into whose Arms he threw himself, when he found the vile little Book we are now speaking of, began to be censur’d in Holland: this was it that made him sneak away privately from Leyden. To return to this little Book, it’s a wretched Medly of Passages, authorizing all the Pagan impious Maxims on which their horrible Persecutions of the primitive Christians were founded, and of a great many other Passages directly contrary. And as the Author does not avow his two words, Ure, Seca, in their full force, he has recourse to some pitiful Distinctions, amounting to this, that Hereticks shou’d be put to death but rarely, and then too very privately; but as for Fines, Banishment, Marks of Infamy, Degradation, there shou’d be no stinting ’em in these. All these Doctrines fall flat to the ground before the Reflections already made.
It’s certain, there are a great many Roman Catholicks, who approve the inflicting capital Punishments on other Christians, and undoubtedly they reason more consistently; but the prettiest<201> Conceit I have met with on this head is that of one Ferrand, a modern French Author, that they who put Hereticks to death do well, but not quite so well as they who don’t carry it so far as capital Punishment. This is extravagant; for if a Heretick deserves death, ’tis either because Jesus Christ has commanded to compel all Straglers to come in, or because the Heretick blasphemes in saying, for example, that the Priest has no more than a piece of Wafer in his hands, and that instead of the Son of God, he adores and swallows a bit of Bread. If he’s worthy of death by virtue of the Command of Jesus Christ, it’s as great a Sin to let him live, as it had bin in the Jews to let a Sorcerer live, whom God expresly commanded to be put to death. If he be worthy of death on the score of his scandalous Blasphemys, it’s an Impiety to spare him three days, for so long he only repeats his Blasphemys; whereas, if he were cut off quick, ’twou’d prevent the Danger of his infecting others. Nullus hic Clementiae locus, quoth Lipsius very justly, Ure, Seca; there’s no room for Mercy here, burn, broil, break on the Wheel incessantly, and without trifling time. See where the abominable Maxims of our Convertists lead; they can alledg nothing in favor of their pretendedly mollify’d Persecutions, in reality crueller than a quick Death, which does not necessarily infer an Obligation of dispatching a Heretick altogether as soon as a Highwayman, provided always he refuse to abjure his Tenets.
I remember a Dilemma that Tertullian makes use of against Trajan’s Instructions to Pliny the younger, by which he orders him not to promote In-<202>formations against the Christians; but if Accusers voluntarily impeach’d and convicted ’em by due course of Law, in such case to put ’em to death. Tertullian looks on this Order as absurd: for says he, If Christians recognized as such deserve Death, strict inquiry shou’d be made to find ’em out; and if they merit a Suspension of this inquiry, they ought not to be put to death when detected. O. sententiam, says he, necessitate confusam! negat inquirendos ut innocentes, & mandat puniendos ut nocentes. Parcit & saevit, dissimulat & animadvertit. Quid teipsum censura circumvenis? Si damnas, cur non & inquiris? Si non inquiris, cur non & absolvis?73
All things rightly consider’d, Persecutions which put Men to death are best of all, especially where they don’t spare the Lives of those who abjure: for to promise a man Life who is sentenc’d to die; to promise it, I say, on condition he abjures his Religion, is a dangerous Snare, leading to Acts of Hypocrisy, and the grievousest Sins against Conscience: Whereas were there nothing to be gain’d by dissembling, every one wou’d know what he must trust to, and resolve to die for what he believes the Truth. And there’s no doubt but he who is sincere in his Error, dies a Martyr for the Cause of God; since ’tis to God, as revealing himself to his Conscience, that he offers himself in Sacrifice; I say, in a voluntary Sacrifice, tho it is not in his choice either to live or die. It fares in this case much as when a Man commits a Rape on a Woman: He does her less injury than if he tempted her Vertue, and brought her to yield by his Wheedles, because the Consent makes her a sharer in<203> the Guilt; whereas his forcing her Body leaves not the least stain on the Purity or Innocence of her Soul in the sight of God. These are the good Fruits of your Persecutions which give no quarter; which, upon the Confession of such a Faith, sentence you to death, and dispatch you, even tho you profess’d you change your Opinion. But your teazing knavish Persecutions, which promise on one hand, which threaten on another, which tire you out of your life with Dispute and Instruction; which, in fine, whether you change inwardly, or whether you do not, will have it under your hand before they have done with you, or never expect a moment’s Comfort of your Life: these Persecutions, I say, are diabolical Temptations, which extort the Sin, as the Presents, the Flatterys, and Wheedles, work Women to yield to their Lovers vicious Desires.
I remember I have read that Mahomet II, intending to get rid of David Emperor of Trebizond, and his Children, gave ’em their Choice either of Death or of the Alcoran. Of nine Children which he had, there was one Son and one Daughter incapable, by reason of their tender Age, of chusing between these two Extremes; so they fell a Prey to Mahometism: but David and seven of his Sons chose Death, which they all suffer’d with a great deal of Constancy. This was a glorious Martyrdom, and by so much the more, as ’twas in their power to redeem their Lives, by abjuring the Christian Faith; and therefore with respect to them, and considering the Success, ’twas better that the Sultan left ’em the liberty of chusing. But on the other hand, what a violent Temptation did he lay ’em<204> under by promising Life? and therefore with regard to him the Order was much more malicious, than if he had simply condemn’d ’em to death; tho even in this case the Sacrifice had bin voluntary: just as in Sickness, when a Man sees he cannot recover, and makes a free Act of Resignation to the Will of God, he does that which shall be constru’d a voluntary Sacrifice of his Desires to those of his Creator.
Judg now, whether Persecution ben’t very execrable; since the only way to render it less evil, is its being made inexorable Death.
The Fourth Objection: We can’t condemn the literal Sense of the words, Compel ’em to come in, but we must at the same time condemn those Laws which God gave the Jews, and the Conduct of the Prophets on several occasions. The Disparity, and particular Reasons for giving the Old Law, which don’t take place under the Gospel.
Before I propose this Objection, I think my self oblig’d to say a word or two upon a Scruple which may arise in the minds of some People. It looks, say they, as tho you wou’d maintain that there are but two ways to be taken with Hereticks, that of putting ’em to death, or that of abandoning ’em to their Errors, without troubling your head, whether you go the<205> first way to work, or whether you take the second, with the thoughts of converting ’em to the true Church. This, add they, is what you plainly insinuate, when you say, that where Hereticks are condemn’d to death, it’s better not to offer, than offer ’em their Lives on condition they abjure. I answer, that my opinion is, all imaginable care shou’d be taken in endeavoring to convert those who are suppos’d to be in error, by Instructions, by charitable and calm Reasonings, by clearing up their Doubts, by Prayers to God in their behalf, and by all the Demonstrations of a Zeal truly Christian: but if all this will not work upon ’em, far from pressing ’em to change their Religion, we ought to let ’em know that they wou’d do very ill to change it, as long as their Minds are not enlighten’d. We ought to send up our Prayers to God for ’em, but still take care not to act the part of a tempting Angel, by promising ’em great Advantages if they change, or by threatning ’em with Death if they refuse. And here’s the true reason why of two Evils, to wit, that of condemning a Man to death unless he change his Religion, or condemning him whether he be willing to change or no; I shou’d be of the mind to chuse the latter as the least, because it does not expose the Man to the dangerous Temptation of sinning against Conscience, and puts him in a way, when he sees there’s no remedy, of sacrificing himself by a serious Act of Resignation to the Love of Truth: for it’s impossible a Man shou’d lay down his Life chearfully for what he believes the Truth, tho possibly it may be an Error, without a sincere Love of Truth. Let’s now consider this fourth Objection.<206>
It seems to be drawn from hence, that the Law of Moses allow’d no Toleration for Idolaters or false Prophets; that it punish’d with Death; and from the Prophet Elias’s putting the Priests of Baal to death, without sparing a Soul.74 Whence it happens, that all the Reasons I have bin laying out in the First Part of this Commentary prove nothing; because they prove too much, to wit, that the literal Sense of some of the Laws of Moses wou’d by the same Rule be impious and abominable. Now since God might, without a breach upon Order, have commanded the Jews to slay the false Prophets among them, it evidently follows, he may enjoin the putting Hereticks to death under the Gospel.
I don’t perceive I’m yet infected enough with the Spirit of Controversy, to bully this Objection, or look down on it with an air of Scorn and Contempt, as generally those do, who find themselves at a loss for a satisfactory Answer: I freely own the Objection is strong, and seems to be one pregnant Instance, that God has a mind we shou’d know scarce any one thing with certainty, by his having left so many Exceptions in his Word to almost all the common Notions of Reason. I even know those, who have not any greater difficultys against believing Almighty God Author of the Law of Moses, and of those Revelations which have occasion’d such slaughters of Men, than to see that this is repugnant to the purest Ideas of natural Equity: for in fine, say they, our common Notions being the primary Revelation, the original and mother Rule of every thing that falls under our cognizance, what reason is there to imagine that God shou’d<207> on one hand reveal to us, by natural Light, that Conscience ought not to be forc’d; and on the other, by the mouth of Moses or Elias, that we must slay all those who are not of such or such a Persuasion in matters of Religion? We must believe then, say they, that Moses acted in this from a mere human Spirit, and from Principles of pure Policy, such as he judg’d the fittest for the Preservation of that Commonwealth which he founded. It’s a rule with great Politicians, never to suffer any Innovations in Religion, and to appoint the grievousest Punishments for those who shall attempt the introducing any Change in this particular. Here, say they, is the foundation of Moses’s Laws in that point. Now the particular Notions of any one Man not being the Rule of Equity, there’s no ill Consequence in rejecting whatever Moses might have ordain’d from a private Judgment. With regard to Elias, these Free Thinkers wou’d have us likewise believe, that his Zeal transported him too far, and that he made use of some pious Fraud, from a good Intention, to make the Fire descend upon his Victims. But God forbid, that to get over this Objection, we shou’d ever adopt a Thought so dangerous and impious as these. I’m of opinion, we may give a reasonable Solution, upon a supposition, as no doubt it’s true, of the Inspiration of Moses and Elias.
To ground this Solution on the Principles I have made use of from the beginning of this Work, it’s fit I demonstrate that there’s no real Contradiction between that Revelation which God vouchsafes to all attentive Minds by the pure Ideas of good Sense, and that particular Revela-<208>tion communicated to Moses for the exterminating all Idolaters who shou’d rise up among the Jewish People. For were there a real Contradiction between the first Revelation and the Laws of Moses, ’twou’d follow from my Principles, that this were ground enough, a posteriori, to reject Moses either as a wilful Impostor, or as a Person seduc’d by some invisible Genius attempting to oppose the Orders of God. Let’s make it appear then, that there’s no real Contradiction in the case.
To this end, I reclaim my Readers to this Idea, which Reason and Experience do both confirm: That a Being can’t be said to contradict it self when it ordains several Laws, the Observation of one of which is sometimes inseparable from the Non-observance of others. For example, no body will say that God has contradicted himself in commanding Children to honor their Fathers, and commanding to do no murder; yet it is in some cases impossible to obey both these Laws at the same time, supposing there were Fathers who commanded their Children to take away a Man’s Life. If the Opinion of some modern Philosophers be true, it is God who moves all Matter by certain general Laws, and among others by these; That all Motion shall be made in a right line, and if an invincible Obstacle hinders, the moving Body shall turn off to one side. It’s evident, that in consequence of these two Laws, Motion shall often be made in a circular line. Will any one therefore say that God overthrows his first Law? ’Twere the grossest Ignorance to fancy so. Good Sense teaches us, that one of these two Laws is subordinate to<209> the other, and that the requisite Conditions presenting for the executing of one of ’em, the Legislator, to maintain an Uniformity, must abandon the other Law, and execute this, to execute that other in its turn as soon as the Conditions to which it is annext present. The same thing happens between the Laws of the Union of Soul and Body; by one of which, according to the same Authors, it’s ordain’d, that as often as the Soul desires to move an Arm, the animal Spirits shall flow to the Muscles which serve for moving the Arm. Yet a Paralytick may wish long enough, and desire to move his Arm; it won’t do. Is it that God forgets his first Law? No; What then is the reason? ’Tis this, that before the animal Spirits arrive at the Muscles of the Arm, they meet with a rub or obstruction by the way; which, in consequence of another Law between Bodys, reflects or turns ’em aside. This Law cannot be executed, without the other being suspended; God complying with each in its turn, and postponing one when the juncture for the other presents; the observing of which must inevitably cross the Execution of that.
Accordingly to conclude, that such or such a Command cannot come from God, it is not sufficient that it be repugnant to the pure Ideas of Reason, and that we cannot obey it without shocking natural Light; but we must moreover be assur’d that this Command is not the necessary Consequence of a Law, which God has in reality establish’d: for if once it appears to be a necessary Consequence from such a Law, we ought not any longer to think it strange, that it’s ex-<210>pedient in some cases not to obey a particular Law of Nature: just as we don’t think it strange, that it’s sometimes expedient to disobey that most natural Law of obeying the Will of those to whom we owe our being, because we see this Disobedience is a necessary Consequence of other Laws establish’d by God, which we perceive by common Sense to be very just; such as those of not killing nor defrauding our Neighbor. From hence it’s easily conceiv’d, how when the Jews heard Moses give a Law for immediately putting any Man to death, who shou’d rise up among ’em, and teach Doctrines opposite to the Fundamentals of their Religion, the only true Worship of that God who had brought ’em out of the House of Bondage; it’s, I say, easily conceiv’d how there shou’d be no room for their suspecting, that this Law did not come from God, upon the pretence of any Contradiction in it to the purest Ideas of Equity, which require that every one shou’d follow the Dictates of his Conscience: This, I say, is easily conceiv’d, and from this Reason.
That every Man, who contemplates the Idea of a Being sovereignly perfect, must distinctly conceive, that God may communicate himself to a People in a particular manner, and by an oral Revelation declare, he will chuse ’em for his peculiar Inheritance, and be not only a God, but also a King to ’em, and Head of their temporal Government. And therefore when Moses on the part of God declar’d to the Children of Israel, that God remember’d the Promise which he had made to Abraham, that he wou’d deliver ’em by a mighty Hand and an out-stretch’d Arm<211> from their Egyptian Bondage, and bring ’em into the Land of Canaan; in a word, that he wou’d be their God, and they shou’d be his People: ’twas natural for ’em to believe these words of Moses, and not have the least distrust of their being true, after all the mighty Wonders and Miracles he had wrought to justify his Mission. Here then we find this People rationally persuaded that the sovereign Lord of all things, the infinitely perfect Being, is its God, and its King properly and immediately; and from henceforward, their obeying particular Laws, which God enjoins ’em, shall be not only a Duty of Religion, but that also of a good Subject, who observes the politickal and fundamental Laws of the Government under which he lives: and Disobedience to the Laws of God, shall for the future be punishable not only at the Bar of Conscience, but at the Tribunal of Civil Justice also; forasmuch as the Laws of God are those of the temporal Sovereign, and political Head of the State. Now as the Basis and fundamental Law of this State, is that of having no other God but him who brought ’em out of the Land of Egypt; as this is the first Covenant betwixt God and the People of Israel; betwixt God, I say, consider’d not simply as Creator, but as supreme and temporal Lord of the Jewish Commonwealth: it’s plain, all Idolatry was punishable by Death, and that any one who preach’d or intic’d to the Service of other Gods, and to the Religion of the Nations round ’em, was as liable to capital Punishment, as he wou’d be, who shou’d at this day exhort the People of London to take an Oath of Allegiance to the King of France or Spain. So that<212> whoever was but the least attentive to that natural Light, which informs that we ought not to force Conscience, might easily have conceiv’d upon the first hearing the Laws of the 13th of Deuteronomy, that they were righteous and just; and that they might flow from the same God, who tells us in general by the Oracles of common Sense and Reason, that no Man shou’d be forc’d by temporal Punishments to the Profession of this or of that Religion.
There was no more difficulty in reconciling these two things, than in reconciling the Disobedience of a Son, order’d by his Father to commit a Murder, with the fifth Command of the Decalogue. For as that which makes the neglect of the fifth Commandment in this case no Transgression, is, that its non-Observance is a necessary Consequence of the Observance of another Command; so that which made the forcing of Conscience among the Jews no Violation of natural Right in the Case specified in Deuteronomy Chapter 13, was its depending as by a necessary Consequence on the Observance of the fundamental Laws of their Commonwealth. Since therefore one Law may hinder the Execution of another, and yet no reason to suspect that both are not given by the same Legislator; the Jews cou’d have no ground to doubt whether the Laws of the 13th of Deuteronomy came from the same God, who by the Oracles of natural Light ordains, that there shall be no forcing of Conscience. But wherefore, will some say, why put a Man to death for persuading his Neighbor to worship another Divinity, which in his Judgment he believes to be the true? Because, by that particular Form of Government, and in that<213> Theocracy under which the People of Israel liv’d, this was an overt Act of High Treason; ’twas an Attempt of Rebellion against the Sovereign Magistrate. Now since Order Eternal and Immutable confers a Power on the Magistrate of punishing Treason and Rebellion, and whatever else tends to the overthrowing the Constitution; it’s plain, that God being once constituted Head of the Jewish Commonwealth, whoever shou’d afterwards alienate his own Allegiance, or endeavor to draw away others, deserv’d to die as a Traitor and Rebel: nor will it avail him, that in so doing he follow’d the Light of his Conscience, this being a singular Case, in which God by an extraordinary Appointment, to wit, that of a Theocratical Government among the Jews, derogates from the Immunitys of Conscience.
The Crime in this case becomes punishable by the Secular Arm, in quality of Treason and Rebellion against the State, and not as it is simply a Sin against the moral and metaphysical Obligation Men are under of worshipping the only true God. Whence it follows, that there’s no Consequence to be drawn from this Case to that of the Gospel, because the Precepts of the Gospel are not the political Laws of the State, except in some chief Instances without which human Society cou’d not subsist; for example, the forbidding Murder, and False Witness, and Robbery, is at the same time a Political and Evangelical Law: whence it happens, that shou’d a Man commit Murder or Robbery from the Dictates of his Conscience, he is nevertheless punish’d by the Secular Authority, because the Magistrate<214> loses not his inherent Right of cutting off from the Commonwealth whatever necessarily destroys the Security of its Members, and tends to dissolve the Society; he loses not this Power, I say, tho a Man shou’d by chance be found, who committed Murder and Robbery from an Impulse of Conscience.
The Conduct of Elias is not near so considerable an Objection as the thirteenth Chapter of Deuteronomy, because it is only a particular Example not propos’d to our Imitation by any Command of God; whereas the Law of Moses is general with regard to the Jews, and deliver’d absolutely and without any restriction to Time or Place. Upon this particular Case of the Priests of Baal put to death by the Prophet’s Command, we have only one of these two things to offer; either that God, who may dispense with his own Laws in certain Cases, thought fit that these false Priests shou’d be put to death at that time, because the natural Impression made by such an Adventure on the Machine of the Body, and on the Spirits of those who shou’d hear or see it, might be fruitful in thousands and thousands of very considerable Combinations physical and moral: or what seems to me more probable, that Elias had a Revelation that these Priests were insincere at heart, and maliciously abus’d the Credulity of the People for filthy Lucre. Now in this case we declare that no Heretick has right to a Toleration; and we freely consent that Minister and People be condemn’d to the Gibbet, if we know certainly that they preach Errors and Heresy, to them known as<215> such, from mere Malice and worldly Interest. In this case let ’em all be truss’d up.
I might here alledg, with Spencer a learned Man of our own Nation, that God had ordain’d several things among the Jews, which are no farther reasonable, than as, consider’d with regard to the Situation of that People, to their perverse Inclinations and absurd Prejudices, they were capable of preventing great Evils, or procuring indirectly some Good: and in this number I might reckon that Law which condemns false Teachers to death, but I have no need of this Remark.
Let’s now examine the Difference between the literal Meaning of the Precept, Compel ’em to come in, and the objected Examples of the old Law.
1. The Jews had no Orders to send forth Preachers for the propagating their Religion, and instructing all Nations in it. They confin’d themselves to their own Country, without almost any Commerce with other People; so that the Command of putting those to death, who conform’d not to their Religion, concern’d only those of their own Nation, who shou’d attempt changing the God of Abraham for any of the Pagan Divinitys round ’em. Now it was morally impossible that a Jew, bred up in Judaism, shou’d attempt this Change from any Motive of Conscience, or from any other Principle than that of a Spirit of Rebellion, Libertinism, or mere Malice, in which case he justly deserv’d to die; and there’s a very notable difference between this and that Constraint which the Convertists speak of: for Christians being oblig’d by their Master’s Commands to instruct all Nations, they must of<216> necessity have to do with People educated in Principles different from their own, and under the power of Prejudices which must needs destroy their taste for the Gospel. So that to say Christians shou’d make use of Constraint, is saying that they ought to force People who are sincerely persuaded they can’t forsake their own Religion with a good Conscience.
2. In the second place, the Proceedings against Seducers under the Law of Moses, might indeed be severe enough; yet they left their Consciences intirely free. This Law did not force Men to abjure what they believ’d true, it did not tempt ’em by the hopes of Life to act a part; in a word, they dy’d in the full Enjoyment of all the Principles of their Conscience, if they had any, and were never constrain’d to live in Anxiety and Remorse, by Promises of Life if they comply’d with the publick Worship. Death was their certain Lot, without the Alternative of Death or Renunciation. On the contrary, our Convertists will have Men threaten’d in the first place, and this Condition annex’d, that they who abjure shall be quit of all Prosecution, and stand fair for Rewards; and that their Threats may work the more efficaciously, the Craftiest have a way of threatning such Deaths as are attended with slow and exquisite Torments, or depriving People of all means of flying, or subsisting at home. This constrains a world to betray the Lights of their Conscience, and live afterwards under an Oppression of Spirit, which disorders, and at last drives ’em to despair. What can be more cruel? The Law, which is thought so hard, was a Honey-moon in comparison of such a Gospel.<217>
3. Besides, the Severitys under the antient Law were limited to certain particular Cases; as when Elias, for example, from a prophetick Impulse upon his Spirit, acted by a dispensing Power, and even from a Knowledg of the Heart of those false Prophets whom he slew, and of their obstinate fraudulent Malice; or else to certain Doctrines tending to subvert the fundamental Constitution of the Commonwealth, as that for example, of not acknowledging God, the God of Abraham and Isaac, who was become the sovereign Lord of the Jews in a more especial manner by Covenant and formal Contract. Nothing of this nature can be pleaded in behalf of the present Convertists. They pretend that Jesus Christ has commanded Violence simply and absolutely; and in reality there’s no Restriction in the words either to Time, or Place, or Doctrine. No body under the present Dispensation can tell, whether a Heretick be sincerely or maliciously in Error. Christians are under no Theocratical Form of Government; they have a Discipline, and Canon Law distinct from the Civil: Christianity is not the fundamental Constitution of the State, in such a manner that a King is supreme in his Dominions only by virtue of being Christian; for Constantine and Clovis acquir’d not a tittle of Right by being baptiz’d, beyond what they enjoy’d in a state of Paganism: and Julian the Apostate reign’d not less rightfully than if he had bin a Christian. For which reason Magistrates shou’d commit the Care of punishing Hereticks to God alone, so long as they disturb not the publick Peace; I mean, so long as they obey the Laws, since purely as they are Hereticks they offend not against<218> those things which Magistrates have a right to impose.
4. Last of all, the Jews tolerated all the different Sects which were form’d on the various Interpretations of the Law of Moses, and punish’d only those who subverted the Foundation, by quitting the Religion of their Country for good and all, to go after strange Gods. They even tolerated the most detestable Heresys, and which by consequence destroy’d all Religion; such as the Sect of the Sadduces, who deny’d the Immortality of the Soul, and the Resurrection of the Body: but forasmuch as they talk’d not of renouncing the true God to worship Baal or any other Idol, they not only suffer’d ’em patiently, but we even don’t find that J. Christ ever blam’d their Conduct in this; nor is it to be doubted but he had reproach’d the Pharisees with it, if he had thought their tolerating ’em unjustifiable. If the Convertists of these days wou’d square themselves by the Practice under Moses’s Law, they ought to punish only such as turn’d Jews, Pagans, or Mahometans, and bear with all the different Opinions which might be rais’d on such or such a Passage of Scripture. But very far from this, they have those among ’em, who say that the Church of Rome has a hundred times more right to compel and persecute dissenting Christians than mere Infidels.
I have shewn elsewhere,75 that Princes cannot establish their own Religion by a politickal Law, obliging their Subjects to the Profession of it under pain of High Treason and Rebellion. God alone had a power to do this, by declaring it immediately to Moses, and confirming this Pur-<219>pose by incontestable Miracles: so that Princes may ordain what they please in matters of Religion, their Subjects may lawfully dispense with their Submission, provided they can in truth and sincerity alledg that famous Saying of St. Peter’s, said before him by a* Heathen; It’s better to obey God than Men. And if they proceed to Constraint, they are guilty of the same Sin as those who were Persecutors of the Apostles: for the Heathen Emperors who establish’d Paganism in their Dominions by a Law, had not hereby acquir’d a jot the more right to persecute the Apostles.
I must conclude this Chapter by observing, that natural Light, the primary and original Rule of Equity, can never acknowledg Compulsion, which is directly repugnant to it, as divine; unless it appear to be the necessary Consequence of some Law, known by another Means to come from God. Now Compulsion under the Gospel can be the necessary Consequence of no other Law known by another Means to come from God; and nevertheless it directly contradicts the Rule of natural Equity. We must therefore conclude from the irrefragable Lights of right Reason, that Jesus Christ has not ordain’d Constraint. Let’s answer on this occasion to those who alledg Moses, much the same as Jesus Christ answer’d those who alledg’d him in favor of Divorce: ’Twas because of the Hardness of Heart<220> and incorrigible Proneness of the Jews to Idolatry, Murmuring, and Rebellion, that Moses ordain’d Death for all those who shou’d not conform to the Religion of the Country; but from the beginning it was not so. We must therefore resolve things to their first Origin, and regulate ’em by that natural Law which irradiates the human Mind, before any positive Law is propos’d.
The Fifth Objection: Protestants can’t reject the literal Sense of the Parable, without condemning the wisest Emperors and Fathers of the Church, and without condemning themselves; since they in some places don’t tolerate other Religions, and have sometimes punish’d Hereticks with Death: Servetus for example. The Illusion they are under who make this Objection. Particular Reasons against tolerating Papists.
Ever since the Court of France has bin infatuated with the Spirit of Persecution, we have had the Lord knows how many Parasites, mercenary Scriblers, bigotted Flatterers, employ’d in compiling with the exactest care all the Laws publish’d of old by the Christian Emperors against Arians, Donatists, Manicheans, and other Sectarys; the Emperors, I say, egg’d on by the Zeal and Importunitys of their Clergy, and extol’d for it to the skys by some of<221> the Fathers of the Church; particularly St. Austin, who has written the Apology of Persecution with more Intenseness of Thought, than Tertullian that of the Christian Religion. We shall keep this Father’s Dole in reserve for him to another place. At present I shall only say a word or two in answer to what is objected from the Example of Constantine, Theodosius, Honorius, &c. that if their Actions were the Rule of Right, there’s no Crime but might be justify’d by it. So that it’s making a mock of Folks, when the Question being concerning a Point of moral Right, they come and alledg, that such an Emperor and such an Emperor has authoriz’d it. Quid tum? What’s this to the purpose? Is the way of the Court the Rule of Equity? Is this the School where we are to learn what is just and unjust? Is it not well known, that temporal Greatness is the chief End of Princes and their Counsellors, and that they sacrifice every other Consideration to their Interest, especially when Persons acted by an indiscreet Zeal bait it with Promises of earthly and celestial Glory? I shou’d think my time very ill bestow’d, shou’d I spend a quarter of an hour, in discussing the particular Reasons which mov’d these Emperors to publish very severe, and even sanguinary Laws, against the Sects of their times. The shortest way is saying, there’s no Consequence to be drawn from what they have done, to what right Reason requires shou’d be done, and that our Convertists will never be able to shew this Consequence. Had we the secret Historys of all their Courts, as we have that of Justinian’s; had we all the Remonstrances, and<222> all the Accounts which they call Libels, all that the Pagans and Sectarians had remark’d on their Conduct; we shou’d see ’em in a light that wou’d be none of the favorablest to them. But ’tis their good fortune, that we scarce have any Memoirs of them, but from the hands of Flatterers, or Persons prepossess’d in their favor. Yet there’s enough, did we duly weigh the Circumstances, to perceive that they little consulted the eternal Ideas of unalterable Order, but issu’d their Injunctions just as they came, according to occasions, and according to the Views of temporal Advantage which were suggested to ’em. Oh! but the Fathers have applauded their Zeal. Quid tum? Indeed! And what if they did? Were not the Fathers, as well as the Ecclesiasticks of these days, almost ever ready to make the present Advantage their measure of Right and Wrong? Is it not a scandal to Christianity, that the Fathers shou’d declaim with so prodigious force against the persecuting Pagans and Arians, and by and by praise with all their force the persecuting Emperors, and sollicit severe Edicts? ’Tis true, they made a great difference as to Words, for they wou’d by no means have the Rigors on their own side call’d Persecution; they laid up all the odious Names for the opposite Partys. But even this is ridiculous, and moves our Pity. The truth is, we ought never to mention the Maxims on which they reason’d in different conjunctures; it’s much better to hide their Weakness, and the little care they had taken to fix any general Principles; living as ’twere from hand to mouth, and arguing like Weather-cocks, sometimes on one side and some-<223>times on another, as time and occasion serv’d. Let’s stir this Matter no more, but content our selves with demanding from the Convertists a Proof of the Consequence76 of this Enthymeme.77
The Fathers applauded the Emperors who persecuted Hereticks:
Therefore the persecuting Hereticks is just and highly pleasing to God.
I don’t see why this Argument shou’d have any more weight with us now, than another of the same stamp, which will possibly be thus advanc’d a hundred years hence.
The Bishops of France, the Jesuits, and the Monks have extol’d the Methods by which Lewis XIV destroy’d Calvinism, as being perfectly holy and divine:
Therefore these Methods were perfectly divine and holy.
I can’t forbear representing, by one memorable Instance, to what an Excess the Fathers carry’d their unjust Prejudices.
There was a Village in the East call’d*Callicin, in which the Jews had a Synagogue, and the Valentinian Hereticks a Meeting-house. A Procession of Hermits passing by one day with their Votarys, happen’d to receive some Insult from these Villagers. Immediately the noise of it spread, and reach’d to the Bishop’s Ears, who stir’d up his People with such Success, that they immediately went along with the Hermits, and laid the Jewish Synagogue, and Heretick Conventicle in Ashes. This was a manifest Invasion of the<224> Prince’s Authority; for surely ’tis to him, or to his Lieutenants, that Bishops ought to have recourse for Reparation of Injurys, and not revenge themselves off-hand by Seditions stir’d up among a giddy Populace.
He who commanded in the East under Theodosius, understood his Duty, and was jealous enough of his Master’s Authority, not to fail giving an Account of all that pass’d; and the Emperor, upon notice of it, order’d the Bishop to rebuild the Synagogue at his own Expence, and the Incendiarys to be punish’d. Nothing cou’d be more equitable than this Decree, nor farther from excessive Severity; for in fine, the Conventicle and Synagogue had both stood in that place by the Prince’s Authority, and cou’d not be remov’d but by his Orders: and all popular Commotions are so much the more punishable, as those who foment ’em have not the least shadow of Right, or pretence for so doing; and such we may suppose Bishops, a Set of Men notoriously culpable, if they exhort not Christians to the forgiving of Injurys, and to all kinds of Moderation. But as gentle as this Punishment appears, the Eastern Bishops were delicate enough to find it insupportable; and as St. Ambrose was within reach of the Court, and a proper Person to represent their pretended Grievances, they charg’d him with this Affair. Matters not permitting St. Ambrose to go to Court in Person, he* wrote to Theodosius, and represented that his Decree had laid a Bishop under the necessity, either of disobeying his Prince,<225> or betraying his own Ministry, and tended to make him, either a Martyr or Prevaricator; that Julian the Apostate, having attempted to rebuild the Jewish Synagogues, Fire fell from Heaven on the Builders, and that could well happen again; that Maximus, some days before he was abandon’d by God, had issu’d the like Edict. In fine, St. Ambrose, after he had, in terms of Duty and Respect, exhorted the Prince to recal his Order, let him understand, that if his Letter had not the desir’d effect, he shou’d be oblig’d to remonstrate from the Pulpit. The Emperor made him no favorable Answer; and St. Ambrose, one day in his Sermon, to be as good as his word, address’d† himself to the Emperor as on the part of God, and lectur’d him pretty roundly. At which the too good and over-easy Emperor was not at all offended, but on the contrary, promis’d the Preacher, as he was descending from his Throne, that he wou’d give Orders to recal his Decree. Some of the Lords who were present insisted, that at least, to save the Honor of his Imperial Dignity, so unworthily affronted by the Rabble, he wou’d order the Hermits, who were Authors of this Riot, to be chastis’d; but St. Ambrose reprimanded ’em with such a Spirit, that they durst not say a word more of the Matter: so the Edict was revok’d.
This shews, that the Reign of Theodosius was perfectly Priestridden, and that he was deliver’d, bound hand and foot, to the Mercy of the Clergy; which cou’d not chuse but bring a Deluge of Woes upon the Nonconformists. Is not this a<226> strange thing, that a Man who passes for a Saint, shou’d have bin so violent an Advocate for a Seditious Bishop, and for all the Furys of a mutinous Rabble; and that he shou’d pretend ’twere better submit to death than give some Mony in obedience to the Emperor’s Order, for the rebuilding a Structure, demolish’d in open Contempt of the Emperor’s Authority? What wonder after this, that the Worship the Pagans paid their Divinitys, more majorum,78 shou’d be punish’d with death, and declar’d High-Treason, by this* same Emperor? Did the Pagan Emperors do more against the Christians? and if they spill’d more Blood than he, is it not because the Pagan Votarys had not the same Constancy as Christians, to maintain their Belief at the expence of their Lives?
But what Answer shall we make for those Protestants, who won’t allow Liberty of Conscience to other Sects? This we are next to speak to.
I say then, that there are some Distinctions necessary to be premis’d: for either they won’t allow other Sects from abroad to come and settle among ’em; or if they spring up among themselves, they take care to prevent their Growth; or last of all, they disperse and expel ’em after they have bin form’d and establish’d. These different Circumstances excuse their Non-Toleration more or less: tho if we consider this matter impartially, and by that Light in which right Reason shews it, it cannot be absolutely excus’d unless in cases where it’s purely political, and indispensably necessary for the publick Safety of the<227> State. To explain my self.
Not to tolerate those who entertain certain particular Opinions in Matters of Religion, and who infuse ’em into others, implys certain Penaltys on those who infuse ’em, and that these Penaltys be ordain’d by the Authority of the Magistrate. To this end it were necessary that Princes shou’d have a Right of enjoining the Belief of certain things on their Subjects, and of restraining ’em to such a Conscience, rather than any other; since without such a Right it’s plain, they cou’d not impose Penaltys on those who had not the same Notions of things as they themselves have. Now if it appear, that they have no such Right, it follows, they can appoint no such Punishments; and yet all who are against the tolerating certain Sects impose Penaltys on ’em: they act therefore without any Justice or Reason, and consequently Non-Toleration is repugnant to Reason and Justice; since from what we have said before, it’s manifest, that those who enact Laws obliging Conscience, exceed their Power, and overstrain their Authority: whence it follows, that those Laws are actually null and void in themselves.
However, there is an Exception to be made, which manifestly arises from the Remarks laid down in another place,79 to wit, That Sovereigns, having an essential and unalienable Right of enacting Laws for the Preservation of the State and Society over which they are plac’d, may ordain, that all, without distinction, who endanger the publick Peace by Doctrines tending to Sedition, Rapine, Murder, Perjury, &c. be punish’d according to the Nature of their Crimes;<228> accordingly any Sect, which strikes at the Foundation of human Society, and bursts the Bands of the publick Peace and Amity, by exciting Seditions, by preaching up Rapine, Murder, Calumny, Perjury, deserves to be immediately cut off by the Sword of the Magistrate: but so long as the Principles of any Sect overthrow not those Laws which are the Foundation of the Security of Individuals; so long as they preach Submission to the Magistrate, and the chearful Paying of Taxes and Subsidys impos’d by him; and maintain, that no Man ought to be disturb’d in the Possession of his Right, or in the peaceable Enjoyment of his Goods, moveable or immoveable, of his Reputation, Life, &c. I don’t think there can be any just ground for vexing ’em on the score of their not obeying any particular Law enjoining such a certain Belief, or such a particular form of Divine Worship: for as I have already observ’d, a Magistrate, who enacts Laws of this kind, and enforces the Observation of ’em under pain of Death, Prison, Galley, &c. manifestly exceeds his Power.
If any one therefore wou’d know my Opinion in particular, concerning those Protestant States which allow but one Religion; I answer, That if they act purely from a regard to the suppos’d Falseness of the Opinions of other Religions, they are wrong; for who has requir’d this at their hands? Is Falshood to be overcome by any other Arms than those of Truth? Is not attacking Errors with a Cudgel, the same Absurdity as attacking Bastions with Syllogism and Harangue? Sovereigns therefore who wou’d discharge their Duty aright, ought not to send forth their Soldiers, their Hangmen, their Tipstaffs, their Life-<229>guard-men, their Pursuivants, against those who teach Doctrines different from their own; but slip their Divines, their Ministers, their Professors at ’em, and order ’em to endeavor with all their Might, the Confutation of the obnoxious Doctrines: but if these Means are not sufficient to silence their Adversarys, or bring ’em over to the Religion of the Country, they shou’d e’en let ’em be quiet, and for the rest, content themselves with their obeying the Municipal and Politickal Laws of the State. So much for what concerns those Doctrines which Protestants consider simply as false; this Falseness gives ’em not the least Right of treating their Subjects ill.
But the case is not the same with regard to those Opinions which they look upon not only as false, but also as tending directly, and in the Nature of ’em, to the Disturbance of the State, and the endangering the Sovereign’s Authority: for as to all such Doctrines, I pronounce ’em unworthy of a Toleration; and for this Reason I think it but just, that all those States, which have shaken off the Yoke of Popery, shou’d make the most severe Laws against its Re-admission; and that those who have Papists still in their Bosom, shou’d keep ’em chain’d up like so many Lions or Leopards, that is, deprive ’em of the Power of doing Mischief, by the severest Penal Laws, and those duly put in Execution against ’em, that there may be no room for apprehending any thing from their restless Contrivances. Yet I shou’d never be for leaving ’em expos’d to Insults in their Persons, or for disturbing ’em in the Enjoyment of their Estates, or the private Exercise of their Religion, or for doing ’em any<230> Injustice in their Appeals to Law, or for hindring ’em to breed up their Children in their own Faith, or to retire with their Effects, and after the Sale of their Estates, as often and as many of ’em as pleas’d, to any other Country: much less for constraining ’em to assist at the Exercises of a Religion which their Consciences condemn’d, or recompensing those who did; this being properly the Part and Office of a tempting Demon, and tending to make all those who lov’d worldly Honors and Dignitys betray the Lights of Conscience. I shou’d be for a Law, excluding new Converts from all the Privileges and Favors of which they were made incapable by their former Religion; because thus we might be assur’d, that their Conversion proceeded purely from Conviction, and that they did not play the Hypocrites. But as the keeping this sort of Men to strict Discipline is only intended with regard to a temporal Good; I shou’d not disapprove, where there may be particular and weighty Reasons against having any jealousy, the granting ’em a greater Liberty, and even as great as the Interest of the State will permit: for, as I have already said, the Falseness of Opinions is not the true Rule of Toleration or Non-Toleration, but their Influence with regard to the publick Peace and Security.
If those of the Church of Rome will impartially consider it, they must allow, that I don’t here destroy what I had bin establishing thro-out this Commentary, against the Compulsion allegedly enjoin’d by Jesus Christ: for the Laws which I propose to be made against them, are not with a design of forcing ’em to<231> change Religion, but purely as a Precaution against all Attempts on their part; and to prevent their having it in their power to force the Conscience of their Fellow-Subjects, and even the Sovereign himself. I don’t pretend, by confuting the literal Sense of the words, Compel ’em to come in, to condemn Sovereigns, who for just causes may keep a strict Rein over some of their Subjects. I don’t blame the King or Republick of Poland for being upon their guard against the bold Attempts of the Cossacks, or the King of France for building Citadels and Forts in Citys which have bin subject to revolt. And therefore what I have bin saying just now cannot be turn’d upon my self, since that kind of Constraint which I allow against Papists in Protestant States does not affect their Consciences, nor has any other aim than to prevent their disturbing the State, which the Principles of their Religion directly lead to.
In effect, their Councils and their Popes having a thousand times approv’d Persecution, and injoin’d it on Princes upon the severest Penaltys; their Princes having exercis’d in all Ages all manner of barbarous Crueltys on Hereticks, or reputed Hereticks; and never having kept their Promises of letting ’em live in quiet, tho ratify’d by the solemnest Oaths, but breaking thro ’em without the least scruple, whenever they had a fit occasion: Their Bishops, the rest of their Clergy, and their Popes always egging ’em on to this Breach of Faith, and extolling and blessing ’em for it, as a most holy, most pious, and most divine Action; as may be seen in the Briefs of Innocent XI and his Harangue to a full Con-<232>sistory in praise of Lewis XIV and by infinite Panegyricks, with which the Pulpits ring all over France: In a word, it being the current and avow’d Doctrine of the Church of Rome, that Hereticks, of whom they form a more hideous Idea than of any Monster, may and ought to be punish’d, and compel’d to come in, according to the Command of Jesus Christ, which they expound literally, and never tolerated while there’s a possibility of preventing it. All these things, I say, rightly weigh’d, Prudence and common Sense require that we shou’d consider Papists as a Party of Men who look on all Government in the hands of Protestants with an evil eye, and with the sharpest regret; who omit no means to wriggle themselves into power, to recover the Churches and Benefices they were once possess’d of, and to extirpate what they call Heresy; which they think themselves oblig’d to, by the Command of Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of their Church; a Spirit in their persuasion infallible. I pass over what the more devoted to the Pope pretend, that he has a power of absolving Subjects from their Oaths and Allegiance, and depriving Kings of their Dominions, and deposing ’em when not obsequious enough to the See of Rome; and content my self with insisting as before, and saying in one word, that Protestant Princes have the very same Reasons not to tolerate Papists, as an Emperor of China might have for banishing the Popish Missionarys, shou’d they frankly own that, as soon as they had the power in their hands, they’d force all People to receive Baptism. I have said so much of this in the fifth<233> Chapter of the first Part, that ’twill be enough to make an Application of it here to those of the Church of Rome; forasmuch as if they were sincere in the point, they must answer, to whoever shou’d ask ’em, in case they were uppermost, whether they wou’d grant Protestants a Toleration, that in truth they never wou’d, but oblige ’em to go to Mass by fair or by foul means. I shan’t here insist in particular upon another Remark, That whoever thinks it lawful to force Conscience, must by a natural Consequence believe the greatest Crimes become Acts of Piety in his hands, provided they tend to the destroying of Heresy: I insist not, I say, on this point here, and only desire my Reader to remember I have bin full enough on it elsewhere,80 and apply it to those of the Church of Rome. And now, to shorten this Article, I offer this one Argument, which deserves to be consider’d.
That Party which, if uppermost, wou’d tolerate no other, and wou’d force Conscience, ought not to be tolerated.
Now such is the Church of Rome.
Therefore it ought not to be tolerated.
Nor let any one say, it follows from hence that Protestants cou’d not be entitled to a Toleration from the Church of Rome; nor pretend to prove it by saying, that on this very score, because the Protestants wou’d not tolerate her if they were uppermost, she is oblig’d not to tolerate them when it is her turn: let no one, I say, reason thus, because there is this material difference between her and us, that Non-Toleration on our part is depriv’d of that fearful Sting, that most odious and most criminal Quality<234> which it has from Popery, to wit, the forcing Conscience by the most violent Temptations into Acts of Hypocrisy and deadly Remorse; whereas Protestants allow People a liberty of removing with their Effects, or serving God privately in their own way. So that the Major of my Syllogism cannot be retorted, there being a Clause in it which concerns not Protestants. In the mean time I shall observe one thing, which is of weight against the literal Sense of the Precept.
That by an odd Counterstroke it furnishes a pretence of persecuting even against those who might naturally be most inclin’d to tolerate: for in effect, if Prudence, and even Religion require, that a Prince shou’d remove from his State any thing that might bring Persecution upon it, which must naturally draw on all the Horrors and Villanys set forth in the fifth Chapter of the first Part;81 the Church of Rome might justly suspect, that if Protestants were uppermost, they wou’d not grant her a Toleration: for fear then of coming under such a misfortune one day, she thinks her self oblig’d to prevent and crush them. So that this literal Sense cannot be embrac’d by either Party, but by a Counterstroke it sets the other upon Persecution, how great soever its natural Aversion might be to the thing. Whence it appears that this pretended Precept, Compel ’em to come in, by its natural Action and Re-action, must be a continual and insatiable Principle of Horrors and Abominations over the face of the Earth. An evident Argument it never was the Meaning or Intention of Jesus Christ.<235>
Yet if we judg equitably of things, we are oblig’d to say, that the fear of a Retaliation warrants not the Church of Rome’s anticipating the Persecution of Protestants: 1. Because, as I have already observ’d, Non-Toleration among them has lost its sting. 2. Because in the places where they are tolerated they behave themselves like good and faithful Subjects, having never taken up Arms till control’d in their Liberty of Conscience; which shou’d be a sufficient Security to their Governors, that they never will give ’em any disturbance, so long as they are allow’d to serve God in their own way. 3. Because in Countrys where the Government is Protestant, they treat Papists with a great deal of Tenderness, as long as they see ’em conform to the Laws of the Land, in any degree becoming good Subjects; in Holland, for example, and in the Dutchy of Cleves, and here in England under the late Reign. Whereas the Roman Catholick Princes and States persecute without end and without measure, either in effect or intention; so that when they don’t oppress their Subjects of a different Religion, it is not for want of Good-will, but because their Interest won’t permit. The House of Austria, Poland, Savoy, are pregnant Examples. France has bin the greatest Example of Toleration that the Church of Rome can shew; and how did this happen? Was it from any sense of Equity, or any regard to the Dictates of right Reason, which so clearly discover to us, and which had discover’d to so many of the antient Fathers of the Church, that no Man shou’d be forc’d in the Worship of God? No, Lewis XIV in his Preamble to the Edict of Re-<236>vocation, lets all Europe understand that he, his Father, and Grandfather, had all along a design of repealing that of Nantes, if other Affairs had not interven’d.82 He ought to know his own thoughts best; and as to what he says of his Father, ’tis probable enough, if the Protestants of the Kingdom had had as much patience under his Reign, as they have shewn of later years, he had left but little for his Successor to do. But as to Henry IV, he’l give us leave to believe he had no intentions of revoking the Edict of Nantes the next day after it was register’d by his own Orders or even during his Reign. He was naturally too honest a Man, and had bin too long of the true Religion, to fall in seven or eight years time into all the abominable Maxims and knavish Counsels, that a Confessor of the Society of Jesus is capable of suggesting.
So much for Toleration, with regard to those of the Romish Communion. Let’s now proceed to that which Protestants are oblig’d to allow those of other Religions, whose only Ambition is Liberty of Conscience, and whose Principles are not destructive of the municipal and politickal Laws. And with regard to these, I shan’t spare to say, that those States which refuse ’em a Toleration do very ill; but their Iniquity varying according to the degrees of more or less, it’s fit we shou’d consider it with regard to the following Rule, or fixt point of Liberty: That it is the Duty of Superiors to use their utmost endeavors, by lively and solid Remonstrances, to undeceive those who are in error; yet to leave ’em the full liberty of declaring for their own Opinions, and serving God according to the Dictates of their Conscience,<237> if they have not the good fortune to convince ’em: neither laying before ’em any Snare or Temptation of worldly Punishment in case they persist, nor Reward if they abjure. Here we find the fixt indivisible Point of true Liberty of Conscience; and so far as any one swerves more or less from this Point, so far he more or less reduces Tolerance. For any thing further, I don’t think the having publick Churches, or walking in Processions thro the streets, essential to Liberty in Religion. This may contribute to the outward Pomp, or melius esse; but the ends of Religion are sufficiently answer’d, if they be allow’d to assemble to perform divine Service, and to argue modestly in behalf of their own Persuasion, and against the opposite Doctrine, as occasion requires.
The first step of Variation from this Rule might happen, shou’d we suppose the People of any Country, perfectly united in the Profession of one and the same Religion, enact this as a fundamental Law, That no Person of a different Religion shou’d ever be suffer’d to come in or sojourn among ’em, or vend his Opinions within their borders. This Law seems very reasonable and innocent at first sight, yet it is not without its Inconveniences: for supposing such a Law in force among the Gauls, in Spain, Arabia or Persia, upon the first preaching of the Gospel; the Apostles, and their Disciples, had bin excluded by virtue of it: and shou’d they declare in the open streets that ’twas better to obey God than Men, and to preach his Gospel rather than conform to the Laws of the Land, they had bin punish’d as seditious Persons, and Infringers of the Laws of the State. This had bin unjust, and<238> the Law consequently unjust. Such a Law excludes the Preachers of Truth, as well as those of false Doctrines: Shou’d all the Pagan and Mahometan Countrys at this time enact such a Law, how shou’d we send forth Missionarys with any hopes of Success? Let’s agree then, that a true Liberty of Conscience is inconsistent with such a Law, especially when put in execution against those who shou’d run the hazard, and come into a Country, in spite of such a Prohibition, with a design to convert it.
A second step of Variation from this Rule wou’d be; if, together with the above-mention’d Prohibition, another Law shou’d be enacted, forbidding any Inmate or Native of the Country to innovate in matters of Religion, on pain of Banishment. It’s evident, the enacting such a Law is forging Chains for Conscience; because, shou’d a Man, upon examining his Religion, find, or fancy he finds something amiss in it; shou’d he be convinc’d in his Judgment, that it were fit to teach so and so, to reform such and such Abuses, he shall be restrain’d by the fear of Banishment, and his Conscience undergo a conflict between the Love of his Country and that of Truth; and if bound to the former by prevailing Considerations, he’s in a fair way of playing the Hypocrite. I own, he’s much to blame if he does not chuse to run the hazard of Banishment rather than stifle the Motions of his Conscience; but still it’s a hardship upon the Man: And as such a Law might have occasion’d the banishing a Roman, or a Gaul, in the days of the Apostles, who in his Travels abroad, or by Epistles at home, had bin instructed in the Gospel;<239> it’s plain, that in such a case it had bin very unjust; and is no less so now, with regard to an Indian, Turk, or Moor, who having bin instructed in Christianity by the same means, shou’d have a desire of preaching it in his own Country. Sure I am, that if any one considers the Mind of Man, and his Attainments in Knowledg, and compares ’em with the Historys of former times, he shall plainly see, that there’s no one so persuaded of the Truth of what he believes, but may have ground to think he may alter his Opinion as to some matters; and therefore we shou’d never refuse to hear those who have any thing new to propose: for how know we, but it may still be better than what we have hitherto sincerely believ’d the best? This has often happen’d before: The Indians, who hear a New-comer speak of Jesus Christ, and change their antient Belief for what this new Man tells ’em, find their account in it: The Jews and Gentiles, who embrac’d the new Doctrines of the Apostles, were infinitely satisfy’d in ’em: They who hearken’d to Luther and Calvin, and were converted to their Opinions, thought themselves happy in so doing. And can we, after so many Examples, imagine it’s impossible at this day, that any one shou’d teach us things profitable to Salvation? This, on the whole, shews that all Laws restraining any further Inquiry or Progress in Knowledg, human and divine, are violent. What wou’d have become of us, if such Laws had bin duly put in execution for two or three thousand years past?
The third degree of Variation happens, when a Law is enacted, ordaining, that whatever Per-<240>son, whether a Stranger or born in the Land, teaches any thing contrary to the establish’d Religion of the State, shall be oblig’d to retract, and declare publickly, that he believes as the rest of the Country do, upon pain of Fire, Wheel, digging in the Mines, Galley, dark and noisom Dungeon, &c. Here we find the last and highest degree of Violence; but with this discretion, that to know whether Punishment by Fire be worse than that by Galley or Dungeon, we must consult the Temper of the Patient: for there be those who wou’d much rather get off by a quarter of an hour’s smart Pain, than tug at an Oar for thirty or forty years together; which however hinders not but Death in the ordinary gradation of Punishments exceeds Prison and perpetual Galley.
From hence it follows, that Non-Toleration on the part of Protestants is a Variation from the Rule only in the lowest and nearest degree; since the utmost Punishment they inflict on a Subject who turns Papist, does not exceed Banishment: and as for a Stranger, who may be surpriz’d in the clandestine Exercise of some Religious Function, if he be punish’d with Death, ’tis not so much on the score of Religion, as on that of his being a Fryar or Monk in masquerade, and a Presumption that he’s come to burn, poison, play the Spy, or carry on some hellish Conspiracy; of which there have bin a hundred Examples.
But, say they, the Punishment of Servetus83 is demonstration that Protestants will carry Persecution as high as Papists. I answer, very far from it: The Punishment of Servetus, and of a very small number besides of the same stamp,<241> erring in the most fundamental Points of the Christian Religion, is look’d on at this day as a horrid Blot upon the earlier days of the Reformation, the sad and deplorable Remains of Popery: and I make no doubt, were there such another Process before the Magistrates of Geneva at this day, but they wou’d be very cautious of coming to such extremitys.
Sixth Objection: The Doctrine of Toleration can’t chuse but throw the State into all kinds of Confusion, and produce a horrid Medly of Sects, to the scandal of Christianity. The Answer. In what sense Princes ought to be nursing Fathers to the Church.
It must be own’d, that the Condition of Man, among a thousand other Infirmitys, is subject in particular to this, of scarce ever knowing any Truth but by halves: for if it happen that he is able to prove a thing from clear and demonstrative Reasons a priori, immediately he finds himself hamper’d with absurd, or at least very difficult Consequences, arising from what he reckon’d upon as demonstrated; which is no small balk upon his Spirits: Or if he has the good fortune not to be shackled with Absurditys flowing from his Opinions, he has the mortification, on the other hand, of having only<242> very confus’d Notions, and but insufficient Proofs of his Position. They who maintain either the infinite Divisibility of Matter, or Epicurus’s Doctrine of Atoms, can answer for the truth of this. For my part, I am sincere enough to own, that if the Opinion I have bin hitherto defending has any flaw at all, it is on the side of its Consequences. The direct Proofs which support it are admirable, the Consequences of the contrary Opinion monstrous; so far all’s right: but when we turn to the Consequences of my Hypothesis, things don’t look altogether so well. One wou’d think, that Almighty God, to humble the human Understanding, had decreed it shou’d find no sure footing o’ this side Heaven, but Rubs and Perplexitys of what side soever it turns it self. I have however this Comfort, that all the frightful Consequences from my Opinion may very well be resolv’d. We shall see.
There is not, say they, a more dangerous Pest in any Government than Multiplicity of Religions; as it sets Neighbor at variance with his Neighbor, Father against Son, Husbands against their Wives, and the Prince against his Subjects. I answer, that this, far from making against me, is truly the strongest Argument for Toleration; for if the Multiplicity of Religions prejudices the State, it proceeds purely from their not bearing with one another, but on the contrary endeavoring each to crush and destroy the other by methods of Persecution. Hinc prima mali labes: Here’s the Source of all the Evil. Did each Party industriously cultivate that Toleration which I contend for, there might be the same<243> Harmony in a State compos’d of ten different Sects, as there is in a Town where the several kinds of Tradesmen contribute to each others mutual Support. All that cou’d naturally proceed from it wou’d be an honest Emulation between ’em which shou’d exceed in Piety, in good Works, and in spiritual Knowledg. The Strife among ’em wou’d only be, which shou’d most approve it self to God by its Zeal in the Practice of Vertue, which out-do the other in promoting the Interest of their Country, did the Prince protect ’em all alike, and maintain an even ballance by the distribution of his Favors and Justice. Now it’s manifest, such an Emulation as this must be the Source of infinite publick Blessings; and consequently, that Toleration is the thing in the world best fitted for retrieving the Golden Age, and producing a harmonious Consort of different Voices, and Instruments of different Tones, as agreeable at least as that of a single Voice. What is it then that hinders this lovely Harmony arising from a Consort of various Voices and different Sounds? ’Tis this, that one Religion will exercise a cruel Tyranny over the Understanding, and force Conscience; that Princes will countenance the unjust Partiality, and lend the Secular Arm to the furious and tumultuous Outcrys of a Rabble of Monks and Clergymen: in a word, all the Mischief arises not from Toleration, but from the want of it.
Here’s my constant Answer to that thredbare Common-place of your little Politicians, that a Change in Religion draws on a Change in Government, and that therefore special care shou’d<244> be taken to prevent Innovation. I shan’t here examine whether this has come to pass as often as they pretend; I shall content my self, without inquiring into the Fact, to affirm, that supposing it true, still it proceeds from Non-Toleration only: for did the new Sect but entertain the Principles which I lay down, it cou’d exercise no Violence on those who persever’d in the old Religion; ’twou’d rest in proposing its Reasons, and instructing ’em in a Spirit of Charity. In like manner, were the old Religion govern’d by the same Maxims, ’twou’d only oppose the new by gentle and charitable Instructions, and never proceed to Violence. Thus Princes might always maintain their Authority intire, every private Person sit under his own Vine and his own Fig-tree, worshipping God in his own way, and leave others to worship and serve him as they thought fit; which wou’d be the true Accomplishment of the Prophecy in Isaiah, concerning the Agreement of Men under Persuasions diametrically opposite: The Wolf also shall dwell with the Lamb, and the Leopard shall lie down with the Kid; and the Calf and the young Lion, and the Fatling together; and a little Child shall lead them, &c.84
It’s plain to any Man who considers things, that all the Disturbances attending Innovations in Religion, proceed from People’s pursuing the first Innovators with Fire and Sword, and refusing ’em a Liberty of Conscience; or else from the new Sect’s attempting, from an inconsiderate Zeal, to destroy the Religion establish’d. Nothing therefore but Toleration can put a stop to all those Evils; nothing but a Spirit of Persecution can foment ’em.<245>
They alledg likewise I don’t know how many Examples of factious Spirits, who, in order to subvert the Constitution of the State, have pretended the necessity of a Reformation in Religion; and having drawn the People into their Designs, have taken the field with Sword in hand, and committed a thousand Disorders: but this proves nothing more, than that the best things are liable to Abuse. It no way proves, that it’s the Duty of Princes to suppress all Innovation in Religion by the Secular Power; for the Heathen Emperors in this case had had the justest Right of suppressing Christianity, and all their Persecutions had bin indispensable Acts of Justice: but as such a Position wou’d be impious, it follows there are Exceptions to be made to this Rule. Experience informs us, that there have bin Innovations in matters of Religion which were found to be good and holy: We know there must be Innovations for the introducing Christianity in Infidel States; we know too, that there have bin Innovations, which were only a cover for factious Designs. What course then must the Sovereign take, when he sees a new Teacher set up in his Dominions? Must he seize him at first dash, and all his Followers? By no means. He must wait a little to see where his Doctrines tend, whether to the aggrandizing himself and his Party by civil Broils: if he find this, he’s to give him no quarter; he may exterminate him, tho the Man were never so much persuaded his Doctrine was divine. This is not the sort of Men that I plead for, since their Designs are damnable, and the Religion they preach, if they have any, is of a persecuting<246> nature; and consequently falls in with the literal Sense, which I confute. But if this new Doctor has really no design of stirring up Seditions; if his only aim be to infuse his Opinions, persuaded they are true and holy, and to establish ’em by the methods of Reasoning and Instruction; in this case we ought to follow him, if we find he has Truth on his side: and if he does not happen to convince our selves, yet we ought to permit those who are convinc’d, to serve God in this new Doctor’s way. This course our King Ethelred took with the Monks who were sent into this Country by Pope Gregory the Great to preach the Gospel. But all this while we ought to omit no means, by attacking this new Doctor at his own weapon, to wit, Reason and Instruction, of bringing him back into the old way, and confirming others in it, if we judg it the best.
This furnishes me with an Answer to a specious Reason, which our Adversarys make use of: They say, that among the Blessings which God has promis’d to his Church, that of giving it Kings who shall be nursing Fathers is one of the chiefest. I grant it: Nothing is a greater Blessing to the Church, than Princes who protect and cherish it; who see it be supply’d with sober and able Pastors, who found and endow Colleges and Academys for this purpose, and spare no necessary Charge for its Maintenance; who take care to punish Ecclesiasticks for their vicious and scandalous Lives, that others may take warning, and walk in that Integrity which their Profession demands; who by their own good Lives and wholesom Laws excite all their<247> People to the Practice of Vertue; and last of all, are always ready to punish those severely who presume to invade the Liberty of the Church: For I extremely approve, and think it the indispensable Duty of Princes, if new Sects arise, who offer to insult the Ministers of the establish’d Religion, or offer the least Violence to those who persevere in the old way, to punish these Sectarys by all due and requisite methods, and even with Death if occasion be; because in this case they betray a persecuting Spirit, they break the Peace, and aim at the Subversion of politickal Laws. This I take to be the true Sense in which Princes are to be nursing Fathers to the Church: and as nothing cou’d be a greater Scourge to her than being left expos’d by the Prince to the Insults of the Laity, than being abandon’d by him to their own Lusts, without any prudential Rules or Constitutions to restrain ’em; than his neglecting to minister to her Wants and Necessitys; hence it is that God promises her the Love and Protection of earthly Kings as a special Blessing.
But, say they, this is not all. Princes don’t bear the Sword in vain; they have receiv’d it from God to the intent they may punish Evil-doers; and among Evil-doers, none surely out-do Hereticks, since they affront the Divine Majesty, trample under foot his Sacred Truths, and poison the Soul, whose Life is our all, and ought to be infinitely dearer to us than that of the Body. They are therefore worse than Poisoners, than Highway-men or Banditti, who kill the Body only, and ought consequently to be more severely punish’d. Bona verba quaeso! Run-<248>ning on at this rate will quickly justify the Persecutors of the first Christians (I often fly to this Example, because, as we shall see hereafter, there’s no fence against it) will arm the Chinese against the Missionarys, the Protestant Princes against their Popish Subjects, and in general every Sovereign against those of a different Religion: for each will alledg that God has commanded him to punish Evildoers, and that none are more so than those who oppose the true Religion; so each calls his own. There must therefore be some ugly Sophism at bottom; let’s unravel it.
Our Adversarys don’t take care in this matter to distinguish betwixt that Right with which Princes are invested, of punishing with the Sword those who exercise Violence against their Neighbor, and who destroy the publick Security which every one ought to enjoy under the Protection of the Laws; they don’t, I say, distinguish betwixt this Right, and that which they falsly attribute to ’em over Conscience. But for our part we don’t confound these two things. We say, it’s very true that Kings are invested with a Power from God of hanging, whipping, imprisoning, or punishing in any other like manner, all such as injure their Neighbor more or less, in his Person, or Estate, or Honor; and this is so much the more just, as those who commit such Violences confess not only that they commit ’em against the Laws of the Land, but also against their Conscience, and the Precepts of their Religion: so that their Malice is perfectly wilful. I don’t believe there ever was an Example of a Highway-man, or a House-breaker, or a Poisoner, or <249> a Duelist, or a False Witness, or an Assassin, sentenc’d to death by the proper Judg, who pleaded the Instincts of his Conscience, or the Commandments of God, in justification of the Crime for which he hang’d him. So that he sins knowingly and maliciously, and offers violence to his Neighbor in contempt of his God and his King.
Here then are two Circumstances which concur not in such Hereticks as I suppose shou’d be tolerated. For, (1.) They offer Violence to no one. They tell their Neighbor indeed that he’s in an error; they urge this upon him by the best Reasons they are masters of; they set before him another Faith, and support it the best they can; they exhort him to change; they pronounce him damn’d, unless he embraces the Truth which they preach to him: this is all they do, and then they leave him at full liberty. If he changes, they are glad of it; if not, there’s an end of the matter: they recommend him to God. Is this treating one’s Neighbor ill? Is this violating the publick Security, in the shadow of which every one ought to eat his Morsel in quiet under the Protection of the Laws, and train up his own Family as he sees fit?
In the second place, these Hereticks (I call all those so in this place, whom the Sovereign distinguishes by this name on the score of their differing from the establish’d Worship) in instructing their Neighbor, in disputing with him, in admonishing him to change his Religion on pain of Hell-fire, are far from thinking that they commit an ill Action; on the contrary, they fancy they do great service to God, and<250> it’s pure Zeal in ’em, no matter whether true or false; but in fine, it’s Zeal for the Glory of God, and an Instinct of Conscience, which prompts ’em: so that they don’t sin from Malice, or if they do, ’tis only with regard to God; their earthly Judges can take no cognizance of it, and the Presumption lies on the side of their acting from Conscience. It’s plain then, that the two grand Circumstances which authorize the punishing Highway-men and Murderers with death, do not occur in the case of Hereticks.
But, say they, the Poison shed into the Soul is much more fatal than that infus’d in a Man’s Liquor: To blaspheme God and his Truths, to seduce his faithful Servants, is a higher Crime, than speaking evil of the King, or stirring up his People to Rebellion. A Heretick therefore is punishable in a higher degree than la Voisin, or the Chevalier de Rohan,85 who spoke against his Monarch with the greatest contempt, and actually endeavor’d an Insurrection. I answer upon the two points already remark’d: La Voisin, and the Chevalier de Rohan, were conscious they committed a Crime; they acted with a formal Design of doing mischief; nor did they leave it at the discretion or choice of him whom they abus’d and revil’d, whether he wou’d be abus’d and revil’d or no: whereas a Heretick thinks he shall save his Neighbor’s Soul; he talks to him with a design of saving him, and leaves him the full liberty of chusing or refusing. But besides the Disparity in both these cases, I have two things more to offer.
First, that the Prince sufficiently discharges his Duty, if he provides a proper and saving Anti-<251>dote against the Poison instill’d into his Subjects, by sending forth his Doctors and Preachers to confound these Hereticks, and prevent their seducing Men from the true Religion, and catching ’em by their fallacious Reasonings. Shou’d the Preachers not be able to prevent the falling away of some of his Subjects, yet the Prince has nothing to reproach himself with, he has done his Duty: the warping mens Souls to such or such an Opinion, is no Function of his Royal Character; in this respect Men are without the least dependance on one another; they have neither King, nor Queen, nor Lord, nor Master upon earth. A King therefore is no way accountable for not exercising a Jurisdiction in matters which God has not subjected to him.
The next thing I observe, is our giving things very hard names o’ purpose to create a horror for ’em; which yet, generally speaking, are out of the sphere of our Decisions. Such a one, say we, utters insufferable Blasphemys, and affronts the Divine Majesty in the most sacrilegious manner. And what does all this amount to, when consider’d soberly and without prejudice? To this, that concerning the manner of speaking honorably of God, he has Conceptions different from our own. Our case is much the same as that of an ignorant Courtier, who upon reading a Letter written to the King by a little Indian Prince, suppose, in whose Country the most respectful way of writing was in a burlesque Stile; shou’d presently, from his excess of Zeal for his Majesty, propose the sending a Fleet to dethrone this little Sovereign, who had the impudence to mock the King in his Letter. Wou’d<252> not a War declar’d against this little Prince, upon such a Provocation, be very well founded; against this Prince, I say, who quitted the serious Stile purely for fear of affronting the King, and took up the burlesque only to express the deepest respect for him? The only thing this Indian Prince cou’d be blam’d for, was his not informing himself of the Customs of England, and the Notions People there have of a respectful or disrespectful Letter; but if the Savage cou’d not possibly inform himself in this particular, whatever Inquirys he made, wou’d it not be an extreme Brutality to go and drive him out of his Dominions, on account of the pretended Irreverence of this burlesque Stile? Yet this is exactly what Persecutors do, when they punish a Heretick. They fancy his way of speaking of God is very injurious to the Divine Majesty; but for his part he speaks so only because he thinks it honorable, and the contrary next to blasphemous, and highly injurious to God. The only thing to be said against him in this case, is, that he ought to have inform’d himself better concerning that way of speaking of God, which is judg’d most honorable in the Court of Heaven. But if he answer, he has done his best endeavors to be inform’d, and that he had not taken up such a way of honoring God till after he had made all possible inquiry; and that those who charge him with Blasphemy, are, in his opinion, so ill inform’d concerning the Honor due to God, that he doubts not but they mistake one for t’other; and that he shou’d think himself verily a Blasphemer, did he talk at their rate: if, I say, he answer ’em thus, shou’d not it stop their mouths, at least till they convict him<253> of speaking against his Conscience, which none but God, the Searcher of Hearts, can do? And if they put such a Heretick to death, don’t they do the very same as putting the Indian Prince to death, or dethroning him in the former case?
This single Example is worth the whole Commentary I am about, and must to every reasonable Mind expose the Turpitude of Persecution in its proper Colors. Examples of this kind sink our Adversarys to rights; and I make no doubt but they are touch’d to the quick as they read ’em, because they begin to be sensible their Cavils can no longer blind themselves. I’m sorry for the Smart which this is like to give ’em; but I can’t avoid it, nor forbear urging it once more as a Demonstration, that Princes have not receiv’d the Sword, to punish Irreverences of this kind to the Divine Majesty. ’Tis to these Irreverences that the saying of an Antient properly belongs, Deorum Injuriae Diis Curae; ’tis the Prerogative of the Deity to take cognizance of these Offences, and do in them as to him seems fit: but as for Men, they see no more in ’em than a mistake in the Judgment; they all agree in the general, that God is to be honor’d, and that all the greatest things shou’d be said of him which can be conceiv’d to belong to the Supreme Being: but when this is done, one determines his choice to this manner, another to that, and each condemns what the other approves. It’s plain it belongs to God alone to punish him who is in an Error; and it can never enter into a reasonable Mind, that he’l punish an involuntary bad Choice, I mean such as results not from an untoward use maliciously made of the Understanding to determine us to a wrong<254> Choice. If Alexander the Great, who first laugh’d at the City of Megara’s* presenting him with the Freedom of their City, accepted it gratefully when made to understand, that they judg’d it the highest Honor imaginable, and what they never had confer’d on any one before but Hercules; is it not reasonable to think, that God, who judges candidly and equitably on all things, considers not whether the Present we make of such or such Conceptions about the Divinity, be magnificent in it self or no, but whether the greatest in our Estimate, and the fittest upon a due Inquiry to be offer’d to him?
As to that monstrous Medly of Sects disgracing Religion, and which they pretend is the Result of Toleration; I answer, That this is still a smaller Evil, and less shameful to Christianity, than Massacres, Gibbets, Dragooning, and all the bloody Executions by which the Church of Rome has continually endeavor’d to maintain Unity, without being able to compass it. Every Man who enters into himself, and consults his Reason, shall be more shock’d at finding in the History of Christianity so long a train of Butcherys and Violences as it presents, than by finding it divided into a thousand Sects: for he must consider, that ’tis humanly inevitable that Men in different Ages and Countrys, shou’d have very different Sentiments in Religion, and interpret some one way some another, whatever is capable of various Interpretations. He shall therefore be less shock’d at this, than at their torturing and<255> wracking one another, till one declare, that he sees just as the other sees; and burning by turns at a stake, those who refuse to make such a Declaration. When one considers, that we are not Masters of our own Ideas, and that there’s an eternal Law forbidding us to betray Conscience, he must needs have a horror for those who tear a Man’s Body Limb from Limb, because his Mind has one Set of Ideas rather than another, and because he follows the Light of his Conscience. Our Convertists therefore, by endeavoring to remove one Scandal, only fix a greater on Christianity.
I shall make no Advantage of the Parallel of a Prince, whose vast Empire comprehended several Nations differing in their Laws, Usages, Manners, and Tongues, yet each honoring its Sovereign, according to the Custom and Genius of the Country; which seems to carry more Grandeur in it, than if there were only one simple and uniform Rule of Respect: I shan’t, I say, make any Advantage of this Example to shew, that all that odd Variety of Worship in the World is not unbecoming the Grandeur of a Being infinitely perfect, who has left such a vast Diversity in Nature as an Image of his Character of Infinite. No, I rather allow, that Unity and Agreement among Men were an invaluable Blessing, especially Agreement among Christians in the Profession of one and the same Faith. But as this is a thing more to be wish’d than hop’d for; as difference in Opinions seems to be Man’s inseparable Infelicity, as long as his Understanding is so limited, and his Heart so inordinate; we shou’d endeavor to reduce this Evil within<256> the narrowest Limits: and certainly the way to do this, is by mutually tolerating each other, either in the same Communion, if the Nature of the Differences will permit, or at least in the same City. One of the finest* Wits of Antiquity compares human Life to a Game at Hazard, and says, we shou’d manage in this World just as Men do who play at Dice; if the Throw they want does not come up, they help out by their Judgment what is wanting in their Fortune. ’Twere to be wish’d that all Men were of one Religion; but since this is never like to happen, the next best thing they can do is tolerating each other. One says it’s a Sin to invoke the Saints, another says it’s a Duty. Since one thinks the other in an Error, he ought to undeceive him, and reason with him to the best of his Skill: but after he has spent all his Arguments without being able to persuade him, he shou’d give him over, pray to God for him, and for the rest live with him in such a Union as becomes honest Men and fellow-Citizens. Wou’d People take this Course, the Diversity of Persuasions, of Churches, and Worship, wou’d breed no more Disorder in Citys or Societys, than the Diversitys of Shops in a Fair, where every honest Dealer puts off his Wares, without prejudicing his Neighbor’s Market.
If the Church of Rome thinks, that a Multiplicity of Sects defaces Christianity, how can<257> she accommodate herself to that bizarre Variety in her own Communion, where the Ecclesiasticks are some Cardinals, with their Palaces, fine Gardens, and open Table; some Bishops, who are Generals of Armys, and petty Sovereigns; or who go in Embassys, pass their time at Court, at Balls, in Hunting, or who game, and live high, or who preach and publish Books; others sparkish Abbés, Pillars of the Play-house, Musick-Meetings, Opera’s, to say no worse; others great Men at Controversy, Proselyte-mongers; some, Mumpers from door to door drest out like Harlequins, some confin’d to Solitudes and deep Recesses? How can she accommodate herself to that viler Diversity of Drunkards, Gamesters, Ruffians, Panders, Bigots, Counterfeits, Men of Probity, Men of Honor in the Notion of the World? Very well, says she, because they all profess to own my Authority. Here’s the Test; let ’em be what they will, so they submit to the Church they are sure of a Toleration. And what hinders then but others may dispense with an infinite Variety of Sects in the same Commonwealth, provided they are all agreed in acknowledging Jesus Christ for their Head, and the Scriptures for their Rule? It shall be lawful for the Church of Rome to divide and subdivide into infinite Societys very opposite in Rules and in Doctrines, and which mutually charge one another, sometimes with dangerous Errors, provided they in general own the Authority of the Church; and it shan’t be lawful to tolerate infinite Sects, differing from one another in Opinion, provided they all allow the Authority of the Scriptures. If it be said, that the Church of Rome tolerates<258> not different Opinions in those points on which she has pronounc’d a definitive Judgment; who can hinder the tolerating Partys saying, that they allow no difference in Opinions, only as to Points in which the Scriptures are not convincingly clear?
I had forgot an Objection of one sort of Men, who skirmishing as they retreat, will so far allow, that indeed, if all the World were of a tolerating Spirit, Differences in Religion con’d be of no ill Consequence to the State: but considering the Nature of Man, and that the greatest part, especially Church-men, are apt to be transported by an intemperate Zeal, Prudence won’t allow a Prince to tolerate different Sects, because such a Toleration disgusts those of his own Religion; it alienates the Hearts of his Clergy from him, who have credit enough to shake his Throne, by representing him as a Man of no Principle, a Favorer of Hereticks, and fomenting a thousand Jealousys and Resentments in the Minds of his People. I answer, The truth is, there’s nothing so bad but may justly be apprehended from Men of such a Spirit as the Romish Clergy, unless proper measures were taken with ’em from the beginning: but did the Prince understand the Art of Government, he might soon put himself above all danger from ’em, by only publishing thro-out his Dominions, that he was resolv’d to tolerate no Sectarys, provided all the Clergy of the establish’d Religion wou’d but live up as became ’em to the Counsels and Precepts of Jesus Christ, and no longer scandalize their Neighbor by their Worldly-mindedness, by their Pride, and Ambition, and restless Spirit. This<259> Condition wou’d undoubtedly please the Laity, who desire nothing more than to see a general Purity of Manners among their Clergy: but as the Ecclesiasticks wou’d certainly chuse to continue in their disorderly Courses, the condition being not perform’d on their part, the King might dispense with his persecuting Sectarys, and the People wou’d only mock at the Clergy for exclaiming against a Toleration, which ’twas wholly in their own power to destroy by leading godly Lives. Besides this, it wou’d be requisite to chuse out a Set of moderate and peaceable Men among ’em, and prefer some to the highest Dignitys in the Church, and send others to preach about in the Country, that the only lawful way of extinguishing Sectarys was by the Example of a holy Life, and by wholesom Instruction. This wou’d soon bring the Body of the People to a better Temper; and upon the whole, a Prince who found himself importun’d to extirpate a Sect, and shou’d tell those who importun’d him, that they ought to do their part in the first place, by convincing the Sectarys of their Errors, and that as soon as he saw they were convinc’d, he wou’d expel ’em his Dominions, unless they reconcil’d themselves to the Church, might put the persecuting Convertists to a strange nonplus: for how cou’d they have the impudence to tell him, that the convincing Sectarys they were in an Error, was not necessary in order to found a Right of punishing ’em, if they knew the Prince might presently send for his Arch-Bishops, Men in favor, and able Divines withal, who might soon prove the contrary against ’em from the Fathers, and from Scripture and Rea-<260>son? It’s plain then, that if ever Persecution be a necessary Evil, it becomes so wholly thro the Sovereign’s fault, in delivering himself up to the Mercy of Monks and Clergymen; either thro a want of Understanding, or thro some corrupt Motive.
The seventh Objection: Compulsion in the literal Sense cannot be rejected without admitting a general Toleration. The Answer to this, and the Consequence allow’d to be true but not absurd. The Restrictions of your Men of Half-Toleration examin’d.
Here our Adversarys think they have us at an Advantage. It follows, say they, from your Arguments, that not only the Socinian, but even Turk and Jew ought to be tolerated in a Commonwealth: this Consequence is absurd, therefore the Doctrine from whence it follows is absurd. I answer, and grant the Consequence, but deny ’tis absurd. The middle way in many cases is certainly the best, and the Extremes faulty; this happens very often: but here we can fix on no just Medium; either we must allow all or none; there can be no solid Reason for tolerating any one Sect, which does not equally hold for every other. It happens in this case much as in that of Herennius Pontius, when he advis’d one of the two Extremes, either to use all the Romans kindly, or to put<261> ’em all to death;86 and Experience shew’d, that his Son, who wou’d fain trim it, was very much out in his Politicks. Ista quidem sententia, says his judicious Father, ea est quae neque amicos parat, neque inimicos tollit.87
Let’s endeavor to clear this matter in as few words as possible. And first as to what concerns the Jews, ’tis the Opinion even in Countrys where the Inquisition is settl’d, as in Italy, that they ought to be tolerated. They are tolerated in several Protestant States, and all the reasonable part of the World abhor the Treatment they meet with in Spain and Portugal. ’Tis true, it’s very much their own Fault; for why will they live in those Countrys under the Appearance of Christians, and in a horrible Profanation of all the Sacraments, when they may remove elsewhere, and enjoy the free Exercise of their Religion? However, their Wickedness does not excuse the cruel Laws of Spain, and much less the rigorous Execution of ’em. In the second place, as for what concerns Mahometans, I see no reason why they shou’d be thought more unworthy of a Toleration than Jews; quite the contrary, since they allow Jesus Christ to have bin a great Prophet: nor, shou’d the Mufti take it into his Head to send Missionarys into Christendom, as the Pope does into the Indies, and shou’d these Turkish Missionarys be taken insinuating into Peoples Houses to carry on Conversions, do I see what right any one has to punish ’em; for shou’d they make the same Answer that the Christian Missionarys do in Japan, to wit, that a Zeal for making known the true Religion to those who are in Error, and promoting the Salvation of<262> their Neighbor, whose Blindness they lament, mov’d ’em to such an Undertaking; and without any regard to this Answer, or hearing out their Reasons, the Magistrate shou’d order ’em to be hang’d, wou’d not it be ridiculous to complain, when the Japonese do the same? Seeing then the Japonese are horribly condemn’d for their Severitys, ’twere unreasonable to treat the Mufti’s Missionarys cruelly, or do any more than bring ’em to a Conference with the Priests or Ministers in order to undeceive ’em. And tho they still persisted in their own Opinions, and protested they wou’d chuse to die rather than disobey the Commands of God and their great Prophet, yet People shou’d be very far from condemning ’em to death: for provided they do nothing against the publick Peace, I mean, against the Obedience due to Sovereigns in temporal Matters, they cou’d not even be banish’d with Justice, neither they, nor those whom they shou’d gain over by their Reasons; else the Pagans might be justify’d in banishing and imprisoning the Apostles, and those whom they had converted to the Gospel. We must not forget the Command against having double Weights and double Measures, nor that with what measure we mete it shall be measur’d to us again. Wou’d to God the Infidels wou’d truck Missions and Tolerations with us, and consent, that our Missionarys shou’d have full Liberty of preaching the Gospel, and teaching in their Parts, on condition that their Missionarys had the like Privilege among us; the Christian Religion wou’d be a great Gainer by it. The Pagan and Mahometan Preachers cou’d never make any Progress among us, and ours might<263> reap a plentiful harvest in Infidel Nations. Besides, that we shou’d be much to blame, in having such distrust of our own Reasons, as to think they stood in need of Prisons and capital Punishments to support ’em against Turkish Missionarys. Your persecuting Religions have a fine opinion indeed of what they call the pure Truth which God has reveal’d; they don’t believe it capable of triumphing by its own force: They give it Hangmen and Dragoons for its Allys; Allys which have no need of the Assistance of Truth, since they can do the business without her, and bring about what they please by their own strength.
Now if in the least favorable case, such as that of sending Missionarys into a Christian Country where there are no Turks, there ought to be no temporal Punishment to restrain ’em; by a much stronger reason they may challenge a Toleration in Countrys where they have bin establish’d of old, whenever they fall into the hands of Christians by Conquest. And therefore I maintain, that unless Reasons of State require, as sometimes they do, that the new Subjects of the old Religion be dislodg’d and banish’d, Christian Princes cannot in justice expel the Mahometans out of Towns taken from the Turk, nor hinder their having Mosks, or assembling in their own Houses. All that ought to be done in this case is instructing ’em, but without any Violence or Constraint. This Justice is due to ’em, not only with regard to that eternal Law which discovers, when we consult it attentively and without passion, that Religion is a matter of Conscience subject to no controul; but<264> also on the score of Gratitude, for their having so long allow’d the Christians of their Empire the privilege of exercising their Religion. I much doubt whether they wou’d meet with the like treatment under us: The Pope wou’d never let the Emperor or Venetians be at rest, if they tolerated the Turks in their new Conquests; and the Imperial Court stands in no need of a spur to Persecution from that of Rome; she’s too well enter’d at that game of old, to need a Monitor.
In the third place I maintain, that the very Pagans were entitled to a Toleration, and that Theodosius, Valentinian, and Martian are inexcusable in condemning all those to death, who exercis’d any Act of the Pagan Worship. For altho the violent Proceedings of the antienter Emperors had made the Pagans in a great measure forfeit their Right to Toleration by virtue of this Maxim, That a Religion which forces Conscience, does not deserve to be tolerated; yet they shou’d have given ’em quarter, when they saw ’em so low that there was no danger of their ever recovering Power enough to act over the Tragedys of Decius and Dioclesian. Beside that there is not so much to be said against the Pagan as against the Romish Religion; the Pagan was not engag’d to persecute by the Authority of Councils, and by fundamental Principles: and therefore there’s no arguing from the Practice of the Emperors before Constantine to that of the Pagans who might, we’l suppose, have got the upper hand after Theodosius. Nor can it be alledg’d, that no violence was done to Conscience, by forbidding the Pagans on pain of death to worship their false Gods; for it’s evident they were en-<265>gag’d to their Worship by very powerful Tyes of Superstition, and some were even ready to renounce great Advantages rather than their Paganism.*
’Tis true, few wou’d lay down their Lives for it; but if this was the only cause why the Christians put no more of ’em to death in execution of the Imperial Laws, I see no reason they have to boast of their Moderation, or oppose it to the Pagan Crueltys. Now if Violence was unwarrantable in the Roman Empire, against the very Descendants of those who had so fiercely persecuted the Christians, it is by much a stronger reason unlawful now against those of Japan or China: so that shou’d the Emperor of either of these Countrys happen to turn Christian, or the Chief of a Crusade, like Godfrey of Bulloigne of old, become King of either; ’twou’d be very unjust in him to endeavor the Conversion of his Subjects by any other methods than those of meek Persuasion and Instruction. Yet it wou’d not be in his power to grant a Toleration; for if the Popish Missionarys converted the Emperor, or saw on the Throne the Chief of the Popish Crusade, they’d oblige him to publish an Edict next hour, enjoining all his Subjects to receive Baptism on pain of death. Which ought to be a warning to the Chinese to expel the Missionarys, who wou’d thus damn three parts in four of their People, by obliging ’em to profane the Sacraments, and act against Conscience.
’Twere needless insisting in particular for a Toleration of Socinians, since it appears that<266> Pagans, Jews, and Turks have a right to it: Let’s therefore pass to the Limitations of our Half-Toleration Men.
These Gentlemen, either to enjoy the Comforts of Toleration without losing the Pleasure of Persecution, or from some other honester Reason, wou’d fain split the Difference, and say, there are some Sects which may be tolerated, but that there are others which deserve to be extirpated, if not by Fire and Sword, at least by Banishment and Confiscation. They add, that if Death be too severe a Punishment for the Seduc’d, it is by no means so for the Heresiarch and Seducer. Nec totam Libertatem, nec totam Servitutem pati possunt;88 as was observ’d of the People of Rome.
When it comes to be enquir’d more particularly what kind of Heresiarchs those be who deserve to be punish’d with Death; they answer, they who blaspheme the Divinity: And because in the best-order’d Governments they bore the Tongue of a Blasphemer with a red-hot Iron, or tear it from the root, it shou’d not be thought strange, they say, that the blasphemous and horrible Outrages of Servetus against the Trinity were expiated by Fire. But they’l give me leave to tell ’em, they are under a gross mistake in this matter.
For to the end that a Blasphemer be punishable, ’tis not sufficient that what he says be Blasphemy, according to the Definition which one Set of Men may think fit to give this word; but it must be likewise such, according to his own Doctrine. And here’s the true ground of justly punishing a Christian who blasphemes<267> the holy Name of God, and reviles that Divinity which he professes to believe in; because in this case he sins from Malice, and from a clear knowledg of his Sin. But if a Christian, who believes not a Trinity, and is persuaded in his erroneous Conscience, that there cannot be three Persons each of which is God without there being three Gods, says and maintains that the God of the Catholicks and of the Protestants is a false God, a contradictory God, &c. this is not blaspheming with regard to him, because he speaks not against that Divinity which he acknowledges, but against another which he disowns.
This Remark will appear more solid, when I add, That if we leave Persecutors Masters of the Definition of Blasphemy, none will be more execrable Blasphemers than the first Christians and the Hugonots. For nothing can be more reviling, nothing meaner or more scurrilous than what the primitive Christians utter’d without the least reserve against the Gods of Paganism: and it’s well known, that Protestants don’t spare the God of the Mass; and that sometimes their Expressions against it before their Adversarys are enough to make their very hair stand an end. I don’t approve the use of odious Terms in the presence of those who are apt to be scandaliz’d: Decency and Charity oblige us to reverence Conscience, and the Respect due to Princes requires that we shou’d forbear harsh Expressions in their favor; insomuch that the primitive Christians were not always as discreet in this particular as they ought to be. But at bottom it’s no more than Ill-breeding and Clownishness.<268> The Protestants, if not restrain’d by these Considerations, make no scruple of speaking against the God of the Mass, such things as the Papists pronounce Blasphemy; and the primitive Christians spoke against the Idols of Paganism such things as the Pagans term’d Blasphemy. Does it therefore follow that the first Christians were Blasphemers guilty of Death, or that the Reform’d are guilty now? Not at all, because the Blasphemy is not defin’d by a Principle common to the Accuser and the Accused, to the Persecutor and the Persecuted. Now this very thing might be pleaded for Servetus. The Blasphemys he was accus’d of, cou’d not be so qualify’d by virtue of any Principle or Notion allow’d on his part, as well as on the part of the Senate of Geneva; and consequently he cou’d not be punish’d as a Blasphemer, but it must follow that the first Christians might be punish’d as Blasphemers by the Pagans, the Reform’d by the Papists, and all who believe a Trinity by the Socinians. In virtue of this Maxim the Reform’d, call’d Calvinists, might punish with Death the Papists and Remonstrants as Blasphemers, who say the God of Calvin is cruel, unjust, Author of Sin, and yet the Punisher of the same Sin on his innocent Creatures. These are horrible Blasphemys in the Construction which the Reform’d will put upon these words. But as they who speak ’em don’t direct ’em against that Divinity which they adore, but against what they look upon as the Vision and Chimera of another Party, they can’t be justly charg’d with Blasphemy.
I know they’l tell me, Servetus was in reality wrong, and the Reform’d in the right with re-<269>gard to the Eucharist, and therefore there’s no arguing from one to the other. But is not this the very Plea of the Papists? Were they call’d to account for saying the God of Calvin is a Tyrant, Author of Sin, &c. they’l say, they have reason to call what is spoke against the Eucharist Blasphemy, because the Truth is of their side; but that it’s wrong to call their speaking against Calvin’s Predestination Blasphemy, because that point of Doctrine is false. So that here’s nothing fix’d or determin’d, but a mere begging the Question in dispute, and a perpetual Circle. In fine, each Party will seize all the words of the Dictionary to its own use, and begin by possessing it self of this Strong-hold, I am in the right, you in the wrong; which is throwing back the World into a Chaos more frightful than that of Ovid.
Our Men of Half-Toleration say likewise, That we ought to tolerate Sects which destroy not the Fundamentals of Christianity, but not those which do. But here’s the very same Illusion again. For we may ask them what they mean by destroying the Foundation? Is it denying a Point, which really and in it self is a fundamental Article, or only denying a thing which is believ’d such by the Accuser, but not by the Accused? If they answer, the first; here’s the ground laid of a tedious Debate, in which the Accused will hold for the Negative, and maintain that what he denys, far from being a Fundamental of Religion, is really a Falshood, or at best but a matter indifferent. If they answer, the second; the Accused will reply, that truly he shan’t stick at destroying that<270> which passes for a Fundamental only in his Adversary’s brain, because it by no means follows that it is really such. And so here’s a new Dispute started upon this Enthymeme89 of the Accusers.
Such a thing appears to me a fundamental Article:
Therefore it is such.
Which is poor Reasoning. To make any thing therefore of this Dispute, ’twill be necessary to shew that such a Sect destroys what it believes to be a Fundamental of Christianity; and even then it has a right to a Toleration on the same foot as Jews are more or less tolerated: or else it must be prov’d, that the things which this Sect destroys are Fundamentals, tho she does not believe ’em such. But in order to prove this, the Accuser must not frame a Definition of Fundamentals from his own brain, nor make use of Proofs which are contested by his Adversary; for this were proving what is obscure by that which is as obscure, which is mere trifling: but come to Principles allow’d and agreed on by both Partys. If he gain his point, the Accused must for the future stand upon a foot of Non-Christian Toleration; if he does not gain the point, the Accused cannot be justly treated as one subverting the Fundamentals of Christianity.
I add, that if the subverting what we believe a fundamental Point were a sufficient bar against Toleration, the Pagans cou’d not have tolerated the Preachers of the Gospel, nor we the Church of Rome, nor the Church of Rome us; for we don’t believe the Romish Communion retains the Fundamentals of Christianity pure, and with-<271>out a mixture at least of deadly Poison; and for their parts, they are fully persuaded that by denying her Infallibility, we utterly destroy the Essence and most fundamental Doctrine of Christianity.
There are some too who distinguish between Sects which are but beginning to shew their head, and have never yet obtain’d any Edicts of Toleration, and Sects settled and establish’d either by Prescription, or Concessions duly obtain’d; and they pretend that this latter sort deserves all kind of Toleration, but not always the former. For my part, I freely allow that the second kind of Sect has incomparably a juster title to Toleration than the first; and nothing sure can be more infamous than annulling Laws religiously sworn to. But I insist that the first sort are worthy too: for if they were not, what pretence cou’d we have for condemning the first Persecutions of the Christians, and the Executions of the People call’d Lutherans in the Reigns of Francis I and Henry II? I say the same to that Distinction between the Head of the Sect, and the wretched People who are seduc’d. I own the Seducer, whether malicious or sincere, does more mischief than the People; but it does not follow from the People’s deserving more favor, that the Heresiarch deserves to be punished: for were this a just Consequence, we cou’d not condemn the punishing Luther and Calvin, nor the putting St. Peter and St. Paul to death.
I foresee they’l tell me, for the last shift, that if Luther, and Calvin, and the Apostles had not had the Truth on their side, the Punishments inflicted on ’em had bin just. This is founding the<272> Injustice of Persecution not in the Violence done to Conscience, but on the fact that the Persons persecuted belong to the true Religion: ’Tis a considerable Difficulty, and I shall examine it particularly in the following Chapter.
Eighth Objection: Compulsion in the literal Sense is maliciously misrepresented, by supposing it authorizes Violences committed against the Truth. The Answer to this; by which it is prov’d, that the literal Sense does in reality authorize the stirring up Persecutions against the Cause of Truth, and that an erroneous Conscience has the same Rights as an enlighten’d Conscience.
It’s sometimes a disadvantage to Reason with People of shallow Understandings; for be their Intention ever so honest, they shall wrangle about a thousand things solidly prov’d, for want of comprehending the Force of an Argument. Whereas there is this satisfaction in having to deal with great Wits, if they be but sincere, that taking the stress of the Difficulty at first sight, they own they are struck with it, and avow the Justness of the Consequences objected against ’em: whereupon they presently put themselves in a posture of Defence, without amusing the Bar by Disputes upon<273> a thousand Incidents and accessory Distinctions, whether resulting from their Doctrine or no. Your Disputants of a lower form fly to a world of vain Shifts and Doubles, when prest upon the Consequences of the literal Sense; the reason is, that they have not a clear Notion of the Truth, or, if they have, are loth to give their Adversary the pleasure of owning they are convinc’d: but others more sincere and more penetrating answer immediately, That how just soever the Persecutions of the Orthodox against Sectarys be, Sectarys can never be justify’d in persecuting the Orthodox, altho they shou’d believe ’em to be in a false way, and look on themselves as the only Orthodox. Let’s see with what ground this can be said.
In order to confute it, I lay down this Position, That whatever a Conscience well directed allows us to do for the Advancement of Truth, an erroneous Conscience will warrant for advancing a suppos’d Truth. This Position I shall make out and illustrate.
I don’t believe any one will contest the Truth of this Principle, Whatever is done against the Dictates of Conscience is Sin; for it is so very evident, that Conscience is a Light dictating that such a thing is good or bad, that it is not probable any one will dispute the Definition. It is no less evident, that every reasonable Creature which judges upon any Action as good or bad, supposes there’s some Rule of the Seemliness and Turpitude of Actions; and if he’s not an Atheist, if he believe any Religion, he necessarily supposes this Rule and Law to be founded in the Nature of God; Whence I conclude it is the same thing<274> to say, My Conscience judges such an Action to be good or bad; and to say, My Conscience judges that such an Action is pleasing or displeasing to God. To me these Propositions seem allow’d by all the world, as much as any of the clearest Principles of Metaphysicks. This which follows is equally true; Whoever knows such an Action is evil and displeasing to God, and yet commits it, wilfully offends and disobeys God: And whoever wilfully offends and disobeys God, is necessarily guilty of Sin. In like manner this Proposition is evident, That whoever does a thing which his Conscience tells him is evil, or omits that which his Conscience tells him he ought to do, commits a Sin.
Such a Man does not only commit a Sin, but I further affirm, that all things being in other respects equal, his Sin is the heinousest that can be committed: for supposing an Equality in the outward Act, as in the Motion of the Hand which runs a Sword thro a man’s Body, and in the Act of the Will directing this Motion; supposing also an Equality in the passive Subject of this Action, that is, an equal Dignity in the Person slain: I say the Murder shall be a Sin so much the greater, as the degree of Knowledg that it is a criminal Act is greater. For which reason, if two Sons shou’d each kill his Father, precisely with all the same Circumstances, except that one had only a confus’d Knowledg of its being a Sin, the other a very distinct Sense of it, and actually reflected on the Enormity as he struck the Dagger into his Father’s Heart; this latter wou’d be guilty of a Sin incomparably more heinous, and more punishable in the sight<275> of God than the other. This, I think, is another Proposition which can’t be contested.
But I go still further, and say, that a Sin does not only become the greatest that can be in its kind, by being committed against the greatest degree of Knowledg, but also that of two Actions, one of which we call good, the other bad, the good being done against the Instincts of Conscience, is a greater Sin than the bad Action done from the Instincts of Conscience. I shall explain my self by an Example.
We call giving an Alms to a Beggar a good Action, and repulsing him with ill words an ill Action. Yet I maintain, that a Man who shou’d give a Beggar an Alms in certain circumstances, his Conscience suggesting that he ought not to give, and he acquiescing in the good or bad Judgment of his Conscience, wou’d be guilty of a worse Action, than he who sent away a Beggar with hard words in circumstances where his Conscience suggested, from Reasons which he judg’d well of, that he ought to turn him away with this ill usage. Mark well what I lay down; I don’t content my self with saying, that Conscience barely suggests either not to give an Alms, or to give hard Words; I add, that it passes a definitive Judgment in which we acquiesce; that is, we agree this Judgment is reasonable. ’Tis one thing to have Surmizes presented from Conscience, which we presently reject either as false or doubtful, and another thing to assent from our Judgment, and acquiesce in its Representations. To commit an Action under the bare Surmizes which Conscience suggests against it, without passing its definitive Sentence, is not<276> caeteris paribus so bad an Action, as doing it in contempt of that Sentence. And that it is possible to act in contempt of the last Judgment of Conscience, who that considers it will deny?
A Passenger looks at a Beggar; he sees he’s a Cheat, or an idle Fellow that might get an honest Livelihood if he wou’d work, a Sot who squanders all he gets: hereupon his Reason suggests, that he ought not to relieve him, that ’twere encouraging him in his Idleness, that ’twere better keep this Charity for a properer Object. In a word, this Reason, or if you’l rather call it Conscience, pronounces this Judgment, It’s a sin to give this Beggar an Alms. Yet after all, this very Person trifles with his own Conscience, and bestows his Charity on the Wretch, either that he is not us’d to govern himself by the Dictates of his Conscience, or out of mere Caprice, or mov’d by some pitiful posture of the Beggar, or because such a one’s passing by, or for any other like Consideration working on him at that moment. If Persons who have a thousand good Qualitys, Moral and Christian, are daily guilty of Fornication, tho Conscience pronounces it a Sin by a formal and definitive Judgment; shall we doubt but a Man may give an Alms in contempt of a fix’d Judgment of his Conscience that he ought not to give in such and such circumstances?
Let’s now compare the Action of this Giver of Alms, with that of another Man who sends a Beggar away because his Conscience tells him he is a Rogue, a Cheat, a Varlet, who is much likelier to be reclaim’d by ill usage, than by relieving him in his necessity; and I affirm, tho<277> we shou’d suppose each in an error as to fact, that the Action of the former is worse than that of the latter: and thus I prove it.
The Action of the former supposing an Error of Fact, includes these four Circumstances.
1. A Person who begs an Alms from real Necessity, and who fears God.
2. A Judgment of the Reason suggesting he’s a Rogue and a Cheat, either purely from his Looks, or because the Party mistakes him for another notoriously wicked Beggar.
3. A fix’d and definitive Sentence of Conscience, pronouncing it a thing displeasing to God to relieve such a Varlet, since it can only serve to confirm him in his Vices; whereas the exposing him to Want might possibly reclaim him.
4. The bestowing the Alms on this very Beggar.
Let’s now consider the Action of the other. We find likewise four Circumstances attending it, supposing an Error in Fact.
The three first Circumstances already laid down, which are common to both; and in the fourth place, the hard words with which he dismisses the Beggar.
To prove that the Action of the first is worse than that of the second, it will be sufficient if I make out these two things: (1.) That there is some degree of moral Goodness in the Action of the second, but not the least shadow of it in that of the first. (2.) That the Evil on that side is much less than on this.
As to the first of these Cases, I wou’d desire those who have a mind to dispute this Point, to shew me, wherein consists the moral Good-<278>ness of his Action, who in the mention’d Circumstances gives a poor Body an Alms. It can’t lie in the Judgment of his Reason, nor in that of his Conscience, which are both erroneous; it must lie then, if any such be, in the very Act of bestowing his Charity: but it’s plain, there’s not the least Dram of Goodness in this, because all who understand any thing of moral Actions are unanimously agreed, that giving an Alms, consider’d as it’s barely the conveying a Penny from the pocket into a Man’s hand, is no morally good Action; as is manifest from hence, that the Spring of a Machine accidentally jerking a piece of Gold into a Beggar’s cap wou’d be an Action void of the least grain of moral Goodness.
To the end that an Alms be a good Work, it’s absolutely necessary it be done by the direction of Reason and Conscience, representing it as a Duty. Now nothing of this occurs in the case in question: and therefore there’s not the least degree of moral Goodness in the Act.
We can’t say so of the second Act, because it’s allow’d on all hands, that all Homage paid to Conscience, all Submission to its Judgment and Sentence, is an instance of his Regard to the Eternal Law, and of his Reverence for the Divinity, whose Voice he recognizes at the Tribunal of his Conscience. In a word, he who performs any Action because he believes it well-pleasing to God, testifies in general, at least that he desires to please God, and to obey his Will. And the very Desire cannot be destitute of all moral Goodness.<279>
As to the second Case, I say that the Evil of his Action, who bestows an Alms in the foremention’d Circumstances, consists in this, that he spurns the fixt and definitive Sentence of his Conscience; and that the Evil of the other’s Action consists in his snubbing a poor Man. I maintain that this, in the present Circumstances, is a less Sin than the other.
For can a Man act contrary to the Dictates of his Conscience, without an intention of doing what he knows is displeasing to God? And is not this a Contempt of God, a Rebellion, upon Knowledg, Choice and Approbation, against his adorable Majesty? And willing a Sin acknowledg’d as such, willing a Transgression against God clearly and distinctly known, is it not the most crying Iniquity, and Malice, and Corruption of Heart?
’Tis quite otherwise with him who gives a Beggar hard words, taking him for an errand Mumper, and a Fellow that needs Reproof to bring him to good. The Evil he does, proceeds not from a Desire or fixt Purpose of doing evil, of disobeying God, of thwarting the Ideas of Rectitude, and trampling under foot immutable Order: It proceeds only from Ignorance, only from a wrong Choice of the Means and Manner of obeying God. He was under a mistaken Opinion, that this Beggar was unworthy of his Charity, and that Repulses and Disgrace were the likeliest means of reclaiming him. This was the Dictate of his Conscience, and he comply’d with it. The Evil which appears in this Slight of the poor Man, and which is not inconsistent with an actual Desire at the same time of obeying<280> the Law of God, is it to be compar’d with an Evil which actually excludes the Desire of pleasing God, and brings into its room an Act of known Disobedience?
I own the reviling our Neighbor is not only forbidden, and the grieving the Poor a very great Sin; but that we also suppose, the poor Man here abus’d and insulted is in fact one that fears God: I own it, yet still I maintain that this Man fearing God, not having bin insulted as such, seeing he was taken for a Vagabond, the Sin of the Person who insulted him must be resolv’d into a precipitate Judgment only, and a believing upon false appearances that this Beggar was a very ill Man. Now every one will allow, that not having temper to examine things duly, is a much more venial Sin than formally and actually willing to commit what the Party believes to be a Sin.
Some may complain, that I make very slight of the hard words given to this honest Man the Beggar. I answer, that hard words consider’d simply as consisting of articulate Sounds can’t make a Sinner; else we must say that the Bulrushes in the Fable, whose ruffle and murmur disclos’d poor Mi-das’s shame, were guilty of a Sin, if what they tell of ’em were true. We must say, a Pair of Organs committed a Sin, if by any Motion of the Air or Water it shou’d happen to form Sounds injurious to a Man’s Reputation, which is extremely absurd. Abusive Language from a Man in a raving Fever, or in a Tongue he does not understand, passes for nothing: It offends only in proportion to the Speaker’s known Intention of giving offence by<281> it; and if he be known to mistake one Man for another, the Affront lights on him who was in his intention, and not on him whom he address’d himself to by mistake. Let any one examine the Case as I have stated it, he’l find, that all the Evil of the Action is resolv’d into too great a facility of believing upon false Reasons, that the Beggar was the Person which he really was not.
As to the Good inhering in his Action who gives the Alms, an Action which after all relieves the Wants of a poor Servant of God, whereas harsh Language adds to his Sufferings, I don’t think it ought to be brought into the account; the rather, because it’s at best only a physical Good or Evil, which confers no moral Worth on Actions, farther than as it might possibly have enter’d into the Intention. For example, to refuse an Alms in Circumstances where the Party knows that the bestowing it will draw on numberless Advantages, by the Combination of various Causes and Effects, and the refusing it be follow’d by a long train of Calamitys on the Person who implores it; is much a greater Sin than refusing it in Circumstances where none of these Events are in the Party’s view. But it’s certain, that the good or evil Consequences of our Actions avail not in the sight of God towards justifying or condemning us, when we don’t act from a direct design of procuring these Consequences. It’s plain then, that all things conspire to resolve the Fault of him who revil’d the Beggar, into a simple lack of Examination and Attention; and consequently, that his refusal of the Charity, and his harsh words under these Circum-<282>stances, are a less evil Action, than the other’s bestowing an Alms. Which was the thing to be prov’d.
I add, that if when there’s an Error in the Conscience as well of him who governs himself by its Dictates, as of him who acts directly counter to ’em, the Action of the latter is worse than that of the former, tho otherwise it had bin good, and the other bad; by a much stronger reason ought this to be so, when there’s no Error in the Conscience of him who follows not its Dictates. To comprehend this, we need not go farther than the Example of our two Men, and only suppose that the Beggar who addresses himself to the first is really a Vagabond, a Drunkard, a Cheat, a Villain; and the Beggar, who addresses himself to the second, is a very honest Man. Let’s leave the Supposition in all other respects exactly as it was. What will follow? Why this; that the Judgment of the Reason and Conscience of the first is just and reasonable: and then our Adversarys themselves will judg that the bestowing his Charity on a very unworthy Object, and certainly known to be such, will be much more blamable than it was before, when suppos’d to fall to an honest Man’s lot.
But whither does all this long Preamble tend, these Turnings and Twistings of this Argument? To this; That an erroneous Conscience challenges all the same Prerogatives, Favors, and Assistances for an Error, as an Orthodox Conscience can challenge for the Truth. This appears somewhat far fetch’d; but I shall now make the Dependance and Connexion of these Doctrines appear.<283>
My Principles allow’d by all the World, or just now prov’d, are these:
1. That the Will of disobeying God is a Sin.
2. That the Will of disobeying the fixt and definitive Sentence of Conscience, is the same thing as willing to transgress the Law of God.
3. Consequently, that whatever is done against the Dictate of Conscience is a Sin.
4. That the greatest Turpitude of Sin, where things are in other respects equal, arises from the greatest Knowledg of the Fact’s being a Sin.
5. That an Action which wou’d be incontestably good (giving an Alms for example) if done by the direction of Conscience, becomes worse by being done against its direction, than another Action done according to the direction of Conscience, which wou’d be incontestably sinful (as reviling a poor Man for example) if not done by its direction.
6. That doing a thing which we call evil, from the Dictates of Conscience, tho in reality erroneous, renders this Action much less evil, than another Action of the nature of those which we call good, done against the Dictate of Conscience suppos’d to be truly inform’d.
From all these Principles I may reasonably conclude, that the first and most indispensable of all our Obligations, is that of never acting against the Instincts of Conscience; and that every Action done against the Lights of Conscience is essentially evil: So that as the Law of loving God can never be dispens’d with, because the hating God is an Act essentially evil; so the Law of<284> never violating the Lights of our Conscience is such as God himself can never dispense with; forasmuch as this were in reality indulging us in the Contempt or Hatred of himself, Acts intrinsecally and in their own nature criminal. There is therefore an eternal and immutable Law, obliging Man, upon pain of incurring the Guilt of the most heinous mortal Sin that can be committed, never to do any thing in violation and in despite of Conscience.
Hence it manifestly and demonstratively follows, if the eternal Law, or any positive Law of God requires that he who is convinc’d of the Truth shou’d employ Fire and Sword to establish it in the World; that all Men ought to employ Fire and Sword for the establishing their own Religion. I understand all those to whom this Law of God is reveal’d.
For the moment this Law of God were reveal’d, It’s my will that you employ Fire and Sword for the establishing the Truth, Conscience wou’d dictate to the several opposite Partys, that they ought to employ Fire and Sword for establishing that Religion which themselves profess; because they know no other Truth but this, nor any way of executing the Order of God, but that of acting for their own Religion; and must believe they acted in favor of Falshood, and consequently fall into a Transgression of the Divine Law, if they labor’d the Advancement of any Religion but their own. It’s plain then, that Conscience wou’d apply the Command of God, for the establishing the Truth, to each Party’s own Religion.
Now since, as I have already prov’d, the greatest of all Iniquitys is that of not following the<285> Lights of Conscience; and since Order immutable and the Law eternal indispensably require, that we shou’d above all things avoid the greatest of all Iniquitys, and all Acts essentially evil; it follows,
That by the first, the most inviolable and most indispensable of all our Obligations, each Person to whom God reveal’d the foresaid Law, ought to employ Fire and Sword for the establishing his own Religion; the Socinian for his, as well as the Calvinist, the Papist, the Nestorian, the Eutychian for theirs. For shou’d a Socinian, after such a general Law of God, stand with his Arms folded, and not employ those means for establishing the Truth which God had appointed, he must act against Conscience; and this, caeteris paribus, must be the greatest of all Sins: and every one is indispensably oblig’d above all things to avoid the greatest of Sins; then the Socinian wou’d be oblig’d indispensably to employ Fire and Sword for the propagation of his Doctrines; oblig’d, I say, in virtue of an eternal Law, which enjoins every reasonable Creature to fly Sin, and especially the greatest of Sins.
The better to make our Adversarys comprehend the Force of my Argument, I desire to know what they wou’d have a Socinian do, upon a plain and express Revelation with regard to him, as well as to the Orthodox, of such a Law as this; It is my will, that Fire and Sword be employ’d for the establishing the Truth. Wou’d they have him, when persuaded there’s no other Doctrine in matter of Religion true but that which he teaches, rest satisfy’d in the private Belief of it by himself or in his own Family, without em-<286>ploying the means Providence might put into his hands for extirpating the Religions, which he believ’d God had commanded him to destroy? But in this case he manifestly falls into a Contempt of the Law of God, and a Violation of his first and most essential Duty, which is a greater Sin than executing in behalf of Socinianism what he believ’d to be the Law of God: for here God wou’d find in his Soul a sincere regard to his Laws, and a desire of obeying him; whereas he must find quite the contrary Dispositions if he did not exert himself against the other Religions. This therefore wou’d be advising the Socinian to chuse between two States that which must render him most criminal in the sight of God. Now the very counselling this were a most wicked and abominable thought. It’s plain then, that as the Socinian must make a choice between these three things, either to establish his Heresy by Fire and Sword, or not give himself the least trouble about establishing it, or in the last place favor its Ruin; he must of necessity make choice of the first, to avoid either of the other two, as being much the more sinful.
In effect, which way cou’d he excuse himself in the sight of God, if after this suppos’d Command, he shou’d sit down in a slothful Indifference, and not be concern’d whether his Religion spread or no? Is this what I commanded you? might God say to him; don’t you openly contemn my Authority, and become guilty of the sinful Indifference, of counting it much at one, whether you be in my Favor or Displeasure, since you won’t make the least step towards obeying what Conscience tells you I have requir’d at your hands? Reproaches much more harsh wou’d<287> still be more just, if he openly favor’d the Ruin of his own Religion; and no such Reproaches cou’d be made him if he wag’d War with all other Sects: God cou’d reproach him with nothing more in this case, than his having made a wrong Choice of the Object for which he had given him Orders to contend; the Justice of these Reproaches cou’d not obstruct God’s seeing a sincere Desire in his Soul (I suppose him a Socinian from a sincere Principle) of obeying him, a regard to Order, a homage paid to the Divine Majesty. It’s therefore a matter as incontestable, that the first of these three Demeanors in the Socinians, is the least Evil of all, as that a Master, who order’d his Servants to destroy all the Wolves on his Estate, wou’d think those less to be blam’d, who instead of the Wolves kill’d all the Foxes, either because they mistook one word for another, or, having forgot the Order, fancy’d he meant the Foxes; be the Reason what it will, he wou’d think ’em less in blame, than those who shou’d never disturb Wolves, or who took the way to preserve ’em, and multiply the Breed. I go further, and say, that a reasonable Master, who shou’d certainly know, that those Servants of his, who preserv’d the Breed of Wolves, were fully persuaded in their Hearts, that he had given ’em Orders to destroy ’em, wou’d think himself more affronted by their Disobedience, than by that of another Party of his Servants, who without any Malice or Design, but purely thro forgetfulness or involuntary mistake of Orders, shou’d destroy all the Rabbets and Hares instead of the Wolves.<288>
Be the Brain of the French Convertists ever so much turn’d, I can’t forbear thinking, but there are some among ’em, who have reason enough left to agree to what I am now going to offer. That
If once it be suppos’d, that God has clearly and distinctly reveal’d a Law to Christians in general, obliging ’em to exterminate all false Religions by Fire and Sword; a Socinian, who lets the other Sects of Christianity live in quiet, who does not bestir himself to establish his own Religion, or perhaps favors those who are supplanting it, and establishing a different Sect with all their might, cannot be excus’d in his Conduct but upon one or other of the following Reasons: Either because he believes the Law in question ought not to be understood in the strictness of the Letter, but has a mystical Meaning which all the World is not oblig’d to dive into; or because he thinks, that the Execution of this Law does not belong to him; or because he is not over-certain, that Socinianism is the true Doctrine; or last of all, because believing any Religion good enough, it’s equal to him which is uppermost: he’l for his part look on and let things work, resolv’d to be a Prey to the Conqueror; or perhaps favors one side, tho very opposite to Socinianism, that he may enter the Lists with a better Grace, when this has got the day. These, in my opinion, are all the ways that can be thought on for disculpating a Socinian, who is tardy in propagating his own Religion, after God had reveal’d the suppos’d Law; and consequently he must be wholly inexcusable, or exceedingly criminal, if he maintain’d this Neutrality, or if<289> he prejudic’d his own Sect, while persuaded, 1. That God enjoins propagating the Truth by Fire and Sword; 2. That Socinianism is the Truth.
Supposing him under this double Persuasion, he is inexcusably criminal if he does not persecute all other Sects; he is much more so if he favors any: he can neither forbear acting for his own Sect, nor lend his Assistance to a different Sect, without falling into a Sin against Conscience, of all Sins the most heinous. He is therefore indispensably oblig’d, by the eternal Laws of Order, to avoid this most heinous Sin, by persecuting other Christians according to the Dictates of his Conscience.
Now if once it be made appear, that a Right of persecuting, and extirpating Heresys by Fire and Sword, be common, from an indispensable Necessity founded in the Nature of things, to all Religions inform’d of this Law of God, as well as to the true; it’s plain, that all the other Rights and Privileges of Truth must be common to all kind of Sects, whether true or false. Accordingly no sooner will it be prov’d, that God requires the true Religion shou’d be inflam’d with an ardent Charity for the Conversion of the false, that she employ all her Pains, her Books, her Sermons, her Censures, her Caresses, her good Examples, her Presents, &c. for the Reunion of those astray, but presently the false Religions must fall into the same Methods of Conversion; for each Church believing it self the only true, it’s impossible it shou’d apprehend, that God commands the true Church to act so and so, without believing it self oblig’d to do the same:<290> and if each Sect thinks it self in Conscience oblig’d to this, it wou’d be infinitely worse in ’em to refrain, or act quite contrary, than execute the Command, be it of what nature it will. For unalterable Order requires, that we shou’d avoid what we know is a heinous Sin, to do that which we know is a good Action, and which at worse, if it be a Sin, must be of a less heinous nature than the other; then every Church is indispensably oblig’d, and has an inalienable right of practising all that she knows God enjoins on the true Church.
We don’t therefore, as the Objection which I examine in this Chapter wou’d insinuate, maliciously render the literal Sense of the Parable odious, by supposing it wou’d authorize Persecutions mov’d by the false Religions against the true; this, I say, is no false or artificial Supposition, but the true State of the case, as I have fully made appear.
I shall add one Remark more. That if a Religion, persecuted in a Country where it was weakest, shou’d ask her Persecutors, why they employ such violent Methods; and these answer, because God enjoins the true Religion to extirpate Heresy quocunque modo:90 if, I say, by making this Answer, they shou’d happen to persuade the Persecuted that there really was such a Command, what wou’d follow? Why this same persecuted Church, finding it self the strongest in another place, might very well say to that Communion which had tormented it in the Country where ’twas uppermost, You have taught me one Lesson that I did not know before, I am oblig’d to you for it; you have shewn me from the Scriptures, that God<291> enjoins the faithful to distress false Communions; I shall therefore fall to persecuting you, seeing I am the true Church, and you Idolaters and false Christians, &c. It’s very plain, that the stronger the Arguments be which Persecutors bring to prove that God enjoins Constraint, the smarter Rods they furnish their Adversarys to scourge themselves in another place. Each Party will engross the Proofs, the Command, the Rights of Truth; and authorize its Proceedings by every thing which the really true Religion can offer in its own behalf.
From whence I infer anew, that it’s impossible God shou’d allow the Truth’s doing any thing to establish it self, which is not just, and does not belong by common Right to all Mankind: for in the present Combinations, and Situation of things, there’s an unavoidable Necessity, that all Means which are permitted to Truth against Error, shou’d be lawful in Error against Truth; and hence, by the same Ordinance dispensing with the general Rule in favor of the true Religion, Crime becomes necessary, and a total Confusion ensues.
The only Starting-hole now left our Adversarys is saying, that they allow the false Religions, by an Abuse and criminal Usurpation, may appropriate to themselves what solely belongs to the true Church; but there will always remain this difference between ’em, that the true Religion constrains with Justice and lawful Authority, but the rest wickedly and without a Right. This we shall speak to in the 10th Chapter.
But before I make an end of this, I shall answer an Objection from a very common Topick. You did not, they’l tell me, make a fair Enumeration<292> of ways and means, when you said, the Socinian had but one of three Choices to make. There’s a fourth, and that the only good one, which is changing to the Truth; and then he may follow the Instincts of his Conscience with Impunity. This I confess is the better part; but as it cannot be chosen except on one condition, I maintain, that so long as this condition is wanting, he must necessarily chuse among the other three. The Condition I speak of needs not being explain’d. All the World is satisfy’d that it is this, that the Party know the Truth to be the Truth: every Heretick accepts the Truth, provided he knows it, and as soon as he knows it, but not otherwise nor sooner; for so long as it appears to him a hideous Grotesque of Falshood and Lye, so long he is not to admit, he is to fly and detest it. The first thing therefore a Heretick shou’d be desir’d to do, is, to search after Truth, and not opinionatively pretend he has found it. But if he answer, that he has searched as much as possible, that all his Inquirys have ended, in making him see more and more, that the Truth is on his own side; and shou’d he watch day and night, that he never shou’d believe any other thing, but what’s already firmly ingrafted in his Soul, to be the reveal’d Truth; ’twere ridiculous telling him to beware following the Lights of his Conscience, and think of Conversion. Every one ought to set apart some Portion of his time for Instruction, and even be always ready to renounce what he had believ’d most true, if it be made appear to him false: but after all one can’t be a Sceptick or Pyrrhonist in Religion all his Life long, he must fix upon some Principles, and act according to ’em; and whether he’s determin’d to true or<293> false, ’tis equally evident, that he ought to exercise Acts of Vertue and Love towards God, and shun that capital Offence of acting against Conscience. Whence it appears, that a Socinian, who has done his utmost Endeavors towards discovering the Truth, is limited in his Choice to one of the three things I propos’d. Sending him back eternally to the fourth, means, that he shou’d spend his whole Life in mere Speculation, without ever consulting his Conscience to act according to its Lights. Now this of all Absurditys were surely the greatest.
An Answer to some Objections against what has bin advanc’d in the foregoing Chapter concerning the Rights of an erroneous Conscience. Some Examples which prove this Right.
I did not make use of some very pertinent and altogether unanswerable Instances to prove, that the Rights of an erroneous Conscience attended with Sincerity, are exactly the same as those of an Orthodox Conscience; because while I was actually engag’d in this Argument, someone lent me the Continuation of the Critique Generale on Mr. Maimbourg’s History of Calvinism,91 where I found these Rights very tolerably asserted from several of these Instances, and particularly from that of a suppos’d Father, who exercises all the Rights and Functions of paternal<294> Authority as rightfully as any true and real Father. I shou’d not have expected, that an Author, who seems to aim more at diverting his Reader, and enlivening his matter, than sounding it to the bottom, cou’d have enter’d so deep into this. It gave me full Satisfaction, tho I’m sensible a great deal may be added to what he has said upon this Subject. Yet I cannot see how our common Adversarys will answer his Instance of a Woman, who, persuaded that a Cheat is her true and lawful Husband, can’t be wanting in any Duty of a Wife towards the Impostor, without becoming as guilty in the sight of God as if she misbehav’d herself towards her real lawful Husband. They are as much at a loss to answer the Instance of a Bastard, who believing this Husband of his Mother to be his real Father, owes him the very same Honor and Obedience as if he were Bone of his Bone; nor can he fail in any point of Duty to him without incurring the very same guilt as he might incur by a failure of Duty to his natural Father. He inherits the Estate of his Mother’s Husband as legally as if he were his natural Son; and consequently the false Persuasion, which as well the Son as the Husband of this Woman are under, gives both the very same Rights as a true and undoubted Persuasion. These Examples, and many more, which the Author furnishes even to profusion, demolish the Cause of our Adversarys to all intents and purposes.
For they demonstratively prove, that an Action done in consequence of a false Persuasion, is as good as if done in consequence of a true and firm Persuasion. This appears from hence, that<295> Obedience to a suppos’d Father, to a suppos’d Husband; Affection for a suppos’d Child, are Dutys, neither more nor less obliging, than if the Subjects were really what they are taken to be. On the other hand, an Action done against a false Persuasion is as sinful as if done against a true Persuasion. This appears from hence, that disobeying a suppos’d Father, abusing him, killing him; doing the same to a suppos’d Husband; hating a suppos’d Son, are Actions no less criminal than if committed against Persons who were in reality what they are only suppos’d to be. There’s not the least disparity in the cases.
Yes, yes, say they, there’s a great deal; for he who shou’d turn a suppos’d Son out of doors, wou’d in reality but incommode a stranger; the Person turn’d out tells a lye, if he says, ’twas his Father us’d him so ill, all the Neighborhood lyes if they say so. It is not true then, that this Man turn’d his Son out of doors; and therefore he is no more to be blam’d than if he only turn’d off a Stranger whom he was not bound to support. But if he turn out a Child sprung from his own Loins, this alters the case; and God, who judges upon all things according to their real Nature, must know, that this Man turn’d off his lawfully begotten Son, and will judg of his Action accordingly; whereas in the former case he judges that the Man had only turn’d off a Stranger.
But my Readers must needs see the grossness of this Cavil before I confute it: they must know, that the Sovereign Judg of Heaven and Earth, the Searcher of the Heart and Reins, can make no difference betwixt two Acts of the human<296> Will exactly the same as to their physical Entity, tho their Object by accident is not really the same: for it suffices, that it be objectively92 the same, I mean, that it appear so to the two Wills which form these Acts. And how in reason can it avail the suppos’d Father, that the Person he has turn’d out of doors was not lawfully begotten by him? This Circumstance being null with regard to him, because no more known to him than if it were really not so; can it in any kind of manner affect him? Is it the Cause, that there’s less Outrage, less Hardheartedness, less Inhumanity in his Soul? It’s plain it is not, and that this Circumstance makes no change in the Act of his Will, or in the Modifications of his Soul; so that God must see the same Irregularity within, whether these Acts relate to a true Son, or whether they relate to a Stranger, but who instead of being reputed such is a reputed Son. In like manner, a Woman who honestly takes a Counterfeit for her true Husband, and admits him to her Bed, does not commit a less warrantable Action than if he were her lawful Husband; and if she absolutely refus’d to live with the Impostor at Bed and Board, wou’d be as much to blame as if she refus’d her real Husband. The reason is, that towards making her Action in the first case less warrantable, and in the second case less blameable, ’twere requisite she had some good reason to give for not bedding with this Cheat: now she has no such reason; therefore, &c. There’s not the least color of Reason to be alledg’d, because his Character of a Cheat, the only possible just Reason, can be no Reason at all with regard to her to whom it’s perfectly unknown. ’Twere therefore the most<297> groundless Illusion to say, that if this Woman refus’d to bed with this Man, she cou’d not be blameable: for her Refusal proceeding from mere Caprice, Obstinacy, Pride, or some such Failing, precisely what wou’d hinder her bedding with the true Husband were he in place, can in no kind of manner be excus’d.
But after all, say they, this Refusal does not in reality concern her true Husband: I answer, that’s nothing to the purpose, it’s enough that it relates to the true Husband objectively. This is evident, because the Turpitude of an Action is not measur’d at the Divine Tribunal by the real quality of the Subjects to which it tends, but by their objective quality; that is, God considers only the very Act of the Will. Therefore a Man, who has the Will to murder another, and who thinking he is in such a Coach, fires a Musket at him, is as guilty in the Sight of God, tho he hits only a Statue someone had put in the Coach, as if he had shot him dead, because the Effects of the local Motions, which execute the Act of his Will, are wholly extrinsecal to the Crime: the willing to move his Arm, the moment he believes that Motion shall be follow’d by the death of a Man, constitutes the whole Essence of Homicide. The rest, to wit, that such a Man is, or is not really kill’d, is wholly accidental to the Sin, which God, the Judg infallible and most just, has no regard to, as a Matter which either extenuates, or aggravates the Guilt.
This may be a proper place enough to put in a Caveat, That tho I stretch Toleration in Religion as far as any one, yet I am not for giving any quarter to those who affront the Divinity<298> they profess to believe in, were it the vilest of all those Gods of Clay which the Scriptures speak of. Grotius is of the same mind, in the last Paragraph of Chap. 20. B. 2. de Jure Belli & Pacis. “They,” says he, “are most justly punishable, who behave themselves irreverently and irreligiously towards those Beings which they believe to be Gods.” And hereupon he makes a note, in which he says, “St. Cyril treats this matter very judiciously in his fifth and sixth Books against Julian.” He likewise observes, that the true God has often punish’d Perjurys and false Adjurations of the Divinitys believ’d in, of what kind soever they be. It won’t be amiss to hear what Seneca says on this head, in the seventh Chapter of his seventh Book of Benefits: A sacrilegious Person can do no injury to God, who by his Nature is above all Attempts; yet he’s justly punishable, because he offers the injury to a Being which he owns as God. Our Sense and his own condemn him to Punishment. This Author joins the Sentence of the sacrilegious Person’s own Mind to that of his Judges; but in one sense this Consent of Judgments is not necessary. For tho they shou’d be of a very different Religion from that of the sacrilegious Person, yet they are oblig’d to punish him for acting in this point against the Dictates of his particular Conscience. ’Tis true, the Opinion of the Judges in another sense cannot but close in with that of the sacrilegious Offender, provided they are of this opinion, that all particular Contempts of the false Divinitys rebound upon the true God. How can this be, say they? Thus, say I; ’tis no hard matter to demonstrate it.<299>
As the eternal or positive Laws of God are what makes all the difference between Vertue and Vice, between moral Good and Evil, it’s the Prerogative of God to declare what Punishment is due to the Violation of these Laws; and ’tis he, as Legislator, who is the principal Party affronted by the Transgression of ’em. Now the most obliging and most indispensable of all these Laws, is that which forbids the doing of what we are conscious is wicked, criminal, and impious; all therefore who commit what they believe to be wicked and impious, violate one of the most sacred Laws flowing from the Divine Nature, and consequently offend the true God: for altho they know him not, altho the God whom they do know is a Fiction of the Brain, a most imperfect Being; yet the Persuasion they are under that this Being is God, cannot be attended with an Act which they are conscious must offend him, without the extremest Obliquity and utmost Malice in the Will. Now this Obliquity and this Malice of the Will is one of those Acts which the Law eternal has rank’d in the Class of Sin; it’s therefore a Violation of the eternal Law of God: in a word, it’s an Impiety.
The better to comprehend this, we need only compare the Case of a Jew who shou’d pillage the Temple of Jerusalem, with that of a Greek who pillag’d the Temple of Delphos; a Jew, I say, and a Greek equally assur’d, one that the Temple of Jerusalem is consecrated to God, the other that the Temple of Delphos is consecrated to Apollo, and that Apollo is a true God. I defy all Mankind to find any Circumstance in these two sacrilegious Actions, which can render one more<300> impious, more affronting to the true God than the other.
For will any one say, that the Jew’s carrying off Vessels consecrated to the true God, and the Greek Vessels consecrated to a false God, makes any specifick difference betwixt the two Thefts? To say this, is betraying an utter Ignorance of the formal Cause of Sin, and advancing that the Sin of the Jew consists, in part at least, precisely in this, that he has taken certain Vessels from one place, and laid ’em down in another. Now this is no ingredient in the Sin; for shou’d a high Wind cause this conveyance, shou’d a Thunderbolt, an Earthquake, a walking Machine change their local Situation, there wou’d be no more moral Evil in it, than in the twirling of a Straw, which is the sport of the Winds. The Sin therefore of the Jew consists in this, in his willing to convey away these Vessels the very moment he was near enough to reach forth his hand for that purpose; and willing this in the very moment that he believ’d ’em to be Vessels consecrated to God, and that he cou’d not convey ’em away without offending the true God. The Concurrence, or if I may so say, the Confluence of these two Acts of the Soul, to wit, of this Knowledg and this Volition, at the moment when his Hand was near enough to do its part, is that which constitutes the whole Sacrilege and Sin of this Jew. That these Vessels are really, or, as the Logicians speak, a parte rei, consecrated to the true God, and not to those Gods of Dung of which the Prophets so often make mention, is a thing wholly extrinsecal and accidental to the Jew’s Action, and consequently<301> contributes nothing to the aggravating his Crime. Whence it evidently appears, that the Greek’s Sacrilege is altogether as sinful as that of the Jew, because we find in it that Concurrence of a Will to steal certain Vessels, the very moment his Hand was near enough to be mov’d for this purpose; and of a clear and distinct belief that these Vessels are consecrated to a God, who shall think himself exceedingly offended at his conveying ’em from thence. Apollo’s being a Chimera is nothing at all to the purpose; for the Greek having not the least suspicion of this chimerical Quality of Apollo, nothing can be drawn from it in his excuse: and it is most false, that the Reason total or in part, why he durst rob the Temple, was grounded on his believing that Apollo was no God. I say, and know I repeat the same things too often; but we have to deal with Adversarys impenetrable to the most forcible Arguments; their Understandings are like the Bodys of those Soldiers who have got, they say, a Charm about ’em, which renders ’em invulnerable: we must therefore work it into ’em as Water does into Stone, by saying the same things over and over; Gutta cavat Lapidem non vi sed saepe cadendo.93
From all this I conclude, that the Conscience of a Pagan obliges him to honor his false Gods, on pain, if he reviles ’em, if he robs their Temples, &c. of incurring the Guilt of Blasphemy and Sacrilege, as much as a Christian who curs’d God, and rob’d his Churches. Wherefore I approve the Christian Magistrate’s punishing a Pagan, who without a design of abjuring his Religion shou’d blaspheme his Divinitys, or overthrow their Statues.<302>
Let’s now examine the Difficultys which they are ready to propose in abundance.
In the first place, they may tell us that the Examples of the Author of the Critique Generale prove nothing with regard to the Truths of Religion, because they relate to Questions of Fact, and not to those of Right, such as the Articles of Faith be. For which reason he who is under a mistaken Belief, that the Husband of his Mother is his true Father, shall be oblig’d to honor him as such, and wou’d be guilty of a Sin if he did not; but he who shou’d falsly believe that Murder is a vertuous Action, is not oblig’d to kill, and wou’d be guilty of a Sin if he did. Whence arises this difference? From hence; That the knowing such a Man to be the Father of such a Man is a Question of Fact, but the knowing whether it be lawful to kill is a Question of Right.
This Objection is of no great weight, and includes two Cases which we must take care to distinguish. The first is to know whether Conscience, erring in matters of Right, obliges to act according to its false Dictates; the other, to know whether he who follows these false Dictates commits a Sin. I don’t see that Fact and Right in the first case beget any real difference, because the formal reason why Conscience erring in matters of Fact obliges to act, is, that he who shou’d not act betrays a Contempt of Vertue, and a Will of doing what he knows is an Evil. For example, a Man who acts contrary to what his mistaken Conscience tells him he ought to do for his suppos’d Father, formally wills a Transgression of the fifth Commandment of the Decalogue. Now as the willing this Transgression is<303> a greater Evil than willing another Action, not conformable indeed to the Law of God, but which however to us appears conformable, insomuch that its appearing so is the real Motive of our acting, and that moreover of two Evils we are indispensably oblig’d to avoid the greatest; it’s plain this Person is oblig’d to honor his suppos’d Father.
Now the same Reason operates where Conscience errs in matters of Right. We can’t act counter to its Dictates, without willing that which we are persuaded is a Sin; and the willing this is undoubtedly a greater Sin than willing another thing which we are convinc’d is good, altho it may not be so: the same Reason then why Conscience erring in matters of Fact obliges, takes place where Conscience errs in points of Right. The Distinction therefore is null with regard to the first Case. I add, that in reality there are but very few Questions of Right which are not reducible to this Fact, whether God has reveal’d this or that; whether he has prohibited Murder, &c. For as to the Question, whether what God prohibits is evil, and what he commands is good, no body disputes it: the only dispute is concerning this Fact, Is such or such a thing forbidden or commanded by God?
As to the second Case, to wit, whether he who follows the Dictates of a Conscience erring in matters of Right be guilty of Sin, I have no design of treating it in this place; nevertheless I shall desire my Reader to weigh the following Remark.
That the Distinction of Fact and Right is of no use, except in cases where both don’t come to<304> the same thing. ’Twere making a mock of us to pretend, Such an Action proceeding from Error is innocent, such another Action proceeding from Error is sinful; that’s innocent because it concerns a Fact; this is sinful because it concerns Right: I say, ’twere mocking the World to argue at this rate, without going farther, and without supposing other Principles. They must therefore tacitly understand, when they talk thus, that the Fact and Right are so distinct in their natures, that the Ignorance as to the first is invincible, but as to the latter affected and malicious. By supposing this Principle all will go well; and then the true reason why a Woman that beds with a suppos’d Husband, a Child who inherits the Estate of a suppos’d Father, &c. commit neither Adultery nor Fraud,94 is, not that the Error concerns a matter of Fact (this reason supposes another previous reason) but that their Error proceeds not from Malice, and that it is not the fault of either the Wife or the Son that they are deceiv’d. I don’t see how this can be deny’d; because it’s a constant Truth, that if the Mistake of this Woman had its rise from any criminal Passion, which blinded her eyes to all the means of detecting the Impostor, her carnal Commerce with him wou’d be indeed a Sin; yet ’twou’d still be true, that this Action concern’d a Point of Fact, to wit, Whether such a Man be the Husband of such a Woman. Thus by unfolding the Circumstances, we come at the formal Reason of moral Good and Evil. It does not consist precisely in this, That the Action relates to Fact; but in the Party’s being under an Ignorance of the Fact, without Malice or vicious Af-<305>fectation. Now if this be the true formal Cause of the Innocence of those Actions which proceed from Error, I maintain, that wherever this Ignorance takes place, whether in matters of Fact or in those of Right, the Action proceeding from it is innocent; and consequently this first Distinction of Fact and Right is nothing to the purpose, nor does it invalidate my Argument in the least: for I don’t pretend to excuse or acquit those who maliciously contribute to their own Ignorance; I speak only for those whose Error is attended with Sincerity, and who wou’d freely and readily forsake their Heresys, if convinc’d they were really such, and who have employ’d the same means for discovering whether they be Heresys, as the Orthodox to discover whether their Doctrines be Orthodox.
I shan’t scruple to maintain, that the Reverence and Obedience such Men pay to their own Church, their Zeal for its Confessions of Faith, the Care their Church takes to train up and instruct its Sons, can’t be reputed sinful Actions, but it must follow that the Obedience for a suppos’d Father, the Commerce with a suppos’d Husband, the Tenderness for a suppos’d Child, are likewise sinful; for in all these respective Cases there’s a Transfer of what is a just Debt to one Party, on another to whom it is not due, and an Ignorance involuntary and void of Malice, of one side as much as the other. And after this, it matters little that one is call’d Fact, the other Right; as it signifies little to the justifying a Suit at Law for the Recovery of an Estate, whether it were left the Claimant by Gift, or whether he had bought it with his<306> Mony. A Title by Gift or by Purchase are two very different things; yet because they center in the same particular point of giving a just Possession, they equally confer the Right of a just Possession, and of all Claims depending thereon. This is exactly the Case before us. Fact and Right may be as different, if you please, as Black and White; yet meeting in the point of being equally unknown thro an involuntary Ignorance, they confer or take away precisely the same Rights.
I shan’t in this place examine whether the Ignorance of Matters of Right may be as innocent as that of Fact: I shall touch upon this Point hereafter.
The second Difficulty propos’d is, That my Doctrine does in its Consequences destroy what I wou’d endeavor to establish. My design is to shew, that Persecution is a horrible thing; and yet every one who thinks himself oblig’d in Conscience to persecute, shall be oblig’d by my Doctrine to persecute, and sins if he does not.
I answer, That the Design of this Commentary upon these words, Compel ’em to come in, being to convince Persecutors that Jesus Christ has not enjoin’d Constraint, I don’t destroy my own Design, if I shew by solid Arguments that the literal Sense of these words is false, impious, and absurd. If I succeed in this, I have reason to hope that they who examine my Argument, may perceive those Errors of Conscience, which they may be under as to Persecution; and therefore my Design is just. I don’t deny but they who are actually persuaded that ’tis their Duty to extirpate Sects, are oblig’d to follow the<307> Motions of their false Conscience; and that in not doing so, they are guilty of a Disobedience to God, because they persist in not obeying what they believe to be his Will.
But, 1. It does not follow, that they act without Sin, because they act by Conscience. 2. This ought not to hinder our crying out loudly against their false Maxims, and endeavoring to enlighten their Understandings.
The third Difficulty is, That by my Principles the Magistrate cannot punish a Man who robs or kills his Neighbor, upon a persuasion of the Lawfulness of these Actions. I have already answer’d, that this does not follow; because the Magistrate is oblig’d to preserve the Society, and punish all those who destroy the Foundation of its Security, as Murderers and Robbers do: in this case he is to have no regard to their false Consciences. He is not oblig’d to have any regard for Conscience, except in Matters which affect not the publick Welfare; to wit, Doctrines as consistent with the Liberty and Property of the Subject, as any other Doctrines.
But be that as it will, say they in the fourth place, no Violence can upon my Principles be offer’d to those who vend any speculative Doctrines; and consequently here’s a door open’d for Atheists to declaim against God and Religion, as much as they please. I deny the Consequence, 1. Because the Magistrate being, by the Eternal Law of Order, oblig’d to promote the publick Welfare and Security of all the Members of the Society under his care, may and ought to punish those who sap or weaken the fundamental Laws of the State; and of this number we commonly<308> reckon those who destroy the Belief of a Providence, and the Fear of divine Justice. If this Reason won’t suffice, here’s another to stop the mouth of every Caviller on this head; to wit, That an Atheist, incapable of being prompted to vend his Tenets from any Motive of Conscience, can never plead that Saying of St. Peter, It is better to obey God than Men; which we look upon with reason as the Barrier which no secular Judg can get over, and as the inviolable Asylum of Conscience. An Atheist, void as he is of this main Protection, lies justly expos’d to the utmost Rigor of the Laws; and the moment he vends his Notions, after warning once given him, may be justly punish’d as a Mover of Sedition; who believing no Restraint above human Laws, presumes nevertheless to tread ’em under foot. I shall insist no farther upon this Answer; I’m satisfy’d, the least discerning Reader will presently perceive its force: and thus my Doctrine is intirely fenc’d against all Attempts of Impiety, because it allows that the Secular Power may in this case take what methods shall seem most fitting. But the case is different with regard to a Teacher of new Doctrines, who may plead the Glory of God, the common Lord of all Men, to the Magistrate in behalf of his teaching this or that Doctrine; and alledg that Conscience, and a Zeal for the Truth, are his only Motives. These are the Foundation of Mount Sinai, which can never be shaken. Such a Man must be argu’d with from the Word of God or the Lights of Reason. Add to this what I hinted before,95 when I spoke of an Exchange of Missionarys with<309> the Mahometans, and the Advantages Christianity might make by such a Traffick.
But what! say they in the fifth place, wou’d he have us suffer Men to preach up Sodomy, Adultery, and Murder, as Actions praise-worthy and holy? And if they pretend that Conscience and a Zeal for the Truth had mov’d ’em to undeceive the World in these points, must not the Magistrate restrain ’em? I answer, this Objection smells strong of the Cavil; and there’s so little danger of this Case’s ever happening, that the Difficulty founded upon it deserves not to be consider’d.
If I told those who condemn Persecution by Fire and Sword and say that one must be content to banish Hereticks, that their Doctrine tends manifestly to the Rigor of Death; because if all the World banish’d those whom they banish’d, the Wretches must inevitably perish; not finding any place of being or abode; I shou’d think I had started a pitiful Cavil, because ’twere supposing a Case which in all likelihood can never happen, to wit, that all the World shall agree to banish the same Hereticks. I say much the same to the Objection now made. There’s no need of knowing what shou’d be done, in case any Person preach’d up Sodomy, Murder, and Rapine, as a Morality deriv’d from Jesus Christ, because there’s no danger that this shall ever happen. Your Innovators in Religion never steer this course; and if they did, they must presently become the Horror and Detestation of Mankind, nor ever be able to establish any thing like a Sect. This is not the way for an Impostor, or a Man seduc’d by the Devil, to win the Multitude; Appearances of Austerity will stand him<310> much more in stead. Yet if they have a mind to know what course ought to be taken with such Teachers, I answer, that in the first place cou’d they be suppos’d persuaded of what they say, they shou’d be fairly reason’d with, and their Condemnation set before ’em from the Scriptures, and from the Ideas of natural Rectitude. Either they must be frantick, or be brought to reason by such a Catechise: and when the scandalous and execrable Consequences of their Doctrines were fairly and calmly set before ’em, Consequences which put the Lives and Estates of the Preachers themselves in the power of the next Comer; if they still persisted in their Error, and in a Design of teaching and spreading it, they shou’d be made to understand, that as they attack the politickal Laws of the Society, they are under Circumstances in which the Magistrate regards not the Plea of Conscience. Sure I am, that so many Marks of Madness and Lunacy must appear in their Conduct upon such a Dispute, unless they were reclaim’d by it, that there wou’d be ground enough to send ’em to Bedlam. Judg then whether such a Case (I don’t remember to have met with any such in the Catalogue of Hereticks) is to be put in the ballance with that of delivering up those who err only in Points of Faith to the Secular Arm. Dutys of Morality are so clearly reveal’d in the Scriptures, that we can’t justly apprehend Conscience will be deprav’d with regard to them. And Christians being besides on such a foot, that they may live Lives as dissolute as if all speculative Morality were cancel’d, they’l always leave this part intire; it furnishes<311> matter for good Books and good Sermons, and for all the fair Appearances of Piety: so that its Commodiousness in this respect, and the little or no Inconvenience it gives in the Practice, is a sufficient Guaranty that no Sect will ever revolt against it; or if it shou’d, that the Scandal will quickly give a check to its growth without the Assistance of the Secular Arm.
The Jesuits themselves, with all their Pride and all their Impudence, durst not maintain the Attempts of their Casuists; they have disavow’d ’em, and think it unjust that their whole Society shou’d suffer upon their account. They have fairly struck sail upon this occasion; and if they have done so much, of whom shou’d we despair? The antient Gnosticks, who authoriz’d all carnal Pollutions; the Adamites, and some others of the same taste, lasted but a short while: a Sense of Decency and worldly Honor is enough to reclaim all their Followers, and they can truly have none but such as are branded for their scandalous Lives; a strong Presumption that their Conscience is not deceiv’d. If they have but the least Remains of it, if they have the least Remains of Reason, they may quickly be reclaim’d by grave Conferences.
They may say in the sixth place, It follows from my Principles, that a Man who commits Murder in obeying the Instincts of Conscience, does a better Action than he who does not commit it; and that the Magistrate has no right to punish him, because he has only done his Duty. This Objection is certainly very perplexing, I don’t disown it; but I persuade my self, the Answer I shall give will be satisfactory to all who<312> are not govern’d by popular Judgments. I have three things to observe upon this Objection.
The first is only a Consequence from what I have bin just saying, that there’s so little danger of any number of Men’s falling into the sensless and furious Persuasion of the Lawfulness of Murder, that by owning the Consequence I don’t think I endanger Religion or the State. Natural Reason and Scripture are so express against Murder, and the Doctrine which maintains it has something so horrible and even hazardous, that few are capable of being so much beside themselves as really to take up this Persuasion from a Principle of Conscience. This is never to be apprehended, except from Minds over-run with Melancholy, or flaming Zealots, into whom their Directors of Conscience, flagitious Men, may possibly inspire a King-killing Principle, where the Prince is of a different Religion from theirs; whereof France and England have memorable Examples. Shou’d only a Prince in an Age fall by such Principles, still the mischief wou’d be very great; yet there’s no avoiding this mischief by maintaining, as our Adversarys do, that a misguided Conscience does not oblige. For the wicked Directors, who inspire these Assassins, will never tell ’em it’s a false Conscience which prompts ’em to stab a Henry III, or a Henry IV, but a very upright and orthodox Conscience. Since then the Inconvenience to be apprehended from my Hypothesis is not to be avoided by the opposite Principles, ’twere imprudence to quit it, when so useful in other respects, and particularly towards obliging Men to inform themselves thorowly of the Truth: For if once<313> persuaded that they are oblig’d to obey the Dictates of Conscience, yet without being acquitted in the presence of God on the commission of any Crime (because if their Ignorance proceeds from a neglect of the means of Information, they are liable to punishment even for what they have done from the Instincts of Conscience) they’l certainly take the more care how they bring themselves under a necessity of doing Evil: whereas if People be taught that a false Conscience does not oblige, they’l live at random, persuade themselves to what they please, except for doing nothing of what their Conscience directs; for perhaps, say they, Conscience is not rightly inform’d, and if so, I ought not to govern my self by it. See what horrible Confusions must spring from the Opinion I now confute.
Next I observe, that the reason why Murder is commonly accounted a greater Sin, tho committed from the Instincts of Conscience, than a contempt of these Instincts, is only a custom of making God judg upon human Actions, as our own Judges in criminal Cases are wont to do. That is, we imagine that Almighty God, over and above the Modifications of the Soul of Man, regulates himself in his Judgments by the Effects and Consequences of the Motion of Matter, by which Men execute their Wills, insomuch as to judg the killing a Man when there’s only an intention of wounding him, a greater Sin than only wounding when there’s an intention of killing him. This is a gross Abuse, and yet it is not amiss for earthly Judges to govern themselves by such Rules, because they are not Searchers of<314> the Heart and Reins. But as to God, who knows all the Degrees of Malice, Infirmity, and Passion, which mix with our Wills, infinitely better than the best Goldsmith knows the proportions of Alloy in Metals, he judges upon our Actions most surely and most infallibly, without turning his Eye to any other Object than the bare Modifications of the Soul, and without considering whether one of these Modifications moves a Sword, and another moves it not: Such a Modification which gives it a Motion may possibly be innocenter, than such another which does not.
If it be therefore true, that God considers only the Modifications of the Soul, let’s content our selves with comparing what God sees in a Man fully persuaded he ought to commit Murder, and yet refraining from it, with what he sees in a Man under the same firm Persuasion, and who at the same time commits the Murder. In the First, he sees an affected, inexcusable, and malicious contempt of the Will of God (for as I have said a thousand times over, to contemn what one believes to be the Will of God, is essentially a Contempt of the Will of God, tho the Person may be deceiv’d in believing it to be his Will.) In the Second, he sees an intire deference for what he’s persuaded is the Will of God, a Homage paid to the Supreme Authority of God, in fine a Love of Order; for Order eternal and immutable joins the Idea of God as commanding a thing, to the Resolution of obeying him. We don’t more clearly conceive, that the Idea of a Magnitude which exceeds that of a Part is included in the Idea of the Whole; than we conceive that the Obligation of doing any thing is included in<315> the Idea of God commanding it: So that these two Axioms are without contradiction of the same incontestable Evidence, The Whole’s greater than its Part; Man ought to do what God commands, and believe that he ought to do what he believes God has commanded him. It’s impossible therefore a Man shou’d join the Will of doing a thing to the Belief of God’s enjoining it, without his willing to conform to the primary Idea of Equity, and to what we call Order eternal and immutable: and consequently God, who knows all things as they really are, sees in a Soul, which believing he enjoins him to commit a Murder commits it, a most unfeign’d desire of conforming to the eternal and natural Law; and on the contrary, in a Soul under the same Persuasion, which yet will not commit the Murder, he sees a swerving from Order, and a manifest Transgression of the eternal Law. The first Soul therefore must appear to him less inordinate than the second: because the whole Sin of the first consists in taking that for a divine Impulse or Inspiration, which really was not so; which being an Error only in Fact and Judgment, can’t be a Sin near so enormous, as an Act of the Will by which we refuse to obey God.
It’s fit to observe, that Homicide being an Action in some cases lawful, as in War; in the Execution of civil Justice; and from a secret divine Impulse, as in the Case of St. Peter who slew Ananias; it follows, that to convict a Man of the Sin, it is not sufficient to say he has kill’d another Man, but we must examine all the Circumstances: for there are such Circumstances as change the nature of Homicide from that of a<316> bad Action to a good, a secret Command of God for example. And therefore, when a Man from the Instincts of his Conscience kills another, we must not consider this Homicide abstracted from the Persuasion the Murderer was under, that God had enjoin’d it. Now upon considering the Murder join’d to this Persuasion, there’s no more to be said, than that the Man was grosly deceiv’d in taking that for a divine Inspiration, which was nothing like it; and undoubtedly the Offence is smaller in this case, than in that of having not the least regard to what we were persuaded was the Will of God. ’Twill clear every difficulty in this matter, if we only represent the Devil accusing a Man at the Divine Tribunal, who did not commit a Murder when his Conscience prompted him to it. The Accusation must import, that this Man believing himself in such Circumstances, that God by a special Providence had thought fit to make use of him, as of Phineas, Samuel, Elias, and St. Peter, for the killing such a Man,96 he had made a mock of the matter, and put it off to a long Day. What Answer cou’d the accus’d make? Shou’d he say that Murder was forbidden in the Decalogue; ’twill be reply’d, that God sometimes dispenses with this Precept. Shou’d he say, that he durst not stain his Hands with Blood, Judgment will be demanded against him for want of holy Resolution. Shou’d he say, that he was under some doubts whether the Command came from God, then we are no longer in the Supposition I made; and so I have nothing to say to it. It’s plain then the accus’d cou’d have no good reason to alledg in extenuation of his formal Disobedience, and consequent-<317>ly that God wou’d be oblig’d to pronounce him guilty: so that what repugnance soever a Body finds at first sight to the owning it, yet it’s certain, that a Murder committed from the Instincts of Conscience, is a less Sin than not committing Murder when Conscience dictates.
They’l tell me, that he who made a Vow to kill a Man, must sin more by performing his Vow, than by breaking it. I answer, If the breaking his Vow proceeded from a better inform’d Conscience, telling him ’twas a less Sin to violate his Vow than to accomplish it, his Conduct in this case were right. But if continuing in the Persuasion, that he was not oblig’d to cancel his Vow, he shou’d yet recede from it, my Arguments revert, and prove as in the former Case. I wou’d have People observe by the way, that shou’d God, taking pity of a Man, who bound himself rashly in a very sinful Vow, have a mind to prevent his accomplishing it, the way must be, by the interposal of a new Conscience, and by shewing him that he was not oblig’d to fulfil his Vow. This discovers to us in the Ideas of God, an indissoluble Connexion betwixt the Judgments of Conscience, and the Obligation of conforming to ’em; since God himself does not separate these two things, when he wou’d prevent the execution of a sinful Act: How does he order it then? He goes somewhat higher to the Principle of all human Actions, and reconciles his renouncing the Vow, with the Judgment of Conscience; that is, he changes the former Instincts of Conscience, and gets a new Judgment pass’d, that the Vow is no longer obliging, but<318> on the contrary that there’s an Obligation of breaking it.
I conclude, by saying, that the Magistrate having receiv’d a Power from God and Man, of putting Murderers to death, may justly punish him who kills a Man from the Instincts of Conscience; for it is not his business to stand winnowing those rare and singular Cases, in which Conscience may happen to fall into Illusions in this matter.
A Continuation of the Answer to the Difficultys against the Rights of an erroneous Conscience. An Examination of what they say, that if Hereticks retaliate on those who persecute ’em, they are guilty of Injustice. Arguments to prove, that a false Conscience may sometimes excuse those who follow it, tho not in all Cases.
Having shewn, as I presume I have, that Hereticks are oblig’d to avoid whatever is not conformable to the Dictates of their Conscience as at least the greater Evil; from whence I infer’d, that they have a Right of doing every thing for the propagating their Errors, which they know God has enjoin’d for propagating the Truth: I might very well have rested here, as having sufficiently prov’d, that Hereticks have a Right of persecuting the Orthodox, supposing<319> God had any where enjoin’d the persecuting Error. However to omit nothing that can farther be desir’d, I shall here examine another very important Question, to wit, Whether a Heretick in doing what his Conscience dictates, may not only avoid the greater Evil, but also all Evil, and perform a good Action.
Before I proceed, I think my self oblig’d to remove a rock of Offence out of the way of my Readers. Some I know will be startled at my advancing, that an erroneous Conscience gives a Right of committing Evil; or to use the Terms of the Author of the Critique Generale on Mr. Maimbourg’s History,97 that Error in the guise of Truth, enters upon all the Rights and Prerogatives of Truth. This sounds somewhat harsh and extravagant; and I own I have met with other Expressions of this kind in the same Author, which to me appear’d somewhat crude and undigested at the first reading: but upon better thoughts I am clearly of his Opinion, to wit, that when Error is dress’d out in the Vestments and Livery of Truth, we owe it the same Respect as we owe to the Truth itself; just as, when a Messenger comes with a Master’s orders to a Servant, the Servant is oblig’d to receive him, tho perhaps the Messenger’s no better than a Cheat or Sharper at the bottom, who has surreptitiously come by the Master’s Orders. To say that this Sharper acquires all the Rights of a faithful Messenger with regard to the Servant to whom he delivers his Master’s Orders, is a manner of expression, which in a Subject of this nature may appear somewhat confus’d to an unpractis’d Reader: but bating this the parallel is<320> just; and if the Author of the Critique meant no more by it, than that the Servant was oblig’d to receive this Sharper civilly, and cou’d not offer him the least Injury without becoming unfaithful to his Master, I must intirely agree with him. Yet he ought to have observ’d one remarkable Difference betwixt the Sharper and a Heresy; to wit, that the Sharper being a distinct Person from the Servant, and conscious he has no right to come with the Master’s Orders, can’t do this without a Sin; but the Heresy under the colors of Truth, being nothing distinct from the Heretical Soul in which it exists (for the Modifications of the Mind are not Entitys distinct from the Mind) is no way conscious of its being only the fantom of Truth, and consequently the Heretical Soul knows not that it either deceives or is deceiv’d. Now fully persuaded of her being in a good State, she has quite another Right of imposing such and such Acts on her self, which in the eternal Order of Morality are to follow upon such and such Persuasions; she has, I say, much a better right in this respect than the Sharper: For the Sharper has not the least Right or Authority, as existing outside the Mind of the Servant, but as he is objectively in the Servant’s Mind; that is, to express my self more intelligibly, all his Right consists in the Idea, or in the Persuasion the Servant is under, that this Sharper is a faithful Messenger from his Master. If the Sharper usurps this Right, he is punishable beyond dispute; but the Soul modify’d by a Heresy from a sincere Persuasion, whether punishable when exercising her Right, is all the Question. There’s no manner of doubt but she is when her Right is ill ac-<321>quir’d. Nor let it seem strange to any one, that I say, a Soul is liable to Punishment, when only exercising her own Right; for all agree that a Person may abuse his Right, and commit Injustice in the exercise of his Right. It’s an Axiom that, summum Jus summa Injuria, a Man may be very unjust in stretching his Right to the utmost rigor. Have not Princes a Right of punishing and pardoning, yet don’t they often make a wrong use of it? Without entring therefore into tedious Discussions, ’twill suffice to observe, that the Word Right or Jus is equivocal; sometimes it’s taken for the Power of doing such a thing; and sometimes for the Justice of an Action. Children have a Right in some cases to marry in spite of their Parents, and if they do no one can molest ’em; yet this hinders not but by exercising this Right they may sometimes abuse it, physically and morally speaking. ’Twere abusing my Readers to enlarge on a matter so evident.
Having remov’d this rub out of our way, I make no scruple to say, that had God in the Scriptures commanded the propagating the Truth by Fire and Sword, Hereticks might unblameably persecute the Truth with Fire and Sword; which is a new and demonstrative Argument against the literal Sense confuted in this Commentary. My Reasons are these.
I. Let’s keep to the Passage which serves for a Text to this Commentary: It’s evident from what we have seen in several parts of this Work, that if the words Compel ’em to come in, contain’d a Command of forcing People into the Bosom of the Church, they are liable to Constraint, not<322> only by Fine, Imprisonment, and Banishment, but also by capital Punishment. We may therefore suppose, that this Passage contains a Law for persecuting to the utmost rigor. Now as this Law is conceiv’d in general terms, there can be no ground to imagine, but the Intention of the Legislator is general, and indifferently address’d to all who own the Gospel for the reveal’d Word of God. But if the Intention of God be general, all they, to whom this Law is known, are oblig’d to obey it: now this they cannot do but by persecuting those who entertain a Belief opposite to the Truth; God then it seems has commanded ’em to persecute those whom they suppose in Opinions opposite to the Truth. And if they do this, what ground is there for Complaint?
The better to perceive the force of this Argument, which seems at first sight to be far fetch’d and drag’d in by head and shoulders, ’twill be proper to observe, that all the Precepts which God has given in his Word in general terms, are obliging, not only on those who are in the visible Communion of that Church which understands the Scriptures rightest, but on those also who live in heretical Societys. This is evident from the Examples of Prayer, Alms-giving, Charity to our Neighbor, honoring our Father and Mother, renouncing our Lusts, Covetousness, Lying, Uncleanness, &c. ’Tis the Mind of God, not only that the Orthodox shou’d obey these Precepts, but those also who have the misfortune of falling into any Heresy, and even while they continue in their Errors; in the midst of all their Delusions he intends they shou’d obey these Precepts, and approves all Acts of Vertue in obedience to ’em.<323> And why shou’d not we think the same with regard to this general Order, Compel ’em to come in? Why shou’d the greatest part of Christians not observe it; and why do better in transgressing it? All the Disparitys which can be alledg’d, will serve only to shew, that had God given any Law at all in this matter, he had restrain’d it by some particular Expressions, by saying, for example, I ordain, that they who believe such and such points, constrain those who do not. Just as if it were a deadly Sin in a Protestant to give an Alms for God’s sake, all the Ideas of Order incline us to believe, that the Precept of Alms-giving had bin address’d to those only, who had such or such a Mark of Christianity, those, for example, who own’d the Pope’s Supremacy. But as all Men living, be they of what Religion they will, may do a good Work in giving Alms, hence it comes, that the Precept of Alms-giving is indifferently address’d to all Mankind, and so of all the other general Precepts. Seeing therefore the pretended Order for persecuting is general, we must believe, that the Intention of God is, that People of all Denominations shou’d obey it.
We are further to observe, that the Nature of all general Laws is such, that the Application of ’em must be left to the Discretion of those who fulfil ’em, unless it be otherwise prescrib’d by the Legislator. For example, the Command in the Decalogue, Honor thy Father and thy Mother, prescribes not to Children such or such a particular kind of Honor, nor obliges ’em to apply this Honor to such or such a kind of Person. The whole Intention of it is, that they pay to him, whom they believe their Father, the Honors in<324> use in their own Country; so that in a Country, where being cover’d in the presence of a Superior, or walking before him, were ordinary marks of respect, a Child who behav’d himself thus, not only towards him who begot him, but to him whom he believes to be his Father, wou’d as perfectly fulfil this Law of God, caeteris paribus, as a Child, who in this Country of ours shou’d stand always uncover’d before his Father, shou’d walk at a distance behind him, &c. Let’s apply this to the Law, Compel ’em to come in; the mildest Construction we can put upon it is, that all shou’d pitch upon that kind of Constraint which makes the deepest Impression in their own Country, and make use of it against those whom they believe to be in a wrong way: and thus things being in other respects equal, a Lutheran who shou’d compel a Papist to turn Lutheran, wou’d obey the Order of God altogether as regularly as a Papist who compel’d a Lutheran to go to Mass.
When St. Paul says, Do good unto all, especially to those who are of the Household of Faith; does he mean, that a Papist shou’d do good unto all, but especially to the Calvinists, or that a Calvinist shou’d do good to all, but especially to the Papists? No, this were extravagant: We must therefore of necessity suppose, since the Scripture ought to be the Rule of all Christians in all Ages, that St. Paul commands Christians in the distribution of their Favors, to prefer those whom they believe to be Orthodox, to those whom they think to be Heterodox. We can’t understand him otherwise; for the Holy Spirit, which dictated the Scriptures, with regard to the future as well as to the present time, cou’d not but foresee, that<325> Christians wou’d be divided into several Sects: so that the Rule of their Manners must have bin form’d, not upon an Hypothesis of Union and Agreement, but upon that of their Divisions and Schisms. Now since upon this second Hypothesis the Preference of the Orthodox in the distribution of our Benefits stands recommended, it follows, that the meaning of the Precept must be, that we must prefer those whom we believe to be Orthodox; this Preference is a natural Consequence of the Love of Truth: St. Paul therefore might well have recommended it in general; and he cou’d not have recommended it in general, had it bin a Sin in all, except one Society of Christians only. If we apply this to the words, Compel ’em to come in, we shall plainly find, that they justify Compulsion on the part of Hereticks as well as Non-Hereticks. Methinks I hear ’em tell me, that these words of the Parable, as well as those of St. Paul, imply in the first place, that People shou’d be Orthodox, and afterwards compel; and prefer those of the Houshold of Faith. But this Sense is absurd; for I may say the same of the Precepts, Honor your Father, protect the Innocent, relieve those in Distress, that they oblige not till one is converted. But while a Body is in the road of Instruction and Preparation, must not he honor his Father, relieve the Poor; and if he is so unfortunate as never to find the Truth, must he live all his Life without the Practice of these Vertues? This is so ridiculous, that there’s no standing by it: we must therefore say, that God directly, absolutely, and without any previous condition, wou’d have all Men, whether<326> Hereticks or Orthodox, be charitable and vertuous.
II. Another Reason is this. Our Adversarys own that Conscience which knows the Truth obliges, and that we act right in doing what it prescribes to be done. Now this cannot be true but in virtue of some, either necessary, or positive Law of the Author of all things, which we may represent in these terms: My Will is, that Truth oblige Men to a Necessity of following it, and they who do follow it shall perform a good Action. Now it does not appear how such a Law cou’d be signify’d to Mankind, without its authorizing reputed as well as real Truth: so that the same Law, which tells us, we may securely follow the Dictates of a Conscience which knows the Truth, intends also, that we may securely follow the Dictates of a Conscience, which believes it knows the Truth, after having us’d all the reasonable means of not being deceiv’d. What makes me speak at this rate is, that I suppose all Men may clearly and distinctly conceive, when they seriously consider it, that this is the Mind and Intention of all Legislators.
A King, who ordains all the Judges of his Kingdom to punish the Guilty, and acquit the Innocent, authorizes ’em by the same Order, to punish all those who shall appear to them Guilty, and acquit those who shall appear to them Innocent. I don’t say, that he authorizes ’em to examine the Accusations and Defences only in a slight transient way, or means, he’l excuse ’em if thro Sloth or Neglect they punish the Innocent, and acquit the Guilty; I only say, he<327> authorizes ’em to govern themselves by what, upon a thorow Examination, shall appear to ’em just: so that if after such Examination, they acquit a Man who appears to ’em guilty, tho perhaps he’s perfectly innocent at bottom, or if they condemn a Man in reality guilty, but who appears to them innocent; they betray their Trust, and deserve themselves to be punish’d, their Conduct discovering a manifest Contempt of the Laws, whereof they have the Execution, and a formal purpose of disobeying their Sovereign. I might alledg a hundred Examples to my purpose of particular Laws; but I shall only add two more, and leave it to the Reader to apply my Remark to those which shall offer to his own Mind.
A General, who shou’d give his Troops Orders to shew a respect for the Ladys, and spare the Lives of all the Women in the sacking of a Town, wou’d think his Orders obey’d if the Soldiers shew’d a regard for all those they had taken for Ladys, and spar’d all they had taken for Women. No matter if there were Tradesmens Wives of a good Presence, and well enough dress’d to pass upon them for Ladys; or Youths in Womens Clothes, whom they had taken for Girls: Their respecting these Tradesmens Wives, or sparing the Lives of these Youths, wou’d be no breach of their General’s Orders; whereas if they had not done so, ’tis plain, they had disobey’d him: because it is to be presum’d, that the Application of the Order to such and such Persons depends upon him who is to execute it, and who is only oblig’d to use Diligence and Sincerity in the applying it.<328>
When upon a Treaty of Peace a Prince stipulates, that all his Subjects shall enjoy a free Trade in the Dominions of another neighboring Prince, ’tis certain he does not intend to authorize the Piracys of those who might put out his Colors only to surprize the Ships of other Nations, or favor their Frauds; but ’tis as certain he means, that the other Prince shall allow full Liberty of Trade to all whom he shall take to be Subjects of that Prince he treats with: so that shou’d this other Prince make him such a Confession as this, I expel’d such and such Merchants out of my Dominions who were indeed afterwards found not to be your Subjects, tho that was more than I knew; ’tis plain ’twou’d be confessing he had violated the Treaty, and might actually and very justly be constru’d so by his Ally. Whence it appears, that the Intention of the covenanting Powers is to stipulate, as well for those who are really Subjects, as for those who shall appear to be such, till fairly detected.
If we carefully examine it, we shall find, that all the Examples which can be alledg’d to the contrary are either in matters so obvious, that one cannot be mistaken for the other, but it must be visible the mistake was wilful; or else these Examples suppose a mistrust of the Sincerity of others, arising from our Ignorance of the Hearts of Men. But be this how it will, as God, to whom all the Thoughts of the Heart are intuitively known, can never condemn, either from Suspicion or Distrust, those who take the Appearance for the Reality; it follows, that his Methods of proceeding can only be judg’d of by the Examples I alledg. Therefore when he de-<329>clares the Law of Constraint, the Nature of things requires by a Consequence which appears inevitable, that the reputed Truth shou’d exert it self in the same way as the real.
This will appear still more plainly, if we consider the condition of those to whom this Law is declar’d; we shall see ’twou’d be altogether useless if they were oblig’d to nothing on the score of reputed Truth: for in this case they might safely make a Jest of a thousand things, which to them appear to be Truths; and because the real Truth must appear such before they can follow it, they must often remain in a State of Suspence and Inactivity with regard to this very Truth: for thus they might say to themselves, We are not oblig’d to follow all that appears to us real and absolute Truth; How are we sure, that we now know this Truth, or that we have so much as the Appearance of Truth? But I shan’t insist on this, I content my self with saying in this place, that Man not being able to put the Law in question in execution without a previous search after the Truth, it follows, that he’s oblig’d to search after it. Now as soon as he believes he has found it, he ought to follow it; and if he cou’d not safely follow it then, his Search wou’d be to no purpose. The Intention therefore of the Legislator must be, when he establishes the Rights of Truth, and the Impunity of those who follow it, to establish this for Truth in general, that is, for that which is Truth with regard to each Person: saving always a liberty to all, of enquiring into the Causes which make Falshood appear to be Truth to such and such.
III. Let’s add in this one Remark more: When God says, It is my Will that the Truth neces-<330>sarily oblige all Men to follow it, and they who do follow it shall do a good Action; either he means all sort of Truths, or only some certain Truths. It’s plain he does not understand all sort of Truths, but those only which are duly reveal’d and declar’d to the Man: for how can it be imagin’d, that this Truth of Fact, God brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt, and gave ’em a Law which leads to Salvation, shou’d be obliging, I won’t say upon the People of America, but upon those of the Eastern parts of Asia, who had never so much as heard there was any such People as the Jews? How shou’d it be imagin’d, that this other Truth of Fact, the Foundation of all Christianity; Jesus Christ,the Son of God, suffer’d death to redeem Mankind, rose again, and ascended into Heaven, after having declar’d what we must believe and do, in order to eternal Salvation; shou’d be obliging, I won’t say upon the People of the Terra Australis, who perhaps never had a thought, that there were any other Race of Men upon Earth besides themselves, but even on the Nations of Asia and Africa? I think what Thomas Aquinas says very reasonable, that ’twere Imprudence to believe the Articles of our Faith propos’d unbecomingly, preach’d by Persons infamous and impious, and prov’d by ridiculous Reasons.98 If therefore all sort of Gospel-preaching does not oblige, by a much stronger Reason may we be excus’d for not believing when no one has ever told us a word of the Matter. A Cordelier99 of our own Nation, Francis de Sancta*Clara, gives us<331> the Opinions of several able Divines in this matter, he’s worth consulting. Let’s say then confidently, that God means not, that= all sorts of Truths shou’d oblige to the belief of ’em: there are only some certain Truths which do; and which are these? Such as are reveal’d and plainly enough declar’d, to render those inexcusable who believe ’em= not.
This manifestly shews, that God proposes the Truth to us in such a manner as to lay us under an Obligation of examining what it is that’s propos’d, and inquiring whether it be the Truth or no. From whence we may conclude, that he requires no more of us, than to examine and search after it diligently; and that when we have examin’d it to the best of our Power, he will accept of our Assent to the Objects which to us appear true, and of our Love for ’em as for a Present from Heaven. It’s impossible a sincere Love for an Object, which we receive as a Gift from God upon a diligent Inquiry, and our Esteem for it in consequence of this Persuasion, shou’d be evil, even tho there shou’d be an Error in this Persuasion.
IV. This reasoning will appear much more solid, if we consider what sort of Creatures they are to whom God reveals the Truths of Religion, by what means, and with what degrees of Light. These Creatures are Souls united to Body, which for some years have no use of Reason, nor Facultys for discerning Truth from Falshood, or suspecting, that those who instruct ’em can teach ’em any thing false; so that at this Age they believe every thing that’s told ’em without bogling at any Obscurity, Incomprehensibility, or Absur-<332>dity. Then they are Creatures which carry a Body about ’em, the Cause of the Soul’s being incessantly taken up in its whole Capacity, with a thousand confus’d Sensations, and a thousand unavoidable worldly Cares. The Passions and Habits of Childhood, the Prejudices of Education, take possession of us before we are aware what it is we admit into our Minds. All this renders the Search after Truth exceeding painful: and as God is the Author of the Union of Soul and Body, and intends not that human Society shall be destroy’d, but that every one shou’d diligently follow his lawful Calling, it’s evident he ought to deal by such Creatures with allowance for those Obstacles which are involuntary, and partly of his own appointment, when they obstruct their Search after Truth, and sometimes render the attaining it impossible. To this we must add one thing more, which we all know by undoubted Experience, to wit, That God has not printed any Characters or Signs on the Truths which he has reveal’d, at least not on the greatest part of ’em, by which we might certainly and infallibly discern ’em, for they are not of a metaphysical or mathematical Evidence; they don’t produce in our Souls any stronger Persuasion than Falshoods do, they don’t excite any Passions which Errors do not excite. In a word, we distinguish nothing in the Objects which appear to us true, and are so in reality, beyond what we find in Objects which appear true, and yet are otherwise. This being the case, there’s no comprehending how God shou’d impose any necessity on Man of loving the real Truth, without imposing the same necessity of loving the reputed<333> Truth: and to speak without mincing the matter, one can’t consult the Idea of Order without distinctly conceiving, that the only Law God in his infinite Wisdom cou’d have impos’d on Man with regard to Truth, is that of embracing all Objects which appear true upon the utmost use of the Lights afforded him for discerning the Truth of ’em. The infinite Wisdom of God necessarily and indispensably requires, that he shou’d proportion his Law to the State in which he himself has rang’d his Creatures; it requires then, that he sute ’em to the condition of a Soul united to a Body, which must be fed and nourish’d, live in Society, pass from a state of Childhood to youthful Age, and struggle out of its natural Ignorance by the Assistance and Instructions of its Parents. Now this Soul is incapable of discerning when its Persuasions are false, and when true; because they have both the same Signs, and the same Characters upon ’em: it must therefore either mistrust ’em all, despise ’em all, and so never perform one Act of Vertue; or else trust to ’em all upon an inward feeling, that they appear to her true and genuin, and upon a thorow Conviction of Conscience.
I know they’l tell me, that all the Obstacles to the finding the Truth which I have here spoken of, being the Consequence of the Rebellion of the first Man, and the just Chastisement of all his Posterity, God is not oblig’d to regulate himself by a Condition which Man has drawn upon himself by his own Fault; and that he has still a Right of dealing with Man upon the old foot, that is, according to the Condition from which he is fallen by the ill use Adam made of his Liberty. I have a thousand things to answer to this; but<334> to limit my self to what is but just necessary, I insist on the three following Observations.
I. That it no way appears, that the Weaknesses of Childhood are a consequence of the Sin of Adam, no more than the continual Sensations produc’d in us by the Actions of Objects on our Organs. There’s not the least probability, had Man continu’d in a State of Innocence, that his Children had come into the World with sufficient measures of Reason and Judgment, or that they had not grown up by little and little in Wisdom and Understanding as they do in Stature; the Laws of the Union of Soul and Body had, during their whole Lives, diverted the Forces of the Mind, so that the conceiving things spiritual had ever bin attended with Difficulty. Thus Man being plac’d in Circumstances which wou’d have render’d the discerning Truth from Falshood very troublesom; Man, I say, as created to multiply his Kind by the way of natural Generation; Order, which is the immutable Law of God himself, requires, that God shou’d accommodate himself to this condition of Man.
In the second place I say, that all the Consequences of the Sin of Adam, with regard to his Posterity, such as their being inclin’d to things sensible, their depending too much upon Bodys, being thwarted by Passions and Prejudices; all these, I say, being necessary Dependancys on the Laws establish’d by God from his mere Free-will in uniting Spirits to Matter, and in ordaining, that Man shou’d multiply by the way of Generation; Order, the unalterable Law of God, requires, that he shou’d sute his dealings with Man to that condition which Man is reduc’d to by the Fall of Adam.<335>
In the third place, that if notwithstanding the Rebellion of the first Man, God has, with regard to the Body, perfectly accommodated himself to the condition into which Sin has brought us, as we shall see by and by; it is much more reasonable to believe, he has accommodated himself to it with regard to the Soul.
Now he had not suted himself to the State we are reduc’d to, I mean, to the necessity we are under of bestowing a great part of our time on the Affairs of this Life, to the almost unsurmountable Subjection to the Prejudices of Education, to that continual Diversion of the Forces of the Mind, by Sensations and Passions mechanically excited in us upon the presence of other Bodys; he had not, I say, accommodated himself to this State, had he absolutely condemn’d all deference for reputed Truth, and rigorously exacted the Knowledg of absolute Truth at our hands, and the sifting it out from amidst all the false Images and Appearances of it, by that weak ray of Light which is our lot in this Life, and which resembles a faint Dawn rather than the perfect Day-light, as St. Paul confesses when he says, that now we see by a Glass, &c.100
He has therefore impos’d no such Laws on us, nor Duty, but such as is proportion’d to our Facultys, to wit, that of searching for the Truth, and of laying hold on that, which upon a sincere and faithful Inquiry, shall appear such to us, and of loving this apparent Truth, and of governing our selves by its Precepts how difficult soever they may seem. This imports, that Conscience is given us as a Touch-stone of Truth, the Knowledg and Love of which is injoin’d us.<336> If you demand any thing further, it’s plain you demand Impossibilitys; and ’tis easy to demonstrate it.
If you demand any thing further, it’s plain you demand that a Man shou’d fix his Love and his Zeal on nothing but absolute Truth, known certainly and acknowledg’d for such. Now it is impossible, in our present state, to know certainly that the Truth which to us appears such (I speak here of the Truths of Religion in particular, and not of the Propertys of Numbers, or the first Principles of Metaphysicks, or Geometrical Demonstrations) is absolutely and really the Truth: for all that can be expected from us, is being fully convinc’d we are possess’d of the perfect Truth; being sure we are not deceiv’d; that others are deceiv’d, and not we; all equivocal Marks of Truth; because they are to be found in the very Pagans, and the most abandon’d Hereticks. It’s plain then, we can’t by any infallible Mark or Character distinguish what is really Truth when we believe it, from what is really not so when we believe it is. This Discernment is not to be made by us upon any evidence in the nature of the Things; for on the contrary, all the world agree, that the Truths God has reveal’d to us in his Word, are deep and unsearchable Mysterys, which require the captivating our Understandings to the Obedience of Faith. Nor yet is this Discernment to be founded on the Incomprehensibility of Things; for what can be more false, or more incomprehensible at the same time, than a square Circle, than a first Principle essentially false, than a God the Father by natural Generation, such as the<337> Jupiter of the Heathens? Nor yet on the Satisfactions of Conscience; for a Papist is as fully satisfy’d of the Truth of his Religion, a Turk of his, and a Jew of his, as we are of ours. Nor last of all, on the Zeal and Courage which an Opinion inspires; for the falsest Religions have their Martyrs, their incredible Austeritys, a Spirit of making Proselytes, which often exceeds the Zeal of the Orthodox, and an extreme Devotion for their superstitious Ceremonys. In short, Man has no characteristick Mark to discern the Persuasion of the Truth from the Persuasion of a Lye. So that it’s requiring an Impossibility, to require this Discernment at his hands. When he has done all he can, the Objects he examines shall only appear to him some false and others true. All then that can be requir’d from him, is, that he endeavor to make those which are true appear such to him; but whether he compasses this, or whether those which are false still appear to him true, he ought to be left to his own Persuasion. What follows will sufficiently illustrate this matter.
Ever since the Protestants have quitted the Romish Communion, the great Objection against ’em has bin, That by destroying the Authority of the Church, they bring themselves under a necessity of finding out the Truth by searching the Scriptures; and that this Search surpassing the Power of any private Person, People are left destitute of any well-grounded Certainty of their Faith, since it’s ultimately resolv’d into this Foundation: I fancy I have reason to understand the Scripture so and so, therefore I have reason to understand it so. We on the other hand com-<338>plain, that after having answer’d this Objection a thousand times over, they shou’d still propose it on all occasions, especially in France, where they refine and improve it as much as possible. But it must be own’d, they have reason in one respect to propose it over and over, because it’s never fully answer’d, and never can be answer’d upon supposing, as we commonly do, that God requires of Man the Knowledg of absolute Truth, exclusive of all apparent Truth, and requires his certainly knowing that he does know it. Let’s fairly own our mistake; neither Learned nor Ignorant can ever arrive at this by any methods of Search and Inquiry: for never will these methods lead us to the Criterion of Truth, which is an Idea so clear and distinct that we perceive that the thing cannot possibly be otherwise, after having fairly consider’d all the grounds of doubting, I mean all the Objections of an Adversary. It is utterly impossible to arrive at such a degree of Certainty with regard to this single Point of Fact, that such a Text of Scripture is justly render’d; that a Word which is now in the Greek or Hebrew Copys, has bin always in ’em; and that the Sense which the Paraphrasts, the Commentators, and Translators give it, is exactly that of the Author. We may have a moral Certainty of this, and founded on very high Probabilitys; but after all, this kind of Certainty may subsist in the Soul of one who is actually deceiv’d, and therefore is no infallible Character of Truth: This is not what we call Criterium Veritatis, that irresistible Evidence, whereby we know, for example, that the Whole is greater than its Part; that if from<339> equal things we take things equal, the remainder will be equal; that six is half twelve, &c.
But the Roman Catholicks are in another respect very ridiculous in pressing these Difficultys, because it’s no less impossible for them to get over ’em by their Scheme, than for us by ours; and because they have no Expedient, upon their Principles, for satisfying that Condition which they suppose God exacts, to wit, the knowing from certain and undoubted Knowledg, that what they take for Truth is not an apparent Truth, such as all other Sects take for Truth, but Truth absolute and real. The way they propose for coming at this Certainty, is a thousand times more perplext than that of Protestants, as our Authors have sufficiently shewn; since in the first place it supposes the very same Difficultys and Inconveniences in appealing to the Scriptures for an Examination of all the Texts relating to the Fallibility or Infallibility of the Church; and the searching over and above into the History of former Ages, in order to discover what is really an Apostolical Tradition from that which is only so in the vain Imaginations of a Party.
In a word, there’s no possibility of attaining a certain Knowledg of the Church’s Infallibility, either from Scripture, or from natural Light, or Experience; and if there were, yet they who believe it infallible, wou’d owe their being in a true Opinion to a lucky chance, without being able to assign any necessary Cause of their Belief, or perceiving in their Souls any Criterion of Truth, which another who believ’d the quite contrary might not perceive in his: for the<340> most that a Papist cou’d perceive in his own mind, wou’d be a Sentiment of Conviction affording him a perfect Tranquillity, and great Pity, Hatred, or Contempt for his Adversarys; and these might perceive the like in themselves. They can therefore each be assur’d of no more than what each inwardly feels, to wit, that they are persuaded, these that the Church is infallible, those that she is not.
This single Consideration, duly weigh’d and thorowly meditated on, were sufficient to make us perceive the Truth of what I wou’d here establish, That God in the present Condition of Man exacts no more from him than a sincere and diligent Search after Truth, and the loving and regulating his Life by it, when he thinks he has found it out. Which, as every one sees, is a plain Argument that we are oblig’d to have the same deference for a reputed as for a real Truth. Whereupon all the Objections upon the Difficultys of examining the Scriptures vanish like so many vain Fantoms; since every Man living, be he ever so ignorant, has it in his power to give one sense or other to what he reads or hears, and to perceive that such a Sense is the true; and here’s what renders it Truth to him. It’s enough if he sincerely and honestly consult the Lights which God has afforded him; and if, following its Discoverys, he embraces that Persuasion which to him seems most reasonable, and most conformable to the Will of God. This renders him Orthodox in the sight of God, tho thro a defect, which he cannot rectify, his Judgments may not be always a faithful Representation of the real natures of Things; just as<341> a Child is Orthodox in taking the Husband of his Mother for his natural Father, when perhaps he is a Neighbor’s Child. The main thing is living vertuously afterwards; and therefore every one ought to employ all the Facultys and Forces of his Soul in honoring God by a cheerful discharge of all moral Dutys. The reveal’d Light is so clear in this respect, I mean in respect of the Knowledg of moral Dutys, that very few can mistake, if in the Sincerity of their Minds they desire to understand ’em.
There’s no need of advertising my Reader, that I don’t here exclude the Operations of Grace from the Act which makes us adhere to reveal’d Truths. I’m free to own, that ’tis Grace which makes us perceive that such or such a Sense of Scripture is true, and which disposes our Mind in such a manner, that precisely the Sense which is true shall appear true to us. But I maintain, that the Grace which produces this Perception, does not however afford us any certain and convincing Argument of the Sense which we believe true. We believe it firmly; and without being able to defend it against a learned and subtil Adversary, we remain convinc’d notwithstanding that it is the reveal’d Truth. Let People call this an Effect of Grace as much as they please, God forbid I shou’d contest it: still I say, that as Faith affords us no other Criterion of Orthodoxy than the inward Sentiment and Conviction of Conscience, a Criterion common to all, even the most heretical Souls; it follows; that all our Belief, whether Orthodox or Heterodox, is finally resolv’d into this, that we feel it, and it seems to us that this or that is<342> true. Whence I conclude, that God exacts not from either Orthodox or Heretick a Certainty grounded on scientifick Search or Discussion, and consequently accepts from each their loving whatever appears to ’em true. Whether the Orthodoxy I here attribute to those who are in the main deceiv’d, will avail to their Salvation, is another Question; I shall however observe, that neither the Orthodoxy of this sort of Men, nor that of those who embrace the real and absolute Truth, is that which saves: Men may believe ever so well, but without Holiness no one shall see God. ’Tis true, one might say that God in favor of absolute Orthodoxy forgives Sins committed against Conscience, which he does not forgive to those who are in Error.
This may serve to quiet the Uneasiness of those who complain, that our Principles tend to save too many Souls. Let ’em be in no pain; there will be never the less room in Heaven for them. I can’t for my part see where the great harm wou’d be, of opening the Gates of Paradise somewhat wider on the side of the Acts of the Understanding, and taking that great offence out of the way of the Profane, which makes ’em hate Christianity, and hinders their conceiving God under the Idea of a Being beneficent and loving to his Creatures: I speak of that Opinion which damns all the Race of Men from Adam to the Day of Judgment, except a very small Handful, who had inhabited Judaea before the Messias, and have made but a small part of the Christian Church ever since. But be that how it will, my Opinion saves not a Soul the more; because how innocent soever a<343> Man may be with regard to his speculative Opinions, he sins often against Conscience, he does not perform what he believes it were fit he did, and what he knows wou’d be well-pleasing to that God whom he adores: and therefore without bringing those Modifications of his Soul, which were not conformable to absolute Truth, into the account at the Day of Judgment, God will find other criminal Modifications enough in it, Desires and Wills not conformable to the Idea he had of his moral Duty. Beside that there are Opinions enough to be answer’d for, which grow up with us either thro inexcusable Sloth, or Sensuality; which Opinions I’m far from excepting out of the number of punishable Transgressions.
And here a Question offers, which it may be necessary to examine in a few words: Whether all Errors spring from a ground of Corruption, lulling Men in a neglect of all means of Instruction, or prepossessing ’em for or against such and such Opinions?
That I may not grasp at too much, I shall confine my self to the present Heresys in the Christian Church, and declare my Opinion.
I don’t think there’s any just reason for saying, that they who find not such and such Doctrines in Scripture, are under a wilful Blindness of Understanding, or prejudic’d by a hatred for these Doctrines; and that this is the cause of their not being undeceiv’d by the Arguments of their Adversarys, or by examining into the Scriptures. There might be some ground for this Suspicion, if the Question were concerning Doctrines which thwart the Inclinations and carnal<344> Lusts of Men; but it happens, I don’t know how, that these are the Points about which Christians are least of all divided. We are all agreed about the Doctrines which teach Men to live soberly and righteously, to love God, to abstain from Revenge, to forgive our Enemys, to render Good for Evil, to be charitable. We are divided about Points which tend not to make the Yoke of Christian Morality either heavier or lighter. The Papists believe Transubstantiation; the Reform’d believe it not. This makes not for the Flesh one way or other. The Papists don’t believe that this Opinion obliges ’em to live a jot better, than the Reform’d think themselves oblig’d to do, from a Belief that Jesus Christ in his Divine Nature, and the whole Holy Trinity, is intimately present to all their Thoughts, Words, and Actions: and shou’d we come to believe Transubstantiation, we shou’d not think Holiness and Purity more necessary to Salvation than we did before. It’s a mere childish Illusion then to fancy that our carnal Lusts, or a Corruption of Heart, or any other such inordinate State, hinders our perceiving a literal Sense in the words, This is my Body.
Now as we are all satisfy’d that the Roman Catholicks do us the greatest injustice in imputing our Aversion for this Doctrine to a Principle of Corruption; so I am inclin’d to think, we do the Socinians an injustice in saying, that a Principle of Corruption hinders their finding the Doctrine of a Trinity in Scripture: for what greater Burden wou’d this new Doctrine lay on ’em? Wou’d their Remorse be the sharper when they fell into Sin? Wou’d they think them-<345>selves the more oblig’d by it to obey God, and resist the Temptations of the Flesh and the World? It’s plain they wou’d not; and that ’tis the same in this respect, whether they believe a God one in Nature and Person, or whether they believe a Trinity of Persons in the Unity of the Divine Nature.
But it’s Pride, it’s Vanity which hinders their submitting the Light of their Reason to Divine Authority. This is precisely what the Papists object against the Reform’d, and that in a very confident, but at the same time a most unjust manner: for were there any foundation for their Reproach, ’twou’d follow that we had the Vanity to doubt even things which we believ’d were affirm’d by God. Now this is a Thought which can never enter into any Mind, not even into that of the Devil; because every Understanding that has the Idea of a God, conceives by this word a Being which knows all things to the utmost degree of Certainty, and which is not capable of a Lye: so that the Devil, who told Eve the contrary of what God had reveal’d to her, yet cou’d not possibly think that he himself spoke Truth; He knew that what God had told her was true. It’s therefore the most extravagant monstrous Conceit to say, that Protestants have too much Pride to submit their Lights to those of God; because it’s saying they join together these two Acts in their Understanding: 1. I know that God says so. 2. I know that the thing is false, and that I my self know how it is better than God. We see to what Extravagancys of Supposition these Men are driven; and we ought to stand corrected by<346> ’em, and not impute the Socinians refusing to believe a Trinity to a like Principle. The Question between Christians is not, whether what God has reveal’d be true or false, but only whether he has reveal’d this or that: and who sees not that this Dispute concerns not either the Authority or Veracity of God, any more than our doubting whether such a one did or did not say such words, calls his Faith and Honor in question?
All that can be said with any color of Reason is, That the Prejudices of Education hinder mens seeing what really is in Scripture. But as it is true in the general of all Men in the world, except a very few who change perhaps upon rational grounds, that ’tis owing to Education that they are of any one Religion rather than another (for if we had bin born in China, we shou’d have bin all of the Chinese Religion; and if the Chinese were born in England, they’d have bin all Christians; and if a Man and a Woman were transported to a desert Island, strongly persuaded, as of an Article necessary to Salvation, that in Heaven the Whole is not greater than the Part, this at the end of two or three hundred years after wou’d be an Article of Faith in the Religion of the Country): As, I say, this generally speaking is true, there’s nothing more in it than a random Reproach, which all Mankind will mutually make one another with some reason in one sense, and without reason in another, so long as it shall please God to preserve Human Kind by the way of Generation; whereby there will be a necessity of our being Children before we come to discern Good and Evil,<347> and shall learn to discern ’em asunder according as our Parents think fit; who’l always be sure to instruct us in their own way, and give us a turn which we shall think our selves oblig’d to keep, as a most precious Pledg from ’em all the rest of our life. I am of opinion, that in a Dispute between two Men, one of whom has bin bred up in the true Faith, the other in a Heresy; when they come to consult Scripture, the Prejudices of one side operate as much as the Prejudices on the other; and the Malice of the Heart, the Corruption and carnal Affection are as much suspended in one as t’other. Not that I deny but Man is sometimes answerable for his Errors; as when finding a Pleasure in Actions which he knows to be wicked, he endeavors to persuade himself into a contrary Opinion; or finding Comforts in a state which he believes right, he declines all inquiry for fear of discovering it is not.
One thing I had advanc’d which needs some further Explication, to wit, That the Disorder into which our Nature is faln, has not hinder’d God’s establishing Laws admirably well design’d for the Preservation of the Body; What reason then is there to think he shou’d leave us destitute with regard to the Soul? What I wou’d be at is this:
The Condition of Man is such, that there’s a necessity of his avoiding certain Bodys, and drawing near to others: without this it were impossible for him long to subsist. But he is too ignorant to distinguish those Bodys which are pernicious, from those which are beneficial to him. ’Twou’d require a great deal of Meditation, of Experience and Reasoning, to discover<348> this; yet as there’s a continual necessity of his approaching some Bodys and removing from others, he might die a thousand times over, if he had so may Lives to lose, before he cou’d make one suitable Movement. To obviate this Inconvenience, God has ordain’d Laws, which readily inform him when he ought to approach and when draw off from certain Objects. This is perform’d by Sensations of Pleasure or Pain, imprest on him at the presence of certain Bodys; whereby he knows not what Bodys are in themselves, this is not necessary to his Preservation, but what they are with respect to him: a Knowledg indispensably necessary, and at the same time sufficient.
What! God shall have no regard to the Sin of the first Man, he shall provide Mankind a quick and easy means of discerning what is necessary for the Preservation of the animal Life, and yet refuse him the means of discerning what is proper for preserving the Life of the Soul? This is not probable, nor conformable to the Idea of Order.
Nor let it be alledg’d, that there’s at least a select Number to whom God vouchsafes this means; for this were false on the Principle I confute: nor can it be maintain’d, without allowing that the Conscience and inward Sensation we have of the Truth, is to every particular Person the Rule of what he ought to believe and practise. In effect, if what I have bin saying is false, there is not a Man in the world who acts prudently or reasonably, when he believes that what appears to him true, merits his Love and Submission; and a Christian fully persuaded<349> of all the Mysterys of the Gospel, and perceiving in his Conscience all the Vivacity of the strongest Conviction, might still have ground enough to despise it all, if he had room to doubt whether this were the Rule of his Conduct. Now for my fifth Reason.
V. This new Reason may answer two purposes: first to shew that we are oblig’d to follow the Suggestions of an erroneous Conscience; and secondly, that we may in many cases follow ’em without Sin. Let’s see which way.
If what I here advance were not true, Man wou’d be reduc’d to the strangest state of Pyrrhonism that e’er was heard of: for all our Pyrrhonists hitherto have contented themselves with barring all Affirmations and Negations upon the absolute Natures of Objects; they left our moral Actions uncontested, nor ever disapprov’d Mens proceeding in the Dutys of civil Life, upon the Judgment of Conscience. But here’s a Pyrrhonism which deprives us of this Liberty, and changes us into so many Stocks or Statues which can never venture to act for fear of eternal Damnation. This I prove, because the only certainty we have that all the Acts which to us appear righteous and well-pleasing to God, ought to be practis’d, is our perceiving interiorly in our Consciences that we ought to practise ’em; but this Certainty is no Criterion according to our Adversarys, that we ought to practise ’em, or that by practising of ’em we shall not incur eternal Damnation: therefore there is not a Man in the world who ought not to apprehend that he risks eternal Damnation, by practising what his Conscience suggests as ne-<350>cessary in order to Salvation. Now no prudent Man ought to do that which he only apprehends may hazard his Salvation; he ought therefore, if he’l demean himself wisely, to live like a Statue, and never give way to the Impulses of his Conscience. Who wou’d not stand amaz’d at such horrible Notions? I’m satisfy’d that any intelligent Reader, who examines this Argument without prepossession, will find it unanswerable, and own, that if a full and intire Conviction of Conscience ben’t a sufficient warrant to us that we don’t commit a Sin, the most Orthodox Christians are the most imprudent, and the rashest Men alive in performing any Action from the Lights and Dictates of their Consciences.
But is there any remedy for this Evil? Yes, by saying, that God having united our Soul to a Body destin’d to live amidst an infinite number of Objects, which fill it with confus’d Sensations, lively Sentiments, Passions, Prejudices, and numberless Opinions, has given it a Guide, and as I may say a Touchstone, for discerning amidst this Croud of Objects and different Doctrines that which shou’d best sute it self; that this Touchstone is Conscience, and that the interior Sentiment of this Conscience, and its full and intire Conviction, is the final Criterion of that Conduct which every one ought to keep. No matter whether this Conscience presents to one Man such an Object as true, to another as false; is it not the same in the bodily or animal Life? Does not one man’s Tast tell him that such Food is good, and the Tast of another tell him it’s bad? And does this Diversity hinder each from finding his Sustenance? And is it not sufficient that the<351> Senses shew us the relation which Bodys have to our selves, without discovering to us their real Qualitys? It’s sufficient, in like manner, that the Conscience of every particular Person shew him not what Objects are in themselves, but their relative Natures, their reputed Truth. Every one will by this means discern his own Nourishment. He must, ’tis true, endeavor to find the best, and employ his utmost diligence in the Search; but if when fairly offer’d, his Conscience kecks, finds an utter disrelish for it, and a longing for some other thing, let him in God’s name leave the one, and cleave to the other.
This Principle is exceeding fruitful towards removing a hundred otherwise unsurmountable Difficultys, to wit, that God requires no more than a sincere and diligent Search after Truth, and the discerning it by a Sentiment of Conscience, in such a manner, that if the Combination of Circumstances hinders our discovering the real Truth, and makes us find the relish of Truth in a false Object, this reputed and relative Truth is to us instead of the real Truth; as with regard to the Nourishment of the Body, it’s sufficient if by our Tast we discover the relative nature of Foods. If by this I shou’d seem to suppose that God has some indulgence for us on the score of our Opinions, I declare my Belief is, that he has none with regard to those Acts which are not conformable to the Dictate of Conscience. What Marcus Aurelius says in the nineteenth Article of his fifth Book, appears to me divine: “He has his Conversation among the Gods, who does what the Genius will have him do,<352> which Jupiter has given every one for his Guide and Guardian, and which is an* Emanation of God himself, the Reason and Understanding of every one.” There’s more force in the Greek.
VI. A sixth Argument which follows from the foregoing, is, That if it be suppos’d that God absolutely requires the chusing of the real Truth in matter of Religion, on pain of eternal Damnation if the Party chuses amiss; the Conversion of an Infidel to the Christian Religion, upon Principles of Reason and Prudence, will be utterly impossible: for if it ben’t sufficient that this Infidel chuse what to him appears true in Christianity, if he must of necessity light precisely on the real Truth, or else be damn’d; ’twill be fit he examine the Principles of all the different Sects of Christianity, and compare ’em together, know the Objections of all sides and the Answers, inform himself of the different Foundations they go upon; and if after all no Sect appear to him to have the essential Character of Truth to its Doctrines, to wit, demonstrative Evidence; and if for want of this Evidence he find no Security in the proofs of Sentiment, in that Relish of Truth, in that interior Conviction of Conscience, which makes it appear to him that the Truth lies in this or in that Communion: if, I say, he finds no Security from all this, because, according to the Opinion of my Adversarys, it must be own’d to him, that this Conviction is not a sufficient Guide; and that for one who is<353> sav’d by following it, there are a hundred actually damn’d; it’s plain that this Infidel can never resolve to quit the Errors he is in. But according to my Principles he might forsake ’em with a reasonable Assurance of doing well, when upon a sincere and exact Research, he had, by an inward Sentiment, discover’d the Truth, either in this Communion or in that.
We see then, that in the present Condition of Mankind, a State divided into several general Religions, each of which is subdivided into several Sects, who mutually anathematize each other; ’twere putting Men upon a desperate issue, and rendring their Salvation impossible, to tell ’em they are not oblig’d to follow what appears true to them: They can’t but own that that which is really Truth, when it appears such, is not distinguish’d by any infallible Criterion from that which is not true, when yet it does appear so; however, that one is oblig’d, on pain of eternal Damnation, to follow what is true altho it does not appear such, and reject what is false altho it appear true.
VII. My seventh and last Reflection is, That there are a great many important Errors, which acquit from all Sin, when believ’d true, those, who were it not for this Conviction might deserve eternal Damnation. I have given, for one example, a Woman who beds with an Impostor, sincerely believing him to be her Husband, and deceiv’d by the resemblance; and a Bastard, for another example, who succeeds to the Estate of his Mother’s Husband, whom he had honestly taken for his Father, and thereby deprives the true Heirs of their Right. It must be remem-<354>ber’d, that the Impostor in the first Example is very criminal, because he commits the Sin knowingly: This is the only cause of Sin in him; for were he persuaded, tho without any ground, that the Woman he beds with was his lawful Wife, in this case he wou’d be as innocent as she. I have never read of a Case of this kind, where the Mistake was reciprocal on the part of the Man as well as the Woman. In that famous Cause of Martin Guerre, which a Counsellor of the Parliament of Tholouze, call’d Coras, mentions in his Pleas, the Mistake was only of the Woman’s side. But after all, it is not impossible that a Husband may meet with a Wife so like his own, and he be so like her Husband, that they may make an involuntary Exchange, by which two mistaken Husbands and two mistaken Wives may bed with all the Innocence in the world.
Whence I infer, that Ignorance without Malice or Affectation acquits in the most criminal Cases, as those of Adultery and Theft, and consequently in all other Cases: so that a sincere Heretick, even an Infidel, is accountable to God only for his evil doings committed under the Conscience of their being evil. For I can never persuade my self, that Actions committed by ’em from the Instincts of Conscience, I mean a Conscience not wilfully and maliciously blinded, are really Sins. If they be, I desire to know why in the fore-mention’d Examples the Facts are not constru’d to be Theft or Adultery; when yet there’s as much certainty as there can be in things of this kind, that it is as impossible for a Protestant to discover the Truth of Transubstantiation,<355> as for a Man to discover that his Mother’s Husband did not beget him. This is what I shou’d offer to a Roman Catholick who believ’d Transubstantiation. As to the Distinction of Persons and Nature in God, there’s reason to believe, that a Turk or a Jew wou’d find it as hard to frame their Minds in such a manner as to be intirely convinc’d of these Truths, as to discover the Intrigues that their Mother might have had. I even believe there are a great many Orthodox Peasants, who are no otherwise Orthodox with regard to these Mysterys, than as they are honestly resolv’d not to believe any thing that destroys the Doctrines of the Church: for any thing further, they have not the least Idea of ’em, that’s conformable to the Truth. The English*Cordelier, whom I had cited before, observes, that the subtle Scotus teaches, there’s an invincible Ignorance with relation to these Points, in a Man of a very mean Understanding, who comprehends not what is meant by the Terms Person or Nature; and that it’s sufficient for this sort, if they believe in gross as the Church believes. This Cordelier requires explicit Acts of Faith only concerning things obvious and easily conceiv’d, Quae sunt grossa ad capiendum, says he in his barbarous Latin; such as that Jesus Christ was born, that he suffer’d, &c. He likewise says, That to the end an Ignorance be inexcusable and not invincible, ’tis not sufficient that it might have bin remov’d, if the Party had desir’d Instruction; but that he must also have reflected at some time or other on what he was<356> ignorant of: for if it never came into his Mind, he believes the Ignorance invincible; because it is impossible a Man shou’d inform himself of that which never came into his Thoughts. What he wou’d say is undoubtedly this, That to render an Ignorance sinful, there must have bin a Thought and Reflection made by the Party; that he was ignorant of certain things of which he might have got a thorow Information; but that he banishes the Thoughts of ’em out of his Mind. This seems but reasonable: for the State in which one is utterly destitute of the Idea of any particular thing, not depending on our Will; because to will that such an Idea shou’d not offer, this very Idea must be actually in the Mind; it follows that this State is involuntary: there’s therefore no Sin in being in such a State. Now no one can get out of this State, unless the Idea of the thing in which we shou’d have bin instructed offer; and it depends not on our Will, that an Idea which is absolutely unknown to us present it self to our Understanding: the Ignorance therefore is invincible (tho in its nature easily remov’d) if the Party has never bethought himself that he was ignorant of such a thing. I cited another Author who is a† Jansenist, and who has these remarkable words: It’s very true, that the Law of Nature enjoins in general the endeavoring to make a right use of our Reason, and the avoiding Error as much as possible, and Falshood of what kind soever; but it does not for all this condemn those of Sin, who are unaffectedly deceiv’d about Matters which they are not oblig’d to know; as<357> St. Austin expresly decides in his Book of the Profitableness of Faith.
These Words, Which they are not oblig’d to know, are somewhat indefinite; every one will stretch or stint ’em according as he best finds his own Account. For my part I’m of opinion, that natural Light, or the Idea of Order, shews, that we are not oblig’d to know any thing but what is sufficiently notify’d; nor to believe any thing but what has bin evinc’d by sound Reasons. But this sufficiency of Notification, this soundness of Reasons supposes an essential Proportion to the Nature of the Understandings of those who are to be instructed; for the Degree of Evidence, which is sufficient for the persuading one Man, is not so for another. And who can know these Proportions but God alone? Who but he can tell how far the Force of Education reaches, and where the ill use of our Free-will begins? The Effects of each are very different; those of the first beget Habits in us by a kind of Mechanism, which we seem not answerable for, because we receive ’em without suspecting any ill, and before we are capable of having the least mistrust of what our Parents teach us. ’Tis very probable, shou’d People agree in making all the Children of a City believe, that ’twas the Will of God they shou’d kill all the Inhabitants of another City, they wou’d firmly believe it, and never come off of this belief, unless they went thro a new course of Instruction. So that when the Decalogue were made known to them, it must be prest upon ’em with much stronger Reasons, than wou’d be necessary for others who had a better Education. Education is undoubtedly ca-<358>pable of making the Evidence of Truths of Right utterly disappear.
I have one Objection more to answer. If God, say they, contented himself with every one’s embracing and loving that which was the Truth in relation to him, what need he have left us a Scripture? I answer, That this hinders not but the Scripture may be very necessary, because in matters which are perfectly clear it’s an uniform Rule of Conscience to all Christians; and in those which are less clear, ’tis respected by all Partys, since all agree, that be the Sense of the Scriptures what it will, it’s infallibly true. So that it serves in the general, as a Rule for all Christians; and the rankest Hereticks, who search it for Proofs of their Tenets, do even in this pay a Homage to the Word of God. Besides, that tho God is content that every one, after having search’d for the Truth to the best of his Power, shou’d hold to that which to him appears such, he yet wills and intends, that Men shou’d rectify their Opinions if they can; and that others endeavor by Reasons to the best of their Power, the setting those aright, who have not made the happiest Choice for themselves: now the Scriptures are very useful this way. St. Jerom* makes a Remark, that as long as the Babylonians left the sacred Vessels of the Temple of Jerusalem in the Temples of their Idols, God was not offended at ’em, because after all they put ’em to a sacred and religious Use; but when once they chang’d the Property, and employ’d ’em to profane Uses, God punish’d their<359> Sacrilege. Videbantur, says he, rem Dei secundum pravam quidem opinionem, tamen Divino cultui consecrasse.101 These words do plainly favor my Hypothesis, and prove in particular, that as long as a Heretick owns the Scripture as his Topick, and Magazin of all his Proofs, he leaves God the whole Glory of his Authority inviolate in general, tho he swerves in particular Applications, and thro mere Error, from the Mind of God: and there’s something of Illusion, or at least a lack of Consideration, in pretending that of two Men, one of whom understands the Scriptures better than the other, the first must necessarily have a greater Reverence for the Scriptures and for God than the second. For I wou’d fain know from those who pretend so, whether it is not manifest, that whoever gives a Text of Scripture the true Sense, does it, not because it is the true Sense, but because he believes it so, and that God wou’d be offended at him, if he understood it in any other. I can’t conceive any thing in the best Interpreter beside this that can render him well pleasing to God in this particular matter, or found the good Disposition that he is in. Then I ask ’em again, Whether they don’t think, that the reason why another gives a false sense to Scripture is, not that this Sense is false and that he believes it false, but because he believes it really true, and believes that God wou’d be displeas’d with him if he understood it otherwise. I don’t desire that this be granted with regard to every particular Heretick; yet I think it can’t be deny’d with regard to some: for ’twere surely the strangest, the har-<360>diest, and even the most extravagant thing in nature to decide, that these two Acts concur in the Soul of every Heretick in the World: I find such a Sense of Scripture false, and unworthy of God, yet I am resolv’d to maintain that this Sense is the true; and my being persuaded, that by maintaining this Sense I shall teach a Falshood which shall offend God, is a ruling Motive with me. It must be allow’d then, that whatever begets the good Disposition of an Orthodox, with regard to his interpreting Scripture, may be found in a Heretick, and therefore that one does not necessarily love and reverence God and his holy Word more than the other.
Add to this, that from the Idea we are able to form of a Person of the most consummate Wisdom and Justice, we must conceive, that if having given his Servants Orders upon his taking a Journy into a distant Country, he found on his Return that they apprehended ’em differently; and whilst unanimously agreed that his Command was the only Rule they ought to follow, the only Dispute among ’em was concerning the Command it self; he wou’d declare they had all an equal regard for his Orders, but that some had a better Understanding than others, and took the true meaning of his Words; It’s certain that we conceive clearly and distinctly that he cou’d declare nothing but this; and therefore right Reason requires, that we shou’d conceive the same of God, as to what he shall declare concerning those who are Orthodox, and Hereticks, from a sincere Principle. Now an Excellence of Understanding is not that which makes one Man more acceptable to God than another, even tho he shou’d employ it faithfully to the finding out<361> the Truth, but the good Will and sincere Intention of applying one’s utmost Forces and Facultys to the finding out and practising what God requires of us.
I conclude, by saying, That what Care soever God takes to give us general Rules, whether by natural Light or by his reveal’d Word; still we each of us stand in need of a particular Rule, which is Conscience, by the favor of which we give those the Lye, who without it might tell us there was no certainty in any thing, and apply this Sentence to us:
The Result from what has bin prov’d in the two foregoing Chapters; and a Confutation of the literal Sense, let the worst come to the worst.
I Enter’d upon this tedious and very abstruse Question about the Rights of Conscience, on purpose to cut off Persecutors from all their starting Holes, when ask’d, whether they themselves wou’d take it well that others shou’d persecute them. They answer, ’Twere very unjust, because they teach the real Truth, and upon this account have an incommunicable Privilege of<362> persecuting and vexing Hereticks. ’Twas necessary to sound this Answer to the bottom, and destroy all the Cavils that can be offer’d in its defence, which is the reason of my dwelling so long upon it. Let us now briefly sum up the Truths which we think have bin made out.
The Conclusion we draw from the whole is, That if God had commanded the Professors of Truth to persecute the Professors of a Lye, these apprehending this Command as directed to themselves, wou’d be oblig’d in Conscience to persecute the Professors of Truth, wou’d be guilty of an Offence if they did not, and be acquitted in the sight of God, provided their Ignorance were neither malicious nor affected.
This manifestly shews, that the Doctrine of Persecutors, founded on the words Compel ’em to come in, opens a door to a thousand dreadful Confusions, in which the Party of Truth must suffer most, and this without any just ground of Complaint.
But let us suppose, that the Right of persecuting belong’d in reality to the Orthodox alone; let us suppose, that the true Church has indeed that Privilege, which some wild Phanaticks have boasted of, to wit, that the most criminal Actions are allowable, and cease to be Sins when committed by her; let us suppose, that the false Churches when they use the Law of Retaliation, are really in the wrong; yet what will she gain by this? Nothing more than the comfort of saying, That we shall see at the Day of Judgment which was right and which wrong. Now as this is a Remedy, which can’t obstruct that dismal Torrent of Calamitys which must overwhelm<363> the World, if all those who believe themselves the true Church persecuted the rest; ’tis plain, it’s a most ridiculous Conceit, that only the Orthodox are allow’d to persecute, since the very Supposition is enough to oblige each Sect to turn Persecutress, each believing it self the only true and pure Religion. The persecuted Religions might talk as long as they pleas’d, and say they are the only Party of Truth, and that God will declare as much when he comes at the last day to judg the World; the others will answer, That then will be the time they shall find their Confusion, and the Justice of persecuting ’em upon Earth, and the tyrannical Injustice with which when uppermost they durst persecute other Religions. Thus the Complaints of each persecuted tormented Party must be resolv’d into a long and tedious Debate, upon the Controversys which divide ’em; and the uppermost during the Discussion must persecute freely, which as every one sees and feels can only present the Image of the most fearful and lamentable Desolation. Whence we ought to conclude, That tho there were really grounds for interpreting the Parable in the literal Sense, yet ’twere better not, for fear of occasioning such a State of Misery in the World. ’Tis a Right which ought to lie for ever dormant, nor any Proceedings be grounded upon it, which are not warrantable in all Mankind.
I here intended to examine the Reasons which St. Austin has display’d with a great deal of Pomp and Industry, in defence of Persecution; but as this Commentary is too bulky already, having grown under my Pen much faster than I imagin’d, I must adjourn this part to a particular<365> Treatise on this Doctrine of St. Austin’s. I hope I shall be able to take in the whole in a few words, having by the way already enervated most of the Paralogisms and little Maxims of this great Bishop of Hippo.
<367>A Philosophical Commentaryon These Words of the Gospel, Luke XIV. 23.
Compel them to come in, that my House may be full.
The Second Volume.
Remarks on those Letters of St. Austin which are usually alledg’d for the compelling of Hereticks, and particularly to justify the late Persecution in France.
A Supplement, proving, That Hereticks have as much Right to persecute the Orthodox, as the Orthodox them.
Translated from the French of Mr. Bayle, Author of the Great Critical and Historical Dictionary.
LONDON, Printed by J. Darby in Bartholomew-Close, and sold
by J. Morphew near Stationers-Hall. 1708.
[58. ]Opiniatreté: Being opinionated, being stubbornly unwilling to change one’s mind.
[* ]Sallust. de Bell. Catilin. Omnes homines qui de rebus dubiis consultant, ab odio, amicitiâ, irâ, atque misericordiâ vacuos esse decet, nam animus haud facilè verum providet ubi illa officiunt. [Sallust, Bellum Catilinae, LI.1–2, Loeb Classical Library, p. 89.]
[59. ]“One should not dispute with one who denies the basic principles”: J. Hamesse (ed.), Les Auctoritates Aristotelis (Louvain: Publications Universitaires, 1974), p. 140. See also Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 1, q. 1, a. 8.
[60. ]See Appendixes, “Bayle’s Use of Logic,” p. 580 (“dilemma”).
[* ]Josephus, in his Treatise of the Government of Reason. [Josephus, Opera Omnia, Paris, 1528, fol. 325ff, especially 326 (not an authentic work).]
[† ]Ep. 2. l. 10. [Pliny, Epistulae, X.xcvi.3. Loeb Classical Library, vol. 2, p. 286.]
[61. ]See Appendixes, “Obsolete or Unusual Words or Meanings,” pp. 577, 579 (“pretend,” “challenge”).
[62. ]Robert Sanderson (1587–1663), Anglican theologian, writer on casuistry.
[63. ]Protestant controversialists. For their lives and works see Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon, http://www.bautz.de/bbkl/.
[64. ]See above, p. 143, note.
[65. ]For example, Cyprian, “Of the Lapsed,” chs. 6–9, Ante-Nicene Christian Library, ed. A. Roberts and J. Donaldson (Edinburgh: Clark, 1867–), vol. 5.
[66. ]Edward Coleman was accused by Titus Oates and executed as a traitor.
[67. ]Essais, l. 2. [Author’s note in the French edition. Montaigne, Essais, book 2, ch.= 5, “De la conscience.”]
[68. ]That is, the rack.
[69. ]Mézerai, Abr. chron., t. 6, p.m. 413. [Author’s note in the French edition. Probably: François Eudes de Mézerai, Abrégé Chronologique de l’Histoire de France (Chronological summary of French History), 1674. Anne du Bourg, counselor of the Parliament of Paris, expressed opposition to the punishment of Protestants. He was arrested on suspicion of heresy, and after a trial and various appeals over a period of six months was executed on December 23, 1559. See “Bourg, Anne du,” The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), vol. 1, p. 206.
[70. ]See above, Part I, Chapter 4, p. 86.
[* ]Utinam, Cn. Pompeii, cum C. Cesare Societatem, aut nunquam coisses, aut nunquam diremisses. Cicero Philip. 2. [Cicero, Philippics. II.x.24: “I wish, Pompey, that you had never allied with Caesar, or never broken with him.”]
[† ]Journal des Savans of the 19th of Feb. 1685. speaking of a Book of Natalis Alexander.
[71. ]Dominican, member of the Order of Preachers.
[72. ]Lipsius, Civil. doctr. IV.3. [Author’s note in the French edition. Justus Lipsius, Politicorum, sive civilis doctrinae libri sex, 1589.]
[73. ]Tertullian, Apologeticum, II.8: “What a decision, how inevitably entangled! He says they must not be sought out, implying they are innocent, and he orders them to be punished, implying they are guilty. He spares them and rages against them, he pretends not to see and punishes. Why cheat yourself with your judgment? If you condemn them, why not hunt them down? If you do not hunt them down, why not also acquit them?” Translated T.= R. Glover, Loeb Classical Library, 1977, p. 11.
[74. ]1 Kings 18:40.
[75. ]See above, pp. 112–13.
[* ]Veremur vos Romani, & si ita vultis etiam timemus: sed plus veremur & timemus Deos immortales. Lycortas Achaeorum Praetor, ap. Liv. l. 39. [Livy, XXXIX.xxxvii.17: “Indeed we respect you, Romans, and, if you wish it so, we even fear you; but still more do we both respect and fear the immortal gods.” Translated E.= T. Sage, Loeb Classical Library, 1965, p. 338–39. Cf. Peter, Acts 5:29.]
[76. ]See Appendixes, “Bayle’s Use of Logic,” p. 580 (“consequence”).
[77. ]Ibid. (“enthymeme”).
[* ]Paulin in vita Ambros. [Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 14, col. 34, cap. 22.]
[* ]Ambros. Ep. 29. [Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 16, col. 1101, epistula XL.]
[† ]Vide Paulin. in vita Ambros. [Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 14, col. 35, cap. 23.]
[78. ]“In the ancestral way.”
[* ]Leg. 12. de pag. Cod. Theo. [Theodosian Code, XVI, 10, 12, ed. Mommsen, Berlin, 1962, p. 900; tr. C. Pharr, New York, 1952, p. 473.]
[79. ]See above, p. 180.
[80. ]See above, p. 88.
[81. ]See above, Part I, Chapter 5, pp. 103–107.
[82. ]For the text of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, see http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1685revocation.html.
[83. ]John Calvin had Michael Servetus tried as a heretic and burnt at the stake in 1553 for denying the doctrine of the Trinity. See Joseph Lecler, Toleration and the Reformation, translated T. L. Westow (London: Longmans, 1960), vol. 1, pp. 325–32.
[84. ]Isaiah 11:6.
[85. ]La Voisin was burned as a poisoner in 1680. Louis Chevalier de Rohan was beheaded in 1674 for conspiring against Louis XIV.
[* ]Seneca tells it of the Corinthians, de Benef. l. 1. c. 13. [Seneca, De beneficiis, I.xiii.1, Loeb Classical Library, p. 40.]
[86. ]Livy, IX.iii.6–8: “When he learned that the Roman armies had been hemmed in between two defiles at the Caudien Forks, and was asked by his son’s messenger for his opinion, he advised that they should all be dismissed unscathed, at the earliest possible moment. The policy being rejected … he recommended that all, to the last man, be slain”; translated B.= O. Foster, Loeb Classical Library, p. 171.
[87. ]Livy, IX.iii.12: “ ‘That,’ he answered, ‘is in sooth a policy that neither wins men friends nor rids them of their enemies’ ”; translated B. O. Foster, Loeb Classical Library, p. 173.
[* ]Zozim. l. 1. speaking of Generides under Honorius. [When the emperor Honorius enacted a law excluding pagans from public office, the military officer Generides resigned and remained at home. Honorius offered him a personal exemption, which he refused as an insult to all those unable to hold office because of the law. The emperor repealed the law. Zosimus, New History: Translation with Commentary by Ronald T. Ridley (Sydney, Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 1982), V.46, pp. 123–24.]
[88. ]“They cannot bear either complete freedom, or complete slavery”; Tacitus, Histories, I.16.
[89. ]See Appendixes, “Bayle’s Use of Logic,” p. 580 (“enthymeme”).
[90. ]“In whatever way.”
[91. ]Bayle, OD, vol. 2, p. 218b ff.
[92. ]See Appendixes, “Obsolete or Unusual Words or Meanings,” p. 578 (“objectively”).
[93. ]“A drip hollows a stone not by its force but by falling often.”
[94. ]For these cases, see above, p. 233, note 91.
[95. ]See above, p. 213.
[96. ]Numbers 25.7–11, 1 Samuel 15:33, 1 Kings 18:40, Acts 5:1–11.
[97. ]Bayle, Nouvelles Lettres, OD, vol. 2, p. 221b.
[98. ]Not found; but see Summa theologiae, 1, q. 46, a. 2.
[99. ]Franciscan, member of the Order of Friars Minor.
[* ]In his Deus Natura & Gratia, p. 86, &c. [Franciscus a Sancta Clara, Deus, natura, gratia, 1634.]
[100. ]1 Corinthians 13:12.
[* ]ἑκάστῳ προστάτην καì ἡγεμόνα ὁ Ζεάς ἔδωκεν, ἀπόσπασμα ἑαυτοȗ. οὑ̑τος δέ ἐστιν ὁ ἑκάστου νοȗς καì λόγος. [The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Antonius, ed. A.S.L. Farquharson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1944), V.27, vol. 1, p. 90–92.]
[* ]Francis a Sancta Clara, ubi supra. [See above, p. 258, note.]
[† ]Traité de la Foi humane, Par. 1. ch. 8. [See above, p. 111, note 49.]
[* ]In Cap. 6. Danielis. [Rather, cap. 5. Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 25, col. 519.]
[101. ]“They seemed a thing consecrated to divine worship, though according to a perverted opinion of God.”
[102. ]Terence, Eunuch, I.61: “If you tried to turn these uncertainties into certainties by a system of reasoning, you’d do no more good than if you set yourself to be mad on a system”; translated J. Sargeaunt, Loeb Classical Library, 1920, p. 241.