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Excerpts from A Third Letter for Toleration - John Locke, A Letter concerning Toleration and Other Writings 
A Letter concerning Toleration and Other Writings, edited and with an Introduction by Mark Goldie (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010).
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Excerpts from A Third Letter for Toleration
The Ends of Civil Society1
You2 tell us farther, that Commonwealths are instituted for the attaining of all the Benefits which Political Government can yield: and therefore if the spiritual and eternal Interests of Men may any way be procured or advanced by Political Government, the procuring and advancing those Interests must in all reason be received amongst the Ends of Civil Society, and so consequently fall within the compass of the Magistrate’s Jurisdiction. Concerning the extent of the Magistrate’s Jurisdiction, and the Ends of Civil Society, whether the Author3 or you have begg’d the Question, which is the chief business of your 56th and two or three following Pages, I shall leave it to the Readers to judg, and bring the matter, if you please, to a shorter Issue. The Question is, Whether the Magistrate has any power to interpose Force in Matters of Religion, or for the Salvation of Souls? The Argument against it is, That Civil Societies are not constituted for that End, and the Magistrate cannot use Force for Ends for which the Commonwealth was not constituted.
The End of a Commonwealth constituted can be supposed no other, than what Men in the Constitution of, and entring into it propos’d; and that could be nothing but Protection from such Injuries from other Men, which they desiring to avoid, nothing but Force could prevent or remedy: all things but this being as well attainable by Men living in Neigh-bourhood without the Bonds of a Commonwealth, they could propose to themselves no other thing but this in quitting their Natural Liberty, and putting themselves under the Umpirage of a Civil Soveraign, who therefore had the Force of all the Members of the Commonwealth put into his Hands, to make his Decrees to this end be obeyed.4 Now since no Man, or Society of Men can by their Opinions in Religion, or Ways of Worship, do any Man who differed from them any Injury, which he could not avoid or redress, if he desired it, without the help of Force; the punishing any Opinion in Religion, or Ways of Worship by the Force given the Magistrate, could not be intended by those who constituted, or entred into the Commonwealth, and so could be no End of it, but quite the contrary. For Force from a stronger Hand to bring a Man to a Religion, which another thinks the true, being an Injury which in the State of Nature every one would avoid, Protection from any such injury is one of the Ends of a Commonwealth, and so every Man has a right to Toleration.
If you will say, that Commonwealths are not voluntary Societies constituted by Men, and by Men freely entered into, I shall desire you to prove it.
In the mean time allowing it you for good, that Commonwealths are constituted by God for Ends which he has appointed, without the consent and contrivance of Men:5 If you say, that one of those Ends is the Propagation of the true Religion, and the Salvation of Mens Souls; I shall desire you to shew me any such End expresly appointed by God in Revelation; which since, as you confess, you cannot do, you have recourse to the general Law of Nature, and what is that? The Law of Reason, whereby every one is commissioned to do Good. And the propagating the true Religion for the Salvation of Mens Souls, being doing good, you say, the Civil Soveraigns are commissioned and required by that Law to use their Force for those Ends. But since by this Law all Civil Soveraigns are commissioned and obliged alike to use their coactive6Power for the propagating the true Religion, and the Salvation of Souls; and it is not possible for them to execute such a Commission, or obey that Law, but by using Force to bring Men to that Religion which they judg the true; by which use of Force much more Harm than Good would be done towards the propagating the true Religion in the World, as I have shewed elsewhere: therefore no such Commission, whose Execution would do more Harm than Good, more hinder than promote the End for which it is supposed given, can be a Commission from God by the Law of Nature. And this I suppose may satisfy you about the End of Civil Societies or Commonwealths, and answer what you say concerning the Ends attainable by them.7 [. . .]
In the voluntary Institution and bestowing of Power, there is no Absurdity or Inconvenience at all, that Power, sufficient for several Ends, should be limited by those that give the Power only to one or some part of them. The Power which a General, commanding a potent Army, has, may be enough to take more Towns than one from the Enemy; or to suppress a domestick Sedition, and yet the Power of attaining those Benefits, which is in his Hand, will not authorize him to imploy the Force of the Army therein, if he be commission’d only to besiege and take one certain Place. So it is in a Commonwealth. The Power that is in the Civil Soveraign is the Force of all the Subjects of the Commonwealth, which supposing it sufficient for other Ends, than the preserving the Members of the Commonwealth in Peace from Injury and Violence: yet if those who gave him that Power, limited the Application of it to that sole End, no Opinion of any other Benefits attainable by it can authorize him to use it otherwise. [. . .]
[Y]our Words are, Doubtless Commonwealths are instituted for the attaining all the Benefits which Political Government can yield; and therefore if the spiritual and eternal Interests of Men may any way be procured or advanced by Political Government, the procuring and advancing those Interests, must in all Reason be reckon’d amongst the Ends of Civil Societies.
To which I answer’d, “That if this be so, Then this Position must be true, viz. That all Societies whatsoever are instituted for the attaining all the Benefits that they may any way yield; there being nothing peculiar to Civil Society in the case, why that Society should be instituted for the attaining all the Benefits it can any way yield, and other Societies not. By which Argument it will follow, that all Societies are instituted for one and the same End, i.e., for the attaining all the Benefits that they can any way yield. By which Account there will be no Difference between Church and State, a Commonwealth and an Army, or between a Family and the East-India- Company; all which have hitherto been thought distinct sorts of Societies, instituted for different Ends. If your Hypothesis hold good, one of the Ends of the Family must be to preach the Gospel, and administer the Sacraments; and one Business of an Army to teach Languages, and propagate Religion; because these are Benefits some way or other attainable by those Societies, unless you take want of Commission and Authority to be a sufficient Impediment: And that will be so too in other Cases.” [. . .]
The natural Force of all the Members of any Society, or of those who by the Society can be procured to assist it, is in one Sense called the Power of that Society. This Power or Force is generally put into some one or few Persons Hands with Direction and Authority how to use it, and this in another Sense is called also the Power of the Society: And this is the Power you here speak of, and in these following Words, viz. Several Societiesas they are instituted for different Ends; so likewise are they furnished with different Powers proportionate to their respective Ends. The Power therefore of any Society in this Sense, is nothing but the Authority and Direction given to those that have the Management of the Force or natural Power of the Society, how and to what Ends to use it, by which Commission the Ends of Societies are known and distinguished. [. . .]
8 “’Tis a Benefit to have true Knowledg and Philosophy imbraced and assented to, in any Civil Society or Government. But will you say therefore, that it is a Benefit to the Society, or one of the Ends of Government, that all who are not Peripateticks9 should be punished, to make Men find out the Truth, and profess it? This indeed might be thought a fit way to make some Men imbrace the Peripatetick Philosophy, but not a proper way to find the Truth. For, perhaps the Peripatetick Philosophy may not be true; perhaps a great many have not time, nor Parts10 to study it; perhaps a great many who have studied it, cannot be convinced of the Truth of it: And therefore it cannot be a Benefit to the Commonwealth, nor one of the Ends of it, that these Members of the Society should be disturb’d, and diseas’d to no purpose, when they are guilty of no Fault. For just the same Reason, it cannot be a Benefit to Civil Society, that Men should be punished in Denmark, for not being Lutherans, in Geneva for not being Calvinists, and in Vienna for not being Papists; as a means to make them find out the True religion. For so, upon your Grounds, Men must be treated in those Places, as well as in England for not being of the Church of England. And then, I beseech you, consider the great Benefit will accrue to Men in Society by this Method; and I suppose it will be a hard thing for you to prove, That ever Civil Governments were instituted to punish Men for not being of this or that Sect in Religion; however by Accident, indirectly, and at a distance,11 it may be an occasion to one perhaps of a thousand, or an hundred, to study that Controversy, which is all you expect from it. If it be a Benefit, pray tell me what Benefit it is. A Civil Benefit it cannot be. For Mens Civil Interests are disturb’d, injur’d, and impair’d by it. And what Spiritual Benefit that can be to any Multitude of Men, to be punished for Dissenting from a false or erroneous Profession, I would have you find out: unless it be a Spiritual Benefit to be in danger to be driven into a wrong way. For if in all differing Sects, one is in the wrong, ’tis a hundred to one but that from which any one Dissents, and is punished for Dissenting from, is the wrong.”
You tell us, the true religion is undoubtedly true. If you had told us too, who is undoubtedly Judg of it, you had put all past doubt: but till you will be pleased to determine that, it will be undoubtedly true, that the King of Denmark is as Undoubtedly judg of it at Copenhagen, and the Emperor at Vienna, as the king of England in this Island: I do not say they judge as right, but they are by as much Right Judges, and therefore have as much Right to punish those who dissent from Lutheranism and Popery in those Countries, as any other Civil Magistrate has to punish any Dissenters from the National Religion12 any where else. [. . .]
I say in the next Paragraph, viz. “That Commonwealths, or Civil Societies and Governments, if you will believe the Judicious Mr. Hooker, are, as St. Peter calls them, 1 Pet. ii. 13, Άνθρωπίνη κτίσις , the Contrivance and Institution of Man .”13 To which you smartly reply, for your Choler14 was up, ’Tis well for St. Peter that he had the judicious Mr. Hooker on his side. And it would have been well for you too to have seen that Mr. Hooker ’s Authority was made use of not to confirm the Authority of St. Peter, but to confirm that sense I gave of St. Peter ’s words, which is not so clear in our Translation, but that there are those who, as I doubt not but you know, do not allow of it. But this being said when Passion it seems rather imployed your Wit than your Judgment, though nothing to the purpose, may yet perhaps indirectly and at a distance do some service.
And now, Sir, if you can but imagine that Men in the corrupt State of Nature might be authorized and required by Reason, the Law of Nature, to avoid the Inconveniences of that State, and to that purpose to put the Power of governing them into some one or more Mens Hands, in such Forms, and under such Agreements as they should think fit: which Governors so set over them for a good End by their own choice, though they received all their Power from those, who by the Law of Nature had a Power to confer it on them, may very fitly be called Powers ordained of God,15 being chosen and appointed by those who had Authority from God so to do. For he that receives Commission (limited according to the Discretion of him that gives it) from another who had Authority from his prince so to do, may truly be said, so far as his Commission reaches, to be appointed or ordained by the Prince himself. Which may serve as an Answer to your next two Paragraphs, and to shew that there is no Opposition or Difficulty in all that St. Peter, St. Paul, or the Judicious Mr. Hooker, says; nor any thing, in what either of them says, to your purpose. And tho it be true, those Powers that are, are ordained of God; yet it may nevertheless be true, that the Power any one has, and the Ends for which he has it, may be by the Contrivance and Appointment of Men.
To my saying, “The Ends of Commonwealths appointed by the Insti-tutors of them, could not be their spiritual and eternal Interest, because they could not stipulate about those one with another, nor submit this Interest to the Power of the Society, or any Soveraign they should set over them.” You reply, Very true, Sir; but they can submit to be punished in their Temporal Interest, if they despise or neglect those greater Interests. How they can submit to be punished by any Men in their Temporal Interest, for that which they cannot submit to be judg’d by any Man, when you can shew, I shall admire your Politicks. Besides, if the Compact about Matters of Religion be, that those should be punished in their Temporal, who neglect or despise their Eternal Interest, who I beseech you is by this Agreement rather to be punished, a sober Dissenter, who appears concerned for Religion and his Salvation, or an irreligious profane or debauched Conform-ist? By such as despise or neglect those greater Interests, you here mean only Dissenters from the National Religion: for those only you punish, though you represent them under such a Description as belongs not peculiarly to them; but that matters not, so long as it best sutes your Occasion.
In your next Paragraph you wonder at my News from the West-Indies;16 I suppose because you found it not in your Books of Europe or Asia. But whatever you may think, I assure you all the World is not Mile-End.17 But that you may be no more surprized with News, let me ask you, Whether it be not possible that Men, to whom the Rivers and Woods afforded the spontaneous Provisions of Life, and so with no private Possessions of Land, had no inlarged Desires after Riches or Power; should live together in Society, make one People of one Language under one Chieftain, who shall have no other Power but to command them in time of War against their common Enemies, without any municipal Laws, Judges, or any Person with Superiority establish’d amongst them, but ended all their private Differences, if any arose, by the extemporary Determination of their Neighbours, or of Arbitrators chosen by the Parties. I ask you whether in such a Commonwealth, the Chieftain who was the only Man of Authority amongst them, had any Power to use the Force of the Commonwealth to any other End but the Defence of it against an Enemy, though other Benefits were attainable by it?18
The Civil Rights of Jews and Muslims19
To justify the largeness of the Author’s Toleration, who would not have Jews, Mahometans and Pagans excluded from the Civil Rights of the Commonwealth, because of their Religion; I said, “I feared it will hardly be believed, that we pray in earnest for their Conversion, if we exclude them from the ordinary and profitable Means of it, either by driving them from us, or persecuting them when they are among us.” You reply; Now I confess I thought Men might live quietly enough among us, and enjoy the Protection of the Government against all Violence and Injuries, without being endenizon’d,20or made Members of the Commonwealth; which alone can entitle them to the Civil Rights and Privileges of it. But as to Jews, Mahometans, and Pagans, if any of them do not care to live among us, unless they may be admitted to the Rights and Privileges of the Commonwealth; the refusing them that Favour is not, I suppose, to be looked upon as driving them from us, or excluding them from the ordinary and probable Means of Con version; but as a just and necessary Caution in a Christian Commonwealth, in respect to the Members of it: Who, if such as profess Judaism, or Mahometanism, or Paganism, were permitted to enjoy the same Rights with them, would be much the more in danger of being seduced by them; seeing they would lose no worldly Advantage by such a Change of their Religion: Whereas if they could not turn to any of those Religions, without forfeiting the Civil Rights of the Commonwealth by doing it, ’tis likely they would consider well before they did it, what ground there was to expect that they should get any thing by the Exchange, which would countervail the Loss they should sustain by it. [. . .] Live amongst you then Jews, Mahometans, and Pagans may; but endenizon’d they must not be. But why? Are there not those who are Members of your Commonwealth, who do not imbrace the Truth that mustsave them, any more than they? What think you of Socinians, Papists, Anabaptists, Quakers, Presbyterians?21 [. . .]
[I]f the forfeiting the Civil Rights of the Commonwealth, be the proper Remedy to keep Men in the Communion of the Church, why is it used to keep Men from Judaism or Paganism, and not from Phanaticism?22 Upon this Account why might not Jews, Pagans, and Mahometans be admitted to the Rights of the Commonwealth, as far as Papists, Independents,23 and Quakers? But you distribute to every one according to your good Pleasure; and doubtless are fully justified by these following Words: And whether this be not a reasonable and necessary Caution, any Man may judg, who does but consider within how few Ages after the Flood Superstition and Idolatry prevailed over the World, and how apt even God’s own peculiar People were to receive that mortal Infection notwithstanding all that he did to keep them from it.
What the State of Religion was in the first Ages after the Flood, is so imperfectly known now, that as I have shewed you in another Place,24 you can make little Advantage to your Cause from thence. And since it was the same Corruption then, which as you own,25 withdraws Men now from the true Religion, and hinders it from prevailing by its own Light, without the Assistance of Force; and it is the same Corruption that keeps Dissenters, as well as Jews, Mahometans and Pagans, from imbracing of the Truth: why different Degrees of Punishments should be used to them, till there be found in them different Degrees of Obstinacy, would need some better Reason. Why this common Pravity of humane Nature should make Judaism, Mahometism or Paganism more catching than any sort of Non-conformity, which hinders Men from imbracing the true Religion; so that Jews, Mahometans and Pagans must, for fear of infecting others, be shut out from the Commonwealth, when others are not, I would fain26 know?
Whatever it was that so disposed the Jews to Idolatry before the Captivity, sure it is, they firmly resisted it, and refused to change, not only where they might have done it on equal terms, but have had great Advantage to boot; and therefore ’tis possible that there is something in this matter, which neither you nor I do fully comprehend, and may with a becoming Humility sit down and confess, that in this, as well as other Parts of his Providence, God’s Ways are past finding out. But this we may be certain from this Instance of the Jews, that it is not reasonable to conclude, that because they were once inclin’d to Idolatry, that therefore they, or any other People are in Danger to turn Pagans, whenever they shall lose no worldly Advantage by such a Change. But if we may oppose nearer and known Instances to more remote and uncertain, look into the World, and tell me, since Jesus Christ brought Life and Immortality to light through the Gospel, where the Christian Religion meeting Judaism, Mahometism or Paganism upon equal terms, lost so plainly by it, that you have Reason to suspect the Members of a Christian Commonwealth would be in Danger to be seduced to either of them, if they should lose no worldly Advantage by such a Change of their Religion, rather than likely to increase among them? Till you can find then some better Reason for excluding Jews, &c. from the Rights of the Commonwealth, you must give us leave to look on this as a bare Pretence. Besides, I think you are under a Mistake, which shews your Pretence against admitting Jews, Mahometans and Pagans, to the Civil Rights of the Commonwealth, is ill grounded; for what Law I pray is there in England, that they who turn to any of those Religions, forfeit the Civil Rights of the Commonwealth by doing it? Such a Law I desire you to shew me; and if you cannot, all this Pretence is out of doors,27 and Men of your Church, since on that Account they would lose no worldly Advantage by the Change, are in as much Danger to be seduced, whether Jews, Mahometans and Pagans, are indenizon’d or no.
The Sectarianism of Creed-Makers28
I easily grant that our Saviour pray’d that all might be one in that holy Religion which he taught them, and in that very Prayer teaches what that Religion is, This is Life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent (John 17:3). But must it be expected, that therefore they should all be of one Mind in things not necessary to Salvation? For whatever Unity it was our Saviour pray’d for here, ’tis certain the Apostles themselves did not all of them agree in every thing: but even the chief of them have had Differences amongst them in Matters of Religion, as appears, Galatians 2:11.
An Agreement in Truths necessary to Salvation, and the maintaining of Charity and brotherly Kindness with the Diversity of Opinions in other things, is that which will very well consist with Christian Unity, and is all possibly to be had in this world, in such an incurable Weakness and Difference of Mens Understandings. This probably would contribute more to the Conversion of Jews, Mahometans and Pagans, if there were proposed to them and others, for their Admittance into the Church, only the plain simple Truths of the Gospel necessary to Salvation, than all the fruitless Pudder29 and Talk about uniting Christians in Matters of less Moment, according to the Draught and Prescription of a certain set of Men any where.
What Blame will lie on the Authors and Promoters of Sects and Divisions, and (let me add) Animosities amongst Christians, when Christ comes to make Inquisition why no more Jews, Mahometans and Pagans were converted, they who are concerned ought certainly well to consider. And to abate in great measure this Mischief for the future, they who talk so much of Sects and Divisions, would do well to consider too, whether those are not most Authors and Promoters of Sects and Divisions, who impose Creeds, Ceremonies and Articles of Mens making; and make things not necessary to Salvation, the necessary terms of Communion, excluding and driving from them such as out of Conscience and Perswasion cannot assent and submit to them, and treating them as if they were utter Aliens from the Church of God, and such as were deservedly shut out as unfit to be Members of it: who narrow Christianity within Bounds of their own making, and which the Gospel knows nothing of; and often for things by themselves confessed indifferent, thrust Men out of their Communion, and then punish them for not being of it.
Who sees not, but the Bond of Unity might be preserved, in the different Perswasions of Men concerning things not necessary to Salvation, if they were not made necessary to Church-Communion? What two thinking Men of the Church of England are there, who differ not one from the other in several material Points of Religion? who nevertheless are Members of the same Church, and in Unity one with another. Make but one of those Points the Shibboleth of a Party, and erect it into an Article of the National Church, and they are presently divided; and he of the two, whose Judgment happens not to agree with National Orthodoxy, is immediately cut offfrom Communion. Who I beseech you is it in this Case that makes the Sect? Is it not those who contract the Church of Christ within Limits of their own Contrivance? who by Articles and Ceremonies of their own forming, separate from their Communion all that have not Perswasions which just jump with their Model?
’Tis frivolous here to pretend Authority. No Man has or can have Authority to shut any one out of the Church of Christ, for that for which Christ himself will not shut him out of Heaven. Whosoever does so, is truly the Author and Promoter of Schism and Division, sets up a Sect, and tears in Pieces the Church of Christ, of which every one who believes, and practises what is necessary to Salvation, is a Part and Member; and cannot, without the Guilt of Schism, be separated from, or kept out of its external Communion. In this lording it over the Heritage of God (1 Peter 5:2–3), and thus overseeing by Imposition on the unwilling, and not consenting, which seems to be the meaning of St. Peter, most of the lasting Sects which so mangle Christianity, had their Original, and continue to have their Support: and were it not for these establish’d Sects under the specious Names of National Churches,30 which by their contracted and arbitrary Limits of Communion, justify against themselves the Separation and like Narrowness of others, the Difference of Opinions which do not so much begin to be, as to appear and be owned31 under Toleration, would either make no Sect nor Division; or else if they were so extravagant as to be opposite to what is necessary to Salvation, and so necessitate a Separation, the clear Light of the Gospel, joined with a strict Discipline of Manners,32 would quickly chase them out of the World. But whilst needless Impositions, and moot Points in Divinity are established by the Penal Laws of Kingdoms, and the specious Pretences of Authority, what Hopes is there that there should be such an Union amongst Christians any where, as might invite a rational Turk33 or Infidel to imbrace a Religion, whereof he is told they have a Revelation from God, which yet in some Places he is not suffered to read, and in no Place shall he be permitted to understand for himself,34 or to follow according to the best of his Understanding, when it shall at all thwart (though in things confessed not necessary to Salvation) any of those select Points of Doctrine, Discipline, or outward Worship, whereof the National Church has been pleased to make up its Articles, Polity, and Ceremonies? And I ask, what a sober sensible Heathen must think of the Divisions amongst Christians not owing to Toleration, if he should find in an Island, where Christianity seems to be in its greatest Purity, the South and North Parts establishing Churches upon the Differences of only whether fewer or more, thus and thus chosen, should govern;35 tho the Revelation they both pretend be their Rule, say nothing directly one way or t’other:36 each contending with so much Eagerness, that they deny each other to be Churches of Christ, that is, in effect, to be true Christians? To which if one should add Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, Real Presence,37 Articles and Distinctions set up by Men without Authority from Scripture, and other less Differences, (which good Christians may dissent about without endangering their Salvations) established by Law in the several Parts of Christendom: I ask, Whether the Magistrates interposing in Matters of Religion, and establishing National Churches by the Force and Penalties of Civil Laws, with their distinct (and at home reputed necessary) Confessions and Ceremonies, do not by Law and Power authorize and perpetuate Sects among Christians, to the great Prejudice of Christianity, and Scandal to Infidels, more than any thing that can arise from a mutual Toleration, with Charity and a good Life?
Those who have so much in their Mouths, the Authors of Sects and Divisions, with so little advantage to their Cause, I shall desire to consider, whether National Churches established as now they are, are not as much Sects and Divisions in Christianity, as smaller Collections, under the name of distinct Churches, are in respect of the National? only with this difference, that these Subdivisions and discountenanced Sects, wanting Power to enforce their peculiar Doctrines and Discipline, usually live more friendly like Christians, and seem only to demand Christian Liberty; whereby there is less appearance of Unchristian Division among them: Whereas those National Sects, being back’d by the Civil Power, which they never fail to make use of, at least as a pretence of Authority over their Brethren, usually breathe out nothing but Force and Persecution, to the great Reproach, Shame, and Dishonour of the Christian Religion.
The Reformation of Manners38
I said, “That if the Magistrates would severely and impartially set themselves against Vice in whomsoever it is found, and leave Men to their own Consciences in their Articles of Faith, and Ways of Worship, true Religion would spread wider, and be more fruitful in the Lives of its Professors, than ever hitherto it has done by the imposing of Creeds and Ceremonies.” Here I call only Immorality of Manners, Vice; you on the contrary, in your Answer, give the Name of Vice to Errors in Opinion, and Difference in Ways of Worship from the National Church: for this is the Matter in question between us, express it as you please. This being a Contest only about the signification of a short Syllable in the English Tongue, we must leave to the Masters of that Language to judg which of these two is the proper use of it. But yet from my using the word Vice, you conclude presently, (taking it in your Sense, not mine) that the Magistrate has a Power in England (for England we are speaking of) to punish Dissenters from the National Religion, because it is a Vice. I will, if you please, in what I said, change the word Vice into that I meant by it, and say thus, “If the Magistrates will severely and impartially set themselves against the Dishonesty and Debauchery of Mens Lives, and such Immoralities as I contra-distinguish from Error in speculative Opinions of Religion, and Ways of Worship”: and then pray see how your Answer will look, for thus it runs, It seems then with you the rejecting the true Religion, and refusing to worship God in decent Ways prescribed by those to whom God has left the ordering of those Matters, are not comprehended in the name Vice. But you tell me, If I except these things, and will not allow them to be called by the name of Vice, perhaps other Men may think it as reasonable to except some other things, (i.e., from being called Vices) which they have a kindness for: For instance, some may perhaps except arbitrary Divorce, Polygamy, Concubinage, simple Fornication, or Marrying within Degrees thought forbidden. Let them except these, and if you will, Drunkenness, Theft, and Murder too, from the name of Vice; nay, call them Vertues: Will they by their calling them so, be exempt from the Magistrate’s Power of punishing them? Or can they claim an Impunity by what I have said? Will these Immoralities by the Names any one shall give, or forbear to give to them, become Articles of Faith, or Ways of Worship? Which is all, as I expresly say in the Words you here cite of mine, that I would have the Magistrates leave Men to their own Consciences in.
England’s Penal Laws39
[Y]ou bemoan the decaying State of Religion amongst us at present, by reason of taking offthe Penalties from Protestant Dissenters: And I beseech you what Penalties were they? Such whereby many have been ruined in their Fortunes; such whereby many have lost their Liberties, and some their Lives in Prisons; such as have sent some into Banishment, stripp’d of all they had. These were the Penal Laws by which the National Religion was establish’d in England; and these you call moderate:40 for you say, Where-ever true Religion or sound Christianity has been Nationally received and established by moderate Penal Laws; and I hope you do not here exclude England from having its Religion so established by Law, which we so often hear of; or if to serve the present occasion, you should, would you also deny, that in the following Words you speak of the present Relaxation in England?41 where after your Appeal to all observing People for the dismal Consequences, which you suppose to have every-where followed from such Relaxations, you add these pathetical Words, Not to speak of what at this time our Eyes cannot but see, for fear of giving offence: so heavy does the present Relaxation sit on your Mind; which since it is of Penal Laws you call moderate, I shall shew you what they are.
In the first Year of Q. Elizabeth, there was a Penalty of 1 s.42 a Sunday and Holiday43 laid upon every one, who came not to the Common Prayer then established. This Penalty of 1 s. a time not prevailing, as was desired, in the twenty third Year of her Reign was increased to 20 l. a Month, and Imprisonment for Non-payment within three Months after Judgment given. In the twenty ninth Year of Eliz. To draw this yet closer, and make it more forcible, ’twas enacted, That whoever upon one Conviction did not continue to pay on the 20 l. per Month, without any other Conviction or Proceeding against him till he submitted and conformed, should forfeit all his Goods, and two Thirds of his Land for his Life. But this being not yet thought sufficient, it was in the 35th Year of that Queen completed, and the moderate Penal Laws upon which our National Religion was established, and whose Relaxation you cannot bear, but from thence date the Decay of the very Spirit and Life of Christianity, were brought to perfection: For then going to Conventicles, or a Month’s Absence from Church, was to be punished with Imprisonment, till the Offender conformed: and if he conformed not within three Months, then he was to abjure the Realm, and forfeit all his Goods and Chattels for ever, and his Lands and Tenements during his Life: And if he would not abjure, or abjuring, did not depart the Realm within a time prefix’d, or returned again, he was to suffer Death as a Felon. And thus your moderate Penal Laws stood for the established Religion, till their Penalties were in respect of Protestant Dissenters, lately taken off.44 And now let the Reader judg whether your pretence to moderate Punishments, or my Suspicion of what a Man of your Principles might have in store for Dissenters, have more of Modesty or Conscience in it; since you openly declare your regret for the taking away such an Establishment, as by the gradual increase of Penalties reached Mens Estates, Liberties and Lives; and which you must be presumed to allow and approve of, till you tell us plainly, where, according to your Measures, those Penalties should; or, according to your Principles, they could have stopp’d.
Prejudice and Sincere Seeking45
You speak more than once of Mens being brought to lay aside their Prejudices to make them consider as they ought, and judg right of Matters in Religion; and I grant without doing so they cannot: But it is impossible for Force to make them do it, unless it could show them, which are Prejudices in their Minds, and distinguish them from the Truths there. Who is there almost that has not Prejudices, that he does not know to be so; and what can Force do in that Case? It can no more remove them, to make way for Truth, than it can remove one Truth to make way for another; or rather remove an establish’d Truth, or that which is look’d on as an unquestionable Principle (for so are often Mens Prejudices) to make way for a Truth not yet known, nor appearing to be one. ’Tis not every one knows, or can bring himself to Des Cartes’ s way of doubting, and strip his Thoughts of all Opinions, till he brings them to self-evident Principles, and then upon them builds all his future Tenents.46
Do not think all the World, who are not of your Church, abandon themselves to an utter Carelessness of their future State. You cannot but allow there are many Turks who sincerely seek Truth, to whom yet you could never bring Evidence sufficient to convince them of the Truth of the Christian Religion, whilst they looked on it as a Principle not to be question’d, that the Alcoran was of Divine Revelation. This possibly you will tell me is a Prejudice, and so it is; but yet if this Man shall tell you ’tis no more a Prejudice in him, than it is a Prejudice in any one amongst Christians, who having not examin’d it, lays it down as an unquestionable Principle of his Religion, that the Scripture is the Word of God; what will you answer to him? And yet it would shake a great many Christians in their Religion, if they should lay by that Prejudice, and suspend their Judgment of it, until they had made it out to themselves with Evidence sufficient to convince one who is not prejudiced in Favour of it; and it would require more Time, Books, Languages, Learning and Skill, than falls to most Mens share to establish them therein, if you will not allow them, in this so distinguishing and fundamental a Point, to rely on the Learning, Knowledg and Judgment of some Persons whom they have in Reverence or Admiration. This though you blame it as an ill way, yet you can allow in one of your own Religion, even to that Degree, that he may be ignorant of the Grounds of his Religion. And why then may you not allow it to a Turk, not as a good way, or as having led him to the Truth; but as a way, as fit for him, as for one of your Church to acquiesce in; and as fit to exempt him from your Force, as to exempt any one of your Church from it?
On the Test Act47
You go on, And therefore if such Persons profane the Sacrament to keep their Places, or to obtain Licenses to sell Ale, this is an horrible Wickedness.48 I excuse them not. But it is their own, and they alone must answer for it. Yes, and those who threatned poor ignorant and irreligious Ale-sellers, whose Livelihood it was, to take away their Licences, if they did not conform and receive the Sacrament; may be thought perhaps to have something to answer for. You add, But it is very unjust to impute it to those who make such Laws, and use such Force, or to say that they prostitute holy things, and drive Men to profane them. Nor is it just to insinuate in your Answer, as if that had been said which was not. But if it be true that a poor ignorant loose irreligious Wretch should be threatned to be turn’d out of his Calling and Livelihood, if he would not take the Sacrament: May it not be said these holy things have been so low prostituted? And if this be not profaning them, pray tell me what is?
Penal Laws Do Not Make People Reconsider Their Religion49
To shew the Usefulness of Force, your way apply’d, I said, “Where the Law punish’d Dissenters without telling them it is to make them consider, they may through Ignorance and Oversight neglect to do it.” Your Answer is, But where the Law provides sufficient means of Instruction for all, as well as Punishment for Dissenters, it is so plain to all concern’d, that the Punishment is intended to make them consider, that you see no danger of Mens neglecting to do it, through Ignorance and Oversight. I hope you mean by consider, so to consider as not only to imbrace in an outward Profession (for then all you say is but a poor Fallacy, for such a Considering amounts to no more but bare outward Conformity); but so to consider, study and examine Matters of Religion, as really to imbrace, what one is convinced to be the true, with Faith and Obedience. If it be so plain and easy to understand, that a Law, that speaks nothing of it, should yet be intended to make Men consider, search and study, to find out the Truth that must save them; I wish you had shew’d us this Plainness. For I confess many of all degrees,50 that I have purposely asked about it, did not ever see, or so much as dream, that the Act of Uniformity, or against Conventicles,51 or the Penalties in either of them, were ever intended to make Men seriously study Religion, and make it their business to find the Truth which must save them; but barely to make Men conform. But perhaps you have met with Handicrafts-Men, and Country-Farmers, Maid-Servants, and Day-Labourers, who have quicker Understandings, and reason better about the Intention of the Law, for these as well as others are concern’d. If you have not, ’tis to be fear’d, your saying it is so plain, that you see no danger of Mens neglecting to do it, through Ignorance or Oversight, is more for its serving your purpose, than from any Experience you have, that it is so.
When you will enquire into this Matter, you will, I guess, find the People so ignorant amidst that great Plainness you speak of, that not one of twenty of any degree, amongst Conformists or Nonconformists, ever understood the Penalty of 12 d. a Sunday, or any other of our Penal Laws against Nonconformity, to be intended to set Men upon studying the True Religion, and impartially examining what is necessary to Salvation. And if you would come to Hudibras ’s52 Decision, I believe he would have a good Wager of it, who should give you a Guinea for each one who had thought so, and receive but a Shilling for every one who had not. Indeed you do not say, it is plain everywhere, but only where the Law provides sufficient means of Instruction for all, as well as Punishment for Dissenters. From whence, I think it will follow, that that contributes nothing to make it plain, or else that the Law has not provided sufficient means of Instruction in England, where so very few find this to be so plain. If by this sufficient Provision of means of Instruction for all; you mean, Persons maintain’d at the Publick Charge to preach, and officiate in the publick Exercise of the National Religion; I suppose you needed not this Restriction, there being few Places which have an establish’d National Religion, where there is not such means of Instruction provided: if you intend any other means of Instruction, I know none the Law has provided in England but the 39 Articles,53 the Liturgy, and the Scripture, and how either of them by it self, or these altogether, with a National Clergy, make it plain, that the Penalties laid on Nonconformity, are intended to make Men consider, study, and impartially examine Matters of Religion, you would do well to shew. For Magistrates usually know (and therefore make their Laws accordingly) that the People seldom carry either their Interpretation or Practice beyond what the express Letter of the Law requires of them. You would do well also to shew, that a sufficient provision of means of Instruction, cannot but be understood to require an effectual Use of them, which the Law that makes that provision says nothing of. But on the contrary, contents it self with something very short of it: For Conformity or Coming to Church, is at least as far from considering, studying and impartially examining Matters of Religion, so as to imbrace the Truth upon Conviction and with an obedient Heart, as being present at a Discourse concerning Mathematicks, and studying Mathematicks, so as to become a knowing Mathematician, are different one from the other.
People generally think they have done their Duties abundantly, if they have been at Church, whether they mind54 any thing done there or no: this they call serving of God, as if it were their whole Duty; so backward are they to understand more, though it be plain the Law of God expresly requires more. But that they have fully satisfied the Law of the Land, no body doubts; nor is it easy to answer what was replied to me on this occasion, viz. If the Magistrate intended any thing more in those Laws but Conformity, would he not have said it? To which let me add, if the Magistrate intended Conformity as the fruit of Conviction, would he not have taken some care to have them instructed before they conformed, and examin’d when they did? but ’tis presumable their Ignorance, Corruption and Lusts, all drop offin the Church-porch, and that they become perfectly good Christians as soon as they have taken their Seats in the Church.
The Charge of Scepticism and Epicureanism55
Epicurism and Atheism, say you, are found constantly to spread themselves upon the Relaxation of moderate Penal Laws. We will suppose your History to be full of Instances of such Relaxations, which you will in good time communicate to the World, that wants this Assistance from your Observation. But were this to be justified out of History, yet would it not be any Argument against Toleration; unless your History can furnish you with a new sort of Religion founded in Atheism. However, you do well to charge the spreading of Atheism upon Toleration in Matters of Religion, as an Argument against those who deny Atheism (which takes away all Religion) to have any Right to Toleration at all. But perhaps (as is usual for those who think all the World should see with their Eyes, and receive their Systems for unquestionable Verities) Zeal for your own way makes you call all Atheism, that agrees not with it. That which makes me doubt of this, are these following words; Not to speak of what at this time our Eyes cannot but see for fear of giving Offence: Though I hope it will be none to any that have a just Concern for Truth and Piety, to take notice of the Books and Pamphlets which now fly so thick about this Kingdom, manifestly tending to the multiplying of Sects and Divisions, and even to the promoting of Scepticism in Religion among us. In which number, you say, you shall not much need my pardon, if you reckon the First and Second Letter concerning Toleration. Wherein, by a broad Insinuation, you impute the spreading of Atheism among us, to the late Relaxation made in favour of Protestant Dissenters: and yet all that you take notice of as a proof of this, is, the Books and Pamphlets which now fly so thick about this Kingdom, manifestly tending to the multiplying of Sects and Divisions, and even to the promoting of Scepticism in Religion amongst us; and for instance, you name the First and Second Letter concerning Toleration. If one may guess at the others by these, The Atheism and Scepticism you accuse them of will have but little more in it, than an Opposition to your Hypothesis; on which, the whole business of Religion must so turn, that whatever agrees not with your System, must presently, by Interpretation, be concluded to tend to the promoting of Atheism or Scepticism in Religion. For I challenge you to shew in either of those two Letters you mention, one word tending to Epicurism, Atheism or Scepticism in Religion.
But, Sir, against the next time you are to give an account of Books and Pamphlets tending to the promoting Scepticism in Religion amongst us, I shall mind you of the third Letter concerning Toleration, to be added to the Catalogue, which asserting and building upon this, that True Religion may beknown by those who profess it, to be the only True Religion, does not a little towards betraying the Christian Religion to Scepticks. For what greater advantage can be given them, than to teach, that one may know the True Religion? thereby putting into their hands a Right to demand it to be demonstrated to them, that the Christian Religion is true, and bringing on the Professors of it a necessity of doing it. I have heard it complain’d of as one great Artifice of Scepticks, to require Demonstrations where they neither could be had, nor were necessary. But if the True Religion may be known to Men to be so, a Sceptick may require, and you cannot blame him if he does not receive your Religion, upon the strongest probable Arguments, without Demonstration.
And if one should demand of you Demonstration of the Truths of your Religion, which I beseech you, would you do, either renounce your Assertion, that it may be known to be true, or else undertake to demonstrate it to him?
And as for the decay of the very Life and Spirit of Christianity, and the spreading of Epicurism amongst us: I ask, what can more tend to the promoting of them than this Doctrine, which is to be found in the same Letter, viz. That it is presumable that those who conform, do it upon Reason and Conviction? When you can instance in any thing so much tending to the promoting of Scepticism in Religion and Epicurism, in the first or second Letter concerning Toleration, we shall have reason to think you have some ground for what you say.
As to Epicurism, the spreading whereof you likewise impute to the Relaxation of your moderate Penal Laws; That so far as it is distinct from Atheism, I think regards Mens Lives more than their Religions, i.e., speculative Opinions in Religion and Ways of Worship, which is that we mean by Religion, as concern’d in Toleration. And for the Toleration of corrupt Manners, and the Debaucheries of Life, neither our Author, nor I do plead for it; but say it is properly the Magistrate’s Business, by Punishments, to restrain and suppress them. I do not therefore blame your Zeal against Atheism and Epicurism; but you discover a great Zeal against something else, in charging them on Toleration, when it is in the Magistrate’s power to restrain and suppress them by more effectual Laws than those for Church-Conformity. For there are those who will tell you that an outward Profession of the National Religion, even where it is the True Religion, is no more opposite to, or inconsistent with Atheism or Epicurism, than the owning of another Religion, especially any Christian Profession, that differs from it. And therefore you, in vain, impute Atheism or Epicurism to the Relaxation of Penal Laws, that require no more than an outward Conformity to the National Church.
The Pastoral Care of Corrupt Conformists56
The Backwardness and Lusts that hinder an impartial Examination, as you describe it, is general. The Corruption of Nature which hinders a real imbracing the true Religion, that also you tell us here, is universal. I ask a Remedy for these in your way. You say the Law for Conformity is general, excepts none. Very likely, none that do not conform ; but punishes none who conforming, do neither impartially examine nor really imbrace the true Religion. From whence I conclude, there is no corruption of Nature in those, who are brought up or join in outward Communion with the Church of England. But as to Ignorance, Negligence, and Prejudice, you say you desire me, or any Man else, to tell what better course can be taken to cure them, than that which you have mentioned. If your Church can find no better way to cure Ignorance and Prejudice, and the Negligence, that is in Men, to examine Matters of Religion and heartily Imbrace the true, than what is impracticable upon Conformists, then of all others, Conformists are in the most deplorable Estate. But, as I remember, you have been told of a better way, which is, the discoursing with Men seriously and friendly about Matters in Religion, by those whose Profession is the Care of Souls; examining what they do not understand, and where, either through Laziness, Prejudice or Difficulty, they do stick; and applying to their several Diseases proper Cures, which it is as impossible to do by a general Harangue, once or twice a Week out of the Pulpit, as to fit all Mens Feet with one Shoe, or cure all Mens Ails with one, though very wholsome, Diet-drink. To be thus instant in season, and out of season,57 some Men have thought a better way of Cure, than a Desire, only to have Men driven by the Whip, either in your, or the Magistrate’s hands, into the Sheepfold: where when they are once, whether they understand or no, their Ministers Sermons; whether they are, or can be better for them or no; whether they are ignorant and hypocritical Conformists, and in that way like58 to remain so, rather than to become knowing and sincere Converts, some Bishops have thought it not sufficiently enquired;59 but this no body is to mention, for whoever does so, makes himself an occasion to shew his good Will to the Clergy.
This had not been said by me here, now I see how apt you are to be put out of temper with any thing of this kind (though it be in every serious Man’s Mouth) had not you desired me to shew you a better way than Force, your way apply’d. And to use your way of Arguing, since bare Preaching, as now us’d, ’tis plain, will not do, there is no other means left but this to deal with the corrupt Nature of Conformists; for Miracles are now ceased, and Penalties they are free from; therefore, by your way of concluding, no other being left, this of Visiting at home, conferring and instructing, and admonishing Men there, and the like Means, proposed by the Reverend Author of the Pastoral Care,60 is necessary; and Men, whose business is the Care of Souls, are obliged to use it.
The Reformation of Manners Once More61
You give us in this and the foregoing Pages, the Grounds of your Fear, It is the Corruption of humane Nature which opposes the True Religion. You express it thus, Idolatry prevailing against it (the True Religion) not by its own Light and Strength, for it could have nothing of either, but merely by the Advantage it had in the Corruption and Pravity of humane Nature, finding out to it self more agreeable Religions than the true. For, say you, whatever Hardships some False Religions may impose, it will however, always be easier to carnal and worldly-minded Men, to give even their First-born for their Transgressions, than to mortify their Lusts from which they spring, which no Religion but the True, requires of them. I wonder, saying this, how you could any longer mistake the Magistrate’s Duty, in reference to Religion, and not see wherein Force truly can and ought to be serviceable to it. What you have said, plainly shews you, that the Assistance the Magistrate’s Authority can give to the True Religion, is in the subduing of Lusts, and its being directed against Pride, Injustice, Rapine, Luxury and Debauchery, and those Immoralities which come properly under his Cognisance, and may be corrected by Punishments; and not by the imposing of Creeds and Ceremonies, as you tell us. Sound and Decent, you might have left out, whereof their Fancies, and not the Law of God, will always be Judg and consequently the Rule.
The Case between the true and false Religions, as you have stated it, in short, stands thus, True Religion has always Light and Strength of its own sufficient to prevail with all that seriously consider it, and without prejudice. Idolatry or False Religions have nothing of Light or Strength to prevail with. Why then does not the true Religion prevail against the false, having so much the advantage in Light and Strength? The Counter-ballance of Prejudice hinders. And wherein does that consist? The Drunkard must part with his Cups and Companions, and the Voluptuous Man with his Pleasures. The Proud and Vain must lay by all Excess in Apparel, Furniture and Attendance; and Money, the support of all these, must be got only by the ways of Justice, Honesty, and fair Industry. And every one must live peaceably, uprightly, and friendly with his Neighbour. Here then the Magistrate’s assistance is wanting: Here they may and ought to interpose their Power, and by Severities, against Drunkenness, Lasciviousness, and all sorts of Debauchery; by a steady and unrelaxed Punishment of all the ways of Fraud and Injustice; and by their Administration, Countenance, and Example, reduce the Irregularities of Mens Manners into order, and bring Sobriety, Peaceableness, Industry and Honesty into Fashion. This is their proper Business every-where; and for this they have a Commission from God, both by the Light of Nature and Revelation; and by this, removing the great Counterpoise, which lies in strictness of Life, and is so strong a Bias, with the greatest part, against the true Religion, they would cast the Ballance on that side. For if Men were forced by the Magistrate to live sober, honest and strict Lives, whatever their Religion were, would not the advantage be on the side of Truth, when the gratifying of their Lusts were not to be obtained by forsaking her?
The History of Idolatry62
[Y]ou may meet with Men (whose reading yet I will not compare with yours) who think they have found in History, that Princes and those in Power, first corrupted the True Religion, by setting up the Images and Symbols of their Predecessors in their Temples; which, by their Influence, and the ready Obedience of the Priests they appointed, were in succession of Time, propos’d to the People as Objects of their Worship. Thus they think they find in History that Isis, Queen of Egypt, with her Counsellor Thoth, instituted the Funeral-Rites of King Osiris, by the Honour done to the sacred Ox. They think they find also in History, that the same Thoth, who was also King of Egypt in his turn, invented the Figures of the first Egyptian Gods, Saturn, Dagon, Jupiter Hammon, and the rest: that is, the Figures of their Statues or Idols; and that he instituted the Worship and Sacrifices of these Gods: And his Institutions were so well assisted by those in Authority, and observed by the Priests they set up, that the Worship of those Gods soon became the Religion of that, and a Pattern to other Nations. And here we may perhaps, with good reason, place the rise and original of Idolatry after the Flood, there being nothing of this kind more ancient. So ready was the Ambition, Vanity, or Superstition of Princes, to introduce their Predecessors into the Divine Worship of the People, to secure to themselves the greater Veneration from their Subjects, as descended from the Gods; or to erect such a Worship, and such a Priesthood, as might awe the blinded and seduced People into that Obedience they desired. Thus Ham, by the Authority of his Successors, the Rulers of Egypt, is first brought for the Honour of his Name and Memory into their Temples, and never left, till he is erected into a God, and made Jupiter Hammon, &c. which Fashion took afterwards with the Princes of other Countries.
Was not the great God of the Eastern Nations, Baal, or Jupiter Belus, one of the first Kings of Assyria? And which, I pray, is the more likely, that Courts, by their Instruments the Priests, should thus advance the Honour of Kings amongst the People for the ends of Ambition and Power; or the People find out these refined Ways of doing it, and introduce them into Courts for the enslaving themselves? What Idolatry does your History tell you of among the Greeks, before Phoroneus and Danaus, Kings of the Argives, and Cecrops and Theseus Kings of Attica, and Cadmus King of Thebes, introduced it? An Art of Rule ’tis probable they borrowed from the Egyptians. So that if you had not vouch’d the Silence of History, without consulting it, you would possibly have found, that in the first Ages, Princes, by their Influence and Aid, by the Help and Artifice of the Priests they imploy’d, their Fables of their Gods, their Mysteries and Oracles, and all the Assistance they could give it by their Authority, did so much against the Truth, before direct Force was grown into fashion, and appear’d openly, that there would be little reason of putting the Guard and Propagation of the True Religion, into their hands now, and arming them with Force to promote it.
That this was the Original of Idolatry in the World, and that it was borrowed by other Magistrates from the Egyptians, is farther evident in that this Worship was setled in Egypt, and grown the National Religion there, before the Gods of Greece, and several other Idolatrous Countries, were born. For though they took their Pattern of Deifying their deceased Princes, from the Egyptians, and kept, as near as they could, to the Number and Genealogies of the Egyptian Gods; yet they took the Names still of some great Men of their own, which they accommodated to the Mythology of the Egyptians. Thus, by the assistance of the Powers in being, Idolatry entred into the World after the Flood. Whereof, if there were not so clear Footsteps in History, why yet should you not imagine Princes and Magistrates, ingaged in False Religions, as ready to imploy their Power for the maintaining and promoting their False Religions in those days, as we find them now? And therefore, what you say in the next Words, of the entrance of Idolatry into the World, and the Entertainment it found in it, will not pass for so very evident without Proof, though you tell us never so confidently, that you suppose, besides the Corruption of humane Nature, there can no other Cause be assigned of it, or none more probable than this, That the Powers then in being, did not what they might and ought to have done (i.e. if you mean it to your purpose, use Force your way, to make Men consider, or to impose Creeds and Ways of Worship) towards the preventing or checking that horrible Apostacy.
I grant that the entrance and growth of Idolatry, might be owing to the Negligence of the Powers in being, in that they did not do what they might and ought to have done, in using their Authority to suppress the Enormities of Mens Manners, and correct the Irregularity of their Lives. But this was not all the Assistance they gave to that horrible Apostacy: They were, as far as History gives us any light, the Promoters of it, and Leaders in it, and did what they ought not to have done, by setting up False Religions, and using their Authority to establish them, to serve their corrupt and ambitious Designs.
National Religions, establish’d by Authority, and inforced by the Powers in being, we hear of every where, as far back as we have any account of the rise and growth of the Religions of the World. Shew me any place, within those few Generations, wherein you say the Apostacy prevail’d after the Flood, where the Magistrates, being of the True Religion, the Subjects by the Liberty of a Toleration, were led into False Religions, and then you will produce something against Liberty of Conscience. But to talk of that great Apostacy, as wholly owing to Toleration, when you cannot produce one Instance of Toleration then in the World, is to say what you please.
That the majority of Mankind were then, and always have been, by the Corruption and Pravity of humane Nature, led away, and kept from imbracing the True Religion, is past doubt. But whether this be owing to Toleration, in Matters of Religion, is the Question. David describes an horrible Corruption and Apostacy in his time, so as to say, There is none that doth good, no not one;63 and yet I do not think you will say, a Toleration, then in that Kingdom, was the cause of it. If the greatest part cannot be ill without a Toleration, I am afraid you must be fain to find out a Toleration in every Country, and in all Ages of the World. For I think it is true, of all Times and Places, that the Broad way that leadeth to Destruction, has had most Travellers. I would be glad to know where it was that Force, your way apply’d, i.e., with Punishments only upon Nonconformists, ever prevail’d to bring the greater number into the Narrow-way, that leads unto Life; which our Saviour tells us, there are few that find.64
The Corruption of Humane Nature, you say, opposes the True Religion. I grant it you. There was also, say you, an horrible Apostacy after the Flood; let this also be granted you: and yet from hence it will not follow, that the True Religion cannot subsist and prevail in the World without the assistance of Force, your way apply’d, till you have shewn, that the False Religions, which were the Inventions of Men, grew up under Toleration, and not by the Encouragement and Assistance of the Powers in being.
How near soever therefore, the True Religion was to be extinguish’d within a few Generations after the Flood, (which whether more in danger then, than in most Ages since, is more than you can shew). This will be still the Question, Whether the Liberty of Toleration, or the Authority of the Powers in being, contributed most to it? And whether there can be no other, no more probable Cause assigned, than the want of Force, your way apply’d, I shall leave the Reader to judg. This I am sure, whatever Causes any one else shall assign, are as well proved as yours, if they offer them only as their Conjectures.
Not but that I think Men could run into false and foolish Ways of Worship, without the Instigation or Assistance of humane Authority; but the Powers of the World, as far as we have any History, having been always forward enough (True Religion as little serving Princes as private Mens Lusts) to take up Wrong Religions, and as forward to imploy their Authority to impose the Religion, good or bad, which they had once taken up, I can see no reason why the not using of Force, by the Princes of the World, should be assigned as the sole, or so much as the most probable Cause of propagating the False Religions of the World, or extirpating the True; or how you can so positively say, Idolatry prevail’d without any assistance from the Powers in being.
Since therefore History leads us to the Magistrates, as the Authors and Promoters of Idolatry in the World, to which we may suppose their not suppressing of Vice, joined as another Cause of the spreading of False Religions, you were best consider, whether you can still suppose there can no other Cause be assigned, of the prevailing of the Worship of False Gods, but the Magistrate’s not interposing his Authority in matters of Religion. For that that cannot with any probability at all be assigned as any Cause, I shall give you this further Reason. You impute the prevailing of False Religions, to the Corruption and Pravity of Humane Nature, left to it self, unbridled by Authority. Now, if Force, your way applied, does not at all bridle the Corruption and Pravity of Humane Nature, the Magistrate’s not so interposing his Authority, cannot be assigned as any Cause at all of that Apostacy. So that let that Apostacy have what rise, and spread as far as you please, it will not make one jot for Force, your way applied, or shew that that can receive any assistance your way from Authority. For your use of Authority and Force, being only to bring Men to an outward Conformity to the National Religion, it leaves the Corruption and Pravity of Humane Nature, as unbridled as before.
Writing for Party65
The Party you write for is God, you say. But if all you have said, aims or amounts to nothing more than that the Church of England, as now establish’d by Law, in its Doctrines, Ceremonies and Discipline, should be supported by the Power of the Magistrate, and Men by Force be driven into it; I fear the World will think you have very narrow Thoughts of God; or that that is not the Party you write for. ’Tis true, you all along speak of bringing Men to the True Religion. But to evidence to you, that by the only True Religion, you mean only that of the Church of England; I tell you, that upon your Principles, you cannot name any other Church now in the World, (and I again demand of you to do it) for the promoting whereof, or punishing Dissenters from it, the Magistrate has the same Right to use Force, as you pretend he has here in England. Till you therefore name some such other True Church and True Religion, besides that of England, your saying that God is the Party you write for, will rather shew that you make bold with his Name, than that you do not write for another Party.
You say too, you write not for any Party, but the Souls of Men. You write indeed, and contend earnestly, that Men should be brought into an outward Conformity to the Church of England. But that they imbrace that Profession upon Reason and Conviction, you are content to have it presumable, without any farther Enquiry or Examination. And those who are once in the outward Communion of the National Church, however ignorant or irreligious they are, you leave there unassisted by your only competent Means, Force; without which, you tell us, the True Religion, by its own Light and Strength, is not able to prevail against Mens Lusts and the Corruption of Nature, so as to be consider’d as it ought, and heartily imbraced. And this drop’d not from your Pen by chance: But you profess-edly make Excuses for those of the National Religion who are ignorant of the Grounds of it; And give us Reasons why Force cannot be used to those who outwardly conform, to make them consider so as sincerely to imbrace, believe and obey, the Truth that must save them. But the Reverend Author of the Pastoral Care66 tells you, PARTY is the true Name of making Converts, except they become at the same time good Men.
If the use of Force be necessary for the Salvation of Souls; and Mens Souls be the Party you write for; you will be suspected to have betrayed your Party, if your Method and necessary Means of Salvation reach no farther than to bring Men to outward Conformity, though to the True Church; and after that abandons them to their Lusts and depraved Natures, destitute of the help of Force, your necessary and competent Means of Salvation.
This way of managing the Matter, whatever you intend, seems rather, in the Fitness of it, to be for another Party. But since you assure us you write for nothing but God and Mens Souls, it can only be said you had a good Intention, but ill Luck; since your Scheme, put into the Language of the Country, will fit any National Church and Clergy in the World, that can but suppose it self the True; and that I presume none of them will fail to do.
You were more than ordinary reserv’d and gracious when you tell me, That what Party I write for, you will not undertake to say. But having told me, that my Letter tends to the promoting of Scepticism in Religion; you thought (’tis like) that was sufficient to show the Party I write for; and so you might safely end your Letter with words that looked like civil. But that you may another time be a little better informed what Party I write for, I will tell you. They are those who in every Nation fear God, work Righteousness, and are accepted with him;67 and not those who in every nation are zealous for Humane Constitutions, cry up nothing so much as outward Conformity to the National Religion; and are accepted by those who are the Promoters of it. Those that I write for are those, who, according to the Light of their own Consciences, are every-where in earnest in Matters of their own Salvation, without any desire to impose on others; A Party so seldom favour’d by any of the Powers or Sects of the World; A Party that has so few Preferments to bestow; so few Benefices to reward the Endeavours of any one who appears for it, that I conclude I shall easily be believ’d when I say, that neither Hopes of Preferment, nor a Design to recommend my self to those I live amongst, has biassed my Understanding, or misled me in my Undertaking. So much Truth as serves the turn of any particular Church, and can be accommodated to the narrow Interest of some Human Constitution, is indeed often received with applause, and the Publisher68 finds his account in it. But I think I may say, Truth (in its full Latitude, of those generous Principles of the Gospel, which so much recommend and inculcate universal Charity, and a Freedom from the Inventions and Impositions of Men in the things of God), has so seldom had a fair and favourable Hearing any where, that he must be very ignorant of the History and Nature of Man, however dignified and distinguish’d, who proposes to himself any secular Advantage by writing for her.
[1. ]Third Letter, chap. 2, pp. 60–72, citing Second Letter, pp. 51–52 (Works, pp. 211–25; 117–19).
[2. ]Locke is responding to Jonas Proast, The Argument of The Letter Concerning Toleration Briefly Consider’d and Answer’d (Oxford, 1690) and A Third Letter Concerning Toleration (Oxford, 1691); his quotations occur at p. 18 of the former and pp. 56–62 of the latter. Proast (ca. 1642–1710) was chaplain of All Souls College, Oxford, 1677–98, and archdeacon of Berkshire, 1698–1710.
[3. ]“the Author”: that is, Locke. In the Second Letter and Third Letter Locke adopts the fiction that he is a third party defending the first Letter.
[4. ]See Two Treatises of Government, II, especially §§87–89, 143, 155, 212, 227.
[5. ]See note 13, p. 74.
[6. ]coactive: coercive.
[7. ]Locke’s claim, in this dense paragraph, is that, if the state is authorized to coerce in religion by the law of nature rather than by a Gospel commission, then all states, Christian or not, are licensed to coerce, and hence true believers will be persecuted.
[8. ]This paragraph is verbatim from the Second Letter, p. 51 (Works, pp. 118–19).
[9. ]Peripateticks: Aristotelians.
[10. ]Parts: abilities.
[11. ]“indirectly . . . distance”: Locke snidely echoes Proast’s persistent claim that coercion can induce true belief, albeit not directly, but “indirectly,” by compelling people to listen to true teaching.
[12. ]National Religion: state religion. The term “Established Church” was not yet in use.
[13. ]The Authorized Version of the Bible (called “our Translation” a few lines below) renders the Greek as “ordinance of man,” but here Locke prefers a translation that better tallies with his own political philosophy. He makes the same point in Two Treatises of Government, I, §6, and regularly cites Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1594–97) in the Two Treatises: for example, II, §74.
[14. ]Choler: anger. See note 15, following, for the reason for Proast’s irritation.
[15. ]Locke echoes Romans 13:1 (“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God”), a standard text used by absolutists to defend the divine right of kings and the duty of nonresistance. He adopts a riposte familiar in the tradition of Calvinist resistance theory, that St. Paul’s injunction may be construed as applying equally to rulers appointed by the people, and that there may be said to be a “divine right” of the people to erect governments. Hence Locke brings Romans 13 into line with 1 Peter 2:13.
[16. ]West-Indies: Locke means America in general. The following passage illuminates remarks about Native Americans in Two Treatises of Government, II, chaps. 5 and 8, especially §§102, 108.
[17. ]“Mile-End” is a district of London: Locke wittily puts down Proast’s parochialism.
[18. ]In the Second Letter, pp. 54–55 (Works, pp. 121–22), Locke wrote: “There are Nations in the West-Indies which have no other End of their Society, but their mutual defence against their common enemies. In these, their Captain, or Prince, is Sovereign Commander in time of War; but in time of Peace, neither he nor any body else has any Authority over any of the Society. You cannot deny but other, even temporal ends, are attainable by these Commonwealths, if they had been otherwise instituted and appointed to those ends.”
[19. ]Third Letter, chap. 3, pp. 75–78, citing Second Letter, p. 2 (Works, pp. 228–32; 62), and Proast, Third Letter, pp. 2–3.
[20. ]endenizon’d: made a naturalized citizen.
[21. ]For Socinians and Anabaptists, see p. 30, note 66, and p. 58, note 157.
[22. ]Phanaticism: Locke defers to the standard hostile term for Protestant dissenters.
[23. ]Independents: Congregationalists.
[24. ]See p. 98.
[25. ]own: admit.
[26. ]fain: gladly.
[27. ]out of doors: irrelevant.
[28. ]Third Letter, chap. 3, pp. 82–85 (Works, pp. 237–40), citing Proast, Third Letter, p. 4.
[29. ]Pudder: fuss.
[30. ]One of the clearest indications that Locke objected in principle to established churches.
[31. ]owned: acknowledged.
[32. ]Manners: morals.
[33. ]Turk: Muslim.
[34. ]“some Places . . . for himself ”: Locke evenhandedly indicts Catholics and Protestants.
[35. ]Locke alludes to the fact that in 1689 episcopacy was overthrown in Scotland and Presbyterianism established, so that the two kingdoms of Britain now had distinct official churches. With the Act of Union in 1707 this pluralism became more anomalous because it now existed within a single state. Throughout Locke’s writings on toleration, he is silent about the fact that Ireland was overwhelmingly Catholic.
[36. ]Locke makes clear his belief that neither episcopacy nor presbytery are prescribed in Scripture.
[37. ]Three divergent doctrines concerning the nature of the Eucharist.
[38. ]Third Letter, pp. 85–86, citing Second Letter, p. 5 (Works, pp. 241–42; 65–66), and Proast, Third Letter, p. 13. The “reformation of manners” was a common phrase in the 1690s, reformers calling for a “moral revolution” to match the political revolution of 1688.
[39. ]Third Letter, chap. 4, pp. 125–26 (Works, pp. 286–88), citing Proast, Third Letter, p. 34.
[40. ]“moderate”: Proast insists that the penalties he advocates are moderate, seeking thereby to distance Protestantism from the cruelties of Catholic persecution.
[41. ]Formally, the Toleration Act merely suspended the penalties for nonconformity, rather than repealing the laws for conformity per se; high churchmen could therefore construe it as a temporary relaxation. The act nowhere used the word toleration. Its formal title was “An Act for Exempting Their Majesties’ Protestant Subjects, Dissenting from the Church of England, from the Penalties of Certain Laws.”
[42. ]s: shilling; l: pound; d: pence. There were twenty shillings to the pound and twelve pence to the shilling. The statutes cited in this paragraph are the Uniformity Act (1559) and two Acts to Retain the Queen’s Subjects in Obedience (1581, 1593).
[43. ]Holiday: holy day.
[44. ]The Elizabethan statutes were called laws against recusancy (refusal to attend church) and affected all such absentees, though initially the targets were Catholics. During the Restoration there was doubt about whether these laws applied to Protestant dissenters, but the judges insisted they did. The Whigs tried to pass a bill reversing this construal. Locke’s recognition that the recusancy laws had been in force against Protestant dissenters, and hence that dissent was a capital offense, confirms (as he remarks a few lines later) that English persecution extended to “life” as well as “liberty and estate.” Accordingly, religious coercion was among the sharpest forms of tyranny: see Two Treatises of Government, II, §§209, 221–22. Locke does not recite here the further (non-capital) penal laws enacted against Protestant dissenters in the 1660s.
[45. ]Third Letter, chap. 5, pp. 135–36 (Works, pp. 297–99), citing Proast, Third Letter, p. 42. Proast argues that people should be punished for obstinate dissent, “as long as [they] reject the true religion tendered them with sufficient evidence of the truth of it . . . because it is impossible for any man innocently to reject the true religion so tendered to him.”
[46. ]René Descartes, Discourse on Method (1637). Tenents: tenets.
[47. ]Third Letter, chap. 8, pp. 173–74 (Works, pp. 342–43), citing Proast, Third Letter, pp. 22–23.
[48. ]The allusion to places, i.e., public offices, is to the Corporation and Test Acts (1661, 1673), by which officeholders were obliged to affirm their orthodoxy by annually receiving the Eucharist in the Church of England. Proast broaches what, in Queen Anne’s reign, would become the Occasional Conformity Controversy, when Tories tried to legislate to end the practice by which dissenters took the sacrament merely to obtain office. As for ale-sellers, during the purges in the 1680s, all kinds of tradesmen were forced to take the sacrament in order to keep their businesses. In the Second Letter Locke referred to men “driven to take the Sacrament to keep their Places, or to obtain Licences to sell Ale” (p. 11; Works, p. 73).
[49. ]Third Letter, chap. 9, pp. 226–29, citing Second Letter, p. 15 (Works, pp. 403–6; 78), and Proast, Third Letter, p. 28.
[50. ]degrees: statuses, classes.
[51. ]The Uniformity Act (1662) and Conventicle Act (1670) were among the principal penal laws for conformity passed during the Restoration.
[52. ]Samuel Butler’s Hudibras (1663) was one of the Restoration’s most popular burlesque poems.
[53. ]The Thirty-Nine Articles constitute the creed of the Church of England.
[54. ]mind: notice.
[55. ]Third Letter, chap. 9, pp. 236–38 (Works, pp. 414–16), citing Proast, Third Letter, pp. 34–35, 47. Epicureanism: libertinism (from the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who advocated a hedonistic ethics).
[56. ]Third Letter, chap. 9, pp. 252–53 (Works, pp. 432–34), citing Proast, Argument, pp. 6–12, and Third Letter, pp. 6–8. Locke continues to stress that conformists are as much in need as nonconformists of engaging in proper consideration of their beliefs, yet the penal laws did not touch them. He advocates a vigorous regime of pastoral catechesis, beyond mere pulpit hectoring and coercive laws.
[57. ]2 Timothy 4:2.
[58. ]like: likely.
[59. ]Locke pulls rank: now, after the Revolution, there were latitudinarian bishops who accepted the Toleration Act and developed new pastoral strategies for the Anglican Church.
[60. ]Gilbert Burnet, A Discourse of the Pastoral Care (1692). Burnet was bishop of Salisbury. Locke several times recommends his treatise as a pastoral handbook for postpenal times. He accuses Proast of advocating coercion by the state as a substitute for remedying pastoral failure in the clergy.
[61. ]Third Letter, chap. 10, pp. 282–83 (Works, pp. 468–69), citing Proast, Third Letter, pp. 7, 13.
[62. ]Third Letter, chap. 10, pp. 288–92 (Works, pp. 475–80), citing Proast, Third Letter, p. 6.
[63. ]Psalm 14:3.
[64. ]Matthew 7:13–14.
[65. ]Third Letter, chap. 10, pp. 347–49 (Works, pp. 542–45), citing Proast, Third Letter, p. 79.
[66. ]Burnet, Pastoral Care, p. 201.
[67. ]Acts 10:35.
[68. ]Publisher: disseminator.