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A SECOND LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION. - John Locke, The Works, vol. 5 Four Letters concerning Toleration 
The Works of John Locke in Nine Volumes, (London: Rivington, 1824 12th ed.). Vol. 5.
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A SECOND LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION.
To theAuthorof the Argument of theLetter,concerningToleration,briefly considered and answered.
You will pardon me if I take the same liberty with you, that you have done with the author of the Letter concerning Toleration; to consider your arguments, and endeavour to shew you the mistakes of them; for since you have so plainly yielded up the question to him, and do own that “the severities he would dissuade christians from, are utterly unapt and improper to bring men to embrace that truth which must save them:” I am not without some hopes to prevail with you to do that yourself, which you say is the only justifiable aim of men differing about religion, even in the use of the severest methods, viz. carefully and impartially to weigh the whole matter, and thereby to remove that prejudice which makes you yet favour some remains of persecution: promising myself that so ingenious a person will either be convinced by the truth which appears so very clear and evident to me: or else confess, that, were either you or I in authority, we should very unreasonably and very unjustly use any force upon the other, which differed from him, upon any pretence of want of examination. And if force be not to be used in your case or mine, because unreasonable, or unjust; you will, I hope, think fit that it should be forborn in all others where it will be equally unjust and unreasonable; as I doubt not but to make it appear it will unavoidably be, wherever you will go about to punish men for want of consideration; for the true way to try such speculations as these, is to see how they will prove when they are reduced into practice.
The first thing you seem startled at in the author’s letter, is the largeness of the toleration he proposes; and you think it strange that he would not have so much as a “pagan, mahometan, or jew, excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth, because of his religion,” p. 1. We pray every day for their conversion, and I think it our duty so to do: but it will, I fear, hardly be believed that we pray in earnest, if we exclude them from the other ordinary and probable means of conversion; either by driving them from, or persecuting them when they are amongst us. Force, you allow, is improper to convert men to any religion. Toleration is but the removing that force; so that why those should not be tolerated as well as others, if you wish their conversion, I do not see. But you say, “it seems hard to conceive how the author of that letter should think to do any service to religion in general, or to the christian religion, by recommending and persuading such a toleration; for how much soever it may tend to the advancement of trade and commerce (which some seem to place above all other considerations), I see no reason, from any experiment that has been made, to expect that true religion would be a gainer by it; that it would be either the better preserved, the more widely propagated, or rendered any whit the more fruitful in the lives of its professors by it.” Before I come to your doubt itself, “Whether true religion would be a gainer by such a toleration;” give me leave to take notice, that if, by other considerations, you mean any thing but religion, your parenthesis is wholly beside the matter; and that if you do not know that the author of the letter places the advancement of trade above religion, your insinuation is very uncharitable. But I go on.
“You see no reason, you say, from any experiment that has been made, to expect that true religion would be a gainer by it.” True religion and christian religion are, I suppose, to you and me, the same thing. But of this you have an experiment in its first appearance in the world, and several hundreds of years after. It was then “better preserved, more widely propagated, in proportion, and rendered more fruitful in the lives of its professors,” than ever since; though then jews and pagans were tolerated, and more than tolerated by the governments of those places where it grew up. I hope you do not imagine the christian religion has lost any of its first beauty, force, or reasonableness, by having been almost two thousand years in the world; that you should fear it should be less able now to shift for itself, without the help of force. I doubt not but you look upon it still to be “the power and wisdom of God for our salvation;” and therefore cannot suspect it less capable to prevail now, by its own truth and light, than it did in the first ages of the church, when poor contemptible men, without authority, or the countenance of authority, had alone the care of it. This, as I take it, has been made use of by christians generally, and by some of our church in particular, as an argument for the truth of the christian religion; that it grew, and spread, and prevailed, without any aid from force, or the assistance of the powers in being; and if it be a mark of the true religion, that it will prevail by its own light and strength, but that false religions will not, but have need of force and foreign helps to support them, nothing certainly can be more for the advantage of true religion, than to take away compulsion every-where; and therefore it is no more “hard to conceive how the author of the letter should think to do service to religion in general, or to the christian religion,” than it is hard to conceive that he should think there is a true religion, and that the christian religion is it; which its professors have always owned not to need force, and have urged that as a good argument to prove the truth of it. The inventions of men in religion need the force and helps of men to support them. A religion that is of God wants not the assistance of human authority to make it prevail. I guess, when this dropped from you, you had narrowed your thoughts to your own age and country: but if you will enlarge them a little beyond the confines of England, I do not doubt but you will easily imagine that if in Italy, Spain, Portugal, &c. the inquisition; and in France their dragooning; and in other parts those severities that are used to keep or force men to the national religion; were taken away; and instead thereof the toleration proposed by the author were set up, the true religion would be a gainer by it.
The author of the letter says, “Truth would do well enough, if she were once left to shift for herself. She seldom hath received, and he fears never will receive much assistance from the power of great men, to whom she is but rarely known, and more rarely welcome. Errors indeed prevail, by the assistance of foreign and borrowed succours. Truth makes way into our understanding, by her own light, and is but the weaker for any borrowed force that violence can add to her.” These words of his, how hard soever they may seem to you, may help you to conceive how he should think to do service to true religion, by recommending and persuading such a toleration as he proposed. And now pray tell me yourself, whether you do not think true religion would be a gainer by it, if such a toleration, established there, would permit the doctrine of the church of England to be freely preached, and its worship set up, in any popish, mahometan, or pagan country? if you do not, you have a very ill opinion of the religion of the church of England, and must own that it can only be propagated and supported by force. If you think it would gain in those countries, by such a toleration, you are then of the author’s mind, and do not find it so hard to conceive how the recommending such a toleration might do service to that which you think true religion. But if you allow such a toleration useful to truth in other countries, you must find something very peculiar in the air, that must make it less useful to truth in England; and it will savour of much partiality, and be too absurd, I fear, for you to own, that toleration will be advantageous to true religion all the world over, except only in this island: though, I much suspect, this, as absurd as it is, lies at the bottom; and you build all you say upon this lurking supposition, that the national religion now in England, backed by the public authority of the law, is the only true religion, and therefore no other is to be tolerated; which being a supposition equally unavoidable, and equally just in other countries, unless we can imagine that every-where but in England men believe what at the same time they think to be a lie; will in other places exclude toleration, and thereby hinder truth from the means of propagating itself.
What the fruits of toleration are, which in the next words you complain do “remain still among us,” and which you say, “give no encouragement to hope for any advantages from it;” what fruits, I say, these are, or whether they are owing to the want or wideness of toleration among us, we shall then be able to judge when you tell us what they are. In the mean time I will boldly say, that if the magistrates will severally 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 will be spread wider, and be more fruitful in the lives of its professors,” than ever hitherto it has been, by the imposition of creeds and ceremonies.
You tell us, “that no man can fail of finding the way of salvation, who seeks it as he ought.” I wonder you had not taken notice, in the places you quote for this, how we are directed there to the right way of seeking. The words, John vii. 17, are, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.” And Psalm xxv. 9, 12, 14, which are also quoted by you, tell us, “The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way. What man is he that feareth the Lord, him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant.” So that these places, if they prove what you cite them for, “that no man can fail of finding the way of salvation, who seeks it as he ought;” they do also prove, that a good life is the only way to seek as we ought; and that therefore the magistrates, if they would put men upon seeking the way of salvation as they ought, should, by their laws and penalties, force them to a good life; a good conversation being the readiest and surest way to a right understanding. Punishments and severities thus applied, we are sure, are both practicable, just, and useful. How punishments will prove in the way you contend for, we shall see when we come to consider it.
Having given us these broad marks of your goodwill to toleration, you tell us, “It is not your design to argue against it, but only to inquire what our author offers for the proof of his assertion.” And then you give us this scheme of his argument.
1. “There is but one way of salvation, or but one true religion.
2. “No man can be saved by this religion, who does not believe it to be the true religion.
3. “This belief is to be wrought in men by reason and argument, not by outward force and compulsion.
4. “Therefore all such force is utterly of no use for the promoting true religion, and the salvation of souls.
5. “And therefore nobody can have any right to use any force or compulsion, for the bringing men to the true religion.”
And you tell us, “the whole strength of what that letter urged for the purpose of it, lies in this argument,” which I think you have no more reason to say, than if you should tell us, that only one beam of a house had any strength in it, when there are several others that would support the building, were that gone.
The purpose of the letter is plainly to defend toleration, exempt from all force; especially civil force, or the force of the magistrate. Now, if it be a true consequence “that men must be tolerated, if magistrates have no commission or authority to punish them for matters of religion;” then the only strength of that letter lies not in the unfitness of force to convince men’s understanding. See letter, p. 381.
Again; if it be true that “magistrates being as liable to errour as the rest of mankind, their using of force in matters of religion, would not at all advance the salvation of mankind,” allowing that even force could work upon them, and magistrates had authority to use it in religion, then the argument you mention is not “the only one in that letter of strength to prove the necessity of toleration.” See letter, p. 319. For the argument of the unfitness of force to convince men’s minds being quite taken away, either of the other would be a strong proof for toleration. But let us consider the argument as you have put it.
“The two first propositions, you say, you agree to.” As to the third, you grant, that “force is very improper to be used to induce the mind to assent to any truth.” But yet you deny, “that force is utterly useless for the promoting true religion, and the salvation of men’s souls:” which you call the author’s fourth proposition; but indeed that is not the author’s fourth proposition, or any proposition of his, to be found in the pages you quote, or any-where else in the whole letter, either in those terms, or in the sense you take it. In page 319, which you quote, the author is showing that the magistrate has no power, that is, no right, to make use of force in matters of religion, for the salvation of men’s souls. And the reason he gives for it there, is, because force has no efficacy to convince men’s minds; and that without a full persuasion of the mind, the profession of the true religion itself is not acceptable to God. “Upon this ground, says he, I affirm that the magistrate’s power extends not to the establishing any articles of faith, or forms of worship, by the force of his laws. For laws are of no force at all without penalties; and penalties in this case are absolutely impertinent, because they are not proper to convince the mind.” And so again, p. 331, which is the other place you quote, the author says: “Whatsoever may be doubted in religion, yet this at least is certain, that no religion which I believe not to be true, can be either true, or profitable unto me. In vain therefore do princes compel their subjects to come into their church-communion, under the pretence of saving their souls.” And more to this purpose. But in neither of those passages, nor any-where else, that I remember, does the author say that it is impossible that force should any way, at any time, upon any person, by any accident, be useful towards the promoting of true religion, and the salvation of souls; for that is it which you mean by “utterly of no use.” He does not deny that there is any thing which God in his goodness does not, or may not, sometimes graciously make use of towards the salvation of men’s souls; as our Saviour did of clay and spittle to cure blindness; and that so force also may be sometimes useful. But that which he denies, and you grant, is, that force has any proper efficacy to enlighten the understanding, or produce belief. And from thence he infers, that therefore the magistrate cannot lawfully compel men in matters of religion. This is what the author says, and what I imagine will always hold true, whatever you or any one can say or think to the contrary.
That which you say is, “Force indirectly and at a distance may do some service.” What you mean by doing service at a distance, towards the bringing men to salvation, or to embrace the truth, I confess I do not understand; unless perhaps it be what others, in propriety of speech, call by accident. But be it what it will, it is such a service as cannot be ascribed to the direct and proper efficacy of force. And so, say you, “Force, indirectly, and at a distance, may do some service.” I grant it: make your best of it. What do you conclude from thence, to your purpose? That therefore the magistrate may make use of it? That I deny, that such an indirect, and at a distance usefulness, will authorise the civil power in the use of it, that will never be proved. Loss of estate and dignities may make a proud man humble: sufferings and imprisonment may make a wild and debauched man sober: and so these things may “indirectly, and at a distance, be serviceable towards the salvation of men’s souls.” I doubt not but God has made some, or all of these, the occasions of good to many men. But will you therefore infer, that the magistrate may take away a man’s honour, or estate, or liberty for the salvation of his soul; or torment him in this, that he may be happy in the other world? What is otherwise unlawful in itself, as it certainly is to punish a man without a fault; can never be made lawful by some good that, indirectly and at a distance, or, if you please, indirectly and by accident, may follow from it. Running a man through, may save his life, as it has done by chance, opening a lurking imposthume. But will you say therefore, that this is lawful, justifiable chirurgery? The gallies, it is like, might reduce many a vain, loose protestant to repentance, sobriety of thought, and a true sense of religion: and the torments they suffered in the late persecution might make several consider the pains of hell, and put a due estimate of vanity and contempt on all things of this world. But will you say, because those punishments might, indirectly and at a distance, serve to the salvation of men’s souls, that therefore the king of France had right authority to make use of them? If your indirect and at a distance serviceableness may authorize the magistrate to use force in religion, all the cruelties used by the heathens against christians, by papists against protestants, and all the persecuting of christians one among another are all justifiable.
But what if I should tell you now of other effects, contrary effects, that punishments in matters of religion may produce; and so may serve to keep men from the truth and from salvation? What then will become of your indirect and at a distance usefulness? For in all pleas for any thing because of its usefulness, it is not enough to say as you do, and is the utmost that can be said for it, that it may be serviceable: but it must be considered not only what it may, but what it is likely to produce: and the greater good or harm like to come from it ought to determine the use of it. To show you what effects one may expect from force, of what usefulness it is to bring men to embrace the truth, be pleased to read what you yourself have writ: “I cannot but remark, say you, that these methods (viz. depriving men of estates, corporal punishment, starving and tormenting them in prisons, and in the end even taking away their lives, to make them christians) are so very improper in respect to the design of them, that they usually produce the quite contrary effect. For whereas all the use which force can have for the advancing true religion, and the salvation of souls, is (as has already been showed) by disposing men to submit to instruction, and to give a fair hearing to the reasons which are offered for the enlightening their minds, and discovering the truth to them; these cruelties have the misfortune to be commonly looked upon as so just a prejudice against any religion that uses them, as makes it needless to look any farther into it: and to tempt men to reject it, as both false and detestable, without ever vouchsafing to consider the rational grounds and motives of it. This effect they seldom fail to work upon the sufferers of them. And as to the spectators, if they be not beforehand well instructed in those grounds and motives, they will be much tempted likewise not only to entertain the same opinion of such a religion, but withal to judge much more favourably of that of the sufferers; who, they will be apt to think, would not expose themselves to such extremities, which they might avoid by compliance, if they were not thoroughly satisfied of the justice of their cause.” Here then you allow that taking away men’s estates, or liberty, and corporal punishments, are apt to drive away both sufferers and spectators from the religion that makes use of them, rather than to it. And so these you renounce. Now if you give up punishments of a man, in his person, liberty, and estate, I think we need not stand with you, for any other punishments that may be made use of. But, by what follows, it seems you shelter yourself under the name of severities. For moderate punishments, as you call them in another place, you think may be serviceable; indirectly, and at a distance serviceable, to bring men to the truth. And I say, any sort of punishments disproportioned to the offence, or where there is no fault at all, will always be severity, unjustifiable severity, and will be thought so by the sufferers and by-standers; and so will usually produce the effects you have mentioned, contrary to the design they are used for. Not to profess the national faith, whilst one believes it not to be true; not to enter into church-communion with the magistrate as long as one judges the doctrine there professed to be erroneous, or the worship not such as God has either prescribed, or will accept; this you allow, and all the world with you must allow, not to be a fault. But yet you would have men punished for not being of the national religion; that is, as you yourself confess, for no fault at all. Whether this be not severity, nay so open and avowed injustice, that it will give men a just prejudice against the religion that uses it, and produce all those ill effects you there mention, I leave you to consider. So that the name of severities, in opposition to the moderate punishments you speak for, can do you no service at all. For where there is no fault, there can be no moderate punishment: all punishment is immoderate, where there is no fault to be punished. But of your moderate punishment we shall have occasion to speak more in another place. It suffices here to have shown, that, whatever punishments you use, they are as likely to drive men from the religion that uses them, as to bring them to the truth; and much more likely, as well shall see before we have done: and so by your own confession they are not to be used.
One thing in this passage of the author, it seems, appears absurd to you; that he should say, “That to take away men’s lives, to make them christians, was but an ill way of expressing a design of their salvation.” I grant there is great absurdity somewhere in the case. But it is in the practice of those who, persecuting men under a pretence of bringing them to salvation, suffer the temper of their good-will to betray itself, in taking away their lives. And whatever absurdities there be in this way of proceeding, there is none in the author’s way of expressing it; as you would more plainly have seen, if you had looked into the Latin original, where the words are, “Vitâ denique ipsâ privant, ut fideles, ut salvi fiant;” which, though more literally, might be thus rendered, “to bring them to the faith and to salvation;” yet the translator is not to be blamed, if he chose to express the sense of the author, in words that very livelily represented the extreme absurdity they are guilty of, who under pretence of zeal for the salvation of souls, proceed to the taking away their lives. An example whereof we have in a neighbouring country, where the prince declares he will have all his dissenting subjects saved, and pursuant thereunto has taken away the lives of many of them. For thither at last persecution must come: as I fear, notwithstanding your talk of moderate punishments, you yourself intimate in these words: “Not that I think the sword is to be used in this business (as I have sufficiently declared already), but because all coactive power resolves at last into the sword; since all (I do not say that will not be reformed in this matter by lesser penalties, but) that refuse to submit to lesser penalties must at last fall under the stroke of it.” In which words, if you mean any thing to the business in hand, you seem to have a reserve for greater punishments, when lesser are not sufficient to bring men to be convinced. But let that pass.
You say, “if force be used, not instead of reason and arguments, that is, not to convince by its own proper efficacy, which it cannot do,” &c. I think those who make laws, and use force, to bring men to church-conformity in religion, seek only the compliance, but concern themselves not for the conviction of those they punish; and so never use force to convince. For, pray tell me, when any dissenter conforms, and enters into the church-communion, is he ever examined to see whether he does it upon reason, and conviction, and such grounds as would become a christian concerned for religion? If persecution, as is pretended, were for the salvation of men’s souls, this would be done; and men not driven to take the sacrament to keep their places, or to obtain licences to sell ale, for so low have these holy things been prostituted; who perhaps knew nothing of its institution, and considered no other use of it but the securing some poor secular advantage, which without taking of it they should have lost. So that this exception of yours, of the “use of force, instead of arguments, to convince men,” I think is needless; those who use it, not being, that ever I heard, concerned that men should be convinced.
But you go on in telling us your way of using force, “only to bring men to consider those reasons and arguments, which are proper and sufficient to convince them; but which, without being forced, they would not consider.” And, say you, “who can deny but that, indirectly and at a distance, it does some service, towards bringing men to embrace that truth, which either through negligence they would never acquaint themselves with, or through prejudice, they would reject and condemn unheard?” Whether this way of punishment is like to increase, or remove prejudice, we have already seen. And what that truth is, which you can positively say any man, “without being forced by punishment, would through carelessness never acquaint himself with,” I desire you to name. Some are called at the third, some at the ninth, and some at the eleventh hour. And whenever they are called, they embrace all the truth necessary to salvation. But these slips may be forgiven, amongst so many gross and palpable mistakes, as appear to me all through your discourse. For example: you tell us that “force used to bring men to consider, does, indirectly, and at a distance, some service.” Here now you walk in the dark, and endeavour to cover yourself with obscurity, by omitting two necessary parts. As first, who must use this force: which, though you tell us not here, yet by other parts of your treatise it is plain you mean the magistrate. And, secondly, you omit to say upon whom it must be used, who it is must be punished: and those, if you say any thing to your purpose, must be dissenters from the national religion, those who come not into church-communion with the magistrate. And then your proposition, in fair plain terms, will stand thus: “If the magistrate punish dissenters, only to bring them to consider those reasons and arguments which are proper to convince them; who can deny but that, indirectly and at a distance, it may do service, &c. towards bringing men to embrace that truth which otherwise they would never be acquainted with?” &c. In which proposition, 1. There is something impracticable. 2. Something unjust. And, 3. Whatever efficacy there is in force, your way applied, to bring men to consider and be convinced, it makes against you.
1. It is impracticable to punish dissenters, as dissenters, only to make them consider. For if you punish them as dissenters, as certainly you do, if you punish them alone, and them all without exception, you punish them for not being of the national religion. And to punish a man for not being of the national religion, is not to punish him only to make him consider; unless not to be of the national religion, and not to consider, be the same thing. But you will say, the design is only to make dissenters consider; and therefore they may be punished only to make them consider. To this I reply; it is impossible you should punish one with a design only to make him consider, whom you punish for something else besides want of consideration; or if you punish him whether he consider or no; as you do, if you lay penalties on dissenters in general. If you should make a law to punish all stammerers; could any one believe you, if you said it was designed only to make them leave swearing? Would not every one see it was impossible that punishment should be only against swearing, when all stammerers were under the penalty? Such a proposal as this is, in itself, at first sight monstrously absurd. But you must thank yourself for it. For to lay penalties upon stammerers, only to make them not swear, is not more absurd and impossible than it is to lay penalties upon dissenters only to make them consider.
2. To punish men out of the communion of the national church, to make them consider, is unjust. They are punished, because out of the national church: and they are out of the national church, because they are not yet convinced. Their standing out therefore in this state, whilst they are not convinced, not satisfied in their minds, is no fault; and therefore cannot justly be punished. But your method is, “Punish them, to make them consider such reasons and arguments as are proper to convince them.” Which is just such justice, as it would be for the magistrate to punish you for not being a cartesian, “only to bring you to consider such reasons and arguments as are proper and sufficient to convince you:” when it is possible, 1. That you being satisfied of the truth of your own opinion in philosophy, did not judge it worth while to consider that of Des Cartes. 2. It is possible you are not able to consider and examine all the proofs and grounds upon which he endeavours to establish his philosophy. 3. Possibly you have examined, and can find no reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince you.
3. Whatever indirect efficacy there be in force, applied by the magistrate your way, it makes against you. “Force used by the magistrate to bring men to consider those reasons and arguments, which are proper and sufficient to convince them, but which without being forced they would not consider; may, say you, be serviceable, indirectly and at a distance, to make men embrace the truth which must save them.” And thus, say I, it must be serviceable to bring men to receive and embrace falsehood, which will destroy them. So that force and punishment, by your own confession, not being able directly, by its proper efficacy, to do men any good, in reference to their future estate; though it be sure directly to do them harm, in reference to their present condition here; and indirectly, and in your way of applying it, being proper to do at least as much harm as good, I desire to know what the usefulness is which so much reccommends it, even to a degree that you pretend it needful and necessary. Had you some new untried chymical preparation, that was as proper to kill as to save an infirm man, of whose life I hope you would not be more tender than of a weak brother’s soul; would you give it your child, or try it upon your friend, or recommend it to the world for its rare usefulness? I deal very favourably with you, when I say as proper to kill as to save. For force, in your indirect way, of the magistrate’s “applying to make men consider those arguments that otherwise they would not; to make them lend an ear to those who tell them they have mistaken their way, and offer to show them the right;” I say, in this way, force is much more proper, and likely, to make men receive and embrace errour than the truth.
1. Because men out of the right way are as apt, I think I may say, apter to use force, than others. For truth, I mean the truth of the Gospel, which is that of the true religion, is mild, and gentle, and meek, and apter to use prayers and intreaties, than force, to gain a hearing.
2. Because the magistrates of the world, or the civil sovereigns, as you think it more proper to call them, being few of them in the right way; not one of ten, take which side you will, perhaps you will grant not one of an hundred, being of the true religion; it is likely your indirect way of using of force would do an hundred, or at least ten times as much harm as good; especially if you consider, that as the magistrate will certainly use it to force men to hearken to the proper ministers of his religion, let it be what it will: so you having set no time, nor bounds, to this consideration of arguments and reasons, short of being convinced; you, under another pretence, put into the magistrate’s hands as much power to force men to his religion, as any the openest persecutors can pretend to. For what difference, I beseech you, between punishing you to bring you to mass, and punishing you to consider those reasons and arguments which are proper and sufficient to convince you that you ought to go to mass? For till you are brought to consider reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince you; that is, till you are convinced, you are punished on. If you reply, you meant reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince them of the truth: I answer, if you meant so, why did you not say so? But if you had, it would in this case do you little service. For the mass, in France is as much supposed the truth, as the liturgy here. And your way of applying force will as much promote popery in France, as protestantism in England. And so you see how serviceable it is to make men receive and embrace the truth that must save them.
However you tell us, in the same page, that “if force so applied, as is above-mentioned, may in such sort as has been said, i. e. indirectly and at a distance, be serviceable to bring men to receive and embrace truth, you think it sufficient to show the usefulness of it in religion:” where I shall observe, I, that this usefulness amounts to no more but this, that it is not impossible but that it may be useful. And such an usefulness one cannot deny to auricular confession, doing of penance, going of a pilgrimage to some saint, and what not. Yet our church does not think fit to use them: though it cannot be denied, but they may have some of your indirect and at a distance usefulness; that is, perhaps may do some service indirectly and by accident.
2. Force, your way applied, as it may be useful, so also it may be useless. For, 1. Where the law punishes dissenters, without telling them it is to make them consider, they may through ignorance and oversight neglect to do it, and so your force proves useless. 2. Some dissenters may have considered already, and then force employed upon them must needs be useless; unless you can think it useful to punish a man to make him do that which he has done already. 3. God has not directed it: and therefore we have no reason to expect he should make it successful.
3. It may be hurtful: nay, it is likely to prove more hurtful than useful. 1. Because to punish men for that, which it is visible cannot be known whether they have performed or no, is so palpable an injustice, that it is likelier to give them an aversion to the persons, and religion that uses it, than to bring them to it. 2. Because the greatest part of mankind, being not able to discern betwixt truth and falsehood, that depend upon long and many proofs, and remote consequences; nor having ability enough to discover the false grounds, and resist the captious and fallacious arguments of learned men versed in controversies; are so much more exposed to it by the force which is used to make them hearken to the information and instruction of men appointed to it by the magistrate, or those of his religion, to be led into falsehood and errour, than they are likely this way to be brought to embrace the truth that must save them; by how much the national religions of the world are, beyond comparison, more of them false or erroneous, than such as have God for their author, and truth for their standard. And that seeking and examining, without the special grace of God, will not secure even knowing and learned men from errour; we have a famous instance in the two Reynolds’s, both scholars and brothors, but one a protestant, the other a papist, who, upon the exchange of papers between them, were both turned; but so that neither of them, with all the arguments he could use, could bring his brother back to the religion which he himself had found reason to embrace. Here was ability to examine and judge, beyond the ordinary rate of most men. Yet one of these brothers was so caught by the sophistry and skill of the other, that he was brought into errour, from which he could never again be extricated. This we must unavoidably conclude; unless we can think, that wherein they differed, they were both in the right; or that truth can be an argument to support a falsehood; both which are impossible. And now, I pray, which of these two brothers would you have punished, to make him bethink himself and bring him back to the truth? For it is certain some ill-grounded cause of assent alienated one of them from it. If you will examine your principles, you will find that, according to your rule, the papist must be punished in England, and the protestant in Italy. So that, in effect, by your rule passion, humour, prejudice, lust, impressions of education, admiration of persons, worldly respect, and the like incompetent motives, must always be supposed on that side on which the magistrate is not.
I have taken the pains here, in a short recapitulation, to give you the view of the usefulness of force, your way applied, which you make such a noise with, and lay so much stress on. Whereby I doubt not but it is visible, that its usefulness and uselessness laid in the balance against each other, the pretended usefulness is so far from outweighing, that it can neither encourage nor excuse the using of punishments; which are not lawful to be used in our case without strong probability of success. But when to its uselessness mischief is added, and it is evident that more, much more, harm may be expected from it than good; your own argument returns upon you. For if it be reasonable to use it, because it may be serviceable to promote true religion, and the salvation of souls: it is much more reasonable to let it alone, if it may be more serviceable to the promoting falsehood and the perdition of souls. And therefore you will do well hereafter not to build so much on the usefulness of force, applied your way, your indirect and at a distance usefulness, which amounts but to the shadow and possibility of usefulness, but with an overbalancing weight of mischief and harm annexed to it. For upon a just estimate, this indirect, and at a distance, usefulness, can directly go for nothing; or rather less than nothing.
But suppose force, applied your way, were as useful for the promoting true religion, as I suppose I have showed it to be the contrary; it does not from hence follow that it is lawful and may be used. It may be very useful in a parish that has no teacher, or as bad as none, that a lay-man who wanted not abilities for it, for such we may suppose to be, should sometimes preach to them the doctrine of the gospel, and stir them up to the duties of a good life. And yet this (which cannot be denied, may be at least “indirectly, and, at a distance, serviceable towards the promoting true religion, and the salvation of souls,”) you will not, I imagine, allow, for this usefulness to be lawful: and that because he has not commission and authority to do it. The same might be said of the administration of the sacraments, and any other function of the priestly office. This is just our case. Granting force, as you say, indirectly and at a distance, useful to the salvation of men’s souls; yet it does not therefore follow that it is lawful for the magistrate to use it: because as the author says, the magistrate has no commission or authority to do so. For however you have put it thus, as you have framed the author’s argument, “force is utterly of no use for the promoting of true religion, and the salvation of souls; and therefore no-body can have any right to use any force or compulsion for the bringing men to the true religion;” yet the author does not, in those pages you quote, make the latter of these propositions an inference barely from the former; but makes use of it as a truth proved by several arguments he had before brought to that purpose. For though it be a good argument; it is not useful, therefore not fit to be used: yet this will not be good logic; it is useful, therefore any one has a right to use it. For if the usefulness makes it lawful, it makes it lawful in any hands that can so apply it; and so private men may use it.
“Who can deny, say you, but that force, indirectly and at a distance, may do some service towards the bringing men to embrace that truth, which otherwise they would never acquaint themselves with?” If this be good arguing in you, for the usefulness of force towards the saving of men’s souls; give me leave to argue after the same fashion. 1. I will suppose, which you will not deny me, that as there are many who take up their religion upon wrong grounds, to the endangering of their souls; so there are many that abandon themselves to the heat of their lusts, to the endangering of their souls. 2. I will suppose, that as force applied your way is apt to make the inconsiderate consider, so force applied another way is apt to make the lascivious chaste. The argument then, in your form, will stand thus; “Who can deny but that force, indirectly and at a distance, may, by castration, do some service towards bringing men to embrace that chastity, which otherwise they would never acquit themselves with?” Thus, you see, “castration may, indirectly and at a distance, be serviceable towards the salvation of men’s souls.” But will you say, from such an usefulness as this, because it may, indirectly and at a distance, conduce to the saving of any of his subjects souls, that therefore the magistrate has a right to do it, and may by force make his subjects eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven? It is not for the magistrate or any-body else, upon an imagination of its usefulness, to make use of any other means for the salvation of men’s souls, than what the author and finisher of our faith hath directed You may be mistaken in what you think useful. Dives thought, and so perhaps should you and I too, if not better informed by the scriptures, that it would be useful to rouze and awaken men if one should come to them from the dead. But he was mistaken. And we are told, that if men will not hearken to Moses and the prophets, the means appointed; neither will the strangeness nor terrour of one coming from the dead, persuade them. If what we are apt to think useful were thence to be concluded so, we should, I fear, be obliged to believe the miracles pretended to by the church of Rome. For miracles, we know, were once useful for the promoting true religion, and the salvation of souls; which is more than you say for your political punishments: but yet we must conclude that God thinks them not useful now; unless we will say, that which without impiety cannot be said, that the wise and benign disposer and governor of all things does not now use all useful means for promoting his own honour in the world, and the good of souls. I think this consequence will hold as well as what you draw in near the same words.
Let us not therefore be more wise than our Maker, in that stupendous and supernatural work of our salvation. The scripture, that reveals it to us, contains all that we can know, or do, in order to it; and where that is silent, it is in us presumption to direct. When you can show any commission in scripture, for the use of force to compel men to hear, any more than to embrace the doctrine of others that differ from them, we shall have reason to submit to it, and the magistrate have some ground to set up this new way of persecution. But till then, it will be fit for us to obey that precept of the gospel, which bids us “take heed what we hear,” Mark iv. 24. So that hearing is not always so useful as you suppose. If it had, we should never have had so direct a caution against it. It is not any imaginary usefulness, you can suppose, which can make that a punishable crime, which the magistrate was never authorized to meddle with. “Go and teach all nations,” was a commission of our Saviour’s; but there was not added to it, punish those that will nor hear and consider what you say. No, but “if they will not receive you, shake off the dust of your feet;” leave them, and apply yourselves to some others. And St. Paul knew no other means to make men hear, but the preaching of the gospel; as will appear to any one who will read Romans x. 14, &c. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
You go on, and in favour of your beloved force you tell us that it is not only useful but needful. And here after having at large, in the four following pages, set out the negligence or aversion, or other hinderances that keep men from examining, with that application and freedom of judgment they should, the grounds upon which they take up and persist in their religion; you come to conclude force necessary. Your words are; “If men are generally averse to a due consideration of things, where they are most concerned to use it; if they usually take up their religion without examining it as they ought, and then grow so opinionative and so stiff in their prejudice, that neither the gentlest admonitions, nor the most earnest entreaties, shall ever prevail with them afterwards to do it: what means is there left, besides the grace of God, to reduce those of them that are gone into a wrong way, but to lay thorns and briars in it? That since they are deaf to all persuasions, the uneasiness they meet with may at least put them to a stand, and incline them to lend an ear to those who tell them they have mistaken their way, and offer to show them the right.” What means is there left, say you, but force? What to do? “To reduce men, who are out of it, into the right way.” So you tell us here. And to that, I say, there is other means besides force; that which was appointed and made use of from the beginning, the preaching of the gospel.
“But, say you, to make them hear, to make them consider, to make them examine, there is no other means but punishment; and therefore it is necessary.”
I answer, 1. What if God, for reasons best known to himself, would not have men compelied to hear; but thought the good tidings of salvation, and the proposals of life and death, means and inducements enough to make them hear, and consider, now as well as heretofore? Then your means, your punishments, are not necessary. What if God would have men left to their freedom in this point, if they will hear, or if they will forbear, will you constrain them? thus we are sure he did with his own people: and this when they were in captivity, Ezek. xi. 5, 7. And it is very like were illtreated for being of a different religion from the national, and so were punished as dissenters. Yet then God expected not that those punishments should force them to hearken more than at other times: as appears by Ezek. iii. 11. And this also is the method of the gospel. “We are ambassadors for Christ; as if God did beseech you in Christ’s stead,” says St. Paul, 2 Cor. v. 20. If God thought it necessary to have men punished to make them give ear, he could have called magistrates to be spreaders and ministers of the gospel, as well as poor fishermen, or Paul a persecutor; who yet wanted not power to punish where punishment was necessary, as is evident in Ananias and Sapphira, and the incestuous Corinthian.
2. What if God, foreseeing this force would be in the hands of men, as passionate, humorsome, as liable to prejudice and errour as the rest of their brethren, did not think it a proper means to bring men into the right way?
3. What if there be other means? Then yours ceases to be necessary, upon the account that there is no means left. For you yourself allow, “that the grace of God is another means.” And I suppose you will not deny it to be both a proper and sufficient means; and, which is more, the only means; such means as can work by itself, and without which all the force in the world can do nothing. God alone can open the ear that it may hear, and open the heart that it may understand: and this he does in his own good time, and to whom he is graciously pleased; but not according to the will and fancy of man, when he thinks fit, by punishments, to compel his brethren. If God has pronounced against any person or people, what he did against the jews, (Isa. vi. 10.) “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed;” will all the force you can use be a means to make them hear and understand, and be converted?
But, sir, to return to your argument; you see “no other means left (taking the world as we now find it) to make men thoroughly and impartially examine a religion, which they embraced upon such inducements as ought to have no sway at all in the matter, and with little or no examination of the proper grounds of it.” And thence you conclude the use of force, by the magistrates upon dissenters, necessary. And, I say, I see no other means left (taking the world as we now find it, wherein the magistrates never lay penalties, for matters of religion, upon those of their own church, nor is it to be expected they ever should;) “to make men of the national church, any-where, thoroughly and impartially examine a religion, which they embrace upon such inducements, as ought to have no sway at all in the matter, and therefore with little or no examination of the proper grounds of it.” And therefore I conclude the use of force by dissenters upon conformists necessary. I appeal to the world, whether this be not as just and natural a conclusion as yours. Though if you will have my opinion, I think the more genuine consequence is, that force, to make men examine matters of religion, is not necessary at all. But you may take which of these consequences you please. Both of them, I am sure, you cannot avoid. It is not for you and me, out of an imagination that they may be useful, or are necessary to prescribe means in the great and mysterious work of salvation, other than what God himself has directed. God has appointed force as useful or necessary, and therefore it is to be used; is a way of arguing, becoming the ignorance and humility of poor creatures. But I think force useful or necessary, and therefore it is to be used; has, methinks, a little too much presumption in it. You ask, “What means else is there left?” None, say I, to be used by man, but what God himself has directed in the scriptures, wherein are contained all the means and methods of salvation. “Faith is the gift of God.” And we are not to use any other means to procure this gift to any one, but what God himself has prescribed. If he has there appointed that any should be forced “to hear those who tell them they have mistaken their way, and offer to show them the right;” and that they should be punished by the magistrate if they did not; it will be past doubt, it is to be made use of. But till that can be done, it will be in vain to say what other means is there left. If all the means God has appointed, to make men hear and consider, be “exhortation in season and out of season,” &c. together with prayer for them, and the example of meekness and a good life; this is all ought to be done, “Whether they will hear or whether they will forbear.”
By these means the gospel at first made itself to be heard through a great part of the world, and in a crooked and perverse generation, led away by lusts, humours, and prejudice, as well as this you complain of, prevailed with men to hear and embrace the truth, and take care of their own souls; without the assistance of any such force of the magistrate, which you now think needful. But whatever neglect or aversion there is in some men, impartially and thoroughly to be instructed; there will upon a due examination, I fear, be found no less a neglect and aversion in others, impartially and thoroughly to instruct them. It is not the talking even general truths in plain and clear language; much less a man’s own fancies in scholastic or uncommon ways of speaking, an hour or two, once a week in public; that is enough to instruct even willing hearers in the way of salvation, and the grounds of their religion. They are not politic discourses which are the means of right information in the foundations of religion. For with such, sometimes venting antimonarchical principles, sometimes again preaching up nothing but absolute monarchy and passive obedience, as the one or other have been in vogue, and the way to preferment; have our churches rung in their turns, so loudly, that reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince men of the truth in the controverted points of religion, and to direct them in the right way to salvation, were scarce any-where to be heard. But how many, do you think, by friendly and christian debates with them at their houses, and by the gentle methods of the gospel made use of in private conversation, might have been brought into the church; who, by railing from the pulpit, ill and unfriendly treatment out of it, and other neglects and miscarriages of those who claimed to be their teachers, have been driven from hearing them? Paint the defects and miscarriages frequent on this side, as well as you have done those on the other, and then do you, with all the world, consider whether those whom you so handsomely declaim against, for being misled by “education, passion, humour, prejudice, obstinacy,” &c. do deserve all the punishment. Perhaps it will be answered: if there be so much toil in it, that particular persons must be applied to, who then will be a minister? And what if a layman should reply: if there be so much toil in it, that doubts must be cleared, prejudices removed, foundations examined, &c. who then will be a protestant? the excuse will be as good hereafter for the one as for the other.
This new method of yours, which you say “no-body can deny but that indirectly, and at a distance, it does some service towards bringing men to embrace the truth;” was never yet thought on by the most refined persecutors. Though indeed it is not altogether unlike the plea made use of to excuse the late barbarous usage of the protestants in France, designed to extirpate the reformed religion there; from being a persecution for religion. The French king requires all his subjects to come to mass: those who do not, are punished with a witness. For what? Not for their religion, say the pleaders for that discipline, but for disobeying the king’s laws. So by your rule, the dissenters, for thither you would, and thither you must come, if you mean any thing, must be punished. For what? Not for their religion, say you; not for “following the light of their own reason; nor for obeying the dictates of their own consciences.” That you think not fit. For what then are they to be punished? “To make them, say you, examine the religion they have embraced, and the religion they have rejected.” So that they are punished, not for having offended against a law: for there is no law of the land that requires them to examine. And which now is the fairer plea, pray judge. You ought, indeed, to have the credit of this new invention. All other law-makers have constantly taken this method, that where any thing was to be amended, the fault was first declared, and then penalties denounced against all those, who, after a set time, should be found guilty of it. This the common sense of mankind, and the very reason of laws, which are intended not for punishment, but correction, has made so plain, that the subtilest and most refined law-makers have not got out of this course; nor have the most ignorant and barbarous nations missed it. But you have outdone Solon and Lycurgus, Moses, and our Saviour, and are resolved to be a law-maker of a way by yourself. It is an old and obsolete way, and will not serve your turn, to begin with warnings and threats of penalties to be inflicted on those who do not reform, but continue to do that which you think they fail in. To allow of impunity to the innocent, or the opportunity of amendment to those who would avoid the penalties, are formalities not worth your notice. You are for a shorter and surer way. Take a whole tribe, and punish them at all adventures; whether guilty or no of the miscarriage which you would have amended; or without so much as telling them what it is you would have them do, but leaving them to find it out if they can. All these absurdities are contained in your way of proceeding; and are impossible to be avoided by any one who will punish dissenters, and only dissenters, to make them “consider and weigh the grounds of their religion, and impartially examine whether it be true or no; and upon what grounds they took it up, that so they may find and embrace the truth that must save them.” But that this new sort of discipline may have all fair play, let us inquire first, who it is you would have be punished. In the place above cited, they are “those who are got into a wrong way, and are deaf to all persuasions.” If these are the men to be punished, let a law be made against them; you have my consent; and that is the proper course to have offenders punished. For you do not, I hope, intend to punish any fault by a law, which you do not name in the law; nor make a law against any fault you would not have punished. And now, if you are sincere, and in earnest, and are, as a fair man should be, for what your words plainly signify, and nothing else; what will such a law serve for? Men in the wrong way are to be punished: but who are in the wrong way is the question. You have no more reason to determine it against one who differs from you; than he has to conclude against you, who differ from him. No, not though you have the magistrate and the national church on your side. For if to differ from them be to be in the wrong way, you, who are in the right way in England, will be in the wrong way in France. Every one here must be judge for himself: and your law will reach no-body, till you have convinced him he is in the wrong way. And then there will be no need of punishment to make him consider; unless you will affirm again, what you have denied, and have men punished for embracing the religion they believe to be true, when it differs from yours or the public.
Besides being in the wrong way, those whom you would have punished must be such as are deaf to all persuasions. But any such, I suppose, you will hardly find who hearken to no-body, not to those of their own way. If you mean by deaf to all persuasions, all persuasions of a contrary party, or of a different church; such, I suppose, you may abundantly find in your own church, as well as elsewhere; and I presume to them you are so charitable, that you would not have them punished for not lending an ear to seducers. For constancy in the truth, and perseverance in the faith, is, I hope, rather to be encouraged, than by any penalties checked in the orthodox. And your church, doubtless, as well as all others, is orthodox to itself in all its tenets. If you mean by all persuasion, all your persuasion, or all persuasion of those of your communion; you do but beg the question, and suppose you have a right to punish those who differ from, and will not comply with you.
Your next words are, “When men fly from the means of a right information, and will not so much as consider how reasonable it is thoroughly and impartially to examine a religion, which they embraced upon such inducements as ought to have no sway at all in the matter; and therefore with little or no examination of the proper grounds of it; what human method can be used to bring them to act like men, in an affair of such consequence, and to make a wiser and more rational choice, but that of laying such penalties upon them, as may balance the weight of those prejudices which inclined them to prefer a false way before the true; and recover them to so much sobriety and reflection, as seriously to put the question to themselves, whether it be really worth the while to undergo such inconveniencies, for adhering to a religion, which, for any thing they know, may be false, or for rejecting another (if that be the case) which for any thing they know may be true, till they have brought it to the bar of reason, and given it a fair trial there?” Here you again bring in such as prefer a false way before a true: to which having answered already, I shall here say no more, but that, since our church will not allow those to be in a false way who are out of the church of Rome, because the church of Rome, which pretends infallibility, declares hers to be the only true way; certainly no one of our church, nor any other, which claims not infallibility, can require any one to take the testimony of any church, as a sufficient proof of the truth of her own doctrine. So that true and false, as it commonly happens, when we suppose them for ourselves, or our party, in effect signify just nothing, or nothing to the purpose: unless we can think that true or false in England, which will not be so at Rome, or Geneva: and vice versâ. As for the rest of the description of those on whom you are here laying penalties; I beseech you consider whether it will not belong to any of your church, let it be what it will. Consider, I say, if there be none in your church “who have embraced her religion, upon such inducements as ought to have no sway at all in the matter, and therefore with little or no examination of the proper grounds of it; who have not been inclined by prejudices; who do not adhere to a religion, which for any thing they know may be false, and who have rejected another which for any thing they know may be true.” If you have any such in your communion, and it will be an admirable, though I fear but a little, flock that has none such in it; consider well what you have done. You have prepared rods for them, for which I imagine they will con you no thanks. For to make any tolerable sense of what you here propose, it must be understood that you would have men of all religions punished, to make them consider “whether it be really worth the while to undergo such inconveniencies for adhering to a religion which for any thing they know may be false.” If you hope to avoid that, by what you have said of true and false; and pretend that the supposed preference of the true way in your church ought to preserve its members from your punishment; you manifestly trifle. For every church’s testimony, that it has chosen the true way, must be taken for itself; and then none will be liable; and your new invention of punishment is come to nothing: or else the differing churches testimonies must be taken one for another; and then they will be all out of the true way, and your church need penalties as well as the rest. So that, upon your principles, they must all or none be punished. Choose which you please: one of them, I think, you cannot escape.
What you say in the next words: “Where instruction is stiffly refused, and all admonitions and persuasions prove vain and ineffectual;” differs nothing, but in the way of expressing, from deaf to all persuasions: and so that is answered already.
In another place, you give us another description of those you think ought to be punished, in these words: “Those who refuse to embrace the doctrine, and submit to the spiritual government of the proper ministers of religion, who by special designation are appointed to exhort, admonish, reprove,” &c. Here then, those to be punished, “are such who refuse to embrace the doctrine, and submit to the government of the proper ministers of religion.” Whereby we are as much still at uncertainty, as we were before, who those are, who by your scheme and laws suitable to it are to be punished. Since every church has, as it thinks, its proper ministers of religion. And if you mean those that refuse to embrace the doctrine, and submit to the government of the ministers of another church; then all men will be guilty, and must be punished; even those of your church, as well as others. If you mean those who refuse, &c. the ministers of their own church; very few will incur your penalties. But if, by these proper ministers of religion, the ministers of some particular church are intended, who do you not name it? Why are you so reserved in a matter wherein, if you speak not out, all the rest that you say will be to no purpose? Are men to be punished for refusing to embrace the doctrine, and submit to the government, of the proper ministers of the church of Geneva? For this time, since you have declared nothing to the contrary, let me suppose you of that church; and then, I am sure that is it that you would name. For of whatever church you are, if you think the ministers of any one church ought to be hearkened to, and obeyed, it must be those of your own. There are persons to be punished, you say. This you contend for all through your book; and lay so much stress on it, that you make the preservation and propagation of religion, and the salvation of souls, to depend on it; and yet you describe them by so general and equivocal marks; that, unless it be upon suppositions which no-body will grant you, I dare say, neither you, nor any body else, will be able to find one guilty. Pray find me, if you can, a man whom you can judicially prove (for he that is to be punished by law must be fairly tried), is in a wrong way, in respect of his faith; I mean, “who is deaf to all persuasions, who flies from all means of a right information, who refuses to embrace the doctrine, and submit to the government of the spiritual pastors.” And when you have done that, I think, I may allow you what power you please to punish him, without any prejudice to the toleration the author of the letter proposes.
But why, I pray, all this boggling, all this loose talking as if you knew not what you meant, or durst not speak it out? Would you be for punishing some body, you know not whom? I do not think so ill of you. Let me then speak out for you. The evidence of the argument has convinced you that men ought not to be persecuted for their religion; that the severities in use amongst christians cannot be defended; that the magistrate has not authority to compel any one to his religion. This you are forced to yield. But you would fain retain some power in the magistrate’s hands to punish dissenters, upon a new pretence; viz. not for having embraced the doctrine and worship they believe to be true and right, but for not having well considered their own and the magistrate’s religion. To show you that I do not speak wholly without-book; give me leave to mind you of one passage of yours. The words are, “Penalties to put them upon a serious and impartial examination of the controversy between the magistrates and them.” Though these words be not intended to tell us who you would have punished, yet it may be plainly inferred from them. And they more clearly point out whom you aim at, than all the foregoing places, where you seem to (and should) describe them. For they are such as between whom and the magistrate there is a controversy; that is, in short, who differ from the magistrate in religion. And now indeed you have given us a note by which these you would have punished may be made known. We have, with much ado, found out at last whom it is we may presume you would have punished. Which in other cases is usually not very difficult: because there the faults to be mended easily design the persons to be corrected. But yours is a new method, and unlike all that ever went before it.
In the next place: let us see for what you would have them punished. You tell us, and it will easily be granted you, that not to examine and weigh impartially, and without prejudice or passion, all which, for shortness-sake, we will express by this one word consider, the religion one embraces or refuses, is a fault very common, and very prejudicial to true religion, and the salvation of men’s souls. But penalties and punishments are very necessary, say you, to remedy this evil.
Let us see now how you apply this remedy. Therefore, say you, let all dissenters be punished. Why? Have no dissenters considered of religion? Or have all conformists considered? That you yourself will not say. Your project therefore is just as reasonable, as if a lethargy growing epidemical in England, you should propose to have a law made to blister and scarify and shave the heads of all who wear gowns: though it be certain that neither all who wear gowns are lethargic, nor all who are lethargic wear gowns:
— Dii te Damasippe deæque Verum ob consilium donent tonsore.
For there could not be certainly a more learned advice, than that one man should be pulled by the ears, because another is asleep. This, when you have considered of it again, for I find, according to your principle, all men have now and then need to be jogged, you will, I guess, be convinced it is not like a fair physician, to apply a remedy to a disease; but, like an enraged enemy, to vent one’s spleen upon a party. Common sense, as well as common justice, requires, that the remedies of laws and penalties should be directed against the evil that is to be removed, wherever it be found. And if the punishment you think so necessary be, as you pretend, to cure the mischief you complain of, you must let it pursue and fall on the guilty, and those only, in what company soever they are; and not, as you here propose, and is the highest injustice, punish the innocent considering dissenter with the guilty; and, on the other side, let the inconsiderate guilty conformist escape with the innocent. For one may rationally presume that the national church has some, nay more in proportion, of those who little consider or concern themselves about religion, than any congregation of dissenters. For conscience, or the care of their souls, being once laid aside; interest of course leads men into that society, where the protection and countenence of the government, and hopes of preferment, bid fairest to their remaining desires. So that if careless, negligent, inconsiderate men in matters of religion, who without being forced would not consider, are to be rouzed into a care of their souls, and a search after truth, by punishments; the national religion, in all countries, will certainly have a right to the greatest share of those punishments; at least not to be wholly exempt from them.
This is that which the author of the letter, as I remember, complains of; and that justly, viz. “That the pretended care of men’s souls always expresses itself, in those who would have force any way made use of to that end, in very unequal methods; some persons being to be treated with severity, whilst others guilty of the same faults, are not to be so much as touched.” Though you are got pretty well out of the deep mud, and renounce punishments directly for religion; yet you stick still in this part of the mire; whilst you would have dissenters punished to make them consider, but would not have any thing done to conformists, though ever so negligent in this point of considering. The author’s letter pleased me, because it is equal to all mankind, is direct, and will, I think, hold every-where; which I take to be a good mark of truth. For I shall always suspect that neither to comport with the truth of religion, or the design of the gospel, which is suited to only some one country, or party. What is true and good in England, will be true and good at Rome too, in China, or Geneva. But whether your great and only method for the propagating of truth, by bringing the inconsiderate by punishments to consider, would, according to your way of applying your punishments only to dissenters from the national religion, be of use in those countries, or any-where but where you suppose the magistrate to be in the right, judge you. Pray, sir, consider a little, whether prejudice has not some share in your way of arguing. For this is your position: “Men are generally negligent in examining the grounds of their religion.” This I grant. But could there be a more wild and incoherent consequence drawn from it, than this: “therefore dissenters must be punished?”
But that being laid aside, let us now see to what end they must be punished. Sometimes it is, “To bring them to consider those reasons and arguments which are proper and sufficient to convince them.” Of what? That it is not easy to set Grantham steeple upon Paul’s church? Whatever it be you would have them convinced of, you are not willing to tell us. And so it may be any thing. Sometimes it is, “To incline them to lend an ear to those who tell them they have mistaken their way, and offer to show them the right.” Which is, to lend an ear to all who differ from them in religion; as well crafty seducers, as others. Whether this be for the procuring the salvation of their souls, the end for which you say this force is to be used, judge you. But this I am sure; whoever will lend an ear to all who will tell them they are out of the way, will not have much time for any other business.
Sometimes it is, “To recover men to so much sobriety and reflection, as seriously to put the question to themselves, whether it be really worth their while to undergo such inconveniencies, for adhering to a religion which, for any thing they know, may be false; or for rejecting another (if that be the case) which, for aught they know, may be true, till they have brought it to the bar of reason, and given it a fair trial there.” Which, in short, amounts to thus much, viz. “to make them examine whether their religion be true, and so worth the holding, under those penalties that are annexed to it.” Dissenters are indebted to you for your great care of their souls. But what, I beseech you, shall become of those of the national church, every-where, which make far the greater part of mankind, who have no such punishments to make them consider; who have not this only remedy provided for them, but are left in that deplorable condition you mention, “of being suffered quietly, and without molestation, to take no care at all of their souls, or in doing of it to follow their own prejudices, humours, or some crafty seducers?” Need not those of the national church, as well as others, “bring their religion to the bar of reason, and give it a fair trial there?” And if they need to do so, as they must, if all national religions cannot be supposed true; they will always need that which, you say, is the only means to make them do so. So that if you are sure, as you tell us, that there is need of your method; I am sure there is as much need of it in national churches, as any other. And so, for aught I can see, you must either punish them, or let others alone; unless you think it reasonable that the far greater part of mankind should constantly be without that sovereign and only remedy, which they stand in need of equally with other people.
Sometimes the end for which men must be punished is “to dispose them to submit to instruction, and to give a fair hearing to the reasons offered for the enlightening their minds, and discovering the truth to them.” If their own words may be taken for it, there are as few dissenters as conformists, in any country, who will not profess they have done, and do this. And if their own words may not be taken; who, I pray, must be judge? You and your magistrates? If so, then it is plain you punish them not to dispose them to submit to instruction, but to your instruction; not to dispose them to give a fair hearing to reasons offered for the enlightening their minds, but to give an obedient hearing to your reasons. If you mean this; it had been fairer and shorter to have spoken out plainly, than thus in fair words, or indefinite signification, to say that which amounts to nothing. For what sense is it, to punish a man “to dispose him to submit to instruction, and give a fair hearing to reasons offered for enlightening his mind, and discovering truth to him,” who goes two or three times a week several miles on purpose to do it, and that with the hazard of his liberty or purse? Unless you mean your instructions, your reasons, your truth: which brings us but back to what you have disclaimed, plain persecution for differing in religion.
Sometimes this is to be done, “to prevail with men to weigh matters of religion carefully, and impartially.” Discountenance and punishment put into one scale, with impunity and hopes of preferment put into the other, is as sure a way to make a man weigh impartially, as it would be for a prince to bribe and threaten a judge to make him judge uprightly.
Sometimes it is, “To make men bethink themselves, and put it out of the power of any foolish humour, or unreasonable prejudice, to alienate them from truth and their own happiness.” Add but this, to put it out of the power of any humour or prejudice of their own, or other men’s; and I grant the end is good, if you can find the means to procure it. But why it should not be put out of the power of other men’s humour or prejudice, as well as their own, wants, and will always want, a reason to prove. Would it not, I beseech you, to an indifferent by-stander, appear humour or prejudice, or something as bad; to see men, who profess a religion revealed from heaven, and which they own contains all in it necessary to salvation, exclude men from their communion, and persecute them with the penalties of the civil law, for not joining in the use of ceremonies which are no-where to be found in that revealed religion? Would it not appear humour or prejudice, or some such thing, to a sober impartial heathen; to see christians exclude and persecute one of the same faith, for things which they themselves confess to be indifferent, and not worth the contending for? “Prejudice, humour, passion, lusts, impressions of education, reverence and admiration of persons, worldly respects, love of their own choice, and the like,” to which you justly impute many men’s taking up, and persisting in their religion, are indeed good words; and so, on the other side, are these following; “truth, the right way, enlightening reason, sound judgment;” but they signify nothing at all to your purpose, till you can evidently and unquestionably show the world that the latter, viz. “truth and the right way,” &c. are always, and in all countries, to be found only in the national church; and the former, viz. “passion and prejudice,” &c. only amongst the dissenters. But to go on:
Sometimes it is, “to bring men to take such care as they ought of their salvation.” What care is such as men ought to take, whilst they are out of your church, will be hard for you to tell me. But you endeavour to explain yourself, in the following words: “that they may not blindly leave it to the choice neither of any other person, nor yet of their own lusts and passions, to prescribe to them what faith or what worship they shall embrace.” You do well to make use of punishment to shut passion out of the choice: because you know fear of suffering is no passion. But let that pass. You would have men punished, “to bring them to take such care of their salvation that they may not blindly leave it to the choice of any other person to prescribe to them.” Are you sincere? Are you in earnest? Tell me then truly: did the magistrate or national church any-where, or yours in particular, ever punish any man, to bring him to have this care, which, you say, he ought to take of his salvation! Did you ever punish any man, that he might not blindly leave it to the choice of his parish-priest, or bishop, or the convocation, what faith or worship he should embrace? It will be suspected care of a party, or any thing else rather than care of the salvation of men’s souls; if having found out so useful, so necessary a remedy, the only method there is room left for, you will apply it but partially, and make trial of it only on those whom you have truly least kindness for. This will, unavoidably, give one reason to imagine, you do not think so well of your remedy as you pretend, who are so sparing of it to your friends; but are very free of it to strangers, who in other things are used very much like enemies.—But your remedy is like the helleboraster, that grew in the woman’s garden for the cure of worms in her neighbour’s children; for truly it wrought too roughly to give it to any of her own. Methinks your charity, in your present persecution, is much what as prudent, as justifiable, as that good woman’s. I hope I have done you no injury, that I here suppose you of the church of England. If I have, I beg your pardon.—It is no offence of malice, I assure you: for I suppose no worse of you than I confess of myself.
Sometimes this punishment that you contend for, is “to bring men to act according to reason and sound judgment.”
“Tertius è cœlo cecidit Cato.”
This is reformation indeed. If you can help us to it, you will deserve statues to be erected to you, as to the restorer of decayed religion. But if all men have not reason and sound judgment, will punishment put it into them? Besides, concerning this matter, mankind is so divided, that he acts according to reason and sound judgment at Augsburg, who would be judged to do the quite contrary at Edinburgh. Will punishment make men know what is reason and sound judgment? If it will not, it is impossible it should make them act according to it. Reason and sound judgment are the elixir itself, the universal remedy: and you may as reasonably punish men to bring them to have the philosopher’s stone, as to bring them to act according to reason and sound judgment.
Sometimes it is, “To put men upon a serious and impartial examination of the controversy between the magistrate and them, which is the way for them to come to the knowledge of the truth.” But what if the truth be on neither side, as I am apt to imagine you will think it is not, where neither the magistrate nor the dissenter is either of them of your church; how will the “examining the controversy between the magistrate and him be the way to come to the knowledge of the truth?” Suppose the controversy between a lutheran and a papist; or, if you please, between a presbyterian magistrate and a quaker subject.—Will the examining the controversy between the magistrate and the dissenting subject, in this case, bring him to the knowledge of the truth? If you say yes, then you grant one of these to have the truth on his side: for the examining the controversy between a presbyterian and a quaker, leaves the controversy either of them has with the church of England, or any other church, untouched. And so one, at least, of those being already come to the knowledge of the truth, ought not to be put under your discipline of punishment, which is only to bring him to the truth. If you say no, and that the examining the controversy between the magistrate and the dissenter, in this case will not bring him to the knowledge of the truth; you confess your rule to be false, and your method to no purpose.
To conclude, your system is, in short, this: You would have all men, laying aside prejudice, humour, passion, &c. examine the grounds of their religion, and search for the truth. This, I confess, is heartily to be wished. The means that you propose to make men do this, is that dissenters should be punished to make them do so. It is as if you had said, Men generally are guilty of a fault; therefore let one sect, who have the ill luck to be of an opinion different from the magistrate, be punished. This at first sight shocks any who has the least spark of sense, reason, or justice. But having spoken of this already, and concluding that upon second thoughts you yourself will be ashamed of it, let us consider it put so as to be consistent with common sense, and with all the advantage it can bear; and then let us see what you can make of it: “Men are negligent in examining the religions they embrace, refuse, or persist in; therefore it is fit they should be punished to make them do it.” This is a consequence, indeed, which may, without defiance to common sense, be drawn from it. This is the use, the only use, which you think punishment can indirectly, and at a distance, have, in matters of religion. You would have men by punishments driven to examine. What? Religion. To what end? To bring them to the knowledge of the truth. But I answer,
1. Every one has not the ability to do this.
2. Every one has not the opportunity to do it.
Would you have every poor protestant, for example, in the Palatinate, examine thoroughly whether the pope be infallible, or head of the church; whether there be a purgatory; whether saints are to be prayed to, or the dead prayed for; whether the scripture be the only rule of faith; whether there be no salvation out of the church; and whether there be no church without bishops; and an hundred other questions in controversy between the papists and those protestants; and when he had mastered these, go on to fortify himself against the opinions and objections of other churches he differs from? This, which is no small task, must be done, before a man can have brought his religion to the bar of reason, and give it a fair trial there. And if you will punish men till this be done, the countryman must leave off plowing and sowing, and betake himself to the study of Greek and Latin; and the artisan must sell his tools, to buy fathers and schoolmen, and leave his family to starve. If something less than this will satisfy you, pray tell me what is enough, Have they considered and examined enough, if they are satisfied themselves where the truth lies? If this be the limits of their examination, you will find few to punish; unless you will punish them to make them do what they have done already; for, however he came by his religion, there is scarce any one to be found who does not own himself satisfied that he is in the right. Or else, must they be punished to make them consider and examine till they embrace that which you choose for truth? If this be so, what do you but in effect choose for them, when yet you would have men punished, “to bring them to such a care of their souls, that no other person might choose for them?” If it be truth in general, you would have them by punishments driven to seek; that is to offer matter of dispute, and not a rule of discipline; for to punish any one to make him seek till he find truth, without a judge of truth, is to punish for you know not what; and is all one as if you should whip a scholar to make him find out the square root of a number you do not know. I wonder not therefore that you could not resolve with yourself what degree of severity you would have used, nor how long continued; when you dare not speak out directly whom you would have punished, and are far from being clear to what end they should be under penalties.
Consonant to this uncertainty, of whom, or what to be punished, you tell us, “that there is no question of the success of this method. Force will certainly do, if duly proportioned to the design of it.”
What, I pray, is the design of it? I challenge you, or any man living, out of what you have said in your book, to tell me directly what it is. In all other punishments that ever I heard of yet, till now that you have taught the world a new method, the design of them has been to cure the crime they are denounced against, and so I think it ought to be here. What I beseech you is the crime here? Dissenting? That you say not any-where is a fault. Besides you tell us, “that the magistrate hath not authority to compel any one to his religion:” and that you do “not require that men should have no rule but the religion of the country.” And the power you ascribe to the magistrate is given him to bring men, “not to his own, but to the true religion.” If dissenting be not the fault, is it that a man does not examine his own religion, and the grounds of it? Is that the crime your punishments are designed to cure? Neither that dare you say; lest you displease more than you satisfy with your new discipline. And then again, as I said before, you must tell us how far you would have them examine, before you punish them for not doing it. And I imagine, if that were all we required of you, it would be long enough before you would trouble us with a law, that should prescribe to every one how far he was to examine matters of religion; wherein if he failed and came short, he was to be punished; if he performed, and went in his examination to the bounds set by the law, he was acquitted and free. Sir, when you consider it again, you will perhaps think this a case reserved to the great day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be laid open; for I imagine it is beyond the power or judgment of man, in that variety of circumstances, in respect of parts, tempers, opportunities, helps, &c. men are in, in this world, to determine what is every one’s duty in this great business of search, inquiry, examination; or to know when any one has done it. That which makes me believe you will be of this mind, is, that where you undertake for the success of this method, if rightly used, it is with a limitation, upon such as are not altogether incurable. So that when your remedy is prepared according to art, which art is yet unknown; and rightly applied, and given in a due dose, all which are secrets; it will then infallibly cure. Whom? All that are not incurable by it. And so will a pippin posset, eating fish in Lent, or a presbyterian lecture, certainly cure all that are not incurable by them; for I am sure you do not mean it will cure all, but those who are absolutely incurable; because you yourself allow one means left of cure, when yours will not do, viz. the grace of God. Your words are, “what means is there left (except the grace of God) to reduce them, but lay thorns and briars in their way.” And here also, in the place we were considering, you tell us, “the incurable are to be left to God.” Whereby, if you mean they are to be left to those means he has ordained for men’s conversion and salvation, yours must never be made use of: for he indeed has prescribed preaching and hearing of his word; but as for those who will not hear, I do not find any-where that he has commanded they should be compelled or beaten to it.
There is a third thing that you are as tender and reserved in, as either naming the criminals to be punished, or positively telling us the end for which they should be punished: and that is with what sort of penalties, what degree of punishment they should be forced. You are indeed so gracious to them, that you renounce the severities and penalties hitherto made use of. You tell us, they should be but moderate penalties. But if we ask you what are moderate penalties, you confess you cannot tell us. So that by moderate here you yet mean nothing. You tell us, “the outward force to be applied should be duly tempered.” But what that due temper is, you do not, or cannot say: and so in effect it signifies just nothing. Yet if in this you are not plain and direct, all the rest of your design will signify nothing; for it being to have some men, and to some end, punished; yet if it cannot be found what punishment is to be used, it is, notwithstanding all you have said, utterly useless. “You tell us modestly, that to determine precisely the just measure of the punishment, will require some consideration.” If the faults were precisely determined, and could be proved, it would require no more consideration to determine the measure of the punishment, in this, than it would in any other case, where those were known. But where the fault is undefined, and the guilt not to be proved, as I suppose it will be found in this present business of examining; it will without doubt require consideration to proportion the force to the design. Just so much consideration as it will require to fit a coat to the moon, or proportion a shoe to the foot of those who inhabit her; for to proportion a punishment to a fault that you do not name, and so we in charity ought to think you do not yet know; and a fault that when you have named it, will be impossible to be proved who are or are not guilty of it; will I suppose require as much consideration, as to fit a shoe to feet whose size and shape are not known.
However, you offer some measures whereby to regulate your punishments; which when they are looked into, will be found to be just as good as none; they being impossible to be any rule in the case. The first is “so much force, or such penalties as are ordinarily sufficient to prevail with men of common discretion, and not desperately perverse and obstinate, to weigh matters of religion carefully and impartially, and without which ordinarily they will not do this.” Where it is to be observed,
1. That who are these men of common discretion, is as hard to know, as to know what is a fit degree of punishment in the case; and so you do but regulate one uncertainty by another. Some men will be apt to think, that he who will not weigh matters of religion, which are of infinite concernment to him, without punishment, cannot in reason be thought a man of common discretion. Many women of common discretion, enough to manage the ordinary affairs of their families, are not able to read a page in an ordinary author, or to understand and give an account what it means, when read to them. Many men of common discretion in their callings, are not able to judge when an argument is conclusive or no; much less to trace it through a long train of consequences. What penalties shall be sufficient to prevail with such who upon examination, I fear, will not be found to make the least part of mankind, to examine and weigh matters of religion carefully and impartially! The law allows all to have common discretion, for whom it has not provided guardians or bedlam; so that, in effect, your men of common discretion are all men, not judged idiots or madmen: and penalties sufficient to prevail with all men of common discretion, are penalties sufficient to prevail with all men, but idiots and madmen. Which what a measure it is to regulate penalties by, let all men of common discretion judge.
2. You may be pleased to consider, that all men of the same degree of discretion, are not apt to be moved by the same degree of penalties. Some are of a more yielding, some of a more stiff temper; and what is sufficient to prevail on one, is not half enough to move the other; though both men of common discretion; so that common discretion will be here of no use to determine the measure of punishment: especially when in the same clause you except men desperately perverse and obstinate, who are as hard to be known, as what you seek, viz. the just proportions of punishments necessary to prevail with men to consider, examine, and weigh matters of religion: wherein, if a man tells you he has considered, he has weighed, he has examined, and so goes on in his former course; it is impossible for you ever to know whether he has done his duty, or whether he be desperately perverse and obstinate; so that this exception signifies just nothing.
There are many things in your use of force and penalties, different from any I ever met with elsewhere—One of them, this clause of yours concerning the measure of punishments, now under consideration, offers me: wherein you proportion your punishments only to the yielding and corrigible, not to the perverse and obstinate; contrary to the common discretion which has hitherto made laws in other cases, which levels the punishments against refractory offenders, and never spares them because they are obstinate. This, however, I will not blame as an oversight in you. Your new method, which aims at such impracticable and inconsistent things as laws cannot bear, nor penalties be useful to, forced you to it. The uselessness, absurdity and unreasonableness of great severities, you had acknowledged in the foregoing paragraphs. Dissenters you would have brought to consider by moderate penalties. They lie under them; but whether they have considered or no, (for that you cannot tell) they still continue dissenters. What is to be done now? Why, the incurable are to be left to God, as you tell us, p. 12. Your punishments were not meant to prevail on the desperately perverse and obstinate, as you tell us here; and so whatever be the success, your punishments are however justified.
You have given us in another place something like another boundary to your moderate penalties: but when examined, it proves just like the rest, trifling only, in good words, so put together as to have no direct meaning; an art very much in use amongst some sort of learned men. The words are these: “such penalties as may not tempt persons who have any concern for their eternal salvation, (and those who have none, ought not to be considered) to renounce a religion which they believe to be true, or profess one which they do not believe to be so.” If by any concern, you mean a true concern for their eternal salvation, by this rule you may make your punishments as great as you please; and all the severities you have disclaimed may be brought in play again: for none of those will be able to make a man, “who is truly concerned for his eternal salvation, renounce a religion he believes to be true, or profess one he does not believe to be so.” If by those who have any concern, you mean such who have some faint wishes for happiness hereafter, and would be glad to have things go well with them in the other world, but will venture nothing in this world for it; these the moderatest punishments you can imagine, will make change their religion. If by any concern, you mean whatever may be between these two; the degrees are so infinite, that to proportion your punishments by that, is to have no measure of them at all.
One thing I cannot but take notice of in this passage, before I leave it: and that is, you say here, “those who have no concern for their salvation, deserve not to be considered.” In other parts of your letter, you pretend to have compassion on the careless, and provide remedies for them: but here, of a sudden, your charity fails you; and you give them up to eternal perdition, without the least regard, the least pity, and say they deserve not to be considered. Our Saviour’s rule was, “the sick and not the whole need a physician.” Your rule here is, those that are careless are not to be considered, but are to be left to themselves. This would seem strange, if one did not observe what drew you to it. You perceived that if the magistrate was to use no punishments but such as would make nobody change their religion, he was to use none at all; for the careless would be brought to the national church, with any slight punishments; and when they are once there, you are, it seems, satisfied, and look no farther after them. So that by your own measures, “if the careless, and those who have no concern for their eternal salvation,” are to be regarded and taken care of; if the salvation of their souls is to be promoted, there is to be no punishment used at all; and therefore you leave them out as not to be considered.
There remains yet one thing to be inquired into, concerning the measure of the punishments, and that is the length of their duration. Moderate punishments that are continued, that men find no end of, know no way out of, sit heavy, and become immoderately uneasy. Dissenters, you would have punished, to make them consider. Your penalties have had the effect on them you intended; they have made them consider; and they have done their utmost in considering. What now must be done with them? They must be punished on; for they are still dissenters. If it were just, if you had reason at first to punish a dissenter, to make him consider, when you did not know but that he had considered alredy; it is as just, and you have as much reason to punish him on, even when he has performed what your punishments were designed for, when he has considered, but yet remains a dissenter. For I may justly suppose, and you must grant, that a man may remain a dissenter, after all the consideration your moderate penalties can bring him to; when we see greater punishments, even those severities you disown, as too great, are not able to make men consider so far as to be convinced, and brought over to the national church.
If your punishments may not be inflicted on men, to make them consider, who have or may have considered already for aught you know; then dissenters are never to be once punished, no more than any other sort of men. If dissenters are to be punished, to make them consider, whether they have considered or no: then their punishments, though they do consider, must never cease, as long as they are dissenters; which whether it be to punish them only to bring them to consider, let all men judge. This I am sure; punishments, in your method, must either never begin upon dissenters, or never cease. And so pretend moderation as you please, the punishments which your method requires, must be either very immoderate, or none at all.
And now, you having yielded to our author, and that upon very good reasons which you yourself urge, and which I shall set down in your own words, “that to prosecute men with fire and sword, or to deprive them of their estates, to maim them with corporal punishments, to starve and torture them in noisome prisons, and in the end even to take away their lives, to make them christians, is but an ill way of expressing men’s desire of the salvation of those whom they treat in this manner. And that it will be very difficult to persuade men of sense, that he who with dry eyes and satisfaction of mind can deliver his brother to the executioner, to be burnt alive, does sincerely and heartily concern himself to save that brother from the flames of hell in the world to come. And that these methods are so very improper, in respect to the design of them, that they usually produce the quite contrary effect. For whereas all the use which force can have for the advancing true religion, and the salvation of souls, is (as has already been showed) by disposing men to submit to instruction, and to give a fair hearing to the reasons which are offered, for the enlightening their minds, and discovering the truth to them; these cruelties have the misfortune to be commonly looked upon as so just a prejudice against any religion that uses them, as makes it needless to look any farther into it; and to tempt men to reject it, as both false and detestable, without ever vouchsafing to consider the rational grounds and motives of it. This effect they seldom fail to work upon the sufferers of them; and as to the spectators, if they be not before-hand well instructed in those grounds and motives, they will be much tempted likewise, not only to entertain the same opinion of such a religion, but withal to judge much more favourably of that of the sufferers; who, they will be apt to think, would not expose themselves to such extremities, which they might avoid by compliance, if they were not thoroughly satisfied of the justice of their cause.” And upon these reasons you conclude, “that these severities are utterly unapt and improper for the bringing men to embrace that truth which must save them.” Again, you having acknowledged, “that the authority of the magistrate is not an authority to compel any one to his religion.” And again, “that the rigour of laws and force of penalties are not capable to convince and change men’s minds.” And yet farther, “that you do not require that men should have no rule, but the religion of the court; or that they should be put under a necessity to quit the light of their own reason, and oppose the dictates of their own consciences, and blindly resign up themselves to the will of their governors; but that the power you ascribe to the magistrate, is given him to bring men not to his own, but to the true religion.” Now you having, I say, granted this, whereby you directly condemn and abolish all laws that have been made here, or anywhere else, that ever I heard of, to compel men to conformity; I think the author, and whosoever else are most for liberty of conscience, might be content with the toleration you allow, by condemning the laws about religion, now in force; and are testified, until you had made your new method consistent and practicable, by telling the world plainly and directly,
1. Who are to be punished.
2. For what.
3. With what punishments.
4. How long.
5. What advantage to true religion it would be, if magistrates every-where did so punish.
6. And lastly, whence the magistrate had commission to do so.
When you have done this plainly and intelligibly, without keeping in the uncertainty of general expressions, and without supposing all along your church in the right, and your religion the true; which can no more be allowed to you in this case, whatever your church or religion be, than it can be to a papist or a lutheran, a presbyterian or an anabaptist; nay no more to you, than it can be allowed to a jew or a mahometan; when, I say, you have by settling these points framed the parts of your new engine, set it together, and show that it will work, without doing more harm than good in the world; I think then men may be content to submit to it. But imagining this, and an engine to show the perpetual motion, will be found out together, I think toleration in a very good state, notwithstanding your answer; wherein you have said so much for it, and for aught I see nothing against it: unless an impracticable chimera be, in your opinion, something mightily to be apprehended.
We have now seen and examined the main of your treatise; and therefore I think I might here end, without going any farther. But, that you may not think yourself, or any of your arguments neglected, I will go over the remainder, and give you my thoughts on every thing I shall meet with in it, that seems to need any answer. In one place you argue against the author thus: if then the author’s fourth proposition, as you call it, viz. That force is of no use for promoting true religion and the salvation of souls, “be not true (as perhaps by this time it appears it is not) then the last proposition, which is built upon it, must fall with it;” which last proposition is this, viz. “that nobody can have any right to use any outward force or compulsion to bring men to the true religion, and so to salvation.” If this proposition were built, as you allege, upon that which you call his fourth, then indeed if the fourth fell, this built upon it would fall with it. But that not being the author’s proposition, as I have showed, nor this built wholly on it, but on other reasons, as I have already proved, and any one may see in several parts of his letter, particularly p. 351, 352, what you allege falls of itself.
The business of the next paragraph is to prove, that if “force be useful, then somebody must certainly have a right to use it.” The first argument you go about to prove it by, is this, “That usefulness is as good an argument to prove there is somewhere a right to use it, as uselessness is to prove nobody has such a right.” If you consider the things of whose usefulness or uselessness we are speaking, you will perhaps be of another mind. It is punishment, or force used in punishing. Now all punishment is some evil, some inconvenience, some suffering; by taking away or abridging some good thing, which he who is punished has otherwise a right to. Now to justify the bringing any such evil upon any man, two things are requisite. First, That he who does it has commission and power so to do. Secondly, That it be directly useful for the procuring some greater good. Whatever punishment one man uses to another, without these two conditions, whatever he may pretend, proves an injury and injustice, and so of right ought to have been let alone. And therefore, though usefulness, which is one of the conditions that makes punishments just, when it is away, may hinder punishments from being lawful in any body’s hands; yet usefulness, when present, being but one of those conditions, cannot give the other, which is a commission to punish; without which also punishment is unlawful. From whence it follows, That though useless punishment be unlawful from any hand, yet useful punishment from every hand is not lawful. A man may have the stone, and it may be useful, more than indirectly, and at a distance useful, to him to be cut; but yet this usefulness will not justify the most skilful surgeon in the world, by force to make him endure the pain and hazard of cutting; because he has no commission, no right without the patient’s own consent to do so. Nor is it a good argument, cutting will be useful to him, therefore there is a right somewhere to cut him, whether he will or no. Much less will there be an argument for any right, if there be only a possibility that it may prove useful indirectly and by accident.
Your other argument is this: If force or punishment be of necessary use, “then it must be acknowledged, that there is a right somewhere to use it; unless we will say (what without impiety cannot be said) that the wise and benign disposer and governor of all things has not furnished mankind with competent means for the promoting his own honour in the world, and the good of souls.” If your way of arguing be true, it is demonstration, that force is not of necessary use. For I argue thus, in your form: We must acknowledge force not to be of necessary use; “unless we will say (what without impiety cannot be said) that the wise disposer and governor of all things did not, for above three hundred years after Christ, furnish his church with competent means for promoting his own honour in the world, and the good of souls.” It is for you to consider whether these arguments be conclusive or no. This I am sure, the one is as conclusive as the other. But if your supposed usefulness places a right somewhere to use it, pray tell me in whose hands it places it in Turkey, Persia, or China, or any country where christians of different churches live under a heathen or mahometan sovereign? And if you cannot tell me in whose hands it places it there, as I believe you will find it pretty hard to do; there are then, it seems, some places where, upon your supposition of the necessary usefulness of force, “the wise and benign governor and disposer of all things has not furnished men with competent means for promoting his own honour and the good of souls;” unless you will grant that the “wise and benign disposer and governor of all things hath, for the promoting of his honour and the good of souls, placed a power in mahometan or heathen princes to punish christians, to bring them to consider reasons and arguments proper to convince them.” But this is the advantage of so fine an invention, as that of force doing some service indirectly and at a distance; which usefulness, if we may believe you, places a right in mahometan or pagan princes hands, to use force upon christians; for fear lest mankind in those countries should be unfurnished with means for the promoting God’s honour and the good of souls. For thus you argue: “if there be so great use of force, then there is a right somewhere to use it. And if there be such a right somewhere, where should it be but in the civil sovereign?” Who can deny now, but that you have taken care, great care, for the promoting of truth and the christian religion? But yet it is as hard for me, I confess, and I believe for others, to conceive how you should think to do any service to truth and the christian religion, by putting a right into mahometans or heathens hands to punish christians; as it was for you to conceive how the author should think “to do any service to the truth, and the christian religion,” by exempting the professors of it from punishment everywhere, since there are more pagan, mahometan, and erroneous princes in the world, than orthodox; truth, and the christian religion, taking the world as we find it, is sure to be more punished and suppressed, than errour and falsehood.
The author having endeavoured to show that no-body at all, of any rank or condition, had a power to punish, torment, or use any man ill, for matters of religion; you tell us “you do not yet understand, why clergymen are not as capable of such power as other men.” I do not remember that the author any-where, by excepting ecclesiastics more than others, gave you any occasion to show your concern in this point. Had he foreseen that this would have touched you so nearly, and that you set your heart so much upon the clergy’s power of punishing; it is like he would have told you, he thought ecclesiastics as capable of it as any men; and that if forwardness and diligence in the exercise of such power may recommend any to it, clergymen in the opinion of the world stand fairest for it. However, you do well to put in your claim for them, though the author excludes them no more than their neighbours. Nay, they must be allowed the pretence of the fairest title. For I never read of any severities that were to bring men to Christ, but those of the law of Moses; which is therefore called a pedagogue, (Gal. iii. 24.) And the next verse tells us, that “after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” But yet if we are still to be driven to Christ by a rod, I shall not envy them the pleasure of wielding it: only I desire them, when they have got the scourge into their hands, to remember our Saviour, and follow his example, who never used it but once; and that they would, like him, employ it only to drive vile and scandalous traffickers for the things of this world, out of their church, rather than to drive whoever they can into it. Whether the latter be not a proper method to make their church what our Saviour there pronounced of the temple, they who use it were best look. For in matters of religion, none are so easy to be driven, as those who have nothing of religion at all; and next to them, the vicious, the ignorant, the worldling, and the hypocrite; who care for no more of religion but the name, nor no more of any church, but its prosperity and power: and who, not unlike those described by our Saviour, (Luke xx. 47.) for a show come to, or cry up the prayers of the church, “that they may devour widows, and other helpless people’s houses.” I say not this of the serious professors of any church, who are in earnest in matters of religion. Such I value, who conscientiously, and out of a sincere persuasion, embrace any religion, though different from mine, and in a way, I think, mistaken. But no-body can have reason to think otherwise than what I have said, of those who are wrought upon to be of any church, by secular hopes and fears. Those truly place trade above all other considerations, and merchandize with religion itself, who regulate their choice by worldly profit and loss.
You endeavour to prove, against the author, that civil society is not instituted only for civil ends, i. e. the procuring, preserving, and advancing men’s civil interests: your words are, “I must say, that our author does but beg the question, when he affirms that the commonwealth is constituted only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing of the civil interests of the members of it. That commonwealths are instituted for these ends, no man will deny. But if there be any other ends besides these, attainable by the civil society and government, there is no reason to affirm, that these are the only ends, for which they are designed. Doubtless 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 reckoned among the ends of civil societies, and so, consequently, fall within the compass of the magistrate’s jurisdiction.” I have set down your words at large, to let the reader see, that you of all men had the least reason to tell the author, he does but beg the question; unless you mean to justify yourself by the pretence of his example. You argue thus, “If there be any other ends attainable by civil society, then civil interests are not the only ends for which commonwealths are instituted.” And how do you prove there be other ends? Why thus, “Doubtless commonwealths are instituted for the attaining of all the benefits which political government can yield.” Which is as clear a demonstration, as doubtless can make it to be. The question is, whether civil society be instituted only for civil ends? You say, no; and your proof is, because doubtless it is instituted for other ends. If I now say, doubtless this is a good argument; is not every one bound without more ado to admit it for such? If not, doubtless you are in danger to be thought to beg the question.
But notwithstanding you say here, that the author begs the question; in the following page you tell us, “That the author offers three considerations which seem to him abundantly to demonstrate, that the civil power neither can, nor ought in any manner to be extended to the salvation of souls.” He does not then beg the question. For the question being, “Whether civil interest be the only end of civil society,” he gives this reason for the negative, “That civil power has nothing to do with the salvation of souls;” and offers three considerations for the proof of it. For it will always be a good consequence, that, if the civil power has nothing to do with the salvation of souls, “then civil interest is the only end of civil society.” And the reason of it is plain; because a man having no other interest but either in this world or the world to come; if the end of civil society reach not to a man’s interest in the other world, all which is comprehended in the salvation of his soul, it is plain that the sole end of civil society is civil interest, under which the author comprehends the good things of this world.
And now let us examine the truth of your main position, viz. “That civil society is instituted for the attaining all the benefits that it may any way yield.” Which, if true, 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.
It is a benefit to have true knowledge and philosophy embraced 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 peripatetics 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 embrace the peripatetic philosophy, but not a proper way to find the truth. For perhaps the peripatetic philosophy may not be true; perhaps a great many may have not time, nor parts to study it; and 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 disturbed, and diseased 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, 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 men’s civil interests are disturbed, injured, and impaired by it. And what spiritual benefit can that 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, all but one is in the wrong, it is a hundred to one but that from which one dissents, and is punished for dissenting from, is the wrong.
I grant it is past doubt, that the nature of man is so covetous of good, that no one would have excluded from any action he does, or from any institution he is concerned in, any manner of good or benefit that it might any way yield. And if this be your meaning, it will not be denied you. But then you speak very improperly, or rather very mistakenly, if you call such benefits as may any way, i. e. indirectly, and at a distance, or by accident, be attained by civil or any other society, the ends for which it is instituted. Nothing can “in reason be reckoned amongst the ends of any society,” but what may in reason be supposed to be designed by those who enter into it. Now no-body can in reason suppose, that any one entered into civil society, for the procuring, securing, or advancing the salvation of his soul; when he, for that end, needed not the force of civil society. “The procuring, therefore, securing, and advancing the spiritual and eternal interest of men, cannot in reason be reckoned amongst the ends of civil societies;” though perhaps it might so fall out, that in some particular instance, some man’s spiritual interest might be advanced by your or any other way of applying civil force. A nobleman, whose chapel is decayed or fallen, may make use of his diningroom for praying and preaching. Yet whatever benefit were attainable by this use of the room, no-body can in reason reckon this among the ends for which it was built; no more than the accidental breeding of some bird in any part of it, though it were a benefit it yielded could in reason be reckoned among the ends of building the house.
But, say you, “doubtless 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 reckoned amongst the ends of civil society, and so consequently fall within the compass of the magistrate’s jurisdiction.” Upon the same grounds, I thus reason: Doubtless churches are instituted for the attaining of all the benefits which ecclesiastical government can yield; and therefore, if the temporal and secular interests of men may any way be procured or advanced by ecclesiastical polity, the procuring and advancing those interests must in all reason be reckoned among the ends of religious societies, and so consequently fall within the compass of churchmen’s jurisdiction. The church of Rome has openly made its advantage of “secular interests to be procured or advanced, indirectly, and at a distance, and in ordine ad spiritualia;” all which ways, if I mistake not English, are comprehended under your “any way.” But I do not remember that any of the reformed churches have hitherto directly professed it. But there is a time for all things. And if the commonwealth once invades the spiritual ends of the church, by meddling with the salvation of souls, which she has always been so tender of, who can deny, that the church should have liberty to make herself some amends by reprisals?
But, sir, however you and I may argue from wrong suppositions, yet unless the apostle, Eph. iv. where he reckons up the church-officers which Christ hath instituted in his church, had told us they were for some other ends than “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ;” the advancing of their secular interests will scarce be allowed to be their business, or within the compass of their jurisdiction. Nor till it can be shown that civil society is instituted for spiritual ends, or that the magistrate has commission to interpose his authority, or use force in matters of religion; your supposition “of spiritual benefits indirectly and at a distance attainable” by political government, will never prove the advancing of those interests by force to be the magistrate’s business, “and to fall within the compass of his jurisdiction.” And till then, the force of the arguments which the author has brought against it, in the 319th and following pages of his letter, will hold good.
Commonwealths, or civil societies and governments, if you will believe the judicious Mr. Hooker, are, as St. Peter calls them, (1 Pet. ii. 13.) ἀνϑρωπίνη ϰτίσις, the contrivance and institution of man; and he shows there for what end; viz. “for the punishment of evil-doers, and the praise of them that do well.” I do not find any-where, that it is for the punishment of those who are not in church-communion with the magistrate, to make them study controversies in religion, or hearken to those who will tell them, “they have mistaken their way, and offer to show them the right one.” You must show them such a commission, if you say it is from God. And in all societies instituted by man, the ends of them can be no other than what the institutors appointed; which I am sure could not be their spiritual and eternal interest. For they could not stipulate about these one with another, nor submit this interest to the power of the society, or any sovereign they should set over it. 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 these ends. But all your saying, “doubtless commonwealths are instituted for the attaining of all the benefits which they can yield,” will not give authority to any one, or more, in such a society, by political government or force, to procure directly or indirectly other benefits than that for which it was instituted: and therefore there it falls not within the compass of those princes jurisdiction to punish any one of the society for injuring another; because he has no commission so to do; whatever reason you may think there is, that that should be reckoned amongst the ends of their society.
But to conclude: your argument has that defect in it which turns it upon yourself. And that is, that the procuring and advancing the spiritual and eternal interests of souls, your way, is not a benefit to the society: and so upon your own supposition, “the procuring and advancing the spiritual interest of souls, any way, cannot be one of the ends of civil society;” unless the procuring and advancing the spiritual interest of souls, in a way proper to do more harm than good towards the salvation of souls, be to be accounted such a benefit as to be one of the ends of civil societies. For that yours is such a way, I have proved already. So that were it hard to prove that political government, whose only instrument is force, could no way by force, however applied, more advance than hinder the spiritual and eternal interest of men; yet having proved it against your particular new way of applying force, I have sufficiently vindicated the author’s doctrine from any thing you have said against it. Which is enough for my present purpose.
Your next page tells us, that this reasoning of the author, viz. “that the power of the magistrate cannot be extended to the salvation of souls, because the care of souls is not committed to the magistrate; is proving the thing by itself.” As if you should say, when I tell you that you could not extend your power to meddle with the money of a young gentleman you travelled with, as tutor, because the care of his money was not committed to you, were proving the thing by itself. For it is not necessary that you should have the power of his money: it may be entrusted to a steward who travels with him: or it may be left to himself. If you have it, it is but a delegated power. And, in all delegated powers, I thought this a fair proof; you have it not, or cannot use it, which is what the author means here by extended to, because it is not committed to you. In the summing up of this argument (p. 326.), the author says, “no-body therefore, in fine, neither commonwealths, &c. hath any title to invade the civil rights and worldly goods of another, upon pretence of religion.” Which is an exposition of what he means in the beginning of the argument, by “the magistrate’s power cannot be extended to the salvation of souls.” So that if we take these last cited words equivalent to those in the former place, his proof will stand thus, “the magistrate has no title to invade the civil rights or worldly goods of any one, upon pretence of religion; because the care of souls is not committed to him.” This is the same in the author’s sense with the former. And whether either this, or that, be a proving the same thing by itself, we must leave to others to judge.
You quote the author’s argument, which he brings to prove that the care of souls is not committed to the magistrate, in these words; “it is not committed to him by God, because it appears not that God has ever given any such authority to one man over another, as to compel any one to his religion.” This, when first I read it, I confess, I thought a good argument. But you say, “this is quite beside the business;” and the reason you give, is, “for the authority of the magistrate is not an authority to compel any to his religion, but only an authority to procure all his subjects the means of discovering the way of salvation, and to procure withal, as much as in him lies, that none remain ignorant of it,” &c. I fear, sir, you forget yourself. The author was not writing against your new hypothesis, before it was known in the world. He may be excused if he had not the gift of prophecy, to argue against a notion which was not yet started. He had in view only the laws hitherto made, and the punishments, in matters of religion, in use in the world. The penalties, as I take it, are lain on men for being of different ways of religion. Which, what is it other, but to compel them to relinquish their own, and to conform themselves to that from which they differ? If this be not to compel them to the magistrate’s religion, pray tell us what is? This must be necessarily so understood; unless it can be supposed that the law intends not to have that done, which with penalties it commands to be done; or that punishments are not compulsion, not that compulsion the author complains of. The law says “do this and live;” embrace this doctrine, conform to this way of worship, and be at ease, and free; or else be fined, imprisoned, banished, burned. If you can show among the laws that have been made in England, concerning religion, and I think I may say any-where else, any one that punishes men “for not having impartially examined the religion they have embraced, or refused,” I think I may yield you the cause. Law-makers have been generally wiser than to make laws that could not be executed: and therefore their laws were against non-conformists, which could be known; and not for impartial examination, which could not. It was not then besides the author’s business, to bring an argument against the persecutions here in fashion. He did not know that any one, who was so free as to acknowledge that “the magistrate has not authority to compel any one to his religion,” and thereby at once, as you have done, give up all the laws now in force against dissenters; had yet rods in store for them, and by a new trick would bring them under the lash of the law, when the old pretences were too much exploded to serve any longer. Have you never heard of such a thing as the religion established by law? Which is, it seems, the lawful religion of a country, and to be complied with as such. There being such things, such notions yet in the world, it was not quite besides the author’s business to allege, that “God never gave such authority to one man over another as to compel any one to his religion.” I will grant, if you please, “religion established by law” is a pretty odd way of speaking in the mouth of a christian; and yet it is much in fashion: as if the magistrate’s authority could add any force or sanction to any religion, whether true or false. I am glad to find you have so far considered the magistrate’s authority, that you agree with the author, that “he hath none to compel men to his religion.” Much less can he, by any establishment of law, add any thing to the truth or validity of his own, or any religion whatsoever.
It remains now to examine, whether the author’s argument will not hold good, even against punishments in your way; “for if the magistrate’s authority be, as you here say, only to procure all his subjects, (mark what you say, all his subjects) the means of discovering the way of salvation, and to procure withal, as much as in him lies, that none remain ignorant of it, or refuse to embrace it, either for want of using those means, or by reason of any such prejudices as may render them ineffectual.” If this be the magistrate’s business, in reference to all his subjects, I desire you, or any man else, to tell me how this can be done by the application of force only to a part of them: unless you will still vainly suppose ignorance, negligence, or prejudice, only amongst that part which anywhere differs from the magistrate. If those of the magistrate’s church may be ignorant of the way of salvation; if it be possible there may be amongst them those “who refuse to embrace it, either for want of using those means, or by reason of any such prejudices as may render them ineffectual:” What, in this case, becomes of the magistrate’s authority to procure all his subjects the means of discovering the way of salvation? Must these of his subjects be neglected, and left without the means he has authority to procure them? Or must he use force upon them too? And then, pray, show me how this can be done. Shall the magistrate punish those of his own religion, “to procure them the means of discovering the way of salvation, and to procure as much as in him lies, that they remain not ignorant of it, or refuse not to embrace it?” These are such contradictions in practice, this is such condemnation of a man’s own religion, as no one can expect from the magistrate; and I dare say you desire not of him. And yet this is that he must do, “if his authority be to procure all his subjects the means of discovering the way to salvation.” And if it be so needful as you say it is, that he should use it, I am sure force cannot do that till it be applied wider, and punishment be laid upon more than you would have it; for “if the magistrate be by force to procure, as much as in him lies, that none remain ignorant of the way of salvation;” must he not punish all those who are ignorant of the way of salvation? And pray tell me how this is any way practicable, but by supposing none in the national church ignorant, and all out of it ignorant of the way of salvation. Which, what is it, but to punish men barely for not being of the magistrate’s religion; the very thing you deny he has authority to do? So that the magistrate having, by your own confession, no authority thus to use force; and it being otherways impracticable “for the procuring all his subjects the means of discovering the way of salvation;” there is an end of force. And so force being laid aside, either as unlawful, or impracticable, the author’s argument holds good against force, even in your way of applying it.
But if you say, as you do in the foregoing page, that the magistrate has authority “to lay such penalties upon those who refuse to embrace the doctrine of the proper ministers of religion, and to submit to their spiritual government, as to make them bethink themselves so as not to be alienated from the truth: (for, as for foolish humour, and uncharitable prejudice,” &c. which are but words of course that opposite parties give one another, as marks of dislike and presumption, I omit them, as signifying nothing to the question; being such as will with the same reason be retorted by the other side), against that also the author’s argument holds, that the magistrate has no such authority. 1. Because God never gave the magistrate an authority to be judge of truth for another man in matters of religion: and so he cannot be judge whether any man be alienated from the truth or no. 2. Because the magistrate had never authority given him “to lay any penalties on those who refuse to embrace the doctrine of the proper ministers of his religion, or of any other, or to submit to their spiritual government,” more than on any other men.
To the author’s argument, that the magistrate cannot receive such authority from the people; because no man has power to leave it to the choice of any other man to choose a religion for him; you give this pleasant answer: “As the power of the magistrate, in reference to religion, is ordained for the bringing men to take such care as they ought of their salvation, that they may not blindly leave it to the choice, neither of any other person, nor yet of their own lusts and passions, to prescribe to them what faith or worship they shall embrace; so if we suppose this power to be vested in the magistrate by the consent of the people; this will not import their abandoning the care of their salvation, but rather the contrary. For if men, in choosing their religion, are so generally subject, as has been showed, when left wholly to themselves, to be so much swayed by prejudice and passion, as either not at all, or not sufficient to regard the reasons and motives which ought alone to determine their choice; then it is every man’s true interest, not to be left wholly to himself in this matter; but that care should be taken, that, in an affair of so vast concernment to him, he may be brought even against his own inclination, if it cannot be done otherwise (which is ordinarily the case), to act according to reason and sound judgment. And then what better course can men take to provide for this, than by vesting the power I have described in him who bears the sword?”—Wherein I beseech you consider, 1. Whether it be not pleasant, that you say—“the power of the magistrate is ordained to bring men to take such care;” and thence infer, “Then it is every one’s interest to vest such power in the magistrate?” For if it be the power of the magistrate, it is his. And what need the people vest it in him, unless there be need, and it be the best course they can take, to vest a power in the magistrate, which he has already? 2. Another pleasant thing you here say, is, “That the power of the magistrate is to bring men to such a care of their salvation, that they may not blindly leave it to the choice of any person, or their own lusts, or passions, to prescribe to them what faith or worship they shall embrace; and yet that it is their best course to vest a power in the magistrate,” liable to the same lusts and passions as themselves, to choose for them. For if they vest a power in the magistrate to punish them, when they dissent from his religion; “to bring them to act, even against their own inclination, according to their reason and sound judgment;” which is, as you explain yourself in another place, to bring them to consider reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince them: How far is this from leaving it to the choice of another man to prescribe to them what faith or worship they shall embrace? Especially if we consider that you think it a strange thing, that the author would have the care of every man’s soul left to himself alone. So that this care being vested “in the magistrate, with a power to punish men to make them consider reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince them” of the truth of his religion; the choice is evidently in the magistrate, as much as it can be in the power of one man to choose for another what religion he shall be of; which consists only in a power of compelling him by punishments to embrace it.
I do neither you nor the magistrate injury, when I say that the power you give the magistrate of “punishing men, to make them consider reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince them” is to convince them of the truth of his religion, and to bring them to it. For men will never, in his opinion, “act according to reason and sound judgment,” which is the thing you here say men should be brought to by the magistrate, even against their “own inclination;” till they embrace his religion. And if you have the brow of an honest man, you will not say the magistrate will ever punish you “to bring you to consider any other reasons and arguments, but such as are proper to convince you” of the truth of his religion, and to bring you to that. Thus you shift forwards and backwards. You say “the magistrate has no power to punish men, to compel them to his religion,” but only to “compel them to consider reasons and arguments proper to convince them” of the truth of his religion, which is all one as to say, no-body has power to choose your way for you to Jerusalem; but yet the lord of the manor has power to punish you, “to bring you to consider reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince you.” Of what? That the way he goes in, is the right, and so to make you join in company, and go along with him. So that, in effect, what is all your going about, but to come at last to the same place again; and put a power into the magistrate’s hands, under another pretence, to compel men to his religion; which use of force the author has sufficiently overthrown, and you yourself have quitted. But I am tired to follow you so often round the same circle.
You speak of it here as the most deplorable condition imaginable, that “men should be left to themselves, and not be forced to consider and examine the grounds of their religion, and search impartially and diligently after the truth.” This you make the great miscarriage of mankind. And for this you seem solicitous, all through your treatise, to find out a remedy; and there is scarce a leaf wherein you do not offer yours. But what if, after all now, you should be found to prevaricate? “Men have contrived to themselves, say you, a great variety of religions:” it is granted. “They seek not the truth in this matter with that application of mind, and that freedom of judgment which is requisite:” it is confessed. “All the false religions now on foot in the world have taken their rise from the slight and partial consideration, which men have contented themselves with, in searching after the true; and men take them up, and persist in them, for want of due examination:” be it so. “There is need of a remedy for this, and I have found one whose success cannot be questioned:” very well. What is it? Let us hear it. “Why, dissenters must be punished.” Can any body that hears you say so, believe you in earnest; and that want of examination is the thing you would have amended, when want of examination is not the thing you would have punished? If want of examination be the fault, want of examination must be punished; if you are, as you pretend, fully satisfied, that punishment is the proper and only means to remedy it. But if, in all your treatise, you can show me one place, where you say that the ignorant, the careless, the inconsiderate, the negligent in examining thoroughly the truth of their own and others religion, &c. are to be punished; I will allow your remedy for a good one. But you have not said any thing like this: and which is more, I tell you before-hand, you dare not say it. And whilst you do not, the world has reason to judge, that however want of examination be a general fault, which you with great vehemency have exaggerated; yet you use it only for a pretence to punish dissenters; and either distrust your remedy, that it will not cure this evil, or else care not to have it generally cured. This evidently appears from your whole management of the argument. And he that reads your treatise with attention, will be more confirmed in this opinion, when he shall find, that you who are so earnest to have men punished to bring them to consider and examine, so that they may discover the way to salvation, have not said one word of considering, searching, and hearkening to the scripture; which had been as good a rule for a christian to have sent them to, “as to reasons and arguments proper to convince them” of you know not what; “as to the instruction and government of the proper ministers of religion,” which who they are, men are yet far from being agreed; “or as to the information of those who tell them they have mistaken their way, and offer to show them the right; and to the like uncertain and dangerous guides; which were not those that our Saviour and the apostles sent men to, but to the scriptures.” “Search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life,” says our Saviour to the unbelieving persecuting jews, (John 39.) and it is the scriptures which, St. Paul says, “are able to make wise unto salvation,” (2 Tim. iii. 15.)
Talk no more, therefore, if you have any care of your reputation, how much “it is every man’s interest not to be left to himself, without molestation, without punishment in matters of religion. Talk not of bringing men to embrace the truth that must save them, by putting them upon examination.” Talk no more “of force and punishment, as the only way left to bring men to examine.” It is evident you mean nothing less. For though want of examination be the only fault you complain of, and punishment be in your opinion the only way to bring men to it; and this the whole design of your book; yet you have not once proposed in it, that those, who do not impartially examine, should be forced to it. And that you may not think I talk at random, when I say you dare not; I will, if you please, give you some reasons for my saying so.
1. Because, if you propose that all should be punished, who are ignorant, who have not used “such consideration as is apt and proper to manifest the truth; but to have been determined in the choice of their religion by impressions of education, admiration of persons, worldly respects, prejudices, and the like incompetent motives; and have taken up their religion, without examining it as they ought;” you will propose to have several of your own church, be it what it will, punished; which would be a proposition too apt to offend two many of it, for you to venture on. For whatever need there be of reformation, every one will not thank you for proposing such an one as must begin at, or at least reach to the house of God.
2. Because, if you should propose that all those who are ignorant, careless, and negligent in examining, should be punished, you would have little to say in this question of toleration. For if the laws of the state were made, as they ought to be, equal to all the subjects, without distinction of men of different professions in religion; and the faults to be amended by punishments, were impartially punished, in all who are guilty of them; this would immediately produce a perfect toleration, or show the uselessness of force in matters of religion. If therefore you think it so necessary, as you say, for the “promoting of true religion, and the salvation of souls, that men should be punished to make them examine;” do but find a way to apply force to all that have not thoroughly and impartially examined, and you have my consent. For though force be not the proper means of promoting religion; yet there is no better way to show the uselessness of it, than the applying it equally to miscarriages, in whomsoever found; and not to distinct parties or persuasions of men, for the reformation of them alone, when others are equally faulty.
3. Because without being for as large a toleration as the author proposes, you cannot be truly and sincerely for a free and impartial examination. For whoever examines, must have the liberty to judge, and follow his judgment; or else you put him upon examination to no purpose. And whether that will not as well lead men from, as to your church, is so much a venture, that, by your way of writing, it is evident enough you are loth to hazard it; and if you are of the national church, it is plain your brethren will not bear with you in the allowance of such a liberty. You must therefore either change your method; and if the want of examination be that great and dangerous fault you would have corrected, you must equally punish all that are equally guilty of any neglect in this matter, and then take your only means, your beloved force, and make the best of it; or else you must put off your mask, and confess that you design not your punishments to bring men to examination, but to conformity. For the fallacy you have used, is too gross to pass upon this age.
What follows to p. 26. I think I have considered sufficiently already. But there you have found out something worth notice. In this page, out of abundant kindness, when the dissenters have their heads, without any cause, broken, you provide them a plaister. For, say you, “if upon such examination of the matter” (i. e. brought to it by the magistrate’s punishment) “they chance to find, that the truth does not lie on the magistrate’s side; they have gained thus much however, even by the magistrate’s misapplying his power, that they know better than they did before, where the truth does lie.” Which is as true, as if you should say, upon examination I find such a one is out of the way to York; therefore I know better than I did before, that I am in the right. For neither of you may be in the right. This were true indeed, if there were but two ways in all, a right and a wrong. But where there be an hundred ways, and but one right; your knowing upon examination, that that which I take is wrong, makes you not know any thing better than before, that yours is the right. But if that be the best reason you have for it, it is ninety-eight to one still against you, that you are in the wrong. Besides, he that has been punished, may have examined before, and then you are sure he gains nothing. However you think you do well to encourage the magistrate in punishing, and comfort the man who has suffered unjustly, by showing what he shall gain by it. Whereas, on the contrary, in a discourse of this nature, where the bounds of right and wrong are inquired into, and should be established, the magistrate was to be showed the bounds of his authority, and warned of the injury he did when he misapplies his power, and punished any man who deserved it not; and not be soothed into injustice, by consideration of gain that might thence accrue to the sufferer. “Shall we do evil that good may come of it?” There are a sort of people who are very wary of touching upon the magistrate’s duty, and tender of showing the bounds of his power, and the injustice and ill consequences of his misapplying it; at least, so long as it is misapplied in favour of them and their party. I know not whether you are of their number. But this I am sure, you have the misfortune here to fall into their mistake. The magistrate, you confess, may in this case misapply his power; and instead of representing to him the injustice of it, and the account he must give to his sovereign, one day, of this great trust put into his hands, for the equal protection of all his subjects: you pretend advantages which the sufferer may receive from it: and so instead of disheartening from, you give encouragement to, the mischief. Which, upon your principle, joined to the natural thirst in man after arbitrary power, may be carried to all manner of exorbitancy, with some pretence of right.
For thus stands your system: “If force, i. e. punishment, may be any way useful for the promoting the salvation of souls, there is a right somewhere to use it. And this right, say you, is in the magistrate.” Who then, upon your grounds, may quickly find reason, where it suits his inclination, or serves his turn, to punish men directly to bring them to his religion. For if he may use force, because it “may be, indirectly and at a distance, any way useful towards the salvation of men’s souls,” towards the procuring any degree of glory; why may he not, by the same rule, use it where it may be useful, at least indirectly and at a distance, towards the procuring a greater degree of glory? For St. Paul assures us, “that the afflictions of this life work for us a far more exceeding weight of glory.” So that why should they not be punished, if in the wrong, to bring them into the right way; if in the right, to make them by their sufferings, “gainers of a far more exceeding weight of glory?” But whatever you say “of punishment being lawful, because, indirectly and at a distance, it may be useful;” I suppose upon cooler thoughts, you will be apt to suspect that, however sufferings may promote the salvation of those who make a good use of them, and so set men surer in the right way, or higher in a state of glory; yet those who make men unduly suffer, will have the heavier account, and greater weight of guilt upon them, to sink them deeper in the pit of perdition; and that therefore they should be warned to take care of so using their power. Because whoever be gainers by it, they themselves will, without repentance and amendment, be sure to be losers. But by granting that the magistrate misapplies his power, when he punishes those who have the right on their side, whether it be to bring them to his own religion, or whether it be “to bring them to consider reasons and arguments proper to convince them,” you grant all that the author contends for. All that he endeavours is to show the bounds of civil power; and that in punishing others for religion, the magistrate misapplies the force he has in his hands, and so goes beyond right, beyond the limits of his power. For I do not think the author of the letter so vain, I am sure for my part I am not, as to hope by arguments, though ever so clear, to reform presently all the abuses in this matter; especially whilst men of art, and religion, endeavour so industriously to palliate and disguise, what truth, yet sometimes unawares, forces from them.
Do not think I make a wrong use of your saying, “the magistrate misapplies his power,” when I say you therein grant all that the author contends for. For if the magistrate misapplies, or makes wrong use of his power, when he punishes in matters of religion any one who is in the right, though it be but to make him consider, as you grant he does; he also misapplies, or makes wrong use of his power, when he punishes any one whomsoever in matters of religion, to make him consider. For every one is here judge for himself, what is right; and in matters of faith, and religious worship, another cannot judge for him. So that to punish any one in matters of religion, though it be but to make him consider, is by your own confession beyond the magistrate’s power. And that punishing in matters of religion is beyond the magistrate’s power, is what the author contends for.
You tell us in the following words, “all the hurt that comes to them by it, is only the suffering some tolerable inconveniencies, for their following the light of their own reason, and the dictates of their own consciences; which certainly is no such mischief to mankind, as to make it more eligible, that there should be no such power vested in the magistrate, but the care of every man’s soul should be left to himself alone (as this author demands it should be;) that is, that every man should be suffered, quietly, and without the least molestation, either to take no care at all of his soul, if he be so pleased; or, in doing it, to follow his own groundless prejudices, or unaccountable humour, or any crafty seducer, whom he may think fit to take for his guide.” Why should not the care of every man’s soul be left to himself, rather than the magistrate? Is the magistrate like to be more concerned for it? Is the magistrate like to take more care of it? Is the magistrate commonly more careful of his own, than other men are of theirs? Will you say the magistrate is less exposed, in matters of religion, to prejudices, humours, and crafty seducers, than other men? If you cannot lay your hand upon your heart, and say all this, what then will be got by the change? And “why may not the care of every man’s soul be left to himself?” Especially if a man be in so much danger to miss the truth, “who is suffered quietly, and without the least molestation, either to take no care of his soul, if he be so pleased, or to follow his own prejudices,” &c. For if want of molestation be the dangerous state, wherein men are likeliest to miss the right way; it must be confessed, that, of all men, the magistrate is most in danger to be in the wrong, and so the unfittest, if you take the care of men’s souls from themselves, of all men to be intrusted with it. For he never meets with that great and only antidote of yours against errour, which you here call molestation. He never has the benefit of your sovereign remedy, punishment, to make him consider; which you think so necessary, that you look on it as a most dangerous state for men to be without it; and therefore tell us, “it is every man’s true interest not to be left wholly to himself in matters of religion.”
Thus, sir, I have gone through your whole treatise, and, as I think, have omitted nothing in it material. If I have, I doubt not but I shall hear of it. And now I refer it to yourself, as well as to the judgment of the world, whether the author of the letter, in saying no-body hath a right, or you, in saying the magistrate hath a right, to use force in matters of religion, has most reason. In the mean time, I leave this request with you: that if ever you write again, about “the means of bringing souls to salvation,” which certainly is the best design any one can employ his pen in, you would take care not to prejudice so good a cause, by ordering it so, as to make it look as if you writ for a party.
I am, Sir, Your most humble servant,
May 27, 1690.