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CHAPTER I. - 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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The business which your Letter concerning Toleration found me engaged in, has taken up so much of the time my health would allow me ever since, that I doubt whether I should now at all have troubled you or the world with an answer, had not some of my friends, sufficiently satisfied of the weakness of your arguments, with repeated instances, persuaded me it might be of use to truth, in a point of so great moment, to clear it from those fallacies which might perhaps puzzle some unwary readers; and therefore prevailed on me to show the wrong grounds and mistaken reasonings you make use of to support your new way of persecution. Pardon me, sir, that I use that name, which you are so much offended at; for if punishment be punishment, though it come short of the discipline of fire and faggot, it is as certain that punishment for religion truly persecution, though it be only such punishment as you in your clemency think fit to call “moderate and convenient penalties.” But however you please to call them, I doubt not but to let you see, that if you will be true to your own principles, and stand to what you have said, you must carry your “some degrees of force,” as you phrase it, to all those degrees which in words you declare against.
You have indeed in this last letter of yours altered the question; for, p. 26, you tell me the question between us, is “whether the magistrate hath any right to use force to bring men to the true religion?” Whereas you yourself own the question to be, “whether the magistrate has a right to use force in matters of religion?” Whether this alteration be at all to the advantage of truth, or your cause, we shall see. But hence you take occasion all along to lay a load on me for charging you with the absurdities of a power in the magistrates to punish men, to bring them to their religion; whereas you here tell us they have a right to use force “only to bring men to the true.” But whether I were more to blame to suppose you to talk coherently and mean sense, or you in expressing yourself so doubtfully and uncertainly, where you were concerned to be plain and direct, I shall leave to our readers to judge; only here in the beginning, I shall endeavour to clear myself of that imputation, I so often meet with, of charging on you consequences you do not own, and arguing against an opinion that is not yours, in those places, where I show how little advantage it would be to truth, or the salvation of men’s souls, that all magistrates should have a right to use force to bring men to embrace their religion. This I shall do by proving, that if upon your grounds the magistrate, as you pretend, be obliged to use force to bring men to the true religion, it will necessarily follow that every magistrate, who believes his religion to be true, is obliged to use force to bring men to his.
You tell us, “that by the law of nature the magistrate is invested with coactive power, and obliged to use it for all the good purposes which it might serve, and for which it should be found needful, even for the restraining of false and corrupt religion: and that it is the magistrate’s duty, to which he is commissioned by the law of nature, but the scripture does not properly give it him.”
I suppose you will grant me, that any thing laid upon the magistrate as a duty, is some way or other practicable. Now the magistrate being obliged to use force in matters of religion, but yet so as to bring men only to the true religion, he will not be in any capacity to perform this part of his duty, unless the religion he is thus to promote be what he can certainly know, or else what it is sufficient for him to believe, to be the true: either his knowledge or his opinion must point out that religion to him, which he is by force to promote; or else he may promiscuously and indifferently promote any religion, and punish men at a venture, to bring them from that they are in, to any other. This last I think no-body has been so wild as to say.
If therefore it must be either his knowledge or his persuasion that must guide the magistrate herein, and keep him within the bounds of his duty; if the magistrates of the world cannot know, certainly know, the true religion to be the true religion, but it be of a nature to exercise their faith; (for where vision, knowledge, and certainty is, there faith is done away;) then that which gives them the last determination herein, must be their own belief, their own persuasion.
To you and me the christian religion is the true, and that is built, to mention no other articles of it, on this, that Jesus Christ was put to death at Jerusalem, and rose again from the dead. Now do you or I know this? I do not ask with what assurance we believe it, for that in the highest degree not being knowledge, is not what we now inquire after. Can any magistrate demonstrate to himself, and if he can to himself, he does ill not to do it to others, not only all the articles of his church, but the fundamental ones of the christian religion? For whatever is not capable of demonstration, as such remote matters of fact are not, is not, unless it be self-evident, capable to produce knowledge, how well grounded and great soever the assurance of faith may be wherewith it is received; but faith it is still, and not knowledge; persuasion, and not certainty. This is the highest the nature of the thing will permit us to go in matters of revealed religion, which are therefore called matters of faith: a persuasion of our own minds, short of knowledge, is the last result that determines us in such truths. It is all God requires in the gospel for men to be saved: and it would be strange if there were more required of the magistrate for the direction of another in the way to salvation, than is required of him for his own salvation. Knowledge then, properly so called, not being to be had of the truths necessary to salvation, the magistrate must be content with faith and persuasion for the rule of that truth he will recommend and enforce upon others; as well as of that whereon he will venture his own eternal condition. If therefore it be the magistrate’s duty to use force to bring men to the true religion, it can be only to that religion which he believes to be true: so that if force be at all to be used by the magistrate in matters of religion, it can only be for the promoting that religion which he only believes to be true, or none at all. I grant that a strong assurance of any truth settled upon prevalent and well-grounded arguments of probability, is often called knowledge in popular ways of talking: but being here to distinguish between knowledge and belief, to what degrees of confidence soever raised, their boundaries must be kept, and their names not confounded. I know not what greater pledge a man can give of a full persuasion of the truth of any thing, than his venturing his soul upon it, as he does, who sincerely embraces any religion, and receives it for true. But to what degree soever of assurance his faith may rise, it still comes short of knowledge. Nor can any one now, I think, arrive to greater evidence of the truth of the christian religion, than the first converts in the time of our Saviour and the apostles had; of whom yet nothing more was required but to believe.
But supposing all the truths of the christian religion necessary to salvation could be so known to the magistrate, that, in his use of force for the bringing men to embrace these, he could be guided by infallible certainty; yet I fear this would not serve your turn, nor authorise the magistrate to use force to bring men in England, or any-where else, into the communion of the national church, in which ceremonies of human institution were imposed, which could not be known, nor, being confessed things in their own nature indifferent, so much as thought necessary to salvation.
But of this I shall have occasion to speak in another place; all the use I make of it here, is to show, that the cross in baptism, kneeling at the sacrament, and suchlike things, being impossible to be known necessary to salvation, a certain knowledge of the truth of the articles of faith of any church could not authorise the magistrate to compel men to embrace the communion of that church, wherein any thing were made necessary to communion, which he did not know was necessary to salvation.
By what has been already said, I suppose it is evident, that if the magistrate be to use force only for promoting the true religion, he can have no other guide but his own persuasion of what is the true religion, and must be led by that in his use of force, or else not use it at all in matters of religion. If you take the latter of these consequences, you and I are agreed: if the former, you must allow all magistrates, of whatsoever religion, the use of force to bring men to theirs, and so be involved in all those ill consequences which you cannot it seems admit, and hoped to decline by your useless distinction of force to be used, not for any, but for the true religion.
“It is the duty,” you say, “of the magistrate to use force for promoting the true religion.” And in several places you tell us, he is obliged to it. Persuade magistrates in general of this, and then tell me how any magistrate shall be restrained from the use of force, for the promoting what he thinks to be the true? For he being persuaded that it is his duty to use force to promote the true religion, and being also persuaded his is the true religion, what shall stop his hand? Must he forbear the use of force till he be got beyond believing, into a certain knowledge that all he requires men to embrace, is necessary to salvation? If that be it you will stand to, you have my consent, and I think there will be no need of any other toleration. But if the believing his religion to be the true, be sufficient for the magistrate to use force for the promoting of it, will it be so only to the magistrates of the religion that you profess? And must all other magistrates sit still and not do their duty till they have your permission? If it be your magistrate’s duty to use force for the promoting the religion he believes to be the true, it will be every magistrate’s duty to use force for the promoting what he believes to be the true, and he sins if he does not receive and promote it as if it were true. If you will not take this upon my word, yet I desire you to do it upon the strong reason of a very judicious and reverend prelate [Dr. John Sharp, archbishop of York] of the present church of England. In a discourse concerning conscience, printed in quarto, 1687, p. 18, you will find these following words, and much more to this purpose: “Where a man is mistaken in his judgment, even in that case it is always a sin to act against it. Though we should take that for a duty which is really a sin, yet so long as we are thus persuaded, it will be highly criminal in us to act in contradiction to this persuasion: and the reason of this is evident, because by so doing we wilfully act against the best light which at present we have for direction of our actions. So that when all is done, the immediate guide of our actions can be nothing but our conscience, our judgment and persuasion. If a man for instance, should of a jew become a christian, whilst yet in his heart he believed that the Messiah is not yet come, and that our Lord Jesus was an impostor: or if a papist should renounce the communion of the Roman church, and join with ours, whilst yet he is persuaded that the Roman church is the only catholic church, and that our reformed churches are heretical or schismatical; though now there is none of us that will deny that the men in both these cases have made a good change, as having changed a false religion for a true one, yet for all that I dare say we should all agree they were both of them great villains for making that change; because they made it not upon honest principles, and in pursuance of their judgment, but in direct contradiction to both.” So that it being the magistrate’s duty to use force to bring men to the true religion, and he being persuaded his is the true, I suppose you will no longer question but that he is as much obliged to use force to bring men to it, as if it were the true; and then, Sir, I hope you have too much respect for magistrates, not to allow them to believe the religions to be true which they profess.—These things put together, I desire you to consider whether if magistrates are obliged to use force to bring men to the true religion, every magistrate is not obliged to use force to bring men to that religion he believes to be true?
This being so, I hope I have not argued so wholly beside the purpose, as you all through your letter accuse me, for charging on your doctrine all the ill consequences, all the prejudice it would be to the true religion, that magistrates should have power to use force to bring men to their religions; and I presume you will think yourself concerned to give to all these places in the first and second letter concerning toleration, which show the inconveniencies and absurdities of such an use of force, some other answer, than that “you are for punishing only such as reject the true religion. That it is plain the force you speak of is not force, my way applied, i. e. applied to the promoting the true religion only, but to the promoting all the national religions in the world.” And again, to my arguing that force your way applied, if it can propagate any religion, it is likelier to be the false than the true, because few of the magistrates of the world are in the right way; you reply, “this would have been to the purpose, if you” had asserted that every magistrate may use force “your” indirect way (or any way) to bring men to his “own religion, whatever that be. But if “you” asserted no such thing (as no man you think but an atheist will assert it), then this is quite beside the business.” This is the great strength of your answer, and your refuge almost in every page. So that I will presume it reasonable to expect that you should clearly and directly answer what I have here said, or else find some other answer than what you have done to the second letter concerning toleration; however acute you are, in your way, in several places, on this occasion, as p. 11, 12, for my answer to which I shall refer you to another place.
To my argument against force, from the magistrate’s being as liable to errour as the rest of mankind, you answer, That I “might have considered that this argument concerns none but those who assert that every magistrate has a right to use force to promote his own religion, whatever it be, which “you” think no man that has any religion will assert.” I suppose you may think now this answer will scarce serve, and you must assert either no magistrate to have right to promote his religion by force, or else be involved in the condemnation you pass on those who assert it of all magistrates. And here I think, as to the decision of the question betwixt us, I might leave this matter: but there being in your letter a great many other gross mistakes, wrong suppositions, and fallacious arguings, which in those general and plausible terms you have made use of in several places, as best served your turn, may possibly have imposed on yourself, as well as they are fitted to do so on others, and therefore will deserve to have some notice taken of them; I shall give myself the trouble of examining your letter a little farther.
To my saying “It is not for the magistrate, upon an imagination of its usefulness, to make use of any other means than what the author and finisher of our faith had directed;” you reply, “which, how true soever, is not, I think, very much to the purpose; for if the magistrate does only assist that ministry which our Lord has appointed, by using so much of his coactive power for the furthering their service, as common experience discovers to be useful and necessary for that end; there is no manner of ground to say, that, upon an imagination of its usefulness, he makes use of any other means for the salvation of men’s souls, than what the author and finisher of our faith has directed. It is true indeed the author and finisher of our faith has given the magistrate no new power or commission, nor was there any need that he should, (if himself had had any temporal power to give:) for he found him already, even by the law of nature, the minister of God to the people for good, and bearing the sword not in vain, i. e. invested with coactive power, and obliged to use it for all the good purposes which it might serve, and for which it should be found needful; even for the restraining of false and corrupt religion; as Job long before (perhaps before any part of the scriptures were written) acknowledged, when he said, that the worshipping the sun or the moon was an iniquity to be punished by the judge. But though our Saviour has given the magistrates no new power, yet being king of kings, he expects and requires that they should submit themselves to his sceptre, and use the power which always belonged to them, for his service, and for the advancing his spiritual kingdom in the world. And even that charity which our great Master so earnestly recommends and so strictly requires of all his disciples, as it obliges all men to seek and promote the good of others, as well as their own, especially their spiritual and eternal good, by such means as their several places and relations enable them to use; so does it especially oblige the magistrate to do it as a magistrate, i. e. by that power which enables him to do it above the rate of other men.
“So far therefore is the christian magistrate, when he gives his helping hand to the furtherance of the gospel, by laying convenient penalties upon such as reject it, or any part of it, from using any other means for the salvation of men’s souls, than what the author and finisher of our faith has directed, that he does no more than his duty to God, to his Redeemer, and to his subjects, requires of him.”
The sum of your reply amounts to this, that by the law of nature the magistrate may make use of his coactive power where it is useful and necessary for the good of the people. If it be from the law of nature, it must be to all magistrates equally; and then I ask, whether this good they are to promote without any new power or commission from our Saviour, be what they think to be so, or what they certainly know to be so. If it be what they think to be so, then all magistrates may use force to bring men to their religion: and what good this is like to be to men, or of what use to the true religion, we have elsewhere considered. If it be only that good which they certainly know to be so, they will be very ill enabled to do what you require of them, which you here tell us is to assist that ministry which our Lord has appointed. Which of the magistrates of your time did you know to have so well studied the controversies about ordination and church government, to be so well versed in church-history and succession, that you can undertake that he certainly knew which was the ministry which our Lord had appointed, either that of Rome, or that of Sweden; whether the episcopacy in one part of this island, or the presbytery in another, were the ministry which our Lord had appointed? If you say, being firmly persuaded of it be sufficient to authorize the magistrate to use force; you, with the atheists, as you call them, who do so, give the people up in every country to the coactive force of the magistrate to be employed for the assisting the ministers of his religion; and king Lewis of good right comes in with his dragoons; for it is not much doubted that he as strongly believed his popish priests and jesuits to be the ministry which our Lord appointed, as either king Charles or king James the second believed that of the church of England to be so. And of what use such an exercise of the coactive power of all magistrates is to the people, or to the true religion, you are concerned to show. But it is, you know, but to tell me, I only trifle, and this is all answered.
What in other places you tell us, is to make men “hear, consider, study, embrace, and bring men to the true religion,” you here do very well to tell us is to assist the ministry; and to that, it is true, “common experience discovers the magistrate’s coactive force to be useful and necessary,” viz. to those who taking the reward, but not over-busying themselves in the care of souls, find it for their ease, that the magistrate’s coactive power should supply their want of pastoral care, and be made use of to bring those into an outward conformity to the national church, whom either for want of ability they cannot, or want of due and friendly application, joined with an exemplary life, they never so much as endeavoured to prevail on heartily to embrace it. That there may be such neglects in the best-constituted national church in the world, the complaints of a very knowing bishop of our church, [Dr. Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury,] in a late discourse of the pastoral care, is too plain an evidence.
Without so great an authority, I should scarce have ventured, though it lay just in my way, to have taken notice of what is so visible, that it is in every one’s mouth; for fear you should have told me again, “I made myself an occasion to show my good-will toward the clergy;” for you will not, I suppose, suspect that eminent prelate to have any ill-will to them.
If this were not so, that some were negligent, I imagine the preachers of the true religion, which lies, as you tell us, so obvious and exposed, as to be easily distinguished from the false, would need or desire no other assistance, from the magistrate’s coactive power, but what should be directed against the irregularity of men’s lives; their lusts being that alone, as you tell us, that makes force necessary to assist the true religion; which, were it not for our depraved nature, would by its light and reasonableness have the advantage against all false religions.
You tell us too, that the magistrate may impose creeds and ceremonies: indeed you say sound creeds, and decent ceremonies, but that helps not your cause; for who must be judge of that sound, and that decent? If the imposer, then those words signify nothing at all, but that the magistrate may impose those creeds and ceremonies which he thinks sound and decent, which is in effect such as he thinks fit. Indeed you telling us a little above, in the same page, that it is, “a vice not to worship God in ways prescribed by those to whom God has left the ordering of such matters;” you seem to make other judges of what is sound and decent, and the magistrate but the executor of their decrees, with the assistance of his coactive power. A pretty foundation to establish creeds and ceremonies on, that God has left the ordering of them to those who cannot order them! But still the same difficulty returns; for, after they have prescribed, must the magistrate judge them to be sound and decent, or must he impose them, though he judge them not sound or decent? If he must judge them so himself, we are but where we were: if he must impose them when prescribed, though he judge them not sound nor decent, it is a pretty sort of drudgery put on the magistrate. And how far is this short of implicit faith? But if he must not judge what is sound and decent, he must judge at least who are those to whom God has left the ordering of such matters; and then the king of France is ready again with his dragoons for the sound doctrine and decent ceremonies of his prescribers in the council of Trent; and that upon this ground, with as good right as any other as for the prescriptions of any others. Do not mistake me again, Sir; I do not say he judges as right; but I do say, that whilst he judges the council of Trent, or the clergy of Rome to be those to whom God has left the ordering of those matters, he has as much right to follow their decrees, as any other to follow the judgment of any other set of mortal men whom he believes to be so.
But whoever is to be judge of what is sound or decent in the case, I ask,
Of what use and necessity is it to impose creeds and ceremonies? For that use and necessity is all the commission you can find the magistrate hath to use his coactive power to impose them.
1. Of what use and necessity is it among christians that own the scripture to be the word of God and rule of faith to make and impose a creed? What commission for this hath the magistrate from the law of nature? God hath given a revelation that contains in it all things necessary to salvation, and of this his people are all persuaded. What necessity now is there? How does their good require it, that the magistrate should single out, as he thinks fit, any number of those truths as more necessary to salvation than the rest, if God himself has not done it?
2. But next, are these creeds in the words of the scripture or not? If they are, they are certainly sound, as containing nothing but truth in them: and so they were before, as they lay in the scripture. But thus though they contain nothing but sound truths, yet they may be imperfect, and so unsound rules of faith, since they may require more or less than God requires to be believed as necessary to salvation. For what greater necessity, I pray, is there that a man should believe that Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate, than that he was born at Bethlehem of Judah? Both are certainly true, and no christian doubts of either: but how comes one to be made an article of faith, and imposed by the magistrate as necessary to salvation, (for otherwise there can be no necessity of imposition) and the other not?
Do not mistake me here, as if I would lay by that summary of the christian religion, which is contained in that which is called the apostle’s creed; which though nobody, who examines the matter, will have reason to conclude of the apostles compiling, yet is certainly of reverend antiquity, and ought still to be preserved in the church. I mention it not to argue against it, but against your imposition; and to show that even that creed, though of that antiquity, though it contain in it all the credenda necessary to salvation, cannot yet upon your principles be imposed by the coercive power of the magistrate, who, even by the commission you have found out for him, can use his force for nothing but what is absolutely necessary to salvation.
But if the creed to be imposed be not in the words of divine revelation; then it is in plainer, more clear and intelligible expressions, or not: If no plainer, what necessity of changing those, which men inspired by the Holy Ghost made use of? If you say, they are plainer; then they explain and determine the sense of some obscure and dubious places of scripture; which explication not being of divine revelation, though sound to one man, may be unsound to another, and cannot be imposed as truths necessary to salvation. Besides that, this destroys what you tell us of the obviousness of all truths necessary to salvation.
And as to rites and ceremonies, are there any necessary to salvation, which Christ has not instituted? If not, how can the magistrate impose them? What commission has he, from the care he ought to have for the salvation of men’s souls, to use his coactive force for the establishment of any new ones which our Lord and Saviour, with due reverence be it spoken, had forgotten? He instituted two rites in his church; can any one add any new one to them? Christ commanded simply to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; but the signing the cross, how came that necessary? “Human authority, which is necessary to assist the truth against the corruption of nature,” has made it so. But it is a “decent” ceremony. I ask, is it so decent that the administration of baptism, simply, as our Saviour instituted, would be indecent without it? If not, then there is no reason to impose it for decency’s sake; for there can be no reason to alter or add any thing to the institution of Christ, or introduce any ceremony or circumstance into religion for decency, where the action would be decent without it. The command to “do all things decently, and in order,” gave no authority to add to Christ’s institution any new ceremony; it only prescribed the manner how, what was necessary to be done in the congregation, should be there done, viz. after such a manner, that if it were omitted, there would appear some indecency, whereof the congregation or collective body was to be judge, for to them that rule was given: And if that rule go beyond what I have said, and gives power to men to introduce into religious worship whatever they shall think decent, and impose the use of it; I do not see how the greatest part of the infinite ceremonies of the church of Rome could be complained of, or refused, if introduced into another church, and there imposed by the magistrate. But if such a power were given to the magistrate, that whatever he thought a decent ceremony he might de novo impose, he would need some express commission from God in Scripture, since the commission you say he has from the law of nature, will never give him a power to institute new ceremonies in the christian religion, which, be they decent, or what they will, can never be necessary to salvation.
The gospel was to be preached in their assemblies; the rule then was, that the habit, gesture, voice, language, &c. of the preacher, for these were necessary circumstances of the action, should have nothing ridiculous or indecent in it. The praises of God were to be sung; it must be then in such postures and tunes as became the solemnity of that action. And so a convert was to be baptized; Christ instituted the essential part of that action, which was washing with water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: in which care was also to be had, that in the doing this nothing should be omitted that preserved a decency in all the circumstances of the action. But nobody will say, that, if the cross were omitted, upon that account there would be any thing indecent in baptism.
What is to be done in the assemblies of christians for the salvation of souls, is sufficiently prescribed in scripture: but since the circumstances of the actions were so various, and might in several countries and ages have different appearances, as that appears decent in one country which is quite contrary in another; concerning them there could be no other rule given than what is, viz. “decently, in order, and to edification;” and in avoiding indecencies, and not adding any new ceremonies, how decent soever, this rule consists.
I judge no man in the use of the cross in baptism. The imposition of that, or any other ceremony not instituted by Christ himself, is what I argue against, and say, is more than you upon your principles can make good.
Common sense has satisfied all mankind, that it is above their reach to determine what things, in their own nature indifferent, were fit to be made use of in religion, and would be acceptable to the superiour beings in their worship, and therefore they have every-where thought it necessary to derive that knowledge from the immediate will and dictates of the gods themselves, and have taught that their forms of religion and outward modes of worship were founded upon revelation: nobody daring to do so absurd and insolent a thing, as to take upon him to presume with himself, or to prescribe to others by his own authority, which should in these indifferent and mean things be worthy of the Deity, and make an acceptable part of his worship. Indeed they all agreed in the duties of natural religion, and we find them by common consent owning that piety and virtue, clean hands, and a pure heart not polluted with the breaches of the law of nature, was the best worship of the gods. Reason discovered to them that a good life was the most acceptable thing to the Deity; this the common light of nature put past doubt. But for their ceremonies and outward performances, for them they appeal always to a rule received from the immediate direction of the superiour powers themselves, where they made use of, and had need of revelation. A plain confession of mankind that in these things we have neither knowledge to discern, nor authority to prescribe: that men cannot by their own skill find out what is fit, or by their own power make any thing worthy to be a part of religious worship. It is not for them to invent or impose ceremonies that shall recommend men to the Deity. It was so obvious and visible, that it became men to have leave from God himself, before they dared to offer to the divine majesty any of these trifling, mean, and to him useless things, as a grateful and valuable part of his worship; that no-body any-where, amongst the various and strange religions they led men into, bid such open defiance to common sense, and the reason of all mankind, as to presume to do it without vouching the appointment of God himself. Plato, who of all the heathens seems to have had the most serious thoughts about religion, says that the magistrate, or whoever has any sense, will never introduce of his own head any new rites into his religion: for which he gives this convincing reason: “for,” says he, “he must know it is impossible for human nature to know any thing certainly concerning these matters.” Epinom. post medium. It cannot therefore but be matter of astonishment, that any who call themselves christians, who have so sure, and so full a revelation, which declares all the counsel of God concerning the way of attaining eternal salvation; should dare by their own authority to add any thing to what is therein prescribed, and impose it on others as a necessary part of religious worship, without the observance of which human inventions, men shall not be permitted the public worship of God. If those rites and ceremonies prescribed to the jews by God himself, and delivered at the same time and by the same hand to the jews that the moral law was; were called beggarly elements under the gospel, and laid by as useless and burthensome; what shall we call those rites which have no other foundation, but the will and authority of men, and of men very often, who have not much thought of the purity of religion, and practised it less?
Because you think your argument for the magistrate’s right to use force has not had its due consideration, I shall here set it down in your own words, as it stands, and endeavour to give you satisfaction to it. You say there, “If such a degree of outward force as has been mentioned, be of great and even necessary use, for the advancing those ends, (as taking the world as we find it, I think it appears to be) then it must be acknowledged that there is a right somewhere to use it for the advancing those ends, 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. And if there be such a right somewhere, where should it be, but where the power of compelling resides? That is principally, and in reference to the public, in the civil sovereign.” Which words, if they have any argument in them, it in short stands thus: Force is useful and necessary: The good and wise God, who without impiety cannot be supposed not to have furnished men with competent means for their salvation, has therefore given a right to some men to use it, and those men are the civil sovereigns.
To make this argument of any use to your purpose, you must speak a little more distinctly, for here you, according to your laudable and safe way of writing, are wrapped up in the uncertainty of general terms, and must tell us, besides the end for which it is useful and necessary, to whom it is useful and necessary. Is it useful and necessary to all men? That you will not say, for many are brought to embrace the true religion by bare preaching without any force. Is it then necessary to all those, and those only, who, as you tell us, “reject the true religion tendered with sufficient evidence, or at least so far manifested to them, as to oblige them to receive it, and to leave them without excuse if they do not?” To all therefore, who rejecting the true religion so tendered, are without excuse, your moderate force is useful and necessary. But is it to all those competent, i. e. sufficient means? That, it is evident in matter of fact, it is not; for, after all, many stand out. It is like, you will say, which is all you have to say, that those are such, to whom, having resisted this last means, moderate force, God always refuseth his grace to, without which no means is efficacious. So that you are competent, at last, are only such means as are the utmost that God has appointed, and will have used, and which when men resist, they are without excuse, and shall never after have the assistance of his grace to bring them to that truth they have resisted, and so be as the apostle, 2 Tim. iii. 8. calls such, “men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” If then it shall be, that the day of grace shall be over to all those who reject the truth manifested to them, with such evidence, as leaves them without excuse, and that bare preaching and exhortation shall be according to the good pleasure of the benign disposer of all things enough, when neglected, “to make their hearts fat, their ears heavy, and shut their eyes that they should not perceive nor understand, nor be converted that God should heal them:” I say, if this should be the case, then your force, whatever you imagine of it, will neither be competent, useful, nor necessary. So that it will rest upon you to prove that your moderate degrees of force are those means of grace which God will have, as necessary to salvation, tried upon every one before he will pass that sentence in Isaiah, “Make his heart fat, &c.” and that your degree of moderate force is that beyond which God will have no other or more powerful means used, but that those whom that works not upon, shall be left reprobate concerning the faith. And till you have proved this, you will in vain pretend your moderate force, whatever you might think of it, if you had the ordering of that matter in the place of God, to be useful, necessary, and competent means. For if preaching, exhortation, instruction, &c. as seems by the whole current of the scripture (and it appears not that Isaiah in the place above-cited made their hearts fat with any thing but his words) be that means, which when rejected to such a degree, as he sees fit, God will punish with a reprobate mind, and that there be no other means of grace to come after; you must confess, that whatever good opinion you have of your moderate force after this sentence is passed, it can do no good, have no efficacy, neither directly or indirectly and at a distance, towards the bringing men to the truth.
If your moderate force be not that precise utmost means of grace, which when ineffectual, God will not afford his grace to any other, then your moderate force is not the competent means you talk of. This therefore you must prove, that preaching alone is not, but that your moderate force joined to it, is that means of grace, which when neglected or resisted, God will assist no other means with his grace to bring men into the obedience of the truth; and this, let me tell you, you must prove by revelation. For it is impossible to know, but by revelation, the just measures of God’s long-suffering, and what those means are, which when men’s corruptions have rendered ineffectual, his spirit shall no longer strive with them, nor his grace assist any other means for their conversion or salvation. When you have done this, there will be some ground for you to talk of your moderate force, as the means which God’s wisdom and goodness are engaged to furnish men with; but to speak of it as you do now, as if it were that both necessary and competent means, that it would be an imputation to the wisdom and goodness of God, if men were not furnished with it, when it is evident, that that greatest part of mankind have always been destitute of it; will I fear be not easily cleared from that impiety you mention; for though the magistrate had the right to use it, yet wherever that moderate force was not made use of, there men were not furnished with your competent means of salvation.
It is necessary for the vindication of God’s justice and goodness, that those who miscarry should do so by their own fault, that their destruction should be from themselves, and they be left inexcusable: But pray how will you show us, that it is necessary, that any who have resisted the truth tendered to them only by preaching, should be saved, any more than it is necessary that those who have resisted the truth when moderate force has been joined to the same preaching, should be saved? They are inexcusable one as well as the other, and thereby have incurred the wrath of God, under which he may justly leave the one as well as the other; and therefore he cannot be said not to have been furnished with competent means of salvation, who having rejected the truth preached to him, has never any penalties laid on him by the magistrate to make him consider the truths he before rejected.
All the stress of your hypothesis for the necessity of force, lies on this, That the majority of mankind are not prevailed on by preaching, and therefore the goodness and wisdom of God are obliged to furnish them some more effectual means, as you think. But who told you that the majority of mankind should ever be brought into the strait way and narrow gate? Or that force in your moderate degree was the necessary and competent, i. e. the just fit means to do it, neither over nor under, but that that only, and nothing but that could do it? If to vindicate his wisdom and goodness God must furnish mankind with other means, as long as the majority, yet unwrought upon, shall give any forward demander occasion to ask, “What other means is there left?” He must also, after your moderate penalties have left the greater part of mankind unprevailed on, be bound to furnish mankind with higher degrees of force upon this man’s demand: and those degrees of force proving ineffectual to the majority to make them truly and sincerely christians; God must be bound to furnish the world again with a new supply of miracles upon the demand of another wise controller, who having set his heart upon miracles, as you have yours on force, will demand, what other means is there left but miracles? For it is like this last gentleman would take it very much amiss of you, if you should not allow this to be a good and unquestionable way of arguing; or if you should deny that, after the utmost force had been used, miracles might not do some service at least, indirectly and at a distance, towards the bringing men to embrace the truth. And if you cannot prove that miracles may not thus do some service, he will conclude just as you do, that the cause is his.
Let us try your method a little farther. Suppose that when neither the gentlest admonitions, nor the most earnest entreaties will prevail, something else is to be done as the only means left. What is it must be done? What is this necessary competent means that you tell us of? “It is to lay briars and thorns in their way.” This therefore being supposed necessary, you say, “there must somewhere be a right to use it.” Let it be so. Suppose I tell you that right is in God, who certainly has a power to lay briars and thorns in the way of those who are got into a wrong one, whenever he has graciously pleased that other means besides instructions and admonitions should be used to reduce them. And we may as well expect that those thorns and briars laid in their way by God’s providence, without telling them for what end, should work upon them as effectually, though indirectly and at a distance, as those laid in their way by the magistrate, without telling them for what end. God alone knows where it is necessary, and on whom it will be useful, which no man being capable of knowing, no man, though he has coercive power in his hand, can be supposed to be authorized to use it by the commission he has to do good, on whomsoever you shall judge it to be of great and even necessary use: no more than your judging it to be of great and even necessary use would authorize any one, who had got one of the incision-knives of the hospital in his hand, to cut those for the stone with it, whom he could not know needed cutting, or that cutting would do them any good, when the master of the hospital had given him no express order to use his incision-knife in that operation; nor was it known to any but the master, who needed, and on whom it would be useful; nor would he fail to use it himself wherever he found it necessary.
Be force of as great and necessary use as you please; let it be so the competent means for the promoting the honour of God in the world, and the good of souls, that the right to use it must necessarily be somewhere. This right cannot possibly be, where you would have it, in the civil sovereigns, and that for the very reason you give, viz. because it must be where the power of compelling resides. For since civil sovereigns cannot compel themselves, nor can the compelling power of one civil sovereign reach another civil sovereign; it will not in the hands of the civil sovereigns reach the most considerable part of mankind, and those who, both for their own and their subjects good, have most need of it. Besides, if it go along with the power of compelling, it must be in the hands of all civil sovereigns alike; which, by this, as well as several other reasons I have given, being unavoidable to be so, this right will be so far from useful, that whatever efficacy force has, it will be employed to the doing more harm than good; since the greatest part of civil sovereigns being of false religions, force will be employed for the promoting of those.
But let us grant what you can never prove, that though all civil sovereigns have compelling power, yet only those of the true religion have a right to use force in matters of religion: your own argument of mankind being unfurnished, which is impiety to say, with competent means for the promoting the honour of God, and the good of souls, still presses you. For the compelling power of each civil sovereign not reaching beyond his own dominions, the right of using force in the hands only of the orthodox civil sovereigns, leaves the rest, which is the far greater part of the world, destitute of this your necessary and competent means for promoting the honour of God in the world, and the good of souls.
Sir, I return you my thanks for having given me this occasion to take a review of your argument, which you told me I had mistaken; which I hope I now have not, and have answered to your satisfaction.
I confess I mistook when I said that cutting, being judged useful, could not authorize even a skilful surgeon to cut a man without any farther commission: for it should have been thus: that though a man has the instruments in his hand, and force enough to cut with, and cutting be judged by you of great and even necessary use in the stone; yet this, without any farther commission, will not authorize any one to use his strength and knife in cutting, who knows not who has the stone, nor has any light or measures to judge to whom cutting may be necessary or useful.
But let us see what you say in answer to my instance: 1. “That the stone does not always kill, though it be not cured; but men do often live to a great age with it, and die at last of other distempers. But aversion to the true religion is certainly and inevitably mortal to the soul, if not cured, and so of absolute necessity to be cured.” Is it of absolute necessity to be cured in all? If so, will you not here again think it requisite that the wise and benign disposer and governor of all things should furnish competent means for what is of absolute necessity? For will it not be impiety to say, that God has so left mankind unfurnished of competent, i. e. sufficient means for what is absolutely necessary? For it is plain, in your account, men have not been furnished with sufficient means for what is of absolute necessity to be cured in all, if in any of them it be left uncured. For as you allow none to be sufficient evidence, but what certainly gains assent; so by the same rule you cannot call that sufficient means, which does not work the cure. It is in vain to say, the means were sufficient, had it not been for their own fault, when that fault of theirs is the very thing to be cured. You go on: “and yet if we should suppose the stone as certainly destructive of this temporal life, as that aversion is of men’s eternal salvation: even so the necessity of curing it would be as much less than the necessity of curing that aversion, as this temporal life falls short in value of that which is eternal.” This is built upon a supposition, that the necessity of the means is increased by the value of the end, which being in this case the salvation of men’s souls, that is of infinite concernment to them, you conclude salvation absolutely necessary: which makes you say that aversion, &c. being inevitably mortal to the soul, is of absolute necessity to be cured. Nothing is of absolute necessity but God: whatsoever else can be said to be of necessity, is so only relatively in respect to something else; and therefore nothing can indefinitely thus be said to be of absolute necessity, where the thing it relates to is not absolutely necessary. We may say, wisdom and power in God are absolutely necessary, because God himself is absolutely necessary; but we cannot crudely say, the curing in men their aversion to the true religion, is absolutely necessary, because it is not absolutely necessary that men should be saved. But this is very proper and true to be said, that curing this aversion is absolutely necessary in all that shall be saved. But I fear that would not serve your turn, though it be certain, that your absolute necessity in this case reaches no farther than this, that to be cured of this aversion is absolutely necessary to salvation, and salvation is absolutely necessary to happiness; but neither of them, nor the happiness itself of any man, can be said to be absolutely necessary.
This mistake makes you say, that supposing “the stone certainly destructive of this temporal life, yet the necessity of curing it would be as much less than the necessity of curing that aversion, as this temporal life falls short in value of that which is eternal.” Which is quite otherwise: for if the stone will certainly kill a man without cutting, it is as absolutely necessary to cut a man for the stone for the saving of his life, as it is to cure the aversion for the saving of his soul. Nay, if you have but eggs to fry, fire is as absolutely necessary as either of the other, though the value of the end be in these cases infinitely different; for in one of them you lose only your dinner, in the other your life, and in the other your soul. But yet, in these cases, fire, cutting, and curing that aversion, are each of them absolutely and equally necessary to their respective ends, because those ends cannot be attained without them.
You say farther, “Cutting for the stone is not always necessary in order to the cure: but the penalties you speak of are altogether necessary (without extraordinary grace) to cure that pernicious and otherwise untractable aversion.” Let it be so; but do the surgeons know who has this stone, this aversion, so that it will certainly destroy him, unless he be cut? Will you undertake to tell when the aversion is such in any man, that it is incurable by preaching, exhortation, and intreaty, if his spiritual physician will be instant with him in season, and out of season; but certainly curable, if moderate force be made use of? Till you are sure of the former of these, you can never say your moderate force is necessary: Till you are sure of the latter, you can never say, it is competent means. What you will determine concerning extraordinary grace, and when God bestows that, I leave you to consider, and speak clearly of it at your leisure.
You add, that even where “cutting for the stone is necessary, it is withal hazardous by my confession. But your penalties can no way endanger or hurt the soul, but by the fault of him that undergoes them.” If the magistrate use force to bring men to the true religion, he must judge which is the true religion; and he can judge no other to be it but that which he believes to be the true religion, which is his own religion. But for the magistrate to use force to bring men to his own religion, has so much danger in it to men’s souls, that by your own confession, none but an atheist will say that magistrates may use force to bring men to their own religion.
This I suppose is enough to make good all that I aimed at in my instance of cutting for the stone, which was, that though it were judged useful, and I add now necessary to cut men for the stone, yet that was not enough to authorize a surgeon to cut a man, but he must have, besides that general one of doing good, some more special commission; and that which I there mentioned, was the patient’s consent. But you tell me, “That though, as things now stand, no surgeon has any right to cut his calculous patient without his consent; yet if the magistrate should by a public law appoint and authorize a competent number of the most skilful in that art, to visit such as labour under that disease, and to cut those (whether they consent or not) whose lives they unanimously judge it impossible to save otherwise: you are apt to think I would find it hard to prove, that in so doing he exceeded the bounds of his power; and you are sure it would be as hard to prove that those artists would have no right in that case to cut such persons.” Show such a law from the great governor of the universe, and I shall yield that your surgeons shall go to work as fast as you please. But where is the public law? “Where is the competent number of magistrates skilful in the art, who must unanimously judge of the disease and its danger?” You can show nothing of all this, yet you are so liberal of this sort of cure, that one cannot take you for less than cutting Morecraft himself. But, sir, if there were a competent number of skilful and impartial men, who were to use the incision-knife on all in whom they found this stone of aversion to the true religion; what do you think, would they find no work in your hospital?
Aversion to the true religion, you say, is of absolute necessity to be cured: what I beseech you is that true religion? that of the church of England? For that you own to be the only true religion; and whatever you say, you cannot upon your principles name any other national religion in the world, that you will own to be the true. It being then of absolute necessity that men’s aversion to the national religion of England should be cured: has all mankind in whom it has been absolutely necessary to be cured, been furnished with competent and necessary means for the cure of this aversion?
In the next place, what is your necessary and sufficient means for this cure that is of absolute necessity? and that is moderate penalties made use of by the magistrate, where the national is the true religion, and sufficient means are provided for all men’s instruction in the true religion. And here again I ask, have all men to whom this cure is of absolute necessity, been furnished with this necessary means?
Thirdly, How is your necessary remedy to be applied? And that is in a way wherein it cannot work the cure, though we should suppose the true religion the national every-where, and all the magistrates in the world zealous for it. To this true religion say you men have a natural and great aversion of absolute necessity to be cured, and the only cure for it is force your way applied, i. e. penalties must be laid upon all that dissent from the national religion, till they conform. Why are men averse to the true? Because it crosses the profits and pleasures of this life; and for the same reason they have an aversion to penalties: these therefore, if they be opposed one to another, and penalties be so laid that men must quit their lusts, and heartily embrace the true religion, or else endure the penalties, there may be some efficacy in force towards bringing men to the true religion: but if there be no opposition between an outward profession of the true religion and men’s lusts; penalties laid on men till they outwardly conform, are not a remedy laid to the disease. Punishments so applied have no opposition to men’s lusts, nor from thence can be expected any cure. Men must be driven from their aversion to the true religion by penalties they have a greater aversion to. This is all the operation of force. But if by getting into the communion of the national church they can avoid the penalties, and yet retain their natural corruption and aversion to the true religion, what remedy is there to the disease by penalties so applied. You would, you say, have men made uneasy. This no doubt will work on men, and make them endeavour to get out of this uneasy state as soon as they can. But it will always be by that way wherein they can be most easy; for it is the uneasiness alone they fly from, and therefore they will not exchange one uneasiness for another; not for a greater, nor an equal, nor any at all, if they can help it. If therefore it be so uneasy for men to mortify their lusts, as you tell us, which the true religion requires of them, if they embrace it in earnest: but which outward conformity to the true religion, or any national church, does not require; what need or use is there of force applied so, that it meets not at all with men’s lusts, or aversion to the true religion, but leaves them the liberty of a quiet enjoyment of them, free from force and penalties in a legal and approved conformity? Is a man negligent of his soul, and will not be brought to consider? obstinate, and will not embrace the truth? is he careless, and will not be at the pains to examine matters of religion? corrupt, and will not part with his lusts, which are dearer to him than his first-born? It is but owning the national profession, and he may be so still: if he conform, the magistrate has done punishing, he is a son of the church, and need not consider any thing farther for fear of penalties; they are removed, and all is well. So that at last there neither being an absolute necessity that aversion to the true religion should in all men be cured; nor the magistrate being a competent judge who have this stone of aversion, or who have it to that degree as to need force to cure it, or in whom it is curable, were force a proper remedy, as it is not; nor having any commission to use it, notwithstanding what you have answered: it is still not only as, but more reasonable for the magistrate, upon pretence of its usefulness or necessity, to cut any one for the stone without his own consent, than to use force your way to cure him of aversion to the true religion.
To my question, in whose hands this right, we were a little above speaking of, was in Turkey, Persia, or China? you tell me, “you answer roundly and plainly, in the hands of the sovereign, to use convenient penalties for the promoting the true religion.” I will not trouble you here with a question you will meet with elsewhere, who in these countries must be judge of the true religion? But I will ask, whether you or any wise man would have put a right of using force into a mahommedan or pagan prince’s hand, for the promoting of christianity? Which of my pagans or mahommedans would have done otherwise?
But God, you say, has done it, and you make it good by telling me in the following words, “If this startle me, then you must tell me farther, that you look upon the supreme power to be the same all the world over, in what hands soever it is placed, and this right to be contained in it: and if those that have it do not use it as they ought, but instead of promoting true religion by proper penalties set themselves to inforce mahommedism or paganism, or any other false religion: all that can, or that needs be said to the matter, is, that God will one day call them to an account for the neglect of their duty, for the dishonour they do to him, and for the souls that perish by their fault.” Your taking this right to be a part of the supreme power of all civil sovereigns, which is the thing in question, is not, as I take it, proving it to be so. But let us take it so for once, what then is your answer? “God will one day call those sovereigns to an account for the neglect of their duty.” The question is not, what God will do with the sovereigns who have neglected their duty; but how mankind is furnished with your competent means of promoting God’s honour in the world, and the good of souls in countries where the sovereign is of a wrong religion? For there, how clearly soever the right of using it be in the sovereign, yet as long as he uses not force to bring his subjects to the true religion, they are destitute of your competent means. For I imagine you do not make the right to use that force, but the actual application of it by penal laws, to be your useful and necessary means. For if you think the bare having that right be enough, if that be your sufficient means without the actual use of force, we readily allow it you. And, as I tell you elsewhere, I see not then what need you had of miracles “to supply the want of the magistrates assistance till christianity was supported and encouraged by the laws of the empire:” for, by your own rule, the magistrates of the world, during the three first centuries after the publishing the christian religion, had the same right, if that had been enough, that they have now in Turkey, Persia, or China. That this is all that can be said in this matter, I easily grant you; but that it is all that needs be said to make good your doctrine, I must beg your pardon.
In the same sentence wherein you tell me I should have added necessity to usefulness, I call it necessary usefulness, which I imagine is not much different. But that with the following words wherein my argument lay, had the ill luck to be overseen; but if you please to take my argument, as I have now again laid it before you, it will serve my turn.
In your next paragraph you tell me, that what is said by me is with the same ingenuity I have used in other places; my words in that place are these: “The author having endeavoured to show that nobody at all, of any rank or condition, had any 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;” which words of mine containing in them nothing but true matter of fact, give you no reason to tax my ingenuity: nor will what you allege make it otherwise than such power; for if the power you there speak of were externally coactive power, is not that the same power the author was speaking of, made use of to those ends he mentions of tormenting and punishing? And do not you own that those who have that power, ought to punish those who offend in rejecting the true religion? As to the remaining part of that paragraph, I shall leave the reader to judge whether I sought any occasion so much as to name the clergy; or whether the itching of your fingers to be handling the rod guided not your pen to what was nothing to the purpose: for the author had not said any thing so much as tending to exclude the clergy from secular employments, but only, if you will take your own report of it, that no ecclesiastical officer, as such, has any externally coactive power, whereupon you cry out, that “you do not yet understand why ecclesiastics or clergymen are not as capable of such power as other men.” Had you stood to be constable of your parish, or of the hundred, you might have had cause to vindicate thus your capacity, if orders had been objected to you; or if your aim be at a justice of the peace, or lord chief justice of England, much more. However you must be allowed to be a man of forecast, in clearing the way to secular power, if you know yourself, or any of your friends desirous of it: otherwise I confess you have reason to be on this occasion a little out of humour, as you are, for bringing this matter in question so wholly out of season. Nor will, I fear, the ill-fitted excuse you bring, give yourself, or one who consults the places in both yours and the author’s letter, a much better opinion of it. However I cannot but thank you for your wonted ingenuity, in saying, that “it seems I wanted an occasion to show my good-will to the clergy, and so I made myself one.” And to find more work for the excellent gift you have this way, I desire you to read over that paragraph of mine again, and tell me, whether you can find any thing said in it not true? Any advice in it that you yourself would disown? any thing that any worthy clergyman that adorns his function is concerned in? And when you have set it down in my words, the world shall be judge, whether I have showed any ill-will to the clergy. Till then I may take the liberty to own, that I am more a friend to them and their calling, than those amongst them who show their forwardness to leave the word of God to serve other employments. The office of a minister of the gospel requires so the whole man, that the very looking after their poor was, by the joint voice of the twelve apostles, called “leaving the word of God, and serving of tables.” Acts iv. 2. But if you think no man’s faults can be spoken of without ill-will, you will make a very ill preacher: or if you think this to be so only in speaking of mistakes in any of the clergy, there must be in your opinion something peculiar in their case, that makes it so much a fault to mention any of theirs; which I must be pardoned for, since I was not aware of it: and there will want but a little cool reflection to convince you, that had not the present church of England a greater number in proportion, than possibly any other age of the church ever had, of those who by their pious lives and labours in their ministry adorn their profession; such busy men as cannot be content to be divines without being laymen too, would so little keep up the reputation which ought to distinguish the clergy, or preserve the esteem due to a holy, i. e. a separate order; that nobody can show greater good-will to them than by taking all occasions to put a stop to any forwardness to be meddling out of their calling. This, I suppose, made a learned prelate of our church, out of kindness to the clergy, mind them of their stipulation and duty in a late treatise, and tell them that “the pastoral care is to be a man’s entire business, and to possess both his thoughts and his time.” Disc. of Past. Care, p. 121.
To your saying, “That the magistrate may lay penalties upon those who refuse to embrace the doctrine of the proper ministers of religion, or are alienated from the truth:” I answered, “God never gave the magistrate an authority to be judge of truth for another man.” This you grant: but withal say, “That if the magistrate knows the truth, though he has no authority to judge of truth for another man; yet he may be judge whether other men be alienated from the truth or no; and so may have authority to lay some penalties upon those whom he sees to be so, to bring them to judge more sincerely for themselves.” For example, the doctrine of the proper ministers of religion is, that the three creeds, Nice, Athanasius’s, and that commonly called the Apostles Creed, ought to be thoroughly received and believed: as also that the Old and New Testament contain all things necessary to salvation. The one of these doctrines a papist subject embraces not; and a socinian the other. What now is the magistrate by your commission to do? He is to lay penalties upon them, and continue them: How long? Only till they conform, i. e. till they profess they embrace these doctrines for true. In which case he does not judge of the truth for other men: he only judges that other men are alienated from the truth. Do you not now admire your own subtilty and acuteness? I that cannot comprehend this, tell you my dull sense in the case. He that thinks another man in an error, judges him, as you phrase it, alienated from the truth, and then judges of truth and falsehood only for himself. But if he lays any penalty upon others, which they are to lie under till they embrace for a truth what he judges to be so, he is then so far a judge of truth for those others. This is what I think to judge of truth for another means: If you will tell me what else it signifies, I am ready to learn.
“You grant, you say, God never gave the magistrate any authority to be judge of truth for another man:” and then add, “But how does it follow from thence that he cannot be judge, whether any man be alienated from the truth or no?” And I ask you, who ever said any such thing did follow from thence? That which I say, and which you ought to disprove, is, that whoever punishes others for not being of the religion he judges to be true, judges of truth for others. But you prove that a man may be judge of truth, without having authority to judge of it for other men, or to prescribe to them what they shall believe, which you might have spared, till you meet with somebody that denies it. But yet your proof of it is worth remembering: “rectum, say you, est index sui et obliqui. And certainly whoever does but know the truth, may easily judge whether other men be alienated from it or no.” But though “rectum be index sui et obliqui;” yet a man may be ignorant of that which is the right, and may take error for truth. The truth of religion, when known, shows what contradicts it is false: but yet that truth may be unknown to the magistrate, as well as to any other man. But you conclude, I know not upon what ground, as if the magistrate could not miss it, or were surer to find it than other men. I suppose you are thus favourable only to the magistrate of your own profession, as no doubt in civility a papist or a presbyterian would be to those of his. And then infer: “And therefore if the magistrate knows the truth, though he has no authority to judge of truth for other men, yet he may judge whether other men be alienated from the truth or no.” Without doubt! who denies it him? It is a privilege that he and all men have, that when they know the truth, or believe the truth, or have embraced an errour for truth, they may judge whether other men are alienated from it or no, if those other men own their opinions in that matter.
You go on with your inference, “and so may have authority to lay some penalties upon those whom he sees to be so.” Now, sir, you go a little too fast. This he cannot do without making himself judge of truth for them: the magistrate, or any one, may judge as much as he pleases of men’s opinions and errours; he in that judges only for himself; but as soon as he uses force to bring them from their own to his opinion, he makes himself judge of truth for them; let it be to bring them to judge more sincerely for themselves, as you here call it, or under what pretence or colour soever, for that what you say is but a pretence, the very expression discovers. For does any one ever judge insincerely for himself, that he needs penalties to make him judge more sincerely for himself? A man may judge wrong for himself, and may be known or thought to do so: but who can either know or suppose another is not sincere in the judgment he makes for himself, or, which is the same thing, that any one knowingly puts a mixture of falsehood into the judgment he makes? for as speaking insincerely is to speak otherwise than one thinks, let what he says be true or false; so judging insincerely must be to judge otherwise than one thinks, which I imagine is not very feasible. But how improper soever it be to talk of judging insincerely for one’s self, it was better for you in that place to say, penalties were to bring men to judge more sincerely, rather than to say, more rightly, or more truly: for had you said, the magistrate might use penalties to bring men to judge more truly, that very word had plainly discovered, that he made himself a judge of truth for them. You therefore wisely chose to say what might best cover this contradiction to yourself, whether it were sense or no; which perhaps whilst it sounded well, every one would not stand to examine.
One thing give me leave here to observe to you, which is, that when you speak of the entertainment subjects are to give to truth, i. e. the true religion, you call it believing; but this in the magistrate you call knowing. Now let me ask you whether any magistrate, who laid penalties on any who dissented from what he judged the true religion, or, as you call it here, were alienated from the truth; was or could be determined in his judging of that truth by any assurance greater than believing? When you have resolved that, you will then see to what purpose is all you have said here concerning the magistrate’s knowing the truth; which at last amounting to no more than the assurance wherewith a man certainly believes and receives a thing for true, will put every magistrate under the same, if there be any obligation to use force, whilst he believes his own religion. Besides, if a magistrate knows his religion to be true, he is to use means not to make his people believe, but know it also; knowledge of them, if that be the way of entertaining the truths of religion, being as necessary to the subjects as the magistrate. I never heard yet of a master of mathematics, who had the care of informing of others in those truths, who ever went about to make any one believe one of Euclid’s propositions.
The pleasantness of your answer, notwithstanding what you say, doth remain still the same: for you making, as is to be seen, “the power of the magistrate ordained for the bringing men to take such care as they ought of their salvation;” the reason why it is every man’s interest to vest this power in the magistrate, must suppose this power so ordained, before the people vested it; or else it could not be an argument for their vesting it in the magistrate. For if you had not here built upon your fundamental supposition, that this power of the magistrate is ordained by God to that end, the proper and intelligible way of expressing your meaning had not been to say as you do: “As the power of the magistrate is ordained for bringing, &c. so if we suppose this power vested in the magistrate by the people:” in which way of speaking this power of the magistrate is evidently supposed already ordained. But a clear way of making your meaning understood had been to say, That for the people to ordain such a power of the magistrate, or to vest such a power in the magistrate, which is the same thing, was their true interest: but whether it were your meaning, or your expression that was guilty of the absurdity, I shall leave it with the reader.
As to the other pleasant thing of your answer, it will still appear by barely reciting it: the pleasant thing I charge on you is, that you say, 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. To this you answer, by asking, where it is that you say that it is the people’s best course to vest a power in the magistrate to choose for them? That you tell me I do not pretend to show. If you had given yourself the pains to have gone on to the end of the paragraph, or will be pleased to read it as I have here again set it down for your perusal, you will find that I at least pretended to show it; my words are these: “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 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?” Thus far you cite my words, to which let me join the remaining part of the paragraph, to let you see that I pretended to show that the course you proposed to the people as best for them, was to vest a power in the magistrate to choose for them. My words which follow those where you left off, are these: “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.” But all this you tell me “is just nothing to the purpose:” Why, I beseech you? “Because you speak not of the magistrate’s religion, but of the true religion, and that proposed with sufficient evidence.”
The case in short is this: men are apt to be misled by their passions, lusts, and other men, in the choice of their religion. For this great evil you propose a remedy, which is, that men (for you must remember you are here speaking of the people putting this power into the magistrate’s hand) should choose some of their fellow-men, and give them a power by force to guard them, that they might not be alienated from the truth by their own passions, lusts, or by other men. So it was in the first scheme; or, as you have it now, to punish them, whenever they rejected the true religion, and that proposed with sufficient evidence of the truth of it. A pretty remedy, and manifestly effectual at first sight; that because men were all promiscuously apt to be misled in their judgment, or choice of their religion, by passion, lust, and other men, therefore they should choose some amongst themselves, who might, they and their successors, men made just like themselves, punish them that rejected the true religion.
“If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch,” says our Saviour. If men apt to be misled by their passions and lusts, will guard themselves from falling into errour, by punishments laid on them, by men as apt to be misled by passions and lusts as themselves, how are they safer from falling into errour? Now hear the infallible remedy for this inconvenience, and admire: the men to whom they have given this power, must not use it, till they find those who gave it them in an errour. A friend, to whom I showed this expedient, answered, This is none: For why is not a man as fit to judge for himself when he is in an errour, as another to judge for him, who is as liable to errour himself? I answered, This power however in the other can do him no harm, but may indirectly and at a distance do him good; because the magistrate who has this power to punish him, must never use it but when he is in the right, and he that is punished is in the wrong. But, said my friend, who shall be judge whether he be in the right or no? For men in an errour think themselves in the right, and that as confidently as those who are most so. To which I replied, Nobody must be judge; but the magistrate may know when he is in the right. And so may the subject too, said my friend, as well as the magistrate, and therefore it was as good still to be free from a punishment that gives a man no more security from errour than he had without it. Besides, said he, who must be judge whether the magistrate knows or no? For he may mistake, and think it to be knowledge and certainty, when it is but opinion and belief. It is no matter, for that in this scheme, replied I, the magistrate, we are told, may know which is the true religion, and he must not use force but to bring men to the true religion; and if he does, God will one day call him to an account for it, and so all is safe. As safe as beating the air can make a thing, replied my friend, for if believing, being assured, confidently being persuaded that they know that the religion they profess is true, or any thing else short of true knowledge, will serve the turn, all magistrates will have this power alike, and so men will be well guarded, or recovered from false religions, by putting it into the magistrate’s hand to punish them when they have alienated themselves from it.
If the magistrate be not to punish men but when he knows, i. e. is infallibly certain, (for so is a man in what he knows,) that his national religion is all true, and knows also, that it has been proposed to those he punishes with sufficient evidence of the truth of it: it would have been as good this power had never been given him, since he will never be in a condition to exercise it; and at best it was given him to no purpose, since those who gave it him were one with another as little indisposed to consider impartially, examine diligently, study, find, and infallibly know the truth, as he. But, said he at parting, to talk thus of the magistrate’s punishing men that reject the true religion, without telling us who those magistrates are, who have a power to judge which is the true religion, is to put this power in all magistrates hands alike, or none; for to say he only is to be judge which is the true religion, who is of it, is but to begin the round of inquiries again, which can at last end nowhere but in every one’s supposing his own to be it. But, said he, if you will continue to talk on thus, there is nothing more to be done with you, but to pity or laugh at you; and so he left me.
I assure you, Sir, I urged this part of your hypothesis, with all the advantage I thought your answer afforded me; and if I have erred in it, or there be any way to get out of the strait, (if force must in your way be used,) either of the magistrate’s punishing men for rejecting the true religion, without judging which is the true religion; or else that the magistrate should judge which is the true religion; which way ever of the too you shall determine it, I see not what advantage it can be to the people, to keep them from choosing amiss, that this power of punishing them shall be put into the magistrate’s hands.
And then, if the magistrate must judge which is the true religion; as how he should, without judging, punish any one who rejects it, is hard to find; and punish men who reject it until they embrace it, let it be to make them consider, or what you please, he does, I think, choose their religion for them. And if you have not the dexterity to choose the national religion wherever you are, I doubt not but that you would think so too if you were in France, though there were none but moderate penalties laid on you to bring you even against your own inclination to act according to what they there call reason and sound judgment.
That paragraph and mine to which it is an answer run thus:
L. II. p. 427.—
“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, nobody 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.”
L. III. p. 67.
“But it seems you have not done with this yet: For you say,” you do neither me nor the magistrate injury, when you say that the power I 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, whatever that be, and to bring them to it. “Which seems a little strange and pleasant too But thus you prove it:” For men will never, in his opinion, act according to reason and sound judgment, 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. Which (besides the pleasant talk of such reasons and arguments as are proper and sufficient to convince men of the truth of the magistrate’s religion, “though it be a false one) is just as much as to say, It is so, because in the magistrate’s opinion it is so; and because it is not to be expected that he will act against his opinion. As if the magistrate’s opinion could change the nature of things, and turn a power to promote the true religion into a power to promote a false one. No, Sir, the magistrate’s opinion has no such virtue. It may indeed keep him from exercising the power he has to promote the true religion; and it may lead him to abuse the pretence of it to the promoting a false one: but it can neither destroy that power nor make it any thing but what it is. And therefore, whatever the magistrate’s opinion be, his power was given him (as the apostles power was to them) for edification only, not for destruction: And it may always be said of him, (what St. Paul said of himself) that he can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. And therefore if the magistrate punishes me to bring me to a false religion; it is not his opinion that will excuse him, when he comes to answer for it to his judge. For certainly men are as accountable for their opinions (those of them, I mean, which influence their practice) as they are for their actions.”
“Here is therefore no shifting forwards and backwards, as you pretend; nor any circle, but in your own imagination. For though it be true that I say,” the magistrate has no power to punish men, to compel them to his religion, “yet I nowhere say, nor will it follow from any thing I do say,” That he has power to compel them to consider reasons and arguments proper to convince them of the truth of his religion. “But I do not much wonder that you endeavour to put this upon me. For I think by this time it is pretty plain, that otherwise you would have but little to say; and it is an art very much in use amongst some sort of learned men, when they cannot confute what an adversary does say, to make him say what he does not; that they may have something which they can confute.”
The beginning of this answer is part of the old song of triumph: “What! reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince men of the truth of falsehood?” Yes, Sir, the magistrate may use force to make men consider those reasons and arguments, which he thinks proper and sufficient to convince men of the truth of his religion, though his religion be a false one. And this is as possible for him to do, as for a man as learned as yourself to write a book, and use such arguments, as he thinks proper and sufficient to convince men of the truth of his opinion, though it be a falsehood.
As to the remaining part of your answer, the question is not, whether the “magistrate’s opinion can change the nature of things, or the power he has, or excuse him to his judge for misusing of it?” But this, that since all magistrates, in your opinion, have commission, and are obliged to promote the true religion by force, and they can be guided in the discharge of this duty by nothing but their own opinion of the true religion, what advantage can this be to the true religion, what benefit to their subjects, or whether it amounts to any more than a commission to every magistrate to use force for the promoting his own religion? To this question therefore you will do well to apply your answer, which a man of less skill than you will be scarce able to do.
You tell us indeed, that “whatever the magistrate’s opinion be, his power was given him (as the apostles power was to them) for edification only, and not for destruction.” But if the apostles power had been given them for one end, and St. Paul, St. Peter, and nine other of the twelve had nothing to guide them but their own opinion, which led them to another end; I ask you whether the edification of the church could have been carried on as it was?
You tell us farther, that “it may always be said of the magistrate (what St. Paul said of himself) that he can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” Witness the king of France. If you say this in the same sense that St. Paul said it of himself, who, in all things requisite for edification, had the immediate direction and guidance of the unerring spirit of God, and so was infallible, we need not go to Rome for an infallible guide, every country has one in their magistrate. If you apply these words to the magistrate in another sense, than what St. Paul spoke them in of himself, sober men will be apt to think, you have a great care to insinuate into others a high veneration for the magistrate; but that you yourself have no over-great reverence for the scripture, which you thus use; nor for truth, which you thus defend.
To deny the magistrate to have a power to compel men to his religion; but yet to say the magistrate has a power, and is bound to punish men to make them consider, till they cease to reject the true religion; of which true religion he must be judge, or else nothing can be done in discharge of this his duty; is so like going round about to come to the same place, that it will always be a circle in mine and other people’s imagination, and not only there, but in your hypothesis.
All that you say turns upon the truth or falsehood of this proposition: “That whoever punishes any one in matters of religion to make him consider, takes upon him to be judge for another what is right in matters of religion.” This you think plainly involves a contradiction; and so it would if these general terms had in your use of them their ordinary and usual meaning. But, Sir, be but pleased to take along with you, that whoever punishes any man your way in matters of religion, to make him consider, as you use the word consider, takes upon him to be judge for another what is right in matters of religion: and you will find it so far from a contradiction, that it is a plain truth. For your way of punishing is a peculiar way, and is this: that the magistrate, where the national religion is the true religion, should punish those who dissent from it, to make them consider as they ought, i. e. till they cease to reject, or, in other words, till they conform to it. If therefore he punishes none but those who dissent from, and punishes them till they conform to that which he judges the true religion, does he not take on him to judge for them what is the true religion?
It is true indeed what you say, there is no other reason to punish another to make him consider, but that he should judge for himself: and this will always hold true amongst those who, when they speak of considering, mean considering, and nothing else. But then these things will follow from thence; 1. That in inflicting of penalties to make men consider, the magistrate of a country, where the national religion is false, no more misapplies his power, than he whose religion is true; for one has as much right to punish the negligent to make them consider, study, and examine matters of religion, as the other. 2. If the magistrate punishes men in matters of religion, truly to make them consider, he will punish all that do not consider, whether conformists or non-conformists. 3. If the magistrate punishes in matters of religion to make men consider, it is, as you say, “to make men judge for themselves: for there is no use of considering, but in order to judging.” But then when a man has judged for himself, the penalties for not considering are to be taken off: for else your saying “that a man is punished to make him consider, that he may judge for himself,” is plain mockery. So that either you must reform your scheme, or allow this proposition to be true, viz. “Whoever punishes any man in matters of religion, to make him in your sense consider, takes upon him to judge for another what is right in matters of religion;” and with it the conclusion, viz. “Therefore whoever punishes any one in matters of religion, to make him consider, takes upon him to do what no man can do, and consequently misapplies his power of punishing, if he has that power. Which conclusion, you say, you should readily admit as sufficiently demonstrated, if the proposition before-mentioned were true.”
But further, if it could enter into the head of any law-maker but you to punish men for the omission of, or to make them perform any internal act of the mind, such as is consideration; whoever in matters of religion would lay an injunction on men to make them consider, could not do it without judging for them in matters of religion; unless they had no religion at all, and then they come not within our author’s toleration; which is a toleration only of men of different religions, or of different opinions in religion; for supposing you the magistrate with full power, and, as you imagined, right of punishing any one in matters of religion, how could you possibly punish any one to make him consider, without judging for him what is right in matters of religion? I will suppose myself brought before your worship, under what character you please, and then I desire to know what one or more questions you would ask me, upon my answer to which you could judge me fit to be punished to make me consider, without taking upon you to judge for me what is right in matters of religion? For I conclude from the fashion of my coat, or the colour of my eyes, you would not judge that I ought to be punished in matters of religion to make me consider. If you could, I should allow you not only as capable, but much more capable of coactive power than other men.
But since you could not judge me to need punishment in matters of religion, to make me consider, without knowing my thoughts concerning religion, we will suppose you, being of the church of England, would examine me in the catechism and liturgy of that church, which possibly I could neither say nor answer right to. It is like, upon this, you would judge me fit to be punished to make me consider. Wherein, it is evident, you judged for me, that the religion of the church of England was right; for without that judgment of yours you would not have punished me. We will suppose you to go yet further, and examine me concerning the gospel, and truth of the principles of the christian religion, and you will find me answer therein not to your liking: here again no doubt you will punish me to make me consider; but is it not because you judge for me, that the christian religion is the right? Go on thus as far as you will, and till you find I had no religion at all, you could not punish me to make me consider, without taking upon you to judge for me what is right in matters of religion.
To punish without a fault is injustice: and to punish a man without judging him guilty of that fault, is also injustice; and to punish a man who has any religion to make him consider, or, which is the same thing, for not having sufficiently considered; is no more nor less, but punishing him for not being of the religion you think best for him; that is the fault, and that is the fault you judge him guilty of, call it considering as you please: for let him fall into the hands of a magistrate of whose religion he is, he judgeth him to have considered sufficiently. From whence it is plain, it is religion is judged of, and not consideration, or want of consideration. And it is in vain to pretend that he is punished to make him judge for himself; for he that is of any religion, has already judged for himself; and if you punish him after that, under pretence to make him consider that he may judge for himself; it is plain you punish him to make him judge otherwise than he has already judged, and to judge as you have judged for him.
Your next paragraph complains of my not having contradicted the following words of yours, which I had cited out of your A. p. 26, which that the reader may judge of, I shall here set down again: “And all the hurt that comes to them by it, is only the suffering some tolerable inconveniences, 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 him 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.” To which I shall here subjoin my answer and your reply:
L. II. p. 432.
“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 on 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 soul 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.”
L. III. p. 76.
“Which words you set down at large; but instead of contradicting them, or offering to show that the mischief spoken of, is such as makes it more eligible, &c. you only demand,” 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? &c. “As if not to leave the care of every man’s soul to himself alone, were, as you express it afterwards, to take the care of men’s souls from themselves: or as if to vest a power in the magistrate, to procure as much as in him lies (i. e. as far as it can be procured by convenient penalties) that men take such care of their souls as they ought to do, were to leave the care of their souls “to the magistrate rather than to themselves:” “Which no man but yourself will imagine. I acknowledge as freely as you can do, that as every man is more concerned than any man else can be, so he is likewise more obliged to take care of his soul; and that no man can by any means be discharged of the care of his soul; which, when all is done, will never be saved but by his own care of it. But do I contradict any thing of this, when I say, that the care of every man’s soul ought not to be left to himself alone? Or, that it is the interest of mankind, that the magistrate be entrusted and obliged to take care, as far as lies in him, that no man neglect his own soul? I thought, I confess, that every man was in some sort charged with the care of his neighbour’s soul. But, in your way of reasoning, he that affirms this, takes away the care of every man’s soul from himself, and leaves it to his neighbour rather than to himself. But if this be plainly absurd, as every one sees it is, then so it must be likewise to say, that he that vests such a power as we here speak of in the magistrate, takes away the care of men’s souls from themselves, and places it in the magistrate, rather than in themselves.”
“What trifling then is it to say here,” If you cannot lay your hand upon your heart, and say all this, viz. that the magistrate is like to be more concerned for other men’s souls than themselves, &c. What then will be got by the change? “For it is plain, here is no such change as you would insinuate: but the care of souls which I assert to the magistrate, is so far from discharging any man of the care of his own soul, or lessening his obligation to it, that it serves to no other purpose in the world, but to bring men, who otherwise would not, to consider and do what the interest of their souls obliges them to.
“It is therefore manifest, that the thing here to be considered, is not, whether the magistrate be” like to be more concerned for other men’s souls, or to take more care of them than themselves: nor, whether he be commonly more careful of his own soul, than other men are of theirs: nor, whether he be less exposed, in matters of religion, to prejudices, humours, and crafty seducers, than other men: nor yet, whether he be not more in danger to be in the wrong than other men, inregard that he never meets with that great and only antidote of mine (as you call it) against errour, which I here call molestation. “But the point upon which this matter turns, is only this, whether the salvation of souls be not better provided for, if the magistrate be obliged to procure, as much as in him lies, that every man take such care as he ought of his soul, than if he be not so obliged, but the care of every man’s soul be left to himself alone? which certainly any man of common sense may easily determine. For as you will not, I suppose, deny but God has more amply provided for the salvation of your own soul, by obliging your neighbour, as well as yourself, to take care of it; though it is possible your neighbour may not be more concerned for it than yourself: or may not be more careful of his own soul, than you are of yours; or may be no less exposed, in matters of religion, to prejudices, &c. than you are; because if you are yourself wanting to your own soul, it is more likely that you will be brought to take care of it, if your neighbour be obliged to admonish and exhort you to it, than if he be not; though it may fall out that he will not do what he is obliged to do in that case. So I think it cannot be denied, but the salvation of all men’s souls is better provided for, if besides the obligation which every man has to take care of his own soul (and that which every man’s neighbour has likewise to do it) the magistrate also be intrusted and obliged to see that no man neglect his soul; than it would be, if every man were left to himself in this matter; because though we should admit that the magistrate is not like to be, or is not ordinarily more concerned for other men’s souls, than they themselves are, &c. it is nevertheless undeniably true still, that whoever neglects his soul, is more likely to be brought to take care of it, if the magistrate be obliged to do what lies in him to bring him to do it, than if he be not. Which is enough to show, that it is every man’s true interest, that the care of his soul should not be left to himself alone, but that the magistrate should be so far intrusted with it as I contend that he is.”
Your complaint of my not having formally contradicted the words above cited out of A. p. 26. looking as if there were some weighty argument in them: I must inform my reader, that they are subjoined to those, wherein you recommend the use of force in matters of religion, by the gain those that are punished shall make by it, though it be misapplied by the magistrate to bring them to a wrong religion. So that these words of yours, “all the hurt that comes to them by it,” is all the hurt that comes to men by a misapplication of the magistrate’s power, who being of a false religion, he uses force to bring men to it. And then your proposition stands thus, “That the suffering what you call tolerable inconveniences for their following the light of their own reasons, and the dictates of their own consciences, is no such mischief to mankind as to make it more eligible, that there should be no power vested in the magistrate” to use force to bring men to the true religion, though the magistrates misapply this power, i. e. use it to bring men to their own religion when false.
This is the sum of what you say, if it has any coherent meaning in it: for it being to show the usefulness of such a power vested in the magistrate, under the miscarriages and misapplications it is in common practice observed to be liable to; can have no other sense. But I having proved, that if such a power be by the law of nature vested in the magistrate, every magistrate is obliged to use it for the promoting of his religion as far as he believes it to be true, shall not much trouble myself, if like a man of art you should use your skill to give it another sense: for such is your natural talent, or great caution, that you love to speak indefinitely, and, as seldom as may be, leave yourself accountable for any propositions of a clear determined sense; but under words of doubtful but seeming plausible signification, conceal a meaning, which plainly expressed would, at first sight, appear to contradict your own positions, or common sense? instances whereof, more than one, we have here in this sentence of yours. For, 1. The words tolerable inconveniencies carry a very fair show of some very slight matter; and yet, when we come to examine them, may comprehend any of those severities lately used in France; for these tolerable inconveniencies are the same you in this very page and elsewhere call convenient penalties. Convenient for what? In this very place they must be such, as may keep men “from following their own groundless prejudices, unaccountable humours, and crafty seducers.” And you tell us, the magistrate may require men “under convenient penalties to forsake their false religions, and embrace the true.” Who now must be judge, in these cases, what are convenient penalties? Common sense will tell us, the magistrate that uses them: but besides, we have your word for it, that the magistrate’s prudence and experience enable him to judge best what penalties do agree with your rule of moderation, which, as I have shown, is no rule at all. So that at last your tolerable inconveniencies are such as the magistrate shall judge convenient to oppose to men’s prejudices, humours, and to seducers; such as he shall think convenient to bring men from their false religions, or to punish their rejecting the true; which, whether they will not reach men’s estates and liberties, or go as far as any the king of France has used, is more than you can be security for. 2. Another set of good words we have here, which at first hearing are apt to engage men’s concern, as if too much could not be done to recover men from so perilous a state as they seem to describe; and those are “men following their own groundless prejudices, unaccountable humours, or crafty seducers.” Are not these expressions to set forth a deplorable condition, and to move pity in all that hear them? Enough to make the unattentive reader ready to cry out, help for the Lord’s sake! do any thing rather than suffer such poor prejudiced seduced people to be eternally lost! Where he that examines what persons these words can in your scheme describe, will find they are only such as anywhere dissent from those articles of faith, and ceremonies of outward worship, which the magistrate, or at least you his director, approve of; for whilst you talk thus of the true religion in general, and that so general, that you cannot allow yourself to descend so near to particulars, as to recommend the searching and study of the scriptures to find it; and that the power in the magistrate’s hands to use force is to bring men to the true religion; I ask, whether you do not think, either he or you must be judge, which is the true religion, before he can exercise that power? and then he must use his force upon all those who dissent from it, who are then the prejudiced, humoursome, and seduced, you here speak of. Unless this be so, and the magistrate be judge, I ask, who shall resolve which is the prejudiced person, the prince with his politics, or he that suffers for his religion? Which the more dangerous seducer, Lewis XIV. with his dragoons, or Mr. Claud with his sermons? It will be no small difficulty to find out the persons who are guilty of following groundless prejudices, unaccountable humours, or crafty seducers, unless in those places where you shall be graciously pleased to decide the question; and out of the plenitude of your power and infallibility to declare which of the civil sovereigns now in being do, and which do not, espouse the one only true religion; and then we shall certainly know that those who dissent from the religion of those magistrates, are these prejudiced, humoursome, seduced persons.
But truly as you put it here, you leave the matter very perplexed, when you defend the eligibleness of vesting a power in the magistrate’s hands, to remedy by penalties men’s following their own groundless prejudices, unaccountable humours, and crafty seducers; when in the same sentence you suppose the magistrate, who is vested with this power, may inflict those penalties on men, “for their following the light of their own reason, and the dictates of their own consciences;” which when you have considered, perhaps you will not think my answer so wholly beside the matter, though it showed you but that one absurdity, without a formal contradiction to so loose and undetermined a proposition, that it required more pains to unravel the sense of what was covered under deceitful expressions, than the weight of the matter contained in them was worth.
For besides what is already said to it: how is it possible for any one, who had the greatest mind in the world to contradiction, to deny it to be more eligible that such a power should be vested in the magistrate, till he knows to whom you affirm it to be more eligible? Is it more eligible to those who suffer by it, for following the light of their own reason, and the dictates of their own consciences? for these you know are gainers by it, for they know better than they did before where the truth does lie. Is it more eligible to those who have no other thoughts of religion, but to be of that of their country without any farther examination? Or is it more eligible to those who think it their duty to examine matters of religion, and to follow that which upon examination appears to them the truth? The former of these two make, I think, the greater part of mankind, though the latter be the better advised: but upon what grounds it should be more eligible to either of them, that the magistrate should, than that he should not, have a power vested in him, to use force to bring men to the true religion, when it cannot be employed but to bring men to that which he thinks the true, i. e. to his own religion; is not easy to guess. Or is it more eligible to the priests and ministers of national religions every-where, that the magistrate should be vested with this power? who being sure to be orthodox, will have right to claim the assistance of the magistrate’s power to bring those whom their arguments cannot prevail on to embrace their true religion, and to worship God in decent ways prescribed by those to whom God has left the ordering of such matters. Or last of all, is it more eligible to all mankind? And are the magistrates of the world so careful or so lucky in the choice of their religion, that it would be an advantage to mankind, that they should have a right to do what in them lies, i. e. to use all the force they have, if they think convenient, to bring men to the religion they think true? When you have told us to which of these, or what other, it is more eligible; I suppose the reader will, without my contradicting it, see how little truth there is in it, or how little to your purpose.
If you will pardon me for not having contradicted that passage of yours we have been considering, I will endeavour to make you amends in what you say in reply to my answer to it, and tell you, that, notwithstanding all you say to the contrary, such a power as you would have to be vested in the magistrate, takes away the care of men’s souls from themselves, and places it in the magistrate rather than in themselves; for if when men have examined, and upon examination embrace what appears to them the true religion, the magistrate has a right to treat them as misled by prejudice, humour, or seducers; if he may use what force, and inflict what punishments, he shall think convenient till they conform to the religion the magistrate judges the true; I think you will scarce deny, but that the care of their souls is by such a power placed rather in the magistrate than in themselves, and taken as much from them as by force and authority it can be. This, whatever you pretend, is the power which your system places in the magistrate. Nor can he upon your principles exercise it otherwise, as I imagine I have showed.
You speak here, as if this power, which you would have to be vested in the magistrate, did not at all discharge, but assist the care every one has or ought to have of his own soul. I grant, were the power you would place in the magistrate such as every man has to take care of his neighbour’s soul, which is to express itself only by counsel, arguments, and persuasion; it left him still the free liberty of judging for himself; and so the care of his soul remained still in his own hands. But if men be persuaded, that the wise and good God has vested a power in the magistrate, to be so far judge for them, what is the true religion, as to punish them for rejecting the religion which the magistrate thinks the true, when offered with such evidence as he judges sufficient to convince them; and to punish them on till they consider so as to embrace it; what remains but that they render themselves to the care and conduct of a guide that God in his goodness has appointed them, who having authority and commission from God to be judge for them, which is the true religion, and what are arguments proper and sufficient to convince any one of it; and he himself being convinced of it; why should they be so foolish, as to suffer punishments in opposition to a power which is in the right, and they ought to submit to? To what purpose should they, under the weight of penalties, waste time and pains in examining, since whatever they should judge upon examination, the magistrate judging the arguments and reasons he offers for the truth of his religion proper and sufficient to convince them, they must still lie under the punishment the magistrate shall think convenient till they do comply?
Besides, when they are thus punished by their magistrate for not conforming, what need they examine? Since you tell them, “It is not strictly necessary to salvation, that all that are of the true religion, should understand the grounds of it.” The magistrate, being of the one only true religion, knows it to be so; and he knows that that religion was tendered to them with sufficient evidence, and therefore is obliged to punish them for rejecting it. This is that which men must upon your scheme suppose; for it is what you yourself must suppose, before the magistrate can exercise that power you contend to be vested in him, as is evident to any one, who will put your system together, and particularly weigh what you say.
When therefore men are put into such a state as this, that the magistrate may judge what is the true religion; the magistrate may judge what is sufficient evidence of its truth; the magistrate may be judge to whom it is tendered with sufficient evidence, and punish them that reject it so proposed with such penalties as he also shall judge convenient; and all this by God’s appointment, and an authority received from the wise and benign Governor of all things; I ask, whether the care of men’s souls is not taken out of their own hands, and put into the magistrate’s? Whether in such a state they can or will think there is any need, or that it is to any purpose for them to examine? And whether this be a cure for the natural aversion that is in men to consider and weigh matters of religion; and the way to force, or so much as encourage them to examine?
But, say you, “the salvation of all men’s souls is better provided for, if, besides the obligation that every man has to take care of his own soul, the magistrate also be entrusted and obliged to see that no man neglect his own soul, than it would be if every man were left to himself in that matter.” Whatever ground another may have to say this, you can have none: You who give so good reason why conformists, though ever so ignorant and negligent in examining matters of religion, cannot yet be punished to make them consider, must acknowledge that “all men’s salvation is not the better provided for by a power vested in the magistrate,” which cannot reach the far greatest part of men, which are every-where the conformists to the national religion. You that plead so well for the magistrate’s not examining whether those that conform, do it upon reason and conviction; but say it is ordinarily presumable they do so; wherein I beseech you do you put this care of men’s salvation that is placed in the magistrate? even in bringing them to outward conformity to the national religion, and there leaving them. And are the souls of all mankind the better provided for, if the magistrates of the world are vested with a power to use force to bring men to an outward profession of what they think the true religion, without any other care of their salvation? For thither, and no farther, reaches their use of force in your way of applying it.
Give me leave therefore to trifle with you once again, and to desire you to lay your hand upon your heart, and tell me what mankind shall gain by the change? For I hope by this time it is not so much a paradox to you, that if the magistrate be commissioned by God to take care of men’s souls, in your way it takes away the care of men’s souls from themselves in all those who have need of this assistance of the magistrate, i. e. all those who neglect to consider, and are averse to examination.
One thing more give me leave to observe to you, and that is, that taking care of men’s souls, or taking care that they neglect not their souls, and laying penalties on them to bring them in outward profession to the national religion, are two very different things: though in this place and elsewhere you confound them, and would have penal laws, requiring church-conformity, pass under the name of care of men’s souls; for that is the utmost your way of applying force does or can reach to; and what care is therein taken of men’s souls, may be seen by the lives and knowledge observable in not a few conformists. This is not said to lay any blame on conformity, but to show how improperly you speak, when you call penal laws made to promote conformity, and force used to bring men to it, a care of men’s souls; when even the exactest observers and most zealous advancers of conformity may be as irreligious, ignorant, and vicious, as any other men.
In the first treatise we heard not a syllable of any other use or end of force in matters of religion, but only to make men consider. But in your second, being forced to own bare-faced the punishing of men for their religion, you call it, “a vice to reject the true faith, and to refuse to worship God in decent ways prescribed by those to whom God has left the ordering it;” and tell us, that “it is a fault which may justly be punished by the magistrate, not to be of the national religion, where the true is the national religion.” To make this doctrine of persecution seem limited, and go down the better, to your telling us it must be only where the national religion is the true, and that the penalties must be moderate and convenient; both which limitations having no other judge but the magistrate, as I have showed elsewhere, are no limitations at all; you in words add a third, that in effect signifies just as much as the other two; and that is, “If there be sufficient means of instruction provided for all for instructing them in the truth of it;” of which provision the magistrate also being to be judge, your limitations leave him as free to punish all dissenters from his own religion, as any persecutor can wish: for what he will think sufficient means of instruction, it will be hard for you to say.
In the mean time, as far as may be gathered from what you say in another place, we will examine what you think sufficient provision for instructing men, which you have expressed in these words: “For if the magistrate provides sufficiently for the instruction of all his subjects in the true religion, and then requires them all under convenient penalties to hearken to the teachers and ministers of it, and to profess and exercise it with one accord under their direction in public assemblies.”—That which stumbles one at the first view of this your method of instruction, is, that you leave it uncertain, whether dissenters must first be instructed, and then profess; or else first profess, and then be instructed in the national religion. This you will do well to be a little more clear in the next time; for your mentioning no instruction but in public assemblies, and perhaps meaning it for a country where there is little other pains taken with dissenters but the confutation and condemnation of them in assemblies, where they are not; they must cease to be dissenters before they can partake of this sufficient means of instruction.
And now for those who do with one accord put themselves under the direction of the ministers of the national, and hearken to these teachers of the true religion: I ask whether one-half of those whereof most of the assemblies are made up, do or can, so ignorant as they are, understand what they hear from the pulpit? And then whether if a man did understand, what in many assemblies ordinarily is delivered once a week there for his instruction, he might not yet at threescore years end be ignorant of the grounds and principles of the christian religion? Your having so often in your letter mentioned sufficient provision of instruction, has forced these two short questions from me. But I forbear to tell you what I have heard very sober people, even of the church of England, say upon this occasion: For you have warned me already, that it shall be interpreted to be a quarrel to the clergy in general, if any thing shall be taken notice of in any of them worthy to be mended. I leave it to those whose profession it is to judge, whether divinity be a science wherein men may be instructed by an harangue or two once a week, upon any subject at a venture, which has no coherence with that which preceded, or that which is to follow, and this made to people that are ignorant of the first principles of it, and are not capable of understanding such discourses. I am sure he that should think this a sufficient means of instructing people in any other science, would at the end of seven or twenty years find them very little advanced in it; and bating perhaps some terms and phrases belonging to it, as far from all true and useful knowledge of it as when they first began. Whether it be so in matters of religion, those who have the opportunity to observe must judge; and if it appear that amongst those of the national church there be very many so ignorant, that there is nothing more frequent than for the ministers themselves to complain of it; it is manifest from those of the national church, whatever may be concluded from dissenters, that the means of instruction provided by the law are not sufficient; unless that be sufficient means of instruction, which men of sufficient capacity for other things, may live under many years, and yet know very little by. If you say it is for want of consideration, must not your remedy of force be used to bring them to it? Or how will the magistrate answer for it, if he use force to make dissenters consider, and let those of his own church perish for want of it?
This being all one can well understand by your sufficient means of instruction, as you there explain it, I do not see but men who have no aversion to be instructed, may yet fail of it, notwithstanding such a provision. Perhaps, by “exercising the true religion with one accord, under the direction of the ministers of it in public assemblies,” you mean something farther; but that not being an ordinary phrase, will need your explication to make it understood.