What degrees of punishment.
How much soever you have endeavoured to reform the doctrine of persecution to make it serve your turn, and give it the colour of care and zeal for the true religion in the country where alone you are concerned it should be made use of; yet you have laboured in vain, and done no more, but given the old engine a new varnish to set it off the better, and make it look less frightful: for, by what has been said in the foregoing chapters, I think it will appear, that if any magistrate have power to punish men in matters of religion, all have; and that dissenters from the national religion must be punished every-where or no-where. The horrid cruelties that in all ages, and of late in our view, have been committed under the name, and upon the account of religion, give so just an offence and abhorrence to all who have any remains, not only of religion, but humanity left, that the world is ashamed to own it. This objection therefore, as much as words or professions can do, you have laboured to fence against; and to exempt your design from the suspicion of any severities, you take care in every page almost to let us hear of moderate force, moderate penalties; but all in vain: and I doubt not but when this part too is examined, it will appear, that as you neither have, nor can limit the power of punishing to any distinct sort of magistrates, nor exempt from punishment the dissenters from any national religion; so neither have, nor can you, limit the punishment to any degree short of the highest, if you will use punishments at all in matters of religion. What you have done in this point besides giving us good words, I will now examine.
You tell me, “I have taken a liberty which will need pardon,” because I say, “You have plainly yielded the question by owning those greater severities to be improper and unfit.” But if I shall make it out, that those are as proper and fit as your moderate penalties; and that if you will use one, you must come to the other, as will appear from what you yourself say; whatever you may think, I shall not imagine other readers will conclude I have taken too great liberty, or shall much need pardon. For if, as you say in the next page, “authority may reasonably and justly use some degrees of force where it is needful;” I say they may also use any degree of force where it is needful. Now upon your grounds, fire and sword, tormenting and undoing, and those other punishments which you condemn, will be needful, even to torments of the highest severity, and be as necessary as those moderate penalties which you will not name. For I ask you, to what purpose do you use any degrees of force? Is it to prevail with men to do something that is in their power, or that is not? The latter I suppose you will not say, till your love of force is so increased, that you shall think it necessary to be made use of to produce impossibilities: if force then be to be used only to bring men to do what is in their power, what is the necessity you assign of it? only this, as I remember, viz. That “when gentle admonitions and earnest entreaties will not prevail, what other means is there left but force?” And I upon the same ground reply: If lesser degress of force will not prevail, what other means is there left but greater? If the lowest degree of force be necessary where gentler means will not prevail, because there is no other means left; higher degrees of force are necessary, where lower will not prevail, for the same reason. Unless you will say all degrees of force work alike; and that lower penalties prevail as much on men as greater, and will equally bring them to do what is in their power. If so, a philip on the forehead, or a farthing mulct, may be penalty enough to bring men to what you propose. But if you shall laugh at these, as being for their smallness insufficient, and therefore will think it necessary to increase them; I say, wherever experience shows any degree of force to be insufficient to prevail, there will be still the same necessity to increase it. For whereever the end is necessary, and force is the means, the only means left to procure it, both which you suppose in our case; there it will be found always necessary to increase the degrees of force, where the lower prove ineffectual, as well till you come to the highest as when you begin with the lowest. So that in your present case I do not wonder you use so many shifts, as I shall show by and by you do, to decline naming the highest degree of what you call moderate. If any degree be necessary, you cannot assign any one, condemn it in words as much as you please, which may not be so, and which you must not come to the use of. If there be no such necessity of force as will justify those higher degrees of it, which are severities you condemn; neither will it justify the use of your lower degrees.
If, as you tell us, “false religions prevail against the true, merely by the advantage they have in the corruption and pravity of human nature left to itself unbridled by authority;” if the not receiving the true religion be a mark and effect merely of the prevalency of the corruption of human nature; may not, nay, must not the magistrate, if less will not do, use his utmost force to bring men to the true religion? his force being given him to suppress that corruption; especially since you give it for a measure of the force to be used, that it must be “so much, as without which ordinarily they will not embrace the truth that must save them.” What ordinarily signifies here to make any determinate measure, is hard to guess; but signify it what it will, so much force must be used, as “without which men will not embrace the truth;” which, if it signify any thing intelligible, requires, that where lower degrees will not do, greater must be used, till you come to what will ordinarily do; but what that ordinarily is, no man can tell. If one man will not be wrought on by as little force as another, must not greater degrees of force be used to him? Shall the magistrate who is obliged to do what lies in him, be excused, for letting him be damned, without the use of all the means that were in his power? And will it be sufficient for him to plead, that though he did not all that lay in him, yet he did what ordinarily prevailed, or what prevailed on several others? Force, if that be the remedy, must be proportioned to the opposition. If the dose that has frequently wrought on others, will not purge a man whose life lies on it; must it not therefore be made sufficient and effectual, because it will be more than what is called ordinary? Or can any one say the physician has done his duty, who lets his patient in an extraordinary case perish in the use of only moderate remedies, and pronounces him incurable, before he has tried the utmost he can with the powerfullest remedies which are in his reach?
Having renounced loss of estate, corporal punishments, imprisonment, and such sort of severities, as unfit to be used in matters of religion; you ask, “Will it follow from hence that the magistrate has no right to use any force at all?” Yes, it will follow, till you give some answer to what I say in that place, viz. “That if you give up punishments of a man in his person, liberty and estate, I think we need not stand with you, for any punishments may be made use of.” But this you pass by without any notice. I doubt not but you will here think you have a ready answer, by telling me, you mean only “depriving men of their estates, maiming them with corporal punishments, starving and tormenting them in noisome prisons,” and other such severities which you have by name excepted; but lower penalties may yet be used: for penalties is the word you carefully use, and disclaim that of punishment, as if you disowned the thing. I wish you would tell us too by name what those lower penalties are you would have used, as well as by name you tell us those severities you disallow. They may not maim a man with corporal punishments; may they use any corporal punishments at all? They may not starve and torment them in noisome prisons for religion; that you condemn as much as I. May they put them in any prison at all? They may not deprive men of their estates; I suppose you mean their whole estates: May they take away half, or a quarter, or an hundreth part? It is strange you should be able to name the degrees of severity that will hinder more than promote the progress of religion, and cannot name those degrees that will promote rather than hinder it; that those who would take their measures by you, and follow your scheme, might know how to proceed so, as not to do more harm than good: for since you are so certain, that there are degrees of punishments or penalties that will do good, and other degrees of them that will do harm; ought you not to have told us, what that true degree is, or how it may be known, without which all your goodly scheme is of no use? For allowing all you have said to be as true as you would have it, no good can be done without showing the just measure of punishment to be used.
If the degree be too great, it will, you confess, do harm: can one then not err on the other hand, by using too little? If you say so, we are agreed, and I desire no better toleration. If therefore too great will do harm, and too little, in your opinion, will do no good; you ought to tell us the just mean. This I pressed upon you; whereof that the reader may be judge, I shall here trouble him with the repetition:
“There is a third thing, that you are as tender and reserved in, as either naming the criminals to be punished, or positively telling us the end for which they should be punished: and that is, with what sort of penalties, what degree of punishment, they should be forced. You are indeed so gracious to them, that you renounce the severities and penalties hitherto made use of. You tell us, they should be but moderate penalties. But if we ask you what are moderate penalties, you confess you cannot tell us: so that by moderate here, you yet mean nothing. You tell us, the outward force to be applied, should be duly tempered. But what that due temper is, you do not, or cannot say; and so, in effect, it signifies just nothing. Yet if in this you are not plain and direct, all the rest of your design will signify nothing. For it being to have some men, and to some end punished; yet if it cannot be found what punishment is to be used, it is, notwithstanding all you have said, utterly useless. You tell us modestly, That to determine precisely the just measure of the punishment, will require some consideration. If the faults were precisely determined, and could be proved, it would require no more consideration to determine the measure of the punishment in this, than it would in any other case, where those were known. But where the fault is undefined, and the guilt not to be proved, as I suppose it will be found in this present business of examining; it will without doubt require consideration to proportion the force to the design: just so much consideration as it will require to fit a coat to the moon, or proportion a shoe to the feet of those who inhabit her. For to proportion a punishment to a fault that you do not name, and so we in charity ought to think you do not yet know, and a fault that when you have named it, it will be impossible to be proved who are or are not guilty of it, will, I suppose, require as much consideration as to fit a shoe to feet whose size and shape are not known.
“However, you offer some measures whereby to regulate your punishments; which when they are looked into, will be found to be just as good as none, they being impossible to be any rule in the case. The first is, So much force, or such penalties as are ordinarily sufficient to prevail with men of common discretion, and not desperately perverse and obstinate, to weigh matters of religion carefully and impartially, and without which ordinarily they will not do this. Where it is to be observed:
“First, That who are these men of common discretion, is as hard to know, as to know what is a fit degree of punishment in the case; and so you do but regulate one uncertainty by another. Some men will be apt to think, that he who will not weigh matters of religion, which are of infinite concernment to him, without punishment, cannot in reason be thought a man of common discretion. Many women of common discretion enough to manage the ordinary affairs of their families, are not able to read a page in an ordinary author, or to understand and give an account what it means, when read to them. Many men of common discretion in their callings, are not able to judge when an argument is conclusive or no; much less to trace it through a long train of consequences. What penalties shall be sufficient to prevail with such, who upon examination, I fear, will not be found to make the least part of mankind, to examine and weigh matters of religion carefully and impartially? The law allows all to have common discretion, for whom it has not provided guardians or Bedlam. So that, in effect, your men of common discretion, are all men not judged idiots or madmen: and penalties sufficient to prevail with men of common discretion, are penalties sufficient to prevail with all men but idiots and madmen; which what a measure it is to regulate penalties by, let all men of common discretion judge.
“Secondly, you may be pleased to consider, that all men of the same degree of discretion, are not apt to be moved by the same degree of penalties. Some are of a more yielding, some of a more stiff temper; and what is sufficient to prevail on one, is not half enough to move the other; though both men of common discretion. So that common discretion will be here of no use to determine the measure of punishment; especially, when in the same clause you except men desperately perverse and obstinate; who are as hard to be known, as what you seek, viz. the just proportions of punishments necessary to prevail with men to consider, examine, and weigh matters of religion: wherein, if a man tells you he has considered, he has weighed, he has examined, and so goes on in his former course, it is impossible for you ever to know whether he has done his duty, or whether he be desperately perverse and obstinate. So that this exception signifies just nothing.
“There are many things in your use of force and penalties, different from any I ever met with elsewhere. One of them, this clause of yours concerning the measure of punishments, now under consideration, offers me: wherein you proportion your punishments only to the yielding and corrigible, not to the perverse and obstinate; contrary to the common discretion which has hitherto made laws in other cases, which levels the punishments against refractory offenders, and never spares them because they are obstinate. This however I will not blame as an oversight in you. Your new method, which aims at such impracticable and inconsistent things as laws cannot bear, nor penalties be uselful to, forced you to it. The uselessness, absurdity, and unreasonableness of great severities, you had acknowledged in the foregoing paragraphs: Dissenters you would have brought to consider by moderate penalties. They lie under them; but whether they have considered or no, for that you cannot tell, they still continue dissenters. What is to be done now? Why, the incurable are to be left to God, as you tell us. Your punishments were not meant to prevail on the desperately perverse and obstinate, as you tell us here. And so whatever be the success, your punishments are however justified.”
The fulness of your answer to my question, “With what punishments?” made you possibly pass by these two or three pages without making any particular reply to any thing I said in them: we will therefore examine that answer of yours, where you tell us, “That having in your answer declared that you take the severities so often mentioned (which either destroy men, or make them miserable) to be utterly unapt and improper (for reasons there given) to bring men to embrace the truth that must save them: but just how far within those bounds that force extends itself, which is really serviceable to that end, you do not presume to determine.” To determine how far moderate force reaches, when it is necessary to your business that it should be determined, is not presuming: you might with more reason have called it presuming to talk of moderate penalties, and not to be able to determine what you mean by them; or to promise, as you do, that you will tell plainly and directly, with what punishments; and here to tell us, you do not presume to determine. But you give a reason for this modesty of yours, in what follows, where you tell me, I have not shown any cause why you should. And yet you may find in what is above repeated to you, these words, “If in this you are not plain and direct, all the rest of your design will signify nothing.” But had I failed in showing any cause why you should; and your charity would not enlighten us, unless driven by my reasons; I dare say yet, if I have not shown any cause why you should determine in this point, I can show a cause why you should not. For I will be answerable to you, that you cannot name any degree of punishment, which will not be either so great, as to come among those you condemn, and show what your moderation, what your aversion to persecution is; or else too little to attain those ends for which you propose it. But whatever you tell me, that I have shown no cause why you should determine, I thought it might have passed for a cause why you should determine more particularly, that, as you will find in those pages, I had proved that the measures you offer, whereby to regulate your punishments, are just as good as none.
Your measures in your “argument considered,” and which you repeat here again, are in these words: “so much force, or such penalties as are ordinarily sufficient to prevail with men of common discretion, and not desperately perverse, to weigh matters of religion carefully and impartially, and without which ordinarily they will not do this: so much force or such penalties may fitly and reasonably be used for the promoting true religion in the world, and the salvation of souls. And what just exception this is liable to, you do not understand.” Some of the exceptions it is liable to, you might have seen in what I have here again caused to be reprinted, if you had thought them worth your notice. But you go on to tell us here, “that when you speak of men of common discretion, and not desperately perverse and obstinate, you think it is plain enough, that by common discretion you exclude not idiots only, and such as we usually call madmen, but likewise the desperately perverse and obstinate, who perhaps may well enough deserve that name, though they be not wont to be sent to Bedlam.”
Whether by this you have at all taken off the difficulty, and shown your measure to be any at all in the use of force, I leave the reader to judge. I asked, since great ones are unfit, what degrees of punishment or force are to be used? You answer, “So much force, and such penalties as are ordinarily sufficient to prevail with men of ordinary discretion.” I tell you it is as hard to know who those men of common discretion are, as what degree of punishment you would have used; unless we will take the “determination of the law, which allows all to have common discretion, for whom it has not provided guardians or Bedlam:” so that in effect, your men of common discretion are all men not judged idiots or madmen. To clear this, you tell us, “when you speak of men of common discretion, and not desperately perverse and obstinate, you think it is plain enough, by common discretion you exclude not idiots only, and such as are usually called madmen, but likewise the desperately perverse and obstinate.” It may be you did, for you best know what you meant in writing; but if by men of common discretion, you excluded the desperately perverse and obstinate, let us put what you meant by the words, men of common discretion, in the place of those words themselves, and then, according to your meaning, your rule stands thus: penalties ordinarily sufficient to prevail with men not desperately perverse and obstinate, and with men not desperately perverse and obstinate: so that at last, by men of common discretion, either you excluded only idiots and madmen; or if we must take your word for it, that by them you excluded likewise the desperately perverse and obstinate, and so meant something else; it is plain, you meant only a very useless and insignificant tautology.
You go on, and tell us, “If the penalties you speak of, be intended for the curing men’s unreasonable prejudices and refractoriness against the true religion, then the reason why the desperately perverse and obstinate are not to be regarded in measuring these penalties, is very apparent. For as remedies are not provided for the incurable, so in the preparing and tempering them, regard is to be had only to those for whom they are designed.” Which, true or false, is nothing to the purpose, in a place where you profess to inform us, what punishments are to be used. We are inquiring who are the desperately perverse and obstinate, and not whether they are to be punished or no. You pretend to give us a rule to know what degrees of force are to be used, and tell us, “it is so much as is ordinarily sufficient to prevail with men of common discretion, and not desperately perverse and obstinate.” We again ask, who are your men of common discretion? You tell us, “such as are not madmen or idiots, or desperately perverse and obstinate.” Very well, but who are those desperately perverse and obstinate, how shall we know them? and to this you tell us, “they are not to be regarded in measuring these penalties.” Whereby certainly we have got a plain measure of your moderate penalties. No, not yet; you go on in your next paragraph to perfect it, where you say, “To prevent a little cavil, it may be needful to note that there are degrees of perverseness and obstinacy, and that men may be perverse and obstinate without being desperately so.” So then now we have your measure complete; and to determine the just degrees of punishments, and to clear up the doubt, who are the desperately perverse and obstinate, we need but be told that “there are degrees of perverseness and obstinacy;” and that men may be perverse and obstinate without being desperately so: and that therefore “some perverse and obstinate persons may be thought curable, though such as are desperately so, cannot.” But does all this tell us, who are the desperately perverse and obstinate? which is the thing we want to be informed in; nor till you have told us that, have you removed the objection.
But if by desperately perverse and obstinate, you will tell us, you meant those, that are not wrought upon by your moderate penalties, as you seem to intimate in your reason why the desperately perverse and obstinate are not to be regarded in measuring these penalties: “for, say you, as remedies are not provided for the incurable; so in preparing and tempering them, regard is to be had only to those for whom they are designed.” So that by the desperately perverse and obstinate, you will perhaps say, it was plain you meant the incurable; for you ordinarily shift off the doubtfulness of one place, by appealing to as doubtful an expression in another. If you say then, that by desperately perverse and obstinate, you mean incurable; I ask you again by what incurable? by your lower degrees of force? For I hope where force is proper to work, those who are not wrought on by lower degrees, may yet be by higher. If you mean so, then your answer will amount to thus much: moderate penalties are such as are sufficient to prevail on those who are not desperately perverse and obstinate. The desperately perverse and obstinate are those who are incurable, and the incurable are those on whom moderate penalties are not sufficient to prevail: whereby at last we have got a sure measure of what are moderate penalties; just such an one, as if having a sovereign universal medicine put into your hand, which will never fail if you can hit the right dose, which the inventor tells you must be moderate: you should ask him what was the moderate quantity it is to be given in; and he should answer, in such a quantity as was ordinarily sufficient to work on common constitutions, and not desperately perverse and obstinate. And to your asking again, who were of desperately perverse and obstinate constitutions? it should be answered, those that were incurable. And who were incurable? Those whom a moderate quantity would not work on. And thus to your satisfaction you know the moderate dose by the desperately perverse and obstinate; and the desperately perverse and obstinate by being incurable; and the incurable by the moderate dose. For if, as you say, remedies are not provided for the incurable, and none but moderate penalties are to be provided, is it not plain, that you mean, that all that will not be wrought on by your moderate penalties, are in your sense incurable!
To ease you, sir, of justifying yourself, and showing that I have mistaken you, do but tell us positively what in penalties is the highest degree of moderate; who are desperately perverse and obstinate; or who are incurable; without this relative and circular way of defining one by the other; and I will yield myself to have mistaken you, as much as you please.
If by incurable, you mean such as no penalties, no punishments, no force is sufficient to work on; then your measure of moderate penalties will be this, that they are such as are sufficient to prevail with men not incurable, i. e. who cannot be prevailed on by any punishments, any force whatsoever; which will be a measure of moderate punishments, which (whatsoever you do) some will be very apt to approve of.
But let us suppose by these marks, since you will afford us no better, that we can find who are desperately perverse and obstinate, we are yet as far as ever from finding the measures of your moderate punishments, till it can be known, what degree of force it is, that is ordinarily sufficient to prevail with all that are men of common discretion, and not desperately perverse and obstinate; for you are told, that all men of the same degree of discretion are not apt to be moved with the same degree of penalties: but to this too you answer nothing, and so we are still without any rule or means of knowing how to adjust your punishments, that being ordinarily sufficient to prevail upon one, the double whereof is not ordinarily sufficient to prevail on another.
I tell you in the same place, “that you have given us in another place, something like another boundary to your moderate penalties: but when examined, it proves just like the rest, amusing us only with good words, so put together as to have no direct meaning; an art very much in use amongst some sort of learned men: the words are these: such penalties as may not tempt persons who have any concern for their eternal salvation (and those who have none, ought not to be considered) to renounce a religion which they believe to be true, or profess one which they do not believe to be so. If by any concern, you mean such as men ought to have for their eternal salvation; by this rule you may make your punishments as great as you please; and all the severities you have disclaimed may be brought in play again: for none of those will be able to make a man, who is truly concerned for his eternal salvation, renounce a religion he believes to be true, or profess one he does not believe to be so. If by those who have any concern, you mean such, who have some faint wishes for happiness hereafter, and would be glad to have things go well with them in the other world, but will venture nothing in this world for it; these the moderatest punishments you can imagine, will make to change their religion. If by any concern, you mean whatever may be between these two; the degrees are so infinite, that to proportion your punishments by that, is to have no measure of them at all.” To which all the reply I can find is only this, “that there are degrees of carelessness in men of their salvation, as well as of concern for it. So that such as have some concern for their salvation may yet be careless of it to a great degree. And therefore if those who have any concern for their salvation, deserve regard and pity; then so may some careless persons: though those who have no concern for their salvation, deserve not to be considered, which spoils a little harangue you give us.” P. 382. If you think this to be an answer to what I said, or that it can satisfy one concerning the way of knowing what degrees of punishment are to be used, pray tell us so. The inquiry is “what degrees of punishment will tempt a man who has any concern for his eternal salvation, to renounce a religion he believes to be true?” And it is answered, “There are degrees of carelessness in men of their salvation, as well as concern for it.” A happy discovery: what is the use of it? “So that such as have some concern for their salvation, may yet be careless of it to a great degree.” Very true: by this we may know what degree of force is to be used. No, not a word of that, but the inference is, “and therefore if those who have any concern for their salvation, deserve regard and pity, then so may some careless persons; though those who have no concern for their salvation, deserve not to be considered.” And by this time we know what degree of force will make a man, who has any concern for his salvation, renounce a religion he believes true, and profess one he does not believe to be so. This might do well at cross questions: but you are satisfied with what you have done, and what that is, you tell me in the next words, “which spoils a little harangue of yours given us,” P. 382. The harangue I suppose is contained in these words:
“One thing I cannot but take notice of in this passage before I leave it: and that is that you say here, those who have no concern for their salvation, deserve not to be considered. In other parts of your letter you pretend to have compassion on the careless, and provide remedies for them: but here of a sudden your charity fails you, and you give them up to eternal perdition, without the least regard, the least pity, and say, they deserve not to be considered. Our Saviour’s rule was, the sick and not the whole need a physician: your rule here is, those that are careless are not to be considered, but are to be left to themselves. This would seem strange, if one did not observe what drew you to it. You perceived that if the magistrate was to use no punishments, but such as would make nobody change their religion, he was to use none at all: for the careless would be brought to the national church with any slight punishments; and when they are once there, you are it seems satisfied, and look no farther after them. So that by your own measures, if the careless, and those who have no concern for their eternal salvation, are to be regarded and taken care of, if the salvation of their souls is to be promoted, there are to be no punishments to be used at all; and therefore you leave them out as not to be considered.”
What you have said, is so far from spoiling that harangue, as you are pleased to call it, that you having nothing else to say to it, allow what is laid to your charge in it.
You wind up all concerning the measures of your force in these words: “And as those medicines are thought safe and adviseable, which do ordinarily cure, though not always (as none do); so those penalties or punishments, which are ordinarily found sufficient (as well as necessary) for the ends for which they are designed, may fitly and reasonably be used for the compassing these ends.” Here your ordinarily comes to your help again; and here one would think that you meant such as cure sometimes, not always; some, though not all: and in this sense will not the utmost severities come within your rule? For can you say, if punishments are to be used to prevail on any, that the greater will, where lower fail, prevail on none? At least can you be sure of it till they have been tried for the compassing these ends? which, as we shall see in another place, you have assigned various enough. I shall only take notice of two or three often repeated by you, and those are to make men hear, to make men consider, to make men consider as they ought, i. e. as you explain it, to make men consider so, as not to reject. The greatness of the force then according to this measure, must be sufficient to make men hear, sufficient to make men consider, and sufficient to make men embrace the true religion.
And now the magistrate has all your rules about the measures of punishments to be used, and may, confidently and safely, go to work to establish it by a law; for he having these marks to guide him, that they must be great enough ordinarily to prevail with those who are not idiots or madmen, nor desperately perverse and obstinate; great enough ordinarily to prevail with men to hear, consider, and embrace the true religion, and yet not so great as might tempt persons, who have any concern for their eternal salvation, to renounce a religion which they believe to be true, or profess one which they do not believe to be so: do you not think you have sufficiently instructed him in your meaning, and enabled him to find the just temper of his punishments according to your scheme, neither too much, nor too little? But however you may be satisfied with them, I suppose others, when it comes to be put in practice, will by these measures, which are all I can find in your scheme, be scarce able to find, what are the punishments you would have used.
In Eutopia there is a medicine called hiera picra, which it is supposed would cure a troublesome disease of that country: but it is not to be given, but in the dose prescribed by the law, and in adjusting the dose lies all the skill: for, if you give too much, it heightens the distemper, and spreads the mortal contagion; and if too little it does no good at all. With this difficulty the law-makers have been perplexed these many ages, and could not light on the right dose, that would work the cure, till lately there came an undertaker, who would show them how they could not mistake. He bid them then prescribe so much, as would ordinarily be effectual upon all that were not idiots or madmen, or in whom the humour was not desperately perverse and obstinate, to produce the end for which it was designed; but not so much as would make a man in health, who had any concern for his life, fall into a mortal disease. These were good words, and he was rewarded for them: but when by them they came to fix the dose, they could not tell whether it ought to be a grain, a dram, or an ounce, or an whole pound, any more than before; and so the dose of their hiera picra, notwithstanding this gentleman’s pains, is as uncertain, and that sovereign remedy as useless as ever it was.
In the next paragraph you tell us, “You do not see what more can be required to justify the rule here given.” So quick a sight needs no spectacles. “For if I demand that it should express what penalties particularly are such as it says may fitly and reasonably be used; this I must give you leave to tell me is a very unreasonable demand.” It is an unreasonable demand, if your rule be such, that by it I may know without any more ado the particular penalties that are fit; otherwise it is not unreasonable to demand them by name, if your marks be not sufficient to know them by. But let us hear your reason, “For what rule is there that expresses the particulars that agree with it?” And it is an admirable rule with which one can find no particulars that agree; for I challenge you to instance in one; “a rule, you say, is intended for a common measure by which particulars are to be examined, and therefore must necessarily be general.” So general, loose, and inconsistent, that no particulars can be examined by it: for again I challenge you, or any man living, to measure out any punishment by this your common measure, and establish it by a law. You go on; “And those to whom it is given are supposed to be able to apply it, and to judge of particulars by it. Nay it is often seen that they are better able to do this than those who give it: and so it is in the present case; the rule hereby laid down is that by which you suppose governors and law-givers ought to examine the penalties they use for the promoting the true religion, and the salvation of souls.” Such a rule it ought to be I grant, and such an one is desired: but that yours is such a rule as magistrates can take any measure by, for the punishments they are to settle by law, is denied, and you are again desired to show. You proceed: “But certainly no man doubts but their prudence and experience enables them to use and apply it better than other men, and to judge more exactly what penalties do agree with it, and what do not; and therefore you think I must excuse you if you do not take upon you to teach them what it becomes you rather to learn from them.” If we are not to doubt but their prudence and experience enables magistrates to judge best what penalties are fit, you have indeed given us at last a way to know the measure of punishments to be used: but it is such an one as puts an end to your distinction of moderate penalties: for no magistrates that I know, when they once began to use force to bring men to their religion, ever stopped till they came to some of those severities you condemn; and if you pretend to teach them moderation for the future, with hopes to succeed; you ought to have showed them the just bounds, beyond which they ought not to go, in a model so wholly new, and besides all experience. But if it be to be determined by their prudence and experience, whatever degrees of force they shall use, will always be the right.
Law-makers and governors however beholden to you for your good opinion of their prudence and experience, yet have no reason to thank you for your compliment, by giving such an exercise to their prudence and experience as to put it upon them to find out the just measures of punishments, by rules you give them; which are such, that neither yourself, nor any-body else, can find out any measures by. The other part of your compliment will be suspected not to be so much out of your abundant respect to law-makers and governors, as out of the great regard you have to yourself; for you in vain pretend you forbear to name any particular punishments, because you will not take upon you to teach governors and law-makers; when you yourself own in the same breath, that you are laying down rules by which they are to proceed in the use of penalties for promoting religion; which is little different from teaching: and your whole book is nothing else but about the magistrate’s power and duty. I excuse you therefore for your own sake from naming any particular punishments by your rules: for you have a right to it, as all men have a right to be excused from doing what is impossible to be done.
Since therefore you grant that those severities you have named, “are more apt to hinder than promote true religion;” and you cannot assign any measures of punishment, short of those great ones you have condemned, which are fit to promote it; I think it argument enough to prove against you, that no punishments are fit; till you have showed some others, either by name, or such marks as they may be certainly known by, which are fit to promote the true religion: and therefore nothing you have said there, or any-where else, will serve to show that “it is with little reason, as you tell me, that I say, that if your indirect and at a distance serviceableness may authorize the magistrate to use force in religion, all the cruelties used by the heathens against christians, by papists against protestants, and all the persecuting of christians one amongst another, are all justifiable.” To which you add, “Not to take notice at present how oddly it sounds, that that which authorizes the magistrates to use moderate penalties to promote the true religion, should justify all the cruelties that ever were used to promote heathenism or popery.”
As oddly as it sounds to you, it will be evidently true, as long as that which authorizes one, authorizes all magistrates of any religion which they believe to be true, to use force to promote it: and as long as you cannot assign any bounds to your moderate punishments, short of those great ones; which you therefore are not able to do, because your principles, whatever your words deny, will carry you to those degrees of severity, which in profession you condemn: and this, whatever you do, I dare say every considering reader besides you will plainly see. So that this imputation is not so unreasonable; since it is evident, that you must either renounce all punishments whatsoever in religion, or make use of those you condemn: for in the next page you tell us, “That all who have sufficient means of instruction provided for them, may justly be punished for not being of the national religion, where the true is the national religion; because it is a fault in all such not to be of the national religion.” In England then, for example, not to be of the national religion is a fault, and a fault to be punished by the magistrate. The magistrate to cure this fault lays, on those who dissent, a lower degree of penalties, a fine of 1d. per month. This proving insufficient, what is the magistrate to do? If he be obliged, as you say, to amend this fault by penalties, and that low one of 1d. per month be not sufficient to procure its amendment, is he not to increase the penalty? He therefore doubles the fine to 2d. per month. This too proves ineffectual, and therefore it is still for the same reason doubled, till it comes to 1s. 5s. 10l. 100l. 1000l. None of these penalties working, but yet by being constantly levied, leaving the delinquents no longer able to pay; imprisonment and other corporal punishments follow to enforce an obedience; till at last this gradual increase of penalties and force, each degree whereof wrought on some few, rises to the highest severities against those who stand out. For the magistrate, who is obliged to correct this vice, as you call it, and to do what in him lies to cure this fault, which opposes their salvation; and who, (if I mistake not, you tell us,) is answerable for all that may follow from his neglect; had no reason to raise the fine from 1d. to 2d. but because the first was ineffectual: and if that were a sufficient reason for raising from the first to the second degree; why is it not as sufficient to proceed from the second to the third, and so gradually on? I would fain have any one show me where, and upon what ground, such a gradual increase of force can stop, till it come to the utmost extremities. If therefore dissenting from the church of England be a fault to be punished by the magistrate, I desire you to tell me, where he shall hold his hand; to name the sort or degree of punishment, beyond which he ought not to go in the use of force, to cure them of that fault, and bring them to conformity. Till you have done that, you might have spared that paragraph, where you say, “With what ingenuity I draw you in to condemn force in general, only because you acknowledge the ill effects of prosecuting men with fire and sword, &c. you may leave every man to judge.” And I leave whom you will to judge, whether from your own principles it does not unavoidably follow, that if you condemn any penalties you must condemn all, as I have shown; if you will retain any, you must retain all: you must either take or leave all together. For, as I have said, and you deny not, “Where there is no fault, there no punishment is moderate;” so I add, Where there is a fault to be corrected by the magistrate’s force, there no degree of force, which is ineffectual, and not sufficient to amend it, can be immoderate; especially if it be a fault of great moment in its consequences, as certainly that must be, which draws after it the loss of men’s eternal happiness.
You will, it is likely, be ready to say here again, (for a good subterfuge is never to be forsaken) that you except the “desperately perverse and obstinate.” I desire to know for what reason you except them? Is it because they cease to be faulty? Next I ask you, who are in your sense the desperately perverse and obstinate? Those that 1s. or 5s. or 5l. or 100l. or no fine will work upon? Those who can bear loss of estate, but not loss of liberty? or loss of liberty and estate, but not corporal pains and torments? or all this but not loss of life? For to these degrees do men differently stand out. And since there are men wrought on by the approaches of fire and faggot, which other degrees of severity could not prevail with; where will you bound your desperately perverse and obstinate? The king of France, though you will allow him not to have truth of his side, yet when he came to dragooning, found few so desperately perverse and obstinate, as not to be wrought on. And why should truth, which in your opinion wants force, and nothing but force, to help it, not have the assistance of those degrees of force, when less will not do to make it prevail, which are able to bring men over to false religions, which have no light and strength of their own to help them? You will do well therefore to consider whether your name of severities, in opposition to the moderate punishments you speak of, has or can do you any service; whether the distinction between compelling and coactive power, be of any use or difference at all. For you deny the magistrate to have power to compel; and you contend for his use of his coactive power; which will then be a good distinction, when you can find a way to use coactive, or, which is the same, compelling power, without compulsion. I desire you also to consider, if in matters of religion punishments are to be employed, because they may be useful; whether you can stop at any degree that is ineffectual to the end which you propose, let that end be what it will. If it be barely to gain a hearing, as in some places you seem to say; I think for that small punishments will generally prevail, and you do well to put that and moderate penalties together. If it be to make men consider, as in other places you speak; you cannot tell when you have obtained that end. But if your end be, which you seem most to insist on, to make men consider as they ought, i. e. till they embrace; there are many on whom all your moderate penalties, all under those severities you condemn, are too weak to prevail. So that you must either confess, not considering so as to “embrace the true religion, i. e. not considering as one ought,” is no fault to be punished by the coactive force of the magistrate; or else you must resume those severities which you have renounced; choose you whether of the two you please.
Therefore it was not so much at random that I said, “That thither at last persecution must come.” Indeed from what you had said of falling under the stroke of the sword, which was nothing to the purpose; I added, “That if by that you meant any thing to the business in hand, you seem to have a reserve for greater punishments, when less are not sufficient to bring men to be convinced.” Which hath produced this warm reply of yours: “And will you ever pretend to conscience or modesty after this? For I beseech you, sir, what words could I have used more express or effectual to signify, that in my opinion no dissenters from the true religion ought to be punished with the sword, but such as choose rather to rebel against the magistrate, than to submit to lesser penalties? (For how any should refuse to submit to those penalties, but by rebelling against the magistrate, I suppose you will not undertake to tell me.) It was for this very purpose that I used those words to prevent cavils; (as I was then so simple as to think I might:) and I dare appeal to any man of common sense and common honesty, whether they are capable of any other meaning. And yet the very thing which I so plainly disclaim in them you pretend (without so much as offering to show how) to collect from them. Thither, you say, at last, viz. to the taking away men’s lives for the saving of their souls, persecution must come: as you fear, notwithstanding my talk of moderate punishments, I myself intimate in those words: and if I mean any thing in them to the business in hand, I seem to have a reserve for greater punishments, when lesser are not sufficient to bring men to be convinced. Sir, I should expect fairer dealing from one of your pagans or mahometans. But I shall only add, that I would never wish that any man who has undertaken a bad cause should more plainly confess it than by serving it, as here (and not here only) you serve yours.” Good sir, be not so angry, lest to observing men you increase the suspicion. One may, without forfeiture of modesty or conscience, fear what men’s principles threaten, though their words disclaim it. Nonconformity to the national, when it is the true religion, as in England, is a fault, a vice, say you, to be corrected by the coactive power of the magistrate. If so, and force be the proper remedy, he must increase it, till it be strong enough to work the cure; and must not neglect his duty; for so you make it, when he has force enough in his hand to make this remedy more powerful. For wherever force is proper to work on men, and bring them to a compliance, its not producing that effect can only be imputed to its being too little: and if so, whither at last must it come, but to the late methods of procuring conformity, and as his most christian majesty called it, saving of souls, in France, or severities like them, when more moderate ones cannot produce it? For to continue inefficacious penalties, insufficient upon trial to master the fault they are applied to, is unjustifiable cruelty; and that which nobody can have a right to use, it serving only to disease and harm people, without amending them: for you tell us, they should be such penalties as should make them uneasy.
He that should vex and pain a sore you had, with frequent dressing it with some moderate, painful, but inefficacious plaister, that promoted not the cure; would justly be thought, not only an ignorant, but a dishonest surgeon. If you are in the surgeon’s hands, and his help is requisite, and the cure that way to be wrought; corrosives and fire are the most merciful, as well as only justifiable way of cure, when the case needs them. And therefore I hope I may still pretend to modesty and conscience, though I should have thought you so rational a man, as to be led by your own principles; and so honest, charitable, and zealous for the salvation of men’s souls, as not to vex and disease them with inefficacious remedies to no purpose, and let them miss of salvation, for want of more vigorous prosecutions. For if conformity to the church of England be necessary to salvation; for else what necessity can you pretend of punishing men at all to bring them to it? it is cruelty to their souls (if you have authority for any such means) to use some, and not to use sufficient force to bring them to conform. And I dare say you are satisfied that the French discipline of dragooning would have made many in England conformists, whom your lower penalties will not prevail on to be so.
But to inform you that my apprehensions were not so wholly out of the way, I beseech you to read here what you have writ in these words; “For how confidently soever you tell me here, that it is more than I can say for my political punishments, that they were ever useful for the promoting true religion; I appeal to all observing persons, whether wherever true religion or sound christianity has been nationally received and established by moderate penal laws, it has not always lost ground by the relaxation of those laws: whether sects and heresies, (even the wildest and most absurd) and even epicurism and atheism, have not continually thereupon spread themselves; and whether the very spirit and life of christianity has not sensibly decayed, as well as the number of sound professors of it been daily lessened upon it: not to speak of what at this time our eyes cannot but see, for fear of giving offence; though I hope it will be none to any, that have a just concern for truth and piety, to take notice of the books and pamphlets which now fly so thick about this kingdom, manifestly tending to the multiplying of sects and divisions, and even to the promoting of scepticism in religion among us.” Here you bemoan the decaying state of religion amongst us at present, by reason of taking off the penalties from protestant dissenters: and I beseech you what penalties were they? Such whereby many have been ruined in their fortunes; such whereby many have lost their liberties, and some their lives in prisons; such as have sent some into banishment, stripped of all they had. These were the penal laws by which the national religion was established in England; and these you call moderate: for you say, “Wherever true religion or sound christianity has been nationally received and established by moderate penal laws;” and I hope you do not here exclude England from having its religion so established by law, which we so often hear of; or if to serve the present occasion you should, would you also deny, that in the following words you speak of the present relaxation in England? where after your appeal to all observing people for the dismal consequences, which you suppose to have every-where followed from such relaxations, you add these pathetical words, “Not to speak of what at this time our eyes cannot but see, for fear of giving offence:” so heavy does the present relaxation sit on your mind; which since it is of penal laws you call moderate, I shall show you what they are.
In the first year of queen Elizabeth, there was a penalty of 1s. a Sunday and holy-day laid upon every one who came not to the common prayer then established. This penalty of 1s. a time not prevailing, as was desired, in the twenty-third year of her reign was increased to 20l. a month, and imprisonment for nonpayment within three months after judgment given. In the twenty-ninth year of Elizabeth, to draw this yet closer, and make it more forcible, it was enacted, That whoever upon one conviction did not continue to pay on the 20l. per month, without any other conviction or proceedings against him till he submitted and conformed, should forfeit all his goods, and two-thirds of his land for his life. But this being not yet thought sufficient, it was in the thirty-fifth year of that queen completed, and the moderate penal laws, upon which our national religion was established, and whose relaxation you cannot bear, but from thence date the decay of the very spirit and life of christianity, were brought to perfection. For then going to conventicles, or a month’s absence from church, was to be punished with imprisonment, till the offender conformed; and if he conformed not within three months, then he was to abjure the realm, and forfeit all his goods and chattels for ever, and his lands and tenements during his life: and if he would not abjure, or, abjuring, did not depart the realm within a time prefixed, or returned again, he was to suffer death as a felon. And thus your moderate penal laws stood for the established religion, till their penalties were, in respect of protestant dissenters, lately taken off. And now let the reader judge whether your pretence to moderate punishments, or my suspicion of what a man of your principles might have in store for dissenters, have more of modesty or conscience in it; since you openly declare your regret for the taking away such an establishment, as by the gradual increase of penalties reached men’s estates, liberties, and lives; and which you must be presumed to allow and approve of, till you tell us plainly, where, according to your measures, those penalties should, or, according to your principles, they could, have stopped.
You tell us, That where this only true religion, viz. of the church of England, is received, other religions ought “to be discouraged in some measure.” A pretty expression for undoing, imprisonment, banishment; for those have been some of the discouragements given to dissenters here in England. You will again, no doubt, cry aloud, that you tell me you condemn these as much as I do. If you heartily condemn them, I wonder you should say so little to discourage them; I wonder you are so silent in representing to the magistrate the unlawfulness and danger of using them, in a discourse where you are treating of the magistrate’s power and duty in matters of religion; especially this being the side on which, as far as we may guess by experience, their prudence is aptest to err: but your modesty, you know, leaves all to the magistrates prudence and experience on that side, though you over and over again encourage them not to neglect their duty in the use of force, to which you set no bounds.
You tell us, “Certainly no man doubts but the prudence and experience of governors and law-givers enables them to use and apply it,” viz. your rule for the measure of punishments, which I have showed to be no rule at all: “And to judge more exactly what penalties do agree with it; and therefore you must be excused if you do not take upon you to teach them what it becomes you rather to learn from them.” If your modesty be such, and you then did what became you, you could not but learn from your governors and law-givers, and so be satisfied till within this year or two, that those penalties which they measured out for the establishment of the true religion, though they reached to men’s estates, liberties, and lives, were such as were fit. But what you have learned of your lawmakers and governors since the relaxation, or what opinion you have of their experience and prudence now, is not so easy to say.
Perhaps you will say again, that you have in express words declared against “fire and sword, loss of estate, maiming with corporal punishments, starving and tormenting in noisome prisons;” and one cannot either in modesty or conscience disbelieve you: yet in the same letter you with sorrow and regret speak of the relaxation of such penalties laid on nonconformity, by which men have lost their estates, liberties, and lives too, in noisome prisons, and in this too must we not believe you? I dare say, there are very few who read that passage of yours, so feelingly it is penned, who want modesty or conscience to believe you therein to be in earnest; and the rather, because what drops from men by chance, when they are not upon their guard, is always thought the best interpretation of their thoughts.
You name “loss of estate, of liberty, and tormenting, which is corporal punishment, as if you were against them:” certainly you know what you meant by these words, when you said, you condemned them; was it any degree of loss of liberty or estate, any degree of corporal punishment that you condemned, or only the utmost, or some degree between these? unless you had then some meaning, and unless you please to tell us, what that meaning was; where it is, that in your opinion the magistrate ought to stop; who can believe you are in earnest? This I think you may and ought to do for our information in your system, without any apprehension that governors and law-givers will deem themselves much taught by you, which your modesty makes you so cautious of. Whilst you refuse to do this, and keep yourself under the mask of moderate, convenient, and sufficient force and penalties, and other such-like uncertain and undetermined punishments, I think a conscientious and sober dissenter might expect fairer dealing from one of my pagans or mahometans, as you please to call them, than from one, who so professes moderation, that what degrees of force, what kind of punishments will satisfy him, he either knows not, or will not declare. For your moderate and convenient may, when you come to interpret them, signify what punishments you please: for the cure being to be wrought by force, that will be convenient, which the stubbornness of the evil requires; and that moderate, which is but enough to work the cure. And therefore I shall return your own compliment. “That I would never wish that any man who has undertaken a bad cause, should more plainly confess it than by serving it, as here (and not here only) you serve yours.” I should beg your pardon for this sort of language, were it not your own. And what right you have to it, the skill you show in the management of general and doubtful words and expressions, of uncertain and undetermined signification, will, I doubt not, abundantly convince the reader. An instance we have in the argument before us; for I appeal to any sober man, who shall carefully read what you write, where you pretend to tell the world plainly and directly what punishments are to be used by your scheme, whether, after having weighed all you say concerning that matter, he can tell, what a nonconformist is to expect from you, or find any thing but such acuteness and strength as lie in the uncertainty and reserve of your way of talking; which whether it be any way suited to your modesty and conscience, where you have undertaken to tell us what the punishments are, whereby you would have men brought to embrace the true religion, I leave you to consider.
If having said, “Whether true religion or sound christianity has been nationally received and established by moderate penal laws;” you shall for your defence of the establishment of the religion in England by law, say, which is all is left you to say, that though such severe laws were made, yet it was only by the execution of moderate penal laws, that it was established and supported: but that those severe laws that touched men’s estates, liberties, and lives, were never put in execution. Why then do you so seriously bemoan the loss of them? But I advise you not to make use of that plea, for there are examples in the memory of hundreds now living, of every one of those laws of queen Elizabeth being put in execution; and pray remember, if by denying it you require this truth to be made good, it is you that force the publishing of a catalogue of men that have lost their estates, liberties, and lives in prison, which it would be more for the advantage of the religion established by law, should be forgotten.
But to conclude this great accusation of yours: if you were not conscious to yourself of some tendency that way, why such an outcry? Why were modesty and conscience called in question? Why was it less fair dealing than you could have expected from a pagan or mahometan, for me to say, if in those words “you meant any thing to the business in hand, you seemed to have a reserve for greater punishments?” Your business there being to prove, that there was a power vested in the magistrate to use force in matters of religion, what could be more beside the business in hand, than to tell us, as you interpret your meaning here, that the magistrate had a power to use force against those who rebelled; for whoever denied that, whether dissenters or not dissenters? Where was it questioned by the author or me, that “whoever rebelled, were to fall under the stroke of the magistrate’s sword?” And therefore, without breach of modesty or conscience, I might say, what I again here repeat, “That if in those words you meant any thing to the business in hand, you seemed to have a reserve for greater punishments.”
One thing more give me leave to add in defence of my modesty and conscience, or rather to justify myself from having guessed so wholly beside the matter, if I should have said, which I did not, “that I feared you had a reserve for greater punishments.” For I having brought the instances of Ananias and Sapphira, to show that the apostles wanted not power to punish, if they found it necessary to use it; you infer, that therefore “punishment may be sometimes necessary.” What punishments I beseech you, for theirs cost them their lives? He that, as you do, concludes from thence, that therefore “punishments may be sometimes necessary,” will hardly avoid, whatever he says, to conclude capital punishments necessary: and when they are necessary, it is you know the magistrate’s duty to use them. You see how natural it is for men to go whither their principles lead them, though at first sight perhaps they thought it too far.
If to avoid this, you now say you meant it of the punishment of the incestuous Corinthian, whom I also mentioned in the same place; I think, supposing your self to lie under the imputation of a reserve of greater punishments, you ought in prudence to have said so there. Next you know not what punishment it was the incestuous Corinthian underwent; but it being “for the destruction of the flesh,” it seems to be no very light one: and if you will take your friend St. Austin’s word for it, as he in the very epistle you quote tells us, it was a very severe one, making as much difference between it, and the severities men usually suffer in prison, as there is between the cruelty of the devil and that of the most barbarous jailor: so that if your moderate punishments will reach to that laid on the incestuous Corinthian for the destruction of the flesh, we may presume them to be what other people call severities.