Of your bringing men to the true religion.
True religion is on all hands acknowledged to be so much the concern and interest of all mankind, that nothing can be named, which so much effectually bespeaks the approbation and favour of the public. The very entitling one’s self to that sets a man on the right side. Who dares question such a cause, or oppose what is offered for the promoting the true religion? This advantage you have secured to yourself from inattentive readers as much as by the often repeated mention of the true religion is possible, there being scarce a page wherein the true religion does not appear, as if you had nothing else in your thoughts, but the bringing men to it for the salvation of their souls. Whether it be so in earnest, we will now see.
You tell us, “Whatever hardships some false religions may impose, it will however always be easier to carnal and worldly-minded men, to give even their first-born for their transgressions, than to mortify the lusts from which they spring, which no religion but the true requires of them.” Upon this you ground the necessity of force to bring men to the true religion, and charge it on the magistrate as his duty to use it to that end. What now in appearance can express greater care to bring men to the true religion? But let us see what you say in p. 64, and we shall find that in your scheme nothing less is meant; there you tell us, “The magistrate inflicts the penalties only upon them that break the laws:” and that law requiring nothing but conformity to the national religion, none but nonconformists are punished. So that unless an outward profession of the national religion be by the mortification of men’s lusts harder than their giving their first-born for their transgressions, all the penalties you contend for concern not, nor can be intended to bring men effectually to the true religion: since they leave them before they come to the difficulty, which is to mortify their lusts, as the true religion requires. So that your bringing men to the true religion being to bring them to conformity to the national, for then you have done with force; how far that outward conformity is from being heartily of the true religion, may be known by the distance there is between the easiest and the hardest thing in the world. For there is nothing easier than to profess in words; nothing harder, than to subdue the heart, and bring thoughts and deeds into obedience of the truth: the latter is what is required to be of the true religion; the other all that is required by penalties your way applied. If you say, conformists to the national religion are required by the law civil and ecclesiastical to lead good lives, which is the difficult part of the true religion: I answer, these are not the laws we are here speaking of, nor those which the defenders of toleration complain of; but the laws that put a distinction between outward conformists and non-conformists: and those they say, whatever may be talked of the true religion, can never be meant to bring men really to the true religion, as long as the true religion is, and is confessed to be, a thing of so much greater difficulty than outward conformity.
Miracles, say you, supplied the want of force in the beginning of christianity; and therefore so far as they supplied that want, they must be subservient to the same end. The end then was to bring men into the christian church, into which they were admitted and received as brethren, when they acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ, the son of God. Will that serve the turn? No: force must be used to make men embrace creeds and ceremonies, i. e. outwardly conform to the doctrine and worship of your church. Nothing more than that is required by your penalties; nothing less than that will excuse from punishment: that, and nothing but that, will serve the turn; that therefore, and only that, is what you mean by the true religion you would have force used to bring men to.
When I tell you, “You have a very ill opinion of the religion of the church of England, and must own it can only be propagated and supported by force, if you do not think it would be a gainer by a general toleration all the world over:” You ask, “Why you may not have as good an opinion of the church of England’s, as you have of Noah’s religion, notwithstanding you think it cannot now be propagated or supported without using some kinds or degrees of force.” When you have proved that Noah’s religion, that from eight persons spread and continued in the world till the apostles times, as I have proved in another place, was propagated and supported all that while by your kinds or degrees of force, you may have some reason to think as well of the religion of the church of England, as you have of Noah’s religion; though you think it cannot be propagated and supported without some kinds or degrees of force. But till you can prove that, you cannot upon that ground say you have reason to have so good an opinion of it.
You tell me, “If I will take your word for it, you assure me you think there are many other countries in the world besides England, where my toleration would be as little useful to truth as in England.” If you will name those countries, which will be no great pains, I will take your word for it, that you believe toleration there would be prejudicial to truth: but if you will not do that, neither I nor any-body else can believe you. I will give you a reason why I say so, and that is, because nobody can believe that, upon your principles, you can allow any national religion, differing from that of the church of England, to be true; and where the national religion is not true, we have already your consent, as in Spain and Italy, &c. for toleration. Now that you cannot, without renouncing your own principles, allow any national religion, differing from that established here by law, to be true, is evident: For why do you punish non-conformists here? “To bring them, say you, to the true religion.” But what if they hold nothing, but what that other differing national church does, shall they be nevertheless punished if they conform not? You will certainly say, yes: and if so, then you must either say, they are not of the true religion; or else you must own you punish those, to bring them to the true religion, whom you allow to be of the true religion already.
You tell me, “If I own with our author, that there is but one true religion, and I owning myself to be of the church of England, you cannot see how I can avoid supposing, that the national religion now in England, backed by the public authority of the law, is the only true religion.” If I own, as I do, all that you here expect from me, yet it will not serve to draw that conclusion from it, which you do, viz. That the national religion now in England is the only true religion; taking the true religion in the sense that I do, and you ought to take it. I grant that there is but one true religion in the world, which is that whose doctrine and worship are necessary to salvation. I grant too that the true religion, necessary to salvation, is taught and professed in the church of England: and yet it will not follow from hence, that the religion of the church of England, as established by law, is the only true religion; if there be any thing established in the church of England by law, and made part of its religion, which is not necessary to salvation, and which any other church, teaching and professing all that is necessary to salvation, does not receive.
If the national religion now in England, backed by the authority of the law, be, as you would have it, the only true religion; so the only true religion, that a man cannot be saved without being of it; pray reconcile this with what you say in the immediately preceding paragraph, viz. “That there are many other countries in the world where my toleration would be as little useful as in England.” For if there be other national religions differing from that of England, which you allow to be true, and wherein men may be saved, the national religion of England, as now established by law, is not the only true religion, and men may be saved without being of it. And then the magistrate can upon your principles have no authority to use force to bring men to be of it. For you tell us, force is not lawful, unless it be necessary; and therefore the magistrate can never lawfully use it, but to bring men to believe and practise what is necessary to salvation. You must therefore either hold, that there is nothing in the doctrine, discipline, and ceremonies of the church of England, as it is established by law, but what is necessary to salvation: or else you must reform your terms of communion, before the magistrate upon your principles can use penalties to make men consider till they conform; or you can say that the national religion of England is the only true religion, though it contain the only true religion in it; as possibly most, if not all, the differing christian churches now in the world do.
You tell us farther in the next paragraph, “That wherever this only true religion, i. e. the national religion now in England, is received, all other religions ought to be discouraged.” Why I beseech you discouraged, if they be true any of them? For if they be true, what pretence is there for force to bring men who are of them to the true religion? If you say all other religions, varying at all from that of the church of England, are false; we know then your measure of the one only true religion. But that your care is only of conformity to the church of England, and that by the true religion you mean nothing else, appears too from your way of expressing yourself in this passage, where you own that you suppose that as this only true religion, to wit, the national religion now in England, backed with the public authority of law, “ought to be received wherever it is preached; so wherever it is received, all other religions ought to be discouraged in some measure by the civil powers.” If the religion established by law in England, be the only true religion, ought it not to be preached and received every-where, and all other religions discouraged throughout the world? and ought not the magistrates of all countries to take care that it should be so? But you only say, wherever it is preached it ought to be received; and wherever it is received, other religions ought to be discouraged, which is well suited to your scheme for enforcing conformity in England, but could scarce drop from a man whose thoughts were on the true religion, and the promoting of it in other parts of the world.
Force then must be used in England, and penalties laid on dissenters there. For what? “to bring them to the true religion,” whereby it is plain you mean not only the doctrine but discipline and ceremonies of the church of England, and make them a part of the only true religion: why else do you punish all dissenters for rejecting the true religion, and use force to bring them to it? When yet a great, if not the greatest, part of dissenters in England own and profess the doctrine of the church of England, as firmly as those in the communion of the church of England. They therefore, though they believe the same religion with you, are excluded from the true church of God, that you would have men brought to, and are amongst those who reject the true religion.
I ask whether they are not in your opinion out of the way of salvation, who are not joined in communion with the true church? and whether there can be any true church without bishops? If so, all but conformists in England that are of any church in Europe, beside the lutherans and papists, are out of the way of salvation; and so according to your system have need of force to be brought into it: and these too, one for their doctrine of transubstantiation, the other for that of consubstantiation, to omit other things vastly differing from the church of England, you will not, I suppose, allow to be of the true religion: and who then are left of the true religion but the church of England? For the Abyssines have too wide a difference in many points for me to imagine, that is one of those places you mean where toleration would do harm as well as in England. And I think the religion of the Greek church can scarce be supposed by you to be the true. For if it should, it would be a strong instance against your assertion, that the true religion cannot subsist, but would quickly be effectually extirpated without the assistance of authority; since this has subsisted without any such assistance now above two hundred years. I take it then for granted, and others with me cannot but do the same; till you tell us what other religion there is of any church, but that of England, which you allow to be the true religion; that all you say of bringing men to the true religion, is only bringing them to the religion of the church of England. If I do you an injury in this, it will be capable of a very easy vindication: for it is but naming that other church differing from that of England, which you allow to have the true religion, and I shall yield myself convinced, and shall allow these words, viz. “The national religion now in England, backed by the public authority of law, being the only true religion,” only as a little hasty sally of your zeal. In the mean time I shall argue with you about the use of force to bring men to the religion of the church of England, as established by law; since it is more easy to know what that is, than what you mean by the true religion, if you mean any thing else.
To proceed therefore; in the next place I tell you, by using force your way to bring men to the religion of the church of England, you mean only to bring them to an outward profession of that religion; and that, as I have told you elsewhere, because force used your way, being applied only to dissenters, and ceasing as soon as they conform, (whether it be intended by the lawmaker for any thing more or no, which we have examined in another place;) cannot be to bring men to any thing more than outward conformity. For if force be used to dissenters, and them only, to bring men to the true religion, and always, as soon as it has brought men to conformity, it be taken off, and laid aside as having done all is expected from it; it is plain, that by bringing men to the true religion, and bringing them to outward conformity, you mean the same thing. You use and continue force upon dissenters, because you expect some effect from it: when you take it off, it has wrought that effect, or else being in your power, why do you not continue it on? The effect then that you talk of, being the embracing the true religion, and the thing you are satisfied with, without any further punishment, expectation, or enquiry, being outward conformity, it is plain embracing the true religion and outward conformity, with you, are the same things.
Neither can you say it is presumable that those who outwardly conform do really understand, and inwardly in their hearts embrace with a lively faith and a sincere obedience, the truth that must save them. 1. Because it being, as you tell us, the magistrate’s duty to do all that in him lies for the salvation of all his subjects, and it being in his power to examine, whether they know and live suitable to the truth that must save them, as well as conform; he can or ought no more to presume that they do so, without taking an account of their knowledge and lives, than he can or ought to presume that they conform, without taking any account of their coming to church. Would you think that physician discharged his duty, and had, as was pretended, a care of men’s lives; who having got them into his hands, and knowing no more of them, but that they come once or twice a week to the apothecary’s shop, to hear what is prescribed them, and sit there a while; should say it was presumable they were recovered, without ever examining whether his prescriptions had any effect, or what estate their health was in?
2. It cannot be presumable, where there are so many visible instances to the contrary. He must pass for an admirabie presumer, who will seriously affirm that it is presumable that all those who conform to the national religion where it is true, do so understand, believe, and practise it, as to be in the way of salvation.
3. It cannot be presumable, that men have parted with their corruption and lusts to avoid force, when they fly to conformity, which can shelter them from force without quitting their lusts. That which is dearer to men than their first-born, is, you tell us, their lusts; that which is harder than the hardships of false religions, is the mortifying those lusts: here lies the difficulty of the true religion, that it requires the mortifying of those lusts; and till that be done, men are not of the true religion, nor in the way of salvation: and it is upon this account only that you pretend force to be needful. Force is used to make them hear; it prevails, men hear: but that is not enough, because the difficulty lies not in that; they may hear arguments for the truth, and yet retain their corruption. They must do more, they must consider those arguments. Who requires it of them? The law that inflicts the punishment, does not; but this we may be sure their love of their lusts, and their hatred of punishment, requires of them, and will bring them to, viz. to consider how to retain their beloved lusts, and yet to avoid the uneasiness of the punishment they lie under; this is presumable they do; therefore they go one easy step farther, they conform, and then they are safe from force, and may still retain their corruption. Is it therefore presumable they have parted with their corruption, because force has driven them to take sanctuary against punishment in conformity, where force is no longer to molest them, or pull them from their darling inclinations? The difficulty in religion is, you say, for men to part with their lusts; this makes force necessary: men find out a way by conforming to avoid force without parting with their lusts; therefore it is presumable when they conform, that force which they can avoid without quitting their lusts, has made them part with them: which is indeed not to part with their lusts because of force, but to part with them gratis; which if you can say is presumable, the foundation of your need of force, which you place in the prevalency of corruption, and men’s adhering to their lusts, will be gone, and so there will be no need of force at all. If the great difficulty in religion be for men to part with or mortify their lusts, and the only counter-balance in the other scale, to assist the true religion, to prevail against their lusts, be force; which, I beseech you is presumable, if they can avoid force, and retain their lusts, that they should quit their lusts, and heartily embrace the true religion, which is incompatible with them; or else that they should avoid the force, and retain their lusts? To say the former of these, is to say that it is presumable, that they will quit their lusts, and heartily embrace the true religion for its own sake: for he that heartily embraces the true religion, because of a force which he knows he can avoid at pleasure, without quitting his lusts, cannot be said so to embrace it, because of that force: since a force he can avoid without quitting his lusts, cannot be said to assist truth in making him quit them: for in this truth has no assistance from it at all. So that this is to say there is no need of force at all in the case.
Take a covetous wretch, whose heart is so set upon money, that he would give his first-born to save his bags; who is pursued by the force of the magistrate to an arrest, and compelled to hear what is alleged against him; and the prosecution of the law threatening imprisonment or other punishment, if he do not pay the just debt which is demanded of him: if he enters himself in the King’s-bench, where he can enjoy his freedom without paying the debt, and parting with his money; will you say that it is presumable he did it to pay the debt, and not to avoid the force of the law? The lust of the flesh and pride of life are as strong and prevalent as the lust of the eye: and if you will deliberately say again, that it is presumable, that men are driven by force to consider, so as to part with their lusts, when no more is known of them, but that they do what discharges them from the force, without any necessity of parting with their lusts; I think I shall have occasion to send you to my pagans and mahometans, but shall have no need to say any thing more to you of this matter myself.
I agree with you, that there is but one only true religion; I agree too that that one only true religion is professed and held in the church of England; and yet I deny, if force may be used to bring men to that true religion, that upon your principles it can lawfully be used to bring men to the national religion in England, as established by law: because force according to your own rule, being only lawful because it is necessary, and therefore unfit to be used where not necessary, i. e. necessary to bring men to salvation; it can never be lawfully used to bring a man to any thing that is not necessary to salvation, as I have more fully shown in another place. If therefore in the national religion of England, there be any thing put in as necessary to communion, that is, though true, yet not necessary to salvation; force cannot be lawfully used to bring men to that communion, though the thing so required in itself may perhaps be true.
There be a great many truths contained in scripture, which a man may be ignorant of, and consequently not believe, without any danger to his salvation, or else very few would be capable of salvation; for I think I may truly say, there was never any one, but he that was the wisdom of the Father, who was not ignorant of some, and mistaken in others of them. To bring men therefore to embrace such truths, the use of force by your own rule cannot be lawful: because the belief or knowledge of those truths themselves not being necessary to salvation, there can be no necessity men should be brought to embrace them, and so no necessity to use force to bring men to embrace them.
The only true religion which is necessary to salvation, may in one national church have that joined with it, which in itself is manifestly false and repugnant to salvation; in such a communion no man can join without quitting the way to salvation. In another national church, with this only true religion may be joined what is neither repugnant nor necessary to salvation: and of such there may be several churches differing from one another in confession, ceremonies, and discipline, which are usually called different religions; with either or each of which a good man, if satisfied in his own mind, may communicate without danger, whilst another, not satisfied in conscience concerning something in the doctrine, discipline, or worship, cannot safely, nor without sin, communicate with this or that of them. Nor can force be lawfully used, on your principles, to bring any man to either of them; because such things are required to their communion, which not being requisite to salvation, men may seriously and conscientiously differ, and be in doubt about, without endangering their souls.
That which here raises a noise, and gives credit to it, whereby many are misled into an unwarrantable zeal, is, that these are called different religions; and every one thinking his own the true, the only true, condemns all the rest as false religions. Whereas those who hold all things necessary to salvation, and add not thereto any thing in doctrine, discipline, or worship, inconsistent with salvation, are of one and the same religion, though divided into different societies or churches, under different forms: which whether the passion and polity of designing; or the sober and pious intention of well-meaning men, set up: they are no other than the contrivances of men, and such they ought to be esteemed in whatsoever is required in them, which God has not made necessary to salvation, however in its own nature it may be indifferent, lawful, or true. For none of the articles, or confessions of any church, that I know, containing in them all the truths of religion, though they contain some that are not necessary to salvation; to garble thus the truths of religion, and by their own authority take some not necessary to salvation, and make them the terms of communion, and leave out others as necessary to be known and believed; is purely the contrivance of men; God never having appointed any such distinguishing system: nor, as I have showed, can force, upon your principles, lawfully be used to bring men to embrace it.
Concerning ceremonies, I shall here only ask you whether you think kneeling at the Lord’s Supper, or the cross in baptism, are necessary to salvation? I mention these as having been matter of great scruple: if you will not say they are, how can you say that force can be lawfully used to bring men into a communion, to which these are made necessary? If you say, Kneeling is necessary to a decent uniformity, (for of the cross in baptism I have spoken elsewhere,) though that should be true, yet it is an argument you cannot use for it, if you are of the church of England: for if a decent uniformity may be well enough preversed without kneeling at prayer, where decency requires it at least as much as at receiving the sacrament, why may it not well enough be preserved without kneeling at the sacrament? Now that uniformity is thought sufficiently preserved without kneeling at prayer, is evident by the various postures men are at liberty to use, and may be generally observed, in all our congregations, during the minister’s prayer in the pulpit, before and after his sermon, which it seems can consist well enough with decency and uniformity; though it be a prayer addressed to the great God of heaven and earth; to whose majesty it is that the reverence to be expressed in our gestures is due, when we put up petitions to him, who is invariably the same, in what or whose words soever we address ourselves to him.
The preface to the Book of Common-Prayer tells us, “That the rites and ceremonies appointed to be used in divine worship, are things in their own nature indifferent and alterable.” Here I ask you, whether any human power can make any thing, in its own nature indifferent, necessary to salvation? If it cannot, then neither can any human power be justified in the use of force, to bring men to conformity in the use of such things. If you think men have authority to make any thing, in itself indifferent, a necessary part of God’s worship, I shall desire you to consider what our author says of this matter, which has not yet deserved your notice.
“The misapplying his power, you say, is a sin in the magistrate, and lays him open to divine vengeance.” And is it not a misapplying of his power, and a sin in him, to use force to bring men to such a compliance in an indifferent thing, which in religious worship may be a sin to them? Force, you say, may be used to punish those who dissent from the communion of the church of England. Let us suppose now all its doctrines not only true, but necessary to salvation; but that there is put into the terms of its communion some indifferent action which God has not enjoined, nor made a part of his worship, which any man is persuaded in his conscience not to be lawful? suppose kneeling at the sacrament, which having been superstitiously used in adoration of the bread, as the real body of Christ, may give occasion of scruple to some now, as well as eating of flesh offered to idols did to others in the apostles time; which though lawful in itself, yet the apostle said, “he would eat no flesh while the world standeth, rather than to make his weak brother offend,” 1 Cor. viii. 13. And if to lead, by example, the scrupulous into any action, in itself indifferent, which they thought unlawful, be a sin, as appears at large, Rom. xiv. how much more is it to add force to our example, and to compel men by punishments to that, which, though indifferent in itself, they cannot join in without sinning? I desire you to show me how force can be necessary in such a case, without which you acknowledge it not to be lawful. Not to kneel at the Lord’s Supper, God not having ordained it, is not a sin; and the apostles receiving it in the posture of sitting or lying, which was then used at meat, is an evidence it may be received not kneeling. But to him that thinks kneeling is unlawful, it is certainly a sin. And for this you may take the authority of a very judicious and reverend prelate of our church, in these words: “Where a man is mistaken in his judgment, even in that case, it is always a sin to act against it; by so doing, he wilfully acts against the best light which at present he has for the direction of his actions.” Disc. of Conscience, p. 18. I need not here repeat his reasons, having already quoted him above more at large; though the whole passage, writ, as he uses, with great strength and clearness, deserves to be read and considered. If therefore the magistrate enjoins such an unnecessary ceremony, and uses force to bring any man to a sinful communion with our church in it, let me ask you, doth he sin or misapply his power or no?
True and false religions are names that easily engage men’s affections on the hearing of them: the one being the aversion, the other the desire, at least as they persuade themselves, of all mankind. This makes men forwardly give in to these names, wherever they meet with them; and when mention is made of bringing men from a false to the true religion, very often without knowing what is meant by those names, they think nothing can be done too much in such a business, to which they entitle God’s honour, and the salvation of men’s souls.
I shall therefore desire of you, if you are that fair and sincere lover of truth you profess, when you write again, to tell us what you mean by true, and what by a false religion, that we may know which in your sense are so: for, as you now have used these words in your treatise, one of them seems to stand only for the religion of the church of England, and the other for that of all other churches. I expect here you should make the same outcries against me, as you have in your former letter, for imposing a sense upon your words contrary to your meaning; and for this you will appeal to your own words in some other places: but of this I shall leave the reader to judge, and tell him, this is a way very easy and very usual for men, who having not clear and consistent notions, keep themselves as much as they can under the shelter of general and variously applicable terms; that they may save themselves from the absurdities or consequences of one place, by a help from some general or contrary expression in another: whether it be a desire of victory, or a little too warm zeal for a cause you have been hitherto persuaded of, which hath led you into this way of writing; I shall only mind you, that the cause of God requires nothing, but what may be spoken out plainly in a clear determined sense, without any reserve or cover. In the mean time this I shall leave with you as evident, that force upon your ground cannot be lawfully used to bring men to the communion of the church of England; (that being all that I can find you clearly mean by the true religion;) till you have proved that all that is required of one in that communion, is necessary to salvation.
However therefore you tell us, “That convenient force used to bring men to the true religion, is all that you contend for, and all that you allow.” That it is for “promoting the true religion.” That it is to “bring men to consider, so as not to reject the truth necessary to salvation. To bring men to embrace the truth that must save them.” And abundance more to this purpose. Yet all this talk of the true religion amounting to no more but the national religion established by law in England; and your bringing men to it, to no more than bringing them to an outward profession of it; it would better have suited that condition, viz. without prejudice, and with an honest mind, which you require in others, to have spoke plainly what you aimed at, rather than prepossess men’s minds in favour of your cause, by the impressions of a name that in truth did not properly belong to it.
It was not therefore without ground that I said, “I suspected you built all on this lurking supposition, that the national religion now in England, backed by the public authority of the law, is the only true religion, and therefore no other is to be tolerated; which being a supposition equally unavoidable, and equally just in other countries; unless we can imagine, that, every-where but in England, men believe what at the same time they think to be a lye,” &c. Here you erect your plumes, and to this your triumphant logic gives you not patience to answer, without an air of victory in the entrance: “How, sir, is this supposition equally unavoidable, and equally just in other countries, where false religions are the national? (for that you must mean, or nothing to the purpose.)” Hold, sir, you go too fast; take your own system with you, and you will perceive it will be enough to my purpose, if I mean those religions which you take to be false: for if there be any other national churches, which agreeing with the church of England in what is necessary to salvation, yet have established ceremonies different from those of the church of England; should not any one who dissented here from the church of England upon that account, as preferring that to our way of worship, be justly punished? If so, then punishment in matters of religion being only to bring men to the true religion; you must suppose him not to be yet of it: and so the national church he approves of not to be of the true religion. And yet is it not equally unavoidable, and equally just, that that church should suppose its religion the only true religion, as it is that yours should do so; it agreeing with yours in things necessary to salvation, and having made some things, in their own nature indifferent, requisite to conformity for decency and order, as you have done? So that my saying, It is equally unavoidable, and equally just in other countries; will hold good, without meaning what you charge on me, that that supposition is equally unavoidable, and equally just where the national religion is absolutely false.
But in that large sense too, what I said will hold good; and you would have spared your useless subtilties against it, if you had been as willing to take my meaning, and answer my argument, as you were to turn what I said to a sense which the words themselves show I never intended. My argument in short was this, That granting force to be useful to propagate and support religion, yet it would be no advantage to the true religion, that you, a member of the church of England, supposing yours to be the true religion, should thereby claim a right to use force; since such a supposition to those who were members of other churches, and believed other religions, was equally unavoidable, and equally just. And the reason I annexed, shows both this to be my meaning, and my assertion to be true: my words are, “Unless we can imagine that, every-where but in England, men believe what at the same time they think to be a lye.” Having therefore never said, nor thought that it is equally unavoidable, or equally just, that men in every country should believe the national religion of the country: but that it is equally unavoidable, and equally just, that men believing the national religion of their country, be it true or false, should suppose it to be true; and let me here add also, should endeavour to propagate it; however you go on thus to reply: “If so, then I fear it will be equally true too, and equally rational: for otherwise I see not how it can be equally unavoidable, or equally just: for if it be not equally true, it cannot be equally just; and if it be not equally rational, it cannot be equally unavoidable. But if it be equally true, and equally rational, then either all religions are true, or none is true: for if they be all equally true, and one of them be not true, then none of them can be true.” I challenge any one to put these four good words, unavoidable, just, rational, and true, more equally together, or to make a better-wrought deduction; but after all, my argument will nevertheless be good, that it is no advantage to your cause, for you or any one of it, to suppose yours to be the only true religion; since it is equally unavoidable, and equally just for any one, who believes any other religion, to suppose the same thing. And this will always be so, till you can show, that men cannot receive false religions upon arguments that appear to them to be good; or that having received falsehood under the appearance of truth, they can, whilst it so appears, do otherwise than value it, and be acted by it, as if it were true. For the equality that is here the question, depends not upon the truth of the opinion embraced; but on this, that the light and persuasion a man has at present, is the guide which he ought to follow, and which in his judgment of truth he cannot avoid to be governed by. And therefore the terrible consequences you dilate on in the following part of that page I leave you for your private use on some fitter occasion.
You therefore who are so apt, without cause, to complain of want of ingenuity in others; will do well hereafter to consult your own, and another time change your style; and not under the undefined name of the true religion, because that is of more advantage to your argument, mean only the religion established by law in England, shutting out all other religions now professed in the world. Though when you have defined what is the true religion, which you would have supported and propagated by force; and have told us it is to be found in the liturgy and thirty-nine articles of the church of England; and it be agreed to you, that that is the only true religion; your argument of force, as necessary to men’s salvation, from the want of light and strength enough in the true religion to prevail against men’s lusts, and the corruption of their nature, will not hold; because your bringing men by force, your way applied, to the true religion, be it what you will, is but bringing them to an outward conformity to the national church. But the bringing them so far, and no farther, having no opposition to their lusts, no inconsistency with their corrupt nature, is not on that account at all necessary, nor does at all help, where only, on your grounds, you say, there is need of the assistance of force towards their salvation.