Of salvation to be procured by force, your way.
There cannot be imagined a more laudable design than the promoting the salvation of men’s souls, by any one who shall undertake it. But if it be a pretence made use of to cover some other by-interest; nothing can be more odious to men, nothing more provoking to the great God of heaven and earth, nothing more misbecoming the name and character of a christian. With what intention you took your pen in hand to defend and encourage the use of force in the business of men’s salvation, it is fit in charity we take your word; but what your scheme, as you have delivered it, is guilty of, it is my business to take notice of, and represent to you.
To my saying, that “if persecution, as is pretended, were for the salvation of men’s souls, bare conformity would not serve the turn, but men should be examined whether they do it upon reason and conviction;” you answer, “Who they be that pretend that persecution is for the salvation of men’s souls, you know not.” Whatever you know not, I know one, who in the letter under consideration pleads for force, as useful for the promoting “the salvation of men’s souls; and that the use of force is no other means for the salvation of men’s souls, than what the author and finisher of our faith has directed. That so far is the magistrate, when he gives his helping hand to the furtherance of the gospel, by laying convenient penalties upon such as reject it, or any part of it, from using any other means for the salvation of men’s souls than what the author and finisher of our faith has directed, that he does no more than his duty for the promoting the salvation of souls. And as the means by which men may be brought into the way of salvation.” Ay, but where do you say that persecution is for the salvation of souls? I thought you had been arguing against my meaning, and against the things I say, and not against my words in your meaning, which is not against me. That I used the word persecution for what you call force and penalties, you know: for in p. 21, that immediately precedes this, you take notice of it, with some little kind of wonder, in these words, “persecution, so it seems you call all punishments for religion.” That I do so then, whether properly or improperly, you could not be ignorant; and then, I beseech you, apply your answer here to what I say: my words are, “If persecution, as is pretended, were for the salvation of men’s souls, men that conform would be examined whether they did so upon reason and conviction.” Change my word persecution into punishment for religion, and then consider the truth or ingenuity of your answer: for, in that sense of the word persecution, do you know nobody that pretends persecution is for the salvation of men’s souls? So much for your ingenuity, and the arts you allow yourself to serve a good cause. What do you think of one of my pagans or mahometans? Could he have done better? For I shall often have occasion to mind you of them. Now to your argument. I said, “That I thought those who make laws, and use force, to bring men to church-conformity in religion, seek only the compliance, but concern themselves not for the conviction of those they punish, and so never use force to convince. For pray tell me, when any dissenter conforms, and enters into the church communion, is he ever examined to see whether he does it upon reason and conviction, and such grounds as would become a christian concerned for religion? If persecution, as is pretended, were for the salvation of men’s souls, this would be done, and men not driven to take the sacrament to keep their places, or obtain licences to sell ale: for so low have these holy things been prostituted.” To this you here reply, “As to those magistrates, who having provided sufficiently for the instruction of all under their care, in the true religion, do make laws, and use moderate penalties, to bring men to the communion of the church of God, and conformity to the rules and orders of it; I think their behaviour does plainly enough speak them to seek and concern themselves for the conviction of those whom they punish, and for their compliance only as the fruit of their conviction.” If means of instruction were all that is necessary to convince people, the providing sufficiently for instruction would be an evidence, that those that did so, did seek and concern themselves for men’s conviction: but if there be something as necessary for conviction as the means of instruction, and without which those means will signify nothing, and that be severe and impartial examination; and if force be, as you say, so necessary to make men thus examine, that they can by no other way but force be brought to do it: if magistrates do not lay their penalties on non-examination, as well as provide means of instruction; whatever you may say you think, few people will find reason to believe you think those magistrates seek and concern themselves much for the conviction of those they punish, when that punishment is not levelled at that, which is a hindrance to their conviction, i. e. against their aversion to severe and impartial examination. To that aversion no punishment can be pretended to be a remedy, which does not reach and combat the aversion; which it is plain no punishment does, which may be avoided without parting with, or abating the prevalency of that aversion. This is the case, where men undergo punishments for not conforming, which they may be rid of, without severely and impartially examining matters of religion.
To show that what I mentioned was no sign of unconcernednesss in the magistrate for men’s conviction; you add, “Nor does the contrary appear from the not examining dissenters when they conform, to see whether they do it upon reason and conviction: for where sufficient instruction is provided, it is ordinarily presumable that when dissenters conform, they do it upon reason and conviction.” Here if ordinarily signifies any thing, (for it is a word you make much use of, whether to express or cover your sense, let the reader judge,) then you suppose there are cases wherein it is not presumable; and I ask you, whether in those, or any cases, it be examined whether dissenters, when they conform, do it upon reason and conviction? At best that it is ordinarily presumable, is but gratis dictum; especially since you suppose, that it is the corruption of their nature that hinders them from considering as they ought, so as upon reason and conviction to embrace the truth: which corruption of nature, that they may retain with conformity, I think is very presumable. But be that as it will, this I am sure is ordinarily and always presumable, that if those who use force were as intent upon men’s conviction, as they are on their conformity, they would not wholly content themselves with the one, without ever examining and looking into the other.
Another excuse you make for this neglect, is, “That as to irreligious persons who only seek their secular advantage, how easy it is for them to pretend conviction, and to offer such grounds (if that were required) as would become a christian concerned for religion; that is what no care of man can certainly prevent.” This is an admirable justification of your hypothesis. Men are to be punished: to what end? To make them severely and impartially consider matters of religion, that they may be convinced, and thereupon sincerely embrace the truth. But what need of force or punishment for this? Because their lusts and corruption will otherwise keep them both from considering as they ought, and embracing the true religion; and therefore they must lie under penalties till they have considered as they ought, which is when they have upon conviction embraced. But how shall the magistrate know when they upon conviction embrace, that he may then take off their penalties? That indeed cannot be known, and ought not to be inquired after, because irreligious persons who only seek their secular advantage; or, in other words, all those who desire at their ease to retain their beloved lusts and corruption; may “easily pretend conviction, and offer such grounds (if it were required) as would become a christian concerned for religion: this is what no care of man can certainly prevent.” Which is reason enough, why no busy forwardness in man to disease his brother, should use force upon pretence of prevailing against men’s corruptions, that hinder their considering and embracing the truth upon conviction, when it is confessed, it cannot be known, whether they have considered, are convinced, or have really embraced the true religion or no. And thus you have shown us your admirable remedy, which is not it seems for the irreligious, (for it is easy, you say, for them to pretend to conviction, and so avoid punishment,) but for those who would be religious without it.
But here, in this case, as to the intention of the magistrate, how can it be said, that the force he uses is designed, by subduing men’s corruptions, to make way for considering and embracing the truth; when it is so applied, that it is confessed here, that a man may get rid of the penalties without parting with the corruptions they are pretended to be used against? But you have a ready answer, “This is what no care of man can certainly prevent;” which is but in other words to proclaim the ridiculousness of your use of force, and to avow that your method can do nothing. If by not certainly you mean, it may any way or to any degree prevent; why is it not so done? If not, why is a word that signifies nothing put in, unless it be for a shelter on occasion? a benefit you know how to draw from this way of writing: but this here, taken how you please, will only serve to lay blame on the magistrate, or your hypothesis, choose you whether. I for my part have a better opinion of the ability and management of the magistrate: what he aimed at in his laws, that I believe he mentions in them; and, as wise men do in business, spoke out plainly what he had a mind should be done. But certainly there cannot a more ridiculous character be put on law-makers, than to tell the world they intended to make men consider, examine, &c. but yet neither required nor named any thing in their laws but conformity. Though yet when men are certainly to be punished for not really embracing the true religion, there ought to be certain matters of fact, whereby those that do and those that do not so embrace the truth, should be distinguished; and for that you have, it is true, a clear and established criterion, i. e. conformity and non-conformity: which do very certainly distinguish the innocent from the guilty; those that really and sincerely do embrace the truth that must save them from those that do not.
But, sir, to resolve the question, whether the conviction of men’s understandings, and the salvation of their souls, be the business and aim of those who use force to bring men into the profession of the national religion; I ask, whether if that were so, there could be so many as there are, not only in most country parishes, but, I think I may say, may be found in all parts of England, grossly ignorant in the doctrines and principles of the christian religion, if a strict inquiry were made into it? If force be necessary to be used to bring men to salvation, certainly some part of it would find out some of the ignorant and unconsidering that are in the national church, as well as it does so diligently all the nonconformists out of it, whether they have considered, or are knowing or no. But to this you give a very ready answer: “Would you have the magistrate punish all indifferently, those who obey the law as well as them that do not?” What is the obedience the law requires? That you tell us in these words, “If the magistrate provides sufficiently for the instruction of all his subjects in the true religion, and then requires them all under convenient penalties to hearken to the teachers and ministers of it, and to profess and exercise it with one accord under their direction in public assemblies:” which in other words is but conformity; which here you express a little plainer in these words: “But as to those magistrates who, having provided sufficiently for the instruction of all under their care in the true religion, do make laws, and use moderate penalties to bring men to the communion of the church of God, and to conform to the rules and orders of it.” You add, “Is there any pretence to say that in so doing, he [the magistrate] applies force only to a part of his subjects, when the law is general, and excepts none?” There is no pretence, I confess, to say that in so doing he applies force only to a part of his subjects, to make them conformists; from that it is plain the law excepts none. But if conformists may be ignorant, grossly ignorant of the principles and doctrines of christianity; if there be no penalties used to make them consider as they ought, so as to understand, be convinced of, believe and obey the truths of the gospel; are not they exempt from that force which you say “is to make men consider and examine matters of religion as they ought to do?” Force is applied to all indeed to make them conformists; but if being conformists once, and frequenting the places of public worship, and there showing an outward compliance with the ceremonies prescribed; (for that is all the law requires of all, call it how you please;) they are exempt from all force and penalties, though they are ever so ignorant, ever so far from understanding, believing, receiving the truth of the gospel; I think it is evident that then force is not applied to all “to procure the conviction of the understanding.—To bring men to consider those reasons and arguments which are proper to convince the mind, and which without being forced they would not consider.—To bring men to that consideration, which nothing else but force (besides the extraordinary grace of God) would bring them to.—To make men good christians.—To make men receive instruction.—To cure their aversion to the true religion.—To bring men to consider and examine the controversies which they are bound to consider and examine, i. e. those wherein they cannot err without dishonouring God, and endangering their own and other men’s eternal salvation.—To weigh matters of religion carefully and impartially.—To bring men to the true religion and to salvation.”—That then force is not applied to all the subjects for these ends, I think you will not deny. These are the ends for which yon tell us in the places quoted, that force is to be used in matters of religion: it is by its usefulness and necessity to these ends, that you tell us the magistrate is authorized and obliged to use force in matters of religion. Now if all these ends be not attained by a bare conformity, and yet if by a bare conformity men are wholly exempt from all force and penalties in matters of religion; will you say that for these ends force is applied to all the magistrate’s subjects? If you will, I must send you to my pagans and mahometans for a little conscience and modesty. If you confess force is not applied to all for these ends, notwithstanding any laws obliging all to conformity; you must also confess, that what you say concerning the laws being general, is nothing to the purpose; since all that are under penalties for not conforming, are not under any penalties for ignorance, irreligion, or the want of those ends for which you say penalties are useful and necessary.
You go on, “And therefore if such persons profane the sacrament to keep their places, or to obtain licences to sell ale, this is an horrible wickedness.” I excuse them not. “But it is their own, and they alone must answer for it.” Yes, and those who threatened poor ignorant and irreligious ale-sellers, whose livelihood it was, to take away their licences, if they did not conform and receive the sacrament; may be thought perhaps to have something to answer for. You add, “But it is very unjust to impute it to those who make such laws, and use such force, or to say that they prostitute holy things, and drive men to profane them.” Nor is it just to insinuate in your answer, as if that had been said which was not. But if it be true, that a poor ignorant, loose, irreligious wretch should be threatened to be turned out of his calling and livelihood, if he would not take the sacrament: may it not be said these holy things have been so low prostituted? And if this be not profaning them, pray tell me what is?
This I think may be said without injustice to any body, that it does not appear, that those who make strict laws for conformity, and take no care to have it examined upon what grounds men conform; are not very much concerned, that men’s understandings should be convinced: and though you go on to say, that “they design by their laws to do what lies in them to make men good christians:” that will scarce be believed, if what you say be true, that force is necessary to bring “those who cannot be otherwise brought to it, to study the true religion, with such care and diligence as they might and ought to use, and with an honest mind.” And yet we see a great part, or any of those who are ignorant in the true religion, have no such force applied to them; especially since you tell us, in the same place, that “no man ever studied the true religion with such care and diligence as he might and ought to use and with an honest mind, but he was convinced of the truth of it.” If then force and penalties can produce that study, care, diligence, and honest mind, which will produce knowledge and conviction; and that (as you say in the following words) make good men; I ask you, if there be found in the communion of the church, exempt from force upon the account of religion, ignorant, irreligious, ill men; and that to speak moderately, not in great disproportion fewer than amongst the nonconformists; will you believe yourself, when you say “the magistrates do by their laws all that in them lies to make them good christians;” when they use not that force to them which you, not I, say is necessary: and that they are, where it is necessary, obliged to use? And therefore I give you leave to repeat again the words you subjoin here, “But if after all they (i. e. the magistrates) can do, wicked and godless men will still resolve to be so; they will be so, and I know not who but God Almighty can help it.” But this being spoken of conformists, on whom the magistrates lay no penalties, use no force for religion, give me leave to mind you of the ingenuity of one of my pagans or mahometans.
You tell us, That the usefulness of force to make scholars learn, authorizes schoolmasters to use it. And would you not think a schoolmaster discharged his duty well, and had a great care of their learning, who used his rod only to bring boys to school; but if they come there once a week, whether they slept or only minded their play, never examined what proficiency they made, or used the rod to make them study and learn, though they would not apply themselves without it?
But to show you how much you yourself are in earnest for the salvation of souls in this your method, I shall set down what I said, p. 396, of my letter on that subject, and what you answer, p. 68, of yours.
In this your answer, you say, “the subject of our inquiry is only what method is to be used to bring men to the true religion.” He that reads what you say, again and again, “That the magistrate is impowered and obliged to procure as much as in him lies, i. e. as far as by penalties it can be procured, that no man neglect his soul,” and shall remember how many pages you employ, A. p. 6, &c. And here, p. 6, &c. to show that it is the corruption of human nature which hinders men from doing what they may and ought for the salvation of their souls; and that therefore penalties, no other means being left, and force were necessary to be used by the magistrate to remove these great obstacles of lusts and corruptions, that “none of his subjects might remain ignorant of the way of salvation, or refuse to embrace it.” One would think “your inquiry had been after the means of curing men’s aversion to the true religion, (which,” you tell us, p. 53, “if not cured, is certainly destructive of men’s eternal salvation,”) that so they might heartily embrace it for their salvation. But here you tell us, “your inquiry is only what method is to be used to bring men to the true religion:” whereby you evidently mean nothing but outward conformity to that which you think the true church, as appears by the next following words: “Now if this be the only thing we were inquiring after, then every one sees that in speaking to this point I had nothing to do with any who have already embraced the true religion.” And also every one sees that since amongst those with whom (having already embraced the true religion) you and your penalties having nothing to do; there are those who have not considered and examined matters of religion as they ought, whose lusts and corrupt natures keep them as far alienated from believing, and as averse to a real obeying the truth that must save them, as any other men: it is manifest that embracing the true religion in your sense is only embracing the outward profession of it, which is nothing but outward conformity. And that being the farthest you would have your penalties pursue men, and there leave them with as much of their ignorance of the truth, and carelessness of their souls, as they please: who can deny but that it would be impertinent in you to consider how want of impartial examination, or aversion to the true religion, should in them be cured? Because they are none of those subjects of the commonwealth, whose spiritual and eternal interests are by political government to be procured or advanced; none of those subjects whose salvation the magistrate is to take care of.
And therefore I excuse you, as you desire, for not taking notice of my three reasons; but whether the reader will do so or no, is more than I can undertake. I hope you too will excuse me for having used so harsh a word as prevaricate, and impute it to my want of skill in the English tongue. But when I find a man pretend to a great concern for the salvation of men’s souls, and make it one of the great ends of civil government, that the magistrate should make use of force to bring all his subjects to consider, study, and examine, believe and embrace the truth that must save them; when I shall have to do with a man, who to this purpose hath writ two books to find out and defend the proper remedies for that general backwardness and aversion, which depraved human nature keeps men in, to an impartial search after, and hearty embracing the true religion; and who talks of nothing less than obligations on sovereigns, both from their particular duty, as well as from common charity, to take care that none of their subjects should want the assistance of this only means left for their salvation; nay, who has made it so necessary to men’s salvation, that he talks as if the wisdom and goodness of God would be brought in question, if those who needed it should be destitute of it; and yet, notwithstanding all this show of concern for men’s salvation, contrives the application of this sole remedy so, that a great many who lie under the disease, should be out of the reach and benefit of his cure, and never have this only remedy applied to them: when this I say is so manifestly in his thoughts all the while, that he is forced to confess “that, though want or neglect of examination be a general fault, yet the method he proposes for curing it does not reach to all that are guilty of it;” but frankly owns, that he was not concerned to show how the neglect of examination might be cured in those who conform, but only in those who by reason of it reject the true religion duly proposed to them: which rejecting the true religion will require a man of art to show to be here any thing but nonconformity to the national religion: when, I say, I meet with a man another time that does this, who is so much a man of art, as to talk of all, and mean but some; talk of hearty embracing the true religion, and mean nothing but conformity to the national; pretend one thing, and mean another; if you please to tell me what name I shall give it, I shall not fail: for who knows how soon again I may have an occasion for it?
If I would punish men for nonconformity without owning of it, I could not use a better pretence than to say it was to make them hearken to reasons and arguments proper to convince them, or to make them submit to the instruction and government of the proper ministers of religion, without any thing else; supposing still at the bottom the arguments for, and the ministers of my religion to be these, that till they outwardly complied with, they were to be punished. But if, instead of outward conformity to my religion covered under these indefinite terms, I should tell them, they were to examine the scripture, which was the fixed rule for them and me; not examining could not give me a pretence to punish them, unless I would also punish conformists, as ignorant and unversed in scripture as they, which would not do my business.
But what need I use arguments to show, that your punishing to make men examine, is designed only against dissenters, when in your answer to this very paragraph of mine, you in plain words “acknowledge, that though want of examination be a general fault, yet the method you propose for curing does not reach to all that are guilty of it?” To which if you please to add what you tell us, That when dissenters conform, the magistrate cannot know, and therefore never examines whether they do it upon reason and conviction or no; though it be certain that, upon conforming, penalties, the necessary means, cease, it will be obvious that, whatever be talked, conformity is all that is aimed at, and that want of examination is but the pretence to punish dissenters.
And this I told you, any one must be convinced of, who observes that you, who are so earnest to have men punished to bring them to consider and examine, that so they may discover the way of salvation, have not said one word of considering, searching, and hearkening to the scripture, which, you were told, was as good a rule for a christian to have sent men to, as to “the instruction and government of the proper ministers of religion, or to the information of those who tell them they have mistaken their way, and offer to show them the right.” For this passing by the scripture you give us this reason, that, “throughout your treatise you speak of the true religion only in general, i. e. not as limited to any particular dispensation, or to the times of the scriptures, but as reaching from the fall of Adam to the end of the world, &c. And then you appeal to all men of art, whether speaking of the true religion, under this generality, you could be allowed to descend to any such rules of it as belong only to some particular times or dispensations, such as I cannot but acknowledge the Old and New Testaments to be.”
The author that you write against, making it his business, as nobody can doubt who reads but the first page of his letter, to show that it is the duty of christians to tolerate both christians and others who differ from them in religion; it is pretty strange, in asserting against him that the magistrate might and ought to use force to bring men to the true religion, you should mean any other magistrate than the christian magistrate, or any other religion than the christian religion. But it seems you took so little notice of the design of your adversary, which was to prove, that christians were not to use force to bring any one to the christian religion; that you would prove, that christians were now to use force, not only to bring men to the christian, but also to the jewish religion; or that of the true church before the law, or to some true religion so general that it is none of these. “For, say you, throughout your treatise you speak of the true religion only in general, i. e. not as limited to any particular dispensation:” though one that were not a man of art would suspect you to be of another mind yourself, when you told us, the shutting out of the jews from the rights of the commonwealth “is a just and necessary caution in a christian commonwealth;” which you say to justify your exception in the beginning of your “argument,” against the largeness of the author’s toleration, who would not have jews excluded. But speak of the true religion only in general as much as you please, if your true religion be that by which men must be saved, can you send a man to any better guide to that true religion now than the scripture?
If when you were in your altitudes, writing the first book, your men of art could not allow you to descend to any such rule as the scripture, (though even there you acknowledge the severities spoken against are such as are used to make men christians;) because there, (by an art proper to yourself,) you were to speak of true religion under a generality, which had nothing to do with the duty of christians, in reference to toleration. Yet when here in your second book, where you condescend all along to speak of the christian religion, and tell us, “that the magistrates have authority to make laws for promoting the christian religion; and do by their laws design to contribute what in them lies to make men good christians;” and complain of toleration as the very bane of the life and spirit of christianity, &c. and have vouchsafed particularly to mention the gospel; why here, having been called upon for it, you could not send men to the scriptures, and tell them directly, that those they were to study diligently, those they were impartially and carefully to examine, to bring them to the true religion, and into the way of salvation; rather than talk to them as you do, of receiving instruction, and considering reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince them; rather than propose, as you do all along, such objects of examination and inquiry in general terms, as are as hard to be found, as the thing itself for which they are to be examined: why, I say, you have here again avoided sending men to examine the scriptures; is just matter of inquiry. And for this you must apply yourself again to your men of art, to furnish you with some other reason.
If you will but cast your eyes back to your next page, you will there find that you build upon this, that the subject of your and the author’s inquiry “is only what method is to be used to bring men to the true religion.” If this be so, your men of art, who cannot allow you to descend to any such rule as the scriptures, because you speak of the true religion in general, i. e. not as limited to any particular dispensation, or to the times of the scriptures, must allow, that you deserve to be head of their college; since you are so strict an observer of their rules, that though your inquiry be, “What method is to be used to bring men to the true religion,” now under the particular dispensation of the gospel, and under scripture-times; you think it an unpardonable fault to recede so far from your generality, as to admit the study and examination of the scripture into your method; for fear, it is like, your method would be too particular, if it would not now serve to bring men to the true religion, who lived before the flood. But had you had as good a memory, as is generally thought needful to a man of art, it is believed you would have spared this reason, for your being so backward in putting men upon examination of the scripture. And any one, but a man of art, who shall read what you tell us the magistrate’s duty is; and will but consider how convenient it would be, that men should receive no instruction but from the ministry, that you there tell us the magistrate assists; examine no arguments, hear nothing of the gospel, receive no other sense of the scripture, but what that ministry proposes; (who, if they had but the coactive power, you think them as capable of as other men,) might assist themselves; he, I say, who reflects but on these things, may perhaps find a reason that may better satisfy the ignorant and unlearned, who have not had the good luck to arrive at being of the number of these men of art, why you cannot descend to propose to men the studying of the scripture.
Let me for once suppose you in holy orders, (for we that are not of the adepti, may be allowed to be ignorant of the punctilios in writing observed by the men of art,) and let me then ask what art is this, whose rules are of that authority, that one, who has received commission from heaven to preach the gospel in season and out of season for the salvation of souls, may not allow himself to propose the reading, studying, examining, of the scripture, which has for at least these sixteen hundred years contained the only true religion in the world, for fear such a proposal should offend against the rules of this art, by being too particular, and confined to the gospel-dispensation; and therefore could not pass muster, nor find admittance, in a treatise wherein the author professes it his only business to “inquire what method is to be used to bring men to the true religion?” Do you expect any other dispensation; that you are so afraid of being too particular, if you should recommend the use and study of the scripture, to bring men to the true religion now in the times of the gospel? Why might you not as well send them to the scriptures, as to the ministers and teachers of the true religion? Have those ministers any other religion to teach, than what is contained in the scriptures? But perhaps you do this out of kindness and care, because possibly the scriptures could not be found; but who were the ministers of the true religion, men could not possibly miss. Indeed you have allowed yourself to descend to what belongs only to some particular times and dispensations, for their sake, when you speak of the ministers of the gospel. But whether it be as fully agreed on amongst christians, who are the ministers of the gospel that men must hearken to, and be guided by; as which are the writings of the apostles and evangelists, that, if studied, will instruct them in the way to heaven; is more than you or your men of art can be positive in. Where are the canons of this over-ruling art to be found, to which you pay such reverence? May a man of no distinguishing character be admitted to the privilege of them? For I see it may be of notable use at a dead-lift, and bring a man off with flying colours, when truth and reason can do him but little service. The strong guard you have in the powers you write for; and when you have engaged a little too far, the safe retreat you have always at hand in an appeal to these men of art; made me almost at a stand, whether I were not best make a truce with one who had such auxiliaries. A friend of mine finding me talk thus, replied briskly, it is a matter of religion, which requires not men of art; and the assistance of such art as savours so little of the simplicity of the gospel, both shows and makes the cause the weaker. And so I went on to your two next paragraphs.
In them, to vindicate a pretty strange argument for the magistrate’s use of force, you think it convenient to repeat it out of your A. p. 26; and so, in compliance with you, shall I do here again. There you tell us, “The power you ascribe to the magistrate is given him to bring men, not to his own, but to the true religion: and though (as our author puts us in mind) the religion of every prince is orthodox to himself; yet if this power keep within its bounds, it can serve the interest of no other religion but the true, among such as have any concern for their eternal salvation; (and those that have none deserve not to be considered;) because the penalties it enables him that has it to inflict, are not such as may tempt such persons either to renounce a religion which they believe to be true, or to profess one which they do not believe to be so; but only such as are apt to put them upon a serious and impartial examination of the controversy between the magistrate and them, which is the way for them to come to the knowledge of the truth. And if, upon such examination of the matter, they chance to find that the truth does not lie on the magistrate’s side, they have gained thus much however, even by the magistrate’s misapplying his power; that they know better than they did before, where the truth doth lie; and all the hurt that comes to them by it, is only the suffering some tolerable inconveniencies for their following the light of their own reason, and the dictates of their own consciences; which certainly is no such mischief to mankind as to make it more eligible that there should be no such power vested in the magistrate, but the care of every man’s soul should be left to himself alone, (as this author demands it).”
To this I tell you, “That here, out of abundant kindness, when dissenters have their heads, without any cause, broken, you provide them a plaister.” For, say you, “if upon such examination of the matter, (i. e. brought to it by the magistrate’s punishment,) they chance to find that the truth doth not lie on the magistrate’s side, they have gained thus much however, even by the magistrate’s misapplying his power, that they know better than they did before, where the truth does lie. Which is as true as if you should say: Upon examination I find such an one is out of the way to York, therefore I know better than I did before that I am in the right. For neither of you may be in the right. This were true indeed, if there were but two ways in all, a right and a wrong.” To this you reply here: “That whoever shall consider the penalties, will, you persuade yourself, find no heads broken, and so but little need of a plaister. The penalties, as you say, are to be such as will not tempt such as have any concern for their eternal salvation, either to renounce a religion which they believe to be true, or profess one which they believe not to be so; but only such as, being weighed in gold scales, are just enough, or, as you express it, are apt to put them upon a serious and impartial examination of the controversy between the magistrate and them.” If you had been pleased to have told us what penalties those were, we might have been able to guess whether there would have been broken heads or no. But since you have not vouch-safed to do it, and, if I mistake not, will again appeal to your men of art for another dispensation rather than ever do it; I fear nobody can be sure these penalties will not reach to something worse than a broken head: especially if the magistrate shall observe that you impute the rise and growth of false religions (which it is the magistrate’s duty to hinder) to the pravity of human nature, unbridled by authority; which by what follows he may have reason to think is to use force sufficient to counterbalance the folly, perverseness, and wickedness of men: and whether then he may not lay on penalties sufficient, if not to break men’s heads, yet to ruin them in their estates and liberties, will be more than you can undertake. And since you acknowledge here, that the magistrate may err so far in the use of this his power, as to mistake the persons that he lays his penalties on; will you be security that he shall not also mistake in the proportion of them, and not lay on such as men would willingly exchange for a broken head? All the assurance you give us of this is, “If this power keep within its bounds, i. e. as you here explain it, If the penalties the magistrate makes use of to promote a false religion, do not exceed the measure of those which he may warrantably use for the promoting the true.” The magistrate may, notwithstanding any thing you have said, or can say, use any sort of penalties, any degree of punishment; you having neither showed the measure of them, nor will be ever able to show the utmost measure which may not be exceeded, if any may be used.
But what is this I find here? “If the penalties the magistrate make use of to promote a false religion.” Is it possible that the magistrate can make use of penalties to promote a false religion; of whom you told us but three pages back, “That may always be said of him (what St. Paul said of himself), That he can do nothing against the truth but for the truth?” By that one would have thought you had undertaken to us, that the magistrate could no more use force to promote a false religion, than St. Paul could preach to promote a false religion. If you say, the magistrate has no commission to promote a false religion, and therefore it may always be said of him what St. Paul said of himself, &c. I say, no minister was ever commissioned to preach falsehood; and therefore “it may always be said of every minister (what St. Paul said of himself) that he can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth:” whereby we shall very commodiously have an infallible guide in every parish, as well as one in every commonwealth. But if you thus use scripture, I imagine you will have reason to appeal again to your men of art, whether, though you may not be allowed to recommend to others the examination and use of scripture, to find the true religion, yet you yourself may not use the scripture to what purpose, and in what sense you please, for the defence of your cause.
To the remainder of what I said in that paragraph, your answer is nothing but an exception to an inference I made. The argument you were upon, was to justify the magistrate’s inflicting penalties to bring men to a false religion, by the gain those that suffered them would receive.
Their gain was this: “That they would know better than they did before, where the truth does lie.” To which I replied, “Which is as true, as if you should say, upon examination I find such an one is out of the way to York; therefore I know better than I did before, that I am in the right.” This consequence you find fault with, and say it should be thus: “Therefore I know better than I did before, where the right way lies.” This, you tell me, “would have been true; which was not for my purpose.” These consequences, one or the other, are much-what alike true. For he that of an hundred ways, amongst which there is but one right, shuts out one that he discovers certainly to be wrong, knows as much better than he did before, that he is in the right, as he knows better than before, where the right way lies. For before it was ninety-nine to one that he was not in the right; and now he knows it is but ninety-eight to one that he is not in the right; and therefore knows so much better than before, that he is in the right, just as much as he knows better than he did before, where the right way lies. For let him upon your supposition proceed on and every day, upon examination of a controversy with some one in one of the remaining ways, discover him to be in the wrong; he will every day know better than he did before, equally, where the right way lies, and that he is in it; till at last he will come to discover the right way itself, and himself in it. And therefore your inference, whatever you think, is as much as the other for my purpose; which was to show what a no-table gain a man made in the variety of false opinions and religions in the world, by discovering that the magistrate had not the truth on his side; and what thanks he owed the magistrate, for inflicting penalties upon him so much for his improvement, and for affording him so much knowledge at so cheap a rate. And should not a man have reason to boast of his purchase, if he should by penalties be driven to hear and examine all the arguments that can be proposed by those in power for all their foolish and false religions? And yet this gain is what you propose, as a justification of magistrates inflicting penalties for promoting their false religions. And an “impartial examination of the controversy between them and the magistrate, you tell us here, is the way for such as have any concern for their eternal salvation to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
To my saying, “He that is punished may have examined before, and then I am sure he gains nothing:” You reply, “But neither does he lose much, if it be true, which you there add, that all the hurt that befalls him, is only the suffering some tolerable inconvenience for his following the light of his own reason, and the dictates of his conscience.” So it is therefore you would have a man rewarded for being an honest man; (for so is he who follows the light of his own reason, and the dictates of his conscience;) only with the suffering some tolerable inconveniencies. And yet those tolerable inconveniencies are such as are to counterbalance men’s lusts, and the corruption of depraved nature; which you know any slight penalty is sufficient to master. But that the magistrate’s discipline shall stop at those your tolerable inconveniencies, is what you are loth to be guarantee for: for all the security you dare give of it, is, “If it be true which you there add.” But if it should be otherwise, the hurt may be more I see than you are willing to answer.
Here your men of art will do well to be at hand again. For it may be seasonable for you to appeal to them, whether the nature of your discourse will allow you to descend to show “the magistrate the bounds of his authority, and warn him of the injury he does, if he misapplies his power.”
You say, “the question there debated, is, whether the magistrate has any right or authority to use force for promoting the true religion; which plainly supposes the unlawfulness and injustice of using force to promote a false religion, as granted on both sides.” Neither is that the question in debate; nor, if it were, does it suppose what you pretend. But the question in debate is, as you put it, Whether any body has a right to use force in matters of religion? You say, indeed, “The magistrate has, to bring men to the true “religion.” If thereupon you think the magistrate has none to bring men to a false religion, whatever your men of art may think, it is probable other men would not have thought it to have been beside the nature of your discourse, to have warned the magistrate, that he should consider well, and impartially examine the grounds of his religion before he use any force to bring men to it. This is of such moment to men’s temporal and eternal interests, that it might well deserve some particular caution addressed to the magistrate; who might as much need to be put in mind of impartial examination as other people. And it might, whatever your men of art may allow, be justly expected from you: who think it no deviation from the rules of art, to tell the subjects that they must submit to the penalties laid on them, or else fall under the sword of the magistrate; which, how true soever, will hardly by any body be found to be much more to your purpose in this discourse, than it would have been to have told the magistrate of what ill consequence it would be to him and his people, if he misused his power, and warned him to be cautious in the use of it. But not a word that way. Nay even where you mention the account he shall give for so doing, it is still to satisfy the subjects that they are well provided for, and not left unfurnished of the means of salvation, by the right God has put into the magistrate’s hands to use his power to bring them to the true religion; and therefore they ought to be well content; because if the magistrate misapply it, the Great Judge will punish him for it. Look, sir, and see whether what you say, any-where, of the magistrate’s misuse of his power, have any other tendency: and then I appeal to the sober reader, whether if you had been as much concerned for the bounding, as for the exercise, of force in the magistrate’s hands, you would not have spoke of it after another manner.
The next thing you say, is “that the question (being, whether the magistrate has any right to use force to bring men to the true religion,) supposes the unlawfulness of using force to promote a false religion as granted on both sides;” which is so far from true, that I suppose quite the contrary, viz. That if the magistrate has a right to use force to promote the true, he must have a right to use force to promote his own religion; and that for reasons I have given you elsewhere. But the supposition of a supposition serves to excuse you from speaking any thing directly of setting bounds to the magistrate’s power, or telling him his duty in that point; though you are very frequent in mentioning the obligation he is under, that men should not want the assistance of his force; and how answerable he is if any body miscarry for want of it; though there be not the least whisper of any care to be taken, that nobody be misled by it. And now I recollect myself I think your method would not allow it: for if you should have put the magistrate upon examining, it would have supposed him as liable to errour as other men; whereas, to secure the magistrate’s acting right, upon your foundation of never using force but for the true religion, I see no help for it, but either he or you (who are to license him) must be got past the state of examination into that of certain knowledge and infallibility.
Indeed, as you say, “you tell the magistrate that the power you ascribe to him in reference to religion, is given him to bring men not to his own, but to the true religion.” But do you put him upon a severe and impartial examination which, amongst the many false, is the only true religion he must use force to bring his subjects to; that he may not mistake and misapply his power in a business of that consequence? Not a syllable of this. Do you then tell him which it is he must take, without examination, and promote with force; whether that of England, France, or Denmark? This, methinks, is as much as the pope, with all his infallibility, could require of princes. And yet what is it less than this you do, when you suppose the religion of the church of England to be the only true; and upon this your supposition, tell the magistrate it is his duty, by force, to bring men to it, without ever putting him upon examining, or suffering him or any body else to question, whether it be the only true religion or no? For if you will stick to what you in another place say: “That it is enough to suppose that there is one true religion, and but one, and that that religion may be known by those who profess it;” what authority will this knowableness of the true religion give to the king of England, more than to the king of France, to use force, if he does not actually know the religion he professes to be the true; or to the magistrate more than the subject, if he has not examined the grounds of his religion? But if he believes you when you tell him your religion is the true, all is well; he has authority enough to use force, and he need not examine any farther. If this were not the case; why you should not be careful to prepare a little advice to make the magistrate examine, as well as you are solicitous to provide force to make the subject examine, will require the skill of a man of art to discover.
Whether you are not of the number of those men I there mentioned, (for that there have been such men in the world, instances might be given;) one may doubt from your principles. For if, upon a supposition that yours is the true religion, you can give authority to the magistrate to inflict penalties on all his subjects that dissent from the communion of the national church, without examining whether theirs too may not be that only true religion which is necessary to salvation; is not this to demand, that the magistrate’s power should be applied only in favour of a party? And can any one avoid being confirmed in this suspicion, when he reads that broad insinuation of yours, p. 34, as if our magistrates were not concerned for truth or piety, because they granted a relaxation of those penalties, which you would have employed in favour of your party: for so it must be called, and not the church of God, exclusive of others: unless you will say men cannot be saved out of the communion of your particular church, let it be national where you please.
You do not, you say, encourage the magistrate to misapply his power; because “in the very same breath you tell him he misapplies his power.” I answer, let all men understand you, as much as you please, to say that he sins in doing it; that will not excuse you from encouraging him there; unless it be impossible that a man may be encouraged to sin. If your telling the magistrate that his subjects gain by his misapplying of force, be not an encouragement to him to misapply it, the doing good to others must cease to be an encouragement to any action. And whether it be not a great encouragement in this case to the magistrate, to go on in the use of force, without impartially examining whether his or his subjects be the true religion; when he is told that, be his religion true or false, his subjects, who suffer, will be sure to be gainers by it; let any one judge. For the encouragement is not, as you put it, to the magistrate to use force to bring men to what he thinks a false religion; but it is an encouragement to the magistrate, who presumes his to be the true religion, to punish his dissenting subjects, without due and impartial examination on which side the truth lies. For having never told the magistrate, that neglect of examination is a sin in him; if you should tell him a thousand times, that he who uses his power to bring men to a false religion misapplies it; he would not understand by it that he sinned, whilst he thought his the true; and so it would be no restraint to the misapplying his power.
And thus we have some prospect of this admirable machine you have set up for the salvation of souls.
The magistrate is to use force to bring men to the true religion. But what if he misapplies it to bring men to a false religion? It is well still for his subjects: they are gainers by it. But this may encourage him to a misapplication of it. No; you tell him that he that uses it to bring men to a false religion, misapplies it; and therefore he cannot but understand that you say “his sins, and lays himself open to divine vengeance.” No; he believes himself in the right; and thinks as St. Paul, whilst a persecutor, that he does God good service. And you assure him here, he makes his suffering subjects gainers; and so he goes on as comfortably as St. Paul did. Is there no remedy for this? Yes, a very ready one, and that is, that the “one only true religion may be kown by those who profess it to be the only true religion.”
To which, if we add how you moderate as well as direct the magistrate’s hand in punishing; by making the last regulation of your convenient penalties to lie in the prudence and experience of magistrates themselves; we shall find the advantages of your method. For are not your necessary means of salvation, which lie in moderate penalties used to bring men to the true religion, brought to an happy state; when that which is to guide the magistrate in the knowledge of the true religion, is, “that the true religion may be known by those who profess it to be the only true religion;” and the convenient penalties to be used for the promoting of it, are such as the magistrate shall in his prudence think fit; and that whether the magistrate applies it right or wrong, the subject will be a gainer by it? If in either of your discourses, you have given the magistrate any better direction than this to know the true religion by, which he is by force to promote; or any other intelligible measure to moderate his penalties by; or any other caution to restrain the misuse of his power; I desire you to show it me: and then I shall think I have reason to believe, that in this debate you have had more care of the true religion, and the salvation of souls, than to encourage the magistrate to use the power he has, by your direction, and without examination; and to what degree he shall think fit, in favour of a party. For the matter thus stated, if I mistake not, will serve any magistrate to use any degree of force against any that dissent from his national religion.
Having recommended to the subjects the magistrate’s persecution by a show of gain, which will accrue to them by it; you do well to bring in the example of Julian; who whatever he did to the christians, would, no more than you, own that it was persecution; but for their advantage in the other world. But whether his pretending gain to them, upon grounds which he did not believe; or your pretending gain to them, which nobody can believe to be one; be a greater mockery, you were best look. This seems reasonable, that his talk of philanthropy, and yours of moderation, should be bound up together. For till you speak and tell them plainly what they may trust to, the advantage the persecuted are to receive from your clemency, may, I imagine, make a second part to what the christians of that age received from his. But you are solicitous for the salvation of souls, and dissenters shall find the benefit of it.