Of the usefulness of force in matters of religion.
You having granted that in all pleas for any thing, because of its usefulness, it is not enough to say that it may be serviceable; but it must be considered, not only what it may, but what it is likely to produce; and the greater good or harm likely to come from it ought to determine the use of it; I think there need nothing more to be said to show the usefulness of force in the magistrate’s hands for promoting the true religion, after it has been proved that, if any, then all magistrates, who believe their religion to be true, are under an obligation to use it. But since the usefulness and necessity of force is the main foundation on which you build your hypothesis, we will in the two remaining chapters examine particularly what you say for them.
To the author’s saying, “That truth seldom hath received, and he fears never will receive much assistance from the power of great men, to whom she is but rarely known, and more rarely welcome;” you answer, “And yet God himself foretold and promised that kings should be nursing fathers, and queens nursing mothers to his church.” If we may judge of this prophecy by what is past or present, we shall have reason to think it concerns not our days; or if it does, that God intended not that the church should have many such nursing fathers and nursing mothers, that were to nurse them up with moderate penalties, if those were to be the swaddling-clouts of this nursery. Perhaps, if you read that chapter, you will think you have little reason to build much on this promise, till the restoring of Israel: and when you see the gentiles bring thy (i. e. as the style of the chapter seems to import, the sons of the Israelites) “sons in their arms, and thy daughters be carried upon their shoulders,” as is promised in the immediately preceding words; you may conclude that then “kings shall be thy (i. e. Israel’s) nursing fathers, and queens thy nursing mothers.” This seems to me to be the time designed by that prophecy; and I guess to a great many others, upon an atttentive reading that chapter in Isaiah. And to all such this text will do you little service, till you make out the meaning of it better than by barely quoting of it; which will scarce ever prove, that God hath promised that so many princes shall be friends to the true religion, that it will be better for the true religion that princes should use force for the imposing or propagating of their religions, than not. For unless it prove that, it answers not the author’s argument; as an indifferent reader must needs see. For he says not “truth never, but she seldom hath received, and he fears never will receive (not any, but) much assistance from the power of great men, to whom she is but rarely known, and more rarely welcome.” And therefore to this of Isaiah pray join that of St. Paul, 1 Cor. i. 26, “Not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble.”
But supposing many kings were to be nursing fathers to the church, and that this prophecy were to be fulfilled in this age, and the church were now to be their nursery; it is I think more proper to understand this figurative promise, that their pains and discipline were to be employed on those in the church, and that they should feed and cherish them, rather than that these words meant that they should whip those that were out of it. And therefore this text will, I suppose, upon a just consideration of it, signify very little against the known matter of fact, which the author urges; unless you can find a country where the cudgel and the scourge are more the badges and instruments of a good nurse, than the breast and the bib; and that she is counted a good nurse of her own child, who busies herself in whipping children not hers, nor belonging to her nursery.
“The fruits which give you no encouragement to hope for any advantage from the author’s toleration, which almost all but the church of England enjoyed in the times of the blessed reformation, as it was called, you tell us, were sects and heresies.” Here your zeal hangs a little in your light. It is not the author’s toleration which here you accuse. That, you know, is universal: and the universality of it is that which a little before you wondered at, and complained of. Had it been the author’s toleration, it could not have been almost all but the church of England; but it had been the church of England and all others. But let us take it, that sects and heresies were, or will be the fruits of a free toleration; i. e. men are divided in their opinions and ways of worship. Differences in ways of worship, wherein there is nothing mixed inconsistent with the true religion, will not hinder men from salvation, who sincerely follow the best light they have; which they are as likely to do under toleration as force. And as for difference of opinions, speculative opinions in religion; I think I may safely say, that there are scarce any-where three considering men (for it is want of consideration you would punish) who are in their opinions throughout of the same mind. Thus far then, if charity be preserved (which it is likelier to be where there is toleration, than where there is persecution), though without uniformity, I see no great reason to complain of those ill fruits of toleration.
But men will run, as they did in the late times, into “dangerous and destructive errours, and extravagant ways of worship.” As to errours in opinion, if men upon toleration be so apt to vary in opinions, and run so wide one from another, it is evident they are not so averse to thinking as you complain. For it is hard for men, not under force, to quit one opinion and embrace another, without thinking of them. But if there be danger of that, it is most likely the national religion should sweep and draw to itself the loose and unthinking part of men, who without thought, as well as without any contest with their corrupt nature, may embrace the profession of the countenanced religion, and join in outward communion with the great and ruling men of the nation. For he that troubles not his head at all about religion, what other can so well suit him as the national, with which the cry and preferments go; and where, it being, as you say, presumable that he makes that his profession upon conviction, and that he is in earnest; he is sure to be orthodox, without the pains of examining, and has the law and government on his side to make it good that he is in the right.
But seducers, if they be tolerated, will be ready at hand, and diligent; and men will hearken to them. Seducers have surely no force on their side, to make people hearken. And if this be so, there is a remedy at hand, better than force; if you and your friends will use it, which cannot but prevail; and that is, let the ministers of truth be as diligent; and they bringing truth with them, truth obvious and easy to be understood, as you say what is necessary to salvation is, cannot but prevail.
But seducers are hearkened to, because they teach opinions favourable to men’s lusts. Let the magistrate, as is his duty, hinder the practices which their lusts would carry them to, and the advantage will be still on the side of truth.
After all, sir, if, as the apostle tells the Corinthians, 1 Cor. xi. 19, “There must be heresies amongst you, that they which are approved may be made manifest;” which, I beseech you, is best for the salvation of men’s souls; that they should enquire, hear, examine, consider, and then have the liberty to profess what they are persuaded of; or that, having considered, they should be forced not to own or follow their persuasions; or else that, being of the national religion, they should go ignorantly on without any consideration at all? In one case, if your penalties prevail, men are forced to act contrary to their consciences, which is not the way to salvation; and if the penalties prevail not, you have the same fruits, sects and heresies, as under toleration: in the other, it is true, those ignorant, loose, unthinking conformists do not break company with those who embrace the truth that will save them; but I fear can no more be said to have any share in it, than those who openly dissent from it. For it is not being in the company, but having on the wedding-garment, that keeps men from being bound hand and foot, and cast into the dreadful and eternal prison.
You tell us, “Force has a proper efficacy to procure the enlightening of the understanding, and the production of belief,” viz. by making men consider. But your ascribing men’s aversion to examine matters of religion to the corruption of their nature; force, your way applied (i. e. so that men avoid the penalties by an outward conformity), cannot have any proper efficacy to procure consideration; since men may outwardly conform, and retain their corruption and aversion to consideration; and upon this account force your way applied is absolutely impertinent.
But further; if force has such a proper efficacy to procure the production of belief, it will do more harm than good, employed by any but orthodox magistrates. But how to put it only into orthodox hands is the difficulty. For I think I have proved, that if orthodox magistrates may, and ought to use force, for the promoting their religion; all that think themselves orthodox are obliged to use it too. And this may serve for an answer to all that you have said, p. 16.
I having said, “Whatever indirect efficacy there be in force applied by the magistrate your way, it makes against you; force used by the magistrate to bring men to consider those reasons and arguments which are proper and sufficient to convince them, but which, without being forced, they would not consider; may, say you, be serviceable indirectly and at a distance to make men embrace the truth which must save them. And thus, say I, it may be serviceable to bring men to receive and embrace falsehood, which will destroy them.” To this you, with great triumph, reply,—“How, sir, may force be used by the magistrate, to bring men to consider those reasons and arguments which are proper and sufficient to convince them, be serviceable to bring men to embrace falsehood, such falsehood as will destroy them? It seems then there are reasons and arguments which are proper and sufficient to convince men of the truth of falsehood, which will destroy. Which is certainly a very extraordinary discovery, though such as no man can have any reason to thank you for.”
In the first place let me ask you, Where did you find, or from what words of mine do you infer that notable proposition, “That there are reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince men of the truth of falsehood?” If a magistrate of the true religion may use force to make men consider reasons and arguments proper to convince men of the truth of his religion, may not a prince of a false religion use force to make men consider reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince them of what he believes to be true? And may not force thus be serviceable to bring men to receive and embrace falsehood?
In the next place, did you, who argue with so much school-subtility, as if you drank it in at the very fountain; never hear of such an ill way of arguing as “a conjunctis ad divisa?” There are no arguments proper and sufficient to bring a man into the belief of what is in itself false, whilst he knows or believes it to be false; therefore there are no arguments proper and sufficient to bring a man into the belief of what is in itself false, which he neither knows nor believes to be so. A senior sophister would be laughed at for such logic. And yet this is all you say in that sentence you erect for a trophy, “to convince men of the truth of falsehood;” which, though not my words, but such as you in your way supply from what I said, you are exceedingly pleased with, and think their very repeating a triumph. But though there are no arguments proper and sufficient to convince men of the truth of falsehood, as falsehood; yet I hope you will allow that there are arguments proper and sufficient to make men receive falsehoods for truths; why else do you complain of seducers? And those who embrace falsehoods for truths, do it under the appearance of truth, misled by those arguments which make it appear so, and so convince them. And that magistrates, who take their religion to be true, though it be not so, may with force use such arguments, you will, I think, grant.
But you talk, as if nobody could have arguments proper and sufficient to convince another, but he that was of your way, or your church. This indeed is a new and very extraordinary discovery, and such as your brethren, if you can convince them of it, will have reason to thank you for. For if any one was ever by arguments and reasons brought off, or seduced from your church, to be a dissenter; there were then, I think, reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince him. I will not name to you again Mr. Reynolds, because you have charity enough to question his sincerity. Though his leaving his country, friends, and acquaintance, may be presumed as great a mark of his being convinced and in earnest, as it is for one to write for a national religion in a country where it is uppermost. I will not yet deny, but that, in you, it may be pure zeal for the true religion, which you would have assisted with the magistrate’s force. And since you seem so much concerned for your sincerity in the argument, it must be granted you deserve the character of a well-meaning man, who own your sincerity in a way so little advantageous to your judgment.
But if Mr. Reynolds, in your opinion, was misled by corrupt ends, or secular interest; what do you think of a prince [James II.] now living? Will you doubt his sincerity? or that he was convinced of the truth of the religion he professed, who ventured three crowns for it? What do you think of Mr. Chillingworth, when he left the church of England for the Romish profession? Did he do it without being convinced that that was right? Or was he convinced with reasons and arguments, not proper or sufficient to convince him?
But certainly this could not be true, because, as you say, p. 25, the scripture does not teach any thing of it. Or perhaps those that leave your communion do it always without being convinced, and only think they are convinced when they are not: or are convinced with arguments not proper and sufficient to convince them. If nobody can convince another, but he that has truth on his side, you do more honour to the “first and second letter concerning toleration,” than is for the advantage of your cause, when you impute to them the increase of sects and heresies amongst us. And there are some, even of the church of England, have professed themselves so fully satisfied by the reasons and arguments in the first of them, that though I dare not be positive to you, whose privilege it is to convince men that they are convinced; yet I may say it is as presumable they are convinced, having owned it, as it is presumable that all that are conformists are made so upon reason and conviction.
This I suppose, may serve for an answer to your next words, “That God in his just judgment will send such as receive not the love of truth, that they may be saved, but reject it for the pleasure they have in unrighteousness, ἐνέργειαν πλάνης, strong delusion, i. e. such reasons and arguments as will prevail with men, so disposed, to believe a lie, that they may be damned; this you confess the scripture plainly teaches us. But that there are any such reasons or arguments as are proper and sufficient to convince or satisfy any but such resolute and obdurate sinners, of the truth of such falsehood as will destroy them, is a position which you are sure the scripture doth not teach us; and which, you tell me, when I have better considered it, you hope I will not undertake to maintain. And yet if it be not maintainable, what I say here is to no purpose: for if there be no such reasons and arguments as here we speak of, it is in vain to talk of the magistrate’s using force to make men consider them.”
But if you are still of the mind, that no magistrate but those who are of the true religion, can have arguments backed with force, proper and sufficient to convince; and that in England none but resolute obdurate sinners ever forsook or forbore the communion of the church of England, upon reasons and arguments that satisfy or convince them, I shall leave you to enjoy so charitable an opinion.
But as to the usefulness of force, your way applied, I shall lay you down again the same argument I used before; though in words lest fitted for your way of reasoning on them, now I know your talent. If there be any efficacy in force to bring men to any persuasion, it will, your way applied, bring more men to errour than to truth. Your way of using it is only to punish men for not being of the national religion; which is the only way you do, or can apply force, without a toleration. Nonconformity is the fault that is punished; which fault, when it ceases, the punishment ceases. But yet to make them consider, is the end for which they are punished; but whether it be or be not intended to make men consider, it alters nothing in the case. Now, I say, that since all magistrates who believe their religion to be true, are as much obliged to use force to bring their subjects to it, as if it were true; and since most of the national religions of the world are erroneous if force made use of to bring men to the national religion, by punishing dissenters, have any efficacy, let it be what it will; indirect and at a distance, if you please; it is like to do twenty times more harm than good; because of the national religions of the world, to speak much within compass, there are above twenty wrong for one that is right.
Indeed, could force be directed to drive all men indifferently, who are negligent and backward in it, to study, examine, and consider seriously matters of religion, and search out the truth; and if men were, upon their study and examination, permitted to follow what appears to them to be right; you might have some pretence for force, as serviceable to truth in making men consider. But this is impossible, but under a toleration. And I doubt whether, even there, force can be so applied, as to make men consider and impartially examine what is true in the professed religions of the world, and to embrace it. This at least is certain, that where punishments pursue men, like outlying deer, only to the pale of the national church; and, when once they are within that, leave them free there and at ease; it can do no service to the true religion, even in a country where the national is the true. For the penalties ceasing as soon as men are got within the pale and communion of the church, they help not men at all against that which you assign as the great hindrance to the true religion, and which therefore, in your opinion, makes force necessary to assist it.
For there being no necessity that men should leave either their vices or corruption, or so much as their ignorance, to get within the pale of the church; force, your way applied, serves only to bring them, even in the few christian and orthodox countries, to the profession, not to the knowledge, belief, or practice, of the true religion.
You say, corrupt nature inclines men from the true religion to false ones; and moderate force is requisite to make such men consider. But such men as, out of corrupt nature, and for their ease and carnal pleasures, choose an erroneous religion without considering, will again, as soon as they can find their choice incommoded by those penalties, consult the same corrupt nature and carnal appetites, and, without considering any thing further, conform to that religion where they can best enjoy themselves. It is only the conscientious part of dissenters, such as dissent not out of indulgence to corrupt nature, but out of persuasion, who will not conform without considering as they ought. And therefore your argument from corrupt nature, is out of doors. If moderate penalties serve only to work on those who are led by corrupt nature, they are of no use but to fill the church with hypocrites; that is, to make those men worse hypocrites than they were before, by a new act of hypocrisy; and to corrupt the manners of the rest of the church, by their converse with these. And whether this be for the salvation of souls, as is pretended, or for some other end, that the priests of all religions have generally so earnestly contended for it, I leave to be considered. For as for those who dissent out of persuasion, I suspect your moderate penalties will have little effect upon them. For such men being awed by the fear of hell-fire, if that fear will not make them consider better than they have done, moderate penalties will be too weak to work upon them. It is well if dragooning and martyring can do it.
But you add, “May it not be true, nevertheless, that force your way applied may be serviceable, indirectly and at a distance, to bring men to embrace the truth which may save them? which is all you are concerned here to make good.” So that if it may possibly happen that it should ever bring two men to embrace the truth, you have gained your point, and overthrown toleration, by the usefulness and necessity there is of force. For without being forced these two men would never have considered; which is more yet than you know, unless you are of his private council, who only can tell when the season of grace is past, and the time come that preaching, intreaty, instruction, and persuasion shall never after prevail upon a man. But whatever you are here concerned to make good, are you not also concerned to remember what you say; where declaring against the magistrate’s having a power to use what may any way, at any time, upon any person, by any accident, be useful towards the promoting the true religion, you say, “Who sees not that however such means might chance to hit right in some few cases, yet, upon the whole matter, they would certainly do a great deal more harm than good; and in all pleas (making use of my words) for any thing because of its usefulness, it is not enough to say that it may be serviceable, but it must be considered, not only what it may, but what it is likely to produce; and the greater good or harm like to come from it, ought to determine the use of it?”
You proceed and tell me, that I, “not content to say that force your way applied (i. e. to bring men to embrace the truth which must save them) may be serviceable to bring men to embrace falsehood which will destroy them; and so is proper to do as much harm as good (which seems strange enough;) I add (to increase the wonder), that in your indirect way it is much more proper and likely to make men receive and embrace errour, than the truth: and that, 1. Because men out of the right way are apt, and I think I may say apter, to use force than others; which is doubtless an irrefragable demonstration, that force used by the magistrate to bring men to receive and embrace the truth which must save them, is much more proper and likely to make men receive errour than the truth.” And then you ask me, “How we come to talk here of what men out of the right way are apt to do, to bring others into their, i. e. a wrong way; where we are only inquiring, what may be done to bring men to the right way. For you must put me in mind, you say, that this is our question, viz. Whether the magistrate has any right to use force to bring men to the true religion.” Whether the magistrate has a right to use force in matters of religion, as you more truly state it, p. 78, is the main question between us, I confess. But the question here between us is about the usefulness of force your way applied; which being to punish dissenters as dissenters, to make them consider, I showed would do more harm than good. And to this you were here answering. Whereby, I suppose, it is plain that the question here is about the usefulness of force, so applied. And I doubt not but my readers, who are not concerned, when the question in debate will not serve your turn, to have another substituted, will take this for a regular and natural way of arguing, viz. “That force, your way applied, is more proper and likely to make men embrace errour than the truth; because men out of the right way are as apt, I think I may say apter, to use force than others.” You need not then ask as you do, “How we come to talk here of men out of the “right way.” You see how. If you do not, I know not what help there is for your eyes. And I must content myself that any other reader that has eyes, will not miss it. And I wonder that you should: since you know I have on several occasions argued against the use of force in matters of religion, upon a supposition, that if any one, then all magistrates, have a just pretence and right to use it; which has served you in some places for matter of great reproof, and, in others, of sport and diversion. But because so plain a thing as that was so strange to you, that you thought it a ridiculous paradox to say, “That for all magistrates to suppose the religion they believed to be true, was equally just and reasonable;” and because you took no notice of the words adjoined that proved it, viz. “Unless we can imagine every-where but in England [or where the national religion is the true] men believe what at the same time they think to be a lye;” I have taken the pains to prove it to you more at large in another place, and therefore shall make bold to use it here as an argument against force, viz. That if it have any efficacy, it will do more harm than good: “Because men out of “the right way are as apt, or apter to use it:” and I shall think it a good one till you have answered it.
It is a good and a sure way, and shows a zeal to the cause, still to hold fast the conclusion, and, whatever be in debate, return still to one’s old position. I arguing against what you say for the use of force, viz. “That force used not to convince by its own proper efficacy, but only to make men consider, might indirectly, and at a distance, do some service towards the bringing men to embrace the truth;” after other arguments against it, I say, that “whatever efficacy there is in force, your way applied, i. e. to punish all, and none but, dissenters from the national church, makes against you:” and the first reason I give for it, is in these words: “Because men out of the right way, are as apt or apter to use force than others.” Which is what you are here answering. And what can be done better to answer it, than to the words I have above cited, to subjoin these following? “Now whereas our author says, that penalties of force is absolutely impertinent in this case, because it is not proper to convince the mind; to which you answer, that, though force be not proper to convince the mind, yet it is not absolutely impertinent in this case, because it may, however, do some service towards the bringing men to embrace the truth which must save them, by bringing them to consider those reasons and arguments which are proper to convince the mind; and which, without being forced, they would not consider.” Here I tell you, “No; but it is much more proper and likely to make men receive and embrace errour than truth; because men out of the right way are as apt, and perhaps apter, to use force than others.” Which you tell me, “is as good a proof you believe as the thing would admit; for otherwise, you suppose, I would have given you a better.” And thus you have certainly gained the cause. For I having proved that force, your way applied, whatever efficacy it had, would do more harm than good, have not sufficiently proved that it cannot do some service towards the bringing men to embrace the truth; and therefore it is not absolutely impertinent. But since you think this apt enough to prove the use of force in matters of religion impertinent, I shall farther show you that force, applied your way to make people consider, and so to make them embrace the truth, is impertinent.
Your way is to lay penalties on men for nonconformity, as you say, to make men consider: now here let me ask any one but you, whether it be not utterly impertinent so to lay penalties on men, to make them consider, when they can avoid those penalties without considering? But because it is not enough to prove force your way applied, utterly impertinent, I shall show you in the next place, that were a law made to punish not barely nonconformity, but nonconsideration, those penalties, laid on not considering, would be utterly impertinent; because it could never be proved that a man had not considered the arguments offered him. And therefore all law-makers till you, in all their penal laws about religion, laid all their penalties upon not embracing; and it was against that that our author was arguing, when he said penalties, in this case, are absolutely impertinent; because they are not proper to convince the mind. For in that case, when penalties are laid on men for not embracing, it is plain they are used as a means to make men embrace; which, since those who are careless in matters of religion can do without considering, and those who are conscientious cannot do without conviction; and since penalties can in no wise convince; this use of them is absolutely impertinent, and will always be so till you can show a way how they can be used in religion, not as motives to embrace, but as motives barely to make men consider. For if you punish them on when they tell you they have considered your arguments, but are not convinced by them; and you judge of their having not considered, by nothing but their not embracing; it is plain you use penalties instead of arguments to convince them; since without conviction, those whom our author pleads for, cannot embrace; and those who do embrace without conviction, it is all one as if they did not embrace at all; they being not one jot the more in the way of salvation; and so penalties are absolutely impertinent. But embracing in the sense of the law and yours too, when you say men have not considered as they ought as long as they reject; is nothing but outward conformity, or an outward profession of embracing, wherewith the law is satisfied, and upon which the penalties cease. Now penalties used to make men in this sense embrace, are absolutely impertinent to bring men to embrace in earnest, or as the author calls it, believe: because an outward profession, which in this case is the immediate end to which penalties are directed, and beyond which they do not reach, is no proper means to produce in men consideration, conviction, or believing.
What can be more impertinent than to vex and disease people with the use of force, to no purpose? and that force must needs be to no purpose, which is so applied as to leave the end for which it is pretended to be used, without the means, which is acknowledged necessary for its attainment. That this is so in your way of using force, will easily appear from your hypothesis. You tell us at large in your “Argument considered,” that men’s lusts hinder them from even impartial consideration and examination of matters in religion: and therefore force is necessary to remove this hindrance. You tell us likewise at large in your letter, that men’s corrupt nature and beloved lusts hinder them also from embracing the true religion, and that force is necessary likewise to remove this obstacle. Now in your way of using force, wherein penalties are laid on men till, and no longer than till, they are made outwardly to conform, force is so applied, that notwithstanding the intention of the law-maker, let it be what it will, neither the obstacle to impartial examination, arising from men’s lusts, nor the aversion to the embracing the true religion, arising from men’s corrupt nature, can be removed, unless they can be removed without that, which you suppose necessary to their removal. For since a man may conform, without being under the necessity of impartial examining or embracing on the one hand, or suffering the penalties on the other; it is unavoidable, that he should neither impartially examine nor embrace, if penalties are necessary to make him do either; because penalties, which are the necessary remedies to remove those hindrances, were never applied to them; and so those obstacles not being removed for want of their necessary remedy, must continue on to hinder both examining and embracing. For penalties cannot be used as a means to any end, or be applied to the procuring any action to be done, which a man from his lusts, or any other cause, has an aversion to; but by putting them as it were in one scale as a counterbalance to that aversion, and the action in the other scale, and putting a man under the necessity of choosing the one or the other: where that is not done, the penalty may be avoided, the aversion or obstacle hath nothing to remove it, and so the action must remain undone. So that if penalties be necessary to make men impartially examine and really embrace; if penalties are not so laid on men as to make the alternative to be either suffering the penalties or conforming; it is impossible that men who without penalties would not impartially examine, or really embrace, the true religion, should ever do either; and then I beseech you consider whether penalties, your way applied, be impertinent or no.
The necessity of penalties is only where there is some inclination or bias in a man, whencesoever arising, that keeps him from doing something in his power, which he cannot be brought to without the inconveniencies of some penal infliction. The efficacy of penalties lies in this, that the inconvenience to be suffered by the penalties overbalances the bias or inclination which leans the man the other way, and so removes the obstacle; and the application of this remedy lies only in putting a man under the necessary choice either of doing the action, or suffering the penalty: so that in whatever case a man has not been put under that necessity, there penalties have never been applied to the procuring that action: for the obstacle, or aversion to it, has never had its necessary remedy.
Perhaps you will say, it is not absolutely impertinent, because it may possibly “do some service indirectly and at a distance,” and be the occasion that some may consider and embrace. If whatever may by accident contribute to any end, may be used not impertinently as a means to that end, nothing that I know can be impertinent; and a penalty of twelve pence a time laid on them for being drunk, may be said to be a pertinent means, to make men cartesians, or conformists: because it may indirectly and at a distance do some service, by being an occasion to make some men consider their mispending their time; whereby it may happen that one may betake himself to the study of philosophy, where he may meet with arguments proper and fit to convince him of the truth of that philosophy; as another betaking himself to the study of divinity, may consider arguments proper and fit to make him, whether it be in England, Holland, or Denmark, of the national profession, which he was not of before.
Just thus, and no otherwise, does twelve pence a Sunday, or any other penalty laid on nonconformity, make men study and embrace the true religion; and whatever you will call the service it does, direct or indirect, near or at a distance, it is plain it produces that effect, and conduces to that end merely by accident; and therefore must be allowed to be impertinent to be used to that purpose.
That your way of using force in matters of religion, even in a country where the magistrate is of the true religion, is absolutely impertinent; I shall further shew you from your own position.
Here in the entrance give me leave to observe to you, that you confound two things very different, viz. your way of applying force, and the end for which you pretend to use it. And this perhaps may be it which contributes to cast that mist about your eyes, that you always return to the same place, and stick to the same gross mistake. For here you say; “Force, your way applied, i. e. to bring men to embrace the truth which must save them:” but, sir, to bring men to embrace the truth, is not your way of applying force, but the end for which you pretend it is applied. Your way to punish men, as you say, moderately for being dissenters from the national religion; this is your way of using force. Now, if in this way of using it, force does service merely by accident, you will then, I suppose, allow it to be absolutely impertinent. For you say, “If by doing service by accident, I mean, doing it but seldom, and beside the intention of the agent, you assure me that it is not the thing you mean when you say force may, indirectly and at a distance, do some service.” For in that use of force, which you defend, the effect is both intended by him that uses it, and withal, you “doubt not, so often attained, as abundantly to manifest the usefulness of it.” Whereby it is plain the two marks, whereby you distinguished your indirect and at a distance usefulness, from that which is by accident, are that, that by accident does service but seldom, and beside the intention of the agent, but yours the contrary.
First, as to the intention, you tell us, in the use of force, which you defend, “the effect is intended by him that uses it;” that is, those who made laws to punish nonconformists, designed those penalties to make all men under their power, “consider so as to be convinced of, and embrace the truths that should save them.” If one should ask you how you knew it to be their intention, can you say, they ever told you so? If they did not, then so far you and I know their intentions alike. Did they ever say so in those laws? nor that neither. Those versed then in the interpretation of laws, will tell you nothing can be known to be the intention of the law-makers in any law, of which the law is wholly silent: that way then you cannot know it to have been their intention, if the law says nothing of it. Whatever was the intention of former law-makers, if you had read with attention the last act of uniformity of Car. II. printed before the common-prayer book, I conclude you would have been better satisfied about the intention of the then law-makers in that law; for I think nothing can be plainer to any one who will look into that statute, than that their only end in that law was, what they have expressed in these words: “And to the end that uniformity in the public worship of God (which is so much desired) may be speedily effected;” which was driven with such speed, that if all concerned had opportunity to get and peruse the then established liturgy, it is certain they had not overmuch time seriously and deliberately to consider of all the parts of it before the day set for the use of it.
But you think they ought to have intended, and therefore they did: and I think they neither ought, nor could, in making those laws, intend so impracticable a thing: and therefore they did not. Which being as certain a way of knowledge as yours, if you know it by that way, it is possible you and I may at the same time know contraries.
But you know it, by their “having provided sufficient means of instruction for all under their care, in the true religion;” of this sufficient means, we have something to say in another place. Penalties laid expressly on one fault, have no evidence that they were designed to mend another, though there are sufficient means provided of mending it, if men would make a sufficient use of them; unless those two faults are so connected, as one cannot be mended without the other. Now if men cannot conform without so considering as to be convinced of, and embrace the truth that must save them; you may know that penalties laid on nonconformity, were intended to make men so consider: but if men may conform, without so considering, one cannot know nor conclude those penalties were intended to make men so consider, whatever provision there is made of means of instruction.
But you will say, it is evident that penalties on nonconformists were intended to make them use these means of instruction, because they are intended for the bringing men to church, the place of instruction. That they are intended to bring men to church, the place of preaching, that I grant; but that those penalties that are laid on men, for not coming to church, can be known thereby to be intended to make men so consider, as to be convinced and embrace the true religion, that I deny: and it is utterly impossible it should be so, if what you say be true, where you tell us, that “the magistrates concern themselves for compliance or conformity, only as the fruit of their conviction.” If therefore the magistrates are concerned for men’s conformity, only as the fruit of their conviction, and coming to church be that conformity; coming to church cannot be intended as a means of their conviction: unless it be intended they should be convinced, before they are convinced.
But to show you, that you cannot pretend the penalty of laws for conformity to proceed from a care of the souls of all under the magistrate’s power, and so to be intended to make them all consider, in any sense: can you, or any one, know, or suppose, that penalties which are laid by the law on nonconformity, are intended to make all men consider; where it is known that a great number, under the magistrate’s power, are dispensed with, and privileged from those penalties? How many, omitting the jews, are there, for example, in the king of England’s dominions, under his care and power, of the Walloon and French church; to whom force is never applied, and they live in security from it? How many pagans are there in the plantations, many whereof born in his dominions, of whom there was never any care taken, that they should so much as come to church, or be in the least instructed in the christian religion? And yet must we believe, or can you pretend, that the magistrate’s use of force, against nonconformists, is to make all his subjects consider, “so as to be convinced of, and embrace the truth that must save them?” If you say, in your way you mean no such indulgence: I answer, the question is not of yours, but the magistrate’s intention: though what your intention is, who would have the want of consideration, or knowledge, in conformists, exempt from force, is visible enough.
Again, Those penalties cannot be supposed to be intended to make men consider, which are laid on those who have, or may have already considered; and such you must grant to be the penalties laid in England on nonconformists; unless you will deny, that any nonconformist has, or can consider, so as to be convinced, or believe, and embrace the truth that must save him. So that you cannot vouch the intention of the magistrate where his laws say nothing, much less affirm, that force is intended to produce a certain end in all his subjects, which is not applied to them all, and is applied to some who have attained that end already: unless you have a privilege to affirm, against all appearance, whatsoever may serve your cause. But to learn some moderation in this, I shall send you to my pagans and mahometans. For whatever charitable wishes magistrates may sometimes have in their thoughts, which I meddle not with; nobody can say, that in making the laws, or in the use of force, we are speaking of, they intended to make men consider and examine, so as to “be convinced of, and heartily to embrace the truth that must save them,” but he that gives himself the liberty to say any thing.
The service that force does, indirectly and at a distance, you tell us in the following page, is to make people “apply themselves to the use of those means, and helps, which are proper to make them what they are designed to be.” In the case before us, What are men designed to be? Holy believers of the gospel in this world, without which no salvation, no seeing of God in the next. Let us see now, whether force, your way applied, can be suited to such a design, and so intended for that end.
You hold, that all out of the national church, where the religion of the national church is true, should be punished, and ought to have force used to them: and again, you grant that those who are in the communion of the national church, ought not to be punished, or be under the stroke of force; nor indeed in your way can they. If now the effect be to prevail with men to consider as they ought, so that they may become what they are designed to be: how can any one think, that you, and they who use force thus, intend, in the use of it, that men should really be christians, both in persuasion and practice, without which there is no salvation; if they leave off force before they have attained that effect? Or how can it be imagined, that they intend any thing but conformity by their use of force, if they leave off the use of it as soon as men conform? unless you will say that an outward conformity to the national church, whose religion is the true religion, is such an embracing of the truth as is sufficient to salvation: or that an outward profession of the christian religion is the same with being really a christian; which possibly you will not be very forward to do, when you recollect what you meet with in the sermons, and printed discourses, of divines of the church of England, concerning the ignorance and irreligion of conformists themselves: For penalties can never be thought, by any one, but he that can think against common sense, and what he pleases, to be intended for any end; which by that constitution, and law whereby they are imposed, are to cease before that end be attained. And will you say, that all who are conformable, have so well considered, that they believe, and heartily embrace the truths of the gospel, that must save them: when perhaps it will be found that a great many conformists do not so much as understand them? But the ignorance or irreligiousness to be found amongst conformists, which your way of talking forces me in some places to take notice of, let me here tell you once for all, I lay not the blame of upon conformity, but upon your use of force to make men conform. For whatever the religion be, true or false, it is natural for force, and penalty, so applied, to bring the irreligious, and those who are careless and unconcerned for the true, into the national profession: but whether it be fitter for such to be kept out, rather than by force to be driven into, the communion of any church, and owned as members of it; those who have a due care and respect for truly religious and pious conformists, were best consider.
But farther, if, as you say, the opposition to the true religion lies only in men’s lusts, it having light and strength enough, were it not for that, to prevail: and it is upon that account only that force is necessary; there is no necessity at all to use force on men, only till they conform, and no farther; since I think you will not deny, but that the corruption of human nature is as great in conformists as in nonconformists; in the professors of, as in the dissenters from, the national religion. And therefore either force was not necessary before, or else it is necessary still, after men are conformists; unless you will say, that it is harder for a man to be a professor, than a christian indeed: and that the true religion, by its own light and strength, can, without the help of force, prevail over a man’s lusts, and the corruption of his nature; but it has need of the help of force, to make him a conformist, and an outward professor. And so much for the effect, which is intended by him that uses it, in that use of force which you defend.
The other argument you bring to show, that your indirect and at a distance usefulness of force, your way applied, is not by accident, is the frequent success of it. Which I think is not the true mark of what is not by accident: for an effect may not be by accident, though it has never been produced but once; and is certainly as little by accident the first time, as when it has been produced a thousand times. That then, by which any thing is excused from being by accident, is not the frequency of the event, but that whereon the frequency of the event depends, when frequent trials are made: and that is the proper, natural, direct efficacy of the cause or means, which produces the effect. As in the case before us, penalties are the cause or means used to produce an end; the proper and immediate effect of penalties, is to produce some pain or inconvenience; and the natural effect of that is to make a man, who naturally flies from all pain or inconvenience, to endeavour to avoid; whereby it naturally and directly works upon the will of man, by proposing to him this unavoidable choice of doing some action, or enduring the pain or inconvenience of the penalty annexed to its omission. When the pain of doing the action is outweighed in the sense of him that lies under the penalty, the pain, that by the law is annexed to the omission, operates upon his will, as naturally, as thirteen ounces in one scale, laid against twelve ounces in the other, incline the balance, and bring it down on that side. And this is by a direct and natural efficacy, wherein there is nothing of chance.
Let us see then, how far this will go in your indirect and at a distance usefulness. In your method, the action you propose to be done, is considering, or a severe and impartial examining matters of religion, which, you tell us, men by their great negligence or aversion are kept from doing. What now is a proper means to produce this? “Penalties, without which, you tell us, it will not be done.” How now is it applied in your method? Conformity, and men’s neglect or aversion to it, is laid in one scale, and the penalty joined to the omission of it, laid in the other; and in this case, if the inconvenience of the penalty overweighs the pains of, or aversion to conformity, it does by a direct and natural efficacy produce conformity: but if it produces a severe and impartial examination, that is merely by accident; because the inconvenience of the penalty is not laid against men’s aversion or backwardness to examine impartially, as a counterbalance to that, but against their aversion or backwardness to conform; and so whatever it does, indirectly and at a distance, it is certain its making men severely and impartially examine, if ever that happens, is as much by accident, as it would be by accident, if a piece of lead in one scale, as a counterpoise to feathers in the opposite scale, should move or weigh down gold that was put in the scale of another pair of balances, which had no counterpoise laid against it. Unless you will say there is a necessary connexion between conformity, and a severe and impartial examination.
But you will say, perhaps, that though it be not possible that penalties should produce examination but by mere accident, because examination has no necessary connexion with conformity, or the profession of any religion; yet since there are some who will not take up any profession without a severe and impartial examination, penalties for nonconformity will, by a direct and natural efficacy, produce examination in all such. To which I answer, That those are, if we may believe what you say, so very few, that this your remedy, which you put into the magistrate’s hands to bring all his subjects to consider and examine, will not work upon one in a thousand; nay, it can work on none at all, to make them severely and impartially examine, but merely by accident. For if they are men, whom a slight and partial examination, which upon your principles you must say, sufficed to make nonconformists, a slight and partial examination will as well serve to make them conformists; and so penalties laid on them to make them conform, can only by accident produce a severe and impartial examination, in such men, who can take up the profession of any religion without a severe and impartial examination; no more than it can otherwise than by accident produce any examination in those who, without any examination, can take up the profession of any religion.
And in those very few, who take not up the profession of any religion without a severe and impartial examination, that penalties can do any service, to bring them either to the truth that must save them, or so much as to outward conformity, but merely by accident; that is also evident. Because all such in a country where they dissent from the national religion, must necessarily have severely and impartially examined already, or else you destroy the supposition this argument is built on, viz. that they are men who do severely and impartially examine before they choose. And if you lay, or continue your penalties on men, that have so examined; it is plain you use them instead of reasons and arguments; in which use of them, you confess they have no proper efficacy, and therefore if they do any service, is is merely by accident.
But now let us see the success you boast of, and for that you tell us, that you doubt not but it is “so often attained, as abundantly to manifest the usefulness of it.” You speak here of it as a thing tried, and so known, that you doubt not. Pray tell us where your moderate (for great ones you acknowledge to do harm, and to be useless) penalties have been used, with such success, that we may be past doubt too. If you can show no such place; do you not vouch experience where you have none? and show a willingness not to doubt, where you have no assurance? In all countries, where any force is used to bring men to the profession of the national religion, and to outward conformity, it is not to be doubted, but that force joining with their natural corruption, in bringing them into the way of preferment, countenance, protection, ease, and impunity, should easily draw in all the loose and careless in matters of religion, which are every-where the far greater number: but is it those you count upon, and will you produce them as examples of what force has done to make men consider, study, and embrace the true religion? Did the penalties laid on nonconformity make you “consider, so as to study, be convinced, and embrace the true religion?” Or can you give an instance of any one, in whom it produced this effect? If you cannot, you will have some reason to doubt of what you have said, and not to be so confident that the effect you talk of is so often attained. Not that I deny, but that God may sometimes have made these punishments the occasions to men of setting themselves seriously on considering religion; and thence they may have come into the national religion upon a real conviction: but the instances of it I believe to be so few, that you will have reason to remember your own words, where you speak of such things as “Any way, at any time, upon any person by any accident, may be useful towards the promoting of true religion: if men should thence take occasion to apply such things generally: who sees not, that however they might chance to hit right in some few cases, yet, upon the whole matter, they would certainly do a great deal more harm than good.” You and I know a country wherein, not long since, greater severities were used than you pretend to approve of. Were there not, for all that, great numbers of several professions stood out, who, by your rule, ought now to have your moderate penalties tried upon them? And can you think less degrees of force can work, and often, as you say, prevail, where greater could not? But perhaps they might prevail on many of those to return, who having been brought into the communion of the church by former penal laws, have now upon the relaxation left it again. A manifest demonstration, is it not? that “their compliance was the fruit of their conviction; and that the magistrate was concerned for their compliance only as the fruit of their conviction:” when they, as soon as any relaxation of those laws took off the penalties, left again the communion of the national church? For the lessening the number of conformists, is, I suppose, one of those things which you say your “eyes cannot but see at this time;” and which you, with concern, impute to the late relaxation. A plain evidence how presumable it is, even in your own opinion, that those who conform, do it upon real conviction.
To conclude, these proofs, though I do not pretend to bring as good as the thing will admit, will serve my turn to show, that force is impertinent; since by your own confession it has no direct efficacy to convince men, and, by its being indirect and at a distance useful, is not at all distinguished from being barely so by accident: since you can neither prove it to be intended for that end, nor frequently to succeed; which are the two marks whereby you put a difference between indirect and at a distance, and by accident: this I say, is enough to show what the author said is true, that the use of force is wholly impertinent. Which, whatever others do, you upon another reason must be forced to allow.
You profess yourself of the church of England, and if I may guess, are so far of it as to have subscribed the XXXIX Articles; which if you have done, and assented to what you subscribed, you must necessarily allow that all force, used for the bringing men to the true religion, is “absolutely impertinent;” for that must be absolutely impertinent to be used as a means, which can contribute nothing at all to the end for which it is used. The end here is to make a man a true christian, that he may be saved; and he is then, and then only, a true christian, and in the way of salvation, when he believes, and with sincerity obeys the gospel. By the thirteenth article of the church of England, you hold, that works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasing to God; for as much as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ; neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or, as the school-authors say, deserve grace or congruity; yea rather, for that they are not done, as God has willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin. Now if it be impertinent to use force to make a man do more than he can, and a man can do nothing to procure grace, unless sin can procure it; and without grace, a man cannot believe, or live so as to be a true christian; it is certainly wholly impertinent to use force to bring a man to be truly a christian. To hear and consider, is in men’s power, you will say, and to that force may be pertinent: I grant to make men hear, but not to make them consider in your sense, which you tell us, is to “consider so as to embrace;” if you mean by embracing any thing but outward conformity: and that according to your article contributes nothing to the attaining of grace; because without grace, your article says, it is a sin; and to conform to, and outwardly profess a religion which a man does not understand and heartily believe, every one, I think, judges to be a sin, and no fit means to procure the grace of God.
But you tell us, “That God denies his grace to none who seriously ask it.” If that be so, methinks force should most properly and pertinently be used to make men seriously pray to God for grace. But how, I beseech you, will this stand with your thirteenth article? For if you mean by seriously, so as will make his seeking acceptable to God; that cannot be, because he is supposed yet to want grace, which alone can make it acceptable: and if his asking has the nature of sin, as in the article you do not doubt but it has, can you expect that sinning should procure the grace of God? You will I fear here, without some great help in a very nice distinction from the school-authors, be forced either to renounce your article in the plain sense of it, and so become a dissenter from the church of England; or else acknowledge force to be wholly impertinent to the business of true religion and salvation.
Another reason I gave against the usefulness of force in matters of religion, was, “Because the magistrates of the world, being few of them in the right way; not one of ten, take which side you will, perhaps not one of a hundred, being of the true religion; it is likely your indirect way of using force would do a hundred, or at least ten times as much harm as good.” To which you reply, “Which would have been to the purpose if you had asserted that every magistrate may use force, your indirect way (or any way) to bring men to his own religion, whatever that be. But if you assert no such thing, (as no man you think but an atheist will assert it,) then this is quite beside the business.” I think I have proved, that if magistrates of the true religion may use force to bring men to their religion, every magistrate may use force to bring men to his own religion, when he thinks it the true, and then do you look where the atheism will light.
In the next paragraph, having quoted these following words of mine, where I say, “Under another pretence, you put into the magistrate’s hands as much force to bring them to his religion, as any the openest persecutors can pretend to. I ask what difference is there between punishing them to bring them to mass, and punishing them to make them consider those reasons and arguments which are proper and sufficient to convince them that they ought to go to mass?” You reply: “A question which you shall then think yourself obliged to answer, when I have produced those reasons and arguments which are proper and sufficient to convince men that they ought to go to mass.” But if you had not omitted the three or four immediately preceding lines, (an art to serve a good cause, which puts me in mind of my pagans and mahometans,) the reader would have seen that your reply was nothing at all to my argument. My words were these:
“Especially, if you consider, that as the magistrate will certainly use it [force] to force men to hearken to the proper ministers of his religion, let it be what it will; so you having set no time nor bounds to this consideration of arguments and reasons short of being convinced, you under another,” &c. My argument is to show of what advantage force, your way applied, is like to be to the true religion, since it puts as much force into the magistrate’s hands as the openest persecutors can pretend to, which the magistrates of wrong persuasions may and will use as well as those of the true; because your way sets no other bounds to considering, short of complying. And then I ask, “What difference there is between punishing you to bring you to mass, or punishing you to consider those reasons and arguments which are proper and sufficient to convince you that you ought to go to mass?” To which you reply, That it is a “question you shall then think yourself obliged to answer, when I have produced those reasons and arguments that are proper and sufficient to convince men that they ought to go to mass.” Whereas the objection is the same, whether there be, or be not, reasons and arguments proper to convince men, that they ought to go to mass; for men must be punished on till they have so considered as to comply: and what difference is there then between punishing men to bring them to mass, and punishing them to make them consider so as to go to mass? But though I pretend not to produce any reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince you or all men, that they ought to go to mass; yet do you think there are none proper and sufficient to convince any men? And that all the papists in the world go to mass without believing it their duty? And whosoever believes it to be his duty, does it upon reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince him (though perhaps not to convince another) that it is so; or else I imagine he would never believe at all. What think you of those great numbers of Japaneses, that resisted all sorts of torments, even to death itself, for the Romish religion? And had you been in France some years since, who knows but the arguments the king of France produced might have been proper and sufficient to have convinced you that you ought to go to mass? I do not by this think you less confident of the truth of your religion, than you profess to be. But arguments set on with force, have a strange efficacy upon human frailty; and he must be well assured of his own strength, who can peremptorily affirm, he is sure he should have stood what above a million of people sunk under: amongst which, it is great confidence to say, there was not one so well persuaded of the truth of his religion, as you are of yours: though some of them gave great proofs of their persuasion in their sufferings for it. But what the necessary method of force may be able to do, to bring any one, in your sense, to any religion, i. e. to an outward profession of it; he that thinks himself secure against, must have a greater assurance of himself, than the weakness of decayed and depraved nature will well allow. If you have any spell against the force of arguments, driven with penalties and punishments, you will do well to teach it the world: for it is the hard luck of well-meaning people to be often misled by them; and even the confident themselves have not seldom fallen under them, and betrayed their weakness.
To my demanding if you meant “reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince men of the truth, why did you not say so?” you reply, “As if it were possible for any man that reads your answer to think otherwise.” Whoever reads that passage in your A. p. 5. cannot possibly think you meant to speak out, and possibly you found some difficulty to add any thing to your words (which are these, “Force used to bring men to consider reasons and arguments proper and sufficient to convince them”) that might determine their sense. For if you had said, to convince them of truth; then the magistrate must have made laws, and used force to make men search after truth in general, and that would not have served your turn: if you had said to convince them of the truth of the magistrate’s religion, that would too manifestly have put the power in every magistrate’s hands, which, you tell us, “none but an atheist will say.” If you had said, to convince them of the truth of your religion, that had looked too ridiculous to be owned, though it were the thing you meant; and therefore in this strait, where nothing you could say would well fit your purpose, you wisely choose to leave the sense imperfect, and name nothing they were to be convinced of; but leave it to be collected by your reader out of your discourse, rather than add three words to made it good grammar, as well as intelligible sense.
To my saying, “That if you pretend it must be arguments to convince men of the truth, it would in this case do you little service; because the mass in France is as much supposed the truth, as the liturgy here.” You reply, “So that it seems, that in my opinion, whatsoever is supposed the truth, it is the truth, for otherwise this reason of mine is none at all.” If, in my opinion, the supposition of truth authorizes the magistrate to use the same means to bring men to it, as if it were true; my argument will hold good, without taking all to be true which some men suppose true. According to this answer of yours, to suppose or believe his religion the true, is not enough to authorize the magistrate to use force; he must know, i. e. be infallibly certain that his is the true religion. We will for once suppose you our magistrate, with force promoting our national religion. I will not ask you, whether you know that all required of conformists, is necessary to salvation: but will suppose one of my pagans asking you, whether you know christianity to be the true religion? If you say, Yes; he will ask you how you know it? and no doubt but you will give the answer, whereby our Saviour proved his mission, John v. 36, that “the works which our Saviour did, bear witness of him, that the Father sent him.” The miracles that Christ did, are a proof of his being sent from God, and so his religion the true religion. But then you will be asked again, whether you know that he did those miracles, as well as those who saw them done? If you answer, Yes; then it is plain that miracles are not yet withdrawn, but do still accompany the christian religion with all the efficacy and evidence that they had upon the eye-witnesses of them; and then, upon your own grounds, there will be no necessity of the magistrate’s assistance; miracles still supplying the want of it. If you answer, that matter of fact done out of your sight, at such a distance of time and place, cannot be known to you as certainly, as it was to the eye-witnesses of it, but that you upon very good grounds firmly believe it; you are then come to believing, that yours is the true religion, and if that be sufficient to authorize you to use force, it will authorize any other magistrate of any other religion, to use force also. For whoever believes any thing, takes it to be true, and as he thinks upon good grounds; and those often who believe on the weakest grounds, have the strongest confidence: and thus all magistrates who believe their religion to be true, will be obliged to use force to promote it, as if it were the true.
To my saying that the usefulness of force, your way applied, amounts to no more but this, that it is not impossible but that it may be useful: you reply, “I leave it to be judged by what has been said;” and I leave it to you yourself to judge: only, that you may not forget, I shall here remind you in short of some of the reasons I have to say so: 1. You grant that force has no direct efficacy to bring men to embrace the truth. 2. You distinguish the indirect and at a distance usefulness of your force, from that which is barely by accident; by these two marks, viz. First, That punishment on dissenters for nonconformity, is, by those that use it, intended to make men consider: and, secondly, That your moderate punishments, by experience, are found often successful; and your having neither of these marks, it must be concluded to be useful only by accident: and such an usefulness, as I said, “One cannot deny to auricular confession, doing of penance, going pilgrimages to saints, and what not? Yet our church does not think fit to use them; though it cannot be denied but they may have some of your indirect and at a distance usefulness; that is, perhaps may do some service indirectly, and by accident.” If the intention of those that use them, and the success they will tell you they find in the use of them, be a proof of doing service more than by accident; that cannot be denied to them more than to penalties, your way applied. To which let me add, that the niceness and difficulty there is, to hit that just degree of force, which, according to your hypothesis, must be neither so much as to do harm, nor so little as to be ineffectual; for you yourself cannot determine it; makes its usefulness yet more uncertain and accidental. And after all, let its efficacy to work upon men’s minds be what it will, great or little, it being sure to be employed ten, or, possibly, a hundred times to bring men to errour, for once that it is employed to bring men to the truth; and where it chances to be employed on the side of truth, it being liable to make a hundred, or perhaps a thousand outward conformists, for one true and sincere convert; I leave it also to be judged, what usefulness it is like to be of.
To show the usefulness of force, your way applied, I said, “Where the law punished dissenters without telling them it is to make them consider, they may through ignorance and oversight neglect to do it.” Your answer is, “But where the law provides sufficient means of instruction for all, as well as punishment for dissenters, it is so plain to all concerned, that the punishment is intended to make them consider, that you see no danger of men’s neglecting to do it, through ignorance or oversight.” I hope you mean by consider, so to consider as not only to embrace in an outward profession, for then all you say is but a poor fallacy, for such a considering amounts to no more but bare outward conformity; but so to consider, study, and examine matters of religion, as really to embrace what one is convinced to be the true, with faith and obedience. If it be so plain and easy to understand, that a law, that speaks nothing of it, should yet be intended to make men consider, search, and study, to find out the truth that must save them; I wish you had showed us this plainness. For I confess many of all degrees, that I have purposely asked about it, did not ever see, or so much as dream, that the act of uniformity, or against conventicles, or the penalties in either of them, were ever intended to make men seriously study religion, and make it their business to find the truth which must save them; but barely to make men conform. But perhaps you have met with handicrafts-men, and country-farmers, maid-servants, and day-labourers, who have quicker understandings, and reason better about the intention of the law; for these as well as others are concerned. If you have not, it is to be feared your saying “it is so plain that you see no danger of men’s neglecting to do it, through ignorance or oversight,” is more for its serving your purpose, than from any experience you have that it is so.
When you will enquire into this matter, you will, I guess, find the people so ignorant amidst that great plainness you speak of, that not one of twenty of any degree amongst the conformists or nonconformists, ever understood the penalty of twelve pence a Sunday, or any other of our penal laws against nonconformity, to be intended to set men upon studying the true religion, and impartially examining what is necessary to salvation. And if you would come to Hudibras’s decision, I believe he would have a good wager of it, who should give you a guinea for each one who had thought so, and receive but a shilling for every one who had not. Indeed you do not say, it is plain every-where, but only “where the law provides sufficient means of instruction for all as well as punishments for dissenters.” From whence, I think it will follow, that that contributes nothing to make it plain; or else that the law has not provided sufficient means of instruction in England, where so very few find this to be so plain. If by this sufficient provision of means of instruction for all, you mean persons maintained at the public charge to preach and officiate in the public exercise of the national religion; I suppose you needed not this restriction, there being few places which have an established national religion, where there is not such means of instruction provided; if you intend any other means of instruction, I know none the law has provided in England but the XXXIX articles, the liturgy, and the scripture; and how either of them by itself, or these altogether, with a national clergy, make it plain, that the penalties laid on nonconformity are intended to make men consider, study, and impartially examine matters of religion, you would do well to show. For magistrates usually know (and therefore make their laws accordingly) that the people seldom carry either their interpretation or practice beyond what the express letter of the law requires of them. You would do well also to show that a sufficient provision of means of instruction cannot but be understood to require an effectual use of them, which the law that makes that provision says nothing of; but, on the contrary, contents itself with something very short of it: for conformity, or coming to church, is at least as far from considering, studying, and impartially examining matters of religion, so as to embrace the truth upon conviction and with an obedient heart; as being present at a discourse concerning mathematics, and studying mathematics, so as to become a knowing mathematician, are different one from the other.
People generally think they have done their duties abundantly, if they have been at church, whether they mind any thing done there or no: this they call serving of God, as if it were their whole duty; so backward are they to understand more, though it be plain the law of God expressly requires more. But that they have fully satisfied the law of the land, nobody doubts; nor is it easy to answer what was replied to me on this occasion, viz. If the magistrate intended any thing more in those laws but conformity, would he not have said it? To which let me add, if the magistrate intended conformity as the fruit of conviction, would he not have taken some care to have them instructed before they conformed and examined when they did? But it is presumable their ignorance, corruption, and lusts, all drop off in the church-porch, and that they become perfectly good christians as soon as they have taken their seats in the church.
If there be any whom your example or writing hath inspired with acuteness enough to find out this; I suspect the vulgar, who have scarce time and thought enough to make inferences from the law, which scarce one of ten of them ever so much as reads, or perhaps understands when read; are still, and will be ignorant of it: and those who have the time and abilities to argue about it, will find reason to think that those penalties were not intended to make men examine the doctrine and ceremonies of religion; since those who should examine, are prohibited by those very laws to follow their own judgments (which is the very end and use of examination), if they at all differ from the religion established by law. Nor can it appear so “plain to all concerned that the punishment is intended to make them consider and examine,” when they see the punishments you say are to make people consider, spare those who consider and examine matters of religion, as little as any of the most ignorant and careless dissenters.
To my saying, Some dissenters may have considered “already, and then force employed upon them must needs be useless; unless you can think it useful to punish a man to make him do that which he has done already:” You reply, “No man who rejects truth necessary to his salvation, has considered already as he ought to consider.” The words “as he ought,” are not, as I take it, in the question: and so your answer is, “No man who rejects the truth necessary to his salvation, hath considered, studied, or examined matters of religion.” But we will let that go: and yet with that allowance, your answer will be nothing to the purpose, unless you will dare to say, that all dissenters reject truth necessary to salvation. For without the supposition, that all dissenters reject the truth necessary to salvation, the argument and answer will stand thus: It may be useless to punish all dissenters to make them consider, because some of them may have considered already. To which the answer is, Yes, some of them may have considered already, but those who reject truth necessary to their salvation have not considered as they ought.
I said, “The greatest part of mankind, being not able to discern betwixt truth and falsehood, that depends upon long and many proofs, and remote consequences; nor having ability enough to discover the false grounds, and resist the captious and fallacious arguments of learned men versed in controversies; are so much more exposed, by the force, which is used to make them hearken to the information and instruction of men appointed to it by the magistrate, or those of his religion, to be led into falsehood and errour, than they are likely this way to be brought to embrace the truth which must save them; by how much the national religions of the world are, beyond comparison, more of them false or erroneous, than such as have God for their author, and truth for their standard.” You reply, “If the first part of this be true, then an infallible guide, and implicit faith, are more necessary than ever you thought them.” Whether you conclude from thence or no, that then there will be a necessity of an infallible guide, and an implicit faith, it is nevertheless true, that the greatest part of men are unable to discern, as I said, between truth and falsehood depending upon long and many proofs, &c. But whether that will make an infallible guide necessary or no, imposition in matters of religion certainly will: since there can be nothing more absurd imaginable, than that a man should take upon him to impose on others in matters of their eternal concernment, without being, or so much as pretending to be infallible: for colour it with the name of considering, as much as you please, as long as it is to make men consider as they ought, and considering as they ought, is so to consider, as to embrace; the using of force to make men consider, and the using of force to make them embrace any doctrine or opinion, is the same thing: and to show a difference betwixt imposing an opinion, and using force to make it be embraced, would require such a piece of subtilty, as I heard lately from a learned man out of the pulpit, who told us, that though two things, he named, were all one, yet for distinction’s sake he would divide them. Your reason for the necessity of an infallible guide, is, “For if the greatest part of mankind be not able to discern betwixt truth and falsehood, in matters concerning their salvation (as I must mean if I speak to the purpose), their condition must needs be very hazardous, if they have not some guide or judge, to whose determination and direction they may securely resign themselves.” And therefore they must resign themselves to the determination and direction of the civil magistrate, or be punished. Here it is like you will have something again to say to my modesty and conscience, for imputing to you what you no where say. I grant it, in direct words, but in effect, as plainly as may be. The magistrate may impose sound creeds and decent ceremonies, i.e. such as he thinks fit, for what is sound and decent he I hope must be judge; and if he be judge of what is sound and decent, it amounts to no more but what he thinks fit: and if it be not what he thinks fit, why is one ceremony preferred to another? Why one doctrine of the scripture put into the creed and articles, and another as sound left out? They are truths necessary to salvation. We shall see that in good time: here only I ask, does the magistrate only believe them to be truths and ceremonies necessary to salvation, or does he certainly know them to be so? If you say he only believes them to be so, and that that is enough to authorize him to impose them, you, by your own confession, authorize magistrates to impose what they think necessary for the salvation of their subjects souls; and so the king of France did what he was obliged to, when he said he would have all his subjects saved, and so fell to dragooning.
If you say the magistrate certainly knows them to be necessary to salvation, we are luckily come to an infallible guide. Well then, the sound creeds are agreed on; the confession and liturgy are framed; the ceremonies pitched on; and the terms of communion thus set up; you have religion established by law; and what now is the subject to do? He is to conform. No; he must first consider. Who bids him consider? Nobody; he may if he pleases; but the law says nothing to him of it: consider or not consider, if he conforms, it is well, and he is approved of and admitted. He does consider the best he can, but finds some things he does not understand, other things he cannot believe, assent or consent to. What now is to be done with him? He must either be punished on, or resign himself up to the determination and direction of the civil magistrate; which, till you can find a better name for it, we will call implicit faith. And thus you have provided a remedy for the hazardous condition of weak understandings, in that which you suppose necessary in the case, viz. an infallible guide and implicit faith, in matters concerning men’s salvation.
But you say, “For your part, you know of no such guide of God’s appointing.” Let that be your rule, and the magistrate with his coactive power will be left out too. You think there is no need of any such; because notwithstanding the long and many proofs and remote consequences, the false grounds and the captious and fallacious arguments of learned men versed in controversies, “with which I (as well as those of the Roman communion) endeavour to amuse you; through the goodness of God the truth which is necessary to salvation, lies so obvious and exposed to all that sincerely and diligently seek it, that no such persons shall ever fail of attaining the knowledge of it.” This then is your answer, that “truths necessary to salvation are obvious; so that those who seek them sincerely and diligently, are not in danger to be misled or exposed in those to errour, by the weakness of their understandings. This will be a good answer to what I objected from the danger most are in to be led into errour, by the magistrate’s adding force to the arguments for their national established religions; when you have shown that nothing is wont to be imposed in national religions, but what is necessary to salvation; or which will a little better accommodate your hypothesis, when you can show that nothing is imposed, or required for communion with the church of England, but what is necessary to salvation; and consequently is very easy and obvious to be known, and distinguished from falsehood. And indeed, besides what you say here, upon your hypothesis, that force is lawful only because it is necessary to bring men to salvation; it cannot be lawful to use it, to bring men to any thing, but what is absolutely necessary to salvation. For if the lawfulness of force be only from the need men have of it to bring them to salvation, it cannot lawfully be used to bring men to that which they do not need, or is not necessary to their salvation; for in such an application of it, it is not needful to their salvation. Can you therefore say that there is nothing required to be believed and professed in the church of England, but what lies “so obvious and exposed to all that sincerely and diligently seek it, that no such person shall ever fail of attaining the knowledge of it?” What think you of St. Athanasius’s creed? Is the sense of that so obvious and exposed to every one who seeks it; which so many learned men have explained so different ways, and which yet a great many profess they cannot understand? Or is it necessary to your or my salvation, that you or I should believe and pronounce all those damned who do not believe that creed, i. e. every proposition in it? which I fear would extend to not a few of the church of England; unless we can think that people believe, i. e. assent to the truth of propositions they do not at all understand. If ever you were acquainted with a country parish, you must needs have a strange opinion of them, if you think all the plowmen and milkmaids at church understood all the propositions in Athanasius’s creed; it is more, truly, than I should be apt to think of any one of them; and yet I cannot hence believe myself authorized to judge or pronounce them all damned: it is too bold an intrenching on the prerogative of the Almighty; to their own master they stand or fall.
The doctrine of original sin, is that which is professed and must be owned by the members of the church of England, as is evident from the XXXIX articles, and several passages in the liturgy: and yet I ask you, whether this be “so obvious and exposed to all that diligently and sincerely seek the truth,” that one who is in the communion of the church of England, sincerely seeking the truth, may not raise to himself such difficulties, concerning the doctrine of original sin, as may puzzle him though he be a man of study; and whether he may not push his inquiries so far, as to be staggered in his opinion?
If you grant me this, as I am apt to think you will, then I inquire whether it be not true, notwithstanding what you say concerning the plainness and obviousness of truths necessary to salvation, that a great part of mankind may not be able to discern between truth and falsehood, in several points, which are thought so far to concern their salvation, as to be made necessary parts of the national religion?
If you say it may be so, then I have nothing further to inquire; but shall only advise you not to be so severe hereafter in your censure of Mr. Reynolds, as you are, where you tell me, that “famous instance I give of the two Reynolds’s is not of any moment to prove the contrary; unless I can undertake, that he that erred was as sincere in his inquiry after that truth, as I suppose him able to examine and judge.”
You will, I suppose, be more charitable another time, when you have considered, that neither sincerity, nor freedom from errour, even in the established doctrines of their own church, is the privilege of those who join themselves in outward profession to any national church whatsoever. And it is not impossible, that one who has subscribed the XXXIX articles, may yet make it a question, “Whether it may be truly said that God imputes the first sin of Adam to his posterity?” &c. But we are apt to be so fond of our own opinions, and almost infallibility, that we will not allow them to be sincere, who quit our communion; whilst at the same time we tell the world, it is presumable, that all who embrace it do it sincerely, and upon conviction; though we cannot but know many of them to be but loose, inconsiderate, and ignorant people. This is all the reason you have, when you speak of the Reynolds’s, to suspect one of the brothers more than the other: and to think that Mr. Chillingworth had not as much sincerity when he quitted, as when he returned to the church of England, is a partiality which nothing can justify without pretending to infallibility.
To show that you do not fancy your force to be useful, but that you “judge so upon just and sufficient grounds, you tell us, the strong probability of its success is grounded upon the consideration of human nature, and the general temper of mankind, apt to be wrought upon by the method you speak of, and upon the indisputable attestation of experience.” The consideration of human nature, and the general temper of mankind, will teach one this, that men are apt, in things within their power, to be wrought upon by force, and the more wrought upon, the greater the force or punishments are: so that where moderate penalties will not work, great severities will. Which consideration of human nature, if it be a just ground to judge any force useful, will I fear necessarily carry you, in your judgment, to severities beyond the moderate penalties, so often mentioned in your system, upon a strong probability of the success of greater punishments, where less would not prevail.
But if to consider so as you require, i. e. so as to embrace, and believe, be not in their power, then no force at all, great or little, is or can be useful. You must therefore (consider it which way you will) either renounce all force as useful, or pull off your mask, and own all the severities of the cruelest persecutors.
The other reason of your judging force to be useful, you say, is grounded on the indisputable attestation of experience. Pray tell us where you have this attestation of experience for your moderate, which is the only useful, force: name the country where true religion or sound christianity has been nationally received, and established by moderate penal laws, that the observing persons you appeal to, may know where to employ their observation: tell us how long it was tried, and what was the success of it? And where there has been the relaxation of such moderate penal laws, the fruits whereof have continually been epicurism and atheism? Till you do this, I fear, that all the world will think there is a more indisputable attestation of experience for the success of dragooning, and the severities you condemn, than of your moderate method; which we shall compare with the king of France’s, and see which is most successful in making proselytes to church conformity: (for yours as well as his reach no farther than that) when you produce your examples: the confident talk whereof is good to countenance a cause, though experience there be none in the case.
But you “appeal, you say, to all observing persons, whether wherever true religion or sound christianity have been nationally received and established by moderate penal laws, it has not always visibly lost ground by the relaxation of those laws?” True or false religions, sound or unsound christianity, wherever established into national religions by penal laws, always have lost, and always will lose ground, i. e. lose several of their conforming professors upon the relaxation of those laws. But this concerns not the true, more than other religions, nor is any prejudice to it; but only shows that many are, by the penalties of the law, kept in the communion of the national religion, who are not really convinced or persuaded of it: and therefore, as soon as liberty is given, they own the dislike they had many of them before, and out of persuasion, curiosity, &c. seek out and betake themselves to some other profession. This need not startle the magistrates of any religion, much less those of the true; since they will be sure to retain those, who more mind their secular interest than the truth of religion; who are every-where the greater number, by the advantages of countenance and preferment: and if it be the true religion, they will retain those also, who are in earnest about it, by the strong tie of conscience and conviction.
You go on, “Whether sects and heresies (even the wildest and most absurd, and even epicurism and atheism) have not continually thereupon spread themselves, and whether the very life of christianity has not sensibly decayed, as well as the number of sound professors of it been daily lessened upon it.” As to atheism and epicurism, whether they spread more under toleration, or national religions, established by moderate penal laws; when you show us the countries where fair trial hath been made of both, that we may compare them together, we shall better be able to judge.
“Epicurism and atheism, say you, are found constantly to spread themselves upon the relaxation of moderate penal laws.” We will suppose your history to be full of instances of such relaxations, which you will in good time communicate to the world, that wants this assistance from your observation. But were this to be justified out of history, yet would it not be any argument against toleration; unless your history can furnish you with a new sort of religion founded in atheism. However, you do well to charge the spreading of atheism upon toleration in matters of religion, as an argument against those who deny atheism, which takes away all religion, to have any right to toleration at all. But perhaps, as is usual for those who think all the world should see with their eyes, and receive their systems for unquestionable verities, zeal for your own way makes you call all atheism, that agrees not with it. That which makes me doubt of this, are these following words: “Not to speak of what at this time our eyes cannot but see, for fear of giving offence: though I hope it will be none to any, that have a just concern for truth and piety, to take notice of the books and pamphlets which now fly so thick about this kingdom, manifestly tending to the multiplying of sects and divisions, and even to the promoting of scepticism in religion amongst us. In which number, you say, you shall not much need my pardon, if you reckon the first and second letter concerning toleration.” Wherein, by a broad insinuation, you impute the spreading of atheism amongst us, to the late relaxation made in favour of protestant dissenters: and yet all that you can take notice of as a proof of this, is, “the books and pamphlets which now fly so thick about this kingdom, manifestly tending to the multiplying of sects and divisions, and even to the promoting of scepticism in religion amongst us;” and, for instance, you name the first and second letter concerning toleration. If one may guess at the others by these; the atheism and scepticism you accuse them of will have but little more in it, than an opposition to your hypothesis; on which the whole business of religion must so turn, that whatever agrees not with your system, must presently, by interpretation, be concluded to tend to the promoting of atheism or scepticism in religion. For I challenge you to show, in either of those two letters you mention, one word tending to epicurism, atheism, or scepticism in religion.
But, sir, against the next time you are to give an account of books and pamphlets tending to the promoting scepticism in religion amongst us, I shall mind you of the “Third letter concerning toleration,” to be added to the catalogue, which asserting and building upon this, that “true religion may be known by those who profess it to be the only true religion” does not a little towards betraying the christian religion to sceptics. For what greater advantage can be given them, than to teach, that one may know the true religion? thereby putting into their hands a right to demand it to be demonstrated to them, that the christian religion is true, and bringing on the professors of it a necessity of doing it. I have heard it complained of as one great artifice of sceptics, to require demonstrations where they neither could be had, nor were necessary. But if the true religion may be known to men to be so, a sceptic may require, and you cannot blame him if he does not receive your religion, upon the strongest probable arguments without demonstration.
And if one should demand of you a demonstration of the truths of your religion, which I beseech you, would you do, either renounce your assertion, that it may be known to be true, or else undertake to demonstrate it to him?
And as for the decay of the very life and spirit of christianity, and the spreading of epicurism amongst us: I ask, what can more tend to the promoting of them than this doctrine, which is to be found in the same letter, viz. That it is presumable that those who conform, do it upon reason and conviction? When you can instance in any thing so much tending to the promoting of scepticism in religion and epicurism, in the first or second letter concerning toleration, we shall have reason to think you have some ground for what you say.
As to epicurism, the spreading whereof you likewise impute to the relaxation of your moderate penal laws; that, so far as it is distinct from atheism, I think regards men’s lives more than their religions, i. e. speculative opinions in religion and ways of worship, which is what we mean by religion, as concerned in toleration. And for the toleration of corrupt manners, and the debaucheries of life, neither our author nor I do plead for it; but say it is properly the magistrate’s business by punishments to restrain and suppress them. I do not therefore blame your zeal against atheism and epicurism; but you discover a great zeal against something else, in charging them on toleration, when it is in the magistrate’s power to restrain and suppress them by more effectual laws than those for church conformity. For there are those who will tell you, that an outward profession of the national religion, even where it is the true religion, is no more opposite to, or inconsistent with atheism or epicurism, than the owning of another religion, especially any christian profession, that differs from it. And therefore you in vain impute atheism or epicurism to the relaxation of penal laws, that require no more than an outward conformity to the national church.
As to the sects and unchristian divisions, (for other divisions there may be without prejudice to christianity,) at whose door they chiefly ought to be laid, I have showed you elsewhere.
One thing I cannot but take notice of here, that having named “sects, heresies, epicurism, atheism, and a decay of the spirit and life of christianity,” as the fruits of relaxation, for which you had the attestation of former experience, you add these words, “Not to speak of what our eyes at this time cannot but see, for fear of giving offence.” Whom is it, I beseech you, you are so afraid of offending, if you should speak of the “epicurism, atheism, and decay of the spirit and life of christianity,” amongst us? But I see, he that is so moderate in one part of his letter, that he will not take upon him to teach law-makers and governors, even what they cannot know without being taught by him, i. e. what he calls moderate penalties or force; may yet, in another part of the same letter, by broad insinuations, use reproaches, wherein it is a hard matter to think law-makers and governors are not meant. But whoever be meant, it is at least adviseable, in accusations that are easier suggested than made out, to cast abroad the slander in general, and leave others to apply it, for fear those who are named, and so justly offended with a false imputation, should be entitled to ask, as in this case, how it appears, “that sects and heresies have multiplied, epicurism and atheism spread themselves, and that the life and spirit of christianity is decayed” more within these two years, than it was before; and that all this mischief is owing to the late relaxation of the penal laws against protestant dissenters?
You go on, “And if these have always been the fruits of the relaxation of moderate penal laws, made for the preserving and advancing true religion; you think this consideration alone is abundantly sufficient to show the usefulness and benefit of such laws. For if these evils have constantly sprung from the relaxation of those laws, it is evident they were prevented before by those laws.” One would think by your saying, “always been the fruits, and constantly sprung,” that moderate penal laws, for preserving the true religion, had been the constant practice of all christian commonwealths; and that relaxations of them, in favour of a free toleration, had frequently happened; and that there were examples both of the one and the other, as common and known, as of princes that have persecuted for religion, and learned men who have employed their skill to make it good. But till you show us in what ages or countries your moderate establishments were in fashion, and where they were again removed to make way for our author’s toleration; you to as little purpose talk of the fruits of them, as if you should talk of the fruit of a tree which nobody planted, or was no-where suffered to grow till one might see what fruit came from it.
Having laid it down as one of the conditions for a fair debate of this controversy, “That it should be without supposing all along your church in the right, and your religion the true;” I add these words: “Which can no more be allowed to you in this case, whatever your church or religion be, than it can be to a papist or a lutheran, a presbyterian or an anabaptist; nay, no more to you, than it can be allowed to a jew or mahometan.” To which you reply, “No, Sir? Not whatever your church or religion be? That seems somewhat hard. And you think I might have given you some reason for what I say: for certainly it is not so self-evident as to need no proof. But you think it is no hard matter to guess at my reason, though I did not think fit expressly to own it. For it is obvious enough, there can be no other reason for this assertion of mine, but either the equal truth, or at least the equal certainty (or uncertainty) of all religions. For whoever considers my assertion, must see, that to make it good I shall be obliged to maintain one of these two things: either, 1. That no religion is the true religion, in opposition to other religions: which makes all religions true or false, and so either way indifferent. Or, 2. That though some one religion be the true religion, yet no man can have any more reason than another man of another religion may have, to believe his to be the true religion. Which makes all religions equally certain, (or uncertain, whether I please,) and so renders it vain and idle to inquire after the true religion, and only a piece of good luck if any man be of it; and such good luck as he can never know that he has, till he come into the other world. Whether of these two principles I will own, you know not. But certainly one or other of them lies at the bottom with me, and is the lurking supposition upon which I build all that I say.”
Certainly no, Sir, neither of these reasons you have so ingenuously and friendly found out for me, lies at the bottom; but this, that whatever privilege or power you claim, upon your supposing yours to be the true religion, is equally due to another, who supposes his to be the true religion, upon the same claim: and therefore that is no more to be allowed to you than to him. For whose is really the true religion, yours or his, being the matter in contest betwixt you, your supposing can no more determine it on your side, than his supposing on his; unless you can think you have a right to judge in your own cause. You believe yours to be the true religion, so does he believe his; you say you are certain of it, so says he, he is: you think you have “arguments proper and sufficient” to convince him, if he would consider them; the same thinks he of his. If this claim, which is equally on both sides, be allowed to either, without any proof; it is plain he, in whose favour it is allowed, is allowed to be judge in his own cause, which nobody can have a right to be, who is not at least infallible. If you come to arguments and proofs, which you must do, before it can be determined whose is the true religion, it is plain your supposition is not allowed.
In our present case, in using punishments in religion, your supposing yours to be the true religion, gives you or your magistrate no more advantage over a papist, presbyterian, or mahometan, or more reason to punish either of them for his religion, than the same supposition in a papist, presbyterian, or mahometan, gives any of them, or a magistrate of their religion, advantage over you, or reason to punish you for your religion: and therefore this supposition, to any purpose or privilege of using force, is no more to be allowed to you, than to any one of any other religion. This the words, in this case, which I there used, would have satisfied any other to have been my meaning: but whether your charity made you not to take notice of them, or the joy of such an advantage as this, not to understand them, this is certain, you were resolved not to lose the opportunity, such a place as this afforded you, of showing your gift, in commenting and guessing shrewdly at a man’s reasons, when he does not think fit expressly to own them himself.
I must own you are a very lucky hand at it; and as you do it here upon the same ground, so it is just with the same success, as you in another place have exercised your logic on my saying something to the same purpose, as I do here. But, Sir, if you will add but one more to your plentiful stock of distinctions, and observe the difference there is between the ground of any one’s supposing his religion is true, and the privilege he may pretend to by supposing it true, you will never stumble at this again; but you will find, that though upon the former of these accounts, men of all religions cannot be equally allowed to suppose their religions true, yet, in reference to the latter, the supposition may and ought to be allowed, or denied equally to all men. And the reason of it is plain, viz. because the assurance wherewith one man supposes his religion to be true, being no more an argument of its truth to another, than vice versâ; neither of them can claim by the assurance, wherewith he supposes his religion the true, any prerogative or power over the other, which the other has not by the same title an equal claim to over him. If this will not serve to spare you the pains another time of any more such reasonings, as we have twice had on this subject, I think I shall be forced to send you to my mahometans or pagans: and I doubt whether I am not less civil to your parts than I should be, that I do not send you to them now.
You go on, and say, “But as unreasonable as this condition is, you see no need you have to decline it, nor any occasion I had to impose it upon you. For certainly the making what I call your new method consistent and practicable, does no way oblige you to suppose all along your religion the true, as I imagine.” And as I imagine it does: for without that supposition, I would fain have you show me, how it is in any one country practicable to punish men to bring them to the true religion. For if you will argue for force, as necessary to bring men to the true religion, without supposing yours to be it; you will find yourself under some such difficulty as this, that then it must be first determined (and you will require it should be) which is the true religion, before any one can have a right to use force to bring men to it; which, if every one did not determine for himself, by supposing his own the true; nobody, I think, will desire toleration any longer than till that be settled.
You go on: “No, Sir, it is enough for that purpose that there is one true religion, and but one.” Suppose not the national religion established by law in England to be that, and then even upon your principles of its being useful, and that the magistrate has a commission to use force for the promoting the true religion, prove, if you please, that the magistrate has a power to use force to bring men to the national religion in England. For then you must prove the national religion, as established by law in England, to be that one true religion, and so the true religion; that he rejects the true religion who dissents from any part of it; and, so rejecting the true religion, cannot be saved. But of this more in another place.
Your other two suppositions, which you join to the foregoing, are, “That that religion may be known by those who profess it, to be the only true religion; and may also be manifested to be such by them to others, so far at least, as to oblige them to receive it, and to leave them without excuse, if they do not.”
These, you say, are suppositions, “enough for the making your method consistent and practicable.” They are, I guess, more than enough, for you, upon them, to prove any national religion in the world the only true religion. And till you have proved (for you profess here to have quitted the supposition of any one’s being true, as necessary to your hypothesis) some national religion to be that only true religion, I would gladly know how it is any-where practicable to use force to bring men to the true religion.
You suppose “there is one true religion, and but one.” In this we are both agreed: and from hence, I think, it will follow, since whoever is of this true religion shall be saved, and without being of it no man shall be saved, that upon your second and third suppositions it will be hard to show any national religion to be this only true religion. For who is it will say, he knows, or that it is knowable, that any national religion (wherein must be comprehended all that, by the penal laws, he is required to embrace) is that only true religion; which if men reject, they shall; and which, if they embrace, they shall not; miss salvation? Or can you undertake that any national religion in the world can be manifested to be such, i. e. in short, to contain all things necessary to salvation, and nothing but what is so? For that, and that alone, is the one only true religion, without which nobody can be saved; and which is enough for the salvation of every one who embraces it. And therefore whatever is less or more than this, is not the one only true religion; or that which there is a necessity for their salvation men should be forced to embrace.
I do not hereby deny, that there is any national religion which contains all that is necessary to salvation; for so doth the Romish religion, which is not for all that, so much as a true religion. Nor do I deny, that there are national religions that contain all things necessary to salvation, and nothing inconsistent with it, and so may be called true religions. But since they all of them join with what is necessary to salvation, a great deal that is not so, and make that as necessary to communion, as what is necessary to salvation, not suffering any one to be of their communion, without taking all together; nor to live amongst them free from punishment, out of their communion; will you affirm, that any of the national religions of the world, which are imposed by penal laws, and to which men are driven with force; can be said to be that one only true religion, which if men embrace, they shall be saved; and which, if they embrace not, they shall be damned? And therefore your two suppositions, true or false, are not enough to make it practicable, upon your principles of necessity, to use force upon dissenters from the national religion, though it contain in it nothing but truth; unless that which is required to communion be all necessary to salvation. For whatever is not necessary to salvation, there is no necessity any one should embrace. So that whenever you speak of the true religion, to make it to your purpose, you must speak only of what is necessary to salvation; unless you will say, that in order to the salvation of men’s souls, it is necessary to use force to bring them to embrace something, that is not necessary to their salvation. I think that neither you, or any body-else, will affirm, that it is necessary to use force to bring men to receive all the truths of the christian religion, though they are truths God has thought fit to reveal. For then, by your own rule, you who profess the christian religion, must know them all, and must be able to manifest them to others; for it is on that here you ground the necessity and reasonableness of penalties used to bring men to embrace the truth. But I suspect it is the good word religion (as in other places other words) has misled you, whilst you content yourself with good sounds, and some confused notions, that usually accompany them, without annexing to them any precise determined signification. To convince you that it is not without ground I say this, I shall desire you but to set down what you mean here by true religion; that we may know what in your sense is, and what is not contained in it. Would you but do this fairly, and define your words, or use them in one constant settled sense, I think the controversy between you and me would be at an end, without any further trouble.
Having showed of what advantage they are like to be to you for the making your method practicable; in the next place let us consider your suppositions themselves. As to the first, “there is one true religion, and but one,” we are agreed. But what you say in the next place, that “that one true religion may be known by those who profess it,” will need a little examination. As, first, it will be necessary to inquire, what you mean by known; whether you mean by it knowledge properly so called, as contra-distinguished to belief; or only the assurance of a firm belief? If the latter, I leave you your supposition to make your use of it; only with this desire, that to avoid mistakes, when you do make any use of it, you would call it believing. If you mean that the true religion may be known with the certainty of knowledge properly so called; I ask you farther, whether that true religion be to be known by the light of nature, or needed a divine revelation to discover it? If you say, as I suppose you will, the latter; then I ask whether the making out of that to be a divine revelation, depends not upon particular matters of fact, whereof you were no eyewitness; but were done many ages before you were born? and if so, by what principles of science they can be known to any man now living?
The articles of my religion, and of a great many such other short-sighted people as I am, are articles of faith, which we think there are so good grounds to believe, that we are persuaded to venture our eternal happiness on that belief: and hope to be of that number of whom our Saviour said, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” But we neither think that God requires, nor has given us faculties capable of knowing in this world several of those truths, which are to be believed to salvation. If you have a religion, all whose general truths are either self-evident, or capable of demonstration, (for matters of fact are not capable of being any way known but to the by-standers,) you will do well to let it be known, for the ending of controversies, and banishing of errour, concerning any of those points, out of the world. For whatever may be known, besides matter of fact, is capable of demonstration; and when you have demonstrated to any one any point in religion, you shall have my consent to punish him if he do not assent to it. But yet let me tell you, there are many truths even in mathematics, the evidence whereof one man seeing, is able to demonstrate to himself, and so may know them: which evidence yet he not being able to make another see, (which is to demonstrate to him,) he cannot make known to him, though his scholar be willing, and with all his power applies himself to learn it.
But granting your supposition, “that the one true religion may be known by those who profess it to be the only true religion;” will it follow from hence, that because it is knowable to be the true religion, therefore the magistrate who professes it actually knows it to be so? Without which knowledge, upon your principles, he cannot use force to bring men to it. But if you are but at hand to assure him which is the true religion, for which he ought to use force, he is bound to believe you; and that will do as well as if he examined and knew himself, or perhaps better. For you seem not well satisfied with what the magistrates have lately done, without your leave, concerning religion in England. And I confess the easiest way to remove all difficulties in the case, is for you to be the magistrate’s infallible guide in matters of religion. And therefore you do well here also to keep to your safe style, lest if your sense were clear and determined, it might be more exposed to exceptions; and therefore you tell us the true religion may be known by those who profess it. For not saying by some of those, or by all those, the errour of what you say is not so easily observed, and requires the more trouble to come at: which I shall spare myself here, being satisfied that the magistrate, who has so full an employment of his thoughts in the cares of his government, has not an overplus of leisure to attain that knowledge which you require, and so usually contents himself with believing.
Your next supposition is, that “the one true religion may also be manifested to be such, by them, to others; so far, at least, as to oblige them to receive it, and leave them without excuse if they do not.” That it can be manifested to some, so as to oblige, i. e. cause them to receive it, is evident, because it is received. But because this seems to be spoken more in reference to those who do not receive it, as appears by these following words of yours: “then it is altogether as plain, that it may be very reasonable and necessary for some men to change their religion; and that it may be made appear to them to be so. And then, if such men will not consider what is offered to convince them of the reasonableness and necessity of doing it; it may be very fit and reasonable,” you tell me, “for any thing I have said to the contrary, in order to the bringing them to the consideration, to require them, under convenient penalties, to forsake their false religions, and embrace the true.” You suppose the true religion may be so manifested by a man that is of it, to all men so far as to leave them, if they do not embrace it, without excuse. Without excuse, to whom I beseech you? To God indeed, but not to the magistrate; who can never know whether it has been so manifested to any man, that it has been through his fault that he has not been convinced; and not through the fault of him to whom the magistrate committed the care of convincing him: and it is a sufficient excuse to the magistrate, for any one to say to him, I have not neglected to consider the arguments that have been offered me, by those whom you have employed to manifest it to me; but that yours is the only true religion I am not convinced. Which is so direct and sufficient an excuse to the magistrate, that had he an express commission from heaven to punish all those who did not consider; he could not yet justly punish any one whom he could not convince had not considered. But you endeavour to avoid this, by what you infer from this supposition, viz. “That then it may be very fit and reasonable, for any thing I have said to the contrary, to require men under convenient penalties to forsake their false religions, to embrace the true, in order to the bringing them to consideration.” Whether I have said any thing to the contrary, or no, the readers must judge, and I need not repeat. But now, I say, it is neither just nor reasonable to require men under penalties, to attain one end, in order to bring them to use the means not necessary to that, but to another end. For where is it you can say (unless you will return to your old supposition, of yours being the true religion; which you say is not necessary to your method) that men are by the law “required to forsake their false religions, and embrace the true?” The utmost is this, in all countries where the national religion is imposed by law, men are required under the penalties of those laws outwardly to conform to it; which you say is in order to make them consider. So that your punishments are for the attaining one end, viz. Conformity, in order to make men use consideration, which is a means not necessary to that, but another end, viz. finding out and embracing the one true religion. For however consideration may be a necessary means to find and embrace the one true religion, it is not at all a necessary means to outward conformity in the communion of any religion.
To manifest the consistency and practicableness of your method to the question, what advantage would it be to the true religion, if magistrates did every-where so punish? You answer, That “by the magistrates punishing, if I speak to the purpose, I must mean their punishing men for rejecting the true religion, (so tendered to them, as has been said,) in order to the bringing them to consider and embrace it. Now before we can suppose magistrates every-where so to punish, we must suppose the true religion to be every-where the national religion. And if this were the case, you think it is evident enough, what advantage to the true religion it would be, if magistrates every-where did so punish. For then we might reasonably hope that all false religions would soon vanish, and the true become once more the only religion in the world; whereas if magistrates should not so punish, it were much to be feared (especially considering what has already happened) that on the contrary false religions and atheism, as more agreeable to the soil, would daily take deeper root, and propagate themselves, till there were no room left for the true religion (which is but a foreign plant) in any corner of the world.”
If you can make it practicable that the magistrate should punish men for rejecting the true religion, without judging which is the true religion; or if true religion could appear in person, take the magistrate’s seat, and there judge all that rejected her, something might be done. But the mischief of it is, it is a man that must condemn, men must punish; and men cannot do this but by judging who is guilty of the crime which they punish. An oracle, or an interpreter of the law of nature, who speaks as clearly, tells the magistrate he may and ought to punish those, “who reject the true religion, tendered with sufficient evidence:” the magistrate is satisfied of his authority, and believes this commission to be good. Now I would know how possibly he can execute it, without making himself the judge first what is the true religion; unless the law of nature at the same time delivered into his hands the XXXIX articles of the one only true religion; and another book wherein all the ceremonies and outward worship of it are contained. But it being certain, that the law of nature has not done this; and as certain, that the articles, ceremonies, and discipline of this one only true religion, have been often varied in several ages and countries, since the magistrate’s commission by the law of nature was first given: there is no remedy left, but that the magistrate must judge what is the true religion, if he must punish them who reject it. Suppose the magistrate be commissioned to punish those who depart from right reason; the magistrate can yet never punish any one, unless he be judge what is right reason; and then judging that murder, theft, adultery, narrow cart-wheels, or want of bows and arrows in a man’s house, are against right reason, he may make laws to punish men guilty of those, as rejecting right reason.
So if the magistrate in England or France, having a commission to punish those who reject the one only true religion, judges the religion of his national church to be it; it is possible for him to lay penalties on those who reject it, pursuant to that commission; otherwise, without judging that to be the one only true religion, it is wholly impracticable for him to punish those who embrace it not, as rejecters of the one only true religion.
To provide as good a salvo as the thing will bear, you say, in the following words, “Before we can suppose magistrates every-where so to punish, we must suppose the true religion to be every-where the national.” That is true of actual punishment, but not of laying on penalties by law; for that would be to suppose the national religion makes or chooses the magistrate, and not the magistrate the national religion. But we see the contrary; for let the national religion be what it will before, the magistrate doth not always fall into it and embrace that; but if he thinks not that, but some other the true, the first opportunity he has, he changes the national religion into that which he judges the true, and then punishes the dissenters from it; where his judgment, which is the true religion, always necessarily precedes, and is that which ultimately does, and must determine who are rejecters of the true religion, and so obnoxious to punishment. This being so, I would gladly see how your method can be any way practicable to the advantage of the true religion, whereof the magistrate every-where must be judge, or else he can punish nobody at all.
You tell me that whereas I say, that to justify punishment it is requisite that it be directly useful for the procuring some greater good than that which it takes away; you “wish I had told you why it must needs be directly useful for that purpose.” However exact you may be in demanding reasons of what is said, I thought here you had no cause to complain; but you let slip out of your memory the foregoing words of this passage, which together stands thus, “Punishment is some evil, some inconvenience, some suffering, by taking away or abridging some good thing, which he who is punished has otherwise a right to. Now to justify the bringing any such evil upon any man, two things are requisite; 1. That he that does it has a commission so to do. 2. That it be directly useful for the promoting some greater good.” It is evident by these words, that punishment brings direct evil upon a man, and therefore it should not be used but where it is directly useful for the promoting some greater good. In this case, the signification of the word directly, carries a manifest reason in it, to any one who understands what directly means. If the taking away any good from a man cannot be justified, but by making it a means to procure a greater; is it not plain it must be so a means as to have, in the operation of causes and effects, a natural tendency to that effect? and then it is called directly useful to such an end: and this may give you a reason, “why punishment must be directly useful for that purpose.” I know you are very tender of your indirect and at a distance usefulness of force, which I have in another place showed to be, in your way, only useful by accident; nor will the question you here subjoin excuse it from being so, viz. “Why penalties are not as directly useful for the bringing men to the true religion, as the rod of correction is to drive foolishness from a child, or to work wisdom in him?” Because the rod works on the will of the child, to obey the reason of the father, whilst under his tuition; and thereby makes it supple to the dictates of his own reason afterwards, and disposes him to obey the light of that when being grown to be a man, that is to be his guide, and this is wisdom. If your penalties are so used, I have nothing to say to them.
Your way is charged to be impracticable to those ends you propose which you endeavour to clear, p. 63. That there may be fair play on both sides, the reader shall have in the same view what we both say:
The backwardness and lusts that hinder an impartial examination, as you describe it, is general. The corruption of nature which hinders a real embracing the true religion, that also you tell us here, is universal, I ask a remedy for these in your way. You say the law for conformity is general, excepts none. Very likely, none that do not conform; but punishes none who, conforming, do neither impartially examine, nor really embrace the true religion. From whence I conclude there is no corruption of nature in those who are brought up or join in outward communion with the church of England. But as to ignorance, negligence, and prejudice, you say “you desire me, or any man else, to tell what better course can be taken to cure them, than that which you have mentioned.” If your church can find no better way to cure ignorance and prejudice, and the negligence that is in men to examine matters of religion, and heartily embrace the true, than what is impracticable upon conformists; then, of all others, conformists are in the most deplorable state. But, as I remember, you have been told of a better way, which is, the discoursing with men seriously and friendly about matters in religion, by those whose profession is the care of souls; examining what they do understand, and where, either through laziness, prejudice, or difficulty, they do stick; and applying to their several diseases proper cures; which it is as impossible to do by a general harangue, once or twice a week out of the pulpit, as to fit all men’s feet with one shoe, or cure all men’s ails with one, though very wholesome, diet-drink. To be thus “instant in season, and out of season,” some men have thought a better way of cure than a desire only to have men driven by the whip, either in your, or the magistrate’s hand, into the sheepfold: where when they are once, whether they understand, or no, their minister’s sermons; whether they are, or can be better for them or no; whether they are ignorant and hypocritical conformists, and in that way like to remain so, rather than to become knowing and sincere converts: some bishops have thought it not sufficiently inquired: but this nobody is to mention, for whoever does so, “makes himself an occasion to show his goodwill to the clergy.”
This had not been said by me here, now I see how apt you are to be put out of temper with any thing of this kind, though it be in every serious man’s mouth; had not you desired me to show you a better way than force, your way applied. And to use your way of arguing, since bare preaching, as now used, it is plain, will not do, there is no other means left but this to deal with the corrupt nature of conformists; for miracles are now ceased, and penalties they are free from; therefore, by your way of concluding, no other being left, this of visiting at home, conferring and instructing, and admonishing men there, and the like means, proposed by the reverend author of the Pastoral Care, is necessary; and men, whose business is the care of souls, are obliged to use it: for you “cannot prove, that it cannot do some service,” I think I need not say, “indirectly and at a distance.” And if this be proper and sufficient to bring conformists, notwithstanding the corruption of their nature, “to examine impartially, and really embrace the truth that must save them;” it will remain to show, why it may not do as well on nonconformists, whose, I imagine, is the common corruption of nature, to bring them to examine and embrace the truth that must save them? And though it be not so extraordinary a remedy as will infallibly cure all diseased persons to whom it is applied: yet since the corruption of nature, which is the same disease, and hinders the “impartial examination, and hearty embracing the truth that must save them,” is equally in both, conformists and nonconformists; it is reasonable to think it should in both have the same cure, let that be what it will.