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A FOURTH LETTER FOR TOLERATION. * - John Locke, The Works, vol. 5 Four Letters concerning Toleration 
The Works of John Locke in Nine Volumes, (London: Rivington, 1824 12th ed.). Vol. 5.
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A FOURTH LETTER FOR TOLERATION.*
A fresh revival of the controversy formerly between you and me, is what I suppose nobody did expect from you after twelve years silence. But reputation, a sufficient cause for a new war, as you give the world to understand, hath put a resolution into your heart, and arms into your hands, to make an example of me, to the shame and confusion of all those who could be so injurious to you, as to think you could quit the opinion you had appeared for in print, and agree with me in the matter of Toleration. It is visible how tender even men of the most settled calmness are in point of reputation, and it is allowed the most excusable part of human frailty; and therefore nobody can wonder to see a report thought injurious laboured against with might and main, and the assistance and cause of religion itself taken in and made use of to put a stop to it. But yet for all this there are sober men who are of opinion, that it better becomes a Christian temper, that disputes, especially of religion, should be waged purely for the sake of truth, and not for our own: self should have nothing to do in them. But since as we see it will crowd itself in, and be often the principal agent; your ingenuity in owning what has brought you upon the stage again, and set you on work, after the ease and quiet you resolutely maintained yourself in so many years; ought to be commended, in giving us a view of the discreet choice you have made of a method suited to your purpose, which you publish to the world in these words, p. 2: “Being desirous to put a stop to a report so injurious, as well as groundless, as I look upon this to be, I think, it will be no improper way of doing it, if I thus signify to you and the reader, that I find nothing more convincing in this your long letter, than I did in your two former; giving with all a brief Specimen of the answerableness of it: which I choose to do upon a few pages at the beginning, where you have placed your greatest strength, or at least so much of it, as you think sufficient to put an end to this controversy.”
Here we have your declaration of war, of the grounds that moved you to it, and of your compendious way to assured victory; which I must own is very new and very remarkable. You choose a few pages out of the beginning of my Third Letter; in these, you say, “I have placed my greatest strength.” So that, what I have there said being baffled, it gives you a just triumph over my whole long Letter; and all the rest of it being but pitiful, weak, impertinent stuff, is by the overthrow of this forlorn hope fully confuted.
This is called answering by Specimen. A new way, which the world owes to your invention; an evidence that whilst you said nothing you did not spare thinking. And indeed it was a noble thought, a stratagem, which I believe scarce any other but yourself would have found out in a meditation of twice twelve years; how to answer arguments without saying a word to them, or so much as reciting them; and, by examining six or seven pages in the beginning of a book, reduce to nothing above three hundred pages of it that follow. This is indeed a decisive stroke that lays all flat before you. Who can stand against such a conqueror, who, by barely attacking of one, kills an hundred? This would certainly be an admirable way, did it not degrade the conqueror, whose business is to do; and turn him into a mere talking gazetteer, whose boasts are of no consequence. For after slaughter of foes, and routing of armies by such a dead-doing hand, nobody thinks it strange to find them all alive again safe and sound upon their feet, and in a posture of defending themselves. The event in all sorts of controversies, hath often better instructed those who have, without bringing it to trial, presumed on the weakness of their adversaries. However, this which you have set up, of confuting without arguing; cannot be denied to be a ready way, and well thought on to set you up high, and your reputation secure in the thoughts of your believing readers; if that be, as it seems it is, your business: but as I take it, tends not at all to the informing their understandings, and making them see the truth and grounds it stands on. That perhaps is too much for the profane vulgar to know; it is enough for them that you know it for them, and have assured them, that you can, when you please to condescend so far, confound all that any one offers against your opinion. An implicit faith of your being in the right, and ascribing victory to you, even in points whereof you have said nothing; is that which some sort of men think most useful; and so their followers have but tongues for their champion to give him the praise and authority he aims at, it is no matter whether they have any eyes for themselves to see on which side the truth lies. Thus methinks you and I both find our account in this controversy under your management; you in setting your reputation safe from the blemish it would have been to it that you were brought over to my opinion; and I in seeing (if you will forgive me so presumptuous a word) that you have left my cause safe in all those parts you have said nothing to, and not very much damaged in that part you have attacked; as I hope to show the indifferent reader. You enter upon your specimen, p. 2, by minding me that I tell you, “That I doubt not but to let you see, that if you will be true to your own principles, and stand to what you have said, you must carry some degrees of force to all those degrees which in words you declare against; even to the discipline of fire and faggot.” And you say, “if I make my word good, you assure me you will carry a faggot yourself to the burning what you have written for so unmerciful and outrageous a discipline: but till I have done that, you suppose the discipline you have endeavoured to defend, may remain safe and unhurt; as it is in its own nature, harmless and salutary to the world.”
To promise fairly is then the part of an honest man, when the time of performance is not yet come. But it falls out unluckily here, for you who have undertaken, by answering some parts of my second Letter, to show the answerableness of the whole; that instead of answering, you promise to retract, “if I make good my word, in proving upon your own principles you must carry your some degrees of force to fire and faggot.”
Sir, my endeavours to make my word good, have lain before you a pretty competent time; the world is witness of it, and will, as I imagine, think it time for you, since you yourself have brought this question upon the stage, either to acknowledge that I have made my word good; or by invalidating my arguments, show that I have not. He that after a debt of so many years only promises what brave things he will do hereafter, is hardly thought upon the Exchange to do what he ought. The account in his hand requires to be made up and balanced; and that will show, not what he is to promise, but, if he be a fair man, what he is to perform. If the schools make longer allowances of time, and admit evasions for satisfaction; it is fit you use your privilege, and take more time to consider; only I crave leave in the mean while to refer my reader to what I have said on this argument, chap. iv. of my third Letter, that he may have a view of your way of answering by specimen, and judge whether all that I have there urged be answered by what you say here; or what you promise here be ever like to be performed.
The next sample you give to show the answerableness of my Letter, is not much more lucky than the former; it may be seen, p. 3 and 4, where you say, that I tell you, p. 119, “That you have altered the question;” for it seems, p. 26, you tell me the question between us is, “Whether the magistrate has a right to use force, to bring men to the true religion? Whereas, p. 76, you yourself, I say, own the question to be, whether the magistrate has a right to use force in matters of religion?” “Which affirmation, of mine, you must take leave to tell me, is a mere fiction, for neither p. 76, nor any-where else, do you own the question to be what I say you do.”
“And as to using force in matters of religion (which you say are my words not yours,) if I mean by it the using force to bring men to any other religion besides the true; you are so far from owning the question to be, whether the magistrate has a right to use force for such a purpose, that you have always thought it out of question, that no man in the world, magistrate or other, can have any right to use either force, or any other means that I can name, to bring men to any false religion; how much soever he may persuade himself that it is true.”
“It is not therefore from any alteration, but from the true state of the question, that you take occasion, as I complain without cause, to lay a load on me for charging you with the absurdities of a power in the magistrates to punish men, to bring them to their religion.” “But it seems, having little to say against what you do assert, you say, I find it necessary myself to alter the question, and to make the world believe that you assert what you do not; that I may have something before me which I can confute.”
In this paragraph you positively deny, that it is anywhere owned by you as the question between us “Whether the magistrate has a right of using force in matters of religion?” Indeed these words are not as they are cited in p. 76 of your former Letter; but he that will turn over the leaf, may, in p. 78, read these words of yours, viz. that “You refer it to me, whether I, in saying nobody has a right, or you, in saying the magistrate has a right to use force in matters of religion, have most reason:” though you positively tell me, “that neither p. 76, nor any-where else, do you own the question to be what I say you do.” And now let the reader judge between us. I should not perhaps have so much as taken notice of this, but that you who are so sparing of your answer, that you think a brief specimen upon some few pages of the beginning of my Letter, sufficient to confute all I have said in it; do yet spend the better part of two pages on this: which if I had been mistaken in, it had been of no great consequence; of which I see no other use you have, but to cast on me some civil reflections of your fashion; and fix on me the imputation of fiction, mere fiction; a compliment which I shall not return you, though you say, “using force in matters of religion,” are my words, not yours. Whether they are your words or not, let p. 78 of your former Letter decide; where you own yourself to say, that “the magistrate has a right to use force in matters of religion.” So that this, as I take it, is a specimen of your being very positive in a mistake, and about a plain matter of fact; about an action of your own; and so will scarce prove a specimen of the answerableness of all I say in my letter; unless we must allow that truth and falsehood are equally answerable, when you declare against either of them.
The next part of your specimen we have, p. 4, 5, where you tell me that I undertake to prove, that “if upon your grounds the magistrate be obliged to use force to bring men to the true religion; it will necessarily follow, that every magistrate, who believes his religion to be true, is obliged to use force to bring men to his.”
“Now because this undertaking is so necessary for me; and my whole cause seems to depend upon the success of it: you shall the more carefully consider how well I perform it. But before you do this, it will be fit to let me know, in what sense you grant my inference, and in what sense you deny it. Now that every magistrate, who upon just and sufficient grounds believes his religion to be true, is obliged to use some moderate penalties, (which is all the force you ever contended for,) to bring men to his religion, you freely grant; because that must needs be the true religion; since no other can, upon such grounds, be believed to be true. But that any magistrate, who upon weak and deceitful grounds believes a false religion to be true, (and he can never do it upon better grounds,) is obliged to use the same, or any other means, to bring men to his religion; this you flatly deny; nor can it by any rules of reasoning be inferred from what you assert.”
Here you tell me you grant my inference in this sense, viz. “That every magistrate, who upon just and sufficient grounds believes his religion to be true, is bound to use force to bring men to it.”
Here you grant that every magistrate, without knowing that his religion is true, is obliged, upon his believing it to be true, to use force to bring men to it; indeed you add, “who believes it to be true upon just and sufficient grounds.” So you have got a distinction, and that always sets off a disputant, though many times it is of no use to his argument. For here let me ask you, who must be judge, whether the grounds upon which he believes his religion to be true, be just and sufficient? Must the magistrate himself judge for himself, or must you judge for him? A third competitor in this judgment I know not where you will find for your turn. If every magistrate must judge for himself, whether the grounds upon which he believes his religion to be true, are just and sufficient grounds; your limitation of the use of force to such only as believe upon just and sufficient grounds, bating that it is an ornament to your style and learning, might have been spared, since it leaves my inference untouched in the full latitude I have expressed it concerning every magistrate; there not being any one magistrate excluded thereby from an obligation to use force to bring men to his own religion, by this your distinction. For if every magistrate, who upon just and sufficient grounds believes his religion to be true, be obliged to use force to bring men to his religion, and every magistrate be himself judge, whether the grounds he believes upon be just and sufficient; it is visible every magistrate is obliged to use force to bring men to his religion; since any one, who believes any religion to be true, cannot but judge the grounds, upon which he believes it to be true, are just and sufficient: for if he judged otherwise, he could not then believe it to be true. If you say, you must judge for the magistrate, then what you grant is this, That every magistrate who, upon grounds that you judge to be just and sufficient, believes his religion to be true, is obliged to use force to bring men to his religion. If this be your meaning, as it seems not much remote from it, you will do well to speak it out, that the magistrates of the world may know who to have recourse to in the difficulty you put upon them, in declaring them under an obligation to use force to bring men to the true religion; which they can neither certainly know, nor must venture to use force to bring men to, upon their own persuasion of the truth of it; when they have nothing but one of these two, viz. knowledge, or belief that the religion they promote is true, to determine them. Necessity has at last (unless you would have the magistrate act in the dark and use his force wholly at random) prevailed on you to grant, that the magistrate may use force to bring men to that religion which he believes to be true; but, say you, “his belief must be upon just and sufficient grounds.” The same necessity remaining still, must prevail with you to go one step further, and tell me whether the magistrate himself must be judge, whether the grounds, upon which he believes his religion to be true, be just and sufficient; or whether you are to be judge for him. If you say the first, my inference stands good, and then this question, I think, is yielded, and at an end. If you say you are to be judge for the magistrates, I shall congratulate to the magistrates of the world the way you have found out for them to acquit themselves of their duty, if you will but please to publish it, that they may know where to find you; for in truth, sir, I prefer you, in this case, to the pope; though you know that old gentleman at Rome has long since laid claim to all decisions of this kind, and alleges infallibility for the support of his title; which indeed will scarce be able to stand at Rome, or anywhere else, without the help of infallibility. But of this perhaps more in the next paragraph.
You go on with your specimen in your next paragraph, p. 5, which I shall crave leave of my reader to set down at large, it being a most exact and studied piece of artificial fencing, wherein, under the cover of good words, and the appearance of nice thinking, nothing is said; and therefore many deserve to be kept, not as a specimen of your answering; for, as we shall see, you answer nothing; but as a specimen of your skill in seeming to say something where you have nothing to answer. You tell me that I say, p. 120, that “I suppose that you will grant me (what he must be a hard man indeed that will not grant) that any thing laid upon the magistrate as a duty, is some way or other practicable. Now the magistrate being obliged to use force in matters of religion, but yet so as to bring men only to the true religion; he will not be in any capacity to perform this part of his duty, unless the religion he is to promote be what he can certainly know; or else what it is sufficient for him to believe to be the true: either his knowledge, or his opinion, must point out that religion to him, which he is by force to promote. Where, if by knowing, or knowledge, I mean the effect of strict demonstration; and by believing, or opinion, any sort of assent or persuasion how slightly soever grounded: then you must deny the sufficiency of my division; because there is a third sort or degree of persuasion, which, though not grounded upon strict demonstration; yet in firmness and stability does far exceed that which is built upon slight appearances of probability; being grounded upon such clear and solid proof, as leaves no reasonable doubt in an attentive and unbiassed mind: so that it approaches very near to that which is produced by demonstration; and is therefore, as it respects religion, very frequently and familiarly called in scripture not faith or belief only, but knowledge; and in divers places full assurance; as might easily be shown, if that were needful. Now this kind of persuasion, this knowledge, this full assurance men may, and ought to have of the true religion: but they can never have it of a false one. And this it is, that must point out that religion to the magistrate, which he is to promote by the method you contend for.”
Here the first thing you do is to pretend an uncertainty of what I mean by “knowing or knowledge, and by believing or opinion.” First, As to knowledge, I have said “certainly know.” I have called it “vision; knowledge and certainty; knowledge properly so called.” And for believing or opinion, I speak of believing with assurance; and say, that believing in the highest degree of assurance, is not knowledge. That whatever is not capable of demonstration, is not, unless it be self-evident, capable to produce knowledge, how well grounded and great soever the assurance of faith may be wherewith it is received. That I grant, that a stong assurance of any truth, settled upon prevalent and well-grounded arguments of probability, is often called knowledge in popular ways of talking; but being here to distinguish between knowledge and belief, to what degrees of confidence soever raised, their boundaries must be kept, and their names not confounded; with more to the same purpose, p. 120, 121; whereby it is so plain, that by knowledge I mean the effect of strict demonstration; and by believing or opinion, I mean any degree of persuasion even to the highest degree of assurance; that I challenge you yourself to set it down in plainer and more express terms. But nobody can blame you for not finding your adversary’s meaning, let it be ever so plain; when you can find nothing to answer to it. The reason therefore which you allege for the denying the sufficiency of my division, is no reason at all. Your pretended reason is because there is “a third sort or degree of persuasion; which though not grounded upon strict demonstration; yet in firmness and stability does far exceed that which is built upon slight appearances of probability,” &c. Let it be so, that there is a degree of persuasion; not grounded upon strict demonstration, far exceeding that which is built upon slight appearances of probability. But let me ask you what reason can this be to deny the sufficiency of my division, because there is, as you say, a third sort or degree of persuasion; when even that which you call this third sort or degree of persuasion is contained in my division. This is a specimen indeed, not of answering what I have said; but of not answering; and for such I leave it to the reader. “A degree of persuasion, though not grounded on strict demonstration, yet in firmness and stability far exceeding that which is built upon slight appearances of probability, you call here a third sort or degree of persuasion.” Pray tell me which are the two other sorts; for knowledge upon strict demonstration, is not belief or persuasion, but wholly above it. Besides, if the degrees of firmness in persuasion make different sorts of persuasion, there are not only three, but three hundred sorts of persuasion; and therefore the naming of your third sort was with little ground, and to no purpose or tendency to an answer; though the drawing in something like a distinction be always to the purpose of a man who hath nothing to answer; it giving occasion for the use of many good words; which, though nothing to the point, serve to cover the disputant’s saying nothing, under the appearance of learning, to those who will not be at the pains to examine what he says.
You say, “every magistrate is by the law of nature under an obligation to use force to bring men to the true religion.” To this I urge, that the magistrate hath nothing else to determine him in the use of force, for promotion of any religion one before another, but only his own belief or persuasion of the truth of it. Here you had nothing to do, but fairly to grant or deny: but instead thereof you first raise a groundless doubt as I have shown about my meaning, whereof there could be no doubt at all to any one who would but read what I had said: and thereupon having got a pretence for a distinction, you solemnly tell the world “there is a third sort of persuasion, which, though not grounded on strict demonstration; yet in firmness and stability does far exceed that which is built upon slight appearances of probability, leaving no doubt, approaching near to knowledge, being full assurance.” Well, the magistrate hath a “persuasion of firmness and stability, has full assurance;” must he be determined by this his full assurance in the promoting of that religion by force, of whose truth he is in so high a degree of persuasion so fully assured? “No, say you, it must be grounded upon such clear and solid proof as leaves no reasonable doubt in an attentive and unbiassed mind.” To which the magistrate is ready to reply, that he, upon his grounds, can see no reasonable doubt; and that his is an attentive and unbiassed mind; of all which he himself is to be judge, till you can produce your authority to judge for him; though, in the conclusion, you actually make yourself judge for him. “It is such a kind of persuasion, such a full assurance must point out to the magistrate that religion he is to promote by force, which can never be had but of the true religion:” which is in effect, as every one may see, the religion that you judge to be true; and not the religion the magistrate judges to be true. For pray tell me, must the magistrate’s full assurance point out to him the religion which he is by force to promote; or must he by force promote a religion, of whose truth he hath no belief, no assurance at all? If you say the first of these, you grant that every magistrate must use force to promote his own religion; for that is the religion whereof he has so full assurance, that he ventures his eternal state upon it. Ay, say you, that is for want of attention; and because he is not unbiassed. It is like he will say the same of you, and then you are quits. And that he should by force promote that religion which he believes not to be true, is so absurd, that I think you can neither expect it, nor bring yourself to say it. Neither of these therefore being answers that you can make use of, that which lies at the bottom, though you give it but covertly, is this, “That the magistrate ought by force to promote the religion that you believe with full assurance to be true.” This would do admirably well for your purpose, were not the magistrate intitled to ask, “who made you a judge for him in the case?” And ready to retort your own words upon you, that it is want of attention and unbiassedness in you, that puts your religion past doubt with you upon your proofs of it. Try when you please with a bramin, a mahometan, a papist, lutheran, quaker, anabaptist, presbyterian, &c. you will find if you argue with them, as you do here with me, that the matter will rest here between you, and that you are no more a judge for any of them than they are for you. Men in all religions have equally strong persuasions, and every one must judge for himself; nor can any one judge for another, and you least of all for the magistrate; the ground you build upon, that “firmness and stability of persuasion in the highest degree of assurance leaves no doubt, can never be had of a false religion” being false; all your talk of full assurance pointing out to the magistrate the true religion that he is obliged by force to promote, amounts to no more but his own religion, and can point out no other to him.
However, in the next paragraph, you go on with your specimen, and tell me, “Hence appears the impertinency of all I discourse, p. 143, 144, concerning the difference between faith and knowledge: where the thing I was concerned to make out, if I would speak to the purpose, was no other but this, that there are as clear and solid grounds for the belief of false religions, as there are for the belief of the true: or that men both as firmly and as rationally believe and embrace false religions as they can the true. This, you confess, is a point, which, you say, when I have well cleared and established it, will do my business, but nothing else will. And therefore my talk of faith and knowledge; however it may amuse such as are prone to admire all that I say; will never enable me, before better judges, from the duty of every magistrate to use moderate penalties for promoting the true religion, to infer the same obligation to lie upon every magistrate in respect of his religion, whatever it be.”
Where the impertinency lies will be seen when it is remembered, that the question between us is not what religion has the most clear and solid grounds for the belief of it; much less whether “there are as clear and solid grounds for the belief of false religions, as there are for the belief of the true,” i. e. whether falsehood has as much truth in it as truth itself? A question, which, I guess, no man but one of your great pertinency, could ever have proposed. But the question here between you and me, is what must point out to the magistrate that religion which he is by force to promote, that so he may be able to perform the duty that you pretend is incumbent on him by the law of nature; and here I proved, that having no certain demonstrative knowledge of the true religion, all that was left him to determine him in the application of force (which you make the proper instrument of promoting the true religion) for the promoting the true religion, was only his persuasion, belief, or assurance of the true religion, which was always his own; and so in this state the religion, which by force the magistrates of the world must of necessity promote, must be either their own or none at all. Thus the argument standing between us, I am apt to think the world may be of opinion, that it had been pertinent to your cause to have answered my argument, if you had any thing to answer; which since you have not done, this specimen also of the facility, wherewith you can answer all I have said in the third Letter, may be joined to the former, and be a specimen of something else than what you intended it. For in truth, sir, the endeavouring to set up a new question absurd in itself, and nothing at all to the purpose, without offering any thing to clear the difficulty you were pressed with; will to understanding readers appear pertinent in one who sets himself up for an arrant Drawcansir, and is giving specimens of himself, that nothing can stand in his way.
It is with the same pertinency, that to this proposition, “that there are as clear and solid grounds for the belief of a false religion as there are for the belief of the true,” you join this following as an equivalent, “Or that men may both as firmly and as rationally believe and embrace false religions as they can the true:” and you would fain have it thought that your cause is gained, unless I will maintain these two absurd propositions, which my argument has nothing to do with.
And you seem to me to build upon these two false propositions:
1. That in the want of knowledge and certainty of which is the true religion, nothing is fit to set the magistrate upon doing his duty in employing of force to make men consider and embrace the true religion, but the highest persuasion and full assurance of its truth. Whereas his own persuasion of the truth of his own religion, in what degree soever it be, so he believes it to be true; will, if he thinks it his duty by force to promote the true, be sufficient to set him on work. Nor can it be otherwise, since his own persuasion of his own religion, which he judges so well grounded as to venture his future state upon it, cannot but be sufficient to set him upon doing what he takes to be his duty in bringing others to the same religion.
II. Another false supposition you build upon is this, that the true religion is always embraced with the firmest assent. There is scarce any one so little acquainted with the world, that hath not met with instances of men most unmoveably confident, and fully assured in a religion which was not the true. Nor is there among the many absurd religions of the world, almost any one that does not find votaries to lay down their lives for it: and if that be not firm persuasion and full assurance that is stronger than the love of life, and has force enough to make a man throw himself into the arms of death, it is hard to know what is firm persuasion and full assurance. Jews and mahometans have frequently given instances of this highest degree of persuasion. And the bramins religion in the East is entertained by its followers with no less assurance of its truth, since it is not unusual for some of them to throw themselves under the wheels of a mighty chariot, wherein they on solemn days draw the image of their God about in procession, there to be crushed to death, and sacrifice their lives in honour of the God they believe in. If it be objected, that those are examples of mean and common men; but the great men of the world, and the heads of societies, do not so easily give themselves up to a confirmed bigotry. I answer, The persuasion they have of the truth of their own religion, is visibly strong enough to make them venture themselves, and use force to others upon the belief of it. Princes are made like other men; believe upon the like grounds that other men do; and act as warmly upon that belief, though the grounds of their persuasion be in themselves not very clear, or may appear to others to be not of the utmost solidity. Men act by the strength of their persuasion, though they do not always place their persuasion and assent on that side on which, in reality, the strength of truth lies. Reasons that are not thought of, nor heard of, nor rightly apprehended, nor duly weighed, make no impression on the mind: and truth, how richly soever stored with them, may not be assented to, but lie neglected. The only difference between princes and other men herein, is this, that princes are usually more positive in matters of religion, but less instructed. The softness and pleasures of a court, to which they are usually abandoned when young; and affairs of state which wholly possess them when grown up; seldom allow any of them time to consider and examine that they may embrace the true religion. And here your scheme, upon your own supposition, has a fundamental errour that overturns it. For your affirming that force, your way applied, is the necessary and competent means to bring men to the true religion; you leave magistrates destitute of these necessary and competent means of being brought to the true religion, though that be the readiest way, in your scheme the only way, to bring other men to it, and is contended for by you as the only method.
But further, you will perhaps be ready to reply, that you do not say barely, that men may not as firmly, but that they cannot as firmly and rationally, believe and embrace false religions as they can the true. This, be it as true as it will, is of no manner of advantage to your cause. For here the question, necessary to be considered in your way of arguing, returns upon you, who must be judge whether the magistrate believes and embraces his religion rationally or no? If he himself be judge, then he does act rationally, and it must have the same operation on him, as if it were the most rational in the world; if you must be judge for him, whether his belief be rational or no, why may not others judge for him as well as you? or at least he judge for you, as well as you for him; at least till you have produced your patent of infallibility and commission of superintendency over the belief of the magistrates of the earth, and shown the commission whereby you are appointed the director of the magistrates of the world in their belief, which is or is not the true religion? Do not think this said without cause; your whole discourse here has no other tendency, but the making yourself judge of what religion should be promoted by the magistrate’s force; which, let me tell you by the way, every warm zealot in any religion has as much right to be as you. 1 beseech you tell me, are you not persuaded, nay fully assured, that the church of England is in the right, and all that dissent from her are in the wrong: Why else would you have force used to make them consider and conform? If then the religion of the church of England be, as you are fully assured, the only true religion, and the magistrate must ground his persuasion of the truth of his religion on such clear and solid proofs as the true religion alone has, and no false one can have; and by that persuasion the magistrate must be directed in the use of force, (for all this in effect you say, in the sixth and beginning of the seventh page;) what is this but covertly to say, that it is the duty of all magistrates to use force to bring men to embrace the religion of the church of England? Which, since it plainly follows from your doctrine, and I think you cannot deny to be your opinion, and what in effect you contend for; you will do well to speak it out in plain words, and then there will need no more to be said in the question.
And now I desire it may be considered, what advantage this supposition of force, which is supposed put into the magistrate’s hands by the law of nature to be used in religion, brings to the true religion, when it arms five hundred magistrates against the true religion, who must unavoidably in the state of things in the world act against it, for one that uses force for it. I say that this use of force in the magistrate’s hand, is barely supposed by you from the benefit it is like to produce; but it being demonstration, that the prejudice that will accrue to the true religion from such an use of force, is five hundred times more than the advantage can be expected from it; the natural and unavoidable inference from your own ground of benefit, is, that God never gave any such power to the magistrate; and there it will rest till you can by some better argument prove the magistrate to have such a power: to which give me leave to add one word more.
You say the magistrate is obliged by the law of nature to use force to promote the true religion; must he stand still and do nothing till he certainly know which is the true religion? If so, the commission is lost, and he can never do his duty; for to certain knowledge of the true religion, he can in this world never arrive. May he then act upon “firm persuasions and full assurance, grounded upon such clear and solid proofs as the true religion alone has, and no false one can have?” And then indeed you have distinguished yourself into a safe retreat. For who can doubt but your third sort or degree of persuasion, if that be your meaning, will determine the magistrate to the true religion, when it is grounded on those which are the proofs only of the true religion; which if it be all that you intend by your full assurance, (which is the title you give to this your third sort or degree of persuasion,) I must desire you to apply this in answer to my argument. I say, magistrates in general have nothing to determine them in their application of force but their own persuasion; and your answer is, the magistrates of the true religion have their own persuasion to determine them; but of all the other magistrates, which are above an hundred, I might say a thousand to one, you say nothing at all; and thus, by the help of a distinction, the question is resolved. I say, the magistrates are not in a capacity to perform their duty, if they be obliged to use force to promote the true religion, since they have nothing to determine them but their own persuasion of the truth of any religion; which, in the variety of religions which the magistrates of the world have embraced, cannot direct them to the true. Yes, say you, their persuasion, who have embraced the true religion, will direct them to the true religion. Which amounts at last to no more but this, That the magistrate that is in the right, is in the right. A very true proposition without doubt; but whether it removes the difficulty I proposed, any better than begging the question, you were best consider. There are five hundred magistrates of false religions for one that is of the true; I speak much within compass; it is a duty incumbent on them all, say you, to use force to bring men to the true religion. My question is, how can this be compassed by men who are unavoidably determined by the persuasion of the truth of their own religion? It is answered, they who are of the true religion will perform their duty. A great advantage surely to true religion, and worth the contending for, that it should be the magistrate’s duty to use force for promoting the true religion, when in the state of things that is at present in the world, and always hitherto has been, one magistrate in five hundred will use force to promote the true religion, and the other four hundred ninety-nine to promote false ones.
But perhaps you will tell me, That you do not allow that magistrates, who are of false religions, should be determined by their own persuasions, which are “built upon slight appearances of probability; but such as are grounded upon clear and solid proofs,” which the true religion alone has. In answer to this, I ask, Who must be judge whether his persuasion be grounded on clear and solid proofs; the magistrate himself, or you for him? If the magistrate himself, then we are but where we were; and all that you say here, with the distinction that you have made about several sorts of persuasion, serves only to lead us about to the same place: for the magistrate, of what religion soever, must, notwith standing all you have said, be determined by his own persuasion. If you say you must be judge of the clearness and solidity of the proofs upon which the magistrate grounds the belief of his own religion, it is time you should produce your patent, and show the commission whereby you act.
There are other qualifications you assign of the proof, on which you tell us “your third sort or degree of persuasion is grounded; and that is such as leaves no reasonable doubt in an attentive and unbiassed mind:” which, unless you must be judge what is a reasonable doubt, and which is an attentive and unbiassed mind, will do you no manner of service. If the magistrate must be judge for himself in this case, you can have nothing to say to him; but if you must be judge, then any doubt about your religion will be unreasonable, and his not embracing and promoting your religion, will be want of attention and an unbiassed mind. But let me tell you, give but the same liberty of judging for the magistrate of your religion to the men of another religion, which they have as much right to as you have to judge for the magistrate of any other religion in the points mentioned; all this will return upon you. Go into France, and try whether it be not so. So that your plea for the magistrate’s using force for promoting the true religion, as you have stated it, gives as much power and authority to the king of France to use it against his dissenting subjects, as to any other prince in Christendom to use it against theirs; name which you please.
The fallacy in making it the magistrate’s duty to promote by force the only true religion lies in this, that you allow yourself to suppose the magistrate, who is of your religion, to be well-grounded, attentive and unbiassed, and fully and firmly assured that his religion is true; but that other magistrates of other religions different from yours are not so: which, what is it but to erect yourself into a state of infallibility above all other men of different persuasions from yours, which yet they have as good a title to as yourself?
Having thus advanced yourself into the chair, and given yourself the power of deciding for all men which is, and which is not, the true religion; it is not to be wondered that you so roundly pronounce all my discourse, p. 143, 144, “concerning the difference between faith and knowledge, to be impertinency;” and so magisterially to tell me, “that the thing I was there concerned to make out, if I would speak to the purpose, was no other but this, that there are as clear and as solid grounds for the belief of false religions, as there are for belief of the true: or, that men may both as firmly and as rationally believe and embrace false religions as they can the true.”
The impertinency in these two or three pages, I shall leave to shift for itself in the judgment of any indifferent reader; and will only, at present, examine what you tell “I was concerned to make out, if I would speak to the purpose.”
My business there was to prove, That the magistrate being taught that it was his duty to use force to promote the true religion, it would thence unavoidably follow, that not having knowledge of the truth of any religion, but only belief that it was true, to determine him in his application of force; he would take himself in duty bound to promote his own religion by force; and thereupon force would inevitably be used to promote false religions, upon those very grounds upon which you pretend to make it serviceable only to the true: and this, I suppose, I have in those pages evidently proved, though you think not fit to give any other answer to what I there say, but that it is impertinent; and I should have proved something else, which you would have done well, by a plain and clear deduction, to have shown from my words.
[the two following leaves of the copy are either lost or mislaid.]
After this new invention of yours, “of answering by specimen,” so happily found out for the ease of yourself and other disputants of renown, that shall please to follow it; I cannot presume you should take notice of any thing I have to say: you have assumed the privilege, by showing your strength against one argument, to pronounce all the rest baffled; and therefore to what purpose is it to offer difficulties to you, who can blow them all off with a breath? But yet, to apologize for myself to the world, for being of opinion that it is not always from want of consideration, attention, or being unbiassed, that men with firmness of persuasion embrace, and with full assurance adhere to, the wrong side in matters of religion; I shall take the liberty to offer the famous instance of the two Reynolds’s, brothers, both men of learning and parts; whereof the one being of the church of England, and the other of the church of Rome, they both desiring each other’s conversion to the religion which he himself was of, writ to one another about it, and that with such appearance of solid and clear grounds on both sides, that they were wrought upon by them: each changed his religion, and that with so firm a persuasion and full an assurance of the truth of that which he turned to, that no endeavours or arguments of either of them could ever after move the other, or bring him back from what he had persuaded him to. If now I should ask to which of these two, full assurance pointed out the true religion; you no doubt, if you would answer at all, would say, To him that embraced the church of England, and a papist would say the other; but if an indifferent man were asked whether this full assurance was sufficient to point out the true religion to either of them, he must answer, No; for if it were, they must necessarily have been both of the same religion.
To sum up then what you answer to my saying, “It cannot be the magistrate’s duty to use force to promote the true religion, because he is not in a capacity to perform that duty; for not having a certain knowledge, but only his own persuasion to point out to him which is the true religion, if he be satisfied it is his duty to use force to promote the true religion, it will inevitably follow, that he must always use it to promote his own.” To which you answer, That a persuasion of a low degree is not sufficient to point out that religion to the megistrate which he is to promote by force; but that a “firmness and stability of persuasion, a full assurance, is that which is to point out to the magistrate that religion which he is by force to promote.” Where if by firmness and stability of persuasion and full assurance, you mean what the words import; it is plain you confess the magistrate’s duty is to promote his own religion by force; for that is the religion which his firm persuasion and full assurance points out to him. If by full assurance you mean any thing but the strength of persuasion; you contradict all that you have said about firmness and stability, and degrees of persuasion; and having in that sense allowed the sufficiency of my division, where I say, “knowledge or opinion must point out that religion to him, which he is by force to promote;” retract it again, and instead thereof, under the name of full assurance, you substitute and put in true religion; and so firmness of persuasion is in effect laid by, and nothing but the name made use of: for pray tell me, is firmness of persuasion, or being of the true religion, either of them by itself sufficient to point out to the magistrate that religion which it is his duty to promote by force? For they do not always go together. If being of the true religion by itself may do it; your mentioning firmness of persuasion, grounded on solid proof that leaves no doubt, is to no purpose, but to mislead your reason; for every one that is of the true religion, does not arrive at that high degree of persuasion, that full assurance which approaches that which is very near to that which is produced by demonstration. And in this sense of full assurance, which you say men may have of the true religion, and can never have of a false one; your answer amounts to this, that full assurance, in him that embraces the true religion, will point out the religion he is by force to promote: where it is plain, that by fulness of assurance you do mean not the firmness of his persuasion that points out to him the religion which he is by force to promote, (for any lower degree of persuasion to him that embraces the true religion would do it as certainly, and to one that embraces not the true religion, the highest degree of persuasion would even in your opinion do nothing at all;) but his being of the true religion, is that which alone guides him to his duty of promoting the true religion by force. So that to my question, how shall a magistrate who is persuaded that it is his and every magistrate’s duty to promote the true religion by force, be determined in his use of force; you seem to say his firm persuasion or full assurance of the truth of the religion he so promotes must determine him; and presently, in other words, you seem to lay the stress upon his actually being of the true religion. The first of these answers is not true; for I have shown that firmness of persuasion may and does point out to magistrates false religions as well as the true: and the second is much what the same, as if to one, who should ask what should enable a man to find the right way who knows it not, it should be answered, the being in it. One of these must be your meaning, choose which you please of them; if you have any meaning at all in your sixth, and beginning of the seventh page, to which I refer the reader; where, if he find nothing else, he cannot fail to find a specimen of school-play, of talking uncertainly in the utmost perfection, nicely and artificially worded, that it may serve for a specimen of a master-piece in that kind; but a specimen of the answerableness of my Letter will require, as I imagine, a little more plain-dealing. And to satisfy readers, that have not attained to the admiration of skilfully saying nothing, you must directly inform them, whether firmness of persuasion be or be not sufficient in a magistrate to enable him to do his duty in promoting the true religion by force; or else this you have pitched on will scarce be a sample of the answerableness of all I have said.
But you stand positive in it, and that is like a master, that it cannot be inferred from the magistrate’s being obliged to promote by force the true religion, that every magistrate is obliged to promote by force his own religion. And that for the same reason you had given before, more perplexed and obscurely, viz. “Because there is this perpetual advantage on the side of the true religion, that it may and ought to be believed on clear and solid grounds, such as will appear the more so, the more they are examined: whereas no other religion can be believed so, but upon such appearances only, as will not bear a just examination.”
This would be an answer to what I have said, if it were so that all magistrates saw the preponderancy of the grounds of belief, which are on the side of the true religion; but since it is not the grounds and reasons of a truth that are not seen, that do or can set the magistrate upon doing his duty in the case; but it is the persuasion of the mind, produced by such reasons and grounds as do affect it, that alone does, or is capable to determine the magistrate in the use of force, for performing of his duty; it necessarily follows, that if two magistrates have equally strong persuasions concerning the truth of their religions respectively, they must both be set on work thereby, or neither; for though one be of a false, and the other of the true religion; yet the principle of operation, that alone which they have to determine them, being equal in both, they must both be determined by it; unless it can be said, that one of them must act according to that principle, which alone can determine; and the other must act against it: that is, do what he cannot do; be determined to one thing, by what at the same time determines him to another. From which incapacity in magistrates to perform their duty by force to promote the true religion, I think it may justly be concluded, that to use force for the promoting any religion cannot be their duty.
You tell us, it is by the law of nature magistrates are obliged to promote the true religion by force. It must be owned, that if this be an obligation of the law of nature, very few magistrates overlook it; so forward are they to promote that religion by force which they take to be true. This being the case, I beseech you tell me what was Huaina Capac, emperor of Peru, obliged to do? Who, being persuaded of his duty to promote the true religion, was not yet within distance of knowing or so much as hearing of the christian religion, which really is the true (so far was he from a possibility to have his belief grounded upon the solid and clear proofs of the true religion.) Was he to promote the true religion by force? That he neither did nor could know any thing of; so that was morally impossible for him to do. Was he to sit still in the neglect of his duty incumbent on him? That is in effect to suppose it a duty and no duty at the same time. If, upon his not knowing which is the true religion, you allow it not his duty to promote it by force, the question is at an end: you and I are agreed, that it is not the magistrate’s duty by force to promote the true religion. If you hold it in that case to be his duty; what remains for him to do, but to use force to promote that religion which he himself is strongly, nay, perhaps to the highest degree of firmness, persuaded is the true? Which is the granting what I contend for, that, if the magistrate be obliged to promote by force the true religion, it will thence follow, that he is obliged to promote by force that religion which he is persuaded is the true; since, as you will have it, force was given him to that end, and it is his duty to use it; and he hath nothing else to determine it to that end but his own persuasion. So that one of these two things must follow, either that in that case it ceases to be his duty, or else he must promote his own religion; choose you which you please * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
C. Baldwin, Printer, New Bridge-street, London.
[* ]In answer to “A Second Letter to the Author of the Three Letters for Toleration. From the Author of the Argument of the Letter concerning Toleration briefly considered and answered. And of the Defence of it. With a Postscript, taking some notice of two passages in The Rights of the Protestant Dissenters.”