Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XIV. - The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland
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CHAP. XIV. - Pieter de la Court, The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland 
The True Interest and Political Maxims of the Republic of Holland (London: John Campbell, Esq, 1746).
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That freedom or toleration in, and about the service or worship of God, is a powerful means to preserve many inhabitants in Holland, and allure foreigners to dwell amongst us.
By liberty of conscience many people may be drawn out of other countries to inhabit Holland.IN the first place it is certain, that not only those that deal in manufactures, fishing, traffick, shipping, and those that depend on them, but also all civilized people must be supposed to pitch upon some outward service of God as the best, and to be averse from all other forms; and that such persons do abhor to travel, and much more to go and dwell in a country, where they are not permitted to serve and worship God outwardly, after such a manner as they think fit. And also that as to freedom about the outward service of God, during the troubles, and shortly after; when the manufacturies, trading, and navigation for freight began to settle in Holland, the magistrate was so tender and indulgent, that there were very few useful inhabitants driven thence by any rigour or hardship, much less any foreigners: so that it brings that maxim into my mind, that* the surest way to keep any thing, is to make use of the same means whereby it was at first acquired.
And among those means, comes first into consideration the freedom of all sorts of religion differing from the Reformed.Seeing the clergy in all neighbouring nations generally persecute those that differ from the publick sentiments. For in regard all our neighbours (except Great Britain and the United Provinces) and for the most part all far remote lands, are not of the reformed religion; and that the clergy under the papacy have their own jurisdiction: and seeing, if not all those that are called spiritual, yet the clergy at least that differ from us, have in all countries a settled livelihood, which depends not on the political welfare of the land: we see that through human frailty, they do in all these countries think fit to teach and preach up all that can have a tendency to their own credit, profit, and ease, yea, tho’ it be to the ruin of the whole country; and moreover, when the doctrine, counsel, and admonition of these men is not received by any of their auditors, these clergymen do then very unmercifully use to prosecute them odio theologico. Whereas nevertheless all christian clergymen ought to rest satisfied, according to their master’s doctrine, to enlighten the minds of men with the truth, and to shew them the way to eternal life, and afterwards to endeavour to perswade, and turn such enlightned persons in all humility and meekness into the path that leads to salvation.Which yet oppugns the doctrine of the gospel. It is evident that all people, especially Christians, and more particularly their publick teachers, ought to be far from compelling, either by spiritual or bodily punishment, those that for want of light and persuasion are not inclined to go to the publick church, to do any outward act, or to speak any words contrary to their judgment; for potestas coercendi, the coercive power is given only to the civil magistrate; all the power and right which the ecclesiasticks have, if they have any, must be derived from them, as the same is excellently and unanswerably shewn by Lucius Antistius Constans, in his book de Jure Ecclesiasticorum lately printed.
Indeed the essential and only difference between the civil and ecclesiastical power is this, that the civil doth not teach and advise as the other doth, but commands and compels the inhabitants to perform or omit such outward actions, or to suffer some certain punishment for their disobedience;Whose authority is only to teach and exhort so that they have dominion over the subject, five volentes, five nolentes, whether they will or no. Whereas on the other side, the duty of christian teachers is to instruct and advise men to all christian virtues, as trusting in God our Saviour, the hope of possessing a future eternal blessed life, and the love of God and our neighbour.1 Cor. 13. Which virtues consisting only in the inward thoughts of our minds, cannot be put into us by any outward violence or compulsion, but only by the inlightning and convincing reasons of ministers, who to effect this, must on all occasions comply with the state and condition of their hearers, and be the least amongst them: and thus making themselves the least, and thereby converting most, and bringing forth most good fruits, they shall be the first in the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.Matt. 20 27. And besides, it is well known that our Lord Christ pretended to no other kingdom or dominion on earth (his kingdom not being of this world) than that every one being convinced of this his true doctrine,John 18. 36. and wholesome advice, and of his holy sufferings for us, should freely be subject to him, not with the outward man only, to do or omit any action, to speak or be silent, but with the inward man in spirit and truth, to love God, himself, and his neighbour;John 4. to trust in that God and Saviour in all the occurrences of our lives, and by his infinite wisdom, mercy and power, to hope for a blessed and everlasting state for our solus. So that it became not his disciples, or followers, and apostles, much less our present publick preachers, to set themselves above their spiritual lord and master, to lord it over others. The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; but ye shall not be so.Luke 22. 25, 26. The gospel also teacheth us, that they should not lord it over the people, but ought to be their servants, and ministers of the word of God. But notwithstanding all this, we see, that by these evil ambitious maxims of the clergy, almost in all countries, the dissenters, or such as own not the opinion of the publick preachers, are turned out of the civil state and persecuted;So that many, to escape that persecution, forsake their native country, and come into Holand. for they are not only excluded from all government, magistracies, offices and benefices (which is in some measure tolerable for the secluded inhabitants, and agrees very well with the maxims of polity, in regard it is well known by experience in all countries to be necessary, as tending to the common peace, that one religion should prevail and be supported above all others, and accordingly is by all means authorized, favoured, and protected by the state, yet not so, but that the exercise of other religions at the same time be in some measure publickly tolerated, at least not persecuted) but are so persecuted, that many honest and useful inhabitants, to escape those fines, banishments, or corporal punishments, to which by adhering to the prohibited service of God they are subject, abandon their own sweet native country, and, to obtain their liberty, chuse to come and sit down in our barren and heavy tax’d country.
Yea, and which is more, in some countries these churchmen will go so far, as by an inquisition to inquire who they are that differ from the opinion of the authorized preachers; and first by admonition and excommunication, bereave them of their credit, and afterwards of their liberty, estate or life.Which persecution for worshipping of God, is very detrimental to the state. And as heretofore the Romish clergy were not satisfied with obstructing the divine service of those that dissented from them, but laboured to bring the inquisition into all places; so would it be a great wonder if the ecclesiasticks in Holland should not follow the same worldly course, to the ruin of the country, if they conceiv’d it tended to the increase of their own profit, honour, power and grandeur. At least we see it in almost all countries, where the best and most moderate, yea even where the reformed clergy bear sway, that dissenting assemblies are prohibited. And seeing that the publick divine worship is so necessary for mankind, that without it they would fall into great ignorance about the service of God, and consequently into a very bad life; and since man’s life is subject to many miseries, therefore every one is inclined in this wretched state to nourish or comfort his soul with the hope of a better: and as men hope very easily to obtain the same by a free and willing attention to a doctrine they think to be built on a good foundation;And hinders the conversion of the erroneous. so every one may easily perceive how impossible it is to make any man by compulsion to hope for such advantage, in that which he cannot apprehend to be well grounded; and accordingly the dissenting party clearly discover the vanity of all manner of force in matters of religion.
Moreover, seeing all matters of fact, and likewise of faith, must in some measure be proved by testimony of good credit, such as is irreproachable, or beyond exception; and that all that are thus persecuted, whether by excommunication, fines, banishment or corporal punishments, reproach and hate their persecutors, to wit, the publick authorised preachers, as their enemies; it is evident that those persecutors lose all their weight to persuade people in matters of faith by means of their publick authority, which otherwife would be great among the common people. And besides, we see, that all persecuted people continually exercise their thoughts upon any thing that seems to confirm their own judgment, and oft-times out of mere stomachfulness and animosity will not ponder and sedately consider their enemies reasons: so that the persecuted people being wholly turn’d aside from the truth of God’s worship by such violence and compulsion, become hardned in their error. By this means manifold wars, miseries and removals of habitations have been occasioned since the reformation: and the like actions will still have the like effects.And hurtful to the civil state. How prejudicial such coercive practices are, especially in rich trafficking cities, Lubeck, Collen, and Aix la Chapelle may instruct us, where both the rulers and subjects of those lately so famous cities have since the reformation lost most of their wealth, and chiefly by such compulsion in religion; many of the inhabitants being thereby driven out of their respective cities, and strangers discouraged from coming to reside in them. And tho’ according to clear reason, and holy writ, the true glory and fame of all rulers consists in the multitude of their subjects, yet do these churchmen (forgetting their credit, their country, and their God, which is a threefold impiety) continue to teach, that it is better to have a city of an orthodox or sound faith, ill stocked with people, than a very populous, and godly city, but tainted with heresy. Thus it is evident that to allow all men the exercise of their religion with more freedom than in other nations, would be a very effectual means for Holland to allure people out of other countries, and to fix them, that are there already;So that especially in Holland toleration of Religion is needful. provided such freedom be not prejudicial to our civil state and free government. For, as on the one side those of the Romish religion have their spiritual heads, and the K. of Spain (heretofore Earl of Holland) for their neighbour, who may help the Romanists in the time of intestine division;Pol. disc. of D. C. lib. 4. Disc. 6. p. 320. so on the other side it is manifest, that our own government by length of time is enlarged, and the Spanish Netherlands become weak; and that notwithstanding the renunciation of the said superiority over Holland we are in peace with them, it is also certain that by persecuting the Romanists we should drive most of the strangers out of our country;Likewise for the roman catholicks. and the greatest number of the dissenting old inhabitants, viz. the gentry, monied-men and boors, who continue to dwell amongst us, would become so averse to the government, that in time it would be either a means to bring this country into the hands of our enemy, or else drive those people out of the country:Because our wars against Spain are grounded on the like reason and equity. which cruelty would not only be pernicious, but altogether unreasonable in the rulers and reformed subjects, who always us’d to boast that they fought for their liberty, and constantly maintain’d, that several publick religions may be peaceably tolerated and practised in one and the same country; that true religion hath advantage enough when it’s allowed to speak, errantis pæna doceri, and that there is no greater sign of a false religion (or at least of one to the truth of which men dare not trust) than to persecute the dissenters from it. So that it appears that toleration and freedom of religion is not only exceeding beneficial for our country in general, but particularly for the reformed religion, which may and ought to depend upon its own evidence and veracity.
[* ]Res facile iisdem artibus retinentur quibus initio partæ sunt.