Portrait of William Walwyn

William Walwyn wittily argues against state enforced religious conformity (1646)

Found in: Tracts on Liberty by the Levellers and their Critics Vol. 3 (1646).

William Walwyn (1600-1681) uses a witty medical metaphor to argue that the desire to impose religious conformity by force (“Policie”) is caused by bad “humours” in the body which can only be removed by Doctors named Love, Justice, Patience, and Truth:

Religion & Toleration

This is hee (Policy) whose councell he hath long time followed, he it was that first inticed him to undertake this unhappy worke, which contrary to all reason and Religion, he calleth the building of Gods house, &c. though I shewed him plainly, he went about therein to destroy the living houses of God: the vexing and molesting of his most deare (because most consciencious and peaceable) servants: though I told him plainly, any that differed with him, might as justly compell him to conforme unto them, as he could compell them: though I manifested that he was as liable to errour, as any that he complained off, and that therefore there was no reason why he should endevour to make men odious for opinions: I shewed him it was impossible, so long as knowledge was imperfect, but men must differ: I shewed how neverthelesse, every man was bound equally as himselfe, to worship God according to his own and not another mans understanding of the word of God. I told him he would bring upon himselfe, the odium of all judicious Religious people.