صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

your reputation, how much “ it is every man's interest not to be left to himself, without molestation, with. out punishment in matters of religion.” Talk not of “ bringing men to embrace the truth that must save them, by putting them upon examination.” Talk 10 more “ of force and punishment, as the only way left to bring men to examine." It is evident you mean nothing less. For, though want of examination be the only fault you complain of, and punishment be in your opinion the only way to bring men to it; and this the whole design of your book; yet you have not once proposed in it, that those, who do not impartially examine, should be forced to it. And that you may not think I talk at random, when I say you dare not; I will, if you please, give you some reasons for my saying so.

1. Because, if you propose that all should be punished, who are ignorant, who have not used “such consideration as is apt and proper to manifest the truth ; but to have been determined in the choice of their religion by impressions of education, admiration of

persons, worldly respects, prejudices, and the like incompetent motives; and have taken up their religion, without examining it as they ought;" you will propose to have several of your own church, be it what it will, punished; which would be a proposition too apt to offend too many of it, for you to venture on. For whatever need there be of reformation, every one will not thank you for proposing such an one as must begin at, or at least reach to, the house of God.

2. Because, if you should propose that all those who are ignorant, careless, and negligent in examining, should be punished, you would have little to say in this question of toleration. For if the laws of the state were made, as they ought to be, equal to all the subjects, without distinction of men of different professions in religion; and the faults to be amended by punishments were impartially punished, in all who are guilty of them; this would immediately produce a perfect toleration, or show the uselessness of force in matters of religion. If therefore you think it so necessary, as you say, for the “promoting of true religion, and the salvation of souls, that men should be punished to make them examine;" do but find a way to apply force to all that have not thoroughly and impartially examined, and you have my consent.

consent. For though force be not the proper means of promoting religion; yet there is no better way to show the uselessness of it, than the applying it equally to miscarriages, in whomsoever found; and not to distinct parties or persuasions of men, for the reformation of them alone, when others are equally faulty.

3. Because, without being for as large a toleration as the author proposes, you cannot be truly and sincerely for a free and impartial examination. For whoever examines, must have the liberty to judge, and follow his judgment; or else you put him upon examination to no purpose. And whether that will not as well lead men from, as to your church, is so much a venture, that, by your way of writing, it is evident enough you are loth to hazard it; and if you are of the national church, it is plain your brethren will not bear with you in the allowance of such a liberty. You must therefore either change your method; and if the want of examination be that great and dangerous fault you would have corrected, you must equally punish all that are equally guilty of any neglect in this matter, and then take your only means, your beloved force, and make the best of it; or else you must put off your mask, and confess that you design not your punishments to bring men to examination, but to conformity. For the fallacy you have used is too gross to pass upon this age.

What follows to p. 26, I think I have considered sufficiently already. But there you have found out something worth notice. In this page, out of abundant kindness, when the dissenters have their heads, without any cause, broken, you provide them a plaster. For, say you,“ if upon such examination of the matter, (i. e. brought to it by the magistrate's punishment)

they chance to find, that the truth does not lie on the magistrate's side; they have gained thus much however, even by the magistrate's misapplying his power, that they know better than they did before, where the truth does lie.” Which is as true as if you should

say, upon examination I find such a one is out of the way to York; therefore I know better than I did before, that I am in the right. For neither of you may be in the right. This were true indeed, if there were but two ways in all; a right and a wrong.

But where there be an hundred ways, and but one right; your knowing upon examination, that that which Í take is wrong, makes you not know any thing better than before that yours is the right. But if that be the best reason you have for it, it is ninety-eight to one still against you, that you are in the wrong. Besides, he that has been punished may have examined before, and then you are sure he gains nothing. However, you think you do well to encourage the magistrate in punishing, and comfort the man who has suffered unjustly by showing what he shall gain by it. Whereas, on the contrary, in a discourse of this nature, where the bounds of right and wrong are inquired into, and should be established, the magistrate was to be showed the bounds of his authority, and warned of the injury he did when he 'misapplies his power, and punished any man who deserved it not; and not be soothed into injustice, by consideration of gain that might thence accrue to the sufferer. “Shall we do evil that good may come of it?" There are a sort of people who are very wary of touching upon the magistrate's duty, and tender of showing the bounds of his power, and the injustice and ill consequences of his misapplying it; at least, so long as it is misapplied in favour of them, and their party. I know not whether you are of their number. But this I am sure, you have the misfortune here to fall into their mistake. The magistrate, you confess, may in this case misapply his power; and instead of representing to him the injustice of it, and the account he must give to his sovereign, one day, of this great trust put into his hands, for the equal protection of all his subjects: you pretend advantages which the sufferer may receive from it: and so, instead of disheartening from, you give encouragement to, the mischief: which, upon your principle, joined to the natural thirst in man after arbitrary power, may be carried to all manner of exorbitancy, with some pretence of right.

For thus stands your system: “ If force, i. e. punishment, may be any way useful for the promoting the salvation of souls, there is a right somewhere to use it. And this right,” say you, “ is in the magistrate :" who then, upon your grounds, may quickly find reason, where it suits his inclination, or serves his turn, to punish men directly to bring them to his religion. For if he may use force because it "may be, indirectly and at a distance, any way useful towards the sal. vation of men's souls,” towards the procuring any degree of glory; why may he not, by the same rule, use it where it may be useful, at leasť indirectly and at a distance, towards the procuring a greater degree of glory? For St. Paul assures us, « that the afflictions of this life work for us a far more exceeding weight of glory.” So that why should they not be punished, if in the wrong, to bring them into the right way; if in the right, to make them by their sufferings "gainers of a far more exceeding weight of glory?". But whatever you say " of punishment being lawful, because, indirectly and at a distance, it may be useful;" I suppose, upon cooler thoughts, you will be apt to suspect that, however sufferings may promote the salvation of those who make a good use of them, and so set men surer in the right way, 'or higher in a state of glory; yet those who make men unduly suffer, will have the heavier account, and greater weight of guilt upon them, to sink them deeper in the pit of perdition; and that therefore they should be warned to take care of so using their power. Because whoever be gainers by it, they themselves will, without repentance and amendment, be sure to be losers. But by granting that the magistrate misapplies his power, when he punishes those who have the right on their side, whether it be to bring them to his own religion, or whether it be “to bring them to consider reasons and arguments proper to convince them,” you grant all that the author contends for. All that he endeavours, is to show the bounds of civil power; and that in punishing others for religion, the magistrate misapplies the force he has in his hands, and so goes beyond right, beyond the limits of his power. For I do not think the author of the letter so vain, I am sure for my part I am not, as to hope by arguments, though ever so clear, to reform presently all the abuses in this matter ; especially whilst men of art, and religion, endeavour so industriously to palliate and disguise, what truth, yet, sometimes, unawares forces from them. Do not think I make a wrong use of

your saying, " the magistrate misapplies his power,” when I say you therein grant all that the author contends for. For if the magistrate misapplies, or makes wrong use of his power, when he punishes in matters of religion any one who is in the right, though it be but to make him consider, as you grant he does; he also misapplies, or makes wrong use of his power, when he punishes any one whomsoever in matters of religion, to make him consider. For every one is here judge for himself, what is right; and in matters of faith, and religious worship, another cannot judge for him. So that to punish any one in matters of religion, though it be but to make him consider, is by your own confession beyond the magistrate's power. And that punishing in matters of religion is beyond the magistrate's power is what the author contends for.

You tell us in the following words, “all the hurt that comes to them by it, is only the suffering some tolerable inconveniencies, for their following the light. of their own reason, and the dictates of their own consciences; which certainly is no such mischief to mankind, as to make it more eligible, that there should be no such power vested in the magistrate, but the care of every man's soul should be left to himself alone (as this author demands it should be ;) that is, that every man should be suffered, quietly, and without the least

« السابقةمتابعة »