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former, you must allow all magistrates, of whatsoever religion, the use of force to bring men to theirs, and so be involved in all those ill consequences which you cannot it seems admit, and hope to decline by your useless distinction of force to be used, not for any, but for the true religion.
“ It is the duty, you say, of the magistrate to use force for promoting the true religion.
And in several places you tell us, he is obliged to it. Persuade magistrates in general of this, and then tell me how any magistrate shall be restrained from the use of force, for the promoting what he thinks to be the true? For he being persuaded that it is his duty to use force to promote the true religion, and being also persuaded his is the true religion, what shall stop his hand ? Must he forbear the use of force till he be got beyond believing, into a certain knowledge that all he requires men to embrace is necessary to salvation ? If that be it you will, stand to, you have my consent, and I think there will be no need of any other toleration. But if the believing his religion to be the true, be sufficient for the magistrate to use force for the promoting of it, will it be so only to the magistrates of the religion that you profess ? and must all other magistrates sit still, and not do their duty till they have your permission ? If it be your magistrate's duty to use force for the promoting the religion he believes to be the true, it will be every magistrate's duty to use force for the promoting what he believes to be the true, and he sins if he does not receive and promote it as if it were true. If you will not take this upon my word, yet I desire you to do it upon the strong reason of a very judicious and reverend prelate [Dr. John Sharp, archbishop of York,] of the present church of England. In a discourse concerning conscience, printed in quarto, 1687, p. 18, you will find these following words, and much more to this purpose: “Where a man is mistaken in his judgment, even in that case it is always a sin to act against it. Though we should take that for a duty which is really a sin, yet so long as we are thus persuaded, it
will be highly criminal in us to act in contradiction to this persuasion : and the reason of this is evident, because by so doing we wilfully act against the best light which at present we have for direction of our actions. So that when all is done, the immediate guide of our actions can be nothing but our conscience, our judgment, and persuasion. If a man, for instance, should of a Jew become a Christian, whilst yet in his heart he believed that the Messiah is not yet come, and that our Lord Jesus was an impostor: or if a papist should renounce the communion of the Roman church, and join with ours, whilst yet he is persuaded that the Roman church is the only catholic church, and that our reformed churches are heretical or schismatical; though now there is none of us that will deny that the men in both these cases have made a good change, as having changed a false religion for a true one, yet for all that I dare say we should all agree they were both of them great villains för making that change; because they made it not upon honest principles, and in pursuance of their judgment, but in direct contradiction to both.” So that it being the magistrate's duty to use force to bring men to the true religion, and he being persuaded his is the true, I suppose you will no longer question but that he is as much obliged to use force to bring men to it, as if it were the true; and then, sir, I hope you have too much respect for magistrates not to allow them to believe the religions to be true which they profess.These things put together, I desire you to consider whether if magistrates are obliged to use force to bring men to the true religion, every magistrate is not obliged to use force to bring men to that religion he believes to be true?
This being so, I hope I have not argued so wholly beside the purpose, as you all through your letter accuse me, for charging on your doctrine all the ill con. sequences, all the prejudice it would be to the true religion, that magistrates should have power to use force to bring men to their religions: and I presume you will think yourself concerned to give to all these places in the first and second letter concerning toleration, which show the inconveniencies and absurdities of such an use of force, some other answer than that "you are for punishing only such as reject the true religion. That it is plain the force you speak of is not force, my way applied, i. e. applied to the promoting the true religion only, but to the promoting all the national religions in the world.” And again, to my arguing that force your way applied, if it can propagate any religion, it is likelier to be the false than the true, because few of the magistrates of the world are in the right way; you reply, “this 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' asserted no such thing, (as no man you think but an atheist will assert it) then this is quite beside the business.” This is the great strength of your answer, and your refuge almost in every page. So that I will presume it reasonable to expect that you should clearly and directly answer what I have here said, or else find some other answer than what you have done to the second letter concerning toleration; however acute you are in your way, in several places, on this occasion, as p. 11, 12, for my answer to which I shall refer you to another place.
To my argument against force, from the magistrate's being as liable to error as the rest of mankind, you answer, That I "might have considered that this argument concerns none but those who assert that every magistrate has a right to use force to promote his own religion, whatever it be, which you' think no man that has any religion will assert.” I suppose you may think now this answer will scarce serve, and you must assert either no magistrate to have right to promote his religion by force, or else be involved in the condemnation you pass on those who assert it of all magistrates. And here I think, as to the decision of the question betwixt us, I might leave this matter : but there being in your letter a great many other gross mistakes, wrong suppositions, and fallacious arguings,
which in those general and plausible terms you have made use of in several places, as best served your turn, may possibly have imposed on yourself, as well as they are fitted to do so on others, and therefore will deserve to have some notice taken of them; I shall give my. self the trouble of examining your letter a little farther,
To my saying, “ It is not for the magistrate, upon an imagination of its usefulness, to make use of
any other means than what the Author and Finisher of our faith had directed;" you reply, “which, how true soever, is not, I think, very much to the purpose ; for if the magistrate does only assist that ministry which our Lord has appointed, by using so much of his coactive power for the furthering their service as common experience discovers to be useful and necessary for that end; there is no manner of ground to' say, that, upon an imagination of its usefulness, he makes use of any other means for the salvation of men's souls than what the Author and Finisher of our faith has directed. It is true indeed the Author and Finisher of our faith has given the magistrate no new power or commission, nor was there any need that he should, (if himself had had any temporal power to give:) for he found him already, even by the law of nature, the minister of God to the people for good, and bearing the sword not in vain, i. e. invested with coactive power, and obliged to use it for all the good purposes which it might serve, and for which it should be found needful; even for the restraining of false and corrupt religion; as Job long before (perhaps before any part of the Scriptures were written) acknowledged, when he said, that the worshipping the sun or the moon was an iniquity to be punished by the judge. But though our Saviour has given the magistrates no new power, yet being King of kings, he expects and requires that they should submit themselves to his sceptre, and use the power which always belonged to them for his service, and for the advancing his spiritual kingdom in the world. And even that charity which our great Master so earnestly
recommends, and so strictly requires of all bis disciples, as it obliges all men to seek and promote the good of others, as well as their own, especially their spiritual and eternal good, by such means as their several places and relations enable them to use; so does it especially oblige the magistrate to do it as a magistrate, i. e. by that power which enables him to do it above the rate of other men.
“So far therefore is the Christian magistrate, when he gives his helping hand to the furtherance of the Gospel, by laying convenient penalties upon such as reject it, or any part of it, from using any other means for the salvation of men's souls than what the Author and Finisher of our faith bas directed, that he does no more than his duty to God, to his Redeemer, and to his subjects, requires of him.”
The sum of your reply amounts to this, that by the law of nature the magistrate may make use of his coactive power where it is useful and necessary for the good of the people. If it be from the law of nature, it must be to all magistrates equally : and then I ask, whether this good they are to promote without any new power or commission from our Saviour, be what they think to be so, or what they certainly know to be so. If it be what they think to be so, then all magistrates may use force to bring men to their religion : and what good this is like to be to men, or of what use to the true religion, we have elsewhere considered. If it be only that good which they certainly know to be so, they will be very ill enabled to do what you require of them, which you here tell us is to assist that ministry which our Lord has appointed. Which of the magistrates of your time did you know to have so well studied the controversies about ordination and church-government, to be so well versed in church-history and succession, that you can undertake that he certainly knew which was the ministry which our Lord had appointed, either that of Rome, or that of Sweden ; whether the episcopacy in one part of this island, or the presbytery in another, were the ministry, which our Lord had appointed ? If you say, being firmly persuaded of it be sufficient to authorize