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uncertainly, that if it be used, it will, if it has any efficacy, do more harm than good : if you can, prove such a means as that necessary, I think I may yield to you the cause. But the use of it has so much certain harm, and so little and uncertain good in it, that it can never be supposed included or intended in the general commission to the magistrates, of doing good; which may serve for an answer to your next paragraph.
Only let me take notice, that you here make this commission of the law of nature to extend the use of force, only to “induce those, who would not otherwise, to hear what may and ought to move them to embrace the truth.” They have heard all that is offered to move them to embrace, i. e. believe, but are not moved: is the magistrate by the law of nature commissioned to punish them for what is not in their power? for faith is the gift of God, and not in a man's power: or is the magistrate commissioned by the law of nature, which empowers him in general, only to do them good ? Is he, I say, commissioned to make them lie, and profess that which they do not believe? And is this for their good ? If he punish them till they embrace, i. e. believe, he punishes them for what is not in their power; if till they embrace, i. e. barely profess, he punishes them for what is not for their good: to neither of which can he be commissioned by the law of nature.
To my saying, “ Till you can show us a commission in Scripture, it will be fit for us to obey that precept of the Gospel (Mark iv. 24) which bids us take heed what we hear:” you reply, That this, " you suppose, is only intended for the vulgar reader; for it ought to be rendered, attend to what you hear;" which you prove out of Grotius. What if I or my readers are not so learned as to understand either the Greek original, or Grotius's Latin comment ?. Or if we did, are we to be blamed for understanding the Scripture in that sense, which the national, i. e. as you say, the true religion authorizes, and which you tell us would be a fault in us if we did not believe?
For if, as you suppose, there be sufficient provision made in England for the instructing all men in the truth; we cannot then but take the words in this sense, it being
that which the public authority has given them; for if we are not to follow the sense as it is given us in the translation authorized by our governors, and used in our worship established by law, but must seek it elsewhere, it will be hard to find how there is any other provision made for instructing men in the sense of the Scripture, which is the truth that must save them, but to leave them to their own inquiry and judgment, and to themselves, to take whom they think best for interpreters and expounders of Scripture, and to quit that of the true church, which she has given in her translation. This is the liberty you take to differ from the true church, when you think fit, and it will serve your purpose. She says, “ Take heed what you hear;" but you say, the true sense is, “ Attend to what you hear.” Methinks you should not be at such variance with dissenters; for after all, nothing is so like a nonconformist as a conformist. Though it be certainly every one's right to understand the Scripture in that sense which appears truest to him, yet I do not see how you, upon your principles, can depart from that which the church of England has given it: but you, I find, when you think fit, take that liberty; and so much liberty as that would, I think, satisfy all the dissenters in England.
As to your other place of Scripture; if St. Paul, as it seems to me, in that tenth to the Romans, where showing that the Gentiles were provided with all things necessary to salvation, as well as the Jews,—and that by having men sent to them to preach the Gospel, that provision was made,—what you say in the two next paragraphs will show us that you understand that the Greek word áxos signifies both hearing and report; but does no more answer the force of those two verses, against you, than if you had spared all you said with your Greek criticism. The words of St. Paul are these : “ How then shall they call on him on whom they have not believed ? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard ? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? So then faith cometh by hearing, and
hearing by the word of God,” Rom. x. 14, 15, 17. In this deduction of the means of propagating the Gospel, we may well suppose St. Paul would have put in miracles or penalties, if, as you say, one of them had been necessary. But whether or no every reader will think St. Paul set down in that place all necessary means, I know not; but this, I am confident, he will think, that the New Testament does; and then I ask, Whether there be in it one word of force to be used to bring men to be Christians, or to hearken to the good tidings of salvation offered in the Gospel ?
To my asking, “What if God, for reasons best known to himself, would not have men compelled ?" You answer, “ If he would not have them compelled, now miracles are ceased, as far as moderate penalties compel, (otherwise you are not concerned in the de. mand) he would have told us so." Concerning miracles supplying the want of force, I shall need to say nothing more here: but to your answer, that “ God would have told us so," I shall in few words state the matter to you. You first suppose force necessary to compel men to hear; and thereupon suppose the magistrate invested with a power to compel them to hear; and from thence peremptorily declare, that if God would not have force used, he would have told us so. You suppose also, that it must be only moderate force. Now may we not ask one, that is so far of the council of the Almighty, that he can positively say what he would or would not have, to tell us, whether it be not as probable that God, who knows the temper of man that he has made, who knows how apt he is not to spare any degree of force when he believes he has a commission to compel men to do any thing in their power, and who knows also how prone man is to think it reasonable to do so; whether, I say, it is not as probable that God, if he would have the magistrate to use none but moderate force to compel men to hear, would also have told us so ? Fathers are not more apt than magistrates to strain their power beyond what is convenient for the education of their children; and yet
it has pleased God to tell them in the New Testament, of this moderation, by a precept more than once repeated.
To my demanding, “ What if God would have men left to their freedom in this point, if they will hear, or if they will forbear; will you constrain them ? Thus we are sure he did with his own people,” &c. You answer, “But those words, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, which we find thrice used in the prophet Ezekiel, are nothing at all to my purpose. For by hearing there, no man understands the bare giving an ear to what was to be preached, nor yet the considering it only; but the complying with it, and obeying it; according to the paraphrase which Grotius gives of the words." Methinks, for this once, you might have allowed me to have hit upon something to the purpose, you having denied me it in so many other places : if it were but for pity; and one other reason ; which is, that all you have to say against it is, that “ by hearing there, no man understands the bare giving an ear to what was to be preached, nor yet the considering it; but the complying with it, and obeying it.” If I misremember not, your hypothesis pretends the use of force to be not barely to make men give an ear, nor yet to consider ; but to make them consider as they ought, i. e. so as not to reject; and therefore, though this text out of Ezekiel be nothing to the purpose against bare giving an ear; yet, if you please, let it stand as if it were to the purpose against your hypothesis, till you can find some other answer to it. If
you will give yourself the pains to turn to Acts xxviii. 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, you will read these words: “ And some believed the things that were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, hearing, ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing, ye shall see, and not perceive. For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears
are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”
If one should come now, and out of your treatise, called The Argument of the Letter concerning Tole. ration considered and answered, reason thus, “ It is evident that these Jews have not sought the truth in this matter with that application of mind and freedom of judgment which was requisite; whilst they suffered their lusts and passions to sit in judgment, and manage the inquiry. The impressions of education, the reverence and admiration of persons, worldly respects, and the like incompetent motives, have determined them. Now if this be the case,-if these men are averse to a due consideration of things, where they are most concerned to use it, what means is there left (besides the grace of God) to reduce them out of the wrong way they are in, but to lay thorns and briars in it ?” Would you not think this a good argument to show the necessity of using force and penalties upon these men in the Acts, who refused to be brought to embrace the true religion upon the preaching of St. Paul ? “ For what other means was left, what human method could be used to bring them to make a wiser and more rational choice, but laying such penalties upon them as might balance the weight of such prejudices, which inclined them to prefer a false way before the true?" Tell me, I beseech you, would you not, had you been a Christian magistrate in those days, have thought yourself obliged to try, by force,“ to overbalance the weight of those prejudices which inclined them to prefer a false way to the true ?" For there was no other human means left; and if that be not enough to prove the necessity of using it, you have no proof of any necessity of force
If you would have laid penalties upon them, I ask you, what if God, for reasons best known to himself,