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thought it not necessary to use any other human means but preaching and persuasion? You have a ready answer, there is no other human means but force, and some other human means besides preaching is necessary, i. e. in your opinion: and is it not fit your authority should carry it? For as to miracles, whether fit to rank them amongst human means or no; or whether or no there were any showed to these unbelieving Jews, to supply the want of force; I guess, in this case, you will not be much helped, whichever you suppose : though to one unbiassed, who reads that chapter, it will, I imagine, appear most probable that St. Paul, when he thus parted with them, had done no miracles amongst them.
But you have, at the close of the paragraph before us, provided a salvo for all, in telling us, “ However the penalties you defend are not such as can any way be pretended to take away men's freedom in this point.' The question is, whether there be a necessity of using other human means but preaching, for the bringing men to embrace the truth that must save them; and whether force be it? God himself seems, in the places quoted, and others, to teach us, that he would have left men to their freedom from any constraint of force in that point; and you answer, “The penalties you defend are not such as can any ways be pretended to take away men's freedom in this point." Tell us what you mean by these words of yours, “take away men's freedom in this point ;” and then apply it. I think it pretty hard to use penalties and force to any man, without taking away his freedom from penalties and force. Farther, the penalties you think necessary, if we may believe you yourself, are to “be such as may balance the weight of those prejudices, which incline men to prefer a false way before a true :" whether these be such as you will defend, is another question. This, I think, is to be made plain, that you must go beyond the lower degrees of force, and moderate penalties, to balance those prejudices.
To my saying, “ That the method of the Gospel is to pray and beseech, and that if God had thought it necessary to have men punished to make them give ear, he could have called magistrates to be spreaders of the Gospel, as well as poor fishermen, or Paul a persecutor, who yet wanted not power to punish Ananias and Sapphira, and the incestuous Corinthian :" you reply, “ Though it be the method of the Gospel, for the ministers of it to pray and beseech men; yet it appears from my own words here, both that punishments may be sometimes necessary; and that punishing, and that even by those who are to pray and beseech, is consistent with that method.” I fear, sir, you so greedily lay hold upon any examples of punishment, when on any account they come in your way, that you give yourself not liberty to consider whether they are for your purpose or no; or else you would scarce infer, as you do from my words, that, in your case, “punishments may be sometimes necessary.'
Ananias and Sapphira were punished : “therefore it appears," say you, “ that punishments may be sometimes necessary” For what, I beseech you ? For the only end, you say, punishments are useful in religion, i. e. to make men consider. So that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead: for what end ? To make them consider. If you had given your. self the leisure to have reflected on this, and the other instance of the incestuous Corinthian, it is possible you would have found neither of them to have served very well to show punishment necessary to bring men to embrace the true religion ; for both these were punishments laid on those who had already embraced the true religion, and were in the communion of the true church; and so can only show, if you will infer any thing concerning the necessity of punishments from them, that punishments may be sometimes necessary for those who are in the communion of the true church. And of that you may make your advantage.
As to your other inferences from my words, viz. " That punishing, and that even by those who are, as ambassadors, to pray and beseech, is consistent with
that method ;” when they can do it as the apostles did, by the immediate direction and assistance of the Spirit of God, I shall easily allow it to be consistent with the method of the Gospel. If that will not content you, it is plain, you have an itch to be handling the secular sword; and since Christ has not given you the power you desire, you would be executing the magistrate's pretended commission from the law of nature. One thing more let me mind you of, and that is, that if, from the punishments of Ananias and Sapphira, and the incestuous Corinthian, you can infer a necessity of punishment to make men consider ; it will follow that there was a necessity of punishment to make men consider, notwithstanding miracles, which cannot therefore be supposed to supply the want of punishments.
To my asking, “ What if God, foreseeing this force would be in the hands of men as passionate, as humorsome, as liable to prejudice and error, as the rest of their brethren, did not think it a proper means to bring men into the right way ?” You reply, “ But if there be any thing of an argument in this, it proves that there ought to be no civil government in the world ; and so proving too much, proves nothing at all.” This you say; but you being one of those mortals who is liable to error as well as your brethren, you cannot expect it should be received for infallible truth, till you have proved it; and that you will never do, till you can show, that there is as absolute a necessity of force in the magistrate's hands for the salvation of souls, as there is of force in the magistrate's hands for the preservation of civil society; and next, till you have proved that force, in the hands of men as passionate and humorsome, or liable to prejudice and error as their brethren, would contribute as much to the bringing men, and keeping them in the right way to salvation, as it does to the support of civil society, and the keeping men at
Where men cannot live together without mutual injuries, not to be avoided without force, reason has taught them to seek a remedy in government; which always places power somewhere in the society to restrain
peace in it.
and punish such injuries; which power, whether placed in the community itself, or some chosen by the community to govern it, must still be in the hands of men; and where, as in societies of civilized and settled nations, the form of the government places this power out of the community itself, it is unavoidable, that out of men, such as they are, some should be made magistrates, and have coercive power of force put into their hands, to govern and direct the society for the public good; without which force, so placed in the hands of men, there could be no civil society, nor the ends for which it is instituted to any degree attained. And thus government is the will of God.
It is the will of God also, that men should be saved; but to this it is not necessary that force or coactive power should be put into men's hands, because God can and hath provided other means to bring men to salvation : to which you indeed suppose, but can never prove force necessary.
The passions, humours, liableness to prejudices and errors, common to magistrates with other men, do not render force in their hands so dangerous and unuseful to the ends of society, which is the public peace, as to the ends of religion, which is the salvation of men's souls. For though men of all ranks could be content to have their own humours, passions, and prejudices satisfied ; yet when they come to make laws, which are to direct their force in civil matters, they are driven to oppose their laws to the humours, passions, and prejudices of menin general, whereby their own come to be restrained: for if law-makers, in making of laws, did not direct them against the irregular humours, prejudices, and passions of men, which are apt to mislead them; if they did not endeavour, with their best judgment, to bring men from their humours and passions, to the obedience and practice of right reason; the society could not subsist, and so they themselves would be in danger to lose their station in it, and be exposed to the unrestrained humours, passions, and violence of others. And hence it comes, that be men as humorsome, passionate, and prejudiced as they will, they are still by their own
interest obliged to make use of their best skill, and with their most unprejudiced and sedatest thoughts, take care of the government, and endeavour to preserve the commonwealth; and therefore, notwithstanding their humours and passions, their liableness to error and prejudice, they do provide pretty well for the support of society, and the power in their hands is of use to the maintenance of it.
But in matters of religion it is quite otherwise ; you had told us, about the latter end of your Argument, p. 22, how liable men were in choosing their religion to be misled by humour, passion, and prejudice; and therefore it was not fit that in a business of such concernment they should be left to themselves : and hence, in this matter of religion, you would have them subjected to the coactive power of the magistrate. But this contrivance is visibly of no advantage to the true religion, nor can serve at all to secure men from a wrong choice. For the magistrates, by their humours, prejudices, and passions, which they are born to like other men, being as liable and likely to be misled in the choice of their religion as any of their brethren, as constant experience hath always shown ; what advantage could it be to mankind, for the salvation of their souls, that the magistrates of the world should have power to use force to bring men to that religion which they, each of them, by whatsoever humour, passion, or prejudice influenced, had chosen to themselves as the true? For whatsoever you did, I think with reverence we may say, that God foresaw, that whatever commission one magistrate had by the law of nature, all magistrates had; and that commission, if there were any such, could be only to use their coactive power to bring men to the religion they believed to be true, whether it were really the true or no; and therefore I shall, without taking away government out of the world, or so much as questioning it, still think this a reasonable question : “ What if God, foreseeing this force would be in the hands of men as passionate, as humoursome, as liable to prejudice and error, as the rest of their brethren ; did not think it a proper means, in such hands, to bring