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such as have not the coactive power should take upon them to inflict penalties for that purpose: because, as that is not consistent with order and government, which cannot stand where private persons are permitted to usurp the coactive power; so there is nothing more manifest, than that the prejudice which is done to religion, and to the interest of men's souls
, by destroying government, does infinitely outweigh any good that can possibly be done by that which destroys it. And whoever admits and considers these things, you say, you are very secure will be far enough from admitting, that there is any parity of reason in the cases we here speak of, or that mine is as just and natural a conclusion as yours.”
The sum of what you say amounts to thus much: men being apt to take up their religion upon induce. ments that ought to have no sway at all in the matter, and so, with little or no examination of the grounds of it; therefore penalties are necessary to be laid on them, to make them thoroughly and impartially examine. But yet penalties need not be laid on conformists, in England, to make them examine ; because they, and you, believe yours to be the true religion : though it must be laid on presbyterians and independents, &c. to make them examine, though they believe theirs to be the true religion, because you believe it not to be so. But you give another very substantial reason, why penalties cannot be laid on conformists, to make them examine; and that is, “because the national church has the coactive power on its side,” and therefore they have no need of penalties to make them examine. The national church of France, too, has the coactive power on its side, and therefore they who are of it have no need of penalties, any of them, to make them examine.
If your argument be good, that men take up their religion upon wrong inducements, and without due examination of the proper grounds of it; and that therefore they have need of penalties to be laid on them to make them examine, as they ought, the grounds of their religion ; you must confess there are some in the
church of England, to whom penalties are necessary: unless you will affirm, that all, who are in the communion of the church of England, have so examined: but that I think you will not do, however you endeavour to palliate their ignorance and negligence in this matter. There being therefore a need of penalties, I say, it is as necessary that presbyterians should lay penalties on the conformists of the church of England to make them examine, as for the church of England to lay penalties on the presbyterians to make them do so: for they each equally believe their religion to be true; and we suppose, on both sides, there are those who have not duly examined. But here you think you have a sure advantage, by saying it is not consistent with the “order of government, and so it is impracticable.” I easily grant it. But is yours more practicable? When you can make your way practicable, for the end for which you pretend it necessary, viz. to make “all, who have taken up their religion upon such inducements as ought to have no sway at all in the matter, to examine thoroughly and impartially the
proper grounds of it;" when, I say, you can show your way practicable, to this end, you will have cleared it of one main objection, and convinced the world that yours is a more just and natural conclusion than mine. If
your cause were capable of any other defence, I suppose we should not have had so long and elaborate an answer as you have given us in this paragraph, which at last bottoms only on these two things: 1. That there are in you, or those of your church, some approaches towards infallibility in your belief that your religion is true, which is not to be allowed those of other churches, in the belief of theirs. 2. That it is enough if any one does but conform to it, and remain in the communion of your church: or else one would think there should be as much need for conformists too of your church to examine the grounds of their religion, as for any others.
“To understand the true grounds of the true religion is not, you say, strictly necessary to salvation.” Yet, I think, you will not deny but it is as strictly necessary
to salvation, as it is to conform to a national church in all those things it imposes : some whereof are not necessary to salvation; some whereof are acknowledged by all to be indifferent; and some whereof, to some conscientious men, who thereupon decline communion, appear unsound or unlawful. If not being strictly necessary to salvation, will excuse from penalties in the one case, why will it not in the other? And now I shall excuse the world from determining my conclusion to be as natural as yours : for it is pity so reasonable a disputant as you are, should take so desperate a resolution as “never to pretend any more to judge what is reasonable in any case whatsoever.'
Whether you have proved that force, used by the magistrate, be a means prescribed by God to procure the gift of faith from him, which is all you say in the next paragraph, others must judge.
In that following, you quote these words of mine: “If all the means God has appointed to make men hear and consider, be exhortation in season and out of season, &c. together with prayer for them, and the example of meekness, and a good life; this is all ought to be done, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.” To which you thus reply, “But if these be not all the means God has appointed, then these things are not all that ought to be done." But if I ask you, How do you know that this is not all God has appointed; you have nothing to answer, to bring it to your present purpose, but that you know it by the light of nature. For all you say is but this, that by the light of nature you know force to be useful and necessary to bring men into the way of salvation ; by the light of nature you know the magistrate has a commission to use force to that purpose ; and by the same light of nature, you know that miracles were appointed to supply the want of force till the magistrates were Christians. I imagine, sir, you would scarce have thought this a reasonable answer, if you had taken notice of my words in the same paragraph immediately preceding those you have cited; which, that you may see the scope of my argument, I will here trouble you
again ; and they are these : “It is not for you and me, out of an imagination that they may be useful, or are necessary, to prescribe means in the great and mysterious work of salvation, other than what God himself has directed. God has appointed force as useful and necessary, and therefore it is to be used ; is a way of arguing becoming the ignorance and humility of poor creatures. But I think force useful or necessary, and therefore it is to be used; has methinks a little too much presumption in it. You ask what means else is there left? None, say I, to be used by man, but what God himself has directed in the Scriptures, wherein are contained all the means and methods of salvation. Faith is the gift of God. And we are not to use any other means to procure this gift to any one, but what God himself has prescribed. If he has there appointed, that any should be forced to hear those who tell them they have mistaken their way, and offer to show them the right; and that they should be punished by the magistrate, if they did not; it will be past doubt, it is to be made use of. But till that can be done, it will be in vain to say, what other means is there left.”
My argument here lies plainly in this: That all the means and methods of salvation are contained in the Scripture: which either you were to have denied, or else have shown where it was in Scripture that force was appointed. But instead of that, you tell us, that God appointed miracles in the beginning of the Gospel. And though, when these ceased, the means I mention were all the ministers had left, yet this proves not that the magistrate was not to use force. Your words are, “As to the first spreaders of the Gospel, it has already been shown, that God appointed other means besides these for them to use, to induce men to hear and consider : and though, when those extraordinary means ceased, these means which I mention (viz. preaching, &c.) were the only means left to the ministers of the Gospel ; yet that is no proof that the magistrate, when he became Christian, could not lawfully use such means as his station enabled him to use, when
they became needful." I said, in express words, "No means was to be used by man, but what God himself has directed in the Scripture.” And you answer, This is no proof that the Christian magistrate may not use force. Perhaps when they so peremptorily interpose their decisive decrees in the business of salvation, establish religions by laws and penalties, with what articles, creeds, ceremonies, and discipline, they think fit; (for this we see done almost in all countries) when they force men to hear those, and those only, who by their authority are chosen and allowed to tell men they have mistaken their way, and offer to show them the right; it may be thought necessary to prove magistrates to be men. If that needs no proof, what I said needs some other answer.
But let us examine a little the parts of what you here say: “ As to the first spreaders of the Gospel
, say you, it has already been shown, that God appointed other means besides exhortation in season and out of season, prayer, and the example of a good life, for them to use to induce men to hear and consider." What were those other means? To that you answer readily, miracles. Ergo, men are directed now by Seripture to use miracles. Or else what answer do you make to my argument, which I gave you in these words, “No means is to be used by man, but what God himself has directed in the Scriptures, wherein are contained all the means and methods of salvation." No, they cannot use miracles now as a means, say you, for they have them not. What then? Therefore the magistrate, who has it, must use force to supply the want of those extraordinary means which are now ceased. This indeed is an inference of yours, but not of the Scriptures. Does the Scripture say any thing of this ? Not a word; not so much as the least intimation towards it in all the New Testament. Be it then true or false, that force is a means to be used by men in the absence of miracles; this is yet no answer to my argument; this is no proof that it is appointed in Scripture; which is the thing my argument turns on.