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cannot be made good to be contained either in your book or in your hypothesis; and so clearly, that I could not imagine that a man who had so far considered government, as to engage in print, in such a controversy as this, could miss seeing it as soon as mentioned to him. One of them which very much offends you, and makes you so often tell me what I say is impertinent, and nothing to the purpose, and sometimes to use warmer expressions, is, that I argue against a power in the magistrate to bring men to his own religion: for I could not imagine that, to a man of any thought, it could need proving, that if there were a commission given to all magistrates by the law of nature, which obliged them to use force to bring men to the true religion ; it was not possible for them to put this commission in execution, without being judges what was the true religion; and then there needed no great quickness to perceive, that every magistrate, when your commission came to be put in execution, would, one as well as another, find himself obliged to use force to bring men to that which he believed to be the true religion. But since this was so hard for you to see, I now have been at the pains to prove it, and thereby to clear all those imputations. I shall not instance in any other : they are all of a like kind. Only where you complain I have not cited your words fairly, if you can show that I have done it any where in this or the second letter, to the advantage of my cause; or to avoid any argument in them, not answered ; if you please to show it me, I shall either let you see your mistake, or acknowledge mine.
And now, whether you shall think what I have said worth that consideration you promise, or take it all for cavils and impertinencies, to me is very indifferent. Enjoy, as you please, that short and easy way of answering. But if the party you write for be, as you say, God, and the souls of men; it will require you seriously to weigh your scheme, examine and put together the parts of it ; observe the tendency and consequences; and, in a word, consider things, and not words. For the party of God and souls needs not any help from obscurity or
uncertainty of general and equivocal terms, but may be spoke out clearly and distinctly; needs no retreat in the round of equivalent, or the uncertainty of misapplied expressions, that may serve to amuse and deceive the unwary, but instruct nobody; and, lastly, needs no leave nor allowance from men of art, to direct both subjects and magistrates to the examination of the Scriptures, wherein God has revealed to the world the ways and means of salvation. In doing of this, in a treatise where you profess“ the subject of your inquiry is only what method is to be used to bring men to the true religion,” the party you profess to write for would have justified you against the rules of any lawful art; and no Christian man, of what art soever, would have denied you that liberty; and if I mistake not, the party, you say you write for, demands it of you.
If you find, upon a review of the whole, that you have managed your cause for God and the souls of men with that sincerity and clearness that satisfies your own reason, and you think may satisfy that of other men; I shall congratulate to you so happy a constitution. But if all your magnified and necessary means of force, in the way you contend for, reaches no farther than to bring men to a bare outward conformity to the church of England; wherein you can sedately affirm, that it is presumable that all that are of it are so upon reason and conviction ; I suppose there needs no more to be said to convince the world what party you write for.
The party you write for is God, you say. But if all you have said aims or amounts to nothing more than that the church of England, as now established by law, in its doctrines, ceremonies, and discipline, should be supported by the power of the magistrate, and men by force be driven into it; I fear the world will think you have very narrow thoughts of God, or that that is not the party you write for. It is true, you all along speak of bringing men to the true religion. But to evidence to you, that by the one only true religion you mean only that of the church of England, I tell you, that, upon your principles, you cannot name any other church now in the world, and I again demand of you to do
it) for the promoting whereof, or punishing dissenters from it, the magistrate has the same right to use force as you pretend he has here in England. Till you therefore name some such other true church and true religion, besides that of England, your saying, that God is the party you write for, will rather show that you make bold with his name, than that
do not write for another party.
You say too, you write not for any party, but the souls of men. You write indeed, and contend earnestly, that men should be brought into an outward conformity to the church of England: but that they embrace that profession upon reason and conviction, you are content to have it presumable, without any farther inquiry or examination. And those who are once in the outward communion of the national church, however ignorant or irreligious they are, you leave there unassisted by your only competent means, force; without which, you tell us, the true religion, by its own light and strength, is not able to prevail against men's lusts, and the corruption of nature, so as to be considered as it ought, and heartily embraced. And this dropped not from your pen by chance; but you professedly make excuses for those of the national religion who are ignorant of the grounds of it, and give us reasons why force cannot be used to those who outwardly conform, to make them consider so as sincerely to embrace, believe, and obey the truth that must save them. But the reverend author of the Pastoral Care tells you, p. 201,"party is the true name of making converts, except they become at the same time good men.”
If the use of force be necessary for the salvation of souls, and men's souls be the party you write for; you will be suspected to have betrayed your party, if your method and necessary means of salvation reach no farther than to bring men to outward conformity, though to the true church; and after that abandons them to their lusts and depraved natures, destitute of the help of force—your necessary and competent means of salvation.
This way of managing the matter, whatever you intend, seems rather, in the fitness of it, to be for another party. But since you assure us, you write for nothing but God and men's souls, it can only be said you had a good intention, but ill luck ; since your scheme, put into the language of the country, will fit any national church and clergy in the world, that can but suppose itself the true; and that I presume none of them will fail to do.
You were more than ordinary reserved and gracious, when you tell me, That “what party I write for, you will not undertake to say.” But having told me, that my letter tends to the promoting of scepticism in religion ; you thought, it is like, that was sufficient to show the party I write for; and so you might safely end your letter with words that looked like civil. But that you may another time be a little better informed what party I write for, I will tell you. They are those who in every nation fear God, work righteousness, and are accepted with him; and not those who in every nation are zealous for human constitutions; cry up nothing so much as outward conformity to the national religion; and are accepted by those who are the promoters of it. Those that I write for are those, who, according to the light of their own consciences, are every where in earnest in matters of their own salvation, without any desire to impose on others; a party so seldom favoured by any of the powers or sects of the world; a party that has so few preferments to bestow; so few benefices to reward the endeavours of any one who appears for it; that I conclude I shall easily be believed when I say, that neither hopes of preferment, nor a design to recommend myself to those I live amongst, has biassed my understanding, or misled me in my undertaking. So much truth as serves the turn of any particular church, and can be accommodated to the narrow interest of some human constitution, is indeed often received with applause, and the publisher finds his account in it. But I think I may say, truth, in its full latitude of those generous principles of the Gospel, which so much recommend
and inculcate universal charity, and a freedom from the inventions and impositions of men in the things of God; has so seldom had a fair and favourable hearing any where, that he must be very ignorant of the history and nature of man, however dignified and distinguished, who proposes to himself any secular advantage by writing for her at that rate.
As to your request in the close of your letter, I hope this will satisfy you, that you might have spared it; and you,
with the rest of the world, will see that all I writ in my former was so true, that you need not have given me any caution for the future. As to the pertinence of what I say, I doubt whether I shall please you; because I find by your last letter, that what is brought by me to show the weakness, absurdities, or insignificancy of what you write, you are very apt to call impertinent, and nothing to the purpose. You must pardon me therefore, if I have endeavoured more to please other readers than you in that point. I hope they will find, in what I have said, not much beside the matter. But to a man who, supposing himself in the right, builds all upon that supposition, and takes it for an injury to have that privilege denied him ; to a man who would sovereignly decide for all the world what is the true religion, and thereby empower what magistrates he thinks fit, and what not, to use force; to such a man, not to seem impertinent, would be really to be so. This makes me pleased with your reply to so many passages of my letter, that they were nothing to the purpose: and it is in your choice whether in your opinion any thing in this shall be so.
But since this depends upon your keeping steadily to clear and settled notions of things, separate from words and expressions used in a doubtful and undetermined signification, wherewith men of art often amuse themselves and others --I shall not be so unreasonable as to expect, whatever you promise, that you should lay by your learning to embrace truth, and own what will not perhaps suit very well with your circumstances and interest.