صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

he believes not to be true, is so absurd, that I think you can neither expect it, nor bring yourself to say it. Neither of these therefore being answers that you can make use of, that which lies at the bottom, though you give it but covertly, is this, “that the magistrate ought by force to promote the religion that you believe with full assurance to be true.” This would do admirably well for your purpose, were not the magistrate entitled to ask, " who made you a judge for him in the case ?” and ready to retort your own words upon you, that it is want of attention and unbiassedness in you, that puts your religion past doubt with you upon your proofs of it. Try when you please with a Bramin, a Mahometan, a papist, Lutheran, quaker, anabaptist, presbyterian, &c.

will find, if

you argue with them as you do here with me, that the matter will rest here between you, and that you are no more a judge for any of them than they are for you. Men in all religions have equally strong persuasions, and every one must judge for himself; nor can any one judge for another, and you least of all for the magistrate; the ground you build upon, that “firmness and stability of persuasion in the highest degree of assurance leaves no doubt, can never be had of a false religion” being false ; all your talk of full assurance pointing out to the magistrate the true religion that he is obliged by force to promote, amounts to no more but his own religion, and can point out no other to him.

However, in the next paragraph you go on with your specimen, and tell me, “ Hence appears the impertinency of all I discourse, p. 143, 144, concerning the difference between faith and knowledge: where the thing I was concerned to make out, if I would speak to the purpose, was no other but this, that there are as clear and solid grounds for the belief of false religions as there are for the belief of the true: or, that men both as firmly and as rationally believe and embrace false religions as they can the true. This, you confess, is a point, which, you say, when I have well cleared and established it, will do my business, but nothing else will. And therefore my talk of faith and



knowledge, however it may amuse such as are prone to admire all that I say; will never enable me, before better judges, from the duty of every magistrate to use moderate penalties for promoting the true religion, to infer the same obligation to lie upon every magistrate in respect of his religion, whatever it be.”

Where the impertinency lies will be seen when it is remembered, that the question between us is not what religion has the most clear and solid grounds for the belief of it; much less whether “there are as clear and solid grounds for the belief of false religions as there are for the belief of the true," i.e. whether falsehood has as much truth in it as truth itself? a question which, I guess, no man, but one of your great pertinency, could ever have proposed: but the question here between you and me, is what must point out to the magistrate that religion which he is by force to promote, that so he may be able to perform the duty that you pretend is incumbent on him by the law of nature; and here I proved, that having no certain, demonstrative knowledge of the true religion, all that was left him to determine him in the application of force, (which you make the proper instrument of promoting the true religion) for the promoting the true religion, was only his persuasion, belief, or assurance of the true religion, which was always his own; and so in this state the religion, which by force the magistrates of the world must of necessity promote, must be either their own or none at all. Thus the argument standing between us, I am apt to think the world may be of opinion, that it had been pertinent to your cause to have answered my argument, if you had any thing to answer; which since you have not done, this specimen also of the facility, wherewith you can answer all I have said in the third Letter, may be joined to the former, and be a specimen of something else than what you intended it.

intended it. For in truth, sir, the endeavouring to set up a new question, absurd in itself, and nothing at all to the purpose, without offering any thing to elear the difficulty you were pressed with, will to understanding readers appear pertinent in one

his way.

[ocr errors]

who sets himself up for an arrant Drawcansir, and is giving specimens of himself, that nothing can stand in

It is with the same pertinency, that to this proposition, “that there are as clear and solid grounds for the belief of a false religion as there are for the belief of the true,” you join this following as an equivalent, “ Or that men may both as firmly and as rationally believe and embrace false religions as they can the true;" and you would fain have it thought that your cause is gained, unless I will maintain these two absurd propositions, which my argument has nothing to do with.

And you seem to me to build upon these two false propositions.

I. That, in the want of knowledge and certainty of which is the true religion, nothing is fit to set the magistrate upon doing his duty in employing of force to make men consider and embrace the true religion, but the highest persuasion and full assurance of its truth. Whereas his own persuasion of the truth of his own religion, in what degree soever it be, so he believes it to be true, will, if he thinks it his duty by force to promote the true, be sufficient to set him on work. Nor can it be otherwise, since his own persuasion of his own religion, which he judges so well grounded as to venture his future state upon it, cannot but be sufficient to set him upon doing what he takes to be his duty in bringing others to the same religion.

II. Another false supposition you build upon is this, that the true religion is always embraced with the firmest assent. There is scarce any one so little acquainted with the world, that hath not met with instances of men most unmoveably confident, and fully assured in a religion which was not the true. Nor is there among the many absurd religions of the world, almost any one that does not find votaries to lay down their lives for it: and if that be not firm persuasion and full assurance that is stronger than the love of life, and has force enough to make a man throw himself into the arms of death, it is hard to know what is firm


persuasion and full assurance. Jews and Mahometans have frequently given instances of this highest degree of persuasion. And the Bramins' religion in the East is entertained by its followers with no less assurance of its truth, since it is not unusual for some of them to throw themselves under the wheels of a mighty chariot, wherein they on solemn days draw the image of their God about in procession, there to be crushed to death, and sacrifice their lives in honour of the God they believe in. If it be objected, that those are examples of mean and common men; but the great men of the world, and the heads of societies, do not so easily give themselves up to a confirmed bigotry: I answer, The persuasion, they have of the truth of their own religion, is visibly strong enough to make them venture themselves, and use force to others upon the belief of it. Princes are made like other men; believe upon the like grounds that other men do; and act as warmly upon that belief, though the grounds of their persuasion be in themselves not very clear, or may appear to others to be not of the utmost solidity. Men act by the strength of their persuasion, though they do not always place their persuasion and assent on that side on which, in reality, the strength of truth lies. Reasons that are not thought of, nor heard of, nor rightly apprehended, nor duly weighed, make no impression on the mind: and truth, how richly soever stored with them, may not be assented to, but lie neglected. The only difference between princes and other men herein is this, that princes are usually more positive in matters of religion, but less instructed. The softness and pleasures of a court, to which they are usually abandoned when young, and affairs of state which wholly possess them when grown up, seldom allow any of them time to consider and examine that they may embrace the true religion. And here your scheme, upon your own supposition, has a fundamental error that overturns it. For you affirming that force, your way applied, is the necessary and competent means to bring men to the true religion ; you leave magistrates destitute of these necessary and competent means of being brought to


you have

the true religion, though that be the readiest way, in your scheme the only way, to bring other men to it, and is contended for by you as the only method.

But further, you will perhaps be ready to reply, that you do not say barely, that men may not as firmly, but that they cannot as firmly and as rationally, believe and embrace false religions as they can the true. This, be it as true as it will, is of no manner of advantage to your cause. For here the question, necessary to be considered in your way of arguing, returns upon you, who must be judge whether the magistrate believes and embraces his religion rationally or no? If he himself be judge, then he does act rationally, and it must have the same operation on him as if it were the most rational in the world : if you must be judge for him, whether his belief be rational or no, why may not others judge for him as well as you? or at least he judge for you, as well as you for bim; at least till

produced your patent of infallibility and commission of superintendency over the belief of the magistrates of the earth, and shown the commission whereby you are appointed the director of the magistrates of the world in their belief, which is or is not the true religion? Do not think this said without cause; your whole discourse here has no other tendency, but the making yourself judge of what religion should be promoted by the magistrate's force; which, let me tell you by the way, every warm zealot in any religion has as much right to be as you. I beseech you tell me, are you not persuaded, nay, fully assured, that the church of England is in the right, and all that dissent from her are in the wrong? Why else would you have force used to make them consider and conform ? If then the religion of the church of England be, as you are fully assured, the only true religion, and the magistrate must ground his persuasion of the truth of his religion on such clear and solid proofs as the true religion alone bas, and no false one can have ; and by that persuasion the magistrate must be directed in the use of force, (for all this in effect you say, in the sixth and beginning of the seventh page ;) what is this but covertly to say, that it

« السابقةمتابعة »