صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


be spoke out, and called by its right name: but, whether you like it or no, persecution and persecution of dissenters are names that belong to it as it stands

And now I think I may leave you your question, wherein you ask, “But cannot dissenters be punished for not being of the national religion, as the fault, and yet only to make them consider, as the end for which they are punished ?”' to be answered by yourself, or to be used again, where you think there is any need of so nice a distinction, as between the fault for which men are punished by laws, and the end for which they are punished. For to me I confess it is hard to find any other immediate end of punishment in the intention of human laws but the amendment of the fault punished ; though it may be subordinate to other and remoter ends. If the law be only to punish non-conformity, one may truly say, to cure that fault, or to produce conformity, is the end of that law; and there is no. thing else immediately aimed at by that law but conformity; and whatever else it tends to as an end must be only as a consequence of conformity, whether it be edification, increase of charity, or saving of souls, or whatever else may be thought a consequence of conformity. So that in a law, which with penalties requires conformity, and nothing else, one cannot say, properly I think, that consideration is the end of that saw; unless consideration be a consequence of conformity, to which conformity is subordinate, and does naturally conduce, or else is necessary to it.

To my arguing that it is unjust as well as impracticable, you reply, “ Where the national church is the true church of God, to which all men ought to join themselves, and sufficient evidence is offered to convince men that it is so: there it is a fault to be out of the national church, because it is a fault not to be convinced that the national church is that true church of God. And therefore since there men's not being so convinced can only be imputed to their not considering as they ought the evidence which is offered to convince them, it cannot be unjust to punish them

to make them so to consider it.” Pray tell me, which is a man's duty, to be of the national church first; or to be convinced first that its religion is true, and then to be of it? If it be his duty to be convinced first,

, why then do you punish him for not being of it, when it is his duty to be convinced of the truth of its religion before it is his duty to be of it? If you say it is his duty to be of it first, why then is not force used to him afterwards, though he be still ignorant and unconvinced? But you answer, “ It is his fault not to be convinced.” What, every one's fault every where? No, you limit it to places where “sufficient evidence is offered to convince men that the national church is the true church of God." To which pray let me add, the national church is so the true church of God, that nobody out of its communion can embrace the truth that must save him, or be in the way to salvation. For if a man may be in the way to salvation out of the national church, he is enough in the true church, and needs no force to bring him into any other: for when a man is in the way to salvation, there is no necessity of force to bring him into any church of any denomination in order to his salvation. So that not to be of the national church, though true, will not be a fault which the magistrate has a right to punish, until sufficient evidence is offered to prove that a man cannot be saved out of it. Now since you tell us that by sufficient evidence you mean such as will certainly win assent, when you have offered such evidence to convince men that the national church, any where, is so the true church that men cannot be saved out of its communion, I think I may allow them to be so faulty as to deserve what punishment you shall think fit. if you hope to mend the matter by the following words, where you say, that where such “ evidence is offered, there men’s not being convinced can only be imputed to men's not considering as they ought,” they will not help you. For “ to consider as they ought” being, by your own interpretation, “ to consider so as not to reject;" then your answer amounts to just thus much, “That it is a fauit not to be convinced that the national

church is the true church of God, where sufficient evidence is offered to convince men that it is so. Sufficient evidence is such as will certainly gain assent with those who consider as they ought, i. e. who consider so as not to reject, or to be moved heartily to embrace,” which I think is to be convinced. Who can have the heart now to deny any of this? Can there be any thing surer, than that men’s not being convinced, is to be imputed to them if they are not convinced, where such evidence is offered to them as does convince them? And to punish all such you have my

free consent. Whether all you say have any thing more in it than this, I appeal to my readers : and should willingly do it to you, did not I fear that the jumbling of those good and plausible words in your head, “ of sufficient evidence, “ consider as one ought,” &c. might a little jargogle your thoughts, and lead you hoodwinked the round of your own beaten circle. This is a danger those are much exposed to who accustom themselves to relative and doubtful terms, and so put together, that, though asunder they signify something, yet, when their meaning comes to be cast up as they are placed, it amounts to just nothing.

You go on, " What justice it would be for the magistrate to punish one for not being a Cartesian, it will be time enough to consider when I have proved it to be as necessary for men to be Cartesians, as it is to be Christians, or members of God's church.” This will be a much better answer to what I said, when you have proved that to be a Christian, or a member of God's church, it is necessary for a dissenter to be of the church of England. If it be not justice to punish a man for not being a Cartesian, because it is not as necessary to be a Cartesian as to be a Christian ; I fear the same argument will hold against punishing a man for not using the cross in baptism, or not kneeling at the Lord's Supper; and it will lie on you to prove that it is as necessary to use the cross in baptism, or kneeling at the Lord's Supper, as it is to be a Christian : for if they are not as necessary as it is to be a Christian,

you cannot, by your own rule, without injustice, punish men for not conforming to a church wherein they are made an indispensable part of conformity; and by this rule it will be injustice to punish any man for not being of that church wherein any thing is required not necessary to salvation ; for that, I think, is the necessity of being a Christian.

To show the unreasonableness of punishing dissenters to make them examine, I said, “ that so they were punished for not having offended against a law; for there is no law of the land that requires them to examine." Your reply is, that “ you think the contrary is plain enough: for where the laws provide sufficient means of instruction in the true religion, and then require all men to embrace that religion ; you think the most natural construction of those laws is, that they require men to embrace it upon instruction and conviction, as

it cannot be expected they should do without examin: ing the grounds upon which it stands." Your answer

were very true, if they could not embrace without examining and conviction. But since there is a shorter way to embracing, which costs no more pains than walking as far as the church, your answer no more proves that the law requires examining, than if a man at Harwich being subpænaed to appear in WestminsterHall next term, you should say the subpoena required him to come by sea, because there was sufficient means provided for his passage in the ordinary boat that by appointment goes constantly from Harwich to London: but he, taking it to be more for his ease and despatch, goes the shorter way by land, and finds that having made his appearance in court as was required, the law is satisfied, and there is no inquiry made what way he came thither.

If therefore men can embrace so as to satisfy the law without examining, and it be true that they so fly from the means of right information, are so negligent in, and averse to examining," that there is need of penalties to make them do it, as you tell us at large ; how is it a natural construction of those laws, that they require men to examine, which having provided suf

ficient means of instruction, require men only to conform, without saying any thing of examining? especially when the cause assigned by you of men's neglecting to examine, is not want of “ means of instruction, but want of penalties to overbalance their aversion" to the using those means; which you yourself confess, where you say, “When the best provision is made that can be, for the instruction of the people, you fear a great part of them will still need penalties to bring them to hear and receive instruction :” and therefore perhaps the remainder of that paragraph, when you have considered it again, will not appear so impertinent a declamation as you are pleased to think it: for it charged your method, as it then stood, of punishing men for not considering and examining, with these absurdities, that it punished men for not doing that which the law did not require of them, nor declare the neglect of to be a fault; contrary to the ends of all laws, contrary to the common sense of mankind, and the practice of all lawmakers; who always first declared the fault, and then denounced penalties against those who after a time set should be found guilty of it. It charged your method, that it allows not impunity to the innocent, but punishes whole tribes together, the innocent with the guilty; and that the thing designed in the law was not mentioned in it, but left to the people, 'whose fault was want of consideration, to be by consideration found out. : To avoid these absurdities, you have reformed your scheme, and now in your reply own, with the frankest persecutors, that you punish men downright for their religion, and that to be a dissenter from the true religion is a fault to be punished by the magistrate. This indeed is plain dealing, and clears your method from these absurdities as long as you keep to it: but whereever you tell us, that your laws are to make men hear, to make men consider, to make men examine; whilst the laws themselves say nothing of hearing, considering, and examining; there you are still chargeable with all these absurdities : nor will the distinction, which without any difference you would set up, between the

« السابقةمتابعة »