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only observe one or two things, and then go on to examine how you make this good.
The first thing I shall observe is, that in your Argument considered, &c. you suppose force necessary only to master the aversion there is in men to considering and examination : and here in your answer to me, you make force necessary to conquer the aversion there is in men to embrace and obey the true religion. Which are so very different, that the former justifies the use of force only to make men consider; the other justifies the use of force to make men embrace religion. If meant the same thing when you writ your first treatise, it was not very ingenuous to express yourself in such words as were not proper to give your reader your true meaning; it being a far different thing to use force to make men consider, which is an action in their power to do or omit, and to use force to make them embrace, i. e. believe any religion, which is not a thing in any one's power to do or forbear as he pleases. If you say you meant barely considering in your first paper, as the whole current of it would make one believe, then I see your hypothesis may mend, as we have seen in other parts, and, in time, may grow to its full stature.
Another thing I shall remark to you is, that in your first paper, besides preaching and persuasion, and the grace of God, nothing but force was necessary.
Here in your second, it is either miracles or authority, which how you make good, we will now consider.
You having said, you had no“ reason from any experiment to expect that the true religion should be any way the gainer by toleration," I instanced in the prevail. ing of the Gospel, by its own beauty, force, and reasonableness, in the first ages of Christianity. You reply, that it has not the same beauty, force, and reasonableness now that it had then, unless “ I include miracles too, which are now ceased; and, as you tell us, were not withdrawn, till by their help Christianity had prevailed to be received for the religion of the empire, and to be encouraged and supported by the laws of it.”
If therefore we will believe you upon your own word,
force being necessary, (for prove it necessary you never can) you have entered into the counsel of God, and tell us, when force could not be had, miracles were employed to supply its want: “I cannot but think, say you, it is highly probable (if we may be allowed to guess at the counsels of infinite wisdom) that God was pleased to continue them till then," i.e. till the laws of the empire supported Christianity, “not so much for any necessity there was of them all that time, for the evincing the truth of the Christian religion, as to supply the want of the magistrate's assistance." You allow yourself to guess very freely, when you will make God use miracles to supply a means he nowhere authorized or appointed. How long miracles continued we shall see anon.
Say you, “ If we may be allowed to guess :" this modesty of yours, where you confess you guess, is only concerning the time of the continuing of miracles ; but as to their supplying the want of coactive force, that you are positive in, both here and where you tell us,“ Why penalties were not necessary at first, to make men to give ear to the Gospel, has already been shown;" and a little after, “the great and wonderful things which were to be done for the evidencing the truth of the Gospel, were abundantly sufficient to procure attention,” &c. How you come to know so undoubtedly that miracles were made use of to supply the magistrate's authority, since God nowhere tells you so, you would have done well to show.
But in your opinion force was necessary, and that could not then be had, and so God must use miracles. For, say you, “ Our Saviour was no magistrate, and therefore could not inflict political punishments upon any man ; so much less could he empower his apostles to do it.” Could not our Saviour empower his apostles to denounce or inflict punishments on careless or obstinate unbelievers, to make them hear and consider? You pronounce very boldly methinks of Christ's power, and set very narrow limits to what at another time you would not deny to be infinite: but it was convenient here for your present purpose, that it should be so limited.
But, they not being magistrates, “ he could not empower his apostles to inflict political punishments." How is it of a sudden, that they must be political punishments? You tell us all that is necessary, is to “ lay briars and thorns in men's ways, to trouble and disease them to make them consider.” This I hope our Saviour had power to do, if he had found it necessary, without the assistance of the magistrate; he could have always done by his apostles and ministers, if he had so thought fit, what he did once by St. Peter, have dropped thorns and briars into their very minds, that should have pricked, troubled, and diseased them sufficiently. But sometimes it is briars and thorns only that you want; sometimes it must be human means; and sometimes, as here, nothing will serve your turn but political punishments; just as will best suit
your occasion, in the argument you have then before you.
That the apostles could lay on punishments, as troublesome and as great as any political ones when they were necessary, we see in Ananias and Sapphira : and he that had “ all power given him in heaven and in earth” could, if he had thought fit, have laid briars and thorns in the way of all that received not his doctrine.
You add, “But as he could not punish men to make them hear him, so neither was there any need that he should. He came as a prophet sent from God to reveal a new doctrine to the world; and therefore, to prove his mission, he was to do such things as could only be done by a divine power: and the works which he did were abundantly sufficient both to gain him a hearing, and to oblige the world to receive his doctrine.' Thus the want of force and punishments is supplied. How far? so far as they are supposed necessary to gain a hearing, and so far as to oblige the world to receive Christ's doctrine; whereby, as I suppose, you mean sufficient to lay an obligation on them to receive his doctrine, and render them inexcusable if they did not : but that they were not sufficient to make all that saw them effectually to receive and embrace the Gospel, I think is evident; and you will not I imagine
say, that all who saw Christ's miracles believed on him. So that miracles were not to supply the want of such force, as was to be continued on men to make them consider as they ought, i. e. till they embraced the truth that must save them. For we have little reason to think that our Saviour, or his apostles, contended with their neglect or refusal by a constant train of miracles, continued on to those who were not wrought upon by the Gospel preached to them. St. Matthew tells us, chap. xiii. 58, that he did not many mighty works in his own country, because of their unbelief; much less were miracles to supply the want of force in that use you make of it, where you tell us it is to punish the fault of not being of the true religion: for we do not find any miraculously punished to bring them into the Gospel
. So that the want of force to either of these purposes not being supplied by miracles, the Gospel it is plain subsisted and spread itself without force so made use of, and without miracles to supply the want of it; and therefore it so far remains true, that the Gospel having the same beauty, force, and reasonableness now as it had at the beginning, it wants not force to supply the defect of miracles, to that for which miracles were nowhere made use of. And so far, at least, the experiment is good, and this assertion true, that the Gospel is able to prevail by its own light and truth, without the continuance of force on the same person, or punishing men for not being of the true religion.
You say, “Our Saviour, being no magistrate, could not inflict political punishments; much less could he empower his apostles to do it." I know not what need there is, that it should be political ; so there were so much punishment used, as you say is sufficient to make men consider, it is not necessary it should come from this or that hand: or if there be any odds in that, we should be apt to think it would come best, and most effectually, from those who preached the Gospel, and could tell them it was to make them consider ; than from the magistrate, who neither doth, nor, according to your scheme, can, tell them it is to make them consider.
And this power you will not deny but our Saviour could have given to the apostles.
But if there were such absolute need of political punishments, Titus or Trajan might as well have been converted as Constantine. For how true it is, that miracles supplied the want of force from those days till Constantine's, and then ceased, we shall see by and by. I
say not this to enter boldly into the counsels of God, or to take upon me to censure the conduct of the Almighty, or to call his providence to an account; but to answer your saying, “ Our Saviour was no magistrate, and therefore could not inflict political punishments." For he could have had both magistrates and political punishments at his service, if he had thought fit; and needed not to have continued miracles longer “ than there was necessity for evincing the truth of the Christian religion, as you imagine, to supply the want of the magistrate's assistance, by force, which is necessary.
But how come you to know that force is necessary? Has God revealed it in his word ? nowhere. Has it been revealed to you in particular? that you will not say. What reason have you for it? none at all but this, that having set down the grounds, upon which men take up and persist in their religion, you conclude, “ what means is there left but force pas force therefore you conclude necessary, because, without any authority, but from your own imagination, you are peremptory, that other means, besides preaching and persuasion, is to be used; and therefore it is necessary, because you can think of no other.
When I tell you there is other means, and that by your own confession the grace of God is another means, and therefore force is not necessary: you reply, “Though the grace of God be another means, and you thought fit to mention it, to prevent cavils; yet it is none of the means of which you were speaking, in the place I refer to; which any one who reads that paragraph will find to be only human means: and therefore, though the grace of God be both a proper and sufficient means, and such as can work by itself, and without which