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where that cannot be had to make the true religion prevail. And if a papist should press you with this argument, I would gladly know what you would reply to him.
Though this be enough to make good what I said, yet since I seek truth, more than my own justification, let us examine a little what it is you here say of “competent means. Competent means, you say, are necessary; but you think no man will say, all useful means are so.”
you speak plain, clear, determined sense, when you used this good English word competent, I pity you: if you did it with skill, I send you to my pagans and Mahometans. But this safe
way of talking, though it be not altogether so clear, yet it so often occurs in you, that it is hard to judge whether it be art or nature. Now pray what do you mean by “ mankind's being furnished with competent means?'' If it be such means as any are prevailed on by to embrace the truth that must save them, preaching is a competent means; for by preaching alone, with out force, many are prevailed on, and become truly Christians': and then your force, by your own confession, is not necessary. If by competent, you understand such means, by which all men are prevailed on, or the majority, to become truly Christians, I fear your force is no competent means.
Which way ever you put it, you must acknowledge mankind to be destitute of competent means, or your moderate force not to be that necessary competent means: since, whatever right the magistrates may have had any where to use it, wherever it has not been used, let the cause be what it will that kept this means from being used, there the people have been destitute of that means. But you
will think there is little reason to complain of obscurity, you having abundantly explained what you mean by competent, in saying competent, i.e. sufficient means. So that we have nothing to do but to find out what you mean by sufficient: and the meaning of that word, in your use of it, you happily give us in these following, “ What does any man mean by sufficient
evidence, but such as will certainly win assent wherever it is duly considered ?" Apply this to your means, and then tell me, whether your force be such competent, i. e. sufficient means, that it certainly produced embracing the truth, wherever it was duly, i. e. your way applied; if it did not, it is plain it is not your competent, sufficient means, and so the world, without any such imputation to the divine wisdom and benignity, might be without it. If you will say it was sufficient, and did produce that end wherever it was applied, I desire you then to tell me whether mankind hath been always furnished with competent means. You have it now in your choice, either to talk impiously, or renounce force, and disown it to be competent means; one of the two I do not see how, by your own argument, you can avoid.
But to lay by your competent and sufficient means, and to ease you of the uncertainty and difficulty you will be in to determine what is so, in respect of mankind; I suppose it will be little less " impious to say, that the wise and benign Disposer and Governor hath not furnished mankind with necessary means, as to say he hath not furnished them with competent means." Now, sir, if your moderate penalties, and nothing else, be, since the withdrawing of miracles, this necessary means, what will be left you to say, by your argument, of the wisdom and benignity of God in all those countries where moderate penalties are not made use of? where men are not furnished with this means to bring them to the true religion? For unless you can say, that your moderate penalties have been constantly made use of in the world for the support and encou. ragement of the true religion, and to bring men to it, ever since the withdrawing of miracles; you must confess, that not only some countries, (which yet were enough against you) but mankind in general, have been unfurnished of the “necessary means for promoting the honour of God in the world, and the salvation of men's souls.” This argument out of your own mouth, were there no other, is sufficient to show the weakness and unreasonableness of your scheme; and
I hope the due consideration of it will make you cautious another time how you entitle the wisdom and benignity of God to the support of what you once fancy to be of great and necessary use.
I having thereupon said, “ Let us not therefore be more wise than our Maker in that stupendous and supernatural work of our salvation. The Scripture,” &c.
You reply, “ Though the work of our salvation be, as I justly call it, stupendous and supernatural ; yet you suppose no sober man doubts, but it both admits and ordinarily requires the use of natural and human means, in subordination to that grace which works it.”
If you had taken notice of these immediately following words of mine, “ The Scripture that reveals it to us, contains all that we can know or do, in order to it; and where that is silent, it is presumption in us to direct;" you would not have thought what you
here say a sufficient answer : for though God does make use of natural and human means in subordination to grace, yet it is not for man to make use of any means, in subordination to his grace, which God has not appointed; out of a conceit it may do some service indirectly and at a distance.
The whole covenant and work of grace is the contrivance of God's infinite wisdom. What it is, and by what means he will dispense his grace, is known to us by revelation only; which is so little suited to human wisdom, that the apostle calls it “the foolishness of preaching.” In the Scripture is contained all that revelation, and all things necessary for that work, all the means of grace; there God has declared all that he would have done for the salvation of souls; and if he had thought force necessary to be joined with the foolishness of preaching, no doubt but he would somewhere or other have revealed it, and not left it to the wisdom of man: which how disproportioned and opposite it is to the ways and wisdom of God in the Gospel, and how unfit to be trusted in the business of salvation, you may see, 1 Cor. i. from verse 17 to the end.
“ The work of grace admits, and ordinarily requires the use of natural and human means.” I deny it not: let us now hear your inference: “ Therefore till I have shown that no penal laws, that can be made, can do any service towards the salvation of men's souls in subordination to God's grace, or that God has forbidden the magistrate” to use force, for so you ought to put it, but you rather choose, according to your ordinary way, to use general and doubtful words; and therefore you say, “to serve him in that great work with the authority which he has given him, there will be no occasion for the caution I have given," not to be wiser than our Maker in that stupendous work of our salvation. By which way of arguing, any thing that I cannot show, cannot possibly, cannot indirectly and at a distance, or by accident, do any service, or God has not forbidden, may be made use of for the salvation of souls. I suppose you mean expressly forbidden; for else I might think these words (“Who has required this at your hands ?") sufficient prohibition of it. The sum of your argument is, “what cannot be showed not to do any service, may be used as a human means in subordination to grace, in the work of salvation." To which I reply, That what may, through the grace of God, sometimes do some service, cannot, without a further warrant from revelation than such usefulness, be required, or made use of as a subordinate means to grace. For if so, then auricular confession, penance, pilgrimages, processions, &c. which nobody can show do not ever do any service, at least, indirectly and at a distance, towards the salvation of souls, may all be justified.
It is not enough that it cannot be shown that it cannot do any service to justify its usefulness; for what is there that may not, indirectly and at a distance, or by accident, do some service To show that it is a human means, that God has nowhere appointed, in subordination to grace, in the supernatural work of salvation, is enough to prove it an unwarrantable boldness to use it: and much more so in the present case
of force, which, if put into the magistrate's hands with power to use it in matters of religion, will do more harm than good, as I think I have sufficiently shown.
And therefore, since, according to you, the magistrate's commission to use force for the salvation of souls, is from the law of nature; which commission reaches to none, since the revelation of the Gospel, but Christian magistrates; it is more natural to conclude, were there nothing else in the case but the silence of Scripture, that the Christian magistrate has no such power, because he has no such commission any where in the Gospel, wherein all things are appointed necessary to salvation; than that there was so clear a commission given to all magistrates by the law of nature, that it is necessary to show a prohibition from revelation, if one will deny Christian magistrates to have that power. Since the commission of the law of nature to magistrates, being only that general one, of doing good, according to the best of their judgments: if that extends to the use of force in matters of religion, it will abundantly more oppose than promote the true religion; if force in the case has any efficacy at all, and so do more harm than good: which, though it shows not what you here demand, that it cannot do any service towards the salvation of men's souls, for that cannot be shown of any thing; yet it shows the disservice it does is so much more than any service can be expected from it, that it can never be proved that God has given power to magistrates to use it by the commission they have of doing good, from the law of nature.
But whilst you tell me, “ Till I have shown that force and penalties cannot do any service towards the salvation of souls, there will be no occasion for the caution I gave you,” not to be wiser than our Maker in that stupendous and supernatural work; you have forgot your own confession, that it is not enough to authorize the use of force, that it may be useful, if it be not also necessary. And when you can prove such means necessary, which though it cannot be shown, never upon any occasion to do any service; yet may be, and is abundantly shown to do little service, and so