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fore though it seems to us convenient there should be one, yet it is not so: or though it were convenient for us to have one, yet it hath pleased God (for reasons best known to Himself), not to allow us this convenience." (Page 138.)
There is a firmness of tread here which is refreshing, even after two hundred and seventy years and which, though in that violent time it was realized and followed by comparatively few, only two editions of the book being published in 1637-38, yet later became the logical basis for a reasoned toleration. Again he writes: “Seeing falsehood and error could not long stand against the power of truth, were they not supported by tyranny and worldly advantage, he that could assert Christians to that liberty which Christ and his Apostles left them, must needs do truth a most heroical service. And seeing the overvaluing of differences among Christians is one of the greatest maintainers of the schisms of Christendom, he that could demonstrate that only those points of belief are simply necessary to salvation wherein Christians generally agree, should he not lay a very fair and firm foundation of the peace of Christendom? Now the corollary which I conceive would produce these good effects is this: That what man or church soever believes the creed and all the evident consequences of it, sincerely and heartily, cannot possibly (if also he believes the Scriptures), be in any error of simple belief which is offensive to God; nor therefore deserve for any such error to be deprived of his life, or be cut off from the Christian Communion and the hope of salvation. And the production of this again would be this, that whatsoever man or church doth for any error of simple belief, deprive any man, so qualified as above, either of his temporal life or livelihood, or liberty, or of the Church's Communion, and hope of salvation is, for the first, unjust, cruel, and tyrannous; schismatical, presumptuous, and uncharitable, for the second." (Page These words, published by a great churchman, ten years before the “Liberty of Prophesying"; seven years before Milton's monumental “Areopagitica”; and more than seven years before Roger Williams's “Bloudy Tenant of Persecution” saw the light, show that even in Episcopal, still more in dissenting ranks, Taylor was very far from being the first to argue for toleration. Chillingworth was roundly denounced by the Presbyterians for his liberality, and a Presbyterian minister, with extraordinary license, bitterly upbraided him at his funeral, and threw into his open grave a copy of his book “The Religion of Protestants” “to rot with him," he said.
But Chillingworth was not the only Anglican that anticipated Taylor in the plea for religious liberty. After two centuries and three quarters, our hearts warm to "the ever memorable John Hales," the "pretty little man, sanguine, of a cheerful countenance, very gentle and courteous, quick and nimble,” who used to dress "in violet colored clothes," and as Dean of Windsor and Fellow of Eton lived in hiding for nine weeks on brown bread and beer at sixpence a week, keeping the keys and accounts of the school when both armies in the Civil War sequestered the rents. Secretary of the English delegation at the Synod of Dort, he there learned enough to lead him, as he said, to "bid good night to Calvin.” Friend of Chillingworth and Falkland, "nothing troubled him more than the brawls which were grown from religion, and he therefore exceedingly detested the tryanny of the Church of Rome, more for their imposing uncharitably upon the consciences of other men, than for the errors of their opinion; and he would often say that he would renounce the Church of England tomorrow if it obliged him to believe any other Christians should be damned; and that nobody would conclude another man to be damned who did not will him so." (Clarendon, in Preface, Hales's Works, Vol. 1.)
His little tract "Concerning Schisms and Schismatics, written privately probably for Chillingworth, and published without his consent probably about 1640, caused him to be summoned before Laud, who, in spite of Hales's latitudinarian views, seems to have treated him kindly. This tract declares that, "it hath been the common disease of Christians from the beginning not to content themselves with that measure of faith which God and the Scriptures have expressly afforded us, but out of a vain desire to know more than is revealed, they have attempted to discuss things of which we can have no light neither from reason, or revelation; neither have they rested here, but upon pretence of church authority which is none, or of tradition which for the most part is but a figment, they have presumptuously concluded, and confidently imposed upon others a necessity of entertaining conclusions of that nature, and to strengthen themselves have broken out into divisions and factions, opposing man to man, synod to synod, till the peace of the Church vanished beyond possibility of recall. Hence arose those ancient and many separations among Christians occasioned by Arianism, Eutychianism, Nestorianism, Photinianism, Sabellianism and many more, both ancient and in our times, which indeed are but names of schism, however in the common language of the prophets they were called heresies. For heresy is an act of the will, not of reason; and indeed is a lie and not a mistake. . But can any man avouch that Arius and Nestorius and others that taught erroneously concerning the Trinity, or the person of our Saviour, did maliciously invent what they taught, and not fall on it by error or mistake? Till that be done, and upon that good evidence, we will think no worse of all parties than needs we must, and take these rents in the Church to be at worst but schisms of opinion. In which case what we are to do is not a point of any great depth of understanding to discover, so be distemper and partiality do
not intervene. I do not see . . . that men of different opinions in Christian religion may not hold communion in sacris and both go to one church. Why may I not go, if occasion requires, to an Arian Church, so there be no Arianism in their liturgy? And were liturgies and public forms of service so framed as that they admitted not of particular and private fancies, but contained only such things as in which all Christians do agree, schisms of opinion were utterly vanished.”
One is not surprised that Laud was disturbed by the following on conventicles. “In time of manifest corruption and persecution, wherein religious assembling is dangerous, private meetings however beside public order, are not only lawful, but they are of necessity and duty; else how shall we excuse the meetings of Christians for public service in time of danger and persecution, and ourselves in Queen Mary's days? And how will those of the Roman Church among us put off the imputation of conventicling who are known amongst us privately to assemble for religious exercises against established order?"
In his sermon at St. Paul's cross on “Dealing with erring Christians," speaking of those who hold different views respecting original sin and predestination, Hales says: “The authors of these conceits might both freely speak their minds and both singularly profit the Church; for since it is impossible when Scripture is ambiguous that all conceits should run alike, it remains that we seek out a way, not so much to establish a unity of opinionwhich I take to be a thing likewise impossible—as to provide that multiplicity of conceit trouble not the Church's peace. A better way my conceit cannot reach with than that we would be willing to think that these things, which with some show of probability, we deduce from Scripture are at best but our opinion; for this presumptuous manner of setting down our own conclusions under this high commanding form of necessary truths, is generally one of the
greatest causes which keeps the churches this day so far asunder, whereas a gracious receiving of each other by mutual forbearance in this kind, might peradventure in time bring them nearer together. This peradventure, may some man say, may content us in case of opinions indifferent out of which no great inconvenience by necessary and evident proof is concluded; but what recipe have we for him that is fallen into some known and desperate heresy? Even the same with the former. And therefore anciently, heretical and orthodox Christians many times, even in public holy exercises, conversed together without offence.”
But Chillingworth and Hales were by no means the only Churchmen whose words and example were on the side of toleration both before and after Taylor wrote his book. It is easy to magnify the harsh dealing of the Established Church with the Catholics, the Non-conforming and the Independent parties before the Civil War and after the Restoration. There is plenty that sounds horrible in all this to our modern ears, unaccustomed to all ecclesiastical punishments, and especially unused to the severe criminal code of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The ecclesiastical machinery of oppression and persecution was no doubt vigorously worked, and when the Puritans and Presbyterians had the power, they knew perfectly well how to make return in kind. But those in the Church of whom Laud was the conspicuous representative, when they had the upper hand, were by no means the only influential factors in the Establishment. There were deep currents running the other way. There was always a thoughtful minority that testified for breadth and liberty. Not to speak of the liberal minded ecclesiastics who protested against the severe measures with which Elizabeth forced conformity upon the people, there were men like the great scholar Archbishop Usher, who died in 1656, declared by even Presbyterian authority “the most learned