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TO THE AUTHOR OF THE THIRD LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION *.
THE business which your Letter concerning Toleration found me engaged in, has taken up so much of the time my health would allow me ever since, that I doubt whether I should now at all have troubled you or the world with an answer, had not some of my friends, sufficiently satisfied of the weakness of your
*The reader may be pleased to take notice, that
L. I. Stands for the Letter concerning Toleration.
A. For the Argument of the Letter concerning Toleration briefly considered and answered.
L. II. The Second Letter concerning Toleration.
P. The pages of the Third Letter concerning Toleration.
arguments, with repeated instances, persuaded me it might be of use to truth, in a point of so great moment, to clear it from those fallacies which might perhaps puzzle some unwary readers; and therefore prevailed on me to show the wrong grounds and mistaken reasonings you make use of to support your new way of persecution. Pardon me, sir, that I use that name, which you are so much offended at: for if punishment be punishment, though it come short of the discipline of fire and faggot, it is as certain that punishment for religion is truly persecution, though it be only such punishment as you in your clemency think fit to call" moderate and convenient penalties." But however you please to call them, I doubt not but to let you see, that if you will be true to your own principles, and stand to what you have said, you must carry your "some degrees of force," as you phrase it, to all those degrees which in words you declare against.
You have indeed in this last letter of yours altered the question; for, p. 26, you tell me the question between us is, "whether the magistrate hath any right to use force to bring men to the true religion?" "Whereas you yourself own the question to be, "whether the magistrate has a right to use force in matters of religion?" Whether this alteration be at all to the advantage of truth, or your cause, we shall see. But hence you take occasion all along to lay a load on me for charging you with the absurdities of a power in the magistrates to punish men, to bring them to their religion; whereas you here tell us they have a right to use force "only to bring men to the true." But whether I were more to blame to suppose you to talk coherently and mean sense, or you in expressing yourself so doubtfully and uncertainly, where you were concerned to be plain and direct, I shall leave to our readers to judge; only here in the beginning, I shall endeavour to clear myself of that imputation, I so often meet with, of charging on you consequences you do not own, and arguing against an opinion that is not yours, in those places, where I show how little advantage it would be to truth, or the