Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

salvation of men's souls, that all magistrates should have a right to use force to bring men to embrace their religion. This I shall do by proving, that if upon your grounds the magistrate, as you pretend, be obliged to use force to bring men to the true religion, it will necessarily follow, that every magistrate, who believes his religion to be true, is obliged to use force to bring men to his.

You tell us," that by the law of nature the magistrate is invested with coactive power, and obliged to use it for all the good purposes which it might serve, and for which it should be found needful, even for the restraining of false and corrupt religion: and that it is the magistrate's duty, to which he is commissioned by the law of nature, but the Scripture does not properly give it him."

I suppose you will grant me, that any thing laid upon the magistrate as a duty, is some way or other practicable. Now the magistrate being obliged to use force in matters of religion, but yet so as to bring men only to the true religion, he will not be in any capacity to perform this part of his duty, unless the religion he is thus to promote, be what he can certainly know, or else what it is sufficient for him to believe, to be the true either his knowledge or his opinion must point out that religion to him, which he is by force to promote; or else he may promiscuously and indifferently promote any religion, and punish men at a venture, to bring them from that they are in to any other. This last I think nobody has been so wild

as to say.

If therefore it must be either his knowledge or his persuasion that must guide the magistrate herein, and keep him within the bounds of his duty; if the magistrates of the world cannot know, certainly know, the true religion to be the true religion, but it be of a nature to exercise their faith; (for where vision, knowledge, and certainty is, there faith is done away,) then that which gives them the last determination herein must be their own belief, their own persuasion.

To you and me the Christian religion is the true, and that is built, to mention no other articles of it, on this, that Jesus Christ was put to death at Jerusalem, and rose again from the dead. Now do you or I know this? I do not ask with what assurance we believe it, for that in the highest degree not being knowledge, is not what we now inquire after. Can any magistrate demonstrate to himself, and if he can to himself, he does ill not to do it to others, not only all the articles of his church, but the fundamental ones of the Christian religion? For whatever is not capable of demonstration, as such remote matters of fact are not, is not, unless it be self-evident, capable to produce knowledge, how well grounded and great soever the assurance of faith may be wherewith it is received; but faith it is still, and not knowledge; persuasion, and not certainty. This is the highest the nature of the thing will permit us to go in matters of revealed religion, which are therefore called matters of faith: a persuasion of our own minds, short of knowledge, is the last result that determines us in such truths. It is all God requires in the Gospel for men to be saved: and it would be strange if there were more required of the magistrate for the direction of another in the way to salvation, than is required of him for his own salvation. Knowledge then, properly so called, not being to be had of the truths necessary to salvation, the magistrate must be content with faith and persuasion for the rule of that truth he will recommend and enforce upon others; as well as of that whereon he will venture his own eternal condition. If therefore it be the magistrate's duty to use force to bring men to the true religion, it can be only to that religion which he believes to be true: so that if force be at all to be used by the magistrate in matters of religion, it can only be for the promoting that religion which he only believes to be true, or none at all. I grant that a strong assurance of any truth settled upon prevalent and well-grounded arguments of probability, is often called knowledge in popular ways of talking: but being here to distinguish between knowledge and belief, to what degrees of con

fidence soever raised, their boundaries must be kept, and their names not confounded. I know not whet greater pledge a man can give of a full persuasion of the truth of any thing, than his venturing his soul upon it, as he does, who sincerely embraces any religion, and receives it for true. But to what degree soever of assurance his faith may rise, it still comes short of knowledge. Nor can any one now, I think, arrive to greater evidence of the truth of the Christian religion than the first converts in the time of our Saviour and the apostles had; of whom yet nothing more was required but to believe.

But supposing all the truths of the Christian religion necessary to salvation could be so known to the magistrate, that, in his use of force for the bringing men to embrace these, he could be guided by infallible certainty; yet I fear this would not serve your turn, nor authorize the magistrate to use force to bring men in England, or any where else, into the communion of the national church, in which ceremonies of human institution were imposed, which could not be known, nor, being confessed things in their own nature indifferent, so much as thought necessary to salvation.

But of this I shall have occasion to speak in another place; all the use I make of it here, is to show, that the cross in baptism, kneeling at the sacrament, and suchlike things, being impossible to be known necessary to salvation, a certain knowledge of the truth of the articles of faith of any church could not authorize the magistrate to compel men to embrace the communion of that church, wherein any thing were made necessary to communion, which he did not know was necessary to salvation.

By what has been already said, I suppose it is evident, that if the magistrate be to use force only for promoting the true religion, he can have no other guide but his own persuasion of what is the true religion, and must be led by that in his use of force, or else not use it at all in matters of religion. If you take the latter of these consequences, you and I are agreed: if the

VOL. VI.

L

[ocr errors]

former, you must allow all magistrates, of whatsoever religion, the use of force to bring men to theirs, and so be involved in all those ill consequences which you cannot it seems admit, and hope to decline by your useless distinction of force to be used, not for any, but for the true religion.

"It is the duty, you say, of the magistrate to use force for promoting the true religion." And in several places you tell us, he is obliged to it. Persuade magistrates in general of this, and then tell me how any magistrate shall be restrained from the use of force, for the promoting what he thinks to be the true? For he being persuaded that it is his duty to use force to promote the true religion, and being also persuaded his is the true religion, what shall stop his hand? Must he forbear the use of force till he be got beyond believing, into a certain knowledge that all he requires men to embrace is necessary to salvation? If that be it you will, stand to, you have my consent, and I think there will be no need of any other toleration. But if the believing his religion to be the true, be sufficient for the magistrate to use force for the promoting of it, will it be so only to the magistrates of the religion that you profess? and must all other magistrates sit still, and not do their duty till they have your permission? If it be your magistrate's duty to use force for the promoting the religion he believes to be the true, it will be every magistrate's duty to use force for the promoting what he believes to be the true, and he sins if he does not receive and promote it as if it were true. If you will not take this upon my word, yet I desire you to do it upon the strong reason of a very judicious and reverend prelate [Dr. John Sharp, archbishop of York,] of the present church of England. In a discourse concerning conscience, printed in quarto, 1687, p. 18, you will find these following words, and much more to this purpose: "Where a man is mistaken in his judgment, even in that case it is always a sin to act against it. Though we should take that for a duty which is really a sin, yet so long as we are thus persuaded, it

will be highly criminal in us to act in contradiction to this persuasion: and the reason of this is evident, because by so doing we wilfully act against the best light which at present we have for direction of our actions. So that when all is done, the immediate guide of our actions can be nothing but our conscience, our judgment, and persuasion. If a man, for instance, should of a Jew become a Christian, whilst yet in his heart he believed that the Messiah is not yet come, and that our Lord Jesus was an impostor: or if a papist should renounce the communion of the Roman church, and join with ours, whilst yet he is persuaded that the Roman church is the only catholic church, and that our reformed churches are heretical or schismatical; though now there is none of us that will deny that the men in both these cases have made a good change, as having changed a false religion for a true one, yet for all that I dare say we should all agree they were both of them great villains for making that change; because they made it not upon honest principles, and in pursuance of their judgment, but in direct contradiction to both." So that it being the magistrate's duty to use force to bring men to the true religion, and he being persuaded his is the true, I suppose you will no longer question but that he is as much obliged to use force to bring men to it, as if it were the true; and then, sir, I hope you have too much respect for magistrates not to allow them to believe the religions to be true which they profess.These things put together, I desire you to consider whether if magistrates are obliged to use force to bring men to the true religion, every magistrate is not obliged to use force to bring men to that religion he believes to be true?

This being so, I hope I have not argued so wholly beside the purpose, as you all through your letter accuse me, for charging on your doctrine all the ill consequences, all the prejudice it would be to the true religion, that magistrates should have power to use force to bring men to their religions: and I presume you will think yourself concerned to give to all these places in

« AnteriorContinuar »