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report thought injurious laboured against with might and main, and the assistance and cause of religion itself taken in and made use of to put a stop to it. But yet for all this there are sober men who are of opinion, that it better becomes a Christian temper, that disputes, especially of religion, should be waged purely for the sake of truth, and not for our own: self should have nothing to do in them. But since as we see it will crowd itself in, and be often the principal agent, your ingenuity in owning what has brought you upon the stage again, and set you on work, after the ease and quiet you resolutely maintained yourself in so many years, ought to be commended, in giving us a view of the discreet choice you have made of a method suited to your purpose, which you publish to the world in these words, p. 2: "Being desirous to put a stop to a report so injurious, as well as groundless, as I look upon this to be, I think it will be no improper way of doing it, if I thus signify to you and the reader, that I find nothing more convincing in this your long letter than I did in your two former; giving withal a brief specimen of the answerableness of it: which I choose to do upon a few pages at the beginning, where you have placed your greatest strength, or at least so much of it as you think sufficient to put an end to this controversy.
Here we have your declaration of war, of the grounds that moved you to it, and of your compendious way to assured victory; which I must own is very new and very remarkable. You choose a few pages out of the beginning of my Third Letter; in these, you say, “I have placed my greatest strength." So that, what I have there said being baffled, it gives you a just triumph over my whole long Letter; and all the rest of it being but pitiful, weak, impertinent stuff, is by the overthrow of this forlorn hope fully confuted.
This is called answering by specimen. A new way, which the world owes to your invention; an evidence that whilst you said nothing you did not spare thinking. And indeed it was a noble thought, a stratagem which
I believe scarce any other but yourself would have found out in a meditation of twice twelve years, how to answer arguments without saying a word to them, or so much as reciting them; and, by examining six or seven pages in the beginning of a book, reduce to nothing above three hundred pages of it that follow. This is indeed a decisive stroke that lays all flat before you. Who can stand against such a conqueror, who, by barely attacking of one, kills a hundred? This would certainly be an admirable way, did it not degrade the conqueror, whose business is to do; and turn him into a mere talking gazetteer, whose boasts are of no consequence. For after slaughter of foes, and routing of armies by such a dead-doing hand, nobody thinks it strange to find them all alive again safe and sound upon their feet, and in a posture of defending themselves. The event, in all sorts of controversies, hath often better instructed those who have, without bringing it to trial, presumed on the weakness of their adversaries. However this which you have set up, of confuting without arguing, cannot be denied to be a ready way, and well thought on to set you up high, and your reputation secure in the thoughts of your believing readers, if that be, as it seems it is, your business; but, as I take it, tends not at all to the informing their understandings, and making them see the truth and grounds it stands on. That, perhaps, is too much for the profane vulgar to know; it is enough for them that you know it for them, and have assured them that you can, when you please to condescend so far, confound all that any one offers against your opinion. An implicit faith of your being in the right, and ascribing victory to you, even in points whereof you have said nothing, is that which some sort of men think most useful; and so their followers have but tongues for their champion to give him the praise and authority he aims at, it is no matter whether they have any eyes for themselves to see on which side the truth lies. Thus, methinks, you and I both find our account in this controversy under your management; you in setting your reputation safe from the blemish it would have been to it that you were brought
over to my opinion; and I in seeing (if you will forgive me so presumptuous a word) that you have left my cause safe in all those parts you have said nothing to, and not very much damaged in that part you have attacked, as I hope to show the indifferent reader. You enter upon your specimen, p. 2, by minding me that I tell you,
That 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 some degrees of force to all those degrees which in words you declare against, even to the discipline of fire and faggot." And you say, "if I make my word good, you assure me you will carry a faggot yourself to the burning what you have written for so unmerciful and outrageous a discipline: but till I have done that, you suppose the discipline you have endeavoured to defend may remain safe and unhurt, as it is, in its own nature, harmless and salutary to the world."
To promise fairly is then the part of an honest man, when the time of performance is not yet come. But it falls out unluckily here, for you who have undertaken, by answering some parts of my Second Letter, to show the answerableness of the whole, that instead of answering, you promise to retract, "if I make good my word, in proving upon your own principles you must carry your some degrees of force to fire and faggot."
Sir, my endeavours to make my word good have lain before you a pretty competent time: the world is witness of it, and will, as I imagine, think it time for you, since you yourself have brought this question upon the stage, either to acknowledge that I have made my word good, or, by invalidating my arguments, show that I have not. He that after a debt of so many years only promises what brave things he will do hereafter, is hardly thought upon the Exchange to do what he ought. The account in his hand requires to be made up and balanced; and that will show, not what he is to promise, but, if he be a fair man, what he is to perform. If the schools make longer allowances of time, and admit evasions for satisfaction, it is fit you use your pri vilege, and take more time to consider; only I crave
leave in the mean while to refer my reader to what I have said on this argument, Chap. iv. of my Third Letter, that he may have a view of your way of answering by specimen, and judge whether all that I have there urged be answered by what you say here, or what you promise here be ever like to be performed.
The next sample you give to show the answerableness of my Letter, is not much more lucky than the former; it may be seen, pp. 3 and 4, where you say, that I tell you, p. 119, That you have altered the question;' for it seems, p. 26, you tell me the question between us is, "Whether the magistrate has a right to use force to bring men to the true religion? Whereas, p. 76, you yourself, I say, own the question to be, whether the magistrate has a right to use force in matters of religion?" "Which affirmation of mine, you must take leave to tell me, is a mere fiction; for neither p. 76, nor any where else, do you own the question to be what I say you do."
"And as to using force in matters of religion (which you say are my words, not yours), if I mean by it the using force to bring men to any other religion besides the true, you are so far from owning the question to be, whether the magistrate has a right to use force for such a purpose, that you have always thought it out of question, that no man in the world, magistrate or other, can have any right to use either force, or any other means that I can name, to bring men to any false religion, how much soever he may persuade himself that it is true."
"It is not, therefore, from any alteration, but from the true state of the question, that you take occasion, as I complain without cause, 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." "But it seems, having little to say against what you do assert, you say, I find it necessary myself to alter the question, and to make the world believe that you assert what you do not; that I may have something before me which I can confute."
In this paragraph you positively deny that it is any where owned by you as the question between us, “Whether the magistrate has a right of using force in matters of religion?" Indeed, these words are not as they are cited in p. 76 of your former Letter; but he that will turn over the leaf may, in p. 78, read these words of yours, viz. that "You refer it to me, whether I, in saying nobody has a right, or you, in saying the magistrate has a right to use force in matters of religion, have most reason:" though you positively tell me, "that neither p. 76, nor any where else, do you own the question to be what I say you do." And now let the reader judge between us. I should not perhaps have so much as taken notice of this, but that you, who are so sparing of your answer, that you think a brief specimen upon some few pages of the beginning of my Letter sufficient to confute all I have said in it, do yet spend the better part of two pages on this; which, if I had been mistaken in, it had been of no great consequence; of which I see no other use you have but to cast on me some civil reflections of your fashion, and fix on me the imputation of fiction, mere fiction; a compliment which I shall not return you, though you say "using force in matters of religion" are my words, not yours. Whether they are your words or not, let p. 78 of your former Letter decide; where you own yourself to say, that "the magistrate has a right to use force in matters of religion." So that this, as I take it, is a specimen of your being very positive in a mistake, and about a plain matter of fact, about an action of your own; and so will scarce prove a specimen of the answerableness of all I say in my Letter, unless we must allow that truth and falsehood are equally answerable, when you declare against either of them.
The next part of your specimen we have, pp. 4, 5, where you tell me that I undertake to prove, that "if upon your grounds the magistrate be obliged to use force to bring men to the true religion, it will necessarily fol low, that every magistrate, who believes his religion to be true, is obliged to use force to bring men to his."