A Letter Concerning TolerationJohn Locke in Letters Concerning Toleration, Latin orig. 1689 (J. Brook: 1796), pp. 29-66.
John Locke here sets a clear purpose: “to distinguish exactly the business of civil government from that of religion, and to settle the just bounds that lie between the one and the other”. Specifically, the concern of the state is the commonwealth, especially the protection of property, and the just use of force to that end. The concern of the church, on the other hand, is the care of souls, to which force is ill-suited. What is essential is toleration: the state’s toleration of the church, and each sect’s toleration of another. Indeed, Locke argues that the mark of any truly Christian church will be toleration; this, because of Christ’s “Gospel of peace” and of the impossibility of forced belief. “Whatever profession we make, to whatever outward worship we conform, if we are not fully satisfied in our own mind that the one is true, … such profession and such practice, far from being any furtherance, are indeed great obstacles to our salvation.” Whenever a church or minister reaches for powers of the state, the power to dispossess others of freedom or property, their true ambition is betrayed, “what they desire is temporal dominion”. State authority is also circumscribed, “The care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force: but true and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind…” It is refreshing to see in Locke that the obvious incongruity of Christian coercion is not a recent realization. For example, Locke notes Jesus’ prediction that Christians will suffer persecution, but far be it that Christians become persecutors, to “force others by fire and sword, to embrace her faith and doctrine”. One could object to Locke’s claim that “the only business of the church is the salvation of souls”, if that in effect precludes the church working towards a just and civil society in the here and now. Nonetheless, Locke’s argument, rooted in Christian ideals and natural law, is rightly credited for the delineation of church and state authority that later emerged in America. ~ Nate
Since you are pleased to inquire what are my thoughts about the mutual Toleration of Christians in their different professions of religion, I must needs answer you freely, That I esteem that Toleration to be the chief characteristical mark of the true church. For whatsoever some people boast of the antiquity of places and names, or of the pomp of their outward worship; others, of the reformation of their discipline; all, of the orthodoxy of their faith, for every one is orthodox to himself: these things, and all others of this nature, are much rather marks of men striving for power and empire over one another, than of the church of Christ. Let any one have never so true a claim to all these things, yet if he be destitute of charity, meekness, and good-will in general towards all mankind, even to those that are not Christians, he is certainly yet short of being a true Christian himself. The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, said our Saviour to his disciples, but ye shall not be so, Luke XXII. The business of true religion is quite another thing. It is not instituted in order to the erecting an external pomp, nor to the obtaining of ecclesiastical dominion, nor to the exercising of compulsive force; but to the regulating of mens lives according to the rules of virtue and piety. Whosoever will lift himself under the banner of Christ, must, in the first place and above all things, make war upon his own lusts and vices. It is in vain for any man to usurp the name ofChristian, without holiness of life, purity of manners, and benignity and meekness of spirit. Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity. Thou, when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren, said our Lord to Peter, Luke XXII. It would indeed be very hard for one that appears careless about his own salvation, to persuade me that he were extremely concerned for mine. For it is impossible that those should sincerely and heartily apply themselves to make other people Christians, who have not really embraced the Christian religion in their own hearts. If the Gospel and the Apostles may be credited, no man can be a Christian without charity, and without that faith which works, not by force, but by love.Now I appeal to the consciences of those that persecute, torment,destroy, and kill other men upon pretence of religion, whether they doit out of friendship and kindness towards them, or no: and I shall then indeed, and not till then, believe they do so, when I shall see those fiery zealots correcting, in the same manner, their friends and familiar acquaintance, for the manifest sins they commit against the precepts of the Gospel; when I shall see them prosecute with fire and sword the members of their own communion that are tainted with enormous vices, and without amendment are in danger of eternal perdition; and when I shall see them thus express their love and desire of the salvation of their souls, by the infliction of torments, and exercise of all manner of cruelties. For if it be out of a principle of charity,as they pretend, arid love to mens souls, that they deprive them of their estates, maim them with corporal punishments, starve and torment them in noisome prisons, and in the end even take away their lives; I say, if all this be done merely to make men Christians, and procure their salvation, why then do they suffer whoredom, fraud, malice, and such like enormities, which, according to the Apostle, Rom.I. manifestly relish of heathenish corruption, to predominate so much and abound amongst their flocks and people? These, and such like things, are certainly more contrary to the glory of God, to the purity of the church, and to the salvation of souls, than any conscientious dissent from ecclesiastical decision, or separation from public worship, whilst accompanied with innocency of life. Why then does this burning zeal for God, for the church, and for the salvation of souls;burning, I say, literally, with fire and faggot; pass by those moral vices and wickedness, without any chastisement, which are acknowledged by all men to be diametrically opposite to the profession ofChristianity; and bend all its nerves either to the introducing of ceremonies, or to the establishment of opinions, which for the most part are about nice and intricate matters, that exceed the capacity of ordinary understandings? Which of the parties contending about these things is in the right, which of them is guilty of schism or heresy,whether those that domineer or those that suffer, will then at last be manifest, when the cause of their separation comes to be judged of. He certainly that follows Christ, embraces his doctrine, and bears his yoke, tho’ he forsake both father and mother, separate from the public assemblies and ceremonies of his country, or whomsoever, or whatsoever else he relinquishes, will not then be judged an heretic.
Now,tho’ the divisions that are amongst sects should be allowed to be never so obstructive of the salvation of souls; yet nevertheless adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, and such like things, cannot be denied to be works of the flesh;concerning which the Apostle has expressly declared, that they who do them shall not inherit the kingdom of God, Gal. V. Whosoever therefore is sincerely solicitous about, the kingdom of God, and thinks it his duty to endeavour the enlargement of it amongst men, ought to apply himself with no less care and industry to the rooting out of these immoralities, than to the extirpation of sects. But if any one do otherwise, and whilst he is cruel and implacable towards those that differ from him in opinion, he be indulgent to such iniquities and immoralities as are unbecoming the name of a Christian, let such a one talk never so much of the church, he plainly demonstrates by his actions, that ’tis another kingdom he aims at, and not the advancement of the kingdom of God.
That any man should think fit to cause another man, whose salvation he heartily desires, to expire in torments, and that even in an unconverted estate, would, I confess,seem very strange to me, and, I think, to any other also. But no body,surely, will ever believe that such a carriage can proceed from charity, love, or good-will. If any one maintain that men ought to be compelled by fire and sword to profess certain doctrines, and conform to this or that exteriour worship, without any regard had unto their morals; if any one endeavour to convert those that are erroneous unto the faith, by forcing them to profess things that they do not believe,and allowing them to practice things that the Gospel does not permit;it cannot be doubted indeed that such a one is desirous to have a numerous assembly joined in the fame profession with himself; but that he principally intends by those means to compose a truly Christian church, is altogether incredible. It is not therefore to be wondered at,if those who do not really contend for the advancement of the true religion, and of the church of Christ, make use of arms that do not belong to the Christian warfare. If, like the captain of our salvation,they sincerely desired the good of fouls, they would tread in the steps, and follow the perfect example of that prince of peace, who sent out his soldiers to the subduing of nations, and gathering them into his church, not armed with the sword, or other instruments of force,but prepared with the Gospel of peace, and with the exemplary holiness of their conversation. This was his method. Tho’ if infidels were to be converted by force, if those that are either blind or obstinate were to be drawn off from their errors by armed soldiers, we know very well that it was much more easy for him to do it with armies of heavenly legions, than for any son of the church, how potent soever, with all his dragoons.
The toleration of those that differ from others in matters of religion,is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine reason of mankind, that it seems monstrous for men to be so blind, as not to perceive the necessity and advantage of it, in so clear a light.I will not here tax the pride and ambition of some, the passion and uncharitable zeal of others. These are faults from which human affairs can perhaps scarce ever be perfectly freed; but yet such as no body will bear the plain imputation of, without covering them with some specious colour; and so pretend to commendation, whilst they are carried away by their own irregular passions. But however, that some may not colour their spirit of persecution and unchristian cruelty,with a pretence of care of the public weal, and observation of the laws; and that others, under pretence of religion, may not seek impunity for their libertinism and licentiousness; in a word, that none may impose either upon himself or others, by the pretences of loyalty and obedience to the prince, or of tenderness and sincerity in the worship of God; I esteem it above all things necessary to distinguish exactly the business of civil government from that of religion, and to settle the just bounds that lie between the one and the other. If this be not done, there can be no end put to the controversies that will be always arising between those that have, or at least pretend to have, on the one side, a concernment for the interest of mens souls, and on the other side, a care of the commonwealth.
The commonwealth seems to me to be a society of men constituted only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing their own civil interests.
Civil interests I call life, liberty, health, and indolency of body; and the possession of outward things, such as money, lands, houses, furniture, and the like.
It is the duty of the civil magistrate, by the impartial execution of equal laws, to secure unto all the people in general, and to every one of his subjects in particular, the just possession of these things belonging to this life. If any one presume to violate the laws of public justice and equity, established for the preservation of these things, his presumption is to be checked by the fear of punishment, consisting in the deprivation or diminution of those civil interests, or goods, which otherwise he might and ought to enjoy. But seeing no man does willingly suffer himself to be punished by the deprivation of any part of his goods, and much less of his liberty or life, therefore is the magistrate armed with the force and strength of all his subjects, in order to the punishment of those that violate any other man’s rights.
Now that the whole jurisdiction of the magistrate reaches only to these civil concernments; and that all civil power, right and dominion, is bounded and confined to the only care of promoting these things; and that it neither can nor ought in any manner to be extended to the salvation of souls, these following considerations seem unto me abundantly to demonstrate,
First, Because the care of souls is not committed to the civil magistrate, any more than to other men. It is not committed unto him, I say, by God; because it appears not that God has ever given any such authority to one man over another, as to compel any one to his religion. Nor can any such power be vested in the magistrate by the consent of the people; because no man can so far abandon the care of his own salvation, as blindly to leave it to the choice of any other, whether prince or subject to prescribe to him what faith or worship he shall embrace. For no man can, if he would,conform his faith to the dictates of another. All the life and power of true religion consists in the outward and full persuasion of the mind;and faith is not faith without believing. Whatever profession we make,to whatever outward worship we conform, if we are not fully satisfied in our own mind that the one is true, and the other well pleasing untoGod, such profession and such practice, far from being any furtherance,are indeed great obstacles to our salvation. For in this manner, instead of expiating other sins by the exercise of religion, I say, in offering thus unto God Almighty such a worship as we esteem to be displeasing unto him, we add unto the number of our other sins, those also of hypocrisy, and contempt of his Divine Majesty.
In the second place, The care of fouls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force: but true and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind,without which nothing can be acceptable to God. And such is the nature of the understanding, that it cannot be compelled to the belief of anything by outward force. Confiscation of estate, imprisonment, torments,nothing of that nature can have any such efficacy as to make men change the inward judgment that they have framed of things.
It may indeed be alledged, that the magistrate may make use of arguments, and thereby draw the heterodox into the way of truth, and procure their salvation. I grant it; but this is common to him with other men. In teaching, instructing, and redressing the erroneous by reason,he may certainly do what becomes any good man to do. Magistracy does not oblige him to put off either humanity or christianity. But it is one thing to persuade, another to command; one thing to press with arguments, another with penalties. This the civil power alone has aright to do; to the other goodwill is authority enough. Every man has commission to admonish, exhort, convince another of error, and by reasoning to draw him into truth: but to give laws, receive obedience,and compel with the sword, belongs to none but the magistrate. And upon this ground I affirm, that the magistrate’s power extends not to the establishing of any articles of faith, or forms of worship, by the force of his laws. For laws are of no force at all without penalties, and penalties in this case are absolutely impertinent; because they are not proper to convince the mind. Neither the profession of any articles of faith, nor the conformity to any outward form of worship* as has been already said, can be available to the salvation of souls, unless the truth of the one, and the acceptableness of the other unto God, be thoroughly believed by those that so profess and practise. But penalties are no ways capable to produce such belief. It is only light and evidence that can work a change in mens opinions; and that light can in no manner proceed from corporal sufferings, or any other outward penalties.
In the third place, The care of the salvation of mens souls cannot belong to the magistrate; because, though the rigour of laws and the force of penalties were capable to convince and change mens minds, yet would not that help at all to the salvation of their souls. For, there being but one truth, one way to heaven; what hopes is there that more men would be led into it, if they had no other rule to follow but the religion of the court, and were put under a necessity to quit the light of their own reason, to oppose the dictates of their own consciences,and blindly to resign up themselves to the will of their governors, and to the religion, which either ignorance, ambition, or superstition had chanced to establish in the countries where they were born? In the variety and contradiction of opinions in religion, wherein the princes of the world are as much divided as in their secular interests, the narrow way would be much straitened; one country alone would be in the right, and all the rest of the world put under an obligation of following their princes in the ways that lead to destruction: and that which heightens the absurdity, and very ill suits the notion of aDeity, men would owe their eternal happiness or misery to the places of their nativity.
These considerations, to omit many others that might have been urged to the same purpose, seem unto me sufficient to conclude that all the power of civil government relates only to mens civil interests, is confined to the care of the things of this world, and hath nothing to do with the world to come.
Let us now consider what a church is. A church then I take to be a voluntary society of men, joining themselves together of their own accord, in order to the public worshipping of God, in such a manner as they judge acceptable to him, and effectual to the salvation of their souls.
I say, it is a free and voluntary society. No body is born a member of any church; otherwise the religion of parents would descend unto children, by the same right of inheritance as their temporal estates,and every one would hold his faith by the same tenure he does his lands; than which nothing can be imagined more absurd. Thus therefore that matter stands. No man by nature is bound unto any particular church or sect, but every one joins himself voluntarily to that society in which he believes he has found that profession and worship which is truly acceptable to God. The hopes of salvation, as it was the only cause of his entrance into that communion, so it can be the only reason of his stay there. For if afterwards he discover any thing either erroneous in the doctrine, or incongruous in the worship of that society to which he has joined himself, why mould it not be as free for him to go out as it was to enter ? No member of a religious society can be tied with any other bonds but what proceed from the certain expectation of eternal life. A church then is a society of members voluntarily uniting to this end.
It follows now that we consider what is the power of this church, and unto what laws it is subject.
Forasmuch as no society, how free soever, or upon whatsoever flight occasion instituted, whether of philosophers for learning, of merchants for commerce, or of men of leisure for mutual conversation and discourse) no church or company, I say, can in the least subsist and hold together, but will presently dissolve and break to pieces, unlessit be regulated by some laws, and the members all consent to observe some order. Place, and time of meeting must be agreed on; rules for admitting and excluding members must be established; distinction of officers, and putting things into a regular course, and such like, cannot be omitted. But since the joyning together of several members into this church-society, as has already been demonstrated, is absolutely free and spontaneous, it necessarily follows, that the right of making its laws can belong to none but the society itself, or at least, which is the same thing, to those whom the society by common consent has authorised thereunto.
Some perhaps may object, that no such society can be said to be a true church, unless it have in it a bishop, or presbyter, with ruling authority derived from the very Apostles, and continued down unto the present times by an uninterrupted succession.
To these I answer. In the first place, Let them shew me the edict by which Christ has imposed that law upon his church. And let not anyman think me impertinent, if, in a thing of this consequence, I require that the terms of that edict be very express and positive. For the promise he has made us, that wheresoever two or three are gathered together in his name, he will be in the midst of them, Matt, XVIII. seems to imply the contrary. Whether such an assembly want any thing necessary to a true church, pray do you consider. Certain I am, that nothing can be there wanting unto the salvation of souls; which is sufficient for our purpose.
Next, Pray observe how great have always been the divisions amongst even those who lay so much stress upon the divine institution, and continued succession of a certain order of rulers in the church. Now their very dissention unavoidably puts us upon a necessity of deliberating, and consequently allows a liberty of choosing that, which upon consideration we prefer.
And in the last place, I consent that these men have a ruler of their church, established by such a long series of succession as they judge necessary, provided I may have liberty at the same time to join myself to that society, in which I am persuaded those things are to be found which are necessary to the salvation of my soul. In this manner ecclesiastical liberty will be preserved on all sides, and no man will have a legislator imposed upon him, but whom himself has chosen.
But since men are so solicitous about the true church, I would only ask them here by the way, if it be not more agreeable to the church of Christ to make the conditions of her communion consist in such things, and such things only, as the Holy Spirit has in the Holy Scriptures declared, in express words, to be necessary to salvation; I ask, I say, whether this be not more agreeable to the church of Christ, than for men to impose their own inventions and interpretations upon others, as if they were of Divine authority; and to establish by ecclesiastical laws, as absolutely necessary to the profession of Christianity, such things as the Holy Scriptures do either not mention, or at least not expressly command. Whosoever requires those things in order to ecclesiastical communion, which Christ does not require in order to life eternal, he may perhaps indeed constitute a society accommodated to his own opinion, and his own advantage; but how that can be called the church of Christ, which is established upon laws that are not his,and which excludes such persons from its communion, as he will one day receive into the kingdom of Heaven, I understand not. But this being not a proper place to enquire into the marks of the true church, I will only mind those that contend so earnestly for the decrees of their own society, and that cry out continually the Church, the Church, with as much noise, and perhaps upon the same principle, as the Ephesian silversmiths did for their Diana; this, I say, I desire to mind them of, that the Gospel frequently declares that the true disciples of Christ must suffer persecution; but that the church of Christ should persecute others, and force others by fire and sword, to embrace her faith and doctrine, I could never yet find in any of the books of the New Testament.
The end of a religious society, as has already been said, is the public worship of God, and by means thereof the acquisition of eternal life.All discipline ought therefore to tend to that end, and allecclesiastical laws to be thereunto confined. Nothing ought, nor can betransacted in this society, relating to the possession of civil andworldly goods. No force is here to be made use of, upon any occasionwhatsoever: for force belongs wholly to the civil magistrate, and the possession of all outward goods is subject to his jurisdiction.
But it may be asked, By what means then shall ecclesiastical laws be established, if they must be thus destitute of all compulsive power? I answer, They must be established by means suitable to the nature of such things, whereof the external profession and observation, if notproceeding from a thorough conviction and approbation of the mind, isaltogether useless and unprofitable. The arms by which the members ofthis society are to be kept within their duty, are exhortations,admonitions, and advices. If by these means the offenders will not bereclaimed, and the erroneous convinced, there remains nothing fartherto be done, but that such stubborn and obstinate persons, who give noground to hope for their reformation, mould be cast out and separatedfrom the society. This is the last and utmost force of ecclesiasticalauthority: no other punishment can thereby be inflicted, than that therelation ceasing between the body and the member which is cut off, the person so condemned ceases to be a part of that church.
These thingsbeing thus determined, let us inquire in the next place, how far the duty of Toleration extends, and what is required from every one by it.
And first, I hold, That no church is bound by the duty of Toleration to retain any such person in her bosom, as after admonition continues obstinately to offend against the laws of the society. For these beingthe condition of communion, and the bond of the society, if the breachof them were permitted without any animadversion, the society wouldimmediately be thereby dissolved. But nevertheless, in all such casescare is to be taken that the sentence of excommunication, and theexecution thereof, carry with it no rough usage, of word or action,whereby the ejected person may any ways be damnified in body or estate.For all force, as has often been said, belongs only to the magistrate,nor ought any private persons, at any time, to use force; unless it bein self-defence against unjust violence. Excommunication neither doesnor can, deprive the excommunicated person of any of those civil goodsthat he formerly possessed. All those things belong to the civilgovernment, and are under the magistrate’s protection. The whole forceof excommunication consists only in this, that the resolution of the society in that respect being declared, the union that was between thebody and some member comes thereby to be dissolved; and that relation ceasing, the participation of some certain things, which the societycommunicated to its members, and unto which no man has any civil right,comes also to cease. For there is no civil injury done unto theexcommunicated person, by the church-minister’s refusing him that breadand wine, in the celebration of the Lord’s supper, which was not boughtwith his, but other men’s money.
Secondly, No private person has any right, in any manner, to prejudiceanother person in his civil enjoyments, because he is of another churchor religion. All the rights and franchises that belong to him as aman, or as a denison, are inviolably to be preserved to him. These are not the business of religion. No violence nor injury is to beoffered him, whether he be Christian or Pagan. Nay, we must not content ourselves with the narrow measures of bare justice: Charity, bounty,and liberality must be added to it. This the Gospel enjoyns, this reason directs, and this that natural fellowship we are born intorequires of us. If any man err from the right way, it is his ownmisfortune, no injury to thee: nor therefore art thou to punish him inthe things of this life, because thou supposest he will be miserable inthat which is to come.
What I say concerning the mutual toleration of private personsdiffering from one another in religion, I understand also of particularchurches; which stand as it were in the same relation to each other asprivate persons among themselves, nor has any one of them any manner ofjurisdiction over any other, no not even when the civil magistrate, asit sometimes happens, comes to be of this or the other communion. Forthe civil government can give no new right to the church, nor thechurch to the civil government. So that whether the magistrate joyn himself to any church, or separate from it, the church remains alwaysas it was before, a free and voluntary society. It neither acquires thepower of the sword by the magistrate’s coming to it, nor does it losethe right of instruction and excommunication by his going from it. Thisis the fundamental and immutable right of a spontaneous society,that it has power to remove any of its members who transgress the rulesof its institution: but it cannot, by the accession of any newmembers, acquire any right of jurisdiction over those that are notjoined with it. And therefore peace, equity, and friendship, are alwaysmutually to be observed by particular churches, in the same manner asby private persons, without any pretence of superiority or jurisdictionover one another.
That the thing may be made yet clearer by an example; let us supposetwo churches, the one of Arminians, the other of Calvinists, residingin the city of Constantinople. Will any one say, that either of these churches has right to deprive the members of the other of theirestates and liberty, as we see practised elsewhere, because of theirdiffering from it in some doctrines or ceremonies, whilst the Turks inthe mean while silently stand by, and laugh to see with what inhumancruelty Christians thus rage against Christians? But if one of thesechurches hath this power of treating the other ill, I ask which of themit is to whom that power belongs, and by what right? It will be answered, undoubtedly, that it is the orthodox church which has theright of authority over the erroneous or heretical. This is, in greatand specious words, to say just nothing at all. For every church isorthodox to itself; to others, erroneous or heretical. Whatsoever anychurch believes, it believes to be true; and the contrary thereunto, itpronounces to be error. So that the controversy between these churchesabout the truth of their doctrines, and the purity of their worship, ison both sides equal; nor is there any judge, either at Constantinople,or elsewhere upon earth, by whose sentence it can be determined. The decision of that question belongs only to the Supreme Judge of all men,to whom also alone belongs the punishment of the erroneous. In the mean while, let those men consider how heinously they sin, who, adding injustice, if not to their error, yetcertainly to their pride, do rashly and arrogantly take upon them tomisuse the servants of another master, who are not at all accountableto them.
Nay, further: if it could be manifest which of these two dissentingchurches were in the right way, there would not accrue thereby unto theorthodox any right of destroying the other. For churches have neitherany jurisdiction in worldly matters, nor are fire and sword any proper instruments wherewith to convince mens minds of error, and inform themof the truth. Let us suppose, nevertheless, that the civil magistrateinclined to favour one of them, and to put his sword into their hands,that, by his consent, they might chastize the dissenters as they pleased. Will any man say, that any right can be derived unto a Christian church, over its brethren, from a Turkish emperor? Aninfidel, who has himself no authority to punish Christians for thearticles of their faith, cannot confer such an authority upon any society of Christians, nor give unto them a right which he has nothimself. This would be the case at Constantinople. And the reason of thething is the same in any Christian kingdom. The civil power is the samein every place: nor can that power, in the hands of a Christian prince,confer any greater authority upon the church, than in the hands of aheathen; which is to say, just none at all.
Nevertheless, it is worthy to be observed, and lamented, that the mostviolent of these defenders of the truth, the opposers of errors, theexclaimers against schism, do hardly ever let loose this their zeal forGod, with which they are so warmed and inflamed, unless where they havethe civil magistrate on their side. But so soon as ever court-favourhas given them the better end of the staff, and they begin to feel themselves the stronger, then presently peace and charity are to belaid aside: otherwise, they are religiously to be observed. Where theyhave not the power to carry on persecution, and to become masters,there they desire to live upon fair terms, and preach up Toleration.When they are not strengthned with the civil power, then they can bearmost patiently, and unmovedly, the contagion of idolatry, superstition,and heresie, in their neighbourhood; of which, in other occasions,the interest of religion makes them to be extremely apprehensive. Theydo not forwardly attack those errors which are in fashion at court, orare countenanced by the government. Here they can be content to sparetheir arguments: which yet, with their leave, is the only right methodof propagating truth, which has no such way of prevailing, as when strong arguments and good reason, are joined with the softness ofcivility and good usage.
No body therefore, in fine, neither single persons, nor churches, nay,nor even commonwealths, have any just title to invade the civil rightsand worldly goods of each other, upon pretence of religion. Those thatare of another opinion, would do well to consider with themselves howpernicious a seed of discord and war, how powerful a provocation to endless hatreds, rapines, and slaughters, they thereby furnish untomankind. No peace and security, no not so much as common friendship, can ever be establishedor preserved amongst men, so long as this opinion prevails, thatdominion is founded in grace, and that religion is to be propagated byforce of arms.
In the third place: Let us fee what the duty of Toleration requiresfrom those who are distinguished from the rest of mankind, from thelaity, as they please to call us, by some ecclesiastical character andoffice; whether they be bishops, priests, presbyters, ministers, orhowever else dignified or distinguished. It is not my business toinquire here into the original of the power or dignity of the clergy.This only I say, that whencesoever their authority be sprung, since itis ecclesiastical, it ought to be confined within the bounds of thechurch, nor can it in any manner be extended to civil affairs; becausethe church itself is a thing absolutely separate and distinct from thecommonwealth. The boundaries on both fides are fixed and immoveable. Hejumbles heaven and earth together, the things most remote and opposite,who mixes these societies; which are in their original, end, business,and in every thing, perfectly distinct, and infinitely different fromeach other. No man therefore, with whatsoever ecclesiastical office hebe dignified, can deprive another man that is not of his church andfaith, either of liberty, or of any part of his worldly goods, upon theaccount of that difference which is between them in religion. For whatsoever is not lawful to the whole church, cannot, by anyecclesiastical right, become lawful to any of its members.
But this is not all. It is not enough that ecclesiastical men abstainfrom violence and rapine, and all manner of persecution. He thatpretends to be a successor of the Apostles, and takes upon him theoffice of teaching, is obliged also to admonish his hearers of theduties of peace, and good-will towards all men; as well towards theerroneous as the orthodox; towards those that differ from them in faithand worship, as well as towards those that agree with them therein:and he ought industriously to exhort all men, whether private personsor magistrates, if any such there be in his church, to charity, meekness, and toleration; and diligently endeavour to allay and temperall that heat, and unreasonable averseness of mind, which either anyman’s her}’ zeal for his own feet, or the craft of others, has kindled against dissenters. I will not undertake to represent how happy and howgreat would be the fruit, both in church and state, if the pulpitsevery where founded with this doctrine of peace and toleration; lest Imould seem to reflect too severely upon those men whose dignity I desire not to detract from, nor would have it diminished either byothers or themselves. But this I say, that thus it ought to be. And ifany one that professes himself to be a minister of the word of God, apreacher of the gospel of peace, teach otherwise, he either understands not, or neglects the business of his calling, and shall oneday give account thereof unto the prince of peace. If Christians are tobe admonished that they abstain from all manner of revenge, even afterrepeated provocations and multiplied injuries, how much more ought theywho suffer nothing, who have had no harm done them, forbear violence,and abstain from all manner of ill usage towards those from whom theyhave received none. This caution and temper they ought certainly to usetowards those who mind only their own business, and are solicitous fornothing but that, whatever men think of them, they may worship God inthat manner which they are persuaded is acceptable to him, and in whichthey have the strongest hopes of eternal salvation. In private domesticaffairs, in the management of estates, in the conservation of bodilyhealth, every man may consider what suits his own conveniency, andfollow what course he likes best. No man complains of the illmanagement of his neighbours affairs. No man is angry with another foran error committed in sowing his land, or in marrying his daughter. Nobody corrects a spendthrift for consuming his substance in taverns. Letany man pull down, or build, or make whatsoever expences he pleases, nobody murmurs, no body controuls him; he has his liberty. But if anyman do not frequent the church, if he do not there conform hisbehaviour exactly to the accustomed ceremonies, or if he brings not hischildren to be initiated in the sacred mysteries of this or the othercongregation, this immediately causes an uproar, and the neighbourhoodis filled with noise and clamour. Every one is ready to be the avengerof so great a crime. And the zealots hardly have patience to refrainfrom violence and rapine, so long till the cause be heard, and the poorman be, according to form, condemned to the loss of liberty, goods, orlife. Oh that our ecclesiastical orators, of every sect, wouldapply themselves with all the strength of arguments that they are able,to the confounding of mens errors! But let them spare their persons. Letthem not supply their want of reasons with the instruments of force,which belong to another jurisdiction, and do ill become a churchman’shands. Let them not call in the magistrate’s authority to the aid oftheir eloquence, or learning; left, perhaps, whilst they pretend onlylove for the truth, this their intemperate zeal, breathing nothing butfire and sword, betray their ambition, and shew that what they desireis temporal dominion. For it will be very difficult to persuade men of sense, that he, who with dry eyes, and satisfaction of mind, candeliver his brother unto the executioner, to be burnt alive, does sincerely and heartily concern himself to save that brother from theflames of hell in the world to come.
In the last place. Let us now confider what is the magistrate’s duty inthe business of Toleration: which certainly is very considerable.
We have already proved, that the care of souls does not belong to the magistrate: not a magisterial care, I mean, if I may so call it, which consists in prescribing by laws, and compelling by punishments. But acharitable care, which consists in teaching, admonishing, and persuading, cannot be denied unto any man. The care therefore ofevery man’s soul belongs unto himself, and is to be left unto himself.But what if he neglect the care of his soul? I answer, what if heneglect the care of his health, or of his estate, which things arenearlier related to the government of the magistrate than the other?Will the magistrate provide by an express law, that such an one shallnot become poor or sick? Laws provide, as much as is possible, thatthe goods and health of subjects be not injured by the fraud orviolenceof others; they do not guard them from the negligence orill-husbandry of the possessors themselves. No man can be forced tobe rich or healthful, whether he will or no. Nay, God himself will not save men against their wills. Let us suppose, however, that some princewere desirous to force his subjects to accumulate riches, or to preserve the health and strength of their bodies. Shall it be providedby law, that they must consult none but Roman physicians, and shallevery one be bound to live according to their prescriptions? What, shall no potion, no broth be taken, but what is prepared either in theVatican, suppose, or in a Geneva shop? Or, to maker these subjectsrich, shall they all be obliged by law to become merchants, or musicians? Or, shall every one turn victualler, or smith, because there are somethat maintain their families plentifully, and grow rich in thoseprofessions? But it may be said, there are a thousand ways to wealth,but one only way to heaven. ‘Tis well said indeed, especially by thosethat plead for compelling men into this or the other way. For if therewere several ways that lead thither, there would not be so much as apretence left for compulsion. But now if I be marching on with my utmost vigour, in that way which, according to the sacred geography,leads streight to Jerusalem; why am I beaten and ill used by others, because, perhaps, I wear not buskins; because my hair is not of theright cut; because, perhaps, I have not been dipt in the right fashion; because I eat flesh upon the road, or some other food which agreeswith my stomach; because I avoid certain by-ways, which seem unto meto lead into briars or precipices; because amongst the several pathsthat are in the fame road, I choose that to walk in which seems to bethe streightest and cleanest; because I avoid to keep company with some travellers that are less grave, and others that are more sowrethan they ought to be; or in fine, because I follow a guide thateither is, or is not, cloathed in white, and crowned with a mitre?Certainly, if we consider right, we shall find that for the most partthey are such frivolous things as these, that, without any prejudice toreligion or the salvation of souls, if not accompanied with superstition or hypocrisie, might either be observed or omitted; I say,they are such like things as these, which breed implacable enmities amongst Christian brethren, who are all agreed in the substantial andtruly fundamental part of religion.
But let us grant unto these zealots, who condemn all things that arenot of their mode, that from these circumstances arise different ends.What shall we conclude from thence? There is only one of these whichis the true way to eternal happiness. But in this great variety of waysthat men follow, it is still doubted which is this right one. Nowneither the care of the commonwealth, nor the right of enacting laws,does discover this way that leads to heaven more certainly to the magistrate, than every private man’s search and study discovers itunto himself. I have a weak body, sunk under a languishing disease,for which, I suppose, there is one only remedy, but that unknown. Doesit therefore belong unto the magistrate to prescribe me a remedy, because there is but one, and because it is unknown? Because there isbut one way for me to escape death, will it therefore be safe for me todo whatsoever the magistrate ordains? Those things that every manought sincerely to enquire into himself, and by meditation, study, search, and his own endeavors, attain the knowledge of, cannot belooked upon as the peculiar possession of any one sort of men. Princesindeed are born superiour unto other men in power, but in nature equal.Neither the right, nor the art of ruling, does necessarily carry alongwith it the certain knowledge of other things; and least of all of thetrue religion. For if it were so, how could it come to pass that thelords of the earth mould differ so vastly as they do in religiousmatters? But let us grant that it is probable the way to eternal lifemay be better known by a prince than by his subjects; or at least, thatin this incertitude of things, the safest and most commodious way forprivate persons is to follow his dictates. You will say, what then? Ifhe should bid you follow merchandize for your livelihood, would youdecline that course for fear it should not succeed? I answer: I wouldturn merchant upon the prince’s command, because in case I should haveill success in trade, he is abundantly able to make up my loss someother way. If it be true, as he pretends, that he desires I shouldthrive and grow rich, he can set me up again when unsuccessful voyageshave broke me. But this is not the case, in the things that regard thelife to come. If there I take a wrong course, if in that respect I amonce undone, it is not in the magistrate’s power to repair my loss, toease my suffering, or to restore me in any measure, much less entirely,to a good estate. What security can be given for the kingdom of heaven?
Perhaps some will say, that they do not suppose this infalliblejudgment, that all men are bound to follow in the affairs of religion,to be in the civil magistrate, but in the church. What the church hasdetermined, that the civil magistrate orders to be observed; and heprovides by his authority that no body shall either act or believe, inthe business of religion, otherwise than the church teaches. So thatthe judgment of those things is in the church. The magistrate himselfyields obedience thereunto, and requires the like obedience fromothers. I answer: Who sees not how frequently the name of the church,which was fo venerable in the time of the Apostles, has been made useof to throw dust in peoples eyes, in following ages? But however, inthe present case it helps us not. The one only narrow way which leadsto heaven is not better known to the magistrate than to private persons, and therefore I cannot safely take him for my guide, who mayprobably be as ignorant of the way as myself, and who certainly is lessconcerned for my salvation than I myself am. Amongst so many kings ofthe Jews, how many of them were there whom any Israelite, thus blindlyfollowing, had not fallen into idolatry, and thereby into destruction?Yet nevertheless, you bid me be of good courage, and tell me that allis now safe and secure, because the magistrate does not now enjoin the observance of his own decrees in matters of religion, but only thedecrees of the church. Of what church I beseech you? Of that certainly which likes him best. As if he that compels me by laws andpenalties to enter into this or the other church, did not interpose hisown judgment in the matter. What difference is there whether he lead me himself, or deliver me over to be led by others? Idepend both ways upon his will, and it is he that determines both waysof my eternal state. Would an Israelite, that had worshipped Baal uponthe command of his king, have been in any better condition, because some body had told him that the king ordered nothing in religion uponhis own head, nor commanded any thing to be done by his subjects indivine worship, but what was approved by the counsel of priests, anddeclared to be of divine right by the doctors of their church? If thereligion of any church become therefore true and saving, because thehead of that sect, the prelates and priests, and those of that tribe,do all of them, with all their might, extol and praise it; whatreligion can ever be accounted erroneous, false and destructive? I amdoubtful concerning the doctrine of the Socinians, I am suspicious ofthe way of worship practised by the Papists, or Lutherans; will it beever a jot the safer for me to join either unto the one or the other of those churches, upon the magistrate’s command, because he commandsnothing in religion but by the authority and counsel of the doctors ofthat church?
But to speak the truth, we must acknowledge that the church, if aconvention of clergy-men, making canons, must be called by that name,is for the most part more apt to be influenced by the court, than thecourt by the church. How the church was under the vicissitude oforthodox and Arian emperors is very well known. Or if those things be too remote, our modem English history affords us fresher examples, inthe reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth how easily and smoothly the clergy changed their decrees, their articles of faith,their form of worship, every thing according to the inclination of those kings and queens. Yet were those kings and queens of suchdifferent minds, in point of religion, and enjoyned thereupon suchdifferent things, that no man in his wits, I had almost said none butan atheist, will presume to say that any sincere and upright worshipperof God could, with a safe conscience, obey their several decrees. Toconclude, It is the same thing whether a king that prescribes laws toanother man’s religion pretend to do it by his own judgment, or by theecclesiastical authority and advice of others. The decisions ofchurch-men, whose differences and disputes are sufficiently known,cannot be any sounder, or safer than his: nor can all their suffragesjoined together add any new strength unto the civil power. Tho’ this also must be taken notice of, that princes seldom have any regard tothe suffrages of ecclesiastics that are not favourers of their ownfaith and way of worship.
But after all, the principal consideration, and which absolutelydetermines this controversie, is this. Although the magistrate’sopinion in religion be found, and the way that he appoints be trulyevangelical, yet if I be not thoroughly persuaded thereof in my ownmind, there will be no safety for me in following it. No way whatsoeverthat I shall walk in against the dictates of my conference, will everbring me to the mansions of the blessed. I may grow rich by an art thatI take not delight in; I may be cured of some disease by remedies thatI have not faith in; but I cannot be saved by a religion that I distrust, and by a worship that I abhor. It is in vain for an unbeliever to take up the outward shew of another man’sprofession. Faith only, and inward sincerity, are the things thatprocure acceptance with God. The most likely and most approved remedycan have no effect upon the patient, if his stomach reject it as soonas taken. And you will in vain cram a medicine down a sick man’sthroat, which his particular constitution will be sure to turn into poison. In a word: Whatsoever may be doubtful in religion, yet this at least is certain, that no religion, which I believe not to be true, canbe either true, or profitable unto me. In vain therefore do princescompel their subjects to come into their church-communion, underpretence of saving their souls. If they believe, they will come oftheir own accord; if they believe not, their coming will nothing availthem. How great soever, in fine, may be the pretence of good-will andcharity, and concern for the salvation of mens souls, men cannot beforced to be saved whether they will or no. And therefore, when all isdone, they must be left to their own consciences.
Having thus at length freed men from all dominion over one another inmatters of religion, let us now confider what they are to do. All menknow and acknowledge that God ought to be publicly worshipped. Why otherwise do they compel one another unto the public assemblies? Mentherefore constituted in this liberty are to enter into fome religious society, that they may meet together, not only for mutual edification,but to own to the world that they worship God, and offer unto his divine majesty such service as they themselves are not ashamed of, and such asthey think not unworthy of him, nor unacceptable to him; and finallythat by the purity of doctrine, holiness of life, and decent form ofworship, they may draw others unto the love of the true religion, andperform such other things in religion as cannot be done by each privateman apart.
These religious societies I call churches: and these I say the magistrate ought to tolerate. For the business of these assemblies ofthe people is nothing but what is lawful for every man in particular totake care of; I mean the salvation of their souls: nor in this case isthere any difference between the national church, and other separatedcongregations.
But as in every church there are two things especially to beconsidered; the outward form and rites of worship, and the doctrinesand articles of faith; these things must be handled each distinctly;that so the whole matter of Toleration may the more clearly be understood.
Concerning outward worship, I say, in the first place, that the magistrate has no power to enforce by law, either in his own church, ormuch less in another, the use of any rites or ceremonies whatsoever inthe worship of God. And this, not only because these churches are free societies, but because whatsoever is practised in the worship of God,is only so far justifiable as it is believed by those that practise itto be acceptable unto him. Whatsoever is not done with that assuranceof faith, is neither well in itself, nor can it be acceptable to God.To impose such things therefore upon any people, contrary to their ownjudgment, is in effect to command them to offend God; which, considering that the end of all religion is to please him, and that that liberty is essentially necessary to that end, appears to be absurd beyond expression.
But perhaps it may be concluded from hence, that I deny unto the magistrate all manner of power about indifferent things; which if it benot granted, the whole subject matter of law-making is taken away. No,I readily grant that indifferent things, and perhaps none but such, are subjected to the legislative power. But it does not therefore followthat the magistrate may ordain whatsoever he pleases concerning anything that is indifferent. The public good is the rule and measure ofall law-making. If a thing be not useful to the common-wealth, tho’ itbe never so indifferent, it may not presently be established by law.
But further: Things never so indifferent in their own nature, whenthey are brought into the church and worship of God, are removed out ofthe reach of the magistrate’s jurisdiction; because in that use theyhave no connection at all with civil affairs. The only business of thechurch is the salvation of souls: and it no ways concerns thecommonwealth, or any member of it, that this, or the other ceremony bethere made use of. Neither the use, nor the omission of any ceremonies,in those religious assemblies, does either advantage or prejudice thelife, liberty, or estate of any man. For example: let it be granted,that the warning of an infant with water is in itself an indifferentthing. Let it be granted also, that if the magistrate understand suchwarning to be profitable to the curing or preventing of any diseasethat children are subject unto, and esteem the matter weighty enough tobe taken care of by a law, in that case he may order it to be done. Butwill any one therefore say, that the magistrate has the same right toordain, by law, that all children shall be baptized by priests, in the sacred font, in order to the purification of their souls? The extremedifference of these two cases is visible to every one at first sight.Or let us apply the last case to the child of a Jew, and the thing will speak it self. For what hinders but a Christian magistrate may have subjects that are Jews? Now if we acknowledge that such an injury maynot be done unto a Jew, as to compel him, against his own opinion, to practise in his religion a thing that is in its nature indifferent;how can we maintain that any thing of this kind may be done to a Christian?
Again: Things in their own nature indifferent cannot, by any humanauthority, be made any part of the worship of God, for this very reason; because they are indifferent. For since indifferent things are notcapable, by any virtue of their own, to propitiate the Deity; no humanpower or authority can confer on them so much dignity and excellency asto enable them to do it. In the common affairs of life, that use ofindifferent things which God has not forbidden, is free and lawful:and therefore in those things human authority has place. But it is not so in matters of religion. Things indifferent are not otherwise lawfulin the worship of God than as they are instituted by God himself; andas he, by some positive command, has ordained them to be made a part ofthat worship which he will vouchsafe to accept of at the hands of poor sinful men. Nor when an incensed Deity shall ask us, Who has required these, or such like things at your hands?Will it be enough to answer him, that the magistrate commanded them. Ifcivil jurisdiction extended thus far, what might not lawfully beintroduced into religion? What hodge-podge of ceremonies, what superstitious inventions, built upon the magistrate’s authority, mightnot, against conscience, be imposed upon the worshippers of God? Forthe greatest part of these ceremonies and superstitions consists in thereligious use of such things as are in their own nature indifferent:nor are they sinful upon any other account than because God is not theauthor of them. The sprinkling of water, and the use of bread and wine,are both in their own nature, and in the ordinary occasions of life,altogether indifferent. Will any man therefore say that these thingscould have been introduced into religion, and made a part of divine worship, if not by divine institution? If any human authority or civilpower could have done this, why might it not also enjoyn the eating offish, and drinking of ale, in the holy banquet, as a part of divine worship? Why not the sprinkling of the blood of beasts in churches,and expiations by water or fire, and abundance more of this kind? Butthese things, how indifferent soever they be in common uses, when theycome to be annexed unto divine worship, without divine authority, theyare as abominable to God, as the sacrifice of a dog. And why a dog soabominable? What difference is there between a dog and a goat, in respect of the divine nature, equally and infinitely distant from allaffinity with matter; unless it be that God required the use of the onein his worship, and not of the other? We see therefore thatindifferent things, how much soever they be under the power of thecivil magistrate, yet cannot upon that pretence be introduced intoreligion, and imposed upon religious assemblies; because in the worshipof God they wholly cease to be indifferent. He that worships God doesit with design to please him and procure his favour. But that cannot bedone by him, who, upon the command of another, offers unto God thatwhich he knows will be displeasing to him, because not commanded by himself. This is not to please God, or appease his wrath, but willinglyand knowingly to provoke him, by a manifest contempt; which is a thing absolutely repugnant to the naLure and end of worship.
But it will here be asked: If nothing belonging to divine worship beleft to human discretion, how is it then that churches themselves havethe power of ordering any thing about the time and place of worship,and the like? To this I answer; that in religious worship we mustdistinguish between what is part of the worship itself, and what is buta circumstance. That is a part of the worship which is believed to beappointed by God, and to be well-pleasing to him; and therefore that isnecessary. Circumstances are such things which, tho’ in general theycannot be separated from worship, yet the particular instances ormodifications of them are not determined; and therefore they areindifferent. Of this sort are the time and place of worship, the habitand posture of him that worships. These are circumstances, andperfectly indifferent, where God has not given any express commandabout them. For example: amongst the Jews, the time and placeof their worship, and the habits of those that officiated in it, werenot mere circumstances, but a part of the worship it self; in which ifany thing were defective, or different from the institution, they couldnot hope that it would be accepted by God. But these, to Christiansunder the liberty of the Gospel, are mere circumstances of worship,which the prudence of every church may bring into such use as shall bejudged most subservient to the end of order, decency, and edification.Though even under the Gospel also those who believe the first, or the seventh day to be set apart by God, and consecrated still to his worship, to them that portion of time is not a simple circumstance, buta real part of divine worship, which can neither be changed norneglected.
In the next place: As the magistrate has no power to impose by his laws, the use of any rites and ceremonies in any church, so neither has he any power to forbidthe use of such rites and ceremonies as are already received, approved,and practised by any church: because if he did so, he would destroy thechurch itself; the end of whole institution is only to worship God withfreedom, after its own manner.
You will say, by this rule, ifsome congregations should have a mind to sacrifice infants, or, as theprimitive Christians were falsly accused, lustfully pollute themselvesin promiscuous uncleanness, or practise any other such heinousenormities, is the magistrate obliged to tolerate them, because theyare committed in a religious assembly? I answer, No. These things arenot lawful in the ordinary course of life, nor in any private house;and therefore neither are they so in the worship of God, or in anyreligious meeting. But indeed if any people congregated upon account ofreligion, should be desirous to sacrifice a calf, I deny that thatought to be prohibited by a law. Meliboeus, whose calf it is,may lawfully kill his calf at home, and burn any part of it that hethinks fit. For no injury is thereby done to any one, no prejudice toanother man’s goods. And for the same reason he may kill his calf alsoin a religious meeting. Whether the doing so be well-pleasing to God orno, it is their part to consider that do it. The part of the magistrateis only to take care that the common-wealth receive no prejudice, andthat there be no injury done to any man, either in life or estate. Andthus what may be spent on a feast, may be spent on a sacrifice. But ifperadventure such were the state of things, that the interest of thecommonwealth required all slaughter of beasts should be forborn forsome while, in order to the increasing of the stock of cattle, that hadbeen destroyed by some extraordinary murrain; who sees not that themagistrate, in such a case, may forbid all his subjects to kill anycalfs for any use whatsoever? Only it is to be observed, that in thiscase the law is not made about a religious, but a political matter: noris the sacrifice, but the slaughter of calves thereby prohibited.
Bythis we see what difference there is between the church and thecommon-wealth. Whatsoever is lawful in the common-wealth, cannot beprohibited by the magistrate in the church. Whatsoever is permittedunto any of his subjects for their ordinary use, neither can nor oughtto be forbidden by him to any sect of people for their religious uses.If any man may lawfully take bread or wine, either sitting or kneelingin his own house, the law ought not to abridge him of the same libertyin his religious worship; though in the church the use of bread andwine be very different, and be there applied to the mysteries of faith,and rites of divine worship. But those things that are prejudicial tothe commonweal of a people in their ordinary use, and are thereforeforbidden by laws, those things ought not to be permitted to churchesin their sacred rites. Only the magistrate ought always to be verycareful that he do not misufe his authority, to the oppression of anychurch, under pretence of public good.
It may be said, what if achurch be idolatrous, is that also to be tolerated by the magistrate?In answer, I ask, what power can be given to the magistrate for thesuppression of an idolatrous church, which may not, in time and place,be made use of to the ruin of an orthodox one? For it must beremembred, that the civil power is the same every where, and thereligion of every prince is orthodox to himself. If therefore such apower be granted unto the civil magistrate in spirituals, as that at Geneva,for example, he may extirpate, by violence and blood, the religionwhich is there reputed idolatrous; by the same rule, anothermagistrate, in some neighbouring country, may oppress the reformedreligion; and, in India, the Christian. The civil power caneither change every thing in religion, according to the prince’spleasure, or it can change nothing. If it be once permitted tointroduce any thing into religion, by the means of laws and penalties,there can be no bounds put to it; but it will in the fame manner belawful to alter every thing, according to that rule of truth which themagistrate has framed unto himself. No man whatsoever ought thereforeto be deprived of his terrestrial enjoyments, upon account of hisreligion. Not even Americans, subjected unto a Christianprince, are to be punished either in body or goods, for not embracingour faith and worship. If they are persuaded that they please God inobserving the rites of their own country, and that they shall obtainhappiness by that means, they are to be left unto God and themselves.Let us trace this matter to the bottom. Thus it is: an inconsiderableand weak number of Christians, destitute of every thing, arrive in apagan country; these foreigners beseech the inhabitants, by the bowelsof humanity, that they would succour them with the necessaries of life;those necessaries are given them, habitations are granted, and they alljoin together, and grow up into one body of people. The Christianreligion by this means takes root in that country, and spreads itself;but does not suddenly grow the strongest. While things are in thiscondition, peace, friendship, faith, and equal justice, are preservedamongst them. At length the magistrate becomes a Christian, and by thatmeans their party becomes the most powerful. Then immediately allcompacts are to be broken, all civil rights to be violated, thatidolatry may be extirpated: and unless these innocent pagans, strictobservers of the rules of equity and the law of nature, and no waysoffending against the laws of the society, I say unless they wiltforsake their ancient religion, and embrace a new and strange one, theyareto be turned out of the lands and possessions of their forefathers, andperhaps deprived of life itself. Then at last it appears what zeal forthe church, joined with the desire of dominion, is capable to produce;and how easily the pretence of religion, and of the care of souls,serves for a cloak to covetousness, rapine, and ambition.
Nowwhosoever maintains that idolatry is to be rooted out of any place bylaws, punishments, fire and sword, may apply this story to himself. Forthe reason of the thing is equal, both in America and Europe.And neither pagans there, nor any dissenting Christians here, can withany right be deprived of their worldly goods, by the predominatingfaction of a court-church: nor are any civil rights to be eitherchanged or violated upon account of religion in one place more thananother.
But idolatry, say some, is a sin, and thereforenot to be tolerated. If they said it were therefore to be avoided, theinference were good. But it does not follow, that because it is a sinit ought therefore to be punished by the magistrate. For it does notbelong unto the magistrate to make use of his sword in punishing everything, indifferently, that he takes to be a sin against God.Covetousness, uncharitableness, idleness, and many other things aresins, by the consent of all men, which yet no man ever said were to bepunished by the magistrate. The reason is, because they are notprejudicial to other mens rights, nor do they break the public peace ofsocieties. Nay, even the sins of lying and perjury are no wherepunishable by laws unless in certain cases, in which the real turpitudeof the thing, and the offence against God, are not considered, but onlythe injury done unto mens neighbours, and to the commonwealth. And whatif in another country, to a Mahumetan or a pagan prince, the Christianreligion seem false and offensive to God; may not the Christians forthe same reason, and after the same manner, be extirpated there?
But it may be urged farther, that by the law of Moses idolaters were to be rooted out. True indeed, by the law of Moses; but that is not obligatory to us Christians. No body pretends that every thing, generally, enjoyned by the law of Moses;ought to be practised by Christians. But there is nothing morefrivolous than that common distinction of moral, judicial, andceremonial law, which men ordinarily make use of. For no positive lawwhatsoever can oblige any people but those to whom it is given. Hear O Israel, sufficiently restrains the obligation of the law of Moses only to that people. And this consideration alone is answer enough unto those that urge the authority of the law of Moses,for the inflicting of capital punishments upon idolaters. But however,I will examine this argument a little more particularly.
The caseof idolaters, in respect of the Jewish commonwealth, falls under adouble consideration. The first is of those, who, being initiated inthe Mosaical rites, and made citizens of that commonwealth, did afterwards apostatise from the worship of the God of Israel. These were proceeded against as traytors and rebels, guilty of no less than high treason. For the commonwealth of the Jews,different in that from all others, was. an absolute theocracy: nor wasthere, or could there be, any difference between that commonwealth andthe church. The laws established there concerning the worship of oneinvisible Deity, were the civil laws of that people, and a part oftheir political government, in which God himself was the legislator.Now if any one can shew me where there is a commonwealth, at this time,constituted upon that foundation, I will acknowledge that theecclesiastical laws do there unavoidably become a part of the civil;and that the subjects of that government both may, and ought to be keptin strict conformity with that church, by the civil power. But there isabsolutely no such thing, under the Gospel, as a Christiancommonwealth. There are, indeed, many cities and kingdoms that haveembraced the faith of Christ, but they have retained their ancient formof government; with which the law of Christ hath not at all meddled.He, indeed, hath taught men how, by faith and good works, they mayattain eternal life. But he instituted no commonwealth. He prescribedunto his followers no new and peculiar form of government, nor put hethe sword into any magistrate’s hand, with commission to make use of itin forcing men to forsake their former religion, and receive his.
Secondly, Foreigners, and such as were strangers to the commonwealth of Israel, were not compelled by force to observe the rites of the Mosaical law. But, on the contrary, in the very same place where it is ordered that an Israelite that was an idolater should be put to death, there it is provided that strangers should not be vexed nor oppressed, Exod. XXII. I confess that the seven nations that possessed the land which was promised to the Israelites,were utterly to be cut off. But this was not singly because they wereidolaters. For if that had been the reason, why were the Moabitesand other nations to be spared? No; the reason is this. God being in apeculiar manner the king of the Jews, he could not suffer the adorationof any other Deity, which was properly an act of high-treason againsthimself, in the land of Canaan, which was his kingdom. For such amanifest revolt could no ways consist with his dominion, which wasperfectly political, in that country. All idolatry was therefore to berooted out of the bounds of his .kingdom; because it was anacknowledgment of another God, that is to fay, another king; againstthe laws of empire. The inhabitants were also to be driven out, thatthe entire possession of the land might be given to the Israelites. And for the like reason the Emims and the Horims were driven out of their countries by the children of Esau and Lot; and their lands, upon the same grounds, given by God to the invaders, Deut. II. But tho’ all idolatry was thus rooted out of the land of Canaan, yet every idolater was not brought to execution. The whole family of Rabab, the whole nation of the Gibeonites, articled with Josuah,and were allowed by treaty: and there were many captives amongst theJews, who were idolaters. David and Solomon subdued many countrieswithout the confines of the Land of Promise, and carried theirconquests as far as Euphrates. Amongst so many captives taken,so many nations reduced under their obedience, we find not one manforced into the Jewish religion, and the worship of the true God, andpunished for idolatry, tho’ all of them were certainly guilty of it. Ifany one indeed, becoming a proselyte, desired to be made a denison oftheir commonwealth, he was obliged to submit unto their laws; that is,to embrace their religion. But this he did willingly, on his ownaccord, not by constraint. He did not unwillingly submit, to shew hisobedience; but he sought and solicited for it, as a privilege. And assoon as he was admitted, he became subject to the laws of thecommonwealth, by which all idolatry was forbidden within the borders ofthe land of Canaan. But that law, as I have said, did not reach to anyof those regions, however subjected unto the Jews, that were situatedwithout those bounds.
Thus far concerning outward worship. Let us now confider articles of faith.
Thearticles of religion are some of them practical, and some speculative.Now, tho’ both sorts consist in ‘the knowledge of truth, yet theseterminate simply in the understanding, those influence the will andmanners. Speculative opinions, therefore, and articles of faith,asthey are called, which are required only to be believed, cannot beimposed on any church by the law of the land. For it is absurd thatthings should be enjoyned by laws, which are not in mens power toperform. And to believe this or that to be true, does not depend uponour will. But of this enough has been said already. But, will some say,let men at least profess that they believe. A sweet religion indeed,that obliges men to dissemble, and tell lies both to God and man, forthe salvation of their souls! If the magistrate thinks to save menthus, he seems to understand little of the way of salvation. And if hedoes it not in order to save them, why is he so solicitous about thearticles of faith as to enact them by a law?
Further, The magistrate ought not to forbid the preachingor professing of any speculative opinions in any church, because theyhave no manner ofrelation to the civil rights of the subjects. If a Roman Catholicbelieve that to be really the body of Christ, which another man callsbread, he does no injury thereby to his neighbour. If a Jewdo notbelieve the New Testament to be the word of God, he does not therebyalter any thing in mens civil rights. If a heathen doubt of bothTestaments, he is not therefore to be punished as a pernicious citizen.The power of the magistrate, and the estates of the people, may beequally secure, whether any man believe these things or no. I readilygrant, that these opinions are false and absurd. But the business oflaws is not to provide for the truth of opinions, but for the safetyand security of the commonwealth, and of every particular man’s goodsand person. And so it ought to be. For truth certainly would do wellenough, if she were once left to shift for herself. She seldom hasreceived, and I fear never will receive much assistance from the powerof great men, to whom she is but rarely known, and more rarely welcome.She is not taught by laws, nor has she any need of force to procure herentrance into the minds of men. Errors indeed prevail by theassistance of foreign and borrowed succours. But if Truth makes not herway into the understanding by her own light, she will be but theweaker for any borrowed force violence can add to her. Thus much forspeculative opinions. Let us now proceed to practical ones.
Agood life, in which consists not the least part of religion and truepiety, concerns also the civil government: and in it lies the safetyboth of mens souls, and of the commonwealth. Moral actions belongtherefore to the jurisdiction both of the outward and inward court;both of the civil and domestic governor; I mean, both of the magistrateand conscience. Here therefore is great danger, left one of thesejurisdictions intrench upon the other, and discord arise between thekeeper of the public peace and the overseers of souls. But if what hasbeen already said concerning the limits of both these governments berightly considered, it will easily remove all difficulty in thismatter.
Every man has an immortal foul, capable of eternal happiness ormisery; whose happiness depending upon his believing and doing thosethings inthis life, which are necessary to the obtaining of God’s favour, andare prescribed by God to that end; it follows from thence j First, Thatthe observance of these things is the highest obligation that lies uponmankind, and that our utmost care, application, and diligence, ought tobe exercised in the search and performance of them; because there isnothing in this world that is of any consideration in comparison witheternity. Secondly, That feeing one man does not violate the right ofanother, by his erroneous opinions, and undue manner of worship, nor ishis perdition any prejudice to another man’s affairs; therefore thecare of each man’s salvation belongs only to himself. But I would nothave this understood, as if I meant hereby to condemn all charitableadmonitions, and affectionate endeavours to reduce men from errors;which are indeed the greatest duty of a Christian. Any one may employas many exhortations and arguments as he pleases, towards the promotingof another man’s salvation. But all force and compulsion are to beforborn. Nothing is to be done imperiously. No body is obliged in thatmatter to yield obedience unto the admonitions or injunctions ofanother, farther than he himself is persuaded. Every man, in that, hasthe supreme and absolute authority of judging for himself. And thereason is, because no body elfe is concerned in it, nor can receive anyprejudice from his conduct therein.
But besides their souls, which are immortal, men have also theirtemporal lives here upon earth; the state whereof being frail andfleeting, and the duration uncertain; they have need of severaloutward conveniences to the support thereof, which are to be procuredor preserved by pains and industry. For those things that are necessaryto the comfortable support of our lives are not the spontaneousproducts of nature, nor do offer themselves fit and prepared for ouruse. This part therefore draws on another care, and necessarily givesanother employment. But the pravity of mankind being such, that theyhad rather injuriously prey upon the fruits of other mens labours, thantake pains to provide for themselves; the necessity of preserving menin the possession of what honest industry has already acquired, andalso of preserving their liberty and strength, whereby they may acquirewhat they farther want; obliges men to enter into society with oneanother; that by mutual assistance and joint force, they may secureunto each other their proprieties, in the things that contribute to thecomfort and happiness of this life; leaving in the mean while to everyman the care of his own eternal happiness, the attainment whereof canneither be facilitated by another man’s industry, nor can the loss ofit turn to another man’s prejudice, nor the hope of it be forced fromhim by any external violence. But forasmuch as men thus entering intosocieties, grounded upon their mutual compacts of assistance, for thedefence of their temporal goods, may nevertheless be deprived of them,either by the rapine and fraud of their fellow-citizens, or bythe hostile violence of foreigners; the remedy of this evil consists inarms, riches, and multitude of citizens; the remedy of the other inlaws; and the care of all things relating both to the one and theother, is committed by the society to the civil magistrate. This is theoriginal, this is the use, and these are the bounds of the legislative,which is the supreme, power in every commonwealth. I mean, thatprovision may be made for the security of each man’s privatepossessions; for the peace, riches, and public commodities of thewhole people; and, as much as possible, for the increase of theirinward strength, against foreign invasions.
These things being thus explained, it is easy to understand to whatendthe legislative power ought to be directed, and by what measuresregulated; and that is the temporal good and outward prosperity of thesociety; which is the role reason of men’s entring into society, andthe only thing they seek and aim at in it. And it is also evident whatliberty remains to men in reference to their eternal salvation, andthat is, that every one should do what he in his conscience ispersuadedto be acceptable to the Almighty, on whose good pleasure and acceptancedepends his eternal happiness. For obedience is due in the first placeto God, and afterwards to the laws.
But some may ask, What if the magistrate should enjoin any thing by hisauthority that appears unlawful to the conscience of a private person?I answer, that if government be faithfully administered, and thecounsels of the magistrate be indeed directed to the public good, thiswill seldom happen. But if perhaps it do so fall out, I say, that sucha private person is to abstain from the action that he judges unlawful;and he is to undergo the punishment, which it is not unlawful for himto bear. For the private judgment of any person concerning a lawenacted in political matters, for the public good, does not take awaythe obligation of that law, nor deserve a dispensation. But if the lawindeed be concerning things that lie not within the verge of themagistrate’s authority; as for example, that the people, or any partyamongst them, should be compelled to embrace a strange religion, andjoin in the worship and ceremonies of another church, men are not inthese cases obliged by that law, against their consciences. For thepolitical society is instituted for no other end, but only to secureevery man’s possession of the things of this life. The care of eachman’s soul, and of the things of heaven, which neither does belong tothe commonwealth, nor can be subjected to it, is left entirely to everyman’s self. Thus the safeguard of mens lives, and of the things thatbelong unto this life, is the business of the common-wealth; and thepreserving of those things unto their owners,is the duty of the magistrate. And therefore the magistrate cannot takeaway these worldly things from this man, or party, and give them tothat; nor change propriety amongst fellow-subjects, no not even by alaw, for a cause that has no relation to the end of civil government; Imean for their religion; which whether it be true or false, does noprejudice to the worldly concerns of their fellow-subjects, which arethe things that only belong unto the care of the commonwealth.
But what if the magistrate believe such a law as this to be for thepublic good?I answer: as the private judgment of any particular person, iferroneous, does not exempt him from the obligation of law, so theprivate judgment, as I may call it, of the magistrate does notgive him any new right of imposing laws upon his subjects, whichneither was in the constitution of the government granted him, nor everwas in the power of the people to grant: and least of all, if he makeit his business to enrich and advance his followers andfellow-sectaries, with the spoils of others. But what if the magistratebelievethat he has a right to make such laws, and that they are for thepublic good; and his subjects believe the contrary? Who shall be judgebetween them? I answer, God alone. For there is no judge upon earthbetween the supreme magistrate and the people. God, I say, is the onlyjudge in this case, who will retribute unto every one at the last dayaccording to his deserts; that is, according to his sincerity anduprightness in endeavouring to promote piety, and the public weal andpeace of mankind. But what shalt be done in the mean while? I answer:the principal and chief care of every one ought to be of his own soulfirst, and in the next place, of the public peace: tho’ yet there arevery few will think ’tis peace there, where they see all laid waste.There are two sorts of contents amongst men; the one managed bylaw> the other by force: and these are of that nature, that wherethe one ends, the other always begins. But it is not my business toenquire into the power of the magistrate in the different constitutionsof nations. I only know what usually happens where controversies arise,without a judge to determine them. You will say then the magistratebeing the stronger will have his will, and carry his point.Without doubt. But the question is not here concerning the doubtfulnessof the event, but the rule of right.
But to come to particulars. I say, First, No opinionscontrary tohuman society, or to those moral rules which are necessary to thepreservation of civil society, are to be tolerated by the magistrate.But of these indeed examples in any church are rare. For no sect caneasily arrive to such a degree of madness, as that it should think fitto teach, for doctrines of religion, such things as manifestlyundermine the foundations of society, and are therefore condemned bythe judgment of all mankind: because their own interest, peace,reputation, every thing would be thereby endangered.
Another more secret evil, but more dangerous to the commonwealth, iswhen men arrogate to themselves, and to those of their own sect, somepeculiar prerogative covered over with a specious shew of deceitfulwords, but in effect opposite to the civil right of the community. Forexample. We cannot find any sect that teaches expressly and openly, that men are notobliged to keep their promise; that princes may be dethroned by thosethat differ from them in religion; or that the dominion of all thingsbelongs only to themselves. For these things, proposed thus nakedly andplainly, would soon draw on them the eye and hand of the magistrate,and awaken all the care of the commonwealth to a watchfulness againstthe spreading of so dangerous an evil. But nevertheless, we find thosethat say the same things, in other words. What else do they mean, whoteach that faith is not to be kept with heretics?Their meaning,forsooth, is that the privilege of breaking faith belongs untothemselves: for they declare all that are not of their communion to beheretics, or at least may declare them so whensoever they think fit.What can be the meaning of their asserting that kings excommunicatedforfeit their crowns and kingdoms? It is evident that they therebyarrogate unto themselves the power of deposing kings: because theychallenge the power of excommunication as the peculiar right of theirhierarchy. That dominion is founded in grace,is also an assertion bywhich those that maintain it do plainly lay claim to the possession ofall things. For they are not so wanting to themselves as not tobelieve, or at least as not to profess themselves to be the truly piousand faithful. These therefore, and the like, who attribute unto thefaithful, religious, and orthodox, that is, in plain terms, untothemselves, any peculiar privilege or power above other mortals, incivil concernments; or who, upon pretence of religion, do challenge anymanner of authority over such, as are not associated with them in theirecclesiastical communion; I say these have no right to be tolerated bythe magistrate; as neither those that will not own and teach the dutyof tolerating all men in matters of mere religion. For what do allthese and the like doctrines signify, but that they may, and are readyupon any occasion to seize the government, and possess themselves ofthe estates and fortunes of their fellow-subjects; and that they onlyask leave to be tolerated by the magistrate so long, until they findthemselves strong enough to effect it.
Again: That church can have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate, which is constituted upon such a bottom, that all those whoenter into it, do thereby ipso facto,deliver themselves up to theprotection and service of another prince. For by this means themagistrate would give way to the settling of a foreign jurisdiction inhis own country, and suffer his own people to be lifted, as it were,for soldiers against his own government. Nor does the frivolous andfallacious distinction between the court and the church afford anyremedy to this inconvenience; especially when both the one and theother are equally subject to the absolute authority of the same person;who has not only power to persuade the members of his church towhatsoever he lists, either as purely religious, or as in orderthereunto, but can also enjoyn it them on pain of eternal fire. It isridiculous for any one to profess himself to be a Mahumetanonly in hisreligion, but in every thing else a faithful subject: to a Christianmagistrate, whilst at the same time he acknowledges himself bound toyield blind obedience to the Mufti of Constantinople; who himself is entirely obedient to the Ottoman emperor, and frames the feignedoracles of that religion according to his pleasure. But this Mahumetanliving amongst Christians, would yet more apparently renounce their government, if heacknowledged the same person to be head of his church, who is the supreme magistrate in the state.
Lastly, Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny thebeing of aGod. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of humansociety, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, tho’but even in thought, dissolves all. Besides also, those that by theiratheism undermine and destroy all religion, can have no pretence ofreligion whereupon to challenge the privilege of a toleration. As forother practical opinions, tho’ not absolutely free from all error, yetif they do not tend to establish domination over others, or civilimpunity to the church in which they are taught, there can be no reasonwhy they should not be tolerated.
It remains that I say something concerning those assemblies, whichbeing vulgarly called, and perhaps having sometimes been conventicles,andnurseries of factions and seditions, are thought to afford thestrongest matter of objection against this doctrine of toleration. Butthis has not happened by any thing peculiar unto the genius of suchassemblies, but by the unhappy circumstances of an oppressed orill-settled liberty. These accusations would soon cease, if the law oftoleration were once so settled, that all churches were obliged to laydown toleration as the foundation of their own liberty; and teach thatliberty of conscience is every man’s natural right, equally belongingto dissenters as to themselves; and that no body ought to be compelledin matters of religion either by law or force. The establishment ofthis one thing would take away all ground of complaints and tumultsupon account of conscience. And these causes of discontents andanimosities being once removed, there would remain nothing in theseassemblies that were not more peaceable, and less apt to producedisturbance of state, than in any other meetings whatsoever. But let usexamine particularly the heads of these accusations.
You will say, that assemblies and meetings endanger the public peace,and threaten the commonwealth.I answer: if this be so, why are theredaily such numerous meetings in markets, and courts of judicature? Whyare crowds upon the Exchange, and a concourse of people in citiessuffered? You will reply; These are Civil assemblies; but Those weobject against, are ecclesiastical. I answer: it is a likely thingindeed, that such assemblies as are altogether remote from civilaffairs, should be most apt to embroil them. O, but civil assembliesarecomposed of men that differ from one another in matters of religion;but these ecclesiastical meetings are of persons that are all of oneopinion. As if an agreement in matters of religion, were in effect aconspiracy against the commonwealth; or as if men would not be so muchthe more warmly unanimous in religion, the less liberty they had ofassembling. But it will be urged still, that civil assemblies are open,and free for any one to enter into; whereas religious conventicles aremore private, and thereby give opportunity to clandestinemachinations. I answer, that this is not strictly true: for many civilassemblies are not open to every one. And if some religious meetings beprivate, who are they, I beseech you, that are to be blamed for it?those that desire, or those that forbid their being public? Again;you will say, that religious communion does exceedingly unite mensminds and affections to one another,and is therefore the more dangerous. But if this be so, why is not themagistrate afraid of his own church; and why does he not forbid theirassemblies, as things dangerous to his government? You will say,because he himself is a part, and even the head of them. As if he werenot also a part of the commonwealth, and the head of the whole people.
Let us therefore deal plainly. The magistrate is afraid of otherchurches, but not of his own; because he is kind and favourable to theone, but severe and cruel to the other. These he treats like children,and indulges them even to wantonness. Those he uses as slaves; and howblamelessly soever they demean themselves, recompenses them nootherwisethan by gallies, prisons, confiscations and death. These he cherishesand defends: those he continually scourges and oppresses. Let him turnthe tables: or let those dissenters enjoy but the same privileges incivils as his other subjects, and he will quickly find that thesereligious meetings will be no longer dangerous. For if men enter intoseditious conspiracies, it is not religion inspires them to it in theirmeetings; but their sufferings and oppressions that make them willingto ease themselves. Just and moderate governments are every wherequiet, every where safe. But oppression raises ferments, and makes menstruggle to cast off an uneasy and tyrannical yoke. I know thatseditions are very frequently raised upon pretence of religion. But itis as true, that, for religion, subjects are frequently ill treated,and live miserably. Believe me, the stirs that are made, proceed notfrom any peculiar temper of this or that church or religious society;but from the common disposition of all mankind, who when they groanunder any heavy burthen, endeavour naturally to shake off the yoke thatgalls their necks. Suppose this business of religion were let alone,and that there were some other distinction made between men andmen, upon account of their different complexions, shapes, and features,so that those who have black hair, for example, or grey eyes, shouldnot enjoy the same privileges as other citizens; that they should notbe permitted either to buy or sell, or live by their callings; thatparents should not have the government and education of their ownchildren; that they should either be excluded from the benefit of thelaws, or meet with partial judges; can it be doubted but these persons,thus distinguished from others by the colour of their hair andeyes, and united together by one common persecution, would be asdangerous to the magistrate, as any others that had associatedthemselves merely upon the account of religion? Some enter intocompany for trade and profit: others, for want of business, have theirclubs for claret. Neighbourhood joins some, and religion others. Butthere is one only thing which gathers people into seditiouscommotions, and that is oppression.
You will say; what, will you have people to meet at divine serviceagainst the magistrate’s will? I answer; why, I pray against hiswill?Is it not both lawful and necessary that they should meet? Against hiswill, do you say? That is what I complain of. That is the very rootof all the mischief. Why are assemblies less sufferable in a churchthanin a theatre or market? Those that meet there are not either morevicious, or more turbulent, than those that meet elsewhere. Thebusiness in that is, that they are ill used, and therefore they arenot to be suffered. Take away the partiality that is used towards themin matters of common right; change the laws, take away thepenalties unto which they are subjected, and all things willimmediately become safe and peaceable: nay, those that are averse tothe religion of the magistrate, will think themselves so much the morebound to maintain the peace of the commonwealth, as their condition isbetter in that place than elsewhere; and all the several separatecongregations, like so many guardians of the public peace, will watchone another, that nothing may be innovated or changed in the form ofthe government: because they can hope for nothing better than what theyalready enjoy ; that is, an equal condition with their fellow-subjects,under a just and moderate government. Now if that church, which agreesin religion with the prince, be esteemed the chief support of any civilgovernment, and that for no other reason, as has already been shewn,than because the prince is kind, and the laws are favourable to it; howmuch greater will be the security of a government, where all goodsubjects, of whatsoever church they be, without any distinction uponaccount of religion, enjoying the fame favour of the prince, and thefame benefit of the laws, fhall become the common support and guard ofit j and where none will have any occasion to fear the severity of thelaws, but those that do injuries to their neighbours, and offendagainst the civil peace?
That we may draw towards a conclusion. The sum of all we drive at is,that every man may enjoy the same rights that are granted to others. Isit permitted to worship God in the Roman manner? Let it be permittedto do it in the Geneva form also. Is it permitted to speak Latinin themarket-place? Let those that have a mind to it, be permitted to do italso in the church. Is it lawful for any man in his own house to kneel,stand, sit, or use any other posture; and to cloath himself in white orblack, in short or in long garments? Let it not be made unlawful toeat bread, drink wine, or wash with water in the church. In a word:whatsoever things are left free by law in the common occasions of life,let them remain free unto every church in divine worship. Let no man’slife, or body, or house, or estate, suffer any manner of prejudice uponthese accounts. Can you allow of the Presbyterian discipline? why should not the Episcopal also have what they like? Ecclesiasticalauthority, whether it be administered by the hands of a single person,or many, is every where the same; and neither has any jurisdiction inthings civil, nor any manner of power of compulsion, nor any thing atall to do with riches and revenues.
Ecclesiasticalassemblies, and sermons, are justified by daily experience, and publicallowance. Theseare allowed to people of some one persuasion: why not to all? If anything pass in a religious meeting seditiously, and contrary to thepublic peace, it is to be punished in the same manner, and nootherwise, than as if it had happened in a fair or market. Thesemeetings ought not to be sanctuaries for factious and flagitiousfellows: nor ought it to be less lawful for men to meet in churchesthan in halls: nor are one part of the subjects to be esteemedmore blameable, for their meeting together, than others. Every one isto be accountable for his own actions; and no man is to be laid undera suspicion, or odium, for the fault of another. Those that areseditious, murderers, thieves, robbers, adulterers, slanderers, etc. ofwhatsoever church, whether national or not, ought to be punished andsuppressed. But those whose doctrine is peaceable, and whose mannersare pureand blameless, ought to be upon equal terms with their fellow-subjects.Thus if solemn assemblies, observations of festivals, public worship,be permitted to any one sort of professors; all these things ought tobe permitted to the Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists,Arminians, Quakers, and others, with the fame liberty. Nay, if we mayopenly speak the truth, and as becomes one man to another, neitherPagan nor Mahumetan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civilrights of the commonwealth, because of his religion. The Gospelcommands no such thing. The church, which judgeth not those that arewithout, 1 Cor. V. wants it not. And the commonwealth, which embracesindifferently all men that are honest, peaceable and industrious,requires it not. Shall we suffer a pagan to deal and trade with us, and shall we not suffer him to pray unto and worship God? If we allow theJews to have private houses and dwellings amongst us, why should we notallow them to have synagogues? Is their doctrine more false, their worship more abominable, or is the civil peace more endangered, bytheir meeting in public than, in their private houses? But if thesethings may be granted to Jews and Pagans, surely the condition of any Christians ought not to be worse than theirs in a Christiancommonwealth.
You will say, perhaps, yes, it ought to be: because they are moreinclinable to factions, tumults, and civil wars. I answer: is this thefault of the Christian religion? If it be so, truly the Christianreligion is the worst of all religions, and ought neither to beembraced by any particular person, nor tolerated by any commonwealth.For if this be the genius, this the nature of the Christian religion,to be turbulent, and destructive to the civil peace, that church itselfwhich the magistrate indulges, will not always be innocent. But far beit from us to say any such thing of that religion, which carries the greatest opposition to covetousness, ambition, discord, contention,and all manner of inordinate desires; and is the most modest andpeaceable religion that ever was. We must therefore seek another causeof those evils that are charged upon religion. And if we confiderright, we shall find it to consist wholly in the subject that I amtreating of. It is not the diversity of opinions, which cannot beavoided, but the refusal of toleration to those that are of differentopinions, which might have been granted, that has produced all thebustles and wars, that have been in the Christian world, upon accountof religion. The heads and leaders of the church, moved by avarice andinsatiable desire of dominion, making use of the immoderate ambitionof magistrates, and the credulous superstition of the giddy multitude,have incensed and animated them against those that dissent from themselves; by preaching unto them, contrary to the laws of the Gospel, and to the precepts of charity, that schismatics and hereticsare to be outed of their possessions, and destroyed. And thus have theymixed together, and confounded two things, that are in themselves mostdifferent, the church and the commonwealth. Now as it is very difficultfor men patiently to suffer themselves to be stript of the goods, whichthey have got by their honest industry; and contrary to all the laws ofequity, both human and divine, to be delivered up for a prey to othermens violence and rapine; especially when they are otherwisealtogether blameless; and that the occasion for which they arethus treated, does not at all belong to the jurisdiction of the magistrate, but intirely to the conscience of every particular man;for the conduct of which he is accountable to God only; what else canbe expected, but that these men, growing weary of the evils under whichthey labour, should in the end think it lawful for them to resist forcewith force, and to defend their natural rights, which are notforfeitable upon account of religion, with arms as well as they can?That this has been hitherto the ordinary course of things, isabundantly evident in history: and that it will continue to be sohereafter, is but too apparent in reason. It cannot indeed be otherwise, so long as the principle of persecution for religion shallprevail, as it has done hitherto, with magistrate and people; and solong as those that ought to be the preachers of peace and concord, shall continue, with all their art and strength, to excite men to arms,and sound the trumpet of war. But that magistrates should thus suffer these incendiaries, and disturbers of the public peace, might justly bewondered at, if it did not appear that they have been invited by themunto a participation of the spoil, and have therefore thought fit tomake use of their covetousness and pride, as means whereby to increasetheir own power. For who does not see that these good men are indeedmore ministers of the government, than ministers of the Gospel: andthat by flattering the ambition, and favouring the dominion of princesand men in authority, they endeavour with all their might to promotethat tyranny in the commonwealth, which otherwise they should not beable to establish in the church? This is the unhappy agreement that we see between the church and state. Whereas if each of them would contain itself within its own bounds, the one attending to the worldly welfareof the commonwealth, the other to the salvation of souls, it is impossible that any discord should ever have happened between them.Sed pudet haec opprobria, etc. God Almighty grant, I beseech him, thatthe Gospel of peace may at length be preached, and that civil magistrates, growing more careful to conform their own consciences tothe law of God, and less solicitous about the binding of other mens consciences by human laws, may, like fathers of their country, directall their counsels and endeavours to promote universally the civilwelfare of all their children; except only of such as are arrogant,ungovernable, and injurious to their brethren; and that allecclesiastical men, who boast themselves to be the successors of the Apostles, walking peaceably and modestly in the Apostles steps, withoutintermeddling with state-affairs, may apply themselves wholly topromote the salvation of souls. Farewel.
Perhaps it may not be amiss to add a few things concerning heresy and schlsm. A Turk is not, nor can be either heretic or schismatic, to a Christian: and if any man fall off from the Christian faith toMahumetifm, he does not thereby become a heretic or schismatic, but anapostate and an infidel. This no body doubts of. And by this it appearsthat men of different religions cannot be heretics or schismatics toone another.
Weare to enquire therefore, what men are of the same religion.Concerning which, it is manifest that those who have one and the samerule of faith and worship, are of the same religion: and those who havenot the same rule of faith and worship, are of different religions. Forsinceall things that belong unto that religion are contained in that rule,it follows necessarily, that those who agree in one rule are of one andthe same religion: and vice versa. Thus Turks and Christians are ofdifferent religions: because these take the Holy Scriptures to be therule of their religion, and those the Koran. And for the same reason,there may be different religions also even amongst Christians. ThePapists and the Lutherans, though both of them profess faith in Christ,and are therefore called Christians, yet are not both of the samereligion: because these acknowledge nothing but the Holy Scriptures tobe the rule and foundation of their religion; those take inalso traditions and the decrees of popes, and of all these together makethe rule of their religion. And thus the Christians of St. John asthey are called, and the Christians of Geneva are of differentreligions: because these also take only the Scriptures; and those, Iknow not what traditions, for the rule of their religion.
This being settled, it follows; First, That heresie is a separationmade in ecclesiastical communion between men of the same religion, for some opinions no way contained in the rule itself. And Secondly, That amongst those who acknowledge nothing but the Holy Scriptures to betheir rule of faith, heresie is a separation made in their Christiancommunion, for opinions not contained in the express words ofScripture.
Now this separation may be made in a twofold manner.
First. When the greater part, or, by the magistrate’spatronage, the stronger part, of the church separates itself fromothers, by excludingthem out of her communion, because they will not profess their beliefof certain opinions which are not to be found in the express words ofScripture. For it is not the paucity of those that are separated, northe authority of the magistrate, that can make any man guilty ofheresie. But he only is an heretic who divides the church into parts,introduces names and marks of distinction, and voluntarily makes aseparation because of such opinions.
Secondly. When any one separates himself from the communion of achurch, because that church does not publicly profess some certain opinions which the Holy Scriptures do not expressly teach.
Both these are heretics, because they err in fundamentals and they errobstinately against knowledge.For when they have determined the HolyScriptures, to be the only foundation of faith, they nevertheless laydown certain propositions as fundamental, which are not in theScripture; and because others will not acknowledge these additionalopinions of theirs, nor build upon them as if they were necessary andfundamental, they therefore make a separation in the church; either bywithdrawing themselves from the others, or expelling the others fromthem. Nor does it signify any thing for them to say that theirconfessions and symboles are agreeable to Scripture, and to theanalogy of faith. For if they be conceived in the express words ofScripture, there can be no question about them; because those areacknowledged by all Christians to be of divine inspiration, andtherefore fundamental. But if they say that the articles which theyrequire to be professed, are consequences deduced from the Scripture;it is undoubtedly well done of them to believe and profess such thingsas seem unto them so agreeable to the rule of faith: but it would bevery ill done to obtrude those things upon others, unto whom they donot seem to be the indubitable doctrines of the Scripture. And to makea separation for such things as these, which neither are nor can befundamental, is to become heretics. For I do not think there is any manarrived to that degree of madness, as that he dare give out hisconsequences and interpretations of Scripture as divine inspirations,and compare the articles of faith that he has framed according to hisown fancy with the authority of the Scripture. I know there are somepropositions so evidently agreeable to Scripture, that no body can denythem to be drawn from thence: but about those therefore there can beno difference. This only I say, that however cleanly we may think thisor the other doctrine to be deduced from Scripture, we ought nottherefore to impose it upon others, as a necessary article of faith,because we believe it to be agreeable to the rule of faith; unless wewould be content also that other doctrines should be imposed upon us inthe same manner; and that we should be compelled to receive and professall the different and contradictory opinions of Lutherans, Calvinists,Remonstrants, Anabaptists, and other sects, which the contrivers of symbols, systems, and confessions, are accustomed to deliver unto theirfollowers as genuine and necessary deductions from the Holy Scripture.I cannot but wonder at the extravagant arrogance of those men who thinkthat they themselves can explain things necessary to salvation moreclearly than the Holy Ghost, the eternal and infinite wisdom of God.
Thus much concerning heresie; which word in common use is applied onlyto the doctrinal part of religion. Let us now consider schism,which is a crime near a-kin to it. For both those words seem unto me to signify an ill-grounded separation in ecclesiastical communion, madeabout things not necessary. But since use, which is the supreme law inmatter of language, has determined that heresie relates to errors infaith, and schism to those in worship or discipline, we must confiderthem under that distinction.
Schismthen, for the same reasons that have already been alledged, isnothing else but a separation made in the communion of the church, uponaccount of something in divine worship, or ecclesiastical discipline,that is not any necessary part of it. Now nothing in worship ordiscipline can be necessary to Christian communion, but what Christ ourlegislator, or the Apostles, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, havecommanded in express words.
In a word: he that denies not any thing that the Holy Scripturesteach in express words, nor makes a separation upon occasion of anything that is not manifestly contained in the sacred text; however hemay be nick-named by any sect of Christians, and declared by some, orall of them, to be utterly void of true Christianity; yet in deed andin truth this man cannot be either a heretic or schismatic.
These things might have been explained more largely, and moreadvantageously; but it is enough to have hinted at them, thus briefly,to a person of your parts.
* The original document utilized the “medial s” so that each “s” was incorrectly rendered as “f” by Google’s optical character recognition. No doubt many errors of this sort escaped correction. Other grammatical and spelling archaisms were intentionally left intact. The only alteration is the addition of bolding to emphasize structure. All italics are preserved from the original.