It's sometimes a disadvantage to reason with People of shallow Understandings; for be their Intention ever so honest, they shall wrangle about a thousand things solidly prov'd, for want of comprehending the Force of an Argument. Whereas there is this satisfaction in having to deal with great Wits, if they be but sincere, that taking the stress of the Difficulty at first sight, they own they are struck with it, and avow the Justness of the Consequences objected against them: whereupon they presently put themselves in a position of Defence, without amusing the Bar by Disputes upon a thousand Incidents and accessory Distinctions, whether resulting from their Doctrine or no. Your Disputants of a lower form fly to a world of vain Shifts and Doubles, when pressed upon the Consequences of the literal Sense; the reason is, that they have not a clear Notion of the Arguments, or, if they have, are loth to give their Adversary the pleasure of owning they are convinc'd: but others more sincere and more penetrating answer off-hand, That how just soever the Perse cutions of the Orthodox against Sectarys be, Sectarys can never be justify'd in persecuting the Orthodox, altho they shou'd believe them to be in a false way, and look on themselves as the only Orthodox. Let's see with what ground this can be said.
In order to confute it, I lay down the Position, That whatever a Conscience well directed allows us to do for the Advancement of Truth, an erroneous Conscience will warrant for advancing a suppos'd Truth. This Position I shall make out and illustrate.
I don't believe and one will contest the Truth of this Principle, Whatever is done against the Dictates of Conscience is Sin; for it is so very evident, that Conscience is a Light dictating that such a thing is good or bad, that it is not probable any one will dispute the Definition. It is no less evident, that every reasonable Creature which judges upon any Action as good or bad, supposes there's some Rule of the Seemliness and Turpitude of Actions; and if he's not an Atheist, if he believe any Religion, he necessarily supposes this Rule and Law to be founded in the Nature of God: Whence I conclude it is the same thing to say, My Conscience judges such an Action to be good or bad; and to say, My Conscience judges that such an Action is pleasing or displeasing to God. To me these Proportions seem allow'd by all the world, as much as any of the clearest Principles of Metaphysicks. This which follows is equally true; Whoever knows such an Action is evil and displeasing to God, and yet commits it, wilfully offends and disobeys God: And whoever wilfully offends and disobeys God, is necessarily guilty of Sin. In like manner this Proposition is evident, That whoever does a thing which his Conscience tells him is evil, or omits that which his Conscience tells him he ought to do, commits a Sin.
Such a Man does not only commit a Sin, but I further affirm, that all things being in other respects equal, his Sin is the heinousest that can be committed: for supposing an Equality in the outward Act, as in the Motion of the Hand which runs a Sword thro a man's Body, and in the Act of the Will directing this Motion; supposing also an Equality in the passive Subject of this Action, that is, an equal Dignity in the Person slain: I say the Murder shall be a Sin so much the greater, as the degree of Knowledge against which it is committed is greater. For which reason, if two Sons shou'd each kill his Father, precisely with all the same Circumstances, except that one had only a confus'd Knowledge of its being a Sin, the other a very distinct Sense of it, and actually reflected on the Enormity as he struck the Dagger into his Father's Heart; this latter wou'd be guilty of Sin incomparably more heinous, and more punishable in the sight of God than the other. This, I think, is another Proposition which can't be contested.
But I go still further, and say, that a Sin does not only become the greatest that can be in its kind, by being committed against the greatest degree of Knowledge, but also that of two Actions, one of which we call good, the other bad, the good being done against the Instincts of Conscience, is a greater Sin than the bad Action done from the Instincts of Conscience. I shall explain by self by an Example.
We call giving an Alms to a Beggar a good Action, and repulsing him with ill words an ill Action. Yet I maintain, that a Man who shou'd give a Beggar an Alms in certain circumstances, his Con science suggesting that he ought not to give, and he acquiescing in the good or bad Judgment of his Conscience, wou'd be guilty of a worse Action, than he who sent away a Beggar with hard words in circumstances where his Conscience suggested, from Reasons which he judg'd well of, that he ought to turn him away with this ill usage. Mark well what I lay down; I don't content my self with saying, that Conscience barely suggests either not to give an Alms, or to give hard Words; I add, that it passes a definitive Judgment in which we acquiesce; that is, we agree this Judgment is reasonable. 'Tis one thing to have Surmises presented from Conscience, which we presently reject either as false or doubtful, and another thing to assent from our Judgment, and acquiesce in its Representations. To commit an Action under the bare Surmises which Conscience suggests against it, without passing its definitive Sentence, is not ceteris paribus [i.e., other things being equal] so bad an Action, as doing it in contempt of that Sentence. And that it is possible to act in contempt of the last Judgment of Conscience, who that considers it will deny?
A Passenger [i.e. passer by] looks at a Beggar; he sees he's a Cheat, or an idle Fellow that might get an honest Livelihood if he wou'd work, a Sot who squanders all he gets: hereupon his Reason suggests, that he ought not to relieve him, that 'twere encouraging him in his Idleness, that 'twere better keep this Charity for a proper Object. In a word, this Reason, or if you's rather call it Conscience, pronounces this Judgment, It's a sin to give this Beggar an Alms. Yet after all, this very Person trifles with his own Conscience, and bestows his Charity on the Wretch, either that he is not us'd to govern himself by the Dictates of his Conscience, or out of mere Caprice, or mov'd by some pitiful posture of the Beggar, or because such a one's passing by, or for any other like Consideration working on him at that moment. If Persons who have a thousand good Qualitys, Moral and Christian, are daily guilty of Fornication, tho' Conscience pronounces it a Sin by a formal and definitive Judgment; shall we doubt but a Man may give an Alms in contempt of a fix'd Judgment of his Conscience, suggesting that he ought not to give in such and such circumstances?
Let's now compare the Action of this Giver of Alms, with that of another Man who sends a Beggar away because his Conscience tells him he is a Rogue, a Cheat, a Varlet, who is much likelier to be reclaim'd by ill usage, than by relieving him in his necessity; and I affirm, tho we shou'd suppose each in an error as to fact, that the Action of the former is worse than that of the latter: and thus I prove it.
The Action of the former supposing an Error of Fact, includes these four Circumstances.
1. A Person who begs an Alms from real Necessity, and who fears God.
2. A Judgment of the Reason suggesting he's a Rogue and a Cheat, either purely from his Looks, or because the Party mistakes him for another notoriously wicked Beggar.
3. A fix'd and definitive Sentence of Conscience, pronouncing it a thing displeasing to God to relieve such a Varlet, since it can only serve to confirm him in his Vices; whereas the exposing him to Want might possibly reclaim him.
4. The bestowing the Alms on this very Beggar.
Let's now consider the Action of the other. We find likewise four Circumstances attending it, supposing an Error in Fact.
The three first Circumstances already laid down, which are common to both; and in the fourth place, the hard words with which he dismisses the Beggar.
To prove that the Action of the first is worse than that of the second, it will be sufficient if I make out these two things: (1) That there is some degree of moral Goodness in the Action of the second, but not the least shadow of it in that of the first. (2) That the Evil on that side is much less than on this.
As to the first of these Cases, I wou'd desire those who have a mind to dispute this Point, to shew me, wherein conflicts the moral Goodness of his Action, who in the mention'd Circumstances gives a poor Body an Alms. It can't lie in the Judgment of his Reason, nor in that of his Conscience, which are both erroneous; it must lie then, if any such be, in the very Act of bestowing his Charity: but it's plain, there's not the least Dram of Goodness in this, because all who understand any thing of moral Actions are unanimously agreed, that giving an Alms, consider'd as it's barely the conveying of a Penny from the pocket into a Man's hand, is no morally good Action; as it manifests from hence, that the Spring of a Machine accidentally jerking a piece of Gold into a Beggar's cap wou'd be an Action void of the least grain of moral Goodness.
To the end that an Alms be a good Work, its absolute necessary it be done by the direction of Reason and Conscience, representing it as a Duty. Now nothing of this occurs in the case in question: and therefore there's not the least degree of moral Goodness in the Act.
We can't say so of the second Act, because it's allow'd on all hands, that all Homage paid to Conscience, all Submission to the Judgment and Sentence of a man's own Mind, is an instance of his Regard to the Eternal Law, and of his Reverence for the Divinity, whose Voice he recognizes at the Tribunal of his Conscience. In a word, he who performs any Action because he believes it well-pleasing to God, testifies in general, at least that he desires to please God, and to obey his Will. And the very Desire cannot be destitute of all moral Goodness.
As to the second Case, I say that the Evil of his Action, who bestows an Alms in the foremention'd Circumstances, consists in this, that he spurns the fixt and definitive Sentence of his Conscience; and that the Evil of the others Action conflicts in his snubbing a poor Man. I maintain that this, in the present Circumstances, is a less Sin than the other.
For can a Man act contrary to the Dictates of his Conscience, without an intention of doing what he knows is displeasing to God? And is not this a Contempt of God, a Rebellion, upon Knowledge, Choice and Approbation, against his adorable Majesty? And willing a Sin acknowledg'd as such, willing a Transgression against God clearly and distinctly known, is it not the most crying Iniquity, and Malice, and Corruption of Heart?
'Tis quite otherwise with him who gives a Beggar hard words, taking him for an errand Mumper, and a Fellow that needs Reproof to bring him to good. The Evil he does, proceeds not from a Desire or fixt Purpose of doing evil, of disobeying God, of thwarting the Ideas of Rectitude, and trampling under foot immutable Order: It proceeds only from Ignorance, only from a wrong Choice of the Means and Manner of obeying God. He was under a mistaken Opinion, that this Beggar was unworthy of his Charity, and that Repulses and Disgrace were the likeliest means of reclaiming him. This was the Dictate of his Conscience, and he comply'd with it. The Evil which appears in this Slight of the poor Man, and which is not inconsistent with an actual Desire at the same time of obeying the Law of God, is it to be compar'd with an Evil which actually excludes the Desire of pleasing God, and brings into its room an Act of known Disobedience?
I own the reviling our Neighbor is not only forbidden, and the grieving the Poor a very great Sin; but that we also suppose, the poor Man here abus'd and insulted is in fact one that fears God: I own it, yet still I maintain that this Man fearing God, not having bin insulted as such, seeing he was taken for a Vagabond, the Sin of the Person who insulted him must be resolv'd into a precipitate Judgment only, and a believing upon false appearances that this Beggar was a very ill Man. Now every one will allow, that not having temper to examine things duly, is a much more venial Sin than formally and actually willing to commit what the Party believes to be a Sin.
Some may complain, that I make very sight of the hard words given to this honest Man the Beggar. I answer, that hard words consider'd simply as consisting of articulate Sounds can't make a Sinner; else we must say that the Bulrushes in the Fable, whose rusille and murmur disclos'd poor Midas's shame, were guilty of a Sin, if what they tell of them were true. We must say, a Pair of Organs committed a Sin, if by any Motion of the Air of Water it shou'd happen to form Sounds injurious to a Man's Reputation, which is extremely absurd. Abusive Language from a Man in a raving Fever, or in a Tongue he does not understand, passes for nothing: It offends only in proportion to the Speaker's known Intention of giving offence by it; and if he be known to mistake one Man for another, the Affront lights on him who was in his intention, and not on him whom he address'd himself to by mistake. Let any one examine the Case as I have stated it, he'l find, that all the Evil of the Action is resolv'd into too great a facility of believing upon false Reasons, that the Beggar was the Person which he really was not.
As to the Good inhering in his Action who gives the alms, an Action which after all relieves the wants of a poor Servant of God, whereas harsh Language adds to his Sufferings, I don't think it ought to be brought into the account; the rather, because it's at best only a physical Good or Evil, which confers no moral Worth on Actions, father than it might possibly have enter'd into the Intention. For example, to refuse an Alms in Circumstances where the Party knows that the bestowing it will draw on numberless Advantages, by the Combination of various Causes and Effects, and the refusing it be follow'd by a long train of Calamitys on the Person who implores it; is much a greater Sin than refusing it in Circumstances where none of these Events are in the Party's view. But it's certain, that the good or evil Consequences of our Actions avail not in the sight of God towards justifying or condemning us, when we don't act from a direct design of procuring these Consequences. It's plain then, that all things conspire to resolve the Fault of him who revil'd the Beggar, into a simple lack of Examination and Attention; and consequently, that his refusal of the Charity, and his harsh words under these Circumstances, are a less evil Action, than the other's bestowing an Alms. Which was the thing to be prov'd.
I add, that if when there's an Error in the Conscience as well of him who governs himself by its Dictates, as of him who acts directly counter to them, the Action of the latter is worse than that of the former, tho otherwise it had bin good, and the other bad; by as much stronger reason ought this to be so, when there's no Error in the Conscience of him who follows not its Dictates. To comprehend this, we need not go farther than the Example of our two Men, and only suppose that the Beggar who addresses himself to the first is really a Vagabond, a Drunkard, a Cheat, a Villain; and the Beggar, who addresses himself to the second, is a very honest Man. Let's leave the Supposition in all other respects exactly as it was. What will follow? Why this; that the Judgment of the Reason and Conscience of the first is just and reasonable: and then our Adversarys themselves will judg that the bestowing his Charity on a very unworthy Object, and certainly known to be such, will be much more blamable than it was before, when suppos'd to fall to an honest Man's lot.
But wither does all this long Preamble tend, these Turnings and Twistings of the Argument? To this; That an erroneous Conscience challenges [i.e. claims] all the same Prerogatives, Favors, and Assistances for an Error, as an Orthodox Conscience can challenge for the Truth. This appears somewhat far fetch'd; but I shall now make the Dependance and Connexion of these Doctrines appear.
My Principles allow'd by all the World, or just now prov'd are these:
1. That the Will of disobeying God is a Sin.
2. That the Will of disobeying the fixt and definitive Sentence of Conscience, is the same thing as willing to transgress the Law of God.
3. Consequently, that whatever is done against the Dictate of Conscience is a Sin.
4. That the greatest Turpitude of Sin, where things are in other respects equal, arises from the greatest Knowledge of the Fact's being a Sin.
5. That an Action which wou'd be incontestably good (giving an Alms for example) if done by the direction of Conscience, becomes worse by being done against its direction, than another Action done according to the direction of Conscience, which wou'd be incontestably sinful (as reviling a poor Man for example) if done against its direction.
6. The doing a thing which we call evil, from the Dictates of Conscience, tho in reality erroneous, renders this Action much less evil, than another Action of the nature of those which we call good, done against the Dictate of Conscience suppos'd to be truly inform'd.
From all these Principles I may reasonably conclude, that the first and most indispensable of all our Obligations, is that of never acting against the Instincts of Conscience; and that every Action done against the Lights of Conscience is essentially evil: So that as the Law of loving God can never be dispens'd with, because the hating God is an Act essentially evil; so the Law of never violating the Lights of our Conscience is such as God himself can never dispense with; for asmuch as this were in reality indulging us in the Contempt or Hatred of himself, Acts intrinsically and in their own nature criminal. There is therefore an eternal and immutable Law, obliging Man, upon pain of incurring the Guilt of the most heinous mortal Sin that can be committed, never to do any thing in violation and in despite of Conscience.
Hence it manifestly and demonstratively follows, if the eternal Law, or any positive Law of God requires that he who is convinc'd of the Truth shou'd employ Fire and Sword to establish it in the World; that all Men ought to employ Fire and Sword for the establishing their own Religion. I understand all those to whom this Law of God is reveal'd.
For the moment this Law of God were reveal'd, 'It's my will that you employ Fire and Sword for the establishing the Truth', Con science wou'd dictate to the several opposite Partys, that they ought to employ Fire and Sword for establishing that Religion which themselves profess; because they know no other Truth but this, nor any way of executing the Order of God, but that of acting for their own Religion; and must believe they acted in favor of Falsehood, and consequently fall into a Transgression of the Divine Law, if they labor'd the Advancement of any Religion but their own. It's plain then, that Conscience wou'd apply the Command of God, for the establishing the Truth, to each Party's own Religion.
Now since, as I have already prov'd, the greatest of all Iniquitys is that of not following the Lights of Conscience; and since Order immutable and the Law eternal indispensably require, that we shou'd above all things avoid the greatest of all Iniquitys, and all Acts essentially evil; it follows,
That by the first, the most inviolable and most indispensable of all our Obligations, each Person to whom God reveal'd the foresaid Law, ought to employ Fire and Sword for the establishing his own Religion; the Socinian for his, as well as the Calvinist, the Papist, the Nestorian, the Eutychian for theirs. For shou'd a Socinian, after such a general Law of God, stand with his Arms folded, and not employ those means for establishing the Truth which God had appointed, he must act against Conscience; and this, ceteris paribus, must be the greatest of all Sins: and every one is indispensably oblig'd above all things to avoid the greatest of Sins; then the Socinian wou'd be oblig'd indispensably to employ Fire and Sword for the propagation of his Doctrines; oblig'd, I say, in virtue of an eternal Law, which enjoins every reasonable Creature to fly Sin, and especially the greatest of Sins.
The better to make our Adversarys comprehend the Force of my Argument, I desire to know what they wou'd have a Socinian do, upon a plain and express Revelation with regard to him, as well as to the Orthodox, of such a Law as this; 'It is my will, that Fire and Sword be employ'd for the establishing the Truth'. Wou'd they have him, when persuaded there's no other Doctrine in matter of Religion true but that which he teaches, rest satisf'd in the private Belief of it by himself or in his own Family, without employing the means Providence might put into his hands for extirpating the Religions, which he believ'd God had commanded him to destroy? But in this case he manifestly falls into a Contempt of the Law of God, and a Violation of his first and most essential Duty, which is a greater Sin than executing in behalf of Socinianism what he believ'd to be the Law of God: for here God wou'd be witness of a sincere regard to his Laws, and a desire in his Soul of obeying him; whereas he must see quite the contrary Dispositions if he did not exert himself against the other Religions. This therefore wou'd be advising the Socinian to chuse between two States that which must render him most criminal in the sight of God. Now the very counselling this were a most wicked and abominable thought. It's plain then, that as the Socinian must have a choice between these three things, either to establish his Heresy by Fire and Sword, or not give himself the least trouble about establishing it, or in the last place favor its Ruin; he must of necessity make choice of the first, to avoid either of the other two, as being much the more sinful.
In effect, which way cou'd he excuse himself in the sight of God, if after this suppos'd Command, he shou'd sit down in a slothful Indifference, and not be concern'd whether his Religion spread or not? 'Is this what I commanded you?' might God say to him; 'don't you openly contemn my Authority, and become guilty of the sinful Indifference, of counting it much at one, whether you be in my favor or Displeasure, since you won't make the least step towards obeying what Conscience tell you I have requir'd at your hands?' Reproaches much more harsh wou'd still be more just, if he openly favor'd the Ruin of his own Religion; and no such Re proaches cou'd be made him if he wag'd War with all other Sects: God cou'd reproach him with nothing more in this case, than his having made a wrong Choice of the Object for which he had given him Orders to contend; the Justice of these Reproaches cou'd not obstruct God's seeing a sincere Desire in his Soul (I suppose him a Socinian from a sincere Principle) of obeying him, a regard to Order, a homage paid to the Divine Majesty. It's therefore a matter as incontestable, that the first of these three Demeanors in the Socinian, is the least Evil of all, as that a Master, who order'd his Servants to destroy all the Wolves on his Estate, wou'd think those less to be blam'd, who instead of the Wolves kill'd all the Foxes, either because they mistook one word for another, or, having forgot the Order, fancy'd he meant the Foxes; be the Reason what it will, he wou'd think them less in blame, than those who shou'd never disturb either Wolves or Foxes, or who took the way to preserve them, and multiply the Breed. I go further, and say, that a reasonable Master, who shou'd certainly know, that those Servants of his, who preserv'd the Breed of Wolves, were fully persuaded in their Hearts, that he had given them Orders to destroy them, wou'd think himself more affronted by their Disobedience, than by that of another Party of his Servants, who without any Malice or Design, but purely thro forgetfulness or involuntary mistake of Orders, shou'd destroy all the Rabbits and Hares instead of the Wolves.
Be the Brain of the French Convertists ever so much turn'd, I can't forbear thinking, but there are some among them, who have reason enough left to agree to what I am now going to offer.
That If once it be suppos'd, that God has clearly and distinctly reveal'd a Law to Christians in general, obliging them to exterminate all false Religions by Fire and Sword; a Socinian, who lets the other Sects of Christianity live in quiet, who does not bestir himself to establish his own Religion, or perhaps favors those who are supplanting it, and establishing a different Sect with all their might, cannot be excus'd in his Conduct but upon one or other of the following reasons: Either because he believes the Law in question ought not to be understood in the strictness of the Letter, but has a mythical Meaning which all the World is not oblig'd to dive into; or because he thinks, that the Execution of this Law does not belong to him; or because he is not overcertain, that Socinianism is the true Doctrine; or last of all, because believing any Religion good enough, it's equal to him which is uppermost: he'l for his part look on and let things work, resolv'd to be a Prey to the Conqueror; or perhaps favors one side, tho very opposite to Socinianism, that he may enter the Lists with a better Grace, when this has got the day. These, in my opinion, are all the ways that can be thought on for disculpating a Socinian, who is tardy in propagating his own Religion, after God had reveal'd the suppos'd Law; and consequently he must be wholly inexcusable, or exceedingly criminal, if he maintain'd this Neutrality, or if he prejudic'd his own Sect, while persuaded, 1. That God enjoins propagating the Truth by Fire and Sword; 2. That Socinianism is the Truth.
Supposing him under this double Persuasion, he is inexcusably criminal if he does not persecute all other Sects; he is much more so if he favors any: he can neither forbear acting for his own Sect, nor lend his Assistance to a different Sect, without falling into a Sin against Conscience, of all Sins the most heinous. He is therefore indispensably oblig'd, by the eternal Laws of Order, to avoid this most heinous Sin, by persecuting other Christians according to the Dictates of his Conscience.
Now if once it made appear, that a Right of persecuting, and extirpating Heresys by Fire and Sword, be common, from an indispensable Necessity founded in the Nature of things, to all Religions inform'd of this Law of God, as well as to the true; its plain, that all the other Rights and Privileges of Truth must be common to all kind of Sects, whether true or false. Accordingly no sooner will it be prov'd, that God requires the true Religion shou'd be inflam'd with an ardent Charity for the Conversion of the false that she employ all her Pains, her Books, her Sermons, her Censures, her Caresses, her good Examples, her Presents, etc. for the Reunion of those astray, but presently the false Religions must fall into the same Methods of Conversion; for each Church believing it self the only true, it's impossible it shou'd apprehend, that God commands the true Church to act so and so, without believing it self oblig'd to do the same and if each Sect thinks it self in Conscience oblig'd to this, it wou'd be infinitely worse in them to refrain, or act quite contrary, than execute the Command, be it of the nature it will. For unalterable Order requires, that we shou'd avoid what we know is a heinous Sin, to do that which we know is a good Action, and which at worse, if it be a Sin, must be of a less heinous nature than the other; then every Church is indispensably oblig'd, and has an inalienable right of practising all that she knows God enjoins on the true Church.
We don't therefore, as the Objection which I examine in this Chapter wou'd insinuate, maliciously render the literal Sense of the Parable odious, by supposing it wou'd authorize Persecutions mov'd by the false Religions against the true; this I say, is no false or artificial Supposition, but the true State of the case, as I have fully made appear.
I shall add one Remark more. That if a Religion, persecuted in a Country where it was weakest, shou'd ask her Persecutors, why they employ such violent Methods; and these answer, because God enjoins the true Religion to extirpate Heresy quocunque modo [i.e., in whatever way]; if, I say, by making this Answer, they shou'd happen to persuade the Persecuted that there really was such a command, what wou'd follow? Why this same persecuted Church, finding it self the strongest in another place, might very well say to the Communion which had tormented it in the Country where 'twas uppermost, you have taught me one Lesson that I did not know before, I am oblig'd to you for it; you have shewn me from the Scriptures, that God enjoins the faithful to distress false Communions; I shall therefore fall to persecuting you, seeing I am the true Church, and you Idolaters and false Christians, etc. It's very plain, that the stronger the Arguments be which Persecutors bring to prove that God enjoins Constraint, the smarter Rods they furnish their Adversarys to scourge themselves in another place. Each Party will engross the Proofs, the Command, the Rights of Truth; and authorize its Proceedings by every thing which the really true Religion can offer in its own behalf.
From whence I infer anew, that it's impossible God shou'd allow the Truth's doing any thing to establish it self, which does not de jure belong to all Mankind: for in the present Combinations, and Situation of things, there's an unavoidable Necessity, that all Means which are warrantable in Truth against Error, shou'd be lawful in Error against Truth; and hence, by the same Ordinance dispensing with the general Rule in favor of the true Religion, the breach of it becomes necessary, and a total Confusion ensues.
The only Starting-hole now left our Adversarys is saying, that they allow the false Religions, by an Abuse and criminal Usurpation, may appropriate to themselves what solely belongs to the true Church; but there will always remain this difference between them, that the true Religion constrains with Justice and lawful Authority, but the rest wickedly and without a Right. This we shall speak to in the 10th Chapter.
But before I make an end of this, I shall answer an Objection from a
very common Topick. You did not, they'l tell me, make a fair Enumeration
of ways and means, when you said, the Socinian had but one of three Choices
to make. There's a fourth, and that the only good one, which is changing
to the Truth; and then he may follow the Instincts of his Conscience with
Impunity. This I confess is the better part; but as it cannot be chosen
except on one condition, I maintain, that so long as this condition is
wanting, he must necessarily chuse among the other three. The Condition
I speak of needs not being explain'd. All the World is satisfy'd this is
one, that the Party know the Truth to be the Truth: every Heretick, provided
he knows it, and as soon as he knows it, but not otherwise nor sooner;
for so long as it appears to him a hideous Grotesque of Falshood and Lye,
so long he is not to admit, he is to fly and detest it. The first thing
therefore a Heretick shou'd be desir'd to do, is, to search after Truth,
and not opinionatively pretend he has found it. But if he answer, that
he has searched as much as possible, that all his In quirys have ended,
in making him see more and more, that the Truth is on his own side; and
shou'd he watch day and night, that he never shou'd believe any other thing,
but what's already firmly ingrafted in his Soul, to be the reveal'd Truth;
'twere ridiculous telling him to beware following the Lights of his Conscience,
and think of Conversion. Every one ought to set apart some Portion of his
time for Instruction, and even be ready to renounce what he had believ'd
most true, if it be made appear to him false: but after all one can't be
a Sceptick or Pyrrhonist in Religion all his Life long, he must fix upon
some Principles, and act according to them; and whether he's determin'd
to true or false, 'tis equally evident, that he ought to exercise Acts
of Virtue and Love towards God, and shun that capital Offence of acting
against Conscience. Whence it ap pears, that a Socinian, who has done his
utmost Endeavors towards discovering the Truth, is limited in his Choice
to one of the three things I propos'd. Sending him back eternally to the
fourth, means, that he shou'd spend his whole Life in mere Speculation,
without ever consulting his Conscience to act according to its Lights.
Now this of all Absurditys were surely the greatest....
"If a Man saw his Enemy ready to throw himself down a Precipice in the Paroxisms of a raging Fever, wou'd it not be rendering him evil for evil to let him take his own way, rather than with-hold and bind him hand and foot? Yet this frantick Person wou'd look on such an Act of Goodness and Charity only as an Outrage, and the Effect of Hatred for him: But shou'd he recover his Health and Senses, he must be sensible that the more Violence this mistaken Enemy exercis'd on him, the more he was oblig'd to him. How many have we even of the Circoncellians, who are now become zealous Catholicks, and who had never come to themselves, if we had not procur'd the Laws of our Emperors to bind them hand and foot, as we do Madmen? . . ."
Can any thing be thought of less just at bottom or less solid, than this Comparison of St. Augustine's between a frantick Person bound hand and foot to keep him from throwing himself out at a window, and a Heretick forcibly restrain'd from following the Motions of his Conscience? . . .
A very lame unexact Comparison! because to save the Life of a Mad- man, who is ready to throw himself down a Precipice, it's wholly indifferent whether he consent or no; he's equally preserv'd from the danger with or without his consent, and therefore a wise and charitable Act it is to frustrate his Intentions, and bind him tightly if need be, how great a reluctance soever he shews: but as to the Here tick, there's no doing him any good with regard to Salvation except his Consent be had. They may please themselves with bringing him by force into the Churches, with making him communicate by force, with making him say with his lips, and give under his hand while the Cudgel is over head, that he abjures his Errors, and embraces the Orthodox Faith; so far is this from bringing him nearer to the Kingd om of Heaven, that on the contrary it removes him farther from it. . . .
V. St. Augustine's Words.
"You'l tell me, there are those on whom we don't gain an inch of ground by those methods; I believe it: but must we forgo the Medicine, because there are some incurable Patients?"
If the Donatist propos'd this Objection as weakly as St. Augustine represents, he was but a poor Reasoner. Why wou'd not he represent to this Father the Effects which the Persecutions of the Pagans had in St. Cyprian's days, that of the Emperor Constantius, and the Vigilance of Pliny the younger in his Government of Bythinia? Is it not well known, that very great numbers sunk under the Trials of those days; and ought not one to conclude from thence, that violent methods are very capable of making the Body comply with what the Conscience inwardly disavows, and of filling the persecuting Society with multitudes of the Worldly-minded, Covetous, Hypocrites, Temporizers, whose lot had fallen in the persecuted Party? . . .
I must offer one Remark in this place, which to me seems of some weight. He who makes but the least use of his Reason, is very capable of knowing that all Remedys ought to be adapted to the Nature of the Disease; consequently Error being Distemper of the Soul, requires Applications of a spiritual nature, such as Argument and Instruction. Revelation, far from contradicting this Maxim, confirms and recommends it powerfully: He therefore who makes use of this kind of Remedy towards those in Error, has done his duty; and if he has not bin able to convert Men by this means, he may safely wash his hands of them; he has acquitted himself in the sight of God of the Blood of these Men, and may commit the whole matter to him. Now if after all Arguments and Instructions, our Reason shou'd suggest an Expedient [i.e. method] which appear'd proper for recovering a Man from his Heresy, what must be done in this case? I answer, that if the Expedient be a thing in its own nature indifferent, and which if the worst came to the worst cou'd have no ill consequence he ought forthwith to try it: but if it be a thing pernicious in its Consequences, and tending to force the Person into a Crime for whose sake it was employ'd, I maintain, that in this case it were a very great Sin to offer it. Now all Laws condemning Men to very heavy Punishments who won't change their Religion, are of this nature: for it can't be deny'd but the taking from a Man the Patrimony of his Ancestors, or the Estate he has acquir'd with the Sweat of his Brow, is downright Robbery; or that a Prince who did as much, who went for example to a Fair, and order'd all the Goods and Merchandizes to be swept away, merely because so was his Will and Pleasure, wou'd not be guilty of Rapine and Robbery. The taking away of Man's Goods then, and condemning him to Banishment, are not Actions indifferent in their own nature; they are necessarily Crimes if committed against an innocent Man: and I'm confident 'twill be granted me, that if all the Laws made against the Donatists had bin made against a Sect of Philosophers, who believing all that the Church believes as to Faith and Manners, shou'd hold this particular Opinion, That the proper Object of Logick are Beings not real, but existing in the Mind only; 'twill be granted me, I say, that such Laws enacted against these poor Philosophers, good Subjects and good Christians in other respects, wou'd be not only very ridiculous, but extremely criminal and tyrannical: consequently St. Augustine's Receit [i.e. recipe] is not a thing in its own nature indifferent; and the best that can be said of it, is, that from evil and criminal, unless directed to the good of Religion, it becomes exceeding good and wholesome by being happily apply'd to this end. Its evident on the other hand, that it's a most dangerous Temptation, and that it's morally impossible but Multitudes must be driven by it to act against Conscience. It carries then the two special Characters upon it which ought for ever to exclude it from the business of Conversion; it's criminal in nature before it is entertain'd in the service of Religion; and they who wou'd make use of it find it in the same class with Rapine, Robbery, Tyranny, before they do employ it: and then it's a Snare very likely to plunge the Patient from a less degree of Evil into a greater. . . .
VI. St. Augustine's Words.
"Did we only lift the Rod over them, and not take the pains to instruct them, our Conduct might justly appear tyrannical; but on the other hand, did we content our selves with instructing them, without working on their Fears, they'd ne'er be able to surmount a kind of Listlessness in them, contracted by Use and Custom."
I'll allow St. Augustine, that the joining Instruction to Threats is a lesser Evil than threatning and smiting without offering any Instruction; but here I shall stick, till the Gentlemen Apologists will be pleas'd to answer, if they can, to what was laid down in the first and second Chapters of the second Part of this Commentary, and which amounts to this: 1. That the filling Men with the Fears of temporal Punishments, and with the Hopes of temporal Advantages, is putting them in a very ill state for discerning the true Reasons of things from the false. 2. That joining Threats to Instruction with this condition, that if, at the expiration of a certain term of time, the Persons under Instruction declare they'l continue in their former Persuasion, they shall suffer all the Punishments they were threaten'd with in the utmost rigor; is a Conduct which plainly shews there was a direct, tho somewhat a more remote, Intention of forcing Con science, and plunging them into Acts of Hypocrisy. . . .
VII. St. Augustine's Words.
"All those who sooth an spare us are not therefore our Friends, nor all who chastize us our Enemys: 'Faithful are the Wounds of a Friend, but the Kisses of an Enemy are deceitful'. The Severitys of those who love us are wholesomer than the soft Addresses of those who deceive us; and there's more Charity in taking a man's Bread from him, be he ever so hungry, if while he is full fed he neglects the Dutys of Righteousness, than in spreading his Table with the great Daintys to make him consent to a Sin."
Another Common-Place, and poor vulgar Conceit! All the world has heard of the difference between a Friend and a Flatterer. A Friend is not afraid of telling his Friend disagreeable Truths, of reproving him roundly, of contradicting him for his good, and of resisting his Appetites in a provoking manner; whereas the Flatterer applauds him every thing, and so decoys him into the Pit of Destruction. All this is justly observ'd and we have reason enough to conclude, that they who love us most are sometimes harsher with us than they who have not the least concern for us. But we must have a care of stretching this Maxim too far. . . .
It is most certain that there's no arguing from the Liberty of wholesom Reproof, for a Right of inflicting such Punishments as the Emperor's Laws ordain'd. Reproofs are allowable between Friends and Enemys; and therefore any one may make use of them, when he thinks he has a proper occasion: but Robbery and all the ways of Violence are of another strain; it is not lawful to make use of these either with Friends or Enemys, either directly or indirectly. We can neither take away our Neighbor's Goods by our own Authority, nor prompt others to do it, nor approve those that do; much less may we drive him from his House, and Home, and Country, or procure his Expulsion by the power of others. And therefore how allowable soever it may be in us to thwart and rudely to oppose the unlawful Pleasures of our Friends, it does not from hence follow that we ought to importune the Prince to deprive them of their Property, to imprison or banish them; and shou'd the Prince do this, we are in conscience oblig'd to look on it as a tyrannical Abuse of that Power with which God has entrusted him. For here in fine is the result upon this case: If the confiscating any private Party's Goods were a tyrannical Invasion, supposing him Orthodox in his Principles; and if it becomes a most-righteous Action from hence only, that he happens not to be so, it follows that the same Action of a Sin becomes a Vertue from this single Circumstance, that it's perform'd for the Interest of Religion, which plainly overthrows all Morality and natural Religion, as I think I have fully demonstrated. . . .
IX. St. Augustine's Words.
"You are of opinion, that no one shou'd be compel'd to do well; but have you never read, that the Father of the Family commanded his Servants to compel all they met with to come in to the Feast? Han't you seen with what Violence Saul was forc'd by Jesus Christ to acknowledge and embrace the Truth? ... Don't you know, that Shepherds sometimes make use of the Rod to force their Sheep into the fold? Don't you know that Sarah, according to the Power committed to her, subdu'd the stubborn Spirit of her Servant by the harshest Treatment, not from any hatred she bore to Agar, since she lov'd her so far as to wish that Abraham wou'd make her a Mother, but purely to humble the Pride of her Heart? Now you can be ignorant, that Sarah and her Son Isaac are Figures of spiritual, and Agar and Ishmael of carnel things. Notwithstanding, tho the Scripture informs us that Sarah made Agar and Ishmael suffer a great deal: St. Paul does not stick to say, that 'twas Ishmael persecuted Isaac, to signify, that tho the Catholick Church endeavors to reclaim carnal Men by temporal Punishments, yet it is they persecute her, rather than she them."
There are four things to be consider'd in this Discourse. 1. The Words of the Parable, Compel them to come in. 2. The Violence which Jesus Christ exercis'd on St. Paul, taking away his Eye- fight, and throwing him on the Ground. 3. The Conduct of Shepherds sometimes to their Sheep. 4. The Conduct of Sarah towards her Servant Agar. I have said enough to the First of the four, in the former Parts of my Commentary. The second is sufficiently answer'd by what I have lately said, that God, being the first Mover as well as the Searcher of Hearts, seconds the Punishments he inflicts on us with the Efficacy of his Grace as often as he sees fit. He thought fit to manifest his Power particularly in the Conversion of St. Paul; he appear'd to him in Person, he flung him on the Ground; in a word, he conquer'd this Soul by a mighty Hand, and a stretch'd-out Arm. But does it hence follow, that Men ought to imitate this Method when they wou'd convert a Heretick? Let them in God's Name, provided they have the Gift of turning the Heart, as the Almighty may, at the same time that they afflict the Body; but as they are not thus qualify'd, they shou'd take care how they meddle in so nice an Affair. Punishments in the Hands of God himself, don't always produce the Conversion of Sinners; they only serv'd to harden Pharaoh's Heart, tho God manifested his Power on him in the most extraordinary manner. The Punishments he dispenses in an ordinary way, either by the Meditation of Men, or of other creat ed Beings, operate very differently; they very rarely change Mens Opinions about the Worship of God: on the contrary, they rather make the better sort more zealous in their own Religion; for which reason there being such a Probability, that temporal Punishments shall ne'er persuade a Man of the Falseness of his Religion, but rather of his want of Zeal for it, nothing can be more absurd than proposing the Conduct of God in chastising his Children for their good, as a rule for Princes. Besides that if once we stick by this example, 'twill follow, that Princes may from time to time set fire to Fields of Corn, to the Hay and Vines, and Woods of their Subjects and send their Officers thro all their Dominions to decimate the Children, and send away their Fathers and Mothers to the Mines and Gallys. For as God sometimes makes use of Pestilence and Famine, those Scourges of his Wrath, to express his Love towards his Children, in order to bring them to Repentance; so Kings, who are his Vicegerents on Earth, may by the advice of their Clergy do all I have said within their Dominions, out of stark Love and Kindness to their Subjects; and from a Prospect of making them look home to themselves, and awake out of that Lethargy and Death of Sin in which they lie bury'd. Did Kings really do this, wou'd not they find their Justification ready drawn to their hands in St. Augus tine, and in the Examples of Emperors, who have shackl'd their Sectarys with Penal Laws; not, say they, from any hatred to their Persons, but out of Pure Charity, and in hopes of converting them? It's plain then, that the Result of this Doctrine of St. Augustine is the turning all Morality into ridicule, since it offers Expedients for justifying the most criminal and the most extravagant Actions
The Example of the Shepherds, who sometimes drive their Sheep into the Fold with Rods, is as unhappy as that of the frantick Person; for to make it of any weight, 'twere necessary that the counterpart of the Comparison shou'd relate to creatures void of Liberty, and whose Conversion depended not essentially on a Consent of the Will. They alledg the constraining of Sheep into the Fold, to save them from the Thief or the Wolf; the Shepherd, who sees them refuse the Door, or not in a hurry to get in, acts very wisely in pressing them forward either with his Foot or with his Crook, and even dragging them in if there be need. Why is the Conduct wise in him? because it fulfils all the Dutys and answers all the Ends the Shepherd can propose. His only aim is to save his Sheep from the Jaws of the Wolf; or any other outward Danger; and provided he can but get them into the Fold, the Work is done; The Sheep are safe whether they come in freely or by force. But the case is very different with regard to a Shepherd of Souls; he does not save them from the Power of the Devil, he does not heal them of the Scab, by transporting the Heretick into a certain House call'd Notre Dame, St. Peter's, St. Paul's etc. or by sprinkling some Drops of Holy Water on his Face. This is not the thing which decides his Destiny; he must have a sense of his Errors, he must be willing to abjure them, and embrace wholesome Doctrine: thus he may be rescu'd out of the Clutches of the Devil. . . .
X. St. Augustine's Words.
"The Good and the Bad do and suffer very often the same things; nor ought we to judg of the nature of their Actions by what either does, or what either suffers, but from the Motives on which they act or suffer. Pharaoh oppress'd the People of God with excessive Labor. Moses, on the other hand, punish'd the Transgressions of the same People by the most severe Punishments. The Actions of each side were much alike, but their Ends very different: One was an errant Tyrant, bloated with Pride and Power; the other a Father, fill'd with Charity. Jezabel put the Prophets to death, and Elias the false Prophets; but that which put Arms into the hands of one, and t'other, was no less different than that which drew on the deaths of each. In the same Book, where we find St. Paul scourg'd by the Jews, we find the Jew, Sosthenes scourg'd by the Greeks for St. Paul; there's no difference between them if we only look at the Surface of the Action, but there's a great deal of difference if we look at the Occasion and Motive. St. Paul is deliver'd to the Jailer to be cast into Irons, and St. Paul himself delivers the incestuous Corinthian to Satan, whose Cruelty much exceeds that of the most barbarous Jailers; yet he delivers this Man to Satan only that his Flesh being buffeted his Soul might be sav'd. When the same St. Paul deliver'd Philetus and Himeneus to Satan to teach them not to blaspheme, he did not intend to render Evil for Evil, but judg'd it an Act of Goodness to redress one Evil by another."
Here's another new Flight of those little Reasonings which pass well enough in a Croud, where not one of a thousand has the Skill to distinguish where the Comparison holds, and where it does not. St. Augustine breaks his heart to prove what no body living denys, That the same Action may be good or bad, according to the difference of circumstances. If a Prince punishes a seditious Province to the rigor, from no other design than just to hinder its revolting anew, this is an Action of Justice; but it's an Act of Cruelty and Avarice, if he rigorously punishes a slight Offence in the same province, in hopes an unreasonable Severity may make it rebel, and give him a Pretence of reducing the People to Beggary. I'l allow St. Augustine then, that Moses did well in punishing the Israelites, and Pharaoh as ill in oppressing them; a difference which arose not purely from Moses's proposing, as his end, the Reformation of this People, and Pharaoh its Ruin; but from their being punish'd without any demerit by Pharaoh, and not by Moses. But to unhinge St. Augustine's Comparisons all at once, I need only shew, that he instances on one hand in certain violent Proceedings arising from Aversion, or some other unjust Passion, and compares these with other Actions, afflictive indeed to our Neighbor, but at the same time enjoin'd by a special Revelation from God, and consequently operating under Circumstances, in which the Agent or instrumental Cause might be sure of their producing a good Effect. I speak with relation to Moses, Elias, and St. Paul. These were all Prophets, who understood by an immediate divine Inspiration that 'twas proper to proceed in a way of Punishment; and in this case 'twas allowable in them to exercise Severity, because there was no room to doubt but God, who ordain'd the means, had a purpose of turning it to his own Glory in a singular and extraordinary manner. In this case one has an assurance both of the Justice of the Action, and of the right Disposition of the Circumstances, and of the good Success. Can any one say as much for Theodosiu's persecuting the Arians, or Honorius the Donatists? What assurance had either, that God wou'd give a blessing to their Violences, or make them an efficacious means of enlightning the Understanding, or turning the Hearts of those in Error? It's evident they had no such assurance, and that the Probability was much stronger on the other hand, that these methods wou'd rather rivet them in their Errors, and produce false Conversions rather than any real Change; so that 'twas the highest Temerity to venture on the ways of Violence in such a posture of Affairs. As to the Case of Sosthenes, I can't imagine what St. Augustine wou'd infer from it; since 'twas an Act of the Rabble, who without the least regard to the Proconsul there present, or the place they were in rush'd in a tumultuous manner on the Head of the Synagogue. . . .
The more one examines the matter, the more he discovers the Illu sion good St. Augustine was under. He imagin'd, that as those things which are absolutely indifferent, and left to our own discretion, become good or evil according to the Motive or Intention; so those which are expresly commanded or forbidden are subject to the same alteration, by virtue of the different Motives upon which we act. But as from hence it wou'd follow, that Robbery, Murder, Perjury, Adultery, wou'd cease to be Sins, when practis'd with a design of humbling our Neighbor, and bringing him to Repentance, or in general when practis'd from any Motive of Charity; it manifestly follows, that we must distinguish between Dutys of indispensable Obligation, and those which are left to our own Choice. Now refraining from the Goods or Good Name of our Neighbor, not swearing a false Oath, not debauching our Neighbor's Wife or his Daughter, not smiting, reviling, or insulting him, are all matters of fixt and indispensable Obligation; and therefore whatever Benefit he may be suppos'd to reap from our calumniating, or from our smiting him, etc. what Benefit soever, I say, he may reap from hence with regard to Salvation, it's by no means allowable to treat him after this manner. God does not require us to endeavor the Salvation of our Brethren at the expense of his Laws; and we wou'd do well to leave it intirely to his Providence to reclaim them if he sees fit, either by Poverty, or Sickness, or Shame, and make them sensible of the ill use which they have made of their good Fortune. This altogether shews how much of Illusion there is in this pretended Charity, which prompts us to do evil to our Neighbor with a design of bringing him to good; . . .
XII. St. Augustine's Words.
"The Wicked have never left persecuting the Good, nor the Good the Wicked: but these act unjustly herein, and only to do mischief; those charitably, and so far as the necessity of correcting requires.... As the Wicked have slain the Prophets, so the Prophets have sometimes slain the Wicked; as the Jews were seen with Scourge in hand against Jesus Christ, so Jesus Christ was seen with Scourge in hand against the Jews. Men deliver'd the Apostles to the earthly Powers, and the Apostles deliver'd Man to the infernal Powers. What then ought we to consider in all these Examples? only this, which side acts for the Truth and Righteousness, and which for Iniquity and a Lye; which acts only to destroy and which to correct."
Here's a rare Maxim of Morality indeed, the most detestable in its Consequences that e'er was broach'd: for provided you act in favor of the true Opinion, and have no other design than that of correcting your Neighbor, you may lawfully, as to any thing else, imitate the ways of the Wicked; and whereas these shall have committed a Sin, you shall have performed a heavenly Action. . . .
XX. St. Augustine's Words.
"If there be any among us who abuse the Laws which the Emperors have enacted against you (Donatists) and who make them a handle for exercising their private Spite, instead of employing them as an instrument and means of Charity to rescue you from Error; we disapprove their Proceedings, and think of them with grief. Not than any Man can call this or that thing his Property, at least unless entitled to it by a divine Right, by the which all belongs to the Just; or by a Right founded on human Laws, and which depends on the Pleasure of the temporal Powers: so that you, for your parts, can call nothing your own, because not entitled to it, as being of the number of the Just, and because the Laws of the Emperors deprive you of all: consequently you can't properly say, This thing is ours, and we have got it by our Industry; since it is written, The Wealth of the Sinner is laid up for the Just. Notwithstanding, when under color of these Laws men invade your Possessions, we disapprove the Practice, and it troubles us exceedingly. In like manner, we condemn all those who are mov'd more by Avarice than Zeal, to take from you, either the Funds for your Poor, or the Places of your Assemblys; tho you enjoy neither one nor t'other but under the Notion of the Church, and tho only the true Church of Jesus Christ has an unalienable Right to these things."
This Passage contains Paradoxes so mysterious, so odious, and so absurd, that it will not be improper to range my Reflections on it in some kind of order.
I affirm then in the first place, That it's a vain Excuse, and a pitiful palliative Remedy, to tell People persecuted and molested in their Persons and Estates, that we disapprove the Proceedings of those who abuse the Prince's Laws, for beside, that tho no one strain'd or abus'd these Laws, the poor People under Persecution must be expos'd to a thousand Distresses, and the Authors no way disapprov'd by the Gentlemen Ecclesiasticks; so that the Persecuted have no such mighty Obligations to them, for their disapproving only the Abuse of these Laws: besides this, I say, is it not mocking the word, to sollicit Laws with Earnestness and Ardor, the Execution of which we know must inevitably be attended with a thousand Excesses; and then think to come off by saying with a grave Air, That we disapprove these Abuses? And if you really disapprove them, why, wretched Men as you are, don't you demand the proper Redress with the same Earnestness as you demanded the Laws themselves? Why are you the foremost in dissembling, in disowning these Abuses, in publishing thro a whole Kingdom, that there were none committed? This I thought fit to remark by the by, against those base mercenary Pens, who speak so soothingly of the late Dragoon-Conversions in France.
In the second place, Is it not an abominable Doctrine, tho veil'd with a big mysterious Air, that all belongs to the Godly by a Divine Right? What Nonsense is this? What, the Effects which a Jew has bought and paid down his Mony for, and which he has transported from Asia to Europe with a deal of hazard, and at a vast expense, don't belong to him; no, it's downright Robbery in him, and an Usurpation in prejudice of the Members of the true Church? It shou'd seem now quite contrary, that as Jesus Christ had not the common Privilege of Foxes and Fowls, which have Nests and Holes to lie down in, while he had not a place wherein to lay his head, his Members ought not to have had all the Good things of the World shar'd amongst them; yet by this Theology, no less chimerical than the Stoicks wife Man, a small Handful of Men, call'd Catholicks, are put in possession of all the Earth, and of all the Goods and Estates, movable and immovable, personal and real, of Jews, Turks, Pagans, and Sectarys. In good earnest these are strange Visions; and at the same time here's a plain foundation laid for the Pretensions of the Pope over the Temporals of Kings: for if every thing belongs to the Church Jure Divino, the Monarchys and Principalitys of the Earth must o'course fall to his share; and accordingly he may dispose of them in the old Continent, with the same Authority as in the new.
Yet even this destroys the Alternative which St. Augustine proposes: for if every thing be suppos'd the Property of the Godly by a Divine Right, it follows the Princes cou'd not dispose of the Goods of the World in favor of the Profane and Ungodly, without the notorious Invasion of a Right vested in the Godly by the Donation of God. It's false then, that what a Jews enjoys by his Prince's Gift or Permission belongs properly to him: for the Prince's Grant being only a Robbery of Pillage committed upon the Godly, renders not a Jew the rightful Possessor; and consequently St. Augustine blunders inexcusably, when he allows there are two ways of becoming the lawful Possessor of an Estate, one when the Party is of the number of the Godly, the other when the Prince makes a Grant of it, or suffers the Party to enjoy it. All he cou'd in good reason allow, was, that the Godly not having force enough to put them in possession of all that belongs to them, permitted those Usurpers whom Princes had vested to enjoy the mean Profits. And are not the Jews now finely met with for their chimerical Pretensions, the Original and Model of those of St. Augustine! Their Doctors maintain, that none but Israelites possess any thing rightfully, and that the Estates of all others are like a Common, which the next Comer may seize on, and become the lawful Possessor; they mean, provided he's a Jew.
In the fourth place, Let's not lose the benefit of this Father's Talent at finding out Expedients: he's for having all the Godly let their Pretensions sleep, and be so compliant to their Princes, as not to take ill that they confirm that Partition, which has taken place in the World from time immemorial. What will follow from hence? why this, That any Prince who destroys this Partition, without a very cogent Reason, is a Tyrant and a Robber. Every one will allow, that 'twere Robbery, strictly speaking, in a King, to take away a Merchant's fine Stuffs and Silks, and not pay him the full value. I except one Case, where a whole Kingdom may be in danger, unless some particular Person's Effects were seiz'd and made use of: But once more 'twill be granted me, that 'twere Robbery in a King to sweep away all the Mony out of the Bankers Shops, and all the Jewels from the Gold smiths, for his own private use, or for his fancy, without ever making restitution. 'Twere Robbery likewise and Tyranny in him, to take away his Estate from John o'Nokes or John o'Stiles, to annex it to the Crown-Revenues, or bestow it upon Mistresses, Favorites, or Buffoons: 'Twere the same, shou'd he do the like upon the pretext of such a Disobedience, suppose, as this; to wit, That the Prince having enjoin'd by a solemn edict that all his subjects be of such a Stature, of such an Age, shou'd have blue Eyes, a hawk Nose, black Hair, shou'd love Musick, Hunting, Books, like such a Dish better than such a Dish, believe firmly that Snow is not white, nor Fire hot, in the sense of the Peripateticks, and that the Earth moves round the Sun, etc. several of them shou'd not conform to his Will: I say then, that shou'd a Prince punish Disobediences of this nature by Confiscation, Fines, or by a general Change in the Settlements and Freeholds within his Dominions, he'd be a most unjust Tyrant, and might be said to rob his Subjects of their lawful and rightful Property. Whence it follows, as I have prov'd at large in another place, that to the end a Disobedience be justly punishable by loss of Goods, it's necessary the Law disobey'd be just; at least that it be of such a nature, that the disobeying can only proceed from Perverseness or inexcusable Neglect. Now as all Laws ordaining the Belief of this or that in the Worship of God, or of doing this or that in discharge of the Dutys of Religion, are not of this nature; for it's manifest, that a Man persuaded he ought not to believe concerning God otherwise than as he had bin taught to do in his Father's House; and who, do what he will, finds himself irresistably convinc'd, that by believing or acting otherwise he must draw on himself eternal Damnation, disobeys not such a Law from inexcusable or unreasonable Neglect: it follows then, that a Prince who punishes a Disobedience to such Laws by Confiscations, Prisons, Banishment, makes a tyrannical use of the Power lodg'd in him; and consequently St. Augustine has no ground for saying, that where a Man conforms not to his Prince's Laws, condemning the Estates of those to his own use who won't conform, he has no longer any Right vested in him, either to what he enjoy'd by Descent, or to what he has acquir'd by the Sweat of his Brow. He ought at least to have added this Proviso, that the Laws be such as the subjects might in Conscience comply with. But this is what cannot be affirm'd of those Laws which relate to Religion, and which enjoin one Party of the Subjects to abjure what they believe to be the true and divine Faith. They therefore, who might disobey them, continue lawful and rightful Possessors of their Goods as much as they were before, nor can they be outed any fairer than those may be, who obey'd not their Prince enjoining to believe, that such a Sauce was better than such a Sauce, that Mr. Des Cartes had assign'd the true Cause of the Phenomena of the Loadstone, etc. or rather let's say, they'd be outed with exactly the same Justice, as Naboth was turn'd out of his Inheritance.
This Example carries something awful in it. Achab, as wicked a King as he was, wou'd come by Naboth's Vineyard no otherwise than in a way of fair Bargain between Man and Man, that is, by Purchase of Exchange; and even offer'd the Proprietor a better Vineyard in another place, in case he lik'd that better than ready Mony. So far the Conduct of this King was perfectly reasonable; nor is it besides unfair in a Prince, who has built him a Seat for his Pleasure, to desire a larger Garden to it than ordinary, for which it seems Naboth's Vineyard lay very commodiously. Yet this Man had not the least Compliance for his King; he told him very drily, that he cou'd not part with the Inheritance of his Fathers; wherein, it's pretended, he acted from Reasons of Conscience, and from a fear of breaking some Precepts of Leviticus. Nothing less cou'd have clear'd him from the height of Brutality. Achab had no more to say, but left him, and took on heavily. His Queen, tho much the hardier Spirit of the two, yet durst not advise him to seize the Vineyard by his mere Authority; but got Naboth sentenc'd to death upon another pretext, to wit, that of blaspheming God and the King; and so the Vineyard fell to Achab. There's no doubt, had the King, upon the refusal of the Proprietor to comply with his Proposal for an Exchange of fair Purchase, confiscated this Vineyard, but the Prophet Elias wou'd have censur'd it as a very unjust Action. An Example which serves to shew Princes, that they ought never to disturb any one in the possession of the Estate which he's come honestly by, and which he's entitled to by the municipal [i.e. civil] Laws, at least unless the urgent Occasions of the State require; but by no means as a Punishment on those who follow the Motions of their Conscience, without doing any injury to the Publick, or to their Fellow-Citizens. . . .
But in the fifth place, Who can forbear admiring this Father's Application of Scripture-Passages, as if Solomon, in foreshewing that the Riches of the Wicked shou'd not long abide in their Familys, but become the Possession of the Righteous, had meant this in a way of Seizure and arbitrary Confiscation? Does not every one see, that all these fine Sentences of Scripture relate not to those who err in matters of Religion but to those who are guilty of Immoralitys; else what had become of all the Riches out of the Borders of Judea, since no one abroad was in the true Religion, to whom, according to the Principles of these Convertists, they ought to be bestow'd. What Godly were there in Persia, in Greece, in Italy, etc. to possess the Wealth which the Ungodly in these Countrys had heap'd up? It's a mere Chimera then, to appropriate to what they call Orthodoxy, that which is promis'd only to Uprightness and Honest-dealing. Is it that there's no sound Morality out of the Pale of that Society which St. Augustine believes the Orthodox? Another Chimera! We believe the Papists in an Error, and they believe the same of us; yet they and we wou'd be errand Fools to fancy, they, that there were no vertuous People among us, and we, that there are none among them.
In the sixth place, Let's admire St. Augustine's Good nature: He approves with all his heart the Laws which deprive the Donatists of their Estates, and disapproves the Proceedings of the Catholicks who seize upon these Estates. This is pleasant enough, to blame him who executes, and praise him who enjoins the Execution of the Law.
What he says in the last place, That the Churches of the Donatists, and the Funds for the Maintenance of their Sick and Poor, belong'd to the true Church, is so wretched, that I scorn to confute it. Is not there a Right of Nature and Nations for founding Hospitals; is it not a necessary Emanation of all Society, and an inseparable Appanage of incorporated Humanity? May not every State, Kingdom, Commonwealth, consecrate certain Sums for the Subsistence of their indigent Poor, and of all other Poor; and certain Places for celebrating the Ceremonys of Religion: and must these Endowments belong o'course to the Christian Religion? What, do all the Mosks of Constantinople belong to the Christians? And had they power enough to seize them in spite of the Turks, might and ought they to do it, together with all the Revenues of the Mahometan Religion? In good truth, this is rendring Christianity justly odious; and on such Maxims as these, Infidels ought to look on the Christian Missionarys only as so many Spys, thrusting in to prepare the way for an Attempt on their temporal Possessions, upon a persuasion that all the rest of Mankind are Usurpers, who will hold their Birthright from them, tho they very often have not as much as heard that there are Christians in the world. . . .
Henceforward let's see what is to be seen in St. Augustine's Letter to Boniface. It's the 185th in the new Edition, and was the 50th in the old. 'Twas wrote about the Year 417. . . .
XXVI. St. Augustine's Words.
"One must be void of common Sense, to tell Princes, Take no thought whether People trample upon, or whether they revere, within your Dominions, the Church of him whom you adore. What, they shall take care to make their Subjects live according to the Rules of Vertue and Sobriety, without any one's presuming to say, that this concerns them not; and yet they shall presume Cognizance within their Dominions, whether Men observe the Rules of the true Religion, or whether they give themselves over to Profaneness and Irreligion? For if from hence, that God has given Man a Free-will, Profaneness were to be permitted, why shou'd Adultery be punished? The Soul which violates that Faith which it has plighted to its God, is it therefore less criminal than the Wife which violates the Faith she owes her Husband? And tho Sins, which Men thro Ignorance commit against Religion, are punish'd with less Severity; must they therefore be suffer'd to subvert it with Impunity?"
This is all very specious, and deserves so much more to be consider'd with Order and Exactness.
I. I'l allow St. Augustine, that one must be void of common Sense, to think it amiss in Princes to concern themselves, whether Men trample upon, or whether they revere, within their Dominions, the Church of him whom they adore. So far ought they to be from being wholly unconcern'd about the Church, that on the contrary, it's their Duty to keep a watchful eye over it; but after what manner? for here's the whole Difficulty, and the sole ground of the difference. Why, if their Religion be attack'd by Arms, they ought to defend it by Arms; if attack'd by Books and by Sermons, they ought to defend it by the same Weapons. So that if a Sect springs up in their Dominions, which wou'd seize the Churches, and take People by the Collar to force them to follow them; they ought to dispatch their Missionarys of the short Robe against them, their standing Troops and Militia, to fall foul on these Sectarys, to restrain their Insolences, and chastise them according to the nature of their Offence. But if this Sect employ only Arguments and Exhortations, they ought only to get them confuted by better Arguments, if they can, and endeavor to inform them of the Truth: For it's plain to any Man who considers this matter aright, that if they employ Wheel and Scaffold against Men who back their Arguments and Exhortations with Scripture-Proofs, they violate the Reverence due to Reason and Scripture: and that if they extort Subscriptions from them by a dread of Death, they constrain them to deny with their Mouth, what their Heart adores as Truth; which is plunging them into much a greater Sin than their Error.
From hence it appears, that it is their Duty to enquire, whether People observe the Rules of the true Religion within their Dominions, or whether they are guilty of Profaneness and Irreligion. But the great Question is, how they ought to behave themselves when they are inform'd, that a Party of their Subjects follow not that Religion which their Princes believe to be true, but exercise another Worship which they look on as impious and damnable. I think I have already most evidently prov'd, to all who are not utterly blinded by their Prejudices, that Princes ought in this case to content themselves with letting the Controversy play, and convincing them, if it be possible, by sound Arguments and Instructions. Having done their Duty this way as much as in them lies, they ought to think themselves acquitted before God; and for the rest take care, that this Sect, which differs from their own, contain themselves within Bounds, and live like good Subjects, and good Citizens. But say they, this Sect is daily committing the horriblest Impietys and Profanations. Yes, say I, if you define things by your Notions of them, but not if you consider them according to the Definitions of the Sect; for they pretend, that the Impietys and Profanations are all of your side, and that their own is the only true and perfect Worship of God. This brings me again to the applying a Thought of the Bishop of Meaux [i.e. Bishop Bossuet], as I did once before; That if each Sect of Christianity assumes a Right of defining Blasphemy, Impiety, Profaneness, by Principles peculiar to themselves, and decree Punishments on Men as Blasphemers, and Profaners of holy things, convicted upon a Definition of the Crime which they don't allow; Christianity is the weakest of all Societys, and the most obnoxious [i.e. exposed] to incurable Evils: For whilst the Protestants burnt the Catholicks in England as Blasphemers and Profane, these might burn the Protestants in Italy and France as Blasphemers and Profane: the same Opinions being treated at the same time as pious and impious, as holy and blasphemous; and what's the very Excess of Horror, we shou'd see Men expire in Flames as Blasphem ers of God and his Truth, who protested with their last words, that they died only because they cou'd not say any thing that they believ'd displeasing to God; and to testify, that the Truth reveal'd to Mankind, in his Holy Word, was dearer to them than Life. The only means for preventing all these Confusions wou'd be, to define Blasphemy and Profaneness, by Principles common to the Accuser and the Accused; and then a Man fairly convicted of Blasphemy or Profaneness, might be hang'd out of the way, or burnt, or broil'd; and they, who delight in the death of Hereticks, have Content. Thus a Christian is justly punish'd who renounces God, or robs the Vestry, the Poor-box, etc. because by his own Principles he is guilty of Blasphemy and Sacrilege. But the truth is, it were too hard upon St. Augustine, to desire he wou'd qualify things otherwise than from the Instinct of his own Prejudices.
My third Remark arises naturally from the second. 'Tis all the reason in the world, that Princes shou'd ordain Penaltys and Chastisements for the obliging Men to the Observation of the Laws of Honesty and Sobriety, because all their Subjects acknowledge the Justice of the Laws, and consequently every Transgression against them is malicious, wilful, and under the Conscience of its being displeasing to God. But as to the Tenets of Religion, and the Laws enacted by Princes concerning the Worship of God, all their Subjects acknowledg not the Justice of them alike; there are those who believe them impious and abominable: so that their disobeying them proceeds not either from Malice, or a Spirit of Rebellion, or a Contempt of their Sovereign, but from a fear of disobeying God, the great Lord and common Master of Prince and People. This, this is the great and capital Circumstance which makes the difference between Civil Observances, and Religious, with regard to the Prince's Prerogative; and the reason why he may justly enforce the Laws concerning those, with temporal Punishments and Rewards, but not punish the Infringers of such Laws as determine concerning these.
IV. The Answer is now very plain to St. Augustine's Comparison between Profanation and Adultery. Why, says he, shou'd they punish Adultery and not Profaneness? Because, he who commits Adultery is agreed with his Accuser and his Judg, that it is Adultery and a wicked Action; but far from agreeing with them, that he is guilty of Impiety or Profaneness, in serving God according to the Principles of his own Sect: he thinks he's in the Discharge of a pious Work, and shou'd think himself guilty of Impiety and Profaneness, shou'd he worship God according to the Principles of his Judg or Accuser. Nothing occurs to the Judges, in the case of an Adulterer, that challenges their regard. They find the Motive evil, and a Sense and certain Knowledge in him of his acting wickedly; consequently that he had not any manner of regard in it to God, or to his Neighbor, so that everything crys for Vengeance against him. But when a Catholick Judg wou'd punish what he calls Impiety, Blasphemy, and Sacrilege in a Calvinist, maintaining that the consecrated Host is no more than Bread and refusing it Adoration; he discovers a Motive in the Soul of this Heretick which merits his regard, to wit, a fear of offending God, a horror of Idolatry, and a stedfast purpose of incurring the Detestation of Men rather than do that which he be lieves God has forbidden. A Disposition of Mind like this, ought it not to be an inviolable Asylum against all human Jurisdiction; and is it possible, there shou'd be Men of Blood and gigantick Boldness enough, to put a Man to death, because he makes that the Rule of his Actions, which he takes to be the Law and express Will of God?
V. As to the Parallel between a Wife who violates her conjugal Faith,
and a Soul which perseveres not in a rightful Persuasion (and this St.
Augustine calls, violating Fidelity which we owe to God) I have little
more to say than that this Father cou'd not possibly mark out his Camp
in worse ground; he cou'd not maintain this Post a moment against a modern.
Author, whom I have cited elsewhere, and approv'd in part, and in part
disapprov'd. I refer him therefore to this Author; he'l shew him, by the
Example of a Wife, who, deceiv'd by the Likeness, and persuaded that an
Impostor, who personates her Husband, is her lawful Spouse, receives him
into her Bed without offending God in the least; that a Heretick, who mistakes
a Falshood for the Truth, ought to pay it the same regard as if it really
were the Truth, and is answerable in the sight of God only for the Neglect
or Malice, by the means of which he might be led into the Mistake. So that
one can never enough blame St. Augustine for his want of Exactness and
Accuracy in all these Parallels. He runs on with his Comparison very demurely,
and as if he had to deal with mere Idiots; between a Wife who lies with
a Man whom she knows not to be her Husband, and a Soul which entertains
false Opinions, but entertains them only because it's fully persuaded they
are true; insomuch that the whole Influence and Power they have over the
Man, proceeds from no other Cause, than the firm and sincere Disposition
of his Soul to the loving and reverencing the Truth. . . .
I have all along endeavor'd to keep close to St. Augustine, I have follow'd him step by step, and verily think I have not left a place about him, that does not want a Plaister, which 'twill be a hard matter to find: But tho I had offr'd nothing more in answer, than that all his Reasons my equally be employ'd by Heretical Sects, who in the parts where they are uppermost shou'd persecute the Catholics; this alone were enough to expose the Vanity of his Pretensions [i.e. claims]. For what more is requisite to convince any reasonable Person of the Vanity of them, than shewing that by only changing the Climate or Parallel, one may find twenty times, in the space of a year or two, the same Arguments true and false; true in the Country's where the Orthodox persecute, and false in those where they are persecuted. Ask a Jesuit of England, whether supposing the Episcopal Party in that Kingdom have the right of their side, as they pretend, they do well to deny the Nonconformists Liberty of Conscience; and whether they might not very well defend themselves by alledging St. Augustine's Reasons? He'l answer you, No: That Conscience shou'd never be forc'd; that we ought only to inform it, and in all cases leave it under the Dominion of God. Cross the Seas, and come over into France, the Jesuits there will tell you quite the contrary: and if you alledg the fine Maxims which their Brethren o'this side the Water [Bayle pretends to be writing in England] alledg for the Immunitys of Conscience, they'l laugh at you. What will any unprejudic'd Person say to this? Without doubt he'l say, he never knew a People so void of common Sense as the Christians; because even in matters of Morality, in which they boast of vast Improvements beyond the rest of the World, they have not any one fix'd Rule or Principle, but explode in one place what they maintain in another. Once more, to use the Bishop of Meaux's Words, let's say, That if the forcing Conscience be a Good-work on the part of the Orthodox, the Christian Church is of all Societys on earth undoubtedly the most helpless, the most expos'd to incurable Divisions, the most abandon'd to the Caprice and Cruelty of indiscreet Zealots, and violent ambitious Spirits. It's plain then, that St. Augustine's Apology for Persecution being built on Principles authorizing all Heretick Persecutors as well as himself, without a possibility of destroying their Claim, but by appealing for a fair Discussion of the main ground of the Differences (a Work of much time, and too slow a Remedy for so imminent and so real an Evil as the Mischiefs of Persecution) or else to the Valley of Jehosaphat, when God at the last day shall declare which side is right and which is wrong, in the Interpretation of his Oracles: It's plain, I say, that St. Augustine's Apology being subject to all these terrible Inconveniences, drops o'course. For to say, that Hereticks in this case wou'd misapply the Principles which were rightfully employ'd of his side, is telling, for example, a Troop of Dragoons ready to ravage a Protestant Town, to force all the People to Mass; 'Oh! Gentlemen, you little consider that the Violence exercis'd on your part, is as abominable in you who believe a false Religion as it wou'd be good and holy in us who believe the Truth. Forbear vexing us, at least till your Missionarys have explain'd to you these three or four huge Volumes of your own Bellarmin [Catholic controversialist], and the Panstratie of our Chamier [Calvinst controversialist]; and afterwards plague and persecute us as much as you please, if you don't find that we have reason of our side.' Every one sees that such a Discourse, whether address'd to the Executive Power, or to the Ordainers of Persecution, must needs appear ridiculous, at least very insignificant; because these might reply upon them after this manner: 'Good People, since you are agreed that the Orthodox may justly employ the sharpest methods, you shou'd not think it strange that we, who are undoubtedly the Orthodox, persecute you who are wretched Hereticks. As to Bellarmin and Chamier, we are not now at leisure to hear them explain'd; this were drinking up the Ocean: You might die and perish in your Unbelief, before the Missionarys and Ministers cou'd dispatch a quarter part of the first Volume. You must therefore take your Resolution forthwith, with free leave however to complain that we treat you unjustly, if your Ministers hereafter happen to convince us they have the Truth of their side. The Justice of your Complaints depends wholly on the demonstrating this Point; so that while it's actually in dispute, you only suppose the thing in question, when you suppose you are unjustly treated.' Is it possible St. Augustine, with all the Fruitfulness of his Imagination, shou'd not have seen how extremely improbable it is, that God shou'd have left his Church destitute of any other Remonstrance, than that of praying their Persecutors to examine into a boundless Ocean of Controversys, so entangled with Cavil and Illusion, thro the Knavery and false Zeal of Controvertists, that there's no Patience but must be quite tir'd out with hearing and weighing Answers, Replys, and Rejoinders of both Partys upon the minutest Point in contest? Is it, I say, to be conceiv'd that St. Augustine shou'd think all those fine Maxims of Morality, Principles of Equity and upright Dealing, precious Relicks and inestimable Ruins of the Innocence of the first Man, render'd unserviceable to the Cause of true Religion; and that besides the Patience of its Martyrs, it ought not to claim any benefit (the better to convince the World of the injury done it) from those Rules of Justice and Humanity, which all Nations of the Earth, tho ever so little civiliz'd, have always respected? Now it is evident, the Church cou'd claim no benefit by them from the time she thought herself oblig'd to persecute the Heterodox, by virtue of the Precept, Compel them to come in; because beside that she herself wou'd be oblig'd to dispense with these Maxims whene'er the persecuted, and to despise them when alledg'd by the Persecuted to move her Compassion, and therefore wou'd deserve to be hiss'd in turn, if when the day of her own Persecution came she shou'd pretend to trump them up: beside this, I say, is it not plain, that all Christian Sects wou'd believe they offended God, if in prejudice to Jesus Christ's Command of compelling, they shou'd shew any regard for those Principles of Righteousness and Humanity which right Reason inspires. Thus you see the Orthodox fairly and deservedly stript of the Protection of these Principles; and accordingly instead of saying, as Jesus Christ himself did, That he was not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfil them; we must affirm, if St. Augustine be right, That Jesus Christ is come not only to destroy the Law and the Prophets, all the Precepts of the Decalogue, and the holiest Maxims scatter'd in the Psalms, in the Books of Solomon, etc. but likewise that natural Religion, those Irradiations of the Law eternal, those Illapses of unalterable Order, which have shone forth among all Nations, tho ever so little civiliz'd.
There's no need of any thing further to destroy this wretched Apology of St. Augustine, or that of any other Patron or Abettor of Persecution.