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let it not be censured, because it gives no encouragement to domineering pride, vain splendor, or luxurious indulgence.
If to this statement of the public influence of religion, any one should object the wars and commotions to which it appears to have given occasion, it may be answered, that this is often little more than appearance; and that the chief cause of these disturbances, as of most others, is worldly ambition and interest; or such a prompt disposition to quarrel, that, were religion entirely out of question, would not fail to find out some other ground or pretext. It may further be replied, that when religion is more immediately the principle of contention, as may sometimes unhappily be the case, it is not religion in its purity, such as it was published by Christ and his apostles, but either some corruption that has mingled with it, or some virulent superstition that can only be ranked under the title of religion, when understood in a very general sense. The natural tendency of uncorrupted christianity is to prevent war, to mi
tigate its ferocity, and to hasten its termination, by inspiring the benevolent, and controlling the malignant passions; and thus to unite men in the bonds of mutual amity.
It must not, however, be dissembled, that christianity, from the very purity and excellence of its nature, though it can never be the principle, is frequently the occasion of animosity and discord. Christ says, that he came not to send peace, but a sword; that five should be in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. For though angels, at his nativity proclaimed peace on earth, and good will to men; though the gospel, which, is termed the gospel of peace, is a scheme formed by infinite wisdom to bring about an universal pacification; peace with God, peace of conscience, peace in every social and civil relation ; and though it infallibly produces these effects in all by whom it is duly received; yet among those who unhappily reject its overtures, whose pride is offended by the humiliating terms it proposes, and their sensual passions by the purity of its precepts, it often occasions keen resent
ment towards such as, by complying with its requisitions, reflect the guilt and danger of its enemies.
In this war, 'arising from the opposition of darkness to light, and of vice to virtue, it is the glory of christianity that it admits of no compromise; though it can pity him who wanders from truth, it affords no countenance to his errors; though it can pardon the criminal, it gives no allowance to his vices or his crimes. And what harm can be derived to society from a system, calculated to deliver it from its depravities, both in principle and practice, by holding out the light of truth, and supplying those motives and assistanceś, without which, for want of personal virtue, no society can be formed either truly great, or of long duration? Righteousness, says a wise prince, eralteth a nation, but sin is the reproach, and in the end will prove the ruin, of any people. And this is true, according to the natural course of things, under the stated government of God, without taking into consideration the extraordinary dispensations of his providence. ; i:
If such, then, be the importance of religion, it should certainly be a chief concern of government to do nothing to its prejudice; for as the real good of man is the end of every rational institution, it would be preposterous to consult his temporal at the expence of his future interest. Nor is this negative precaution all that is necessary; as every man is under obligation, by just and lawful means, to do all the good he can; it must be binding upon rulers to promote the cause of true religion in the world, in every practicable way that is allowable in itself, and consistent with the duties of their proper station...
Indeed, to determine what those ways are, and how far they are consistent with the public character of the magistrate, may be often a matter of much difficulty. Many have been, and many now are of opinion, that civil government has nothing to do with religion ;, that the end of its institution is for temporal purposes only; and that every man, without the least political compulsion or influence, should be left to pursue his spiritual edification, either by bis own sepa
rate endeavours, or by voluntarily associating with others in any way that shall not violate the order and peace of society. But waving, at present, any abstract inquiry, either into the rights of the magistrate, or the rights of conscience, in the concerns of religion, we shall confine our attention to a practical view of the subject; and proceed to a consideration of the consequences and effects; first, Of a toleration without an establishment; 'secondly, Of an establishment without a toleration; and, lastly, Of an establishment together with a toleration. When this is done, we may be better able to determine, whether in any, or in what degree, religion falls within the jurisdiction of the civil magistrate.