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vine influence, on the number of zealous and well-informed christians the country contains. A small chosen band of apostles and evangelists converted the world, notwithstanding all the opposition they encountered from its power and policy; and a few apostolical men, though without those miraculous powers which have long been withdrawn from the church, but under the ordinary and abiding efficacy of that promise, Lo I am with you alway, even to the end of the world, would at this day be sufficient to carry a saving light into the dark corners of a land, and to revive the cause of piety where it languished, or was ready to expire. But when the power of christianity is once lost in a country, and a national establishment is wanting to preserve the form, there is danger lest its very name and profession should vanish quite away.
Should it next be inquired, what would be the effect of toleration on the external form of christianity, in a country where it. has gained a prevalence, we might almost. with certainty, determine, that this would be its division into a multiplicity of parties
and denominations. No one can be ignorant of the various opinions that have been held concerning church-government; all of which, under a general toleration, would have a free stage to act upon. In one district, every parish would be a diocese, and every pastor a bishop, without any political connection with other pastors or parishes. In other districts, many parishes would associate, and put themselves under the direction of an ecclesiastical senate; unless they happened to prefer a monarchical regimen. And I can see no reason, why under any of these forms, or all of them together, the common cause of christianity might not both subsist and prosper, while the moderating hand of the magistrate preserved the several parties from mutual wrong and violence.
We come now to a few short political remarks on the subject before us.
1. A toleration such as here described, would apparently much contribute to the public strength and safety. As all good citizens would in this case be united as in one family, they would naturally look up, with
the same duty and affection, to the state as to their common parent. Or, should this more ingenuous principle be wanting, they would still be held by that tie, which is indeed the great bond of the world in its present corrupt condition, I mean a sense of interest ; since they all would have an equal stake in the community, as being equally free to participate in its offices, its honours, and its emoluments. Every citizen would then say emphatically my country, and would defend it with the zeal of a man who contends for his own patrimony.
2. Secondly: Of whatever religious society the magistrate may choose to be a member, he should take care to conduct himself in that relation as a private individual, and not as a public functionary ; otherwise, by his political influence, he would probably corrupt the principles of his own sect, and excite the jealousy of others; and this might gradually proceed to a general depravity in religion, and at last terminate in civil disturbances *. It might therefore become his prudence as well as his piety, to stand at such a distance from all appearance of partiality in his public administration, that, if he made any difference in dispensing bis political favours, he should rather deal them out with a sparing hand to those of his own church than to others, as such a conduct would serve to convince the world that religion was no secular interest, would tend to allay the jealousies of other churches, and promote the purity of his own; and would be a probable way to settle the country at large in a state both of civil and religious tranquillity.
* “ To maintain civil government in due vigour, and to allow a general liberty of conscience; to act like a
3. Lastly: While the religion of a country is divided into a multitude of sects, of which no one, either in numbers or influence, is much superior to the rest, the civil power may, without much difficulty, keep them all in due order. One sect would oppose another, and by their mutual counteraction a balance would be produced; and should this at any time be disturbed to a degree inconsistent with the public peace, a gentle interposition of the magistrate's authority might be sufficient to restore it. But should any one sect, whether by the force of truth, by the influence of a popular leader, or some other cause, obtain a decided ascendancy, it might come to sway the government, and, by degrees, get it entirely into its hands; and then the result would be an establishment: a result which, sooner or later, under a general toleration, would almost with certainty take place; just as a monarchy is the usual and natural termination of a republic. And as a monarchy is either absolute or limited, so an establishment may either entirely exclude a toleration, or admit it under certain terms and restrictions.
king rather than a priest, is a sure way to preserve a state from those tempests, which a dogmatical spirit powerfully tends to excite.” Anti-Machiavel, ch. 26.