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On an Establishment without Toleration.
By an establishment is here meant these three things; an order of men set apart to attend on the offices of religion; a legal provision for their maintenance; and a restriction of this provision to teachers of a certain description. It is such an establishment, exclusive of a toleration, either complete or partial, whose merits we are now to examine.
It is evident this is a system which can never be maintained without force; for as men differ widely in their opinions on almost all subjects, and on none more than those which are of a spiritual nature, they can never be brought without coercion (nor perhaps with it) to a perfect uniformity in their creed, worship, or discipline. Every reason therefore which can justly be urged against the use of force in religion, will hold equally against the wisdom and propriety of such a system.
Amongst other arguments against the application of force in things spirityal, we may notice the following:
1. It is unfit. Religion depends on conviction, and all rational conviction depends on evidence *; and force, whatever impression it may make upon the body, is no apt medium to convey light into the understanding. It will convey indeed a feeling intimation that you are willing another should be of your opinion; or, rather, that he should speak your language, and conform to your practice; but will afford him no good reason why he should do either. Again, its unfitness may be also inferred from the utter silence of the New Testament, where we find a very particular enumeration of the means to be employed in the spread of the gospel; and among them not the least mention or insinuation of the use of force, which seems to denote its exclusion; and the same may be argued still more strongly from its contrariety to the whole genius of the christian dispensation. My kingdom, says Christ, is not of this world ; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight*. And when two of his zealous disciples would have commanded fire from heaven to consume a village of the Samaritans, which refused to receive him, he rebuked them, und said, ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them t. In the same spirit of charity and forbearance, the apostle Paul tells his son Timothy, the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves : if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. Nor let any one here suggest, that though the servant of the Lord must not strive himself, he may get the magistrate to strive for him; lest by such a gloss he should give room to suspect, that he had more of the spirit of an inquisitor, than of the spirit which animated the apostle. Lastly, the gospel is provided with powers of its own, and which are best adapted to the accomplishment of its own purposes; and it certainly stands in no need of human violence, or of that wrath of man which worketh not the righteousness of God*.
* To prevent ambiguity, let it here be observed, that a proposition may be received either upon its own evidence, or upon the evidence we have of the knowledge and veracity of the person who asserts it; and in either case it may produce the most satisfactory conviction. When we have full proof of a divine revelation, all doubt and hesitation must be excluded, notwithstanding any difficulty that may be found in the things revealed.
* « The whole covenant and work of grace, is the contrivance of God's infinite wisdom. What it is, and by what means he will dispense his grace, is known to us by revelation only; which is so little suited to human wisdom, that the apostle calls it the foolishness of preaching. In the scripture is contained all that revelation, and all things necessary for that work, all the means of grace: there God has declared all that he would have done for the salvation of souls: and if he had thought force necessary to be joined with the foolishness of preaching, no doubt but he would, somewhere or other, have revealed it, and not left it to the wisdom of man; which, how disproportioned and opposite it is to the ways and wisdom of God in the gospel, and how unfit to be trusted in the business of salvation, you may see. 1 Cor. i. from ver. 17 to the end.” Mr. Locke's Third Letter on Toleration, ch. X. p. 304.
2. Another argument against the use of force in religion, is, that it prevents free and impartial inquiry. To search in this manner, the mind must be thoroughly disposed to obtain all the light it can upon the subject. in question, and to be determined by it; which implies that it is neither warped by , prejudice, nor swayed by affection. This equal state of the understanding will hardly be able to subsist while the rod hangs suspended over the head of the inquirer, and ready to smite, should he be led to a conclusion different from that prescribed by the power to which he is subject. For as fear (according to the remark of a Hebrew sage *) betrays the succours which reason offereth, so it is equally unpropitious to reason itself; it prevents its just exercise, it weakens its powers, and reduces it to bondage, and, at the same time, cuts off those succours which are offered for its assistance. Thus the dread of an inquisition, or of some other tribunal much less formidable, has often intercepted the light and aid afforded by
* Book of Wisdom, ch. xvii. ver. 12.