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Furneaux, which contains the sum of all that can be said on the head of religious liberty.Now religion is a concern between God and a man's own conscience; a concern therefore, for the right conception and conduct of which he is alone accountable to God's Religion consequently, especially a particular mode of religion, ought not to be imposed and enjoined by human authority; that is, by temporal penalties, which are the only means in the magistrate's power, to force obedience to his laws. This point, I think, will appear very plain, if we only attend to the nature of religion, as arising from inward conviction, which penal laws cannot produce ; and as founded, not upon human, but solely upon divine authority, which every man is bound implicitly to obey, without regard to any human authority whatsoever. In short, to secure the favor of God, and the rewards of true religion, we must follow our own consciences and judgments, according to the best light we can obtain; not the judgment of the magistrate ; nor the judgments of any other men, of whatever character, civil or ecclesiastical, when they are different from or contrary to our own37.?
• There is,' says a nervous and spirited writer, no more harm in a difference of opinions in religion, than in learning and philosophy. It is the necessary result of reason and free inquiry, and I know of no benefit we should get by that great object of political religion, uniformity of doctrines, except it be a loss of shewing our moderation and charity. The only way to accomplish universal agreement in opinion, would be to suppress all the means of knowlege, to shut up the book of life, and let ignorance be the mother of devotion. We should then have but one faith, or more properly speaking, we should have no faith at all, but be fit for every thing that ambitious rulers and priests would wish38. But the constructors of the English hie
37 Ess. on Toleration, p. 8.
38 A Sermon by E. Radcliff, occasioned by the Denial of Relief, vespecting Subscription to the Articles of the Ch. of Eng. 1772, p. 29.
rarchy professed to be of a different opinion; and her champions have conceived, that uniformity of faith is to be guarded by the enactment of penal statutes, with a long train of civil disabilities and vexatious punishments, so destitute of all color of justice, so irreconcileable with every consideration of expediency; that their most bigotted advocates have long since ceased to call for their enforcement, though they still persevere in resisting their repeal.
To suppose, as some have done, says the celebrated archdeacon of Cleveland, that the great Author of Nature hath left it as free for magistrates and legislators, to establish by human laws what doctrines or modes of religion they chuse, or find expedient for secular utility; as it is for them to chuse what modes of civil society they find convenient ;-is to suppose, that there never was any authentic revelation of true religion in the world. For as surely as God hath revealed true religion, so surely has he inhibited magistrates, and all others, from establishing any thing contrary to it, or deviating from it39.?
· For the magistrate to interpose, and make himself a judge and a revenger in affairs which are purely of a reli, gious nature, is,' says another dignitary of the English church, to transgress the bounds of his duty, and to invade the prerogative of God; it is (to borrow the words of an incomparable author) “ to judge and misuse the ser, vants of another master, who are not at all accountable to him.” For nothing can be more clear or certain, than that as religion has God only for its author, so it is properly his care and concern only. The laws of religion are the laws of God only, and he himself has appointed rewards and punishments for the observers and transgressors of them. He has taken this whole matter upon himself, and reserved it to himself, and has no where authorised any man, or any number of men, to be his deputies or vicegerants in his behalf. So that it is highly wicked and unjust in any man to usurp any authority over others in cases of a religious
39 Confessional, 3d ed. p. 257.
nature, in matters of faith and conscience. For here God himself has laid down the rule of our actions, and not left it to others to prescribe to us.
He himself has set before us our duty, and has told us, that he will judge of the performance: and for any man, after this, to pretend to any power over us here, is to forestall the judgment of God, and take God's cause out of his own hands40.?
"The way to our future happiness has,' observes Sir William Temple,•' been perpetually disputed throughout the world, and must be left at last to the impressions made upon every man's belief and conscience, either by natural or supernatural arguments and means ; which impressions men may disguise or dissemble, but no man can resist. For belief is no more in a man's power, than his stature or his feature; and he that tells me, I must change my opinion for his, because it is the truer and the better, without other arguments, that have to me the force of conviction, may as well tell
me, I must change my grey eyes, for others like his that are black, because they are lovelier, or more in esteem“? To the same purpose asks Dr. Ibbot. what use can human laws, enforced by civil penalties, be in' matters of religion? They may make me do things which are in my power, and depend upon my will ; but to believe this, or that, to be true, is not in my power, nor depends upon my will, but upon the light, and evidence, and information which I have. And will civil discouragements and incapacities, fines and confiscations, stripes and imprisonments, enlighten the understanding, convince men's minds of error, and inform them of the truth?
Can they have any such efficacy, as to make men change the inward judgment they have framed of things ? Nothing can do this, but reason and argument.
This is what our minds and understandings will naturally yield to; but they cannot be compelled to believe any thing by outward force. So that
40 Ibbot's Disc. vol. II. p. 452.
the promoting of true religion is plainly out of the magis. trate's reach, as well as beside his office4z.'
Little as toleration was understood in the middle of the last century, a treatise was published, somewhat earlier than that period, containing a number of excellent observations on this cubject. • Force in matters of opinion can do no good,- for no man can change his opinion when he will, or be satisfied in his reason, that his opinion is false, because discountenanced. If a man could change his opinion when he lists, he might cure many inconveniences of his life ; all his fears and his sorrows would soon disband, if he would but alter his opinion, whereby he is persuaded, that such an accident that afflicts him is an evil, and such an object formidable ; let him but believe himself impregnable, or that he receives a benefit when he is plundered, disgraced, imprisoned, condemned, and afflicted, neither his sleeps need to be disturbed, nor his quietness discomposed.' To employ force in religion, either punishes sincerity, or persuades hypocrisy; it persecutes a truth, or drives into 'error; and it teaches a man to dissemble and to be safe, but never to be honest43."
But an antichristian claim of dominion over the conscience, though it be the principal feature of resemblance between the church of England and the church of Rome, is not the only one. The author of a pamphlet, published in the last century4, entitled An Agreement between the Church of England and Church of Rome Evinced, after observing, that they both pitch upon the episcopal government, as distributed into the several subordinations of combined churches, as what is by divine institution made the government of this church;' and noticing those different ranks of deacon, archdeacon, bishop, and archbishop; says, compare the national church of England with the French or Spanish national churches, and the order is the
42 Ibbot's Disc. vol. II. p. 454.
same in all.
The causes also which belong unto their jurisdiction are in both the same, viz. causes testamentary and matrimonial, &c. Besides, the Laws4s, by which they exercise their power, are in both for the most part the same. Whilst the English clergy condemn the papists for setting up a Catholic Supreme Pastor, they erect a National Supreme Pastor, both churches asserting infallibility in their way, the church of Rome more plainly and directly, the Protestant national churches by inevitable consequence: for all churches, that punish others for not owning and submitting to their dictates and mandates, do thereby declare their own infallibility therein ; for it is the most unjust and unreasonable thing in the world for me to pretend to force another to believe and practise that, which I am not assured to be truth. After endeavoring to shew at length, the agreement there is between the church of England-clergy and the Roman Catholic about their ministry, the nature of ceremonies, the arguments for them, the reasons why Dissenters ought to submit unto them, and about image-worship;' he says, I will only add what a great bishop of the church of England reports concerning the Prayers of the church of England ; and it is this. “There is nothing in our prayers, but what hath been approved by the popes
45 The passage that follows is taken from a celebrated work, written by an orthodox dignitary of the church and a zealous supporter of the hie. rarchy. It seems prodigious, at first sight, that when the yoke of Rome was thrown off, the new church, erected in opposition to it, should still continue to be governed by the laws of the old. The pretence was, that this was only by way of interim, till a body of ecclesiastical laws could be formed : and to cover this pretence the better, some steps were, in fact, taken towards the execution of such a design. But the meaning of the crown certainly was to uphold its darling supremacy, even on the old footing of the canon laws.' The same writer, in elsewhere treating on the same subject and the same period, says, “the ecclesiastical jurisdiction was not annihilated, but transferred : and all the power of the Roman pon. tiff now centered in the king's person. Henceforth then we are to regard him in a more awful point of view; as armed with both swords at once ; and, as Nat. Bacon expresses it in his way, as a strange kind of monster, “ A king with a pope in his belly.” Hurd's Dial. Mor, and Pol. 1st ed. p. 266, 292.