A Treatise of Civil power
That it is not lawfull for any power on earth to compell in matters of
Commonwealth of ENGLAND
with the dominions therof.
A Treatise of Civil power in Ecclesiastical causes.TWo things there be which have bin ever found working much mischief to the church of God, and the advancement of truth; force on the one side restraining, and hire on the other side corrupting the teachers thereof. Few ages have bin since the ascension of our Saviour, wherin the one of these two, or both together have not prevaild. It can be at no time therfore unseasonable to speak of these things; since by them the church is either in continual detriment and oppression, or in continual danger. The former shall be at this time my argument; the latter as I shall finde God disposing me, and opportunity inviting. What I argue, shall be drawn from the scripture only; and therin from true fundamental principles of the gospel; to all knowing Christians undeniable. And if the governors of this commonwealth since the rooting out of prelats, have made least use of force in religion, and most have favord Christian liberty of any in this Iland before them since the first preaching of the gospel, for which we are not to forget our thanks to God, and their due praise; they may, I doubt not, in this treatise finde that which not only will confirm them to defend still the Christian liberty which we enjoy, but will incite them also to enlarge it, if in aught they yet straiten it. To them who perhaps herafter, less experienc'd in religion, may come to govern or give us laws, this or other such, if they please, may be a timely instruction: however, to the truth it will be at all times no unneedfull testimonie; at least some discharge of that general dutie which no Christian but according to what he hath receivd knows is requir'd of him if he have aught more conducing to the advancement of religion then what is usually endeavourd, freely to impart it.
It will require no great labor of exposition to unfold what is here meant by matters of religion; being as soon apprehended as defin'd, such things as belong chiefly to the knowledge and service of God: and are either above the reach and light of nature without revelation from above, and therfore liable to be variously understood by humane reason, or such things as are enjoind or forbidden by divine precept, which els by the light of reason would seem indifferent to be don or not don; and so likewise must needs appeer to everie man as the precept is understood. Whence I here mean by conscience or religion, that full perswasion whereby we are assur'd that our beleef and practise, as far as we are able to apprehend and probably make appeer, is according to the will of God & his Holy Spirit within us, which we ought to follow much rather then any law of man, as not only his word every where bids us, but the very dictate of reason tells us: Act. 4. 19. whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken to you more then to God, judge ye. That for beleef or practise in religion according to this conscientious perswasion, no man ought be punishd or molested by any outward force on earth whatsoever, I distrust not, through Gods implor'd assistance, to make plane by these following arguments.
First, it cannot be deni'd, being the main foundation of our protestant religion, that we of these ages, having no other divine rule or autoritie from without us warrantable to oneanother as a common ground, but the holy scripture, and no other within us but the illumination of the Holy Spirit so interpreting that scripture as warrantable only to our selves and to such whose consciences we can so perswade, can have no other ground in matters of religion but only from the scriptures. And these being not possible to be understood without this divine illumination, which no man can know at all times to be in himself, much less to be at any time for certain in any other, it follows cleerly that no man or body of men in these times can be the infallible judges or determiners in matters of religion to any other mens consciences but their own. And therfore those Beroeans are commended, Act. 17.11, who after the preaching even of S. Paul, searchd the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Nor did they more then what God himself in many places commands us by the same apostle, to search, to try, to judge of these things ourselves: and gives us reason also, Gal. 6. 4, 5. Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another: for every man shall bear his own burden. If then we count it so ignorant and irreligious in the papist to think himself dischargd in Gods account, beleeving only as the church beleevs, how much greater condemnation will it be to the protestant his condemner, to think himself justified, beleeving only as the state beleevs? With good cause, therfore, it is the general consent of all sound protestant writers that neither traditions, councels nor canons of any visible church, much less edicts of any magistrate or civil session, but the scripture only can be the final judge or rule in matters of religion, and that only in the conscience of every Christian to himself. Which protestation made by the first publick reformers of our religion against the imperial edicts of Charls the fifth, imposing church-traditions without scripture, gave first beginning to the name of Protestant; and with that name hath ever bin receivd this doctrine, which preferrs the scripture before the church, and acknowledges none but the Scripture sole interpreter of it self to the conscience. For if the church be not sufficient to be implicitly beleevd, as we hold it is not, what can there els be nam'd of more autoritie then the church but the conscience; then which God only is greater, I Joh. 3.20? But if any man shall pretend, that the scripture judges to his conscience for other men, he makes himself greater not only then the church, but also then the scripture, then the consciences of other men; a presumption too high for any mortal; since every true Christian able to give a reason of his faith, hath the word of God before him, the promisd Holy Spirit, and the minde of Christ within him, I Cor. 2.16; a much better and safer guide of conscience, which as far as concerns himself he may far more certainly know then any outward rule impos'd upon him by others whom he inwardly neither knows nor can know; at least knows nothing of them more sure then this one thing, that they cannot be his judges in religion, I Cor. 2. 15. the spiritual man judgeth all things, but he himself is judgd of no man. Chiefly for this cause do all true protestants account the pope antichrist, for that he assumes to himself this infallibilitie over both the conscience and the scripture; sitting in the temple of God, as it were opposite to God, and exalting himself above all that is called God, or is worshipd, 2 Thess. 2.4. That is to say not only above all judges and magistrates, who though they be calld gods are far beneath infallible, but also above God himself, by giving law both to the scripture, to the conscience, and to the spirit itself of God within us. Whenas we finde, James 4. 12, There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? That Christ is the only lawgiver of his church and that it is here meant in religious matters, no well grounded Christian will deny. Thus also S. Paul, Rom. 14. 4, Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? to his own Lord he standeth or falleth: but he shall stand; for God is able to make him stand. As therfore of one beyond expression bold and presumptuous, both these apostles demand, who art thou that presum'st to impose other law or judgment in religion then the only lawgiver and judge Christ, who only can save and can destroy, gives to the conscience? And the forecited place to the Thessalonians by compar'd effects resolvs us, that be he or they who or wherever they be or can be, they are of far less autoritie then the church, whom in these things as protestants they receive not, and yet no less antichrist in this main point of antichristianism, no less a pope or popedom then he at Rome, if not much more; by setting up supream interpreters of scripture either those doctors whom they follow, or, which is far worse, themselves as a civil papacie assuming unaccountable supremacie to themselves not in civil only but ecclesiastical causes. Seeing then that in matters of religion, as hath been prov'd, none can judge or determin here on earth, no not church-governors themselves against the consciences of other beleevers, my inference is, or rather not mine but our Saviours own, that in those matters they neither can command nor use constraint; lest they run rashly on a pernicious consequence, forewarnd in that parable Mat. 13. from the 26 to the 31 verse: least while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares &c. whereby he declares that this work neither his own ministers nor any els can discerningly anough or judgingly perform without his own immediat direction, in his own fit season; and that they ought till then not to attempt it. Which is further confirmd 2 Cor. 1.24, not that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy. If apostles had no dominion or constraining power over faith or conscience, much less have ordinary ministers: I Pet. 5.2,3. feed the flock of God not by constraint &c. neither as being lords over Gods heritage. But some will object, that this overthrows all church-discipline, all censure of errors, if no man can determin. My answer is, that what they hear is plane scripture; which forbids not church-sentence or determining, but as it ends in violence upon the conscience unconvinc'd. Let who so will interpret or determin, so it be according to true church-discipline; which is exercis'd on them only who have willingly joind themselves in that covnant of union, and proceeds only to a separation from the rest, proceeds never to any corporal inforcement or forfeture of monie, which in spiritual things are the two arms of Antichrist, not of the true church; the one being an inquisition, the other no better then a temporal indulgence of sin for monie, whether by the church exacted or by the magistrate; both the one and the other a temporal satisfaction for what Christ hath satisfied eternally; a popish commuting of penaltie, corporal for spiritual; a satisfaction to man especially to the magistrate, for what and to whom we owe none: these and more are the injustices of force and fining in religion, besides what I most insist on, the violation of Gods express commandment in the gospel, as hath bin shewn. Thus then if church-governors cannot use force in religion, though but for this reason, because they cannot infallibly determin to the conscience without convincement, much less have civil magistrates autoritie to use force where they can much less judge; unless they mean only to be the civil executioners of them who have no civil power to give them such commission, no nor yet ecclesiastical to any force or violence in religion. To summe up all in brief, if we must beleeve as the magistrate appoints, why not rather as the church? if not as either without convincement, how can force be lawfull? But some are ready to cry out, what shall then be don to blasphemie? Them I would first exhort not thus to terrifie and pose the people with a Greek word: but to teach them better what it is; being a most usual and common word in that language to signifie any slander, any malitious or evil speaking, whether against God or man or anything to good belonging: blasphemie or evil speaking against God malitiously, is far from conscience in religion; according to that of Marc 9. 39, there is none who doth a powerfull work in my name, and can likely speak evil of me. If this suffice not, I referre them to that prudent and well deliberated act, August 9. 1650; where the Parlament defines blasphemie against God, as far as it is a crime belonging to civil judicature, pleniùs ac meliùs Chrysippo et Crantore; in plane English, more warily more judiciously, more orthodoxally then twice thir number of divines have don in many a prolix volume: although in all likelihood they whose whole studie and profession these things are should be most intelligent and authentic therin, as they are for the most part, yet neither they nor these unerring always, or infallible. But we shall not carrie it thus; another Greek apparition stands in our way, heresie and heretic; in like manner also rail'd at to the people as in a tongue unknown. They should first interpret to them that heresie by what it signifies in that language, is no word of evil note; meaning only the choise or following of any opinion good or bad in religion, or any other learning: and thus not only in heathen authors but in the New testament it self, without censure or blame. Acts 15. 5. certain of the heresie of the Pharises which beleevd. and 26. 5 after the exactest heresie of our religion I livd a Pharise. In which sense Presbyterian or Independent may without reproach be calld a heresie. Where it is mentiond with blame, it seems to differ little from schism 1 Cor. 11. 18, 19 I hear that there be schisms among you &c. for there must also heresies be among you &c; though some, who write of heresie after their own heads, would make it far worse then schism; whenas on the contrarie, schism signifies division, and in the worst sense; heresie, choise only of one opinion before another, which may bee without discord. In apostolic times therfore ere the scripture was written, heresie was a doctrin maintaind against the doctrin by them deliverd: which in these times can be no otherwise defin'd then a doctrin maintaind against the light, which we now only have, of the scripture. Seeing therfore that no man, no synod, no session of men, though calld the church, can judge definitively the sense of scripture to another mans conscience, which is well known to be a general maxim of the Protestant religion, it follows planely that he who holds in religion that beleef or those opinions which to his conscience and utmost understanding appeer with most evidence or probabilitie in the scripture, though to others he seem erroneous, can no more be justly censur'd for a heretic then his censurers; who do but the same thing themselves while they censure him for so doing. For ask them, or any Protestant, which hath most autoritie, the church or the scripture? they will answer, doubtless, that the scripture: and what hath most autoritie, that no doubt but they will confess is to be followd. He then who to his best apprehension follows the scripture, though against any point of doctrine by the whole church receivd, is not the heretic; but he who follows the church against his conscience and perswasion grounded on the scripture. To make this yet more undeniable, I shall only borrow a plane similie, the same which our own writers, when they would demonstrate planest that we rightly preferre the scripture before the church, use frequently against the Papist in this manner. As the Samaritans beleevd Christ, first for the womans word, but next and much rather for his own, so we the scripture; first on the churches word, but afterwards and much more for its own, as the word of God; yea, the church itself we beleeve then for the scripture. The inference of itself follows: if by the Protestant doctrine we beleeve the scripture not for the churches saying but for its own as the word of God, then ought we to beleeve what in our conscience we apprehend the scripture to say, though the visible church with all her doctors gainsay; and being taught to beleeve them only for the scripture, they who so do are not heretics, but the best protestants: and by their opinions, whatever they be, can hurt no protestant, whose rule is not to receive them but from the scripture: which to interpret convincingly to his own conscience none is able but himself guided by the Holy Spirit; and not so guided, none then he to himself can be a worse deceiver. To protestants, therfore, whose common rule and touchstone is the scripture, nothing can with more conscience, more equitie, nothing more protestantly can be permitted then a free and lawful debate at all times by writing, conference or disputation of what opinion soever, disputable by scripture: concluding, that no man in religion is properly a heretic at this day, but he who maintains traditions or opinions not probable by scripture; who, for aught I know, is the papist only; he the only heretic, who counts all heretics but himself. Such as these, indeed, were capitally punishd by the law of Moses, as the only true heretics, idolaters, plane and open deserters of God and his known law: but in the gospel such are punished by excommunion only. Tit. 3.10. an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject. But they who think not this heavie anough, and understand not that dreadfull aw and spiritual efficacie which the apostle hath expressd so highly to be in church-discipline, 2 Cor. 10. of which anon, and think weakly that the church of God cannot long subsist but in a bodilie fear, for want of other prooff will needs wrest that place of S. Paul Rom. 13. to set up civil inquisition, and give power to the magistrate both of civil judgment and punishment in causes ecclesiastical. But let us see with what strength of argument. Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. First, how prove they that the apostle means other powers then such as they to whom he writes were then under; who medld not at all in ecclesiastical causes, unless as tyrants and persecutors; and from them, I hope, they will not derive either the right of magistrates to judge in spiritual things or the dutie of such our obedience. How prove they next that he intitles them here to spiritual causes, from whom he witheld, as much as in him lay, the judging of civil; 1 Cor. 6.1, &c. If he himself appeald to Cesar, it was to judge his innocence, not his religion. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. then are they not a terror to conscience, which is the rule or judge of good works grounded on the scripture. But heresie, they say, is reck'nd among evil works Gal. 5. 20: as if all evil works were to be punishd by the magistrate; wherof this place, thir own citation, reck'ns up besides heresie a sufficient number to confute them; uncleanness, wantonness, enmitie, strife, emulations, animosities, contentions, envyings; all which are far more manifest to be judgd by him then heresie, as they define it; and yet I suppose they will not subject these evil works nor many more such like to his cognisance and punishment. Wilt thou then not be affraid of the power? do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same. This shews that religious matters are not here meant; wherin from the power here spoken of they could have no praise. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. true; but in that office and to that end and by those means which in this place must be cleerly found, if from this place they intend to argue. And how for thy good by forcing, oppressing, and insnaring thy conscience? Many are the ministers of God and thir offices no less different then many; none more different then state and church-government. Who seeks to govern both must needs be worse then any lord prelat or church pluralist: for he in his own facultie and profession, the other not in his own and for the most part not throughly understood makes himself supream lord or pope of the church as far as his civil jurisdiction stretches, and all the ministers of God therin, his ministers, or his curates rather in the function onely, not in the government: while he himself assumes to rule by civil power things to be rul'd only by spiritual: when as this very chapter v. 6 appointing him his peculiar office, which requires utmost attendance, forbids him this worse then church-plurality from that full and waightie charge, wherin alone he is the minister of God, attending continually on this very thing. To little purpose will they here instance Moses, who did all by immediate divine direction, no nor yet Asa, Jehosaphat, or Josia, who both might when they pleasd receive answer from God, and had a commonwealth by him deliverd them, incorporated with a national church exercis'd more in bodily then in spiritual worship, so as that the church might be calld a commonwealth and the whole commonwealth a church: nothing of which can be said of Christianitie, deliverd without the help of magistrates, yea in the midst of their opposition; how little then with any reference to them or mention of them, save onely of our obedience to thir civil laws, as they countnance good and deterr evil: which is the proper work of the magistrate, following in the same verse, and shews distinctly wherin he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath on him that doth evil. But we must first know who it is that doth evil: the heretic they say among the first. Let it be known then certainly who is a heretic: and that he who holds opinions in religion professdly from tradition or his own inventions and not from Scripture but rather against it, is the only heretic; and yet though such, not alwaies punishable by the magistrate, unless he do evil against a civil Law, properly so calld, hath been already prov'd without need of repetition. But if thou do that which is evil, be affraid. To do by scripture and the gospel according to conscience is not to do evil; if we therof ought not to be affraid, he ought not by his judging to give cause. causes therfore of Religion are not here meant. For he beareth not the sword in vain. Yes altogether in vain, if it smite he knows not what; if that for heresie which not the church it self, much less he, can determine absolutely to be so; if truth for error, being himself so often fallible, he bears the sword not in vain only, but unjustly and to evil. Be subject not only for wrath, but for conscience sake: how for conscience sake against conscience? By all these reasons it appeers planely that the apostle in this place gives no judgment or coercive power to magistrates, neither to those then nor these now in matters of religion; and exhorts us no otherwise then he exhorted those Romans. It hath now twice befaln me to assert, through Gods assistance, this most wrested and vexd place of scripture; heretofore against Salmasius and regal tyranie over the state; now against Erastus and state-tyranie over the church. If from such uncertain or rather such improbable grounds as these they endue magistracie with spiritual judgment, they may as well invest him in the same spiritual kinde with power of utmost punishment, excommunication; and then turn spiritual into corporal, as no worse authors did then Chrysostom, Jerom, and Austin, whom Erasmus and others in thir notes on the New Testament have cited to interpret that cutting off which S. Paul wishd to them who had brought back the Galatians to circumcision, no less then the amercement of thir whole virilitie; and Grotius addes that this concising punishment of circumcisers became a penal law therupon among the Visigothes: a dangerous example of beginning in the spirit to end so in the flesh: wheras that cutting off much likelier seems meant a cutting off from the church, not unusually so termd in scripture, and a zealous imprecation, not a command. But I have mentiond this passage to shew how absurd they often prove who have not learnd to distinguish rightly between civil power and ecclesiastical. How many persecutions then, imprisonments, banishments penalties, and stripes; how much bloodshed have the forcers of conscience to answer for, and protestants rather then papists! For the papist, judging by his principles, punishes them who beleeve not as the church beleevs though against the scripture; but the protestant, teaching every one to beleeve the scripture though against the church, counts heretical and persecutes, against his own principles, them who in any particular so beleeve as he in general teaches them; them who most honor and beleeve divine scripture, but not against it any humane interpretation though universal; them who interpret scripture only to themselves, which by his own position none but they to themselves can interpret; them who use the scripture no otherwise by his own doctrine to thir edification, then he himself uses it to thir punishing: and so whom his doctrine acknowledges a true beleever, his discipline persecutes as a heretic. The papist exacts our beleef as to the church due above scripture; and by the church, which is the whole people of God, understands the pope, the general councels prelatical only and the surnam'd fathers: but the forcing protestant though he deny such beleef to any church whatsoever, yet takes it to himself and his teachers, of far less autoritie then to be calld the church and above scripture beleevd: which renders his practise both contrarie to his beleef, and far worse then that beleef which he condemns in the papist. By all which well considerd, the more he professes to be a true protestant, the more he hath to answer for his persecuting then a papist. No protestant therfore of what sect soever following scripture only, which is the common sect wherin they all agree and the granted rule of everie mans conscience to himself, ought, by the common doctrine of protestants, to be forc'd or molested for religion. But as for poperie and idolatrie, why they also may not hence plead to be tolerated, I have much less to say. Their religion the more considerd, the less can be acknowledged a religion, but a Roman principalitie rather, endevouring to keep up her old universal dominion under a new name and meer shaddow of a catholic religion; being indeed more rightly nam'd a catholic heresie against the scripture; supported mainly by a civil, and, except in Rome, by a forein power: justly therfore to be suspected, not tolerated by the magistrate of another countrey. Besides, of an implicit faith, which they profess, the conscience also becoms implicit; and so by voluntarie servitude to mans law, forfets her Christian libertie. Who then can plead for such a conscience, as being implicitly enthrald to man instead of God, almost becoms no conscience, as the will not free, becoms no will. Nevertheless, if they ought not to be tolerated, it is for just reason of state more then of religion; which they who force, though professing to be protestants, deserve as little to be tolerated themselves, being no less guiltie of poperie in the most popish point. Lastly, for idolatrie, who knows it not to be evidently against all scripture both of the Old and New Testament, and therfore a true heresie, or rather an impietie; wherin a right conscience can have naught to do; and the works therof so manifest, that a magistrate can hardly err in prohibiting and quite removing at least the publick and scandalous use therof.
From the riddance of these objections, I proceed yet to another reason why it is unlawfull for the civil magistrate to use force in matters of religion; which is, because to judge in those things, though we should grant him able, which is prov'd he is not, yet as a civil magistrate he hath no right. Christ hath a government of his own sufficient of it self to all his ends and purposes in governing his church; but much different from that of the civil magistrate; and the difference in this verie thing principally consists, that it governs not by outward force, and that for two reasons. First, because it deals only with the inward man and his actions, which are all spiritual and to outward force not lyable: secondly, to shew us the divine excellence of his spiritual kingdom, able without worldly force to subdue all the powers and kingdoms of this world, which are upheld by outward force only. That the inward man is nothing els but the inward part of man, his understanding and his will, and that his actions thence proceeding, yet not simply thence but from the work of divine grace upon them, are the whole matter of religion under the gospel, will appeer planely by considering what that religion is; whence we shall perceive yet more planely that it cannot be forc'd. What evangelic religion is, is told in two words, faith and charitie, or beleef and practise. That both these flow, either the one from the understanding, the other from the will, or both jointly from both, once indeed naturally free, but now only as they are regenerat and wrought on by divine grace, is in part evident to common sense and principles unquestiond, the rest by scripture: concerning our beleef, Mat. 16. 17. flesh and blood hath not reveald it unto thee, but my father which is in heaven: concerning our practise, as it is religious and not meerly civil, Gal. 5. 22, 23 and other places, declare it to be the fruit of the spirit only. Nay, our whole practical dutie in religion is containd in charitie, or the love of God and our neighbour, no way to be forc'd, yet the fulfilling of the whole law; that is to say, our whole practise in religion. If then both our beleef and practise, which comprehend our whole religion, flow from faculties of the inward man, free and unconstrainable of themselves by nature, and our practise not only from faculties endu'd with freedom, but from love and charitie besides, incapable of force, and all these things by transgression lost, but renewd and regenerated in us by the power and gift of God alone, how can such religion as this admit of force from man, or force be any way appli'd to such religion, especially under the free offer of grace in the gospel but it must forthwith frustrate and make of no effect both the religion and the gospel? And that to compell outward profession, which they will say perhaps ought to be compelld though inward religion cannot, is to compell hypocrisie not to advance religion, shall yet, though of itself cleer anough, be ere the conclusion further manifest. The other reason why Christ rejects outward force in the goverment of his church, is, as I said before, to shew us the divine excellence of his spiritual kingdom, able without worldly force to subdue all the powers and kingdoms of this world, which are upheld by outward force only: by which to uphold religion otherwise then to defend the religious from outward violence, is no service to Christ or his kingdom but rather a disparagement, and degrades it from a divine and spiritual kingdom to a kingdom of this world: which he denies it to be, because it needs not force to confirm it: Joh. 18. 36: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jewes. This proves the kingdom of Christ not governd by outward force, as being none of this world, whose kingdoms are maintain'd all by force onely: and yet disproves not that a Christian commonwealth may defend itself against outward force in the cause of religion as well as in any other; though Christ himself, coming purposely to dye for us, would not be so defended. 1 Cor. 1.27. God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. Then surely he hath not chosen the force of this world to subdue conscience and conscientious men, who in this world are counted weakest; but rather conscience, as being weakest, to subdue and regulate force, his adversarie, not his aide or instrument in governing the church: 2 Cor.10. 3, 4, 5, 6. for though we walk in the flesh, we do not warre after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal; but mightie through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations and everie high thing that exalts it self against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivitie everie thought to the obedience of Christ: and having in a readiness to aveng all disobedience. It is evident by the first and second verses of this chapter, that the apostle here speaks of that spiritual power by which Christ governs his church, how allsufficient it is, how powerful to reach the conscience and the inward man with whom it chiefly deals, and whom no power els can deal with. In comparison of which as it is here thus magnificently describ'd, how uneffectual and weak is outward force with all her boistrous tooles, to the shame of those Christians and especially those churchmen, who to the exercising of church discipline never cease calling on the civil magistrate to interpose his fleshlie force; an argument that all true ministerial and spiritual power is dead within them: who think the gospel, which both began and spread over the whole world for above three hundred years under heathen and persecuting emperors, cannot stand or continue, supported by the same divine presence and protection to the worlds end, much easier under the defensive favor onely of a Christian magistrate, unless it be enacted and settled, as they call it, by the state, a statute or a state-religion: and understand not that the church itself cannot, much less the state, settle or impose one tittle of religion upon our obedience implicit, but can only recommend or propound it to our free and conscientious examination: unless they mean to set the state higher then the church in religion, and with a grosse contradiction give to the state in thir settling petition that command of our implicit beleef which they deny in thir setled confession both to the state and to the church. Let them cease then to importune and interrupt the magistrate from attending to his own charge in civil and moral things, the settling of things just, things honest, the defence of things religious settled by the churches within themselves; and the repressing of thir contraries determinable by the common light of nature, which is not to constrain or to repress religion, probable by scripture, but the violaters and persecuters therof: of all which things he hath anough and more then anough to do, left yet undon, for which the land groans and justice goes to wrack the while: let him also forbear force where he hath no right to judge; for the conscience is not his province: least a worse woe arrive him, for worse offending, then was denounced by our Saviour Matt. 23. 23 against the Pharises: ye have forc'd the conscience, which was not to be forc'd; but judgment and mercy ye have not executed: this ye should have don, and the other let alone. And since it is the councel and set purpose of God in the gospel by spiritual means, which are counted weak, to overcom all power which resists him; let them not go about to do that by worldly strength which he hath decreed to do by those means which the world counts weakness, least they be again obnoxious to that saying which in another place is also written of the Pharises, Luke 7. 30 that they frustrated the councel of God. The main plea is, and urgd with much vehemence to their imitation, that the kings of Juda, as I touchd before, and especially Josia both judgd and us'd force in religion: 2 Chron. 34. 33 he made all that were present in Israel to serve the Lord their God: an argument, if it be well weighed, worse then that used by the false prophet Shemaia to the high priest, that in imitation of Jehojada he ought to put Jeremie in the stocks, Jer. 29. 24, 26, &c. for which he receivd his due denouncement from God. But to this besides I return a threefold answer: first, that the state of religion under the gospel is far differing from what it was under the law: then was the state of rigor, childhood, bondage and works, to all which force was not unbefitting; now is the state of grace, manhood, freedom and faith, to all which belongs willingness and reason, not force: the law was then written on tables of stone, and to be performd according to the letter; willingly or unwillingly; the gospel, our new covnant, upon the heart of every beleever, to be interpreted only by the sense of charitie and inward perswasion: the law had no distinct government or governors of church and commonwealth, but the Priests and Levites judg'd in all causes not ecclesiastical only, but civil, Deut. 17. 8, &c. which under the gospel is forbidden to all church-ministers, as a thing which Christ thir master in his ministerie disclaim'd Luke 12. 14; as a thing beneathe them 1 Cor. 6. 4; and by many of our statutes, as to them who have a peculiar and far-differing government of thir own. If not, why different the governors? Why not church-ministers in state affairs as well as state-ministers in church affairs? If church and state shall be made one flesh again as under the law, let it be withall considerd, that God who then joind them hath now severd them; that which, he so ordaining, was then a lawfull conjunction to such on either side as join again what he hath severd would be nothing now but thir own presumptuous fornication. Secondly, the kings of Juda and those magistrates under the law might have recours, as I said before, to divine inspiration; which our magistrates under the gospel have not, more then to the same spirit, which those whom they force have oft times in greater measure then themselves: and so, instead of forcing the Christian, they force the Holy Ghost; and, against that wise forewarning of Gamaliel, fight against God. Thirdly, those kings and magistrates us'd force in such things only as were undoubtedly known and forbidden in the law of Moses, idolatrie and direct apostacie from that national and strict enjoind worship of God; whereof the corporal punishment was by himself expressly set down: but magistrates under the gospel, our free, elective and rational worship, are most commonly busiest to force those things which in the gospel are either left free, nay somtimes abolishd when by them compelld, or els controverted equally by writers on both sides, end somtimes with odds on that side which is against them. By which means they either punish that which they ought to favor and protect, or that with corporal punishment and of thir own inventing, which not they but the church had receivd command to chastise with a spiritual rod only. Yet some are so eager in thir zeal of forcing, that they refuse not to descend at length to the utmost shift of that parabolical prooff, Luke 14. 16, &c. compell them to come in. therfore magistrates may compell in religion. As if a parable were to be straind through everie word or phrase, and not expounded by the general scope therof: which is no other here then the earnest expression of Gods displeasure on those recusant Jewes, and his purpose to preferre the gentiles on any terms before them; expressd here by the word compell. But how compells he? doubtless no otherwise then he draws, without which no man can come to him, Joh.6. 44: and that is by the inward perswasive motions of his spirit and by his ministers; not by the outward compulsions of a magistrate or his officers. The true people of Christ, as is foretold Psal. 110. 3, are a willing people in the day of his power. then much more now when he rules all things by outward weakness, that both his inward power and their sinceritie may the more appeer. God loveth a chearfull giver: then certainly is not pleasd with an unchearfull worshiper; as the verie words declare of his evangelical invitations Esa. 55. 1. ho, everie one that thirsteth, come. Joh. 7. 37 if any man thirst. Rev. 3. 18, I counsel thee. and 22. 17. whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. And in that grand commission of preaching, to invite all nations Marc 16. 16, as the reward of them who come, so the penaltie of them who come not is only spiritual. But they bring now some reason with thir force, which must not pass unanswerd; that the church of Thyatira was blam'd Rev. 2. 20 for suffering the false prophetess to teach and to seduce. I answer, that seducement is to be hinderd by fit and proper means ordaind in church-discipline; by instant and powerfull demonstration to the contrarie; by opposing truth to error, no unequal match; truth the strong to error the weak though slie and shifting. Force is no honest confutation; but uneffectual, and for the most part unsuccessfull, oft times fatal to them who use it: sound doctrine, diligently and duely taught, is of herself both sufficient, and of herself (if some secret judgment of God hinder not) alwaies prevalent against seducers. This the Thyatirians had neglected, suffering, against Church-discipline, that woman to teach and seduce among them: civil force they had not then in their power; being the Christian part only of that citie, and then especially under one of those ten great persecutions wherof this the second was raisd by Domitian: force therfore in these matters could not be requir'd of them who were under force themselves.
I have shewn that the civil power hath neither right nor can do right by forcing religious things: I will now shew the wrong it doth; by violating the fundamental privilege of the gospel, the new-birthright of everie true beleever, Christian libertie. 2 Cor. 3. 17. where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is libertie. Gal. 4. 26, Jerusalem which is above, is free; which is the mother of us all. and 31. we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. It will be sufficient in this place to say no more of Christian libertie, then that it sets us free not only from the bondage of those ceremonies, but also from the forcible imposition of those circumstances, place and time in the worship of God: which though by him commanded in the old law, yet in respect of that veritie and freedom which is evangelical, S. Paul comprehends both kindes alike, that is to say, both ceremonie and circumstance, under one and the same contemtuous name of weak and beggarly rudiments, Gal. 4. 3. 9, 10. Col. 2. 8. with 16: conformable to what our Saviour himself taught John 4. 21, 23, neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem. In spirit and in truth: for the father seeketh such to worship him. that is to say, not only sincere of heart, for such he sought ever, but also, as the words here chiefly import, not compelld to place, and by the same reason, not to any set time; as his apostle by the same spirit hath taught us Rom. 14.6, &c. one man esteemeth one day above another, another &c. Gal. 4.10. Ye observe dayes and moonths &c. Coloss. 2. 16. These and other such places of scripture the best and learnedest reformed writers have thought evident anough to instruct us in our freedom not only from ceremonies, but from those circumstances also, though impos'd with a confident perswasion of moralitie in them, which they hold impossible to be in place or time. By what warrant then our opinions and practises herin are of late turnd quite against all other Protestants, and that which is to them orthodoxal, to us become scandalous and punishable by statute, I wish were once again better considerd; if we mean not to proclame a schism in this point from the best and most reformed churches abroad. They who would seem more knowing, confess that these things are indifferent, but for that very cause by the magistrate may be commanded. As if God of his special grace in the gospel had to this end freed us from his own commandments in these things, that our freedom should subject us to a more greevous yoke, the commandments of men. As well may the magistrate call that common or unclean which God hath cleansd, forbidden to S. Peter Acts 10. 15; as well may he loos'n that which God hath strait'nd or strait'n that which God hath loos'nd, as he may injoin those things in religion which God hath left free, and lay on that yoke which God hath taken off. For he hath not only given us this gift as a special privilege and excellence of the free gospel above the servile law, but strictly also hath commanded us to keep it and enjoy it. Gal. 5. 13. you are calld to libertie. 1 Cor. 7. 23. be not made the servants of men Gal. 5. 14. stand fast therfore in the libertie wherwith Christ hath made us free; and be not entangl'd again with the yoke of bondage. Neither is this a meer command, but for the most part in these forecited places, accompanied with the verie waightiest and inmost reasons of Christian religion: Rom. 14. 9, 10. for to this end Christ both dy'd and rose and reviv'd, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? &c. how presum'st thou to be his lord, to be whose only Lord, at least in these things, Christ both dy'd and rose and livd again? We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. why then dost thou not only judge, but persecute in these things for which we are to be accountable to the tribunal of Christ only, our Lord and lawgiver? 1 Cor. 7. 23. ye are bought with a price; be not made the servants of men. some trivial price belike, and for some frivolous pretenses paid in their opinion, if bought and by him redeemd who is God from what was once the service of God, we shall be enthrald again and forc'd by men to what now is but the service of men. Gal. 4. 31, with 5. 1, we are not children of the bondwoman &c. stand fast therfore, &c. Col. 2. 8 beware least any man spoil you, &c. after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Solid reasons wherof are continu'd through the whole chapter. v. 10. ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principalitie and power. not completed therfore or made the more religious by those ordinances of civil power from which Christ thir head hath dischargd us; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances, that was against us, which was contrarie to us; and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross, v. 14: blotting out ordinances written by God himself, much more those so boldly written over again by men. ordinances which were against us, that is, against our frailtie, much more those which are against our conscience. Let no man therfore judge you in respect of &c. v. 16. Gal. 4. 3, &c. even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the rudiments of the world: but when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his son &c. to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons &c. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son &c. But now &c. how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe dayes &c. Hence it planely appeers that if we be not free we are not sons, but still servants unadopted; and if we turn again to those weak and beggarly rudiments, we are not free; yea though willingly and with a misguided conscience we desire to be in bondage to them; how much more then if unwillingly and against our conscience? Ill was our condition chang'd from legal to evangelical, and small advantage gotten by the gospel, if for the spirit of adoption to freedom, promisd us, we receive again the spirit of bondage to fear; if our fear which was then servile towards God only, must be now servile in religion towards men: strange also and preposterous fear, if when and wherin it hath attaind by the redemption of our Saviour to be filial only towards God, it must be now servile towards the magistrate. Who by subjecting us to his punishment in these things, brings back into religion that law of terror and satisfaction, belonging now only to civil crimes; and thereby in effect abolishes the gospel by establishing again the law to a far worse yoke of servitude upon us then before. It will therfore not misbecome the meanest Christian to put in minde Christian magistrates, and so much the more freely by how much the more they desire to be thought Christian (for they will be thereby, as they ought to be in these things, the more our brethren and the less our lords) that they meddle not rashly with Christian libertie, the birthright and outward testimonie of our adoption: lest while they little think it, nay, think they do God service, they themselves like the sons of that bondwoman be found persecuting them who are freeborne of the spirit; and by a sacrilege of not the least aggravation bereaving them of that sacred libertie which our Saviour with his own blood purchas'd for them.
A fourth reason why the magistrate ought not to use force in religion I bring from the consideration of all those ends which he can likely pretend to the interposing of his force therin: and those hardly can be other then first the glorie of God; next, either the spiritual good of them whom he forces, or the temporal punishment of their scandal to others. As for the promoting of Gods glory, none, I think, will say that his glorie ought to be promoted in religious things by unwarrantable means, much less by means contrarie to what he hath commanded. That outward force is such, and that Gods glory in the whole administration of the gospel according to his own will and councel ought to be fulfilld by weakness, at least so refuted, not by force; or if by force, inward and spiritual, not outward and corporeal, is already prov'd at large. That outward force cannot tend to the good of him who is forc'd in religion, is unquestionable. For in religion whatever we do under the gospel, we ought to be therof perswaded without scruple; and are justified by the faith we have, not by the work we do. Rom. 14. 5. Let every man be fully perswaded in his own mind. The other reason which follows necessarily, is obvious Gal. 2. 16, and in many other places of St. Paul, as the groundwork and foundation of the whole gospel, that we are justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law. if not by the works of Gods law, how then by the injunctions of mans law? Surely force cannot work perswasion, which is faith; cannot therfore justifie nor pacifie the conscience: and that which justifies not in the gospel, condemns, is not only not good, but sinfull to do. Rom. 14. 23. Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin. It concerns the magistrate then to take heed how he forces in religion conscientious men: least by compelling them to do that wherof they cannot be perswaded, that wherin they cannot finde themselves justified, but by thir own consciences condemnd, instead of aiming at thir spiritual good, he force them to do evil; and while he thinks himself Asa, Josia, Nehemia, he be found Jeroboam, who causd Israel to sin; and thereby draw upon his own head all those sins and shipwracks of implicit faith and conformitie, which he hath forc'd, and all the wounds given to those little ones, whom to offend he will finde worse one day then that violent drowning mentioned Matt. 18. 6. Lastly as a preface to force, it is the usual pretense, That although tender consciences shall be tolerated, yet scandals thereby given shall not be unpunishd, prophane and licentious men shall not be encourag'd to neglect the performance of religious and holy duties by color of any law giving libertie to tender consciences. By which contrivance the way lies ready open to them heerafter who may be so minded, to take away by little and little that liberty which Christ and his gospel, not any magistrate, hath right to give: though this kinde of his giving be but to give with one hand and take away with the other, which is a deluding not a giving. As for scandals, if any man be offended at the conscientious liberty of another, it is a taken scandal not a given. To heal one conscience we must not wound another: and men must be exhorted to beware of scandals in Christian libertie, not forc'd by the magistrate; least while he goes about to take away the scandal, which is uncertain whether given or taken, he take away our liberty, which is the certain and the sacred gift of God, neither to be touchd by him nor to be parted with by us. None more cautious of giving scandal then St. Paul. Yet while he made himself servant to all, that he might gain the more, he made himself so of his own accord, was not made so by outward force, testifying at the same time that he was free from all men, 1 Cor. 9. 19; and therafter exhorts us also Gal. 5. 13. ye were calld to libertie &c. but by love serve one another: then not by force. As for that fear least prophane and licentious men should be encourag'd to omit the performance of religious and holy duties, how can that care belong to the civil magistrate, especially to his force? For if prophane and licentious persons must not neglect the performance of religious and holy duties, it implies, that such duties they can perform; which no Protestant will affirm. They who mean the outward performance, may so explane it; and it will then appeer yet more planely, that such performance of religious and holy duties especialy by prophane and licentious persons, is a dishonoring rather then a worshiping of God; and not only by him not requir'd, but detested: Prov. 21. 27. the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination: how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked minde? To compell therfore the prophane to things holy in his prophaneness, is all one under the gospel, as to have compelld the unclean to sacrifice in his uncleanness under the law. And I adde withall, that to compell the licentious in his licentiousness, and the conscientious against his conscience, coms all to one; tends not to the honor of God, but to the multiplying and the aggravating of sin to them both. We read not that Christ ever exercis'd force but once; and that was to drive prophane ones out of his temple, not to force them in: and if thir beeing there was an offense, we finde by many other scriptures that thir praying there was an abomination: and yet to the Jewish law that nation, as a servant, was oblig'd; but to the gospel each person is left voluntarie, calld only, as a son, by the preaching of the word; not to be driven in by edicts and force of arms. For if by the apostle, Rom. 12.1, we are beseechd as brethren by the mercies of God to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service or worship, then is no man to be forc'd by the compulsive laws of men to present his body a dead sacrifice, and so under the gospel most unholy and unacceptable, because it is his unreasonable service, that is to say, not only unwilling but unconscionable. But if prophane and licentious persons may not omit the performance of holy duties, why may they not partake of holy things? Why are they prohibited the Lords supper; since both the one and the other action may be outward; and outward performance of dutie may attain at least an outward participation of benefit? The church denying them that communion of grace and thanksgiving, as it justly doth, why doth the magistrate compell them to the union of performing that which they neither truly can, being themselves unholy, and to do seemingly is both hatefull to God, and perhaps no less dangerous to perform holie duties irreligiously then to receive holy signs or sacraments unworthily? All prophane and licentious men, so known, can be considerd but either so without the church as never yet within it, or departed thence of thir own accord, or excommunicate: if never yet within the church, whom the apostle, and so consequently the church have naught to do to judge, as he professes 1 Cor. 5. 12, then by what autoritie doth the magistrate judge, or, which is worse compell in relation to the church? if departed of his own accord, like that lost sheep Luke 15. 4, &c. the true church either with her own or any borrowd force worries him not in again, but rather in all charitable manner sends after him; and if she finde him, layes him gently on her shoulders; bears him, yea bears his burdens; his errors, his infirmities any way tolerable, so fulfilling the law of Christ, Gal. 6. 2: if excommunicate, whom the church hath bid go out, in whose name doth the magistrate compell to go in? The church indeed hinders none from hearing in her publick congregation, for the doors are open to all: nor excommunicates to destruction, but, as much as in her lies, to a final saving. Her meaning therfore must needs bee, that as her driving out brings on no outward penaltie, so no outward force or penaltie of an improper and only a destructive power should drive in again her infectious sheep; therfore sent out because infectious, and not driven in but with the danger not only of the whole and sound, but also of his own utter perishing. Since force neither instructs in religion nor begets repentance or amendment of life, but, on the contrarie, hardness of heart, formalitie, hypocrisie, and, as I said before, everie way increase of sin; more and more alienates the minde from a violent religion expelling out and compelling in, and reduces it to a condition like that which the Britains complain of in our storie, driven to and fro between the Picts and the sea. If after excommunion he be found intractable, incurable, and will not hear the church, he becoms as one never yet within her pale, a heathen or a publican, Mat. 18. 17; not further to be judgd, no not by the magistrate, unless for civil causes; but left to the final sentence of that judge, whose coming shall be in flames of fire; that Maran atha, 1 Cor. 16. 22; then which to him so left nothing can be more dreadful and ofttimes to him particularly nothing more speedie, that is to say, the Lord cometh: In the mean while deliverd up to Satan, 1 Cor. 5. 5. 1 Tim. 1. 20. that is, from the fould of Christ and kingdom of grace to the world again which is the kingdom of Satan; and as he was receivd from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God Acts 26. 18, so now deliverd up again from light to darkness, and from God to the power of Satan; yet so as is in both places manifested, to the intent of saving him, brought sooner to contrition by spiritual then by any corporal severitie. But grant it belonging any way to the magistrate, that prophane and licentious persons omit not the performance of holy duties, which in them were odious to God even under the law, much more now under the gospel, yet ought his care both as a magistrate and a Christian to be much more that conscience be not inwardly violated, then that license in these things be made outwardly conformable: since his part is undoubtedly as a Christian, which puts him upon this office much more then as a magistrate, in all respects to have more care of the conscientious then of the prophane; and not for their sakes to take away (while they pretend to give) or to diminish the rightfull libertie of religious consciences.
On these four scriptural reasons as on a firm square this truth, the right of Christian and evangelic liberty, will stand immoveable against all those pretended consequences of license and confusion, which for the most part men most licentious and confus'd themselves, or such as whose severitie would be wiser then divine wisdom, are ever aptest to object against the waies of God: as if God without them when he gave us this libertie, knew not of the worst which these men in thir arrogance pretend will follow: yet knowing all their worst, he gave us this liberty as by him judgd best. As to those magistrates who think it their work to settle religion, and those ministers or others, who so oft call upon them to do so, I trust, that having well considerd what hath bin here argu'd, neither they will continue in that intention, nor these in that expectation from them: when they shall finde that the settlement of religion belongs only to each particular church by perswasive and spiritual means within it self, and that the defence only of the church belongs to the magistrate. Had he once learnt not further to concern himself with church affairs, half his labor might be spar'd, and the commonwealth better tended. To which end, that which I premis'd in the beginning, and in due place treated of more at large, I desire now concluding, that they would consider seriously what religion is: and they will find it to be, in summe, both our beleef and our practise depending upon God only. That there can be no place then left for the magistrate or his force in the settlement of religion, by appointing either what we shall beleeve in divine things or practise in religious (neither of which things are in the power of man either to perform himself or to enable others), I perswade me in the Christian ingenuitie of all religious men, the more they examin seriously, the more they will finde cleerly to be true: and finde how false and deceivable that common saying is, which is so much reli'd upon, that the Christian Magistrate is custos utriusque tabulæ, keeper of both tables; unless is meant by keeper the defender only: neither can that maxim be maintaind by any prooff or argument which hath not in this discourse first or last bin refuted. For the two tables, or ten commandements, teach our dutie to God and our neighbour from the love of both; give magistrates no autoritie to force either: they seek that from the judicial law; though on false grounds, especially in the first table, as I have shewn; and both in first and second execute that autoritie for the most part not according to Gods judicial laws but thir own. As for civil crimes and of the outward man, which all are not, no not of those against the second table, as that of coveting; in them what power they have, they had from the beginning, long before Moses or the two tables were in being. And whether they be not now as little in being to be kept by any Christian as they are two legal tables, remanes yet as undecided, as it is sure they never were yet deliverd to the keeping of any Christian magistrate. But of these things, perhaps, more some other time; what may serve the present hath been above discourst sufficiently out of the scriptures: and to those produc'd might be added testimonies, examples, experiences of all succeeding ages to these times asserting this doctrine: but having herin the scripture so copious and so plane, we have all that can be properly calld true strength and nerve; the rest would be but pomp and incumbrance. Pomp and ostentation of reading is admir'd among the vulgar: but doubtless in matters of religion, he is learnedest who is planest. The brevitie I use, not exceeding a small manual, will not therfore, I suppose, be thought the less considerable, unless with them perhaps who think that great books only can determin great matters. I rather chose the common rule, not to make much ado where less may serve, which in controversies and those especially of religion, would make them less tedious, and by consequence read ofter, by many more, and with more benefit.