« AnteriorContinuar »
pensation of either side, either for the public fraction, or the particular injustice, if it should so happen in the censure,
2. But then, as the church may proceed thus far, yet no Christian man or community of men may proceed farther. For if they be deceived in their judgment and censure, and yet have passed only spiritual censures, they are totally ineffectual, and come to nothing; there is no effect remaining upon the soul, and such censures are not to meddle with the body so much as indirectly. But if any other judgment pass upon persons erring, such judgments, whose effects remain, if the person be unjustly censured, nothing will answer and make compensation for such injuries. If a person be excommunicate unjustly, it will do him no hurt; but if he be killed or dismembered unjustly, that censure and infliction are not made ineffectual by his innocence, he is certainly killed and dismembered. So that as the church's authority in such cases so restrained and made prudent, cautelous and orderly, is just and competent; so the proceeding is reasonable, it is provident for the public, and the inconveniences that may fall upon particulars so little, as that the public benefit makes ample compensation, so long as the proceeding is but spiritual.
3. This discourse is in the case of such opinions, which, by the former rules, are formal heresies, and upon practical inconveniences. But for matters of question, which have not in them an enmity to the public tranquillity, as the republic hath nothing to do, upon the ground of all the former discourses; so if the church meddles with them where they do not derive into ill life, either in the person or in the consequent, or else are destructions of the foundation of religion. which is all one (or that those fundamental articles are of greatest necessity in order to a virtuous and godly life, which is wholly built upon them, and therefore are principally necessary) if she meddles farther, otherwise than by preaching and conferring and exhortation, she becomes tyrannical in her government, makes herself an immediate judge of consciences and persuasions, lords it over their faith, destroys unity and charity and as he that dogmatises the opinion, becomes criminal, if he troubles the church with an immodest, peevish, and pertinacious proposal of his article, not simply necessary; so the church does not do her duty, if
she so condemns it pro tribunali,' as to enjoin him and all her subjects to believe the contrary. And as there may be pertinacy in doctrine, so there may be pertinacy in judging; and both are faults. The peace of the church and the unity of her doctrine best conserved, when it is judged by the proportion it hath to that rule of unity which the apostles gave, that is, the Creed, for articles of mere belief, and the precepts of Jesus Christ, and the practical rules of piety, which are most plain and easy, and without controversy, set down in the gospels and writings of the apostles. But to multiply articles, and adopt them into the family of the faith, and to require assent to such articles, which (as St. Paul's phrase is) are of doubtful disputation' equal to that assent we give to matters of faith, is to build a tower upon the top of a bulrush; and the farther the effect of such proceedings does extend, the worse they are; the very making such a law is unreasonable, the inflicting spiritual censures upon them that cannot do so much violence to their understanding, as to obey it is, unjust and ineffectual; but to punish the person with death, or with corporal infliction, indeed it is effectual, but it is, therefore, tyrannical. We have seen what the church may do towards restraining false or differing opinions: next I shall consider, by way of corollary, what the prince may do as for his interest, and only in securing his people, and serving the ends of true religion.
Whether it be lawful for a Prince to give Toleration to several Religions.
1. For upon these very grounds we may easily give account of that great question, whether it be lawful for a prince to give toleration to several religions. For, first, it is a great fault that men will call the several sects of Christians by the names of several religions. The religion of Jesus Christ is, the form of sound doctrine and wholesome words,' which is set down in Scripture indefinitely, actually conveyed to us by plain places, and separated as for the question of necessary or not necessary by the symbol of the apostles. Those impertinences, which the wantonness and vanity of men hath commenced, which their
interests have promoted, which serve not truth so much as their own ends, are far from being distinct religions: for matters of opinion are no parts of the worship of God, nor in order to it, but as they promote obedience to his commandments; and when they contribute towards it, are in that proportion as they contribute parts, and actions, and minute particulars, of that religion, to whose end they do or pretend to serve. And such are all the sects and all the pretences of Christians, but pieces and minutes of Christianity, if they do serve the great end; as every man for his own sect and interest-believes for his share it does.
2. Toleration hath a double sense or purpose. For sometimes by it men understand a public license and exercise of a sect sometimes it is only an indemnity of the persons privately to convene and to opine, as they see cause, and as they mean to answer to God. Both these are very much to the same purpose, unless some persons, whom we are bound to satisfy, be scandalized, and then the prince is bound to do as he is bound to satisfy. To God it is all one: for, abstracting from the offence of persons, which is to be considered just as our obligation is to content the persons, it is all one whether we indulge to them to meet publicly or privately, to do actions of religion concerning which we are not persuaded that they are truly holy. To God it is just one to be in the dark and in the light, the thing is the same, only the circumstance of public and private is different; which cannot be concerned in any thing, nor can it concern any thing, but the matter of scandal and relation to the minds and fantasies of certain persons.
3. So that to tolerate is not to persecute. And the question, whether the prince may tolerate divers persuasions, is no more than whether he may lawfully persecute any man for not being of his opinion. Now in this case he is just so to tolerate diversity of persuasions as he is to tolerate public actions for no opinion is judicable, nor no person punishable, but for a sin; and if his opinion, by reason of its managing or its effect, be in itself or becomes a sin to the the person, then as he is to do towards other sins, so to that opinion or man so opining. But to believe so, or not so, when there is no more but mere believing, is not in his power to enjoin, therefore not to punish. And it is not only lawful to tolerate disagreeing persuasions, but the authority of God only is com
petent to take notice of it, and infallible to determine it, and fit to judge; and therefore no human authority is sufficient to do all those things, which can justify the inflicting temporal punishments upon such, as do not conform in their persuasions to a rule or authority, which is not only fallible, but supposed by the disagreeing person to be actually deceived.
4. But I consider, that in the toleration of a different opinion, religion is not properly and immediately concerned, so as in any degree to be endangered. For it may be safe in diversity of persuasions, and it is also a part of Christian religion, that the liberty of men's consciences should be preserved in all things, where God hath not set a limit and made a restraint; that the soul of man should be free, and acknowledge no master but Jesus Christ; that matters spiritual should not be restrained by punishments corporal; that the same meekness and charity should be preserved in the promotion of Christianity, that gave it foundation and increment and firmness in its first publication; that conclusions should not be more dogmatical than the virtual resolution and efficacy of the premises; and that the persons should not more certainly be condemned than their opinions confuted; and lastly, that the infirmities of men and difficulties of things should be both put in balance, to make abatement in the definitive sentence against men's persons. But then, because toleration of opinions is not properly a question of religion, it may be a question of policy: and although a man may be a good Christian, though he believe an error not fundamental, and not directly or evidently impious, yet his opinion may accidentally disturb the public peace, through the overactiveness of the persons, and the confidence of their belief, and the opinion of its appendant necessity: and therefore toleration of differing persuasions in these cases, is to be considered upon political grounds, and is just so to be admitted or denied as the opinions or toleration of them may consist with the public and necessary ends of government. Only this; as Christian princes must look to the interest of their government, so especially must they consider the interests of Christianity, and not call every redargution or modest discovery
Humani juris et naturalis potestatis, unicuique quod putaverit colere. Sed nec religionis est cogere religionem, quæ suscipi spontè debet, non vi. Tertul. ad Scapalam.
of an established error, by the name of disturbance of the peace. For it is very likely that the peevishness and impatience of contradiction in the governors may break the peace. Let them remember but the gentleness of Christianity, the liberty of consciences which ought to be preserved, and let them do justice to the persons, whoever they are, that are peevish, provided no man's person be overborne with prejudice. For if it be necessary for all men to subscribe to the present established religion, by the same reason at another time a man may be bound to subscribe to the contradictory, and so to all religions in the world. And they only who by their too-much confidence entitle God to all their fancies, and make them to be questions of religion, and evidences for heaven, or consignations to hell, they only think this doctrine unreasonable, and they are the men that first disturb the church's peace, and then think there is no appeasing the tumult but by getting the victory. But they that consider things wisely, understand, that since salvation and damnation depend not upon impertinences, and yet that public and tranquillity may, the prince is, in this case, to seek peace how to secure government, and the issues and intentions of that, while there is in these cases directly no insecurity to religion, unless by the accidental uncharitableness of them that dispute which uncharitableness is also much prevented when the public peace is secured, and no person is on either side engaged upon revenge, or troubled with disgrace, or vexed with punishments by any decretory sentence against him. It was the saying of a wise statesman, I mean Thuanus, "Hæretici, qui, pace data, factionibus scinduntur, persecutione uniuntur contra rempublicam." If you persecute heretics or discrepants, they unite themselves as to a common defence: if you permit them, they divide themselves upon private interest; and the rather, if this interest was an ingredient of the opinion.
5. The sum is this: it concerns the duty of a prince, because it concerns the honour of God, that all vices and every part of ill life be discountenanced and restrained: and therefore in relation to that, opinions are to be dealt with. For the understanding being to direct the will, and opinions to guide
Dextera præcipuè capit indulgentia mentes ;
Asperitas odium sævaque bella parit. Ovid. A. A. 2. 145.