And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.—Acts 4.32.

[Four Grand Questions Proposed, and Briefly Answered, respecting Christian Magistracy and Toleration.]
 
FOUR GRAND
QUESTIONS
P R O P O S E D,
And Briefly
A N S W E R E D.

Wherein is Discoursed,

 The   Authority   and   Duty   of   the
     Magistrate  in  the  Matters of RE-
     LIGION.

 The Unlawfulness of a Toleration and
     General Liberty of Conscience.

 The Divine Right of  Christian Liber-
     ty in Things Indifferent.

 The  Unlawfulness  of  Repealing the
     Laws against Popery and Idolatry.


L O N D O N,
Printed  in  the  Y E A R,  1689.

The PREFACE.

IT cannot but be generally understood, what an abundance of Heats and Animosities have been raised in the Nation, about a Toleration, Liberty of Conscience, and Repealing the Laws about Religion, which have been pleaded for by many, whether with greater vehemency, or with greater absurdity, is hard to say; for the Lawfulness of it hath rather been supposed than proved by any: For whilst they have been considering how to secure a Toleration, and Repeal the Laws that establish Religion, they never considered, Whether it could be consistent with the Office and Duty of the Christian Magistracy, to do either one or the other. Tho' such a Toleration and Repealing the Laws doth carry in it nothing less, than an Exemption from the Obligation of all Human Laws in the Matters of Religion, which must necessarily suppose no Authority nor Duty incumbent on the Christian Magistracy, to take Care for True Religion and the Worship of God; which, if that could be proved, would be indeed the strongest Arguments of all for a Toleration and Repealing the Laws; and unless that could be proved, whatever Arguments else may be brought for it, from other Respects and Considerations, they are of no Force, if this be taken for granted, That 'tis against the Duty incumbent on the Government, by the Law of God to do it. And tho' there are indeed weighty Arguments against such a Toleration and Repealing the Laws, drawn from the ill Effects, Means & Ends of it; yet this Argument seems to be most cogent, and of greatest force, that is drawn from the fundamental and principal Cause why 'tis Unlawful, namely, Being against the Office and Duty of the Christian Magistracy. {}

Upon this Principle therefore I have always been persuaded, that not only a general Toleration, but Repealing the Laws, was Morally Unlawful, unless better Laws could be made by the Government to Secure Religion; which no man of Sense can think, unless such Laws have also a Penalty; for, What Force or Obligation can Laws have to this End, without a Penalty?

I have therefore in this little Treatise, under the following Questions, (as compendiously as possible) proved the Magistrate's Office and Duty about Religion, to be Moral and Perpetual, and not belonging to the Old Testament Administration; only from this, as a Principle, I have argued the Unlawfulness of a general Toleration, and of such a Liberty of Conscience as is opposed to all Human Authority and Laws in the matters of Religion; yet nevertheless, lest any should hence conclude, That a Human Authority can impose Laws on the Church, in things of Religion not necessary, or commanded by the Word of GOD; I have proved the Divine Right of Christian Liberty in things Indifferent, especially if the same Indifferences be matter of Doubt or Scandal; and, That the practice of such a Liberty in Religion in things Indifferent, tho' restrained by Laws, is no matter of Scandal given, nor any Assent to a general Toleration, or the Dispensing Power: And in the last place I have proved the Unlawfulness of Repealing the Laws against Popery and Idolatry, and Answered the most specious Pretences alleged for it.

If that which is here briefly discoursed may obtain its designed end, to set the Judgments of some men right, in those great and weighty points, the Author will have his end in exposing the same to public view, which was first composed for his own satisfaction.

Now to the King-Eternal, Immortal, Invincible, the only Wise God, be Honour and Glory for ever and ever, Amen. {1}



Four Grand QUESTIONS proposed,
and Briefly Answered;

(VIZ.)

  1. Whether it be the Duty of Magistrates under the Gospel, to promote and preserve by Laws the True Christian Religion.
  2. Whether it be lawful for the Christian Magistrate to give a general Toleration of All Religions; or, what Liberty in Religion he ought to Allow.
  3. Whether it be lawful for Subjects to give their Actual Consent to a general Toleration.
  4. Whether it be lawful for Subjects to Consent to the Repealing these Laws, that Establish and Preserve the True Religion.
Of These in Order.




QUESTION I.

  1. Whether it be the Duty of Magistrates under the Gospel, to promote and preserve by Laws the True Christian Religion.
BUT before we proceed, it will be necessary to lay down, by way of Supposition, what we understand by Magistrates, and what by the True Christian Religion.

But here we shall not meddle with the divers Forms of Lawful Government, but rest satisfied, that our own form of Government is either Best in itself considered, or at least Best for us. {2}

By Magistrates therefore we understand chiefly the Supreme Legislative Power of a Nation, or of a Body politick, not excluding Subordinate Magistrates also within their respective limits.

By the True Christian Religion, we understand the Protestant Religion, in those essential matters of Protestant Faith, Worship, and Discipline, wherein it is truly such.

Now, that the Office of Magistracy is founded, both in the Law of Nature, the Moral Law, and also is of a Divine Institution, by the positive Command of God, I take for a granted Truth, and will be denied but by few: All the Question then before us is, About the Extent of the Magistrate's Power: Some will have it now under the Gospel, to respect only Civil Matters and Moral Justice between Men, but that he hath not Authority in the Institutions of Revealed Religion under the Gospel. Hence it would follow, that he is not obliged to maintain by Laws the Gospel-Institutions. But the Affirmative is that which I undertake to make good, and that by the following Arguments.

  1. From the Efficient Cause of Magistracy.
  2. From the Formal Cause of Magistracy.
  3. From the Final Cause or End of Magistracy.
  4. From Scripture-Precept, and Precedent.
1. That 'tis the Duty of Magistrates to promote and preserve by Laws the True Christian Religion, will appear from the consideration of the Efficient Cause of Magistracy, which is no other than God himself. Now God may be said to be the Cause, and so the Author, of Magistracy, in a threefold respect, viz. By his Law Natural, Moral, and Positive.
1. By his Law Natural, implanted and written in the Heart of Man, by which Mankind is enabled to know and understand both the reasonableness, necessity, and utility of Political Government, in order to promote and preserve the good of Societies.

2. By his Law Moral, thus the Fifth Commandment establisheth the Relation, and enjoineth the Duties between political Fathers and Subjects, as well as between natural Parents and their Children.

3. God is also the Cause of Magistracy, by his positive Ordinance and Appointment: Thus he appointed Magistrates, both Ordinary and Extraordinary, under the Old Testament; And we find {3} also the Office and Power of Magistracy ratified and confirmed by the New Testament, under the Gospel; the Apostle tells us, That all Powers are of God, and that not only by his providential Allowance and Toleration, but by his special Assignation and Appointment; therefore said to be ordained of God, Rom. 13.1,2, & therefore the Magistrate is said to be the Minister of God, ver. 4. Hence we find that all that Justice which the Magistrate executeth, is called the Justice of God, 2 Chron. 19.6. They are also called Gods, Psalm 82.1,6, because they are God's Deputies and Vice-gerents, representing his Presence and his Power in the World.

Now it cannot reasonably be supposed, that God would thus delegate his Power and Authority in the World to Magistrates, and so signally dignify and authorise them, but in order to some special Service they are to do for God in the World: And 'tis most reasonable, and morally just, that the Magistrate having his Power and Authority from God, he should employ it best for his Service in the World, which he cannot do, but by promoting and maintaining True Religion.

Secondly, This will further appear from the consideration of the formal Cause of Magistracy, to wit, The Laws; for 'tis the Law that giveth Form and Being to the Magistrate, and is the life and soul of Government. Hence are those Axioms, Lex facit Regem,—Rex nihil potest, nisi quod jure potest. Now Laws do originally derive all their force from Religion, because the Moral Law of God is the Supreme Law of all Nations, and therefore the Ground and Rule of all Human Laws; which Law of God, we see, doth in the first place take care for Religion and the Worship of God, as the bottom and ground of all Duties of Moral Justice between men. Our Saviour tells us, That the first and great Commandment of the Law is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, Luke 10.27, which doth indeed include and prescribe the most exact way of Religion and Holiness, that can be.

Now this Divine Law being both the Foundation and Directory of all other Laws, it must therefore follow, That all Human Laws by which Magistrates ought to Govern, should in the first place provide for True Religion and the Worship of God; for the Moral Law of God being the Supreme Law, and Rule of Life for all Mankind, is therefore the Rule of all Laws and Government, and all Human Laws, that have the true nature of Laws, are grounded on {4} it, or reducible to it, or else they are but Tyrannical Impositions. Hence it is that the political Laws of Nations are said to have a kind of Sacredness in them, which is to be understood when they are founded (as they ought to be) on the Principles of the Law of God, & their Agreement thereunto giveth Force and Obligation to them; for the Obligation of Laws ariseth from the good End they tend unto, and are useful for, in conjunction with the Lawful Authority that imposeth them.

So that now the Law of God, being the Rule of human Laws, whereunto they ought to correspond in all the precepts thereof respectively; it follows therefore, that the Laws of Magistrates, in conformity to the Law of God, which, we see, giveth the preference to first Table-Duties, ought also in the first place to provide for the Exercise of True Religion, and the Worship of God, as the ground of all other Laws that respect Moral Justice amongst men.

Thirdly, From the final Cause or End of Magistracy, which is threefold;

  1. The Glory of GOD.
  2. The Good of Societies.
  3. The Good of the Church.

  4. First, The Glory of God; which as it is the chief and ultimate end of Man, so of all God's Ordinances and Institutions, for the sake and good of Mankind, that in and by them the glory of God may be advanced: God then being the efficient Cause of Magistracy, it therefore follows, that his Glory must be the principal End: now 'tis the proper End and Use of Religion, to give glory to God; and without the practice of true Religion, the Divine Perfections are not actually adored and advanced. If then the end of Magistracy be to advance and set up the glory of God in the World, he ought to set up and maintain True Religion, as the greatest Glory can be brought to God in this World.

    Secondly, The good of Societies is the subordinate End of Magistracy; for as the Fundamental Human Causes of Government is the Necessity of it for the Public Good, so the End of Magistracy in that respect, is, that the Temporal Good and Tranquility of Societies may be promoted and preserved. {5}

    Now, if there were no higher Causes and Ends of Magistracy than this, (as we have already, and shall further prove there is) yet nevertheless, it would be the Duty of Magistrates to take care for Religion, because 'tis very certain, that True Religion doth best of all conduce to the Temporal good of Societies: This is plain not only from the Scriptures, that assure us, that Godliness is profitable unto all things, 1 Tim. 4.8, but also from the reason and experience of Mankind. Therefore we see, that even in those Nations that were void of the knowledge of True Religion, yet those that were Legislators and Governors amongst them, always with their Laws mixed some Precepts of Religion and Opinion of God, some pretending they received their Laws from God himself. Whereby we see that they thought, that Laws and Government could not stand without something of Religion; which tho' their religious Precepts were superstitious and idolatrous, in the want of Divine Revelation, yet nevertheless it thence appears, That the Law of Nature taught them not only the necessity and obligation of Government and Laws, but also that the sense of Religion was the most necessary Foundation of it.

    And then it will follow, that if any thing of Religion be necessary for the temporal good of Governments, that the True Religion is then best of all, and most necessary, that being the Spring and Foundation of all Virtues, from whence is to be drawn, not only the best Directions for, but the strongest Motives and Engagements unto all those Duties of Moral Justice and Charity amongst men, which are so absolutely necessary, even to the temporal good of Societies. It would be easy to demonstrate, that True Religion is certainly the best Foundation of all Political Government, and of the Execution of Laws, the Obedience of Subjects, and of the Exercise of that Justice and Charity between men, which only can render the life of man peaceable and happy in this World. If then the End of Magistracy and Civil Government were only for the temporal good of Societies, yet it would follow, that 'tis the Duty of Magistrates, to advance and maintain True Religion, because it chiefly conduceth, and is so necessary to this End.

    Thirdly, and lastly, The Special End of Magistracy is for the good of the Church, and that because Magistracy is not a mere natural and human Policy, but an Ordinance of God, still remaining such now under the Gospel, Rom. 13.1. {6}

    Now 'tis certain, that all the Ordinances and Institutions of God, both Moral and Evangelical, do now in special belong to the Gospel-Church; for whatever Advantages any of the Heathen World do receive at any time by any of God's Ordinances and Institutions, (as particularly by this of Magistracy) 'tis but for the sake of the Church, as the Dogs eat of the Children's Crumbs. For 'tis to be noted, That as the Scriptures themselves, so also all the Precepts, Promises, Rights, Privileges, & Ordinances, granted and confirmed thereby, or contained therein, belongs primarily and especially to the Church of God. So that Magistracy then being an Ordinance of God, and having its Foundation in the Law and Word of God, it must follow, that the End of Magistracy is especially for the sake and good of the Church, and not only for the World.

    As for that lawful Magistracy that may be found in Heathen Nations, or without the Visible Church, the Power is truly said to be from God, because the Office of Magistracy is founded on his Law and Ordinance; but the Execution of this Power hath been and is in most Nations wickedly abused, and perverted from the proper and special Ends of it, appointed of God, to serve the Ambition, Tyranny, and Lusts of men; the ground and occasion of which proceeds from the same common Original with all other Immoralities in the life of man, to wit, the defection of mankind from God, and the depravity of the Human Nature by Sin. But as 'tis therefore no wonder, that the Ends of Magistracy are perverted, especially in those Nations that have forsaken God and fallen to Idolatry; so 'tis no Argument, that Magistracy is only for the world, as some suppose, and not especially for the good of the Church.

    Thus we find, that to this end was Magistracy appointed by God under the Old Testament, but while the Church of God, in the first Ages of the world, was but in small Families, & sometime only in one Family; their Civil Government cannot so properly be called Political, belonging to a State or Common-wealth, as Oeconomical, or the government of a Family: Yet we find, that then the care of Religion did belong to the Lord or Governour of the Family. And indeed, all lawful Government whatsoever being from GOD, doth carry in it an Obligation to the Care of Religion, for those under their power. Thus God saith of Abraham, Gen. 18.19, I know him, that he will command his Children and his Household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord. {7}

    But when the Visible Church of God, to wit, the Israelites, was multiplied into a Body of People, and set at liberty, from the Yoke of Egyptian Bondage, and so capable of being formed into a political Body or Common-wealth, God himself instituted an ordinary state of Magistracy, to continue in all their gates, Deut. 16.18, (besides extraordinary Magistrates from time to time, as Moses, Joshua, &c.) and to the Supreme Magistrates especially, was committed the Care of the right Administration of Religion and the Worship of God, as well as of Civil Justice between men; by which Examples God himself teacheth us not only the necessity and obligation of having a Magistracy over a Body of People, but also the office and duty whereunto it ought to be applied.

    And tho' under the Gospel all the Kings and Governours of the World were in the first Ages of the Christian Church, and have been, for the most part, ever since Enemies to the Church, yet it doth not therefore follow, that because they have thus perverted their power, that it ought not to have been applied for the Church's good, under the Gospel; for we find that 'tis prophesied of Kings, and promised also to the Gospel-Church, that Kings shall be her nursing-Fathers, and Queens her nursing-Mothers, Isa 49.23. And this prediction and promise hath in it the force and obligation of a Command, upon all Kings and Magistrates in the World, not only to believe in Christ, but to become nursing-Fathers to the Church; which Expression cannot imply less in it, than to employ their Power and Care, as Magistrates, to promote, succour, and defend the Church. Hence Kings are exhorted to kiss the Son, Psalm 2.12, which is a token of Homage and Subjection to Christ, who is now King of kings, and Lord of lords, Rev. 19.16. And all Power in Heaven and Earth is given unto him, Matt. 28.18. And therefore some would have all Magistratical Power to be derived from Christ, as he is the Mediator of the Church.

    Moreover, if we consider how much good pious and godly Magistrates may do to the Church, it will from thence further appear, That Magistracy, under the Gospel, is for the good of the Church, as by promoting its Interest, preserving its Privileges and Ordinances, suppressing Heresies, purging out Corruptions, opposing its Enemies, &c. Now we argue thus; that, If God hath made the Christian Magistrate, by his power and place in the World, capable of doing so much good for the Church, 'tis certain then, {8} that he is morally obliged to do it, for that every person, in his Place and Calling, is, for the sake of the Church, to seek its Good. Psalm. 122.9, Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek thy Good.

Fourthly, The last Argument to prove, that 'tis the Duty of Magistrates under the Gospel, to promote and preserve True Religion, is drawn both from Scripture-precept and precedent.

As for Scripture-Precept, we find, that by the Law of God, Sins against Religion and Divine Worship, which respect the first Table commands, were to be severely punished by the Magistrate. Thus the Blasphemer was to be put to death, Lev. 24.16. The false Prophet or Teacher, that would draw off any from the true Worship of God, or him or her that committed Idolatry, were to be put to death; Deut. 13.9,17, and the City that fell to Idolatry, was to be smitten with the edge of the Sword, Deut. 13.15. Now the Magistrate bearing the Sword of Justice, and being the Avenger of God against evil doers, 'tis to be understood, that by his Authority and Direction this was to be done.

And for Scripture-Precedent, we find, that those that were godly Kings and Magistrates under the Old Testament, purged the Church from Idolatry, when corrupted, and restored the true Worship of God, caused both Priests and People to keep the Law of the Lord. Thus good Hezekiah suppresseth Idolatry, and setteth up the true Worship of God, 2 Kings 18.4. Josias did the like, and slew all the Priests of the high places, 2 Kings 23.20. Jehu destroyed all the Worshippers of Baal, 2 Kings 10.25. And King Asa with the people made a Law, That whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel, should be put to death, 2 Chron. 15.13. And these are approved for so doing; whereas those Kings that took no care of Religion, but did either set up Idolatry, or did not suppress it, are branded for such as did evil in the sight of the Lord.

Objection. But it will be objected, That what the Magistrate thus did under the Old Testament, for the Cause of Religion, was but the Execution of God's own Laws, which he was obliged to do, but that this is no Precedent for Christian Magistrates under the Gospel, because those Laws are now abrogated, and there are no new Laws prescribed by God under the Gospel, for the inflicting of any punishments, either pecuniary or corporal, for any Offences against Religion; and therefore the Magistrate hath no Authority to make Penal Laws for this end. {9}

Answer. Tho' it be granted, That the Gospel prescribes no punishments for Offences against Religion; and that the Judicial Law also, as it was peculiar to that Nation, so is not precisely binding on any Nation under the Gospel; yet it will not therefore follow, that Magistrates may not make Penal Laws for Offences against Religion: for then upon that ground he may not make Laws for Offences against Second-Table-Commands, as Murder, Adultery, Theft, &c. for the New Testament doth not prescribe any. And therefore, on this account, some have been so wild, to think that no corporal punishments should be inflicted under the Gospel, by Christian men.

But 'tis generally agreed by all, That the natural and moral part of the Law of Moses, (to wit) that which is founded on Reason and Moral Justice, is still obligatory on all Nations; and 'tis certain, that a great part of the Judicial Law is but an Exposition and Enforcement of the natural and moral Law of God: Hence most of the Penalties inflicted by that Law, for Offences against any of the Precepts of the moral Law, we may find that the reason and ground of the Penalty may in many things be drawn from the moral nature of the Crime, as well as from the Will of God prescribing the kind of Penalty. Now it cannot be denied, that where the reason and ground of the Penalty, for such and such Offences, is natural and moral, there those Penal Laws are so far still in force, that they remain on Record, both as Precedents and Engagements on all Nations, to make Laws in conformity to them. And surely, where we cannot so clearly see the reason of the penalty, yet where the Offence against the Law of God is the same, there the Will of God imposing penalties, for such and such Offences against his Law, is the best Rule and Pattern for the Laws of all Magistrates in the world.

Now, If the Abolition of the Jewish Pedagogy, and their Civil State, for which these Penal Laws were more peculiarly adapted, doth not null the power of the Christian Magistrate, to make Penal Laws, for the Violation of Second-Table-Commands, as for Murder, Whoredom, Theft, &c. Why should it any more null his power to make Penal Laws for the Violation of First-Table-Commands, as for Idolatry, Superstition, Blasphemy, &c. for the First-Table-Commands have still the precedent Obligation to the Second; and the Violation of them have the same moral Obliquity and Guilt as under the Law? Therefore Laws to punish those Sins, have the same {10} Reason and moral Justice in them as the other: Hence it will follow that Magistrates are under equal Obligations to impose such Laws as the other.

Objection. But it will be further objected, That Jesus Christ hath only appointed, under the Gospel, the Ministry of the Word (which is the Spiritual Sword) for the propagating and maintaining the Christian Religion: And Men are invited to believe and embrace this Religion upon free Choice and Election, and upon principles of pure Conviction and Conscience, and not compelled or forced to it by the power of the Sword; and that 'tis not agreeable to the Gospel Dispensation, that the Christian Religion should be promoted by a Temporal power, or men punished for disobedience to it.

Answer. For answer, this mistake of denying the Authority of the Civil Magistrate in the matters of Religion, comes to pass, by not distinguishing between those two distinct Offices, viz. of the Ministry, and of the Magistracy; which are Offices of different Order, that have each their peculiar Properties and Employments, tho' both to the great and general end of the Glory of God, and also the Good of the Church: The Ministerial Office is properly founded on Christ's Commission, as Mediator of the Church, to whom are committed the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, both of Doctrine and of Discipline; but the Office of the Magistracy is of another Order, and founded on God's Law, as he is Rector of the World, to whom is committed the Sword of Justice, and that not only between man and man, but between God and man. Magistracy therefore is not properly a Gospel, but a moral Institution. Now, as the Gospel doth not abrogate, but on the contrary doth establish the Obligations of the moral Law, Rom. 13.13, so by consequence it doth not null either the Office, or any part of the moral Duty of the Office of Magistracy, but on the contrary doth ratify and confirm it, as it doth all other matters of moral Duty and Religion.

'Tis true also, that our Saviour only appointed the Ministry of the Word for the propagation of the Gospel, for he came into the world in the quality of a Prophet and Minister, and so propagated his Religion, and in that Capacity commissionated and sent forth his Apostles and Gospel-Ministers: He did not intermeddle with the Office of the Magistracy, but left that to stand on its own bottom, as founded on the Law and Ordinance of God; for tho' he were {11} a King, yet his Kingdom were spiritual, and not of this world; and therefore as he took not the power of the Temporal Sword himself, (as he might have done upon Divine Right) so he gave no such power to any of the Ministerial Order.

And we find also that God Almighty, in whose power are the Hearts of Kings and Magistrates, did not use their Power and Authority for the promotion and advancement of the Christian Religion, at the first; which he might have done, by effectually calling and converting them by his Grace, as well as others, and so inclining their Hearts to improve their Power and Office for his Glory, as was their Duty to do; but he did not, and that, no doubt, in great wisdom, that so the Gospel being propagated, by such weak and contemptible Instruments as the Apostles were, without concurrence of the Civil Power, yea, and against such great opposition from them, might be given to the world one of the most convincing Evidences that could be, of the truth of the Christian Religion.

But it doth not follow thence, but that it was then the Duty of Magistrates, even when they were Enemies to Christ, both to believe in him, and to employ their Power for the Advancement of God's True Religion and Worship, for this they were morally obliged to do from the nature of their Office. And therefore Christ's employing the Gospel-ministers in a Ministerial way, doth not dissolve those Obligations that lie upon the Magistrate, by the moral Law of God, to take care for the Advancement and Security of True Religion; for seeing the Office of Magistracy is continued under the Gospel, we need no New Testament-Precepts to enforce his Duty in this respect, which is incumbent on him, not immediately by any Gospel-precept, but by a previous Obligation, antecedent to the Gospel-Ministry, which is moral and perpetual, inherent in his very Office and Dignity; that having Authority from God, and being in his Stead in the world, he should employ his power best for God's service and glory.

And as the Magistrate is not disobliged to promote and preserve True Religion under the Gospel, from the office of the Gospel-Ministry, employed to that end, neither is it disagreeable with the Gospel Dispensation, that he should do so, more than formerly under the Law; for the difference between the Law and the Gospel doth not lie in any of the moral Obligations of Religion, but chiefly {12} in the Positive, and Typical, and Ceremonial part, which is now fulfilled by the Coming of Christ, and so done away: but the moral part is still the same, as under the Old Testament, and those few positive Doctrines and Institutions, that are peculiar to the Gospel, are all included in the moral Law; for the First-Table Commandments do comprehend all the Doctrines and Ordinances of the Gospel, and require belief of them, and obedience to them; and indeed, the moral Law doth comprehend the whole Duty of man, for it requireth Belief in whatsoever God shall reveal, and Obedience to whatsoever He shall command.

Now I argue thus; That if the whole Law of God be the Foundation and Rule of Laws and Magistracy, (as we noted before) then certainly the Magistrate is Keeper of both Tables of the Law, or else he is Keeper of neither. Hence it will then follow, that all the Gospel Institutions, thus included in the First-Table-Commands, are under the care of the Magistracy, as well as those Duties that respect the Second-Table-Commands.

Thus 'tis very clear, That the Magistrate under the Gospel is bound by the Law of God to employ his power and care for true Religion, and the Worship of God. And if so, then he ought, no doubt, to make Laws for the promotion and support of it, for that the power and office of Magistracy is exerted by Laws, to which Laws 'tis necessary that there be a Sanction of Penalties upon the Breach of them; for if the Magistrate have only a mandative and preceptive power in the matters of Religion, and not power to inflict Penalties for the Violation of Laws, he may be said to bear the Sword in vain in that respect. And 'tis necessary to Laws, that they be backed with Penalties, not only to further obedience, but also to maintain the honour of the Law, and the authority of the Magistrate.

But as to the Magistrate’s forcing persons to believe in Christ, this he cannot do, because Faith is an Act of the Understanding and the Will; but where the Faith of Christ is not generally professed he may both require the Attendance of the Person on the publick preaching of the Word, and also prohibit and suppress all publick profession and practice of Idolatry and false Religion: But this is not the Case in such Governments, where all have taken up the profession of Christ and his true Religion, at least in the speculative and doctrinal part of it, and have vowed by Baptism to adhere to that Religion both in profession and practice. Also where some {13} have taken on them the Ministerial Function in the Church, and thereby have obliged themselves to the Duties of the same, in these cases, doubtless, the Christian Magistrate may, according to the example of good Kings, under the Old Testament, require and cause by good Laws, both Ministers and People to do their respective Duties in Religion, and impose penalties for defections or neglects agreeable to the merit of the fault; and for grievous Offences against Religion, as Idolatry, Heresy, Blasphemy, &c. when they are certain and apparent, may doubtless inflict corporal punishments, after the example of God's own Laws.

And that the infliction of corporal punishments for great Offences against Religion, is not disagreeable with the Gospel Dispensation, appears plainly by the Examples of Peter, Acts 5.10, who using an extraordinary Authority, above that of the Ministry, did wonderfully put Ananias and Saphira to death, for Sacrilege and Lying; and Paul struck Elymas the Sorcerer with Blindness for opposing the Gospel, Acts 13.11, which miraculous ways of punishments were accommodated to that present state of the Church, in the want of Christian Magistrates to succour and defend it, who were then so far from maintaining the Interest of the Church, that they were the greatest Enemies to it, and Persecutors of it: But yet nevertheless those Examples prove, that corporal punishments for great Offences against Religion, are consistent with the Gospel Dispensation.

Thus, I hope, I have sufficiently proved the power and duty of the Magistrate under the Gospel, to promote and maintain by Laws the True Religion, and so pass on to the Second Question.




QUESTION II.

  1. Whether it be lawful for the Christian Magistrate to give a general Toleration of all Religions; or, what Liberty in Religion he ought to allow.
Answer. TO this I answer in the Negative, That he may not give a general Toleration of all Religions: But what hath been laid down and proved in Answer to the former Question, may indeed serve for an Answer likewise in part both to this and the following Questions, which will be easily and plainly answered in this Negative, upon supposition of the Truth of the former Hypothesis, {14} namely, That 'tis the Duty of the Magistrate to promote and maintain the True Religion: From thence it will follow, that he may neither give a general Toleration of all Religion, nor the Subjects Consent to such a Toleration, or to the repealing the Laws that establish and preserve the True Religion.

That he may not give a general Toleration of all Religions; I urge therefore,

First, From the Inconsistency of giving such a Toleration with his Duty to promote and maintain the True Religion, for thence it will follow, that he ought not (willingly at least) to tolerate any but the True Religion; and that he ought also to endeavour by all expedient and lawful means, to suppress and exterminate all Idolatry & False Religion. And tho' (as we noted before) the Magistrate cannot force any without the Visible Church to believe in Christ, yet no doubt 'tis his Duty, where the True Religion is not generally known and professed, not only to provide that the Ignorant and Erroneous People may be will instructed in the True Religion, but also to prohibit and suppress the publick Profession and Practice of Idolatry, Heresy, Blasphemy, and such-like, as being so repugnant and prejudicial to the True Religion, which he is obliged to promote and maintain: But to give a Toleration of these, and of all Religions whatsoever, is so far from suppressing it, that 'tis not only an Allowance of it, but a kind of setting it up.

Secondly, It may be further proved Unlawful, from the Command of God on the Magistracy of the Old Testament, to suppress all false Prophets, Teachers, and Idolaters, Deut. 13.2,6,10.

Thirdly, From the Example of all good Kings and Magistrates that did so, and are approved for so doing.

And, Lastly, From the great injury and hurt that the Cause of True Religion and the Church of God is like to receive by such a Toleration, by giving occasion to Satan by false Teachers, to infest the Church with the Seeds of False Doctrines, and to corrupt the pure Worship of God, with Idolatry and Superstition; which the Christian Magistrate, as a Watchman over the Church, should labour to prevent.

This, in short, might serve sufficiently to demonstrate the unreasonableness and great impiety of such a Toleration, but because a general Toleration under the specious pretence of Liberty of Conscience, hath been, and is a matter so vehemently argued for by many, {15} I shall a little enquire into the nature and ground of this Liberty of Conscience pleaded for, by which I presume, most understand nothing else, but an Exemption from the Obligation of all human Laws in the matters of Religion; therefore I shall in the first place examine those Grounds, upon which such a Liberty of Conscience seems to be claimed and pleaded for, which being found rotten and unsound, such a Toleration will then further appear unlawful to be given by the Christian Magistrate. And then, Secondly, I shall further examine what that lawful Liberty is in the matters of Religion, which of Divine Right ought to be allowed by the Magistrate to every Christian.

First, Concerning such a Liberty of Conscience as is opposed to all human Laws, in matters of Religion, I shall enquire into these things:

First, What Obligation of human Laws there is upon the Conscience in the things of Religion.

Secondly, Whether an Erroneous Conscience do exempt from the Obligation of Just Laws.

Thirdly, Whether the consideration of an Erroneous Conscience, under the infliction of a Penalty on such a Person, be Unjust: Of these very briefly:

First, As to the Obligation of human Laws upon the Conscience, we acknowledge, that 'tis only the Law of God, that doth immediately bind the Conscience, because the Conscience is only subject to God, and under his Authority alone; the Magistrate hath only power over the Body and outward practice, but yet nevertheless the Conscience is bound by the Law of God to obey all lawful and just Commands of the Magistrate. Now those Laws of the Magistrate about Religion, that are but the Enforcement of God's own Commands and Institutions, have a double Obligation upon the Conscience, both by Virtue of the immediate Divine Authority appointing them, as also from the Command of God requiring Obedience to human Authority chiefly in such things.

Secondly, Neither doth an Erroneous Conscience exempt from the Obligation of Just Laws; for tho' every man have a Judgment of private discretion in and about what he ought to do in Religion: yet if he judge erroneously of what is justly required by Laws to be done, his Judgment and erroneous Conscience therein, doth not exempt him from the Obligation of those Commands; for tho' {16} 'tis true, that he sins in acting against an erroneous Conscience, yet he ought to lay it down, and then to act; and if it be a necessary Duty, he sins if he do not.

Thirdly, Neither will the infliction of a Penalty be unjust, that is laid on a Person, for doing or omitting that which he is led to by an erroneous Conscience: This is the grand mistake about Liberty of Conscience, that because every man hath a liberty to judge for himself, what he ought to do in Religion, that therefore, if he judge erroneously, yet he ought to be tolerated in so doing; No, he ought to lay down his erroneous Conscience, or else, as he sins, so he justly suffers from Authority in following the Dictates of it: But, that he sins following an erroneous Conscience, I think no one of sense will deny; for if it be lawful for a man to act in Religion, according to the Dictates of his own Conscience, when 'tis erroneous, then 'tis lawful for him to commit Idolatry, speak Blasphemy, &c. if his Conscience lead him to it. Therefore, if the Plea of an erroneous Conscience will not free a Man from the Guilt of those Sins that he is led into by it, then certainly it will not exempt a Man from the Just Obligation of Punishment, from the Magistrate, for those Sins, who is the Avenger of God against all evil Doers: And the Magistrate doth offer no Violence to Conscience, by either requiring Obedience, or exacting the Penalties for Disobedience to just and Righteous Commands; for if Men's erroneous Consciences will not suffer them to Obey, 'tis no force upon Conscience for the outward Man to bear the Penalty.

But besides, If such a Liberty of Conscience be due to every man, as shall exempt him from the Obligation of all human Laws in the matters of Religion, it will then follow, that the Magistrate hath no Authority in the matters of Religion, and so it will null the chiefest part of his Office; for where there is no Obligation to Obedience, there can be no Authority to Command, those being Correlatives, and cannot be one without the other.

But to conclude this particular, If it be so as we have proved, that the Conscience be bound by such human Laws, the matter of which is the Enforcement of God's own Commands and Institutions, and that if an erroneous Conscience doth not exempt a Man from the Obligation of such Laws, nor render the Penalty inflicted for breaking of them to be Unjust, then certainly there is no such Liberty of Conscience as an Exemption from all human Laws about Religion {17} due to any Christian, and therefore ought not to be granted by the Christian Magistrate.

Secondly, I proceed now to the second thing proposed, to wit, What that lawful Liberty is in the matters of Religion, which of Divine Right ought to be Allowed by the Magistrate; for tho' we have asserted and proved the Duty and Power of the Magistrate, to make Laws for the promotion and maintenance of True Religion, yet we may not think that the Magistrate can by Laws intrench upon any of the Rights, Liberties, and Privileges, which of Divine Right do belong to the Christian Religion, which he is obliged to maintain every Christian in the Enjoyment of: Or, That any human Power hath such an exorbitant and unlimited Authority of imposing Rights and Ceremonies on the Church as they think good; which Principle hath been the ground of so many Corruptions imposed in the Church of Rome; and indeed upon which Principle may be brought upon the Christian Religion, by the restraint of Liberty in indifferent things, and the Imposition of Ceremonies, a greater Yoke and Burden than was imposed by God's own Law. But we may not think that God hath now freed the Christian Religion under the Gospel, from the Bondage of his own Ceremonies, and yet left them under a human Power to impose what they think good.

But we desire, that what is said on this Subject by way of Argumentation, may not be interpreted a prescribing to Authority, or limiting their Power; and therefore we humbly conceive, that the Magistrate hath Power in the matters of Religion, to impose nothing but that which is lawful, certain, and necessary. Hence then he may not enjoin in Religion things that are

Either, {

  1. Sinful.
  2. Doubtful.
  3. Merely Indifferent.
First, Not things Sinful: This, I think, will be acknowledged by all, That no human Power can lawfully require to be done that which is in itself sinful. And if any such Laws are made, they must necessarily be void in themselves, as to any Obligations to Obedience, having not the proper matter of Laws, which must always be some useful Good.

Secondly, Not things Doubtful and Uncertain in Religion; and such things we call Doubtful and Uncertain, that really in themselves and in the Judgment of many learned and good Men, have no apparent Foundation in the Word of God; for the Magistrate can make {18} Laws in the matters of Religion, only of such things as Christ hath commanded, and to do them decently and orderly, because there is but one Legislator and Law-giver in and over the Church, Christ Jesus, Jam. 4.18. And human Authority hath no proper Dictatory or Legislative Power, but only a Ministratory and Directive one, in the things of Religion; therefore whatever the Magistrate commands in Religion, must be the observation of the Laws of Christ in the Church, and not his own Laws: for the state of the Church is not like a Civil Body, that human Laws are the constitutive form of it; but the Church and all its Laws, Privileges, and Liberties, are all founded on the Word of God. Thus, as under the Law, all that Power which the Magistrate then had about Religion, was directed and limited by the Word of God, those things which God had instituted and appointed in his Worship to be done, he was to take care for the due observation of it, but was not to add thereto, nor diminish from it, Deut. 12.32. So under the Gospel, all the Power of Magistrates in the matters of Religion, is in such things as are plainly prescribed in the Word of God, or by evident consequence deducible from it; and what is not so, may be called a thing Doubtful and Uncertain at the best, and therefore should not be enforced by Laws.

Thirdly, Nor in things merely Indifferent: By things indifferent, I mean things not necessary, nor required by any Divine Law. Now there is a two-fold necessity of things, the one Natural and Intrinsical, the other Circumstantial or Accidental only; and of Indifferent things, I call that so, that is Intrinsical and in its own nature Indifferent, yet such indifferent things by reason of circumstances about necessary things, or by Accident, may become either inexpedient, and also scandalous, and so unlawful, or they may become expedient, and so circumstantially necessary. Now that, in Religion, that intrinsically and in its own nature is necessary, or else is necessary, by reason of Circumstance or Accident, is the only proper matter of Laws; & what is not such, I call a thing merely Indifferent.

Now such things should not be put into Laws that are either, (1.) Merely Indifferent, (2.) Much less when such indifferent things become inexpedient; and, (3.) Least of all, when they become scandalous.

First, Such things about Religion that are in their own nature indifferent, and have no Circumstantial necessity attending it that requires a Restraint, is that wherein Christians ought to have their {19} liberty, and not to be restrained by Laws: because if Authority can restrain Christian Liberty, further than in things necessary, barely upon their own Authority and Will; they may upon the same Foundation take off all liberty in things indifferent. But this they cannot do justly, without wrong, because liberty in things indifferent is a Branch of that Christian Liberty we have by the Gospel, and is an Appendix to the very Essence of the Christian Religion, Gal. 5.1; 1 Cor. 10.23. Now, as the Magistrate cannot justly deprive any Man of any of his Civil Rights and Properties, without just reason and cause; much less may he deprive us of any of our religious Rights and Privileges, without a just and necessary cause, and liberty in things indifferent, being one of these Rights, we ought therefore to be preserved in the enjoyment of it, and not to be brought under a restraint therein, saith the Apostle, 1 Cor. 6.12, All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any thing; by all things, he means things indifferent and lawful only, and not necessary, yet would not be brought under the power of any of these. Which proves, that no Christian should be brought by Laws, under a power either of doing or not doing things in their own nature and use only indifferent and lawful: And the Scripture in divers places asserts the liberty of Christians in things indifferent, 1 Cor. 10.23; Rom. 14.3,5. And we see also that our Saviour vindicated his Disciples, in using their liberty in the forbearance of a thing in its own nature indifferent, tho' enjoined by Authority, Matt. 15, which proves also, that Authority, as it may not impose things merely indifferent, so cannot make them necessary when imposed. And indeed, if it had been lawful to restrain Christians of their liberty in things indifferent, how easy had it been for the Apostle Paul to have silenced all Disputes about the observation of Meats and Days, and suchlike indifferent things, by determining the practice of Christians in those things on one side or other, by some Law or Canon, and by directing the Church in after-times in the like cases, to make Laws in order to heal and take off such Differences; but because he did not, but on the contrary doth so frequently assert the liberty of every Christian in things indifferent, to use with prudence and charity; it follows therefore, that such Laws should not be made, which violate and infringe Christian Liberty.

Secondly, But much less may indifferent things be imposed when they become inexpedient; which they do in Religion, when they are unprofitable, and tend not to Edification. Thus the Apostle, {20} 1 Cor. 10.23, All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Where the latter Clause expounds the former; such lawful things as do not edify, are not expedient, and therefore not to be put into Laws, because all human Authority, in the matters of Religion, is only for edification, 2 Cor. 10.8; 13.10, therefore such Constitutions about Religion cease to oblige, when they cease to edify, because the Obligation to obey in the things of Religion, can extend no farther than the Authority to command; which we see is only things for edification.

Thirdly, Least of all should indifferent things be imposed, when they become scandalous, for then the use of them becomes in most cases unlawful and sinful, and therefore much more unlawful to be imposed by Laws. And indeed, this is the great reason why Indifferent things should rarely be imposed by Laws, because Scandal is so apt to rise out of the use of Indifferent things; and therefore we are to use our liberty, or to deny it, according as such or such circumstances require, for the avoiding of Scandal; for we may not do a thing merely Indifferent, to the Scandal of our Brother, saith the Apostle, 1 Cor. 8.13, If Meat make my Brother to offend, I will eat no Flesh while the world stands, lest I make my Brother to offend.

Authority therefore cannot justly command such an indifferent thing to be done, when 'tis apparent thereby Scandal will follow, for this will be to make void the Commandments of God by the Commands of Men; the Command of God is, Give no offence, 1 Cor. 10.32, and this Command of God is Obligatory on Rulers, in making Laws in Indifferent things; as well as on private Christians, in their practice towards each other. If Rulers therefore command such an Indifferent thing to be done, which cannot be done by many without a doubting Conscience, they do in effect command that which is evil, Rom. 14.23, He that doubteth, is damned if he eat; and yet this was but in an indifferent thing: If Authority had then commanded him to eat, (and so in the like case) it had been to command a Scandal, and so unlawful. 'Tis true, if it be a necessary Duty by a Divine Law, that is commanded by Authority, there if Scandal follow, 'tis Scandal taken, and not given, and the fault is wholly in him that takes the Offence; but if it be an unnecessary Indifferent thing, 'tis Scandal given by the Authority that imposeth it.

And also hereby they not only give Scandal to the Doubting, but oblige all others, as much as they can, by the practice of such Indifferences, {21} to give Scandal also; for to say, that human Authority makes an indifferent thing, that in itself hath no necessary use, to become necessary, in the case of Scandal, is to make the Laws of Men to supersede the Law of God; No certainly, if the thing were really scandalous, antecedent to the command, or the use of it would be so, were it not commanded, there no human Authority can put such a necessity into an indifferent thing, as to make it necessary to be done when Scandal follows; because the Obligation to avoid Scandal in indifferent things, being a moral Duty, will supersede any Obligation, that results from the Command of Authority in such indifferent things: for this is but a mere Ritual, and Rituals must give place to Morals.

Thus we see that such Indifferent things being unnecessary in Religion, much more, if inexpedient and scandalous, ought not to be imposed by Laws. But yet we do not hereby plead for such a Liberty in Religion, as is opposed to things in Religion, either necessary in their own nature, or necessary by reason of some circumstances. And thus Indifferent things, that serve for the ordering the Worship of God in decent and comely manner, according to the Apostle's Rule, 1 Cor. 14, are so far lawful to be imposed, as they are expedient and necessary to those ends; for all the Power of human Authority in the matters of Religion, besides imposing what God hath commanded in his Word, is only in ordering what God has so commanded to be done in decent and comely manner, and to edification: and as such things appertaining to God's Worship are necessary in their general nature, as Time, Place, &c. so in their Particulars, when they are indifferent in their own nature, yet do, by reason of Circumstances and Accidents, become necessary to be determined, they then lose their nature of indifferences, and become necessary, antecedent to any Imposition of them by Authority.

But nevertheless, the determination of such Indifferent things should not be imposed by Laws in the case of Scandal, unless in these Cases, viz. (1.) Unless the necessity of imposing them be great, apparent, and certain, and not pretended only. (2.) Unless the Good that is brought to Religion by the imposition of Indifferent things, be greater than the Evil of Scandal it brings with it. (3.) And unless the Good End they are necessary for, cannot be by some other means so well attained, without so great a scandal: But where is no such necessary Good, or but little, comparative to the Evil of Scandal; or if the Good End designed may be by other means attained, {22} without so great Scandal, there certainly in reason Scandal should be avoided, because 'tis so great an Evil, and so much condemned in the Word of God, in the use of indifferent things.

Objection. But that which is usually objected against liberty in Indifferent things, is the Judgment of Authority, seeing them necessary; for, say they, Who shall judge of what is necessary in Religion, to be imposed by Laws, but Rulers themselves? For if a liberty be allowed to the People, to judge of the lawfulness or necessity of what is commanded, and accordingly to obey or not obey, as they judge of them; this will overthrow all Government.

Answer. The Magistrate hath a publick Authoritative Judgment in what they are to require, and the People have a private Judgment of Discretion in what they are to do and obey; and tho' both these may be abused, yet both may very well stand together, without either overthrowing the Authority of Government, or dissolving the Obligation to Obedience; but very ill consequences will follow on denying either; for if we deny the Judgment of Authority to command, this indeed is to overthrow all Human Power to command in the matters of Religion; and to deny the People’s Judgment of private Discretion, is both to take off the use of their Reason, and to lay upon them a necessity of sinning; for if only the Judgment and Will of Authority be the Rule of Laws, or the Obligation to Obedience, it will then follow, that we are bound to obey whatever they command, tho' sinful, if they judge it not so: But as the Magistrate's authoritative Judgment doth not bind to Obedience, when he judgeth erroneously in that which is required, so the People’s Judgment of private discretion doth not disoblige them from Obedience, nor render them inculpable when they judge erroneously of what is required: Therefore each party, both Ruler and Subject, should be very careful to judge aright, namely, the Ruler, in judging of nothing fit to be commanded in Religion, but what is evidently lawful and necessary, and then their Commands are binding: And the Subjects should be very careful, not to judge erroneously of the Commands of Authority, for then they justly suffer for Disobedience. Each party indeed must judge for so much as concerns themselves and their own Duty, both Authority in commanding, and the People in obeying; but the Judgment of neither doth change the nature of the things themselves, so as to make that lawful and necessary, or unlawful and not necessary, that are not really so in themselves. {23}

But we find, that this Argument of enforcing Obedience in the matters of Religion, merely from the Judgment of Authority, is never made use of, but when men want sufficient force of Argument from the matters of the things themselves, then they flee to the Judgment and Obligation of Authority-commanding, which indeed will equally hold in Popery itself, upon supposition, that the Authority, either Civil or Ecclesiastical, be a lawful Authority that commands.

But this Objection is of no force in such things, wherein 'tis acknowledged, That there is no necessity in the nature of the things themselves, why they should be imposed; besides the will of Authority commanding it, there the obligation to Obedience is urged merely from the will of Authority requiring it, and not their Judgment of the necessary usefulness of such things. But what force and obligation the mere will of Authority hath in the matters of Religion, without sound Reason from the Matter required, we shall have occasion to say somewhat unto under the next Question.

Thus I have endeavoured with all possible Brevity to demonstrate what that lawful Liberty in the Matters of Religion is, which the Christian Magistrate should justly allow to every man: but to allow an unlimited Toleration in the practice of Religion, is to run into the contrary Extreme, of imposing unnecessary and doubtful things; and 'tis to be supposed, that much of that mistake that hath been about a Toleration hath come to pass, by not duly considering this Golden Mean of Liberty only in unnecessary things in Religion, between the two Extremes of unnecessary Impositions, and an unlimited Toleration; but as the former is bad, being against Christian Liberty and Charity, yet the latter is much worse, because it tends to subvert the Christian Faith, and to overthrow all Government in the Matters of Religion.




QUESTION III.

  1. Whether it be lawful for Subjects to give their Actual Consent to a general Toleration.
Answer. TO which I answer in the Negative, That they may not. And indeed there will be occasion to say but little in answer to this Question; for having before proved, in Answer to the foregoing Question, That the Magistrate may not lawfully allow such a Toleration; it will thence follow, That the Subject may not consent to it, for by consenting to that which is unlawfully done by others, we become partly Guilty of the Evil so done. {24}

But yet it may be proper for us under this Question, to enquire, Whether it may come under the Charge of an Assent to such a Toleration, to practice some Liberty in the Exercise of Religion that is restrained by Laws, when 'tis allowed by such a Toleration.

I shall answer this in these Three Particulars:

  1. That such a liberty in Religion, as consists only in an Exemption from the Obligation of things in their own nature unnecessary, doubtful, or scandalous, may lawfully be practiced, though the same be restrained by Laws.
  2. That there is no Scandal given by the practice of such a Liberty.
  3. Nor any Assent thereby to a general Toleration.
1. That such a Liberty in Religion as consists only in an exemption or omission of things in their own nature unnecessary, doubtful, or scandalous, may lawfully be practiced, tho' the same be restrained by Laws, because the matter of such Laws cannot be Obligatory upon the Conscience, by virtue of any Law of God, there being no Divine Law upon which to bottom & authorize such Laws, which is necessary in all Laws about Religion, as we have before noted. And wherein there is no Authority to require, therein can be no obligation from the Command to obey, and the mere will of Authority can lay no Obligation in the matters of Religion; but much more when any human Laws about Indifferent things do interfere with the Law of God, of avoiding Scandal in such Indifferent things, there certainly such Laws do lose their force and obligation, because the obligation from human Authority ceaseth, and becomes void, when a previous and greater obligation to the Law of God is to take place: by which we are obliged not to do that about Religion, which being in itself not necessary, is in its use scandalous to many. And indeed, such Laws that enforce the observation of such things, doubtful and scandalous in Religion, seem to lose the force of Laws, and to be void in themselves, having not the proper Matter, nor answering the end of Law; and therefore a liberty in omitting such things, tho' enjoined by Laws; is lawful to be practiced.

2. And that there is no Scandal given by the practice of such a Liberty; for it may be said, That tho' there be no obligation, either from the matter of things required, or from Authority requiring it, to use some Indifferent things; yet they being Indifferent, we are bound to use them, to avoid Scandal to Authority, and to others that will be scandalized by our omitting them. And therefore upon this ground divers learned Conformists have thought it lawful to omit the Ceremonies enjoined by Laws, when Scandal doth not follow, being neither necessary in themselves, nor from the Command of Authority, {25} any further than in the case of Scandal. Here we may observe, That such as esteem such things not merely Indifferent, but Doubtful in themselves, if not Unlawful, cannot be obliged to use them to avoid Scandal to others: But if they are but merely Indifferent in their own nature, yet proving Scandalous to many, and upon supposition of the Truth of what we have proved, that there is no Obligation from Authority in such Indifferent things, when they become scandalous, it will then follow, that there can be no scandal given by omitting them, tho' Scandal be taken; or, tho' in the use of an unnecessary thing in Religion we really give Scandal, yet by the omission of it [scandal] is not given, tho' Scandal may be taken thereupon: because Scandal given, ariseth either out of the omission of something necessary to be done, or doing something either unlawful, or unnecessary tho' lawful. Now, if the Command of Authority doth not make that in Religion not necessary in itself, to become necessary when Scandal follows, as we have proved it cannot do, then certainly no Scandal is given by omitting such unnecessary things. For this we have a parallel Instance, in our Saviour's justifying his Disciples in omitting a lawful, but an unnecessary Ceremony, tho' enjoined by lawful Authority; notwithstanding the Pharisees were scandalized by it, namely, in omitting to wash before Meat, Matt. 15.13.

Therefore it being thus lawful and necessary, to omit such indifferent things in Religion as are doubtful and scandalous, but yet also necessary to do and perform the essential and necessary parts of Divine Worship, the Practice of Christians then, in keeping to all the necessary part of Protestant Doctrine and Worship, omitting only that which is in itself unnecessary, and in its use doubtful and scandalous, cannot justly be condemned as unlawful or scandalous: for herein they do but save and improve their own Right and Liberty, which they have by virtue of the Divine Law, without respect to the obligation of such laws as either restrain a necessary Duty, or require an unnecessary Ceremony: And the doing of a necessary Duty, and the omitting an unnecessary Circumstance, doth not render a man culpable of giving Scandal, tho' Scandal may perhaps be taken, or follow thereupon.

3. Hence it follows, that this Liberty used in Religion is no practical Assent to a general Toleration; for there being nothing in this practice granted thereby, but what was an original Right, antecedent, and without respect to such a Toleration, it follows that Christians thus using their liberty in the exercise of all the Essentials of the Protestant Religion, omitting only such things indifferent and doubtful, cannot be said to give any practical or tacit consent to the lawfulness of a general {26} Toleration of all Religions, because the ground and reason of the Exercise of this Liberty is not founded on the Toleration, but both on the lawfulness and obligation of the Duty so to practice, without respect to such a Toleration.

Much less is it any practical Assent to a supposed power in the Supreme Magistrate, to dispense with such Laws as are of known use and necessity, to the support of the Fundamentals both of the Civil Government and the Protestant Religion: for tho' we should grant, that the Supreme Magistrate may dispense with the observation of things indifferent and doubtful in Religion, tho' enjoined by Laws, as well as from the Penalties imposed for omitting them, and that when the supreme Law of Piety and Charity require it; it will not follow thence, that he may dispense with all Laws that require both the profession and practice of True Religion in the Essentials of Doctrine and Worship, and that prohibit Idolatry and False Religion, and give a general Toleration of all Religions. I hope that all true Protestants, that accept their liberty only in an exemption from such things indifferent and doubtful in Religion, do utterly disown the lawfulness of such a Toleration, or of any such power in the Supreme Magistrate, to dispense with the Laws: those that through Ignorance or Errour have professed any actual Consent to it, are much to be pittied and blamed.




QUESTION IV.

  1. Whether it be lawful for Subjects to Consent to the Repealing those Laws, that Establish and Preserve the True Christian Religion.
Answer. I Answer, That they may not, but that which hath been proved under the foregoing Questions, hath anticipated much of what might be said in Answer to this; for the force of this Question loseth its strength, upon supposition of the Truth of the former Hypothesis, and needs little to be said in Answer to it; for 'tis easy to see, that if it be the Magistrate's Duty, and so especially the Duty of the Legislative Power to maintain the True Religion; 'tis then their Duty to maintain those Laws, that both establish, and are necessary to the maintenance of it, because the Magistrate's Office and Power is exerced [exercised] by Laws.

Now those Laws are either such as require the profession & practice of the True Religion, or such as prohibit and punish the profession and exercise of False Religion; neither of which may be lawfully repealed, unless better Laws for the Security and Establishment of True Religion be first provided: for by repealing the Laws that establish the {27} profession and exercise of the True Religion, the Magistrate disclaimeth his care and regard for the Church of God, and so frustrates and makes void one of the special ends of his Office, and likewise betrays the Cause of Religion to the Rapine and Violence of its open and professed Enemies.

And then also the repealing the Laws that prohibit False Religion and Idolatry, is not only an Allowance of it, but a constructive setting it up, at least becoming partly guilty of it. Hence is that Rule in Morality, In whose hand and power it is, that an Evil Act be not done, to them 'tis imputed if it be done. And this Rule doth most properly respect Magistrates, and those that have Power over others, who are truly said to be guilty of that Evil, which they are able by good Laws to prevent, and do not. And therefore, that Magistrates ought to prohibit, at least the public profession and exercise of Idolatry and False Religion, was, no doubt, the ground of those good Laws which prohibit the same, which our forefathers, with so much zeal for the Truth of the Protestant Religion, obtained against Popery and Idolatry: But with what zeal for, or security unto the Protestant Religion, they may now be repealed, I do not understand.

If then it be not morally lawful for the Legislative Power to repeal those Laws that establish and preserve the Protestant Religion, I need not then further prove, that it is not lawful for the People to consent thereunto; which will thence follow. For I shall conclude all, by making some short Answer to three of these Arguments, which I judge are the most specious that are urged for repealing the Penal Laws; and those also are of so little weight, that there need little to be said in answer to them.

First, 'Tis said, That the Penal Laws made against Popery have been perverted from their proper end and use against Papists, to oppress and persecute Protestants, for Dissenting only in matters of Circumstance and Ceremony in Religion.

Answer. But this is not the fault of the Laws, but of those that had the executive Power, and was so done (as now appears plainly) to serve the Design of Popery, then carrying on: But tho' the Penal Laws have been so perverted, yet seeing it appears, that they are of such necessary use, for the Security of the Protestant Religion against Popery, they may not for that reason be repealed. But as for those Laws that impose Penalties on Protestants, adhering to all the essential and necessary parts of Protestant Doctrine and Worship, but upon scruple of Conscience, dissent in some Matters of Circumstance and Ceremony {28} in Religion, which to them are doubtful and uncertain; 'tis to be hoped, that the Wisdom, Piety, and Charity of another Parliament may either give a greater latitude in the terms of Church-Communion, amongst all Protestants, or abate the rigour of those Laws, that impose Penalties for Nonconformity only in such matters.

Secondly, 'Tis further alleged by some, That there are some Abuses and Corruptions in Religion, still remaining in the Church of England, and that all those Penal Laws established and confirm them, and require full Conformity to them, as to the essential part of Religion, upon pain of Penalties annexed to those Laws, and that therefore they should be repealed for the sake of those Abuses.

Answer. Tho' we suppose there are Abuses and Corruptions about the Circumstances of Religion, confirmed by the same Laws, whereby the substantial and necessary part is confirmed; yet, it will not follow therefore, that for the sake of those Abuses, those Laws should be made void, that confirm the essential part, unless (as we said before) better Laws could first be obtained, that might at least so well Secure the essential part, because a lesser Evil is to be chosen, to wit, the burden of those Abuses, rather than a greater, namely, The Overthrow of the whole Frame of the Protestant Religion, and the Introduction of Popery: Therefore, where a less-necessary Good cannot yet be attained unto, there the most necessary Good already attained must be preserved.

Thirdly, 'Tis further objected, That those Laws never did, nor never will answer their End, of bringing all Persons into an Uniformity in Religion, for which they are intended. And this is the main Reason given by some for Repealing them.

Answer. To which may be answered, That the same is objected by Papists against the Scriptures themselves, of being the Rule of Faith, that they never answered their End of reconciling Differences in Religion. And indeed, upon as good grounds it may be said of the Law of God, That it is not the Rule of Life, because it doth not attain its End of being such, for that all Men will not be ruled by it.

But for further Answer, Those Laws have attained their End so far hitherto, as to support and maintain the essential and necessary parts of Protestant Doctrine and Worship, against the prevalency of Popery, for which end most of the Penal Laws are especially intended; but that they have not also attained their end of procuring Unity and Uniformity in lesser matters, relating to Modes and Ceremonies in Divine Worship, hath been doubtless the too much overdoing, by the Imposition of such things unnecessary and doubtful in Religion; which will perpetuate Divisions to the World's end, whilst they are made necessary Conditions of Communion amongst Protestants.

But alas, either Unity, or Diversity of Opinion and Practice in such matters as these are, is not of that moment and concernment that some men imagine, that lay so much stress and weight upon things of Ceremony and Circumstance, and so little value the Substantial and Great things of Religion. The principal Bond of Christian Unity is an Unity in the profession and practice of the Protestant Faith, to the preservation of which, those Laws are especially to be esteemed as useful; and therefore should not be repealed, unless better Laws, conducing more effectually to those great ends of Religion, can be made and provided.


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