Imatges de pàgina
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the objection supposes, viz. that schism and faction may be occafioned by such a liberty, yet it does not follow that men's natural right ought to be taken away, because some men have abused that right, as I have already shewn.

If it should farther be objected, Secondly, that the allowing men to chuse their own religion leaves men at liberty to be of no religion, and consequently to be atheists, or deists, or what they please, than which nothing can be more destructive to human fociety; because atheism and infidelity take away all consciousness of vertue and vice, which are the great supports of fociety. Seeing then that the conscioudness of vertue and vice has a dependence upon the belief of a God, and the true religion; and seeing the non-consciousness of vertue and vice are destructive of human fociety, it will follow, that the magistrates care, for the welfare of the society, obliges them not to tolerate, but to expel atheism and infidelity out of their dominions, and to oblige their people to the belief of a God, and to the practice of true religion.

I answer, the belief of a God, a providence, and a judgment to come, does not necesarily make men vertuous, and thereby beneficial to society; and a want of faith, with respect to these, does not necessarily make men vicious, and thereby hurtful to it; these having no necessary connection with, or dependence upon each other. However, that the belief of the foremention'd propositions may have an influence on men's present behaviour, and as such it may be beneficial to society, I think must be allowed, and consequently that it is the duty of governours, to make use of the most proper means to expel atheism and infidelity out of their domirions; but that the taking away men's Liberty in chusing their own religion, and obliging thein, by punishment and persecution, to embrace the

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religion of their governours, is such a proper me ansa this I think may justly be dinied. For fupposing a man be an atheist or deist in principle, human laws, with their punishments, have not a tendency, in the nature of the thing, to work such a man's convi£tion, but on the contrary they tend to harden and confirm him in his infidelity ; because human punishments have nothing of reason or argument in them, which are proper to work upon men's judgments, and therefore they are not a proper means to work the coviction of an unbeliver. Indeed they carry a terror along with them, and this works upon men's fears, and so they become a proper means to restrain men's disorderly appetites, and posions. The fear of human punishment oftentimes restrains men, where reason and argument do not. Suppose a man was so covetous, that the principles of religion were not sufficient to restrain him from robbing his neighbour; yet the thoughts of an balter inight. But suppoling a man to be an atheist, can any person be sa weak as to think that the thoughts of an halter or a stake would convince him that there is a God? no; such a conviction must be wrought by reason and argument, which human punishment is deftitute of; consequently such punishment is not a proper means to expel atheism and infidelity; nay, it is so far from it, that it rather tends to harden and confirm men in their errors; for he that is persecuted for his opinion. is naturally led to conclude that his persecutors make use of this method of force, because they are destitute of reason and argument, and because their cause cannot be fupported, if left to stand or fall by it, and from hence he infers, that he is in the right; and men generally use this as an argument of the goodness of their cause, because, say they, truth was always perfecụted; and when men have a bad cause,

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which will not bear reason and argument, then they supply what is wanting of argument by force and violence. Indeed, punishment may make men conceal their opinions and principles, but they are never the more expelled by being concealed. An atheist is an atheist, whether he makes a publick profession of his principles or not. Besides, the forcing men to conceal their principles, in this case, is more hurtful than beneficial to society; because it naturally produces hypocrisy, which is the most prejudicial to society of any vice whatsoever; for as an atheist has no expectation of a future reckoning, so he can, with the greatest freedom, be guilty of the greatest hypocrisy; and therefore whenever atheism is punishable by human laws, the atheist can (and will to serve his worldly interest) put on the appearance of the most strict christian ; and this profession puts it into his power to do a great deal of hurt to those whom christian charity disposes to think him to be in reality what he is in appearance, whereas if he had been left free in his profession, he would have wantea one (and perhaps the strongest) temptation to be an hypocrite. It is much safer dealing with a profesed atheist than with a concealed one; because with the first, we watch and guard against the damage that we may be capable of receiving by him; but with the latter, who passes under the covert of a christian, we are not apprized of our danger; and therefore men are often taken in the snare before they are aware.

From which it appears, that the punishment of atheism itself is disadvantageous to society, and is rather a means to confirm the atheist in, than to convince him of his error. And tho' no man has a right to trifle with, or banter, and ridicule religion; yet every man has a right to be heard, when he speaks pertinently, soberly, and seriously; and there can be no greater

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reflection upon christianity, than for its professors not to give their adversaries fair play. First, to bind, and then to buffet them, is not fair fighting with, and conquering of, but trampling upon an adversary, and yet this is the case. Christian first stop unbeleivers mouths by buman laws, and then insult them as vanquished enemies. Christianity is not so weak and indefensible as this practice fupposes it to be; for when force and persecution were engaged against christianity, and it had no other weapons to fight with but reafort and good argument, then it prevailed to the converting of the world: but now that reason is made to take the lower ground, and force and violence to take place of it, infidelity prevails. Reason and argument are like the two hands of Mofes, when they are lifted up, Isrcel prevails; but when they are made to give place to violence and force, then Amalek prevails. Oh, that our Aaron and Hur would hold up thefe hands of Moses! then fhould our Israel prevail, to the utter destruction of the Amalekites. Christianity hath strength fufficient to deal with its adversaries when they stand upon even ground; Why then should chriftians act the part of cowards, in taking so unmanly an advantage of their opposers ? not that 'tis a real advantage to the cause of christianity, that infidelity is persecuted; nay, in this lies its adversaries great strength, because this gives them occasion and opportunity of boaking to the world, that they have what they really have not, viz, that they have strength of argument on their side, but are prohibited the use of it; thať christianity's beft defence is human laws; and that if they stood upon an equal foot, they should come off with viqtory. this advantage they take to perswade people that truth is on their fide, If therefore magistrates would expel atheism and

infidelity dut of their dominions, the only means to effect it, is to allow them to propose their opinions, and their arguments and reasons for those opinions, with the utmost freedom: and as this would set the dispute upon an equal foot, without any advantage to either party, so it would give men, of understanding and judgment, an occasion and opportunity of examining the arguments offered on the infidels fide, and of thewing the weakness and inconclufiveness of them, and consequently of working their conviction, or at least it would stop their mouths, and prevent the spreading of infidelity

If it should be farther objected, thirdly, that the good Kings of Israel and. Judah made laws for the establishing of the Jewish religion; and that it was foretold by the Propheth Ifaiah of the christian church, that kings jould be ber nursing faikers, and qüèens ber nursing mothers, as in Isaiah xlix. 23.

Answer, That the good Kings of Ifrael and Judah made laws for the punishment of evil doers, and for the protecting and defending of good people in the practice of their duty, is no more than what their office called for; but that they compelled people to the profeffion of the Jewish religion, which were contrary-minded ( which is the case under consideration ) is more easily taken for granted than proved. But supposing they did, this is no good argument to prove that it ought to be, because they practised its for if the rule of what ought to be, should be taken from what good men have practised, as this rule would be very untrertain, in itself, so it would oblige us to practise the worst of actions. As to what the Prophet Icich fortrold, "thật kings Hould be

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