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reasoning, I think, to infer from the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom, and the spiritual power of his ministers on earth, that temporal punishments are not proper to inforce the laws and edicts of Christ's kingdom; for since the kingdom is not of this world, the powers belonging to this kingdom cannot be of this world. But how those, who derive all church power and authority from the magistrate or the people, can on their own principles exclude temporal punishments in matters of religion, I cannot well conceive; for if the authority be of this world, the magistrate bears the sword to command obedience to his laws and edicts; and the exercise of the sword reaches as far as his authority goes; and therefore if the power of the church is founded in his authority, it must likewise be upheld by his sword and consequently, those who are for throwing all spiritual power out of the church, and introducing into the room of it a power derived from the civil magistrate, must, to exempt the consciences of men from a spiritual jurisdiction, submit them to a temporal, and leave them to truckle to the power of the sword; which is in its consequence, whatever it may be in its principle, downright popery.
As the power of the magistrate is by some exalted, in matters of religion, beyond all proportion of reason; so by others it is as much depressed.
Let us therefore, in the second place, proceed to show that the reason of the text does not affect the civil magistrate's .power, nor tie up his hands from interposing with the civil sword, in matters proper for its jurisdiction, however they may be pretended to be allied to religion.
The foundation or principle on which the magistrate's power has been both unreasonably exalted and depressed, is liberty of conscience. Though, to speak properly, on the one side a liberty from conscience seems to be the thing aimed at; for which reason all regard to spiritual matters is struck out, and the magistrate's will set up as the supreme law of conscience: on the other side a liberty for conscience to act as it pleases, is the thing contended for; and therefore the magistrate's power, in all cases where conscience is concerned, is taken away, and men set at liberty to act as their conscience, how erroneous soever, shall direct them without control. But it ought to be remem
bered that the arguments drawn from the nature of religion, and of Christ's spiritual kingdom, against the use of temporal punishments, are conclusive only as to the ministers of that kingdom; and cannot extend to the civil magistrate; they, as they are ministers of a kingdom purely spiritual, can have no claim as such to any temporal power; and therefore they can exercise none: they consider men's actions with respect to the consequences of them in another world, and therefore they denounce the punishments of another world against offenders: 'Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men.' But the civil magistrate has a temporal power; and the peace and order of this world are his care and concern: it is his proper business to consider the actions of men with regard to public peace and order, without respecting from what internal principle they flow. If the actions of men are such as tend to disturb the peace, or to destroy the frame of the government over which he presides, whether they proceed from conscience or not, he is not bound to consider; nor indeed can he: but it is his duty to punish and to restrain them. Whenever men's religion or conscience come to show themselves in practice, they fall under the cognizance of the civil power: or whenever they branch out into principles destructive of the civil government, they are then ripe for the civil sword, and may justly be rooted out. On these principles, I presume there have been many penal laws enacted against popery in this kingdom; not on the weak supposition that no man's conscience ever led him to be a papist, but on this known and experienced truth, that whenever a man's conscience leads him to be a papist, it leads him to be an enemy to the constitution of this government; and therefore the government has a right to secure itself against the practices of a professed enemy, by the terror of temporal punishments, notwithstanding the pleas of conscience and religion. And should any sect hereafter arise, entering into practices, or professing principles destructive of the legal constitution, the magistrate would have as good a right to unsheath the sword against them, as at present he has to do it against the papists: nor shall it avail them any more than these to say, they act on principles of religion or conscience.
As to mere difference in opinion, which ends only in specu
lation, or influences only the internal acts of the mind, or produces only such external acts as no way concern the public peace, I see not how the magistrate can interest himself in them but wherever difference of opinion is attended with consequences that may affect the state, how can it stand with reason or public good to exclude the magistrate's power in such cases?
Men often dispute against penal laws, under the notion of their being laws of the church, which of right they never can be; for the church has no right or authority to impose penal laws; they are strictly and properly speaking laws of the state; they have for their end, as all other civil laws have, the good of the state, and are enacted to prevent the growth either of principles or practices which are conceived to be dangerous: and I would fain know how the subject's conscience can bind the magistrate's power from acting in its proper sphere, which is to prevent all growing dangers to the state. There have been those in this kingdom, and there may be again, who found themselves persuaded in conscience that the goods of Christians were common. Should such a one come to share with you, as he would call it, in your goods, or as the law would term it, to rob you of them, would his conscience and his misunderstanding a few texts of Scripture relating to that matter, be a good and justifiable plea in a court of justice? If it would, I dare engage the sect will soon be numerous; if it would not, it can be no general rule that conscience ought to be exempt from penal laws.
The truth of the matter lies in a very narrow compass. The church has no right to impose penal laws on any account: in matters purely of a religious nature, the state has no right neither but of such matters perhaps there may be great scarcity in the world; for the passions of men work themselves into their religious concerns, and the controversy grows insensibly into a struggle for power and superiority, and often breeds convulsions that shake the very constitution of the civil government. And must the magistrate sit still because the bustle is about religion, and be told that he has nothing to do in it? Surely it becomes him to stir and to drive conscience out of the
state to its proper seat, the heart of man; whither his power neither can nor ought to pursue it.
In this question of the magistrate's right, it matters not what a man's opinions are, or how well or how ill a man's conscience is informed: for thus much is certain, that the magistrate has no right to punish men for the mistakes in their judgment or the errors of their consciences. On the other side, when the ma
gistrate calls a man to an account for his actions, I cannot see that it is so much as his duty to inquire whether the man took what he did to be a part of his religion, or whether he followed the dictates of his conscience or no. What can the civil magistrate have to do in such questions; or how can he arrive at any evidence concerning the truth of these matters? The nature of the action lies properly before him, considered in itself, and then in its consequences; and if it tend to mischief, to breed disturbance in the state, he has a right to punish it, without considering whether it be a religious action or no.
There would need no disputing in this case, if men would attend to the just consequences of their own principles. They lay it down for a maxim, that the magistrate has nothing to do with conscience, which is very true; but then they infer that the magistrate cannot punish men for acting according to their conscience; which is to say, that his authority is suspended by the plea of conscience: and if so, the magistrate, I think, will have more than enough to do with it; since the people's conscience will bind his power in the exercise of the sword, and he must of necessity in the administration of justice enter into the examination of conscience; for since that is to be his rule, he ought to know and to consider it.
But if you would attend to the natural and just consequences of the principle, the truth will stand in a clear light. The magistrate has nothing to do with conscience; and therefore on one hand he has no right to bring conscience to his bar, to punish the errors or mistakes of it; or to censure even the actions which proceed from it, unless they affect that which is his immediate care, the public good, or the private peace and property of his subjects: on the other hand, no one else can bring conscience before him, or by the pleas of it supersede his
authority in any case proper for his cognizance. For the magistrate might well say, The action is such as I am concerned to inquire into; conscience I have nothing to do with; it does not lie before me, and therefore I shall not attend to its pretences. Nor indeed is it possible that he should, since it is in every man's power in all cases to plead conscience; which is never more easily pretended to than by those who have none. A man under a criminal accusation might as well refer himself to what was done in the Mogul's country as to what passed at that time in his own unsearchable heart; and the magistrate might with much more reason admit the evidence in one case than in the other, where there is no possibility of knowing the truth.
It may be thought perhaps by some that I have been pleading all this while for the magistrate's right to persecute the subject on account of religion; and so I have, if there be any religion which indispensably obliges men to disturb the public peace, to pervert the ways of justice, to be injurious to their brethren, either in their life, or property, or good name; for these things certainly the magistrate ought to punish and correct. But if this be what all religions universally disclaim and abhor, there is no danger that any man should suffer merely for his religion, because the magistrate has a right to punish sedition and rebellion, and to do justice in cases of private injury and oppression. One may be mistaken in his notions of religion, and yet in his political capacity, as touching the laws of his country, he may be blameless; and as long as he continues so, his mistakes are out of the reach of the magistrate's power.
The reason of the case extends as well to doctrines as to practices the magistrate has a right to suppress all such as are pernicious to the state. In Queen Elizabeth's time there were some who maintained, as a point of religion, the unlawfulness of women's government: should the doctrine be revived at this day, I imagine that the plea of religion would not atone for the malignancy of the opinion.
What has been said may serve to mark out to us the just limits of spiritual and civil power. The ministers of Christ are not of this world, and therefore they have no right to extend their Master's kingdom by the exercise of worldly or temporal