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* * to divine inspiration, which our magistrates under the gospel have not, more than to the same Spirit, which those whom they force have ofttimes in greater measure than themselves; and so, instead of forcing the Christian, they force the Holy Ghost, and against that wise forewarning of Gamaliel, fight against God. Thirdly, those kings and magistrates used force in such things only as were undoubtedly known and forbidden in the law of Moses ; idolatry and direct apostacy from that national and strict enjoined worship of God, whereof the corporal punishment was by himself expressly set down. But magistrates under the gospel, our free, elective, and rational worship, are most commonly busiest to force those things which in the gospel are either left free, nay, sometimes abolished when by the compelled, or else controverted equally by writers on both sides, and sometimes with odds on that side which is against them, by which means they either punish that which they ought to favor and protect, or that with corporal punishment, and of their own inventing, which not they, but the church hath received command to chastise with a spiritual rod only.
Yet some are so eager in their zeal of forcing, that they refuse not to descend at length to the utmost shift of that parabolical proof, Luke xiv. 16, &c. compel them to come in; therefore magistrates may compel in religion; as if a párable were to be strained through every word or phrase, and not expounded by the general scope thereof, which is no, other here than the earnest expression of God's displeasure on those recusant Jews, and his purpose to prefer the Gentiles on any terms before them, ex! pressed here by the word compel.' But how compels he ? Doubtless no other way than he draws, without which nọ man can come to him, John vi. 44, and
that is by the inward persuasive motions of his spirit, and by his ministers; not by the outward compulsions of a magistrate or his officers. The true people of Christ, as is foretold, Psal. cx. 3, are a willing people in the day of his power;' then much more now when he rules all things by outward weakness, that both his inward power and their sincerity may the more appear.
* But they bring now some reason with their force, which must not pass unanswered; that the church of Thyatira was blamed, Rev. 1. 20, for suffering the false prophetess to teach and to seduce.' I answer, that seducement is to be hindered by fit and proper means ordained in church discipline, by instant and powerful demonstration to the contrary, by opposing Truth to Error, no unequal match ; Truth the
1 strong, to Error the weak, though sly and shifting. Force is no honest confutation, but uneffectual, and for the most part unsuccessful, ofttimes fatal to them who use it; sound doctrine diligently and duly taught, is of herself both sufficient, and of herself, if some secret judgment of God hinder not, always prevalent against seducers. This the Thyatirians had neglected, suffering, against church discipline, that woman to teach and to seduce among them. Civil force they had not then in their power, being the Christian part only of that city, and then especially under one of those ten great persecutions, whereof this, the second, was raised by Domitian; force therefore in these matters could not be required of them who were under force themselves.
A fourth reason why the magistrate ought not to use force in religion, I bring from the consideration of all those ends which he can likely pretend to the interposing of his force therein; and those hardly can be other than, first, the glory of God; next, either the spiritual good of them whom he forces, or the temporal punishment of their scandal to others. As for the promoting of God's glory, none, I think, will say that his glory ought to be promoted in religious things by unwarrantable means, much less by means contrary to what he hath commanded. That outward force is such, and that God's glory in the whole administration of the gospel according to his own will and counsel, ought to be fulfilled by weakness, at least so refuted, not by force, or if by force, inward and spiritual, not outward and corporeal, is already proved at large.
That outward force cannot tend to the good of him who is forced in religion, is unquestionable. For in religion, whatever we do under the gospel, we ought to be thereof persuaded without scruple, and are justified by the faith we have, not by the work we do; Romans xiv. 5, Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.' * * Lastly, as a preface to force, it is the usual pretence, That although tender consciences shall be tolerated, yet scandals thereby given shall not be unpunished, profane and licentious men shall not be encouraged to neglect the performance of religious and holy duties by color of any law giving liberty to tender consciences; by which contrivance the way lies ready open to them hereafter who may be so minded, to take away by little and little that liberty which Christ and his gospel, not any magistrate, hath right to give; though this kind of his giving be but to give with one hand, and take away with the other, which is a deluding, not a giving.
As for scandals, if any man be offended at the conscientious liberty of another, it is a taken scandal, not a given. To heal one conscience, we must not wound another; and men must be exhorted to be
ware of scandals in christian liberty, not forced by the magistrate; lest while he goes about to take away the scandal, which is uncertain whether given or taken, he take away our liberty, which is the certain and the sacred gift of God, neither to be touched by him, nor to be parted with by us. As for that fear, lest profane and licentious men should be encouraged to omit the performance of religious and holy duties, how can that care belong to the civil magistrate, especially to his force ? For if profane and licentious persons must not neglect the performance of religious and holy duties, it implies that such duties they can perform, which no protestant will affirm. They who mean the outward performance, may so explain it, and it will then appear yet more plainly, that such performance of religious and holy duties, especially by profane and licentious persons, is a dishonoring rather than a worshipping of God; and not only by him not required, but detested; Prov. xxi. 27, The
• sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination ; how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind ?'
To compel therefore the profane to things holy in his profaneness, is all one under the gospel, as to have compelled the unclean to sacrifice in his uncleanness under the law. And I add withal, that to compel the
, licentious in his licentiousness, and the conscientious against his conscience, comes all to one, tends not to the honor of God, but to the multiplying and the aggravating of sin to them both. v* * But is profane and licentious persons may not omit the performance of holy duties, why may they not partake of holy things? Why are they prohibited the Lord's supper, since both the one and the other action may
be outward, and outward performance of duty may attain at least an outward participation of benefit? The church denying them that communion of grace and thanksgiving, as it justly doth, why doth the magistrate compel them to the union of performing that which they neither truly can, being themselves unholy, and to do seemingly is both hateful to God, and perhaps no less dangerous to perform holy duties irreligiously, than to receive holy signs or sacraments unworthily ? * Since force neither instructs in religion, nor begets repentance or amendment of life, but on the contrary, hardness of heart, formality, hypocrisy, and as I said before, every way increase of sin, more and more alienates the mind from a violent religion, expelling out and compelling in, and reduces it to a condition like that which the Britons complain of in our story, driven to and fro between the Picts and the sea; if after excommunion he be found intractable, incurable, and will not hear the church, he becomes as one never yet within her pale, a heathen or a publican, Mat. xviii. 17, not further to be judged, no, not by the magistrate, unless for civil causes; but left to the final sentence of that judge, whose coming shall be in flames of fire.
On these four scriptural reasons, as on a firm square, this truth, the right of christian and evangelic liberty, will stand immovable against all those pretended consequences of licence and confusion, which, for the most part, men most licentious and confused themselves, or such as whose severity would be wiser than divine wisdom, are ever aptest to object against the ways of God; as if God without them, when he gave us this liberty, knew not of the worst which these men in their arrogance pretend will follow, yet knowing all their worst, he gave us this liberty as by him judged best. As to those magistrates who think it their work to settle religion, and those ministers or