Obrazy na stronie

injuring and abusing men, I state it myself in the next words after the

passage. “ It is true that all punishments do not come under the notion of injuries or abuses, since many are calculated for the benefit of offenders,” &c.

I answer this by saying, that “ however good a reason this may be for exercising temporal punishments in the cause of religion, it can signify nothing in the present case ; unless the church be vested with a power of dispensing temporal punishments; for this reason cannot create a power where it is not.”

What then was the present case in which I was concerned ? Have I not plainly expressed it to be, whether the church were vested with temporal power? And what is this to the letter-writer's point ? I am speaking of the power of the church; his lordship of the power of the civil magistrate ; and my good friend says we both speak of the same thing.

The next passage is part of this very argument, and follows the words last quoted : it is guarded before and behind against all mistakes but wilful ones.

After having said, “ this reason cannot create a power (in the church) where it is not; it can only direct the exercise of it (that is, in the magistrate's hand) where it is ;" I add the passage quoted by the letter : “ and therefore, to those who urge the conveniency of temporal punishments in matters of religion, we answer with our blessed Saviour, ‘ ye know not what manner.of spirit ye are of.' The kingdom of Christ is not of this world, nor is it to be erected or supported by worldly power.” Here the letter ends. I go on : “ he has not intrenched on the civil magistrate's authority, or granted any part of their commission to his disciples.”

I can make this passage no plainer : if my friend cannot see that I speak here of church power, and not of civil power, I have no help for him. The passage

in page 17 of the letter has been considered already: the five next and only remaining passages made use of by the letter-writer are :

1. “Thus much is certain; the magistrate has no right to punish men for the mistakes in their judgment, or errors of their conscience."


2. “ They lay it down for a maxim that the magistrate las nothing to do with conscience, which is very true.”

3. “ 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 the public good.”

4. “ 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 power. The civil magistrate is of this world, and the affairs of it are his proper


These passages

5. “ The magistrate might well say-conscience I have nothing to do with.”

all relate to one and the same argument; and the letter-writer has picked them up just as he thought most convenient to his present purpose, well knowing that the subject of the argument was nothing to his purpose. The argument is to assert the magistrate's right to punish the evil actions of men, notwithstanding that such actions may be the effect of a misguided conscience; and I have shown that this right is consistent with all just claims that can be made in behalf of conscience. In this case the conscience is supposed erroneous, and to lead to evil practices; and therefore I think here is nothing that can be paralleled with the bishop's cases, of the worship of God in spirit and truth, or religion considered as virtue and charity. The great fault that I find with the plea for liberty of conscience, as it is commonly used, is, that men do not really plead for liberty of conscience, but for a liberty of action; that is, a liberty to do whatever they shall think fit to say their conscience persuades them to. The principle they go on is this, the magistrate has nothing to do with conscience. I allow them their principle, and show them that it will not serve their purpose, or exclude the magistrate from punishing the ill actions of men, however they may plead conscience. And now I will produce the intire argument as it stands in the sermon, and distinguish the passages produced by the letter-writer in a different character, and so leave it to the reader's judgment.

[ocr errors]

“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 magistrate 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 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 will 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 cognisance. 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,


[ocr errors]

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 crimi. nal 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.”.

The passage marked Numb. 4. is only a recapitulation of this argument, and is to the same purpose. The letter-writer bas stopped short in the middle of a sentence; but this is a small matter among friends. Read then the last sentence of the passage thus : “the civil magistrate is of this world, ard the affairs of it are his proper care, from which he ought not to be excluded by any pretences or pleas of religion.”

The laws of Christ as he left them; the essence of God's worship; religion as it is virtue and charity; are no pretences or pleas of religion : of the former the bishop speaks throughout his sermon; of the latter I speak, and let the world judge how

[ocr errors]

we agree.

I have now gone through the letter, and all in it that relates to my sermon. The only satisfaction I can make the world for troubling them so long in so trivial a matter, is to promise that I will never do so again. I have stated his lordship’s sense and my own : if the letter-writer does not like it, he is at liberty to write on as he thinks fit. I am not at such a loss to employ my time as to be willing to attend on every call of this nature. These small attacks are but the excrescences of a controversy, and not worth regarding : I say not this in order to decline any service that I owe and can perform to the church or the Convocation, which now cannot speak for itself. When his lordship publishes his Answer, I shall be neither afraid nor ashamed to own the cause, or to take a share in the common defence of the Representation of the Committee, in which I concurred.

And I cannot but wonder to see with how much anger the Committee is treated for seeing what all the world sees as well

* See Vol. iii. p. 302-3.

as they: friends and foes agree in his lordship's meaning : look into the Layman's Letter of Thanks, the Anatomy of the Convocation, &c.

These are his lordship’s admirers, and praise his doings; and they praise him for doing the very thing which the Convocation blames in him: both agree in their sense, though not in their resentments, of his lordship's doctrine.

The two authors mentioned both set out with the same happy thought, declaring that it was no surprise to them that the Lower-House of Convocation resented the bishop's doctrine, because it has touched them in the tender part. His lordship now says that he touched them not in any part, but published only a doctrine against popery, which they all agree in. How will his lordship's friends like this? Will they not think themselves deserted? Or how can his lordship like their treatment of him, when he complains so heavily of others ? Why have not they been rebuked for mistaking and misrepresenting his lordship’s opinion? Or why has the Committee ? Was the Convocation only bound to be blind? Was it commendable in those who liked the doctrine and the tendency, to understand his lordship's meaning, and publicly to thank him for daring “ to appear against the current of corrupt leaders, who are every day running us back again into the worst part of popery :” (Second Letter of Thanks, p. 2.)

And was it so outrageous an injury for those to see it, who cannot, if they will maintain the trust reposed in them, be silent under such an attack on the rights of the Christian church and the Christian magistrate ? For my own part I heartily wish to have these wounds closed up again ; I should rejoice to see his lordship cleared of the charge he is under for the sake of the church of which he is a bishop, and for his own sake ; and I wish him nothing worse than that he may take the methods proper to these ends.

Those he must choose himself; but should he resolve to insist on the justification of his sermon, he will find (if I have any judgment) that he has a matter of another nature on his hands than ever yet he was engaged in.

[ocr errors]

And here I would beg leave to make use of this opportunity,

« PoprzedniaDalej »