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the common welfare. Moreover, as the precepts of trat religion may regulate all the offices of life, or may fren be so construed as to extend to all, the exemption tend of religion from the control of human laws might gue afford a plea, which would exclude civil govern the ment from every authority over the conduct of its que subjects. Religious liberty is, like civil liberty, a not an immunity from restraint, but the being regre strained by no law, but what in a greater degree i conduces to the public welfare.
Still it is right" to obey God rather than man." Nothing that we have said encroaches upon the truth of this sacred and undisputed maxim; the right of the magistrate to ordain, and the obliga tion of the subject to obey, in matters of religion, may be very different; and will be so, as often as u they flow from opposite apprehensions of the Divine will. In affairs that are properly of a civil nature, in "the things that are Cæsar's," this dif ference seldom happens. The law authorizes the act which it enjoins; revelation being either silent upon the subject, or referring to the laws of the country, or requiring only that men act by some fixed rule, and that this rule be established by com. petent authority. But when human laws interpose their direction in matters of religion, by dictating, for example, the object or the mode of divine wor ship; by prohibiting the profession of some arti cles of faith and by exacting that of others, they f are liable to clash with what private persons be lieve to be already settled by precepts of revelat tion; or to contradict what God himself, they think, hath declared to be true. In this case, on whichever side the mistake lies, or whatever plea the state may allege to justify its edict, the subject can have none to excuse his compliance. The same consideration also points out the distinction, as to the authority of the state, between temporals and spirituals. The magistrate is not be obeyed in th temporals more than in spirituals, where a repug nancy is perceived between his commands and any credited manifestations of the Divine will: but such repugnancies are much less likely to arise in one case than the other.
When we grant that it is lawful for the magi
strate to interfere in religion as often as his interference appears to him to conduce, in its general tendency, to the public happiness; it may be argued, from this concession, that since salvation is the highest interest of mankind, and since, consequently, to advance that is to promote the public happiness in the best way, and in the greatest de gree, in which it can be promoted, it follows, that it is not only the right, but the duty, of every magistrate invested with supreme power, to enforce upon his subjects the reception of that religion which he deems most acceptable to God; and to enforce it by such methods as may appear most effectual for the end proposed. A popish king, for example, who should believe that salvation is not attainable out of the precincts of the Romish church, would derive a right from our principles (not to say that he would be bound by them) to employ the power with which the constitution intrusted him, and which power, in absolute monarchies, commands the lives and fortunes of every subject of the empire, in reducing his people within that communion. We confess that this consequence is inferred from the principles we have laid down concerning the foundation of civil authority, not without the resemblance of a regular deduction: we confess also that it is a conclusion which it be
hooves us to dispose of; because, if it really follow from our theory of government, the theory itself ought to be given up. Now it will be remembered, that the terms of our proposition are these: "That it is lawful for the magistrate to interfere in the affairs of religion, whenever his interference appears to him to conduce, by its general tendency, to the public happiness." The clause of "general tendency," when this rule comes to be applied, will be found a very significant part of the direction. It obliges the magistrate to reflect, not only whether the religion which he wishes to propagate amongst his subjects, be that which will best secure their eternal welfare; not only, whether the methods he employs be likely to effectuate the establishment of that religion; but also upon this farther question: whether the kind of interference which he is about to exercise, if it were adopted as a common maxim
teaches us that the former alternative is constantly to be preferred.
But after the right of the magistrate to establish a particular religion has been, upon this principle, admitted; a doubt sometimes presents itself, whether the religion which he ought to establish, be that which he himself professes, or that which he observes to prevail amongst the majority of the people. Now when we consider this question with a view to the formation of a general rule upon the subject (which view alone can furnish a just solution of the doubt,) it must be assumed to be an equal chance whether of the two religions contains more of truth, that of the magistrate, or that of the people. The chance then that is left to truth being equal upon both suppositions, the remaining consideration will be, from which arrangement more efficacy can be expected;-from an order of men appointed to teach the people their own religion, or to convert them to another? In my opinion, the advantage lies on the side of the former scheme i and this opinion, if it be assented to, makes it the duty of the magistrate, in the choice of the religion which he establishes, to consult the faith of the nation, rather than his own.
The case also of dissenters must be determined! by the principles just now stated. Toleration is of two kinds; the allowing to dissenters the unmolested profession and exercise of their religion, but with an exclusion from offices of trust and emolument in the state; which is a partial toleration: and the admitting them, without distinction, to all the civil privileges and capacities of other citizens; which is a complete toleration. The expediency of toleration, and consequently the right of every citizen to demand it, as far as relates to liberty of conscience, and the claim of being protected in the free and safe profession of his religion, is deducible from the second of those propositions which we have delivered as the grounds of our conclusions upon the subject. That proposition asserts truth, and truth in the abstract, to be the supreme perfection of every religion. The advancement, consequently, and discovery of truth, is that end to which all regulations concerning religion ought principally to
be adapted. Now every species of intolerance which enjoins suppression and silence, and every species of persecution which enforces such injunctions, is adverse to the progress of truth; forasmuch as it causes that to be fixed by one set of men, at one time, which is much better, and with much more probability of success, left to the independent and progressive inquiry of separate individuals. Truth results from discussion and from controversy; is investigated by the labours and researches of private persons. Whatever, therefore, prohibits these, obstructs that industry and that liberty, which it is the common interest of mankind to promote. In religion, as in other subjects, truth, if left to itself, will almost always obtain the ascendency. If different religions be professed in the same country, and the minds of men remain unfettered and unawed by intimidations of law, that religion which is founded in maxims of reason and credibility, will gradually gain over the other to it. I do not mean that men will formally renounce their ancient religion, but that they will adopt into it more rational doctrines, the improvements and discoveries of the neighbouring sect; by which means the worse religion, without the ceremony of a reformation, will insensibly assimilate itself to the better. If Popery, for instance, and Protestantism were permitted to dwell quietly together, Papists might not become Protestant (for the name is commonly the last thing that is changed,) but they would become more enlightened and informed; they would by little and little incorporate into their creed may of the tenets of Protestantism, as well as imbibe a portion of its spirit and moderation.
The justice and expediency of toleration we found primarily in its conduciveness to truth, and in the superior value of truth to that of any other quality which a religion can possess: this is the principal argument: but there are some auxiliary considerations, too important to be omitted. The con
*Would we let the name stand, we might often attract men, without their perceiving it, much nearer to ourselves, than if they did perceive it, they would be willing to come.
fining of the subject to the religion of the state, is a needless violation of natural liberty, and is an instance in which constraint is always grievous. Persecution produces no sincere conviction, nor any real change of opinion; on the contrary, it vitiates the public morals, by driving men to prevarication and commonly ends in a general though secret infidelity, by imposing, under the name of revealed religion, systems of doctrine which men cannot believe, and dare not examine: finally, it disgraces the character, and wounds the reputation, of Christianity itself, by making it the author of oppression, cruelty, and bloodshed.
Under the idea of religious toleration, I include the toleration of all books of serious argumentation but I deem it no infringement of religious liberty, to restrain the circulation of ridicule, invective, and mockery, upon religious subjects; because this species of writing applies solely to the passions, weakens the judgment, and contaminates the imagination, of its readers; has no tendency whatever, to assist either the investigation or the impression of truth: on the contrary, whilst it stays not to distinguish between the authority of different religions, it destroys alike the influence of all.
Concerning the admission of dissenters from the established religion to offices and employments in the public service (which is necessary, to rende: toleration complete,) doubts have been entertained. with some appearance of reason. It is possible that such religious opinions may be holden, as are utterly incompatible with the necessary functions of civil government; and which opinions consequently disqualify those who maintain them, from exer cising any share in its administration. There have been enthusiasts who held that Christianity has abolished all distinction of property, and that she enjoins upon her followers a community of goods With what tolerable propriety could one of this sect be appointed a judge or a magistrate, whos office it is to decide upon questions of private right. and to protect men in the exclusive enjoyment their property? It would be equally absurd to in trust a military command to a Quaker, who be