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This, I think, is both a false, and an evil position...,'
That it is a false position is evident from hence, viz. that the grounds and reasons upon which men enter into civil society and the ends and purposes to be answered by it, do not require, or make it neceffary, that civil governors should be invested with any compulsive power in matters of religion. And if fo, then civil governors can have no right to mulet their people on account of their dissent, as aforesaid. This fubject is what I have already confidered, in a Discourse, intitled, Some short reflections on the grounds, and extent of authority and liberty, with respect to civil government. Wherein the authority of civil governors in matters of religion, is particularly, confidered. Occafioned by Dr. Rogers's Vindication of the civil establish ment of religion, published in the year 1728. To this Tract, Sir, I refer you, for a more full view of the point in hand, and shall here only transcribe from it two fhort paragraphs, as a specimen thereof. : i. *". The grounds and reasons of association to “ men is not their relation to, and dependency “ upon God; but only their relation to, and “ dependency upon each other. And the ulti“ mate end and purpose of affociation, is not “ to secure to each individual the favour of “ God, and the happiness of another world, “ but only to procure to each individual those “ comforts in life, which each, in a single ca“pacity, are not qualified to procure to them
e felves; and to guard and protect each indi“ vidual from those evils, which each, in a “ single capacity, are not qualified to secure “ themselves from. .
« Men do not associate, or constitute a “ publick interest, because each, in a single “ capacity, are not qualified to obtain God's “ favour, and the happiness of another world; “ or that society, and consequently the repre“ sentatives of it, should give, or secure, those “ advantages to them: I tay, these cannot pof“ fibly be the ground and reason, the end and “ purpose of association, because, with respect “ to them, association does not alter the cafe “ at all. The favour of God, and the happi« ness of another world, are what society can “ neither give, nor secure, nor take away from “ any individual; and consequently these are “ things which society, as such, are not in“ terested in, nor concerned with.” Again,
The forementioned position is not only false, but evil, as it tends greatly to the hurt and damage of mankind, by leading civil governors to lay an unreasonable, and thereby an oppressive and wicked taxation upon their people. The ground and reason, the end and purpose of taxation, is the guarding and securing the perfons, and properties of the society; and consequently the rule and measure of it ought to be, that each individual should be obliged to bear such a share of the common burthen, as bears a proportion to his ability, and to the share of property which he has to be secured
by it; this being the most fair and equitable state of the case. Indeed if any part of the fociety, by their bad behaviour, draws any unnecessary expence upon the government, which is sometimes the case of treasons, and rebellions, and the like, then, in reason and equity, the offenders, if they are able, ought to bear the burthen of that unnecessary expence. But for as much as disenting from the established religion does not in it self render a man's ability to bear the burthen of government, nor his share of property to be secured by it, greater, or less, nor does it introduce any unnecessary expence, therefore it cannot be a reasonable ground of taxation; and consequently to mul& men upon this account must be opprefive and evil.
Besides, the means in all cases must be directed and governed by the end which is in tended to be answered by them. If a bell is to be rung, and the strength of two men will not do it, then such a number of hands must be added, as will be fufficient for that purpofe. So in like manner, if uniformity, in matters of religion, be the end to be answered by taxation in the present case, which, I think, is the most plausible pretence ; then if fix-pence in the pound is not sufficient to obtain that end, the tax must be increased to make it so. And if twenty Millings in the pound will not do, that is, if divesting men of all their property is not sufficient to awe them into conformity to the established religion; then faggots, and gibbets,
and such other feverities must be used, as will be sufficient to answer that purpose. Whether you will admit these to come under the denomination of perfecution, I cannot say; but this I fay, that it is worthy your most serious consideration, whether you are not become, in some respect, an accessary after the fact, to all those cruelties and barbarities that have been at any time exercised by civil governors on account of religion, by your abetting a position which feems to defend and justify those practices.
Moreover, I think, it will be proper, (in ore der to do justice to the subject under consideration,) to enquire what has followed such uniformity in matters of religion as is defired, where it has been obtained, which, I think, has been the case only in popish countries, and perhaps in some Mahometan countries also. And here, according to the accounts that I have met with of this matter, it will appear, that such uniformity has been attended with the most grofs ignorance and fuperftition, both among clergy and laity, which has led to, and introduced the most abjeet savery, as well in civil, as in religious matters.
Having considered the proposition referred to, and fhewed it to be both false and evil; I now proceed to consider what you have offered, in your late Tract, with regard to it. You say, :“ At the close of my first letter I gave him “ (viz. Mr. Foster) a caution (so well I knew “ what I was to expećt from him) not to charge “ me with persecution, in consequence of my
“ having asserted to the church a right to judge iss of herefy. It might have been for his credit “ to have taken my advice. But persecution is « à favourite to pick with these gentlemen, " and it was to be thrown in my teeth at any “ rate. And to find a handle for it (since none “ was to be found in my letter) he goes back “ to a treatise of mine, written feveral years “ ago, upon the subject of the rights of the ci« vil magistrate in matters of religion. In this “ book I was led to consider, not only what « allowances were proper to be made to consci“ence (whose rights I had asserted in the « strongest manner) but also what restraints “ might be laid upon those who might sepa“ rate themselves from the established religion, “ upon mere worldly views, pretending con« fcience but having none. And to this pur« pose, I thought, that such pecuniary mulets, “as no consciencious man would be unwilling « to pay, and every prudent man having no “ real scruples would chufe not to pay, might “ have their use. . n.". This part Mr. Foster lays hold of, and if “ hard words, and opprobrious language are to “ pass for arguments, he has confuted it. He “ calls it a Mabometan maxim, and is fo fond of “ making me a mere Turk, that he never “ knows when to have done.”.
With regard to the first of these, I observe, that if you have asserted the rights of conscience in the strongest manner, then, I think, you must have afferted this, or something equal to