Infomotions, Inc.A Letter Concerning Toleration / Locke, John

Author: Locke, John
Title: A Letter Concerning Toleration
Publisher: Eris Etext Project
Tag(s): magistrate; religion; commonwealth; worship; salvation; church; ecclesiastical; civil; civil magistrate; christian; western philosophy
Contributor(s): Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.)
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 19,867 words (really short) Grade range: 15-19 (graduate school) Readability score: 44 (average)
Identifier: locke-letter-116
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                         A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION

                                 by John Locke

                          translated by William Popple


  Since you are pleased to inquire what are my thoughts about the
mutual toleration of Christians in their different professions of
religion, I must needs answer you freely that I esteem that toleration
to be the chief characteristic mark of the true Church. For whatsoever
some people boast of the antiquity of places and names, or of the pomp
of their outward worship; others, of the reformation of their
discipline; all, of the orthodoxy of their faith- for everyone is
orthodox to himself- these things, and all others of this nature,
are much rather marks of men striving for power and empire over one
another than of the Church of Christ. Let anyone have never so true
a claim to all these things, yet if he be destitute of charity,
meekness, and good-will in general towards all mankind, even to
those that are not Christians, he is certainly yet short of being a
true Christian himself. "The kings of the Gentiles exercise leadership
over them," said our Saviour to his disciples, "but ye shall not be
so."* The business of true religion is quite another thing. It is
not instituted in order to the erecting of an external pomp, nor to
the obtaining of ecclesiastical dominion, nor to the exercising of
compulsive force, but to the regulating of men's lives, according to
the rules of virtue and piety. Whosoever will list himself under the
banner of Christ, must, in the first place and above all things,
make war upon his own lusts and vices. It is in vain for any man to
unsurp the name of Christian, without holiness of life, purity of
manners, benignity and meekness of spirit. "Let everyone that nameth
the name of Christ, depart from iniquity."*(2) "Thou, when thou art
converted, strengthen thy brethren," said our Lord to Peter.*(3) It
would, indeed, be very hard for one that appears careless about his
own salvation to persuade me that he were extremely concerned for
mine. For it is impossible that those should sincerely and heartily
apply themselves to make other people Christians, who have not
really embraced the Christian religion in their own hearts. If the
Gospel and the apostles may be credited, no man can be a Christian
without charity and without that faith which works, not by force,
but by love. Now, I appeal to the consciences of those that persecute,
torment, destroy, and kill other men upon pretence of religion,
whether they do it out of friendship and kindness towards them or
no? And I shall then indeed, and not until then, believe they do so,
when I shall see those fiery zealots correcting, in the same manner,
their friends and familiar acquaintance for the manifest sins they
commit against the precepts of the Gospel; when I shall see them
persecute with fire and sword the members of their own communion
that are tainted with enormous vices and without amendment are in
danger of eternal perdition; and when I shall see them thus express
their love and desire of the salvation of their souls by the
infliction of torments and exercise of all manner of cruelties. For if
it be out of a principle of charity, as they pretend, and love to
men's souls that they deprive them of their estates, maim them with
corporal punishments, starve and torment them in noisome prisons,
and in the end even take away their lives- I say, if all this be
done merely to make men Christians and procure their salvation, why
then do they suffer whoredom, fraud, malice, and such-like enormities,
which (according to the apostle)*(4) manifestly relish of heathenish
corruption, to predominate so much and abound amongst their flocks and
people? These, and such-like things, are certainly more contrary to
the glory of God, to the purity of the Church, and to the salvation of
souls, than any conscientious dissent from ecclesiastical decisions,
or separation from public worship, whilst accompanied with innocence
of life. Why, then, does this burning zeal for God, for the Church,
and for the salvation of souls- burning I say, literally, with fire
and faggot- pass by those moral vices and wickednesses, without any
chastisement, which are acknowledged by all men to be diametrically
opposite to the profession of Christianity, and bend all its nerves
either to the introducing of ceremonies, or to the establishment of
opinions, which for the most part are about nice and intricate
matters, that exceed the capacity of ordinary understandings? Which of
the parties contending about these things is in the right, which of
them is guilty of schism or heresy, whether those that domineer or
those that suffer, will then at last be manifest when the causes of
their separation comes to be judged of He, certainly, that follows
Christ, embraces His doctrine, and bears His yoke, though he forsake
both father and mother, separate from the public assemblies and
ceremonies of his country, or whomsoever or whatsoever else he
relinquishes, will not then be judged a heretic.

  * Luke 22. 25.

  *(2) II Tim. 2. 19.

  *(3) Luke 22. 32.

  *(4) Rom. I.

  Now, though the divisions that are amongst sects should be allowed
to be never so obstructive of the salvation of souls; yet,
nevertheless, adultery, fornication, uncleanliness, lasciviousness,
idolatry, and such-like things, cannot be denied to be works of the
flesh, concerning which the apostle has expressly declared that
"they who do them shall not inherit the kingdom of God."* Whosoever,
therefore, is sincerely solicitous about the kingdom of God and thinks
it his duty to endeavour the enlargement of it amongst men, ought to
apply himself with no less care and industry to the rooting out of
these immoralities than to the extirpation of sects. But if anyone
do otherwise, and whilst he is cruel and implacable towards those that
differ from him in opinion, he be indulgent to such iniquities and
immoralities as are unbecoming the name of a Christian, let such a one
talk never so much of the Church, he plainly demonstrates by his
actions that it is another kingdom he aims at and not the
advancement of the kingdom of God.

  * Gal. 5.

  That any man should think fit to cause another man- whose
salvation he heartily desires- to expire in torments, and that even in
an unconverted state, would, I confess, seem very strange to me, and I
think, to any other also. But nobody, surely, will ever believe that
such a carriage can proceed from charity, love, or goodwill. If anyone
maintain that men ought to be compelled by fire and sword to profess
certain doctrines, and conform to this or that exterior worship,
without any regard had unto their morals; if anyone endeavour to
convert those that are erroneous unto the faith, by forcing them to
profess things that they do not believe and allowing them to
practise things that the Gospel does not permit, it cannot be
doubted indeed but such a one is desirous to have a numerous
assembly joined in the same profession with himself; but that he
principally intends by those means to compose a truly Christian Church
is altogether incredible. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at if
those who do not really contend for the advancement of the true
religion, and of the Church of Christ, make use of arms that do not
belong to the Christian warfare. If, like the Captain of our
salvation, they sincerely desired the good of souls, they would
tread in the steps and follow the perfect example of that Prince of
Peace, who sent out His soldiers to the subduing of nations, and
gathering them into His Church, not armed with the sword, or other
instruments of force, but prepared with the Gospel of peace and with
the exemplary holiness of their conversation. This was His method.
Though if infidels were to be converted by force, if those that are
either blind or obstinate were to be drawn off from their errors by
armed soldiers, we know very well that it was much more easy for Him
to do it with armies of heavenly legions than for any son of the
Church, how potent soever, with all his dragoons.

  The toleration of those that differ from others in matters of
religion is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the
genuine reason of mankind, that it seems monstrous for men to be so
blind as not to perceive the necessity and advantage of it in so clear
a light. I will not here tax the pride and ambition of some, the
passion and uncharitable zeal of others. These are faults from which
human affairs can perhaps scarce ever be perfectly freed; but yet such
as nobody will bear the plain imputation of, without covering them
with some specious colour; and so pretend to commendation, whilst they
are carried away by their own irregular passions. But, however, that
some may not colour their spirit of persecution and unchristian
cruelty with a pretence of care of the public weal and observation
of the laws; and that others, under pretence of religion, may not seek
impunity for their libertinism and licentiousness; in a word, that
none may impose either upon himself or others, by the pretences of
loyalty and obedience to the prince, or of tenderness and sincerity in
the worship of God; I esteem it above all things necessary to
distinguish exactly the business of civil government from that of
religion and to settle the just bounds that lie between the one and
the other. If this be not done, there can be no end put to the
controversies that will be always arising between those that have,
or at least pretend to have, on the one side, a concernment for the
interest of men's souls, and, on the other side, a care of the

  The commonwealth seems to me to be a society of men constituted only
for the procuring, preserving, and advancing their own civil

  Civil interests I call life, liberty, health, and indolency of body;
and the possession of outward things, such as money, lands, houses,
furniture, and the like.

  It is the duty of the civil magistrate, by the impartial execution
of equal laws, to secure unto all the people in general and to every
one of his subjects in particular the just possession of these
things belonging to this life. If anyone presume to violate the laws
of public justice and equity, established for the preservation of
those things, his presumption is to be checked by the fear of
punishment, consisting of the deprivation or diminution of those civil
interests, or goods, which otherwise he might and ought to enjoy.
But seeing no man does willingly suffer himself to be punished by
the deprivation of any part of his goods, and much less of his liberty
or life, therefore, is the magistrate armed with the force and
strength of all his subjects, in order to the punishment of those that
violate any other man's rights.

  Now that the whole jurisdiction of the magistrate reaches only to
these civil concernments, and that all civil power, right and
dominion, is bounded and confined to the only care of promoting
these things; and that it neither can nor ought in any manner to be
extended to the salvation of souls, these following considerations
seem unto me abundantly to demonstrate.

  First, because the care of souls is not committed to the civil
magistrate, any more than to other men. It is not committed unto
him, I say, by God; because it appears not that God has ever given any
such authority to one man over another as to compel anyone to his
religion. Nor can any such power be vested in the magistrate by the
consent of the people, because no man can so far abandon the care of
his own salvation as blindly to leave to the choice of any other,
whether prince or subject, to prescribe to him what faith or worship
he shall embrace. For no man can, if he would, conform his faith to
the dictates of another. All the life and power of true religion
consist in the inward and full persuasion of the mind; and faith is
not faith without believing. Whatever profession we make, to
whatever outward worship we conform, if we are not fully satisfied
in our own mind that the one is true and the other well pleasing
unto God, such profession and such practice, far from being any
furtherance, are indeed great obstacles to our salvation. For in
this manner, instead of expiating other sins by the exercise of
religion, I say, in offering thus unto God Almighty such a worship
as we esteem to be displeasing unto Him, we add unto the number of our
other sins those also of hypocrisy and contempt of His Divine Majesty.

  In the second place, the care of souls cannot belong to the civil
magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force; but true
and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind,
without which nothing can be acceptable to God. And such is the nature
of the understanding, that it cannot be compelled to the belief of
anything by outward force. Confiscation of estate, imprisonment,
torments, nothing of that nature can have any such efficacy as to make
men change the inward judgement that they have framed of things.

  It may indeed be alleged that the magistrate may make use of
arguments, and, thereby; draw the heterodox into the way of truth, and
procure their salvation. I grant it; but this is common to him with
other men. In teaching, instructing, and redressing the erroneous by
reason, he may certainly do what becomes any good man to do.
Magistracy does not oblige him to put off either humanity or
Christianity; but it is one thing to persuade, another to command; one
thing to press with arguments, another with penalties. This civil
power alone has a right to do; to the other, goodwill is authority
enough. Every man has commission to admonish, exhort, convince another
of error, and, by reasoning, to draw him into truth; but to give laws,
receive obedience, and compel with the sword, belongs to none but
the magistrate. And, upon this ground, I affirm that the
magistrate's power extends not to the establishing of any articles
of faith, or forms of worship, by the force of his laws. For laws
are of no force at all without penalties, and penalties in this case
are absolutely impertinent, because they are not proper to convince
the mind. Neither the profession of any articles of faith, nor the
conformity to any outward form of worship (as has been already
said), can be available to the salvation of souls, unless the truth of
the one and the acceptableness of the other unto God be thoroughly
believed by those that so profess and practise. But penalties are no
way capable to produce such belief. It is only light and evidence that
can work a change in men's opinions; which light can in no manner
proceed from corporal sufferings, or any other outward penalties.

  In the third place, the care of the salvation of men's souls
cannot belong to the magistrate; because, though the rigour of laws
and the force of penalties were capable to convince and change men's
minds, yet would not that help at all to the salvation of their souls.
For there being but one truth, one way to heaven, what hope is there
that more men would be led into it if they had no rule but the
religion of the court and were put under the necessity to quit the
light of their own reason, and oppose the dictates of their own
consciences, and blindly to resign themselves up to the will of
their governors and to the religion which either ignorance,
ambition, or superstition had chanced to establish in the countries
where they were born? In the variety and contradiction of opinions
in religion, wherein the princes of the world are as much divided as
in their secular interests, the narrow way would be much straitened;
one country alone would be in the right, and all the rest of the world
put under an obligation of following their princes in the ways that
lead to destruction; and that which heightens the absurdity, and
very ill suits the notion of a Deity, men would owe their eternal
happiness or misery to the places of their nativity.

  These considerations, to omit many others that might have been urged
to the same purpose, seem unto me sufficient to conclude that all
the power of civil government relates only to men's civil interests,
is confined to the care of the things of this world, and hath
nothing to do with the world to come.

  Let us now consider what a church is. A church, then, I take to be a
voluntary society of men, joining themselves together of their own
accord in order to the public worshipping of God in such manner as
they judge acceptable to Him, and effectual to the salvation of
their souls.

  I say it is a free and voluntary society. Nobody is born a member of
any church; otherwise the religion of parents would descend unto
children by the same right of inheritance as their temporal estates,
and everyone would hold his faith by the same tenure he does his
lands, than which nothing can be imagined more absurd. Thus,
therefore, that matter stands. No man by nature is bound unto any
particular church or sect, but everyone joins himself voluntarily to
that society in which he believes he has found that profession and
worship which is truly acceptable to God. The hope of salvation, as it
was the only cause of his entrance into that communion, so it can be
the only reason of his stay there. For if afterwards he discover
anything either erroneous in the doctrine or incongruous in the
worship of that society to which he has joined himself, why should
it not be as free for him to go out as it was to enter? No member of a
religious society can be tied with any other bonds but what proceed
from the certain expectation of eternal life. A church, then, is a
society of members voluntarily uniting to that end.

  It follows now that we consider what is the power of this church and
unto what laws it is subject.

  Forasmuch as no society, how free soever, or upon whatsoever
slight occasion instituted, whether of philosophers for learning, of
merchants for commerce, or of men of leisure for mutual conversation
and discourse, no church or company, I say, can in the least subsist
and hold together, but will presently dissolve and break in pieces,
unless it be regulated by some laws, and the members all consent to
observe some order. Place and time of meeting must be agreed on; rules
for admitting and excluding members must be established; distinction
of officers, and putting things into a regular course, and suchlike,
cannot be omitted. But since the joining together of several members
into this church-society, as has already been demonstrated, is
absolutely free and spontaneous, it necessarily follows that the right
of making its laws can belong to none but the society itself; or, at
least (which is the same thing), to those whom the society by common
consent has authorised thereunto.

  Some, perhaps, may object that no such society can be said to be a
true church unless it have in it a bishop or presbyter, with ruling
authority derived from the very apostles, and continued down to the
present times by an uninterrupted succession.

  To these I answer: In the first place, let them show me the edict by
which Christ has imposed that law upon His Church. And let not any man
think me impertinent, if in a thing of this consequence I require that
the terms of that edict be very express and positive; for the
promise He has made us,* that "wheresoever two or three are gathered
together" in His name, He will be in the midst of them, seems to imply
the contrary. Whether such an assembly want anything necessary to a
true church, pray do you consider. Certain I am that nothing can be
there wanting unto the salvation of souls, which is sufficient to
our purpose.

  * Matt. 18. 20.

  Next, pray observe how great have always been the divisions
amongst even those who lay so much stress upon the Divine
institution and continued succession of a certain order of rulers in
the Church. Now, their very dissension unavoidably puts us upon a
necessity of deliberating and, consequently, allows a liberty of
choosing that which upon consideration we prefer.

  And, in the last place, I consent that these men have a ruler in
their church, established by such a long series of succession as
they judge necessary, provided I may have liberty at the same time
to join myself to that society in which I am persuaded those things
are to be found which are necessary to the salvation of my soul. In
this manner ecclesiastical liberty will be preserved on all sides, and
no man will have a legislator imposed upon him but whom himself has

  But since men are so solicitous about the true church, I would
only ask them here, by the way, if it be not more agreeable to the
Church of Christ to make the conditions of her communion consist in
such things, and such things only, as the Holy Spirit has in the
Holy Scriptures declared, in express words, to be necessary to
salvation; I ask, I say, whether this be not more agreeable to the
Church of Christ than for men to impose their own inventions and
interpretations upon others as if they were of Divine authority, and
to establish by ecclesiastical laws, as absolutely necessary to the
profession of Christianity, such things as the Holy Scriptures do
either not mention, or at least not expressly command? Whosoever
requires those things in order to ecclesiastical communion, which
Christ does not require in order to life eternal, he may, perhaps,
indeed constitute a society accommodated to his own opinion and his
own advantage; but how that can be called the Church of Christ which
is established upon laws that are not His, and which excludes such
persons from its communion as He will one day receive into the Kingdom
of Heaven, I understand not. But this being not a proper place to
inquire into the marks of the true church, I will only mind those that
contend so earnestly for the decrees of their own society, and that
cry out continually, "The Church! the Church!" with as much noise, and
perhaps upon the same principle, as the Ephesian silversmiths did
for their Diana; this, I say, I desire to mind them of, that the
Gospel frequently declares that the true disciples of Christ must
suffer persecution; but that the Church of Christ should persecute
others, and force others by fire and sword to embrace her faith and
doctrine, I could never yet find in any of the books of the New

  The end of a religious society (as has already been said) is the
public worship of God and, by means thereof, the acquisition of
eternal life. All discipline ought, therefore, to tend to that end,
and all ecclesiastical laws to be thereunto confined. Nothing ought
nor can be transacted in this society relating to the possession of
civil and worldly goods. No force is here to be made use of upon any
occasion whatsoever. For force belongs wholly to the civil magistrate,
and the possession of all outward goods is subject to his

  But, it may be asked, by what means then shall ecclesiastical laws
be established, if they must be thus destitute of all compulsive
power? I answer: They must be established by means suitable to the
nature of such things, whereof the external profession and
observation- if not proceeding from a thorough conviction and
approbation of the mind- is altogether useless and unprofitable. The
arms by which the members of this society are to be kept within
their duty are exhortations, admonitions, and advices. If by these
means the offenders will not be reclaimed, and the erroneous
convinced, there remains nothing further to be done but that such
stubborn and obstinate persons, who give no ground to hope for their
reformation, should be cast out and separated from the society. This
is the last and utmost force of ecclesiastical authority. No other
punishment can thereby be inflicted than that, the relation ceasing
between the body and the member which is cut off. The person so
condemned ceases to be a part of that church.

  These things being thus determined, let us inquire, in the next
place: How far the duty of toleration extends, and what is required
from everyone by it?

  And, first, I hold that no church is bound, by the duty of
toleration, to retain any such person in her bosom as, after
admonition, continues obstinately to offend against the laws of the
society. For, these being the condition of communion and the bond of
the society, if the breach of them were permitted without any
animadversion the society would immediately be thereby dissolved. But,
nevertheless, in all such cases care is to be taken that the
sentence of excommunication, and the execution thereof, carry with
it no rough usage of word or action whereby the ejected person may any
wise be damnified in body or estate. For all force (as has often
been said) belongs only to the magistrate, nor ought any private
persons at any time to use force, unless it be in self-defence against
unjust violence. Excommunication neither does, nor can, deprive the
excommunicated person of any of those civil goods that he formerly
possessed. All those things belong to the civil government and are
under the magistrate's protection. The whole force of
excommunication consists only in this: that, the resolution of the
society in that respect being declared, the union that was between the
body and some member comes thereby to be dissolved; and, that relation
ceasing, the participation of some certain things which the society
communicated to its members, and unto which no man has any civil
right, comes also to cease. For there is no civil injury done unto the
excommunicated person by the church minister's refusing him that bread
and wine, in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, which was not
bought with his but other men's money.

  Secondly, no private person has any right in any manner to prejudice
another person in his civil enjoyments because he is of another church
or religion. All the rights and franchises that belong to him as a
man, or as a denizen, are inviolably to be preserved to him. These are
not the business of religion. No violence nor injury is to be
offered him, whether he be Christian or Pagan. Nay, we must not
content ourselves with the narrow measures of bare justice; charity,
bounty, and liberality must be added to it. This the Gospel enjoins,
this reason directs, and this that natural fellowship we are born into
requires of us. If any man err from the right way, it is his own
misfortune, no injury to thee; nor therefore art thou to punish him in
the things of this life because thou supposest he will be miserable in
that which is to come.

  What I say concerning the mutual toleration of private persons
differing from one another in religion, I understand also of
particular churches which stand, as it were, in the same relation to
each other as private persons among themselves: nor has any one of
them any manner of jurisdiction over any other; no, not even when
the civil magistrate (as it sometimes happens) comes to be of this
or the other communion. For the civil government can give no new right
to the church, nor the church to the civil government. So that,
whether the magistrate join himself to any church, or separate from
it, the church remains always as it was before- a free and voluntary
society. It neither requires the power of the sword by the
magistrate's coming to it, nor does it lose the right of instruction
and excommunication by his going from it. This is the fundamental
and immutable right of a spontaneous society- that it has power to
remove any of its members who transgress the rules of its institution;
but it cannot, by the accession of any new members, acquire any
right of jurisdiction over those that are not joined with it. And
therefore peace, equity, and friendship are always mutually to be
observed by particular churches, in the same manner as by private
persons, without any pretence of superiority or jurisdiction over
one another.

  That the thing may be made clearer by an example, let us suppose two
churches- the one of Arminians, the other of Calvinists- residing in
the city of Constantinople. Will anyone say that either of these
churches has right to deprive the members of the other of their
estates and liberty (as we see practised elsewhere) because of their
differing from it in some doctrines and ceremonies, whilst the
Turks, in the meanwhile, silently stand by and laugh to see with
what inhuman cruelty Christians thus rage against Christians? But if
one of these churches hath this power of treating the other ill, I ask
which of them it is to whom that power belongs, and by what right?
It will be answered, undoubtedly, that it is the orthodox church which
has the right of authority over the erroneous or heretical. This is,
in great and specious words, to say just nothing at all. For every
church is orthodox to itself; to others, erroneous or heretical. For
whatsoever any church believes, it believes to be true and the
contrary unto those things it pronounce; to be error. So that the
controversy between these churches about the truth of their
doctrines and the purity of their worship is on both sides equal;
nor is there any judge, either at Constantinople or elsewhere upon
earth, by whose sentence it can be determined. The decision of that
question belongs only to the Supreme judge of all men, to whom also
alone belongs the punishment of the erroneous. In the meanwhile, let
those men consider how heinously they sin, who, adding injustice, if
not to their error, yet certainly to their pride, do rashly and
arrogantly take upon them to misuse the servants of another master,
who are not at all accountable to them.

  Nay, further: if it could be manifest which of these two
dissenting churches were in the right, there would not accrue
thereby unto the orthodox any right of destroying the other. For
churches have neither any jurisdiction in worldly matters, nor are
fire and sword any proper instruments wherewith to convince men's
minds of error, and inform them of the truth. Let us suppose,
nevertheless, that the civil magistrate inclined to favour one of them
and to put his sword into their hands that (by his consent) they might
chastise the dissenters as they pleased. Will any man say that any
right can be derived unto a Christian church over its brethren from
a Turkish emperor? An infidel, who has himself no authority to
punish Christians for the articles of their faith, cannot confer
such an authority upon any society of Christians, nor give unto them a
right which he has not himself. This would be the case at
Constantinople; and the reason of the thing is the same in any
Christian kingdom. The civil power is the same in every place. Nor can
that power, in the hands of a Christian prince, confer any greater
authority upon the Church than in the hands of a heathen; which is
to say, just none at all.

  Nevertheless, it is worthy to be observed and lamented that the most
violent of these defenders of the truth, the opposers of errors, the
exclaimers against schism do hardly ever let loose this their zeal for
God, with which they are so warmed and inflamed, unless where they
have the civil magistrate on their side. But so soon as ever court
favour has given them the better end of the staff, and they begin to
feel themselves the stronger, then presently peace and charity are
to be laid aside. Otherwise they are religiously to be observed. Where
they have not the power to carry on persecution and to become masters,
there they desire to live upon fair terms and preach up toleration.
When they are not strengthened with the civil power, then they can
bear most patiently and unmovedly the contagion of idolatry,
superstition, and heresy in their neighbourhood; of which on other
occasions the interest of religion makes them to be extremely
apprehensive. They do not forwardly attack those errors which are in
fashion at court or are countenanced by the government. Here they
can be content to spare their arguments; which yet (with their
leave) is the only right method of propagating truth, which has no
such way of prevailing as when strong arguments and good reason are
joined with the softness of civility and good usage.

  Nobody, therefore, in fine, neither single persons nor churches,
nay, nor even commonwealths, have any just title to invade the civil
rights and worldly goods of each other upon pretence of religion.
Those that are of another opinion would do well to consider with
themselves how pernicious a seed of discord and war, how powerful a
provocation to endless hatreds, rapines, and slaughters they thereby
furnish unto mankind. No peace and security, no, not so much as common
friendship, can ever be established or preserved amongst men so long
as this opinion prevails, that dominion is founded in grace and that
religion is to be propagated by force of arms.

  In the third place, let us see what the duty of toleration
requires from those who are distinguished from the rest of mankind
(from the laity, as they please to call us) by some ecclesiastical
character and office; whether they be bishops, priests, presbyters,
ministers, or however else dignified or distinguished. It is not my
business to inquire here into the original of the power or dignity
of the clergy. This only I say, that, whencesoever their authority
be sprung, since it is ecclesiastical, it ought to be confined
within the bounds of the Church, nor can it in any manner be
extended to civil affairs, because the Church itself is a thing
absolutely separate and distinct from the commonwealth. The boundaries
on both sides are fixed and immovable. He jumbles heaven and earth
together, the things most remote and opposite, who mixes these two
societies, which are in their original, end, business, and in
everything perfectly distinct and infinitely different from each
other. No man, therefore, with whatsoever ecclesiastical office he
be dignified, can deprive another man that is not of his church and
faith either of liberty or of any part of his worldly goods upon the
account of that difference between them in religion. For whatsoever is
not lawful to the whole Church cannot by any ecclesiastical right
become lawful to any of its members.

  But this is not all. It is not enough that ecclesiastical men
abstain from violence and rapine and all manner of persecution. He
that pretends to be a successor of the apostles, and takes upon him
the office of teaching, is obliged also to admonish his hearers of the
duties of peace and goodwill towards all men, as well towards the
erroneous as the orthodox; towards those that differ from them in
faith and worship as well as towards those that agree with them
therein. And he ought industriously to exhort all men, whether private
persons or magistrates (if any such there be in his church), to
charity, meekness, and toleration, and diligently endeavour to ally
and temper all that heat and unreasonable averseness of mind which
either any man's fiery zeal for his own sect or the craft of others
has kindled against dissenters. I will not undertake to represent
how happy and how great would be the fruit, both in Church and
State, if the pulpits everywhere sounded with this doctrine of peace
and toleration, lest I should seem to reflect too severely upon
those men whose dignity I desire not to detract from, nor would have
it diminished either by others or themselves. But this I say, that
thus it ought to be. And if anyone that professes himself to be a
minister of the Word of God, a preacher of the gospel of peace,
teach otherwise, he either understands not or neglects the business of
his calling and shall one day give account thereof unto the Prince
of Peace. If Christians are to be admonished that they abstain from
all manner of revenge, even after repeated provocations and multiplied
injuries, how much more ought they who suffer nothing, who have had no
harm done them, forbear violence and abstain from all manner of
ill-usage towards those from whom they have received none! This
caution and temper they ought certainly to use towards those. who mind
only their own business and are solicitous for nothing but that
(whatever men think of them) they may worship God in that manner which
they are persuaded is acceptable to Him and in which they have the
strongest hopes of eternal salvation. In private domestic affairs,
in the management of estates, in the conservation of bodily health,
every man may consider what suits his own convenience and follow
what course he likes best. No man complains of the ill-management of
his neighbour's affairs. No man is angry with another for an error
committed in sowing his land or in marrying his daughter. Nobody
corrects a spendthrift for consuming his substance in taverns. Let any
man pull down, or build, or make whatsoever expenses he pleases,
nobody murmurs, nobody controls him; he has his liberty. But if any
man do not frequent the church, if he do not there conform his
behaviour exactly to the accustomed ceremonies, or if he brings not
his children to be initiated in the sacred mysteries of this or the
other congregation, this immediately causes an uproar. The
neighbourhood is filled with noise and clamour. Everyone is ready to
be the avenger of so great a crime, and the zealots hardly have the
patience to refrain from violence and rapine so long till the cause be
heard and the poor man be, according to form, condemned to the loss of
liberty, goods, or life. Oh, that our ecclesiastical orators of
every sect would apply themselves with all the strength of arguments
that they are able to the confounding of men's errors! But let them
spare their persons. Let them not supply their want of reasons with
the instruments of force, which belong to another jurisdiction and
do ill become a Churchman's hands. Let them not call in the
magistrate's authority to the aid of their eloquence or learning, lest
perhaps, whilst they pretend only love for the truth, this their
intemperate zeal, breathing nothing but fire and sword, betray their
ambition and show that what they desire is temporal dominion. For it
will be very difficult to persuade men of sense that he who with dry
eyes and satisfaction of mind can deliver his brother to the
executioner to be burnt alive, does sincerely and heartily concern
himself to save that brother from the flames of hell in the world to

  In the last place, let us now consider what is the magistrate's duty
in the business of toleration, which certainly is very considerable.

  We have already proved that the care of souls does not belong to the
magistrate. Not a magisterial care, I mean (if I may so call it),
which consists in prescribing by laws and compelling by punishments.
But a charitable care, which consists in teaching, admonishing, and
persuading, cannot be denied unto any man. The care, therefore, of
every man's soul belongs unto himself and is to be left unto
himself. But what if he neglect the care of his soul? I answer: What
if he neglect the care of his health or of his estate, which things
are nearlier related to the government of the magistrate than the
other? Will the magistrate provide by an express law that such a one
shall not become poor or sick? Laws provide, as much as is possible,
that the goods and health of subjects be not injured by the fraud
and violence of others; they do not guard them from the negligence
or ill-husbandry of the possessors themselves. No man can be forced to
be rich or healthful whether he will or no. Nay, God Himself will
not save men against their wills. Let us suppose, however, that some
prince were desirous to force his subjects to accumulate riches, or to
preserve the health and strength of their bodies. Shall it be provided
by law that they must consult none but Roman physicians, and shall
everyone be bound to live according to their prescriptions? What,
shall no potion, no broth, be taken, but what is prepared either in
the Vatican, suppose, or in a Geneva shop? Or, to make these
subjects rich, shall they all be obliged by law to become merchants or
musicians? Or, shall everyone turn victualler, or smith, because there
are some that maintain their families plentifully and grow rich in
those professions? But, it may be said, there are a thousand ways to
wealth, but one only way to heaven. It is well said, indeed,
especially by those that plead for compelling men into this or the
other way. For if there were several ways that led thither, there
would not be so much as a pretence left for compulsion. But now, if
I be marching on with my utmost vigour in that way which, according to
the sacred geography, leads straight to Jerusalem, why am I beaten and
ill-used by others because, perhaps, I wear not buskins; because my
hair is not of the right cut; because, perhaps, I have not been dipped
in the right fashion; because I eat flesh upon the road, or some other
food which agrees with my stomach; because I avoid certain by-ways,
which seem unto me to lead into briars or precipices; because, amongst
the several paths that are in the same road, I choose that to walk
in which seems to be the straightest and cleanest; because I avoid
to keep company with some travellers that are less grave and others
that are more sour than they ought to be; or, in fine, because I
follow a guide that either is, or is not, clothed in white, or crowned
with a mitre? Certainly, if we consider right, we shall find that, for
the most part, they are such frivolous things as these that (without
any prejudice to religion or the salvation of souls, if not
accompanied with superstition or hypocrisy) might either be observed
or omitted. I say they are such-like things as these which breed
implacable enmities amongst Christian brethren, who are all agreed
in the substantial and truly fundamental part of religion.

  But let us grant unto these zealots, who condemn all things that are
not of their mode, that from these circumstances are different ends.
What shall we conclude from thence? There is only one of these which
is the true way to eternal happiness: but in this great variety of
ways that men follow, it is still doubted which is the right one. Now,
neither the care of the commonwealth, nor the right enacting of
laws, does discover this way that leads to heaven more certainly to
the magistrate than every private man's search and study discovers
it unto himself. I have a weak body, sunk under a languishing disease,
for which (I suppose) there is one only remedy, but that unknown. Does
it therefore belong unto the magistrate to prescribe me a remedy,
because there is but one, and because it is unknown? Because there
is but one way for me to escape death, will it therefore be safe for
me to do whatsoever the magistrate ordains? Those things that every
man ought sincerely to inquire into himself, and by meditation, study,
search, and his own endeavours, attain the knowledge of, cannot be
looked upon as the peculiar possession of any sort of men. Princes,
indeed, are born superior unto other men in power, but in nature
equal. Neither the right nor the art of ruling does necessarily
carry along with it the certain knowledge of other things, and least
of all of true religion. For if it were so, how could it come to
pass that the lords of the earth should differ so vastly as they do in
religious matters? But let us grant that it is probable the way to
eternal life may be better known by a prince than by his subjects,
or at least that in this incertitude of things the safest and most
commodious way for private persons is to follow his dictates. You will
say: "What then?" If he should bid you follow merchandise for your
livelihood, would you decline that course for fear it should not
succeed? I answer: I would turn merchant upon the prince's command,
because, in case I should have ill-success in trade, he is
abundantly able to make up my loss some other way. If it be true, as
he pretends, that he desires I should thrive and grow rich, he can set
me up again when unsuccessful voyages have broken me. But this is
not the case in the things that regard the life to come; if there I
take a wrong course, if in that respect I am once undone, it is not in
the magistrate's power to repair my loss, to ease my suffering, nor to
restore me in any measure, much less entirely, to a good estate.
What security can be given for the Kingdom of Heaven?

  Perhaps some will say that they do not suppose this infallible
judgement, that all men are bound to follow in the affairs of
religion, to be in the civil magistrate, but in the Church. What the
Church has determined, that the civil magistrate orders to be
observed; and he provides by his authority that nobody shall either
act or believe in the business of religion otherwise than the Church
teaches. So that the judgement of those things is in the Church; the
magistrate himself yields obedience thereunto and requires the like
obedience from others. I answer: Who sees not how frequently the
name of the Church, which was venerable in time of the apostles, has
been made use of to throw dust in the people's eyes in the following
ages? But, however, in the present case it helps us not. The one
only narrow way which leads to heaven is not better known to the
magistrate than to private persons, and therefore I cannot safely take
him for my guide, who may probably be as ignorant of the way as
myself, and who certainly is less concerned for my salvation than I
myself am. Amongst so many kings of the Jews, how many of them were
there whom any Israelite, thus blindly following, had not fallen
into idolatry and thereby into destruction? Yet, nevertheless, you bid
me be of good courage and tell me that all is now safe and secure,
because the magistrate does not now enjoin the observance of his own
decrees in matters of religion, but only the decrees of the Church. Of
what Church, I beseech you? of that, certainly, which likes him
best. As if he that compels me by laws and penalties to enter into
this or the other Church, did not interpose his own judgement in the
matter. What difference is there whether he lead me himself, or
deliver me over to be led by others? I depend both ways upon his will,
and it is he that determines both ways of my eternal state. Would an
Israelite that had worshipped Baal upon the command of his king have
been in any better condition because somebody had told him that the
king ordered nothing in religion upon his own head, nor commanded
anything to be done by his subjects in divine worship but what was
approved by the counsel of priests, and declared to be of divine right
by the doctors of their Church? If the religion of any Church
become, therefore, true and saving, because the head of that sect, the
prelates and priests, and those of that tribe, do all of them, with
all their might, extol and praise it, what religion can ever be
accounted erroneous, false, and destructive? I am doubtful
concerning the doctrine of the Socinians, I am suspicious of the way
of worship practised by the Papists, or Lutherans; will it be ever a
jot safer for me to join either unto the one or the other of those
Churches, upon the magistrate's command, because he commands nothing
in religion but by the authority and counsel of the doctors of that

  But, to speak the truth, we must acknowledge that the Church (if a
convention of clergymen, making canons, must be called by that name)
is for the most part more apt to be influenced by the Court than the
Court by the Church. How the Church was under the vicissitude of
orthodox and Arian emperors is very well known. Or if those things
be too remote, our modern English history affords us fresh examples in
the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth, how easily
and smoothly the clergy changed their decrees, their articles of
faith, their form of worship, everything according to the
inclination of those kings and queens. Yet were those kings and queens
of such different minds in point of religion, and enjoined thereupon
such different things, that no man in his wits (I had almost said none
but an atheist) will presume to say that any sincere and upright
worshipper of God could, with a safe conscience, obey their several
decrees. To conclude, it is the same thing whether a king that
prescribes laws to another man's religion pretend to do it by his
own judgement, or by the ecclesiastical authority and advice of
others. The decisions of churchmen, whose differences and disputes are
sufficiently known, cannot be any sounder or safer than his; nor can
all their suffrages joined together add a new strength to the civil
power. Though this also must be taken notice of- that princes seldom
have any regard to the suffrages of ecclesiastics that are not
favourers of their own faith and way of worship.

  But, after all, the principal consideration, and which absolutely
determines this controversy, is this: Although the magistrate's
opinion in religion be sound, and the way that he appoints be truly
Evangelical, yet, if I be not thoroughly persuaded thereof in my own
mind, there will be no safety for me in following it. No way
whatsoever that I shall walk in against the dictates of my
conscience will ever bring me to the mansions of the blessed. I may
grow rich by an art that I take not delight in; I may be cured of some
disease by remedies that I have not faith in; but I cannot be saved by
a religion that I distrust and by a worship that I abhor. It is in
vain for an unbeliever to take up the outward show of another man's
profession. Faith only and inward sincerity are the things that
procure acceptance with God. The most likely and most approved
remedy can have no effect upon the patient, if his stomach reject it
as soon as taken; and you will in vain cram a medicine down a sick
man's throat, which his particular constitution will be sure to turn
into poison. In a word, whatsoever may be doubtful in religion, yet
this at least is certain, that no religion which I believe not to be
true can be either true or profitable unto me. In vain, therefore,
do princes compel their subjects to come into their Church
communion, under pretence of saving their souls. If they believe, they
will come of their own accord, if they believe not, their coming
will nothing avail them. How great soever, in fine, may be the
pretence of good-will and charity, and concern for the salvation of
men's souls, men cannot be forced to be saved whether they will or no.
And therefore, when all is done, they must be left to their own

  Having thus at length freed men from all dominion over one another
in matters of religion, let us now consider what they are to do. All
men know and acknowledge that God ought to be publicly worshipped; why
otherwise do they compel one another unto the public assemblies?
Men, therefore, constituted in this liberty are to enter into some
religious society, that they meet together, not only for mutual
edification, but to own to the world that they worship God and offer
unto His Divine Majesty such service as they themselves are not
ashamed of and such as they think not unworthy of Him, nor
unacceptable to Him; and, finally, that by the purity of doctrine,
holiness of life, and decent form of worship, they may draw others
unto the love of the true religion, and perform such other things in
religion as cannot be done by each private man apart.

  These religious societies I call Churches; and these, I say, the
magistrate ought to tolerate, for the business of these assemblies
of the people is nothing but what is lawful for every man in
particular to take care of- I mean the salvation of their souls; nor
in this case is there any difference between the National Church and
other separated congregations.

  But as in every Church there are two things especially to be
considered- the outward form and rites of worship, and the doctrines
and articles of things must be handled each distinctly that so the
whole matter of toleration may the more clearly be understood.

  Concerning outward worship, I say, in the first place, that the
magistrate has no power to enforce by law, either in his own Church,
or much less in another, the use of any rites or ceremonies whatsoever
in the worship of God. And this, not only because these Churches are
free societies, but because whatsoever is practised in the worship
of God is only so far justifiable as it is believed by those that
practise it to be acceptable unto Him. Whatsoever is not done with
that assurance of faith is neither well in itself, nor can it be
acceptable to God. To impose such things, therefore, upon any
people, contrary to their own judgment, is in effect to command them
to offend God, which, considering that the end of all religion is to
please Him, and that liberty is essentially necessary to that end,
appears to be absurd beyond expression.

  But perhaps it may be concluded from hence that I deny unto the
magistrate all manner of power about indifferent things, which, if
it be not granted, the whole subject-matter of law-making is taken
away. No, I readily grant that indifferent things, and perhaps none
but such, are subjected to the legislative power. But it does not
therefore follow that the magistrate may ordain whatsoever he
pleases concerning anything that is indifferent. The public good is
the rule and measure of all law-making. If a thing be not useful to
the commonwealth, though it be never so indifferent, it may not
presently be established by law.

  And further, things never so indifferent in their own nature, when
they are brought into the Church and worship of God, are removed out
of the reach of the magistrate's jurisdiction, because in that use
they have no connection at all with civil affairs. The only business
of the Church is the salvation of souls, and it no way concerns the
commonwealth, or any member of it, that this or the other ceremony
be there made use of. Neither the use nor the omission of any
ceremonies in those religious assemblies does either advantage or
prejudice the life, liberty, or estate of any man. For example, let it
be granted that the washing of an infant with water is in itself an
indifferent thing, let it be granted also that the magistrate
understand such washing to be profitable to the curing or preventing
of any disease the children are subject unto, and esteem the matter
weighty enough to be taken care of by a law. In that case he may order
it to be done. But will any one therefore say that a magistrate has
the same right to ordain by law that all children shall be baptised by
priests in the sacred font in order to the purification of their
souls? The extreme difference of these two cases is visible to every
one at first sight. Or let us apply the last case to the child of a
Jew, and the thing speaks itself. For what hinders but a Christian
magistrate may have subjects that are Jews? Now, if we acknowledge
that such an injury may not be done unto a Jew as to compel him,
against his own opinion, to practise in his religion a thing that is
in its nature indifferent, how can we maintain that anything of this
kind may be done to a Christian?

  Again, things in their own nature indifferent cannot, by any human
authority, be made any part of the worship of God- for this very
reason: because they are indifferent. For, since indifferent things
are not capable, by any virtue of their own, to propitiate the
Deity, no human power or authority can confer on them so much
dignity and excellency as to enable them to do it. In the common
affairs of life that use of indifferent things which God has not
forbidden is free and lawful, and therefore in those things human
authority has place. But it is not so in matters of religion. Things
indifferent are not otherwise lawful in the worship of God than as
they are instituted by God Himself and as He, by some positive
command, has ordained them to be made a part of that worship which
He will vouchsafe to accept at the hands of poor sinful men. Nor, when
an incensed Deity shall ask us, "Who has required these, or
such-like things at your hands?" will it be enough to answer Him
that the magistrate commanded them. If civil jurisdiction extend
thus far, what might not lawfully be introduced into religion? What
hodgepodge of ceremonies, what superstitious inventions, built upon
the magistrate's authority, might not (against conscience) be
imposed upon the worshippers of God? For the greatest part of these
ceremonies and superstitions consists in the religious use of such
things as are in their own nature indifferent; nor are they sinful
upon any other account than because God is not the author of them. The
sprinkling of water and the use of bread and wine are both in their
own nature and in the ordinary occasions of life altogether
indifferent. Will any man, therefore, say that these things could have
been introduced into religion and made a part of divine worship if not
by divine institution? If any human authority or civil power could
have done this, why might it not also enjoin the eating of fish and
drinking of ale in the holy banquet as a part of divine worship? Why
not the sprinkling of the blood of beasts in churches, and
expiations by water or fire, and abundance more of this kind? But
these things, how indifferent soever they be in common uses, when they
come to be annexed unto divine worship, without divine authority, they
are as abominable to God as the sacrifice of a dog. And why is a dog
so abominable? What difference is there between a dog and a goat, in
respect of the divine nature, equally and infinitely distant from
all affinity with matter, unless it be that God required the use of
one in His worship and not of the other? We see, therefore, that
indifferent things, how much soever they be under the power of the
civil magistrate, yet cannot, upon that pretence, be introduced into
religion and imposed upon religious assemblies, because, in the
worship of God, they wholly cease to be indifferent. He that
worships God does it with design to please Him and procure His favour.
But that cannot be done by him who, upon the command of another,
offers unto God that which he knows will be displeasing to Him,
because not commanded by Himself. This is not to please God, or
appease his wrath, but willingly and knowingly to provoke Him by a
manifest contempt, which is a thing absolutely repugnant to the nature
and end of worship.

  But it will be here asked: "If nothing belonging to divine worship
be left to human discretion, how is it then that Churches themselves
have the power of ordering anything about the time and place of
worship and the like?" To this I answer that in religious worship we
must distinguish between what is part of the worship itself and what
is but a circumstance. That is a part of the worship which is believed
to be appointed by God and to be well-pleasing to Him, and therefore
that is necessary. Circumstances are such things which, though in
general they cannot be separated from worship, yet the particular
instances or modifications of them are not determined, and therefore
they are indifferent. Of this sort are the time and place of
worship, habit and posture of him that worships. These are
circumstances, and perfectly indifferent, where God has not given
any express command about them. For example: amongst the Jews the time
and place of their worship and the habits of those that officiated
in it were not mere circumstances, but a part of the worship itself,
in which, if anything were defective, or different from the
institution, they could not hope that it would be accepted by God. But
these, to Christians under the liberty of the Gospel, are mere
circumstances of worship, which the prudence of every Church may bring
into such use as shall be judged most subservient to the end of order,
decency, and edification. But, even under the Gospel, those who
believe the first or the seventh day to be set apart by God, and
consecrated still to His worship, to them that portion of time is
not a simple circumstance, but a real part of Divine worship, which
can neither be changed nor neglected.

  In the next place: As the magistrate has no power to impose by his
laws the use of any rites and ceremonies in any Church, so neither has
he any power to forbid the use of such rites and ceremonies as are
already received, approved, and practised by any Church; because, if
he did so, he would destroy the Church itself: the end of whose
institution is only to worship God with freedom after its own manner.

  You will say, by this rule, if some congregations should have a mind
to sacrifice infants, or (as the primitive Christians were falsely
accused) lustfully pollute themselves in promiscuous uncleanness, or
practise any other such heinous enormities, is the magistrate
obliged to tolerate them, because they are committed in a religious
assembly? I answer: No. These things are not lawful in the ordinary
course of life, nor in any private house; and therefore neither are
they so in the worship of God, or in any religious meeting. But,
indeed, if any people congregated upon account of religion should be
desirous to sacrifice a calf, I deny that that ought to be
prohibited by a law. Meliboeus, whose calf it is, may lawfully kill
his calf at home, and burn any part of it that he thinks fit. For no
injury is thereby done to any one, no prejudice to another man's
goods. And for the same reason he may kill his calf also in a
religious meeting. Whether the doing so be well-pleasing to God or no,
it is their part to consider that do it. The part of the magistrate is
only to take care that the commonwealth receive no prejudice, and that
there be no injury done to any man, either in life or estate. And thus
what may be spent on a feast may be spent on a sacrifice. But if
peradventure such were the state of things that the interest of the
commonwealth required all slaughter of beasts should be forborne for
some while, in order to the increasing of the stock of cattle that had
been destroyed by some extraordinary murrain, who sees not that the
magistrate, in such a case, may forbid all his subjects to kill any
calves for any use whatsoever? Only it is to be observed that, in this
case, the law is not made about a religious, but a political matter;
nor is the sacrifice, but the slaughter of calves, thereby prohibited.

  By this we see what difference there is between the Church and the
Commonwealth. Whatsoever is lawful in the Commonwealth cannot be
prohibited by the magistrate in the Church. Whatsoever is permitted
unto any of his subjects for their ordinary use, neither can nor ought
to be forbidden by him to any sect of people for their religious uses.
If any man may lawfully take bread or wine, either sitting or kneeling
in his own house, the law ought not to abridge him of the same liberty
in his religious worship; though in the Church the use of bread and
wine be very different and be there applied to the mysteries of
faith and rites of Divine worship. But those things that are
prejudicial to the commonweal of a people in their ordinary use and
are, therefore, forbidden by laws, those things ought not to be
permitted to Churches in their sacred rites. Only the magistrate ought
always to be very careful that he do not misuse his authority to the
oppression of any Church, under pretence of public good.

  It may be said: "What if a Church be idolatrous, is that also to
be tolerated by the magistrate?" I answer: What power can be given
to the magistrate for the suppression of an idolatrous Church, which
may not in time and place be made use of to the ruin of an orthodox
one? For it must be remembered that the civil power is the same
everywhere, and the religion of every prince is orthodox to himself.
If, therefore, such a power be granted unto the civil magistrate in
spirituals as that at Geneva, for example, he may extirpate, by
violence and blood, the religion which is there reputed idolatrous, by
the same rule another magistrate, in some neighbouring country, may
oppress the reformed religion and, in India, the Christian. The
civil power can either change everything in religion, according to the
prince's pleasure, or it can change nothing. If it be once permitted
to introduce anything into religion by the means of laws and
penalties, there can be no bounds put to it; but it will in the same
manner be lawful to alter everything, according to that rule of
truth which the magistrate has framed unto himself. No man
whatsoever ought, therefore, to be deprived of his terrestrial
enjoyments upon account of his religion. Not even Americans, subjected
unto a Christian prince, are to be punished either in body or goods
for not embracing our faith and worship. If they are persuaded that
they please God in observing the rites of their own country and that
they shall obtain happiness by that means, they are to be left unto
God and themselves. Let us trace this matter to the bottom. Thus it
is: An inconsiderable and weak number of Christians, destitute of
everything, arrive in a Pagan country; these foreigners beseech the
inhabitants, by the bowels of humanity, that they would succour them
with the necessaries of life; those necessaries are given them,
habitations are granted, and they all join together, and grow up
into one body of people. The Christian religion by this means takes
root in that country and spreads itself, but does not suddenly grow
the strongest. While things are in this condition peace, friendship,
faith, and equal justice are preserved amongst them. At length the
magistrate becomes a Christian, and by that means their party
becomes the most powerful. Then immediately all compacts are to be
broken, all civil rights to be violated, that idolatry may be
extirpated; and unless these innocent Pagans, strict observers of
the rules of equity and the law of Nature and no ways offending
against the laws of the society, I say, unless they will forsake their
ancient religion and embrace a new and strange one, they are to be
turned out of the lands and possessions of their forefathers and
perhaps deprived of life itself. Then, at last, it appears what zeal
for the Church, joined with the desire of dominion, is capable to
produce, and how easily the pretence of religion, and of the care of
souls, serves for a cloak to covetousness, rapine, and ambition.

  Now whosoever maintains that idolatry is to be rooted out of any
place by laws, punishments, fire, and sword, may apply this story to
himself. For the reason of the thing is equal, both in America and
Europe. And neither Pagans there, nor any dissenting Christians
here, can, with any right, be deprived of their worldly goods by the
predominating faction of a court-church; nor are any civil rights to
be either changed or violated upon account of religion in one place
more than another.

  But idolatry, say some, is a sin and therefore not to be
tolerated. If they said it were therefore to be avoided, the inference
were good. But it does not follow that because it is a sin it ought
therefore to be punished by the magistrate. For it does not belong
unto the magistrate to make use of his sword in punishing
everything, indifferently, that he takes to be a sin against God.
Covetousness, uncharitableness, idleness, and many other things are
sins by the consent of men, which yet no man ever said were to be
punished by the magistrate. The reason is because they are not
prejudicial to other men's rights, nor do they break the public
peace of societies. Nay, even the sins of lying and perjury are
nowhere punishable by laws; unless, in certain cases, in which the
real turpitude of the thing and the offence against God are not
considered, but only the injury done unto men's neighbours and to
the commonwealth. And what if in another country, to a Mahometan or
a Pagan prince, the Christian religion seem false and offensive to
God; may not the Christians for the same reason, and after the same
manner, be extirpated there?

  But it may be urged farther that, by the law of Moses, idolaters
were to be rooted out. True, indeed, by the law of Moses; but that
is not obligatory to us Christians. Nobody pretends that everything
generally enjoined by the law of Moses ought to be practised by
Christians; but there is nothing more frivolous than that common
distinction of moral, judicial, and ceremonial law, which men
ordinarily make use of. For no positive law whatsoever can oblige
any people but those to whom it is given. "Hear, O Israel,"
sufficiently restrains the obligations of the law of Moses only to
that people. And this consideration alone is answer enough unto
those that urge the authority of the law of Moses for the inflicting
of capital punishment upon idolaters. But, however, I will examine
this argument a little more particularly.

  The case of idolaters, in respect of the Jewish commonwealth,
falls under a double consideration. The first is of those who, being
initiated in the Mosaical rites, and made citizens of that
commonwealth, did afterwards apostatise from the worship of the God of
Israel. These were proceeded against as traitors and rebels, guilty of
no less than high treason. For the commonwealth of the Jews, different
in that from all others, was an absolute theocracy; nor was there,
or could there be, any difference between that commonwealth and the
Church. The laws established there concerning the worship of One
Invisible Deity were the civil laws of that people and a part of their
political government, in which God Himself was the legislator. Now, if
any one can shew me where there is a commonwealth at this time,
constituted upon that foundation, I will acknowledge that the
ecclesiastical laws do there unavoidably become a part of the civil,
and that the subjects of that government both may and ought to be kept
in strict conformity with that Church by the civil power. But there is
absolutely no such thing under the Gospel as a Christian commonwealth.
There are, indeed, many cities and kingdoms that have embraced the
faith of Christ, but they have retained their ancient form of
government, with which the law of Christ hath not at all meddled.
He, indeed, hath taught men how, by faith and good works, they may
obtain eternal life; but He instituted no commonwealth. He
prescribed unto His followers no new and peculiar form of
government, nor put He the sword into any magistrate's hand, with
commission to make use of it in forcing men to forsake their former
religion and receive His.

  Secondly, foreigners and such as were strangers to the
commonwealth of Israel were not compelled by force to observe the
rites of the Mosaical law; but, on the contrary, in the very same
place where it is ordered that an Israelite that was an idolater
should be put to death,* there it is provided that strangers should
not be vexed nor oppressed. I confess that the seven nations that
possessed the land which was promised to the Israelites were utterly
to be cut off; but this was not singly because they were idolaters.
For if that had been the reason, why were the Moabites and other
nations to be spared? No: the reason is this. God being in a
peculiar manner the King of the Jews, He could not suffer the
adoration of any other deity (which was properly an act of high
treason against Himself) in the land of Canaan, which was His kingdom.
For such a manifest revolt could no ways consist with His dominion,
which was perfectly political in that country. All idolatry was,
therefore, to be rooted out of the bounds of His kingdom because it
was an acknowledgment of another god, that is say, another king,
against the laws of Empire. The inhabitants were also to be driven
out, that the entire possession of the land might be given to the
Israelites. And for the like reason the Emims and the Horims were
driven out of their countries by the children of Esau and Lot; and
their lands, upon the same grounds, given by God to the
invaders.*(2) But, though all idolatry was thus rooted out of the land
of Canaan, yet every idolater was not brought to execution. The
whole family of Rahab, the whole nation of the Gibeonites, articled
with Joshua, and were allowed by treaty; and there were many
captives amongst the Jews who were idolaters. David and Solomon
subdued many countries without the confines of the Land of Promise and
carried their conquests as far as Euphrates. Amongst so many
captives taken, so many nations reduced under their obedience, we find
not one man forced into the Jewish religion and the worship of the
true God and punished for idolatry, though all of them were
certainly guilty of it. If any one, indeed, becoming a proselyte,
desired to be made a denizen of their commonwealth, he was obliged
to submit to their laws; that is, to embrace their religion. But
this he did willingly, on his own accord, not by constraint. He did
not unwillingly submit, to show his obedience, but he sought and
solicited for it as a privilege. And, as soon as he was admitted, he
became subject to the laws of the commonwealth, by which all
idolatry was forbidden within the borders of the land of Canaan. But
that law (as I have said) did not reach to any of those regions,
however subjected unto the Jews, that were situated without those

  * Exod. 22, 20, 21.

  *(2) Deut. 2.

  Thus far concerning outward worship. Let us now consider articles of

  The articles of religion are some of them practical and some
speculative. Now, though both sorts consist in the knowledge of truth,
yet these terminate simply in the understanding, those influence the
will and manners. Speculative opinions, therefore, and articles of
faith (as they are called) which are required only to be believed,
cannot be imposed on any Church by the law of the land. For it is
absurd that things should be enjoined by laws which are not in men's
power to perform. And to believe this or that to be true does not
depend upon our will. But of this enough has been said already. "But."
will some say; "let men at least profess that they believe." A sweet
religion, indeed, that obliges men to dissemble and tell lies, both to
God and man, for the salvation of their souls! If the magistrate
thinks to save men thus, he seems to understand little of the way of
salvation. And if he does it not in order to save them, why is he so
solicitous about the articles of faith as to enact them by a law?

  Further, the magistrate ought not to forbid the preaching or
professing of any speculative opinions in any Church because they have
no manner of relation to the civil rights of the subjects. If a
Roman Catholic believe that to be really the body of Christ which
another man calls bread, he does no injury thereby to his neighbour.
If a Jew do not believe the New Testament to be the Word of God, he
does not thereby alter anything in men's civil rights. If a heathen
doubt of both Testaments, he is not therefore to be punished as a
pernicious citizen. The power of the magistrate and the estates of the
people may be equally secure whether any man believe these things or
no. I readily grant that these opinions are false and absurd. But
the business of laws is not to provide for the truth of opinions,
but for the safety and security of the commonwealth and of every
particular man's goods and person. And so it ought to be. For the
truth certainly would do well enough if she were once left to shift
for herself. She seldom has received and, I fear, never will receive
much assistance from the power of great men, to whom she is but rarely
known and more rarely welcome. She is not taught by laws, nor has
she any need of force to procure her entrance into the minds of men.
Errors, indeed, prevail by the assistance of foreign and borrowed
succours. But if Truth makes not her way into the understanding by her
own light, she will be but the weaker for any borrowed force
violence can add to her. Thus much for speculative opinions. Let us
now proceed to practical ones.

  A good life, in which consist not the least part of religion and
true piety, concerns also the civil government; and in it lies the
safety both of men's souls and of the commonwealth. Moral actions
belong, therefore, to the jurisdiction both of the outward and
inward court; both of the civil and domestic governor; I mean both
of the magistrate and conscience. Here, therefore, is great danger,
lest one of these jurisdictions intrench upon the other, and discord
arise between the keeper of the public peace and the overseers of
souls. But if what has been already said concerning the limits of both
these governments be rightly considered, it will easily remove all
difficulty in this matter.

  Every man has an immortal soul, capable of eternal happiness or
misery; whose happiness depending upon his believing and doing those
things in this life which are necessary to the obtaining of God's
favour, and are prescribed by God to that end. It follows from thence,
first, that the observance of these things is the highest obligation
that lies upon mankind and that our utmost care, application, and
diligence ought to be exercised in the search and performance of them;
because there is nothing in this world that is of any consideration in
comparison with eternity. Secondly, that seeing one man does not
violate the right of another by his erroneous opinions and undue
manner of worship, nor is his perdition any prejudice to another man's
affairs, therefore, the care of each man's salvation belongs only to
himself. But I would not have this understood as if I meant hereby
to condemn all charitable admonitions and affectionate endeavours to
reduce men from errors, which are indeed the greatest duty of a
Christian. Any one may employ as many exhortations and arguments as he
pleases, towards the promoting of another man's salvation. But all
force and compulsion are to be forborne. Nothing is to be done
imperiously. Nobody is obliged in that matter to yield obedience
unto the admonitions or injunctions of another, further than he
himself is persuaded. Every man in that has the supreme and absolute
authority of judging for himself. And the reason is because nobody
else is concerned in it, nor can receive any prejudice from his
conduct therein.

  But besides their souls, which are immortal, men have also their
temporal lives here upon earth; the state whereof being frail and
fleeting, and the duration uncertain, they have need of several
outward conveniences to the support thereof, which are to be
procured or preserved by pains and industry. For those things that are
necessary to the comfortable support of our lives are not the
spontaneous products of nature, nor do offer themselves fit and
prepared for our use. This part, therefore, draws on another care
and necessarily gives another employment. But the pravity of mankind
being such that they had rather injuriously prey upon the fruits of
other men's labours than take pains to provide for themselves, the
necessity of preserving men in the possession of what honest
industry has already acquired and also of preserving their liberty and
strength, whereby they may acquire what they farther want, obliges men
to enter into society with one another, that by mutual assistance
and joint force they may secure unto each other their properties, in
the things that contribute to the comfort and happiness of this
life, leaving in the meanwhile to every man the care of his own
eternal happiness, the attainment whereof can neither be facilitated
by another man's industry, nor can the loss of it turn to another
man's prejudice, nor the hope of it be forced from him by any external
violence. But, forasmuch as men thus entering into societies, grounded
upon their mutual compacts of assistance for the defence of their
temporal goods, may, nevertheless, be deprived of them, either by
the rapine and fraud of their fellow citizens, or by the hostile
violence of foreigners, the remedy of this evil consists in arms,
riches, and multitude of citizens; the remedy of the other in laws;
and the care of all things relating both to one and the other is
committed by the society to the civil magistrate. This is the
original, this is the use, and these are the bounds of the legislative
(which is the supreme) power in every commonwealth. I mean that
provision may be made for the security of each man's private
possessions; for the peace, riches, and public commodities of the
whole people; and, as much as possible, for the increase of their
inward strength against foreign invasions.

  These things being thus explained, it is easy to understand to
what end the legislative power ought to be directed and by what
measures regulated; and that is the temporal good and outward
prosperity of the society; which is the sole reason of men's
entering into society, and the only thing they seek and aim at in
it. And it is also evident what liberty remains to men in reference to
their eternal salvation, and that is that every one should do what
he in his conscience is persuaded to be acceptable to the Almighty, on
whose good pleasure and acceptance depends their eternal happiness.
For obedience is due, in the first place, to God and, afterwards to
the laws.

  But some may ask: "What if the magistrate should enjoin anything
by his authority that appears unlawful to the conscience of a
private person?" I answer that, if government be faithfully
administered and the counsels of the magistrates be indeed directed to
the public good, this will seldom happen. But if, perhaps, it do so
fall out, I say, that such a private person is to abstain from the
action that he judges unlawful, and he is to undergo the punishment
which it is not unlawful for him to bear. For the private judgement of
any person concerning a law enacted in political matters, for the
public good, does not take away the obligation of that law, nor
deserve a dispensation. But if the law, indeed, be concerning things
that lie not within the verge of the magistrate's authority (as, for
example, that the people, or any party amongst them, should be
compelled to embrace a strange religion, and join in the worship and
ceremonies of another Church), men are not in these cases obliged by
that law, against their consciences. For the political society is
instituted for no other end, but only to secure every man's possession
of the things of this life. The care of each man's soul and of the
things of heaven, which neither does belong to the commonwealth nor
can be subjected to it, is left entirely to every man's self. Thus the
safeguard of men's lives and of the things that belong unto this
life is the business of the commonwealth; and the preserving of
those things unto their owners is the duty of the magistrate. And
therefore the magistrate cannot take away these worldly things from
this man or party and give them to that; nor change propriety
amongst fellow subjects (no not even by a law), for a cause that has
no relation to the end of civil government, I mean for their religion,
which whether it be true or false does no prejudice to the worldly
concerns of their fellow subjects, which are the things that only
belong unto the care of the commonwealth.

  But what if the magistrate believe such a law as this to be for
the public good? I answer: As the private judgement of any
particular person, if erroneous, does not exempt him from the
obligation of law, so the private judgement (as I may call it) of
the magistrate does not give him any new right of imposing laws upon
his subjects, which neither was in the constitution of the
government granted him, nor ever was in the power of the people to
grant, much less if he make it his business to enrich and advance
his followers and fellow-sectaries with the spoils of others. But what
if the magistrate believe that he has a right to make such laws and
that they are for the public good, and his subjects believe the
contrary? Who shall be judge between them? I answer: God alone. For
there is no judge upon earth between the supreme magistrate and the
people. God, I say, is the only judge in this case, who will retribute
unto every one at the last day according to his deserts; that is,
according to his sincerity and uprightness in endeavouring to
promote piety, and the public weal, and peace of mankind. But What
shall be done in the meanwhile? I answer: The principal and chief care
of every one ought to be of his own soul first, and, in the next
place, of the public peace; though yet there are very few will think
it is peace there, where they see all laid waste.

  There are two sorts of contests amongst men, the one managed by law,
the other by force; and these are of that nature that where the one
ends, the other always begins. But it is not my business to inquire
into the power of the magistrate in the different constitutions of
nations. I only know what usually happens where controversies arise
without a judge to determine them. You will say, then, the
magistrate being the stronger will have his will and carry his
point. Without doubt; but the question is not here concerning the
doubtfulness of the event, but the rule of right.

  But to come to particulars. I say, first, no opinions contrary to
human society, or to those moral rules which are necessary to the
preservation of civil society, are to be tolerated by the
magistrate. But of these, indeed, examples in any Church are rare. For
no sect can easily arrive to such a degree of madness as that it
should think fit to teach, for doctrines of religion, such things as
manifestly undermine the foundations of society and are, therefore,
condemned by the judgement of all mankind; because their own interest,
peace, reputation, everything would be thereby endangered.

  Another more secret evil, but more dangerous to the commonwealth, is
when men arrogate to themselves, and to those of their own sect,
some peculiar prerogative covered over with a specious show of
deceitful words, but in effect opposite to the civil right of the
community. For example: we cannot find any sect that teaches,
expressly and openly, that men are not obliged to keep their
promise; that princes may be dethroned by those that differ from
them in religion; or that the dominion of all things belongs only to
themselves. For these things, proposed thus nakedly and plainly, would
soon draw on them the eye and hand of the magistrate and awaken all
the care of the commonwealth to a watchfulness against the spreading
of so dangerous an evil. But, nevertheless, we find those that say the
same things in other words. What else do they mean who teach that
faith is not to be kept with heretics? Their meaning, forsooth, is
that the privilege of breaking faith belongs unto themselves; for they
declare all that are not of their communion to be heretics, or at
least may declare them so whensoever they think fit. What can be the
meaning of their asserting that kings excommunicated forfeit their
crowns and kingdoms? It is evident that they thereby arrogate unto
themselves the power of deposing kings, because they challenge the
power of excommunication, as the peculiar right of their hierarchy.
That dominion is founded in grace is also an assertion by which
those that maintain it do plainly lay claim to the possession of all
things. For they are not so wanting to themselves as not to believe,
or at least as not to profess themselves to be the truly pious and
faithful. These, therefore, and the like, who attribute unto the
faithful, religious, and orthodox, that is, in plain terms, unto
themselves, any peculiar privilege or power above other mortals, in
civil concernments; or who upon pretence of religion do challenge
any manner of authority over such as are not associated with them in
their ecclesiastical communion, I say these have no right to be
tolerated by the magistrate; as neither those that will not own and
teach the duty of tolerating all men in matters of mere religion.
For what do all these and the like doctrines signify, but that they
may and are ready upon any occasion to seize the Government and
possess themselves of the estates and fortunes of their fellow
subjects; and that they only ask leave to be tolerated by the
magistrate so long until they find themselves strong enough to
effect it?

  Again: That Church can have no right to be tolerated by the
magistrate which is constituted upon such a bottom that all those
who enter into it do thereby ipso facto deliver themselves up to the
protection and service of another prince. For by this means the
magistrate would give way to the settling of a foreign jurisdiction in
his own country and suffer his own people to be listed, as it were,
for soldiers against his own Government. Nor does the frivolous and
fallacious distinction between the Court and the Church afford any
remedy to this inconvenience; especially when both the one and the
other are equally subject to the absolute authority of the same
person, who has not only power to persuade the members of his Church
to whatsoever he lists, either as purely religious, or in order
thereunto, but can also enjoin it them on pain of eternal fire. It
is ridiculous for any one to profess himself to be a Mahometan only in
his religion, but in everything else a faithful subject to a Christian
magistrate, whilst at the same time he acknowledges himself bound to
yield blind obedience to the Mufti of Constantinople, who himself is
entirely obedient to the Ottoman Emperor and frames the feigned
oracles of that religion according to his pleasure. But this Mahometan
living amongst Christians would yet more apparently renounce their
government if he acknowledged the same person to be head of his Church
who is the supreme magistrate in the state.

  Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a
God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human
society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God,
though but even in thought, dissolves all; besides also, those that by
their atheism undermine and destroy all religion, can have no pretence
of religion whereupon to challenge the privilege of a toleration. As
for other practical opinions, though not absolutely free from all
error, if they do not tend to establish domination over others, or
civil impunity to the Church in which they are taught, there can be no
reason why they should not be tolerated.

  It remains that I say something concerning those assemblies which,
being vulgarly called and perhaps having sometimes been conventicles
and nurseries of factions and seditions, are thought to afford against
this doctrine of toleration. But this has not happened by anything
peculiar unto the genius of such assemblies, but by the unhappy
circumstances of an oppressed or ill-settled liberty. These
accusations would soon cease if the law of toleration were once so
settled that all Churches were obliged to lay down toleration as the
foundation of their own liberty, and teach that liberty of
conscience is every man's natural right, equally belonging to
dissenters as to themselves; and that nobody ought to be compelled
in matters of religion either by law or force. The establishment of
this one thing would take away all ground of complaints and tumults
upon account of conscience; and these causes of discontents and
animosities being once removed, there would remain nothing in these
assemblies that were not more peaceable and less apt to produce
disturbance of state than in any other meetings whatsoever. But let us
examine particularly the heads of these accusations.

  You will say that assemblies and meetings endanger the public
peace and threaten the commonwealth. I answer: If this be so, why
are there daily such numerous meetings in markets and Courts of
Judicature? Why are crowds upon the Exchange and a concourse of people
in cities suffered? You will reply: "Those are civil assemblies, but
these we object against are ecclesiastical." I answer: It is a
likely thing, indeed, that such assemblies as are altogether remote
from civil affairs should be most apt to embroil them. Oh, but civil
assemblies are composed of men that differ from one another in matters
of religion, but these ecclesiastical meetings are of persons that are
all of one opinion. As if an agreement in matters of religion were
in effect a conspiracy against the commonwealth; or as if men would
not be so much the more warmly unanimous in religion the less
liberty they had of assembling. But it will be urged still that
civil assemblies are open and free for any one to enter into,
whereas religious conventicles are more private and thereby give
opportunity to clandestine machinations. I answer that this is not
strictly true, for many civil assemblies are not open to everyone. And
if some religious meetings be private, who are they (I beseech you)
that are to be blamed for it, those that desire, or those that
forbid their being public! Again, you will say that religious
communion does exceedingly unite men's minds and affections to one
another and is therefore the more dangerous. But if this be so, why is
not the magistrate afraid of his own Church; and why does he not
forbid their assemblies as things dangerous to his Government? You
will say because he himself is a part and even the head of them. As if
he were not also a part of the commonwealth, and the head of the whole

  Let us therefore deal plainly. The magistrate is afraid of other
Churches, but not of his own, because he is kind and favourable to the
one, but severe and cruel to the other. These he treats like children,
and indulges them even to wantonness. Those he uses as slaves and, how
blamelessly soever they demean themselves, recompenses them no
otherwise than by galleys, prisons, confiscations, and death. These he
cherishes and defends; those he continually scourges and oppresses.
Let him turn the tables. Or let those dissenters enjoy but the same
privileges in civils as his other subjects, and he will quickly find
that these religious meetings will be no longer dangerous. For if
men enter into seditious conspiracies, it is not religion inspires
them to it in their meetings, but their sufferings and oppressions
that make them willing to ease themselves. Just and moderate
governments are everywhere quiet, everywhere safe; but oppression
raises ferments and makes men struggle to cast off an uneasy and
tyrannical yoke. I know that seditions are very frequently raised upon
pretence of religion, but it is as true that for religion subjects are
frequently ill treated and live miserably. Believe me, the stirs
that are made proceed not from any peculiar temper of this or that
Church or religious society, but from the common disposition of all
mankind, who when they groan under any heavy burthen endeavour
naturally to shake off the yoke that galls their necks. Suppose this
business of religion were let alone, and that there were some other
distinction made between men and men upon account of their different
complexions, shapes, and features, so that those who have black hair
(for example) or grey eyes should not enjoy the same privileges as
other citizens; that they should not be permitted either to buy or
sell, or live by their callings; that parents should not have the
government and education of their own children; that all should either
be excluded from the benefit of the laws, or meet with partial judges;
can it be doubted but these persons, thus distinguished from others by
the colour of their hair and eyes, and united together by one common
persecution, would be as dangerous to the magistrate as any others
that had associated themselves merely upon the account of religion?
Some enter into company for trade and profit, others for want of
business have their clubs for claret. Neighbourhood joins some and
religion others. But there is only one thing which gathers people into
seditious commotions, and that is oppression.

  You will say "What, will you have people to meet at divine service
against the magistrate's will?" I answer: Why, I pray, against his
will? Is it not both lawful and necessary that they should meet?
Against his will, do you say? That is what I complain of; that is
the very root of all the mischief. Why are assemblies less
sufferable in a church than in a theatre or market? Those that meet
there are not either more vicious or more turbulent than those that
meet elsewhere. The business in that is that they are ill used, and
therefore they are not to be suffered. Take away the partiality that
is used towards them in matters of common right; change the laws, take
away the penalties unto which they are subjected, and all things
will immediately become safe and peaceable; nay, those that are averse
to the religion of the magistrate will think themselves so much the
more bound to maintain the peace of the commonwealth as their
condition is better in that place than elsewhere; and all the
several separate congregations, like so many guardians of the public
peace, will watch one another, that nothing may be innovated or
changed in the form of the government, because they can hope for
nothing better than what they already enjoy- that is, an equal
condition with their fellow-subjects under a just and moderate
government. Now if that Church which agrees in religion with the
prince be esteemed the chief support of any civil government, and that
for no other reason (as has already been shown) than because the
prince is kind and the laws are favourable to it, how much greater
will be the security of government where all good subjects, of
whatsoever Church they be, without any distinction upon account of
religion, enjoying the same favour of the prince and the same
benefit of the laws, shall become the common support and guard of
it, and where none will have any occasion to fear the severity of
the laws but those that do injuries to their neighbours and offend
against the civil peace?

  That we may draw towards a conclusion. The sum of all we drive at is
that every man may enjoy the same rights that are granted to others.
Is it permitted to worship God in the Roman manner? Let it be
permitted to do it in the Geneva form also. Is it permitted to speak
Latin in the market-place? Let those that have a mind to it be
permitted to do it also in the Church. Is it lawful for any man in his
own house to kneel, stand, sit, or use any other posture; and to
clothe himself in white or black, in short or in long garments? Let it
not be made unlawful to eat bread, drink wine, or wash with water in
the church. In a word, whatsoever things are left free by law in the
common occasions of life, let them remain free unto every Church in
divine worship. Let no man's life, or body, or house, or estate,
suffer any manner of prejudice upon these accounts. Can you allow of
the Presbyterian discipline? Why should not the Episcopal also have
what they like? Ecclesiastical authority, whether it be administered
by the hands of a single person or many, is everywhere the same; and
neither has any jurisdiction in things civil, nor any manner of
power of compulsion, nor anything at all to do with riches and

  Ecclesiastical assemblies and sermons are justified by daily
experience and public allowance. These are allowed to people of some
one persuasion; why not to all? If anything pass in a religious
meeting seditiously and contrary to the public peace, it is to be
punished in the same manner and no otherwise than as if it had
happened in a fair or market. These meetings ought not to be
sanctuaries for factious and flagitious fellows. Nor ought it to be
less lawful for men to meet in churches than in halls; nor are one
part of the subjects to be esteemed more blamable for their meeting
together than others. Every one is to be accountable for his own
actions, and no man is to be laid under a suspicion or odium for the
fault of another. Those that are seditious, murderers, thieves,
robbers, adulterers, slanderers, etc., of whatsoever Church, whether
national or not, ought to be punished and suppressed. But those
whose doctrine is peaceable and whose manners are pure and blameless
ought to be upon equal terms with their fellow-subjects. Thus if
solemn assemblies, observations of festivals, public worship be
permitted to any one sort of professors, all these things ought to
be permitted to the Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists,
Arminians, Quakers, and others, with the same liberty. Nay, if we
may openly speak the truth, and as becomes one man to another, neither
Pagan nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil
rights of the commonwealth because of his religion. The Gospel
commands no such thing. The Church which "judgeth not those that are
without"* wants it not. And the commonwealth, which embraces
indifferently all men that are honest, peaceable, and industrious,
requires it not. Shall we suffer a Pagan to deal and trade with us,
and shall we not suffer him to pray unto and worship God? If we
allow the Jews to have private houses and dwellings amongst us, why
should we not allow them to have synagogues? Is their doctrine more
false, their worship more abominable, or is the civil peace more
endangered by their meeting in public than in their private houses?
But if these things may be granted to Jews and Pagans, surely the
condition of any Christians ought not to be worse than theirs in a
Christian commonwealth.

  * I Cor. 5. 12, 13.

  You will say, perhaps: "Yes, it ought to be; because they are more
inclinable to factions, tumults, and civil wars." I answer: Is this
the fault of the Christian religion? If it be so, truly the
Christian religion is the worst of all religions and ought neither
to be embraced by any particular person, nor tolerated by any
commonwealth. For if this be the genius, this the nature of the
Christian religion, to be turbulent and destructive to the civil
peace, that Church itself which the magistrate indulges will not
always be innocent. But far be it from us to say any such thing of
that religion which carries the greatest opposition to covetousness,
ambition, discord, contention, and all manner of inordinate desires,
and is the most modest and peaceable religion that ever was. We
must, therefore, seek another cause of those evils that are charged
upon religion. And, if we consider right, we shall find it to
consist wholly in the subject that I am treating of. It is not the
diversity of opinions (which cannot be avoided), but the refusal of
toleration to those that are of different opinions (which might have
been granted), that has produced all the bustles and wars that have
been in the Christian world upon account of religion. The heads and
leaders of the Church, moved by avarice and insatiable desire of
dominion, making use of the immoderate ambition of magistrates and the
credulous superstition of the giddy multitude, have incensed and
animated them against those that dissent from themselves, by preaching
unto them, contrary to the laws of the Gospel and to the precepts of
charity, that schismatics and heretics are to be outed of their
possessions and destroyed. And thus have they mixed together and
confounded two things that are in themselves most different, the
Church and the commonwealth. Now as it is very difficult for men
patiently to suffer themselves to be stripped of the goods which
they have got by their honest industry, and, contrary to all the
laws of equity, both human and divine, to be delivered up for a prey
to other men's violence and rapine; especially when they are otherwise
altogether blameless; and that the occasion for which they are thus
treated does not at all belong to the jurisdiction of the
magistrate, but entirely to the conscience of every particular man for
the conduct of which he is accountable to God only; what else can be
expected but that these men, growing weary of the evils under which
they labour, should in the end think it lawful for them to resist
force with force, and to defend their natural rights (which are not
forfeitable upon account of religion) with arms as well as they can?
That this has been hitherto the ordinary course of things is
abundantly evident in history, and that it will continue to be so
hereafter is but too apparent in reason. It cannot indeed, be
otherwise so long as the principle of persecution for religion shall
prevail, as it has done hitherto, with magistrate and people, and so
long as those that ought to be the preachers of peace and concord
shall continue with all their art and strength to excite men to arms
and sound the trumpet of war. But that magistrates should thus
suffer these incendiaries and disturbers of the public peace might
justly be wondered at if it did not appear that they have been invited
by them unto a participation of the spoil, and have therefore
thought fit to make use of their covetousness and pride as means
whereby to increase their own power. For who does not see that these
good men are, indeed, more ministers of the government than
ministers of the Gospel and that, by flattering the ambition and
favouring the dominion of princes and men in authority, they endeavour
with all their might to promote that tyranny in the commonwealth which
otherwise they should not be able to establish in the Church? This
is the unhappy agreement that we see between the Church and State.
Whereas if each of them would contain itself within its own bounds-
the one attending to the worldly welfare of the commonwealth, the
other to the salvation of souls- it is impossible that any discord
should ever have happened between them. Sed pudet hoec opprobria. etc.
God Almighty grant, I beseech Him, that the gospel of peace may at
length be preached, and that civil magistrates, growing more careful
to conform their own consciences to the law of God and less solicitous
about the binding of other men's consciences by human laws, may,
like fathers of their country, direct all their counsels and
endeavours to promote universally the civil welfare of all their
children, except only of such as are arrogant, ungovernable, and
injurious to their brethren; and that all ecclesiastical men, who
boast themselves to be the successors of the Apostles, walking
peaceably and modestly in the Apostles' steps, without intermeddling
with State Affairs, may apply themselves wholly to promote the
salvation of souls.


  PERHAPS it may not be amiss to add a few things concerning heresy
and schism. A Turk is not, nor can be, either heretic or schismatic to
a Christian; and if any man fall off from the Christian faith to
Mahometism, he does not thereby become a heretic or schismatic, but an
apostate and an infidel. This nobody doubts of; and by this it appears
that men of different religions cannot be heretics or schismatics to
one another.

  We are to inquire, therefore, what men are of the same religion.
Concerning which it is manifest that those who have one and the same
rule of faith and worship are of the same religion; and those who have
not the same rule of faith and worship are of different religions. For
since all things that belong unto that religion are contained in
that rule, it follows necessarily that those who agree in one rule are
of one and the same religion, and vice versa. Thus Turks and
Christians are of different religions, because these take the Holy
Scriptures to be the rule of their religion, and those the Alcoran.
And for the same reason there may be different religions also even
amongst Christians. The Papists and Lutherans, though both of them
profess faith in Christ and are therefore called Christians, yet are
not both of the same religion, because these acknowledge nothing but
the Holy Scriptures to be the rule and foundation of their religion,
those take in also traditions and the decrees of Popes and of these
together make the rule of their religion; and thus the Christians of
St. John (as they are called) and the Christians of Geneva are of
different religions, because these also take only the Scriptures,
and those I know not what traditions, for the rule of their religion.

  This being settled, it follows, first, that heresy is a separation
made in ecclesiastical communion between men of the same religion
for some opinions no way contained in the rule itself; and,
secondly, that amongst those who acknowledge nothing but the Holy
Scriptures to be their rule of faith, heresy is a separation made in
their Christian communion for opinions not contained in the express
words of Scripture. Now this separation may be made in a twofold

  1. When the greater part, or by the magistrate's patronage the
stronger part, of the Church separates itself from others by excluding
them out of her communion because they will not profess their belief
of certain opinions which are not the express words of the
Scripture. For it is not the paucity of those that are separated,
nor the authority of the magistrate, that can make any man guilty of
heresy, but he only is a heretic who divides the Church into parts,
introduces names and marks of distinction, and voluntarily makes a
separation because of such opinions.

  2. When any one separates himself from the communion of a Church
because that Church does not publicly profess some certain opinions
which the Holy Scriptures do not expressly teach.

  Both these are heretics because they err in fundamentals, and they
err obstinately against knowledge; for when they have determined the
Holy Scriptures to be the only foundation of faith, they
nevertheless lay down certain propositions as fundamental which are
not in the Scripture, and because others will not acknowledge these
additional opinions of theirs, nor build upon them as if they were
necessary and fundamental, they therefore make a separation in the
Church, either by withdrawing themselves from others, or expelling the
others from them. Nor does it signify anything for them to say that
their confessions and symbols are agreeable to Scripture and to the
analogy of faith; for if they be conceived in the express words of
Scripture, there can be no question about them, because those things
are acknowledged by all Christians to be of divine inspiration and
therefore fundamental. But if they say that the articles which they
require to be professed are consequences deduced from the Scripture,
it is undoubtedly well done of them who believe and profess such
things as seem unto them so agreeable to the rule of faith. But it
would be very ill done to obtrude those things upon others unto whom
they do not seem to be the indubitable doctrines of the Scripture; and
to make a separation for such things as these, which neither are nor
can be fundamental, is to become heretics; for I do not think there is
any man arrived to that degree of madness as that he dare give out his
consequences and interpretations of Scripture as divine inspirations
and compare the articles of faith that he has framed according to
his own fancy with the authority of Scripture. I know there are some
propositions so evidently agreeable to Scripture that nobody can
deny them to be drawn from thence, but about those, therefore, there
can be no difference. This only I say- that however clearly we may
think this or the other doctrine to be deduced from Scripture, we
ought not therefore to impose it upon others as a necessary article of
faith because we believe it to be agreeable to the rule of faith,
unless we would be content also that other doctrines should be imposed
upon us in the same manner, and that we should be compelled to receive
and profess all the different and contradictory opinions of Lutherans,
Calvinists, Remonstrants, Anabaptists, and other sects which the
contrivers of symbols, systems, and confessions are accustomed to
deliver to their followers as genuine and necessary deductions from
the Holy Scripture. I cannot but wonder at the extravagant arrogance
of those men who think that they themselves can explain things
necessary to salvation more clearly than the Holy Ghost, the eternal
and infinite wisdom of God.

  Thus much concerning heresy, which word in common use is applied
only to the doctrinal part of religion. Let us now consider schism,
which is a crime near akin to it; for both these words seem unto me to
signify an ill-grounded separation in ecclesiastical communion made
about things not necessary. But since use, which is the supreme law in
matter of language, has determined that heresy relates to errors in
faith, and schism to those in worship or discipline, we must
consider them under that distinction.

  Schism, then, for the same reasons that have already been alleged,
is nothing else but a separation made in the communion of the Church
upon account of something in divine worship or ecclesiastical
discipline that is not any necessary part of it. Now, nothing in
worship or discipline can be necessary to Christian communion but what
Christ our legislator, or the Apostles by inspiration of the Holy
Spirit, have commanded in express words.

  In a word, he that denies not anything that the Holy Scriptures
teach in express words, nor makes a separation upon occasion of
anything that is not manifestly contained in the sacred text-
however he may be nicknamed by any sect of Christians and declared
by some or all of them to be utterly void of true Christianity- yet in
deed and in truth this man cannot be either a heretic or schismatic.

  These things might have been explained more largely and more
advantageously, but it is enough to have hinted at them thus briefly
to a person of your parts.

                        THE END


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