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falsehood of a proposition respectively, yet the judgment of the personal ends of the men cannot ordinarily be certain and judicial, because most commonly the acts are private, and the purposes internal, and temporal ends may sometimes consist with truth; and whether the purposes of the men make these ends principal or subordinate, no man can judge : and be they how they will, yet they do not always prove, that, when they are conjunct with error, the error was caused by these purposes and criminal intentions.
5. But in questions practical, the doctrine itself, and the person too, may with more ease be reproved, because matter of fact being evident, and nothing being so certain as the experiments of human affairs, and these being the immediate consequents of such doctrines, are with some more certainty of observation redargued than the speculative, whose judgment is of itself more difficult, more remote from matter and human observation, and with less curiosity and explicitness declared in Scripture, as being of less consequence and concernment in order to God's and man's great end. In other things, which end in notion and ineffective contemplation, where neither the doctrine is malicious, nor the person apparently criminal, he is to be left to the judgment of God : and as there is no certainty of human judicature in this case, so it is to no purpose it should be judged. For if the person may be innocent with his error, and there is no rule whereby it can certainly be pronounced that he is actually criminal (as it happens in matters speculative); since the end of the commandment is love out of “ a pure conscience, and faith unfeigned,” and the commandment may obtain its end in a consistence with this simple speculative error; why should men trouble themselves with such opinions, so as to disturb the public charity, or the private confidence ? Opinions and persons are just so to be judged as other matters and persons criminal. For no man can judge any thing else : it must be a crime, and it must be open, so as to take cognizance, and make true human judgment of it. And this is all I am to say concerning the causes of heresies, and of the distinguishing rules for guiding of our judgments towards others.
6. As for guiding our judgments, and the use of our reason in judging for ourselves, all that is to be said is re
ducible to this one proposition : since errors are then made sins, when they are contrary to charity, or inconsistent with a good life and the honour of God, that judgment is the truest, or at least that opinion most innocent, that, 1. best promotes the reputation of God's glory; and, 2. is the best instrument of holy life. For in questions and interpretations of dispute, these two analogies are the best to make propositions, and conjectures, and determinations. Diligence and care in obtaining the best guides, and the most convenient assistances, prayer, and modesty of spirit, simplicity of purposes and intentions, humility and aptness to learn, and a peaceable disposition, are therefore necessary to finding out truths, because they are parts of good life, without which our truths will do us little advantage, and our errors can have no excuse. But with these dispositions, as he is sure to find out all that is necessary, so what truth he inculpably misses of, he is sure is therefore not necessary, because he could not find it, when he did his best and his most innocent endeavours. And this I
say to secure the
because no rule can antecedently secure the proposition in matters disputable. For even in the proportions and explications of this rule, there is infinite variety of disputes : and when the dispute is concerning free-will, one party denies it, because he believes it magnifies the grace of God, that it works irresistibly; the other affirms it, because he believes it engages us upon greater care and piety of our endeavours. The one opinion thinks God reaps the glory of our good actions, the other thinks it charges our bad actions upon him. So in the question of merit, one part chooses his assertion, because he thinks it encourages us to do good works; the other believes it makes us proud, and therefore he rejects it. The first believes, it increases piety; the second believes, it increases spiritual presumption and vanity: the first thinks, it
magnifies God's justice; the other thinks, it derogates from his mercy. Now then, since neither this nor any ground can secure a man from possibility of mistaking, we were infinitely miserable if it would not secure us from punishment, so long as we willingly consent not to a crime, and do our best endeavour to avoid an error. Only, by the way, let me observe, that since there are such great differences of apprehension concerning the consequents of an article, no man is to be
charged with the odious consequences of his opinion. Indeed his doctrine is, but the person is not, if he understands not such things to be consequent to his doctrine: for if he did, and then avows them, they are his direct opinions, and he stands as chargeable with them as with his first propositions : but if he disavows them, he would certainly rather quit his opinion, than avow such errors or impieties which are pretended to be consequent to it, because every man knows, that can be no truth from whence falsehood naturally and immediately does derive ; and he therefore believes his first proposition, because he believes it innocent of such errors, as are charged upon it directly or consequently.
7. So that now, since no error, neither for itself nor its consequents, is to be charged as criminal upon a pious person; since no simple error is a sin, nor does condemn us before the throne of God; since he is so pitiful to our crimes, that he pardons many de toto et integro,' in all makes abatement for the violence of temptation, and the surprisal and invasion of our faculties, and therefore much less will demand of us an account for our weaknesses; and since the strongest understanding cannot pretend to such an immunity and exemption from the condition of men, as not to be deceived and confess its weakness; it remains we inquire what deportment is to be used towards persons of a differing persuasion, when we are, I do not say doubtful of a proposition, but, convinced that he that differs from us, is in error: for this was the first intention, and the last end, of this discourse.
Of the Deportment to be used towards Persons disagreeing, and
the Reasons why they are not to be punished with Death, &c. 1. For although every man may be deceived, yet some are right, and may know it too ; for every man that may err, does not therefore certainly err; and if he errs because he recedes from his rule, then if he follows it he may do right; and if ever any man upon just grounds did change his opinion, then he was in the right and was sure of it too : and although con
fidence is mistaken for a just persuasion many times, yet some men are confident, and have reason to be. Now when this happens, the question is, what deportment they are to use towards persons that disagree from them, and by consequence are in error.
2. First then, no Christian is to be put to death, dismembered, or otherwise directly persecuted, for his opinion, which does not teach impiety or blasphemy. If it plainly and apparently brings in a crime, and himself does act it or encourage it, then the matter of fact is punishable according to its proportion or malignity. As if he preaches treason or sedition, his opinion is not his excuse, because it brings a crime; and a man is never the less traitor, because he believes it lawful to commit treason: and a man is a murderer, if he kills his brother unjustly, although he thinks he does God good service in it. Matters of fact are equally judicable, whether the principle of them be from within or from without. And if a man could pretend to innocence in being seditious, blasphemous, or perjured, by persuading himself it is lawful, there were as · great a gate opened to all iniquity as will entertain all the pretences, the designs, the impostures, and disguises, of the world. And therefore God hath taken order, that all rules concerning matters of fact and good life shall be so clearly explicated, that without the crime of the man he cannot be ignorant of all his practical duty. And therefore the apostles and primitive doctors made no scruple of condemning such persons for heretics, that did dogmatize a sin. He that teaches others to sin, is worse than he that commits the crime, whether he be tempted by his own interest, or encouraged by the other's doctrine. It was as bad in Basilides to teach it to be lawful to renounce faith and religion, and take all manner of oaths and covenants in time of persecution, as if himself had done so. Nay, it is as much worse as the mischief is more universal, or as a fountain is greater than a drop of water taken from it. He that writes treason in a book, or preaches sedition in a pulpit, and persuades it to the people, is the greatest traitor and incendiary, and his opinion there is the fountain of a sin; and therefore could not be entertained in his understanding upon weakness, or inculpable or innocent prejudice; he cannot, from Scripture or divine revelation, have any pretence to colour that so fairly as to seduce either a wise or an honest
man. If it rest there and goes no farther, it is not cognoscible, and so scapes that way; but if it be published, and comes * à stylo ad machæram' (as Tertullian's phrase is), then it becomes matter of fact in principie and in persuasion, and is just so punishable as is the crime that it persuades. Such were they of whom St. Paul complains, who“ brought in damnable doctrines and lusts." St. Paul's “ utinam abscindanturk” is just of them, take it in any sense of rigour and severity, so it be proportionable to the crime or criminal doctrine. Such were those of whom God spake;" If any prophet tempt to idolatry, saying, Let us go after other gods, he shall be slain !.” But these do not come into this question : but the proposition is to be understood concerning questions disputable ‘in materia intellectuali ;' which also, for all that law of killing such false prophets, were permitted with impunity in the synagogue, as appears beyond exception in the great divisions and disputes between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. I deny not but certain and known idolatry, orany other sort of practical impiety with its principiant doctrine, may be punished corporally, because it is no other but matter of fact; but no matter of mere opinion, no errors that of themselves are not sins, are to be persecuted or punished by death or corporal inflictions. This is now to be proved.
3. Secondly : all the former discourse is sufficient argument, how easy it is for us in such matters to be deceived. So long as Christian religion was a simple profession of the articles of belief, and a hearty persecution of the rules of good life, the fewness of the articles and the clearness of the rule was cause of the seldom prevarication. But when divinity is swelled up to so great a body, when the several questions which the peevishness and wantonness of sixteen ages have commenced, are concentred into one, and from all these questions something is drawn into the body of theology, till it hath ascended up to the greatness of a mountain, and the sum of divinity collected by Aquinas makes a volume as great as was that of Livy, mocked at in the epigram,
Quem mea vix totam bibliotheca capit; it is impossible for any industry to consider so many particulars in the infinite numbers of questions as are necessary to be considered, before we can, with certainty, determine any.