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our practices, they are considerable only as they teach impiety and vice, as they either dishonour God or disobey him. Now all such doctrines are to be condemned; but for the persons preaching such doctrines, if they neither justify nor approve the pretended consequences, which are certainly impious, they are to be separated from that consideration. But if they know such consequences and allow them, or if they do not stay till the doctrines produce impiety, but take sin beforehand, and manage them impiously in any sense, or if either themselves or their doctrine do really, and without colour or feigned pretext, disturb the public peace and just interests, they are not to be suffered. In all other cases it is not only lawful to permit them, but it is also necessary that princes and all in authority should not persecute discrepant opinions. And in such cases wherein persons not otherwise incompetent are bound to reprove an error (as they are in many), in all these if the prince makes restraint, he hinders men from doing their duty, and from obeying the laws of Jesus Christ.
Of Compliance with disagreeing Persons, or weak Consciences, in general.
1. UPON these grounds it remains, that we reduce this doctrine to practical conclusions, and consider, among the differing sects and opinions which trouble these parts of Christendom, and come into our concernment, which sects of Christians are to be tolerated, and how far; and which are to be restrained and punished in their several proportions.
2. The first consideration is, since diversity of opinions does more concern public peace than religion, what is to be done to persons who disobey a public sanction upon a true allegation, that they cannot believe it to be lawful to obey such constitutions, although they disbelieve them upon insuf
z Exstat prudens monitum Mecænalis apud Dionem Cassium ad Augustum in hæc verba; Eos verò qui in Divinis aliquid innovant, odio habe, et coerce, non deorum solum causâ, sed quia nova numina hi tales introducentes multos impellunt ad mutationem rerum: unde conjurationes, seditiones, conciliabula exsistunt, res profecto minimè conducibiles principatui. Et legibus quoque expressum est, quod in religionem committitur, in omnium fertur injuriam.
ficient grounds; that is, whether in 'constituta lege' disagreeing persons or weak consciences are to be complied withal, and their disobeying and disagreeing tolerated.
3. First in this question, there is no distinction can be made between persons truly weak, and but pretending so. For all that pretend to it, are to be allowed the same liberty, whatsoever it be; for no man's spirit is known to any but to God and himself: and therefore pretences and realities in this case are both alike in order to the public toleration. And this very thing is one argument to persuade a negative. For the chief thing in this case is the concernment of public government, which is then most of all violated, when what may prudently be permitted to some purposes, may be demanded to many more, and the piety of the laws abused to the impiety of other men's ends. And if laws be made so malleable as to comply with weak consciences, he that hath a mind to disobey, is made impregnable against the coercitive power of the laws by this pretence. For a weak conscience signifies nothing in this case, but a dislike of the law upon a contrary persuasion. For if some weak consciences do obey the law, and others do not, it is not their weakness indefinitely that is the cause of it, but a definite and particular persuasion to the contrary. So that if such a pretence be excuse sufficient from obeying, then the law is a sanction obliging every one to obey that hath a mind to it, and he that hath not, may choose; that is, it is no law at all; for he that hath a mind to it, may do it if there be no law; and he that hath no mind to it, need not for all the law.
4. And therefore, the wit of man cannot prudently frame a law of that temper and expedient, but either he must lose the formality of a law, and neither have power coercitive nor obligatory, but ad arbitrium inferiorum;' or else it cannot, antecedently to the particular case, give leave to any sort of men to disagree or disobey.
5. Secondly suppose that a law be made with great reason, so as to satisfy divers persons pious and prudent, that it complies with the necessity of government, and promotes the interest of God's service and public order, it may easily be imagined that these persons, which are obedient sons of the church, may be as zealous for the public order and discipline of the church as others for their opinion against it,
and may be as much scandalized if disobedience be tolerated, as others are if the law be exacted: and what shall be done in this case? Both sorts of men cannot be complied withal: because as these pretend to be offended at the law, and by consequence (if they understand the consequents of their own opinion) at them that obey the law; so the others are justly offended at them, that unjustly disobey it. If therefore there be any on the right side as confident and zealous as they who are on the wrong side, then the disagreeing persons are not to be complied with, to avoid giving offence: for if they be, offence is given to better persons; and so the mischief, which such complying seeks to prevent, is made greater and more unjust, obedience is discouraged, and disobedience is legally canonized for the result of a holy and a tender conscience.
6. Thirdly such complying with the disagreeings of a sort of men, is the total overthrow of all discipline, and it is better to make no laws of public worship, than to rescind them in the very constitution; and there can be no end in making the sanctification, but to make the law ridiculous, and the authority contemptible. For, to say that complying with weak consciences, in the very framing of a law of discipline, is the way to preserve unity, were all one as to say, to take away all laws is the best way to prevent disobedience. In such matters of indifferency, the best way of cementing the fraction, is to unite the parts in the authority; for then the question is but one, viz. whether the authority must be obeyed or not. But if a permission be given of disputing the particulars, the questions become next to infinite. A mirror when it is broken, represents the object multiplied and divided: but if it be entire, and through one centre transmits the species to the eye, the vision is one and natural. Laws are the mirror in which men are to dress and compose their actions, and therefore must not be broken with such clauses of exception, which may, without remedy, be abused to the prejudice of authority, and peace, and all human sanctions. And I have known in some churches, that this pretence hath been nothing but a design to discredit the law, to dismantle the authority that made it, to raise their own credit and a trophy of their zeal, to make it a characteristic note of a sect, and the cognizance of holy persons and yet the men that claimed exemption from the
laws upon pretence of having weak consciences, if in hearty expression you had told them so to their heads, they would have spit in your face, and were so far from confessing themselves weak, that they thought themselves able to give laws to Christendom, to instruct the greatest clerks, and to catechise the church herself. And, which is the worst of all, they who were perpetually clamorous that the severity of the laws should slacken as to their particular, and in matter adiaphorous (in which, if the church hath any authority, she hath power to make laws) to indulge a leave to them to do as they list, yet were the most imperious amongst men, most decretory in their sentences, and most impatient of any disagreeing from them, though in the least minute and particular: whereas, by all the justice of the world, they who persuade such a compliance in matters of fact, and of so little question, should not deny to tolerate persons, that differ in questions of great difficulty and contestation.
7. Fourthly but yet since all things almost in the world have been made matters of dispute, and the will of some men, and the malice of others, and the infinite industry and pertinacy of contesting, and resolution to conquer, hath abused some persons innocently into a persuasion that even the laws themselves, though never so prudently constituted, are superstitious, or impious;—such persons, who are otherwise pious, humble, and religious, are not to be destroyed for such matters, which in themselves are not of concernment to salvation, and neither are so accidentally to such men and in such cases where they are innocently abused, and they err without purpose and design. And therefore, if there be a public disposition in some persons to dislike laws of a certain quality, if it be foreseen, it is to be considered ' in lege dicenda;' and whatever inconvenience or particular offence is foreseen, is either to be directly avoided in the law, or else a compensation in the excellency of the law, and certain advantages made to outweigh their pretensions. But in lege jam dicta,' because there may be a necessity some persons should have a liberty indulged them, it is necessary that the governors of the church should be intrusted with a power to consider the particular case, and indulge a liberty to the person, and grant personal dispensations. This, I say, is to be done at several times, upon particular instance, upon singular consideration, and new emergencies.
But that a whole kind of men, such a kind to which all men, without possibility of being confuted, may pretend, should, at once, in the very frame of the law, be permitted to disobey, is to nullify the law, to destroy discipline, and to hallow disobedience; it takes away the obliging part of the law, and makes that the thing enacted shall not be enjoined, but tolerated only; it destroys unity and uniformity, which to preserve was the very end of such laws of discipline; it bends the rule to the thing which is to be ruled, so that the law obeys the subject, not the subject the law; it is to make a law for particulars, not upon general reason and congruity, against the prudence and design of all laws in the world, and absolutely without the example of any church in Christendom; it prevents no scandal, for some will be scandalized at the authority itself, some at the complying and remissness of discipline, and several men at matters and upon ends contradictory: all which cannot, some ought not, to be complied withal.
8. Sixthly the sum is this, The end of the laws of discipline are in an immediate order to the conservation and ornament of the public; and therefore the laws must not so tolerate, as by conserving persons to destroy themselves and the public benefit: but if there be cause for it, they must be cassated; or if there be no sufficient cause, the complyings must be so as may best preserve the particulars in conjunction with the public end, which, because it is primarily intended, is of greatest consideration. But the particulars, whether of case or person, are to be considered occasionally and emergently by the judges, but cannot antecedently and regularly be determined by a law.
9. But this sort of men is of so general pretence, that all laws and all judges may easily be abused by them. Those sects which are signified by a name, which have a system of articles, a body of profession, may be more clearly determined in their question concerning the lawfulness of permitting their professions and assemblies.
I shall instance in two, which are most troublesome and most disliked, and by an account made of these, we may make judgment what may be done towards others whose errors are not apprehended of so great malignity. The men I mean, are the anabaptists, and the papists.