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word, but afterwards and much more for its own, as the Word of God; yea, the Church itself we . believe then for the Scripture. The inference of itself follows: If by the Protestant doctrine we believe the Scripture, not for the Church's saying, but for its own, as the Word of God, then ought we to believe what in our conscience we apprehend the Scripture to say, though the visible Church, with all her doctors, gainsay: and being taught to believe them only for the Scripture, they who so do are not heretics, but the best Protestants: and by their opinions, whatever they be, can hurt no Protestant, whose rule is not to receive them but from the Scripture: which to interpret convincingly to his own conscience, none is able but himself, guided by the Holy Spirit; and not so guided, none than he to himself can be a worse deceiver. To Protestants, therefore, whose common rule and touchstone is the Scripture, nothing can with more conscience, more equity, nothing more Protestantly can be permitted, than a free and lawful debate at all times by writing, conference, or disputation of what opinion soever, disputable by Scripture: concluding that no man in religion is properly a heretic at this day, but he who maintains traditions or opinions not probable by Scripture, who, for aught I know, is the Papist only; he the only heretic, who counts all heretics but himself...
How many persecutions, then, imprisonments, banishments, penalties, and stripes; how much
bloodshed have the forcers of conscience to answer for, and Protestants rather than Papists! For the Papist, judging by his principles, punishes them who believe not as the Church believes, though against the Scripture; but the Protestant, teaching every one to believe the Scripture, though against the Church, counts heretical, and persecutes against his own principles, them who in any particular so believe as he in general teaches them; them who most honor and believe divine Scripture, but not against it any human interpretation, though universal; them who interpret Scripture only to themselves, which, by his own position, none but they to themselves can interpret them who use the Scripture no otherwise by his own doctrine to their edification, than he himself uses it to their punishing; and so whom his doctrine acknowledges a true believer, his discipline persecutes as a heretic. The Papist exacts our belief as to the Church due above Scripture; and by the Church, which is the whole people of God, understands the pope, the general councils, prelatical only, and the surnamed fathers: but the forcing Protestant, though he deny such belief to any Church whatsoever, yet takes it to himself and his teachers, of far less authority than to be called the Church, and above Scripture believed: which renders his practice both contrary to his belief, and far worse than that belief which he condemns in the Papist. By all which, well considered, the more he professes to be a true
Protestant, the more he hath to answer for his persecuting than a Papist. No Protestant, therefore, of what sect soever, following Scripture only, which is the common sect wherein they all agree, and the granted rule of every man's conscience to himself, ought by the common doctrine of Protestants to be forced or molested for religion.
Seducement is to be hindered by fit and proper means ordained in Church discipline, by instant and powerful demonstration to the contrary; by opposing truth to error, no unequal match; truth the strong, to error the weak, though sly and shifting. Force is no honest confutation, but uneffectual, and for the most part unsuccessful, ofttimes fatal to them who use it: sound doctrine, diligently and duly taught, is of herself both sufficient, and of herself (if some secret judgment of God hinder not) always prevalent against seducers.
Ill was our condition changed from legal to evangelical, and small advantage gotten by the Gospel, if, for the spirit of adoption to freedom promised us, we receive again the spirit of bondage to fear; if our fear, which was then servile towards God only, must be now servile in religion towards men: strange also and preposterous fear, if, when and wherein it hath attained by the redemption of our Saviour to be filial only towards God, it must be now servile towards the magistrate who, by subjecting us to his punishment in these things, brings back into religion that law of terror and satisfaction
belonging now only to civil crimes; and thereby in effect abolishes the Gospel, by establishing again the law to a far worse yoke of servitude upon us than before. It will therefore not misbecome the meanest Christian to put in mind Christian magistrates, and so much the more freely by how much the more they desire to be thought Christian, (for they will be thereby, as they ought to be in these things, the more our brethren and the less our lords,) that they meddle not rashly with Christian liberty, the birthright and outward testimony of our adoption; lest while they little think it, nay, think they do God service, they themselves, like the sons of that bondwoman, be found persecuting them who are freeborn of the Spirit, and, by a sacrilege of not the least aggravation, bereaving them of that sacred liberty, which our Saviour with his own blood purchased for them.
TOUCHING THE LIKELIEST MEANS TO REMOVE HIRELINGS OUT OF THE CHURCH.
HE former treatise, which leads in this, began with two things ever found working much mischief to religion, force on the one side restraining, and hire on the other side corrupting, the teachers thereof. The latter of these is by much the more dangerous; for under force, though no thanks to the forcers, true religion ofttimes best thrives and flourishes; but the corruption of teachers, most commonly the effect of hire, is the very bane of truth in them who are so corrupted. Of force not to be used in matters of religion, I have already spoken; and so stated matters of conscience and religion in faith and divine worship, and so severed them from blasphemy and heresy, the one being such properly as is despiteful, the other such as stands not to the rule of Scripture, and so both of them not matters of religion, but rather against it, that to them who will yet use force, this only choice can