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Locke's a Letter Concerning Toleration

Locke's a Letter Concerning Toleration

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Published by: Christie on Mar 16, 2007
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1689A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION
by John Locketranslated by Wlla! "o##le
HONOURED SIR, Since you are pleased to inquire what are my thoughts about the mutual toleration o !hristians in their dierent proessions o religion, I must needs answer you reely that I esteem that toleration to be the chie characteristic mar" o the true !hurch# $or whatsoe%er some people boast o the antiquity o  places and names, or o the pomp o their outward worship& others, o the reormation o their discipline& all, o the orthodo'y o their aith( or e%eryone is orthodo' to himsel( these things, and all others o this nature, are much rather mar"s o men stri%ing or power and empire o%er one another than o the !hurch o !hrist# )et anyone ha%e ne%er so true a claim to all these things, yet i he be destitute o charity, mee"ness, and good(will in general towards all man"ind, e%en to those that are not !hristians, he is certainly yet short o being a true !hristian himsel# *+he "ings o the entiles e'ercise leadership o%er them,* said our Sa%iour to his disciples, *but ye shall not be so#*- +he business o true religion is quite another thing# It is not instituted in order to the erecting o an e'ternal pomp, nor to the obtaining o ecclesiastical dominion, nor to the e'ercising o compulsi%e orce, but to the regulating o men.s li%es, according to the rules o %irtue and piety# /hosoe%er will list himsel under the banner o !hrist, must, in the irst place and abo%e all things, ma"e war upon his own lusts and %ices# It is in %ain or any man to unsurp the name o !hristian, without holiness o lie, purity o manners, benignity and mee"ness o spirit# *)et e%eryone that nameth the name o !hrist, depart rom iniquity#*-012 *+hou, when thou art con%erted, strengthen thy brethren,* said our )ord to 3eter#-042 It would, indeed, be %ery hard or one that appears careless about his own sal%ation to persuade me that he were e'tremely concerned or mine# $or it
 
is impossible that those should sincerely and heartily apply themsel%es to ma"e other people !hristians, who ha%e not really embraced the !hristian religion in their own hearts# I the ospel and the apostles may be credited, no man can be a !hristian without charity and without that aith which wor"s, not by orce,  but by lo%e# Now, I appeal to the consciences o those that persecute, torment, destroy, and "ill other men upon pretence o religion, whether they do it out o riendship and "indness towards them or no5 6nd I shall then indeed, and not until then, belie%e they do so, when I shall see those iery 7ealots correcting, in the same manner, their riends and amiliar acquaintance or the maniest sins they commit against the precepts o the ospel& when I shall see them  persecute with ire and sword the members o their own communion that are tainted with enormous %ices and without amendment are in danger o eternal  perdition& and when I shall see them thus e'press their lo%e and desire o the sal%ation o their souls by the inliction o torments and e'ercise o all manner o cruelties# $or i it be out o a principle o charity, as they pretend, and lo%e to men.s souls that they depri%e them o their estates, maim them with corporal  punishments, star%e and torment them in noisome prisons, and in the end e%en ta"e away their li%es( I say, i all this be done merely to ma"e men !hristians and procure their sal%ation, why then do they suer whoredom, raud, malice, and such(li"e enormities, which 0according to the apostle2-082 maniestly relish o heathenish corruption, to predominate so much and abound amongst their loc"s and people5 +hese, and such(li"e things, are certainly more contrary to the glory o od, to the purity o the !hurch, and to the sal%ation o souls, than any conscientious dissent rom ecclesiastical decisions, or separation rom  public worship, whilst accompanied with innocence o lie# /hy, then, does this burning 7eal or od, or the !hurch, and or the sal%ation o souls(  burning I say, literally, with ire and aggot( pass by those moral %ices and wic"ednesses, without any chastisement, which are ac"nowledged by all men to be diametrically opposite to the proession o !hristianity, and bend all its ner%es either to the introducing o ceremonies, or to the establishment o opinions, which or the most part are about nice and intricate matters, that e'ceed the capacity o ordinary understandings5 /hich o the parties contending about these things is in the right, which o them is guilty o schism or heresy, whether those that domineer or those that suer, will then at last be maniest when the causes o their separation comes to be 9udged o He, certainly, that ollows !hrist, embraces His doctrine, and bears His yo"e, though he orsa"e both ather and mother, separate rom the public assemblies and ceremonies o his country, or whomsoe%er or whatsoe%er else he relinquishes, will not then be 9udged a heretic#
 
(- )u"e 11# 1:#(-012 II +im# 1# ;<#(-042 )u"e 11# 41#(-082 Rom# I#((Now, though the di%isions that are amongst sects should be allowed to be ne%er so obstructi%e o the sal%ation o souls& yet, ne%ertheless, adultery, ornication, uncleanliness, lasci%iousness, idolatry, and such(li"e things, cannot  be denied to be wor"s o the lesh, concerning which the apostle has e'pressly declared that *they who do them shall not inherit the "ingdom o od#*- /hosoe%er, thereore, is sincerely solicitous about the "ingdom o od and thin"s it his duty to endea%our the enlargement o it amongst men, ought to apply himsel with no less care and industry to the rooting out o these immoralities than to the e'tirpation o sects# =ut i anyone do otherwise, and whilst he is cruel and implacable towards those that dier rom him in opinion, he be indulgent to such iniquities and immoralities as are unbecoming the name o a !hristian, let such a one tal" ne%er so much o the !hurch, he plainly demonstrates by his actions that it is another "ingdom he aims at and not the ad%ancement o the "ingdom o od#(- al# :#((+hat any man should thin" it to cause another man( whose sal%ation he heartily desires( to e'pire in torments, and that e%en in an uncon%erted state, would, I coness, seem %ery strange to me, and I thin", to any other also# =ut nobody, surely, will e%er belie%e that such a carriage can proceed rom charity, lo%e, or goodwill# I anyone maintain that men ought to be compelled by ire and sword to proess certain doctrines, and conorm to this or that e'terior worship, without any regard had unto their morals& i anyone endea%our to con%ert those that are erroneous unto the aith, by orcing them to proess things that they do not belie%e and allowing them to practise things that the ospel does not permit, it cannot be doubted indeed but such a one is desirous to ha%e a numerous assembly 9oined in the same proession with himsel& but that he principally intends by those means to compose a truly !hristian !hurch is altogether incredible# It is not, thereore, to be wondered at i those who do not really contend or the ad%ancement o the true religion, and o the !hurch o !hrist, ma"e use o arms that do not belong to the !hristian warare# I, li"e the !aptain o our sal%ation, they sincerely desired the good o souls, they

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