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his nature claim of another, may be reduced to these four particulars :
First, Every man has a right to an equitable treatment from every man.
Secondly, Every man hath a right to judge for himself so far as he is capable.
Thirdly, Every man hath a right not to be forced or impelled to act contrary to the judgment of right
Fourthly, Every man hath a right to be respected by every man according to the dignity of his nature.
1. Every man hath a right to an equitable treatment from every man; that is, to be treated according to the measures of that golden rule of equity prescribed by our Saviour, Matt. vii. 12. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do
do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets: i. e. In all your intercourses with men, suppose you had exchanged conditions with them, and that you were in theirs, and they in yours; and be sure you do them all that good, which, upon a due consideration of the case, you could reasonably expect or desire of them, if you were in their persons and circumstances. And this right of being treated by others as they would expect to be treated by us, supposing they were in our circumstances, arises from that equality of nature that is between us, which gives every one a right to be equally treated by every one, and to claim all those good offices from others, which they might reasonably claim of him, if they were in his state and circumstances. For we being all propagated from the same loins, and partakers of the same nature,
every man in the world is by cognation of blood, and agreement of nature, every man's brother and kinsman. We are all but so many several streams issuing from one common source, but so many several twigs sprouting from the same stock: we are all of us but one blood derived through several chanels; but one substance multiplied, and dilated into several times and places, by the miraculous efficacy of the divine benediction. We are all fashioned according to the same original idea, resembling God our common Father: we are all endowed with the same faculties, inclinations, and affections; and do all conspire in the same essential ingredients of our nature: and there is nothing doth distinguish or diversify us, but what is accidental to our being ; such as age and place, figure and stature, colour and garb; so that every man is not only our most lively image, but in a manner our very substance, or another ourself, under a small variation of present circumstances : which circumstances are to be considered in every application of the above-named rule of equality to our actions. If I am superior to another, either in my place or relation, or in the goods of my mind or fortune; I am only obliged by this rule to do that by him which I might reasonably desire he should do by me, were he as much my superior as I am his. But when all men naturally as such are equal, and do stand upon even terms and level ground, there ought to be no other inequality in their mutual treatment of one another, but what is owing to the inequality of their circumstances : and he who doth that to another man, which upon good reason he would not have another do to him in the same circumstances, doth unjustly
usurp a superiority over him, which neither nature nor providence allows of. For there is no proposition in the mathematics more self-evident than this, Paria paribus conveniunt, Equal things agree to equal persons; and therefore since we are all equal by nature, whatsoever things are due to me, must by the same reason be due to another in the same circumstances; and therefore he that denies to another man that which he conceives he might justly claim of him in the same condition, unjustly withholds from him a right that is due to him, as he is his equal in nature.
2. Every man hath a right to judge for himself so far as he is capable: for we must either suppose that every being hath a right to use its own faculties, or else that it hath its faculties in vain. For to what purpose serve its faculties, if it hath no right to make use of them ? And to what purpose serveth our faculty of reason, but only to judge for ourselves in all such matters as fall within the sphere of our cognizance? which if our reason be debarred of, it stands for a lonely cipher in our natures, and is altogether useless and insignificant. And if in any thing our reason hath a right to judge for us, then much more in matters of religion, in which our
, highest and most important interest is concerned. So that to deny it the right of judging for us here, is to render it useless in our greatest importance, and to disable our best faculty from being serviceable to our best interest. It is true, there are sundry controversies about 'religious matters, which every man's reason cannot judge of; the arguments pro and con depending either upon criticisms of language, or metaphysical niceties, or ancient histories; which are all beyond the comprehension of persons of mean and vulgar understandings: who are therefore obliged in all such matters as these, to submit to the determination of their lawful guides and governors. But as for the great and necessary matters of religion, they are plain and obvious to the meanest understanding; and consequently herein every man ought to exercise his natural right of judging for himself, and not swallow his religion blindfold, without trying it by the test of his reason. And certainly they who remove the cognizance of religion out of the court of reason, take away that which doth most properly and naturally fall under its determination. For religion is the chief end of man's creation, as he is a reasonable being, and thereby capable of religion: and to be sure where the end is natural, the means must be so too. And therefore as horses that were made for burden have a natural ability to bear; and as birds that were made to fly have a faculty and wings for that purpose; so rational souls that were made for religion must needs be supposed to have some power naturally placed in them, for the exercise, and judgment, and choice of it. And what else can that be but their reason? So that to deny men the liberty to judge for themselves in that which is their natural end and highest interest, is as great a piece of violence and injustice as can be offered to human nature. And of this very matter the church of Rome is highly guilty ; for it commands assent without evidence, and imperiously requires men to believe her doctrines without examination; to rely implicitly upon her authority, and swallow down her faith by the lump, without ever inquiring whether
it be physic or poison. For the leading principle of the Romish religion is this, that the church's authority is the reason of our faith, and that men are bound to believe what she believes without any further proof or evidence; by which tyrannical procedure she uses her wretched children as the Philistines did Samson, first puts out their eyes, and recreates herself with their blindness and ignorance. For unless they wink hard, and believe at a venture whatsoever she proposes, they are sure to feel the edges both of her spiritual and temporal swords ; and though they are never so modest, peaceable, and humble in their dissents, to incur her anathemas, which have always the sting of fire and fagot in the tail of them. Now what is this but to force the opinions of men, and drive their reason from its throne of judicature: for he that punishes a man barely for his opinion, doth in so doing endeavour to rob him of his natural right of judging for himself; which is the greatest tyranny in the world, it being an exercise of dominion over the minds of men, which are subject only to the empire of God It is true, if in judging for themselves men take up opinions that are vicious, or destructive to government, their wicked practice is justly punishable according to the proportion of its malignity; for otherwise men's right of judging for themselves will soon be made a sanctuary for all the villainies in the world. And though no man ought to be punished barely for his opinion, yet he may be justly punished for practising his opinion, though his practice be indifferent in its own nature. For indifferent things, which God hath neither commanded nor forbidden, are the proper matter of all human laws; and there