[Religion] cannot be handled like learning. It is a matter of individual conviction and its source is the heart.
I assure you very explicitly, that in my opinion the conscientious scruples of all men should be treated with great delicacy and tenderness: and it is my wish and desire, that the laws may always be extensively accommodated to them, as a due regard for the protection and essential interests of the nation may justify and permit.
To pretend to a dominion over the conscience, is to usurp the prerogative of God. By the nature of things, the power of sovereigns is confined to political government. They have no right of punishment but over those who disturb the public peace. The most dangerous heresy is that of a sovereign who separates himself from part of his subjects, because they believe not according to his belief.
The New Testament, the Church and Politics Here is a point I would like to make crystal clear. I do not believe the New Testament gives the church warrant to issue proclamations on political problems the nation may be facing, or on social issues. As a body the church has no message to the world except the message of the gospel, the good news in Jesus Christ. But as individuals, the writer [of the book of Hebrews] correctly points out, we cannot be rightly related to the God Who loves all men everywhere and not show this is some definite, practical, helpful way. There must be deep concern about those who are oppressed, troubled, and underprivileged, and a readiness to involve ourselves in some kind of help.
Liberty of conscience is for those who truly fear the Lord. A fundamental task of the state is the establishment of pure religion.
But who is to decide who truly fears the Lord? The magistrate has no power to enforce religious demands. The laws of the First Table of the Ten Commandments are not regulations for a civil society or a political order. They belong to the realm of religion, not politics.
…we cannot afford the despair and inevitable degeneracy of no establishment at all! Therefore we shall propose Christianity itself as the established Religion of this Commonwealth…
Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?
. . . their argument simply amounted to this: It is our inalienable right to believe and worship as we choose. It is likewise our inalienable right to compel everybody else to believe and worship as we choose. But this is no assertion at all of the rights of conscience. The true principle and assertion of the rights of conscience is not our assertion of our right to believe and worship as we choose. This always leaves the way open for the additional assertion of our right to compel others to believe and worship as we choose, should occasion seem to demand; and there are a multitude of circumstances that are ever ready strongly to urge that occasion does demand. The true principle and the right of assertion of the rights of conscience is our assertion of every other man’s right to believe and worship as he chooses, or not to worship at all if he chooses. This at once sweeps away every excuse and every argument that might ever be offered for the restriction or invasion of the rights of conscience by any person or any power.
If I don’t have the freedom to disbelieve, I cannot believe.
As a matter of principle, nobody has the right to judge anyone else about how they conduct themselves before God.
Genuinely righteous people devote their energy to mastering their own passions; not to assaulting others.
If the gospel was of a nature to be propagated or maintained by the power of the world, God would not have intrusted it to fishermen. To defend the gospel appertains not to the princes and pontiffs of this world.
. . . to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
. . . I laid it down as a rule that whenever I heard a more correct opinion on any subject whatever advanced, I would, with joy and humility, give up my earlier opinion: being well aware that what we know is vastly less than what we do not know. . . . I avow it to be my purpose to defend the truth which God has enabled me to know, and especially the truth of the Holy Scriptures, even to death; since I know that the truth stands, and is forever mighty, and abides eternally; and with her there is no respect of persons. . . . the truth itself triumphs over everything and is mighty forever; who, but a fool, would venture to condemn or to affirm any article, especially in what pertains to faith and manners, until he has informed himself about the truth of it?
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by clear reason, I cannot and will not recant anything, for it is neither safe nor honest to act against one’s conscience.
Let Christians all understand that conscience is between themselves and God alone. They are not at liberty to impose even their freedom of conscience upon another; but by the laws of the kingdom of Christ, they are obliged even to refrain at times from exercising their own freedom, out of consideration for others.