John Locke: Mutual Toleration and True Religion

Daily Dabble in the Classics, John Locke

Since you are pleased to inquire what are my Thoughts about the mutual Toleration of Christians in their different Professions of Religion, I must needs answer you freely, That I esteem that Toleration to be the chief Characteristical Mark of the True Church. For whatsoever some People boast of the Antiquity of Places and Names, or of the Pomp of their Outward Worship; Others, of the Reformation of their Discipline; All, of the Orthodoxy of their Faith; (for every one is Orthodox to himself): these things, and all others of this nature, are much rather Marks of Men striving for Power and Empire over one another, than of the Church of Christ. Let any one have never so true a Claim to all these things, yet if he be destitute of Charity, Meekness, and Good-will in general towards all Mankind; even to those that are not Christians, he is certainly yet short of being a true Christian himself. The Kings of the Gentiles exercise Lordship over them, said our Saviour to his Disciples, but ye shall not be so (Luke 22:25). The Business of True Religion is quite another thing. It is not instituted in order to the erecting of an external Pomp, nor to the obtaining of Ecclesiastical Dominion, nor to the exercising of Compulsive Force; but to the regulating of Men’s Lives according to the Rules of Virtue and Piety. Whosoever will list himself under the Banner of Christ, must in the first place, and above all things, make War upon his own Lusts and Vices. It is in vain for any Man to usurp the Name of Christian, without Holiness of Life, Purity of Manners, and Benignity and Meekness of Spirit.


Source: John Locke. A Letter Concerning Toleration, opening paragraph, October 3, 1689. Daily Dabble in the Classics is compiled, and edited (with occasional commentary) by The Moral Liberal, Editor In Chief, Steve Farrell.


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