To compel men to unite with those of a different
creed, he regarded as an open violation of their natural rights; to drag to public worship the irreligiots and the unwilling, seemed only like requiring hypocrisy.
‘An unbelieving soul is dead in sin’—such was his argument;–and to force the indifferent from one worship to another, ‘was like shifting a dead man into several changes of apparell.’
‘No one should be bound to worship, or,’ he added, ‘to maintain a worship, against his own consent.’
exclaimed his antagonists, amazed at his tenets; ‘is not the laborer worthy of his hire?’
‘Yes,’ replied he from them that hire him.”
The magistrates were selected exclusively from the members of the church; with equal propriety, reasoned Williams
, might ‘a doctor of physick or a pilot’ be selected according to his skill in theology and his standing in the church.
It was objected to him, that his principles subverted all good government.
The commander of the vessel of state, replied Williams
, may maintain order on board the ship, and see that it pursues its course steadily, even though the dissenters of the crew are not compelled to attend the public prayers of their companions.
But the controversy finally turned on the question of the rights and duty of magistrates to guard the minds of the people against corruption, and to punish what would seem to them error and heresy.
protested are but the agents of the people, or its trustees, on whom no spiritual power in matters of worship can ever be conferred; since conscience belongs to the individual, and is not the property of the body politic; and with admirable dialectics