What is Christian Liberty?George Gillespie (1613-1648)
Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.
“It is the privilege of the new Jerusalem which is above, that there is no temple therein, Rev. 21.22, no ministry, no preaching, no sacraments in heaven, but God shall be all in all. An immediate enjoyment of God in this world without ordinances is but a delusion. In the church triumphant prophecies shall fail, 1 Cor. 13.8; but in the church militant, “despise not prophesyings,” 1 Thess. 5.20.
TO THE CHRISTIAN & COURTEOUS READER.
It cannot be unknown to any, except such as are ignorant of Satan’s devices, and altogether strangers to the histories of former times, that when the Church comes out of idolatry, and out of bitter servitude and grievous pressures of conscience, all her storms are not over her head, but she begins to be assaulted and afflicted more than before with heresies, schisms, and home-bred disturbances. Which through the manifold wisdom and over-ruling dispensation of God, who works all things according to the counsel of his will, is England’s lot this day, that this may be to those in whom the Lord has no pleasure, “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, that they may go and fall backward, and be broken; and snared, and taken:” that others, “who are approved, may be made manifest;” yea, that “many may be purified, and tried, and made white;” and that in the issue God may have the greater glory in making a sovereign remedy out of poisonous ingredients, and his people may say, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel who only doth wondrous things.”
But now will the sectaries be contented (as Christ’s witness in former times were) to be examined and judged according to the word of God, and if they are found to be what they are accused to be, then suffer accordingly? Nay, if so, they fear they shall run too great a hazard. Therefore they cry out for toleration and liberty of conscience, hereby going about not only themselves to fish in troubled waters, but to improve at once the manifold advantages of sympathizing with the principles of the most part of men amongst us; for as it is a common plea and bond of union among all heretics and sectaries, how many soever their divisions and sub-divisions are among themselves; yea, they give (in this) the right hand of fellowship to the Prelatical and malignant party, for they also put in for liberty of conscience: and as carnal and profane men desire nothing more than that they may not be compelled to any religious duty, but permitted to do what seems good in their own eyes.
So liberty of conscience is a sweet and taking word among the less discerning sort of godly people, newly come out of the house of bondage, out of the Popish and Prelatical tyranny; I say the less discerning sort, because those of the godly who have their senses exercised to discern good and evil, know that liberty of heresy and schism is no part of the liberty of conscience which Christ has purchased to us at so dear a rate.
But is there no golden book and taking bait for the Magistrate? Yes surely; for his part he is told that he may punish any breach of peace or civil justice, or a trespass against the State and against civil authority, but yet not put forth his power against any man for heresy or schism, being matters of religion and of conscience. As if both politicians and divines had been in a great error when they said that the end and use of Magistracy is to make bonum hominem, as well as bonum civem, a good man as well as a good commonwealth’s man. Shall I add further, that all who wish well to the public from principles either of religion or policy, want not here their own temptations, persuading to a toleration of sectaries, in regard of the necessity of an union against the common adversary, and the great hazard, if not certain ruin, of the cause, by our own ruptures? Under these fair colors and handsome pretexts do sectaries infuse their poison, I mean their pernicious, God provoking, truth defacing, Church ruinating, and State shaking toleration.
The plain English of the question is this: whether the Christian Magistrate is keeper of both tables: whether he ought to suppress his own enemies, but not God’s enemies, and preserve his own ordinances, but not Christ’s ordinances from violation. Whether the troublers of Israel may be troubled. Whether the wild boars and beasts of the forest must have leave to break down the hedges of the Lord’s vineyard; and whether ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing must be permitted to converse freely in the flock of Christ. Whether after the black devil of idolatry and tyranny is trod under our feet, a white devil of heresy and schism, under the name of tender consciences, must be admitted to walk up and down among us. Whether not only pious and peaceable men (whom I shall never consent to persecute), but those also who are as a pestilence or a gangrene in the body of Christ, men of corrupt minds and turbulent spirits, who draw factions after them, make a breach and rent in Israel, resist the truth and reformation of religion, spread abroad all the ways they can their pernicious errors, and by no other means can be reduced; whether those also ought to be spared and let alone.
I have endeavoured in this following discourse to vindicate the lawful, yea necessary use of the coercive power of the Christian Magistrate in suppressing and punishing heretics and sectaries, according as the degree of their offense and of the Church’s danger shall require:
Which when I had done, there came to my hands a book called The Storming of Antichrist. Indeed, “The Recruiting of Antichrist, and the Storming of Zion” (if so be that I may anabaptize an Anabaptist’s book). Take one passage for instance (p. 25): “And for Papists,” he says, “though they are least to be borne of all others, because of the uncertainty of their keeping faith with heretics, as they call us, and because they may be absolved of securements that can arise from the just solemn oaths, and because of their cruelty against the Protestants in diverse countries where they get the upper hand, and because they are professed idolaters, yet may they be born with (as I suppose with submission to better judgments) in Protestant government, in point of religion, because we have not command to root out any for conscience,” etc. Why then, is this to storm Antichrist? Or is it not rather a storming “of this party,” in the prevailing whereof “God will have far more glory than in the Popish and Prelatical party,” as [he] himself speaks (p. 34). And if he will storm, surely some of his ladders are too short. “If any one rail against Christ,” he says (p. 23), “or deny the Scriptures to be his word, or affirm the Epistles to be only letters written to particular churches, and no rule for us, and so unsettle our faith, this I take may be punished by the Magistrate, because all or most nations in the world do it.”
That all the nations in the world do punish for these things, I am yet to learn: and those that do, do they not also punish men for other ways of unsettling the grounds of faith besides these? The declining of some of the Epistles as being letters written upon particular occasions, and no rule for us, is an error which has been pretensed to be no less conscientious than those errors which now he will have indulged. Lastly, if he would needs storm, why would he not make some new breach? I find no material arguments in him for liberty of conscience, but what I found before in The Bloody Tenet, The Compassionate Samaritan, so that my ensuing answers to them shall serve his turn.
And now reader, “Buy the truth, and sell it not.” Search for knowledge “as for hid treasures.” If you read with an unprejudiced mind, I dare promise you through God’s blessing a satisfied mind.
CONCERNING LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE
I. Concerning this question there are three opinions: two extremes, and one in the middle. So it is resolved not only by Dr. Voetius, in his late disputations, De Libertate Conscientia, but long before by Calvin, in his refutation of the errors of Servetus, where he disputes this very question, whether Christian judges may lawfully punish heretics. The first opinion is that of the Papists, who hold it to be not only no sin, but good service to God, to extirpate by fire and sword, all that are adversaries to, or opposers of the Church and the Catholic religion. Upon this ground, Gregory de Valentia tells us there were 180 of the Albigenses burnt under Pope Innocentius the third, and in the Council of Constance were burnt John Hus and Hieronse of Prague
[Francis] Suarez (De Triplice Virtute Theologia, Tract. 1, disp. 23, sect. 2), lays down these assertions:
1. That all heretics, who after sufficient instruction and admonition, still persist in their error, are to be without mercy put to death.
2. That all impenitent heretics, though they profess to be Catholics, being convicted of heresy, are to be put to death.
3. That relapsing heretics, though penitent, are to be put to death without mercy.
4. That it is most probable, that heresiarchs, dogmatists, or the authors of heresy, though truly penitent, yet are not to be received to favor, but delivered to the civil sword.
5. That a heretic who has not relapsed, if before sentence passed against him, he converts of his own accord, he is not to be punished with death, but with some smaller punishment, such as perpetual imprisonment, or the like. He says that schismatics may be punished with almost all the punishments of heretics (Ibid, Tract. 3, disp. 12, sect. 12). Azor (Institutiones. Morales, Tom. 1, lib. 8, cap. 14), But in whichever circumstances, in the case of these people or that of others, when they are stubborn they are burned alive; but if they are not stubborn, it is the custom for them first to be strangled and then burned. (See the like, Becan., Summa, part 3, Tract 1, quest. 6 and 9. Turrian, in 2am 2ae disp. 56, dub. 1). Some of them also maintain the compelling of infidels to be baptized, as Scetus (in lib. 4, Sent. disp. 4, quest. 9), and they who follow him.
The second opinion falls short, as far as the former exceeds: that is, that the Magistrate ought not to inflict any punishment, nor put forth any coercive power upon heretics or sectaries, but on the contrary grant them liberty and toleration. This was the opinion of the Donatists, against which Augustine has written both much and well, in diverse places: though himself was once in the same error, till he did take the matter into his second better thoughts, as is evident by his Retractions (lib. 2, cap. 2, and epist. 48). In the same error are the Socinians and Arminians (See Peltii Harmonia, Artic. 21; Nic. Bodecher, Sociniano. Remon-strantismus, cap. 25. See also Grotii Apologeticus, cap. 6, p. 130; Theoph. Nicolaid, Tractat. de Ecclesia, cap. 4, p. 33). The very same is maintained in some books printed amongst ourselves in this year of confusion: viz. The Bloody Tenet; Liberty of Conscience; The Compassionate Samaritan; John the Baptist; and by Mr. Goodwin in his Theomaxia, and his Innocencies Triumph. In which places he denies that the Magistrate, and particularly that the two Houses of Parliament, may impose anything pertaining to the service and worship of God under mulcts [fines] or penalties. So M.S. to A.S. (pp. 53-55, etc.), disputes against the coercive power of the Magistrate to suppress heresies and sects. This power the Presbyterians do ascribe to the Magistrate, as I shall show by and by.
Therefore I still aver, that Mr. Goodwin in denying and opposing this power, herein (as in diverse other particulars) ascribes much less to the Magistrate than the Presbyterians do: which overthrows that insinuation of the five Apologists.
The third opinion is that the Magistrate may and ought to exercise his coercive power, in suppressing and punishing heretics and sectaries, less or more, according as the nature and degree of the error, schism, obstinacy, and danger of seducing others, requires. This as it was the judgment of the orthodox ancients (vide Optati opera, edit. Al. Baspin, p. 204, 215), so it is followed by our soundest Protestant writers; most largely by Beza against Bellius and Monfortius, in a peculiar treatise, De Hareticis á Magistratu Puniendis. And though Gerhard, Brochmand, and other Lutheran writers, make a controversy where they need not, alleging that the Calvinists (so nicknamed) hold as the Papists do, that all heretics without distinction are to be put to death: the truth is, they themselves say as much as either Calvin or Beza, or any other whom they take for adversaries in this question, that is, that heretics are to be punished by mulcts [fines], imprisonments, banishments, and if they be gross idolaters or blasphemers, and seducers of others, then to be put to death.
What is it else that Calvin teaches, when he distinguishes three kinds of errors: some to be tolerated with a spirit of meekness, and such as ought not to separate brethren; others not to be tolerated, but to be suppressed with a certain degree of severity; a third sort so abominable and pestiferous, that they are to be cut off by the highest punishment? And lest it be thought that this is but the opinion of some few, that the magistrate ought thus by a strong hand, and by civil punishments suppress heretics and sectaries: let it be observed what is held forth and professed concerning this business, by the Reformed Churches in their public confessions of faith. In the latter Confession of Helvetia (cap. 30), it is said that the magistrate ought to “root out lies and all superstition, with all impiety and idolatry.” And after, “Let him suppress stubborn heretics.” In the French Confession (art. 39), “Therefore he hath also delivered the sword into the hands of Magistrates, to wit, that offenses may be repressed, not only those which are committed against the second table, but also against the first.” In the Belgic Confession (art. 36), “Therefore hath he armed the Magistrate with the sword for punishing them that do evil, and for defending such as do well. Moreover it is their duty not only to be careful and watchful for the preservation of the civil government, but also to defend the holy ministry, and to abolish and overthrow all idolatry, and counterfeit worship of God.” Beza (De Hareticis), tells us in the beginning, that the ministers of Helvetia had declared themselves to be of the same judgment, in a book published of that argument. And toward the end he cites the Saxon Confession, Luther, Melancthon, Brentius, Bucerus, Wolfgangus Capito, and Bullinger.
The Synod of Dordt (ses. 138), in their sentence against the Remonstrants does not only interdict them of all their ecclesiastical and academical functions, but [does] also beseech the States General by their secular power to suppress and restrain them.
II. The Arguments whereby this third or middle opinion is confirmed (that we may not build upon human authority) are these.
1. First, the law (Deut. 13:6-9), concerning the stoning and killing of him, who shall secretly entice people, saying, “Let us go after other gods.” If it is said, that this law did bind the Jews only, and is not moral or perpetual, I answer, Jacobus Acontius, though he is of another opinion concerning this question than I am, yet he candidly and freely confesses that he sees nothing in that law which does not belong to the New Testament, as well as the Old; for, he says, the reason and ground of the law, the use and end of it, is moral and perpetual (v. 11): All Israel shall hear and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness, as this is among you. But yet, says Acontius, this law does not concern heretics, who believe and teach errors concerning the true God or his worship; but only apostates who fall away to other gods. In this I shall not much contend with him; only thus far, if apostates are to be stoned and killed according to that law, then surely seducing heretics are also to receive their measure and proportion of punishment. The moral equity of the law requires this much at least, that if we compare heresy and apostasy together, look how much less the evil of sin is in heresy, so much and no more is to be remitted of the evil of punishment, especially the danger of contagion and seduction, being as much or rather more in heresy than in apostasy; yea, that which is called heresy being oftentimes a real following after other gods.
But the Law (Deut. 13), for punishing with death, as well whole cities as particular persons, for falling away to other gods, is not the only law for punishing even capitally gross sins against the first table. See Ex. 22:20, He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed. Ex. 31:14, Every one that defileth the sabbath, shall be put to death. Lev. 24:16, And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death. Deut. 17:2-5, If there be found among you within any of thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant, and hath gone and served other gods and worshipped them . . . . Thou shalt bring forth that man or that woman unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shall stone them with stones till they die.
It will be asked, “But how does it appear that these or any other judicial laws of Moses do at all appertain to us, as rules to guide us in like cases?” I shall wish him who scruples this, to read Piscator’s appendix to his observations upon the 21-23 chapters of Exodus, where he excellently disputes this question, whether the Christian Magistrate is bound to observe the judicial laws of Moses, as well as the Jewish Magistrate was. He answers by the common distinction, he is obliged to those things in the judicial law which are unchangeable, and common to all nations: but not to those things which are mutable, or proper to the Jewish Republic. But then he explains this distinction, that by things mutable, and proper to the Jews, he understands the emancipation of an Hebrew servant or handmaid in the seventh year, a man’s marrying his brother’s wife and raising up seed to his brother, the forgiving of debts at the Jubilee, marrying with one of the same tribe, and if there be any other like to these; also ceremonial trespasses, as touching a dead body, etc.
But things immutable, and common to all nations, are the laws concerning moral trespass, sins against the moral law, as murder, adultery, theft, enticing away from God, blasphemy, striking of parents. Now that the Christian Magistrate is bound to observe these judicial laws of Moses, which appoint the punishments of sins against the moral law, he proves by these reasons.
(1.) If it were not so, then it is free and arbitrary to the Magistrate to appoint what punishments he pleases. But this is not arbitrary to him, for he is the minister of God, (Rom. 13:4) and the judgment is the Lord’s (Deut. 1:7; 2 Chron. 19:6). And if the Magistrate is keeper of both tables, he must keep them in such manner as God has delivered them to him.
(2.) Christ’s words (Matt. 5:17), Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill, are comprehensive of the judicial law, it being a part of the law of Moses. Now he could not fulfill the judicial law, except either by his practice, or by teaching others still to observe it; not by his own practice, for he would not condemn the adulteress (Jn. 8:11), nor divide the inheritance (Luke 12:13-14). Therefore it must be by his doctrine for our observing it.
(3.) If Christ in his sermon (Matt. 5), would teach that the moral law belongs to us Christians, in so much as he vindicates it from the false glosses of the scribes and Pharisees; then he meant to hold forth the judicial law concerning moral trespasses as belonging unto us also; for he vindicates and interprets the judicial law, as well as the moral (Matt. 5:38), An eye for an eye, etc.
(4.) If God would have the moral law transmitted from the Jewish people to the Christian people; then he would also have the judicial laws transmitted from the Jewish Magistrate to the Christian Magistrate: there being the same reason of immutability in the punishments, which is in the offenses. Idolatry and adultery displease God now as much as then; and theft displeases God now no more than before.
(5.) Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning (Rom. 15:4), and what shall the Christian Magistrate learn more from those judicial laws, but the will of God to be his rule in like cases? The ceremonial law was written for our learning, that we might know the fulfilling of all those types, but the judicial law was not typical.
(6.) Do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31; Matt. 5:16). How shall Christian Magistrates glorify God more than by observing God’s own laws, as most just, and such as they cannot make better?
(7.) Whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23).
Now when the Christian Magistrate punishes sins against the moral law, if he does this in faith and in assurance of pleasing God, he must have his assurance from the Word of God, for faith can build upon no other foundation; it is the Word which must assure the conscience: God has commanded such a thing, therefore it is my duty to do it; God has not forbidden such a thing; therefore I am free to do it. But the will of God concerning civil justice and punishments is no where so fully and clearly revealed as in the judicial law of Moses. This therefore must be the surest prop and stay to the conscience of the Christian Magistrate. These are not my reasons (if it be not a word or two added by way of explaining and strengthening), but the substance of Piscator’s reasons. Unto which I add,
1. Though we have clear and full scriptures in the New Testament for abolishing the ceremonial law, yet we no where read in all the New Testament of the abolishing of the judicial law, so far as it did concern the punishing of sins against the moral law, of which heresy and seducing of souls is one, and a great one. Once God did reveal his will for punishing those sins by such and such punishments. He who will hold that the Christian Magistrate is not bound to inflict such punishments for such sins, is bound to prove that those former laws of God are abolished, and to show some Scripture for it.
2. That judicial law for having two or three witnesses in judgment (Deut. 19:15, Heb. 10:28), is transferred even with an obligation to us Christians, and it concerns all judgment, as well ecclesiastical as civil (Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1), and some other particulars might be instanced, in which are pressed and enforced from the judicial law, by some who yet mind not the obligation of it.
To conclude therefore this point, though other judicial or forensical laws concerning the punishments of sins against the moral law may, yea, must be allowed of in Christian Republics and Kingdoms; provided always, they are not contrary or contradictory to God’s own judicial laws; yet I fear not to hold with Junius, De Politiæ Mosis, that he who was punishable by death under the judicial law, is punishable by death still; and he who was not punished by death then, is not to be punished by death now. And so much for the first argument from the Law of God.
2. A second argument we have from diverse laudable examples in the Old Testament: Moses drew the sword against idolaters (Ex. 32:27); the children of Israel resolved to go out to war against the Reubenites and Gadites, when they understood that they were building another altar (Josh. 22:12). Elijah commanded to slay the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:40). In Asa’s time there was a covenant for putting to death such as would not seek the Lord God of their fathers (2 Chron. 15:13). Jehu slew the priests of Ahab, and the worshippers of Baal (2 Kings 10:11, 24), first searching and making sure that there were none of the servants of the Lord among them (v. 23). Josiah sacrificed the priests of Samaria upon their own altars (2 Kings 23:20). Nebuchadnezzar, although an heathen, being convinced that there was no god like the God of Israel, made a decree that whosoever speaketh blasphemy, or uttereth any error against God, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses made a dunghill (Dan. 3:29). As for those whose errors and corruptions in religion were not so great, there was some (though not the highest) severity used against them. Moses was so angry with the people that were seduced into idolatry, that he burnt the calf which they had worshipped, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel to drink of it (Ex. 32:20); thereby teaching them (as Hierome and others give the reason) to abhor that idolatry, while their idol did pass from them among their own excrements. Asa did remove his mother, Maachah from being Queen, because of an idol which she had made in a grove (1 Kings 15:13). Josiah caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to the covenant (2 Chron. 34:32), which could not be without either threatening or inflicting punishment upon the transgressors; there being many at that time disaffected to the Reformation. O but says M.S. to A.S. (p. 51-52), idolatry and idolaters were the adequate object of that coercive power in matters of religion, whereof we read in the Old Testament.
Nor do we read that ever the Jewish Kings or Magistrates attempted anything against sectaries or schismatics.
I answer, 1. The object of that coercive power of Josiah (2 Chron. 34:32), was generally the matter of the covenant, that is the taking away not only of idolatry, but of all abominations, and a walking after the Lord, and keeping of his testimonies, and statutes, and commandments (vs. 31, 33). Nehemiah did drive away the son of Eliashib the high priest, not for idolatry, but for marrying the daughter of Sanballat, and thereby defiling the covenant of the priesthood (Neh. 13:28-29). Ezra made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel to enter into a covenant and to swear, that they would put away strange wives, and that it should be done according to the Law (Ezra 10:3, 5); and whosoever would not come to Jerusalem for this thing, was not only himself excommunicated from the Church, but all his goods forfeited (v. 8). Artaxerxes decreed punishment for all who should oppose the Law of God, and the building of the Temple: wherein he is so far approved, as that Ezra blessed God for it (Ezra 7:26-27). Whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the King, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or unto banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or imprisonment, etc., which does not concern idolatry only, but generally the laws of God (v. 25). Set Magistrates and Judges which may judge all the people, all such as know the laws of God. He who wrote Liberty of Conscience (pp. 27-28), is so far confounded with this laudable decree of Artaxerxes, that he can say no more to it, but that it was the commandment of God, not an invention of men which Artaxerxes did thus impose, which is as much as we desire.
But, 2., sects and schisms are to be punished as well, though not as much as heresy and idolatry. There are degrees of faults, and accordingly degrees of punishments. Augustine wrote an epistle to Bonifacius (Tom. 2, Ep. 50) upon this occasion, to show that the Donatists had nothing to do with the Arians, and so were not to be punished with such rigor and severity; yet he advises that moderate mulcts [fines] and punishment may be laid upon them, and that their bishops or ministers may be banished. In his 127th epistle, he intercedes most earnestly with the proconsul of Africa, that he might not put to death the Donatists, but repress them some other ways.
We have also a Scripture example for punishing sectaries who are not heretics. It is agreed among interpreters, there were in Judah two sorts of high places, some on which God was worshipped, others on which idols were worshipped; and it is most manifest from 2 Chron. 33:17, and from the reconciling of 2 Chron. 15:17 with 14:3, 5, the one sort was the high place of idolatry, the other, the high places of will-worship; yet the priests of the latter, as well as the former, were punished by Josiah, as Tostatus proves from 2 Kings 23. And the text itself is clear, for he put to death the priests of Samaria, who had sacrificed in the high places of idolatry (v. 20), but as for those who sacrificed in the high places of will-worship, because they sacrificed to the Lord only (as the word is [in] 2 Chron. 33:17), therefore Josiah did not put them to death, only he caused them to go out of all the cities of Judah, and to cease from the priest’s office, so that they durst not come up to the altar of the Lord at Jerusalem, only they were permitted to eat of the unleavened bread amongst their brethren (v. 8-9), which is parallel to that law [in] Ezek. 44:10-14, a prophecy concerning the Christian Temple, and the times of the New Testament, which reaches a blow to another silly and short-sighted evasion, used both in the Bloody Tenet, and M.S. to A.S. that all this coercive power exercised in the Old Testament was typical, and therefore not imitable now in the New Testament.
Whereunto I further reply, 1. The reason of all that coercive severity was moral and perpetual, as was shown from Deut. 13:11.
2. Next, why did they not prove that it was typical? Shall we take their fancy for a certainty? They have neither Scripture nor interpreters for it.
3. They confound the judicial laws of Moses with the ceremonial, making judicatories and justice typical no less than the ceremonies.
4. They do utterly overthrow the investiture of Christian Princes and Magistrates with any power at all in matters of religion, from the Old Testament.
So that one may not argue thus: The godly Kings of Judah did remove the monuments of idolatry and superstition, therefore so should the Christian Magistrate do. The most arrant [thorough] malignant may answer in the words of Mr. Williams (ch. 109), that the civil power or State of Israel, so far as it attended upon the spiritual, was merely figurative. Or in the words of M.S. (p. 51), “There are two reasons very considerable why the Kings of Judah might be invested by God with a larger power in matters of religion, than Kings or Magistrates under the gospel have any ground or warrant to claim from them. First, they were types of Christ” (but by the way, how does he prove that Asa, Jehu, and Josiah were types of Christ?), “which no King under heaven at this day is.
Secondly, not the people only, but the very land over which they ruled were typical.”
5. The punishment of persons was a part of their reformation, as well as the destruction of monuments, and why must we follow their example in the one, more than the other? If we smart under both their diseases, we must apply both their remedies, or neither.
The third argument is drawn from the New Testament. The Magistrate beareth not the sword in vain, for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath on him that doth evil (Rom. 13:4). But I assume, heretics and sectaries do evil, yea, much evil, especially when they draw many others after them in their pernicious ways. It was the observation of one of the greatest politicians of this kingdom, “That heresies and schisms are of all others the greatest scandals: yea, more than corruption of manners” (Bacon’s Essays on Councils Civil and Moral (London 1597; augment. edit. 1612; 1624), pp. 11-12). One of his reasons is, because “every sect of them has a diverse posture or cringe by themselves, which cannot but move derision in worldlings, and depraved politics, who are apt to contemn holy things.”
I know it will be answered, “If any sectary makes a breach of peace, or disturbs the State, then indeed the Magistrate ought to redress it by a coercive power.” So John the Baptist (p. 57). So Mr. Williams (ch. 52) answers Rom. 13:4 is not meant of evil against the Christian estate, but of evil against the civil state. M.S. (pp. 53-54), tells us that he is not for the toleration of sects and schisms, except “only upon this supposition, that the professors and maintainers of them be otherwise peaceable in the State, and every way subject to the laws and lawful power of the civil Magistrate.”
I answer, the experience of former times may make us so wise as to foresee that heresy and schism tend to the breach of civil peace, and to a rupture in the State as well as in the Church. What commotions did the Arians make in all the Eastern parts? the Macedonians in Greece? the Donatists in Africa? How did the Anabaptists raise and foment the bloody war of the Boores in Germany, wherein were killed above 10,000 men? Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum [Religion has had the power to urge men to such great evil]. How fanatical was Julian’s design to bring Christians to nought, by granting liberty of conscience to all the heretics and sectaries that were among them?
But suppose the Commonwealth to run no hazard by the toleration of heresies and schisms, I answer further,
1. The text (Rom. 13:4) speaks generally, and we must not distinguish where the Scripture does not distinguish.
2. Those that are in authority are to take such courses and so to rule, that we may not only lead a quiet and peaceable life, but further that it be in all godliness and honesty (1 Tim. 2:2). The magistrate is keeper of both tables, and is to punish the violation of the first table, as well as of the second.
3. “Will any man,” says Augustine, “who is in his right wit, say to Kings, `Do not care by whom the Church of God in your Kingdom is maintained or opposed; it does not concern your Kingdom, who will be religious, who sacrilegious:’ to whom, notwithstanding, it cannot be said, `It does not concern you in your Kingdom, who is chaste, who whorish,’ etc. Is the soul’s keeping faith and truth to God a lighter matter, than that of a woman to a man?” He confesses in the same epistle, that he and some other African divines were sometime of that opinion, that the Emperor should not at all punish the Donatists for their heresy or error, but such of them only as should be found to commit any riot or breach of peace, especially the furious and violent Circumcellions. But afterward he confesses that the Emperor had as good reason to repress their pernicious error, as their furious violence.
4. A fourth argument is drawn from the names which the Scripture gives to heretics and sectaries, holding forth the extreme danger of tolerating and letting them alone. They are called ravening wolves (Matt. 7:15) and grievous wolves not sparing the flock (Acts 20:29), thieves and robbers (John 10:8). Their word eateth as a canker (2 Tim. 2:17), and is as a little leaven leavening the whole lump (Gal. 5:9). They are troublers of Israel (Acts 15:24, Gal. 5:12). Shall the troublers of the State be punished, and the troublers of Israel go free? Shall physicians cut off the member that hath a gangrene in it, because it endangers the whole body, and shall the great State physicians suffer the gangrene to spread in the Church? Shall men’s bodies, goods, and purses, be so far cared for, that thieves and robbers must not be suffered, but justice done upon them; and shall those have immunity who steal away souls from Christ, and rob us of the pearl of truth? Nay shall the poor sheep be so much looked to, that the wolf must not be spared; and shall we suffer the soul-destroying wolves to enter, yea abide peaceably among the dear-bought flock of Jesus Christ?
III. Other arguments might be added, but let these suffice at this present. I come next to answer the material objections which I have either read or heard (to my best remembrance) alleged against this coercive power of the Magistrate in matters of religion.
1. OBJECTION ONE. First, the parable of the tares is objected:Christ will not have the tares to be plucked up, but to grow together with the wheat until the harvest (Matt. 13:29-30). In this argument Mr. Williams in his Bloody Tenet puts a great deal of confidence. But I am as confident to discover the strength of it to be less than nothing. For first he takes the tares to be meant neither of hypocrites in the Church, whether discovered or undiscovered; nor yet of those who are scandalous offenders in their life and conversation, but only of Antichristian idolaters and false worshippers, which is a most false interpretation. Christ himself expounds it generally (v. 38). The good seed are the children of the kingdom: but the tares are the children of the wicked one. And (v. 41), the tares are expounded to be all that offend, and which do iniquity. This being the clear meaning, it will follow undeniably, that if the Magistrate must spare those who are meant by the tares in the parable, then he must spare and let alone all scandalous offenders, murderers, adulterers, drunkards, thieves, etc., when any such are discovered in the visible Church.
But this cannot be the meaning of the tares in the parable, says Mr. Williams (ch. 24), that wicked livers, opposite the children of God, should be understood. For then, he says, when Christ says, “Let the tares alone,” he should contradict other ordinances for the punishment of evil doers by the Magistrate. But this is a base begging of the question; for he well knew that those against whom he disputes hold that his exposition of the parable contradicts the ordinance of God for punishing idolaters and heretics, the question being whether or not this is not an ordinance as well as the punishment of scandalous livers. Besides, if the tares are Antichristian idolaters, and they must not be plucked up, but suffered to grow till the harvest, as he expounds, this contradicts other Scriptures, which say that the sword must be drawn against Antichristian idolaters, and they thereby cut off (Rev. 13:10 and 17:16).
But I proceed to a second answer. If by tares I should suppose only to be meant idolaters, heretics, and false worshippers (which is a gloss contrary to the text, as I have demonstrated), yet their argument will not conclude their forbearing or sparing of such, except only in such cases, and so far as the true worshippers of God cannot be certainly and infallibly diagnosed from the false worshippers, as the wheat from the tares: as Jehu would not destroy the worshippers of Baal, till he was sure that none of the servants of the Lord were among them (2 Kings 10:23). The reason why the tares are not to be plucked up, is, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them (v. 29). Now when a man is sure that he plucks up nothing but tares, or rather thorns, without the least danger to the wheat, how does the parable strike against his so doing? If M.S. will not believe me, let him believe himself (p. 50), “For my part,” he says, “when the civil Magistrate shall be far enough out of this danger of fighting against God, I have nothing to say against his fighting with superstition, heresy, schism,” etc.
Thirdly, what if I shape yet another answer to the argument out of Mr. Williams’ own words? [In] chap. 27, “I acknowledge,” he says, “this command (Let them alone) was expressly spoken to the messengers or ministers of the gospel, who have not civil power or authority in their hand, and therefore not to the civil Magistrate, King, or Governor.” Now therefore what a blockish argument it is, to reason from this parable against the coercive power of the magistrate in matters of religion? If there must be a forbearance of any severity, we must forbear Church censures and excommunications, a way of rooting out the tares, which Mr. Williams himself justifies as much as we do.
Fourthly, and if the utter extirpation and plucking up of heretics by capital punishments, should be understood to be forbidden in the parable (as it is not), yet the stopping of their mouths, the dissipating and suppressing of them, some other coercive way, is not forbidden, as Chrysostom notes upon the place, whom Euthymius and Theophylactus do follow in this, allowing of coercive, though not capital punishments.
Fifthly, Calvin, Beza, and our best interpreters, take the scope and intent of that parable, not to be against the immoderate severity of Magistrates, but against the immoderate zeal of those who imagine to have the Church rid of all scandalous and wicked persons, as wheat without tares, corn without chaff, a flock of sheep without goats, which has been the fancy of Novatians, Donatists, and Anabaptists. The parable therefore intimates unto us (as Bucerus upon the place expounds it) that when the Magistrate has done all his duty in exercising his coercive power, yet to the world’s end there will be in the Church a mixture of good and bad. So that it is the universal and perfect purging of the Church, which is put off to the last judgment, not the punishment of particular persons. Neither do the servants in the parables ask whether they should pluck up this or that visible tare, but whether they should go and make the whole field rid of them; which field is the general visible Church sowed with the seed of the gospel; and so much for that argument.
2. OBJECTION TWO. Another negative argument is this. Such a coercive power in the matters of religion, makes men hypocrites and seven times more the children of hell. Christ’s ordinances put upon a whole city or nation, may more civilize and moralize, but never Christianize them, says Mr. Williams (ch. 82).
1. I answer, this argument does utterly condemn Josiah’s reformation as sinful, for he caused all Judah to stand to the covenant, as we heard before from 2 Chron. 34:32; yet Judah thereby became more hypocritical. Treacherous Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord, speaking of those very days of Josiah (Jer. 3:6, 10). 2. This argument makes also against the punishment of adulteries, murderers, thefts, robberies, etc., for unless filthy lust, hatred, and covetousness in the heart are mortified, and men convert freely and sincerely, the reducing of them to a moral conversation makes them but hypocrites, and nearer hell than before. 3. There are two sorts of Christ’s ordinances: some for the communion of the saints; others, for the conversion of sinners. It is far from our thoughts to admit, much less to compel, a whole city, or nation promiscuously, to the use of the former. But yet converting or reducing ordinances may and ought to put upon all whom they concern. The means must be used and men’s hearts left to God.
3. OBJECTION THREE. This doctrine of the Magistrate’s coercive power makes many to stumble at the Presbyterian Reformation, as a bloody reformation, as a building of Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity (Mic. 3:10). ANSWER. (1.) We have not so learned Christ; we abominate the Popish and Prelatical tyranny. We know that the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient: in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth (2 Tim. 2:24-25); yet he who said so, could also say, I would they were even cut off which trouble you (Gal. 5:12).
It is my soul’s desire that the secular coercive power may be put forth upon those only who can by no other means be reclaimed, and who can be no longer spared without a visible rupture in the Church, and the manifest danger of seducing and misleading many souls. A Presbytery is not so ill a neighbor, that no man who has the least differing opinion may live beside it.
But (2.), this objection does as much strike against the New England government, as against the government of the neighbouring Reformed churches. For in New England there has been severity enough (to say no worse) used against heretics and schismatics. And here I must appeal the consciences of those who now plead so much for liberty of conscience and toleration in this kingdom, were they able to root out the Presbyterians and their way, and could find civil authority inclined to put forth the coercive power against it, whether in that case would they not say, that the Magistrate may repress it by [a] strong hand, if it cannot otherwise be repressed. It is not without cause that I put this query to them; for M.S. (p. 50, a passage before cited), allows of the Magistrate’s fighting against a doctrine or way which is indeed superstition, heresy, or schism, and only pretends to be from God, when it is indeed from men. Also that pamphlet called As You Were, tells us that it was neither Gamaliel’s meaning, nor Mr. Goodwin’s meaning, that every way pretending to be from God must be let alone, but that only we are to refrain and let alone, till we are certain that we are out of danger of fighting against God, while we endeavour to overthrow it.
Now I assume, there are some who plead for liberty of conscience, who profess that they are certain and fully assured, upon demonstrative proofs, that the Presbyterial way is not from God, nor according to the mind of Jesus Christ (which is hinted to us both in the pamphlet last cited, pp. 5-6, etc., and in Theomaxia , p. 25). Therefore according to their principles they must allow of the putting forth of the civil coercive power against the Presbyterial way. And if so, what a grand imposture is this? what a deceiving of the world? what a mocking of the Parliament and of the kingdom? to plead generally for liberty of conscience, when they intend only liberty to themselves, not to others that are opposite them.
Which appears yet further by the Compassionate Samaritan (p. 10); he says that no man is to be punished or discountenanced by authority for his opinion, “unless it be dangerous to the State” (pp. 23-24); he discourses against the opinion of Presbyterians as most dangerous to the State. Therefore he would have the Presbyterians discountenanced and punished by authority, and intends liberty only to the Separatists, Anabaptists, and the like.
4. I have done with the three objections, but I have three words more to speak with the Compassionate Samaritan, in answer to his three arguments for liberty of conscience, in which though all the strength of the discourse does lie, I hope to make him ashamed of them, if he can at all blush.
(1.) His first argument is this: “Whatsoever a man’s reason does conclude to be true or false, or be agreeable or disagreeable to God’s word, that same to that man is his opinion or judgment, and so man is by his own reason necessitated to be of that mind he is: Now where there is a necessity, there ought to be no punishment, for punishment is the recompense of voluntary actions; therefore no man ought to be punished for his judgment.”
ANSWER. [1.] The question is not whether a man ought to be punished for his judgment, but whether a man ought to be punished for such professions or practices in religion, as are found to be pernicious, hurtful, and destructive, to the glory of God, the truth of the gospel, the ordinances of Christ, the reformation of religion, the peace of the Church. I know he will be ready still to set on foot his argument, for that a man’s judgment and reason do so necessitate and conclude him that he cannot choose but profess and practice as he does.
Therefore I add, [2.], this argument of his strikes against the justice of the Parliament done or to be done upon Malignants, for as much as their judgment binds them, and their reason necessitates them to judge and speak as they do.
[3.] It strikes at the very justice of God upon the reprobate and unbelieving men, for as much as they cannot receive the things of God (1 Cor. 1:14), cannot hear the words of Christ (Jn. 8:43), cannot receive the spirit of truth (Jn. 14:17). But
[4.], the formal solution is this: there is a gross fallacy in the argument, for we must distinguish necessity; there is a natural necessity, which takes away the power, and a moral necessity, which takes away the authority of a man’s being of another judgment or way.
Again, there is an absolute necessity, and a hypothetical necessity. Now the necessity of a heretic’s judging thus, because his reason concludes him thus, is not a moral necessity or obligation upon him, as if it were not lawful to him to judge or do otherwise (nay, he ought and is bound by the word of God to judge otherwise, and do otherwise), but it is a natural necessity (I mean of sinful nature), and that not simple and absolute, neither, but hypothetical only, and upon this supposition that he has not yet opened his eyes to receive more light, nor set his heart singly and in the fear of God to seek more light.
So that the plain English of this Samaritan argument is this: Though God’s word binds a man to such a duty, yet if his own erroneous, perverse, and corrupt judgment concludes him so far that his opinion cannot agree with the word of God, and himself cannot be brought to the practice of that necessary duty; such a man ought not to be punished. Or as if one should argue thus: He that has borrowed from me a thousand pounds, has by his own fault disabled himself to pay it; therefore I may not call him to account for it.
(2.) But let us see whether this Samaritan is happier in his second argument, which is this: “It’s known that the fathers, general councils, national assemblies, synods and parliaments in their times have been grossly mistaken; and though the present times are wiser than the former, etc., yet since there remains a possibility of error, notwithstanding never so great presumptions to the contrary, one sort of men are not to compel another, since this hazard is run thereby, that he who is in an error may be the constrainer of him who is in the truth.”
ANSWER. [1.] Farewell Parliaments, if this argument should hold good. The Parliament may fine no man, imprison no man, banish no man; they may compel no man to assessments, taxes, excise, billeting of soldiers, etc. And why forsooth? because they may not presume an infallible and unerring spirit, but may err, and have erred as well as other men.
[2.] He argues from the hazard of compulsion, it may fall out that he who is in the truth may be constrained and persecuted. True, it may fall out so; and so the Lord save us that we never be accessory to the persecuting of any who are in the truth, for so it may be again through men’s corruption and abuse of the Magistrate’s power (so the best things may be abused). But the liberty of conscience which he pleads for, runs so far greater hazard, even the hazard of not only shaking but overturning truth, peace, and religion, and ordinances, and Church, and souls, and all. To the ruin of all these, and to a thousand mischiefs, this kind of liberty prepares a broad way, and opens a wide door; and it is better, as he said, to live where nothing is lawful, than where everything is lawful.
[3.] It follows not that because Parliaments may not presume of an unerring spirit, therefore they cannot be certain that they are in the truth concerning this or that particular, so that they may confidently compel men to it, without fear of fighting against God. The acknowledgment of a possibility of error, and that we know but in part as long as we are in this world, may well consist with men’s fulness of persuasion from the light of God’s word, concerning this or that truth to be believed, or duty to be done.
(3.) I make haste to his third argument: “To compel me, he says, against my conscience, is to compel me against what I believe to be true, and so against my faith; now whatsoever is not of faith is sin; to compel me therefore against my conscience, is to compel me to do that which is sinful. And, again, I am compelled by the apostle to be persuaded in my own mind of that way wherein I serve the Lord,” etc.
ANSWER. [1.] This also shakes loose Parliamentary authority; though the gentleman who wrote these arguments pretends to stand for it, as much as any other. His arguments will conclude (if it concludes at all) that the Parliament may not compel Malignants, disaffected persons, rebels, to anything which they are not persuaded in their own minds to be right. `It is against my conscience,’ will the Antiparliamentary malignant say, `to contribute to the war, to acknowledge this for a Parliament, as long as the King does not acknowledge it; to reveal such a design, or to confess this or that plot against the Parliament, when I am examined; therefore I shall sin if I do so, for whatsoever is not of faith is sin, and the Parliament shall compel me to sin, if they compel me to do so.’ “For though the thing may be in itself good, if it does not appear to be so to my conscience, the practice thereof in me is sinful, which therefore I ought not to be compelled unto,” says the Samaritan. If he says his argument is only concerning matters of religion, I answer, Whatever his intention is in offering the argument, the very nature and force of the argument itself drives universally against the compelling of a man to anything whatsoever which is against his own conscience, except he will say that it is a sin to serve God against my conscience, but it is no sin to serve the Parliament against my conscience. Says not the apostle, “WHATSOEVER is not of faith is sin,” and “He that doubteth is damned?”
But [2.], when the apostle says so, he does not exclude all manner of doubting, as the casuists well observe, but only practical doubts; for a man may have his conscience morally and practically certain, so that he may do such a thing lawfully, and with confidence that he is doing the will of God, and yet withal he may be perhaps fluctuating in some speculative doubts concerning that very thing. For instance, a Christian may come to the Lord’s Table with so much faith (I mean not now the faith of the person which justifies before God, but the faith of that action) as makes his coming lawful, though his thoughts be exercised with some doubts concerning the truth of his repentance and faith. A soldier may in faith go out to war, being assured that what he does he may do without sin, but yet he has happily his own speculative doubts concerning the nature, causes, and ends of war. A man may with freedom and persuasion of mind (so far as concerns his practice) submit to Presbyterial government, who yet perhaps has not thoroughly satisfied himself concerning the grounds and warrants which it has from the word of God. The Samaritan will reply (it may be) that he has no faith at all concerning the practice itself, and that he may not be compelled to do anything against his conscience, for that were to compel him to sin. To take this off, I add,
[3.], if the thing is indifferent, I confess no man is to be compelled to it against his conscience; for this has been the tyranny of Papists and Prelates, to compel men against their consciences to certain rites which [they] themselves acknowledged to be merely indifferent, setting aside obedience to authority in such things, which (they say) is not indifferent. But if the word of God either directly or by way of necessary consequence, makes the thing necessary, and such as we cannot leave undone without sin and breach of duty; if there is such an obligation from the word, then may a man be compelled of it, though against his conscience.
But then you will say, I am brought into a necessity of sinning, for if I obey not, I refuse a duty; if I obey, I do it against my conscience.
ANSWER. This necessity is not absolute, but hypothetical, is not per se, but per accidens, so long as a man retains the error of his conscience, which he ought to cast away.
You will say again, “Supposing my conscience cannot be satisfied, nor made of another opinion than now I am of, whether in this case, and so long as it stands thus with me, may authority compel me to obey against my conscience, and so to sin? or whether ought they not rather permit me not to obey, because my conscience forbids me.”
ANSWER. The thing being necessary, as has been said, it is pars tuitor, yea, tuitissima [it is the safer part, yea, the very safest], that a man is compelled to it, though it is against his erring and ill informed conscience. I know so long as he has such an erring conscience he cannot but sin in obeying. But the sin of not obeying is greater and heavier; for this is a sin in the fact itself; that a sin in the manner of doing only, being not done in faith: this is a sin of itself, that is a sin only by accident; this is a sin materially; that is a sin only interpretatively to him, because he thinks so; this is a sin for the substance; that a sin for the circumstance; this cannot be made to be no sin, for the nature of the duty cannot be altered; that may cease to be sin, for a man’s conscience may, through God’s mercy and blessing upon the means, be better informed.
So that there can be no doubt but this is every way greater than that, and consequently more to be avoided. And thus I have dispatched the Samaritan who did undertake to pour oil into the wounds of the Separation. Medice cura teipsum [Physician, heal thyself].
5. The next thing [that] comes in my way is an argument brought for liberty of conscience, from Gamaliel’s speech in favour of the apostles (Acts 5:38-39). Refrain from these men and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work is of men, it will come to nought. But if it be of God ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. The strength of his argumentation did lie in this dilemma: this doctrine or way is either of men, or of God. If it is of men, you shall not need to repress it, for it will come to nought of itself, which he proves by two historical instances of Judas and Theudas. If it is of God, it is in vain to strive against it, for it must prevail, and the counsel of heaven must stand. Therefore be what it will be, there is no danger to let it alone. But on the other side, if you go about to repress it, you run the hazard both of fighting against God, and of provoking the displeasure as well of the Romans, who have not permitted unto you the liberty of capital punishments, as of the people of the Jews who magnify these men and their way. This is the whole substance, sense, and scope of that speech of Gamaliel in the Council. Hence did some argue for a toleration to Servetus and other heretics. And though this their way was then discovered to be their folly, yet their posterity approve their sayings.
The same argument is used in that pamphlet called Liberty of Conscience (pp. 34-35). Upon the same foundation Mr. Goodwin builds in Theomaxia, and the Paraenetick for Christian Liberty (pp. 2, 11), supposing the credit and authority of Gamaliel’s speech, for matter of truth to be one and the same with other Scriptures, and that there is nothing in all that speech but what is fully consonant with the word of God, unquestionably so acknowledged. So Mr. Goodwin affirms (p. 10), and after him one P.P. (which is by interpretation, Poor Pamphleteer) falls in the same ditch; he might well call it As You Were, for he makes that party to be never a jot more in the right. First of all he will commend Gamaliel’s speech, and justify Mr. Goodwin’s doctrine. Sure I am, Calvin takes Gamaliel to be a godless politician, and a neutralist, and his speech to have great error in it. So says Pelargus upon the place.
But to save me a labour in looking upon other interpreters, because the Poor Pamphleteer appeals first to Piscator and Beza, and afterwards to Gualther (as Mr. Goodwin did before him), let him be judged by these and no others. Piscator says plainly, that Gamaliel’s speech was not right, while he says, “If this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought,” his meaning being that therefore they should let it alone. Beza thinks Gamaliel spoke not from love to the apostles, but from fear of the Romans. Gualther thinks it a most pernicious tenet which some build upon this place, concerning the toleration of heresies and errors. Yea, Beza (De Haereticis a Magistraii Puniendis), cites and approves Calvin’s judgment, condemning Gamaliel for neutrality, and his speech of error.
These learned divines have so well opened and cleared the point, that there is no place left for what the Poor Pamphleteer has said, yet two things more I must take notice of in him. He says it was not for fear of the Jews or the Romans that Gamaliel gave his advice. Not for fear of the people of the Jews, for that “would be but at the apostles’ apprehension, not execution.” What nonsense is here? the people were angry at laying hands on the apostles, but there was no fear of wrath if the apostles should be killed. Not for fear of the Romans’ wrath, which, he says, they often regarded not, as Acts 23:27. A place which confutes himself, for when the Jews would have killed Paul, Claudius Lysias came with an army and rescued him: a danger which we must think the wisdom of Gamaliel and the council could better foresee, than the rude and furious multitude which would have killed Paul. Next he will not yield so much as that Gamaliel did doubt whether the apostles’ doctrine was from God or not, and that he made it an uncertain case. In this sir, you have faced about, sure you are not As You Were, for Mr. Goodwin himself Theomaxia, p. 11), says that “Gamaliel in point of judgment or conscience, was still but where he was, doubtful and in suspense with himself about the business.” Well, but why has he now denied that Gamaliel made it a doubtful and uncertain case? “He might,” he says, “and in all likelihood did thus express himself for fear or policy.
So did Hushai strangely for an honest heart in that case of David, in his counsel to Absalom” (2 Sam. 17). Yet Hushai made a round lie, even against his knowledge. Look about you masters, know whom you trust; here’s a generation of men pretending to a more perfect and saint-like reformation than others; but yet they think it no fault to lie and dissemble for good ends. Nay that’s not all (p. 4), answering to an objection made against those who do commend and magnify themselves, for greater gifts and graces than other men have; he tells us it is no fault for a man not only to compare, but to prefer himself to another, and that on purpose to heighten his own estimation. Which how sweetly it agrees with Paul’s doctrine (Phil. 2:3), “In lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves;” let every sober and moderate spirit judge. How now, Poor Pamphleteer? is it not enough for you to defend a lying tongue, but will you needs defend pride too? those are two (I am sure) of the seven things which are an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 6:16-17).
And here I leave the Poor Pamphleteer with this black mark upon him; I will not proceed to answer “a fool in his foolishness,” lest I “be like unto him;” thus far I have answered, “lest he be wise in his own eyes.” I add only one thing more in answer to that argument for liberty of conscience, from Acts 5:38-39. Suppose Gamaliel’s principles to be good, and his speech to be of truth and authority (which I have proved it is not), yet it is not applicable to the toleration of heretics and sectaries now, that case of the apostles being extraordinary, and great miracles wrought by them, to the conviction of their most malignant opposers (Acts 4:16).
6. Some it may well be will object further from Isa. 11:9, a place objected in the Paraenetick, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.” And Luke 9:54, And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of, for the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. A place objected by Nicolaid’s Refut. Tract. de Eccl. (ch. 4).
ANSWER. That prophecy concerning the Christian Church (Isa. 11:9), is not to be understood generally, as the word sounds, for then adulterers, murderers, etc., are not to be hurt and destroyed by the Christian Magistrate. The meaning therefore is, that those who have formerly been as lions and wolves to the poor lambs of Christ, shall either be renewed and changed in their nature, or (which is more probable) shall be so restrained and overawed by the power and providence of God, that it shall not be in their power to hurt or destroy any of the saints for the truth of the gospel’s sake. Neither shall they be able to destroy any, so the Septuagint. God shall so preserve and protect his Church, that she shall be like a lamb among wolves, or like a kid among leopards, or like a child putting his hand on the cockatrice den, and yet shall not be hurt nor destroyed thereby. And as this prophecy guards and protects none but those who are in God’s holy mountain, professors and lovers of the gospel, and the ordinances of Jesus Christ; so our Lord Christ’s rebuke (Luke 9:54-55), strikes not against any just and necessary severity, but against a private vindictive spirit, and carnal blind zeal: it being the purpose of Christ, then, most of all other times, not to exercise violence (as tyrants do in conquering new dominions), but to conquer and subdue souls by his doctrine and miracles, with a spirit of meekness, especially having to do with the Samaritan, or any other who had never yet known nor received the gospel.
Even those who say most for a coercive power to be put forth against heretics or schismatics, do not allow of the compelling of infidels, pagans, or Jews, by external punishments to receive the gospel.
IV. But now after all this debate upon the question in hand, and after all these arguments for the affirmative and for the negative, some will happily desire and expect some further modification and explanation of the matter in certain positive conclusions or distinguishing assertions. For whose satisfaction I say, First, there are five sorts of toleration proceeding from five different principles.
1. Of indifferency.
2. Of policy.
3. Of pretended conscience and equity.
4. Of necessity.
5. Of charity.
The first is when the Magistrate is a Nullifidian, Neutralist, and Adiaphorist, esteeming as Gallio did questions of the law and of the ordinances of Christ, to be of words and names, or things which he cared not for (Acts 18:14-15). The second is when the Magistrate tolerates heretics and sectaries for his own profit, or some such interest of policy, such as makes the Pope to tolerate the Jews in Italy, yea in Rome itself, where they have their synagogues, circumcision and liturgies, because his profit by them is greater than by the very courtesans; yea, besides their certain tribute, he does sometimes impose on them a subsidy of ten thousand crowns extraordinary for some service of the State, as Europae Speculum (pp. 221-22), has represented to us. And whether the States of the united Provinces do not grant toleration upon the like interests of their own profit, I leave it to the judgment of their own consciences. The third is the toleration pleaded for here by Mr. Williams, The Compassionate Samaritan, etc., as if justice, equity, duty, and conscience should make the Magistrate forbear all coercive power in matters of religion. All these three I utterly condemn, and the former arguments do strongly militate against them. The fourth kind of toleration, arising from necessity which has no law, may well be mourned for as an affliction; it cannot be condemned as the Magistrate’s fault. Even a David may have cause to complain that the sons of Zeruiah are too strong for him. In such cases as these, our divines have given a relief to the conscience of the Christian Magistrate, purging him of the guilt of this kind of toleration; provided always, that he has endeavoured so far as he can to extirpate heresies, and to establish the true religion only. Which has nothing to do with that principle now defended, that the Magistrate though he may never so easily, yet he ought not nor cannot without sin exercise a coercive power in matters of religion. The fifth and last is that kind of toleration whereby the Magistrate when it is in the power of his hand to punish and extirpate, yet having to do with such of whom there is good hope either of reducing them by convincing their judgments, or of uniting them to the Church by a safe accommodation of differences, he grants them a supersedeas [forbearance]; or though there be no such ground of hope concerning them, yet while he might crush them with the foot of power, in Christian piety and moderation, he forbears so far as may not be destructive to the peace and right government of the Church, using his coercive power with such a mixture of mercy as creates no mischief to the rest of the Church.
I speak not only of bearing with those who are weak in faith (Rom. 15:1), but of sparing even those who have perverted the faith, so far as the word of God and rules of Christian moderation would have severity tempered with mercy: that is (as has been said) so far as is not destructive to the Church’s peace, nor shakes the foundations of the established form of church government, and no further; these last two kinds of toleration are allowed; the first three are wholly condemned. My second distinction is concerning the punishments inflicted by the Magistrate upon heretics. They are either exterminative, or medicinal. Such as blaspheme God or Jesus Christ, or who shall fall away themselves and seduce others to idolatry, ought to be utterly cut off according to the law of God. But as for other heretics, they are to be chastened with medicinal punishments as mulcts [fines; forfeiture], imprisonments, banishment, by which, through God’s blessing, they may be humbled, ashamed, and reduced. Not that I think the proper end of civil and coercive punishments to be the conversion and salvation of the delinquent (which is the end of church censures and of excommunication itself), but that the right method of proceeding does require that the Magistrate inflict the smaller punishments first, that there may be place for the offenders bringing forth of fruits worthy of repentance, and he may be at least reduced to external order and obedience, being persuaded by the terror of civil power, which may and does (when blessed of God) prove a preparation to free obedience, as the needle is to the thread, or the law to the gospel, servile fear to filial fear; and that the Magistrate step not up to the highest justice till other punishments have proved ineffectual: which made Constantine punish the heretics of his time not with death, but with banishment, as is manifest by the Proem of the Council of Nicea.
In such cases it may be said to the heretic of the Magistrate, He is the minister of God to thee for good, more good I am sure, than if the golden reins of civil justice should be loosed, and he suffered to do what he list [likes]. Therefore Augustine likens this coercive punishing of heretics to Sarah’s dealing roughly with Hagar, for her good and humiliation.
I conclude, convenience and indulgence to heretics is a cruel mercy: correction is a merciful severity, and a wholesome medicine, as well to themselves as to the Church. Thirdly, we must distinguish between the coercive power of the Magistrate in matters of religion, and the abuse of that power. When we justify the power, we justify not the abuse of it; and when we condemn the abuse, we must not therefore condemn the power. Acontius (Stratagemata Satanae., lib. 3, p. 147), builds much upon this notion: let a man imagine that his lot is fallen in those times when the truth is persecuted by authority, when the Magistrate justifies the wicked and contemns the godly (which has been the more ordinary condition of the Church), and then let him accordingly shape the resolution of the question concerning the Magistrate’s punishing of heretics. Will not a man think, he says, it had been better that heretics had not been punished, than that upon pretence of coercive power against heretics, the edge of the civil sword be turned towards the preachers and professors of the truth? But notwithstanding of all this, truth must be truth, and justice must be justice, abuse it who will. Parliaments and Synods have been many times enemies to the truth, and have abused their power in matters of religion: must we therefore deny the power of Parliaments and Synods? or must we cast off any ordinance of God because of the abuse of it? If the thing were indifferent, the abuse might take away the use: not so, when the thing is necessary. I add (which is well observed by Calvin) when Jeremiah was accused and arraigned as worthy to die, his defense is not this, “You ought not to vindicate religion with the sword, nor put any man to death for the cause of conscience,” but this is it, Know ye for a certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon your selves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears (Jer. 26:15).
Neither did the apostles (though often persecuted) plead the unlawfulness of persecuting men for heresy, but they pleaded the goodness of their cause, and that they were no heretics. Fourthly, I distinguish between bare opinions or speculations, and scandalous or pernicious practices, as Mr. Burton does in his Vindication of the Independent Churches. “You must distinguish,” he says, “between men’s consciences and their practices. The conscience simply considered in itself is for God, the Lord of the conscience alone to judge, as before. But for a man’s practices (of which alone man can take cognizance) if they be against any of God’s commandments of the first or the second table; that appertains to the Civil Magistrate to punish, who is for this cause called custos utriusque tabulae, the keeper of both tables.” For this he cites Rom. 13:3-4, and adds, “So as we see here that is the object of civil power, to wit, actions good or bad, not bare opinions, not thoughts, not conscience, but actions.”
And this is his answer to the interrogatory concerning the lawful coercive power of the civil Magistrates in suppressing heresies. In which he handsomely yielded the point, for who advises the Parliament to punish men for their thoughts, bare opinions, or for conscience simply considered in itself? It is for preaching, printing, spreading of dangerous opinions, for schismatical, pernicious and scandalous practices, for drawing factions among the people contrary to the covenant, for resisting the reformation of religion, for lying and railing against the covenant, the Parliament, the Assembly of Divines, or against the Reformed Churches.
Fifthly, we must distinguish the persons who are in the error, whether heresiarchs and ring-leaders, or whether followers only, and such as do acti agere; whether schismatizing, or schismatized; whether more weak, or more willful; whether seducers, or seduced; whether pious, or profane, or Pharisaical; whether peaceable, moderate, calm, docile, or turbulent, factious, fierce, railing, obstinate, incorrigible. So that when the thing is brought from the thesis to the hypothesis, there is very much to be trusted to the prudence, circumspection, and observation of those who are in authority, to set apart those for punishment who resist reformation, as Jannes and Jambres did resist Moses (2 Tim. 3:8), and are said to trouble the churches (Acts 15:24; Gal. 1:7; 5:12), and to trouble them more or less, as they are more or less troublers of Israel. Let not the Magistrate fear to say to every Achan, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day (Josh. 7:25). Other seduced ones the Magistrate is to command subpoena, and cause them stand to the covenant of God, as Josiah did, if they cannot be persuaded to do it willingly. If the Magistrate miscarries in a misapplication of his coercive power, let him answer to God and his conscience for his error. It is not in my thoughts either to plead for or allow of the persecuting of pious and peaceable men.
Sixthly, as the reformation and preservation of religion differs much from the propagation of religion: so the coercive power put forth in the suppressing of heresy and schism is a thing of another nature than the compelling of infidels by the sword to receive the gospel. Let the Pope and the Spaniard, and Mohammed propagate religion by the sword; that is not it I plead for. None of the Gentiles was of old compelled to be circumcised, but being circumcised he might be compelled to keep the Law of Moses. Also if strangers of the Gentiles were sojourning or trading in the land of Israel, they might be compelled to abstain from the public and scandalous breaking of the moral law (Neh. 13:16, 21; Ex. 20:10), which things did belong to the preservation, not to the propagation of religion.
Seventhly, to establish by a law the toleration, liberty and immunity of such a sect or way, so as all that will may join in it, is a thing of most dangerous consequence. But to permit such or so many persons of a sect to enjoy the liberty of their own consciences and practices, with such limitations as shall be found necessary, is a tolerable toleration, I mean a thing though not to be wished, yet to be allowed. The Romans in their heathenish way did put a difference between these two: when they abolished the Bachnalian festivity and discharged it, they granted no toleration to such as pleased still to observe it: only they were content that some few upon leave first obtained from the Senate, and upon certain conditions, might be permitted to continue their own practice, as to their part.
Eighthly, there is also a great difference between toleration and accommodation. By accommodation I understand an agreement of dissenters with the rest of the Church in practical conclusions, so that if any difference be, it is in their principles, not in their practices, and so not obvious, apparent and scandalous to people. I had rather go two miles in an accommodation (yea as many as the word of God will suffer me) than one mile in toleration. For in that way there is no schism, no rent in Israel, but “the Lord one, and his name one.” In this way there is temple against temple, and altar against altar, Manasseh against Ephraim, and Ephraim against Manasseh, and they both against Judah: a misery from which the Lord deliver us. I do not deny, but if a safe and happy accommodation is possible, such a toleration as I have formerly spoken of, is not to be disallowed. But the accommodation is a more excellent way, and that which is to be rather embraced, yea endeavoured for and followed after, according to the apostle’s rule (which Isidorua Pelusiota did long since observe to be the best and happiest way of putting an end to divisions and dissensions in the Church):
Let us therefore as many as be perfect be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing (Phil 3:15-16). V.
If it is said, Quorsum haeo? [To what purpose?], what do I conclude from all this? It is to leave this confirmed and sealed truth in the bosom of the High Court and Parliament, and of all inferior Magistrates according to their interest under them, that it is their duty, without respect of persons, to endeavor the extirpation of heresy and schism, and whatsoever shall be found contrary to sound doctrine, and the power of godliness, lest they partake in other men’s sins, and thereby be in danger to receive of their plagues; and that the Lord may be one, and his name one in the three kingdoms: and to endeavor the discovery of all such as have been or shall be evil instruments, by hindering the reformation of religion, or making any faction or party amongst the people, contrary to the solemn league and covenant, that they may be brought to public trial, and receive condign punishment, etc. Which as they had great reason to swear and covenant, so now they have greater reason to perform accordingly; and as it is in itself a duty, and we tied to it by the oath of God, and his vows that are upon us, as straitly as ever the sacrifice to the horns of the altar.
So we are to take special notice of the unhappy consequences which follow upon our slackness and slothfulness, in fulfilling that sacred oath, viz. the hindering of uniformity, the continuing and increasing of a rupture both in Church and State, the retarding of reformation, the spreading and multiplying of heresies and sects, while every one does what is right in his own eyes; the great scandal given both to enemies and friends: to enemies, who are made to think worse of our covenant, because we do not perform it: The Review of the Covenant, printed at Oxford, upbraids us with this: that heresy and schism were never more suffered, and less suppressed in London, than since we swore to endeavor the extirpation of the same: to friends also, who are mightily stumbled by our own promising much, and performing so little in this kind: which the Wallachian Classis in their late letter to the reverend Assembly of Divines at Westminster (printed before Apollonius’s book)does sadly and seriously lay to our consciences.
I am persuaded if there were but a right understanding one of another’s intentions, the accommodation I speak of would not be difficult. Brethren, if you will not hearken to wholesome counsel, you shall be the more inexcusable. I have in my eye that law of God, Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him (Lev. 19:17). Faithful are the wounds of a friend (Prov. 17:6). Therefore love the truth and peace (Zech. 8:19). Yea, seek peace and pursue it (1 Pet. 3:11). Consider what I say. The Lord guide your feet in the way of peace. And O that God would put it in your hearts to cry down toleration, and to cry up accommodation! Amen! Amen!