EcclesiologyChurch related issues surrounding the sacraments, offices in the church, etc.
Faithful Witness-Bearing Exemplified by John Howie
FAITHFUL WITNESS-BEARING EXEMPLIFIED:
Concerning Association, Toleration,
and what is now called
LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE
By John Howie of Lochgoin
To the READER.
Judicious and impartial Reader,
TRUE and undefiled religion, consisting in an inward and spiritual knowledge, and firm belief of divine truth, faith in, love to, and union with a God in Christ, manifested and set forth in a regular service of worship, and acknowledgment in obedience to him, is (next to the object of worship itself) one of the most inestimable blessings and privileges that we finite creatures can possibly be possessed of, or enjoy. But as the professors of religion, by the fall, are become mutable creatures, and subjected thereby unto an erring conscience, (not to mention false religions, or the worshipping of false deities) the ordinances, doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the Christian church has been by them perverted, corrupted, adulterated, and metamorphosed into many and various forms and modes; which occasioned Christ’s faithful witnesses, in all the periodical ages of the church, to contend for its purity, in opposition to every one of these, in as far as they were dissonant to the staminal laws of Christ’s house, or platform laid down in the book of divine revelation, of which the following Collection is a part and specimen.
For the compilers of these pieces; their characters and works are, I suppose, too well established, to stand in need of any thing recommendatory here. Their works praise them in the gates; and their memory, I hope, shall yet blossom in the dust, and both shall be savoury to some, while reformation principles are regarded in Scotland. As to this part of their contendings, tho’ the paucity of the copies, at present, were a sufficient apology for their republication;1 yet it has been suggested by some friends, that in setting forth the necessity and utility of such a subject, in a way of application to our present circumstances, something more was expedient. And in this, although we might take the import, or general acceptation of the words, Association—Toleration—and Indulgence, to be of a piece, being near one signification, viz. A joining with, a permitting of, and conniving with these, or that which is not by the divine law allowable; yet I shall just distinguish these three by their capital names, and then notice some contrary objections made in favour of Toleration, and what is now called Liberty of Conscience. And,
I. ASSOCIATION with Idolaters, &c. The sinfulness of which, being in the subject itself sufficiently proven from scripture already, I shall only here, with the learned Mr. Gillespie, on the same point, observe; That associations with idolaters and malignant enemies of God and his church, has all along been no less unsuccessful than unlawful, (as the whole suffrage of scripture and history declare) which drew unto both great sins and judgments; and so to great security and stupidity under these, which makes the estate of such to grow worse and worse, as has been exactly the case with us in these lands, from first to last.—Witness the occasion of writing this Case, when the resolutions took place; when known malignants, and, with them, that perfidious malignant wretch Ch. Second was taken into places of power and trust, civil and military.—Witness the time when it was published, very soon after the revolution, when a part of the suffering remnant had not only been ensnared, to a regimenting with perjured, murdering, apostate enemies of Christ’s cause at home; But even an association was, by the supreme leader, made with the popish powers abroad; yea, even with the pope himself, the king of France and his associate only excepted.2—A third association took place 1707, when a confederacy was struck with the kingdom and prelatical constitution of England; and tho’ that was thought to be advantageous for the commercial concerns of this nation; yet it was still, by the more thinking part of the nation, accounted a relinquishing and giving up with the civil and religious liberties of the nation. Ancient Caledonia had appeared all along formidable unto her enemies; she was productive of men who made them know that their resolutions were, Nemo me impune lacesset: Provoke me at your peril. But how soon is a warlike nation become an effeminate people! Once free and independent, now subjected to an English parliament; where, in political matters, being ten to one, we can have no equality, much less a majority of voices. And although an act of security, in matters of religion, was granted or obtained; yet an act, at the same time, was made an essential part of the Union establishing abjured prelacy in England, which put episcopacy on an equal footing with presbytery, and not only was contrary and inconsistent with our covenants; but also for ever bound up from any endeavours for a revival of that happy reformation and uniformity in religion, that once subsisted between and was the glory of these covenanted nations. And how that windle-straw act of security (for so I may call it) has been kept by them, the many encroachments that have been, and daily is made upon the church, and Christ’s crown-rights, may bear witness. And no wonder, when we had proved unfaithful to Christ and his cause, that men be left to prove perfidious to us; the fruits of which, both in church matters and mens morals, we soon, to our dear bought experience, felt. Else what means the sacramental test, imposed on statesmen; the superstitious form of swearing by kissing the gospel; the Toleration Bill; patronage act; the Porteous’ act; proclamations for fasting; and oaths imposed on church-men, all under severe penalties; perfidious dealing with a multiplicity of unlawful and unnecessary oaths, in tax and trade, are multiplied and reiterated. Our nobility go to England to spend their time and money, and English fashions come thereby in vogue. Profanation of the Lord’s day, uncleanness, cursing, swearing, and blaspheming, becomes still more common and recent.—Religion and family worship gradually wears out; and societies for the reformation of manners, and other religious exercises, becomes languid and daily dwindles away. And what is the baneful consequence of all, a fatal association takes place with papists; men and money is from them collected, for the present exigence; the same takes place with both contending parties on both sides of the Atlantic; a long protracting oppressive and wasting war hitherto seems to be the result of the matter, which makes me hazard to say, that the regimenting with such, either in army, militia, town-guards, &c. must be no less unlawful than unsuccessful, and calls aloud for a testimony against association with malignants, and points out the necessity of having such a subject set before us.3
II. TOLERATION. The sinfulness of this being, in the following Testimonies fully proven from precept, and the practice of the reforming kings of Judah, &c. I shall only add, that under the New Testament dispensation, its ends have been bad, and its consequences evil. Instance Julian the apostate; when he could not root our Christianity otherwise, granted a kind of toleration to all kings of religion, in these words:4Ut consopitis civilibus discordiis suæ quisque religioni serviret intrepidus. What was the consequence? The Christian church became secure, and fell still from one error into another, till almost drowned by the Arian heresy. Charles V. or rather Max—n the II. granted a liberty to papists and protestants, at the diet of Ausburgh: The event was, the protestant, or Lutheran church daily lost ground, and broke in factions, till it was almost reduced to nothing. Again, in our own lands, Cromwell, when he could not get the covenanted uniformity overturned all at once, in favour of his beloved Independency, he granted a toleration to all sects and sectaries, papist and prelatic only excepted; and though this was none of the worst tolerations, yet we find it, in the following pages, faithfully witnessed against. It had the effects desired. The beautiful uniformity was broke; the woful resolutions having before taken place; unity and harmony amongst church members bade her a final adieu; error increased, and all went to wreck, until they were cast into the furnace of persecution altogether. James VII. when he could, by no means or method, get his beloved popery established, he granted a toleration for all (the faithful followers of the Lamb, his great eye-sore, only excepted) the consequences of which, from the histories of these times, may be obvious to all. Soon after the revolution, when King William could not effect a repeal of the Test Act, he obtained a kind of toleration for English dissenters, quakers, Anabaptists, &c. but with such clauses and restrictions, that it was of little benefit to presbyterians. Perhaps his ends were not so bad, yet it laid the foundation for that toleration granted 1712, to Episcopals in Scotland, and, with them, almost all manner of error, heresy, and profanity whatsoever; which now increases to such a degree that he that runs may read it. Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin; altars shall be to him to sin. In the last century, a stated uniform profession of religion was thought an indispensable duty by all; and tho’ our forefathers were sometimes divided in their opinions in religion, yet, for the most part, they valued themselves upon a steady and tenacious adherence to their respective systems: But any religion, or no religion, seems to be the characteristic of this age or generation. The deistical legions have set their engines to work to shake them loose, by rendering every doctrinal point, which cannot be deduced or supported by reason, doubtful; in which they have so far succeeded, that the presbyterian form of church government came first to be controverted; then all tests of orthodoxy comes to be rejected and arraigned for folly, illiberal sentiments, bigotry, &c. a motley communion and liberty of conscience, or rather a liberty to licentiousness, is introduced, which has not a little been fomented by the chimes of novelty, and confirmed by the appearance of the Methodist and Moravian tribes; so that there is almost not one old condemned heresy, since the commencement of Christianity, but what, in one dress or other, now appears upon the stage; yea, popery itself now makes wide strides and long steps into these nations, which, no doubt had a loud call for publishing a testimony against such tolerations.5
III. INDULGENCE—The sin of both granting and accepting of which, being fully held forth and illustrated in the History itself, and Mr. M’Ward’s Preface to it, I have only to observe, that it is conspicuous from history, that the Indulgence, first and last, was calculated to divide the presbyterians, and to exterminate the gospel faithfully preached in the fields. And further, that although severals of these who accepted of it, we shall suppose, were good men, and pretended still to assert Christ’s Headship in and over the church; yet they were so far left of God, as to receive their mission to preach in such or such places, from king and council, under such limitations and restrictions as bound them up from a faithful and free discharge of that trust committed to their charge; and it was observable, that from that time they exchanged Christ their Head for a man, and one of the vilest of men; that they became lax and remiss, both in point of doctrine and discipline; and that their preaching had no success upon the hearts of the hearers, as it had upon those who heard the gospel faithfully preached in the fields.—And, to bring the case home, how many ministers are there now in the church of Scotland, who receive their mission by presentations from king or patron, to such or such a place, before whose pulpits, perhaps, you may attend a life-time, before you hear Christ’s Headship and crown rights asserted, which is worse than the indulged—And for a free and faithful doctrinal testimony concerning the sins and duties of the times, it is in many places quite gone; and church discipline is so curtailed, that it rather looks like popish absolutions and indulgences, than the censure of the church of Christ.—And are there not many now-a-days, who assert Christ’s Headship plainly, and yet virtually doth that which homologates and strengthens Erastian power? Nay, it is to be lamented, that some whom, in charity, we must suppose wish well to a covenanted work of reformation, yet, to increase and maintain a party, are become too lax and remiss, both in the admission of entrants to their profession, and persons to sealing ordinances, not to speak of church censure; and what is the consequence of all this? The wonted life and power of the gospel is comparatively no more; and for a testimony bearing, though the most part mind only their own case and worldly interest, yet there are a variety of cases. For while some are waving with every breeze of modish doctrine, others are clashing against one another, under the turbulent winds of error and division.—A third sort are so attached to what they call the religion of their fathers, that they will not admit of a demonstration of argument clear as sunshine, in favour of the truth. A fourth kind will, at first hand, tell you, “They are now too old; it is not worth their while now to change their profession,” &c. So that truth must, on all these accounts, stand aloof on the other side, with a very small retinue. And what can be the causes of all this, with a daily decay of practical religion, but with those indulged (many of whom were old public resolutioners) our apostacy from God and a covenanted work of reformation? Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, when he led thee by the way? To notice all the contrary objections that have been or are mustered up in favours of toleration and liberty of conscience (the most of whom are more plausible than solid) were beyond my design, and what the limits of a preface will admit of; I shall therefore only touch at a few of those who are commonly and constantly urged and used in the present time.6
Objection I. No authority can bind without the authority of conscience; therefore every man has a right to profess every religion or mode of worship, the light of his own conscience directs him unto. To this I might answer,
1. That could we suppose conscience to be the supreme rule, ruling, and not the rule, ruled, to man’s actions in a lapsed state, this might hold good. But conscience, or the reflecting powers of the mind, is no lawgiver, but a witness, or judge, as God’s deputy in the soul, (as some divines term it,) it enquires into the meaning of God’s word, the supreme and infallible rule; it compares qualities, principles, and practices therewith; and, if well informed and faithful, it directs, approves, accuses, or condemns accordingly. Man has a right to judge only of what the word of God reveals to him, and under the pain of sin and rebellion practice it. If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. [Isaiah 8.20.]
2. If conscience were the only rule, it behoved not only to take the lead before the Most High, but also to be perfect, which is expressly contrary to God’s word; there it is called, an erring conscience—a hardened conscience—seared as with a hot iron—an evil conscience. Says the apostle, to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but even his conscience is defiled. Here is the depravity of man’s conscience.
3. If this were the lawgiver, then there could be no persecution for righteousness sake, and consequently no martyrs, none being more zealous than some vigilant persecutors. Says the King of sufferers to his followers, The days will come, that whosoever killeth you, will think he doth God good service. This was exemplified in the life of Paul, and others that have not obtained the like cast of mercy, I verily thought (says he) that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. I persecuted them to strange cities, &c. Here was a zealous, but an erring conscience; and was this a rule in truth and duty.
4. In this case, the most damnable opinion ever broached would be brought on an equal footing with the most sublime truth revealed in God’s word. For instance, none are more vigilant and diligent than a Turk or Musselman, who worships a vile impostor; none more zealous than an unbelieving Jew; none more bigoted and superstitious than a papist, who worship God under the similitude of stocks and stones; none more argumenting than our deistical gentlemen; and none more full of reasoning than the catechumens of Arius, Pelagius, Socinius, and Arminius. And must all these have a liberty, in a reformed Christian land, to vend and disseminate their opinions, seeing they all will plead the conscience for it? Nay, it would account for murders, thefts, &c. seeing it is sometimes as difficult to convince the one of a mistake as the other. But men are culpable and punishable, not for what conscience, as God’s deputy in the soul, declares or directs to, but what they would not have done, had they had a proper sense of sin and duty. Prove all things, and hold that which is good.
Objection II. To molest men for their religious opinions, is persecution, and the very spirit of popery. To this I shall only reply,
1. That in a proper sense, no person can possibly be persecuted but for righteousness sake. Wherever we have the word persecution, in our translation, applied to the wicked, it is commonly, in the original or Dutch translation, pursue: So that none can be persecuted but the professors of the religion of Jesus. Those that profess the contrary notions in religion, may be punished, but properly cannot be persecuted. Besides, there is what is called a tongue-persecution; Come, let us smite him with the tongue, said the people to the prophet; and why may the censures of the church on such, be on that account called persecution? And if not, may not the state use their authority, seeing both are God’s ministers, tending to one good, God’s glory, the salvation, peace, safety, and welfare of mankind, though different and distinct in their persons and offices.
2. Our reformers, and their successors, all along maintained the duty of defending their civil and religious privileges, but never propagated that religion by sword, fire and faggot, as papists have done. And notwithstanding of civil penalties, they never used violent measures in forcing men to a profession without a proper conviction of the truth; or were they rigorous in punishing heretics, although they had both scripture, and the practices of the best reformed states, for a precept and precedent for it.7 Says the fore-named gallant reformer, on this point and period. “Men are no otherwise forced, or drawn into the covenant than other necessary duties; nay, it ought not to be called a forcing or compelling; are men forced to spare their neighbour’s life, because murders are committed?—These that refuse the covenant, reproach it, or rail against it, ought to be looked on as enemies to it, and dealt with accordingly. Yet if any man were known to take the covenant against his will, he were not to be received,”8 &c. And, for conscience, did they ever trouble any for it, if it came no further? Says the presbytery of Edinburgh, in their Testimony against Toleration 1659, “We know this truth of God (meaning their testimony) will be reckoned as a persecuting men for their conscience, &c. but as we disclaim troubling men for the simple light of their conscience, if it break not forth in doctrine and practice; so the scripture has taught us, that persecuting is only a putting a man to suffer for righteousness sake, and not the restraining of damnable errors,” &c.
Objection III. No man ought to be molested on account of his opinions in religion, if he disturbs not the state, [n]or is dangerous to civil society. This objection being made by some of the English sectaries last century, and better answered by the forenamed learned Mr. Gillespie, than what I can pretend to do, I shall only, with him, shortly observe,
That by this way of reasoning, the profession of religion is only made a tool subservient to civil and political interest, and religion itself is thereby made only an appendage to the state; but even, keep them upon the edge of their own arguments, has there not been many who have broached and vended the most blasphemous and damnable notions and opinions, and yet have never given the least molestation to the state, or perhaps to civil society? Either9 must these bold contemners of God’s word, and the divinity and ordinance of Jesus Christ, pass on with impunity? Is it [not] a criminal partiality to punish the cursing of an earthly father, yet to suffer the reproaching of a Trinity? to cut off a man for a treasonable word, yet to let go unpunished a blasphemer of Christ? to hang a man for forging another man’s hand, and yet not chastise a false teacher, who utters damnable lies in the name of the Lord? To punish a petty theft or robbery, and yet let go those who endeavour to rob the great God of a Son, and his Son of his Godhead? As the above author, from his antagonist’s words, well observes, “Is not the mischief of a blind guide, greater than if he acted treason, &c.——And the loss of one soul, by seduction, greater mischief, than if he blew up parliament, cut the throat of kings or emperors, so precious is that invaluable jewel of a soul.” And (says he) “when the church of Christ sinketh in a state, let not that state think to swim. Religion and righteousness must flourish or fade away, stand or fall together. They who are false to God, shall never prove faithful to men,” &c.10
Objection IV. The civil magistrate has nothing to do with the church; and to give him any power, in matters of religion, is downright Erastianism. I answer, Not so fast, till we enquire what kind of power. And,
1. Negatively, he is not to have the power of the keys of doctrine and discipline in the church, as Erastus would have had it; nor is he to be acknowledged the supreme head of all causes and persons, civil and ecclesiastic, (which is must the same) with the Erastian constitution of England, But,
2. And positively, we must allow the lawful and rightly constitute magistrate a cumulative, imperative power, to command and strengthen church officers in their duty, but not an elective or privative power to detract any thing from the church’s authority. He ought to be a keeper of both tables of the law; Custos et vindex utriusque tabulæ; intrusted with the concerns of God’s glory, as well as the interest of men; and so must have a special and particular care and regard to this precious deposita, in all his public management. That is, he should profess, support, and defend the true religion, in the church of Christ, and its professors in the exercise thereof: and to suppress the propagation or propagators of idolatry, blasphemy, error, or damnable heresy, and not establish or tolerate them. I do not say, that he is absolutely to judge of these, as a magistrate, but I say, with Mr. Rutherford, “That he is to try doctrine, discipline, and the decrees of the church, as a Christian; and, at their determination, punish the contraveners, as a magistrate, (by virtue of his power and authority;) for he is the minister of God, and beareth not the sword in vain,” &c.11
The whole suffrage of scripture bear testimony to this. In the patriarchal age, says the Lord concerning Abraham, I know that he will command his children, and his household after him, &c. And says Job, This (viz. idolatry) were an iniquity to be punished by the judge; which (according to the best of annotators) they were obliged to punish as well as other heinous crimes.12 Again, under the law, it is often commanded by the Lord, that the idolater or false worshipper should be punished or put to death; “which penal statutes, (says the learned Shields) under the Old Testament, are not abrogated; for they are moral.”13 And as one of the bad effects, by want of a stated magistracy, it is twice, in the book of Judges, said, At that time there was no king in Israel, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
And, for the whole race of the kings of Judah and Israel, we find, they were either commended or condemned by the Spirit of God, as they established or not established the true religion and worship of God, and punished or permitted idolaters or an idolatrous worship, and not for their administrations of justice on other malefactors. For the New Testament times, it is promised, that kings and queens should be nursing fathers and mothers to the church; which parental power plainly imports, a maintaining, defending and chastising. It is also said, in the last book of holy writ, of the kings of the earth, These shall hate the whore, and make her desolate, and burn her with fire.
But, say some, you must give us a positive text from the New Testament, else your arguing cannot be sustained. I answer, so said the heretics in the last century; and in answer to these, I might just notice what is advanced by that author (Mr. Gillespie) I have so much used in answer to them. By the same principles we may not hold it contrary to God’s will that a man may have his father’s brother’s wife, or that the magistrate ought not to put to death a blasphemer, incestuous person, a witch, and adulterer, (and I may add, a robber, murderer, &c.) because the scripture warrant, that makes these crimes capital, are in the Old and not the New Testament. And it is evident, both from the following Collection, and the most part of the writings of our reforming and suffering ancestors, who wrote upon that subject, that they looked upon the precepts of the Old Testament to be morally binding, both in respect of the magistrate’s power in the church, and in suppressing of error, profanity, and heresy; in proof of which, I might produce their testimony at large, but, for brevity’s sake, I must confine myself unto a short specimen thereof, which the reader will find in the foot-note below.14
Objection V. Toleration is a good thing. By it we may live as good as we please. Our suffering forefathers would have been glad thus to have the liberty to serve God, every one of their own way, &c.
The puerility of this objection may very easily be discovered; for,
1. We never find, in scripture or history, that any of the saints of God pleaded for liberty on this footing; as for our faithful sufferers, they could have had it, if they could have accepted of it on the same sinful terms with others. They found that every thing tolerated comes under the notion of a crime; and they judged their principles were founded upon the word of God, and the practice of the best reformed churches, and therefore stood in no need of a toleration of this kind.
2. It is true, it is a privilege to the professors of the true religion, to have the free exercise thereof, in a land where a false religion is established; but it is as great a loss to these, in a land where the true religion is established, when false religion, or damnable heresies are tolerated. For instance, the emperor of Germany has lately granted his protestant subjects the exercise of their religion, for which they have reason to bless God; but, properly, this is no more than their own just right, and so no toleration, as was the case with the church of the Jews under Cyrus. Again, the king of Prussia, and states of Britain and Ireland, have granted the like liberty to papists, &c. in England and Ireland; this is a toleration, and is what no king or state upon earth has a right to grant. And, for our present liberty, it does not proceed from any love in them to the true religion of Jesus Christ, or a covenanted work of reformation, (else what means all this noise about popery?) but for their political ends, and they are so far restrained.—That we may be as good as we please, at the same time we may live as bad as we will; and for whatever liberty we have to serve God in his own appointed way, we have him primarily to thank for it, as for all his other mercies.
Objection VI. We are for no toleration but a scriptural one, or such as the scriptures do allow, forbearing one another in love, &c. I answer, This can be no toleration at all. For my part, I could never find toleration, positive or negative, name or thing, in scripture; what is morally good being a commanded duty, needs no toleration, nay, cannot be tolerated (as has been observed already;) what is sin, or morally evil, none on earth can lawfully grant an immunity unto; and betwixt these there can be no medium, in point of truth and duty, make what distinctions we will.—For instance, Christian forbearance (that is, a bearing or sympathizing with one another’s infirmities and weakness, not wickedness) being what is enjoined in scripture, can never come under the notion of a toleration. Again, whatsoever is contrary to the divine law, be it never so little, (if we may call any thing sinful little) we cannot forbear, permit, or tolerate in another, without suffering sin upon our brother. [Lev. 19.17.] Hear what the Lord says, of what we may now understand by what is called a negative toleration, Ye shall not do after the things that ye do here this day. Every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes. [Deut. 12.8.]
But, after all, some will say, What would ye have us to do with heretics, papists, &c. must they be killed, &c. Why, I answer, whatever the word of God allows. As to the merit of the crime, let them have it, and nothing more nor nothing less. There are more ways of punishment than to atone with the life.—And to say, we must tolerate papists here, that protestants may have the same liberty in popish countries, is to say, we ought to do evil that good may come of it: But am I to sin (says the apostle) that grace may abound? God forbid. The Lord will still provide chambers of safety for his own. Let us then, with that Israelitish general (tho’ none of the best of men) resolve to play the men for our people, and the cities of our God, and let the Lord do what seemeth him good.
Upon the whole, in the following sheets, there is a faithful testimony against joining with God’s malignant enemies, and for our covenanted uniformity, against all error, heresy, &c. by the church in a collective body, and as individuals, with the state’s return, approving of the same. But, alas! unto what a low pass are things now, in the same church and state, brought unto, when there is properly but one member in each, to withstand the introduction of popery into these nations?15 And, for our covenants, they are not only denied and contemned, but even the gospel covenant is, by some, on their account ridiculed also. Ah, infatuated Britons! Ah, degenerated Scots! Men, who shall bewail your defection, treachery and apostacy. They, like men, have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.—Woe unto them! for they have fled from me, &c. [Hosea 6.7; 7.13.]
From the titles these pieces bear, no doubt, they will prove no way acceptable to not a few of the free-thinkers in this insidious generation; but it is still one of the effects of a full, free, and faithful testimony from Christ’s contending witnesses, to torment them that dwell upon the earth. Let us then, not only publish and peruse these and their other contendings, but also emulate the noble confessors, and follow their example. Let us never flatter ourselves that a part, yea, half a testimony will be accepted or taken off our hand, by the faithful and true Witness. No, we must not leave one hoof of the truth behind us. If we will not do this, the Lord will find himself witnesses: He never has been, nor will be at a loss, so to speak, to find himself instruments to carry on his work, and promote his interest and declarative glory in the world. he had them before we were born, and will have them after we are buried.—And, if ever a time or season required testimony bearing, it must be now, when in these Britannic isles, once among the most priest-ridden of Antichrist’s dominions, yet happily recovered from under that cruel yoke of bondage. Popery now, like a dying monster, is making its last efforts, by the ministry of these locusts and lying frogs, false prophets, &c. forming military associations amongst the kings of the earth, for its increase, preservation, and admiration. And tho’ we have reason to trust in God, that he shall never fully re-conquer these covenanted lands; yet we had much need, in such a lethargic state of affairs, of strong and stimulating application to every mean to re-animate fortitude, reformation, courage, and zeal, and to promote a quicker circulation of true piety and witnessing graces; and more, when the Lord not only threatens to lift up his hand brandishing the sword of war, but also in his providential dispensation of the last season, seems to lay on his hand in breaking the staff of bread; so that, in many places of the land, poverty comes as one that travelleth, and want as an armed man.
And, to conclude, awful indeed are the signs of these confused, deluded, and demented times: But God lives and reigns. May the Lord arise and plead his own cause, and let his enemies be scattered: Let them that hate him, flee before him; and graciously return again and claim his own ancient gift of possession of these isles of the sea, Britain and Ireland, in a full revival of an uniform covenanted work of reformation purity, to the utter extirpation of every error and heresy that now stands in opposition thereunto.—And as there is but one God, one Saviour, one faith, one baptism, one heaven, and the word of reconciliation is one, may all his professing people become as one stick in his hand.—And if the following Collection shall, through a divine blessing, in the hand of the Spirit, prove any thing helpful, for any of the said purposes, in this divided age, when so many jarring voices obtain and prevail, when the four winds seem to strive upon the great sea of the moral world, and the end would be in some measure obtained.—For that men may fear the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; and when the enemy threatens to come in like a flood, may the Spirit of the Lord lift up a standard against him, is the desire and earnest prayer of one, who desires to be found among the favourers of the dust of Zion.
Jan. 18th, 1783.
1. For the first and last of these pieces, it appears there have never been another than the first Holland edition. Of the Solemn Testimony, &c. I suppose there has never been an edition since the 1649, when it was published. For the Testimony of the ministers of Perth and Fife, it was reprinted 1729; but the following copy is printed from the first, at least the edition published 1660.2. It was said, that when first published, it was like to have some influence on some of King William’s soldiers, then in Flanders; for which they gathered in all the copies they could come by, and caused Mr. Kid, the publisher, to be apprehended, about the year 1692, and for which he suffered a long imprisonment at Utrecht in Holland.
3. From the above, let none conclude, that I am against all defending our civil and religious rights and privileges, in opposing a foreign or intestine enemy: No, far from it. But let every one who professes to own and adhere to the whole of a covenanted work of reformation, do it in such a way as the word of God allows, and the covenanted testimony of the reformed church of Scotland will admit of. But, say not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy, &c.
4. Vide Ludovicus Molineus, p. 560.
5. That this is no shot at random, or groundless charge, are not the following heretical notions now held and maintained amongst others? That divine revelation is no certain rule for man’s life and actions, with Blount—That the Old Testament is not necessary now for salvation, with Marcion—That several places, yea books, in scripture is not divine inspiration, with Morgan—That Christ is not God essential with the Father, with Arius—That he was not born of the substance of the virgin, but only the personal Word, with Valentine—That he had a pre-existent human soul before his incarnation, with Euth—s—That he is to be preferred before the Father, with Zinzenderf—That Christ died for all men, with Arminius—That we are to believe nothing but what we can by reason comprehend, with Socinus—That the heathen may be saved by the light of nature with Tindal—That man has yet a free will, and that there is no original sin, with Pelagius—That infants ought not to be Baptized, and adults re-baptized, with Hut and Storkius—That the fourth commandment is not morally binding, with Coec—n—That all kinds of religion ought to be tolerated, with Best—That the supreme magistrate is head of all causes and persons, civil and ecclesiastic, with Erastus—That he hath nothing to do with religion, with Donatus and Glass—That no man ought to be punished for his opinions or heresy, with Lullius—That every man shall be saved by the religion he professeth, if sincere, with Rhetorius—That we have no warrant for any certain profession or form of church government, with Quintinus and W—f—y—Nor warrant for covenanting, with Sagarellius and G—s—That Christians ought not to defend their religious privileges with arms, with Tertul.—That laymen may preach, &c. with B—o—n—That it is inconsistent with the goodness of God to punish his own creatures eternally, with C—f—d—That there shall be an universal resurrection of every creature, with R—o—That there shall be no resurrection at all, with Cerdon—That hell torments are not eternal, but for a long time, with Orig.—That there are neither heaven nor hell, with Sadoc, Almaricus and Albanes.
6. See a great number of objects fully answered in a pamphlet, entitled, Absurdity and perfidy of all authoritative Toleration.
7. For precept, see Deut. 13.5; 18.20; Zech. 13.3; Rev. 17.16. and precedent, was not the blasphemer and sabbath-breaker stoned; Baal’s prophets, by Elijah’s orders, killed; the like was done by Asa and Josiah, reforming kings of Judah. Was not Bolsec, for vending the Pelagian heresy, free will, &c. banished [from] Geneva? Was not Servetus, by the consent of the reformed churches, burnt there, for the Arian heresy, 1553? Was not Gentilies beheaded and burnt for espousing the same damnable opinions? Was not Naylor imprisoned, and his tongue bored, by the parliament of England for his blasphemous notions, 1656?
8. Gillespie’s Misc. Quest. chap. 14.
9. To illustrate truth by facts, I could instance a man who openly and avowedly denied the being of a God, and blasphemed the second person of the Trinity, at one of the public toll-bars of the nation; and tho’ a man of public business, I suppose no man could impeach him, either of molestation to the state or partiality in his civil dealings.—I could mention another, who blasphemed the incarnation of Christ, put the ministers of the place to a defiance, to prove that there were either God, devil, angel, or spirit; and yet none was more obliging to his neighbors, and civil in his dealings betwixt man and man, &c. The first of these was excommunicated by the church, and died about a year ago, under a misery of torment. And being asked of a future state, he said, Of that he was not sure, but he wished to be out of the present tormenting condition, and thus expired.
10. Misc. Quest.
11. Vide his sermon before the House of Lords 1645.
12. So Poole—Diodati—Dutch Annota.—Henry, &c.
13. In a lecture delivered at Distinction Hill 1688.
14. Scots Confess. art. 24.—”Moreover, to kings, princes, &c. we affirm, that chiefly and most principally the conservation and purgation of religion appertaineth: So that not only are they appointed for civil policy, but also for maintaining of the true religion, and for suppressing of idolatry and superstition whatsoever.”
Westmin. Conf. chap. 20. sect. 4. chap. 23. sect. 3.—”Erroneous opinions or practices, may lawfully be called to account, and be proceeded against by the censure of the church, and by the power of the civil magistrate—It is his duty to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the church; that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed,” &c.
Larger Cat. quest. 109.—”The sins forbidden in the second commandment, are all devising, counseling, commending, approving, tolerating a false religion.”
Mr. Knox—”It is evident that the office of the king, or supreme magistrate, must have respect to the moral law, and to the conversation of both tables thereof.”
Mr. Alex. Henderson,—”Princes are vicegerents to God and to his Son Jesus Christ, as he is God in his universal kingdom of providence; and this watching of princes and magistrates is objectively ecclesiastical; but, formalitur civilis, it is about matters of religion in a civil manner. The faithful support and preservation of religion is a part of their office. For they are not only keepers of the first, but of the second table of the law; and to them appertaineth the vindication and defence of religion, against contempt, corruption, and abuse, &c.” Sermon before the House of Lords 1643.
Mr. Durham—”Sure we are, in the Old Testament, magistrates were included in the command of restraining and punishing such as did entice to false worship. In the New Testament we find no repeal of the same. Both civil and church authority should be exercised for the restraining such evil workers, and punishing of them for hurting of the church of Christ, and dishonouring of his name.” Expos. on Rev. 2.20.
Mr. Rutherford—”The king hath a chief hand in church affairs, when he is nursing father; and beareth the regal sword to defend both tables of the law.” &c. Lex Rex, p. 141.
Mr. D. Dickson—”The supreme magistrate is, custos utriusque tabulæ, a keeper of both tables of the law. If he may punish evil-doers, who offend against the second table, and force and compel them to obedience; much more may he punish idolaters and blasphemers, who offend against the first table,” &c. Truth’s Victory, &c. chap. 23.
Presbytery of Edinburgh—”We find also that the magistrate’s power, under the New Testament, is given for the punishment of evil-doers, Rom. 13.3,4. Now, seduction (to error) is an evil deed,” &c. Testim. against Toleration, 1658.
Informatory Vindication—”We allow the magistrate a power over the outward things of the church. We own he may and ought to preserve both tables of the law, and punish, by corporal and temporal punishment, whether church officers or members, as openly dishonour God by gross offences, either against the first or second table, &c.” p. 31, prior edition.
Mr. Renwick—”It is the right duty of magistrates to use an imperative, coercive, and cumulative power about church matters, in commanding ministers to do their ministerial duties, presented to them by their only Head and Master Christ, in restraining idolatry, superstition, error, and profaneness,” &c. Testimony against Toleration, p. 47. last edition.
To these, with a number more, that I cannot properly here insert, I might add, the authority of the ministers in the province of London, and country palantine in Lancaster, in their Testimonies against Toleration, emitted March 1647, were it needful; but I flatter myself that the above may suffice at present to prove the assertion.
15. Instance Mr. Gillies, in the Gen. Ass. 1778, whose motion against popery, had but 24 votes against 113; and L. G. Gordon, in the parl. 1780, without one member in either House to support him.