Page images
PDF
EPUB

nature and works of creation and providence, or by any Revelation from God, to which they have acceis,--always taking heed to make no laws, but such as they certainly know to be agreeable to the law of God. It is not to be expected, that civil laws can forbid every fault and require every thing good in externals; but they ought never to encourage fin, or discourage duty.

OBJECT. XXIV. « To allow magiftrates a pow. er of judgirg about the matters of religion will make them Church-rulers."

Answ. 1. No more than it made Nebuchadnezzar; Darius, Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, and the king of Nineveh Church-rulers.

2. No more than Church-rulers taking cognizance of murder, adultery, incest, theft, robbery, or even of the conduct of Christian magistrates relative to administration of justice, wars, alliances, &c. will make them magiftrates. 53. How often must you be told, that Churchrulers judge, how such profession or practice ought to stand connected with ecclefiaftical en, couragements, discouragements or censure; but magistrates judge, how such profeffion or practice ought to be connected with civil encouragements or discouragements. Church-rulers warn against, and censure men's public faults, only as scandals, disgraceful and hurtful to the Church. Magistrates judge of, and punish them only as crimes, hurtful to the prosperity of the State. In Church-courts, matters are considered as the matters of the Lord, In civil courts, they are considered as the matters of the king, 2 Chron. xixi 8--11. Ministers as the deputies of Chrift, require magistrates to execute their office for the honour of Christ, and welfare of his Church, and censure them, if Church-members, if they do not. Magistrates as vicegerents of God, the King

of nations, require ministers faithfully to execute their office, particularly as stated by the laws of the land, in order to promote virtue and happiness among the subje&s, and draw the blessing of God upon them; and they punish them as unduitful sube, jects, if they notoriously transgress, 1 Kings ii. 26. Magistrates have no ECCLESIASTICAL PUWER at all, They have no power to restrain or hinder the free and full exercise of Church powor. But, by giving full opportunity, encouragement and excitement to Church officers, they have power to provide that Church power be freely and faithfully exercised in their dominions. They have no power to transact any thing ecclesiastical, as in admission of members into the Church, or to the seals of God's covenant;

-no power to choose or ordain Church officers;

no power to preach the gospel, dispense the sacrament, infli&t censures, or absolve from them.

- They have no power to prescribe or enact any ecclefiaftical laws; but they have power to adopt such lawful and expedient constitutions, as have been made by the Church-courts, into their civil code, by a legal ratification,—and power to enact such political laws as are necessary for the more advantageous execution of these ecclefiaftical con ftitutions. They have no power to frame a religion for their subjects, or ratify a false religion already received or framed, or to establish any thing in religion, which is not founded in the word of God; but they have a power to adopt the law.of God, and the religion prescribed by it, as a part of their civil law, in order to promote the glory of God in the welfare of the nation. The more public Church-courts be, and the more extensive his influence upon his subjects, and the welfare of the nation, the more right hath the civil magistrate to exercise his political power about them. The Church having an in

1

trinsic right and power from Christ to call Synods for government, whenever her circumstances require it, the magistrate hath no power to deprive her of this right. But while the Church calls them as courts of Christ, constituted of Church-rulers apa pointed by him to act in his name, the magistrate may call them as courts established by the civil law, and neceffary to promote the peace, order and piety, and so the prosperity of his subjects,--as courts, which consist of his principal subjects, and to which place and protection must be given in his dominions. The magistrate hath no power of deputing to Synods such members as he pleaseth, Acts xv. 2 Chron. viii. 18. or, to hinder or recal those whom the Church hath deputed, unless the safety of the State plainly require it. But he may compel members, and parties who have causes before the court, to attend, if the case of the Church require.it, as a mean of repressing a malicious and turbulent faction, who have, or may hurt the State. It is not necefsary, that either the magistrate, or his Commissioner, attend ecclefiaftical Synods ;-though to secure their protection, curb unruly troublers of the court, and to witness the propriety of their procedure, he may attend.

If he attend, He hath a power to judge for himself, how matters are ecclesiastically transacted,ma power politically to provide, That the members meddle with no political affairs, which do not belong to them as a court of Christ;- -and to take care, that members, and others prefent, obferve that due decency, in reasoning, voting, submitting, or hearing, which the nature of the court requires. If

any cause be partly civil and partly ecclefiaftical, he is to judge the civil part himself, and leave the ecclefiaftical to the Church court.

Even in ecclefiaftical causes, he may give his advice, nay, he may propose and require Synods to examine and decide concerning points of doctrine or practice, if necessary for the satisfaction of his own conscience, or the instruction and edification of his subjects, in order to promote the welfare of the State, in subor. dination to the glory of God. But he hath no power to hinder others to propose their difficulties or grievances before the Synod for satisfaction or redress, unless the cause be partly of a political nature, a Synodical decision of which, at that time, endangers the State. He hath no power to preside in the Synod, or to give his decisive vote in any of their transactions. But, as a man and Christian, he hath right to a judgment of discretion, Whether their decisions be according to the law of God or not, and as a magistrate, he hath a power of poli. tical judgment, by which he doth not properly judge, Whether these decisions be true or false, good ox bad in themselves, but Whether, and How far, they ought to be ratified, and as it were adopted into the laws of the State, and connected with civil rewards, forbearance, or punishments. Thus, the pow. er of the magistrate, in nothing interferes with the power of the Synod. Nothing is done by the one, as a magistrate, that the other can do, as a court of Christ. And as the decisions of Synods are supreme in the ecclefiafic order, from which there is no appeal bu: to Jesus Chrift;By remonstrating as a Church-member, and commanding them as their King, the magistrate may cause the Synod re-consider its own deeds, but he cannot reverse them himself;

-So the magistrate's deed concerning the civil ratification of Church-deeds is fupreme in its kind, from which there is no appeal but to God himself. The Synod may require him as a Church-member; and, as subjects, they may remonftrate, and fupplicate his re-confideration of his own deed, but they cannot reverse it themselves,

OBJECT. XXV. “To allow magiftrates to judge in matters of religion for others, and to restrain and punish corruptions in it, is to render them lords of men's faith and conscience,--a power which even the inspired apostles disclaimed. For if magistrates impose any religion at all upon their subjects, it must be what their own conscience dictates; and then what shall become of the private rights of conscience, among their subjects?"

Answ. 1. Did then God, who of old command. ed magistrates to judge about matters of religion, and to restrain and punish blafphemers, idolaters, seducers, profaners of the Sabbath, Deut. xiii. 9, 10. & xvii. 5-7. Lev. xxiv. 114-14. Song ii. 15. Num. xv. 32–36. command them to lord it over men's conscience? If it was not so then, it cannot be so now, as conscience, tyranny and murder, are the fame in every age.

2. The objection strikes with equal force, against all ecclefiaftical establishment of the true religion, and against all creeds and Confessions of Faith, and against all ecclefiaftical judging and censuring of men for herefy, Hlafphemy, or idolatry, contrary. to Rev. ii. 20. Tit. iii. 10. Gal. v. 19, 11. as against magistrates' judging about establishing ' religion or punishing the public insulters of it.

3. Magistrates act in this matter as his ministers and vicegerents, by virtue of his commandment, who is the alone Lord of conscience, and restrain or punish nothing, but what men, under any proper influence of faith and conscience, would abftain from, as forbidden by the Lord of conscience, who is to be their future judge, and hath appointed ma. gistrates, as his substitutes to avenge the open inju. ries done to him in this world, Rom. xiii. 4. And, if men perfift in fins plainly forbidden in his law, he

« PreviousContinue »