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The Absurdity and Perfidy of All Authoritative Toleration of Gross Heresy, Blasphemy, Idolatry, Popery, in Britain by John Brown of Haddington

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The sub-title reads: "In two letters to a friend in which the doctrine of the Westminster Confession of Faith relative to Toleration of a False Religion, and the power of the civil magistrate about sacred matters; and the nature, origin, ends and obligation of the National Covenant and Solemn League are candidly represented and defended." Here Brown deals with three major Reformation attainments (anti-tolerationism, establishmentarianism and the obligations of lawful covenants as they biblically bind posterity) that Satan has always been especially concerned to overthrow -- in every major demonic move to open the floodgates of lawlessness, anarchy and misrule.

Fletcher, in the preface to the 1797 edition, relates this truth as it comes to bear on various religious professors, stating, "Papists were enemies to our covenants because they were a standard lifted up against their system of abominable idolatries. Episcopalians were enemies to them, because they were a standard lifted up against their anti-scriptural church-officers and inventions of men in the worship of God. Some Presbyterians are enemies to them in our day through ignorance of their nature and ends; and others through fear of being too strictly bound to their duty" (Cited in Johnston, Treasury of the Scottish Covenant, p. 486).

It is also interesting to note the long list of backsliders and heretics that often oppose one or more of these points. "The ancient Donatists, a sect of Arian separatists, who appeared about the beginning of the 4th Century, seem to have been among the first who held out these opinions to the Christian world. Feeling the weight of the arm of power for their schismatical practices, by way of reprisal, they stript the magistrate of all power in religion;--maintaining that he had no more power about religious matters than any private person, and refusing him the right of suppressing the propagators of doctrines different from those professed by the Church, or the observers of a different form of worship.

From them the German Anabaptists adopted the same views. Then the Socinians (i.e. an early form of Scripture-denying liberals--RB) and remonstrant Arminians, whenever the magistrate ceased to patronize their cause. The English Independents during the time of the Long Parliament were the zealous supporters of the same opinions.

In their rage for liberty of conscience, they formed the strongest opposition in the Westminster Assembly which the Presbyterians had to encounter. Through their influence that venerable body was much embarrassed (hindered-- RB) in their proceeding; and by their means (in collusion with that "Judas of the Covenant," Cromwell--RB), certain passages of the Confession of Faith never obtained the ratification of the English Parliament.

The English Dissenters of the present age are generally in the same views, especially the Socinians, the Arians, and the Quakers, who have most to dread from the Laws of the Land against their blasphemies. And who knows not that the high reputation of Mr. Locke as a Philosopher... has given these opinions such an air of respectability, that many youth in the Universities have been thereby inclined to embrace them?" (Preface, pp. vi-vii).

In our day the tree of toleration (and the anti-Scriptural principles which logically grow out of it) has spread its branches in ways that could have never been envisioned by those that took the first steps away from biblical and covenanted uniformity.

What Brown is fighting against here is an error so foundational that when left unchecked it permeates all of society, cutting out the foundational roots that are necessary for all national Reformations -- and "if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Ps. 11:3).

Furthermore, as the preface notes "liberty of conscience and of opinion" are "the great idols of the day." Here Brown takes out his covenantal hammer and smashes these idols with an inconoclastic zeal worthy of our earlier Reformed forefathers.

This book is especially useful in answering the persistent fear and questions that always arise when these old Reformed views are discussed: that is, the questions dealing with religious persecution. Brown spends much time in clearing the Westminster Divines of such false charges, while also setting these controversial Reformed teachings on a thoroughly biblical foundation.

Interestingly, in the section defending the continuing obligation of the National and Solemn League and Covenant, we also note that the Westminster Assembly considered the Solemn League and Covenant an "everlasting covenant." Brown cites the following as proof, "That the body of the English nation also swore the Solemn League and Covenant, is manifest. The Westminster Assembly and English Parliament, affirm, 'The honourable house of Parliament, the Assembly of Divines, the renowned city of London, and multitudes of other persons of all ranks and quality in this nation, and the whole body of Scotland, have all sworn it, rejoicing at the oath so graciously seconded from heaven. God will, doubtless, stand by all those, who with singleness of heart shall now enter into an everlasting covenant with the Lord'" (p. 161).

The footnote tells us that the section Brown was quoting was taken from "Exhortation to take the Covenant, February, 1644." Brown also includes a helpful section on a point some modern day malignants are once again attempting to use to overthrow the biblical attainments of the covenanted Reformation. This section shows that the "(t)he intrinsic obligation of promises, oaths, vows, and covenants which constitutes their very essence or essential form, is totally and manifestly distinct from the obligation of the law of God in many respects" (p. 120).

Finally, we cite a portion of Brown's dying testimony to his children given in the introduction (p. xix). Such testimonies, from notable Christian leaders, often contain singularly pertinent charges to their hearers. (For another notable example of this see James Renwick's dying testimony, as he was about to be martyred for his adherence to the Solemn League and Covenant, when he recounts what was later to become most of the terms of communion in Covenanted Presbyterian churches. This testimony can be found in Thompson's A Cloud of Witnesses for the Royal Prerogatives of Jesus Christ Being the Last Speeches and Testimonies of those Who Have Suffered for the Truth in Scotland Since... 1680).

Here are Brown's dying words to his children: "Adhere constantly, cordially and honestly to the Covenanted Principles of the Church of Scotland, and to that Testimony which hath been lifted up for them. I fear a generation is rising up which will endeavour silently,' (O how prophetic!) 'to let slip these matters, as if they were ashamed to hold them fast, or even to speak of them (as with many "reformed" publishers and preachers today, who dare not touch the topics Brown deals with in this book--RB). May the Lord forbid that any of you should ever enter into this confederacy against Jesus Christ and his cause! This from a dying father and minister, and a witness for Christ" (Signed) 'John Brown.'

If you have the moral courage to compare the original Reformed faith with that which is often promoted under its name today (and in many ways the old Reformed faith bears little resemblance to the "new light" Reformers and innovators of our day), then this is an ideal book to obtain and study.

214 pages.


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