The Reformation View Of Biblical Civil Government
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"For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted." (Isaiah 60:12)
"And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me." (Isaiah 49:23)
"No manifest idolater, nor notorious transgressor of God's holy precepts, ought to be promoted to any public regiment [i.e. government-GLP], honour, or dignity, in any realm, province, or city that has subjected itself to his blessed evangel" (John Knox from "Summary of the Proposed Second Blast of the Trumpet" , as cited in Greg Price, Biblical Civil Government Versus The Beast; and The Basis for Civil Resistance , p. 5, on the Puritan Hard Drive)
"I lay down this maxim of divinity; tyranny being a work of Satan, is not from God, because sin either habitual or actual, is not from God; the power that is, must be from God; the magistrate as magistrate, is good, in nature of office, and the intrinsic end of his office, Rom. 13:4. for he is the Minister of God for thy good; and therefore a power ethical, political, or moral, to oppress, is not from God, and is not a power, but a licentious deviation of a power, and is no more from God, but from sinful nature, and the old serpent, than a license to sin." (Samuel Rutherford [Scottish Covenanter and Westminster Divine], Lex, Rex, 1644, on the Puritan Hard Drive, emphases added).
"The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he has authority, and 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, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administrated, and observed" (The Westminster Confession of Faith [1647, original edition], 23:3, on the Puritan Hard Drive, emphases added).
"The orthodox churches believe also, and do willingly acknowledge, that every lawful magistrate, being by God himself constituted the keeper and defender of both tables of the law, may and ought first and chiefly to take care of God's glory, and (according to his place, or in his manner and way) to preserve religion when pure, and to restore it when decayed and corrupted: and also to provide a learned and godly ministry, schools also and synods, as likewise to restrain and punish as well atheists, blasphemers, heretics and schismatics, as the violators of justice and civil peace" (George Gillespie [Scottish Covenanter and Westminster Divine], Works, 1:12, on the Puritan Hard Drive, emphases added).
"Yet civil government has as its appointed end, so long as we live among men, to cherish and protect the outward worship of God, to defend sound doctrine of piety and the position of the church, to adjust our life to the society of men, to form our social behavior to civil righteousness, to reconcile us with one another, and to promote general peace and tranquility (John Calvin, Institutes, IV, XX, Volume 2, p. 1487, Westminster Press , emphases added).
"'Of the Civil Magistrate' Moreover, to kings, princes, rulers, and magistrates, we affirm that chiefly and most principally the conservation and purgation of the religion appertains; so that not only they are appointed for civil policy, but also for maintenance of the true religion, and for suppressing of idolatry and superstition whatsoever: as in David, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, and others, highly commended for their zeal in that case, may be espied. (Scottish Confession of Faith [1560, co-authored by Scottish reformer, John Knox], ch. 24, "Of the Civil Magistrate", on the Puritan Hard Drive, emphases added)
The establishmentarianism of the Reformation was not limited to just individual divines, "Dr. M'Crie in his STATEMENT OF THE DIFFERENCE, shows that all the Confessions of the Protestant and Presbyterian Churches of the Reformation, both in Britain and on the Continent of Europe, held and maintained the Establishment Principle." M'Crie goes on give extracts from THE CONFESSION OF HELVETIA; THE CONFESSION OF BOHEMIA, called the CONFESSION OF THE WALDENSES; THE CONFESSION OF SAXONY; THE FRENCH CONFESSION; THE BELGIC OR DUTCH CONFESSION; THE CONFESSION OF THE ENGLISH CONGREGATION IN GENEVA; THE SCOTS CONFESSION and THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION, all proving that "these confessions harmoniously agree in declaring as with one mouth that civil authority is not limited to the secular affairs of men, and the public care and advancement of religion is a principle part of the official duty of magistrates." See our publication of Theodore Beza's (Calvin's successor in Geneva) HARMONY OF THE PROTESTANT CONFESSIONS (section 19, "Of the Civil Magistrate") and the Westminster Confession of Faith (chapter 23) to confirm M'Crie's findings. M'Crie, in opposition to Tangelder, then rightly concludes, "Such is the harmony of doctrine in the Protestant churches on this head, expressed in their confessions and public formularies drawn from the word of God; a harmony which deserves great attention, and from which none should rashly depart." The only so-called Protestant group that generally opposed establishments was the anti-covenantal, anabaptists. (Dr. Reg Barrow, Reg Barrow's Reply to Christian Renewal Regarding Their Review of Mike Wagner's Presbyterian Political Manifesto, on the Puritan Hard Drive, emphases added)
And the government's task is not limited to caring for and watching over the public domain but extends also to upholding the sacred ministry, with a view to removing and destroying all idolatry and false worship of the Antichrist; to promoting the kingdom of Jesus Christ; and to furthering the preaching of the gospel everywhere; to the end that God may be honored and served by everyone, as he requires in his Word. (The Belgic Confession: Article 36: "The Civil Government," on the Puritan Hard Drive, emphases added)
II. Classic vs. modern reformed teachings concerning magistracy and religion.
We turn now to several quotations from reformed creeds and eminent reformed writers, concerning the Christian magistrates' power and authority about (not in, as this is the domain of Christ and His delegated church officers alone) matters of religion. After these, appropriate sections from the original Westminster Confession are compared with the creedal standards of three prominent reformed denominations in our day, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America. Commentary by B.B. Warfield as to what these revisions entailed (he himself apparently favorable to them) concludes this outline. Apart from a consideration of which position is correct, it is immediately evident that these modern reformed denominations (and Warfield) take a position of the magistracy bearing much more resemblance to the pluralism of the United States Constitution, than to the citations from our reformed heritage. If, indeed, our forefathers in the faith were wrong, wherein lay their error, and why was their position held not by one or two isolated churches but by virtually all the reformed churches, spanning several countries, during times of great reformation?
It is this author's contention that the modern churches have let go of this important piece of the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Thereby they have delivered the church, not to kings as nursing fathers, but to the cruel civil domination of the enemies of the true religion, their sheep being taught that they must submit passively to every pretended civil authority as the ordinance of God. By this defection, these leaders of the flock have also undermined the magistracy, allowing and even encouraging wicked men to remove this blessed ordinance from its foundation in God its creator, and from its subjection to Christ His King, thereby directly opposing God's benevolent ends in instituting civil government. ...
In conclusion, it is affirmed that God requires of the Christian subjection for conscience sake to the office of civil magistracy and to those who hold the office so long as they fulfill the moral duties of a civil magistrate. This and this alone is "the ordinance of God." However, it is denied that the Christian owes conscientious subjection or honor to a tyrant who forsakes the moral duties of his office. The Christian should be thankful for the measure of freedom he may yet enjoy under a tyrant, but he cannot say that the emperor is clothed in lawful authority just because everyone says he is. The Christian must fear the Lord his God, and stand with the cloud of faithful witnesses and courageously declare, "The king has no clothes" (i.e. no lawful authority). The Christian who testifies to this truth may be falsely accused of treason, sedition, and revolutionary anarchy, but so were Christ, Paul, and Christians throughout history. If it can justly be termed "treason" to actively resist tyranny, then far better to be charged with treason against a tyrant than to be charged with treason against the Son of God for not actively resisting Christ's enemies when it is the Christian's duty to do so. The eminent Scottish divine, Samuel Rutherford, well stated the duty of the Christian who stands for the truth in the face of false allegations of treason:
Christ, the prophets, and apostles of our Lord, went to heaven with the note of traitors, seditious men, and such as turned the world upside down: calumnies [i.e. slanders--GLP] of treason to Caesar were an ingredient in Christ's cup, and therefore the author [i.e. Mr. Rutherford--GLP] is the more willing to drink of that cup that touched his lip, who is our glorious Forerunner: what, if conscience toward God, and credit with men, cannot both go to heaven with the saints, the author is satisfied with the former companion, and is willing to dismiss the other. Truth to Christ cannot be treason to Caesar. . . . 83
There is coming a day when magistracy and ministry will both fulfill their ordained duties to the glory of Christ, then the church of Jesus Christ will see the full realization of God's promise: "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers" (Isa. 49:22,23).
- Greg Price, Biblical Civil Government Versus the Beast; and, The Basis For Civil Resistance, on the Puritan Hard Drive, emphases added.
From the Scriptural doctrine of Christ's universal Lordship we can understand the nature and the extent of the service which nations are required to render to Him. He is their King, possessed of absolute authority over them, the rightful Lord of every person, every where, at all times, in every relation, and so the rightful Lord of all the persons in a nation when they are joined together in the capacity of rulers and ruled. ...
In the days of the reforming kings of Judah, their zeal first attacked the idols that had been set up to receive the people's worship. The image of Baal was not allowed any longer to usurp the place of Jehovah. Images, altars, groves, and all other monuments of degrading idolatry were swept away and the temple cleansed, that the worship of the true God might be restored. So it must be with our own land if it would return to God's covenant and service.
The Baal of mere political expediency must be ground to powder; the will of the people must bend or break in the presence of the will of the Lord of hosts; iniquitous legislation must be repealed; unscriptural concessions to false systems must be recalled; endowments given to error, to idolatry, to Antichrist, must be withdrawn, and, for the maintenance of truth and true religion, they must be laid at the feet of Christ. God's message, through Samuel, to a sinning nation of old, was "If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord and serve Him only." The true practical service of Christ cannot co-exist with habitual idolatry on the part either of an individual or of a nation. Christ claims not a part but the whole of our homage in every relation, not limited but absolute authority over men and nations. Therefore the idols must be utterly abolished in an idolatrous nation, as an essential preliminary to the practical service of Christ; and as a proof that the nation is sincere in its submission to the Universal Lord.
The open and practical subjection of a nation to Christ, where that subjection is sincere, extends, however beyond purely civil matters, which are the immediate ends of a national constitution. The nation, as we have seen, is required to place all its civil affairs beneath His authority, and to endeavour to have them first and last regulated by His holy law, for His glory as the King of nations. But a truly holy and obedient nation will do much more than this. It will intelligently recognise the great end of Christ's authority over nations, and voluntarily seek to promote the accomplishment of that end as its own great and ultimate end. ...
We must very carefully guard against the settlement of such a question as that of Christ's authority over the nations, over their legislation, over their resources, by the consideration of past or present abuses. We know there have been wrong and injurious methods employed by churches and nations in dealing with this question in the past. And what has been unquestionably wrong in the past, and is unquestionably wrong still, in the methods of national endowment, weighs so heavily on some minds as to make them forget that there are right methods, and that Christ is Lord of the nations' money "to the Church."
But we must settle the question in another and very different way. What saith the Scripture? There is no Scripture principle or doctrine that we should not be justified in letting go and denouncing, if abuse were a good reason for letting go the Scripture doctrine of regular national offerings to Christ for His Church. Every doctrine and principle has been abused. Not by abuses, therefore, but by the plain teaching of Scripture -- preceptive, historic, and prophetic -- must we settle the question of national service to God's Christ.
Let us remember Christ's official character as the Mediator, the grounds of His Mediatorial reign, His relation to the Church and His special and peculiar interest in her welfare and progress, the grant of all things, including all nations, for His inheritance, to be subservient to His purposes in the Church; let us remember the command we are now considering, in its connection with Christ set upon the Holy Hill of Zion; let us remember the manifold predictions such as, "All kings shall fall down before Him, all nations shall serve Him" -- "before Him" as the Mediatorial King of the Church, to whom, in that capacity, they offer their willing services for His central and most glorious kingdom -- "serve Him" in that capacity for the furtherance of that great purpose of His in the Church which infinitely transcends all worldly purposes in importance to the moral universe; let us remember all this, and we can have no difficulty in accepting the Reformation doctrine of national subjection to Jesus Christ as the enthroned Mediator.
When the nations bring their offerings of intelligent homage to Him they will find Him in the very midst of His Church, and they will never find Him anywhere else. He "sits between the cherubims," "Great and High in Zion," or the Church, "above all people." In that position of central honour he must be acknowledged and worshipped at length by all the nations of the world. There is no principle more clearly and more solemnly laid down in the Word of God, and more clearly established by history, than this; and there was no principle more joyfully and intelligently accepted by our fathers of the Second Reformation than this; -- that true national duty and the most elevated national policy consist in bearing faithful allegiance to Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, as "King of kings and Lord of lords," in the spirit and tone and contents of the national constitution, in the whole national legislation and administration, and in the specific acknowledgement of His right to the nation's constant and regular tribute to Him as its Lord.
When the nations come to know this, and to act in the spirit of this subjection; when they acknowledge Him as the Lord of Hosts and obey His commands along the whole line of national action; then, and not till then, shall the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
- Rev. James Dick, M.A., Civil Rulers Serving the Lord or The Scriptural Doctrine of National Religion (A Sermon, preached at the opening of the Reformed Presbyterian Synod of Scotland, May 15th, 1882), emphases added.
"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isa. 2:2-4)
FREE AND DISCOUNTED REFORMATION RESOURCES ON BIBLICAL CIVIL GOVERNMENT
Almost all of the Reformation resources noted below, on biblical civil government, are on the Puritan Hard Drive, along with hundreds more on this topic.
(This book is the best modern testimony for the biblical principles of civil magistracy -- which were so prominent during the height of the second Reformation -- that we have seen. Price documents the teachings of many of the major Reformers (and some of the church fathers) and in an easy reading manner simplifies what can at times become a very complex subject. This particular Reformation message, proclaiming Christ's Kingship over the nations [and the practical outworking of the same], has been buried from the view of the general public for some time now, but is once again being brought to light in this very helpful introductory book. A sobering appendix has been added [written by a friend of the covenanted Reformation] which shows why it is unlawful for a Christian to swear any oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. This appendix also compares the points of difference between classic [or historic] Reformed teaching and modern Reformed teaching regarding magistracy and religion. Special attention is given to the OPC, the PCA and the RPCNA and the changes that these groups have made to second Reformation confessional standards [concerning matters related to the civil magistrate]. Statements by B.B. Warfield are also contrasted to the older Reformed views. You won't find a better easy-to-read and easy to understand introduction to this important topic -- a topic which impacts directly on every Christian's testimony for the crown rights of King Jesus!)
(In many ways this is a crux of the Covenanter position, underlying as it does the issues of separation, civil government, the Covenants, eschatology, etc.)
John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) summarizes in this very helpful and timely work the problem and solution to the corrupt laws and the tyranny in high places that Christians so much decry in the nations of this world. Even Christians have been misled to believe that civil government is outside the sphere of God's Law and authority. We hear much about civil rights, but do we even hear that a moral wrong cannot be a civil right? We hear much about the rights of man in a democracy to rule themselves by his own laws, but do we even hear civil rulers say anything about the sovereign rights of God and His Moral Law over the nations?
(Pointed but irenic, Barrow decisively refutes the view of Doug Wilson (cf. "Cyberporn: A Case Study" [Credenda/Agenda, vol. 7, no. 5, p. 11]), many modern Theonomists and the civil libertarians, that the production and distribution of pornography is not a crime (and thus not subject to negative penal sanctions by the civil magistrate). Barrow demonstrates that Wilson's view of civil government (which logically results in such a monstrous conclusion) is actually an overly strict view of the regulative principle. This "hyper-regulativism" (denying lawful inferences, or what Samuel Rutherford calls "logical consequence") is then wrongly applied to the civil magistrate, rather than to worship (when rightly interpreted). He also points out the link between Wilson's view and the principles of the Anabaptists, Libertines and other antiestablishmentarian forces. With an impressive array of historical citations (primarily John Calvin, George Gillespie, Samuel Rutherford, and the Westminster Confession of Faith), and a cogent analysis and application of relevant Scripture passages, Barrow shows clearly that Wilson's view of civil government "gives birth to illegitimate offspring in the case of pornography, contradicting as it does common sense (the light of nature), our reformed fathers in the faith, and the express commands and approved examples of Scripture. In short, it is anything but the 'classical Protestant' position, and anything but biblical." This item is appendix "B" in the book Saul in the Cave of Adullam: A Testimony Against the Fashionable Sub-Calvinism of Doug Wilson (Editor of Credenda/Agenda Magazine); and, For Classical Protestantism and the Attainments of the Second Reformation, by Dr. Reg Barrow.)
Amazing 54 Second Puritan Hard Drive Video Review by Pastor Scott Brown, Director of the National Center For Family Integrated Churches
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REFORMED BOOKS AND SERMONS ON BIBLICAL CIVIL GOVERNMENT
All the books listed below are on the Puritan Hard Drive.
A Sermon on Civil Government (1821) by James R. Willson
Civil Government: An Exposition of Romans 13:1-7 (1853) by James M. Willson
Messiah the Prince or, the Mediatorial Dominion of Jesus Christ (1884) by William Symington
Christ's Kingship Over the Nations Maintained and Defended in the Establishment Principle, or, The Principle of the National Recognition of Religion by C. J. Brown
Messiah, Governor of the Nations of the Earth (1803) by Alexander M'Leod
The Duty of Nations, in their National Capacity, to Acknowledge and Support the True Religion (1853) by William L Roberts
What Repentance of National Sins Doth God Require, As Ever We Expect National Mercies? (1690, reprinted 1844) by Daniel Williams
Headship of Christ Over the Nations (1841) by Andrew Symington
The Subjection of Kings and Nations to Messiah (1820) by James R. Willson
John Knox, Oliver Cromwell, God's Law and the Reformation of Civil Government by Reg Barrow
The Mystery of Magistracy Unveiled: or, God's Ordinance of Magistracy Asserted, Cleared, and Vindicated from Heathenish Dominion, Tyrannous and Antichristian Usurpation, Despisers of Dignities, and Contemners of Authorities by George Gillespie
Against Romish Rites and Political and Ecclesiastical Tyranny, A Faithful Admonition to the Professors of God's Truth in England (1554) by John Knox
Church and State: The Biblical View, A Compilation Of Articles From Some Of The Best Christian Minds In History, Including Cunningham, Smeaton, M'Crie, Symington, Gillespie, The Westminster Divines, Bannerman, Owen, And Shaw
The Right of Dissent from an Immoral Civil Government by Covenanter Magazine
Defending the Reformed Presbyterian Position on the Civil Magistrate (1781) by John M'Millan Jr.
Lex, Rex, or the Law and the Prince by Samuel Rutherford
Pornography, the Anabaptists, and Doug Wilson's Civil Antinomianism by Dr. Reg Barrow
The Scottish Theory of Ecclesiastical Establishments (1875) by George Smeaton
National Repentance and Reformation (A Brief Exhortation to England for the Speedy Embracing of the Gospel, 1559) by John Knox
Prince Messiah's Claims to Dominion Over All Governments: and the Disregard of His Authority by the United States in the Federal Constitution (1832) by James R. Willson
Prince Messiah's Claims to Dominion Over All Governments: and the Disregard of His Authority by the United States in the Federal Constitution (1832) by James R. Willson
Submission to "the Powers That Be," Scripturally Illustrated (1828) by William L. Roberts
The Absurdity and Perfidy of All Authoritative Toleration of Gross Heresy, Blasphemy, Idolatry, Popery, in Britain by John Brown of Haddington
The Sabbath: A Discourse on the Duty of Civil Government in Relation to the Sanctification of the Lord's Day (1829) by James R. Willson
The Amendment of the Federal Constitution (1865) by James Wallace
The Dominion of Our Savior Jesus Christ as Mediator. Shown to Extend to All Things External to His Church (1878) by William Oburn
The Millennium: Peace, Prosperity and National Covenanting (1879) by Matthew Murray
The Establishment Principle Defended (1873) by William Balfour
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QUOTES ON BIBLICAL CIVIL GOVERNMENT
"Reformation is desperately needed in our languishing nations. In the past, not only did biblical reformation sweep the church in doctrine, worship, and government, but also reformation of biblical Christianity was promoted and accelerated by Christian magistrates who wholeheartedly supported and defended the ministry of the reformed churches. Reformation is never easy. The truth is no more fashionable today than it was at the time of our reformed and covenanted forefathers. If we would see reformation we must return to the old paths of our God and of our forefathers. What is presented in the following pages is not a novel view of civil magistracy, but one which is believed to be both biblical and representative of our reformed and presbyterian forefathers from the covenanted reformation at the time of the Westminster Assembly. Civil magistracy is a blessed ordinance of the living God, given to the human family in order that it might reflect the order in which God so much delights ("For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace" 1 Cor. 14:33). This ordinance should be so cherished by God's people that when the ruling civil magistrate cannot be owned as "the ordinance of God" within a nation, the hearts of God's people both sadly bemoan that fact and earnestly pray that God would in His mercy remove His righteous anger from the land and grant nursing fathers to the church. May God be pleased to open the eyes of His people to the need for reformation in the divine ordinance of civil magistracy."
- Greg Price, Biblical Civil Government Versus the Beast; and, The Basis For Civil Resistance, emphases added
For the last two decades or so there has been an apparent increase in the amount of conservative Christian political activism in North America. Many evangelicals and fundamentalists who had previously shunned politics began to see the necessity of political participation in order to prevent the encroachment of the state upon their legitimate activities, such as Christian education, or to prevent national sins, such as legalized abortion.
Undoubtedly, this Christian political activity is a positive development in Canada and the United States. More Christians are taking their biblical social responsibilities seriously. But Christian political activism also raises important questions. Is the ultimate political goal of Christians simply to achieve certain conservative government policies, or is something more needed for a completely biblical agenda? Every true Christian can agree on policy outcomes such as eliminating abortion, stopping the homosexual agenda, and protecting parental rights in education, but is that all we can gather from the Scriptures as to God's will for civil government?
The learned men who wrote the Westminster Confession of Faith spelled out the basic biblical position on civil government. The "civil magistrate" (i.e., any power- wielding government official such as an elected politician or an unelected judge) is a minister of God (Romans 13:4). He must reward good and punish evil. How is such a person to distinguish "good" from "evil"? By God's authoritative Word, the Bible. Government officials must rule in accordance with the Bible. To put it in different words, Christianity must be the established religion of any society that wants to please God.
But to say that God requires societies to be governed according to the Bible raises further questions. Who should interpret the Bible for the civil authorities? Many different groups of conservative Christians have irreconcilable interpretations of the Bible. For example, some professing Christians are completely opposed to capital punishment for any crime, whereas others support it as the just punishment for not only murder, but other crimes as well. Which interpretation is true?
In order to resolve this problem a Christian state must be more than Christian in a broad sense of endorsing a general concept of biblical Christianity. It must be Christian in a specific sense; it must have a confession of faith that sets out its theological understanding of the Scriptures and how to interpret them.
It is this author's settled conviction that the Westminster Confession of Faith is the most accurate and thoroughgoing account of the doctrines of God's inerrant Word, and is therefore the most reasonable choice for a Christian state to adopt. It is the contention of this paper that the historic Presbyterian view of the necessity for the establishment of Presbyterianism as the official religion of every society is the Scriptural view, and it is the task of this paper to demonstrate that truth to the current generation of Christians.
- Dr. Michael Wagner, A Presbyterian Political Manifesto: Presbyterianism and and Civil Government
, emphases added
"Maybe now you can understand why the national reformations that took place in the OT always included the recognition and national confession of the sins of the fathers -- for those sins brought God's wrath upon the nation (2 Chr. 34:21, 2 Chr. 29:6-7, 2 Chron. 30:7-9, Ezra 9:6-10:2, Neh. 9:2-37). Previous attainments and obligations continue to bind the national moral person (for more on the "moral person" of nations and churches see Scott's Distinctive Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, pp. 61,70,195f., 285f. and Robert's The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism, p. 150, on the Puritan Hard Drive). Moreover, these teachings formed the biblical basis as to why the Reformers (especially during the second Reformation) where always eager to seek out the causes of God's wrath, and repent of these, whether individual, ecclesiastical or national. The best Reformers did not try to gather together all manner of infidels, idolaters, sectarians, etc. and form some kind of general, moralistic, conservative crusade to uplift the nation -- never! (Cf. Gillespie's "Another Most Useful Case of Conscience Discussed and Resolved, Concerning Associations and Confederacies With Idolaters, Infidels, Heretics, or Any Other Know Enemies of Truth and Godliness" in his "Treatise of Miscellany Questions", Works, volume two). They aimed at purifying and unifying the church, state and family on the basis of a covenanted uniformity -- always seeking to be faithful to Christ's Crown and Covenant and shunning all suggestions of humanly based solutions to the problems of the day! They looked first to God's mercy and grace (after recognition and confession of sin of course) in their individual lives; and they weren't about to start to build on a resurrected covenant of works, after having faithfully begun building on the covenant of grace, in the civil or ecclesiastical realms either -- when dealing with the reformation of church and state. This is why the Reformations under Asa, Hezekiah, Josiah, Ezra and Nehemiah all involved the biblical aspects listed below. They sought to:
1. Nationally eradicate idolatry and false religion (with iconoclastic zeal) (cf. 2 Chron. 34:3-7; 2 Chron. 31:1; 2 Chron. 15:8; 2 Chron. 15:16, etc.).
2. Nationally promote the true worship, discipline, and doctrine of the church of Christ (2 Chron. 29:11-30:6; 2 Chron. 30:12-27; Ezra 10:10vv.; Neh. 10:31-32, etc.).
3. Nationally establish the one true religion and church (cf. 2 Chron. 34:8- 17; 2 Chron. 29:3-5; 2 Chron. 31:2-3; 2 Chron. 31:20-21; 2 Chron. 32:12, etc.).
4. Nationally confess their own sins and the sins of their fathers (2 Chron. 34:21; 2 Chron. 29:6-7; 2 Chron. 30:7-9; Ezra 9:6-10:2; Neh. 9:2-37, etc.).
5. Nationally publish the truth (2 Chron. 34:30; Ezra 10:7-8, etc.).
6. Nationally renew covenant with God (with specific regard to the present testimony) and set the state upon a fully covenanted biblical pattern, agreeing to nationally obey the law of God (2 Chron. 34:31; 2 Chron. 29:10; 2 Chron. 15:12-15; Ezra 10:3-4; Neh. 9:38-10:31, etc.).
7. Nationally cause (by civil power) the inhabitants of the nation to stand to the covenant (2 Chron. 34:32-33; 2 Chron. 15:12-13; Ezra 10:5, etc.).
- Dr. Reg Barrow, A Contemporary Covenanting Debate; Or, Covenanting Redivivus (Reg Barrow Debates Joe Bell), emphases added.
Were the State constituted on Scriptural principles, and the true religion established by public authority, it can never be shown that it would be unjust to decree a moderate tax, in order to maintain and propagate Christianity throughout the community. Who ever objects against the appropriations that are made out of the national treasury, to endow Colleges and Universities, and to promote general education? Now, if the reason for making these appropriations be that education advances the ends of civil government, as it tends to further the peace and prosperity of society, it can be shown, with tenfold conclusiveness, that civil rulers should extend their bounty to the true religion established in their dominions. Education is a blessing to a people, but pure Christianity is a blessing incomparably greater. All that education can ever do, towards promoting good order and industry and obedience to the laws throughout a community, will be accomplished much more efficiently by the doctrines of true religion faithfully inculcated, and its ordinances Scripturally administered. This being admitted, and we presume it will not be easy to deny the premises or conclusions, it follows, that a slight tax for the support of a national religious establishment cannot be regarded as a grievance, even by those who swell the ranks of dissent.
- Religious Establishments, from the 'Covenanter,' a monthly periodical conducted by Ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Vol. I. No XII., pp. 387-399. November, 1831, emphases added.
Obj. 13. "Your principles lead to persecution, and are cruel and unmerciful."
Ans. The church of Christ never persecuted. If our principles lead to it, they are certainly wrong.
But what is persecution? Does it consist in executing God's law? If it does, he must be the author of it. Does it not rather consist in injuring men in their characters, property, or persons, for their tenacious and steadfast adherence to his divine commandments? If this is not persecution, then the martyrs have suffered, not for the cause and testimony of Jesus, but for their obstinate rebellion against it. How does this correspond with the character of those souls whom John saw lying under the altar, "who were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held!" Rev. 6:9. Whatsoever the law of God commands to be punished, ought to be punished with the penalties therein made and provided; but God has commanded gross heretics, blasphemers, and idolaters, to be punished with certain specified penalties. Therefore, such ought to be punished.
These commands could not belong to the ceremonial law, for then they would have flowed entirely from the arbitrary will of God, and been mere signs between him and Israel. Who would dare to think so of gross heresy, &c.? Neither could they belong to that part of the judicial law which respected the Jews peculiarly. Who would dare to say that none but the Jews were, or are, under obligation to worship God in purity, or abstain from blaspheming his nature and dignity? They must, therefore, belong to the moral law, and flow from the moral nature of Jehovah, who has declared he will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images.
Thus we find the first, second, and third precepts of the moral law pointedly prohibiting these things, and requiring the contrary duties. All the precepts and threatenings which are to be found respecting these, scattered up and down the Bible, are only elucidations of those commandments.
I would leave this particular, with proposing one question, which the judicious reader will easily solve. Was Elijah a persecutor when he caused the law of God to be executed upon the prophets of Baal?
- Samuel B. Wylie, The Two Sons Of Oil; Or, The Faithful Witness For Magistracy And Ministry Upon A Scriptural Basis (1803), emphases added
Indeed, when we look into the predictions which refer to New Testament times, we are at no loss to perceive that the duty of national vowing to the Lord is not limited to the Jews. "In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts. The Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and shall perform it" (Isa. 19:18, 20). Here it is distinctly made known that, in the days of the Gospel, Gentile countries should copy the example of ancient Canaan, in the matter of vowing allegiance to the Lord. To the same effect we read: "Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married" (Isa. 62:4). A land is just a people in their civil capacity: and its being "married to the Lord" surely denotes its being bound to him by covenant engagement, as the wife is to her husband.
The principle has been exemplified in more modem times, in France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, as well as in our own country. The National Covenant of Scotland, and the Solemn League entered into by Scotland, England, and Ireland, are memorable instances of national oaths of allegiance to the Messiah. These were sworn and approved by the king and his household, and by persons of all ranks in the land. This is not the place to defend the nature of these noble instruments, to show their obligation on posterity, or to speak at large of the guilt these nations have incurred by their perfidious neglect of them. These are topics, indeed, of no mean importance in themselves, besides being worthy of very serious consideration at the present time, in connection with existing agitations and discussions. But we have to do with them now only as accredited and interesting exemplifications of the national duty of swearing allegiance to the Redeemer. It has been much the practice of a flippant generation to laugh at "the Covenant" and "the Solemn League," as the products and signs of an illiberal and unenlightened age; but it may fairly be questioned, on the authority of the best historians, whether our country ever appeared in a more dignified attitude than during the period in question, or whether a kingdom can ever be more dutifully or appropriately employed than in solemnly and sincerely vowing to him, by whom kings reign and princes decree justice, the Prince of the kings of the earth.
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The Puritan Hard Drive is an exquisite piece of work.
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- Justin Rawson
Gospel Covenant Publications
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Would you like to volunteer some of your time to read classic Puritan and Reformed books and sermons to MP3, to make permanent digital audio versions of the best Puritan and Reformed books for our generation and for posterity? If so, we then list the Puritan and Reformed MP3s you have read on the Web, to give them away for free to people in every nation of the world - and, by God's grace, we reach between 45,000 to over 100,000 people each month with these free Puritan and Reformation MP3s! You may listen to other readings, by people just like yourself (who love the Lord and want to reach others with the love of the Lord Jesus Christ and the truth of His holy Word, the Bible) at FREE PURITAN & REFORMATION MP3 AUDIO SERMONS/BOOKS and from our "Audio Book" section on SWRB's sermonaudio site. You may also use the FREE SWRB iPHONE, iPAD, iPOD (Touch) APP to listen. It is very easy to get started with your new international Reformation reading ministry, just email us at email@example.com requesting our "PURITAN and REFORMED BOOK READER INSTRUCTIONS." Thank you!
It may also be of interest to you to know that at SWRB we strive to use as much of the proceeds from sales, as is possible, to produce more free and discounted Puritan books, Reformation MP3s and Calvinistic videos. This is how, by God's grace, we have published so many books, MP3s and videos over the years (with a relatively small staff and the help of volunteers) and why we are able to distribute so much material for free and at such low prices - may our Lord get all the glory! With your continued prayers, support and purchases we will be able to reach even more people, in the future, all around the world with the truth of the Scriptures - using the latest and best technologies available, in the service of the Lord, to greatly multiply all the good that can be done, and aiming to fill the world with the best Christian (Puritan and Reformation) resources available (Acts 17:6).
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Still Waters Revival Books
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