The Casting Down of the Last and Strongest Hold of Satan. (4) - Thesis XIV (Dealing with Objections), by Thomas Edwards.
April 29, 2018
Idolatry and idolaters were the proper object of the coercive power of the Kings of Judah in matters of religion, and that idolatry meant not of those who worshiped the true God in a false manner with the violation of the Second Commandment, but of such who apostatized from the God of Israel to serve strange gods, the gods of other nations and those neither simply as such, but as drawing others away unto the same idolatries with them, but we never read of any coercive power or punishment inflicted upon heretics or schismatics which abounded in great variety and numbers amongst them, as the Pharisees, Herodians, &c.
Idolatry and idolaters were not the adequate object of the Kings and Magistrates coercive power under the Old Testament, but generally the matter of the Covenant, the whole worship and truth of God, as is apparent by the examples of Josiah, Hezekiah, Asa, and Jehoshaphat, in putting down and suppressing other evils besides idolatry, as will-worship, things abused to idolatry, profanation of the Sabbaths, marrying of strange wives, abuses in discipline and Church Government, profaning chambers in the courts of the House of God, in commanding to keep the Passover, which though their subjects had not kept, they might not have been idolaters, in punishing those who were guilty only of will worship, not of idolatry, as also those who married strange wives, who did common works on the Sabbath day, who dealt with familiar spirits and wizards, of all which the reader may find proofs at large in these following Scriptures; 2 Chron. 34: 31, 32, 33. There is a covenant made to keep all the testimonies and statutes of God, and the people are made to stand to it; From 2 Kings 23. verse 8, 9. compared with 2 Chron. 14:3, 5, 2 Chron. 15:17, and 2 Chron. 33:17. It is evident that there were in Judah two sorts of high places some on which God was worshipped; others on which idols were worshipped, the one sort was the high places of idolatry, the other the high places of will worship; yet the Priests of the latter as well as of the former were punished by Josiah, though not with the punishment of death as they were for he caused them to go out of all the cities of Judah, and to cease from the Priests office, so that they durst not come up to the Altar of the Lord at Jerusalem. So Neh. 13:7-8, 15-17, 25, 28, 30 and Ezra 10:3, 5 and 2 Kings 23, 24, 25.
The idolatry removed and punished by the Jewish Kings and Magistrates, was as well of worshipping the true God in a false manner, as of those who worshipped false gods, the gods of the nations, and were apostates from the true God to other gods, as is evident by the instances of worshipping the golden calf made by Aaron, and worshipping of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel set up by Jeroboam, (called idolatry, as in several places of Scripture) by Moses and some of the good kings as Josiah removed, and the worshippers punished, and yet the people of Israel in worshipping these did not go serve the gods of the nations, but served the God of Israel as appears by those speeches of theirs, Exod. 32:4, 5, 6. Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord, not to the golden calf. 1 Kings 12:27, 28. It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem, behold thy gods O Israel which brought thee up out of the Land of Egypt; and our most learned Protestants in their writings against the Papists, do prove the Papists to be formal idolaters from their adoration of God and Christ in images (though they do not worship false gods, the gods of the heathen) by these two examples of Aaron's golden calf, and Jeroboam's golden calves, showing the people of the Jews were not so mad as to believe those calves to be their God, or that brought them out of the land of Egypt, being brought up hundreds of years before, but only outward representations and remembrancers of God to them, in which they worshipped the true God, their worship being terminative related to God, and not to the image. Joshua 22:11, 12. All the children of Israel gathered themselves together to go up to war against the children of Ruben, the children of Gad and the half Tribe of Manasseh upon supposition of their building an Altar, not to strange gods, but for burnt offerings, or for sacrifices besides the Altar of the Lord God that was before his Tabernacle, verse 21, 26, 28, 29, which they were diverted from upon being satisfied it was not an Altar for burnt offerings, &c. but for a witness between them and the rest of the tribes that the Lord is God, verse 17, 34.
The Scripture is contrary also to that, that the grossest idolaters were not to be punished if not seducers drawing others away from the true God to strange gods, for we read that Moses was so angry with the people that were seduced unto a lower kind of idolatry, viz. worshipping the true God by a calf, that besides the three thousand men that were put to the sword the seducers and the ringleaders, he burned the calf, ground it to powder, strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it, causing the idol to pass from them among their excrements. So 2 Chron. 15:13, they that would not seek the Lord God of Israel whether small or great, the little ones (who could not be enticers of Idolatry) were to be punished. Deut. 13, when one of the cities of Israel was withdrawn to serve other gods, then the inhabitants of the city, the children as well as the grown men (who could not withdraw from God) were to be smitten. And we shall find it all along in the Book of the Kings and Chronicles among the idolaters and false worshippers, that there's no such distinction made, but some of whom no such thing expressed, are removed and punished, as those who may be supposed were enticers to idolatry.
As for that the Kings of Judah Asa, Josiah, &c. never punished Pharisees, Herodians, or any other Sect in the profession of the Jewish religion, the reason is manifest, because there was none such till many hundred of years after these Kings, for these Sects of Pharisees &c. began very late, not long before the coming of Christ, and as for Herodians they sprung up after Herod was King but by the way if M. S. can prove there were such in the days of those good Kings I will undertake to prove that they used their coercive power towards them as well as towards idolaters, and indeed it is evident by many passages that all kind of corruption and declination from the way of God was the object of Josiah’s and other Magistrates Reformation, and had there been Sadducees, Herodians, &c. viz. men that had held those errors and ways in those King’s times, they could not have escaped their hands, and this is thus proved, because the high places not of idolatry, but of will worship, where they sacrificed to the Lord only, as tis 2 Chron 33:17, were put down and the worshippers and Priests suppressed, and those good Kings who did not, are upon record blamed (which kind of worshipping was not so bad as the Herodians and Sadducees, who held Herod for the Messias, and denied angels and spirits) and that I may come up yet more close to this objection, who saith nothing was done against Sectaries or Schismatics, I conceive they were to the Church of the Jews, as Sectaries and Schismatics are now, and their worship a schism, worshipping the true God in a separated way apart from the public place and assemblies of God’s people, as our Sectaries do now.
The true reasons why, when the Herodians, Sadducees, &c. sprung up among the Jews, they were not suppressed not punished. First in regard religion was then mightily corrupted, all things were out of order, the Church of the Jews did then hasten to their destruction, and so no wonder if heresies and false doctrines were suffered in such a State as well as other things. Secondly, the Jews were not then a free people, neither had they the civil power absolutely in their hands, they had no truly Jewish King who cared for those things, but Herod the Idumean, and the High Priest then could do nothing. Thirdly, God permitted Jewry to abound with diversity of Sects in the days of Herod, as the Sadducees, Essenes, the Pharisees, the Herodians, because he had a purpose to destroy the Jewish Commonwealth, and to bring all into subjection to Christ, and the toleration of divers religions among them was the forerunner, and preparer of the way for the ruin of the Jewish State, as it hath been of many States.
Supposing the Kings of Judah and Israel de facto, had never exercised any coercive power on any other objects but idolaters and idolatry, and that all the commands in the Old Testament given to the Jewish Magistrates had been in the letter of the text only against idolaters and idolatry, (which is not true) yet by virtue of those very commands and examples Magistrates might exercise a coercive power against evils of the like kind, though not in the letter specified; and the reason is this, because the commands of God and the examples of good men accordingly recorded in Scripture might in the letter (at least for the generality) be expressed only against those evils, and that kind and sort of them which were most in use in that age and time when they were given, and yet other kinds of those sins, or other sins as bad, or worse which should arise afterwards were by just analogy, common equity, by a synecdoche usual in such commands forbidden also. As for example the Second Commandment forbids only in the letter and by name graven image, and the likeness of any thing, and yet in that command all mediums of worships invented by men (though not graven Images nor likeness) are forbidden under the title of graven images and likeness, and that by a synecdoche common in the Decalogue, which because in those times of Moses they were the chief inventions of man corrupting the worship of God, they are fitly put in the place of all human inventions brought into the worship of God, of which the reader may find more in Doctor Ames's Medul. Theolog. 2. Book 13. chap. De Cultu Instituto.
So because idolatry, and idolatry with apostasy to serve strange gods, the gods of those nations, whom God had cast out of the Land of Canaan (there being many Canaanites, &c. among them) were the corruptions the Israelites were most in danger of, the idolatries most in use in those times, and by the nations round about them when they should come to Canaan (as is evident by many places of Deut.) and the false prophets and seducers then went most about to seduce men in that way, therefore God in the letter (as it was most needful) spoke by name against such prophets and such idolatry as were most stirring in those times, under which commands are forbidden by a synecdoche and by analogy other depravations of God’s worship and name that might arise in after ages, for by the rules of interpretation of Scripture given by Divines, where a thing is forbidden, there all of that nature and sort are forbidden also; as for example, greater sins of that kind, then those expressed in the letter must needs be forbidden, and so lesser also. Now certainly where God hath given a command to Magistrates in the letter to punish such offences, if his subjects commit greater and higher against God and his worship by the equity of this command he is to punish them (if none in the letter for those) as if there had been no command but against idolatry of such nations, yet worshipping the Devil, offering up children to Moloch, blaspheming God and his worship, with other such, ought to be restrained, and if they commit idolatry or other corruptions, not so great or so gross, yet by way of proportion and equity such ought to be, though in a lower kind and way. And 'tis evident by many instances that the Jewish Magistrates Kings and others, as Josiah, Nehemiah, &c. did punish in a proportion (though not with death) those who violated the worship of God, and the first Table, though they were not guilty of idolatry and Apostasy to worship other gods, nor of worshipping the true God by idols, as by the golden calves of Jeroboam.
And if that be good Divinity which M. S. the father of that evasion of idolatry and idolaters being the adequate object of the coercive power of the Kings of Judah in matters of religion, says That God prohibiting all manner of violence, oppression and hard measure among his people one towards another, though such laws as those in the letter of them respected only civil transactions and dealings between men, yet the equity and spirit of them extends to spirituals also, men being every whit as liable to violence, oppression and hard measure from men for their conscience sake as in any other respects, or upon any other grounds whatsoever, then from that command, Deut. 13:5-9, and from those examples of Asa, Josiah, to infer an equity of punishing other offences in the same kind, though not named in the letter, must needs be better Divinity, because every one cannot but conceive that the equity and spirit of a law may upon better grounds extend to things in the same kind and of the same nature, from one spiritual thing to another, from idolatry to will worship or heresy, then from civil things to religious, which differ tote genere.
But setting aside M. S's concession, is there not all the equity and reason in the world from those commands fore mentioned (though granting according to the letter of those laws no man should be put to death for any thing less than that kind of idolatry with apostasy, worshipping false gods) that those who worship the true God by graven images by making likenesses of him, and that corrupt the doctrine of faith and religion, should also by the Magistrates be punished as well by suppressing their conventicles, putting them out of places of power, &c. though not so much as the others. Or is there any equity and proportion in this, that God should command punishing with death (the highest kind the Magistrate can inflict) for idolatry in worshipping strange gods, and should forbid any punishment or restraint at all of idolatry, and corruption of his worship in the next degree to that? According to degrees of faults to have degrees of punishments is of the light of nature and right reason; but to have a higher degree of an offence to be punished with death, and all others not to be punished at all, is against the light of nature and all reason: Lets but look into the Scriptures for the violation of other commands of God, as in the 6, 7 and 8th. Commandments: and we shall find that where the higher degrees and violations had greater punishments, the others went not scot-free. For example, when adultery was punished with death, fornication was punished with fifty shekels of silver, and with paying of money according to the dowry of virgins, Exod. 22. 16. 17. compared with Deut. 22. 22. 28, 29. So, when stealing of men was death, stealing of oxen and sheep was restoring five and four-fold, Exod. 21. 16. Exod. 22. 1.
There is a great agreement between the false prophets under the Old Testament, and the false teachers under the New, between idolatry under the Old Testament, and heresies now (many heresies being gross idolatries) as is evident by many Scriptures of the New Testament, which lively parallels and resembles these to each other, so that it cannot be upon any good ground conceived that the first sort should be punished with death, and the latter not punished at all.