top of page

The Casting Down of the Last and Strongest Hold of Satan (5) - Thesis XV (The Duty of the Magistrate

Besides the full concurrent testimony and judgement of the most learned Protestant Divines, Calvin, Philip Melanchton, Beza, Peter Martyr, Zanchius, Bullinger, Musculus, Chemnitius, Gerardus, Bucanus, Bilson, Cartwright, Professors Leydenses, Voetius, Triglandus, that the care of religion and God’s worship belongs to the Magistrate, that God hath given him a power and authority objective and external in ecclesiastical causes to look to religion as to civil justice, so as he is bound to see the true religion and service of God set up and maintained in his dominions, being thereupon generally by all Divines called custos & curator utriusque table (the Keeper of Both Tables). God himself in the Scriptures shows at much, annexing the care of religion and keeping the law, the first table as well as the second to the Magistrate, Deut. 17:18, 19. God there appoints that the King over his people when he comes to the throne of his kingdom, should have a copy of the law written out of that which was before, the Priests the Levites to be always with him. Now the law there spoken of is meant the whole law of God, the first table as well as the second, that which concerned God as well as man, because it was a copy of that original which was kept in the Tabernacle for the Priests and Levites, whose office was principally about matters of the first table; and then the end expressed in the 19th verse, that the King might learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law, shows as much that by the name of the law must be understood the whole system of the Divine Law, so that by this place of Scripture it is evident that not only the second table of the Moral Law that contains justice and righteousness is committed to the Magistrate, but the first also concerning the worship of God is given to his custody. And as it is understood of the whole law, so the custody of the law of God is not here a custodia legum personalis & privata, meant only of a personal private keeping, as the pleaders for toleration evade, saying, that the King in his person as well as others was to keep the law, but also and chiefly of a custodia officialis & publica quod rex curare debeat ut lex domini pure doceatur, ut cultus instituatur, a public keeping out of office, it being the King's office to care that the law of God should be purely taught, and his worship set up; and that it must be so understood, consider these following reasons.

The First Reason

This King (verse 15) was to be one from among themselves, a brother, not a stranger, who was to know the law of God, and to keep it personally as well before he was a King, as after, the law of God being committed to private persons equally as to Kings for their particular personal observation, and therefore sure in this solemn injunction there's something new and more required of Kings than was of them before, or is of persons merely private.

The Second Reason

This was not done till just he was placed in the throne, so saith the text, verse 18. The law was committed to the King as a King at his coronation, which shows it had not reference to the King’s private conversation as a mere man, but to his princely function as a Magistrate, which stood in commanding others, not in guiding himself. For no man is a King in respect of himself, but in ruling his subjects. So Augustine saith of Kings, As a man he serves God one way, as a King another way; As a man by faithful living, as a King in setting forth laws to command that which is good, and remove the contrary. So that Kings as Kings serve God in doing that for his service which none but Kings can do. This is also proved from 2 Kings 11:12, compared with 2 Chron. 23:11, where to King Jehoash in his solemn inauguration as soon as the Crown is put upon him, the Book of the Testimony was given him from the High Priest, that he might know the care and public custody of the law was committed to him in his being made a King; and in that the command of God with the practise accordingly, together with putting the Crown on the head was to give the law in the Kings hand, it shows it was to command it to others, and make others keep it. And that this was the meaning of it in Jehoash, and so in other Princes, it may further appear in that the people at that time being much corrupted in religion, and Jehoaida the High Priest desiring much their reformation, and the restoration of religion, as a means to effect it made a covenant between the Lord and the people: and as the medium and means that that people should be the Lord’s people, he brings in the King between them that he should interpose with his authority to make them the Lord’s people, verse 17. And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the King, and the people, that they should be the Lord’s people, that he should set up and maintain the true worship of God, and be for God to bring in the people.

The Third Reason

The ends expressed in Deut. 17. Of the King's prolonging his days in his Kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel, of his not turning aside from the commandment to the right or to the left, of his learning to fear the Lord God, and keeping all the words of the law, show, 'tis understood of a public official keeping the law; for the Kings of Israel and Judah could not prolong their days in their Kingdoms, nor their children enjoy good days after them if they suffered idolatry, apostasy, &c. in their land, though themselves practised it not, as may bee seen in Solomon, and the stories of the Kings of Israel and Judah, neither could they keep all the commands of God, there being many commands given to the Jewish Magistrates (as is confessed, but pleaded to be judicial and peculiar to them) to see their people serve God only, and to punish idolaters and false prophets.

The Fourth Reason

The practise of the good Kings among the Jews not only keeping the law themselves, but causing others also, as Josiah, Hezekiah, Asa, &c. and that from this text, and such like, shows it was meant of a public keeping the law; the diligent execution of their office serves for an evident exposition what God required at their hands. And as I have proved that of Deut. 17, speaks of a keeping the law ex officio as a public custos, so for the taking of another evasion brought by Mr. Goodwin in his Hagiomastix. I desire the Reader to observe that God having given power and authority to the Magistrate to see the first table kept, the duties commanded to be performed by all under his jurisdiction, and to be guarded against all disobedience and contempt from men, it must be understood in the use of such means and ways God has allowed the Magistrate as distinct from private persons or ministers, viz. such as are proper to him, and which God hath given him by virtue of his place to use. Now those means qua Magistrate are in the exercise of his coercive power by laws and edicts, and by the use of the temporal sword given him of God to restrain and hinder such evils, and to promote and further such good. So Melanchthon when as the Magistrate is the keeper of the laws he himself obeys them, and compels others to obey them, and defends strongly their authority: Therefore he is armed of God with the sword. The Minister he restrains and punishes only with the word of God, with preaching and excommunication without bodily force. But the Magistrate being armed with the sword, punishes those who are contumaicous with punishments of the body. Triglandus shows how Ministers, fathers of families, Magistrates and all people are commanded to keep the law, and are keepers of the law, and then lays down the difference between all these in keeping the law. The Minister he teaches whole Assemblies the true rule of holiness, admonishes, and exhorts all to subject to the command of Christ, and by the power of the keys casts out from the communion of the faithful impenitent and refractory persons. The father of a family teaches in his family the exercise of true piety, goes before them in example, and by his authority restrains his that they shall not turn out of the good way. Now he who is Magistrate, does not teach but as a believer out of the law of love as other believers do, and as a father of a family his own household: But as a Magistrate with his coercive power he commands and forces all within his territories that they shall not outwardly offend against the true religion and worship of God.

And so all our Divines who have written of the differences between civil and ecclesiastical power, as, Zanchius, Ames, Apollo•••, do show the lawfulness of the Magistrates using outward force by penal laws and bodily punishments towards those persons and things whereof God hath given them power. I will quote one passage out of Ames. Between the Magistrates and the Ministers of the Church, there is this difference. It is the duty of Magistrates by civil means, and coercive power to procure the common good as well spiritual as bodily of all those committed to their jurisdiction, 1. Tim. 2:2, but of ministry by ecclesiastical means to procure the spiritual good of those committed to them. And another out of Bilson, Ministers may teach but not command, persuasion is their part, compulsion is the Princes. By all which it appears the Magistrate having power in matters of religion, as the Scriptures quoted, with that received maxim magistratus est custos utriusque tabulae prove, the exercising of it by coercive means is no unrighteous way, but most suitable to the nature of that ordinance of Magistracy appointed by God to be the keeper of the first table quoad externam disciplinam, the due consideration whereof fully answers Hagiomastixs rich sense of the Magistrates being custos utriusque tabulae, laid down by him and shows both his senses to be but mere evasions.

The Fourth Commandment contains the sum of all religion and the public worship of God; the commandment is synecdochical as the others are, containing more things then are expressed in words: in this commandment not only the time to be allowed for public worship, but whatever belongs to this worship are briefly comprehended under the sanctification of the Sabbath. 'Tis commanded that the Church setting aside all other businesses of this life should meet to worship God to hear his word, pray, &c. For as these things cannot be done without time, so not without place, ministers, &c. Therefore in this synecdoche are contained the commands of the public ecclesiastical meetings to worship God, of places chosen fit for meeting, of the ministers and their office. In a word, this command of the sanctification of the Sabbath contains all those things which belong to the worship of God, and are judged to be necessary. Zanchie upon the Fourth Commandment, shows this at large. Chemnitius also in his Common Places De lege Dei on the Forth Commandment, with Rivetus in his Explication of the Decalogue, are of the same mind that the worship of God is required under keeping the Sabbath day holy, the public worship, and the private serving in reference to the public being there commanded. And 'tis the observation of Zanchie on the Fourth Commandment that there is in the manner of delivering the Fourth Commandment, and the other three before it, a three-fold difference.

  1. All the other are plainly negative, Thou shalt not, but this of the Sabbath is expressly affirmative and negative too.

  2. In the others he sets not his own example, but in this he does.

  3. In them he speaks simply, Thou shalt not, but here not contended with a simple commanding, he adds a word Remember, by all which God would reach that 'tis much in his heart that this commandment should be kept and that 'tis a command of great moment.

Now this moral commandment containing the sum of religion and God’s public worship, is given in the first place to the father of the family, directed immediately to him, Thou and thy son and thy daughter, &c. therefore given to the governors of the family, that they should see it be observed of their whole family, God having so expressed it as Zanchius speaks to declare he would have governors of the family to be the authors and leaders to the whole family to bring them to the public assemblies to sanctify the Sabbath. Now this pronoun “thou” being a synecdoche comprehending more than is expressed by name, viz as all governors of families, masters, &c. besides natural fathers, so Magistrates the fathers and governors of their people, (as many learned Divines upon the place expound it) teaches us that this command comprehending the sum of all religion and public worship, is given to the Magistrates in the first place for their subjects, and by this command we are instructed not only what lies upon the master of the family, but what is the Magistrates duty in religion, viz. that he should do the will of God himself, and care that it be done also of others, and see God’s Sabbaths be sanctified. So that here we have in this fourth command the duty of Magistrates in religion, and how that the care of God's public worship and religion is committed to them, that they should look to it.

Zanchie upon this fourth commandment speaks much how under the father by a synecdoche is meant also the Magistrate, and that here the Holy Ghost teaches what the office of a Magistrate is in matters of religion, how that he is to command his subjects to the outward worship, and to use his endeavour that his subjects may come to the public assemblies, and together with others sanctify the Sabbath. Chemnitius upon the same command writes thus, 'Tis manifest, in this Commandment 'tis required of parents, masters of families, and Magistrates, not only that themselves sanctify the Sabbath, but that it is their place and duty that they care it be sanctified of others, and prohibit and punish its profanation. And God doth show that the Magistrates ought to care, that strangers inhabiting within their gates should conform to the true Religion, lest otherwise scandals should arise. And that by “thou” the Magistrate is understood, and so by this command, the care of the public worship and Sabbath to see it sanctified, is given to the Magistrate, is further proved from those words, nor the stranger that is within thy gates. By gates, in that place, are understood not only a particular family or city, but the whole country of any people, as Gen. 22. v. 27. He shall possess the gates of his enemies, and Gen. 24:60, Deut. 24:24. So learned Rivet upon the Fourth Commandment, by strangers within thy gates are meant, first strangers who commonly inhabited and lived in the commonwealth of Israel, secondly strangers who came from other countries for a time, not to remain, but either to see the country, or to traffic, &c. both which are to keep the Sabbath, the latter sort so far, as not to violate it with any external servile work, as is evident by Nehem. 13. v. 19, 20, 21.

Now the meaning of gates and strangers fully shown the Magistrate is meant in the command; for many strangers in the first sense dwelt in houses of their own, & in the second sense the father of a family had nothing to do out of his house, or with travellers and merchants who were of no family, but the restraining of them belonged properly to the Magistrate. Upon which interpretation Rivet and Zanchius do show how it is the part of a Magistrate to provide that strangers may not give scandals in a commonwealth, but that at least they be made to keep outward discipline with others. The strangers among the Jews were compelled not only to stand to their political laws, but to some of the outward precepts of religion, and that partly lest the good manners of the Jews should be corrupted and disturbed with the Gentiles evil manners, and that the strangers among them might be in some sort instructed in the knowledge of the Divine law.

And whosoever would be fully satisfied in this point that the public exercise of piety and religion is commanded in the Fourth Commandment, and that this Commandment belongs and is given to the Magistrates, not only as particular persons, but as they are Magistrates, so that 'tis their part to care by their authority that the Sabbath be sanctified, that is, that religion be preserved, and the exercises of piety take place in their countries and territories; and further know what the office of a Magistrate is in matters of religion both in respect of persons and things, and that in the several particulars, let him read learned Zanchius on the Fourth Commandment. And therefore seeing Magistrates have the care of religion and God’s worship committed to them, being by God appointed to be keepers of the first table as well as the second, among other particulars laid down in the word, and branched out by Divines, wherein the Magistrate’s power in matters of religion stands, this must needs be one, a power of suppressing false religions and heresies, and punishing those who by all ways and means go about to destroy the true. If the Magistrate be custos prima tabula, he is also vindex primae tabulae. If the Magistrate have a power of commanding the true, and using coercive means to bring his people to it, then sure he hath of hindering the false, as he that by law hath the power of keeping the peace, hath a power also of suppressing tumults, and riots, and the reason is manifest, because the one cannot be kept without the other: the physician who has a power given him over bodies for their health, hath a power over sicknesses, corrupt meats, poison, and all that would destroy the health and life. He who has the power of keeping a garden and the precious flowers and fruits in it, has a power of plucking up weeds, taking snails and such like that would spoil all. He who may justly command, may justly punish; and he that may lawfully punish, may certainly command.

All learning will tell us that contraries be consequent to contraries. If Magistrates may lawfully command and establish that which is good, then they may forbid and abolish the contrary evil, of which see more in Bilson’s difference between Christian subjection and unchristian rebellion. And therefore we see Josiah and other Princes who established the true religion, and by their kingly authority caused the people to stand to it, removed and punished also all persons and ways contrary thereunto: Hence I conceive tis, that maxim is generally received among Divines, Magistratus est custos ac vindex utriusque tabulae, the Magistrate is the Revenger of both Tables as well as the Keeper.


Single post: Blog_Single_Post_Widget
bottom of page