The Casting Down of the Last and Strongest Hold of Satan (6) - Thesis XVI (The Office of the Magistrate), by Thomas Edwards.
October 3, 2018
Magistrates qua Magistrates, by virtue of their office, as Magistrates simply, everyone of them, though Turks, heathen and wicked, as well as Christian and orthodox, have an authority, right, power from God Jure divino in matters of religion to command for God, and his honor, and to forbid and suppress the contrary. The Magistrate in general being by his proper place the minister of God, (Rom. 13) God’s vicegerent governing men in the room of God, even so far as his power and jurisdiction extends, is bound to care in matters of religion. As now Parents qua Parents have by the moral law of God a power and a duty lying upon them to command their children to good, and to forbid evil, and have a rod given into their hands to those ends, although being heathens or wicked, for the present they know not, or will not exercise it in teaching and bringing them up in the Christian religion and fear of God: so is with Magistrates, the authority and right every of them has by being a Magistrate, who by his place is for the punishment of evil doers and the praise of them that do well, however to the due and right exercise of this, a good will and true knowledge out of the Word of God may be required. Zanehius in his Miscellaniet de Magistrate 167, 169 and De Ecclesia Militantis Gubernatione, cap. 26, page 553, 554 shows that every Magistrate as well; wicked as godly, not Christian as Christian, has this power and so does Spalatensis in his sixth book, fifth chapter De Republica Ecclesiastica, but for the better understanding of it I shall lay down this twofold distinction.
First, that heathen Princes so far as the light of nature teaches them and right reason, are to make laws in matters of religion and whereas the light of nature leads on straight to the knowledge of one God and Supreme Deity, and dictates this God to be just, holy, good, perfect, &c. and to be worshipped with reverence, they should command so far, remove idolatry, the worship of birds, four-footed beasts, and creeping things, promote the worship of the true God, punish blasphemies and wicked opinions contrary to the nature of God, and that out of their proper office of being Princes, as the immediate Ministers and Vicegerents of God on earth: hence we read in many writers, as Plutarch, Aristotle, Plato and others, that heathen Princes have made laws for God and his worship, and have punished Atheists, Epicures, blasphemers, and sacrilegious persons; and as any of them have come to more knowledge of God and religion by any extraordinary work of God’s providence, or by living among them of the true religion as the Jews before Christ’s time, and Christians since, though not fully converted, yet still according to their knowledge and means, they were bound, and many of them have gone on in promoting the true religion, and forbidding the contrary, as the King of Niniveh, Darius, Nebuchadnezzar, and Aurelianus at the request of the Church punishing Paulus Samosetenus the Heretic. But now if beside the light of nature and dictamen of natural reason, Princes have the light of faith, the knowledge of Christ and the Scriptures, of heathens come to be Christians, or being born in Christian Commonwealths, have from their childhood been brought up in the faith of Christ, then also out of their kingly office they should throw down all things contrary to faith and the true worship of Christ, and positively by outward acts promote and command the outward worship of God, have a care of the Ecclesiastical discipline, and of all the parts of religion that they may be preserved: of which the Reader may be further satisfied in the writings of that learned man Marcus Antonius de Dominis Archbishop of Spalato.
Secondly, though the care of Religion belongs to all Princes, yet in a special manner upon special obligations the Christian faith belongs to Christian Magistrates and Princes, whom God has given to be nursing fathers and nursing mothers: these have not only a remote power, but the next power which they may bring into act by reason of the knowledge of Christ, and many helps; and this many Reformed Divines affert of the Christian Magistrate in the handling of this question of the Magistrate’s power, as Zanchius and others. But if the Magistrate be also Christian, we do believe it specially belongs to him to take a peculiar care of the Christian religion. And I have set down this Thesis thus distinctly by itself, because divers of the patrons of toleration, especially Cretensis in his M. S. page 48, 49 and in his Hagiomastix 99, 100 and 125 do on purpose snarl and make intricate the question about the Magistrate’s power in matters of religion, trouble the waters, by falling upon that phrase often expressed by Divines in this controversy “the Christian Magistrate”, which how tis to be taken I have showed, and should have here more fully opened it, and taken off some cavils I foresee likely to be made against it, but that I have spoken of it in the Prolegomena, and intend in the second or third part of toleration to treat more fully of it.