The Casting Down of the Last and Strongest Hold of Satan (7) - Thesis XVIII (The Law of God Still Stands), by Thomas Edwards.
October 7, 2018
Whereas the Patrons of Toleration commonly plead, that all places of scripture both of examples and commands for Magistrates punishing in matters of religion are only from the Old Testament; and it is confessed by them that under the Law before Christ’s coming good Magistrates both did and might exercise coercive power on false prophets, apostates, blasphemers, but now since the New Testament it is otherwise:
“It being the will and command of God that since the coming of his Son the Lord Jesus, a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or Anti-Christian consciences and worships be granted to all men in all nations and countries: and they only to be fought against with that sword, which is only (in soul matters) able to conquer, to wit the sword of God’s Spirit, the word of God.” Preface of the Bloody Tenet of Persecution for Cause of Conscience.
I lay down this Thesis, that all things concerning religion and piety constantly practised by the godly, and by God commanded under the Old Testament, and by Him never declared to be repealed, bind as firmly under the New Testament, although there be no particular command nor example a new approving them, as they did under the Old, and that in such cases the coming of Christ into the world, and his death are so far from giving any dispensation or liberty, that quite contrary, some things before permitted to the Jews are by Christ now taken away, and all matters in reference to religion and holiness upon the coming of Christ into the world are spoken of by the scriptures as to be kept and done with greater exactness and strictness. For proof of which I lay down these following grounds.
The First Ground
First, that the scripture of the Old Testament is the Canon and Rule of faith and practice, as well as the scripture of the New, and that it equally belongs to Christians as the books of the New: which point besides that it has been held by the orthodox in the Church of God, in all times since Christ, and denied only by Heretics as the Simoniani, the Maniches, Socinians, Antinomians, Anabaptists, I shall give these reasons:
1. That Christ and the Apostles all along in the New Testament prove their doctrine by the scriptures of the Old Testament Moses and the Prophets, still referring the people in all controversies of faith and practice to the scriptures of the Old Testament, as is evident by these places, Luke 16. 29, John 5. 39, Rom. 15. 4, 2 Tim. 3. 15, 16, 17 and 2 Pet. 1. 19 with many others, which are all understood of the scriptures of the Old Testament, as besides many things in those texts showing as much, no scriptures of the New Testament, being then extant, when Christ gave those exhortations to search the scriptures, and when Timothy was a child, of which scripture the Apostle speaks, which Timothy learned as a child, as Chrysostom well expounds: now that was the scripture of the Old Testament, because the New was not as yet committed to writing, when Timothy was a child: nay further all the texts by way of scripture proof brought in the New Testament to prove any thing in matter of faith and manners are all quoted out of the Old Testament, and not the New, whereupon we see how frequently Moses, the Psalms, and Prophets are cited by Christ and his Apostles; but to my best remembrance, I do not find in all the New Testament any place of Scripture brought to prove any thing from the New Testament, but that one passage out of Paul’s Epistles 2 Pet. 3. 15, 16.
The Apostle Paul in 2 Tim. 3. 16 saith All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: Now if all scripture be God breathed, then the Scripture of the Old Testament is so too, and as given by inspiration is with all reverence to be acknowledged and received by Christians: again if all scripture be profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction of righteousness, therefore doctrines of faith and practises of life may be profitably fetched from thence, and when things are laid down in the Old Testament, they are commanded in the scriptures, (they being the scriptures too) although not mentioned in the New: but who so desires to be further satisfied in this question of the scripture of the Old Testament being of the same authority with Christians as that of the New, let him consult Bullinger’s Books against the Anabaptists lib. 4. cap. 4. 5, 6, and Spanhemius his Disputations against the Anabaptists, De usu Script. V. Testaments in Ecclesia Christiana.
2. Secondly, every command of God made known in the Old Testament, and never afterwards repealed nor revoked by him; nor expiring in the nature of it, is perpetual and in force: whatever God once commands till he declares either particularly that tis not his will such a law should any longer bind, or at least generally in equivalency, obliges: so that tis no good argument, to say against a practice, as long as tis commanded in the Old, this cannot be proved out of the New Testament, and therefore may not be done, but rather on the contrary we may infer, that the silence of the New Testament concerning a law expressly and clearly delivered in the Old Testament, is a confirmation rather then an abrogation of it or an intimation that it is expired. There are many particulars might be instanced in, some expressly commanded, and others forbidden in the Old Testament, which are not spoken of at all in the New Testament (unless in general) that yet are held by orthodox Divines, and I suppose by Hagiomastix too, binding under the New, as many degrees of marriages forbidden, usury, as Magistrates putting to death murderers, and some other malefactors, with divers others that might be named: Upon which occasion Master Cotton answers Master Williams, If it be true that Christ gave no express ordinance, precept, or precedent of killing men by material swords for religion sake: It is as true that neither did he for any breach of civil justice, no not for murder, nor adultery. And so supposing there were no New Testament proofs for the Magistrate’s punishing apostates, blasphemers, &c yet the Old Testament affording such a cloud of witnesses is testimony abundant, especially remembering what I have at large proved in divers pages of the last Thesis, concerning the nature of those commands and examples recorded in the Old Testament, and indeed considering how clearly, largely, and importunately the Magistrate’s power and duty in punishing in matters of religion is set down and pressed by the Holy Ghost in the Old Testament, it had been no wonder if nothing had been said of the New, the abundant urging in the Old serving for a reason of silence in the New. But because this rule is so fully and judiciously handled in a late Book, called Sabbatum Redivivum (Caudrey & Palmer) viz A law instituted in the Old Testament, not abrogated in the New, is of perpetual obligation though it have not express ratification in the Gospel. I shall refer the Reader thither where he shall find many grounds brought to prove it, extracting only one passage out of the Book. Whatsoever law is once delivered to the Church, and accordingly recorded in the Law Book the Holy Scriptures even of the Old Testament, whosoever would claim exemption from it whether particular person or Church, must produce some what to prove that that law is now (under the Gospel) repealed, or at least expired, more than bare saying that it is no longer in force. It is so in the statute law of our Kingdom (and of all Kingdoms) if a man can allege for himself in point of right or privilege (or the King’s Council for the King’s rights and prerogatives) any statute that was once made, it stands good for all purposes, unless they who would gainsay it, can allege and prove that such a statute is out of date by expiration or repeal: so that the proof lies originally upon the refuser of the law, and they that would maintain it and urge it, need plead nothing more then the enacting of it once, till the abrogation of it can be verified; and if it be so in the statutes of men, and the positive laws of Kingdoms, much more in those of God, whose authority in unquestionably more absolute, and whose wisdom, holiness, justice and goodness, is infinitely beyond that of all Princes and States in the world.
3. It is granted Princes and Magistrates under the old law before Christ’s coming, had a coercive power in matters of religion, and did punish Blasphemers, &c. Now:
(i) Seeing they long had it, can any proof be brought how and upon what occasion it was taken from them? Can any man show any text out of the New Testament where Christ and his Apostles took away this power from Princes, or declared that however under the Old, seducers and false prophets were to be dealt with by the civil powers, yet not under the New, but only with the word of God? Bullinger in his fifth book against the Anabaptists chapter 3 page 169, pleading for Magistrates power in matters of religion, speaks thus to them. Are Princes and Magistrates of the New Testament endowed with less spirit and power than those of the Old? Or in what place have Christ and his Apostles removed Christians Princes from this power of Magistrates? Whatever reasons or grounds any way or in any kind they were under the Old for this power of Magistrates, the very same remain now, were errors and heresies then deadly and damnable, so they are now? were they then spreading as a gangrene and corrupting many so they do now? were they then hateful to God? so they are still: were false teachers in those times unreasonable, perverse obstinate not to be convinced by words? behold they are as froward and desperate in these; were Princes and Magistrates then to be zealous of Gods honor, and to serve the Lord not only as private persons, but as Magistrates? so they ought to be now, and tis by the Spirit of God foretold they should: now where there is the self same reason, there is ever the self same law and equity both under the Law and Gospel, for the further proof of which the Reader may consult Master Prynne Sword of Christian Magistracy Supported page 21. 22, 23.
(ii) It cannot seem reasonable that all other relations, parents, masters, husbands, should have the same authority over their children, servants, wives, under the Gospel, as they had under the Law, and that in spiritual things, and the Christian Magistrate should not: nay that the power of parents, masters, husbands, should be confirmed, strengthened and more largely set forth, Eph. 5. 22, 23, 33, Eph. 6. 1-10, Col. 3. 18-23, and 1 Pet. 2. 18, 19 and the power of Magistrates only taken away, Musculus in his Common Places De Magistratibus speaking of the power that fathers have over their children in matters of religion, reasons from thence that to the Magistrate the supreme father of all his subjects, (whose power is far greater then that of a father) the care of religion more belongs then to fathers. In Magistrates there is an authority of supereminence excelling all, than which there cannot be a greater on Earth: therefore shall not that be lawful for such an authority and power, which is lawful for every father in his own house? yea by that divine command is it not required that that should belong to the greater which belongs to the less, that to the public father of the people which belongs to the private?
(iii) God under the New Testament allows and approves of the calling of Princes and Magistrates, giving many express commands to Christians of subjection and obedience to them, Rom. 13. 1-6, Tit. 3. 1, 1 Pet. 2. 13, 14, 17 and 1 Tim. 2. 1, 2, 3 the ends and uses also for which Magistrates were instituted are the same under the New Testament and Old, besides there is not any one text in the New Testament limiting or restraining the power given them by God in the Old, and therefore their calling and power must needs be the same. Learned Bilson in his True Difference between Christian Subjection and Unchristian Rebellion, proving the Prince’s power and charge by God’s Law of Deut. 17. 18, 19 and by the example of the godly Kings of Israel and Judah, reaching as well unto matters of religion as other things, that the sword is given them to provide that as well true religion be maintained in their realms, as civil justice ministered, that they forbid, prevent, and punish in all their subjects not only murders, thefts and such like breaches of the Second Table; but also Schisms, Heresies, Idolatries and other offences against the First Table pertaining only to the service of God and matters of religion, answers thus the Jesuits objection (the very same evasion the Sectaries have now,) This charge concerned none but the Kings of Israel and Judah: that refuge doth rather manifest your folly than satisfy my reason. Did, I pray you Sir the coming of Christ abolish the vocation of Princes? I trow not; Then their office remaining as before, per consequence, both the same precept of God to them still dureth, and also the like power to force their subjects to serve God and Christ his Son stands in as full strength under the Gospel, as ever it did under the Law. For Princes in the New Testament be God’s Ministers to revenge malefactors as they were in the Old, and the greater the wickedness, the rather to be punished, ergo the greatest (as Heresies, Idolatries, Blasphemies,) are soonest of all other vices to be repressed by Christian Magistrates, whose zeal for Christ’s glory must not decrease, Christ’s care for their Sceptres being increased, and those monuments of former Kings left written for their instruction: were not this sufficient, as in truth tis to refute your evasion, yet King David foreseeing in Spirit, that Heathen Kings would and themselves and assemble together against the Lord and his Christ, extends the same charge to the Gentiles; which the Kings of Jewry received before, and warned them all at once, Be wise ye Kings, understand ye Judges of the world: Serve the Lord. And so in another place of this Book, the Jesuits saying these were Kings of the Old Testament: and they had the Law of God to guide them, he answers, Then since Christian Princes have the same Scriptures which they had, and also the Gospel of Christ and Apostolick writings to guide them, which they had not, why should they not in their Kingdoms retain the same power, which ye see the Kings of Judah had and used to their immortal praise and joy. Again Christ came not to abolish or diminish the power of Kings and States, but to save their souls; they are no way losers but gainers by Christ’s coming: Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, it alters not the power and preeminence God once gave to them as Kings and Magistrates.
(iv) Lastly, if magistrates under the New Testament, should have this power taken from them, the Church of God should be in a far worse condition and more uncomfortable than it was under the old Law, the Church should lose a great help it sometimes enjoined: neither can that help the matter to say that we have now excommunication and other spiritual weapons to supply that loss: for the Church of the Jews had excommunication and the word of God, yea, extraordinary prophets, many miracles, answers by Urim and Thummim in all difficult cases about religion (as Hagiomastix faith) which we have not, and yet they had need of Magistrates coercive power in matters of religion for all that: to conclude there can be no reason in the world shown or given why Magistrates under the New Testament should not have power to restrain and punish Apostasies, Blasphemies, &c as well as under the Old, but many might be given why their power rather should be continued and enlarged under the New, and in this we have Master Burroughs himself a witness what a sad condition the Church of Christ would be in, if we had no external power, to restrain from any kind of Blasphemy and Seducements, which passage having quoted before, and having spoken something on that occasion, page 63 of this Treatise of Toleration, I refer the Reader thither, and to Master Burroughs Irenicum page 23. 24.
4. Fourthly, God is unchangeable, the Covenant of life under the Old and New Testament is one and the same for the essence and substance, as our Divines show against the Socinians, Antinomians, Anabaptists; and the rule of righteousness and holiness is the same under the New, that it was under the Old, and therefore God hating corruptions of religion so as to command his Vice-gerents to punish them then, and to prevent their spreading, he being unchangeable, and the punishing of violations of religion and impieties being acts of holiness and righteousness, must needs stand firm, and bind Magistrates under the New Testament. And if the Magistrates restraining and suppressing the dishonours of God, ruin of souls by his sword be altered and changed by God in the times of the Gospel, then that power of punishment was either truly ceremonial or else judicial, belonging properly to the policy and pedagogy of the Jews, but it was neither:
(i) First, not ceremonial, it was no type of any thing which was to come, as I have shown before page 168 and 169 of this Treatise.
(ii) Secondly, not properly judicial in the sense laid down page 53 and 54 of this Treatise, but moral of common right, used by other Nations, and that both before the judicial law was given, and after, of which having spoken so much in divers pages and places of this Book, I shall only add this viz. that Zepperus in his fourth book de Legibus Mosaicis excellently shows these laws to be appendixes of the Decalogue, and in stead of a just commentary upon them, particularly of the First Commandment, whereupon he handles that question of punishing false prophets and heretics, and shows how many errors and opinions be blasphemies, as Servetus opinion against the Holy Trinity, and opinions against the Attributes of God, &c, which abominations whosoever denies ought to be punished capitally, he overthrows all piety and shows himself to be a stranger to all religion and faith, where among other reasons brought by him why false teachers and heretics should be punished by the Civil Magistrates, as the express Laws of God given by Moses, and not antiquated, he gives this, no substantial sufficient reason can be brought why the Majesty of God, and the authority of the Church ought to be of less moment and weight among Christians, than in times past it has been amongst the Jews. Yea by how much God has more clearly manifested himself by his Son, than in times past by his prophets, by so much the less can that coldness and luke-warmness be excused, if we be carried with a less study of our religion, and do less defend it then they.
5. Fifthly, it cannot upon any reasonable ground be presumed, that Idolatries, Heresies, Blasphemies, &c commanded by God to be punished by the Civil Magistrate under the Old Testament, should by Christ’s coming be set at liberty and absolutely freed from punishment: For,
(i) Besides that the Old Testament prophesying of Christ’s coming speaks of those days as times of greater holiness and strictness, and that in reference to the commands of the First Table, as these Scriptures show, Isaiah. 35. 8, 9 there shall be a way and it shall be called the way of holiness, the unclean shall not pass over it: no lion shall be there; nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, that is no enemy of God, hurtful to the Church, among which false teachers are chief, called by Christ and Paul ravening wolves and grievous wolves not sparing the flock, Matt. 7. 15, Acts 20. 29, and Zech. 13. 2, 3 prophecies that in the day in which the Messiah shall come into the world, he shall overthrow idolatry, false doctrine, and whatsoever is contrary to the word of God and true religion: the Prophet comprehends all under three heads,
A. I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land; and they shall no more be remembered: It is a frequent thing in the Prophets, when they prophecy of Christ’s Kingdom, to proclaim war to idols and images, as in Micah.
B. I will cause the Prophets to pass out of the land: he denounces destruction to the Prophets which is to be understood of false teachers.
C. I will cause the unclean spirit to pass out of the land: that is all the works of the Devil (the unclean spirit often so called, by which he withdraws men from the true worship of God.) Upon which words Gwalther writes, The Prophet having spoken in the first verse of a full and absolute washing by Christ’s blood both from original sin and the corruption of our nature, under the name of uncleanness, and all actual sins, thoughts, words and deeds under the name of sin, least any from hence should conceive a hope of carnal liberty and impunity, he shows this effect of the grace of Christ is yet to proceed further, that by him also shall be taken out of the way, & from the midst of the Church whatsoever is against the true religion and Word of God. Zech. 14, 20, 21. In that day shall there be upon the bridles of the horses holiness unto the Lord, and the pots in the Lords house shall be like the bowls before the Altar, &c. On which verses Gwalther writes the summary meaning of all to be this. That in those days of the Gospel all things shall be turned to the worship of God, even those things which before have been employed to profane uses, and against him; Now then there shall not be holiness unto the Lord written only on the forehead of the Priests, but it shall appear eminently on the bridles of the horses: And horses are particularly instanced in, (horses being in a special manner serviceable for war, the horse is prepared for the battle saith Solomon) to show that the wars under the Gospel should not be profane and wicked, such as are made by ambitious and covetous persons, but such by which the worship and Church of God, may be defended against wicked enemies, by those whom God hath appointed nursing fathers of his Church. And such wars in times past Constantine made against Maxentius and Licinius, and Theodosius against Eugenics and Arbogastus. And for those words, in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the House of the Lord of Hosts, he shows Canaanite signifies merchant, and that the Prophet speaks of those who sell and make merchandise of holy things, as the false teachers in Peter, who made merchandise of the people; these are to be driven away far from the Church, because they both corrupt the worship of God, subvert the faith of the simple, and make void the merit of Christ, these Christ sets not upon only with words, or with denouncing woes, but with a whip made of small cords, as impudent greedy dogs he casts out of the Temple with public disgrace: by the Canaanite or merchant in this place, the Prophet seems to have a special relation to the abuse of merchandizing and selling which was used in the Temple Matt. 21. 12, 2. John 15, Mal. 3. 2, 3, 4, 5, the Prophet in this chapter prophesying of Christ’s coming into the world, least men in his coming should promise to themselves an earthly Kingdom, and a lawless liberty of doing any thing without punishment, he tells them what a one Christ is, and for what end he comes, and what kind of persons they ought to be who desire to be be saved by him, Who may abide the day of his coming? for he is like a refiners fire, and like fullers soap, and he shall fit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver, &c, that is as those who deal in metals, do not cease to melt and purge their metals till they see all the dross taken away, nor fullers leave to wash and rub the garments till all the spots and dirt be washed out: so Christ does not cease using his fire and fullers soap, till we be sanctified and cleansed throughout. The use of this doctrine to us ought to be, least we abuse our pretence of believing in Christ to a liberty of sinning, but rather we should give ourselves to him to be purged, that we may be made such, as he would have us to be. But of the scope of the Prophet in these verses, and how severe Christ under the Gospel will be against transgressors of the First Table as sorcerers, false swearers, under the last of which are contained all those who abuse the name of God, that they may deceive others, not only those who in civil matters and bargains falsely pretend the name of God, but also such who in teaching abuse it, and vent the fictions of their own brains for Divine Oracle, the Reader may find more in Gwalther upon the place.
The New Testament speaks of Christ’s coming to destroy the works of the Devil, 1 John 3. 8 among which false doctrines, Anti-christianism, and seducing are spoken of by the Apostle in that Epistle and the foregoing chapter as chief, and Christ is brought in Rev. 2. 18, 20 described in a most terrible manner speaking against toleration of heresies; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass, I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a Prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants, as also Christ and his Apostles in the New Testament in several respects, speak more against false doctrines, heresies, false teachers, seducers, than against corrupt manners: neither can it be put off by saying that under the New Testament Christ hath brought liberty, a part whereof is the toleration of heresies, &c for the Apostle in Gal. 5. 1, where he exhorts Christians to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free expressly declares verse 13, this liberty is not to be used for an occasion to the flesh, which it must needs be if this liberty were a liberty of heresies, heresies being named in the same chapter a work of the flesh verse 19, 20. Master Cartwright writing of certain judicial laws that cannot be changed, as of putting to death a contemptuous Blasphemer, and stubborn Idolater, speaks thus of this pretended ground of Christ’s coming. As for that they allege the cause of this liberty now, they are not to be put to death, by reason of the coming of our Saviour Christ and his passion, tis a weak one and injurious unto the coming and death of Christ, for he appeared that he might destroy the works of the Devil; this makes our Saviour Christ to build again that Kingdom of sin which he hath destroyed. For when in common reason and by the manifest word of God the Lord giveth this blessing unto the punishment of such grievous offenders by death, that others not only which see, but which hear of them, have the bridle of fear put upon them, whereby they are kept from the like, that must needs follow that whosoever makes our Saviour Christ author of this looseness in punishing such offenders, makes him forthwith to loose the bridle whereby others are afraid from running into wickedness, and what is this but to make Christ a troubler of Commonwealths: besides if Christ by his coming loosed these civil punishments and purchased this grace of his Father for Blasphemers, Idolaters, Heretics, that they should escape civil punishments which the Law of God adjudged them to, how comes it to pass that the Apostles to whom Christ committed the publishing of all the pardon he obtained for us, did never make mention of the releasing of these punishments: If Christ had obtained this liberty it was worth the preaching, and therefore unless they can show out of the writings of the Apostles to warrant this Sanctuary, which they would build to the support of Blasphemers, Heretics, that follows that the Apostles have not answered the trust committed to them, but in that the Apostle puts a sword in the hand of the Magistrates, and in the use of it makes him a Minister of the justice of the Lord against sin, he confutes this opinion.
And Lastly we see clearly that some things that were permitted under the Old Testament to the Jews, are not to Christians under the New but expressly and formally declared against by Christ, as polygamy, men’s putting away their wives giving bills of divorce and marrying others, Matt. 5. 31, 32, Matt. 19. 3-10 and usury, Matt. 5. 42. Luke 6. 34, 35. Learned Cameron in his lectures of divorce upon Matt. 19. 3, puts this question why the bill of divorce takes not place in the times of the New Testament and why does not God permit the same thing in the New, which he suffered in the old, unto which he answers, that although there is the same reason of man’s nature in the times of the Old and New Testament, yet there is not the same reason of grace, which is much more plentifully and clearly laid open and explained in these last times, than before; therefore our lives ought to be ordered in these times, much more strictly and holily. Those Elders under the Old Testament were bound truly to follow the same holiness of life, but we much more; for by how much any one hath received more than another, by so much he owes more. Chemnitius in his common places de paupertate cap. 6. de usura showed though there were two permissions chiefly in the Old Testament, of Divorce and Usury, yet Christ under the New, opposes to either of these permissions, the perpetual rule of righteousness in God, Matt. 5. 32. & 42 also cap. 19. verse 8. Luke 6. 34-35. In which place he discourses of this, how God under the Old Testament may be considered as a Divine, and as a Legislator, in some places of the Old Testament laying down how we must serve him in holiness and righteousness; in others prescribing certain political constitutions to that people for the external society of civil life in the Jewish Commonwealth. Now in those political laws which God gave the People of Israel, holiness and righteousness of the conscience before God was not always prescribed, but they were fitted to the preservation of outward and civil society in that Commonwealth according to the condition and dispositions and manners of that people, to whom God himself gives the epithet of a stiff neck. So the Bill of Divorce in the Commonwealth of Israel, was permitted; but now in the New Testament though Moses suffered it for the hardness of their hearts, yet Christ declares against it tis not lawful to be permitted, though there were the same manners of men, there being now under the Gospel more powerful remedies of such an evil, and a fuller declaration and communication of the grace of God: this distinction may not be allowed now under the New Testament of Theologus and Legislator, of jus fori & jus poli; for all laws given by God, in the New Testament, prescribe the purity of conscience before God, and do not look particularly to the outward preservation of the civil society of one Commonwealth of people peculiarly. And so much for the 18th Thesis.