Where the Reformers Erred in Their Doctrine of the Church
By way of reaction from the Romish error that the church must govern the state, they concluded that the state must to a large extent govern even the spiritual affairs of the church. That accounts for Article XXXVI of the Belgic Confession in its original form of 1561. And even the Westminster divines, nearly a century later, held that it is the duty of the civil magistrate “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 ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXIII, Section III).
It was not until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that the Scriptural teaching of the separation of church and state gained anything like broad acceptance within Protestantism.
– R.B. Kuiper, The Glorious Body of Christ
Excellent point. It is part of our common mythology that the Pilgrims and the Puritans colonized Massachusetts in order to establish religious liberty. Nothing is further than the truth: they came to establish freedom for their groups, and using the power of the courts banned and persecuted those who disagreed with them.
Amen, Joel. Interestingly, I just read this today: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=92
I commend the Hodge piece (link in post above) highly.
There he states: The Westminster Confession, as adopted by the Church of Scotland, taught the same general doctrine. The 23rd chapter of that Confession contains the following clause: “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 hath the authority, and it is his duty, to take order that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the faith of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline be prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed; for the better effecting whereof he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.” (Boldface added.)
Also from Hodge on the WCF: In that branch of the Reformed church which was transported to this country by the Puritans and established in New England, this same doctrine as to the duty of the magistrate and relation to the church and state was taught, though under a somewhat modified form. The New England theory was more of a theocracy. All civil power was confined to the members of the church, no person being either eligible to office, or entitled to the right of sufferage, who was not in full communion of some church. The laws of the church became thus the laws of the land, and the two institutions were in a measure merged together. The duty of the magistrate to make and enforce laws for the support of religion, for the suppression of heresy and punishment of heretics, was clearly taught. John Cotton even wrote a book to prove that persecution was a Christian duty.
The theory on which this doctrine of the Reformed church is founded, is, 1. That the state is a divine institution, designed for promoting the general welfare of society, and as religion is necessary to that welfare, religion falls legitimately within the sphere of the state. 2. That the magistrate, as representing the state, is, by divine appointment, the guardian of the law, to take vengeance on those who transgress, and for the praise of those who obey; and as the law consists of two tables, one relating to our duties to God, and the other to our duties to men, the magistrate is, ex officio, the guardian of both tables and bound to punish the infractions of the one as well as of the other. 3. That the Word of God determines the limits of the magistrate’s office in reference to both classes of his duties; and as, under the Old Testament, there was a form of religion with its rites and officers prescribed which the magistrate could not change, so there is under the New. But under the Old, we find with this church government the kings were required to do, and in fact did do, much for the support and reformation of religion and the punishment of idolaters; so they are now bound to act on the same principles, making the pious kings of the Old Testament their model.
How can the Lord say, “Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord,” less the magistrate protects the church? You will have humanistic law or you will have Godly law. The state has no business telling the church what to preach, or to get involved within the affairs of the means of grace. The state does have a responsibility for putting down blasphemies. You can’t have it both ways. Never, ever ask for God to bless the nation that refuses to institute magistrates that will work to protect the church and institute laws that are in accordance with God’s word.
Erastianism dies ever so slowly.
Theonomania, too. Sadly…
Hey! I know! Let’s just do everything just the way God says, and he’ll bless America just like he blessed Israel, right?!
‘And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:’ – Deuteronomy 28:1
Oops, but then there’s that troublesome perfectionism that God/ Jesus demanded.
Maybe we DO need grace & the gospel, after all!
reformednb saith, “The state does have a responsibility for putting down blasphemies.”
Do we have chapter & verse, please?
A Christian sharia? Jehovah akbar?
Well, the king ordered the divines to agree on what the Bible said back in the days of Westminster. We don’t live in that kind of world anymore but if it weren’t for the king’s intervention in getting it written down we wouldn’t have such a lovely document that very closely says in summary form what the Bible actually teaches and so beautifully!
Christendom is long gone but the word of God stands forever. Sola scriptura reigned in the hearts of the reformers and should in the hearts of all who hear and love the truth.
The 1662 Church of England’s Articles of Faith include:
XXXVII. Of the Civil Magistrates.
The Queen’s Majesty hath the chief power in this realm of England and other her dominions, unto whom the chief government of all estates of this realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not nor ought to be subject to any foreign jurisdiction.
Where we attribute to the Queen’s Majesty the chief government, by which titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended, we give not to our princes the ministering either of God’s word or of sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen doth most plainly testify: but that only prerogative which we see to have been given always to all godly princes in Holy Scriptures by God himself, that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be ecclesiastical or temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers. The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England.
The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death for heinous and grievous offences.
The 1928 US Episcopal Prayer Book has:
XXXVII. Of the Power of the Civil Magistrates.
The Power of the Civil Magistrate extendeth to all men, as well Clergy as Laity, in all things temporal; but hath no authority in things purely spiritual. And we hold it to be the duty of all men who are professors of the Gospel, to pay respectful obedience to the Civil Authority, regularly and legitimately constituted.
 ROM 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 1PE 2:13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
Including Nero & Diocletian & ….?
Did you need more scripture? Thank God my ancestors did not think like the humanistic Xians of today.
Some of my scripture references were deleted.
Yes, they were. You gave what, 6, in different posts. And you wonder why?