William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty

by George Gillespie


It cannot be unknown to any, except such as are ignorant of Satan's
devices, and altogether strangers to the histories of former times,
that when the Church comes out of idolatry, and out of bitter
servitude and grievous pressures of conscience, all her storms are
not over her head, but she begins to be assaulted and afflicted more
than before with heresies, schisms, and home-bred disturbances.
Which through the manifold wisdom and over-ruling dispensation of
God, who works all things according to the counsel of his will, is
England's lot this day, that this may be to those in whom the Lord
has no pleasure, "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, that
they may go and fall backward, and be broken; and snared, and
taken:" that others, "who are approved, may be made manifest;" yea,
that "many may be purified, and tried, and made white;" and that in
the issue God may have the greater glory in making a sovereign
remedy out of poisonous ingredients, and his people may say,
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel who only doth wondrous things."
But now will the sectaries be contented (as Christ's witness in
former times were) to be examined and judged according to the word
of God, and if they are found to be what they are accused to be,
then suffer accordingly? Nay, if so, they fear they shall run too
great a hazard. Therefore they cry out for toleration and liberty of
conscience, hereby going about not only themselves to fish in
troubled waters, but to improve at once the manifold advantages of
sympathizing with the principles of the most part of men amongst us;
for as it is a common plea and bond of union among all heretics and
sectaries, how many soever their divisions and sub-divisions are
among themselves; yea, they give (in this) the right hand of
fellowship to the Prelatical and malignant party, for they also put
in for liberty of conscience: and as carnal and profane men desire
nothing more than that they may not be compelled to any religious
duty, but permitted to do what seems good in their own eyes.
So liberty of conscience is a sweet and taking word among the less
discerning sort of godly people, newly come out of the house of
bondage, out of the Popish and Prelatical tyranny; I say the less
discerning sort, because those of the godly who have their senses
exercised to discern good and evil, know that liberty of heresy and
schism is no part of the liberty of conscience which Christ has
purchased to us at so dear a rate.

But is there no golden book and taking bait for the Magistrate? Yes
surely; for his part he is told that he may punish any breach of
peace or civil justice, or a trespass against the State and against
civil authority, but yet not put forth his power against any man for
heresy or schism, being matters of religion and of conscience. As if
both politicians and divines had been in a great error when they
said that the end and use of Magistracy is to make bonum hominem, as
well as bonum civem, a good man as well as a good commonwealth's
man. Shall I add further, that all who wish well to the public from
principles either of religion or policy, want not here their own
temptations, persuading to a toleration of sectaries, in regard of
the necessity of an union against the common adversary, and the
great hazard, if not certain ruin, of the cause, by our own
ruptures? Under these fair colors and handsome pretexts do sectaries
infuse their poison, I mean their pernicious, God provoking, truth
defacing, Church ruinating, and State shaking toleration.

The plain English of the question is this: whether the Christian
Magistrate is keeper of both tables: whether he ought to suppress
his own enemies, but not God's enemies, and preserve his own
ordinances, but not Christ's ordinances from violation. Whether the
troublers of Israel may be troubled. Whether the wild boars and
beasts of the forest must have leave to break down the hedges of the
Lord's vineyard; and whether ravening wolves in sheep's clothing
must be permitted to converse freely in the flock of Christ. Whether
after the black devil of idolatry and tyranny is trod under our
feet, a white devil of heresy and schism, under the name of tender
consciences, must be admitted to walk up and down among us. Whether
not only pious and peaceable men (whom I shall never consent to
persecute), but those also who are as a pestilence or a gangrene in
the body of Christ, men of corrupt minds and turbulent spirits, who
draw factions after them, make a breach and rent in Israel, resist
the truth and reformation of religion, spread abroad all the ways
they can their pernicious errors, and by no other means can be
reduced; whether those also ought to be spared and let alone.
I have endeavoured in this following discourse to vindicate the
lawful, yea necessary use of the coercive power of the Christian
Magistrate in suppressing and punishing heretics and sectaries,
according as the degree of their offense and of the Church's danger
shall require:

Which when I had done, there came to my hands a book called The
Storming of Antichrist. Indeed, "The Recruiting of Antichrist, and
the Storming of Zion" (if so be that I may anabaptize an
Anabaptist's book). Take one passage for instance (p. 25): "And for
Papists," he says, "though they are least to be borne of all others,
because of the uncertainty of their keeping faith with heretics, as
they call us, and because they may be absolved of securements that
can arise from the just solemn oaths, and because of their cruelty
against the Protestants in diverse countries where they get the
upper hand, and because they are professed idolaters, yet may they
be born with (as I suppose with submission to better judgments) in
Protestant government, in point of religion, because we have not
command to root out any for conscience," etc. Why then, is this to
storm Antichrist? Or is it not rather a storming "of this party," in
the prevailing whereof "God will have far more glory than in the
Popish and Prelatical party," as [he] himself speaks (p. 34). And if
he will storm, surely some of his ladders are too short. "If any one
rail against Christ," he says (p. 23), "or deny the Scriptures to be
his word, or affirm the Epistles to be only letters written to
particular churches, and no rule for us, and so unsettle our faith,
this I take may be punished by the Magistrate, because all or most
nations in the world do it."

That all the nations in the world do punish for these things, I am
yet to learn: and those that do, do they not also punish men for
other ways of unsettling the grounds of faith besides these? The
declining of some of the Epistles as being letters written upon
particular occasions, and no rule for us, is an error which has been
pretensed to be no less conscientious than those errors which now he
will have indulged. Lastly, if he would needs storm, why would he
not make some new breach? I find no material arguments in him for
liberty of conscience, but what I found before in The Bloody Tenet,
The Compassionate Samaritan, so that my ensuing answers to them
shall serve his turn.

And now reader, "Buy the truth, and sell it not." Search for
knowledge "as for hid treasures." If you read with an unprejudiced
mind, I dare promise you through God's blessing a satisfied mind.

I. Concerning this question there are three opinions: two extremes,
and one in the middle. So it is resolved not only by Dr. Voetius, in
his late disputations, De Libertate Conscientia, but long before by
Calvin, in his refutation of the errors of Servetus, where he
disputes this very question, whether Christian judges may lawfully
punish heretics. The first opinion is that of the Papists, who hold
it to be not only no sin, but good service to God, to extirpate by
fire and sword, all that are adversaries to, or opposers of the
Church and the Catholic religion. Upon this ground, Gregory de
Valentia tells us there were 180 of the Albigenses burnt under Pope
Innocentius the third, and in the Council of Constance were burnt
John Hus and Hieronse of Prague

[Francis] Suarez (De Triplice Virtute Theologia, Tract. 1, disp. 23,
sect. 2), lays down these assertions:

1. That all heretics, who after sufficient instruction and
admonition, still persist in their error, are to be without mercy
put to death.
2. That all impenitent heretics, though they profess to be
Catholics, being convicted of heresy, are to be put to death.
3. That relapsing heretics, though penitent, are to be put to death
without mercy.
4. That it is most probable, that heresiarchs, dogmatists, or the
authors of heresy, though truly penitent, yet are not to be received
to favor, but delivered to the civil sword.
5. That a heretic who has not relapsed, if before sentence passed
against him, he converts of his own accord, he is not to be punished
with death, but with some smaller punishment, such as perpetual
imprisonment, or the like. He says that schismatics may be punished
with almost all the punishments of heretics (Ibid, Tract. 3, disp.
12, sect. 12). Azor (Institutiones. Morales, Tom. 1, lib. 8, cap.
14), But in whichever circumstances, in the case of these people or
that of others, when they are stubborn they are burned alive; but if
they are not stubborn, it is the custom for them first to be
strangled and then burned. (See the like, Becan., Summa, part 3,
Tract 1, quest. 6 and 9. Turrian, in 2am 2ae disp. 56, dub. 1). Some
of them also maintain the compelling of infidels to be baptized, as
Scetus (in lib. 4, Sent. disp. 4, quest. 9), and they who follow him.

The second opinion falls short, as far as the former exceeds: that
is, that the Magistrate ought not to inflict any punishment, nor put
forth any coercive power upon heretics or sectaries, but on the
contrary grant them liberty and toleration. This was the opinion of
the Donatists, against which Augustine has written both much and
well, in diverse places: though himself was once in the same error,
till he did take the matter into his second better thoughts, as is
evident by his Retractions (lib. 2, cap. 2, and epist. 48). In the
same error are the Socinians and Arminians (See Peltii Harmonia,
Artic. 21; Nic. Bodecher, Sociniano. Remon-strantismus, cap. 25. See
also Grotii Apologeticus, cap. 6, p. 130; Theoph. Nicolaid, Tractat.
de Ecclesia, cap. 4, p. 33). The very same is maintained in some
books printed amongst ourselves in this year of confusion: viz. The
Bloody Tenet; Liberty of Conscience; The Compassionate Samaritan;
John the Baptist; and by Mr. Goodwin in his Theomaxia, and his
Innocencies Triumph. In which places he denies that the Magistrate,
and particularly that the two Houses of Parliament, may impose
anything pertaining to the service and worship of God under mulcts
[fines] or penalties. So M.S. to A.S. (pp. 53-55, etc.), disputes
against the coercive power of the Magistrate to suppress heresies
and sects. This power the Presbyterians do ascribe to the
Magistrate, as I shall show by and by.

Therefore I still aver, that Mr. Goodwin in denying and opposing
this power, herein (as in diverse other particulars) ascribes much
less to the Magistrate than the Presbyterians do: which overthrows
that insinuation of the five Apologists.

The third opinion is that the Magistrate may and ought to exercise
his coercive power, in suppressing and punishing heretics and
sectaries, less or more, according as the nature and degree of the
error, schism, obstinacy, and danger of seducing others, requires.
This as it was the judgment of the orthodox ancients (vide Optati
opera, edit. Al. Baspin, p. 204, 215), so it is followed by our
soundest Protestant writers; most largely by Beza against Bellius
and Monfortius, in a peculiar treatise, De Hareticis Magistratu
Puniendis. And though Gerhard, Brochmand, and other Lutheran
writers, make a controversy where they need not, alleging that the
Calvinists (so nicknamed) hold as the Papists do, that all heretics
without distinction are to be put to death: the truth is, they
themselves say as much as either Calvin or Beza, or any other whom
they take for adversaries in this question, that is, that heretics
are to be punished by mulcts [fines], imprisonments, banishments,
and if they be gross idolaters or blasphemers, and seducers of
others, then to be put to death.

What is it else that Calvin teaches, when he distinguishes three
kinds of errors: some to be tolerated with a spirit of meekness, and
such as ought not to separate brethren; others not to be tolerated,
but to be suppressed with a certain degree of severity; a third sort
so abominable and pestiferous, that they are to be cut off by the
highest punishment? And lest it be thought that this is but the
opinion of some few, that the magistrate ought thus by a strong
hand, and by civil punishments suppress heretics and sectaries: let
it be observed what is held forth and professed concerning this
business, by the Reformed Churches in their public confessions of
faith. In the latter Confession of Helvetia (cap. 30), it is said
that the magistrate ought to "root out lies and all superstition,
with all impiety and idolatry." And after, "Let him suppress
stubborn heretics." In the French Confession (art. 39), "Therefore
he hath also delivered the sword into the hands of Magistrates, to
wit, that offenses may be repressed, not only those which are
committed against the second table, but also against the first." In
the Belgic Confession (art. 36), "Therefore hath he armed the
Magistrate with the sword for punishing them that do evil, and for
defending such as do well. Moreover it is their duty not only to be
careful and watchful for the preservation of the civil government,
but also to defend the holy ministry, and to abolish and overthrow
all idolatry, and counterfeit worship of God." Beza (De Hareticis),
tells us in the beginning, that the ministers of Helvetia had
declared themselves to be of the same judgment, in a book published
of that argument. And toward the end he cites the Saxon Confession,
Luther, Melancthon, Brentius, Bucerus, Wolfgangus Capito, and

The Synod of Dordt (ses. 138), in their sentence against the
Remonstrants does not only interdict them of all their
ecclesiastical and academical functions, but [does] also beseech the
States General by their secular power to suppress and restrain them.
II. The Arguments whereby this third or middle opinion is confirmed
(that we may not build upon human authority) are these.

1. First, the law (Deut. 13:6-9), concerning the stoning and killing
of him, who shall secretly entice people, saying, "Let us go after
other gods." If it is said, that this law did bind the Jews only,
and is not moral or perpetual, I answer, Jacobus Acontius, though he
is of another opinion concerning this question than I am, yet he
candidly and freely confesses that he sees nothing in that law which
does not belong to the New Testament, as well as the Old; for, he
says, the reason and ground of the law, the use and end of it, is
moral and perpetual (v. 11): All Israel shall hear and fear, and
shall do no more any such wickedness, as this is among you. But yet,
says Acontius, this law does not concern heretics, who believe and
teach errors concerning the true God or his worship; but only
apostates who fall away to other gods. In this I shall not much
contend with him; only thus far, if apostates are to be stoned and
killed according to that law, then surely seducing heretics are also
to receive their measure and proportion of punishment. The moral
equity of the law requires this much at least, that if we compare
heresy and apostasy together, look how much less the evil of sin is
in heresy, so much and no more is to be remitted of the evil of
punishment, especially the danger of contagion and seduction, being
as much or rather more in heresy than in apostasy; yea, that which
is called heresy being oftentimes a real following after other gods.
But the Law (Deut. 13), for punishing with death, as well whole
cities as particular persons, for falling away to other gods, is not
the only law for punishing even capitally gross sins against the
first table. See Ex. 22:20, He that sacrificeth unto any god, save
unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed. Ex. 31:14, Every
one that defileth the sabbath, shall be put to death. Lev. 24:16,
And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put
to death. Deut. 17:2-5, If there be found among you within any of
thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that
hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in
transgressing his covenant, and hath gone and served other gods and
worshipped them . . . . Thou shalt bring forth that man or that
woman unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shall stone
them with stones till they die.
It will be asked, "But how does it appear that these or any other
judicial laws of Moses do at all appertain to us, as rules to guide
us in like cases?" I shall wish him who scruples this, to read
Piscator's appendix to his observations upon the 21-23 chapters of
Exodus, where he excellently disputes this question, whether the
Christian Magistrate is bound to observe the judicial laws of Moses,
as well as the Jewish Magistrate was. He answers by the common
distinction, he is obliged to those things in the judicial law which
are unchangeable, and common to all nations: but not to those things
which are mutable, or proper to the Jewish Republic. But then he
explains this distinction, that by things mutable, and proper to the
Jews, he understands the emancipation of an Hebrew servant or
handmaid in the seventh year, a man's marrying his brother's wife
and raising up seed to his brother, the forgiving of debts at the
Jubilee, marrying with one of the same tribe, and if there be any
other like to these; also ceremonial trespasses, as touching a dead
body, etc.

But things immutable, and common to all nations, are the laws
concerning moral trespass, sins against the moral law, as murder,
adultery, theft, enticing away from God, blasphemy, striking of
parents. Now that the Christian Magistrate is bound to observe these
judicial laws of Moses, which appoint the punishments of sins
against the moral law, he proves by these reasons.

(1.) If it were not so, then it is free and arbitrary to the
Magistrate to appoint what punishments he pleases. But this is not
arbitrary to him, for he is the minister of God, (Rom. 13:4) and the
judgment is the Lord's (Deut. 1:7; 2 Chron. 19:6). And if the
Magistrate is keeper of both tables, he must keep them in such
manner as God has delivered them to him.

(2.) Christ's words (Matt. 5:17), Think not that I am come to
destroy the Law or the Prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to
fulfill, are comprehensive of the judicial law, it being a part of
the law of Moses. Now he could not fulfill the judicial law, except
either by his practice, or by teaching others still to observe it;
not by his own practice, for he would not condemn the adulteress
(Jn. 8:11), nor divide the inheritance (Luke 12:13-14). Therefore it
must be by his doctrine for our observing it.

(3.) If Christ in his sermon (Matt. 5), would teach that the moral
law belongs to us Christians, in so much as he vindicates it from
the false glosses of the scribes and Pharisees; then he meant to
hold forth the judicial law concerning moral trespasses as belonging
unto us also; for he vindicates and interprets the judicial law, as
well as the moral (Matt. 5:38), An eye for an eye, etc.

(4.) If God would have the moral law transmitted from the Jewish
people to the Christian people; then he would also have the judicial
laws transmitted from the Jewish Magistrate to the Christian
Magistrate: there being the same reason of immutability in the
punishments, which is in the offenses. Idolatry and adultery
displease God now as much as then; and theft displeases God now no
more than before.

(5.) Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our
learning (Rom. 15:4), and what shall the Christian Magistrate learn
more from those judicial laws, but the will of God to be his rule in
like cases? The ceremonial law was written for our learning, that we
might know the fulfilling of all those types, but the judicial law
was not typical.

(6.) Do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31; Matt. 5:16). How
shall Christian Magistrates glorify God more than by observing God's
own laws, as most just, and such as they cannot make better?
(7.) Whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23).

Now when the Christian Magistrate punishes sins against the moral
law, if he does this in faith and in assurance of pleasing God, he
must have his assurance from the Word of God, for faith can build
upon no other foundation; it is the Word which must assure the
conscience: God has commanded such a thing, therefore it is my duty
to do it; God has not forbidden such a thing; therefore I am free to
do it. But the will of God concerning civil justice and punishments
is no where so fully and clearly revealed as in the judicial law of
Moses. This therefore must be the surest prop and stay to the
conscience of the Christian Magistrate. These are not my reasons (if
it be not a word or two added by way of explaining and
strengthening), but the substance of Piscator's reasons. Unto which
I add,

1. Though we have clear and full scriptures in the New Testament for
abolishing the ceremonial law, yet we no where read in all the New
Testament of the abolishing of the judicial law, so far as it did
concern the punishing of sins against the moral law, of which heresy
and seducing of souls is one, and a great one. Once God did reveal
his will for punishing those sins by such and such punishments. He
who will hold that the Christian Magistrate is not bound to inflict
such punishments for such sins, is bound to prove that those former
laws of God are abolished, and to show some Scripture for it.
2. That judicial law for having two or three witnesses in judgment
(Deut. 19:15, Heb. 10:28), is transferred even with an obligation to
us Christians, and it concerns all judgment, as well ecclesiastical
as civil (Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1), and some other particulars
might be instanced, in which are pressed and enforced from the
judicial law, by some who yet mind not the obligation of it.
To conclude therefore this point, though other judicial or
forensical laws concerning the punishments of sins against the moral
law may, yea, must be allowed of in Christian Republics and
Kingdoms; provided always, they are not contrary or contradictory to
God's own judicial laws; yet I fear not to hold with Junius, De
Politi Mosis, that he who was punishable by death under the
judicial law, is punishable by death still; and he who was not
punished by death then, is not to be punished by death now. And so
much for the first argument from the Law of God.

2. A second argument we have from diverse laudable examples in the
Old Testament: Moses drew the sword against idolaters (Ex. 32:27);
the children of Israel resolved to go out to war against the
Reubenites and Gadites, when they understood that they were building
another altar (Josh. 22:12). Elijah commanded to slay the priests of
Baal (1 Kings 18:40). In Asa's time there was a covenant for putting
to death such as would not seek the Lord God of their fathers (2
Chron. 15:13). Jehu slew the priests of Ahab, and the worshippers of
Baal (2 Kings 10:11, 24), first searching and making sure that there
were none of the servants of the Lord among them (v. 23). Josiah
sacrificed the priests of Samaria upon their own altars (2 Kings
23:20). Nebuchadnezzar, although an heathen, being convinced that
there was no god like the God of Israel, made a decree that
whosoever speaketh blasphemy, or uttereth any error against God,
shall be cut in pieces, and their houses made a dunghill (Dan.
3:29). As for those whose errors and corruptions in religion were
not so great, there was some (though not the highest) severity used
against them. Moses was so angry with the people that were seduced
into idolatry, that he burnt the calf which they had worshipped, and
ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the
children of Israel to drink of it (Ex. 32:20); thereby teaching them
(as Hierome and others give the reason) to abhor that idolatry,
while their idol did pass from them among their own excrements. Asa
did remove his mother, Maachah from being Queen, because of an idol
which she had made in a grove (1 Kings 15:13). Josiah caused all
that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to the covenant
(2 Chron. 34:32), which could not be without either threatening or
inflicting punishment upon the transgressors; there being many at
that time disaffected to the Reformation. O but says M.S. to A.S.
(p. 51-52), idolatry and idolaters were the adequate object of that
coercive power in matters of religion, whereof we read in the Old

Nor do we read that ever the Jewish Kings or Magistrates attempted
anything against sectaries or schismatics.

I answer, 1. The object of that coercive power of Josiah (2 Chron.
34:32), was generally the matter of the covenant, that is the taking
away not only of idolatry, but of all abominations, and a walking
after the Lord, and keeping of his testimonies, and statutes, and
commandments (vs. 31, 33). Nehemiah did drive away the son of
Eliashib the high priest, not for idolatry, but for marrying the
daughter of Sanballat, and thereby defiling the covenant of the
priesthood (Neh. 13:28-29). Ezra made the chief priests, the
Levites, and all Israel to enter into a covenant and to swear, that
they would put away strange wives, and that it should be done
according to the Law (Ezra 10:3, 5); and whosoever would not come to
Jerusalem for this thing, was not only himself excommunicated from
the Church, but all his goods forfeited (v. 8). Artaxerxes decreed
punishment for all who should oppose the Law of God, and the
building of the Temple: wherein he is so far approved, as that Ezra
blessed God for it (Ezra 7:26-27). Whosoever will not do the law of
thy God, and the law of the King, let judgment be executed speedily
upon him, whether it be unto death, or unto banishment, or to
confiscation of goods, or imprisonment, etc., which does not concern
idolatry only, but generally the laws of God (v. 25). Set
Magistrates and Judges which may judge all the people, all such as
know the laws of God. He who wrote Liberty of Conscience (pp.
27-28), is so far confounded with this laudable decree of
Artaxerxes, that he can say no more to it, but that it was the
commandment of God, not an invention of men which Artaxerxes did
thus impose, which is as much as we desire.

But, 2., sects and schisms are to be punished as well, though not as
much as heresy and idolatry. There are degrees of faults, and
accordingly degrees of punishments. Augustine wrote an epistle to
Bonifacius (Tom. 2, Ep. 50) upon this occasion, to show that the
Donatists had nothing to do with the Arians, and so were not to be
punished with such rigor and severity; yet he advises that moderate
mulcts [fines] and punishment may be laid upon them, and that their
bishops or ministers may be banished. In his 127th epistle, he
intercedes most earnestly with the proconsul of Africa, that he
might not put to death the Donatists, but repress them some other

We have also a Scripture example for punishing sectaries who are not
heretics. It is agreed among interpreters, there were in Judah two
sorts of high places, some on which God was worshipped, others on
which idols were worshipped; and it is most manifest from 2 Chron.
33:17, and from the reconciling of 2 Chron. 15:17 with 14:3, 5, the
one sort was the high place of idolatry, the other, the high places
of will-worship; yet the priests of the latter, as well as the
former, were punished by Josiah, as Tostatus proves from 2 Kings 23.
And the text itself is clear, for he put to death the priests of
Samaria, who had sacrificed in the high places of idolatry (v. 20),
but as for those who sacrificed in the high places of will-worship,
because they sacrificed to the Lord only (as the word is [in] 2
Chron. 33:17), therefore Josiah did not put them to death, only he
caused them to go out of all the cities of Judah, and to cease from
the priest's office, so that they durst not come up to the altar of
the Lord at Jerusalem, only they were permitted to eat of the
unleavened bread amongst their brethren (v. 8-9), which is parallel
to that law [in] Ezek. 44:10-14, a prophecy concerning the Christian
Temple, and the times of the New Testament, which reaches a blow to
another silly and short-sighted evasion, used both in the Bloody
Tenet, and M.S. to A.S. that all this coercive power exercised in
the Old Testament was typical, and therefore not imitable now in the
New Testament.

Whereunto I further reply, 1. The reason of all that coercive
severity was moral and perpetual, as was shown from Deut. 13:11.
2. Next, why did they not prove that it was typical? Shall we take
their fancy for a certainty? They have neither Scripture nor
interpreters for it.

3. They confound the judicial laws of Moses with the ceremonial,
making judicatories and justice typical no less than the ceremonies.
4. They do utterly overthrow the investiture of Christian Princes
and Magistrates with any power at all in matters of religion, from
the Old Testament.
So that one may not argue thus: The godly Kings of Judah did remove
the monuments of idolatry and superstition, therefore so should the
Christian Magistrate do. The most arrant [thorough] malignant may
answer in the words of Mr. Williams (ch. 109), that the civil power
or State of Israel, so far as it attended upon the spiritual, was
merely figurative. Or in the words of M.S. (p. 51), "There are two
reasons very considerable why the Kings of Judah might be invested
by God with a larger power in matters of religion, than Kings or
Magistrates under the gospel have any ground or warrant to claim
from them. First, they were types of Christ" (but by the way, how
does he prove that Asa, Jehu, and Josiah were types of Christ?),
"which no King under heaven at this day is.

Secondly, not the people only, but the very land over which they
ruled were typical."

5. The punishment of persons was a part of their reformation, as
well as the destruction of monuments, and why must we follow their
example in the one, more than the other? If we smart under both
their diseases, we must apply both their remedies, or neither.
The third argument is drawn from the New Testament. The Magistrate
beareth not the sword in vain, for he is the minister of God, a
revenger to execute wrath on him that doth evil (Rom. 13:4). But I
assume, heretics and sectaries do evil, yea, much evil, especially
when they draw many others after them in their pernicious ways. It
was the observation of one of the greatest politicians of this
kingdom, "That heresies and schisms are of all others the greatest
scandals: yea, more than corruption of manners" (Bacon's Essays on
Councils Civil and Moral (London 1597; augment. edit. 1612; 1624),
pp. 11-12). One of his reasons is, because "every sect of them has a
diverse posture or cringe by themselves, which cannot but move
derision in worldlings, and depraved politics, who are apt to
contemn holy things."

I know it will be answered, "If any sectary makes a breach of peace,
or disturbs the State, then indeed the Magistrate ought to redress
it by a coercive power." So John the Baptist (p. 57). So Mr.
Williams (ch. 52) answers Rom. 13:4 is not meant of evil against the
Christian estate, but of evil against the civil state. M.S. (pp.
53-54), tells us that he is not for the toleration of sects and
schisms, except "only upon this supposition, that the professors and
maintainers of them be otherwise peaceable in the State, and every
way subject to the laws and lawful power of the civil Magistrate."
I answer, the experience of former times may make us so wise as to
foresee that heresy and schism tend to the breach of civil peace,
and to a rupture in the State as well as in the Church. What
commotions did the Arians make in all the Eastern parts? the
Macedonians in Greece? the Donatists in Africa? How did the
Anabaptists raise and foment the bloody war of the Boores in
Germany, wherein were killed above 10,000 men? Tantum religio potuit
suadere malorum [Religion has had the power to urge men to such
great evil]. How fanatical was Julian's design to bring Christians
to nought, by granting liberty of conscience to all the heretics and
sectaries that were among them?

But suppose the Commonwealth to run no hazard by the toleration of
heresies and schisms, I answer further,
1. The text (Rom. 13:4) speaks generally, and we must not
distinguish where the Scripture does not distinguish.
2. Those that are in authority are to take such courses and so to
rule, that we may not only lead a quiet and peaceable life, but
further that it be in all godliness and honesty (1 Tim. 2:2). The
magistrate is keeper of both tables, and is to punish the violation
of the first table, as well as of the second.

3. "Will any man," says Augustine, "who is in his right wit, say to
Kings, `Do not care by whom the Church of God in your Kingdom is
maintained or opposed; it does not concern your Kingdom, who will be
religious, who sacrilegious:' to whom, notwithstanding, it cannot be
said, `It does not concern you in your Kingdom, who is chaste, who
whorish,' etc. Is the soul's keeping faith and truth to God a
lighter matter, than that of a woman to a man?" He confesses in the
same epistle, that he and some other African divines were sometime
of that opinion, that the Emperor should not at all punish the
Donatists for their heresy or error, but such of them only as should
be found to commit any riot or breach of peace, especially the
furious and violent Circumcellions. But afterward he confesses that
the Emperor had as good reason to repress their pernicious error, as
their furious violence.

4. A fourth argument is drawn from the names which the Scripture
gives to heretics and sectaries, holding forth the extreme danger of
tolerating and letting them alone. They are called ravening wolves
(Matt. 7:15) and grievous wolves not sparing the flock (Acts 20:29),
thieves and robbers (John 10:8). Their word eateth as a canker (2
Tim. 2:17), and is as a little leaven leavening the whole lump (Gal.
5:9). They are troublers of Israel (Acts 15:24, Gal. 5:12). Shall
the troublers of the State be punished, and the troublers of Israel
go free? Shall physicians cut off the member that hath a gangrene in
it, because it endangers the whole body, and shall the great State
physicians suffer the gangrene to spread in the Church? Shall men's
bodies, goods, and purses, be so far cared for, that thieves and
robbers must not be suffered, but justice done upon them; and shall
those have immunity who steal away souls from Christ, and rob us of
the pearl of truth? Nay shall the poor sheep be so much looked to,
that the wolf must not be spared; and shall we suffer the
soul-destroying wolves to enter, yea abide peaceably among the
dear-bought flock of Jesus Christ?

III. Other arguments might be added, but let these suffice at this
present. I come next to answer the material objections which I have
either read or heard (to my best remembrance) alleged against this
coercive power of the Magistrate in matters of religion.
1. OBJECTION ONE. First, the parable of the tares is objected:Christ
will not have the tares to be plucked up, but to grow together with
the wheat until the harvest (Matt. 13:29-30). In this argument Mr.
Williams in his Bloody Tenet puts a great deal of confidence. But I
am as confident to discover the strength of it to be less than
nothing. For first he takes the tares to be meant neither of
hypocrites in the Church, whether discovered or undiscovered; nor
yet of those who are scandalous offenders in their life and
conversation, but only of Antichristian idolaters and false
worshippers, which is a most false interpretation. Christ himself
expounds it generally (v. 38). The good seed are the children of the
kingdom: but the tares are the children of the wicked one. And (v.
41), the tares are expounded to be all that offend, and which do
iniquity. This being the clear meaning, it will follow undeniably,
that if the Magistrate must spare those who are meant by the tares
in the parable, then he must spare and let alone all scandalous
offenders, murderers, adulterers, drunkards, thieves, etc., when any
such are discovered in the visible Church.

But this cannot be the meaning of the tares in the parable, says Mr.
Williams (ch. 24), that wicked livers, opposite the children of God,
should be understood. For then, he says, when Christ says, "Let the
tares alone," he should contradict other ordinances for the
punishment of evil doers by the Magistrate. But this is a base
begging of the question; for he well knew that those against whom he
disputes hold that his exposition of the parable contradicts the
ordinance of God for punishing idolaters and heretics, the question
being whether or not this is not an ordinance as well as the
punishment of scandalous livers. Besides, if the tares are
Antichristian idolaters, and they must not be plucked up, but
suffered to grow till the harvest, as he expounds, this contradicts
other Scriptures, which say that the sword must be drawn against
Antichristian idolaters, and they thereby cut off (Rev. 13:10 and

But I proceed to a second answer. If by tares I should suppose only
to be meant idolaters, heretics, and false worshippers (which is a
gloss contrary to the text, as I have demonstrated), yet their
argument will not conclude their forbearing or sparing of such,
except only in such cases, and so far as the true worshippers of God
cannot be certainly and infallibly diagnosed from the false
worshippers, as the wheat from the tares: as Jehu would not destroy
the worshippers of Baal, till he was sure that none of the servants
of the Lord were among them (2 Kings 10:23). The reason why the
tares are not to be plucked up, is, lest while ye gather up the
tares, ye root up also the wheat with them (v. 29). Now when a man
is sure that he plucks up nothing but tares, or rather thorns,
without the least danger to the wheat, how does the parable strike
against his so doing? If M.S. will not believe me, let him believe
himself (p. 50), "For my part," he says, "when the civil Magistrate
shall be far enough out of this danger of fighting against God, I
have nothing to say against his fighting with superstition, heresy,
schism," etc.

Thirdly, what if I shape yet another answer to the argument out of
Mr. Williams' own words? [In] chap. 27, "I acknowledge," he says,
"this command (Let them alone) was expressly spoken to the
messengers or ministers of the gospel, who have not civil power or
authority in their hand, and therefore not to the civil Magistrate,
King, or Governor." Now therefore what a blockish argument it is, to
reason from this parable against the coercive power of the
magistrate in matters of religion? If there must be a forbearance of
any severity, we must forbear Church censures and excommunications,
a way of rooting out the tares, which Mr. Williams himself justifies
as much as we do.

Fourthly, and if the utter extirpation and plucking up of heretics
by capital punishments, should be understood to be forbidden in the
parable (as it is not), yet the stopping of their mouths, the
dissipating and suppressing of them, some other coercive way, is not
forbidden, as Chrysostom notes upon the place, whom Euthymius and
Theophylactus do follow in this, allowing of coercive, though not
capital punishments.

Fifthly, Calvin, Beza, and our best interpreters, take the scope and
intent of that parable, not to be against the immoderate severity of
Magistrates, but against the immoderate zeal of those who imagine to
have the Church rid of all scandalous and wicked persons, as wheat
without tares, corn without chaff, a flock of sheep without goats,
which has been the fancy of Novatians, Donatists, and Anabaptists.
The parable therefore intimates unto us (as Bucerus upon the place
expounds it) that when the Magistrate has done all his duty in
exercising his coercive power, yet to the world's end there will be
in the Church a mixture of good and bad. So that it is the universal
and perfect purging of the Church, which is put off to the last
judgment, not the punishment of particular persons. Neither do the
servants in the parables ask whether they should pluck up this or
that visible tare, but whether they should go and make the whole
field rid of them; which field is the general visible Church sowed
with the seed of the gospel; and so much for that argument.
2. OBJECTION TWO. Another negative argument is this. Such a coercive
power in the matters of religion, makes men hypocrites and seven
times more the children of hell. Christ's ordinances put upon a
whole city or nation, may more civilize and moralize, but never
Christianize them, says Mr. Williams (ch. 82).

1. I answer, this argument does utterly condemn Josiah's reformation
as sinful, for he caused all Judah to stand to the covenant, as we
heard before from 2 Chron. 34:32; yet Judah thereby became more
hypocritical. Treacherous Judah hath not turned unto me with her
whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord, speaking of those very
days of Josiah (Jer. 3:6, 10). 2. This argument makes also against
the punishment of adulteries, murderers, thefts, robberies, etc.,
for unless filthy lust, hatred, and covetousness in the heart are
mortified, and men convert freely and sincerely, the reducing of
them to a moral conversation makes them but hypocrites, and nearer
hell than before. 3. There are two sorts of Christ's ordinances:
some for the communion of the saints; others, for the conversion of
sinners. It is far from our thoughts to admit, much less to compel,
a whole city, or nation promiscuously, to the use of the former. But
yet converting or reducing ordinances may and ought to put upon all
whom they concern. The means must be used and men's hearts left to

3. OBJECTION THREE. This doctrine of the Magistrate's coercive power
makes many to stumble at the Presbyterian Reformation, as a bloody
reformation, as a building of Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with
iniquity (Mic. 3:10). ANSWER. (1.) We have not so learned Christ; we
abominate the Popish and Prelatical tyranny. We know that the
servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt
to teach, patient: in meekness instructing those who oppose
themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the
acknowledging of the truth (2 Tim. 2:24-25); yet he who said so,
could also say, I would they were even cut off which trouble you
(Gal. 5:12).

It is my soul's desire that the secular coercive power may be put
forth upon those only who can by no other means be reclaimed, and
who can be no longer spared without a visible rupture in the Church,
and the manifest danger of seducing and misleading many souls. A
Presbytery is not so ill a neighbor, that no man who has the least
differing opinion may live beside it.

But (2.), this objection does as much strike against the New England
government, as against the government of the neighbouring Reformed
churches. For in New England there has been severity enough (to say
no worse) used against heretics and schismatics. And here I must
appeal the consciences of those who now plead so much for liberty of
conscience and toleration in this kingdom, were they able to root
out the Presbyterians and their way, and could find civil authority
inclined to put forth the coercive power against it, whether in that
case would they not say, that the Magistrate may repress it by [a]
strong hand, if it cannot otherwise be repressed. It is not without
cause that I put this query to them; for M.S. (p. 50, a passage
before cited), allows of the Magistrate's fighting against a
doctrine or way which is indeed superstition, heresy, or schism, and
only pretends to be from God, when it is indeed from men. Also that
pamphlet called As You Were, tells us that it was neither Gamaliel's
meaning, nor Mr. Goodwin's meaning, that every way pretending to be
from God must be let alone, but that only we are to refrain and let
alone, till we are certain that we are out of danger of fighting
against God, while we endeavour to overthrow it.

Now I assume, there are some who plead for liberty of conscience,
who profess that they are certain and fully assured, upon
demonstrative proofs, that the Presbyterial way is not from God, nor
according to the mind of Jesus Christ (which is hinted to us both in
the pamphlet last cited, pp. 5-6, etc., and in Theomaxia , p. 25).
Therefore according to their principles they must allow of the
putting forth of the civil coercive power against the Presbyterial
way. And if so, what a grand imposture is this? what a deceiving of
the world? what a mocking of the Parliament and of the kingdom? to
plead generally for liberty of conscience, when they intend only
liberty to themselves, not to others that are opposite them.
Which appears yet further by the Compassionate Samaritan (p. 10); he
says that no man is to be punished or discountenanced by authority
for his opinion, "unless it be dangerous to the State" (pp. 23-24);
he discourses against the opinion of Presbyterians as most dangerous
to the State. Therefore he would have the Presbyterians
discountenanced and punished by authority, and intends liberty only
to the Separatists, Anabaptists, and the like.

4. I have done with the three objections, but I have three words
more to speak with the Compassionate Samaritan, in answer to his
three arguments for liberty of conscience, in which though all the
strength of the discourse does lie, I hope to make him ashamed of
them, if he can at all blush.

(1.) His first argument is this: "Whatsoever a man's reason does
conclude to be true or false, or be agreeable or disagreeable to
God's word, that same to that man is his opinion or judgment, and so
man is by his own reason necessitated to be of that mind he is: Now
where there is a necessity, there ought to be no punishment, for
punishment is the recompense of voluntary actions; therefore no man
ought to be punished for his judgment."

ANSWER. [1.] The question is not whether a man ought to be punished
for his judgment, but whether a man ought to be punished for such
professions or practices in religion, as are found to be pernicious,
hurtful, and destructive, to the glory of God, the truth of the
gospel, the ordinances of Christ, the reformation of religion, the
peace of the Church. I know he will be ready still to set on foot
his argument, for that a man's judgment and reason do so necessitate
and conclude him that he cannot choose but profess and practice as
he does.

Therefore I add, [2.], this argument of his strikes against the
justice of the Parliament done or to be done upon Malignants, for as
much as their judgment binds them, and their reason necessitates
them to judge and speak as they do.
[3.] It strikes at the very justice of God upon the reprobate and
unbelieving men, for as much as they cannot receive the things of
God (1 Cor. 1:14), cannot hear the words of Christ (Jn. 8:43),
cannot receive the spirit of truth (Jn. 14:17). But
[4.], the formal solution is this: there is a gross fallacy in the
argument, for we must distinguish necessity; there is a natural
necessity, which takes away the power, and a moral necessity, which
takes away the authority of a man's being of another judgment or way.

Again, there is an absolute necessity, and a hypothetical necessity.
Now the necessity of a heretic's judging thus, because his reason
concludes him thus, is not a moral necessity or obligation upon him,
as if it were not lawful to him to judge or do otherwise (nay, he
ought and is bound by the word of God to judge otherwise, and do
otherwise), but it is a natural necessity (I mean of sinful nature),
and that not simple and absolute, neither, but hypothetical only,
and upon this supposition that he has not yet opened his eyes to
receive more light, nor set his heart singly and in the fear of God
to seek more light.

So that the plain English of this Samaritan argument is this: Though
God's word binds a man to such a duty, yet if his own erroneous,
perverse, and corrupt judgment concludes him so far that his opinion
cannot agree with the word of God, and himself cannot be brought to
the practice of that necessary duty; such a man ought not to be
punished. Or as if one should argue thus: He that has borrowed from
me a thousand pounds, has by his own fault disabled himself to pay
it; therefore I may not call him to account for it.

(2.) But let us see whether this Samaritan is happier in his second
argument, which is this: "It's known that the fathers, general
councils, national assemblies, synods and parliaments in their times
have been grossly mistaken; and though the present times are wiser
than the former, etc., yet since there remains a possibility of
error, notwithstanding never so great presumptions to the contrary,
one sort of men are not to compel another, since this hazard is run
thereby, that he who is in an error may be the constrainer of him
who is in the truth."

ANSWER. [1.] Farewell Parliaments, if this argument should hold
good. The Parliament may fine no man, imprison no man, banish no
man; they may compel no man to assessments, taxes, excise, billeting
of soldiers, etc. And why forsooth? because they may not presume an
infallible and unerring spirit, but may err, and have erred as well
as other men.

[2.] He argues from the hazard of compulsion, it may fall out that
he who is in the truth may be constrained and persecuted. True, it
may fall out so; and so the Lord save us that we never be accessory
to the persecuting of any who are in the truth, for so it may be
again through men's corruption and abuse of the Magistrate's power
(so the best things may be abused). But the liberty of conscience
which he pleads for, runs so far greater hazard, even the hazard of
not only shaking but overturning truth, peace, and religion, and
ordinances, and Church, and souls, and all. To the ruin of all
these, and to a thousand mischiefs, this kind of liberty prepares a
broad way, and opens a wide door; and it is better, as he said, to
live where nothing is lawful, than where everything is lawful.

[3.] It follows not that because Parliaments may not presume of an
unerring spirit, therefore they cannot be certain that they are in
the truth concerning this or that particular, so that they may
confidently compel men to it, without fear of fighting against God.
The acknowledgment of a possibility of error, and that we know but
in part as long as we are in this world, may well consist with men's
fulness of persuasion from the light of God's word, concerning this
or that truth to be believed, or duty to be done.

(3.) I make haste to his third argument: "To compel me, he says,
against my conscience, is to compel me against what I believe to be
true, and so against my faith; now whatsoever is not of faith is
sin; to compel me therefore against my conscience, is to compel me
to do that which is sinful. And, again, I am compelled by the
apostle to be persuaded in my own mind of that way wherein I serve
the Lord," etc.

ANSWER. [1.] This also shakes loose Parliamentary authority; though
the gentleman who wrote these arguments pretends to stand for it, as
much as any other. His arguments will conclude (if it concludes at
all) that the Parliament may not compel Malignants, disaffected
persons, rebels, to anything which they are not persuaded in their
own minds to be right. `It is against my conscience,' will the
Antiparliamentary malignant say, `to contribute to the war, to
acknowledge this for a Parliament, as long as the King does not
acknowledge it; to reveal such a design, or to confess this or that
plot against the Parliament, when I am examined; therefore I shall
sin if I do so, for whatsoever is not of faith is sin, and the
Parliament shall compel me to sin, if they compel me to do so.' "For
though the thing may be in itself good, if it does not appear to be
so to my conscience, the practice thereof in me is sinful, which
therefore I ought not to be compelled unto," says the Samaritan. If
he says his argument is only concerning matters of religion, I
answer, Whatever his intention is in offering the argument, the very
nature and force of the argument itself drives universally against
the compelling of a man to anything whatsoever which is against his
own conscience, except he will say that it is a sin to serve God
against my conscience, but it is no sin to serve the Parliament
against my conscience. Says not the apostle, "WHATSOEVER is not of
faith is sin," and "He that doubteth is damned?"

But [2.], when the apostle says so, he does not exclude all manner
of doubting, as the casuists well observe, but only practical
doubts; for a man may have his conscience morally and practically
certain, so that he may do such a thing lawfully, and with
confidence that he is doing the will of God, and yet withal he may
be perhaps fluctuating in some speculative doubts concerning that
very thing. For instance, a Christian may come to the Lord's Table
with so much faith (I mean not now the faith of the person which
justifies before God, but the faith of that action) as makes his
coming lawful, though his thoughts be exercised with some doubts
concerning the truth of his repentance and faith. A soldier may in
faith go out to war, being assured that what he does he may do
without sin, but yet he has happily his own speculative doubts
concerning the nature, causes, and ends of war. A man may with
freedom and persuasion of mind (so far as concerns his practice)
submit to Presbyterial government, who yet perhaps has not
thoroughly satisfied himself concerning the grounds and warrants
which it has from the word of God. The Samaritan will reply (it may
be) that he has no faith at all concerning the practice itself, and
that he may not be compelled to do anything against his conscience,
for that were to compel him to sin. To take this off, I add,
[3.], if the thing is indifferent, I confess no man is to be
compelled to it against his conscience; for this has been the
tyranny of Papists and Prelates, to compel men against their
consciences to certain rites which [they] themselves acknowledged to
be merely indifferent, setting aside obedience to authority in such
things, which (they say) is not indifferent. But if the word of God
either directly or by way of necessary consequence, makes the thing
necessary, and such as we cannot leave undone without sin and breach
of duty; if there is such an obligation from the word, then may a
man be compelled of it, though against his conscience.
But then you will say, I am brought into a necessity of sinning, for
if I obey not, I refuse a duty; if I obey, I do it against my

ANSWER. This necessity is not absolute, but hypothetical, is not per
se, but per accidens, so long as a man retains the error of his
conscience, which he ought to cast away.

You will say again, "Supposing my conscience cannot be satisfied,
nor made of another opinion than now I am of, whether in this case,
and so long as it stands thus with me, may authority compel me to
obey against my conscience, and so to sin? or whether ought they not
rather permit me not to obey, because my conscience forbids me."
ANSWER. The thing being necessary, as has been said, it is pars
tuitor, yea, tuitissima [it is the safer part, yea, the very
safest], that a man is compelled to it, though it is against his
erring and ill informed conscience. I know so long as he has such an
erring conscience he cannot but sin in obeying. But the sin of not
obeying is greater and heavier; for this is a sin in the fact
itself; that a sin in the manner of doing only, being not done in
faith: this is a sin of itself, that is a sin only by accident; this
is a sin materially; that is a sin only interpretatively to him,
because he thinks so; this is a sin for the substance; that a sin
for the circumstance; this cannot be made to be no sin, for the
nature of the duty cannot be altered; that may cease to be sin, for
a man's conscience may, through God's mercy and blessing upon the
means, be better informed.

So that there can be no doubt but this is every way greater than
that, and consequently more to be avoided. And thus I have
dispatched the Samaritan who did undertake to pour oil into the
wounds of the Separation. Medice cura teipsum [Physician, heal

5. The next thing [that] comes in my way is an argument brought for
liberty of conscience, from Gamaliel's speech in favour of the
apostles (Acts 5:38-39). Refrain from these men and let them alone:
for if this counsel or this work is of men, it will come to nought.
But if it be of God ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found
even to fight against God. The strength of his argumentation did lie
in this dilemma: this doctrine or way is either of men, or of God.
If it is of men, you shall not need to repress it, for it will come
to nought of itself, which he proves by two historical instances of
Judas and Theudas. If it is of God, it is in vain to strive against
it, for it must prevail, and the counsel of heaven must stand.
Therefore be what it will be, there is no danger to let it alone.
But on the other side, if you go about to repress it, you run the
hazard both of fighting against God, and of provoking the
displeasure as well of the Romans, who have not permitted unto you
the liberty of capital punishments, as of the people of the Jews who
magnify these men and their way. This is the whole substance, sense,
and scope of that speech of Gamaliel in the Council. Hence did some
argue for a toleration to Servetus and other heretics. And though
this their way was then discovered to be their folly, yet their
posterity approve their sayings.

The same argument is used in that pamphlet called Liberty of
Conscience (pp. 34-35). Upon the same foundation Mr. Goodwin builds
in Theomaxia, and the Paraenetick for Christian Liberty (pp. 2, 11),
supposing the credit and authority of Gamaliel's speech, for matter
of truth to be one and the same with other Scriptures, and that
there is nothing in all that speech but what is fully consonant with
the word of God, unquestionably so acknowledged. So Mr. Goodwin
affirms (p. 10), and after him one P.P. (which is by interpretation,
Poor Pamphleteer) falls in the same ditch; he might well call it As
You Were, for he makes that party to be never a jot more in the
right. First of all he will commend Gamaliel's speech, and justify
Mr. Goodwin's doctrine. Sure I am, Calvin takes Gamaliel to be a
godless politician, and a neutralist, and his speech to have great
error in it. So says Pelargus upon the place.

But to save me a labour in looking upon other interpreters, because
the Poor Pamphleteer appeals first to Piscator and Beza, and
afterwards to Gualther (as Mr. Goodwin did before him), let him be
judged by these and no others. Piscator says plainly, that
Gamaliel's speech was not right, while he says, "If this counsel or
this work be of men, it will come to nought," his meaning being that
therefore they should let it alone. Beza thinks Gamaliel spoke not
from love to the apostles, but from fear of the Romans. Gualther
thinks it a most pernicious tenet which some build upon this place,
concerning the toleration of heresies and errors. Yea, Beza (De
Haereticis a Magistraii Puniendis), cites and approves Calvin's
judgment, condemning Gamaliel for neutrality, and his speech of

These learned divines have so well opened and cleared the point,
that there is no place left for what the Poor Pamphleteer has said,
yet two things more I must take notice of in him. He says it was not
for fear of the Jews or the Romans that Gamaliel gave his advice.
Not for fear of the people of the Jews, for that "would be but at
the apostles' apprehension, not execution." What nonsense is here?
the people were angry at laying hands on the apostles, but there was
no fear of wrath if the apostles should be killed. Not for fear of
the Romans' wrath, which, he says, they often regarded not, as Acts
23:27. A place which confutes himself, for when the Jews would have
killed Paul, Claudius Lysias came with an army and rescued him: a
danger which we must think the wisdom of Gamaliel and the council
could better foresee, than the rude and furious multitude which
would have killed Paul. Next he will not yield so much as that
Gamaliel did doubt whether the apostles' doctrine was from God or
not, and that he made it an uncertain case. In this sir, you have
faced about, sure you are not As You Were, for Mr. Goodwin himself
Theomaxia, p. 11), says that "Gamaliel in point of judgment or
conscience, was still but where he was, doubtful and in suspense
with himself about the business." Well, but why has he now denied
that Gamaliel made it a doubtful and uncertain case? "He might," he
says, "and in all likelihood did thus express himself for fear or

So did Hushai strangely for an honest heart in that case of David,
in his counsel to Absalom" (2 Sam. 17). Yet Hushai made a round lie,
even against his knowledge. Look about you masters, know whom you
trust; here's a generation of men pretending to a more perfect and
saint-like reformation than others; but yet they think it no fault
to lie and dissemble for good ends. Nay that's not all (p. 4),
answering to an objection made against those who do commend and
magnify themselves, for greater gifts and graces than other men
have; he tells us it is no fault for a man not only to compare, but
to prefer himself to another, and that on purpose to heighten his
own estimation. Which how sweetly it agrees with Paul's doctrine
(Phil. 2:3), "In lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better
than themselves;" let every sober and moderate spirit judge. How
now, Poor Pamphleteer? is it not enough for you to defend a lying
tongue, but will you needs defend pride too? those are two (I am
sure) of the seven things which are an abomination to the Lord
(Prov. 6:16-17).

And here I leave the Poor Pamphleteer with this black mark upon him;
I will not proceed to answer "a fool in his foolishness," lest I "be
like unto him;" thus far I have answered, "lest he be wise in his
own eyes." I add only one thing more in answer to that argument for
liberty of conscience, from Acts 5:38-39. Suppose Gamaliel's
principles to be good, and his speech to be of truth and authority
(which I have proved it is not), yet it is not applicable to the
toleration of heretics and sectaries now, that case of the apostles
being extraordinary, and great miracles wrought by them, to the
conviction of their most malignant opposers (Acts 4:16).
6. Some it may well be will object further from Isa. 11:9, a place
objected in the Paraenetick, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all
my holy mountain." And Luke 9:54, And when his disciples James and
John saw this, they said, Lord wilt thou that we command fire to
come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he
turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit
ye are of, for the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives,
but to save them. A place objected by Nicolaid's Refut. Tract. de
Eccl. (ch. 4).

ANSWER. That prophecy concerning the Christian Church (Isa. 11:9),
is not to be understood generally, as the word sounds, for then
adulterers, murderers, etc., are not to be hurt and destroyed by the
Christian Magistrate. The meaning therefore is, that those who have
formerly been as lions and wolves to the poor lambs of Christ, shall
either be renewed and changed in their nature, or (which is more
probable) shall be so restrained and overawed by the power and
providence of God, that it shall not be in their power to hurt or
destroy any of the saints for the truth of the gospel's sake.
Neither shall they be able to destroy any, so the Septuagint. God
shall so preserve and protect his Church, that she shall be like a
lamb among wolves, or like a kid among leopards, or like a child
putting his hand on the cockatrice den, and yet shall not be hurt
nor destroyed thereby. And as this prophecy guards and protects none
but those who are in God's holy mountain, professors and lovers of
the gospel, and the ordinances of Jesus Christ; so our Lord Christ's
rebuke (Luke 9:54-55), strikes not against any just and necessary
severity, but against a private vindictive spirit, and carnal blind
zeal: it being the purpose of Christ, then, most of all other times,
not to exercise violence (as tyrants do in conquering new
dominions), but to conquer and subdue souls by his doctrine and
miracles, with a spirit of meekness, especially having to do with
the Samaritan, or any other who had never yet known nor received the

Even those who say most for a coercive power to be put forth against
heretics or schismatics, do not allow of the compelling of infidels,
pagans, or Jews, by external punishments to receive the gospel.
IV. But now after all this debate upon the question in hand, and
after all these arguments for the affirmative and for the negative,
some will happily desire and expect some further modification and
explanation of the matter in certain positive conclusions or
distinguishing assertions. For whose satisfaction I say, First,
there are five sorts of toleration proceeding from five different

1. Of indifferency.
2. Of policy.
3. Of pretended conscience and equity.
4. Of necessity.
5. Of charity.

The first is when the Magistrate is a Nullifidian, Neutralist, and
Adiaphorist, esteeming as Gallio did questions of the law and of the
ordinances of Christ, to be of words and names, or things which he
cared not for (Acts 18:14-15). The second is when the Magistrate
tolerates heretics and sectaries for his own profit, or some such
interest of policy, such as makes the Pope to tolerate the Jews in
Italy, yea in Rome itself, where they have their synagogues,
circumcision and liturgies, because his profit by them is greater
than by the very courtesans; yea, besides their certain tribute, he
does sometimes impose on them a subsidy of ten thousand crowns
extraordinary for some service of the State, as Europae Speculum
(pp. 221-22), has represented to us. And whether the States of the
united Provinces do not grant toleration upon the like interests of
their own profit, I leave it to the judgment of their own
consciences. The third is the toleration pleaded for here by Mr.
Williams, The Compassionate Samaritan, etc., as if justice, equity,
duty, and conscience should make the Magistrate forbear all coercive
power in matters of religion. All these three I utterly condemn, and
the former arguments do strongly militate against them. The fourth
kind of toleration, arising from necessity which has no law, may
well be mourned for as an affliction; it cannot be condemned as the
Magistrate's fault. Even a David may have cause to complain that the
sons of Zeruiah are too strong for him. In such cases as these, our
divines have given a relief to the conscience of the Christian
Magistrate, purging him of the guilt of this kind of toleration;
provided always, that he has endeavoured so far as he can to
extirpate heresies, and to establish the true religion only. Which
has nothing to do with that principle now defended, that the
Magistrate though he may never so easily, yet he ought not nor
cannot without sin exercise a coercive power in matters of religion.
The fifth and last is that kind of toleration whereby the Magistrate
when it is in the power of his hand to punish and extirpate, yet
having to do with such of whom there is good hope either of reducing
them by convincing their judgments, or of uniting them to the Church
by a safe accommodation of differences, he grants them a supersedeas
[forbearance]; or though there be no such ground of hope concerning
them, yet while he might crush them with the foot of power, in
Christian piety and moderation, he forbears so far as may not be
destructive to the peace and right government of the Church, using
his coercive power with such a mixture of mercy as creates no
mischief to the rest of the Church.

I speak not only of bearing with those who are weak in faith (Rom.
15:1), but of sparing even those who have perverted the faith, so
far as the word of God and rules of Christian moderation would have
severity tempered with mercy: that is (as has been said) so far as
is not destructive to the Church's peace, nor shakes the foundations
of the established form of church government, and no further; these
last two kinds of toleration are allowed; the first three are wholly
condemned. My second distinction is concerning the punishments
inflicted by the Magistrate upon heretics. They are either
exterminative, or medicinal. Such as blaspheme God or Jesus Christ,
or who shall fall away themselves and seduce others to idolatry,
ought to be utterly cut off according to the law of God. But as for
other heretics, they are to be chastened with medicinal punishments
as mulcts [fines; forfeiture], imprisonments, banishment, by which,
through God's blessing, they may be humbled, ashamed, and reduced.
Not that I think the proper end of civil and coercive punishments to
be the conversion and salvation of the delinquent (which is the end
of church censures and of excommunication itself), but that the
right method of proceeding does require that the Magistrate inflict
the smaller punishments first, that there may be place for the
offenders bringing forth of fruits worthy of repentance, and he may
be at least reduced to external order and obedience, being persuaded
by the terror of civil power, which may and does (when blessed of
God) prove a preparation to free obedience, as the needle is to the
thread, or the law to the gospel, servile fear to filial fear; and
that the Magistrate step not up to the highest justice till other
punishments have proved ineffectual: which made Constantine punish
the heretics of his time not with death, but with banishment, as is
manifest by the Proem of the Council of Nicea.

In such cases it may be said to the heretic of the Magistrate, He is
the minister of God to thee for good, more good I am sure, than if
the golden reins of civil justice should be loosed, and he suffered
to do what he list [likes]. Therefore Augustine likens this coercive
punishing of heretics to Sarah's dealing roughly with Hagar, for her
good and humiliation.

I conclude, convenience and indulgence to heretics is a cruel mercy:
correction is a merciful severity, and a wholesome medicine, as well
to themselves as to the Church. Thirdly, we must distinguish between
the coercive power of the Magistrate in matters of religion, and the
abuse of that power. When we justify the power, we justify not the
abuse of it; and when we condemn the abuse, we must not therefore
condemn the power. Acontius (Stratagemata Satanae., lib. 3, p. 147),
builds much upon this notion: let a man imagine that his lot is
fallen in those times when the truth is persecuted by authority,
when the Magistrate justifies the wicked and contemns the godly
(which has been the more ordinary condition of the Church), and then
let him accordingly shape the resolution of the question concerning
the Magistrate's punishing of heretics. Will not a man think, he
says, it had been better that heretics had not been punished, than
that upon pretence of coercive power against heretics, the edge of
the civil sword be turned towards the preachers and professors of
the truth? But notwithstanding of all this, truth must be truth, and
justice must be justice, abuse it who will. Parliaments and Synods
have been many times enemies to the truth, and have abused their
power in matters of religion: must we therefore deny the power of
Parliaments and Synods? or must we cast off any ordinance of God
because of the abuse of it? If the thing were indifferent, the abuse
might take away the use: not so, when the thing is necessary. I add
(which is well observed by Calvin) when Jeremiah was accused and
arraigned as worthy to die, his defense is not this, "You ought not
to vindicate religion with the sword, nor put any man to death for
the cause of conscience," but this is it, Know ye for a certain,
that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood
upon your selves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants
thereof: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to speak all
these words in your ears (Jer. 26:15).

Neither did the apostles (though often persecuted) plead the
unlawfulness of persecuting men for heresy, but they pleaded the
goodness of their cause, and that they were no heretics. Fourthly, I
distinguish between bare opinions or speculations, and scandalous or
pernicious practices, as Mr. Burton does in his Vindication of the
Independent Churches. "You must distinguish," he says, "between
men's consciences and their practices. The conscience simply
considered in itself is for God, the Lord of the conscience alone to
judge, as before. But for a man's practices (of which alone man can
take cognizance) if they be against any of God's commandments of the
first or the second table; that appertains to the Civil Magistrate
to punish, who is for this cause called custos utriusque tabulae,
the keeper of both tables." For this he cites Rom. 13:3-4, and adds,
"So as we see here that is the object of civil power, to wit,
actions good or bad, not bare opinions, not thoughts, not
conscience, but actions."

And this is his answer to the interrogatory concerning the lawful
coercive power of the civil Magistrates in suppressing heresies. In
which he handsomely yielded the point, for who advises the
Parliament to punish men for their thoughts, bare opinions, or for
conscience simply considered in itself? It is for preaching,
printing, spreading of dangerous opinions, for schismatical,
pernicious and scandalous practices, for drawing factions among the
people contrary to the covenant, for resisting the reformation of
religion, for lying and railing against the covenant, the
Parliament, the Assembly of Divines, or against the Reformed

Fifthly, we must distinguish the persons who are in the error,
whether heresiarchs and ring-leaders, or whether followers only, and
such as do acti agere; whether schismatizing, or schismatized;
whether more weak, or more willful; whether seducers, or seduced;
whether pious, or profane, or Pharisaical; whether peaceable,
moderate, calm, docile, or turbulent, factious, fierce, railing,
obstinate, incorrigible. So that when the thing is brought from the
thesis to the hypothesis, there is very much to be trusted to the
prudence, circumspection, and observation of those who are in
authority, to set apart those for punishment who resist reformation,
as Jannes and Jambres did resist Moses (2 Tim. 3:8), and are said to
trouble the churches (Acts 15:24; Gal. 1:7; 5:12), and to trouble
them more or less, as they are more or less troublers of Israel. Let
not the Magistrate fear to say to every Achan, Why hast thou
troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day (Josh. 7:25).
Other seduced ones the Magistrate is to command subpoena, and cause
them stand to the covenant of God, as Josiah did, if they cannot be
persuaded to do it willingly. If the Magistrate miscarries in a
misapplication of his coercive power, let him answer to God and his
conscience for his error. It is not in my thoughts either to plead
for or allow of the persecuting of pious and peaceable men.
Sixthly, as the reformation and preservation of religion differs
much from the propagation of religion: so the coercive power put
forth in the suppressing of heresy and schism is a thing of another
nature than the compelling of infidels by the sword to receive the
gospel. Let the Pope and the Spaniard, and Mohammed propagate
religion by the sword; that is not it I plead for. None of the
Gentiles was of old compelled to be circumcised, but being
circumcised he might be compelled to keep the Law of Moses. Also if
strangers of the Gentiles were sojourning or trading in the land of
Israel, they might be compelled to abstain from the public and
scandalous breaking of the moral law (Neh. 13:16, 21; Ex. 20:10),
which things did belong to the preservation, not to the propagation
of religion.

Seventhly, to establish by a law the toleration, liberty and
immunity of such a sect or way, so as all that will may join in it,
is a thing of most dangerous consequence. But to permit such or so
many persons of a sect to enjoy the liberty of their own consciences
and practices, with such limitations as shall be found necessary, is
a tolerable toleration, I mean a thing though not to be wished, yet
to be allowed. The Romans in their heathenish way did put a
difference between these two: when they abolished the Bachnalian
festivity and discharged it, they granted no toleration to such as
pleased still to observe it: only they were content that some few
upon leave first obtained from the Senate, and upon certain
conditions, might be permitted to continue their own practice, as to
their part.

Eighthly, there is also a great difference between toleration and
accommodation. By accommodation I understand an agreement of
dissenters with the rest of the Church in practical conclusions, so
that if any difference be, it is in their principles, not in their
practices, and so not obvious, apparent and scandalous to people. I
had rather go two miles in an accommodation (yea as many as the word
of God will suffer me) than one mile in toleration. For in that way
there is no schism, no rent in Israel, but "the Lord one, and his
name one." In this way there is temple against temple, and altar
against altar, Manasseh against Ephraim, and Ephraim against
Manasseh, and they both against Judah: a misery from which the Lord
deliver us. I do not deny, but if a safe and happy accommodation is
possible, such a toleration as I have formerly spoken of, is not to
be disallowed. But the accommodation is a more excellent way, and
that which is to be rather embraced, yea endeavoured for and
followed after, according to the apostle's rule (which Isidorua
Pelusiota did long since observe to be the best and happiest way of
putting an end to divisions and dissensions in the Church):
Let us therefore as many as be perfect be thus minded: and if in
anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto
you. Nevertheless whereto we have already attained, let us walk by
the same rule, let us mind the same thing (Phil 3:15-16). V.
If it is said, Quorsum haeo? [To what purpose?], what do I conclude
from all this? It is to leave this confirmed and sealed truth in the
bosom of the High Court and Parliament, and of all inferior
Magistrates according to their interest under them, that it is their
duty, without respect of persons, to endeavor the extirpation of
heresy and schism, and whatsoever shall be found contrary to sound
doctrine, and the power of godliness, lest they partake in other
men's sins, and thereby be in danger to receive of their plagues;
and that the Lord may be one, and his name one in the three
kingdoms: and to endeavor the discovery of all such as have been or
shall be evil instruments, by hindering the reformation of religion,
or making any faction or party amongst the people, contrary to the
solemn league and covenant, that they may be brought to public
trial, and receive condign punishment, etc. Which as they had great
reason to swear and covenant, so now they have greater reason to
perform accordingly; and as it is in itself a duty, and we tied to
it by the oath of God, and his vows that are upon us, as straitly as
ever the sacrifice to the horns of the altar.

So we are to take special notice of the unhappy consequences which
follow upon our slackness and slothfulness, in fulfilling that
sacred oath, viz. the hindering of uniformity, the continuing and
increasing of a rupture both in Church and State, the retarding of
reformation, the spreading and multiplying of heresies and sects,
while every one does what is right in his own eyes; the great
scandal given both to enemies and friends: to enemies, who are made
to think worse of our covenant, because we do not perform it: The
Review of the Covenant, printed at Oxford, upbraids us with this:
that heresy and schism were never more suffered, and less suppressed
in London, than since we swore to endeavor the extirpation of the
same: to friends also, who are mightily stumbled by our own
promising much, and performing so little in this kind: which the
Wallachian Classis in their late letter to the reverend Assembly of
Divines at Westminster (printed before Apollonius's book)does sadly
and seriously lay to our consciences.

I am persuaded if there were but a right understanding one of
another's intentions, the accommodation I speak of would not be
difficult. Brethren, if you will not hearken to wholesome counsel,
you shall be the more inexcusable. I have in my eye that law of God,
Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: thou shalt in any wise
rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him (Lev. 19:17).
Faithful are the wounds of a friend (Prov. 17:6). Therefore love the
truth and peace (Zech. 8:19). Yea, seek peace and pursue it (1 Pet.
3:11). Consider what I say. The Lord guide your feet in the way of
peace. And O that God would put it in your hearts to cry down
toleration, and to cry up accommodation! Amen! Amen!


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