ASSOCIATIONS AND CONFEDERACIES
WITH IDOLATERS, INFIDELS, HERETICS,
AND OTHER ENEMIES OF THE TRUTH,
Discussed so as to Give Direction to the
Christian Conscience and Godly Stateman,
To the Assembly of Divines
ANOTHER MOST USEFUL CASE OF CONSCIENCE DISCUSSED AND RESOLVED, CONCERNING ASSOCIATIONS AND CONFEDERACIES WITH IDOLATERS, INFIDELS, HERETICS, OR ANY OTHER KNOWN ENEMIES OF TRUTH AND GODLINESS,[note]
While I have occasion to speak of human covenants, it shall not be unprofitable to speak somewhat to that question so much debated, as well among, divines as among politicians and lawyers, whether a confederacy and association with wicked men, or such as are of another religion, be lawful, yea or no. For answer whereunto shortly, let us distinguish,
Ecclesiastical, sacred or religious covenants;
Mixed covenants, partly civil, partly religious.
The last two, being made with wicked men, and such as differ in religion from us, I hold to be unlawful, and so do the best writers. When the Israelites are forbidden a covenant with the Canaanites, special mention is made of their gods, altars, images, Exod. 23.32; 34.13, 14; Judg. 2.2, that no such superstitious, unlawful worship, might be tolerated. As for civil covenants, if they be for commerce or peace, which were called σπονδαι, they are allowed, according to the Scriptures, Gen. 14.13; 31.44; 1 Kings 5.12; Jer. 29.7; Rom. 12.18. Such covenants the Venetians have with the Turks, because of vicinity; such covenants also Christian emperors of old had sometimes with the pagans. It was the breach of a civil covenant of peace with the Turks that God punished so exemplarily in Uladyslaus, king of Hungary. But if the civil covenant be such a covenant as the Grecians called συμμαχια, to join in military expeditions together, of this is the greatest debate and controversy among writers. For my part, I hold it unlawful, with divers good writers; and I conceive that, Exod. 34., God forbiddeth not only religious covenants with the Canaanites, but even civil covenants, ver. 12, and conjugal covenants, ver. 16; which is also Junius’ opinion, in his Analysis upon that place. The reason for the unlawfulness of such confederacies are brought,
1. From the law, Exod. 23.32; 34.12,15; Deut. 7.2. Yea God maketh this a principal stipulation and condition, upon their part, while he is making a covenant with them, Exod. 34.10,12; Judg. 2.1,2; and lest it should be thought that this is meant only of those seven nations enumerated Deut. 7., the same law is interpreted of four other nations, 1 Kings 11.1,2; so that it is to be understood generally against confederacies with idolaters and those of a false religion. And the reason of the law is moral and perpetual, viz., the danger of ensnaring the people of God; therefore they were forbidden to covenant either with their gods or with themselves; for a conjunction of counsels, and familiar conversation (which are consequents of a covenant), draweth in the end to a fellowship in religion.
2. From disallowed and condemned examples; as Asa’s covenant with Benhadad, 2 Chron. 16.1-10, and Ahaz’s covenant with the kings of Assyria, 2 Kings 16.7,10; 2 Chron. 28.16-23. And if it should he objected, These are but examples of covenants with idolatrous heathens, there is not the like reason to condemn confederacies and associations with wicked men of the same religion, I answer,
1. It holds a fortiori against confederacies with such of the seed of Jacob as had made defection from true religion; for Grotius (de Jure Belli et Pocis, lib. 2, cap. 15, num. 9) noteth, God would have such to be more abominated than heathens, and to be destroyed from among their people, Deut. 13.13.
2. We have in other scriptures examples which meet with that case also; for Jehoshaphat’s confederacy with Ahab, 2 Chron. 18.3, with 2 Chron. 19.2, and after with Ahaziah, 2 Chron. 20.35, are condemned, which made Jehoshaphat (although once relapsing into that sin) yet afterwards mend his fault, for he would not again join with Ahaziah when he sought that association the second time, 1 Kings 22.49. So Amaziah, having associated himself in an expedition with the Israelites, when God was not with them, did, upon the prophet’s admonition disjoin himself from them, and take his hazard of their anger, 2 Chron. 25.7-10. Lavater upon the place, applying that example, noteth this as one of the causes why the Christian wars with the Turks had so ill success. Why, saith he, consider what soldiers were employed: this is the fruit of associations with the wicked.
3. These confederacies proceed from an evil heart of unbelief; as is manifest by the reasons which are brought against Ahaz’s league with Benhadad, 2 Chron. 16.7-9, and by that which is said against the confederacy with the king of Assyria, Isa. 8.12, 13; for as Calvin upon the place noteth, the unbelievers among the people, considering their own inability for managing so great a war, thought it necessary to have a confederacy with the Assyrians; but this was from faithless fears, from want of faith to stay and rest upon God as all-sufficient. 4. If we must avoid fellowship and conversation with the sons of Belial (except where natural bonds or the necessity of a calling tieth us), Psalm 6.8; Prov. 9.6; 24.1; 2 Cor. 6.14,15; and if we should account God’s enemies our enemies, Psalm 139.21, then how can we join with them as confederates and associates? for by this means we shall have fellowship with them, and look on them as friends.
Now as to the arguments which use to be brought for the contrary opinion, first it is objected, that Abraham had a confederacy with Aner, Eschol, and Mamre, Gen. 14. 13; Abraham with Abimelech, Gen. 21. 27,32; and Isaac with Abimelech, Gen. 26.; Jacob with Laban, Gen. 31.44; Solomon with Hiram, 1 Kings 5.11.
Answer. 1. It cannot be proved that those confederates of Abraham, Isaac and Solomon, were either idolaters or wicked. Laban, indeed, was an idolater, but there are good interpreters who conceive that Abraham’s three confederates feared God, and that Abimelech also feared God, because he speaketh reverently of God, and ascribeth to God the blessing and prosperity of these patriarchs. It is presumed, also, that Hiram was a pious man, because of his epistle to Solomon, 2 Chron. 2.11. However,
2. Those confederacies were civil, either for commerce or for peace and mutual security, that they should not wrong one another, as that with Laban, Gen. 31.52; and with Abimelech, Gen. 26.29, which kind of confederacy is not controverted.
It is objected, also, that the Maccabees had a covenant with the Romans and Lacedæmonians, 1 Mac. 8.; 12.1,2.
Answer. 1. That covenant is disallowed by many good writers, yet it is observed from the story, that they had not the better but the worse success, nor the less but the more trouble following it. 2. The story itself, 1 Mac. 1. 12, tells us, that the first motion of a confederacy with the heathen in those times, proceeded from the children of Belial in Israel.
Lastly, It may be objected, that persons discontented, and of broken fortunes, were gathered to David, and that he received them, and became a captain unto them, 1 Sam. 22.2.
Answer. 1. Some think (and it is probable) they were such as were oppressed and wronged by Saul’s tyranny, and were therefore in debt and discontented, and that David, in receiving them, was a type of Christ, who is a refuge for the afflicted, and touched with the feeling of their infirmities. 2. Whoever they were, David took care that no profane nor wicked person might be in his company, Psalm 101.; yea, Psalm 34.11 (which was penned at that time when he departed from Achish and became captain of those four hundred men), he saith to them, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” 3. I shall bring a better argument from David’s example against the joining with such associates in war as are known to be malignant and wicked: Psalm 118.7, “The Lord taketh my part with them that help me, therefore I shall see my desire upon them that hate me;” Psalm 54.4, “The Lord is with them that uphold my soul.” Upon this last place, both Calvin and Gesnerus observe, that although David’s helpers were few and weak, yet God being in them and with them, his confidence was, that they should prove stronger than all the wicked. He intimateth also, that if he had not known that God was with his helpers, leading and inspiring them, he had looked for no help by them, 2 Chron. 15.7,8. That David’s helpers in the war were looked upon as sincere, cordial, and stirred up of God, may farther appear from 1 Chron. 12., where David joineth with himself, fidos homines qui idem cum eo sentirent (saith Lavater on the place), faithful men of his own mind. He addeth, that they were such as hated Saul’s impiety and injustice, and loved David’s virtue. Vict. Strigelius calls them, fideles amicos,faithful friends. The text itself tells us that divers of them joined themselves to David while he was yet in distress, and shut up in Ziklag, ver. 1 (which was an argument of sincerity); also, that some of Benjamin (Saul’s own tribe) adjoined themselves to David, and the Spirit came upon Amasai, who by a special divine instinct spake to assure David of their sincerity, ver. 2,16,18. They also who joined themselves with David after Saul’s death, ver. 23, were not of a double heart, but of a “perfect heart,” ver. 33,38; and they all agreed that the first great business to be undertaken should be religion, the bringing back of the ark, 1 Chron. 13. 3,4.
This point of the unlawfulness of confederacies with men of a false religion, is strangely misapplied by Lutherans against confederacies with us, whom they call Calvinists. So argueth Tarnovius, Tract. de Fderib. But we may make a very good use of it; for as we ought to pray and endeavour that all who are Christ’s may be made one in him, so we ought to pray against, and by all means avoid, fellowship, familiarity, marriages, and military confederacies with known wicked persons, and such as are of a false or heretical religion. I shall branch forth this matter in five particulars, which God forbade to his people in reference to the Canaanites and other heathens, which also (partly by parity of reason, partly by concluding more strongly) will militate against confederacies and conjunctions with such as, under the profession of the Christian religion, do either maintain heresies and dangerous errors, or live a profane and wicked life:
1. God forbade all religious covenants with such, and would not have his people to tolerate the gods, images, altars, or groves of idolaters, Exod. 23.32; 34.13; Deut. 7.5; Judg. 2.2. And although the letter of the law mentions this in reference to the Canaanites, yet the best reforming kings of Judah applied and executed this law in taking away the groves and high places abused by the Jews in their superstition. And what marvel? If such things were not to be tolerated in the Canaanites, much less in the Jews. Theodosius is commended for his suppressing and punishing heretics.
2. God forbade familiar conversation with these heathens, that they should not dwell together with his people, nay, not in the land with them, Exod. 23.33, lest one of them, being familiar with an Israelite, might call him to a feast, and make him eat of things sacrificed to idols, Exod. 3.15. Compare this with Judg. 1.21; Psalm 106.35. Now the Apostle layeth much more restraint upon us from conversing, eating and drinking with a scandalous Christian, 1 Cor. 5.11, than with a pagan or unbeliever, 1 Cor. 1.27. There is a conversing and companying with wicked persons, which is our affliction, not our fault; that is, when we cannot be rid of them, do what we can, 1 Cor. 5.10, which is an argument against separating and departing from a true church, because of scandalous persons in it. The Apostle gives this check to such, Go where they will, they shall find scandalous persons all the world over. There is, again, a conversing and companying with wicked persons, which natural and civil bonds, or near relations, or our calling, tieth us unto, as between husband and wife, parent and child, pastor and people, magistrate and those of his charge; but wittingly and willingly to converse and have fellowship either with heretical or profane persons, whether it be out of love to them and delight in them, or for our own interest or some worldly benefit, this is certainly sinful and inexcusable. If we take care of our bodily safety, by flying the company of such as have the plague, yea, if we take care of the safety of our beasts, and would not, to our knowledge, suffer a scabbed or rotten sheep to infect the rest, shall we not much more take care of our own and neighbours’ souls, by avoiding, and warning others to avoid, the fellowship of the ungodly, whereby spiritual infection comes? Remember it was but a kind visit of Jehoshaphat to Ahab, which was the occasion of engaging him into a confederacy with that wicked man, 2 Chron. 18.2,3.
3. God forbade conjugal covenants or marrying with them, Exod. 24.16; Deut. 7.3. The rule is the same against matching with other wicked persons, whether idolaters or professing the same religion with us. We read not of idolatry, or any professed doctrinal differences in religion between the posterity of Seth and the posterity of Cain, yet this was the great thing that corrupted the old world, and brought on the flood, that the children of God joined themselves in marriage with the profane, Gen. 6.1-3. Jehoram married not an heathen, but the daughter of Ahab; but it is marked, he did evil as did the house of Ahab. And what is the reason given for this? “For the daughter of Ahab was his wife.” 2 Kings 8.18; and, by and by, ver. 27, the like is marked of Ahaziah, the son of Jehoram, who “did evil in the sight of the Lord as did the house of Ahab; for he was the son-in-law of the house of Ahab.” The apostle Peter supposeth that Christians marry such as are “heirs together of the grace of life,” 1 Pet. 3.7; see also Prov. 31.30.
4. God forbade his people to make with the Canaanites fdus deditionis, or subactionis, or (as others speak) pactum liberatorium; he would have his people show no mercy to those whom he had destined to destruction, Deut. 7.2. Herein Ahab sinned, making a brotherly covenant of friendship with Benhadad when God had delivered him into his hand, 1 Kings 20. 32-34. So, in all Christian commonwealths, the magistrate, God’s vicegerent, ought to cut off such evil doers as God’s word appointeth to be cut off. David’s sparing of Joab and Shimei, being partly necessitated thereto, partly induced by political reasons (whereof he repented when he was dying, nor could his conscience be at ease till he left a charge upon Solomon for executing justice upon both Joab and Shimei, 1 Kings 2.5-9), are no good precedents or warrants to Christian magistrates to neglect the executing of justice. It is a better precedent which David resolveth upon more deliberately, Psalm 101.8, “I will early destroy all the wicked of the land, that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord.” Mark this all, of what degree or quality soever, without respect of persons, and that early, and without delay. Lastly, and even Joab himself was so far punished by David, that he was cast out of his place and command, 2 Sam. 19.3; 20.4.
5. The law is also to be applied against civil covenants, not of peace or of commerce, but of war; that is, a league offensive and defensive, wherein we associate ourselves with idolaters, infidels, heretics, or any other known enemies of truth or godliness, so as to have the same friends or enemies. A covenant of peace or commerce with such may happen to be unlawful in respect of some circumstances, as when peace is given to these rebels, murderers, incendiaries in the kingdom, who, by the law of God, ought to be destroyed by the hand of justice; or when commerce with idolaters is so abused, as to furnish them with the things that they are known to make use of in their idolatry. But as for συμμαχια, a confederacy engaging us into a war with such associates, it is absolutely, and in its own nature, unlawful; and I find it condemned by good writers of the popish party, of the Lutheran party, and of the orthodox party. Some of all these are before cited. What holiness God required in the armies of Israel, see Deut. 23.9-14. We may well argue, as Isidorus Pelusiota doth (lib. 3, epist. 14), If the law was so severe against such uncleannesses as were not voluntary, how much less would God suffer such as did voluntarily and wickedly defile themselves. It is marked as a part of Abimelech’s sin, Judg. 9.4, that he “hired vain and light persons which followed him.” God would have Amaziah to dismiss an hundred thousand men of Israel, being already with him in a body, and told him he should fall before the enemy if these went with him, because God was not with them, 2 Chron. 25.7, &c. If they had not yet been gathered into a body, it had been much to abstain from gathering them, upon the prophet’s admonition; but this is much more, that he sends them away after they are in a body, and takes his hazard of all the hurt that so many outraged soldiers could do to him or his people; and indeed they did much hurt in going back, ver. 13; yet God rewarded Amaziah’s obedience with a great victory. In the last age, shortly after the begun reformation in Germany, this case of conscience, concerning the unlawfulness of such confederacies, was much looked at. The city of Strasburg, anno 1629, made a defensive league with Zurich, Bern, and Basil; Qui et vicini erant, et dogmate magis conveniebant, saith Sleidan, they were not only neighbours, but of the same faith and religion, therefore they made a confederacy with them. About two years after, the Elector of Saxony refused to take into confederacy those Helvetians, because although they were powerful, and might be very helpful to him, yet they differing in religion concerning the article of the Lord’s supper, he said he durst not join with them as confederates, lest such sad things might befall him as the Scripture testifieth to have befallen those who, for their help or defence, took any assistance they could get.
The rule was good in itself, although, in that particular case, misapplied. The very heathens had a notion of the unlawfulness of confederacies with wicked men; for, as Vict. Strigelius, on 2 Chron. 25., noteth out of Æschylus’ tragedy, entitled Seven to Thebe, Amphiaraus, a wise and virtuous man, was therefore swallowed up in the earth, with seven men and seven horses, because he had associated himself with Tydeus, Capaneus, and other impious commanders, marching to the siege of Thebe. Lastly, Take this reason for further confirmation: As we must do all to the glory of God, so we must not make wars to ourselves, but to the Lord; hence “the book of the wars of the Lord,” Num. 21.14, and “the battle is not ours, but the Lord’s,” 1 Sam. 25.28; 2 Chron. 20.15. Now, how shall we employ them that hate the Lord to help the Lord? or how shall the enemies of his glory do for his glory? Shall rebels and traitors be taken to fight in the king’s wars? Offer it to thy governor, as it is said, Mal. 1., see if he would take this well.
As for the objections from Scripture, they are before answered. There are many other exceptions of men’s corrupt reasoning, which yet may be easily taken off, if we will receive Scripture light. That very case of Jehoshaphat’s confederacy with Ahab taketh off many of them; for although, 1. Jehoshaphat was a good man, and continued so after that association, not drawn away into idolatry, nor infected with Ahab’s religion, but only assisting him in a civil business. 2. Ahab lived in the church of Israel, which was still a church, although greatly corrupted, and he was no professed hater of God (only he had professed to hate Micaiah, the man of God); yea, lately before this, he appeared very penitent; and some think Jehoshaphat now judged charitably of Ahab, because of that great humiliation and repentance of his, which God did accept so far as to reward it with a temporal sparing mercy, 1 Kings 21., at the end. Then follows immediately, chap. 22., Jehoshaphat’s association with him; although Jehoshaphat was also joined in affinity with Ahab, Ahab’s daughter being married to his son, 3. The enemy was the king of Assyria; and Jehoshaphat doth not join with a wicked man against any of God’s people, but against the infidel Assyrians; even as Amaziah was beginning to join with those of the ten tribes against the Edomites. 4. The cause seems to have been good, as Carthusian on 1 Kings 20.3, and Lavater upon 2 Chron. 19.2, note; for Ramoth-Gilead was a city of refuge pertaining to the Levites in the tribe of Gad, and should have been restored by the king of Assyria to Ahab according to their covenant, 1 Kings 20.34. Daneus brings that same example of Ahab’s going up against Ramoth-Gilead, to prove that it is just to make war against those who have broken covenant with us. 5. Jehoshaphat’s manner of proceeding was pious in this respect, that he said to Ahab, “Inquire, I pray thee, of the word of the Lord to-day;" and again, “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides,” he inquireth ultra, and seeks all the light he could there have, in point of conscience, from prophets of the Lord; which makes it probable that those four hundred prophets did not profess, or were not known to Jehoshaphat to be prophets of Baal, but were looked upon as prophets of the Lord, as Cajetan thinketh; therefore they answer also in the name of the Lord, "The Lord shall deliver it.” It is not likely that Jehoshaphat would desire the prophets of Baal to be consulted, or that he would hearken to them more than to the prophet of the Lord, Micaiah; yet in this he failed extremely, that he had too far engaged himself to Ahab before the inquiring at the word of the Lord. However, it seems he was, by this inquiring, seeking a fair way to come off again. 6. Jehoshaphat’s end was good. Martyr, on 1 Kings 22., thinks Jehoshaphat entered into this confederacy with Ahab for the peace and safety of his kingdom, and to prevent a new war between Judah and Israel, such as had been between Asa, his father, and Baasha, king of Israel; for which end also Carthusian, on 1 Kings 22., thinks that Jehoshaphat took Ahab’s daughter to his son.
Yet notwithstanding of all this the prophet Jehu saith to him, 2 Chron. 19.2, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?” The LXX. read “hated of the Lord,” which comes all to one thing. And lest it should be thought a venial or light matter, he addeth, “Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.” So that from this example we learn, that let us keep ourselves unspotted from the false religion or errors of those with whom we associate, let wicked men seem never so penitent, and our relations to them be never so near, let the common enemy be an infidel, let the cause be never so good, let the manner of proceeding be never so pious, and the end also good; yet all this cannot excuse nor justify confederacies and associations with wicked and ungodly men. And if God was so angry at Jehoshaphat when there were so many things concurring as might seem to excuse or extenuate his fault, it being also in him a sin of infirmity only, and not without a reluctance of conscience, and a conflict of the spirit against the flesh (which Pareus, upon 1 Kings 1.22, doth well collect from his desire of inquiring at the word of the Lord, that he might have occasion to come off), how much more will God be angry with such as go on with an high hand in this trespass, casting his word behind them, and hating to be reformed.
If it be further objected, that we are not able without such confederacies and help to prosecute a great war alone, this also the Holy Ghost hath beforehand answered, in the example of Ahaz’s confederacy with the king of Assyria; for he had a great war to manage, both against the Assyrians, and against the king of Israel, 2 Kings 16.7; also against the Edomites and Philistines, 2 Chron. 28.16-18; yet although he had so much to do, this could not excuse the confederacy with the Assyrian: he should have trusted to God, and not used unlawful means. God can save by few, as well as by many; yea, sometimes God thinks not fit to save by many, Judg. 7. It shall not be the strength of battle to have unlawful confederates, but rather to want them, Exod. 23.22.
If it be said it is dangerous to provoke and incense many wicked men by casting them off, this is plainly answered from the example of Amaziah, and the hundred thousand men of Israel with him; of which before. If, furthermore, objection be made, that he must be gentle and patient towards all, and in meekness instruct those that oppose themselves, 2 Tim. 2.24,25, Answer 1. Yet he bids us turn away from the wicked, chap. 3.5. We ought in meekness to instruct even him that is excommunicate, 2 Thess. 3.15, yet we are there warned, ver. 14, to have no company with him. 2. The angel of the church at Ephesus is at once commended both for his patience, and that he could not bear them which were evil.
I shall add five distinctions which will take off all other objections that I have yet met with.
1. Distinguish between a confederacy which is more discretive and discriminative, and a confederacy which is more unitive. And here is the reason why covenants of peace and commerce, even with infidels and wicked persons, are allowed, yet military associations with such disallowed; for the former keeps them and us still divided as two; the latter unites us and them as one, and embodieth us together with them. For Thucidides defines συμμαχια  to be such a covenant as makes us and our confederates to have the same friends and enemies; and it is mentioned by writers as a further degree of union than σπονδαι, or covenants of peace.
2. Distinguish between endeavour of duty, and the perfection of the things, which answers that exception: “O, then, we must have an army all of saints (it should be said) without any known wicked person in it.” Now, even as it is our duty to endeavour a purging of the church from wicked and scandalous persons, yet, when we have done all we can, the Lord’s field shall not be perfectly purged from tares till the end of the world, Matt. 13.; so when we have done all that ever we can to avoid wicked persons in an expedition, yet we cannot be rid of them all; but we must use our utmost endeavours that we may be able to say, It is our affliction, not our fault.
3. Distinguish between some particular wicked persons here and there mixing themselves with us, and between a wicked faction and malignant party. The former should be avoided as much as is possible, but much more a conjunction with a wicked faction. David would by no means meet and consult with the Kahal Meregnim, the assembly of malignants; neither did he only shun to meet and consult with “vain persons,” who openly show and bewray themselves, but even “with dissemblers,” or (as the Chaldee) with those that hide themselves, that they may do evil, Psalm 26.4,5. We can know better how to do with a whole field of tares, in which is no wheat, than we can do with tares growing here and there among the wheat.
4. Distinguish between such a fellowship with some wicked persons as is necessary (which is the case of those that are married, and of parents and children) or unavoidable, which is the case of those whose lot it is to cohabit in one town, or in one family, in a case of necessity, traveling or sailing together,distinguish, I say, between these and an elective or voluntary fellowship with wicked men, when love to them, or our own benefit, draweth us thereunto. We neither loose natural bonds, nor require impossibilities, but that we keep ourselves pure, by not choosing or consenting to such fellowship.
5. Distinguish between infidels, heretics, wicked persons repenting, and those who go on in their trespass. Whatever men have been, yet as soon as the signs of repentance and new fruits appear in them, we are ready to receive them into favour and fellowship. Then, indeed, the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together; meaning such as were wolves, leopards, bears, and now begin to change their nature; not so with the obstinate, contumacious and impenitent, who still remain wolves, &c.
Let us now, 1. Examine ourselves, whether there be so much tenderness of conscience in us as to close with those Scripture truths, or whether we are still in a way of consulting with flesh and blood. 2. Be humbled for former miscarriages and failings in these particulars, and for not walking accurately according to these Scripture rules. 3. Beware for the future; remember and apply these rules when we have to do with the practice of them. And that I may drive home this nail to the head, I add (beside what was said before) these reasons and motives:
First, It is a great judgment when God “mingleth a perverse spirit” in the midst of a people, Isa. 19.14. Shall we then make that a voluntary act of our own which the word mention-eth as a dreadful judgment? With this spiritual judgment is oftentimes a temporal judgment, as 2 Chron. 16.9; 20.37; 28.22; so Hos. 5.13; 7.8, compared with chap. 8.8,9, where their judgment soundeth forth their sin as by an echo. The Chaldee paraphrase, in the place last cited, saith, “The house of Israel is delivered into the hands of the people whom they loved."
Secondly, Remember what followed upon God’s people mingling themselves with the heathen, Psalm 106.35, “They were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works;” Hos. 7.8, “Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people;” that is, by making confederacies with the heathen (as Luther expounds the place), and by seeking their help and assistance, Hos. 5.13. But what follows? "Ephraim is a cake not turned,” hot and overbaken in the nether side, but cold and raw in the upper side. This will prove the fruit of such confederacies and associations to make us zealous for some earthly or human thing, but remiss and cold in the things of Christ; to be too hot on our nether side, and too raw on the upper side. Whereas not mingling ourselves with the wicked, we shall, through God’s mercy, be like a cake turned; that heat and zeal which was before downward shall now be upward, heavenward, Godward. Let it also be remembered how both Ahaz, 2 Kings 16.10, and Asa himself, 2 Chron. 16.10 (though a good man), were drawn into other great sins, upon occasion of these associations with the enemies of God and his people: this sin will certainly ensnare men in other sins. It is well said by Calvin, upon Ezek. 16.26, that as we are too prone of ourselves to wickedness, so when we enter into confederacies with wicked men we are but seeking new temptations, and, as it were, a bellows to blow up our own corruptions; as wine, being mixed with water, loseth of its spirits, and white, being mixed with black, loseth much of its whiteness; so the people of God, if once mixed with wicked enemies, shall certainly lose of their purity and integrity.
Thirdly, As these unlawful confederacies draw us both into great judgments and great sins, so into great security and stupidity under these great plagues and sins, which will make the estate of such to be yet worse, Hos. 7.9. After Ephraim’s mixing himself among the people, it is added, “Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not; yea, grey hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth it not:” although his confederates have distressed him, and not strengthened him, and although there may be observed in him divers signs of a decaying dying condition, yet he knows it not, nor takes it to heart. The same thing is insisted upon, ver. 11, "Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go up to Assyria.” He is as void of understanding as a silly dove, whose nest being spoiled, and “her young ones taken from her” (which the Chaldee paraphrase addeth for explication’s cause), yet she still returneth to those places where, and among those people by whom, she hath been so spoiled: so Israel will still be meddling with those that have done him great hurt.
Fourthly, We find that such confederacy or association, either with idolaters or known impious persons, is seldom or never recorded in the book of God without a reproof, or some greater mark of God’s displeasure put upon it. If it were like the polygamy of the patriarchs, often mentioned and not reproved, it were the less marvel to hear it so much debated; but now, when God hath so purposely set so many beacons upon those rocks and shelves, that we may beware of them, O why shall we be so mad as still to run upon them? It was reproved in the time of the judges, Judg. 2.1-3. It was reproved in the time of the king’s. Ahab’s covenant with Benhadad, Asa’s covenant with Benhadad, Ahaz’s confederacy with the Assyrian, Jehoshaphat’s association, first with Ahab, then with Ahaziah, Amaziah’s association with those hundred thousand men of Ephraim, when God was not with them,all these are plainly disallowed and condemned. Moreover, that reproof, Jer. 2.18, “And now, what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? Or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?” the Chaldee hath thus: “What have ye to do to associate with Pharaoh king of Egypt? And what have ye to do to make a covenant with the Assyrian?” Again, after the captivity, Ezra 9, the Jews’ mingling of themselves with the heathen is lamented.
Fifthly, The great and precious promises of God may encourage us so as we shall never say to the wicked, “A confederacy;” for, upon condition of our avoiding all such confederacies and conjunctions, God promiseth never to break his covenant with us, Judg. 2.1,2, and to receive us as his sons and daughters, 2 Cor. 6.14,16-18.
Sixthly, It is one of God’s great mercies which he hath covenanted and promised, “I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me,” Ezek. 20.38. Why should we then forsake our own mercy, and despise the counsel of God against our own souls?
Seventhly, As it was in Asa’s experience, 2 Chron. 16.7,8, so it hath been in our own, God hath done his greatest works for us when we were most unmixed with such men.
There is another objection which at the writing hereof I have met with; it is David’s confederacy and association both with Abner, 2 Sam. 3.12,13, and with Amasa, 2 Sam. 19.13, whom, according to agreement, he made general of his host, 2 Sam. 20.4, although both of them had been David’s enemies, and borne arms against him, Abner being also scandalous both for his whoredom, 2 Sam. 3.7, and his treachery against Ishbosheth in aspiring to the crown (which is collected from his going in unto Saul’s concubine, as Absalom did unto David’s afterward), yea, for that he had borne arms against David, when he knew that God had sworn to make David king, and so against the light of his conscience, 2 Sam. 3.9,18.
Answer. 1. Peter Martyr, commenting upon these places, disalloweth David’s practice in both these cases, especially his league with Abner. Should we follow these two examples, not being allowed or commended in Scripture? or should we not rather avoid such confederacies, because of many examples thereof plainly condemned in the word of God?
2. Whatsoever may be conceived to be allowable or excusable in these examples of David, yet it cannot be applied except in like cases. When David covenanted with Abner he was but king of Judah: Abner undertakes to bring about all Israel to him, and that he should make him reign over all the tribes, whereas otherwise there was no appearance of David’s subduing of all the other tribes but by a long and bloody war. Again, when David covenanted and capitulated with Amasa, he was in a manner fled out of the land for Absalom, 2 Sam. 19.9, and was forced to abide in the land of Gilead beyond Jordan, fearing also (as interpreters observe) that the men of Judah, having strengthened Jerusalem and kept it with a garrison for Absalom, and having done so much in assisting Absalom against David, should grow desperate in holding out against him, hoping for no mercy, therefore he is content to make Amasa general of his army, upon condition that he would cause the men of Judah to bring him back to Jerusalem, which Amasa moves the men of Judah to do, 2 Sam. 19.14; for it was done by his authority, as Josephus also writeth, nor could it be done without his authority, for Absalom and Ahithophel being dead, Amasa had the whole power and sole headship of that army, and of all that faction that had followed Absalom. Now, then, let them that will plead for the lawfulness of confederacies with wicked persons from these examples of David first make the case alike, that is, that the wicked one have power of an army, and of a great part of the body of the kingdom, to make them either continue in rebellion and enmity or to come in and submit. Next let it be remembered, that both Abner and Amasa did a great service (which was most meritorious at the hands of men) for the good, peace, and safety of king and kingdom, and they did it at that time also when David was but weak, and they had power enough to have continued a war against him, which is a very rare case, and far different from the case of such as have done and are doing all that they can to pervert and mislead many thousands of the people of God, instead of reducing many thousands to obedience, as Abner and Amasa did.
3. There are some other answers proper to the one case and the other. There is nothing in the text to prove that David made such a covenant with Abner as the Grecians call συμμαχια, or that he covenanted to make him general of his army (as afterwards he covenanted with Amasa), for at that time he could have no colour of reason for casting Joab out of his place, as afterwards he had. Therefore I understand with Sanctius, that the league which Abner sought from David was fdus pacis, a covenant of peace. Jerome readeth, fac mecum amicitias, make friendship with me, for before they had been enemies, so that this league is not of that kind which is chiefly controverted. As for Amasa, I shall not go about (as some have done) to excuse or extenuate his fault in joining with Absalom, as not being from any malice or wicked intention against David his uncle; but there is some probability that Amasa was a penitent and hopeful man. Sure David had better hopes of him than of Joab; and if it be true which Josephus writeth, that before David sent Zadock and Abiathar to the men of Judah, and to Amasa, frequent messages came from them to the king, desiring to be received into his favour; however, Amasa being willing and ready to do so much for David, when he might have done so much against him, David, as he could not do his business without him, so he had some ground to hope well of him, considering withal, that Amasa was not set upon this business by any offence or displeasure at the other party, as Abner was.
4. Even as this example, so far as concerneth the laying aside and casting off of Joab and not preferring his brother Abishai in his room (both of them being guilty of Abner’s blood, 2 Sam. 3.30, and both of them being too hard for David), helpeth to strengthen that which I have been pleading for.
The point being now so fully cleared from Scripture there is the less reason to argue contrariwise from human examples in Christian states and commonwealths. The word of God must not stoop to men’s practices, but they to it. Yet even among those whose examples is alleged for the contrary opinion there wants not instances for cautiousness and conscientiousness in choosing or refusing confederates, as, namely, among the Helvetians or Suitzers. They of Zurich and Berne, when once reformed, renounced their league made before with the French king for assisting him in his wars, and resolved only to keep peace with him, but would not continue the league of συμμαχια, or joining with him in his wars. And whatsoever were the old leagues about three hundred years ago, mutually binding those cantons each to other for aid and succour, and for the common defence of their country, and for preservation of their particular rights and liberties, and for a way of deciding controversies and pleas between men of one canton and of another (which leagues are recorded by those that write of that commonwealth), yet after the reformation of religion, there was so much zeal on both sides, that it grew to a war between the popish and the protestant cantons, wherein, as the popish side strengthened themselves by a confederacy with Ferdinand the emperor’s brother, so the protestant side, Zurich, Berne, and Basil, entered into a confederacy, first with the city of Strasburg, and shortly thereafter with the landgrave of Hesse, that thereby they might be strengthened and aided against the popish cantons. The differences of religion put them to it to choose other confederates. Nevertheless, I can easily admit what Lavater judiciously observeth upon Ezek. 16.26-29, that covenants made before true religion did shine among a people are not to be rashly broken; even as the believing husband ought not to put away the unbelieving wife, whom he married when himself also was an unbeliever, if she be willing still to abide with him. Whatsoever may be said for such covenants, yet confederacies with enemies of true religion, made after the light of reformation, are altogether inexcusable.
Peradventure some have yet another objection: This is an hard saying (say divers malignants), we are looked upon as enemies if we come not in and take the covenant, and when we are come in and have taken the covenant, we are still esteemed enemies to the cause of God and to his servants.
Answer. This is just as if those traitors, covenant breakers, and other scandalous persons, from which the Apostle bids us turn away, 2 Tim. 3.5, had objected: If we have no form of godliness we are looked upon as aliens, and such as are not to be numbered among God’s people, yet now when we have taken on a form of godliness, we are in no better esteem with Paul, but still he will have Christians to turn away from us. Yea, it is as if workers of iniquity, living in the true church should object against Christ himself. If we pray not, if we hear not the word, &c., we are not accepted, but rejected for the neglect of necessary duties, yet when we have prayed, heard, &c., we are told for all that, “Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity, I never knew you.” Men must be judged according to their fruits, according to their words and works, and course of living; and if any who have taken the covenant show themselves in their words and actions to be still wicked enemies, our eyes must not be put out with their hand at the covenant.
If any disaffected shall still insist and say, But why, then, are we received both to the covenant and to the sacrament? nay why are we forced and compelled into the covenant?
Answer. 1. If any known malignant, or complier with the rebels, or with any enemy of this cause, hath been received, either to the covenant or sacrament, without signs of repentance for the former malignancy and scandal (such signs of repentance, I mean, as men in charity ought to be satisfied with), it is more than ministers and elderships can answer for, either to God or the acts and constitutions of this national church. I trust all faithful and conscientious ministers have laboured to keep themselves pure in such things. Yea, the General Assembly hath ordained, that known compliers with the rebels, and such as did procure protections from the enemy, or keep correspondence and intelligence with him, shall be suspended from the Lord’s supper till they manifest their repentance before the congregation, Now if any, after signs and declaration of repentance, have turned again to their old ways of malignancy, their iniquity be upon themselves, not upon us.
2. Men are no otherwise drawn or forced into the covenant than into other necessary duties. Nay, it ought not to be called a forcing or compelling. Are men forced to spare their neighbour’s life, because murder is severely punished? Or are men compelled to be loyal, because traitors are exemplarily punished? There may, and must be, a willingness and freeness in the doing of the contrary duty, although great sins must not go away unpunished. Men are not compelled to virtue, because vice is punished, else virtue were not virtue. Those that refuse the covenant, reproach it, or rail against it, ought to be looked upon as enemies to it, and dealt with accordingly; yet if any man were known to take the covenant against his will he were not to be received.
3. These two may well stand together, to censure the contempt or neglect of a duty, and withal to censure wickedness in the person that hath taken up the practice of the duty. If any Israelite would not worship the true God he was to be put to death, 2 Chron. 15.13; but withal, if worshipping the true God, he was to be found a murderer, an adulterer, &c., for this also he was to be put to death. The General Assembly of this church hath appointed that such as, after admonition, continue in an unusual neglect of prayer, and the worship of God in their families, shall be suspended from the Lord’s supper till they amend. Yet if any man shall be found to make family worship a cloak to his swearing, drunkenness, adultery, or the like, must these scandalous sins be uncensured, because he hath taken upon him a form of godliness? God forbid. It is just so here. Refusers of the covenant, and railers against it, are justly censured; but withal, if wickedness and malignancy be found in any that have taken the covenant, their offence and censure is not to be extenuated, but to be aggravated.
I had been but very short in the handling of this question, if new objections coming to my ears had not drawn me forth to this length. And now I find one objection more. Some say the arguments before brought from Scripture prove not the unlawfulness of confederacies and associations with idolaters, heretics, or profane persons of the same kingdom, but only with those of another kingdom.
Answer. 1. Then, by the concession of those that make the objection, it is at least unlawful to associate ourselves with any of another kingdom who are of a false religion, or wicked life.
2. If familiar fellowship, even with the wicked of the same kingdom be unlawful, then is a military association with them unlawful; for it cannot be without consulting, conferring, conversing frequently together. It were a profane abusing and mocking of Scripture to say, that we are forbidden to converse familiarly with the ungodly of another kingdom, but not with the ungodly of the same kingdom, or that we are forbidden to marry with the ungodly of another kingdom, but not with the ungodly of the same kingdom, for what is this but to open a wide gate upon the one hand, while we seem to shut a narrow gate upon the other hand.
3. Were not those military associations, 2 Chron. 19.2; 25.7,8, condemned upon this reason, because the associates were ungodly, haters of the Lord, and because God was not with them. Now, then, a quatenus ad omne, the reason holds equally against associations with any of whom it can be truly said, they are ungodly, haters of the Lord, and God is not with them.
4. God would have the camp of Israel altogether holy and clean, Deut. 23.9-14. Clean from whom? Not so much from wicked heathens (there was not so much fear of that) as from wicked Israelites.
5. Saith not David, “I will early destroy all the wicked of the land,” Psalm 101.8, and, “Depart from me all ye workers of iniquity,” Psalm 6.8. How can it then be imagined that he would make any of them his associates and helpers in war.
Amandus Polanus, Comment. in Ezek. 16.26-28, Qui ecclesiæ scortationem, hoc est idololatriam vel falsam doctrinam, et confederationes cum impiis reprehendit, non est hereticus, non est schismaticus, non est ingratus adversus matrem ecclesiam: Alioquin etiam Ezekiel cum Jeremiâ, aliisque prophetis, fuisset hereticus, aut schismaticus, aut ingratus.
The above discussion about associations with unbelievers, heretics, and others, and the sinfulness that unavoidably attaches to many such associations, is not to be regarded as mere academic speculation. What Mr. Gillespie presented above was of immediate relevance in the Church of Scotland, in the time following his his death. For several years the Church had followed these principles in its policy, but at the time of the Public Resolutions, the willingness of many to comply with measures that brought the Lord’s people into close confederacy with malignants of various sorts, led to a fatal division in the Church of Scotland. This controversy has come to be known as the Protester-Resolutioner controversy. In it, the Protesters continued to witness and practice according to the doctrine above. But neither the faithfulness of the Protesters, nor the compromising measures of the Resolutioners, could avert the disaster with which the Lord had determined to visit Scotland for her sins. In the end, confederacy and association had accomplished nothing helpful for the nation; but they did have their consequences.
Many churches since have also felt the consequences of these associations, and often with division being one of the bitter fruits experienced. The Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, (RPCNA,) was many times drawn into similar measures, though not always for the sake of military effort. Always a moral cause defines the temptation, but our Bible does not teach us that the ends justify the means. (Rom. 3.8.) Eliminating Slavery, procuring the sanctification of the Sabbath Day, or defending the nation from common enemies, are not causes to be slighted. But the question must be answered properly: how does God call us to resolve these problems? Will he bless our cooperation with his lesser-enemies? Will he look upon such alliances now, as he did in times of old, when Israel sought help from those the Lord would not honour as the helpers of his people? How do we distinguish between the parties who may be accounted fellow-servants of the Lord, and those who are rather like the Egyptians or Samaritans, and a danger to the Lord’s cause?
For George Gillespie, above, answering questions such as these was not so difficult, because he believed heresy was really offensive to God, and that the popular heresies of his day, and idolatrous practices of some nominal Christians, were serious dangers, to be avoided and hated by the sound Christian. Likewise, Gillespie was bound by his Covenant, to oppose and eliminate heresy, not to cooperate with heretics. When tempted to join association with heretics or idolaters, a Christian man of such obligation could not easily pacify his conscience, with, “It’s just a little one—I didn’t mean heresies that small when I swore the Solemn League and Covenant—I think a schism of that sort is more plausible than a schism of other sorts.” But why should Christians be of such apathetic mildness now? For Reformed Presbyterians of later times, there were also witnesses raised up to give them guidance. One such was William Gibson who laboured to persuade the RPCNA to return to her earlier principles.
The past century has seen the formation of various ecumenical organizations and councils, always dedicated to some important agenda, but also always at the expense of such truth and duty as many members despise, and all, by their decision to coalesce, may be judged to undervalue. The pretension of unity may seem admirable, but it is a very different unity than that for which the Lord prayed, John 17, and which his appointed servants prescribed, 1 Cor. 1.10. Clearly, it is unity in the truth that we are taught to expect will influence the world around us, and preserve the Church itself from division.
In our day, military associations between nations of various moral character remain a thing that few will question, except when another political entity is too friendly with our own mortal enemies. Participation in militaries dominated by unprincipled men and unbelievers is accounted by many Christians a duty, though really, there is only much more reason in our day to question, (or condemn,) the practice. To many involved in these compromises, it may seem a simple thing to just conclude that Covenanters, or other serious Christians of the past, were simply wrong in being so very particular about which associations are allowable. But where will this condemning of the godly lead them? Once they are joined in fellowship with the Lord’s enemies, and once wicked men begin to have their influence, and to dull their consciences, or oblige them into unzealous silence, this course can only go one direction. In the end, whether they are aware or not, what was once a disagreement with “the old Covenanters” will look much more plainly like a rejection of the word of the Lord.
Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.—Isa. 8.12.
1. Zeperus, de Pol. Mos., lib. 6, cap. 4; Pelargus in Deut. 7.1-3; Pareus in Gen. 14.; Rivetus in Exod. 23.32; Tarnovius, Tract. de Fderibus.
2. See Victor. Strigel. in 7 Paralip. 25,2; also Zeperus, Pelargus, Tarnovius, ubi supra; Lavater in 2 Paralip. 25; and in Ezek. 6.26; P. Martyr, Loc. Com., clas. 4, cap. 16; Num. 23.; and Comment. in 1 Reg. 15.17, &c. The same thing is holden by Tostatus in 3 Reg. 15., quest. 14; Corn. a Lapide in 3 Pag. 22.3.
3. Socrat. Hist., lib.5, cap.10.
4. Sleid. Com., lib. 7, p. 106.
5. Ibid., lib. 8, p. 127: De Helvetiis in fdus recipiendis, quod civitates valde cupiebant, Saxo per Legatos respondet, quoniam de cna Dom. diversum sequantur dogma non sibi licere societatem cum ipsis ullam coire: quanti sit ipsorum conjunctio, propter vires atque potentiam, non se quidem latere, sed eo sibi minime respiciendum esse, ne tristis inde sequatur exitus, quod iis accidisse, Scriptura testatur, qui muniendi sui causa, cujusque modi præsidiis usi fuissent. Vide etiam, p. 113: Quod si Zuingliani faterentur errorem atque desisterent, comprehendi etiam in hac pace sin minus, tum deserendos, nec auxilii quicquam eis communicandum, neque fdus ullum cum ipsis faciendum esse. Et infra, lib. 9, p. 156: Et recipiendos esse placet in hoc fdus (smalcaldicum) qui velint atque cupiant, modo, Doctrinam Augustæ propositam in comitiis profiteantur, et sortem communem subeant.
6. Polit. Christ., lib. 7, cap. 1.
7. Keckerm. de Repub. Spart., disp. 4, lib. 2, cap. 20.
8. Sanctius et Corn. a Lapide in 2 Sam. 19.
9. Antiq. Jud., lib. 7, cap. 10.
10. Antiq., lib. 7, cap. 10.
11. See Mr Fox: Acts and Monuments, vol. 2. p. 86; 9. 870; edit. 1489.
12. See “The Estates, Principalities, and Empires of the World,” translated by Grimston, p. 364-70.
13. Acts and Monuments, ubi supra, p. 872; Sleid. Com., lib. 7, p. 106,110,120.
14. See “Forbidden Alliances,” the edition of this work published by Presbyterian Heritage Publications, for a translation of the Latin here,the sense of the text is that no man is an heretic or schismatic merely for censuring unlawful associations and other corruptions in the Church, for if that were so, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and others must all be labeled as heretics and schismatics.