... for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?—Canticles 1.7.
Suppress all Blasphemy & Heresy.
QUESTION. "Is it the duty of the civil magistrate to take order, that all blasphemies, and heresies be suppressed; all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed; all abuses in worship and discipline reformed, all idolaters, gainsayers, and other obstinate dissenters, be obliged and forced to quit their tenets and opinions, and conform themselves to the true worship and service of God according to his law?"
Yes; Isa. 49.23; 2 Chron. 15.12,13; & 34.33; 2 Kings 18.4; & 23.1-26; Ezra 7.23,25-28; Lev. 24.16.
Well then, do not the Quakers, and other sectaries err, who judge it Antichristian, and the practice of the church of Rome, that the civil supreme magistrate, with the assistance of the church and her censures, should, by his coactive power, force and oblige all his subjects to a reformation of religion, and to a conformity to the true worship, sound doctrine, and discipline of the church?
By what reasons are they confuted?
1st, Because it is foretold by the prophet Isaiah, that in the days of the gospel, kings shall be nursing fathers, and queens nursing mothers to the church of God, chap. 49.23.
2d, Because Artaxerxes, who was but a heathen king, was very careful to make a decree, that whatsoever was commanded by the God of heaven, should be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven. And whosoever would not obey the law of God and the king, judgment was to be executed speedily upon him, whether by death, banishment, confiscation of goods, or imprisonment. For which singular mercy, Ezra blessed the Lord God of his fathers, who had put such a thing in the king's heart, chap. 7.23,26-28. So did Nebuchadnezzar make a decree, that if any people, nation or language, should speak any thing amiss against the God of heaven, they should be cut in pieces, and their houses made a dunghill, Dan. 3.29. The like we read of Darius, who made a decree, that all men should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, chap. 6.26.
3d, From the example of Hezekiah, who removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent, to which the Israelites did burn incense, 2 Kings 18.4.
4th, From the example of Josiah, who made a thorough reformation; and made all Israel serve the Lord their God. The word in the original importeth, that he in a manner forced and compelled them to the pure worship of God, as a servant is forced and compelled to his work. He, by his royal power and authority, kept them in order, forbidding idolatry, and commanding them to serve God no otherwise, than according to his word, 2 Chron. 34.33; and 15.12,13. They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers, with all their hearts, and with all their souls: That whosoever should not seek the Lord God of Israel, should be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.
5th, Because whosoever blasphemed the name of the Lord, was surely put to death, Lev. 24.16. This blaspheming was a piercing through or stabbing the name of the Lord, as the original word properly signifies, which may be done not only after this manner, but by maintaining blasphemous errors and heresies.
6th, Because the supreme magistrate is custos utriusque tabulŠ, a keeper of both tables of the law of God: As well of the first table, which relates to religion, and of our duty to God, as to the second, which relates to righteousness, and our duty to our neighbour. If then, he may punish evil doers, who offend against the second table, and force and compel them to obedience, by the sword of justice, which God hath put into his hand; much more may he punish idolaters and blasphemers, who offend against the first table, and force and compel them to obedience, seeing there are many sins against the first table, which are more heinous and odious than the sins against the second table. And tho' it be the sinful practice of the church of Rome, to force men and women to be of their religion, which is superstitious and idolatrous; yet it is not so to others, who have the true religion among them. And though our blessed Saviour and his apostles did not use such means for propagating the gospel, reserving the glory of conquering of souls to himself, and the power of his Spirit; yet [he] has taught nothing to the contrary, but that kings and magistrates, whom he has made nursing fathers to his church, may, according to the laudable examples of the good kings of Judah, improve their power for reformation, and maintenance of his own religion. And though religion hath been much advanced by suffering, yet it will not infer, that a Christian prince has no power to reform his own subjects, or to extirpate blasphemers and heretics.