Wednesday, September 28, 2011

David Dickson on restraining Heretics

The following by David Dickson was originally posted by Daniel F. N. Ritchie at the Confessional Puritan Board:

For albeit the only way to bring Religion in request among Heathen Nations and Strangers to the Covenant of promises, be that way which the Apostles did follow, preaching the Gospel to all, and receiving such as embraced the Gospel into Church-fellowship, yet the Magistrate having Civil Dominion over the Heathen Idolaters, may after information of them by the Preachers of the Gospel brake their Idols and abolish them, and restrain them from doing contempt unto the true Religion, or abusing of the Sabbath, as the Fourth Command of the Moral Law doth give warrant; yea, and may compel them to use Means whereby they may be instructed in the true Religion. 

Again, let him know there is a difference between dealing with Pagans and strangers from the Common-wealth of Israel, and dealing with those who have given up their names to Christ, have entered in Covenant with God, and by Baptism have consecrate themselves and their Children unto the Faith, Worship and Obedience of God, and do profess the Christian Religion, and yet go about by their Errors and Practices to corrupt and over turn the true Religion and Faith of others among whom they live: For, such may and should be not only instructed by Sermon, Conference and Dispute, but also punished by the Civil Magistate for their deceiving of the people, and troubling the Flocks of Christ, Deut. 13 and Rom. 13. 

If he pretend, that Church-censures & civil Punishments can serve for nothing but to make Men Dissemblers and Hypocrites in the matter of Religion, which is most odious in the sight of God and wise Men, let him know that every Hypocrite shall bear his own iniquity: Ecclesiastick Censures and Civil Punishments concern the Words and Deeds of the outward Man, that they may be ordered so as Religion and the Peace of the Kingdom may not suffer detriment. If any Man say and do that which is right in Hypocrisy & Dissimulation, the Society wherein he liveth is safe; but for His Hypocrisy, let the Dissembler answer to God for it. And yet it is not to be presumed, that all who by Censures, and fear of civil Punishments do forsake Error and embrace Truth, are Dissemblers and Hypocrites in so doing, because they are Means appointed of God for curbing and reclaiming erroneous Persons, wherewith He giveth His Blessing when it pleaseth Him. For by Censures and civil Punishments, the allurements which have enduced them to Error, are cut off, such as are Applause of Men, vain Glory, worldly Advantage, sensual pleasure, and such like, wherein the Erroneous have been taken as in an evil Net, which being broken, the ensnared Captive may come freely off his Error, and embrace the Truth, and take in good part of the Censures and civil punishment which drew him out of the Snare unto the right way: As we are assured by the Prophesie of Zechariah, chap. 13.6. And one shall say (to wit the converted sectary) what are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. But whether by those means the erroneous by reclaimed heartily in Dissimulation, respect must be had to God’s Commands and His People’s Good, by curbing of Vice and Error, according as God hath given power to the Church and to the civil Magistrate, Rom. 13.3.4. who is appointed the Minister of God for the People’s good. 

David Dickson, Therapeutica sacra: shewing the method of healing diseases, concerning regeneration (2nd edn, Edinburgh, 1697), pp 613-14.

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