Thursday, April 12, 2012

George Gillespie on Covenanters and toleration

George Gillespie
by Daniel F. N. Ritchie
Reformed Worldview Books
Reformed Covenanter

George Gillespie explains why the early Covenanters rejected the concept of religious toleration:

Only this I say, that to open a wide door, and to grant an unbounded liberty unto all sorts of heretics and sectaries … is inconsistent with the Solemn League and Covenant of the three kingdoms, by which we are obliged to endeavour the extirpation of Popery, Prelacy, superstition, heresy, and schism; lest we partake in other men’s sins, and thereby be in danger to receive of their plagues; so it is, in the own nature of it, an error so pernicious, so abominable, so monstrous, that it makes all learned men to stand amazed, and taken with horror, in so much that they cannot at first gather their thoughts to put pen to paper against it.  

I know this liberty and toleration was maintained by the Donatists of old, and by the Socinians, Arminians, and Anabaptists of late; but it has been constantly opposed by all that were sound and orthodox, both ancient and modern, who have asserted the lawful use of a coercive power against those things, whereby (though under pretence of conscience) God is openly dishonoured, souls ensared and destroyed, faith and piety subverted and overthrown; and further, the compelling of the outward man, though not to the practice of things indifferent (which compulsion I do not allow), yet to the practice of necessary duties, and the external means and ordinances, by which through the blessing of God, men’s hearts and consciences may be savingly affected and wrought upon.  

And I beseech you what else means Asa’s covenant: That whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.  And what else means Josiah’s covenant, whereof it is said, He caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it.  And what else is that in Ezra, that whosoever would not come to Jerusalem to make a covenant, and to put away strange wives, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away, that is, excommunicated.  And what else is that other act of Josiah in putting down the priests of the high places.  And what say you to the stoning those who did entice the people to turn out of the way wherein the Lord commanded them to walk, saying, Let us go after other Gods to serve them?

George Gillespie, A late dialogue between a civilian and a divine (London, 1644) in The anonymous writings of George Gillespie, ed. Chris Coldwell (Dallas TX, 2008), pp 132-3.

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