Thursday, August 8, 2013

Confessional Theonomy: Part 1: The Savoy Declaration

The Savoy Declaration, written in 1658, is a modification of the Westminster Confession of Faith for Congregational churches. Oliver Cromwell, lord protector of England, approved of the meeting to draw up the confession not too long before his death. 

The Savoy Declaration's authors include John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, Philip Nye, William Bridge, William Greenhill, and Joseph Caryl. All, except Owen, were previously part of the Westminster Assembly. The Savoy Declaration played an important role in establishing the congregational form of government. 

The Savoy Declaration's section on the civil magistrate includes four parts: 

  • God's political authority: Section one acknowledges that the office, authority, and duties of civil rulers come from God, Who is the supreme ruler over all the earth. 
  • Christians and politics: Section two acknowledges the lawfulness of Christians acting as civil rulers, and that Christian civil rulers are to maintain peace and, when necessary, wage war. 
  • The first table of the law/toleration: Section three holds that rulers must promote and protect Christians and Christianity; promote Christ's interests; and suppress blasphemies, heresies, and false religions. Moreover, this section attempts to avoid the extremes of tolerance and intolerance, by allowing for Christians to have differences in doctrineso long as they do not disturb others and they hold to the foundational doctrines of the faith.
  • Submission to rulers/the Pope's civil jurisdiction: Section four advocates lawful honor and submission to civil rulers, and denies that the Pope has any civil jurisdiction over the land.

Chapter 24
Of The Civil Magistrate

1. God the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him, over the people for his own glory and the public good; and to this end hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that do good, and for the punishment of evil-doers.

2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto: in the management whereof, as they ought specially to maintain justice and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth; so for that end they may lawfully now under the New Testament wage war upon just and necessary occasion.

3. Although the magistrate is bound to encourage, promote, and protect the professors and profession of the gospel, and to manage and order civil administrations in a due subserviency to the interest of Christ in the world, and to that end to take care that men of corrupt minds and conversations do not licentiously publish and divulge blasphemy and errors, in their own nature subverting the faith and inevitably destroying the souls of them that receive them: yet in such differences about the doctrines of the gospel, or ways of the worship of God, as may befall men exercising a good conscience, manifesting it in their conversation, and holding the foundation, not disturbing others in their ways or worship that differ from them; there is no warrant for the magistrate under the gospel to abridge them of their liberty.

4. It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honour their persons, to pay them tribute and other dues, to obey their ]awful commands, and to be subject to their authority for conscience sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrate's just and legal authority, nor free the people from their obedience to him: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted, much less hath the Pope any power or jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people, and least of all to deprive them of their dominions or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretence whatsoever.

read the Savoy Declaration in its entirety 

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