The Cambridge Platform was adopted in 1648 by a church synod in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is not a full-orbed confession, but rather a constitution for Congregational churches on church government and discipline.
The Platform's final chapter deals with the civil magistrate's power in ecclesiastical matters. It includes nine parts:
- The consent of the state regarding church assemblies: Section one acknowledges that the state has no authority to forbid Christian assemblies.
- Church and state cooperation: Section two affirms that church and state are not opposed to one another, but are mutually helpful, as both are of Christ.
- Civil rulers helping the church: Section three holds that churches are not to be restrained, but aided by civil rulers, who provide the church with comfort and encouragement.
- Civil enforcement of church membership: Section four opposes enforcing church membership by the power of the state.
- Civil rulers and church officers: Section five affirms that the roles of civil ruler and church officer should not be mixed.
- Both tables of the law: Section six supports the civil enforcement of not only the second table of the law, but the first table as well.
- Restraining inward sins: Section seven acknowledges that civil rulers are not to exercise their power in regards to inward matters, but only those outward matters commanded and forbidden in Scripture.
- Particular offenses against the first table of the law: Section eight lists specific violations of the first table of the law that rulers must restrain and punish.
- Coercing wayward churches: Section nine holds that rulers should restrain schismatic and incorrigible churches.
Of The Civil Magistrate's Power In Matters Ecclesiastical.
1. It is lawful, profitable and necessary for Christians to gather themselves together into church estate, and therein to exercise all the ordinances of Christ, according unto the Word (Acts 2:41- 47; 4:1-3), although the consent of the magistrate could not be had thereunto; because the apostles and Christians in their time did frequently thus practice, when the magistrates, being all of them Jewish or pagan, and most persecuting enemies, would give no countenance or consent to such matters.
2. Church government stands in no opposition to civil government of commonwealths, nor any intrenches upon the authority of civil magistrates in their jurisdictions; nor any whit weakens their hands in governing, but rather strengthens them, and furthers the people in yielding more hearty and conscionable obedience unto them, whatsoever some ill affected persons to the ways of Christ have suggested, to alienate the affections of kings and princes from the ordinances of Christ; as if the kingdom of Christ in his church could not rise and stand, without the falling and weakening of their government, which is also of Christ (Isaiah 49:23); whereas the contrary is most true, that they may both stand together and flourish, the one being helpful unto the other, in their distinct and due administrations.
3. The power and authority of magistrates is not for the restraining of churches (Romans 13:4; 1 Timothy 2:2) or any other good works, but for helping in and furthering thereof; and therefore the consent and countenance of magistrates, when it may be had, is not to be slighted, or lightly esteemed; but, on the, contrary, it is part of that honor due to Christian magistrates to desire and crave their consent and approbation therein; which being obtained, the churches may then proceed in their way with much more encouragement and comfort.
4. It is not in the power of magistrates to compel their subjects to become church members, and to partake of the Lord's Table (Ezekiel 44:7-9); for the priests are reproved that brought unworthy ones into the sanctuary (1 Corinthians 5:11); then it was unlawful for the priests, so it is as unlawful to be done by civil magistrates; those whom the church is to cast out, if they were in, the magistrate ought not to thrust them into the church, nor to hold them therein.
5. As it is unlawful for church officers to meddle with the sword of the magistrate, so it is unlawful for the magistrate to meddle with the work proper to church officers. The acts of Moses and David, who were not only princes but prophets, were extraordinary, therefore not inimitable. Against such usurpation the Lord witnessed by smiting Uzziah with leprosy for presuming to offer incense (2 Chronicles 26:16, 17).
6. It is the duty of the magistrate to take care of matters of religion, and to improve his civil authority for the observing of the duties commanded in the first, as well as for observing of the duties commanded in the second table. They are called gods. The end of the magistrate's office is not only the quiet and peaceable life of the subject in matters of righteousness and honesty, but also in matters of godliness; yea, of all godliness (1 Timothy 2:1, 2; 1 Kings 15:14, 22:43; 2 Kings 12:3, 14:4, 15:35). Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, are much commended by the Holy Ghost, for the putting forth their authority in matters of religion; on the contrary, such kings as have been failing this way, are frequently taxed and reproved of the Lord (1 Kings 20:42; Job 29:25, 31:26-28; Nehemiah 13; Jonah 3:7; Ezra 7; Daniel 3:29). And not only the kings of Judah, but also Job, Nehemiah, the king of Nineveh, Darius, Artaxerxes, Nebuchadnezzar, whom none looked at as types of Christ, (though were it so there were no place for any just objection) are commended in the book of God for exercising their authority this way.
7. The objects of the power of the magistrate are not things merely inward, and so not subject to his cognizance and view; as unbelief, hardness of heart, erroneous opinions not vented, but only such things as are acted by the outward man; neither is their power to be exercised in commanding such acts of the outward man, and punishing the neglect thereof, as are but mere inventions and devices of men (1 Kings 20:28-42), but about such acts as are commanded, and forbidden in the Word; yea, such as the Word does clearly determine, though not always clearly to the judgment of the magistrate or others, yet clearly in itself. In these he of right ought to put forth his authority, though oft times actually he does it not.
8. Idolatry, blasphemy, heresy (Deuteronomy 13; 1 Kings 20:28-42), venting corrupt and pernicious opinions, that destroy the foundation (Daniel 3:29), open contempt of the Word preached (Zechariah 13:3), profanation of the Lord's Day (Nehemiah 13:31 [see verses 15-22 - ed.]), disturbing the peaceable administration and exercise of the worship and holy things of God (1 Timothy 2:2), and the like (Romans 13:4), are to be restrained and punished by civil authority.
9. If any church, one or more, shall grow schismatical, rending itself from the communion of other churches, or shall walk incorrigibly and obstinately in any corrupt way of their own, contrary to the rule of the Word; in such case, the magistrate (Joshua 22) is to put forth his coercive power, as the matter shall require. The tribes on this side Jordan intended to make war against the other tribes for building the altar of witness, whom they suspected to have turned away therein from following of the Lord.