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Hshmcnts, and desire the support of rulers and princes in the concerns of religion, have hitherto been too ready to welcome the whole, without due discrimination between what is scriptural and what is not: and the opponents of these things, are too prone to reject, or even reprobate altogether: as if David were equally to be dreaded with Jeroboam; Hezekiah with Ahaz; or Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes with Nebuchadnezzar, and his golden image, his stern decree and his fiery furnace; or with Antiochus Epiphanes. In opposition to undeniable facts, in the case of the pious kings of Israel and Judah, and even of the heathen princes who favoured the religion of Israel, they assume it as incontrovertible, that regal interposition, or that of senates or nobles, must be connected with political motives and objects ; and with coercive or corrupting interference as to liberty of conscience. They assume that every alliance or connexion between those who are the ministers of God in his providence, as rulers, and those who are his ministers in the gospel of Christ, must render the latter in general willing slaves to the interests and passions, or ambitious and arbitrary projects, of the former; and so warp them from an honest regard to truth and duty, and even fetter the remnant of more conscientious persons, and cramp their efforts to do good. Not satisfied with attempting to shew that this hath been the case in many instances both past and present, or attacking this or the other establishment, or hierarchy; they assert that the consequences must necessarily in all instances be the same, and reprobate the very
principle itself. They indeed reason, or declaim, as if it were impossible for God himself to raise up princes, equally pious, and zealous, and attentive to the word of God in all their measures, with Hezekiah and Josiah; or ministers, even under the New Testament, equally mortified to all earthly things, as those were who carried into effect the commands of those pious princes.
It is beyond doubt, from these examples, that it is possible for princes and ministers of religion to combine in measures for promoting the true worship and service of God; for rectifying abuses, and reforming the church from idolatries, superstitions, and corruptions; for administering divine ordinances according to the word of God; and for promoting the general instruction of the people, with a simple aim to glorify God and do good to man; and without any selfish political objects; and even without interfering with true liberty of conscience, or using coercion or worldly lures, in accomplishing their objects. And that which, by the grace of God, hath been done, may, by the same grace, again be done; and to a far larger extent, with more permanent effect, and more glorious and happy consequences. "The thing "that hath been is the thing that shall be ;" when all the kings of the nations shall fall down before the exalted Saviour, and become his devoted servants, in promoting the cause of truth, holiness, and godliness on earth. For these things we should hope, and pray, and wait: and, while writing this, I have no doubt that, ere long, even they (or others of the same sentiments coming in their place,) who now regard every thing that looks like royal or imperial favour to the cause of Christ, as springing from some corrupt motive, some deep political selfish design; will be convinced by facts, that the thing, which to them seems "im"possible, is possible with God," and hath certainly begun to be accomplished; and when they will join their brethren in blessing the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for " putting such "things into the hearts" of kings and princes.
At the era of the Reformation, several of those eminent instruments, whom God raised up to effect that great and most important revolution in the affairs of Europe and of the world, were, it must be allowed, induced by concurrent circumstaces, to admit of regal and political interference, in the concerns of religion, too far; and to desire or employ the sword of the magistrate in things which are beside or beyond its commission: yet it may be questioned whether many in modern times have not gone into the opposite extreme. I do not mean as to toleration; for, provided the public peace be not endangered, the fullest toleration seems to be entirely scriptural. The only shadow of doubt is, whether direct outward gross idolatry ought to be tolerated. And here I should favour the affirmative, as nothing occurs to the contrary in the New Testament; and the command to punish idolaters was confined to those of Israel, and was a part of their political or judicial law. But the murder, perjury, and other crimes, connected with idolatrous worship, certainly ought not, on any consideration, to be tolerated by rulers professing Christianity.—If some object to the word tolerate: let them remember that "the world lieth in the wicked one;" and, if God's servants are fully tolerated in such a world, it is an immense benefit and mercy.
Let it be noticed to Luther's honour, that he was the uniform opposer of persecution for things simply religious. On one or two points, however, I shall produce quotations, respecting some of the persons concerned in the Reformation, as bearing on the subjects discussed in this Treatise. In general, I cannot but think that there was much true wisdom, (though occasionally it was tarnished with worldly policy,) in effecting the reformation, as far as possible, without a violent and sudden subversion of all that men had been accustomed to; and in grafting, as it were, the intended alterations, where it could be done, on the existing state of things, distinguishing between the precious and the vile. For, where large bodies of men are suddenly, by entire and extensive innovations, unsettled from all former usages, it is no easy matter to keep them within any bounds of moderation, or to bring them to any settlement; as late events have shewn. Devastation and destruction are the inevitable consequences, which nothing but miracles can prevent: and the opposition of rulers and princes, in self-defence, must have a tendency (apart from direct malignant or suspicious persecution,) to increase exceedingly the difficulty and danger.—It seems also to me, that even the apostles themselves, and their coadjutors, introduced the Christian dispensation, in various particulars, and as far as the case could possibly admit? in the same manner; and with no violent innovation; none, not absolutely necessary. "The "wisdom that is from above is first pure, then "peaceable, gentle, easy to be intreated, full of "mercy and good fruits, without partiality and "without hypocrisy: and the fruit of righteousness "is sown in peace of them that make peace."* In this silent manner Christian baptism gradually superseded circumcision, as the initiatory ordinance, the sacramental sign and seal of regeneration; the Lord's day succeeded to the sabbath of the Mosaic law; and many similar changes took place, by a leisurely process, without unsettling the minds of multitudes, not capable of acting properly at once in a new situation, which must have excited all their prejudices and passions, in the highest degree. These things, indeed, were conducted under the guidance and counsel of inspired men; and were altogether right, and models for imitation; but those of the reformation were managed by very wise and excellent, yet uninspired men ; and therefore not in all respects right, but to be judged of according to the apostolical models.
In respect to provision for the ministers of re-'ligion, we may learn the matured judgment of Luther from the following quotation: 'Luther 'with great seriousness admonished the Elector,' (John, Elector of Saxony,) 'to make some pro'vision for the poor labouring clergy. The Elector 'took all in good part; but appears to have been 'startled at the idea of augmenting the salaries of 'the clergy out of his own treasury: That, he 'said, would be a matter of great difficulty: and 'he asked Luther what he had to propose on the
1 James iii. 14 ,18,