The Duty of Civil Magistrates | David Dickson

duty magistrates dickson

David Dickson

Truth’s Victory Over Error

pp. 185-189

CHAPTER XXIII.

Of the Civil Magistrate

Question I.

Hath God armed the Civil Magistrate with the Power of the Sword for the Defence, and Encouragement of them that are God, and for the punishment of Evil-doers?

Yes (Rom. 13:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:13-14).

Well then, do not the Socinians err, who maintain, That it is not the Duty of the Civil Magistrate to punish the Guilty with Death?

Yes.

By what Reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because God hath expressly commanded that transgressing Idolaters be put to Death (Deut. 17:7, 19, 21). 2nd, Because it appertains to the Office and Duty of the Magistrate to punish the Guilty with Death (Rom. 13:4; 1 Peter: 2:14). 3rd, Because the Capital Punishment of evil Doers makes others stand in awe, and fear to offend (Deut. 13:11, 19-20). 4th, Because, if the Magistrate shall neglect to inflict due Punishment, the Lord himself will be avenged on that Magistrate (1 Kings 20:42; Numbers 24:4). 5th, Because he that smiteth a Man so that he die, shall surely be put to Death (Exod. 21:12). 6th, Because all that take the Sword, shall perish by the Sword (Matth. 26:52). Namely, without a lawful Call, or Order for it. They shall perish, by Order and Command of the Magistrate, to whom the Lord hath given the Sword for this very same End, to punish evil Doers with Death (Gen. 9:6; Rom. 13:4).

Question II.

Is it the Duty of the Civil Magistrate to take Order, that all Blasphemies, and Heresies be suppressed, all the Ordinances of God duly settled, administered and observed; all Abuses in Worship and Discipline reformed, all Idolaters, Gainsayers, and other obstinate Dissenters be obliged and forced to quit their Tenets and Opinions, and conform themselves to the true Worship and Service of God according to his Law?

Yes (Isa. 49:23; 2 Chron. 15:12-13, 34:33; 2 Kings 18:4, 23:1-26; Ezra 7:23, 25-28; Lev. 24:16).

Well then, do not the Quakers, and other Sectaries err, who judge it Antichristian, and the Practice of the Church of Rome, that the Civil Supreme Magistrate, with the Assistance of the Church and her Censures, though by his coactive Power, force and oblige all his Subjects to a Reformation of Religion, and to a Conformity to the true Worship, sound Doctrine, and Discipline of the Church?

Yes.

By what Reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because it is foretold by the Prophet Isaiah that in the Days of the Gospel, Kings shall be nursing Fathers, and Queens nursing Mothers to the Church of God (Isa. 49:23).

2nd, Because Artaxerxes, who was but a Heathen King, was very careful to make a Decree, that whatsoever was commanded by the God of Heaven should be diligently done for the House of the God of Heaven, and whosoever would not obey the Law of God and the King, Judgment was to be executed speedily upon him, whether by Death, Banishment, Confiscation of Goods, or Imprisonment, for which singular Mercy Ezra blessed the Lord God of his Fathers, who had put such a Thing in the King’s Heart (Ezra 7:23, 25-28). So did Nebuchadnezzar make a Decree, that if any People, Nation, or Language should speak any Thing amiss against the God of Heaven, they should be cut in Pieces and their Houses made a Dunghill (Dan. 3:29). The like we read of Darius, who made a Decree that all Men should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel (Dan. 6:26).

3rd, From the Example of Hezekiah, who removed the High Places, and brake the Images, and cut down the Groves, and break in Pieces the Brazen Serpent, to which the Israelites did burn Incense (2 Kings 18:4).

4th, From the Example of Josiah, who made a thorough Reformation, and made all Israel to serve the Lord their God. The Word in the Original importeth, that he in a Manner forced, and compelled them to the pure Worship and Service of God, as a Servant is forced and compelled to his Work. He, by his royal Power and Authority, kept them in Order, forbidding Idolatry, and commanding them to serve God no otherwise than according to his Word (2 Chron. 34:33, 14:12-13). They entered into a Covenant to seek the Lord God of their Fathers, with all their Hearts, and with all their Soul: That whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel, should be put to Death, whether Small or Great, Man or Woman.

5th, Because whosoever blasphemed the Name of the Lord was surely put to Death (Lev. 24:16). This blaspheming was a piercing through, or stabbing the Name of the Lord, as the Original Word properly signifies, which may be done not only after this Manner, but by maintaining blasphemous Errors and Heresies.

6th, Because the Supreme Magistrate is custos utriusque tabulae, a Keeper of both Tables, which relates to Religion, and our Duty to God; as of the second, which relates to Righteousness, and our Duty to our Neighbour. If then, he may punish evil Doers, who offend against the second Table, and force and compel them to Obedience, by the Sword of Justice, which God hath put into his Hands; much more may he punish Idolaters and Blasphemers, who offend against the first Table, and force and compel them to Obedience, seeing there are many Sins against the first Table, which are more heinous and odious than the Sins against the second Table. And though it be the sinful Practice of the church of Rome, to force Men and Women to be of their Religion, which is Superstitious and Idolatrous; yet is not so to others, who have the true Religion among them. And though our blessed Savior, and his Apostles did not use such Means for propagating the Gospel, reserving the Glory of conquering Souls to himself, and the Power of his Spirit; yet has taught that nothing to the contrary, but that Kings and Magistrates whom he has made nursing Fathers to his Church, may, according to the laudable Examples of the good Kings of Judah, improve their Power for Reformation, and Maintenance of his own Religion. And though Religion hath been much advanced by suffering, yet it will not infer, that a Christian Prince has not Power to reform his own Subjects or to extirpate Blasphemers and Heretics.

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