Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER I - Observations on The Two Sons of Oil (LF ed.)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAPTER I - William Findley, Observations on “The Two Sons of Oil” (LF ed.) 
Observations on “The Two Sons of Oil”, Containing a Vindication of the American Constitutions, and Defending the Blessings of Religious Liberty and Toleration, against the Illiberal Strictures of the Rev. Samuel B. Wylie, edited and with an introduction by John Caldwell (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The text explained—Of the moral law of nature—Of positive laws—Penalties to be executed by man, belong to positive law—Civil government founded on the law of nature—Peculiar law of Israel, positive and abolished—Christ’s delegated power examined—The magistrate’s power to ratify and sanction the laws of the Most High God examined.
The Reverend Author of “The two Sons of Oil, or the faithful witness for ministry and magistracy upon a scriptural basis,” introduces the subject by a text from the prophecy of Zechariah, chap. 4, ver. 14. “Then said he, these are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
Of his analysis of this text, and his premises drawn from it, I will only observe here, that he makes it the foundation of his system, viz. That the gospel ministry, and civil magistracy, are not distinct governments, but component branches of one government. To this purpose, page 8, he says, “This universal dominion committed to him, (Christ) as it respects the human family, in its administrations, consists in two great branches, namely, the magistracy and the ministry.” As he afterwards more fully explains and applies this doctrine, I will take no further notice of it in this place, than just to observe one error in his statement. The church of Christ, and the gospel ministry are not, as the author says, committed to Christ. The gospel ministers are appointed to feed the church of Christ, which he hath purchased with his own blood. The church is his purchased possession. It is the body of Christ, of which believers are members. It is his kingdom, which is not of this world, &c. We read of the word of reconciliation, and a dispensation of the gospel of Christ, being committed to the ministers of Christ, as ambassadors from him; but not of the church being committed to him. It is his own house, in which Moses and the apostles were servants. It is not committed as a trust. It is, by virtue of union, his body, his spouse.
The real meaning of this text, on which the author erects such a visionary superstructure, I will offer in the words of the learned and judicious Scott, in his notes on the place.1
“The prophet was still ignorant of the meaning of the two olive-trees, especially of those branches from which the oil was immediately conveyed to the lamps; and on enquiry he learned, that they were the two anointed ones, which stood before the Lord of the whole earth. Zerubbabel and Joshua, the anointed ruler and high-priest of Judah, who stood before the Lord, and were his instruments in the work of the temple, were the anointed ones intended: but they were only types and shadows (as the temple itself was) of him that was to come. They therefore typified Christ, as anointed with the Holy Spirit without measure, to be the king and high-priest of the church, and to build, illuminate and sanctify the spiritual temple. As the anointed high-priest, he purchased those gifts by the sacrifice of himself; and through his intercession in heaven, they are communicated by him as the anointed king of his church. From the union of these two offices in his mysterious person, both God and man, this inexhaustible fulness of grace is derived and conferred. Thus the olive branches of themselves distil the golden oil through the two golden pipes into the bowl: and from his fulness all receive that grace which they require for their several places and services, through the means of grace, as the seven pipes fed the seven lamps of the candlestick. It is plain, that the candlestick is the Jewish church, both civil and religious; and the oil with which the lamps were supplied, is the Spirit of God: and is it not equally plain, that Zerubbabel and Joshua were in these transactions typical persons, types of Christ our king and high priest.” See also the venerable Henry to the same purpose.2
The vision was for the encouragement of the Jewish church and nation, then newly emerged out of captivity, and was suited to that symbolical oeconomy under which they were placed during the continuance of the theocracy, or immediate government of Jehovah, in another and more peculiar manner than other nations were, and which was to continue until Christ the antitype should come and fulfil all that was prefigured of him by that typical oeconomy, and introduce the new covenant, or gospel dispensation. When Israel was brought out of Egypt into the waste and howling wilderness, they were constituted a peculiar and holy nation. “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Exod. xix. 6. This was the divine proposal; and after they had been ceremonially sanctified, and had heard the law of the ten commandments, which is a compend of the moral law of nature, pronounced with an audible voice, from the top of Sinai, with tremendously awful accompaniments, and had publicly announced their cordial acceptance of the divine proposal, the peculiar national covenant, whereby they were constituted in their national character, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, was wrote in a book, and consecrated by the shedding of blood. See Exod. xxiv. and Heb. ix. 15. 22. Many ordinances were added to this covenant, which were received by Moses in the mount, and afterwards in the tabernacle, and all was again ratified about forty years after. See Deut. v. No permanent additions were afterwards made, except for the building of the temple instead of the tabernacle, (2 Sam. vii. 18.) and adding psalmody and music, both vocal and instrumental, to the stated worship, by express divine authority. 2 Chron. xxix. 25.
In this covenant, a standing, hereditary priesthood and numerous symbolical rites were added to the ancient sacrificial worship, as well as the sanction of temporal rewards and punishments, and the immediate divine presence in the sanctuary, to deliver oracles when sought in difficult cases, according to the due order; and a succession of prophets, until the great prophet should come with power to change the system, was engaged. A civil magistracy, of very limited authority, was instituted, and of a peculiar form. It was not sovereign; it had no legislative authority: and it is in this that sovereignty consists in all civil governments. They could not add to, or diminish from, the code of laws, without immediate divine authority. Even David, a king according to God’s heart, and a prophet by whom the Spirit of God spake, could not add stated singers and psalmody to the worship, but by special authority from God, delivered by other prophets. The civil government therefore, under this covenant, was wholly executive and judiciary; and in all important instances, connected with the priesthood, a decision in judgment could not be given in the last resort, except in a court where the priests and Levites were essential constituent members. They could not go to war without a priest to make the proclamation of the law, in that case provided. A leprosy could not be cured, a case of jealousy between a man and his wife could not be decided, nor uncertain murder expiated, but by the priest. The priests and Levites were the repositories of the laws—they were wrote in a book, and laid up with them. Even when it pleased God, after severely reproving them for the attempt, to tolerate them in having a king, the king was not permitted to exercise legislative authority; that is to say, to be a sovereign. He was directed to take a copy of the laws deposited with the priests and Levites; and he could not add to them. Though the Israelites held their lands in fee simple, to them and their heirs, they were not permitted to eat of the fruit of the fields or vineyard, until the priests had received their first fruits. In short, to use the words of the justly celebrated H. Witsius, D.D.3 speaking of the Jewish laws, “They were subservient, for the greatest part, to the levitical priesthood, with which almost the whole policy was interwoven.”
I admit that the reverend author might, without great impropriety, have said, that the magistracy and ministry, under the immediate government of God, viz. the peculiar theocracy of Israel, were two great branches of that symbolical government, if he had explained what he meaned by branches. He certainly could not wish to impose on his people so far, as to induce them to believe, that the word branches, thus applied, is a scriptural term. Under the Jewish polity, priests were instituted to conduct the symbolical worship, and to decide in courts of justice; whereas, in former times, every worshipper, such as Noah, Abraham, Job, &c. were priests for their own families. Melchizedec is the only person recorded, as by office, the priest of the most high God, before the institution of the Aaronic priesthood; and before that priesthood was established, Moses, the most eminent type of Christ, as mediator and lawgiver in his own house, acted the part of both priest, prophet and civil magistrate, and was a type of Christ in all his offices. But after this institution, the administration under Jehovah, their peculiar king, was distributed into different parts or portions, of which the priesthood took the highest hereditary rank, and the Levites the next; but wholly distinct in their offices, except that they were equally connected as constituent members in the supreme court of civil justice, and in being the official repositories of the laws.
Every city was enjoined to appoint local judges, from whose decision an appeal lay to the supreme court, composed of priests and Levites, assisted by such chief judge as Jehovah their king should appoint; which was sometimes a priest.
When kingly government was introduced, against the approving will of Jehovah their king, and of Samuel his prophet, they, as was expressly foretold by Samuel, became, in a great measure, despots, and usurped every power but that of the priests; and even from them the judiciary power in many cases, which was protected by the immediate divine interposition, as in the case of Uza and Uziah. Nor did the pious kings usurp the power of making laws. Zerubbabel, of the royal line of David, like his great ancestor, was honoured with being a very distinguished type of the Saviour. In the vision therefore, Joshua and Zerubbabel are very properly represented as types of Christ, in his priestly and kingly offices. Zerubbabel was the legal representative of Cyrus, king of Persia, at that time the sovereign of all the countries formerly subject to Babylon, as Ezra and Nehemiah afterwards were; and while he was honoured so far as to be the representative of the king of Persia, he was still more highly honoured with being proclaimed, by the prophet, a type of a greater than Cyrus, but whose kingdom was not of this world.
The author, surely, will not pretend that Zerubbabel, though of the stock and lineage of David, and the last of the royal race that enjoyed civil distinction, governed in right of hereditary succession from David. He was a subordinate and temporary governor, subject to the control of the governors on that side of the river, and the supreme direction of the king by whom he was appointed.
Artaxerxes, the most favourable to the Jews, for the greatest length of time, of all the Medio-Persian kings, (probably the same as Ahasuerus) appointed Ezra, a priest, to be governor of Judea; and after him, Nehemiah, once and again: both excellent appointments, but none of them of the royal line. In short; Zerubbabel, as the representative of Cyrus, in restoring the Jewish church and nation, which had been scattered abroad throughout all the nations of the east, was a very fit type of Christ, who came to restore and build up the dispersed tribes of Israel from all nations, tongues, and kindred. Melchizedec, who was a Gentile, and not after the order of Aaron, was selected as a very striking type of the Redeemer. Cyrus himself is selected by the prophet Isaiah, to prefigure the Saviour. “I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price or reward.”—Isaiah iv. 15, &c. [Findley meant xlv. 13.]
I have heretofore believed, that it was generally admitted by christians, that the typical priesthood of Melchizedec, and the typical redemption wrought by the Medio-Persian kings, prefigured, and was a prelude to, the calling of the Gentiles. Surely, the reverend author will not pretend that Zerubbabel was the actually anointed king of Israel, or exercised sovereign power. Even Joshua could not have been anointed and inaugurated into the priesthood, according to the law of Moses, in the sanctuary, and with the holy oil. There was no sanctuary, and the Urim and Thummim, the fire which first descended from Heaven, the ark of the covenant, and other precious arcana, were lost; therefore the anointing of Joshua and Zerubbabel was not such a ceremonial anointing as that of Aaron, Saul, David, &c. but a providential designation to those offices, in such circumstances as rendered them suitable types of the Saviour. I may here be permitted to add that the loss of those precious arcana, the visible symbols of divine presence and glory, while it was an awful correction for the breach of the national covenant, indicated the final abrogation of that system, which, being only a shadow of good things to come, was seen to vanish away; and also prepared the minds of believers to expect the new covenant dispensation, foretold by the prophets, and the greater glory of the latter temple also foretold.
Though these two typical anointed ones represented the kingly and prophetical offices of the Saviour, they were not constituted such by the law of Moses. Cyrus was the sovereign, in a much more extensive sense of that term, than any king of Judah ever could have been under, or agreeable to, the Mosaic law. Zerubbabel was his honorary servant, acting under his instructions, and solely by his authority; and by the same authority, the progress of the work was stopped, and renewed, or suspended, viz. at the discretion of the Persian kings; so that the building of the city was not completed till about ninety years after the proclamation of Cyrus, and long after the death of Zerubbabel. I only add, in this place, that facts must not be permitted to bend to fanciful theories. Admitting, but not granting, that Zerubbabel had even sat on the regal throne of his great ancestors, David and Solomon, possessed of their independence and surrounded with all their splendour, it would have made no difference, as to the general argument, respecting civil government, as instituted under the moral law of nature. Every thing in the law of Moses, superadded to the moral law of nature, is positive or voluntary; and, therefore, changeable, according to circumstances and the will of the supreme legislator; and even while they continued, they were only applicable to the cases, place, and circumstances, for which they were intended and enacted. Their example may be further applied, but their authority cannot.
The reverend author has, throughout his whole book, made the support of the union of church and state, or, in other words, tyranny over both the souls and bodies of men, his grand object; and (very unwarrantably indeed) laid the foundation of his system on the symbolical text just examined. I have, therefore, on mature deliberation, thought it best to examine the nature and obligations of the peculiar law, or covenant of Israel, on all mankind, or on all christians, and at all times, before I proceed to other observations on his system.
As a clear and exact knowledge of the moral law of nature is peculiarly important, in order to understand the whole system of revealed religion, I will state, that it pleased God to deliver, on Mount Sinai, a compendium of this holy law, and to write it with his own hand, on durable tables of stone. This law, which is commonly called the ten commandments, or decalogue, has its foundation in the nature of God and of man, in the relation men bear to him, and to each other, and in the duties which result from those relations; and on this account it is immutable and universally obligatory. Though given in this manner to Israel, as the foundation of the national covenant, then about to be entered into, it demands obedience from all mankind, at all times, and in all conditions of life; and the whole world will finally be judged according to it, and to the opportunity they had of being acquainted with it, whether by reason and tradition alone, or by the light of the written word. This law is spiritual, reaching to the thoughts and intents of the heart. It is necessarily the foundation of all transactions, between the Creator and his rational creatures; and, in this case, was very properly revealed, as the foundation of the covenant of peculiarity with Israel. See Scott on Exod. xx. This was incorporated in the judicial law, as far as divine wisdom thought proper, and is explained and applied by the Saviour, and by the prophets and apostles.
There is an evident distinction between moral precepts, and positive or voluntary appointments. The first have their foundation in the nature of God and of man, and are unchangeable; the second in the free will of the lawgiver, and might not have been, or might have been otherwise, as the lawgiver thought proper, and are liable to be changed or abolished, at the discretion of the lawgiver; but while they continue, are of equal obligation with moral precepts, except where they come into competition: in that case, a positive institution must yield, in some cases, to the unchangeable law.
Of this kind were all the additions made to the moral law, by the Mosaic institutions. Yet it is upon these, almost exclusively, that the author builds his system; he substitutes them for the moral law; he makes little use of the prophets, and none of the New Testament, except to pervert it. The New Testament has been generally understood to contain the religion of Christians. The apostles declare, that the christian church is built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; and that the law of peculiarity, old covenant, ortestament, is abolished, taken out of the way, &c. The author declares that it is still in full force, as far as it is necessary to support his system, but not further: he admits the rest to have been abolished. Christ himself has given the most excellent summary of the moral law, and the most spiritual and perfect exposition of it, and declared its perpetual obligation. The apostles have incorporated the ten commandments into their epistles, and enforced their obligations by the most powerful arguments and motives; but neither the Saviour nor his apostles have made any use of the law of peculiarity, except to shew that its requirements were fulfilled, and that it was abolished, except in a few instances, for illustration. The apostles no where enforce obedience to its peculiar precepts or penalties, after it was abolished by the death of Christ, but declare it to be disannulled.
Positive or voluntary laws have no obligation, further than the lawgiver intended that they should have, because all the authority they possess, is derived from his will and intention; where this stops, the law must stop with it. Now the intention of the Sinai covenant does not appear to have extended beyond the Israelites themselves; it was addressed solely to them, and calculated to operate within bounds expressly prescribed, and could not be put in operation elsewhere. It is sanctioned with numerous and severe temporal penalties, several of which were to be executed by the civil magistrate and the witnesses, after the sentence of the court, and some of them by Jehovah himself, as their peculiar king; and obedience to it was encouraged by numerous temporal rewards, and by miraculous protection. They were assured of success in war, of fruitful seasons, that nothing should cast their young, or be barren among them, &c. &c.
The moral law was addressed equally to all men in their individual character, and in the singular number: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”—“Thou shalt not make unto thee graven images”—“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”—“Honour thy father and thy mother,” &c. The lawgiver also reserves the sanctions, or rewards and punishments of this law, solely in his own hand. “I will not hold him guiltless”—“I will visit the iniquity,” &c. “Thy days shall be long,” &c. This law required the obedience of the heart, with a view to a judgment to come; but a fulfilling of the letter of the law satisfied the national covenant—it only required circumcision of the flesh; the moral law required circumcision of the heart. This distinction the prophets, the faithful expounders and zealous enforcers of obedience to the moral law, frequently inculcated. The Pharisees were zealous of the law, but added their own traditions. The Sadducees were zealous of the law, and opposed the traditions. Both of them were characterised, by the Saviour, as very immoral and erroneous; yet neither of them could be excluded from communion, under that law.
The penalties enacted by the national law could only be executed within the bounds prescribed—Numbers, chap. xxxiv. Within these bounds, idolatry was not only a sin, as in other places, but it was, if committed by an apostate Israelite, treason against Jehovah, as their peculiar king. The iniquity of the devoted nations being full, they were to be destroyed; but no authority was given to punish idolatry out of those limits, nor even to carry their own worship out of the typically holy land. In their dispersions, they taught the law in their synagogues; but do not, till this day, put in practice the worship enjoined by the law of Moses—the place being an essential part of the institution.
The moral law is equally calculated for, and applied to, all persons, in all places, and at all times; and equally authorizes the worship of God, in all places, by all men, in all situations; and enjoined a respect to every discovery of his will, and institution of his appointment: but it prescribes no penalties to be executed by man for the breaches of it. None but God, that knows the heart, can judge of the demerit of sin; because it does not consist so much in the physical act, as in the will and intention, of which none but God is judge. Fallible judges must have recourse to overt acts, declarations and circumstances, to prove the concurrence of the will, or intention of the heart, and may be often mistaken. The innocent may sometimes suffer, but the guilty more frequently escape punishment. God only is the unerring judge.
This being the case, it follows of course, that human penalties for breaches of the moral law, are no part of that law itself, as it relates to God; he will not give this glory to another—nor is any creature, man or angel, competent for the exercise of it.
Penalties to be executed by men upon their fellow men, arise from the state of society, they being necessary for the peace and happiness thereof; they, therefore, vary in every society, agreeable to the circumstances of the society itself, and the prevalence of vices, by which its safety is most exposed to danger, or upon its competency to execute such penalties.
In a state of nature, before the existence of civil society, no such penalties could have been executed; every man’s rights were equal. Men being, after the first pair, introduced by natural generation, parental authority was sufficient, until they became capable to act for themselves. After this period, we know, by the awful example of Cain killing Abel his brother, that it was not sufficient. We know, likewise, by the same example, that no human penalties for crimes against society then existed: indeed it was not sufficiently numerous to enact laws or execute penalties; therefore God took the case of the infant state of society into his own hand, and inflicted such punishment of the murderer as he judged suitable to that state of society, but spared and protected his life; yet, for the safety of others, set a mark on him, and banished him; or, from the influence of fear, he banished himself. When men multiplied on the earth, oppression and other crimes prevailed to so great a degree, as to have rendered human laws and penalties very necessary; but how far such were enacted or executed, we are not informed. The degeneracy, however, being so great as to be incurable by ordinary means, it pleased God, in an extraordinary manner, to inflict the penalty of death on the whole human race, with the exception of one family.
In this second infant state of the human race, too few in number to form a civil society, capable of enacting and executing penal laws, it pleased God himself, among other precepts, to prescribe death to be inflicted by man, as the penalty for murder; and as there were not, at that period, civil courts, or officers for public prosecution, he enjoined the brothers (explained to include others near of kin) of the deceased, to execute the sentence, under the penalty of God himself requiring his brother’s blood at his hands, as he had formerly done the blood of Abel at the hand of Cain. This precept, given to the family of Noah, then containing the whole human race, is still in substance equally applicable to all nations, and at all times. It is the only punishment adequate to the offence; but the appointment of the brother, or near of kin, to be the avenger of blood, arose from the then state of society, and pointed out the expediency of civil government, when men became sufficiently numerous for that purpose. The avenger of blood would not distinguish sufficiently between the different kinds of homicides; and this would produce other revenges, as it still does where it is practised, and did in the feudal times in Europe, while the heads of families or clans exercised the right of avenging their own wrongs, or that of their relations, and increased the shedding of human blood.
Before the death of Noah, and long before the death of Shem, we find numerous civil societies were instituted in comparatively small territories; that property was divided; and that, consequently, life and property and civil order were protected. The division of languages, about 101 years after the flood, necessarily promoted the division and settling of the earth by small civil societies. We find them very numerous in the days of Abraham, 433 years after the flood, and while Shem was yet alive.
About 857 years after the flood, when it pleased God to constitute the Israelitish branch of the family of Abraham, (to whom he had long afforded special protection, and given special promises) a distinct nation, and to become their peculiar King, and give them a code of laws peculiar to themselves as a nation and government, distinguished from all the nations of the earth; he having, after long striving with them, determined to give up the rest of the world, in a great degree, to ignorance, idolatry and licentiousness, and to wink at the prevalence of these evils till the desire of all nations should come, this church and nation, (for both were one, and all were symbolically holy) was the repository of the lively oracles, first given by Moses, and continued in the sanctuary, or added by the prophets, till Christ came. This church and nation were to keep up a testimony against the prevailing idolatry of the world, but not to overturn or suppress that idolatry, except within their own territory. But to preserve them from the prevailing contagion of idolatry, their peculiar laws were calculated to prevent their communion with the nations around them, not only in their religion, but in their manners, their marriages, their clothing, their ploughing, sowing and reaping, and in the preparation, and in many instances, in the substance, of their daily food. They could not so much as eat with those of other nations.
In this peculiar code of laws, the precepts given to Noah were adopted; but the penalty respecting murder was revised. The power of the avenger of blood was not abolished, but modified. Courts of justice were erected to decide between wilful murder, with malice aforethought, and less criminal or innocent homicides, and cities of refuge provided. The master who killed his servant, whether wilfully or not, was, for some special reasons, exempted from the power of the avenger of blood, or from being banished to the city of refuge. There were no servants or slaves when the precepts were given to Noah. We are not well informed how this law was construed in the execution; but when the government was permitted to be so far changed as to have hereditary kings, we know that the best of these kings dispensed with the punishment of murder. David dispensed with it in the case of Absalom, and also in the case of Joab in two instances; all of them wilful and malicious. It pleased Jehovah himself, as King of Israel, to dispense with, or change, the punishment of murder and adultery, in the very aggravated case of David and Uriah. Joab was afterwards put to death by Solomon for treason, as Shemei also afterwards was, without any hearing or trial before a court of justice, as enjoined by the law of Moses. And Abiether, in the same manner, thrust out of the priest’s office.
The above examples contribute to demonstrate, that temporal penalties, to be executed by fallen man on his fellow sinners, are no part of the moral law of nature. If they were, they could not be dispensed with or changed: for the essential character of the moral law is immutability; it is unchangeable like God its author, a transcript of whose divine perfections it is. The sum of this law is declared by an infallible interpreter to be, To love the Lord our God with all our heart, &c. and to love our neighbours as ourselves. This law never was, nor ever will be, changed, mitigated or dispensed with. It never can yield to policy or expediency. If it could have done so, the martyrs, who loved not their lives even unto the death for Christ, were fools. That martyrs died for positive institutions, arose from the authority of the moral law, obliging to obey them.
It may be objected, that the conduct of David and Solomon, in the instances above mentioned, was probably wrong, therefore not suitable precedents to follow. They are not only not censured in scripture, but David is expressly justified in all his conduct as king, except in the case of Uriah. He is also justified in using the shew-bread, equally contrary to that law, by Jesus himself, the most perfect judge of the relative obligation of laws. Positive laws in their own nature, must yield to more powerful laws; therefore, are changeable agreeable to circumstances. No one code of penal laws can apply equally to all nations, at all times.
When Judge Blackstone wrote on the laws of England, there were 162 penalties of death.4 The Judge laments the number, and the impropriety of many of them. The change of manners, modes of life, and property, require a change of penal laws. In Scotland, though part of the same island, and subject to the same king and parliament, there are not that number of penal laws; nor are there as many capitally convicted there in one year, as in the county of Middlesex, which contains the city of London. In all the seventeen United States, the criminal laws vary less or more from each other. In all of them they are less sanguinary than generally in the nations of Europe. In Pennsylvania they are less so, perhaps, than under any other civilized government; and in no government is the public peace better preserved. But this improvement in favour of humanity could not have been accomplished, if the legislature of that state had not been in a capacity, and willing to be at the expense of providing a suitable prison, labour, workshops, &c. for those who, under other governments, would have been hanged. By this wise institution, human blood is spared, the criminals are well clothed and fed, and contribute to their own support, while society is protected from their depredations. Thus, by the laws of that state, the detestation of shedding human blood, so laudably and strongly expressed in the precept to the sons of Noah, and in the law of Moses, is more strongly and effectually provided against than could have been done in the early stages of society, when there was yet not the means of establishing and supporting the criminal code of Pennsylvania, which provides for putting the wilful, malicious murderer to death, and preventing the effusion of human blood, by otherwise securing such other criminals as were put to death under the former government, and still are put to death under other governments.
The penalties of the judicial law were not of moral and universal obligation, because they were not from the beginning. Sixteen hundred and fifty six years had passed away, before the precepts were given to Noah that were equally applicable to all mankind; and 2513 years, before the Israelitish Theocracy was instituted; which only continued to operate in a small territory, during 1491 years; and never was applied to, or intended for, other nations. It could not be administered, but at the place, and by the judges, appointed by God, as the peculiar king of Israel.
The moral law of nature was the same before man revolted from God, that it was afterwards; and will continue to be the same for ever. There was no place or use for temporal penalties to be inflicted by man on his fellow men, before that revolt: consequently, they are not the moral law, but were necessarily introduced because of transgression, for the protection of civil society, that men might be enabled to live peaceable lives, in godliness and honesty. It was for this purpose that men instituted civil government itself, agreeable to the will of God; and hence it is, that penal laws are not made for the righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient.
The law of nature consists of the eternal and immutable principles of justice, as they existed in the nature and relation of things, antecedent to any positive precept; and describes the immutable principles of good and evil, to which the Creator himself, in all his dispensations, conforms; and which he has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions—such, among others, as these principles: that we should live honestly, hurt no body, and render to every one his due. And he has, in the usual course of his dispensations, made it our interest to pursue this line of conduct, so far as that our self-love comes frequently in aid of our duty.
The law of nature being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is of course superior to, and the foundation of, all other laws. It is binding all over the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity, if they are contrary to it; and such of them as are of any validity, derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from their original: but it is necessary to exercise human reason in the application of the laws of nature to particular cases. If our reason was always, as in our first ancestor before his transgression, clear and perfect, unruffled by passions, and unclouded by prejudice, we should need no other guide but this: but every man now finds the contrary in his own experience—that his reason is corrupt, and his understanding full of ignorance and error.
This state of things has given manifold occasions for the benign interposition of Divine Providence, by which God, in compassion to the frailty, the imperfection, and the blindness of human reason, hath been pleased at sundry times, and in divers manners, to enforce his laws by immediate and direct revelation. The doctrines thus delivered, Christians call the revealed divine law, and they are to be found only in the holy scriptures. A law made by man, or penal laws to be executed by man, could have no application to men individually, in a state of nature; because the law-making power is always in such as possess supreme authority over organized society. Men in a state of nature are all equals: but man never existed long in that state. The elder brother murdering the younger, while in that state, was an awful lesson in favour of union in a state of civil society, able to afford protection to its component parts. From the fears, the wants, and the crimes of individuals, civil society originated; and from the same source has it been supported, throughout all successive ages. Anarchy has never appeared but with such destruction in its train, as soon obliged men to resort to civil society for protection. Numerous examples of this have been produced in our own day: so that it is a settled maxim, both with expositors of the bible, and politicians, that even a bad government is better than none.
It is universally admitted, I presume, that it is the will of God that all his reasonable creatures should pursue their own happiness, in a way consistent with the happiness of creatures of the same common nature; and that this is, in so far, the moral law of nature. Men must first associate together, before they can form rules for their civil government—When those rules are formed, and put in operation, they have become a civil society, or organized government. For this purpose, some rights of individuals must have been given up to the society, but repaid many fold by the protection of life, liberty and property, afforded by the strong arm of civil government. This progress to human happiness being agreeable to the will of God, who loves and commands order, is the ordinance of God mentioned by the apostle Paul: and being instituted by men, in the exercise of their natural reason, for their protection, it is the ordinance of man, and as such to be obeyed, as mentioned by the apostle Peter.
After the call of Abraham, and the gracious manifestation of the covenant of grace to him, he and his family enjoyed the special protection of God, and communications from him. This gracious dispensation accompanied the promised seed, viz. Isaac and Jacob; who, with the name of Israel and his family, enjoyed the blessing and promised protection. They enjoyed it, when in the house of bondage in Egypt. Even during this horrid slavery, they preserved the order of their tribes, and had their elders, or heads of families. The name elder is of Egyptian origin—The first we hear of it is in Gen. l. 7.; but it came to be much used in Israel. It was the elders of Israel that Moses addressed by the commandment of God, when he returned to Egypt; but they had no magisterial or judicial authority. Moses was the first and only magistrate, until subordinate magistrates were appointed agreeable to the advice of Jethro. When the Sinai covenant was made, a permanent magistracy was established, of which the priests and Levites were constituent members.
Preparatory to the Sinai covenant, the people voluntarily engaged to obey all that the Lord had spoken, after having received the promise of being thereupon constituted a peculiar nation. See Exod. xix. The next preparatory step was the giving of the ten commandments, viz. a transcript of the moral law of their nature; which, as it equally related to all mankind, was delivered with an audible voice, from the top of a mountain, with such tremendously glorious and awful accompaniments, as testified the presence of God omnipotent. This law was also wrote by the finger of God, on tables of stone—a fit emblem of its unchangeable perpetuity. This the people engaged by covenant to obey, as God had commanded them. See Deut. iv. 13. Thus, under the immediate divine direction, they formed a society before they became an organized body politic.
These solemn preparations being made, it pleased God to propose the terms of the covenant of peculiarity, whereby Israel was constituted a nation separate and distinct from all other nations. Rules whereby their courts of justice and magistrates were to be guided in deciding on crimes, damages, &c. were prescribed. Exod. xxi. 23. In the 24th chapter, Moses declares these laws to the people, who answered with one voice, and said, all the words which the Lord hath said we will do. Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early, &c. Next follows the solemn consecration of the national, commonly called the Sinai covenant, or law of peculiarity, because it originated at Sinai, and was only applicable to Israel. The law of the ten commandments was an abstract of the moral law of nature, which was from the beginning, and is equally applicable to all mankind.
The typical consecration described in this chapter, as ratifying the Sinai covenant, is mentioned in the epistle to the Hebrews, when the apostle is demonstrating the abrogation of the Sinai covenant, and the introduction of the new covenant, viz. the gospel dispensation. Heb. ix. after shewing that the consecration of the Sinai covenant with blood, typified the death of Christ, for the remission of sins, by his own blood, he states the consecration of the Sinai covenant as emblematical of the blood of the new testament, by which Christ put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. He says, in chap. x. 9. “Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” He taketh away the first, (viz. the first covenant) that he may establish the second, (viz. the second covenant, or gospel dispensation) which took place of the old covenant or testament. See Heb. ix. 18. In the 8th chapter, the apostle appeals to the prophet Jeremiah, for proof of the abolition of the Sinai covenant, who testifies that the new covenant is not according to the covenant made with their fathers, viz. the Sinai covenant, made when he brought them out of Egypt. The apostle argues from the prophet, that, in that he saith a new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old, is ready to vanish away; and in Gal. iii. 17. the same apostle, speaking of the covenant of grace, that was confirmed to Abraham by God in Christ, the law, (viz. the Sinai covenant) which was 430 years after, cannot disannul it; and Eph. ii. 15. speaking of what Christ has done by his death, he says, “having abolished in his flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances;” and thus, as he says in the former verse, “he hath made both Jew and gentile one, by breaking down the middle wall of partition between them.”
Proofs, to the same purpose, from the prophets and apostles, might be multiplied, were it necessary; but I will only add one from the evangelists—John i. 17. “For the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” For a further contrast between the old and new covenants, I refer to Deut. xviii. 15, 19. and to Ezekiel xvi. 6, 62. In all these scriptures, and more that might be named, the Sinai covenant is abolished; not in part, but wholly abrogated, disannulled, &c. If, therefore, the Scriptures tell truth, no part of it remains obligatory on christians; and those who maintain it to be so, act, in so far, in direct opposition to the prophets, the evangelists, and apostles. This is confirmed by approved commentators.
The learned Scott, on Exodus xxiv. 3, 4. says, “When Moses had set before the people the substance of the judicial law, which he had received with the moral law of the ten commandments, delivered from mount Sinai; and the promises made to them of special blessings, while obedient; they unanimously and willingly consented and engaged to be obedient. Accordingly, he wrote in a book, the four foregoing chapters, as the conditions of the national covenant, which was now about to be solemnly ratified. For such it certainly was: seeing that the covenant of works has nothing to do with altars, sacrifices, and the sprinkling of blood, and the covenant of grace is not made with whole nations, or collective bodies of divers characters, but only representatively with Christ, as the surety of the elect, and personally with true believers. But whilst this covenant was made with the nation of Israel, in respect to their outward blessings, it was a shadow of good things to come.”
That this covenant was abrogated, when the intention, for which it was instituted, was accomplished, is stated by the same judicious author, in his comment on Jeremiah xxxi. 31–34. “The national covenant,” made at Sinai with Israel, when brought out of Egypt, is here contrasted with “the new covenant.” Notwithstanding the tender and compassionate love of Jehovah to Israel at that time, when he espoused the nation to himself, they proved unfaithful, and broke the covenant, by apostacy, idolatry, and iniquity; and at length, by rejecting the Messias, they were cast out of the church, and expelled from the promised land. This covenant was distinct, both from the covenant of works, of which Adam was the surety, and under which, every unbeliever, in every age and nation, is bound; and from the covenant of grace, mediated by Christ, of which every believing Israelite received the blessing. This promise of a new covenant, as St. Paul hath shewn, implied the abrogation of the Mosaic law, and the introduction of another and more spiritual dispensation. See the same learned author on Heb. viii. Also on Zech. xiv. 4, 5. where he says, “In consequence of his (Christ’s) ascension, and the commission granted to his apostles, the gospel was sent to the different regions of the earth. The ceremonial law, and the whole Mosaic dispensation, which obstructed the admission of the gentiles into the church, as the surrounding mountains did their entrance into Jerusalem, were removed.”
On the prophecy of Haggai ii. 69. the author says, “Then the Lord would shake the heavens and the earth, &c. Various convulsions and changes would take place in the Jewish church and state, which would end in abolishing the ritual and whole Mosaic dispensation, the disannulling of the national covenant, the subversion of their constitution, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the ruin of their civil government.” See also the venerable Henry to the same purpose, on the above and similar texts, in both the old and new testaments. I know of no approved commentators, but what are in unison with the above.
That this covenant, or national constitution, was local, viz. confined to a particular country, is evident through the whole transaction. The devoted nations are expressly described in different places, and the geographical boundaries defined with precision, Num. xxxiv. 1–15. and the administration of the national law expressly limited to the land within those boundaries. Deut. iv. 14. “And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might do them in the land whither you go over to possess it.”
The time meant was after giving the moral law as the foundation of the Sinai covenant, containing these statutes and judgments. The land was that of the devoted nations, which they were going over to possess. Those statutes and judgments were not to be administered in other lands. Through their own fault, even those nations were never all subdued or possessed. They never possessed the land of the Philistines, nor the Sidonians. Though David at last overcame the former, he did not dispossess them. Edam, Moab and Ammon, adjoining Arabia and the Red Sea, Syria of Zaba, and Damascus, extending from Palestine to the Euphrates, were subdued by David; and they, as well as Arabia on the south, yielded a willing obedience to Solomon, thereby fulfilling the promise to him, as a type of the Messiah, that his large and great dominion should extend from the Mediterranean, then called the Great Sea, to the great river Euphrates on the east, and to the Southern Ocean, from near which the queen of Sheba came, and beyond which there is no continent; emblematical of the kingdom of the Messiah, to extend over the whole world. This, however, was a dominion of peace. The people were not dispossessed, nor brought under the national law of Israel—it could not be administered there. This is the opinion, and agreeable to the practice of the Jews in Babylon, and in their dispersions, to this day. The schismatic Jews, who erected a temple in Egypt, and those who erected another at Samaria, did so in direct violation of the Sinai covenant.
Mr. Wylie, page 23, states, that “it is the magistrate’s duty to execute such penalties of the divine law, (meaning the peculiar law of Israel) as are not repealed or mitigated;” and several years ago, an intelligent and pious gentleman sent me a copy of a manuscript volume, of thirty one folio pages, very closely written, entitled “Observations concerning Toleration,” in which he adopts and supports the same principles respecting divine laws, &c. that are advocated in the Sons of Oil. From it I will now insert the following quotation, p. 3. “I plead—the laws and examples of the Jewish nation, and that upon this ground, that all the laws and precepts contained in the Old Testament, that are not repealed in the New, either by express precept, approven example, or by necessary consequence, are still binding—a law being once given, until it is repealed by the same authority, is still binding.”
The above is so much less exceptionable than the Sons of Oil, that it does not include the idea of mitigating divine laws. Where either of them got the idea of repealing or mitigating divine laws, they have not informed us; certainly, however, they did not get it in their bible. It is necessary that imperfect and short-sighted men should repeal or revise their laws. Revision is a repeal in part; but to apply the term mitigation to laws, whether human or divine, is a near approach to nonsense. In most governments, provision is made for mitigating the sentence of a court, arising from the law and the fact, or for remitting the sentence wholly. Thus, in England; the king frequently mitigates the sentence of death, by substituting transportation and servitude, or pardons, either with or without conditions; but neither repealing nor mitigating can be applied to any law of God, without an approach to blasphemy.
That none of these can apply to the moral law of nature, it being unchangeable, has been already stated; nor can it be maintained, without, at the same time, maintaining, that God himself is changeable. They cannot be applied to positive or voluntary laws, without admitting that the Almighty was short-sighted, like fallen mortals; that he did not know the end from the beginning; that causes, or changes, had taken place, which he had not foreseen, when he made the law, which rendered the future repeal or revision necessary. These are the causes why human laws are repealed or revised. I never read of a law for the mitigation of a law, but in the Sons of Oil. Positive laws have frequently been passed for special and local purposes, that ceased when the purposes were accomplished for which the legislature intended them; several of these I have mentioned already. I will only add, that the laws regulating the march of Israel in the wilderness, the gathering of the manna, &c. the command to the disciples, by the Saviour, when he sent them out to preach the gospel and work miracles, not to go to the cities of the Gentiles or the Samaritans—ceased, when the object intended was accomplished; so did the whole additions to the moral law, contained in the Sinai covenant of peculiarity, when their object was accomplished, and the intention of the legislator fulfilled. They ceased, or were abrogated, but not repealed or mitigated.
Divines have very commonly, for the sake of illustration, spoken of the peculiar law of Israel, under two distinct views, viz. as ceremonial, enjoining and regulating religious rites, and as judicial, regulating the courts of justice, &c. This distinction is often made without any injury to the subject; but having no foundation in the law itself, a precise line of distinction cannot be drawn. The learned Dr. Witsius has well stated, after an accurate examination, that all their polity was so connected with priests and Levites, that no such precise line could be drawn. The reverend author of the Sons of Oil, though he builds his system on this distinction, has not condescended to mark the line. The author of the manuscript has been more candid. He says, p. 9. “The ceremonial law was a system of positive precepts about the external worship of God, chiefly designed to typify Christ as then to come, and to lead to the way of salvation through him. The judicial law was that body of laws, given by God, for the government of the Jews, partly founded on the law of nature, and partly respected them as a nation distinct from all others. The first respected them as a church, the second respected them as a nation, distinct from all others. This distinction is so easy understood, that it will require a great deal more than what I have yet seen to overthrow it.”
The author has been candid enough not to lay the support of this distinction on the scriptures, where, indeed, he could not find it, but gives it as “he finds it stated by authors.” And it is as well defined as is desirable; for it is, as he says, easy understood, which is the excellence of a definition; its only loss is, that it is not supported by scripture, and is impracticable. It puts me in mind of the theories of the creation of the earth, published by Whiston, Burnet, Buffon, &c.5 They all tell a very pretty story of how they would have made the earth, and, therefore, how God should have done it. But they all differ in opinion from each other, how they would have made the world, but agree in objecting to the method in which it actually pleased God to create it. Just so it is with those, who idolize, and attempt to reduce to practice, among christians, the peculiar law of the Israelitish theocracy, which has been fulfilled and abolished by its divine author. They all claim the authority of that law to patronize their own opinion, or justify their tyranny; yet none of them pretend to revive and execute the whole of that law; but though they all have miserably perverted it in their application of it, yet they have never agreed on defining how far it is applicable to christians, and how far not. How then shall the weak christian know, which of its precepts he is obliged to obey, and which to refuse—all of them being equally divine laws. The definition of the author of the manuscript, which I admit to be one of the best, he will himself, upon trial, find to be wholly impracticable, because it leaves it wholly to the private judgment of every christian to decide, what precept respected Israel, as a church, and what respected it, as a nation, distinct from all others. If applying this rule to all particular precepts was too difficult a task for the author of the manuscript, or of the Sons of Oil, what must it be to weak but well meaning christians. The difficulty to them must be the greater, from the circumstance, that the New Testament, which contains the religion of christians, having declared that this law is wholly abolished, has given no directions for making a discrimination of its precepts.
Divine wisdom has so intimately connected those precepts together, that they could not be separated. They, as a system, being the symbol or type of the New Testament church, were, like it, one body with many members. To this the whole language in scripture, applied to this institution, agrees that Israel was a holy nation, a kingdom of priests, a peculiar people, all ritually sanctified and holy; their kings were equally types of the Saviour, as their priests were. Mount Zion, the city of the king, was equally typical, as Mount Moriah, where the temple stood; the land was holy and symbolical of the heavenly rest. Joshua, the chief magistrate and military commander, who introduced Israel into the land, was an illustrious type of the Saviour, in that very act. The author must mark out his line of discrimination more distinctly, before he can build a system on it. For illustration, it may do well enough, if not carried too far; but it is always to be kept in mind, that it is without foundation in scripture; neither prophets nor apostles have made it.
On examining the law itself, we find it composed of a number of different ordinances, each of them called a law, such as the law of the trespass offering, the law of the meat offering, the law of the passover, and the law for leprosy, &c. but when they are spoken of as a system or code, all are mentioned as one law; there are no such expressions to be found in the Old or New Testament, as the ceremonial law, or the judicial law; all are thus intimately mixed and connected together, as if done on purpose to prevent separating what God had so joined together.
I have not slightly examined this question, to support an argument, but strictly for edification: and I find the law of Moses above fifty times expressly named or alluded to in the Old Testament, and as often, at least, in the New Testament, always as one law, and in no place with the distinction of judicial and ceremonial laws. The distinction, however, between moral and positive laws, is easily traced: but I agree with Dr. Owen,6 in his saying, that Christ in fulfilling all righteousness in the room and place of sinners, fulfilled every law that man had broken.
That I am not singular in rejecting this distinction, it might be sufficient to state, that neither the Saviour, nor his apostles, have made it. But it is also rejected by human authorities of the highest character, as the most able advocates of the truth of the christian religion. I shall only in this place insert a quotation from Locke, whose name, along with Bacon, Boyle, Newton and Addison, is the boast of christians, in opposition to the unfounded boasts of deists, claiming learning and talents, as belonging to their ranks.7 Those great men, while they opened the gates of science to Europe, or demonstrated the extent and use of human reason, were at the same time, the ablest advocates for the truth of christianity, and set the brightest example of its power on the heart and life.
Locke says, “the law of Moses is not obligatory upon christians. There is nothing more frivolous than that common distinction of moral, judicial and ceremonial law. No positive law can oblige any but those on whom it was enjoined. ‘Hear, O Israel,’ &c. restrains the obligation of the law to that people.—By a mistake of both Christians and Mahometans, it has been applied to other nations. The Israelitish nation themselves never did so, nor do the dispersed Israelites yet do so.”
Though the Westminster divines make the distinction, they state it in such a manner, as perfectly to agree with the above.8 Chap. xix. after stating, that the law of nature was revealed in the ten commandments, delivered by God on Sinai, they say, sect. 3. “Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church, under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances; partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated under the new testament.” Sect. 4. “To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.” The general equity of this, or any system, is in so far, the moral law; which, in the next section, those divines declare binds all men for ever.
Thus, those venerable divines agree, with Locke and the apostles in opinion, that Christians are wholly set free from, the law of Moses, or peculiar law of Israel; and this opinion was adopted by the church of Scotland, in what has been reputed her purest times; and is still the opinion of all the now divided branches of the Presbyterian, and also of the Independent, churches, who adhere to the Westminster Confession.
Among the very numerous and respectable authorities, that might be added, I insert the following extracts from the very learned, orthodox and pious Dr. Witsius, in his oeconomy of the divine covenants.
In his first volume, the author shews that the moral law was unchangeable, and that it was the foundation of all God’s other solemn transactions with fallen men, and totally distinct from positive or voluntary laws, which had relation to men as fallen. In vol. 3, chap. 14. entitled Of the abrogation of the Old Testament, meaning thereby, as the apostles did, Heb. ix. 18–20. the Sinai covenant, consecrated with blood, typical of the New Testament, purchased with the blood of Jesus, the testator of the new testament, for the redemption of transgressors, but not including the prophets, &c. which we, perhaps improperly, call the old testament. The Saviour and the apostles called them the Scriptures. It is to be noticed, that he also spoke of the Sinai covenant wholly as ceremonial; because all the civil administration of it was so intimately interwoven with the ritual, that it could not exist without it; and because all was contrived so as to be a shadow of good things to come. These observations are necessary for the right understanding of the following extracts:
“To begin with the first: The foundation of the moral laws, whose perpetuity and unchangeableness is unquestionable truth, is of quite a different nature from the ceremonial institutions, as appears from the following considerations: Because the former are founded on the natural and immutable holiness of God, which cannot but be the examples to rational creatures, and therefore cannot be abolished, without abolishing the image of God: but the latter are founded on the free and arbitrary will of the lawgiver; and, therefore, only good because he commanded; and consequently, according to the different nature of times, may be either prescribed, or otherwise—prescribed or not prescribed at all. This distinction was not unknown to the Jewish doctors,” &c. p. 320. v. 3.
“But let us proceed to the second head, namely, that God intended they should cease in their appointed time. This is evident from the following arguments: First, the very institution of the ceremonies leads to this: for since they were given to one people, with limitations to their particular state, country, city and temple; the legislator never intended, that they should be binding on all, whom he favours with saving communion with himself, and at all times and in all places. But this was really the case. And the Jews have always boasted of this, that the body of the Mosaic law was only given to their nation, even to the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob, Deut. xxxiii. 4. and God confined it to their generations, Gen. xvii. 7. Lev. vii. 36. and xxiv. 3. But as their generations are now confounded, and the Levites by no certain marks can be distinguished from other tribes, or the descendents of Aaron from other Levites; it follows, that the law ceases, that was confined to the distinction of generations, which almost all depended on the tribe of Levi, and the family of the priests. God also appointed a certain country for the observation of the ceremonies. Deut. iv. 14. vi. 1. and xi. 31, 32.” p. 323.
The learned author, after shewing at large the typical consecration of the Sinai covenant, and writing it in a perishable book, distinct from the moral law wrote on tables of stone, in reply to such as, with Mr. Wylie, maintain that part of it remains binding on Christians, viz. what is not expressly repealed or mitigated in the new testament, observes,
“From these things, however, it is easy to conclude, that the new covenant was not promised to stand together with the old, and be superadded to supply its defects; but to come in place of the former, when that, as obscure and typical, should be entirely removed; which is plain from the words, Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, &c. Inthat he saith a new covenant, he hath made the first old: now that which decayeth and waxeth old, is ready to vanish away. Heb. viii. 13.”
In answer to the objection, that it does not necessarily follow, that the mention of a new covenant altogether removes the old, &c. he says,
“It is begging the question. A direct contradiction to God’s word. God says, I will make a new covenant, not like the former, which was made void. Men venture to answer, It is not an establishment of a new covenant, but a repetition of the old; and so far confirms the old. Yet, at the same time, this was its abrogation. We say, here is no promise of a new law, because none can be better or more perfect than that of the ten commandments. The new covenant is opposed to the old covenant, and is substituted in its place, and completes it, so as likewise, as we have shewn, to put an end to it.” p. 236, 237.
“The laws of the covenant, of which the ark was the symbol, were not only the ten commandments, but all the laws of Moses: accordingly, the book which contained them was placed in the side of the ark. That symbol, therefore, of the covenant, being thus abolished, both the covenant itself, and the laws, as far as they comprised the condition of that covenant, are abrogated. The case of the laws of the decalogue is different from the rest: for they were engraven on tables of stone, and laid up in the ark, to represent that they were to be the perpetual rule of holiness, and perpetually to be kept in the heart, both of the Messiah and his mystical body: while the others were only written on paper or parchment, and placed in the sides of the ark; seeing their being engraven on stone, and kept in the ark, signified their indelible inscription on, and continual preservation in, the hearts of believers.” p. 342.
The learned doctor, treating of the benefits of the new testament or covenant, and abrogation of the old, says, “Immunity from the forensic or judicial laws of the Israelites, not as they were of universal, (moral law) but of particular right or obligation, made for the Jews, as such, distinguishing them from other nations, adapted to the genius of the people and country, and subservient, for the greatest part, to the levitical priesthood, with which almost the whole polity was interwoven.” p. 370.
In page 7, Mr. Wylie proves, in several premises, that all moral, physical, and delegated power, &c. is necessarily and independently in God, and that all should be done for his glory. This, none but atheists, if there are such, deny. Practical atheists, who live as if there were no God, are numerous; but atheists in theory, I never was personally acquainted with. Many, indeed, have been burned for atheism and blasphemy, who were neither atheists nor blasphemers. This was the lot of the primitive Christians, and also of the Waldenses9 and other martyrs, under the tyrannical union of church and state, in the apostate christian church. However Vanini and others have publicly taught atheism, Spinala, and even Hume and others have taught doctrines that evidently lead to it, though they have denied the charge.10 An atheist in opinion, must believe miracles of a more extraordinary kind than any that are recorded in the scriptures. They must believe that every thing created itself in the order and connexion in which it is found. To this purpose, it was well observed by one condemned to be burned for atheism by the inquisition, who, when going to the stake, lifted a straw, and holding it up, said, That if he denied the being of a God, that straw would condemn him, for it could not make itself. The Hussites, &c. were burned for blasphemy—They blasphemed the church, by denying her infallibility.11 They blasphemed the Blessed Virgin, by not worshipping her as the immaculate mother of God.
Thus much I observe by the way, with a view to the numerous charges of atheism, blasphemy, &c. interspersed through the Sons of Oil, accompanied with an unusual number of notes of astonishment, to supply, it is presumed, the want of argument, of which I design to take no detailed notice.
In page 8, after having stated what, in his opinion, is the extent of Christ’s power, he says, “This universal dominion committed to him, as it respects the human family, in its administrations, consists in two great branches; namely, magistracy and ministry.”
He then proceeds to show, in eight particulars, wherein these branches differ; and again, in seven particulars, wherein they agree, to the 30th page. In page 15, he says, “They agree in this, that God the Father, Son and Spirit, is the original fountain from which they flow. To suppose any power or authority whatever not originating from God, essentially considered, would necessarily lead to atheistical principles. It must therefore emanate from him. Rom. xiii. 1. ‘There is no power but of God.’ To the same purpose is 2 Cor. v. 18. ‘All things are of God.’ Civil power was already shewn to originate from God, as Creator, and to be founded on his universal dominion, as the King of nations. Jer. x. 7. And though all ecclesiastical power flows immediately from Christ, as Mediator, yet it is radically and fontally in a three-one God. All the right and authority of Christ, as Mediator, is originally derived from God, as well as civil power.”
If this had not been laid down as a fundamental principle of his system, it might have passed unnoticed. The scripture texts which he applies to support this theory, were revealed for another purpose. Rom. xiii. 1. is expressly applicable to civil power. Of this the apostle says, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” In Cor. v. 18. the apostle is treating of the hope of glory, walking by faith, the terrors of the Lord as an excitement to be reconciled to him through Christ, and of the constraining love of Christ, as a reason why those that are in Christ, should be new creatures; and the apostle assures them that all these things, of which he is there treating, are of God, who had reconciled them to himself, and committed to the gospel ministry the word of reconciliation. There is not a word here about a civil branch of Christ’s kingdom, of which he himself testified that it was not of this world.
Man can have no competent knowledge of God, nor render to him any acceptable worship, but agreeably to the discoveries he has given of himself. To man, in his state of innocence, God revealed his divine perfections and his will, so far as was necessary for the worship and obedience required in that state. Even after man had revolted from God, so much of his divine perfections and of his will, are revealed in the works of creation and providence, and particularly, in the relation in which men stand to God, and to each other, as renders them without excuse in not knowing and worshipping him as the true God. This the apostle calls the law written in the hearts of the gentiles, by which their reason and judgment, viz. their conscience, was regulated in approving or condemning their own conduct. Rom. ii. 15.
After man had revolted from God, in addition to former discoveries, he revealed himself as merciful, as a God pardoning iniquity through a Mediator; but did not so clearly reveal the Deity, as subsisting in three distinct persons, as to render the belief of it a condition of holding communion with him in his ordinances, until by the coming of Christ in the flesh, by whom life and immortality, and particularly the doctrine of the trinity, the spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom, and the resurrection from the dead, were more fully brought to light, and henceforth became, fundamental articles of the faith of christians: consequently, whoever being favoured with the christian scriptures, worship God in any other way than he has therein revealed himself, worship a false God, and are, in so far, idolaters, however they may declaim against idolatry, superstition, popery, &c. in others.
The whole old and new testaments, and even the works of creation and providence, reveal the object of worship to be one God; but the new testament has not only clearly revealed that one God to subsist in three persons, but that christians, in the exercise of faith and worship, hold distinct communion with these three adorable persons. With the Father in love. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,” &c.—John iii. 16. With Christ in grace—John i. 14, 17. “The only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth—Of his fulness have all we received grace for grace—Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” And with the Holy Ghost in comfort—John xiv. 16, 26. “He shall give you another Comforter to abide with you—But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, shall teach you all things.” That well known text, commonly called the christian doxology, 2 Cor. xiii. 14. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all,” is full to the purpose, and is used to conclude the public worship in most, if not all, christian churches, however they may differ otherwise. It is so used even by the church of Rome.
In order to support his system, the author unites what God has most explicitly kept separate. Page 8. “This delegated power is most conspicuous in the person of the Mediator. Into his hands universal dominion is committed. Matth. xxviii. 18—“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” From this he deduces what I have quoted above, viz. “This universal dominion committed to him, as respects the human family, consists in two great branches; namely, magistracy and ministry.” Again, “though both these branches are put under the Mediator’s controul, yet they are so under different regulations,” &c.
Here it is to be observed, that the author confounds the administration of providence given to Christ, by the Father, whereby he rules over men, angels and devils, in consequence of the Father having given all power in heaven and earth unto him, with that kingdom “which he purchased with his own blood;” Acts xx. 28. and which is, Eph. i. 14. called “the purchased possession,” viz. the church, called a peculiar people, &c. 1 Pet. ii. 9. and in Eph. i. 23. “His body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all;” and that this evident distinction might be left without a shadow of doubt, the apostle says. Col. i. 24. “For his (viz. Christ’s) body’s sake, which is the church.” The church, in contradistinction from the kingdom of this world, is frequently called the kingdom of God.
That Christ’s purchased kingdom was specifically distinct from the general kingdom of Providence, the administration of which was given to Christ, is evident from the whole doctrine and practice of Christ and his apostles. They absolutely declined interfering with the government of nations, or the relations among men, otherwise than by expounding and applying the moral law to the conscience. They had recourse only to spiritual armour, and engaged only in spiritual warfare. The Saviour’s solemn dying testimony, however, ought to be conclusive with every sober enquiring mind. When he was brought before Pontius Pilate, by whom he was asked, “Art thou the king of the Jews?” To this the Saviour answered: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence.” This the apostle calls the good confession which Christ Jesus witnessed before Pontius Pilate. On this precious, but much neglected text, the learned Dr. B. Hoadly, bishop of Bangor, preached a celebrated sermon, which procured the resentment of his high church brethren, but having the testimony of Christ and the apostles on his side, he succeeded in an arduous controversy, occasioned by that excellent sermon, a few lines from which I will insert.12
“The laws of his kingdom, therefore, as Christ left them, have nothing of this world in their view; no tendency either to the exaltation of some in worldly pomp and dignity, or to the absolute dominion over the faith and religious conduct of others of Christ’s subjects. It is essential to it, that all his subjects, in what station soever they may be, are equally subjects to him; and that no one of them, any more than another, hath authority, either to make laws for Christ’s subjects, or to impose a sense of their own on the established laws of his kingdom, which amounts to the same thing as making new laws.”
If the laws of Christ in their principles, as well as in their extent, are perfect, with respect to the rules and orders of his own house, which all the different denominations of presbyterians profess to allow; the author’s system is contrary to this profession: for neither in the fourth chapter to the Ephesians, nor in the twelfth chapter to the Romans, nor in any other portion of the New Testament that treats of the officers or orders of Christ’s house, do I find kings or civil magistrates of any kind of political governments, enumerated. They, therefore, can have no legal authority in the church, much less can they have any legislative authority over it. This I take to be a fair conclusion.
I object to the use of the phrase “delegated power,” as applied by the author to the Saviour, with respect to his kingdom. It is not used in scripture. A delegate is of the same import as a deputy. The power of deputies or delegates among men, is always subordinate, and subject to the instructions and controul of the superior, and likewise liable to be removed; this is implied in the very term. This can by no means apply to Christ’s spiritual kingdom. The apostle does not call Christ a delegate, “but a son over his own house, which house are ye,” viz. the church. Nor can it be, with propriety, applied to him as administering the kingdom of providence. It is properly a given kingdom committed unto him, if we are contented with the Saviour’s own words. Mat. xxviii. 18. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” John v. 22. “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son of Man.”
In pages 9 and 10, he says, “both these branches are put under the Mediator’s controul, yet they are so under different regulations;” and in p. 15, he says, “and though all ecclesiastical power flows immediately from Christ as Mediator, yet it is radically and fontally in a three-one God. All the right and authority of Christ as Mediator, is originally derived from God, as well as civil power.” I find no ground for saying, that in Christ’s administration of his church in this world, it is put under him; that applies to his enemies, whom be rules with a rod of iron, and who are obliged to submit, and to the general administration of providence. After he hath put all his enemies under his feet, and the last enemy, death, the mediatory administration of the visible church on earth will be finished; but it is the present administration of which we now speak. Under it, the church is not said to be put under Christ, but united to him as branches to the vine. His admitting only “some different considerations or regulations in the administration,” but no essential difference in the source from which they flow; and his leading the whole, with respect to the present administration, up to God, fontally considered, looks very like a species of Socinianism.13 There are such as consider all the doctrine of the trinity to be only figurative descriptions of the various dispensations of the one true God, or modes of acting, viz. In one character he is represented as the Father; in another character as the Son, and in a third as the Holy Ghost, agreeable to the different energies that are manifested. This doctrine I have heard taught with as much ingenuity and confidence as the reverend author inculcates his theory.
Through the weakness of our capacity, and the imperfection of language, we are under the necessity of speaking of the things pertaining to God, in words adapted to the affairs of men, which, however, must always have a very limited application, especially when they relate to the being and operations of Jehovah; and with respect to which, it is wrong to make a man an offender for the wrong or doubtful application of a word. A word also may safely be applied to the things of God for one purpose, which would be erroneous when applied for another. With respect to the doctrine of the trinity, &c. the same terms are frequently used on both sides of the Socinian controversy, but with different views.
The term delegated power, so frequently and indiscriminately applied to the Saviour by the reverend author, has been applied to Christ by some orthodox commentators, but by none that I know of for the same purposes, or in the same indiscriminate manner.
Christians, agreeably to the example of the apostles, not only worship Jehovah one God, but they worship that God in three distinct persons, each being God; and they worship and hold communion with each of these adorable persons, as they are distinguished by the personal properties ascribed to them in the New Testament; and with each of them as God. Christ had power, even on earth, to forgive sin; and it was admitted by his enemies, that none but God can forgive sin. He was prayed to as God, not only for the healing of diseases, but for grace to believe: “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” “Only speak the word, and my servant shall be healed.” These were expressions of independent, and not of deputized or limited powers. This is confirmed by the apostles, who, when they wrought miracles, declared that it was not through their own power and holiness, but through the power of Christ, then risen from the dead. How the act of one adorable person of the trinity is ascribed to the whole trinity; and how, in worshipping and holding communion with one, we worship and hold communion with all the adorable trinity, is not now to my purpose to describe.
The power of the apostles to preach the gospel and to work miracles, was truly and properly a delegated and limited power. They declare themselves “Embassadors of Christ,” 2 Cor. v. 20. And “messengers of the churches,” 2 Cor. viii. 23. The power with which Moses was invested, was a delegated or deputized and limited power. It was the power of a servant, and as such contrasted with the power of Christ, which was that of a Son over his own house, whose house is the church. Heb. iii. 5, 6. Consequently, by taking delegated or deputized power in the sense in which the author has applied it, we put the authority of Christ, and of Moses, and the apostles, on an equal footing. This did not the Holy Ghost in the scriptures.
In doing this, however, he is not without company. All the Socinians will join with him. They will worship God through his deputy or delegate, Jesus Christ. They will even admit him to have more extraordinary powers than Moses, &c. though of the same kind. They will admit any thing of that kind, short of supreme deity, and independent power in and over his own house. Not only so, but he will find associates in the Mahometan camp.14 They teach that Jesus had a delegated power to work miracles, &c. On this principle he might receive the right hand of fellowship from the Muslem church; with respect to which, I agree with the learned Faber, and many other divines, that it is an apostate branch of the christian church, and not strictly heathen.15
The reverend author agrees also with the Mahometans in the method of propagating and enforcing religion, by the sword of the civil magistrate; but they would on just grounds deny that ever Jesus, or his apostles, authorised such a method, and would claim it to their own prophet. In this controversy, the reverend author must fail; for he certainly can produce no authority for propagating the christian religion by the sword, or lesser punishments, from the new testament; nor, as I have shewn elsewhere, even from the peculiar Sinai covenant. Having thus brought himself, in so great a measure, in unison with the Mahometan church, he and they may be left to settle what differences remain. Before we have done, we will find him in as near a connexion with the other apostate christian church, viz. of Rome, in which the blood of the saints is found. For the principles of Mahomet, and the propagation of that extraordinary delusion, I refer to the first volume of the Modern Universal History; and for a compend of it, to the Abbe Millot’s Elements, and to the Encyclopaedia.16
The author, however, intermixes his mistakes with some great truths. Page 10, he says, these two great branches, as he calls them elsewhere, “differ in their immediate origin, as already hinted. Magistracy flows immediately from God Creator, and is predicated upon his universal dominion over all nations. And as it flows from God Creator, the common Parent, and Head of all, the law of nature, common to all men, must be the immediate rule of all its administrations. A relation common to all, should be regulated by a rule common to all. All stand in the same relation to God, considered as Creator and Moral Governor. The standard for regulating this relation, must, of course, be common. This standard is the law of nature, which all men necessarily possess. Revelation is introduced as a rule, by the requisitions of the law of nature, which binds men to receive with gratitude, whatever God is pleased to reveal; and to adhere to it, as the perfect rule, under pain of condemnation, and being treated as rebels against his moral authority.”
Page 11. “Magistracy respects things external, relating immediately to the outward man.” And again, “The magistratical power is lordly and imperial. It belongs to its functionaries to exercise dominion, as the vicegerents of God; use compulsory measures with the disobedient, and enforce obedience to the laws, of which they are the executors.” And again, page 12, “The immediate and proper end of all civil power, is, that the good of the commonwealth may be provided for, their temporal safety and civil liberty secured upon the footing of the moral law.” Page 13. “Civil power may be vested in one or more. This is left to the discretion of the body politic, and is hence called ‘an ordinance of man.’ 1 Pet. ii. 13. Whatever the particular form be, whether monarchical or republican, it is legitimate, and entitled to obedience, provided the constitution be agreeable to the moral law.” Again, page 14, “The civil power extends to all persons resident within the realm, be their estate, character or condition, what it may. Rom. xiii. 1. Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.”
The above is extracted from the particulars wherein he states that his civil and ecclesiastical branches differ; and to these I cheerfully agree. I am sorry that I cannot agree with some other positions on this subject.
In page 9, the author says, speaking of civil government, “It existed previously to the fall, and would necessarily have existed, even had we never revolted from God.” “Civil government does not, as some modern politicians affirm, originate either in the people, as its fountain, or in the vices consequent upon the fall. Among the angels, who retained their primitive rectitude, we find certain orders, suggested by the denominations of Archangels, Thrones, Dominions, Principalities and Powers. Col. i. 16. This testifies regular subordination among them, agreeably to the constitutional laws of their nature.”
Why did the reverend author adorn, exclusively, the angels who retained their primitive rectitude, with privileged orders? Did he not know that the new testament, Matt. ix. 34. dignifies Beelzebub with the honorary title of prince of devils—and John xii. 34. the Saviour dignifies him with the title of the prince of this world, and in Eph. vi. 12. believers are represented as having to contend with principalities and powers; and that in Col. ii. 15. Christ is represented as having spoiled those principalities, and as having made a shew of them openly? Why did not the author admit the honour of privileged orders among the fallen angels, as well as those who kept their original rectitude? This was an unauthorised insult on the fallen angels, such as Michael the archangel did not think it proper to make.
This affords, however, a reason in addition to such as he has afterwards given, why he cannot homologate, that is, acknowledge the government of the United States. They have no principalities; they have no archangels, nor archbishops; they have no hereditary dominions, nor honorary titles, but they believe they have acted agreeably to the law of their nature, which brought them all into the world with equal rights, though not with equal capacities to maintain those rights. The author is requested to explain what the law of the nature of angels, to which he appeals in support of privileged orders, was. Were they propagated by one pair, and did they pass a long probation, before they were in a situation to institute civil governments and privileged orders? Or, were they created together and at once, and their government and order instituted immediately by their Creator, suitably to the place and station in which they were to be employed? Till the author answers these questions, we are not bound to apply the government of angels to the government of men; because we believe the laws of their nature are not the same. He speaks of modern philosophers, &c. He himself is the only modern, or at least, novel philosopher, I have met with on that subject.
If, as the author asserts, civil government existed previously to the fall, he is requested to inform us, who were the privileged orders, principalities or powers, that exercised the government, and who were the subordinate officers and subjects. The scripture informs us of only one man and his wife, of the human family, existing before the fall. Does the author believe, with some others, that a numerous race was created before Adam, and that he was created to be their sovereign? or, does he mean that civil government existed in the Divine decree before the fall? To the last I agree; but at the same time, and in the same manner, I believe that the reverend author and myself existed.
It appears, in examining the Sons of Oil, that at least one great object of civil government, in the opinion of the author, is the execution of penalties, viz. to stone, burn, hang, or otherwise punish, such as did not believe or worship agreeably to his own opinion of the will of God, or, at least, the opinion of the civil magistrate. He is seriously asked, what crimes, heresies or unbelief, took place before men revolted from God, for which such penalties could be executed!
The reverend author has, in the prosecution of his work, treated of ecclesiastic government in connexion with the civil, as branches of the same government; thus connecting what the Saviour and his apostles, with the greatest care, kept separate. But as every thing respecting the church of Christ in the new testament, is equally addressed to every hearer of the word, in that plain, yet dignified language, which is the peculiarity and ornament of the scriptures of truth, I will not intrude my observations on his thesis on that subject, unless it is thrust in my way. Therefore, I pass over without notice, seven particulars wherein he says his two great branches agree, and come to his fourth head, page 20, which he says is “to shew what concern the civil branch should take with the ecclesiastic, or enquire how far the civil power, circa sacra, reaches.”
This power, circa sacra, not being mentioned nor defined in the new testament, nor invested by Christ or his apostles in the civil magistrate, christians have nothing to do with it. I know it is a term used in the scramble for power, which has often taken place in national churches. The church of Christ is the same in all nations. It is built on the foundationof the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone. Eph. ii. 20. For other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. iii. 11. National churches, as such, being founded on human fallible authority, are not, in their national character, churches of Christ. I agree, however, with the learned Bishop Hoadly, (himself a dignitary of a national church) that they may be schools of instruction, and may, as well as several other denominations, contain Christ’s disciples within them.17
The author attempts to support his unscriptural power, circa sacra, by a quotation from Deut. vii. 5. “Destroy their altars,” &c. This, and every part of that law of peculiarity, all the requirements of which have been fulfilled, and the law itself abolished after it had served the purposes intended by the divine Lawgiver, having been fully spoken to already, to that I refer, and pass it over at this time, and every other quotation from that law, though I know in it the author’s great strength lies; for he carefully avoids the authority of Christ and his apostles in their decisions.
In page 27, he says, “Thus, the civil authority is concerned, in sanctioning and ratifying the laws of the Most High God,” &c. Again, “As it is his duty to ratify the law of God, in like manner he ought to sanction, by his civil authority, the decrees of ecclesiastical courts, when agreeable to the law of God,” &c.
In page 30, he says, “He (the civil magistrate) hath a right to judge of the decrees of ecclesiastical assemblies, whether they are agreeable to the law of God, the supreme law of the land.” Again he says, “Before he gives his sanction to any church deed, he must bring it to this sacred touch-stone; if it agrees therewith, he ought to ratify it, if not, he has not only a right to reject it, but he is also bound to stamp his negative upon it.” Thus the magistrate’s discretion is, with him the test of truth.
“This ratification of it is solely civil, and similar to his sanctioning of civil ordinances.”
“If this power is denied him, he must be considered as a being of no discretion, and, consequently, unfit to be a civil magistrate. To suppose him bound to ratify whatever the church might decree, without previous examination and conviction of its propriety, would make him a mere tool, fit for nothing but propping up the crazy chair of the man of sin.”
In the above quotations compared, in order to come at their true meaning, we have the reverend author’s principles fully developed. In my first view of his book, I had a favourable opinion of the author as a pious christian minister, though probably, like other christians, mistaken in some points. But when I found him talking about the civil magistrate sanctioning and ratifying the laws of the Most High God, I was a little alarmed, but consoled myself with the opinion, that he did not understand or mean what he expressed; that he only meaned that he should ratify or sanction laws agreeable to the laws of God: but when I read, in page 30, that this ratification of it is solely civil, and similar to his sanctioning civil ordinances, I was so astonished, that I would have laid the book down without reading further; but reasons existed which induced me to proceed, though with reluctance.
Before we proceed further, it is proper to examine, by the strictest rules, the terms made use of by the reverend author. The term ratify as explained by Johnson, the great lexicographer of the English language, and others, means to confirm and settle.18 The term sanction, means the act of confirmation, which gives to any thing its obligatory power, or a law or decree ratified. This sense of the word, I find, is confirmed by numerous authors of the greatest name, and must be conclusive on the author, who was educated in a British seminary. It is, in fact, agreeable to common usage.
In this country, laws are passed, with, or without, a sanction, or penalty, as the legislature think proper. If a penalty, or sanction, is annexed, to enforce the execution of a law, it is a part of the law itself. A law may exist without such a sanction; but, it is presumed, in no country, can any thing be a law until it is ratified by the authority prescribed by the government. A clerk, or a chairman of a committee, may write, or a legislative branch may pass a bill, but it is not a law, until it is ratified in due form. So also it is with a patent for land, &c. I am ashamed of dwelling so long on so plain a case.
Christians had usually thought that the law of God was perfect and fully sanctioned and ratified, as it came to the first of men, and as a new edition of it was given on Mount Sinai, and also as explained and applied in the New Testament. They have now to learn, from the reverend author, that it is not a law until it is ratified and sanctioned by the civil magistrate. Common sense dictates, that nothing can be a law till it is ratified, and that it must be ratified by the highest authority: the reverend author says this is the civil magistrate; thus making the civil magistrate superior to God.
When Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason was first presented to me, I read a few pages of it and laid it aside.19 A gentleman near me rallied me, on the account of my (as he supposed) delicacy; he took it up, and said he would read it throughout; but he soon laid it past, not on account of the reasons it assigned, but on account of the indecency of the language: with this book my feelings were somewhat hurt, but nothing in comparison to what they were on reading the Sons of Oil, where the author says that “the civil magistrate’s ratification of the laws of the Most High God, is similar to his sanctioning of civil ordinances; that this ratification was solely civil,” &c. Thomas Paine was a professed deist—the reverend author is a professed christian, and yet on this point he has equalled even Thomas Paine in deism.20 Civil ordinances, indeed, have no force until they are ratified according to the forms prescribed; and according to the author, the laws of God stand in need of this ratification, before they have the force of laws; for nothing can be a law till it is ratified. This, however, is too plain a case to be dwelt longer upon. I had, not long since, left the author, among the Muslems, to contend about their respective claims for the authority of hanging, burning, &c. I have now found him encamped with deists, we will pursue his meanderings a little further, perhaps we may find the reverend author in some safe retreat. He has, perhaps, taken shelter under the expansive shade of human infallibility, though he may not acknowledge the refuge he has taken.
In page 8, the author states, as before quoted, the dominion of Christ to consist of two great branches, namely, magistracy and ministry, or as he afterwards explains it, civil and ecclesiastic branches, of which he says, p. 9. “Ecclesiastical power is delegated to him,” &c. Of this delegation I have spoken already, and shewed that Christ is the head of the church, which he purchased with his own blood, and that the ministers of the gospel are his delegates or deputies, not to enact laws for Christ’s house, but to execute the laws which Christ, the church’s lawgiver, has already made and published in the New Testament, which concludes with a prohibition, under the most severe penalty, pronounced against such as add to, or diminish from, his law. This solemn conclusion is worthy to be inserted at large. “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of this prophecy, God shall take away his name out of the book of life.”
I agree with Dr. Owen, and other learned Puritan divines, that no such ecclesiastic authority (or branch, as the author is pleased to call it) as has been instituted by national churches, or even by churchmen in the third century, when they assumed a law making power over Christ’s house, and the falling away foretold by the apostle commenced, was instituted by Christ or his apostles. It was an addition to the laws of Christ, and God added to them all the plagues which the church underwent, through the long and dark night of the grand apostacy.
To prevent being misunderstood, I explicitly declare my opinion, that neither church nor state have any law-making power in the church of Christ. That the state has a legislative authority to prescribe rules of civil life to all its citizens or subjects, not contrary to the moral law of nature, but has no authority to interfere with the worship of God, further than to afford protection in the exercise of it, so that christians may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 1 Tim. ii. 2. This was all the apostle enjoined Timothy and the church to desire or pray for. The power of the ministers of the gospel extends no further than to declare what the will of Christ is, as revealed in his word, and to administer his ordinances. They have no power to institute new ordinances, nor to annex new qualifying conditions, to entitle believers to the enjoyment of such ordinances as Christ has instituted; therefore, the power of the gospel ministry is not improperly said, by some, to be only ministerial and declarative; and by others, to be executive.
Even in national churches, except the church of Rome, the clergy are not admitted to exercise a legislative authority. This is claimed and exercised by the state: and even in England, which, with respect to church government and ceremonies, made the least remove from the church of Rome of any of the reformed churches, the state does not profess to make decrees to bind the conscience, with respect to the worship of God. In the 20th article of that national church, it is said, “The church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith;” and it concludes by saying, “it ought not to decree any thing against God’s word; and besides the same, it ought not to enforce any thing to be believed of necessity to salvation.” Even with respect to general councils, in the following article it is said, “Wherefore, things ordained by them as necessary to salvation, have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be taken from the holy scriptures:” yet they persecuted such as did not approve their rites and ceremonies.
The learned divines and gentlemen appointed by the two houses of Parliament to meet at Westminster, in order to give advice on such questions as Parliament would propound to them, with respect to a proposed revision of the establishment of the national religion, in the 31st chapter say, “All synods and councils since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore, they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice.” In the revision of the 39 articles of the church of England, by that assembly, scarcely any change is made.21 The words are, “The holy scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be believed as an article of faith, or necessary to salvation.”
All who are acquainted with the nature of government, must at once see the absurdity of considering civil government, and the government of the church of Christ, as different branches of the same government. In all free governments, the governing power is separated into different departments or branches, such as, the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary. These three being exercised by one person, or by one body of men, is, in the opinion of the celebrated Montesquieu, the definition of tyranny.22 In most free governments, in order to secure mature deliberation, the legislature is divided into two branches, viz. senate and representatives. The concurrence of both is necessary to pass a law. In Britain, the king has a complete negative on passing the laws, and so have his governors in the colonies. In several governments in the United States, the executive has a qualified negative, that is, so far as to send it back for reconsideration, and to require the concurrence of two thirds. This is the case with the federal government; but all is one government, under one fundamental law, and that varying in different states agreeable to that discretion which the author himself, page 14, says they have a right to exercise: “Whatever the form be, whether monarchical or republican, it is legitimate, and entitled to obedience.” Now, I enquire, what place or department, in this machine of government, has he left for the ecclesiastical branch, wherein to operate? It could not act in passing laws—that belongs to the legislature. It could not execute laws—that belongs to the executive. It cannot be employed in applying the law to cases as they arise—this belongs to the judiciary. Ecclesiastical government, as instituted in national churches, by human authority, is in so far, the ordinance of man; but few of these governments give that branch much share even in its own government. In England, the bishops in parliament do not sit as clergymen, but as Barons, in right of the barony attached to the diocese. They have no ecclesiastic branch; and the church of Rome has no civil branch.
On the author’s own principle, laid down page 12, viz. “But ecclesiastical power is altogether ministerial,” it is well known that ministerial power is necessarily a subordinate character under the government, and not a component part or branch of the government itself. Ministerial characters are agents of the executive power, whether they act at home or abroad; therefore cannot be a branch of the government itself. Hence, in scripture language, it always means one who serves, and not one who commands, or makes laws. Indeed, in this instance, the reverend author has in so far defined ecclesiastic power agreeable to the gospel; it being altogether ministerial. It cannot be at all legislative; that is to say, have power to make laws. How then can he call it a great branch of any government? Of a political government it is evident it cannot be a branch; and it is still more evident that it cannot make laws for the government of the church of Christ. Even the apostles were only “able ministers of the new testament, approving themselves as the ministers of God.” 2 Cor. iii. 6. and vi. 4. When they wrought miracles, or prescribed laws to the church, they did so solely by the authority of Christ, the church’s head and lawgiver. They did not claim, or attempt to exercise the authority of a branch of the government of either church or state. They disclaimed “being lords over God’s heritage,” 1 Pet. v. 3. or “having dominion over the faith of the church.” 2 Cor. i. 24.
I admit the originality of the author’s idea, page 8. “This universal dominion committed to him, (Christ) as it respects the human family, in its administrations, consists in two great branches, namely magistracy and ministry.” I say, I admit the thought to have the credit of originality, but not of prudence. He ought to have explored the ground with care, before he ventured to invite his friends to travel on it. I have already demonstrated, that the apostles disclaimed it. Constantine, an unbaptised christian, attempted something like it; but when he thought proper, exercised the power of both branches by his own authority. Finally, the ecclesiastic branch wrested it from the civil, and disposed of kings and kingdoms at their discretion, and made slaves of the souls of men.
The authority which the author gives to the civil magistrate, to ratify the laws of the Most High God, p. 27, and his asserting that this authority is similar, that is, equal to his sanctioning power of civil ordinances, (that is to say, they cannot be ordinances, or have any obligation, till they are ratified and sanctioned by the civil magistrate) is perfectly in unison with the learned Hobbes’ public conscience, viz. “that the only test of right or wrong is the laws of the commonwealth.”23
To this it may be objected, that he is only to ratify the laws of the Most High God, “acting as a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well,” and in like manner, “to sanction, by his civil authority, the decrees of ecclesiastical courts, when agreeable to the law of God, and calculated to promote his glory,” page 27; and page 30, “Before he gives his sanction to any church deed, he must bring it to this sacred touchstone (the divine law); if it agrees therewith, he ought to ratify it, if not, he has not only a right to reject it, but he is also bound to stamp his negative upon it.” This, indeed, looks plausible; but when qualified with what immediately follows, it will appear hollow. “He (the civil magistrate) must be considered as a being of no discretion, and, consequently, unfit to be a civil magistrate,” if he has not the power of ratifying the divine law, and the decrees of the church, similar to his ratifying civil laws. “To suppose him to ratify whatever the church might decree, without previous examination and conviction of its propriety, would make him a mere tool, fit for nothing but propping up the crazy chair of the man of sin.” This language applies equally to the laws of God, as to the decrees of the church, as in his opinion, both require the ratification of the civil magistrate; and they cannot be laws or ordinances, until they are ratified; and the magistrate, if he has the authority, and it be his duty, to ratify them, I admit that he must exercise his best judgment and moral discretion. Unless this is the case, it could not be a moral act, nor be obligatory.
It is proper to enquire, wherein does this differ from the doctrine of the church of Rome? Only in one particular. That church places the ratifying and sanctioning power of the law of God, in the Pope, the head of their church, to whom they openly ascribe infallibility, and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. The author places this very important and sacred trust, both with respect to the laws of God, and the decrees of the church, in the civil magistrate, to whom, by necessary implication, he must ascribe infallibility: for this is essential to the trust which the author reposes in him.
In another important particular, however, the author and the Pope more cordially agree. The creed of Pope Pius, declares its approbation of the scriptures, agreeable to the sense affixed to it by their church. The author approves of it, agreeable to the sense assigned to it by the ratifying and sanctioning discretion of the civil magistrate. Both of them agree, however, in applying the authority of scripture in support of this anti-christian claim. Protestants have long charged the church of Rome with arguing in a circle, which they call sophistry. For instance, the church of Rome appeals to the scriptures for the infallible authority of their church, and they also appeal to the church for the authority of scripture, agreeable to the sense assigned to it by itself. Agreeably to this, the reverend author attempts to prove the ratifying and sanctioning power of the civil magistrate from the scripture, and the authority and sense in which the scripture and church decrees ought to be received under civil penalties, is, according to him, to be determined by the civil magistrate’s discretion. Yet as the pope claims this power to the church, the author calls him Antichrist, and the man of sin with his crazy chair; and for claiming it to the state, papists call him an heretic, while, at the same time, they agree about the fundamental doctrine on which their respective systems are built, viz. that the scriptures are the law of the most high God, in that sense only in which it is ratified and sanctioned by human authority.
As the author professes to support the reformation testimony of the church of Scotland, it may be of use to examine what that testimony was. In doing this, I am at some loss for want of Calderwood’s history of that church, which I have not had an opportunity of examining for thirty years past, and of which a new edition ought to be encouraged; however, I have an opportunity of examining the Hind let loose, by the Rev. Alexander Shields, recognized and recommended by the reformed presbytery in Scotland, about fifty years since, in their judicial testimony.24
On period iv. p. 31. that reverend and acute author says—“Hitherto the conflict was for the concerns of Christ’s prophetical and priestly offices, against Paganism and Popery, but from the year 1570, and downward, the testimony is stated and gradually prosecuted for the rights, privileges, and prerogatives of Christ’s kingly office, which has been the peculiar glory of the church of Scotland, above all the churches of the earth,” &c. The witnesses of that day made such great account of it, that they encouraged one another to suffer for it as the greatest concern. In support of this being the testimony of the church at that period, he inserts a number of testimonies of reformation divines of the greatest note for talents and integrity, which that age produced, such as Forbes, Welch, Knox, Bruce, the two Melvins, Lindsay, Black, the famous Mr. Davidson, &c. men who were ornaments to that church and nation.25 I can, however, insert but a few extracts.
Mr. Knox, by many called the apostle of the Scottish reformation, was the disciple of Calvin,26 denounced anathemas against the civil government (branch in the reverend Mr. Wylie’s language) interfering with the church of Christ. The general assembly remonstrated to the king “that he had taken on him a spiritual power, which properly belongs to Christ, as king and only head of the church.” Mr. Andrew Melvin protests “that they were too bold (viz. the civil government) to take upon them to judge of the doctrine, and to controul the ambassadors of a greater than was there.” Mr. James Melvin wrote “that they had not only set up a new pope, and so became traitors to Christ, and had condescended to the chief errors of papistry, upon which all the rest depended; but further, they had granted more to the king, than ever the popes of Rome peaceably obtained.”
The above is perfectly in unison with all I have advanced, in opposition to the reverend author’s idol, viz. the civil magistrate’s authority to sanction and ratify the laws of the most high God, and the decrees of the ecclesiastic branch, the qualification and ordination of ministers, &c.
The commissioners of the general assembly, in support of the declinature of the Rev. Dr. Black, say, “there are two jurisdictions, the one spiritual, the other civil; the one respecting the conscience, the other respecting externals,” &c. The famous reformer, John Welch, while a prisoner, giving this testimony in favour of the independence of Christ’s kingdom, on the kingdoms of this world, viz. (the author’s civil branch) says, “These two points  that Christ is the head of his church,  That she is free in her government from all other jurisdiction except Christ’s—are the special causes of our imprisonment, being now convicted as traitors for maintaining thereof.” Again in 1606, the ministers offer a protestation to parliament, in perfect conformity to the above. There is much more to the same purpose in this period, testifying that Christ’s kingdom is not connected with, or dependent on the kingdoms of this world. How flagrantly opposed is the reverend Mr. Wylie to the church of Scotland, in the reformation period! Why did he appeal to the reformers and martyrs for Christ during the reformation, while his avowed principles were in direct opposition to theirs? They submitted to imprisonment, and banishment to foreign lands, in preference to ever appearing before the king and council to give account of their doctrine or ordination. The ordination of the precious Robert Bruce was questioned by king James and his council.27 These pious and zealous reformers of the church of Scotland, testified, in direct opposition to the new fangled doctrine of the reverend Mr. Wylie. How can he have the confidence to appeal to the reformers and martyrs! whose principles were so directly opposite to his own?
[1. ]Thomas Scott (1747–1821), Bible commentator, The Holy Bible with . . . Notes, 4 vols. (1788–1792).
[2. ]Matthew Henry (1662–1714), English Nonconformist divine and commentator, Exposition of the Old and New Testament [through Acts], 5 vols. (1708–1710).
[3. ]Herman Witsius (1636–1708), The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man, Comprehending a Complete Body of Divinity (orig. publ. Utrecht, The Netherlands, 1677).
[4. ]Sir William Blackstone (1723–1780), English jurist, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765–1769.
[5. ]William Whiston (1667–1752), English divine and mathematician, A New Theory of the Earth (1696); Thomas Burnet (d. 1750), English divine, The Argument Set Forth in a Late Book Entitled “Christianity as Old as the Creation” Reviewed and Confuted (1730); and Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon (1707–1788), French naturalist, Historie Naturelle (1749).
[6. ]John Owen (1616–1683): Puritan theologian and voluminous author.
[7. ]John Locke (1632–1704): English political and educational philosopher; Roger Bacon (c. 1214–1294): English scientist and philosopher; Robert Boyle (1627–1691): English natural philosopher and chemist; Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727): English scientist, mathematician, and philosopher; and Joseph Addison (1672–1719): English poet, essayist, and diplomat who, along with Richard Steele, published Tatler and Spectator.
[8. ]The Westminster divines were members of the Westminster Assembly (1643–1652). The assembly was called by the English Long Parliament to reform the Church of England. They wrote the Larger and Shorter Westminster catechisms, the Westminster Confession, the Directory of Public Worship, and the Form of Government. The assembly was made up of 30 laymen (20 from the House of Commons and 10 from the House of Lords), 121 English clergymen, and a delegation of Scottish Presbyterians. Although all were Calvinists in doctrine, the assembly represented four different opinions on church government: Episcopalian, Erastian, Independent, and Presbyterian. Its works were generally accepted by Presbyterians everywhere.
[9. ]The Waldenses dissented from the Roman Catholic Church. The movement originated about 1179 through the teaching of Petrus Waldus, a merchant of Lyon, France. He sought to revive the primitive pureness of living.
[10. ]Lucilio Vanini (c. 1583–1619), Italian philosopher, was burned at the stake in Toulouse, France, for atheism and witchcraft; Spinala is perhaps Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677): Dutch philosopher; and David Hume (1711–1776): Scottish philosopher.
[11. ]The Hussites followed the teachings of Jan Hus, the Czech reformer.
[12. ]Benjamin Hoadly (1676–1761) was named bishop in succession of Bangor, Hereford, Salisbury, and Winchester. A voluminous author and controversialist, Hoadly was leader of the “low church” faction in the Church of England.
[13. ]Socinianism is the rationalist religious system of Faustus Socinus (1539–1604) that rejected belief in the Trinity.
[14. ]The “Mahometan camp” refers to Islam and its believers.
[15. ]George Stanley Faber (1773–1854), A Dissertation on the Prophecies that have Been Fulfilled, are now Fulfilling, or Will Hereafter be Fulfilled Relative to the Great Period of 1260 Years, the Papal and Mohammedan Apostacies, the Tyrannical Reign of Antichrist, or the Infidel Power, and the Restoration of the Jews: To which is added, an Appendix, 1st American, from the 2nd London ed. (Boston: Andrews and Cummings, Greenough and Stebbins, 1808).
[16. ]Claude François Xavier Millot (1726–1785), Elements of General History, trans. from the French of Abbé Millot, first American ed. (Worcester, Mass.: Isaiah Thomas, 1789).
[17. ]See Hoadly, note 12, above.
[18. ]Samuel Johnson (1709–1784), English lexicographer, Dictionary of the English Language (1755).
[19. ]Thomas Paine (1737–1809), American patriot, deist/atheist, was author of Common Sense (1776) and The Age of Reason (1795).
[20. ]A deist rejects all supernatural revelation but believes that God exists as first cause while having no further interest in his creation.
[21. ]The Thirty-nine Articles is the basic statement of belief of the Anglican communion. It was written during the reign of Elizabeth I.
[22. ]Charles-Louis de Secondat (1689–1755): baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu. French political philosopher.
[23. ]Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679): English philosopher.
[24. ]David Calderwood (1575–1659), Scottish Presbyterian minister and historian, banished by James VI, A True History of the Church of Scotland, from the Beginning of the Reformation, until the End of the Reigne of King James VI (1678); and Alexander Shields (1660–1700), Scottish dissenter, A Hind Let Loose, or An Historical Representation of the Testimonies of the Church of Scotland for the Interest of Christ with the True State Thereof in All its Periods (1687).
[25. ]Patrick Forbes (1564–1635), Laird of Corse, was ordained at age forty-eight, and appointed Bishop of Aberdeen, in Scotland, in 1618, and chancellor of King’s College; John Welch (c. 1570–1622), Scottish Presbyterian minister, was convicted of high treason for his religious practice, banished from Britain in 1606, and lived most of the rest of his life in France; John Knox (1505–1572) was a leading Reformation figure in Scotland; Robert Bruce (1554–1631), Bruce of Kinnard, was a Scottish theologian, preacher, and statesman, who, for his opposition to James VI’s arbitrary proceedings and Episcopal leanings, was banished from Edinburgh; Andrew Melville (1545–1622), Scottish reformer who introduced Presbyterian organization into the Scottish churches, was confined for four years in the Tower of London by James I; James Melville (1556–1614), Scottish reformer and nephew of Andrew Melville, was exiled from Scotland in 1606; Sir David Lindsay of the Mount (1486–1555), Scottish poet and reformer, was a colleague of John Knox; Robert Black (1752–1817) served as a Presbyterian minister in Ireland; and John Davidson (c. 1549–1603), Scottish minister, stood as an antagonist to King James VI of Scotland.
[26. ]John Calvin (1509–1564), French theologian, was the leading figure in the Reformed segment of the Reformation.
[27. ]James VI (1566–1625), son of Mary Queen of Scots, reigned as King of Scotland from 1567 to 1603 (from 1583 without a regent), then as James I, King of England, from 1603 to 1625.