Objection answered concerning Establismentarianism ( a Nation’s acknowledgement of Christ’s rule)


Noted an observation that my buddy Josh Hicks blogged about and thought I would pass it along.  I am also adding something that Austin Williamson directed attention to on the Puritanboard.com from Robert Shaw’s commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 20. 

Just two excellent points I will note here quickly….

“And pray would you have all thieves, robbers, murderers, &c. to have full liberty in their courses, till their wickedness can be got rooted out of their heart?” John Brown of Haddington

This is an excellent point. When Jesus cleansed the temple he didn’t first change the hearts of evil men. He did cleanse it and give report of the Temple’s purpose. The Law must first be expounded in the first place for the word and incorruptible seed to take root. The Law of the Lord converts the soul as Psalm 19:7 states. When it is neglected we end up with the money changers even in the temple.

“…yet they are to repress these evils, not formally as sins, which is the prerogative of God, nor as scandals, in which light they come under the cognisance of the Church, but as crimes and injuries done to society.” Robert Shaw

And this is the issue. When the Law is neglected and relegated to naught men have no place to grow in their understanding that they are offensive and odious to God and harmful to their neighbors and life. It is for the community’s good that the Law of God be established, promoted, understood, and heeded. It is a wonderful thing that punishment for harming society is performed according to God’s law. It also reflects the judgment of God as it is supposed to do.

Here is the blog post Josh posted.

Usually, the first, most common, and least substantial objection -which is a straw man- that I have received when it comes to pressing the duties of the magistrate a la Westminster (unrevised, unabridged, unobjected to by external denominational documents) Establishmentarianism, is that we shouldn’t look to change the hearts of people by way of the government. Of course, no WCF Establishmentarian would ever rightly assert such, as that is no function of the Magistrate in the first place. Here is what Mr. John Brown of Haddington has to say pertaining to aforementioned objection:


Objection XI. “Men ought to be persuaded, not forced into faith and holiness. It is in vain to attempt rooting out corruptions, especially in religion, out of men’s outward behaviour unless they be first rooted out of their hearts.”

ANSW. (1.) It requires no small share of ignorance, impudence and fraud, to insinuate that the many thousands of Protestant advocates for the magistrates power to restrain gross heresy, blasphemy or idolatry, plead for the FORCING of men to faith and holiness, when they so harmoniously plead for the contrary. (2) None ought to be forced into the faith and profession of the true religion, as hath been repeatedly declared, but all proper methods taken to render their compliance judicious and voluntary. Yet that will not infer, that no man ought to be restrained from, or even suitably and seasonably punished for, open and gross heresy, blasphemy or idolatry, which, while they publicly oppose, insult, and undermine the true religion,—produce terrible immoralities and disorders in churches and nations, and draw upon them the ruinous vengeance of God;—and far less will it infer, that magistrates, as vicegerents of God, ought, in his name and authority, to license a false religion, and promise men protection and encouragement in it. No magistrate hath power to force me to esteem, love, delight in, sympathize with, maintain, or even commend my neighbour. But he hath power to refuse me a warrant to calumniate, rob or murder him, and even to restrain or punish me for so doing. It would be absurd to attempt forcing of the British Jacobites, to believe and solemnly profess, that [King] George, not the Pretender is rightful Sovereign of this kingdom. But would it therefore be absurd, to restrain and punish them for publicly and insolently reviling him as an usurper,—or seducing their fellow subjects to dethrone him,—or for taking arms against him, or paying his just revenues to the Pretender? (3) It is certain, that Christ, who hath power over the hearts of all men, curbed the external corruptions of the Jewish buyers and sellers in the temple, without first casting the corruptions out of their heart. And pray would you have all thieves, robbers, murderers, &c. to have full liberty in their courses, till their wickedness can be got rooted out of their heart?

Robert Shaw Commentary on Chapter 20 sections 3 and 4.



“…Although civil rulers may restrain, and, when occasion requires, may punish the more flagrant violations of the first table of the moral law, such as blasphemy, the publishing of blasphemous opinions, and the open and gross profanation of the Sabbath; yet they are to repress these evils, not formally as sins, which is the prerogative of God, nor as scandals, in which light they come under the cognisance of the Church, but as crimes and injuries done to society.

All sound Presbyterians disclaim all intolerant or compulsory measures with regard to matters purely religious. They maintain that no man should be punished or molested on account of his religious opinions or observances, provided there is nothing in these hurtful to the general interests of society, or dangerous to the lawful institutions of the country in which he lives. The section now under consideration, however, has sometimes been represented as arming the civil magistrate with a power to punish good and peaceable subjects purely on account of their religious opinions and practices, or as favourable to persecution for conscience’ sake. In vindicating the Confession from this serious charge, we shall avail ourselves of the judicious remarks of Dr M’Crie. “The design of section fourth,” says that eminent author, “is to guard against the abuse of the doctrine” of liberty of conscience “in reference to public authority. “And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God.’ He who is the Lord of the conscience has also instituted the authorities in Church and State; and it would be in the highest degree absurd to suppose that he has planted in the breast of every individual a power to resist, counteract, and nullify his own ordinances. When public and private claims interfere and clash, the latter must give way to the former; and when any lawful authority is proceeding lawfully within its line of duty, it must be understood as possessing a rightful power to remove out of the way everything which necessarily obstructs its progress. The Confession proceeds, accordingly, to state: “And for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature; or to the known principles of Christianity whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation, or to the power of godliness; or such erroneous opinions or practices as, either in their own nature or in the manner of publishing and maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the Church; they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against by the censures of the Church, and by the power of the civil magistrate.’ Now, this does not say that all who publish such opinions, and maintain such practices as are mentioned may be proceeded against, or punished (if the substitution of this word shall be insisted for) by the civil magistrate; nor does it say that any good and peaceable subject shall be made liable to this process simply on the ground of religious opinions published, and practices maintained by him. For, in the first place, persons of a particular character are spoken of in this paragraph, and these are very different from good and peaceable subjects. They are described in the former sentence as “they who oppose lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it,’ and “resist the ordinance of God.’ The same persons are spoken of in the sentence under consideration, as appears from the copulative and the relative. It is not said, “Any one for publishing,’ &c., but, “they who oppose any lawful power,’ &c., “for their publishing,’ &c. In the second place, this sentence specifies some of the ways in which these persons may become chargeable with the opposition mentioned, and consequently “may be called to account;’ but it does not assert that even they must or ought to be prosecuted for every avowed opinion or practice of the kind referred to. All that it necessarily implies is, that they may be found opposing lawful powers, or the lawful exercise of them in the things specified; and that they are not entitled to plead a general irresponsibility in matters of that kind. Notwithstanding such a plea, “they may be called to account, and proceeded against.’ For, be it observed, it is not the design of this paragraph to state the objects of Church censure or civil prosecution; its proper and professed object is to interpose a check on the abuse of liberty of conscience, as operating to the prejudice of just and lawful authority. It is not sin as sin, but as scandal, or injurious to the spiritual interests of Christians, that is the proper object of Church censure; and it is not for sins as such, but for crimes, that persons become liable to punishment by magistrates. The compilers of the Confession were quite aware of these distinctions, which were then common. Some think that if the process of the magistrate had been limited to offences “contrary to the light of nature,’ it would have been perfectly justifiable; but the truth is, that it would have been so only on the interpretation now given. To render an action the proper object of magistratic punishment, it is not enough that it be contra to the law of God, whether natural or revealed; it must, in one way or another, strike against the public good of society. He who “provides not for his own, especially those of his own house,’ sins against ” the light of nature,’ as also does he who is “a lover of pleasures more than of God;’ there are few who will plead that magistrates are bound to proceed against, and punish every idler and belly-god. On the other hand, there are opinions and practices “contrary to the known principles of Christianity; or grafted upon them, which, either in their own nature, or from the circumstances with which they may be clothed, may prove so injurious to the welfare of society in general, or of particular nations, or of their just proceedings, or of lawful institutions established in them, as to subject their publishers and maintainers to warrantable coercion and punishment. As one point to which these may relate, I may mention the external observance and sanctification of the Lord’s day, which can be known only from “the principles of Christianity,’ and is connected with all the particulars specified by the Confession, “faith, worship, conversation, the power of godliness, and the external order and peace of the Church.’ That many other instances of a similar description can be produced, will be denied by no sober thinking person who is well acquainted with Popish tenets and practices, and with those which prevailed among the English sectaries during the sitting of the Westminster Assembly, and he who does not deny this, cannot be entitled, I should think, upon any principles of fair construction, to fix the stigma of persecution on the passage in question.”

Knowing God by His Majestic Grace


Here is something I wrote over twenty years ago.   Back then radio preachers were popular.  Cable Television was starting to add more channels than the local 4 or 5 we already had.  The Cassette Player was the best audio component we could install in the dash of our car and being Borked was the headline of the day.   I actually started typing this study out on a Remington portable typewriter.

The doctrines (teachings) of grace were very important to those who had spent hours teaching me the Bible.  They became very important to me.  But the simple definition of grace being God’s unmerited favor and the acronym God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense just seemed so truncated and deficient to me.  The Bible seemed to say much  more to me about this wonderful word.  At the same time I noticed that those simple and truncated definitions of grace were influencing a generation to be apathetic and overly narcissistic.   Salvation was just about the individual and his or her assurance of going to heaven because Jesus paid it all.  The most popular question for evangelizing the world was, “If you were to die today and God were to ask you why He should let you into His heaven, what would you tell Him?”   All the focus was upon us the individual and where we would spend eternity.  After someone prayed the prayer or went forward at the local revival crusade they were saved and need not worry about sin or eternal judgment because salvation was by grace through faith and not by anything we contributed to earn our salvation.

Now that question about why God should let us into His heaven is a very important question and the answer to that question has eternal significance in every person’s life.  I am not trying to downplay the situation.  But salvation is about more than where we will spend eternity.  Salvation is also about how we live here and now and the eternal significance the here and now play in that.  And the doctrines of Grace have taught that from Adam and Eve till now.  So that is the backdrop to why I started this study back in the 80’s.

The link below is a link to dropbox where you download the paper I wrote.  Keep in mind that I wrote it a long time ago.  I am not a writer.  I was definitely not a writer back then.  Also know that I didn’t understand Covenant Theology and my theology has definitely been refined much in the past 20 years.  So please just bear with some of the underdeveloped theology, terrible grammar, and writing style.   I used this paper to disciple a lot of people.  I hope it can still be used to help others out.  Have at it.

Click on the dropbox link


John Owen on Secterians


John Owen in his Epistle to the Reader
Biblical Theology pp. XXX – XXXIII
On Sectarians

…In the second place, many students of theology who are not brought down by idleness or pleasure seeking are sadly driven off course and greatly impeded in their search for divine truth by the influence of sects, factions, and heresies. In religious studies, differences of opinion are very prone to harden into differences of sect. Secondary matters then come into play to widen the breach. How frequently we find a man, who adheres to a sect which is numerous in his own corner of the world, consider it to be his life’s work to do nothing but condemn and vilify all other parties as guilty of folly and sin. This may give the impression that the differences are more ones of locality than reality, and places give their names to sects but, whatever their origin, it is certain that a sect becomes more destructive the greater the number of its adherents as it engenders a servile party – in a word, a sectarian spirit.

But it is not my intention to discuss the nature of sectarianism or condemn its vices. I wish merely to demonstrate how zeal for a sect will obscure zeal for true wisdom. This is quite certain, for the leaders of a sect will always fight against any knowledge beyond the tenets that make their distinctives, and a sectary must surrender to the group all piety, knowledge, doctrine, and wisdom. Imagine the evils which arise when this servile spirit takes hold on minds which are already open to receive unjust suspicions and, like all natural minds, always prone to evil thoughts, and how fatally any ability to search for the truth will be injured. What is worse, a sectarian spirit induces into the thinking an evil, arrogant, and disputaceous tendency; the very thing with which the Holy Spirit cannot be expected to associate His gifts. “What man is he that feareth the Lord? Him will He teach in the way that He shall choose…. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His Covenant.” (Psalm 25:12 and 14) Other men are indeed not slaves to a sect, but are willing to agree with the blind zeal of sectarians as a means to an end –the advancement of their own interests. Still, for such a purpose, they will defend the sect as violently as others and show as much hatred for those who dissent from them.

There can be few worse impediments to the study of divine truth than for a student, either from birth and upbringing, by the false teaching of others or for worldly advantage, to be ensnared into a vigorous sect before he has had the chance to develop independent, candid, and mature judgment of his own.  How many turn aside in this way for the lure of wealth, honors, or esteem!  The touchstone and measure of all truth for such enslaved men becomes the teachings of the sect, and all of their studies are guided by no other pole-star than a horror of falling unawares into the opinions of any other sect but their own! They are terrified of receiving, truth and light from other men at the expense of their lucrative errors! And all the while they consider themselves to be most learned, intelligent, prudent, and pious of men; judging all of these things by the yardstick of their sect, that is, within the blinkered vision of a worthless faith. The natural result is seen in those eternal squabbles, law-suits, hatreds, and quarrels which are so far removed from Christian meekness and charity.

Great emperors are quicker to make peace after bloodshed and disasters given and received than are theologians fired by sectarian zeal. The followers of a sect will seize as gleefully upon anything which comes from their leaders or comrades as did the heathen of old a fabled “shield fallen from heaven,” even though it is the most foolish, outrageous, futile, nay, wicked teaching possible. Their enthusiasm runs all one way – to defend and propagate the base teachings of their sect and vilify the wise teachings of others. If it finally dawns upon them that man who is not of their faction is not a fool or a villain (which sometimes happens), then he is at once a danger to them and they must stir up all kinds of hostile encounters with him. Each one of them would gladly gain a triumph over him, be it never so small a matter, or rejoice to see him worsted by anyone at all.

Imagine these wretched creatures who, accepting the very basest servitude themselves, still have the arrogance to hurl out accusations of errors and ignorance, of heresy and schism, against the orthodox, from what they consider to be an impregnable position-built mostly with bricks of pure stupidity! I could not go on in my work to advance God’s truth if I felt that I had anything of this spirit about me. Why, they know already all of the bounds of wisdom, and can map out all of the territory of Divine truth; it is confined within the bounds of their sect! No man will run the risk of sailing uncharted seas if he has gold enough, or what is worth more than gold, at home. What we pursue is so far removed from the ideals of such men that I have never considered that studies such as ours would be of interest to them or be tasty to their palates. If love of themselves and of party has so extinguished the light of reason that man cannot see that he is enchained by a sect and bound for perpetual bitter enmity to all other sects for the supremacy of their own, then I, as a teacher, see it as my duty to strictly neglect and ignore them. But note well, I do not say these things as if every man of faith was obliged to associate himself with some particular congregation professing faith in Christ and worshipping God as He has ordained, unless he would be judged eccentric or blameworthy. What makes an almost infinite difference is the spirit in which a man associated himself with any of them.

Let me state what, in my judgment, is required for a man to act rightly and in obedience to Christ and the gospel. It is this: Let him, after first surrendering himself in faith to our Lord Jesus Christ, seek out and attach himself to a body of believers who have zeal for and profession of divine truth, who observe the commands of the Lord Jesus, who cultivate true and conscientious piety, sobriety, modesty, justice, and separation from the world. Then he may share in the spiritual privileges of the Church and the gifts of the Spirit to the Church and strive manfully towards the building up of the body Christ in faith and love. I simply bring accusation of withstanding the progress of truth against those who defend so narrow a sect as to look upon all others as if they had never been born. I think particularly of those so engaged for reasons secular or sinful, or by an onrush of worldly business which drives them upon the shores of a sect and leaves them stranded there. Such sickness of mind is incurable without a special intervening of the grace of God. They take pleasure in their folly and triumph in their delusions, and cannot be persuaded that the spiritual physicians who would save them from their follies mean to cure and not to kill them. But we must put aside further considerations of such wretchedness.

A Better Priest and Covenant. A Better Mediator of the Word of God.


The more I read Hebrews 8 the more I think I understand about how the shadows have passed away (v. 5) and how a lot of the modern Church is not reading this text or Jeremiah 31 correctly.  There is a Priesthood that is being extinguished here and one that is being exalted. We no longer need the shadows or Levitical Priesthood to mediate or teach Covenant Members as mediators since Christ (the substance) has become the High Priest and removed the shadows. The Substance is here and we can approach God directly through Christ by His Holy Spirit. The veil was torn from top to bottom. As the text repeated from Jeremiah 31 states, we all shall know God from the least to the greatest. His Law will be placed in all of our hearts without the need for a Levitical Priest to mediate His word to us. That is the part that is being missed.  This is about the transference of priesthood from the shadows and types to Christ our High Priest and antitype. The Old Covenant was given a Priesthood as a type that would show us the way to the real thing.  We have a better Covenant with a better Priest who is in heaven now. Christ is the minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.  We no longer will tell our neighbor to go seek out the local Priest to mediate God’s word for us.  For it has now been fulfilled as it was written and is mediated differently since Christ our High Priest has come..
(1 Timothy 2:5,6) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Rom 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Rom 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
Rom 3:26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Rom 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Rom 3:29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
Rom 3:30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
Rom 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
My point about this is that I read the text saying that the New Covenant is about a regenerate Church membership when the text isn’t about that but about how the Word of God is mediated and about how we have a better High Priest and Covenant now that the shadows are done away with.  Does that make sense?

The Little Things Matter


The small things that seem somewhat insignificant seem to be the significance that God desires.  So should we seek the insignificant and find out why?

(Luk 16:10,11)  He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.  If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

It seemed insignificant that Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu would use common fire and be condemned.  It seems insignificant that a man would put forth his hand to stable the ark of the Covenant so that it wouldn’t fall in the mud.  But evidently the small matters were very important to God as these actions brought death upon the violators.

Lev 10:1  Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.
Lev 10:2  And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

Then there is the instance where the Lord just killed the men of Bethshemesh for looking inside the Ark of the Covenant.  Their curiosity killed them as the proverbial saying goes, “Curiosity killed the cat.”  The ark of the Covenant was sent away by the Philistines as the people perceived they were being cursed for having possession of it.  Maybe upon its return the people of Behshemesh just wanted to see if the Philistines took any of the items out of it.  Who knows?  Either way, they did something and it provoked God.
1Sa 6:19  And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.

The Little Things Matter.  And that should bring reverence to our hearts.  We should be crying as the men of Bethshemesh who said, “Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God?   I thank my God for giving us this answer.

Rom 7:24  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Rom 7:25  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Rom 8:1  There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Rom 8:2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Rom 8:3  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
Rom 8:4  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

The little things matter and God has provided a Lamb for the Mercy Seat.