Archive for October, 2014

John Calvin on the Duty of Magistrates Regarding Heretics

October 6, 2014

“Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt. This is not laid down on human authority; it is God who speaks and prescribes a perpetual rule for his Church. It is not in vain that he banishes all those human affections which soften our hearts; that he commands paternal love and all the benevolent feelings between brothers, relations, and friends to cease; in a word, that he almost deprives men of their nature in order that nothing may hinder their holy zeal. Why is so implacable a severity exacted but that we may know that God is defrauded of his honour, unless the piety that is due to him be preferred to all human duties, and that when his glory is to be asserted, humanity must be almost obliterated from our memories? Many people have accused me of such ferocious cruelty that I would like to kill again the man I have destroyed. Not only am I indifferent to their comments, but I rejoice in the fact that they spit in my face.”

-John Calvin
Defense of Orthodox Faith against the Prodigious Errors of the Spaniard Michael Servetus, published in early 1554

In his commentary on Deuteronomy 13,

“God makes plain that the false prophet is to be stoned without mercy. We are to crush beneath our heel all affections of nature when his honor is involved”

-John Calvin
Bainton 1951:70

“Moreover, God Himself has explicitly instructed us to kill heretics, to smite with the sword any city that abandons the worship of the true faith revealed by Him.”

-John Calvin
Comments on Ex. 22:20, Lev. 24:16, Deut. 13:5-15, 17:2-5.

“But when I perceived that the fury of certain bad men had risen to such a height in your realm, that there was no place in it for sound doctrine, I thought it might be of service if I were in the same work both to give instruction to my countrymen, and also lay before your Majesty a Confession, from which you may learn what the doctrine is that so inflames the rage of those madmen who are this day, with fire and sword, troubling your kingdom. For I fear not to declare, that what I have here given may be regarded as a summary of the very doctrine which, they vociferate, ought to be punished with confiscation, exile, imprisonment, and flames, as well as exterminated by land and sea. This, I allow, is a fearful punishment which God sends on the earth; but if the wickedness of men so deserves, why do we strive to oppose the just vengeance of God?”

-John Calvin
Prefatory Address in his Institutes to Francis, King of the French, 1536.

“[They] well deserve to be repressed by the sword which is committed to you, seeing that they attack not the King only, but God who has seated him upon the throne, and has entrusted to you the protection as well of His person as of His majesty.”

-John Calvin
Letter to the Lord Protector of Somerset, adviser to King Edward VI, October 22, 1548

“Let us also learn that nothing is less consistent than to punish heavily the crimes whereby mortals are injured, whilst we connive at the impious errors or sacrilegious modes of worship whereby the majesty of God is violated.”

-John Calvin
Comment on Exodus 32:29


Duty of Magistrates By the Commissioners of the General Assembly 1649

October 3, 2014

“As the Lord by his servant Moses, in the xviiith of Deuteronomy, requires of him that shall reign over his people, that he have a copy of the law of the Lord by him, and that he read therein all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, and to keep all the words of that law; so in the xiiith of that book he gives a command to put to death the false prophet, and the brother that speaks to his people to turn them away from the Lord their God; and the reasons taken from the nature of the duty, whereby he persuades unto the obedience thereof, are perpetual and no less binding unto us now, than to them of old.”

-A Solemn Testimony Against Toleration, etc. By the Commissioners of the General Assembly 1649

Alexander Henderson on Magistrates up Holding Both Tables of the Law

October 3, 2014

“It is true, indeed, that the magistrate is more about things external, which concern this present life, and the minister about things spiritual, which concern the soul and life eternal. Yet there is nothing so ecclesiastical, but it belongs some way to the magistrate, he being keeper of both tables, nor is there anything so secular, but it concerns the ministry, in so far as secular things fall under obedience or disobedience to God; for the Word of God is extended to all causes, all persons, all conditions of life, all which are to be ruled by the Word.” (pp. 152-153) – Alexander Henderson (1583 -1646) (the second founder of the Reformed Church in Scotland)

Martin Luther on Magistrates Dealing with Matters of Religion

October 2, 2014

“We therefore conclude that the civil government, as soon as it discovers abominable heresies by which the glory of Christ is diminished and the salvation of souls prevented, is in duty bound, yea that it has the office, to wield the sword and to exercise its full authority against those errors which bring divisions among the people and other great calamities, as we have experienced more than once. And if the teachers of false doctrines will not be convinced of their error, nor desist from their preaching, let the government use its power and compel them to refrain from their mischievous work, so that the true doctrine, and the proper worship of God, may be retained pure and unadulterated, that peace and harmony may prevail. Thus both powers must assist each other to keep the people united in the pure faith and to ward off every offense and shame; this will be done if the authorities of the Church use the Word and discipline, while the government of the State cooperates with the sword. If matters are conducted thus, God will grant His blessing upon both governments. Those wicked persons, however, who care naught for the Word, and who escape the punishment due them from the government of the State, will hear their sentence on the day of judgment. May God in mercy protect us from such an end, and keep us faithful in His Word until our life is past and we are saved in heaven ! Amen.”

Martin Luther

Sermons on the Gospel
Fifth Sunday After Epiphany

John Calvin on Magistrates Upholding Both Tables of the Law

October 2, 2014

“The duty of magistrates, its nature, as described by the word of God, and the things in which it consists, I will here indicate in passing. That it extends to both tables of the law, did Scripture not teach, we might learn from profane writers; for no man has discoursed of the duty of magistrates, the enacting of laws, and the common weal, without beginning with religion and divine worship. Thus all have confessed that no polity can be successfully established unless piety be its first care, and that those laws are absurd which disregard the rights of God, and consult only for men. Seeing then that among philosophers religion holds the first place, and that the same thing has always been observed with the universal consent of nations, Christian princes and magistrates may be ashamed of their heartlessness if they make it not their care. We have already shown that this office is specially assigned them by God, and indeed it is right that they exert themselves in asserting and defending the honour of him whose vicegerents they are, and by whose favour they rule. Hence in Scripture holy kings are especially praised for restoring the worship of God when corrupted or overthrown, or for taking care that religion flourished under them in purity and safety. On the other hand, the sacred history sets down anarchy among the vices, when it states that there was no king in Israel, and, therefore, every one did as he pleased (Judges 21:25). This rebukes the folly of those who would neglect the care of divine things, and devote themselves merely to the administration of justice among men; as if God had appointed rulers in his own name to decide earthly controversies, and omitted what was of far greater moment, his own pure worship as prescribed by his law. Such views are adopted by turbulent men, who, in their eagerness to make all kinds of innovations with impunity, would fain get rid of all the vindicators of violated piety.”

John Calvin

Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book IV, chapter XX, section 9

Samuel Rutherford and the Magistrate is properly a Minister of God for Good

October 2, 2014

The Magistrate is as properly the Minister of God for good, for the praise of well-doing, as the Minister of God for wrath, and if the Church should tell the Magistrate his duty, as watchmen should do to all under their care Ezek 3.16, 17, 18, 19. Magistrate or other, if the Magistrate spare the life of a murderer, the watchmen are unfaithful, if they complain not openly and tell the Magistrate he does not his duty, and upon the same ground, if the Magistrate must coerce with the sword seducing wolves and Jezebels, the Pastors ought to admonish him.

And its Atheistic to say the Magistrate is conscious of sins against manners, and of his duty and obligation he needs no instigation. Because no Magistrate be he an Achab or a David, but he needs be quickened to his duty, and will send a murderer away, and a bloody Joab whom God will have not to live, and should the prophets be called instigators, and savientes per alios, such as destroy men’s lives when they tell the Magistrate he is a murderer and guilty of innocent blood, if he suffer the bloody man to live? Or should this be calling taletelling, and the Pastor thrusting of himself into a more disaffecting office to be a Tale-teller an Apparitor or Summoner of men to the Civil Magistrate’s court, he made such a poor man be fined and wife and children be starved because he is not of his opinion. What would this author give an Atheist leave to say? but so slander free preaching or free Synodical complaining to the Magistrate? Such a man of our charge is damned by his own conscience and devours the flock, as Arrius and Manes did, such a one is a bloody murderer, a Sorcerer, the Magistrate bears the sword to execute vengeance on evil doers, and yet suffer known murderers to live and be gray-haired, are ministers, who are to warn Fathers, Teachers, Masters, Judges, Kings Jer 1.10. Nations, and Kingdoms of their duty, thrusters of themselves into a disaffecting office, and Apparitors and Summoners of men before Civil courts, because they warn the Magistrate of his duty? …

It is clear the question must be thus stated, for all the laws of the old Testament (which we hold in their moral equity to be perpetual) that are touching blasphemies, heresies, solicitation to worship false Gods and the breach of which the Godly Magistrate was to punish, command or forbid only such things as may be proved by two or three witnesses, and which husband and wife are not to conceal, and from which all Israel must abstain for fear of the like punishment. Deut 13.8, 9, 10, 11. Deut 17. 5, 6. Levit. 20. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”

Samuel Rutherford
A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience, 1649


“The words of the Law do reveal, what the Magistrate may do, jure, and what the guilty deserves by the Law, but do not reveal the intention and absolute decree of the Law-giver, and what punishment actually, and quoard eventum shall be inflicted upon the guilty, and what shall come to pass as a thing decreed of the Lord: So, Genesis 9:6, the murderer shall die by the Sword of the Magistrate, and Exodus 22:18-20, the witch, the man that lies with a beast, he that sacrifices to a strange God, shall die the death jure, merito, and by Law deserving, but it followeth not; but such as commit these abominations, do live, as is clear in the kings of Assyria, Chaldea, and many of Israel, who were not put to death, but lived quoad eventum, though contrary to the Word of God.”

Samuel Rutherford
The covenant of life opened; or, a treatise of the covenant of grace, ed. C. M. McMahon (1654; New Lennox IL, 2005), pp 32-3.