Friday, August 5, 2016

"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 2

It is clear that religious liberty is being lost in America. As such, I want to pass along a number of helpful resources of previous generations defending and promoting religious liberty from noted Christians. To begin, let us look at Isaac Backus essay An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppression of the Present Day published in 1773.


"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part1
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 2

Section I

Some essential points of difference between civil and ecclesiastical government.

I. The forming of the constitution, and appointment of the particular orders and offices of civil government is left to human discretion, and our submission thereto is required under the name of their being, the ordinances of men for the Lord's sake. 1 Pet. 2. 13, 14. Whereas in ecclesiastical affairs we are most solemnly' warned not to be subject to ordinances, after the doctrines and commandments of men. Col. 2. 20, 22. And it is evident that he who is the only worthy object of worship, has always claimed it as his sole prerogative, to determine by express laws, what his worship shall be, who shall minister in it, and how they shall be supported. How express were his appointments concerning these things by Moses? And so wise and good a ruler as Solomon, was not intrusted with any legislative power upon either of these articles, but had the exact dimensions of the temple, the pattern and weight of every vessel, with the treasuries of the dedicate things, and the courses of the priests and Levites, all given to him in writing by the Spirit, through the hand of his father David. 1 Chron. 28. 11-19. And so strict were God's faithful servants about these matters, that Daniel who in a high office in the Persian court, behaved so well that his most envious and crafty foes, could find no occasion against him, nor fault in him concerning the kingdom till they fell upon the device of moving the king to make a decree about worship, that should interfere with Daniel's obedience to his God; yet when that was done, he would not pay so much regard to it as to shut his windows. Dan. 6. 4-11. And when the Son of God, who is the great Law-giver and King of his church, came and blotted out the handwriting of the typical ordinances, and established a better covenant, or constitution of his church, upon better promises. we are assured that he was faithful in all his house, and counted worthy of more glory than Moses. What vacancy has he then left for faliable men to supply, by making new laws to regulate and support his worship? especially if we consider,

2. That as the putting any men into civil office is of men, of the people of the world; so officers have truly no more authority than the people give them: And how came the people of the world by any ecclesiastical power? They arm the magistrate with the sword, that he may be a minister of God to them for good , and might execute wrath upon evil doers; and for this cause they pay them tribute: upon which the apostle proceeds to name those divine commandments which are comprehended in love to our neighbour, and which work no ill to him. Surely the inspired writer had not forgotten the first and great command of love to God; but as this chapter treats the most fully of the nature and end of civil government of any one in the new-testament, does it not clearly shew that the crimes which fall within the magistrates jurisdiction to punish, are only such as work ill to our neighbour? Rom. 13. 1-10. While church government respects our behaviour toward God as well as man.

3. All acts of executive power in the civil state, are to be performed in the name of the king or state they belong to; while all our religious acts are to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus; and so are to be performed heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men. And it is but lip service, and vain worship, if our fear toward him is taught by the precepts of men. Col. 3. 17, 23. Isa. 29. 13. Mat. 15. 9. It is often pleaded, that magistrates ought to do their duty in religious as well as civil affairs. That is readily granted; but what is their duty therein? Surely it is to bow to the name of Jesus, and to serve him with holy reverence; and if they do the contrary they may expect to perish from the way. Phil. 2. 10. Psa. 2. 10-12. But where is the officer that will dare to come in the name of the Lord to demand, and forcibly to take, a tax which was imposed by the civil state! And can any man in the light of truth, maintain his character as a minister of Christ, if he is not contented with all that Christ's name and influence will procure for him, but will have recourse to the kings of the earth, to force money from the people to support him under the name of an embassador of the God of heaven! Does not such conduct look more like the way of those who made merchandize of slaves and souls of men, than it does like the servants who were content to be as their master, who said, He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me? Rev. 18. 9, 13. Luke to. 3-16.

4. In all civil governments some are appointed to judge for others, and have power to compel others to submit to their judgment: but our Lord has most plainly forbidden us, either to assume or submit to any such thing in religion. Mat. 23. 1-9. Luke 22. 25-27. He declares, that the cause of his coming into the world, was to bear witness unto the truth; and says he, Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. This is the nature of his kingdom, which he says, is not of this world: and gives that as the reason why his servants should not tight or defend him with the sword. John. 18. 36. 37. And it appears to us that the true difference and exact limits between ecclesiastical and civil government is this, That the church is armed with light and truth, to pull down the strong holds of iniquity, and to gain souls to Christ, and into his church, to be governed by his rules therein; and again to exclude such from their communion, who will not be so governed; while the state is armed with the sword to guard the peace, and the civil rights of all persons and societies, and to punish those who violate the same. And where these two kinds of government, and the weapons which belong to them, are well distinguished. and improved according to the true nature and end of their institution. the effects are happy, and they do not at all interfere with each other: but where they have been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued; of which the Holy Ghost gave early and plain warnings. He gave notice to the church, that the main of those antichristian confusions and abominations, would be drawn by philosophy and deceit, from the hand-writing of ordinances that Christ has blotted out. And to avoid the same, directs the saints to walk in Christ Jesus as they received him, rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith as they have been taught; viewing that they are complete in him, which is the head over all principality and power. Therefore he charges them not to be beguiled into a voluntary humility, by such fleshly minds as do not hold this head, but would subject them to ordinances after the doctrines and commandments of men. Col. 2.

Now 'tis well known that this glorious head made no use of secular force in the first sitting up of the gospel church, when it might seem to be pecularly needful if ever; and it is also very evident, that ever since men came into the way of using force in such affairs, their main arguments to support it have been drawn from the old Jewish constitution and ordinances. And what work has it made about the head as well as members of the church?

First they moved Constantine, a secular prince, to draw his sword against heretics; but as all earthly states are changeable, the same sword that Constantine drew against heretics, Julian turned against the orthodox. However, as the high priest's sentence in the Jewish state, decided matters both for prince and people, the same deceitful pilosophy that had gone so far, never left plotting till they had set up an ecclesiastical head over kingdoms as well as churches, who with Peter's keys was to open and shut, bind and loose, both in spiritual and temporal affairs. But after many generations had groaned under this hellish tyranny, a time came when England renounced that head, and set up the king as their head in ecclesiastical as well as civil concernments; and though the free use of the scriptures which was then introduced, by a divine blessing, produced a great reformation, yet still the high places were not taken away, & the lord bishops made such work in them, as drove our fathers from thence into America. The first colony that came to this part of it carried the reformation so far, as not to make use of the civil force to save the people to support religious ministers (for which they have had many a lash from the tongues & pens of those who were fond of that way) but the second colony, who had not taken up the cross so as to separate from the national church before they came away, now determined to pick out all that they thought was of universal and moral equity in Moses's laws, and so to frame a christian common-wealth here. And as the Jews were ordered not to set up any rulers over them who were not their brethren; so this colony resolved to have no rulers nor voters for rulers, but brethren in their churches. And as the Jews were required to inflict corporal punishments, even unto death, upon non-conformers to their worship, this common-wealth did the like to such as refused to conform to their way; and they strove very hard to have the church govern the world, till they lost their charter; since which, they have yielded to have the world govern the church, as we shall proceed to shew.
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