And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor?—Jeremiah 2.18.

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ORDINANCES OF PARLIAMENT

In Second-Reformation England

Concerning

Blasphemy & Heresy.

X

TrueCovenanter.com Editor's Introduction.

Dear Reader,

Every Christian well-read in Holy Scripture will readily confess, that the honour of God and safety of his people, in a nation, are best promoted when Sanctifying Gospel Truth, Righteous Morals, and Holy Justice are united together in beautiful harmony. This may easily be seen by comparing Psalm 85.9-13, Prov. 14.34, Eccl. 8.11, and other like passages of Scripture.  Happy it was then, that ancient Israel, having at the time a system of doctrine & religion every way superior to all nations of the earth beside, was also blessed with a system of justice wonderfully excellent, and calculated to sustain its invaluable religion. Deut. 4.5-8.  And, if one read with a heart of faith, no student of the Old Testament scriptures will ever conclude that the laws of Israel given by Moses were any way hurtful to her, but rather that her often-mentioned troubles and distresses were ever born of her often neglecting both Morals and Justice.

Let not the reader then wonder that Christian nations in later times concluded their blessedness and safety to be best secured when the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his Saving Grace, was fruitful in a revival of personal morality, and fortified with magistratical authority and justice.  Their Lord, the sovereign Lord of all nations, told them plainly long ago, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matt. 5.17.)  And it is there, in the Law and throughout Holy Scripture, that they found Righteous Morals, and Holy Justice to be perfectly woven together, and the advancing thereof to be assigned as the peculiar responsibility of ministers of Justice.  Consider what is written:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.—Exod. 20.3.

If there be found among you, ... man or woman, that ... hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, ... and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel: Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, ... and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.—Deut. 17.2-5.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth, Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, &c.—Exod. 20.4,5.

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. ... And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; ... Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.—Romans 1.22-25,28,32.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.—Exod. 20.7.

And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.—Lev. 24.16.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. &c.—Exod. 20.8.

Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.—Exod. 31.14.

It is true, not only every student of history, but every child learns in his youth, that in former times men and governments have abused laws concerning religion to purposes void of all honesty and true righteousness. They have persecuted, they have oppressed, they have held inquisitions, they have demanded prayers and flattery for rulers worthy to die, and done much else for the dishonour of God, in the name of God.  But while it is inevitable that men will respond to such circumstances by conceiving a suspicion and wariness of Christian Government, religious Government, and perhaps Government itself, as inherently tending to abuse and oppression, still this remains true: That the abuse of Authority in matters of religion, (by one government or by many,) does not effect a change in the purpose or responsibility of true and righteous government, nor put an obligation on the God of heaven to forgo what is due unto him of the service of nations and governments.

Have such things as Heresy and Blasphemy been falsely charged on good men, with the consequence that they have lost their lives, goods, and honors in this world? Most certainly it is so.  That is one matter, and never to be forgotten.  But is there such a thing as Heresy? as Blasphemy?—and are they not such things as governments are required, by the Origin of all true government (Romans 13.1-7,) to suppress and avenge?  Indeed, these things are real. And does it not matter? Is it safe or acceptable to ignore them? Can it be a blessing to a nation for its rulers to swallow down the tenets of Atheism, blind their eyes to the God who holds them accountable to honour him and secure the welfare of his people, and then give loose reins to the outspoken enemies of God in the land?  The fruits of such rebellion against our Maker are seen in history, and in the present day. Those who call these fruits the blessings or advances of modern society are evidently incapable of judging what is good for a nation.

Still, the weightiness and fearfulness of the matter demands the question: Have such laws as concern religion ever been enforced without abuse and injustice?  We might well put back the question (and its nature as an objection) with another: Has any system of law and government ever been enforced without a measure of abuse and injustice?  And this question: What measure of abuse and injustice may men set for themselves, so that if they exceed it, they may consequently nullify all rights in a Divine being to prescribe the purposes and duties of governments?

Let us not be over-bold in our thoughts of these matters, as though our own times exceeded every former time, and as though Christian governments and peoples of the past were without all sense of the dangers we fear. Especially let us not be bold against the Spirit of God, in reasoning against such laws for later times, as are conform to what he inspired and delivered by his servants in former times. Let us give a fair consideration to a very real problem, as our own nations today are also infected with deadly Blasphemy and Heresy; and to a very Christian solution to such problems, endeavoured by a Christian people of an age when failures in these concerns were only more recent in their minds and considerations, than they are in ours.  And so, for the moment, I leave the reader with:—

Die Jovis, 4. Febr. 1646.

An Ordinance of the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament,

Concerning

The growth and spreading of Errors, Heresies and Blasphemies;

Setting apart a Day of publique Humiliation to seek Gods as-

sistance for the suppressing and preventing of the same.

VVE the Lords and Commons assembled in the Parliament of England, having entered into a Solemn Covenant, to endeavor sincerely, really and constantly, the Reformation of Religion, in Doctrine, Discipline and VVorship, and the extirpation of Popery, Superstition, Heresie, Schism, Prophanenesse, and whatsoever shall be found contrary to sound Doctrine and the power of godlinesse; and having found the presence of God wonderfully assisting us in this Cause, especially since our said ingagement in pursuance of the said Covenant, Have thought fit (lest we partake in other mens sins, and thereby be in danger to receive of their plagues) to set forth this our deep sence of the great dishonor of God, and perillous condition that this Kingdom is in, through the abominable Blasphemies, and damnable Heresies vented and spread abroad therein, tending to the subversion of the Faith, contempt of the Ministery, and Ordinance of Iesus Christ: And as we are resolved to imploy and improve the utmost of our power, that nothing be said or done against the Truth, but for the Truth, so we desire that both our selves and the whole Kingdom may be deeply humbled before the Lord for that great reproach and contempt which hath been cast upon his Name and saving Truths, and for that swift destruction which we may justly fear will fall upon the immortal souls of such who are or may be drawn away, by giving heed to seducing Spirits.  In the hearty and tender compassion whereof, VVe the said Lords and Commons do Order and Ordain, That VVednesday being the tenth day of March next, be set apart for a day of publique Humiliation for the growth and spreading of Errors, Heresies and Blasphemies, to be observed in all places within the Kingdom of England and Dominion of Wales, and Town of Berwick, and to seek God for his direction and assistance for the suppression and preventing the sam.  And all Ministers are hereby enjoyned to publish this present Ordinance upon the Lords day preceding the said Tenth day of March.


Die Sabbathi 13. Febr. 1646.

ORdered by the Commons assembled in Parliament, That the Ordinance for observing the Tenth of March as a Fast, to be humbled for the growth and spreading of Heresies, be forthwith Printed; And that the Members of the House that serve for the respective Counties, Cities and Boroughs, do send them to the respective Places for which they serve.

H: Elsynge, Cler. Parl. D. Com.


London, Printed for Edw. Husband, Printer to the Honble House of Commons.

[ Also Ordered by the Lords, as printed in a distinct publication. ]


Die Jovis 4. Febr. 1646.

ORdered by the Lords Assembled in Parliament, That this Ordinance shall be printed and published; And that the Sheriffs, or their under Sheriffs, shall take care to carry downe the said Ordinances; and that they be delivered unto the severall Ministers of every Parish Church and Chappell within the Counties of the Kingdom of England and Dominion of Wales; who are to take notice of the said Ordinance accordingly.

Jo. Brown Cler. Parliamentorum.      


[ About 15 months later followed an ordinance for further measures. ]

A N

ORDINANCE

OF THE

Lords & Commons

Aſſembled in

PARLIAMENT,

For the puniſhing of

Blaſphemies and Hereſies.

WITH

The ſeveral Penalties therein expreſſed.


Die Martis, 2 Maii, 1648.

ORdered by the Commons assembled in Parliament, That the Ordinance concerning Blasphemies and Heresies be forthwith printed; And that the Knights and Burgesses respectively that serve for the several Counties and Places of the Kingdom, do send Copies of the said Ordinance to the said several Counties and Places: And the Ministers of the several Parishes are hereby required to Read and publish the same in their respective Parish Churches the next Lords-day after the receipt thereof.

H: Elsynge, Cler. Parl. D. Com.


London, Printed for Edward Husband, Printer to the Ho-

norable House of Commons.  1648.

❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦

Die Martis, 2 Maij, 1648.

A N

ORDINANCE

OF THE

Lords & Commons

Aſſembled in

PARLIAMENT,

For puniſhing

Blaſphemies and Hereſies.

FOr the preventing of the growth and spreading of Hereie & Blasphemy, Be it Ordained by the Lords and Commons in this present Parliament assembled,  That all such persons as shall from and after the date of this present Ordinance, willingly by Preaching, Teaching, Printing, or Writing, maintain and publish that there is no God, or that God is not present in all places, doth not know and foreknow all things, or {4} that he is not Almighty, that he is not perfectly Holy, or that he is not Eternal, or that the Father is not God, the Son is not God, or that the Holy Ghost is not God, or that they Three are not one Eternal God: Or that shall in like maner maintain and publish, that Christ is not God equal with the Father, or shall deny the Manhood of Christ, or that the Godhead and Manhood of Christ are several Natures, or that the Humanity of Christ is pure and unspotted of all sin; or that shall maintain and publish as aforesaid, That Christ did not Dye nor rise from the Dead, nor is Ascended into Heaven bodily, or that shall deny his Death is meritorious in the behalf of Believers; or that shall maintain and publish, as aforesaid, That Jesus Christ is not the Son of God, or that the holy Scripture (viz.) of the Old Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Ester, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zecharia, Malachi.  Of the New Testament, The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts of the Apostles, Pauls Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians the first, Corinthians the second, Galathians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians the first, Thessalonians the second, to Timothy the first, to Timothy the second, to Titus, to Philemon, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistle of James, the first and second Epistles of Peter; the first, second, {5} and third Epistle of John, The Epistle of Jude, the Revelation of John, is not the word of God, or that the Bodies of men shall not rise again after they are dead, or that there is no day of Judgment after death; all such maintaining and publishing of such Error or Errors with obstinacy therein, shall by vertue hereof be adjudged Felony; and all such persons upon complaint and proof made of the same in any of the cases aforesaid, before any two of the next Justices of the Peace for the Place or County, by the Oaths of two Witnesses (which said Justices of Peace in such cases shall hereby have power to administer) or confession of the party, the said party so accused shall be by the said Justices of the Peace committed to prison without Bail or Mainprise, until the next Goal delivery to be holden for that place or County, and the Witnesses likewise shall be bound over by the said Justices unto the said Goal delivery to give in their evidence; And at the said Goal delivery the party shall be indicted for Felonious Publishing and maintaining such Error: and in case the Indictment be found, and the Party upon his Tryal shall not abjure his said Error and defence and maintenance of the same, he shall suffer the pains of death, as in case of Felony without benefit of Clergy.  But in case he shall recant or renounce and abjure his said error or errors, and the maintenance and publishing of the same, he shall nevertheless remain in Prison until he shall find two Sureties, being Subsidy men, that shall be found with him before two or more Justices of the Peace or Goal delivery, that he shall not thenceforth publish or maintain as aforesaid the {6} said error or errors any more: And the said Justices shall have power hereby to take Bail in such cases.

And be it further Ordained, That in case any person formerly indicted for publishing & maintaining of such erronious Opinion or Opinions, as aforesaid, and renouncing and abjuring the same, shall nevertheless again publish and maintain his said former error or errors as aforesaid, and the same proved as aforesaid, the said party so offending shall be committed to Prison as formerly, and at the next Goal Delivery shall be indicted as aforesaid: And in case the indictment be then found upon the Tryal, and it shall appear that formerly the party was convicted of the same error, and publishing and maintaining thereof, and renouncing and abjured the same, the Offendor shall suffer death as in case of Felony, without benefit of Clergy.  Be it further Ordained by the Authority aforesaid, That all and every person or persons that shall publish or maintain as aforesaid, any of the several errors hereafter ensuing, viz. That all men shall be saved, or that man by nature hath free will to turn to God, or that God may be worshipped in or by Pictures or Images, or that the Soul of any man after death goeth neither to Heaven or hell, but to Purgatory, or that the Soul of man dyeth or sleepeth when the body is dead, or that revelations or the workings of the Spirit are a rule of Faith or Christian life, though diverse from, or contrary to the written Word of God; or that man is bound to believe no more then by his reason he can comprehend; or that the Moral Law of God contained in the ten Commandments, is no rule of Christian life; or that a believer {7} need not repent or pray for pardon of sins, or that the two Sacraments of Baptism, and the Lords Supper, are not Ordinances commanded by the Word of God; or that the baptizing of Infants is unlawful, or such Baptism is void, and that such persons ought to be baptized again, and in pursuance thereof shall baptize any person formerly baptized; or that the observation of the Lords day as it is enjoyned by the Ordinances and Laws of this Realm, is not according, or is contrary to the Word of God, or that it is not lawful to joyn in publique prayer or family prayer, or to teach children to pray, or that the Churches of England are no true Churches, nor their Ministers and Ordinances true Ministers and Ordinances, or that the Church Government by Presbytery is Antichristian or unlawful, or that Magistracy or the power of the Civil Magistrate by law established in England is unlawful, or that all use of Arms, though for the publique defence (and be the cause never so just) is unlawful; and in case the Party accused of such publishing and maintaining of any of the said errors, shall be thereof convicted to have published and maintained the same as aforesaid, by the Testimony of two or more witnesses, upon oath or confession of the said party, before two of the next Justices of the Peace for the said place or county, whereof one to be of the Quorum (who are hereby required and authorized to send for Witnesses, and examine upon oath in such cases in the presence of the party) The party so convicted, shall be ordered by the said Justices, to renounce his said errors in the publike Congregation of the same Parish from whence the complaint {8} doth come, or where the offence was committed; and in case he refuseth or neglecteth to perform the same, at or upon the day, time, and place appointed by the said Justices, then he shall be committed to prison by the said Justices, until he shall finde two sufficient Sureties, before two Justices of Peace for the said place or County (whereof one shall be of the Quorum) that he shall not publish or maintain the said error or errors any more.

Provided always, and be it Ordained by the Authority aforesaid, That no attainder by vertue hereof, shall extend either to the forfeiture of the Estate real or personal of such person attainted, or corruption of such persons blood.


FINIS.


[ Also Ordered by the Lords, as printed in a distinct publication. ]


Die Martis,  2 Maii 1648.

ORdered by the Lords Assembled in Parliament, That this Ordinance be forthwith printed and published.

Ioh. Brown Cler. Parliamentorum.


X

Closing Remarks by the Present Editor.

Without suggesting or implying that the foregoing provisions are entirely perfect or incapable of improvement; and without denying any the right to desire reasonable & adequate security that such ordinances never be abused beyond their intended Christian scope; it should be observed that the above legislation manifests both admirable spiritual care of the Nation, and the wise policy of discerning & responsible Rulers.

True & spiritual Christians read their Bibles, and in reading their Bibles they quickly learn not only that God is real in the life of individuals, but also that he is real in the life and affairs of nations: that his grace is given to individuals and mercy shown to nations; as also his chastisements are sent to individuals and his judgments are seen in the earth. His works of judgment are exercised both in nations professing to be his people, as well as in nations that know him not.  As Christians therefore, we must fully identify with Holy Scripture, and with one another, in recognizing the reality that not only murder, theft, adultery, tyranny, and oppression may provoke the Lord’s judgments against nations that rebel against him; but that blasphemy, sabbath-breaking, and the unrestrained propagation of doctrine inimical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are also causes of the Lord’s wrath against commonwealths that disregard the welfare of Christ’s kingdom.  Consequently, we cannot disapprove of the English Parliament’s decision to appoint a day of public humiliation and fasting in light of the spiritual wickedness which so much abounded in their nation. In fact, we must highly approve it. No other step, as a nation, or on the part of its governors, was fit to be taken first. True Christians are most sensitive to the fact that in their troubles, no means will prevail for good without God’s blessing. They must begin by seeking that, and distrusting every solution, policy, or earthly-means that comes without the Lord’s special grace. Humble prayer was the necessary place to begin. Our sinful nature and self-trusting inclinations forget this too readily when it comes to resolving differences with other Christians, as in the cases between offended brethren, or controversies between parties of comparative orthodoxy. When, however, such horrid blasphemies are heard in the streets or found in print, as must make every Christian sickened with their very appearance, we know not what to do but to flee to our heavenly Father for refuge and deliverance.

If any doubt that the blasphemies and heresies of England at the time of this ordinance were really so bad, they may consult the records of the times, and they will find that many things then published in the name of Religion were horrific even in those days when Puritanism was of its strongest influence. The various Testimonies published by the faithful London ministers, and those who followed their example, as well as subsequent ordinances of the English Parliament, give thorough documentation to the intolerableness of what Satan was able to produce and publish in the city of London and elsewhere.

These things being so, and the Lord’s mercies being sought, no Christian governor could content himself with the thought that his duty was already done. That is not the example or direction that he finds in Holy Scripture. He knows well that Christian doctrine teaches the indispensableness of God’s mercy to heal the nation of its corruptions, and the futility of all efforts of Church and State without the Lord’s sovereign & efficacious grace; but he knows also his calling, and that the neglect thereof is calculated to bring judgments more fearful and disorders yet further beyond his ability to remedy.  By the 1640’s there was no Christian ruler in England or any other Protestant nation insensitive to the dangers of legislating against crimes in matters of religion. Protestants had suffered much on account of Papists attempting to do so. Protestants had also suffered much on account of Episcopalians attempting to do so. And none doubted that even laws well framed against what every true Christian must regard as criminal, might still be used by unprincipled persons directly contrary to their purpose.  But, at the same time, no good Christian ruler was insensitive to the dangers of failing to legislate, and legislate distinctly, against crimes in matters of religion. He knew that blasphemy unrestrained, would surely grow; and that though the Lord is able to prosper his Gospel regardless of the magistrate’s actions or inactions, Satan would proliferate his tares for the dishonour of God and danger of the commonwealth if heresy were licensed by the State, or ignored under the specious titles of differing opinion and conscience.  His own conscience must regard God’s word as defining his duty; and he must regard his own conscience.

Of course, it is no secret that laws for punishing Blasphemies and Heresies would have been opposed by some at the time, and have long since been opposed by many. We are grown into such an infidelity of mind and skepticism of heart in our age that we find it hard to believe that any men were ever so sure of their religion, or of their duty before God. We are trained to think of all things in terms of relative reality, whereby it seems unsuitable for one man to punish bad religion in another, if the other thinks it good religion. The idea that an absolute authority defines which religion is good and which is bad, and then assigns some men the duty of punishing criminal offenses in religion as much as unethical dealings in society, while other men pretend authority to do differently, is an idea eclipsed by a philosophy which says the Bible, the Koran, and every other basis of religion is indiscernibly identical in its claims to authority and right to demand our attention.  “Hath God really said... ?” is the prevailing mentality of the day, and Christians themselves are too much held captive to the world’s way of looking at religion,—a way in which no serious Christian of the 1600’s would think of his God, his Bible, his Faith, or his Salvation.

But however much our own minds have been influenced by a society that has shut its eyes to the great realities of our Lord Jesus Christ, his Redeeming Blood, and his Universal Dominion, the fact is, that if we will let either Faith or Reason have its proper course, there is little men may say against the above Ordinance for punishing Blasphemy and Heresy, which cannot be abundantly answered.  It may be fiercely slandered, by slanderers; but all that might be said against it is what such slanderers on the same principles might have said against Moses when he delivered the LORD’s Laws for punishing such sins.  Probably the notion of imprisoning Baptist ministers for obstinate public opposition to Infant Baptism as a sinful institution, would be the segment of this law most difficult to support for modern Presbyterians. But, just for the sake of illustration, we may ask: What would Moses have done, if a confident Korah or Dathan should oppose the circumcision of infant boys on the basis that such infants have not evidenced their own repentance, and were not yet capable of understanding the ordinance? Surely the leaven would be stopped.

So what are the slanders against the above Ordinance? A couple examples may suffice:

In a book published concerning the “Foundation of Maryland” in the year 1883, some review of this Ordinance was made, with some unfavorable prejudice obviously at work. There it is named the “terrible ordinance” and the “fearful statute”;—of course, we suppose the statutes of governments are meant to be feared. But this is “a test of Christian doctrine” according to the author. No, the reader may observe it is not. It does not prescribe any one to be tested, or to officiate in performing the imaginary test.

Considering the predicament of Lord Baltimore, who was in the process of coming to terms with the Maryland General Assembly on new legislation, the author describes the conditions: “Maryland, overwhelmingly Protestant and in sympathy with the Parliamentary party; religious toleration in England drowned in blood by the Ordinance of May 2, 1648. &c.” The author’s imagination seems to have gotten the best of him. In reality, it does not seem that “terrible ordinance” ever had such consequences. But his exaggerations and slanders go a little further. He tells us on page 136 that, “The ordinance of the Long Parliament of 1648, enforced conformity to the tenets of Puritanism under the penalty of death.” Of course, those who read the ordinance will see that the penalty of Death has respect only to the tenets of good and basic Catholicism, in which both Romanists and Protestants would identify; and it is not a means of enforcing conformity or compelling anyone to be a Puritan, but only to prevent the growth and spreading of Heresy and Blasphemy—to defend the honour of God himself from those whose “religion” or “conscience” is so depraved that they must publish their insults against Him.

The author then contrasts the 1649 Maryland Act Concerning Religion with Parliament’s 1648 Ordinance. He seems to show some favor to the Act for Maryland, but this can only be through favoritism since Parliament’s ordinance concerns the crimes of Blasphemy and Heresy as maintained and published with obstinacy, whereas the Act for Maryland appoints the punishment of death for simple denying the cardinal doctrines of Christianity.  It is true, the author accounts them both “laws to punish non-conformity,” but he offers no such exaggerations for the Maryland Act as was done for Parliament’s Ordinance. The latter he tells us denounced the punishment of death against all who deny: “The belief in God, the doctrine of the Trinity, the dogma of Predestination, etc.”  As noticed however, it was the Maryland Act which addressed itself to the mere denial of doctrines. And if the reader will re-examine Parliament’s ordinance, he will be at a loss to discover where the “dogma of Predestination” is mentioned, let alone how the Ordinance “punished Churchman and Roman Catholic with death, for denying the dogma of Predestination.” Neither is it apparent how it “imprisoned for life all Baptists.” These claims are pure slander. Such things never happened, and were never likely to happen under the strictest enforcement of this law by Puritans or Presbyterians.

A Second example of slander against this ordinance is from our own times. How much he himself is to blame for the form and details of the description involved is unknown to the present editor. It is possible he was relaying the slanders of another commentator, and was not himself of such a malicious and unfair disposition. In any case, a certain bookseller in Britain recently had a copy of this little ordinance for sale. In this instance the words fearful and terrible came too short of describing the nature of the ordinance, so instead the word “savage” was chosen.  “Draconian” also, was considered a helpful term to describe the intentions of rulers who sought to curb the attempts of men to abuse the honor of God.  Like the author of “The Foundation of Maryland”, this other individual thought it fair or honest enough to let the reader believe that a mere denying of central Christian doctrines was the crime Parliament intended to punish. And again, “life imprisonment” was the obvious consequence for everyone who rejected infant baptism.  But in this case, it was necessary to take another step to insult this important legislation, and the Puritan rulers of England responsible for it: the observant critic notices that it was not until weeks later that Parliament finally published the Westminster Assembly’s Confession of Faith (!); As if it had been a greater concern for the Parliament to weed-out heretics, than to ensure that anyone was able to learn true doctrine; and as if the public had meanwhile been without means to learn the basic catholic doctrines of Holy Scripture which the ordinance sought to protect. The man must be possessed of a rather bitter malice, who would go so far as to lead others to believe that this Parliament was so arbitrary and presumptuous in the exercise of its authority, that it would set itself a few weeks to involve “victims” in capital crimes, before telling them how to avoid the danger of accusation.  The insinuation is remarkably audacious. But in this case the man tempers his slander with the acknowledgment that “mercifully it was rarely enforced.” Perhaps he should have considered the possibility that the nature of the ordinance and the Parliament’s intentions was totally different than what he describes.

These observations will suffice for present purposes. The reader may guess that others have also spoken freely, and sometimes less honestly, in an age when wrong opinions about “Liberty of Conscience” have so taken root in western society that men think there can be no Liberty without Licentiousness: as if good men could not be free to work righteousness, unless evil men are free to entice them to iniquity.  But it is not the editor’s purpose to answer all objections, or enter into the fray with those who are anxious to explode these controversies with bitter insults and an endless war of words. It is well known that the lives of men are concerned, and that former abuses in the name of religion must be prevented in future Christian establishments. It is understood that men do not all agree, and that the present subject must put every reader on guard concerning the things that are most sacred to his life and heart.  But what is desired of the reader is simply this: that those who have regard for the honour of God, and account his Word the supreme rule of all that is good and right, would set aside for a moment the philosophies they have learned from modern society, the presuppositions which were inculcated in “western” schools, the indoctrination of churches and scholars who have rejected what the Bible itself says about the proper relation of Church and State;—and that with a mind free of prejudice, they would search the Scriptures to learn what the duty is of a nation blessed with the light of the Gospel, and blessed with men qualified to rule who are willing to be ruled by the King of kings and Lord of lords, directing them by his infallible Word. Ought they to turn their backs on these blessings, and seek a constitution of society which does not secure the interest of their Redeemer, nor the interest of their posterity as heirs to these blessings? or ought they to seek the honor of their King, and in harmonious union bow their knees to him, receiving his word as their supreme law? Should they set their own interests first, and secure peace with the world? or should they seek first the kingdom of God, trusting that all other things shall be added unto them?  Should they pretend that the duties of governments and qualifications of rulers prescribed in the Scriptures they profess to believe, have no obligation upon themselves and their society? or should they regard Scripture-rule as being of authority at all times, regardless of the fears and opposition of sinful men? Should they regard as crime only what criminals acknowledge is crime? or should they regard as crime that which they know is harmful to society, and accounted criminal by the Lord Almighty?—JTKer.