Against Conformity to What is Not Right

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Order of Contents

Article
Books
Quote

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Article

Gillespie, George – pp. 8-9  of p. 2, ch. 1  of English Popish Ceremonies  (1637)

“The position therefore which we mantain…  from which we will not depart the breadth of one nail, is this, that we can never lawfully conform (no not in the case of deprivation [of the ministerial office]) unto any ceremony which is scandalous and inconvenient in the use of it.” – p. 9

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Books

Calderwood, David

The Course of Conformity, as it has Proceeded, as it is Concluded & as it Should be Refused  (1622)  130 pp.

This work is primarily against episcopacy as it especially grew in Scotland after the Assembly of Perth (1618).  Some attribute it to William Scot (c. 1558-1642) or James Melville.  Thomas M’Crie assigned it to Calderwood.

The Pastor & the Prelate, or Reformation & Conformity shortly Compared by the Word of God, by Antiquity…  ([Holland?] 1628)  75 pp.

This is a dialogue between a Scottish pastor and a prelate, contrasting the theology and characteristics of them.

Henry Burton – Conformity’s Deformity.  In a Dialogue Between Conformity & Conscience.  Wherein the Main Head of All the Controversies in These Times Concerning Church-Government is Asserted & Maintained…  (London, 1646)  27 pp.

Burton was an Independent, English puritan.

MacWard, Robert – The True Non-Conformist in Answer to the Modest & Free Conference Betwixt a Conformist & a Non-Conformist About the Present Distempers of Scotland  (1671)  ToC

MacWard (1633?-1687) was the protege of Samuel Rutherford.  He here defends the non-conforming presbyterians during the era of persecution in Scotland against the criticisms of an episcopal Scottish minister, shortly turned Anglican, Gilbert Burnet (1643–1715).

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Quote

Henry Burton

Conformity’s Deformity.  In a Dialogue Between Conformity & Conscience.  Wherein the Main Head of all the Controversies in These Times Concerning Church-Government is Asserted & Maintained…  (London, 1646), pp. 11-14, 23-4

“For this mystery of iniquity [of conformity] had its first rise even in the apostles’ times, it began then to work.  And what was this mystery of iniquity, but an exaltation of man’s power above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so as to sit upon, or over, or in the Temple of God, over the consciences of God’s people, and over the Church as God Himself?

And note there also, it is called an ‘apostasy’, or (as Tit. 1:14) a turning away from, or of the truth (as afore) and such are adversaries too, and all Antichristian.  Such an one was Diotrephes; that [in Greek], who loved the preeminence (the very spawn of this mystery) which sets him a work to raise himself:

1. In not receiving the apostle John;
2. In prating against him with malicious words;
3. In not receiving the brethren;
4. In forbidding those that would;
And 5. In casting them out of the Church.

Thus also did this mystery begin to work, as the apostle intimates both in Tit. 1:14 and in Col. 2:8,17,18, 20, 22, 23.  But then this mystery was but in the swadling clouts, which afterward growing by degrees to the full stature, was so bedecked with infinite varieties of ceremonies, and daily new fashions in religion (as the crow with every bird’s feather) that getting an unlimited, usurped power, and that under the color of Jure Divino [by divine right], all men’s consciences, churches must conform to the present fashion of worship and Church-government.

Thus by degrees this Mystery of iniquity mounted to its height, and has now obtained such a prescription of antiquity, as is equivalent to a law.  And not only the Pope claims and exercises this power over his whole Popedom and Hierarchy, but from him our late Prelates.  And whence, or from whom you derive this very power, unless immediately either from the Pope or from our late Prelates, whose personal Prelacy you have abandoned, saving their Prelatical spirit and usurped power: or else from the antiquity of this mystery; you may do well to inform us.

And in truth, this was that very sluice, which when first opened, did let in that inundation and deluge not only of will-worship, in all kind of ceremonies and superstitions, but also of human forms and frames of Church-government, and in all of them such a tyrannical power over all consciences and Churches as has wholly drowned all; so as Christ’s Dove can nowhere find where to set her foot.  And therefore in this time of pretended Reformation, to erect this great idol, to wit, a power in man to prescribe laws and to legitimate commandments for worship and Church government, and to press them upon every man’s conscience: what is it, but with Nebuchadnezzar to erect his golden image and with an immortal law of the Medes and Persians, to bind all men to fall down and worship it?

Or what is it, but with Jeroboam and his counsel (and so in every alteration of the State) to set up the golden calves with a strict commandment of universal conformity; none daring among all those Ten Tribes openly to profess the pure worship of God, saving the prophet Eliah, to whom those seven thousand were not known.  And therefore God rooted out Jeroboam’s house; and did the Tribes escape scot-free for their yielding willing obedience to the commandment of the king’s counsel, though it were a public act of State?  Was not Ephraim oppressed and broken in judgement because he willingly walked after the commandment?

For God set wicked kings over them, who oppressed and brake them in judgement, tyrannizing at their pleasure.  As always where a people is brought under the spiritual yoke of bondage, they are never free from the temporal.  Nor only this, but they were carried into perpetual captivity and never returned unto this day.  An example to be laid to heart both of rulers and people.

Remember Ephraim therefore, the horribleness of whose sin appears by the horribleness of the punishment.  And like to this is that of Jerusalem and of the Jews.  They said indeed, ‘If we thus let Him alone, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.’  No, blind Jews, because ye did renounce your King Christ, and so envy the people’s salvation, therefore the Romans came and took away both your place and nation.

And how did the Jews reject this their King?  Christ tells us in a parable of a nobleman, Luke 19, saying (v. 14), But his citizens hated him and sent a message after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’  Where note:

First, they were such as professed to be the people of God, His citizens.

Secondly, the ground of their refusal of Him to be their king was hatred of Him, and so to refuse Him is to hate Him.

Thirdly, the manner of their refusal:

1. They sent a message after Him (as the vulgar translation renders it), but the original is, ‘They sent [in Greek] an ambassage after Him,’ which is more then a message.  It must be done by a public act of State, to make all cock-sure.

And 2. the matter of the ambassage, ‘We will not have this man, or this fellow ([in Greek]) this, noting their contempt of Him.  And the reason hereof was their will: ‘We will not.’

But what was the issue?  Read and mark it, v. 27, where Christ not long after returns in judgement against them, which He executes by those very Romans whom they so feared, to whom He gives this commission: ‘But those mine enemies that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them, etc.’ which was done accordingly.

Such as conform to a State religion, or a State church-government, make that the supreme law and lord over their conscience, and so exclude Christ’s supremacy.  Enough is said of that.  But you cut me off from what I was about to add:

Man’s nature is too prone to idolize the Power so, as to make it as the shadow of the bramble, in Jotham’s parable, under which to ease themselves of the labor to search into the Scriptures and so to come to know what they believe; most men pinning their religion upon the sleeve either of the priest, as the Papists do, or also of the magistrate, as our common Protestants do, wrapping all up in an implicit faith and blind obedience, according to your Remonstrance that urges conformity to the religion and government of Christ already established, or which shall be set up.

Thus it was enough for the Pharisees to say, ‘We have a law, and by that law Christ ought to die.’  Thus Christ must not be God, because the Roman Senate, according to their law formerly made, had not first motioned it, or passed their vote for it, before Tiberius Caesar had commended it to them, namely to admit of Christ into their pantheon to take place among their gods.  And is it not even so with us?  Must not Christ be King of the Jews, only because by an act of State (as before) they will not have this man to reign over them.  And Christ must not be God, because the Roman Senate had not pre-resolved it.  And so Christ must not be sole Lord over the conscience, nor sole Lawgiver of his Church, nor his Word the sole rule of worship and of Christ’s Kingly government of his spiritual Kingdom in the conscience, and Churches of the saints, nor indeed Christ’s kingdom-spiritual, because the Sate has made a law which must rule the conscience in point of forms of worship and of Church-government, that Christ’s kingdom must be worldly…”

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