Contra Libertarianism

“And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people… all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not.  

And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.  Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart…”

Ezra 7:26



Order of Contents

.      Samuel Rutherford
.      George Gillespie
On Prostitution



Samuel Rutherford

About the Following Quote

While the natural instinct of persons necessarily distinguishes between ‘mine and yours’, yet the specific laws of property-holding stem not from the fundamental law of nature, but from the law of nations and civil society by positive, specific, enactment (which is based on, and flows from the instincts and law of nature).  At creation, the creation was given generally to mankind without nature determining what property is whose.

Thus, in extreme circumstances, where the strongest instincts of nature come prominently to the fore, these natural forces legitimately override secondary laws of civil society, and all things, in some respects, are fundamentally shared in common.  Property laws are not an absolute.

However, property rights are still more basic than kingship (see the sections immediately before and after this quote) and hence the civil magistracy does not own all the goods of the subjects (which Rutherford’s opponents had argued was a divine-right of the king).

However, by natural instinct and law, extreme circumstances legitimately call for extreme measures.  Rutherford delineates the exceptions where the king does have a qualified right, in some respect, to all of his citizens property insofar as these exceptions are consistent with the God-prescribed design of the civil office elucidated in Rom. 13:1-5.


Lex Rex, Question 16, p. 67  ‘All the Goods of the Subjects are the King’s in a Fourfold Sense’

“Assertion 2:  All the goods of the subjects belongs not to the king.  

I presuppose that the division of goods does not necessarily flow from the law of nature [which is more fundamental than the positive laws of society and kings], for God made man, before the Fall, lord of the creatures indefinitely; but what goods be Peter’s, and not Paul’s, we know not.  

But supposing man’s sin, though the light of the sun and air be common to all, and religious places [such as buildings for public worship] be proper to none [as they are provided out of the public funds, by and for all], yet it is morally impossible that there should not be a distinction of meum et tuum, ‘mine and thine’; and the decalogue forbidding theft, and coveting the wife of another man (yet is she the wife of Peter, not of Thomas, by free election, not by an act of nature’s law) does evidence to us, that the division of things is so far forth (men now being in the state of sin) of the law of nature, that it has evident ground in the law of nations [which is more specific and positive, being built upon the law of nature, but less fundamental than it]; and thus far natural, that the heat that I have from my own coat and cloak, and the nourishment from my own meat are physically incommunicable to any.  

But I hasten to prove the proposition: If I have leave to permit that, in time of necessity, all things are common by God’s law, [then] a man travelling might eat grapes in his neighbor’s vineyard, though he was not licensed to carry any [a]way.  I doubt if David, wanting [lacking] money, was necessitated to pay money for the showbread, or for Goliath’s sword, supposing these to be the very goods of private men, and ordinarily to be bought and sold.

Nature’s law in extremity, for self-preservation, has rather a prerogative royal above all laws of nations and all civil laws, than any moral king.  In this meaning:

1.  Any one man is obliged to give all he has for the good of the commonwealth, and so far the good of the king, inasfar as he is head and father of the commonwealth.

2.  All things are the king’s, in regard of his public power to defend all men and their goods from unjust violence.

3.  All are the king’s, in regard of his act of conservation of goods, for the use of the just owner.

4.  All are the king’s in regard of a legal limitation, in case of a damage offered to the commonwealth.  Justice requires confiscation of goods for a fault; but confiscated goods are to help the interested commonwealth, and the king, not as a man (to bestow them on his children) but as a king.  To this we may refer these called bona caduca et inventa [goods fallen and found], things lost by shipwreck or any other providences…”



George Gillespie

Aaron’s Rod, Part 2, ch. 8, p. 122

“The magistrate ought also to take care of the maintenance of the ministry, schools, poor, and of good works for necessary uses, that religion and learning may not want their necessary adminicles [documentary writings].

Finally, he ought to take care that all churches be provided with an able, orthodox and godly ministry, and schools with learned and well-qualified teachers, such as shall be best approved by those to whom it belongs to examine and judge of their qualifications and parts…”




Ritchie, Daniel

‘Libertarianism and the Reformed Confessions: The First Helvetic Confession (1536)’  2012  5 paragraphs

‘Francis Turretin, Social Theocrat’  2012  5 paragraphs

‘Libertarian Theology and the Covenanted Reformation: towards a Reformed political theology’  Quotes the Scottish Second Book of Discipline against Libertarianism



On Prostitution


During the Reformation and puritan eras, whore-houses were known as ‘stews’.  These were appropriately so named, as the continual warming, mixing and changing of bodily fluids which takes place in such a facility is not unlike the stirring of a stew.

Westminster Larger Catechism #139, under the sins of the 7th Commandment, forbids as a moral transgression not only ‘resorting to’ stews (by private individuals), nor only the ‘keeping of’ stews (by stew owners and managers), but it also forbids the ‘tolerating’ of stews.  The tolerating of stews refers to the toleration of them by persons that have the authority and capacity to do something about them, namely the civil magistrate, who, as the vice-gerent of God, is to curb all public violations of God’s moral law in society, according to God’s righteousness and glory.

The civil toleration of stews was a significant issue brought to the fore by the Reformation.  Romanist countries often civilly allowed whore-houses (and related things) under the pretext that it was a utilitarian good for the whole society as it prevented worse transgressions.  The Reformers and puritans often argued (against a significant share of modern Libertarianism) that it was the moral obligation of the civil magistrate to forbid such institutions with civil penalties, by God’s authority.

Below you will find documentation to this effect.  More will be forthcoming.



Gouge, William – Ch. 13, ‘§. 42. Of the unlawfulness of Brothel houses or Stews’  in Commentary on Hebrews  1655  Westminster divine

Ridpath de Souligné, George – Article 17, pp. 74-84  of The Political Mischiefs of Popery, or, Arguments Demonstrating I. That the Romish Religion Ruins all those countries where ’tis established  1698



Featley, Daniel

The Romish Fisher Caught and Held in his Own Net (1638), ‘Dr. Featly’s Reply’, p. 83  Westminster divine

“Thirdly, that Prophesy, 2 Pet. 2:18, ‘They allure by the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness,’ etc. is fulfilled in the Papacy, which permits pub∣ic stews, I might say, allows, because who keep those houses, do therefore pay a pension to the Pope.”


Hall, Thomas

The Beauty of Holiness (1655), 10th Objection, p. 141  Hall was a reformed puritan

“The principles of our religion give no toleration of stews, no profanation of the Sabbath by gaming, dancing, etc. but teach all men to live soberly, godlily, and righteously…”


Durham, James

Commentary on Revelation (1658) ch. 17, Lecture 6, p. 675

“Lastly, they say, ‘Rome cannot be the whore [in Rev. 17], because (forsooth) of her holiness,’ and what is that?  There are so many abbacies, mortifications, holy Churchmen, relics and temples of saints, many masses and such like there, etc.  All which serve not to prove this conclusion, that she is so.

And it is not unobserveable that immediately after this answer, Cornelius à Lapide, professor at Rome, does justify the toleration of stews and brothel-houses in it, as a thing tending to prevent much sin and becoming a well-ordered commonwealth; And when this is mentioned by them as a piece of Rome’s holiness, we may the more easily judge of the rest.”


Downame, George

As quoted in, Richard Baxter, The Safe Religion, or, Three Disputations for the Reformed Catholic Religion against Popery (1657), Appendix, ‘A Translation of Bishop Downame’s Catalogue of Popish Errors, Book 3, De Antichristo, ch. 7′, section 21, Of the Law’, p. 543

“64. They suffer stews, and stoutly defend their toleration.”


Prynne, William

An Exact Chronological History and full display of popes’ intollerable usurpations upon the ancient just rights, liberties, of the kings, kingdoms, clergy, nobility, commons of England and Ireland (1666), Book 1, ch. 5, p. 289

“So on the other hand Pope Hildebrand‘s [d. 1085] violent decrees and edicts against married priests’ wives and masses introduced all manner of uncleanness, whoredom, adultery and sodomy itself amongst unmarried Popes, prelates, cardinals, clergymen, votaries of the Roman Church; yea and avowed toleration, patronage of whoredom, public stews, whores in Rome itself, together with an annual tribute to Popes and their officers both from whores and priests.

Hence Johannis Andreat, Johannis de Aton and other canononists in their Gloss on Othos Constitutions, are not ashamed to publish:

Videtur quod crimen Meretricii sub dissimulatione transire debet Ecciesia; Nam et Mareschal∣lus Papae de facto exigit Tributum a Meretricibus, et hoc forte, ad mao malum evtandum non est culpandum.

These public harlots, constituted Popes themselves before Hildebrand’s time, and in most ages since priests’ wives prohibited, they have been highly courted like princes and ladies even in Rome itself at noon-day, as well as in the night by disguised cardinals and clergymen; as Paul the 3rd, his own Cardinals thus informed him:

In hac etiam urbe Meretrices, ut Matronae, incedunt per urbem, seu Mula vehuntur; quas affectantur de media die Nobiles, familiares Cardinalium, praesertim noctu: nulla in urbe videmus hanc corruptionem praeterquam in hac omnium exemplari: Habitant etiam insignes aedes;

Yea Peter Martyr [Vermigli] adds:

Vehuntur per publicum habitu Principum; Sedent in equis gradiariis, etc. Habent secum Torquatos & Larvatos Comites, interdum etiam Cardinalium, praesertim noctu, & ancilarum sumptuosissimam gregem. Nunc, O Deus bone, quomodo Romae coercentur Meretrices?

Yea, to prevent the emperors and other kings punishing and reformation of these abuses, they exempted all clergymen from their tribunals, and the accusations of laymen, decreeing, that no cardinal should be convicted, condemned of adultery, whoredom, etc. but by 72 witnesses, no cardinal priest but by 64, no cardinal deacon or bishop but by 24, nor subdeacon or cardinal of inferior degree, nor bishop but by 7 witnesses at least.  And those would be more than impudent, who durst commit whoredom, adultery, or sodomy in the open view of so many priests or clergymen; or yet of laymen, though disabled to accuse them by their canons.”




“If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence; If I rejoice because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much; if I beheld the sun when it shined or the moon walking in brightness and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand:

  This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.”

Job 31:24-25,28

“But I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be in danger of the council…”

Mt. 5:22

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God…  But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain, for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

Rom. 13:1,4




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