On Implicit, or Blind Faith & Obedience

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.'”

Mt. 4:4

“…and they said, ‘All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.’”

Ex. 24:7

“And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

Mt. 15:14

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Subsections

On Arbitrary Laws & Commands

That the Mere Will, Determination, Judgment or Saying So of Authorities is an Insufficient Ground of Faith & Obedience, & that Authorities are Never to Act or Require Something without a Naturally, Morally or Spiritually Sufficient Reason, & that Manifest to Consciences

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Order of Contents

Scriptures
.        That Implicit Faith & Obedience is to be Given to God
.        That Implicit Faith & Obedience is Not to be Given to Men
.        That we are Only to Serve Men when it can be Done in the Lord
The Grounds of Implicit Faith & Obedience being Given to God & Not to Men

Articles  14+
Books  2+
Quote
Westminster
What Aspects of Implicitness May be in Faith & What Not
Romanists on Implicit Faith & Obedience

That Implicit Faith & Obedience is to be Given to God Alone
On Believing Doctrines that are Above Reason
On the Right of Private Discretion
Historic Presbyterianism Never Requires Implicit Faith or Obedience
Blind Obedience is a Mark of Romanism & Prelacy
On Blind Faith
That Persons are not to Blindly Believe Preachers
On Citing the Works of Men as if they are the Last Word

On Being a Servant of Christ, not of Men
That Church Commands & Determinations are Not to be Blindly Obeyed
That the Magistrate is Not to Blindly Obey the Church
That the Magistrate is Not to Exact Blind Obedience in Matters of Religion
With Regard to War

Latin  2


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Scriptures that Implicit Faith & Obedience is to be Given to God

Gen. 12:1  “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, ‘Get thee out of thy country…
unto a land that I will show thee.”

Gen. 22:2  “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get
thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of
the mountains which I will tell thee of.”

Ex. 24:7  “…and they said, ‘All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be
obedient.’”

Dt. 6:1  “Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them…”

Dt. 18:18-19  “I will raise them up a Prophet… and will put my words in his
mouth… and it shall come to pass that whosoever will not hearken unto my
words which He shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.”

Dt. 29:29  “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things
which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all
the words of this law.”

Job 33:12-13  “…God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against Him?
For He giveth not account of any of his matters.”

Ps. 94:9  “He that planted the ear…”

Isa. 55:9  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher
than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Mt. 4:4  “But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread
alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’’”

Mt. 9:9  “And as Jesus… saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of
custom: and He saith unto him, ‘Follow me.’ And he arose, and followed Him.”

Rev. 1:15  “…and his voice as the sound of many waters…”

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Scriptures that Implicit Faith & Obedience is Not to be Given to Men

Gen. 4:6-7  “And the Lord said unto Cain, ‘Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.’”

2 Sam. 23:3-4  “The God of Israel said… ‘He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.  And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth…”

2 Sam. 24:1-4,15  “And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah.’…  And Joab said unto the king, ‘…but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?’  Notwithstanding the king’s word prevailed against Joab…  And Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel…  So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel…  and there died of the people…  seventy thousand men.”

Ps. 32:9  “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding…”

Ps. 119:75  “I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right;”

Hosea 5:10-12  “The princes of Judah were like them that remove the
bound[ary]… Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he
willingly walked after the [human] commandment. Therefore will I be unto
Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.”

Mt. 15:14  “And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

Mt. 20:25-27  “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.  But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:”

Mt. 23:8  “But be not ye called ‘Rabbi’ [my master]: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.”

Acts 15:23-29  “And they wrote letters by them after this manner: ‘The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren…  Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls…  It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you…  For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things, that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.  Fare ye well.”

Rom. 14:12-13  “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.  Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”

Rom. 14:23  “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

1 Cor. 7:23 “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.”

Gal. 1:10  “…or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”

Gal. 5:1  “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,
and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

Col. 2:20-23  “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the
world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch
not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the
commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of
wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body…”

Titus 1:14  “Not giving heed to…  commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”

1 Pet. 2:16  “As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.”

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Scriptures that we are Only to Serve Men when it can be Done in the Lord

Rom. 13:4  “For he is the minister of God to thee for good…”

1 Cor. 4:1  “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ…”

1 Cor. 9:19  “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.”

2 Cor. 4:5  “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.”

Eph. 6:1  “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.”

Eph. 6:5-7  “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:”

Col. 3:18  “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.”

1 Thess. 5:12  “…know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;”


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The Grounds of Implicit Faith & Obedience being Given to God & Not to Men

Most of the time God commands, it is with reasons, or the reason is readily apparent from the context. The infrequent times God commands without a manifestly apparent and sufficient reason, there yet is still an inherent rational basis for it, which is unique to God (who does nothing without a reason), namely that He, by definition (from the light of nature), is all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful and all in control, all-wise and infallible, and He owns us. This establishes the certain righteousness and goodness of all of God’s
commands, which fact thus morally obliges us.

Officed men, on the other hand, do not own people, they have corruption innate to
themselves, are fallible, are not all-wise, all in control, all-good or all-knowing.
Therefore it is not safe, and thus it is immoral, to implicitly and blindly believe and obey officed men.

While the authority and power resident in the God-given office is wholly righteous and infallible, as its Author, yet whether such persons exercise God’s power therein in their acts is contingent, fallible and possibly only in a certain degree. And thus to give blind and implicit faith and obedience to officed men, treating them as infallible and all good, etc. (that is, as God) is sinful.


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Articles

On the Middle Ages

James, Thomas – Section 22, ‘Of Implicit Faith’  in An Apology for John Wickliff, showing his conformity with the now Church of England…  (Oxford, 1608)

The short section documents what John Wycliff believed and taught, in Latin.

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1500’s

Ponet, John – ‘What Confidence is to be Given to Princes & Potentates?’  in A Short Treatise of Politic Power…  (Strasbourg, 1556)

Ponet (c. 1514–1556) was an Anglican bishop, controversial writer & Marian exile. He is now best known as a resistance theorist who made a sustained attack on ‘the divine right of kings’.

Calvin, John – Institutes, trans. Beveridge, bk. 3, ch. 2, ‘Of Faith’, sections 2-6

Beza, Theodore – Question 1, ‘Must Magistrates Always Be Obeyed As Unconditionally As God?’  in Concerning the Rights of Rulers Over Their Subjects and the Duty Of Subjects Towards Their Rulers  HTML  (1574)

Willet, Andrew

Synopsis Papismi, that is, A general view of Papistry, wherein the whole mystery of iniquity, and sum of antichristian doctrine is set down, which is maintained this day by the Synagogue of Rome against the Church of Christ…  (London, 1592), 1st Book, 2nd Controversy, 4th Question, ‘of the Authority of the Church’

1st Part, ‘Whether the Church has Authority in Matters of Faith Beside the Scriptures?’, pp. 73-4

Appendix, ‘Whether we are to Believe in the Church?’, p. 75

Ch. 6, 5. Places of Controversy, 11th Controversy, ‘That a General Faith, called fides implicita, an implied faith, is not sufficient’  in Hexapla in Daniel…  ([Cambridge] 1610)

Perkins, William – ‘The 16th Point, of Implicit or Infolded Faith’  in A Reformed Catholic: or a Declaration Showing how Near we may come to the Present Church of Rome in Sundry Points of Religion, and wherein we Must Forever Depart from Them…  ([Cambridge] 1598)  This exact chapter is also in his Golden Chain.

Perkins defines two legitimate protestant senses of implicit faith from Scripture, namely: (1) of the knowledge of things to be believed, and (2) of an apprehension of the object of faith, namely Christ and his benefits.  Perkins then distinguishes this from the Romanist teaching.

For a summary, see Pagitt below.

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1600’s

Davenant, John – The Determinations, or Resolutions of Certain Theological Questions, Publicly Discussed in the University of Cambridge  trans. Josiah Allport  (1634; 1846)  bound at the end of John Davenant, A Treatise on Justification, or the Disputatio de Justitia...  trans. Josiah Allport  (1631; London, 1846), vol. 2

Question 6, ‘The Blind Obedience of the Jesuits Unlawful’, pp. 248-256

Question 29, ‘Implicit Faith is Not Saving Faith’, pp. 370-374

Pagitt, Ephraim – The 16th Point, ‘of Implicit Faith’  in Heresiography, or, A Description of the Heretics and Sectaries of these Latter Times  (London, 1645)

This is a brief summary of Perkins’ treatment.

Bolton, Samuel

The Arraignment of Error…  (London, 1646), Question 5, ‘What are the Examens of Opinions, or the Trials & Discoveries of Truth & Error?’

Question 1, ‘Who are to Examine Opinions?’, pp. 90-118

Question 3, ‘Who Shall Judge that this [Interpretation] is God’s Mind in Scripture?’, p. 130-144

Prynne, William – 13. ‘Passages deleted against Popish, Blind Obedience’  in Canterbury’s Doom, or, The First Part of a Complete History of the Commitment, Charge, Trial, Condemnation, Execution of William Laud...  (London, 1646), pp. 291-2.

This short section is a helpful quote from the reformed commentary on Hebrews (1635) by William Jones  (1561-1636) against blind obedience, which passage was deleted by the public licencer, who was in some way (it was alleged) performing the will of Archbishop Laud.

Guild, William

10. ‘That no Implicit Faith Does Save’  in The Old Roman Catholic, as at first he was taught by Paul, in opposition to the New Roman Catholic, as of latter he is taught by the Pope, the one being apostolical, the other apostatical: derived and proven only out of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans…  ([Aberdeen,] 1649)

Guild was a Scottish divine who wrote numerous great works against Romanism.

2. ‘That in Matters of Faith we Must Not Rely on the Judgment of the Church or her Pastors’  in An Answer to a Popish Pamphlet Called, ‘The Touch-Stone of the Reformed Gospel’, Made Specially out of Themselves  (Aberdeen, 1656)

Bakewell, Thomas – A Plea for Mr. Strong’s Church-Members, Showing [that] they ought not implicitly to submit to his unnecessary and doubtful Rules, Although for it he threaten to debar them from the Lord’s Table, or to leave them altogether  (London, 1650)

Bakewell (c.1618-) was a reformed, puritan.  William Strong, an Independent and a Westminster divine:

“had imposed some doubtful Rules on his own examined and approved Communicants to subscribe, and till they do it, he is resolved to debar them all from the Lord’s Table, if not wholly forsake them, although their consciences be not satisfied touching the lawfulness of it;”

Bakewell advises Strong’s congregants not to submit to such, especially if their consciences are not satisfied, and argues against the 8 Rules of Strong (which are given) which affirm an Independent church government.

Turretin, Francis – Institutes (P&R)

15th Topic, 9th Question, ‘Is faith assent without knowledge and can it be defined better by ignorance than by knowledge?  We deny against the Romanists.’  in  vol. 2, pp. 564-8

“Again, as sanctification is imperfect, so faith has its degrees by which it increases and grows, both as to knowledge and as to trust.  In this sense, we do not deny that faith can be called in a certain sense implicit, both in children and the uninstructed (who have only an obscure knowledge) and in the more advanced (in whom the light is always mixed with darkness, who often can reach only the fact [to hoti], but do not rise to the why [to dioti]).  Thus the faith of the Old Testament fathers could be called obscure and implicit with respect to ours on account of the obscurity of the revelation.

But the question is whether faith in its conception included knowledge; if not a full, still a true and certain knowledge in its own order.” – p. 565

18th Topic, ‘The Church’, Q. 1, ‘The Necessity of the Discussion Concerning the Church, and Whether the Knowledge of the Church Ought to Precede the Knowledge of Doctrine.’  in vol. 3, pp. 1-6

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1800’s

Fuller, Andrew – Sermon 8, ‘The Obedience of Churches to Their Pastors Explained and Enforced’  on Heb. 13:17  in Works 1.196-202

Fuller was an English, Calvinistic baptist.  His Independent view of church government is seen in speaking of churches obeying their pastor (singular) in the Lord, with attendant deacons, as opposed to elders (plural), as in presbyterianism.

The sermon is very good.

Lorimer, John G. – Lecture 7, ‘Popery, the Enemy of Knowledge:  Impairs the Intellectual Powers: no private judgment, ignorance cherished, being essential to the system’  in The Doctrines and Practices of Popery Examined, in a course of Lectures, by Ministers in Glasgow  (183?), pp. 160-202

Lorimer was a Free Church of Scotland minister in Glasgow.

Connelly, Pierce (Pascal the Younger) – Ch. 7, ‘Blind Obedience’  in Cases of Conscience, or, Lessons in Morals: for the Use of the Laity, Extracted from the Moral Theology of the Romish Clergy  (London, 1851), pp. 48-53

This work is against Romanism, and is specifically against the ethics of the Jesuits.  Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) had attacked the wicked doctrines of the Jesuits, such as evading oaths and giving permission to sin, in his Provincial Letters.  Hence this English author styled himself, ‘Pascal the Younger’.

This chapter contains significant quotes from the foundational writings of the Jesuits, evidencing their doctrine of blind obedience, and their (twisted) reasons and justifications for it.

Ryle, J.C. – ‘The Fallibility of Ministers’

Ryle was a godly and evangelical, low church, Anglican minister.


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Books

1600’s

Wilson, Thomas – Judicium Discretionis, or, A Just & Necessary Apology for the Peoples’ ‘Judgement of Private Discretion’, Exhibited Against the Arrogant Pretences and Imperious Suggestions of Tannerus, Valentia, Bellarmine, with Other Advocates of the Papal Tyranny…  (London, 1667)  155 pp.

It is unclear which Thomas Wilson this was.  The piece itself has no identifying information.

A Protestant – To En Archy: or an Exercitation upon a Momentous Question in Divinity and Case of Conscience, viz. Whether it be Lawful for any person to act contrary to the opinion of his own conscience, formed from arguments that to him appear very probable, though not necessary or demonstrative, Where the opinions of the Papists, Vasquez, Sanches, Azonius, etc. are showed, as also the opinions of some Protestants, viz. Mr. Hooker, Bishop Sanderson, Dr. Fulwood, etc. and compared with the opinions of others; the negative part of the question maintained; the unreasonableness of the Popish opinions, and some Protestants, for Blind Obedience, Detected, and many other things discoursed  (London, 1675)

Mather, Increase – A Narrative of the Miseries of New-England, by Reason of an Arbitrary Government Erected There under Sir Edmond Andross…  (Boston, 1688)


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Quote

On John Hus

J.A. Wiley, The History of Protestantism, bk. 3, ch. 6, end of, pp. 251-252

“At last the matter was brought very much to this point: would he submit himself implicitly to the Council?  The snare was cunningly set, but Huss had wisdom to see and avoid it. “If the Council should even tell you,” said a doctor, whose name has not been preserved, “that you have but one eye, you would be obliged to agree with the Council.”  “But,” said Huss,

“as long as God keeps me in my senses, I would not say such a thing, even though the whole world should require it, because I could not say it without wounding my conscience.”

What an obstinate, self-opinionated, arrogant man! said the Fathers. Even the emperor was irritated at what he regarded as stubbornness, and giving way to a burst of passion, declared that such unreasonable obduracy was worthy of death.”


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Westminster

Westminster Confession of Faith, 20.2

“II.  God alone is lord of the conscience,[k] and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship.[l]  So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience:[m] and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.[n]

[k] Jam. 4:12Rom. 14:4.
[l] Acts 4:19Acts 5:291 Cor. 7:23Matt. 23:8-102 Cor. 1:24Matt. 15:9.
[m] Col. 2:20,22,23Gal. 1:10Gal. 2:4,5Gal. 5:1.
[n] Rom. 10:17Rom. 14:23Isa. 8:20Acts 17:11John 4:22Hos. 5:11Rev. 13:12,16,17Jer. 8:9.”

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On the Westminster Assembly’s Rules, an Organized Discussion & the Exercxise of Public Dissent, but Not Private Dissent

MacKenzie, Kirsteen – The Solemn League & Covenant of the Three Kingdoms & the Cromwellian Union, 1643-1663  (Routledge, 2018), ch. 1, p. 37


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What Aspects of Implicitness May be in Faith & What Not

John Calvin

John Calvin

Commentary on the Gospels

“Though this [Syro-Phoenician / Canaanite]  woman had not been regularly educated by any teacher, yet her faith in Christ was not a notion adopted by her at random, but was formed out of the law and the prophets. It was therefore not less absurd than wicked in that dog, Servetus, to abuse this example for the purpose of proving that faith may exist without promises. I do not deny that, in this sense, there may sometimes be a sort of implicit faith, that is, a faith which is not accompanied by a full and distinct knowledge of sound doctrine; provided we also hold that faith always springs from the word of God, and takes its origin from true principles, and therefore is always found in connection with some light of knowledge.”

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Samuel Rutherford

The Due Right of Presbyteries  (1644), pt. 2, ch. 4, section 5, pp. 224-9

“5th Distinction.  The faith of fundamentals [of Christianity] is implicit three ways: 1. In respect of the degree of believing; 2. In respect of the object; 3. In respect of the subject, or our adherence to things believed.

[1.] In respect of degrees, the faith is implicit and weak three ways, as Calvin may teach:  1. Because we are ignorant of some less-fundamentals; 2. Because we see in a mirror and imperfectly [1 Cor. 13]; 3. In respect of believing upon a false ground, as for [believing doctrine solely for] miracles [and not ultimately because it is God’s Word].

[2.] In respect of the object, the certainty is most sure, as sure as that God cannot lie.

[3.] In respect of our adherence of understanding and affections: in this respect the knowledge of fundamentals must be certain: 1. By a negative certitude which excludes doubting, and so pastor and people must have a certitude of fundamentals, as Rom. 14:5; Col. 1:9; Heb. 5:12; but for a positive certitude, there is not that measure required in a teacher that is in a scholar, for all the body cannot be an eye, 1 Cor. 12:17, yet is a Christian certitude and fulness of persuasion required even of all Christians, Col. 2:2; Col. 3:16, highest and greatest in its kind, though many may be saved with less; yet a distinct knowledge of fundamentals in all is not necessary by a necessity of the means, necessitate medii, as Beza and Doctor Ames teach (Beza, vol. 1, opul., p. 141; Ames, De Cust., bk. 4, ch. 2, q. 3).

[3. continued] There is a faith of fundamentals implicit in respect of the will and affections, which Papists make a wide faith, as the Jesuit Becanus (2nd part, de Vtui. Theolog., ch. 2, q. 3) think[s] to believe these [are the] two fundamentals, 1. That there is a God; 2. That this God has a providence concerning men’s salvation, though other particulars be not known.  Or implicit faith is, says Estius (bk. 3, d. 25, q. 2), when any is ready to believe what the Church shall teach; which faith (Suarez says, de Trip., disp. virt. Theolo., 13, section 8), though it include ignorance, yet keeps men from the danger of errors, because it does submit the mind to the nearest rule of teaching, to wit, to the Church; the knowledge of fundamentals in this sense does not save, but condemn.  Thomas says better than he (22, q. 2, art. 5).”


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Romanists on Implicit Faith & Obedience

Articles

1800’s

Connelly, Pierce (Pascal the Younger) – Ch. 7, ‘Blind Obedience’  in Cases of Conscience, or, Lessons in Morals: for the Use of the Laity, Extracted from the Moral Theology of the Romish Clergy  (London, 1851), pp. 48-53

This work is against Romanism, and is specifically against the ethics of the Jesuits.  Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) had attacked the wicked doctrines of the Jesuits, such as evading oaths and giving permission to sin, in his Provincial Letters.  Hence this English author styled himself, ‘Pascal the Younger’.

This chapter contains significant quotes from the foundational writings of the Jesuits, evidencing their doctrine of blind obedience, and their (twisted) reasons and justifications for it.

Begg, James – Ch. 3, pp. 69-70  of A Handbook of Popery…  (1852)  A certain Romanist, Dr. Newman, president of the New Popish College in Ireland, is quoted at length.


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That Implicit Faith & Obedience is to be Given to God Alone

Intro

The reason that implicit faith and obedience is to be given to God alone is because God is all knowing, wise and good, as well as infallible.  Hence, knowing this from the light of nature, the soul may and should rationally trust and obey whatever proceeds out of God’s mouth.  As God is rational and does all things for his own reasons, so the soul may also know and trust that in implicitly believing and obeying God, he or she is doing the most rational thing possible, which will infallibly result in God’s glory and his or her own good.

Needless to say, no one else is qualified to wield such implicit faith and obedience, as all men are finite, fallible, corrupt, etc.

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John Calvin

Institutes

bk. 2, ch. 15, section 5

“…He reigns by divine authority, because his reason for assuming the office of Mediator was, that descending from the bosom and incomprehensible glory of the Father, He might draw near to us.  Wherefore there is the greater reason that we all should with one consent prepare to obey, and with the greatest alacrity yield implicit obedience to his will.”

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bk. 3, ch. 7, section 1

“We are not our own; therefore, neither is our own reason or will to rule our acts and counsels…  let us not make it our end to seek what may be agreeable to our carnal nature…  we are God’s; let us therefore live and die to Him (Rom. 14:8); We are God’s; therefore, let his wisdom and will preside over all our actions.  We are God’s; to Him, then, as the only legitimate end, let every part of our life be directed.  O how great the proficiency of him, who taught that he is not his own, has withdrawn the dominion and government of himself from his own reason that he may give them to God.  For as the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever He leads.

Let this, then, be the first step, to abandon ourselves, and devote the whole energy of our minds to the service of God.  By service, I mean not only that which consists in verbal obedience, but that by which the mind, divested of its own carnal feelings, implicitly obeys the call of the Spirit of God.  This transformation (which Paul calls the renewing of the mind, Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23) though it is the first entrance to life, was unknown to all the philosophers.

They give the government of man to reason alone, thinking that she alone is to be listened to; in short, they assign to her the sole direction of the conduct.  But Christian philosophy bids her give place and yield complete submission to the Holy Spirit, so that the man himself no longer lives, but Christ lives and reigns in him (Gal. 2:20).”

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bk. 3, ch. 8, section 5

“5.  Still, however, we see not how necessary that obedience is, unless we at the same time consider how prone our carnal nature is to shake off the yoke of God whenever it has been treated with some degree of gentleness and indulgence.  It just happens to it, as with refractory horses, which, if kept idle for a few days at hack and manger, become ungovernable and no longer recognize the rider, whose command before they implicitly obeyed.

And we invariably become what God complains of in the people of Israel — waxing gross and fat, we kick against Him who reared and nursed us (Deut. xxxii. 15).  The kindness of God should allure us to ponder and love his goodness…”

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George Gillespie

A Dispute Against the English-Popish Ceremonies...  (1637), pt. 3, ch. 8, Digression 3, ‘Of the Judging of Controversies & Questions of Faith’, p. 176

“There is a twofold judgment which discerns and judges of faith.  The one absolute, whereby the Most High God, whose supreme Authority alone, binds us to believe whatsoever He propounds to be believed by us, has in his written Word pronounced, declared and established what He would have us to believe concerning Himself or his worship.  The other [is] limited and subordinate…”

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Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government  (1646), Introduction, section 6, p. 86

“When we kneel to kings, we signify by that gesture that we submit ourselves to higher powers, not simply (says Peter Martyr) but insofar as they command not things against the Word of the Lord.  When we adore God, we adore Him as the Supreme Majesty, being ready to obey Him in what He shall command, without any exception…”

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A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience…  (1649), ch. 2, p. 42

“This imposing [of Church courts] takes not away judicious believing [by individuals]…  If imposing were a commanding that we receive absolutely what they say, be it good, or ill, without examining [whether] the argument were concludent, as God himself requires Abraham to kill his son, Abraham was without examination to give absolute obedience, and this proves God to be Lord of the conscience, for knowing his Word to be his Word, we are not to examine it by the Scripture or Law of Nature, because if we know who speaks, we are not to examine what is spoken.

But though we know who speaks among creatures, be it a prophet, an apostle, an angel, yet must we examine both who speaks and what is spoken.”


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On Believing Doctrines that are Above Reason

Quotes

George Gillespie

A Treatise of Miscellany Questions...  (Edinburgh, 1649), ch. 11, ‘Of Stability & Firmness in the Truth’, p. 140

“7.  Let reason be brought in captivity to the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor. 10:5.  That which made the Antitrinitarians and Socinians fall away from the belief of the Trinity of persons in the Godhead, and of the union of the two natures of God and man in the person of Christ, was because their reason could not comprehend these articles: which is the ground of their opinion professed by themselves.

When I speak of captivating reason, I do not mean implicit faith: the eyes of my understanding must be so far opened by the Holy Ghost, that I may know such an article is held forth in Scripture to be believed, and therefore I do believe that it is, though my reason cannot comprehend how it is.”

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Francis Turretin

15th Topic, 9th Question, ‘Is faith assent without knowledge and can it be defined better by ignorance than by knowledge?  We deny against the Romanists.’  in Institutes (P&R), vol. 2, pp. 564-5

“II.  The question is not whether faith…  is a full and perfect knowledge of mysteries, both as to the reason (to dioti) and the fact (to hoti), so that we ought to believe nothing which we do not clearly and distinctly perceive.  For as most gospel mysteries in the greatest degree escape the grasp of the reason, they can never be clearly and distinctly perceived by us as to the wherefore (to dioti) or the how (to pos) or their nature and mode, but only as to the fact because they are truly thus revealed.”

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Article

Lobb, Samuel – ‘How May We Graciously Improve Those Doctrines and Providences Which Transcend Our Understanding?’  in Puritan Sermons: The Morning Exercises, 3.417-450


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On the Right of Private Discretion

Article

Gillespie, George – 3rd Part, pp. 134-138 of ch. 8, ‘That the Lawfulness of the Ceremonies cannot be Warranted by any Ordinance of the Civil Magistrate…’  in English-Popish Ceremonies...  (Edinburgh, 1637)

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Quotes

George Gillespie

A Dispute Against the English-Popish Ceremonies…  ([Leiden] 1637)

Pt. 3, ch. 8, p. 137

“11.  Do not our divines plead for this judgement of private discretion, which ought to be permitted to Christians, when anything is propounded to be believed or done by them?  And this, their judgement, is to be seen in their writings against Papists about the controversies de interpretatione Scripturae, deside implicita, etc.”

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Aaron’s Rod Blossoming...  (London, 1646), bk. 2, ch. 8, ‘Of the Power and Privilege of the Magistrate in things and causes Ecclesiastical…’, p. 280

“Protestant writers…  supposing it [1 Cor. 14:29, 32-33] to hold forth a binding authoritative judgment of the prophets, whereunto any one prophet is bound to be subject, the judgement of his private discretion being always reserved to him, that he give not blind obedience.”

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111 Propositions Concerning the Ministry and Government of the Church  (1647), Proposition 96

“…thereby it is sufficiently clear that they [magistrates] ought to cherish, and by their authority ought to establish, the ecclesiastical discipline; but yet not with implicit faith or blind obedience: For the Reformed Churches do not deny to any of the faithful, much less to the magistrate, the judgement of Christian prudence and discretion concerning those things which are decreed or determined by the Church.”


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Historic Presbyterianism Never Requires Implicit or Blind Obedience

Quotes

1600’s

George Gillespie

An Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1641), Postscript, pp. 16-18

“And now I shall leave to be considered by wise men these vast differences betwixt the Papists’ implicit faith and the case of our [presbyterian] Churches governed by elderships:

1.  The Church assents not to that which the consistory of elders decrees or does, except it be agreeing to the Word of God, as the Reasoner [Independent writer] himself says: but there is no such limitation in the Papists’ implicit faith.

2.  The consistory [local session] of elders does not press anything upon the Church imperiously, or by naked will and authority, without any reason, as the Church of Rome does with those from whom she requires implicit faith.

3.  The Papists know not what those things be which they believe by implicit faith: so that such a faith is rightly called mera articulorum fidei ignorantia, a mere ignorance of the articles of faith: but the decrees of our elderships whereunto our Churches do consent are made known unto them.

4.  Our Churches are, by the judgement of Christian discretion, to examine all things propounded unto them, even the decrees of the elders, whereas Papists may not examine what the Church propounds or commands.

5.  Papists, by their implicit faith, believe whatsoever the Church believes because they think the Church cannot err, but our Churches conceive not only their particular elderships, but ecumenical councils, to be subject to error.”

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Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government  (London, 1646)

Introduction, Section 2, p. 15

“For the Church does bind and loose in the external court, either by a commission from Him who as head of the Church, and who as King gave to her the keys of the Kingdom…”

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1800’s

James Bannerman

The Church of Christ, vol. 1 (Edinburgh, 1868), pp. 241-3

“Second, there are means of a most indispensable kind to be employed in the way of explanation and instruction, counsel and persuasion, to secure the convictions and concurrence of the private members of the Church, in whatever act or declaration the rulers, in the exercise of their judicial, or legislative, or administrative functions, may find it necessary for them to perform or to adopt.

Without the use of such means to carry the conscience and understanding of the members of the Church along with them in all that they do and declare, the office-bearers are not at liberty to use or enforce their peculiar power at all.  And it is only when all such means have been employed and exhausted without effect, and when the members of the Church, so dealt with in the way of Christian persuasion and instruction, still refuse their concurrence, that it may be necessary and is lawful to use authority to strengthen the appeal, and to fall back upon the ultimate resource of all societies, — namely, the inherent right of the rulers to rule, and the no less inherent duty of the ruled to obey.

[Ruling against an errant conscience is only to occur after the rulers have set forth sufficient reasons for the convincing of the one with the errant conscience to obey moral law and truth.  After this point, the one with the errant conscience has been shown that his conscience errs against truth and morality, and all persistence therein is truly a perverse contumacy against God’s truth and morality, not being founded on truth or morality.]

Fourth, there is yet another concession which it is necessary to make in regard to this matter, and which it is of some importance to note; and it is this, that the mere resistance to authority as authority alone, ought not to be made a ground for Church censure or punishment, when there is no moral or spiritual offence connected with the resistance.

Of course resistance to authority, even when that authority is put forth, as it sometimes may and must be, in enforcing a thing indifferent, may yet be associated with moral guilt on the part of those who indulge in it.  Such resistance may arise out of feelings of hatred to all restraint, or opposition of a malignant kind to all authority ; it may become contumacy, and as such involve moral blame.

But until resistance to authority becomes in one way or other morally wrong, when the consent of the members to the act or deed of the rulers is withheld from no cause in itself sinful, such want of consent or concurrence ought to be dealt with on the principle of forbearance in things indifferent, and not be visited with censure or penalty of an ecclesiastical kind.”


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Blind Obedience is a Mark of Romanism & Prelacy

Samuel Rutherford

Joshua Redivivus, or, Mr. Rutherford’s Letters…  ([Rotterdam?, 1664]), ‘Christian Reader’, no page numbering

“…his [Christ’s] servants, who stood firm in their opposition to Prelacy…  but if they will have patience to hear me to ‘Amen’ [at the end], I may possibly convince them of a truth they, are not willing to hear; for I not only grant that they have forgotten their Master’s directions, inhibiting them to to lift up themselves above their brethren…

they must have leave to put out mine and other men’s eyes besides (which we are not willing to give them; though if any man would gratify his Grace [the king], and their Lordships [the prelates], he must part with these in the first place; for an implicit faith is the basis and foundation of their Kingdom of darkness, without which it would fall about their ears and but overwhelm them in the rubbish…  before this come so much as under debate, almost with indifferent men, whether God be angry at their way?  His very giving of them up to persecute his people & servants, says nothing, if it say not this, that whatever be their outward prosperity, he has classed them with Pharaoh, in pouring out his plagues upon their heart…”


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On Blind Faith

Samuel Rutherford

A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience…  (London [1649]), ch. 11, ‘Of the Obliging Power of Conscience’, p. 135 & passim

“Nor are we obliged to follow what our conscience says is true and good, because, or upon this formal reason and ground, that the conscience says so, more than we are to believe and practice what the Church or the conscience of others, [who are] the Church, the learned and godly, say; for we make not the word of the Church the formal object of our faith, but ‘thus saith the Lord’ only, because the Church is but a company of men and so our faith should depend upon men, even though holy and speaking ingenuously what their conscience dictates as true, which is absurd, ergo, by the same reason, what one man’s conscience, our own or others’ say, is not the formal object of our faith and practices, for so also our faith should depend on man, not on God.

And we say the conscience, at its best, is but regula regulata [a rule being regulated] not, regula regulans [a regulating rule], nor ought it to have the throne of God, for God is only Regula Regulans.  If it were a rule, it is to be ruled by God and his Word, yea, as we are to try all things and not believe with a blind faith what others say, or their conscience proposes to themselves and us, as truth, for then we make a Pope of the consciences of men under the notion of teachers and Church; so we are not to be ruled without trying, and absolutely [ruled] by our own conscience, but to try its dictates by the Word of God, otherwise we make a Pope and a God of our own conscience.”


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That Persons are not to Blindly Believe Preachers

Quotes

Samuel Rutherford

‘A Sermon Preached before the Right Honorable House of Lords, in the Abbey Church at Westminster, Wed. the 25th day of June, 1645…’  (London, 1645), pp. 20-22

“…nor was it ever in our heart to teach…  blind obedience…  [such] would cast upon us the doctrine of Papists and Jesuits to make the ways of Christ odious, it has as great strength against the preaching of the Gospel; for if Paul or any faithful pastor preach to the magistrates of Berea that Christ, whom the Jews crucified, is the only Redeemer and Saviour of the world, and…  they [magistrates] are not for that, with blind obedience to receive it and not to search the Scriptures to try whether that which is preached be agreeable to the Scriptures, nor to take it upon the bare authority of the preacher, but they are to search the Scriptures and obliged to believe the preached Gospel.

… as he [the magistrate] may as a Christian, try the word preached, so may he the same way try the decrees and determinations of the Church, and not take them upon blind trust…

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Matthew Poole

Mr. Matthew Pool…  his late sayings a little before his death, concerning the material points of the popish party charged against the Protestants, wherein the desperate tenets of popish Jesuitical principles are detected & solidly censured: for the settlement of all real professors and practical opposers of those damnable delusions, in a few words to the wise…  (1679)  no page number

“1.  The felicity of Protestant professors is that they are not only permitted, but ex­horted by their ministers not to take matters of salvation upon trust; but to search the Scriptures concerning truths delivered.”

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Article

Ryle, J.C. – ‘The Fallibility of Ministers’

Ryle was a godly and evangelical, low church, Anglican minister.


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On Citing the Works of Men as if They are the Last Word

Augustine

The Trinity, Bk. 3, Prologue, Section 2

′′Don’t surrender to my writings as if they were canonical scriptures; believe these without hesitation even when you don’t understand what you believe; with respect to my writings I say: don’t put all faith when you are unsure unless you pass to be sure.  To my critics: Don’t put your writings righted by your opinion or prejudice, but supported by reading the Holy Scriptures or well founded reasons.  If you find something true in them, that truth is not mine, but by understanding it and loving it is yours and mine; and if any falsehood you find, it is my mistake, but by avoiding it you make it neither yours nor mine.”


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On Being a Servant of Christ, not of Men

George Gillespie

A Dispute Against the English-Popish Ceremonies obtruded upon the Chuch of Scotland  ([Leiden] 1637), pt. 4, ch. 3, pp. 10-11

“Moreover, as we may not use any indifferent thing at our own pleasure; so neither may the Church at her will and pleasure command the use of it: but as our practice, so the Church’s injunction must be determined and squared according to the former [three] rules [of using indifferent things (1) to the glory of God, (2) according to the law of charity and (3) purity of conscience].  And if any man think, that in the use of things indifferent he may be led and ruled by the Church’s determination without examining any further, let him understand that the Church’s determination is but a subordinate rule, or a rule ruled by higher rules.

He [Dr. Forbes] has been speaking of the rules which God’s Word gives us concerning the use of things indifferent, and all of them he comprehends under this rule, that we should hear the Church and obey them who are set over us, as if God’s rules were subordinate to men’s rules and not theirs to his.  We say not that every man may use things indifferent suo arbitratu [according to his judgment]: but we say withal that neither may the Church command the use of things indifferent, suo arbitratu.  Both, she in commanding and we in obeying, must be guided by the rules of Scripture.

They who are set over us in the Church have no power given them of Christ which is not for edifying, Eph. 4:12.  The council of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem (which is a lively pattern of a lawful synod to the world’s end) professed they would lay no other burden upon the disciples except such things as the law of charity made necessary for shunning of scandal: and so that which they decreed had force and strength to bind, a Charitate propter Scandalum [from charity due to scandal], says Sanctius.  But suo arbitratu [by their (mere) judgment] they enjoined nothing.  It appears by this place (says [Thomas] Cartwright) that there may be no abridgment of liberty simply decreed, but in regard of circumstance, according to the rule of edification.  And if the Church’s decrees and canons be not according to the rules of the Word, yet forasmuch as everyone of us shall give account of himself and his own deed, we must look that whatsoever the Church decree, yet our practice in the use or omission of a thing indifferent, be according to the foresaid rules.

We may not for the commandment of men transgress the rule of piety by doing anything which is not for God’s glory and ordered according to his will; neither ought any of us to obey men, except for the Lord’s sake and as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God; which teaches us the manner how we ought to obey men, namely, propter Christum et sicut Christus praecipit [for Christ, as Christ commands].  For if we should know no more but the will of man for that which we do, then we should be the servants of men, not the servants of Christ.

Neither yet may we for any human ordinance break the rule of charity: but whatsoever either would weaken or not edify our brother, be it never so lawful, never so profitable to ourselves, never so powerfully by earthly authority enjoined, Christians, who are not born unto themselves, but unto Christ, unto his Church and unto the fellow members, must not dare to meddle with it.

Nor lastly may we obey men so as to break the Law of Purity, and perform any action with a doubtful conscience, that is, whereof either the Word has not, or we out of it have no warrant: in which case tender consciences must be tendered, rather than be racked by authority: for be the things in themselves never so lawful, etc., they are utterly unlawful to me without such information.

Whereas therefore some say that in the use of matters indifferent, the laws of those who are set over us ought to rule us; we still answer that our practice may not be ruled by any law of man except it be according to the rules of the Word; whereof one is this: Tantum oportere esse obedientiae studium in Christianis, ut nihil agant, quod non existiment vel potius certi sint placere Deo [‘There ought to be in Christians such a care for obedience, that they do nothing, except what they think, or rather feel assured, is pleasing to God.’] (Calvin on Rom. 14:5).”


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That Church Commands, Requirements & Determinations are Not to be Blindly Obeyed

Jeremiah Burroughs

The Excellency of a Gracious Spirit…  (1639), p. 138-9

“…tur­bulent spirits do not love to exa­mine things by rule, to call things to account, but follow their own fiery humor and set upon their own will with violence: but godliness takes off men from this ruggedness and turbulency of spirit and makes them gentle and peaceable: let them be never so active, never so forward, never so zealous in any thing, yet if you will call them to examine things by rule, they will meekly and pati­ently hear you; yea, a child shall lead them, Isa. 11:6.

And yet fur­ther; turbulent they are not, for none [are] more obedient to authority than they; none see that majesty of God in authority as they do; none obey authority out of conscience so as they do.  If the will of men in au­thority, rather than authority, shall require anything that the authority of Heaven forbids, that they do not; because they cannot obey, for con­science sake: And so sacred do they account authority, that they would have no obedience performed to it, but obedience for conscience sake.

Blind obedience the Church of God has long ago exploded as too servile for Christian spirits: this were more servile than selling men’s bodies in the market for slaves, which Christianity abhors.  It were too uncharitable a conceit of Chri­stian magistrates, to think that they should require of, or expect from any other obedience than in, and for the Lord; and in this obedience, those who are godly, are so forward…”

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Samuel Rutherford

A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist…  (London, 1648), ‘A Brotherly and Free Epistle…’, no page numbers

“But, 2. All the power and authority of synods we conceive to be ministerial, not lordly, limited, regulated by the only Word of God in the Scripture, and in matters circumstantial, of order and decency, as time, place, persons (observe I say not in mystical religions, ceremonies, called, but unjustly, ‘indifferent’, or the like) by the law of nature, rules of piety, charity, and Christian prudency, for the edification of our brethren and the glory of God;

and a lawful synod we judge has power ministerial from Christ to pass constitutions [in Greek] ‘decrees’, Acts 16:4 (‘laws’ I do not call them, because Christ is the only Lawgiver, King, and head of his Church, his officers are only servants and heralds to hold forth his laws) and these constitutions [or creeds and confessions] condemning Arminianism, Socinianism, Familism, Antinomianism, etc…. 

and commanding in the Lord that they consent to the form of sound doctrine, rebuking all that subvert souls, and trouble the Churches, Acts 15:23-24, are to be obeyed, and the conscience submitted to them, not absolutely, not for the sole will and mere authority of the heralds, as if they were infallible, not with blind obedience, not without reclamation, or appeal, if they be either contrary or beside the scriptures, but conditionally in so far as they are agreeable to the Word of God…”


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That the Magistrate is not to Blindly Obey the Church in Enforcing in Sacra Matters Civilly by Circa Sacra in an Established Christian Nation

Samuel Rutherford

The Due Right of Presbtyeries... (1644), pt. 2, Appendix, Objection: ‘David also prepared materials for the Temple…’, p. 449

“2.  Papists will have the magistrates so to defend the faith, as they have not power to judge [by way of jurisdiction in spiritual things], not [even] as Christians with the judgement of discretion, what is right or wrong, but they must, as blind servants, execute what Prelates decree, yea and see (non propriis (says Henry Blyssemius) sed alienis Episcoporum ac praelatorum suorum oculis videre) ‘not with their own eyes, but with the eyes of their Prelates,’ yea and the magistrate should not read the Scripture (say Papists and Nicanor’s brethren, the Jesuits), [which is] expressly contrary to God’s Word, Dt. 17:17, ‘He shall read in the book of the Law all the days of his life,’ Josh. 1:8, but only believe as the Church believes, and this is blind obedience that they require of princes; this faith or obedience we think abominable in all men, as [also] in princes.”

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‘A Sermon Preached before the Right Honorable House of Lords, in the Abbey Church at Westminster, Wed. the 25th day of June, 1645…’  (London, 1645), pp. 20-22

“…nor was it ever in our heart to teach that the Christian magistrate is with blind obedience to execute the decrees of the Church; for this poor argument, if it have any nerves, as it would cast upon us the doctrine of Papists and Jesuits to make the ways of Christ odious, it has as great strength against the preaching of the Gospel; for if Paul or any faithful pastor preach to the magistrates of Berea that Christ, whom the Jews crucified, is the only Redeemer and Saviour of the world, and that therefore they are, as nurse-fathers, to give liberty to the servants of God, to preach this doctrine and to hinder any to persecute such as shall preach this doctrine, yet by their civil authority, and ex officio [out of their office], they are not for that, with blind obedience to receive it and not to search the Scriptures to try whether that which is preached be agreeable to the Scriptures, nor to take it upon the bare authority of the preacher, but they are to search the Scriptures and obliged to believe the preached Gospel.

But not as magistrates [are they] either to preach themselves, or to judge authoritatively by virtue of their office, whether the preacher’s doctrine be the Gospel of Christ or no[t]: so if a synod, by the Holy Ghost and the light of Scriptures, determine anything for discipline or censure, the magistrate, as he may as a Christian, try the word preached, so may he the same way try the decrees and determinations of the Church, and not take them upon blind trust and accordingly punish the contraveners [to the Church’s decrees] as a magistrate, and as he is the minister of God that bears his sword; but yet he can no more as a magistrate, and by his office, prescribe such ecclesiastic laws (as wee have [in] Acts 15:28; 16:4) unto the Churches of God, or as a magistrate and by his office judge them unlawful and forbid them, than he can preach the word, or say it seemed good to the Holy Ghost [Acts 15:28] and to me who bears the sword, to command that the Churches observe such and such laws.”

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The Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646), pp. 595-9

“They [Romanists] write that magistrates do not see in Church-matters with their own eyes, but with bishops’ eyes, and that they must obey without examining the decrees of councils; and this they write of all subject to the Church; Toletus in Instruct (Sacerdot., bk. 4, ch. 3):

Si Rusticus circa articulos fidei credat suo episcopo proponenti-aliquod dogma hereticum, mor•tur in credendo, licet sit error.”

Cardinal Cusanus (excit., bk. 6, sermon):

Obedientia irrationalis est consumata et perfectissima obedientia sicut Iumentum obedit domino.”

Ibid.:

Sententia pastoris ligat te, pro tua salute, etiam si injusta fuerit.

Envy cannot ascribe this to us; Calvin, Beza, yea, all our writers condemn blind obedience as brutish.

But that the magistrate is not obliged to execute the decrees of the Church without further examination, whether they be right or wrong, as Papists teach that the magistrate is to execute the decrees of their Popish councils with blind obedience and submit his faith to them, because he is a layman and may not dare to examine whether the Church does err or not, is clear:

1.  Because if in hearing the Word all should follow the example of the men of Berea, not relying on the testimony of Paul or any preacher, try whether that which concerns their conscience and faith be agreeable to the Scriptures or no, and accordingly receive or reject; so in all things of discipline, the Magistrate is to try by the Word whether he ought to add his sanction to these decrees which the Church gives out for edification and whether he should draw the sword against such a one as a heretic and a perverter of souls:

But the former is true: the magistrate’s practice in adding his civil sanction and in punishing heretics concerns his conscience, knowing that he must do it in faith as he does all his moral actions; Ergo [Therefore], the magistrate must examine what he practices in his office, according to the Word, and must not take it upon the mere authority of the Church, else his faith in these moral acts of his office should be resolved ultimately on the authority of the Church, not on the Word of God, which no doubt is Popery; for so the warrant of the magistrate’s conscience should not be, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ but ‘Thus saith the Church in their decrees.’

2.  The magistrate and all men have a command to try all things; Ergo, to try the decrees of the Church and to retain what is good, 1 Thess. 5:21, to try the spirits even of the Church, in their decrees, 1 Jn. 3:1.

3.  We behooved to lay down this Popish ground, that 1. The Church cannot err in their decrees. 2. It’s against Scripture and reason that magistrates, and by the like reason, all others, should obey the decrees of the Church with a blind faith, without inquiring in the warrants and grounds of their decrees, which is as good Popery as magistrates and all men are to believe as the Church believes with an implicit faith; so ignorance shall be the mother of devotion; Whoever impute[s] this to us, who have suffered for non-conformity, and upon this ground, that synods can err, [and have] refused the ceremonies, are to consult with their own conscience whether this be not to make us appear disloyal and odious to magistracy in that which we never thought, far less to teach and profess it to the world.

4.  Their chief reason is: The magistrate by our doctrine, by his office, is obliged:

1.  To follow the judgment of the Church, and in that he is a servant or enslaved: Qui enim judicia aliorum sequi tenetur, is non regit, sed regitur, adeoque servus est, & mancipium brutum eorum, quorum judicium sequi obligatur, and the magistrate (say they), as such, is neither to judge nor try what the Church decrees, but as a burrio, or hangman, [is] to execute that which the Church has decreed.

But 1. I put it in form and retort it thus:  They are servants and slaves who are obliged not to despise, but to hear and obey and so to follow the judgement of the prophets, the faithful pastors of Christ, preaching the Word of God soundly and orthodoxly.  But not only magistrates, but all within the visible Church are obliged not to despise, but to hear and obey and so to follow the judgment of the prophets, the faithful pastors of Christ preaching the Word of God soundly and orthodoxly; Ergo, magistrates and all within the visible Church are slaves and servants.

But the conclusion is absurd; Ergo, some of the premises [are absurd]; but the assumption is the Word of God:  Judah was carried captive because they would not hear the prophets rising early in the morning and speaking to them.  Also in the New Testament, this is true to the second coming of Christ: ‘He that heareth you, heareth me, he that despiseth you, despiseth me.’

And this, he that will not obey the servant of the supreme magistrate in that wherein he is a servant and holds forth the lawful commands of the supreme magistrate, he will not obey the supreme magistrate.  The major proposition is the adversaries’; the assumption is express Scripture; let them see then to the conclusion.

2.  When the adversary shall answer this argument with equal strength made against preaching and hearing the Word, they will answer their own argument made against Church-government.

3.  This argument is made against synods-Popish, that cannot err, as our protestant divines object; and therefore the adversary is Popish here, not we.  Thus they are servants and slaves who are obliged to follow the judgment of councils absolutely, without limitation; and because they say it, whether they warrant their decrees by the Word of God or not, that is a true major proposition: But now the assumption is most false, for neither magistrates nor any other are to follow the judgment of the Church absolutely, without limitation, and because they say it.

The other part is, they are servants and slaves who are to follow the judgement of the Church and councils with a reserve and a condition and limitation, insofar as they agree with the Word; now the major [premise] is false.

2.  He that is obliged to follow the judgement of another does not rule, but is ruled; true, in that in which he follows the judgment of another.  The magistrate, insofar as in matters of religion that concern his conscience, faith and practice, he follows pastors; he is not a ruler formally to those whose judgement he is obliged to follow.  But in civil matters he may be, and is, a ruler to those same; for we answer to Papists who by this same argument would prove that Church-men are not subject to the magistrate, nor to civil laws:  He that is a sheep is not to rule and command his shepherd; but the magistrate is a sheep and a member of the Church, and pastors and doctors are shepherds.  We answer, in diverse considerations a magistrate as a magistrate in civil things, is not ruled by pastors and doctors, but he is to rule them: But a magistrate as a member of the Church, as a Christian in things that concern his conscience, is a sheep and to be ruled, [and he is] not a ruler to pastors and doctors, and so here; and therefore, non concluditur quod est [that is not concluded]…”


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That the Magistrate is Not to Exact Blind Obedience from People in Matters of Religion

Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government...  (1646), p. 550

“But magistrates as magistrates hold forth in their law-abstinence from those same sins of adultery, incest, murder…

2.  Not under the pain of eternal wrath and condemnation, before the Judge of [the] quick and [the] dead:  Magistrates as magistrates have neither calling, office, place nor power to threaten or inflict eternal punishment; if magistrates do persuade the equity of abstinence from adultery, incest, murder in their statutes or acts of parliament from the Word of God, from the sixth and seventh command[ments] of the Decalogue, from the Judgment and eternal punishment that follows these sins, they so persuade not as magistrates [from their office per se], but as divines and as godly and Christian men;

Yet my sense is not that the magistrate can lawfully command obedience in matters of religion not understood or known by the subjects: that were to exact blind obedience; but my meaning is that the magistrate as the magistrate holds not forth his commandments to teach and inform the conscience, as pastors do, but he presupposes that his mandates are known to be agreeable to the Word of God, and proposes them to the subjects to be obeyed.”


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With Regard to War

Samuel Rutherford

Lex Rex...  (1644), Question 36, ‘Whether the Power of War be Only in the King?’, p. 378

“Objection 4.  The causes of war (says Mr. Simmons, sect. 4, p. 9) should not be made known to the subjects, who are to look more to the lawful call to war from the prince than to the cause of the war.

[Rutherford’s] Answer:

[1.]  The parliament and all the judges and nobles are subjects to Royalists, if they should make war and shed blood upon blind obedience to the king, not inquiring either in causes of law or fact; they must resign their consciences to the king.

2.  The king cannot make unlawful war to be lawful by any authority-royal, except he could raze out the Sixth Commandment [of the Decalogue]: therefore subjects must look more to the causes of war than to the authority of the king; and this were a fair way to make parliaments of both kingdoms [England and Scotland] set up Popery by the sword, and root out the Reformed religion upon the king’s authority [as was being done at the time of Rutherford writing], as the lawful call to war, not looking to the causes of war.”


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Latin

Article

Baron, Robert – 3rd Exercitation, ‘Of Faith, Knowledge [Scientia] & Opinion’, Article 5, ‘Of the Division of Faith into Explicit & Implicit, and Whether that which is Not Evident, which we Yield to Faith, Makes for the Blind & Implicit Faith of the Papists’  in Of Philosophy, Serving as the Handmaid of Theology, a Pius & Sober Explication of Philosophical Questions Subjoined as they Occur in Theological Disputations  (Andreapoli, 1621)

Baron (1596–1639) was one of the Scottish, Aberdeen Doctors.  He was generally in the reformed tradition, though was an Amyrauldian and had other broadening characteristics in his theology.

Baron gives references to where this topic is discussed in Lombard, Tilen, Durandus & Estium.

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Book

1600’s

Rivet, Andrew – The Mysteries of the Jesuit Fathers out of their own Writings, Rooted Out with Faith, in which is set forward the Rise and Deification of Ignatius of Loyola, the Dogmas of the Society about Blind Obedience, the Power of the Pope in the Persons & Stations of Kings & Princes, the Sealing of a Confession in Order to Serve the Faith, Equivocations, etc.  (Lampropoli, 1633)

Rivet (1572-1651)

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“Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding…”

Ps. 32:9

“Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.”

1 Cor. 7:23

“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, ‘Get thee out of thy country…  unto a land that I will show thee…  So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him…”

Gen. 12:1-4

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Related Pages

How Far the Laws & Commands of Human Authorities Bind the Conscience

On Positive Laws & Ordinances

On the Ordinances, Order & Policy of the Church

On Arbitrary Laws & Commands

On Passive Obedience

On Faith

Resistance to Tyranny