Brown and Toleration: Bible Warrant, Part 2

Brown and Toleration: Bible Warrant, Part 2

From On the absurdity of Authoritative Toleration of Gross Heresy, Blasphemy or Idolatry

John Brown of Haddington continues his systematic review of the Bible in the area of authority.  The following points are here brought forward:

  • Authorities include our own conscience, husbands, parents, masters, magistrates, ministers and Christ.
  • Each level of authority is derived from God, and has set limits or bounds in which it can be exercised.
  • Each authority must not intrude upon the realm which is governed by other authorities.
  • A person can however be subject to several authorities concurrently for a particular matter, with each authority exercising that authority in accordance with its bounds and nature.
  • Good works ought to be promoted by each authority, and bad works ought to be discouraged by each authority. The type of promotion or discouragement should be governed by each authority’s nature and role. 


To further illustrate the doctrine of suppression of false religions by the civil magistrate:

  1. All the diversified forms of right and authority (one’s own conscience, husbands, parents, masters, magistrates, ministers, and even Christ as mediator), being derived from the same God of infinite wisdom and order, may and ought to be wholly exercised within its proper department, in a manner answerable to its nature, and never in the way of invading the place or interrupting the exercise of any other right or authority. [For example,] no right of conscience can be exercised to the interruption of the due exercise of marital, parental, magisterial, ministerial or Christ’s mediatorial authority; nor, can any regular exercise of these powers interrupt the due exercise of the power of conscience, or of one another (1 Cor 14:33, 40, 1st Cor 7:20, 24).
  2. All these different forms of power and authority, being derived from the same God, may have the same things for their object, but viewed in different respects. The same man may be subject to the power of:

– his [own] conscience as he is a rational creature

– his parents as a child

– his master [if he is] a servant

– magistrates as a member of the Commonwealth

– church-rulers as a member of an organized visible church

– the mediatorial power of Christ as a member of his mystical body, or an agent for promoting the welfare of it.

The same good work of piety or virtue may, or ought to be required by conscience, by parents, masters, magistrates, ministers, and even by Christ as mediator, in different respects, as calculated to promote the welfare of the persons, families, nations, and churches concerned, [all] in subordination to the glory of God as their respective proprietor and superior.

The performance of the same good work may be encouraged by rewards from all these different powers, answerable to their respective forms. The same vices of idolatry, blasphemy, culminy, treason, theft, murder, etc. as in different respects hurtful to persons, families, civil societies, and churches, may, and ought to be prohibited by all these different powers, and resented by each, as hurtful to itself, and subordinated to God, in a manner answerable to its particular nature and department:

– by [one’s own] conscience with stinging rebukes,

– by parents with correction, disinheriting, or the like

– by masters with frowns, stripes, abridgment of wages, or the like

– by magistrates with public dishonor, fining, imprisonment, or death

– by church rulers with ecclesiastical rebuke, [or] excommunication

– by Christ with temporal, spiritual or eternal judgment.

Acts 24:16, Josh 24:15, Psalm 101, Matt 5:6-7, etc.