John Brown: The government should be concerned with the spiritual well-being of its subjects

John Brown: The government should be concerned with the spiritual well-being of its subjects

From On the Absurdity of Authoritative Toleration of Gross Heresy, Blasphemy or Idolatry by John Brown of Haddington

God, who is head of the Church (Eph 1:22) , is not indifferent to heresies and blasphemes that are tolerated by church officers (Rev 2:14).  Therefore, God, who is head of the nations (Rev 17:14), is not indifferent to heresies and blasphemes that are tolerated by civil magistrates (Psa 2:2).

The power of ecclesiastical rulers extends to all the civil transactions of church members (including all magisterial and military managements of kings or emperors, who [themselves] are to be regulated by the law of Christ and are [therefore] immediately connected with His honour and the good of His church). If so, then there is equal reason why the power of magistrates should extend to religious matters, in so far as they are connected with the welfare of the state [and] in subordination to the honour of God as King of nations.

No reason can be assigned why the vicegerents of God [i.e., rulers or heads of state] should, as such, act as atheists (with no regard to religion), any more than the messengers of Christ [i.e., ministers] [can so act].

Until it be proven that God, [who is] King of nations, is more inclined to damnable heresy, blasphemy, and idolatry, than [He is] inclined to Christ as the Head of the church, it cannot be possible to prove that magistrates have one whit more power and authority to license, encourage, or promise them [i.e., heretics] protection, than church rulers have.

Just as the church is a select holy society, called out of the world which lies in wickedness, founded on and having all her adult members instructed by the revelation of Christ, and censured with forbearance, so the state must punish [heretics].