From On the Absurdity of Authoritative Toleration of Gross Heresy, Blasphemy or Idolatry by John Brown of Haddington
Objection #1: God alone is the Lawgiver and Lord of men’s conscience.
- God is the only absolute, supreme and infallible Lawgiver; He alone hath power to constitute anything a part of religion. But that no more hinders His magistrates and their viceregents to make political laws in favour of what He hath declared and instituted in religion, than Christ, being Head of the church, can hinder her [i.e., the church] subordinate rulers to make ecclesiastical constitutions in favours of the truth, in His name (Psalm 72:1,6; Rom 13:1-6; & 1 Pet 2:13, 14).
- Neither magistrates nor ministers can make any law which, of themselves, and as their deeds, bind men’s conscience. Their authority is not infallibly exercised; it does not reach to the inward actings of conscience. They cannot oblige conscience to these actings or take any cognizance of them. They cannot free it [i.e., conscience] from any guilt contracted by them, or reward it if it does well, or punish or censure it if it does amiss. Nor [should their] their constitutions be but God’s law, the standard by which it shall be judged at the last day. Yet, they may make laws or constitutions, which, as originating from, subordinated to, and adopted and ratified by, the law of God, bind men to obey for conscience sake (Rom 13:1-4 & Mat 18:19).
- God being the only Lawgiver of men under the Old Testament, as much as now, did not hinder Moses, David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, Nehemiah, the Chaldean Nebuchadnezzar, the Mede Darius, the Persians Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, or the king of Nineveh to make civil laws in favour of the true religion.
- If God alone must be the Lawgiver and Lord of the conscience, it necessarily follows that magistrates and conscience, who are His deputies, can have no power to warrant, license or protect, anything forbidden by His law (2 Cor 13:8, 10).