From On the Absurdity of Authoritative Toleration of Gross Heresy, Blasphemy or Idolatry by John Brown of Haddington
Even a natural understanding leads to the conclusion that magistrates should not tolerate, but punish, heresies and the like.
Even the law of nature plainly teaches the following:
- God is the original and supreme proprietor and Sovereign of nations and societies, and [He is] the all-sufficient source of all their happiness. Therefore,
- magistrates must maintain and promote the honour of God who gave them all their power and authority; and
- they must govern their subjects, not as if they were dogs or swine, having nothing but their bodies to care for, but as men [who are] endowed with rational and immortal souls.
- Since righteousness exalteth a nation and sin is the reproach of any people, magistrates must exercise their whole power and authority, best calculated to make all their subjects behave most agreeably to the Law and [also] promote the glory of God. It plainly follows that:
- if God graciously grants us a supernatural revelation, with directions on faith, profession and practice, we ought to thankfully receive, believe, profess and obey [that Law];
- if magistrates ought to restrain and punish gross immoralities, they should likewise restrain any error or [practice of] worship which, being a manifestly damning work of the flesh, would lead men into such immoralities;
- if heresy, blasphemy and idolatry hinder the progress of virtue or the increase of good men (who are the principle support and blessings of a society (Isa 6:13, Isa 65:8, & Gen 18:26-32), they ought to be restrained; and
- if heresy, blasphemy and idolatry were to be established or tolerated, this would certainly provoke God to punish [such] nations with sword, famine, pestilence, poverty, decay of trade, desolation, captivity, and the like, as He has often done even among heathens.
Every magistrate, therefore, with regard to the welfare of his subjects, ought to restrain them (as far as his circumstances can prudently permit) instead of giving them as much liberty, encouragement or protection as he gives to the religion of Jesus Christ, who hath the promises of this life and of that which is to come (1 Tim 6:8, Titus 3:8,14 & Prov 14:34).