From On the Absurdity of Authoritative Toleration of Gross Heresy, Blasphemy or Idolatry by John Brown of Haddington
Capital punishments in the Old Testament have not been abolished in the New
Though God never, in scripture, commands that any lesser mistakes in religion or a simple neglect of religious duties should be punished, yet He commands magistrates, suitably and seasonably, to punish, even unto death, idolaters, particularly seducers to it (Deut 13:2-15, Deut 17:2-7 & Exod 22:20), blasphemers (Lev 24:15-16), and insolent profaners of the Sabbath (Num 15:30-36).
Where in all the New Testament is there a single hint of the repeal of such laws, any more than of those concerning murder (Gen 9:6 & Num 35:30-31)?
Where is a single hint that Christ’s incarnation, and His death for sin and to save men, abolished these laws, and procured for magistrates a right and power, in the name of God, to license, encourage and protect heretics, blasphemers, and idolaters, who openly and obstinately labour to offend God, and destroy and damn men?
God approves, in Scripture, magistrates legislating true worship
God, in scripture, frequently approves of magistrates requiring their subjects to worship the true God, in a right manner, and of their suppressing and punishing idolatry, as [for example]:
- Abraham (Gen 18:19)
- Jacob (Gen 35:2-3)
- The Judges in the land of Uz (Job 31:26-28)
- Moses (Exod 32:20, 27)
- Joshua (Josh 24:14-15)
- Asa (2 Chron 14:2-5, 15:13,16)
- Jehoshaphat (2 Chron chapters 17 & 19)
- Jehoiada (2 Chron 23:16-19)
- Hezekiah (2 Kgs 18:4-5, 2 Chron chapters 29-31)
- Manasseh (2 Chron 33:15-16)
- Josiah (2 Chron chapters 34 & 35, 2 Kgs chapters 22 & 23)
- Nehemiah (Neh chapter 13) and
- Jehu (2 Kgs 10:24-30).
These passages mark with infamy [those] magistrates who allow their subjects to worship the true God in the high places (1 Kgs 15:14, 1 Kgs 22:43, 2 Kgs 12:3, 2 Kgs 14:4, 2 Kgs 15:4, 35 & 2 Chron 33:17).
Scripture never hints that those magistrates acted as church officers, or merely typical persons, in their reformation work. Nay, even heathen magistrates, whom no one can pretend to have been ecclesiastical rulers, have, with His approbation, made laws to promote the honour of the true God, and against contemnors of Him; as:
- Artaxerxes king of Persia (Ezra 7:13-26), which God in mercy put into his heart (Ezra 7:27)
- Cyrus and Darius, both Persians (Ezra 1:1-5, 6:1-14)
- Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean (Dan 3:28-29) and
- Darius the Mede (Dan 6:26).
Scripture promises blessing when magistrates are obedient in this manner
God promised, as a blessing to the gospel-church, that magistrates should exercise their power in favours of her revealed religion, and in opposition to false teachers, and their abominable delusions, as:
- Isa 49:23
- Isa 60:3, 10, 16
- Ps 72:10-11
- Ps 2:8, 10-12
- Zech 13:2-3
- Rev 17:16
- Rev 21:24 and
- Rev 11:15