John Brown of Haddington:
“I Conscience, as the great deputy of The Most High GOD, Lord, and Lawgiver of the world, implanted in every man’s breast, for his temporal, spiritual, and eternal advantage, Do hereby, In God’s name and authority, and in the exercise of my power which is wholly derived from him, and to be exercised for his glory, in trying all things by his law, and approving and holding fast that which is good,—Warrant and authorize all and every one of you, sons and daughters of men, to devise, believe, openly and obstinately profess, and zealously propagate every damnable heresy, and blasphemous opinion, and to practise and propagate every absurd and abominable form of idolatry, which Satan, who deceiveth the world, and a heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and given up of God to strong delusion, belief of lies, vile affections, and a reprobate sense, can make you think innocent or proper.—And, I do hereby, In the same name and authority,—Grant you my sacred claim of right to all manner of liberty and protection from the civil magistrate in so doing,—providing always, that you commit such injury and outrage only against God, your infinitely excellent, high, and gracious Proprietor and Superior, and do no civil injury to the body, character, or property of your fellow creatures.”
Such is indeed the toleration which many praise or plead for; and this I proceed to impugn, by the following arguments.
- Men’s pleadings for it do, all of them, necessarily proceed on their adopting such atheistical principles as the following,
(1.) Men’s natural or civil rights to their property, liberty, profits and honours, are not originally derived from God,—and ought to protect them in their most outrageous sinning against him
(2,) Men’s consciences have a right and authority, underived from, and independent of God, by which it can warrant them to think and speak of, or act towards God, as insolently and blasphemously as they please.
(3.) That, if the law of God, be any rule to men; it is not so, in respect of any intrinsic meaning affixed to it by him, but merely as it is understood by every man, particularly in that which relates to their behaviour towards God.
(4.) All men being ready to mistake, we ought always to believe that our opponents may have as just a view of the scriptures as ourselves, and never to condemn them for that which they do not own to be blasphemy, idolatry, or heresy.
(5.) Magistrates right and authority to govern others, doth not originate in God as the Creator, Preserver, and King of nations, but in magistrates themselves, or in their subjects; and so may be exercised as they please, particularly in requiring or allowing their subjects to belie, blaspheme, or rob God.
(6) Magistrates may be moral governors deputies or lieutenants, under God, without having any power or authority relating to religion, or his honour.
(7.) Not the law of God natural or revealed, but the laws of nations ought to be the supreme standard of all civil government.
(8.) Not the declarative glory of God, as the Most High over all the earth, but the civil peace and prosperity of nations, ought to be the chief end of magistrates in all their acts of government.
(9) Men’s natural rights of conscience, or their civil rights, or the authority of magistrates, may or ought to empower, warrant, or protect them in gross heresy, blasphemy, idolatry, or other outrageous abuse and injury of God; but can by no means warrant or protect them in calumny, theft, murder, or any other injuries against men.
(10.) There is no real difference between moral good and evil, at least in things pertaining to God; and so true and false religion are equally calculated to promote the welfare of civil society, and the virtues which render men good, peaceable, useful, and honourable rulers or subjects,—and hence heretics, blasphemers, and idolaters may be good subjects.
(11.) The favour or indignation of God is of no importance to civil society; and therefore magistrates ought to use no means to procure his favour by the encouragement of true religion, or to avert his indignation by the restraint of gross heresy, blasphemy, or idolatry,—but only labour to procure the friendship of men, and prevent their injuring the character, property, or bodies of their subjects—
That all these propositions are really atheistical, is manifest. They all give up with the necessary existence, infinite Excellency, and absolute supremacy of God, without any of which, he cannot be God at all.”
–John Brown of Haddington, The Absurdity and Perfidy of all Authoritarian Toleration of Gross Heresy, Blasphemy, Idolatry, Popery in Two Letters