A CLASSIC From The PAST
The present political environment has for some time included as never before the religious element. I view this as a necessary part of our national reality and have already spoken about the urgency of addressing it openly and with civility. At a critical time in the English Revolution, what we now enjoy as separation of Church and State was being debated before Parliament by giants such as John Milton. His side did not prevail, and soon England returned to the Monarchy, which among other things, placed the Church under the rule and power of the Crown, and brought men like Milton and John Bunyan prison time for their convictions, which was judged to be HERESY by the State Church.
But the brief freedom once tasted and thoroughly discussed was used to launch what has been called the Free Church movement (Baptists, Congregationists, and Quakers,among the best known) and was largely responsible for America’s founders to insure the Liberty of Conscience among the other basic liberties for all American citizens. Those who would in any way try to undo this separation simply do not understand history and specifically, English/American history of the 1600’s.
A TREATISE OF CIVIL POWER IN ECCLESIASTICAL CAUSES
As a primer on the subject which I find incredibly applicable to our present age of confusion both in the churches and in the Nation as a whole, I submit that we can do no better than to read and study great classics such as this treatise by JOHN MILTON presented to Parliament in 1659. Only the dedication follows with the hope that you will get yourself a copy of the entire treatise which is available on the web.
I have prepared, Supreme Council, against the much-expected time of your sitting, this treatise; which, though to all Christian magistrates equally belonging, and therefore to have been written in the common language of Christendom, natural duty and affection hath confined and dedicated first to my own nation; and in a season wherein the timely reading thereof, to the easier accomplishment of your great work, may save you much labour and interruption: of two parts usually proposed, civil and ecclesiastical, recommending civil only to your proper care, ecclesiastical to them only from whom it takes both that name and nature.
Yet not for this cause only do I require or trust to find acceptance, but in a twofold respect besides: first, as bringing clear evidence of Scripture and protestant maxims to the parliament of England, who in all their late acts, upon occasion, have professed to assert only the true protestant Christian religion, as it is contained in the Holy Scriptures: next, in regard that your power being but for a time, and having in yourselves a Christian liberty of your own, which at one time or other may be oppressed, thereof truly sensible, it will concern you while you are in power, so to regard other men’s consciences, as you would your own should be regarded in the power of others; and to consider that any law against conscience is alike in force against any conscience, and so may one way or other justly redound upon yourselves.
One advantage I make no doubt of, that I shall write to many eminent persons of your number, already perfect and resolved in this important article of Christianity. Some of whom I remember to have heard often for several years, at a council next in authority to your own, so well joining religion with civil prudence, and yet so well distinguishing the different power of either; and this not only voting, but frequently reasoning why it should be so, that if any there present had been before of an opinion contrary, he might doubtless have departed thence a convert in that point, and have confessed, that then both commonwealth and religion will at length, if ever, flourish in Christendom, when either they who govern discern between civil and religious, or they only who so discern shall be admitted to govern.
Till then, nothing but troubles, persecutions, commotions can be expected, the inward decay of true religion among ourselves, and the utter overthrow at last by a common enemy. Of civil liberty I have written heretofore, by the appointment, and not without the approbation, of civil power: of Christian liberty I write now, which others long since having done with all freedom under heathen emperors, I should do wrong to suspect, that I now shall with less under Christian governors, and such especially as profess openly their defence of Christian liberty; although I write this, not otherwise appointed or induced, than by an inward persuasion of the Christian duty, which I may usefully discharge herein to the common Lord and Master of us all, and the certain hope of his approbation, first and chiefest to be sought: in the hand of whose providence I remain, praying all success and good event on your public councils, to the defence of true religion and our civil rights.
OnLine LIBRARY of LIBERTY
You may be surprised, if not shocked, to see how this is playing out in RELIGIOUS RUSSIA, these days. Yep, Russsia. Our “godless” enemy of the cold war era & the main reason that President Eisenhower led congress to insert “under God” in our national pledge of allegience and on our money!