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Anti-Tolerance Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience

James Dodson

There is no liberty of conscience to sin. For example, known obstinate witches must be punished.

There is no liberty of conscience to sin. For example, known obstinate witches must be punished.


“It was justice, not cruelty, yea mercy to the Church of God, to take away the life of Servetus, who used such spirituall and diabolick cruelty to many thousand soules, whom he did pervert, and by his Booke, does yet lead into perdition.”—Samuel Rutherfurd, A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience. (1649). 

Works Concerned with Dispelling False Liberty of Conscience:


Of Judgment, and the Office of the Judge; that Christians are not Forbidden to Judge.-1549-Henry Bullinger (1504-1575).-A sermon outlining the duties and responsibilities of the magistrates together with a defense of Christians holding this office.

The Execution of Servetus for Blasphemy, Heresy & Obstinate Anabaptism, Defended.-1560-John Knox.-Mr. Knox takes up the case of the burning of Servetus; he declares the various wicked opinions of the man and defends the right and duty of the magistrate to execute such obstinate heretics.

Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty.-1644-George Gillespie.-A tract concerning the extent and application of the laws of the Bible in the civil affairs of nations with a discussion of how this comports with liberty of conscience.

A Testimony to the Truth of Jesus Christ, and to our Solemn League and Covenant;-1648-London Ministers (many of whom were Westminster Divines).-A somewhat lengthy testimony against the numerous heresies and errors which were circulating contrary to the doctrine of the Westminster Confession making these against the Solemn League and Covenant.

Samuel Rutherfurd’s Preface to his Survey of Spirituall Antichrist.

A Testimony of the Ministers in the Province of Salop, to the Truth of Jesus Christ and to the Solemn League and Covenant,-1648-Ministers of the Province of Salop.-One of many testimonies issued around this time in support of the Solemn League and Covenant, it was signed by many English ministers who opposed the toleration and heresies of the various Independents and Sectaries of their day.

A Solemn Testimony Against Toleration.-1649-Commissioners of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.-This is a testimony against the principles of toleration that were afoot in England at that time with arguments against it and a description of the divine doom such toleration incurs.

Whether it be Lawful, Just, & Expedient, that there be an Ordinance of Parliament for the Taking of the Solemn League & Covenant, By All Persons in the Kingdom, Under a Considerable Penalty.-1649-George Gillespie.-An essay designed to explain both the necessity of enforcing the Solemn League and the duty of requiring all persons who are capable in the kingdom to take this as their own vow under threat of civil penalties.

A Testimony to the Truth of Jesus Christ.-1659-Ministers of Perth and Fife.-A joint testimony against the various corruptions and defections plaguing the once reformed Church of Scotland by a group of Protestor ministers.

Some Considerations Contributing unto the Discovery of the Dangers that threaten Religion,-1660-James Guthrie.-This is a plea which raises concern over ten dangers that threaten the cause of covenanted reformation in Scotland, including ignorance, toleration and division.

Thirty-Fourth Question: The Political Government of the Church.-1685-Francis Turretin (1623-1687).-In this section, there is a comprehensive overview of the issues, limits and duties of the civil magistrate in all matters circa sacra together with a defense of punishing obstinate heretics.

A Preface.-1783-John Howie (1735-1793).-This preface contains one of Howie's classic essays against the flood of toleration that was then sweeping Scotland which, he believed (and has proven true), would bring destruction to the interests of the covenanted reformation and with it all concern for true religion.

Essay on Tolerance.-1823-James Renwick Willson.-In this essay, Mr. Willson attacks one of the most cherished false doctrines of his day and ours, the wicked notion that tolerance is always a good position in religious matters.

The Christian Magistrate: A Discourse.-1832-Thomas Houston.-An excellent survey of the qualifications and duties of the civil magistrate. Houston is particularly helpful to explain how a Christian magistrate is responsible to establish the true religion and his power circa sacra. His discussion of punishing heretics and idolaters required a full length defense which he issued the following year. This is a strong indictment of theological liberalism and its tendencies.

The Reviewer Reviewed, and The Covenanter and Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church Vindicated, from the Perversions and Groundless Allegations of the Rev. John Paul, in a Pamphlet, Entitled, “The Covenanter Reviewed & Persecution Condemned.”-1833-Thomas Houston.-A vigorous defense of his discourse on the Christian Magistrate from charges of being contrary to the received doctrine of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Mr. Houston demonstrates the depth of historical support for this doctrine. This pamphlet also has much to teach about historical testimony and the engagement to walk in the footsteps of the flock.

Argument On The Magistrate’s Power Circa-Sacra. [Published as an Overture.]-1834-Reformed Presbyterian Church, in America.-This Overture, written by Rev. William Sloane, who was a member of the Synod, defends the Reformed position the power of the magistrate circa sacra. It does so contrasting this view against that of Erastians and those who hold to religious toleration.