Reg Barrow's Reply to Christian Renewal Regarding Their Review of Mike Wagner's Presbyterian Political Manifesto
Friday, March 15, 1996
Dear Friends at Christian Renewal (Letter to the Editor):
I was very disappointed at the conclusions reached by J. Tangelder in his review (CR, Mar. 11/96) of our recently published book A PRESBYTERIAN POLITICAL MANIFESTO by Michael Wagner.
First, he concludes that Wagner's approach is not "Biblically sound." Has Mr. Tangelder ever bothered to study the history of the Reformation? All the major divines in the Reformation from Popery (which took place during the 16th and 17th centuries), whether they were Anglican, Presbyterian or Independent, came to the same basic conclusion as Wagner: this being that the Bible teaches the civil establishment of Christianity (i.e. "establismentarianism"). The question for the Reformers was not whether the true religion should be established civilly; but rather which expression of Christianity should be established (and how would they know who to reward and who to punish). Calvin is a prime example of this, as Eire points out in his classic study WAR AGAINST THE IDOLS: THE REFORMATION OF WORSHIP FROM ERASMUS TO CALVIN. He notes that Calvin believed that it was the role of the civil government "to wage war on Roman Catholic worship" (p. 266), "that those in power were the guardians of pure worship" (p. 269), "that earthly Princes ought to govern in the name of Jesus Christ" (p.269), and that it was the civil magistrate's duty before God "to wipe out even the smallest traces of idolatry" (p. 269). Furthermore, "Calvin says that kings should not hesitate to wipe out idolatry in their land, because God has set them on high for the purpose of enlightening the people" (p. 269). If this is not the establishmentarism that Wagner speaks of, I do not know what is; and Calvin has been considered somewhat moderate in his views, especially when compared with men such as John Knox and Christopher Goodman — who were much more aggressive.
Moreover, the establishmentarianism of the Reformation was not limited to just individual divines, "Dr. M'Crie in his STATEMENT OF THE DIFFERENCE, shows that all the Confessions of the Protestant and Presbyterian Churches of the Reformation, both in Britain and on the Continent of Europe, held and maintained the Establishment Principle." M'Crie goes on give extracts from THE CONFESSION OF HELVETIA; THE CONFESSION OF BOHEMIA, called the CONFESSION OF THE WALDENSES; THE CONFESSION OF SAXONY; THE FRENCH CONFESSION; THE BELGIC OR DUTCH CONFESSION; THE CONFESSION OF THE ENGLISH CONGREGATION IN GENEVA; THE SCOTS CONFESSION and THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION, all proving that "these confessions harmoniously agree in declaring as with one mouth that civil authority is not limited to the secular affairs of men, and the public care and advancement of religion is a principle part of the official duty of magistrates." See our publication of Theodore Beza's (Calvin's successor in Geneva) HARMONY OF THE PROTESTANT CONFESSIONS (section 19, "Of the Civil Magistrate") and the Westminster Confession of Faith (chapter 23) to confirm M'Crie's findings. M'Crie, in opposition to Tangelder, then rightly concludes, "Such is the harmony of doctrine in the Protestant churches on this head, expressed in their confessions and public formularies drawn from the word of God; a harmony which deserves great attention, and from which none should rashly depart." The only so-called Protestant group that generally opposed establishments was the anti-covenantal, anabaptists. But seeing that the humanism and pluralism of the anabaptist heresy has permeated so much of what once was Reformed Christianity, I guess I should not be surprised that Tangelder would make such an error.
Furthermore, Tangelder again exhibits his ignorance of Reformation history when he states that "Confessions of Faith are not political programs." Nothing could be further from the truth. This is exactly what the Westminster Confession was, in part. For how will the civil magistrate govern righteously, if not by the law and testimony of God? And who interprets the "law and testimony" correctly, but the ministers and followers of Christ. The Westminster Divines were producing the Westminster Confession as part of the covenanted Reformation sworn to in the Solemn League and Covenant (1643). According to this covenant, the Confession was to bind England, Scotland and Ireland to its pronouncements in both the ecclesiastical and civil spheres. The parliamentarians in these countries even swore this covenant. And lest there be any doubt left in the mind of the reader as to the intent of this covenanted Reformation, I suggest that everyone obtain the WORKS of George Gillespie (who was one of the leading Westminster divines) and read his "Miscellany Questions," chapter 15: "Of Uniformity in Religion, Worship of God, and Church Government," and chapter 16: "Whether it be Lawful, Just and Expedient, that there be an Ordinance of Parliament for the taking of the Solemn League and Covenant, by all Persons in the Kingdom, Under a Considerable Penalty..."
Additionally, in answer to some of Tangelder questions concerning "the diversity of Reformed churches" and our modern disunity (which is the evident judgement of God upon a backsliding "Reformed" community that refuses to walk in the old paths, and is often so blinded as to not even know that the path exists — as can be seen in Tangelder's review, regarding the Reformation doctrine of civil government), history shows that the Reformed Presbyterian churches in the British Isles, during the mid-seventeenth century, were light-years ahead of any churches that I know of (and my company, Still Waters Revival Books, serves Christians in 54 different countries at present). As William Hetherington points out, in his classic HISTORY OF THE WESTMINSTER ASSEMBLY OF DIVINES (1856, SWRB 1993), concerning some of the very proposals that Wagner is once again setting forth in his PRESBYTERIAN POLITICAL MANIFESTO, true unity will come (and did during the days of the Westminster Assembly in a limited way, what I would call a foretaste of millennial glory), when Protestants once again understand the meaning of covenanted Reformation. Some of your readers will find the reference (in the following quotation) to the "deep thinking divines of the Netherlands" to be of special interest. Hetherington writes,
"There was one great, and even sublime idea, brought somewhat indefinitely before the Westminster Assembly, which has not yet been realized, the idea of a Protestant union throughout Christendom, not merely for the purpose of counterbalancing Popery, but in order to purify, strengthen, and unite all true Christian churches, so that with combined energy and zeal they might go forth, in glad compliance with the Redeemer's commands, teaching all nations, and preaching the everlasting gospel to every creature under heaven. This truly magnificent, and also truly Christian idea, seems to have originated in the mind of that distinguished man, Alexander Henderson. It was suggested by him to the Scottish commissioners, and by them partially brought before the English Parliament, requesting them to direct the Assembly to write letters to the Protestant Churches in France, Holland, Switzerland, and other Reformed Churches. . . . and along with these letters were sent copies of the Solemn League and Covenant, a document which might itself form the basis of such a Protestant union. The deep thinking divines of the Netherlands apprehended the idea, and in their answer, not only expressed their approbation of the Covenant, but also desired to join in it with the British kingdoms. Nor did they content themselves with the mere expression of approval and willingness to join. A letter was soon afterwards sent to the Assembly from the Hague, written by Duraeus (the celebrated John Dury), offering to come to the Assembly, and containing a copy of a vow which he had prepared and tendered to the distinguished Oxenstiern, chancellor of Sweden, wherein he bound himself 'to prosecute a reconciliation between Protestants in point of religion.'. . . [O]n one occasion Henderson procured a passport to go to Holland, most probably for the purpose of prosecuting this grand idea. But the intrigues of politicians, the delays caused by the conduct of the Independents, and the narrow-minded Erastianism of the English Parliament, all conspired to prevent the Assembly from entering farther into that truly glorious Christian enterprise. Days of trouble and darkness came; persecution wore out the great men of that remarkable period; pure and vital Christianity was stricken to the earth and trampled under foot (pp. 337-339)."
Many modern Christians, not unlike Tangelder, seem to want to look to what is "politically feasible" and not to what is "politically faithful," thus their works are cursed and the land suffers increasing judgement. Only when we are politically faithful, as the Westminster Divines were, will we have made any real headway in the civil sphere. Wagner's PRESBYTERIAN POLITICAL MANIFESTO begins to lay out the only course to God's blessing in politics. If you want a temporal cease-fire with humanism and something, syncretistic, Satanic, pragmatic and "politically feasible," in this day of great apostasy, go to one of the parties that compose their policy and draw their pretended authority from the beast (and not the Word of God); the Liberals, the Reform Party, the NDP, the Conservatives, the BQ and yes, even the CHP (who bargain with votaries of Antichrist [the Pope]), will all welcome compromised Christians with open arms. All these parties are, in the words of the Cameronian (Covenanter) political philosopher Alexander Shields, "rotting away under the destructive distempers of detestable neutrality, loathsome lukewarmness, declining, and decaying in corruptions, defections, divisions, distractions, confusions; and so judicially infatuated with darkness and delusions, that they forget and forego the necessary testimony of the day" (A HIND LET LOOSE, 1797 edition, p. 20). For my part you can keep your "politically feasible" unfaithfulness ("he which is [politically—RB] filthy, let him be filthy still," cf. Rev 22:11); I will walk in the "footsteps of the flock," and travel the covenanting road of Reformation and Scripture (with the magisterial Reformers of the past)! For as Greg Price has pointed out, "when the Lord brings that future covenanted reformation it will not be limited to only three kingdoms of the earth, but by the grace and power of Christ our King, it will be a covenanted reformation that will encompass all of the nations of the earth (Ps. 2:6-12; Is. 2:1-4; Mt. 28:1-20) and will bring to the church a visible unity and uniformity that (unlike pleas for unity today) is firmly grounded upon the truth" (Preface to The Duty and Perpetual Obligation of Social Covenanting, SWRB reprinted 1996). This applies to the civil sphere also. "For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted" (Isa. 60:12).
One last note, Michael Wagner is working on his doctorate in "political science," not "science," as mentioned in the review.
President, Still Waters Revival Books
Statement of the Difference...Particularly on the Power of Civil Magistrates Respecting Religion, National Reformation, National Churches, and National Covenants (1871)
"The ablest exposition in the English language of the Establishment Principle... Dr. (George) Smeaton describes the Statement as a masterly defense of the principles of establishments as Scripture truth: and the most complete vindication ever given to the world of the position occupied by the Reformed Church of Scotland, on the whole subject of national religion and the magistrates legitimate power in promoting it. 'The same thoroughness,' wrote the late Rev. D. Beaton, 'which gave such abiding value to his great biography of Knox, is shown in this, his less known work... Dr. McCrie in his Statement shows that all the Confessions of the Protestant and Presbyterian Churches of the Reformation, both in Britain and on the Continent of Europe, held and maintained the Establishment Principle. 'These harmoniously agree,' he writes, 'in declaring as with one mouth that civil authority is not limited to the secular affairs of men, and that the public care and advancement of religion is a principle part of the official duty of magistrates.' He goes on to give extracts from The Confession of Helvetia; The Confession of Bohemia; The Confession of Saxony; The French Confession; The Belgic or Dutch Confession; The Confession of the English Congregation in Geneva; The Scots Confession and The Westminster Confession of Faith. 'Such is the harmony of doctrine in the Protestant churches on this head,' he remarks, 'expressed in their confessions and public formularies drawn from the Word of God; a harmony which deserves great attention, and from which none should rashly depart'" (as cited in Christ's Kingship Over the Nations by C.J. Brown). Concerning the doctrine of national obedience to Christ, M'Crie demonstrates in the most convincing way that there are few doctrines "of the practical kind, in which the best interests of mankind and the general state of religion in the world, are more deeply concerned, than in the right and wrong determination of this question." Contains an excellent preface by George Smeaton. Considered one of the definitive works on Church/State relations, defending the historic Reformed position. An extremely rare and very expensive item if located as a rare book.
(Rare Bound Photocopy) $99.95-90%=9.99
Christ's Kingship Over the Nations Maintained and Defended in the Establishment Principle, or, The Principle of the National Recognition of Religion
Maintains the universal supremacy of Christ as King of the nations, as well as King of the saints, with the consequent duty of nations as such, and civil rulers in their official capacity, to honor and serve Him by recognizing His truth and promoting His cause. Demonstrates that this position was "the unanimous testimony of the Reformers" and proves this truth from both the OT and the NT. Answers common objections, which are often arguments from abuse, while refuting the opposing error of Voluntaryism showing its sectarian nature. A marvelous little book that is much needed in our day! As the author notes, "Let us keep to the King's highway trod by the martyrs and Reformers, and in the name of our God display our banners that Christ is the Prince of the kings of the earth, and that the nation and the kingdom that will not serve Him and His Cause shall perish, yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted." $9.95-70%=2.99
WYLIE, SAMUEL B.
The Two Sons of Oil; or, the Faithful Witness for Magistracy and Ministry upon a Scriptural Basis (1850 edition, reprinted 1995)
A Covenanter classic opening Revelation 11:3-4 and Zechariah 4:14. It has been hailed as the "best presentation of the position of the Covenanter Church that has been written." Noting that the "[t]ime has been, when the whole body of Presbyterians, in Scotland, England, and Ireland, unanimously subscribed" to these principles, "[f]or civil and ecclesiastical reformation" and that thousands bled and died for the glorious covenanted cause of civil and ecclesiastical reformation; Wylie sets out to explain and defend "that cause. Not because it is an ancient cause; not because many have sealed it with their blood; but, because," as he says, "I thought it the doctrine of the Bible, and the cause of Christ." This book explains how to tell if a government (especially a civil government) is faithful to Christ and thus to be obeyed for conscience's sake. It also gives direction regarding when and how to resist (and disassociate) yourself from governments which get their power from "the beast." Moreover, this book gives clear testimony as to what the Bible requires of civil magistrates, noting "that civil rulers should exercise their power in protecting and defending the religion of Jesus." It also gives plain reasons why dissent from the government of the United States (and other covenant breaking nations) is the legitimate Scriptural pattern.
WILLSON, JAMES M.
Civil Government: An Exposition of Romans 13:1-7 (1853)
Does the Bible give any qualifications for Christians to judge whether or not a given civil magistrate is a lawful or unlawful "power" in the eyes of God? Does the very existence of a civil "power" (say Hitler's Nazi state) make them a legitimate government according to Romans 13? Or, can a civil government obtain its "power" from "the beast" -- as some so-called churches do? Should civil "authorities" be judged according to the secret or revealed will of God? This is a fine piece of exegetical work, well nigh irrefutable, arguing that God has given clear revelation regarding the lawfulness and unlawfulness of any given civil magistrate. Willson's Scriptural conclusion will surprise many, anger not a few, and, we believe, be found honoring to God. Though the book is easy reading, these are deep waters with implications that are among the most far reaching. Knox, Rutherford and Gillespie would be proud!
(Rare Bound Photocopy) $29.95-80%=5.99
WILLSON, JAMES M.
The Subjection of Kings and Nations to Messiah (1820)
A lengthy sermon of 64 pages preached Dec. 6, 1819. Based on the text: "All Kings shall bow down before him: all nations shall serve him" (Ps. 72:11). Maintains that this text refers to a commanded duty, concerning Christ not Solomon, and should be translated "Let all kings bow down before him: Let all nations serve him." Explains this national duty, enquires as to how it is to be nationally preformed, then proceeds to make practical application of the subject. Shows that nations have a duty, as nations, to bind themselves to Christ by covenant, to consecrate themselves to Him, to swear allegiance to Him (as their King and Lord), and to obey all His holy law! Furthermore, Willson maintains that it is a great sin for nations to remain in rebellion against Christ by not performing these duties. He also demonstrates how and why a high-handed sin of this nature brings corporate guilt upon the nation. Moreover, this sin provokes God to wrath (as seen in an escalation of national calamities), until the day, barring repentance, that the national "cup of wrath" overflows. Also contains helpful direction regarding the individual's social responsibility as a Christian in times of national corporate defection from Christ's crown and covenant (i.e in times exactly like those that we live in).
Act, Declaration, And Testimony, For The Whole Of The Covenanted Reformation, As Attained To, And Established In, Britain and Ireland; Particularly Betwixt The Years 1638 and 1649, Inclusive. As, Also, Against All The Steps Of Defection From Said Reformation, Whether In Former Or Later Times, Since The Overthrow Of That Glorious Work, Down To This Present Day (1876)
Upholds the original work of the Westminster Assembly and testifies to the abiding worth and truth formulated in the Westminster family of documents. Upholds and defends the crown rights of King Jesus in church and state, denouncing those who would remove the crown from Christ's head by denying His right to rule (by His law) in both the civil and ecclesiastical spheres. Testifies to the received doctrine, government, worship, and discipline of the Church of Scotland in her purest (reforming) periods. Applies God's Word to the Church's corporate attainments "with a judicial approbation of the earnest contendings and attainments of the faithful, and a strong and pointed judicial condemnation of error and the promoters thereof" (The Original Covenanter and Contending Witness, Dec. 17/93, p. 558. Write for a sample of this highly recommended publication at: P.O. Box 131, Pottstown, PA, 19464, USA). Shows the church's great historical victories (such as the National and Solemn League and Covenant, leading to the Westminster Assembly) and exposes her enemies actions (e.g. the Prelacy of Laud; the Independency, sectarianism, covenant breaking and ungodly toleration set forth by the likes of Cromwell [and the Independents that conspired with him]; the Erastianism and civil sectarianism of William of Orange, etc.). It is not likely that you will find a more consistent working out of the principles of Calvinism anywhere. Deals with the most important matters relating to the individual, the family, the church and the state. Sets forth a faithful historical testimony of God's dealings with men during some of the most important days of church history. A basic text that should be mastered by all Christians.
(Rare bound photocopy) $19.95-70%=5.99