The Relation of Church and State

Charles Hodge

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Editor’s note: In the past three decades both political conservatives and political liberals have written a great deal of dangerous drivel about church and state. This desipience is beginning to affect government policy and the spending of tax monies. Recently William Bennett, Secretary of Education, advocated government financial support for Roman Catholic schools, and conservatives have advocated voucher programs to channel government funds into religious schools. This writer attended a national conference of Christian school principals in Washington, D. C., earlier this year and heard a speaker (who was neither a Christian nor a school principal) oppose legislation before Congress on the ground that federal subsidies under the legislation could not be channeled to religious day care centers. Within the past few months, William F. Buckley, Jr. was invited to address a major convention of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy on the subject of the impossibility of separating church and state. And last but not least, the agenda of at least some of the “Christian Reconstructionists” seems to include the use of civil authority to maintain orthodoxy among the population.

Into the midst of this contemporary confusion we introduce Charles Hodge, who has been called the “prince of American theologians.” Hodge was perhaps the most influential Presbyterian theologian of the nineteenth century, an instructor at Princeton Seminary for decades, and the author of many books, including his three volume Systematic Theology. His essay originally appeared in Princeton Review in 1863. It is now taken from a recently re-released book of essays by a variety of authors edited by Iain Murray, The Reformation of the Church.

 

This is an exceedingly complicated and difficult subject. There are three aspects under which it may be viewed.

I. The actual relation which at different times and in different countries has subsisted between the two institutions.

II. The theory devised to justify or determine the limits of such existing relation.

III. The normal relation, such as should exist according to the revealed will of God, and the nature of the state and of the Church.

 

Constantine

 

Before the conversion of Constantine, the church was of course so far independent of the state that she determined her own faith, regulated her worship, chose her officers, and exercised her discipline without any interference of the civil authorities. Her members were regarded as citizens of the state, whose religious opinions and practices were, except in times of persecution, regarded as matters of indifference. It is probable that much the same liberty was accorded to the early Christians as was granted by the Romans to the Jews, who were not only allowed, in ordinary cases, to conduct their synagogue services as they pleased, but to decide matters of dispute among themselves, according to their own laws. It is also stated that churches were allowed to hold real estate before the profession of Christianity by the Emperor.

When Constantine declared himself a Christian, he expressed the relation which was henceforth to subsist between Church and state, by saying to certain bishops, “God has made you the bishops of the internal affairs of the Church, and me the bishop of its external affairs.” This saying has ever since been, throughout a large portion of Christendom, the standing formula for expressing the relation of the civil magistrate to the kingdom of Christ.

According to this statement, it belongs to the Church, through her own organs, to choose her officers, to regulate all matters relating to doctrine, to administer the Word and sacraments, to order public worship, and to exercise discipline. And to the state it belongs to provide for the support of the clergy, to determine the sources and amount of their incomes, to fix the limits of parishes and dioceses, to provide places of public worship, to call together the clergy, to preside in their meetings, to give the force of laws to their decisions, and to see that external obedience at least was rendered to the decrees and acts of discipline.

And this, in general terms, was the actual relation between the two institutions under the Roman emperors and in many of the states which rose after the dissolution of the Roman Empire. But it is easy to see that the distinction between the internal affairs which belonged to the bishops, and the external which belonged to the civil ruler, is too indefinite to keep two mighty bodies from coming into collision. If the magistrate provided the support of the bishops and sustained them in their places of influence, he felt entitled to have a voice in saying who should receive his funds and use that influence. If he was to enforce the decisions of councils as to matters of faith and discipline, he must have some agency in determining what those decisions should be. If he was to banish from his kingdom those whom the clergy excluded from the church, he must judge whether such exclusion was in itself just. And on the other hand, if the church was recognized as a divine institution, with divinely constituted government and powers, she would constantly struggle to preserve her prerogatives from the encroachments of the state and to draw to herself all the power requisite to enforce her decisions in the sphere of the state into which she was adopted, which she of right possessed in her own sphere as a spiritual, and, in one sense voluntary, society.

Simple and plausible, therefore, as the relation between the church and state, as determined by Constantine, may at first sight appear, the whole history of the church shows that it cannot be maintained. Either the church will encroach on the peculiar province of the state, or the state upon that of the church. It would require an outline of ecclesiastical history, from Constantine to the present day, to exhibit the conflicts and vacillations of these two principles. The struggle, though protracted and varied in its prospects, was decided in favour of the church, which under the papacy gained a complete ascendancy over the state.

 

The Middle Ages

 

The papal world constituted one body, of which the pope, as Vicar of Christ, was the head. This spiritual body claimed a divine right to make its own laws, appoint its own officers, and have its own tribunals, to which alone its officers were amenable, and before whom all persons in the state, from the highest to the lowest, could be cited to appear. All ecclesiastical persons were thus withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the state; while all civil persons were subject to the jurisdiction of the church. The church being the infallible judge of all questions relating to faith and practice, and it being the obvious duty of all men to receive the decisions and obey the injunctions of an infallible authority, the state was bound to receive all those decisions and enforce all those commands. The civil magistrate had no judgment or discretion in the case; he was but the secular arm of the church, with whose judgments, no matter how injurious he might regard them to his own prerogative or to the interests of his people, he had no right to interfere. The church, however, claimed the right to interfere in all the decisions of the civil power; because she only could judge whether those decisions were or were not inimical to the true faith, or consistent with the rule of duty. Hence arose what is called the indirect power of the church in the temporal affairs of the state. Even without going to the extreme of claiming for the pope, by divine right, a direct sovereignty over the Christian world, moderate Romanists of the Italian school claimed for the pope this indirect power in the civil affairs of kingdoms; that is, power of deciding whether any law or measure was or was not hurtful to the church, and either to sanction or to annul it. And in case any sovereign should persist in a course pronounced by an infallible authority hurtful to the church, the obligation of obedience on the part of his subjects was declared to be at any end, and the sovereign deposed.

In most cases, the actual relation between the church and state is determined historically, i.e., by the course of events, and then a theory invented to explain and justify it; but in the case of the papacy, it is probable the theory preceded and produced the actual relation. On the assumption of the external unity of the whole church under a visible head and of the infallibility of that visible body when speaking through its appropriate organ, the relation of the church to the state-which Gregory strove to realize, and which did for ages subsist-is the normal relation; and it is therefore, at the present day, the very theory which is held by the great body of Romanists.

In practice, however, it was found intolerable; and therefore, especially in France, and later in Austria, the kings have resisted this domination and asserted that as the state no less than the church is of divine origin, the former has the right to judge whether the acts and decisions of the church are consistent with the rights and interests of the state. The kings of France, therefore, claimed indirect power in the affairs of the church; and exercised the right of giving a placet, as it was called, to acts of the church; that is, they required that such acts should be submitted to them and receive their sanction before taking effect in their dominions.

As the Reformation involved the rejection of the doctrine of the visible unity of the church under one infallible head, it of necessity introduced a change in the relation between the state and the church. This relation, however, was very different in different countries, and that difference was evidently not the result of any preconceived theory, but of the course of events. It was, therefore, one thing in England, another in Scotland, and another in Germany.

 

The Church of England

 

With regard to England, it may be said, in general terms, that the Reformation was effected by the civil power. The authority by which all changes were decreed, was that of the king and parliament. The church passively submitted, subscribing articles presented for acceptance, and adopting forms of worship and general regulations prescribed for her use. This fact is so inconsistent with the high-church theory that every effort is made by advocates of that theory to evade its force and to show that the change was the work of the church itself. It is admitted, however, by Episcopal writers themselves that in the time of Henry and Edward, the great majority both of the clergy and the people, i.e. the church, was opposed to the Reformation.

Henry rejected the authority of the pope, though he adhered to the doctrines of Romanism. He declared himself by act of Parliament the head of the church and required all the bishops to give up their sees, suspending them from office, and then made each take out a commission from the crown in which it was declared that all ecclesiastical power flowed from the sovereign, and that the bishops acted in his name and by virtue of power derived from him.

The six articles were framed by his authority, in opposition to Cranmer and the real Reformers, and enacted by Parliament and made obligatory under severe penalties upon all the clergy. These articles affirm all the distinguishing doctrines of Romanism.

The clearest proof that they rested on the authority of the king is, that as soon as he died they were discarded, and a doctrinal formulary of an opposite character adopted.

Under Edward VI, the actual practice was for the crown to appoint a certain number of the clergy to prepare the requisite formularies or measures; and then these, if approved by the king, were published in his name and en forced by Parliament. The convocation and the clergy then gave their assent. It was thus the Prayer Book was prepared and introduced. Thus, too, the Articles of Religion were, under Edward, the act of the civil power alone. They were drawn up under Cranmer’s direction with the assistance of other divines, but they were not the work of the Convocation, as their preamble would seem to imply; nor were they set forth by any authority but that of the Crown. Under Elizabeth they were revised by the Convocation.

The actual relation of the church to the state in England is sufficiently indicated by these facts. The king was declared to be the supreme head of the church, i.e., the source of authority in its government, and the supreme judge of all persons and causes ecclesiastical, of whatever kind. The clergy were brought with great difficulty to make this acknowledgment, and therefore it cannot be said to be the spontaneous act of the church. It was rather a usurpation. It is said that the acknowledgment was made with the saving clause, quantum per Christi legem licet, with regard to which there is a dispute whether it was in the first acknowledgment. The preponderance of evidence, so far as we know, is against it; and certain it is, it is not now in the oath. And it can make little difference, because the very end of the oath was to declare that Christ did allow the king the power which he claimed and exercised.

The king then, as head of the church, changed the form of worship, introduced new articles of faith, suspended and appointed bishops, visited all parts of the church to reform abuses, issued edicts regulating matters of discipline, granted commissions to the bishops to act in his name, and by act of Parliament declared that all jurisdiction-spiritual and temporal-emanates from him, and that all proceedings in the episcopal courts should be in his name.

These principles have ever been acted on in the Church of England, though with less flagrancy of course in the settled state of the church than at the Reformation. All the proceedings, however, of Elizabeth; all the acts of James I against the Puritans; of Charles I in Scotland, in the introduction of episcopacy into that country; of Charles II at his restoration; and even of William III at the Revolution, when the non-juring bishops were excluded, were founded on the assumption of the absolute power of the state over the church. And everything still rests on that foundation. The king still appoints all the bishops and has the legal right to suspend them; all the binding authority of the Articles and Prayer Book rests on acts of Parliament. No man can be refused admission to the church, no matter what his opinions or character, against the will of the state; and no man can be excommunicated but by civil process; and the ultimate decision, even in the trial of a bishop for heresy, is rendered by the king in council.

Different theories have been devised to justify this entire subordination of the church to the state. The early Reformers (Cranmer especially) were thoroughly Erastian and held that the king was entrusted with the whole care of his subjects, as well concerning the administration of the Word, as in things civil and political; and as he had under him civil officers to act in his name, so he had church officers, the one class being assigned, appointed, and selected by the authority of the king as much as the other. Cranmer did not even hold to the necessity of any ordination by church officers, considering the king’s commission all-sufficient. This whole theory rests on an exorbitant notion of the regal power.

A second theory supposes that there is no difference between a Christian state and a church. A church is a people professing Christianity, and they may adopt what form of government they please. This supposes not only that the details of church government are not prescribed in Scripture, but that there is no government in the hands of church officers at all ordained by Christ; but in whatever way the will of the sovereign power, i.e. of the people, is expressed and exercised, is, as to its form, legitimate; and hence the best and most healthful form of church government is that which most fully identifies the church with the state. This is the doctrine of Dr. Arnold. Though this theory, if sound, might justify the existing state of things in England, it cannot justify the Reformation; for that was not carried on by the people, i.e. the church in its state capacity, but by civil authority despite both the clergy and the people.

High churchmen take different grounds. Some admit the irregularity in the mode of proceeding under Henry and Elizabeth, but justify it on the ground of necessity, or of extraordinary emergency, calling for the exercise of extraordinary powers. Others, as Mr. Palmer, deny that the church is responsible for those acts, or that she is to be judged by the preamble of acts of Parliament, or by the claims or acts of the crown, but exclusively by her own declarations and acts. And he endeavours to show that all the leading facts of the Reformation were determined by the church. To do this, however, he is obliged to maintain that what the king did on the advice of a few divines was done by the church, which is as unreasonable as to refer the sanitary or legal regulations of a kingdom to the authority of the physicians or lawyers who may be consulted in drawing them up.

Mr. Palmer falls back on the theory suggested by Constantine, which assigns the internal government of the church to bishops, and the external to the king. He accordingly denies that the king can, either by himself or by officers deriving their authority from him, pronounce definitions of faith, administer the Word or sacraments, or absolve or excommunicate. He may, however, convene synods and preside in them; sanction their decisions, and give them the force of laws; he may refuse to sanction them, if contrary to the doctrines of the Catholic church, or injurious to the state; he may receive appeals from church courts; preserve subordination and unity in the church; prevent, by civil pains and penalties, all secession from her communion; and found and endow new bishoprics.

This doctrine rests on the assumption, 1. That it is the design of the state, and the duty of its officers, to promote and sustain religion by civil pains and penalties; 2. That the church is a divine institution, with a prescribed faith and discipline; and 3. That the marks of the true church are so plain that no honest man can mistake them.

The only point in which this system differs from the papal doctrine on this subject is that it allows the civil magistrate discretion whether he will enforce the decisions of the church or not. This difference arises from the fact that Tractarians do not pretend that provincial synods are infallible, and with such only has the king anything to do; whereas Romanists maintain that the pope, speaking ex cathedra, is infallible. There is room, therefore, for discretion in reference to the decisions of the former, but none in reference to those of the latter.

Mr. Palmer, however, is far from maintaining that the actual state of things corresponds with his theory, and most Tractarians are loud in their complaints of the bondage under which the church in England is now groaning.

 

Lutherans

 

In Germany the course of the Reformation was very different from what it was in England, and consequently the relation between the church and state received a different form. The movement took its rise, and was guided in all its progress, in the former country by Luther and his associates, and was sanctioned cordially by the people. He did not wait to be called up by the Elector to denounce the errors of popery, or to reform its abuses. He did both, and the people joined him. They besought the civil authorities to sanction these changes and to protect and aid them in carrying them out. And the Electors slowly and cautiously granted their sanction. The Reformation here, therefore, did not proceed from the state, but really and truly from the church, i.e. the clergy and people, and the state sanctioned and joined it. Had the bishops generally cooperated in the work, it is probable, from the frequent declarations of Luther and Melanchthon, they would in Germany, as in Sweden, have been allowed-not as a matter of right, but of expediency- to retain the executive power in their hands. But as they had not only greatly neglected all discipline in the church, and finally sided with Rome, the Reformers called on the Electors to appoint consistories, to be composed, as they expressed it, “of honest and learned men,” to supply the deficiency. These bodies were at first designed simply to administer discipline. They were to be church courts, for the trial and punishment of spiritual offences. As, however, the bishops withdrew, the powers of the consistories were enlarged, and they became on the one hand the organ of the church. As the members of these consistories are appointed by the state, and as they are the organs of administering both the internal and external affairs of the state, the prince is, in Lutheran countries, the real possessor of church power, i.e. it is regarded as inhering in him. The whole administration of its affairs is in his hands, and whatever changes are introduced are made by his authority. Accordingly, the union of the Lutheran and Reformed churches and the introduction of a new liturgy was the act of the late king of Prussia. At first it was only advisory on his part, but he subsequently began to coerce compliance with his will. This extreme exercise of authority, however, met with great opposition, and was, by a large part of the church, considered as transcending the legitimate power of the state. The present king disclaims such power, and says he wishes to know the mind of the church, and stands ready to carry out her wishes if consistent with his conscience.

The actual power of the state in Lutheran countries was the result of the Reformation and not of a theory of what ought to be the relation of the church and state. Different theories have been suggested, in order to give form and intelligibility to this relation. The most common is that the prince is there, and, by the will of the Church heir to the power of the bishops. His power is therefore called an episcopate. This theory includes the following points. 1. Civil and ecclesiastical government are distinct. 2. The object of church government is mainly the preservation of the truth. 3. Church power belongs by the ordinance of God to the church itself and to the prince as the highest member of the Church, and, since the religious peace, by the legal devolution on him of the power of the bishops. 4. This authority is, however, only external, a potestas externa, in the exercise of which he is bound to act according to the judgment of the clergy, and the people have the right to assent or dissent. This is the doctrine of the three orders, as it is called that is, that church power belongs to the church as composed of prince, clergy, and people. 5. Hence the prince possesses civil and ecclesiastical power in different ways and on different subjects. This is considered the orthodox, established doctrine of the Lutheran Church on the relation of the church and state. It is the doctrine of all the older, eminent theologians of that church. The other theories are the Territorial, i.e. Erastian; the collegiate (voluntary union); and the Hegelian-that the state is God’s kingdom; the Church but a form of the state. The prince is the point of unity, having the full power of both. He appoints (not merely confirms) bishops, prescribes liturgies, and gives the contents as well as the binding form to all church decisions.

 

The Reformed Church

 

According to the Reformed Church of Geneva, Germany, France, Holland, and Scotland, the relation of state and church is taught in the following propositions as given and sustained by Turretin, Lec. 28, Ques. 34.

1. Various rights belong to the Christian magistrate in reference to the church.

This authority is confined within certain limits, and is essentially different from that of pastors. These limits are thus determined: (a) The magistrate cannot introduce new articles of faith, or new rites or modes of worship. (b) He cannot administer the Word and sacraments. (c) He does not possess the power of the keys. (d) He cannot prescribe to pastors the form of preaching or administration of sacraments. (e) He cannot decide on ecclesiastical affairs, or on controversies of faith, without consulting the pastors.

On the other hand: (a) He ought to establish the true religion, and when established, faithfully uphold it, and if corrupted, restore and reform it. (b) He should, to the utmost, protect the church by restraining heretics and disturbers of its peace by propagating and defending the true religion and hindering the confession of false religions. (c) Provide proper ministers, and sustain them in the administration of the Word and sacraments, according to the Word of God, and found schools as well for the church as the state. (d) See that ministers do their duty faithfully according to the canons of the church and the laws of the land. (e) Cause that confessions of faith and ecclesiastical constitutions, agreeable to the Scriptures, be sanctioned, and when sanctioned adhered to. (f) To call ordinary and extraordinary synods, to moderate in them, and to sanction their decisions with his authority.

The question, “whether the state can rightfully force its subject to profess the faith,” is answered in the negative. The question-”whether heretics should be capitally punished,”-is answered in the affirmative provided their heresy is gross and dangerous to the Church and state, and provided they are contumacious and malignant in the defence and propagation of it.

The Westminster Confession, as adopted by the Church of Scotland, taught the same general doctrine. The 23rd chapter of that Confession contains the following clause: “The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, yet he hath the authority, and it is his duty, to take order that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the faith of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline be prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed; for the better effecting whereof he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.”

When this Confession was adopted by our church in 1729, this clause was excepted, or adopted only in a qualified manner; and when our present constitution was adopted in 1789, it and the corresponding passages in the Larger Catechism were omitted. It has, however, always been part of the Confession of the Church of Scotland (and was, it is believed, retained in the Cambridge and Saybrooke Platforms as adopted in New England).

In words, this clause seems to cover all the ground taken by Mr. Palmer. History shows, however, that the church in Scotland has ever been, in a great measure, independent of the state, and for generations in conflict with it. The practical interpretation, therefore, of the doctrine here taught, has been to deny to the civil magistrate any real control in ecclesiastical affairs.

The late Dr. Cunningham, in one of his tracts, occasioned by the recent controversies, thus expounds the doctrine of this passage.

1. He says, by the civil magistrate is to be understood the supreme civil power; and that the Confession merely teaches what the civil ruler will find to be his duty when he comes to the study of the Word of God.

2. That the rule of all his judgments is the Word of God.

3. That the Confession denies to the civil magistrate all right to the ministration of the Word and sacraments, or to the power of the keys, that is, to the management of the ordinary affairs of the Church of Christ; and states, that as it is the duty of every private person to judge for himself whether the doctrines, discipline, and decisions of a church are according to the Word of God, and if so, then to receive, obey, and promote them; so also it is the duty of the civil magistrate, in his sphere, and in the exercise of his legitimate authority and influence, to do the same.

In that branch of the Reformed church which was transported to this country by the Puritans and established in New England, this same doctrine as to the duty of the magistrate and relation to the church and state was taught, though under a somewhat modified form. The New England theory was more of a theocracy. All civil power was confined to the members of the church, no person being either eligible to office, or entitled to the right of sufferage, who was not in full communion of some church. The laws of the church became thus the laws of the land, and the two institutions were in a measure merged together. The duty of the magistrate to make and enforce laws for the support of religion, for the suppression of heresy and punishment of heretics, was clearly taught. John Cotton even wrote a book to prove that persecution was a Christian duty.

The theory on which this doctrine of the Reformed church is founded, is, 1. That the state is a divine institution, designed for promoting the general welfare of society, and as religion is necessary to that welfare, religion falls legitimately within the sphere of the state. 2. That the magistrate, as representing the state, is, by divine appointment, the guardian of the law, to take vengeance on those who transgress, and for the praise of those who obey; and as the law consists of two tables, one relating to our duties to God, and the other to our duties to men, the magistrate is, ex officio, the guardian of both tables and bound to punish the infractions of the one as well as of the other. 3. That the Word of God determines the limits of the magistrate’s office in reference to both classes of his duties; and as, under the Old Testament, there was a form of religion with its rites and officers prescribed which the magistrate could not change, so there is under the New. But under the Old, we find with this church government the kings were required to do, and in fact did do, much for the support and reformation of religion and the punishment of idolaters; so they are now bound to act on the same principles, making the pious kings of the Old Testament their model.

 

The American Church

 

The doctrine current among us on this subject is of very recent origin. It was unknown to the ancients before the advent. In no country was religion disconnected with the state. It was unknown to the Jews. The early Christians were not in circumstances to determine the duty of Christian magistrates to the Christian church. Since the time of Constantine, in no part of Christendom and by no denomination has the ground been assumed, until a recent period, that the state and church should be separate and independent bodies. Yet to this doctrine the public mind in this country has already been brought, and to the same conclusion the convictions of God’s people in all parts of the world seem rapidly tending. On what grounds, then, does this novel, yet sound, doctrine rest? This question can only be answered in a very general and superficial manner on the present occasion.

1. In the first place it assumes that the state, the family, and the church are all divine institutions, having the same general end in view, but designed to accomplish that end by different means. That as we cannot infer from the fact that the family and the state are both designed to promote the welfare of men, that the magistrate has the right to interfere in the domestic economy of the family; so neither can we infer from the church and state having the same general end, that the one can rightfully interfere with the affairs of the other. If there were no other institution than the family, we might infer that all the means now used by the church and state, for the good of men, might properly be used by the family; and if there were no church, as a separate institution of God, then we might infer that the family and the state were designed to accomplish all that could be effected. But as God has instituted the family for domestic training and government; the state, that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives; and the church for the promotion and extension of true religion, the three are to be kept distinctive within their respective spheres.

2. That the relative duties of these several institutions cannot be learned by reasoning a priori from their design, but must be determined from the Word of God. And when reasoning from the Word of God, we are not authorized to argue from the Old Testament economy because that was avowedly temporary and has been abolished, but must derive our conclusions from the New Testament. We find it there taught:

(a) That Christ did institute a church separate from the state, giving it separate laws and officers.

(b) That he laid down the qualifications of those officers and enjoined on the church, not on the state, to judge of their possession by candidates.

(c) That he prescribed the terms of admission to and the grounds of exclusion from the church, and left with the church its officers to administer these rules.

These acts are utterly inconsistent with Erastianism and with the relation established in England between the church and state.

3. That the New Testament, when speaking of the immediate design of the state and the official duties of the magistrate, never intimates that he has those functions which the common doctrine of the Lutheran and Reformed church assign him. This silence, together with the fact that those functions are assigned to the church and church officers, is proof that it is not the will of God that they should be assumed by the state.

4. That the only means which the state can employ to accomplish many of the objects said to belong to it, viz. pains and penalties, are inconsistent with the example and commands of Christ; with the rights of private Christians, guaranteed in the Word of God (i.e., to serve God according to the dictates of his conscience); are ineffectual to the true end of religion, which is voluntary obedience to the truth; and productive of incalculable evil. The New Testament, therefore, does not teach that the magistrate is entitled to take care that true religion is established and maintained; that right men are appointed to church offices; that those officers do their duty, that proper persons be admitted, and improper persons be rejected from the church; or that heretics be punished. And on the other hand, by enjoining all these duties upon the church, as an institution distinct from the state, it teaches positively that they do not belong to the magistrate, but to the church. If to this it be added that experience teaches that the magistrate is the most unfit person to discharge these duties; that his attempting it has always been injurious to religion and inimical to the rights of conscience, we have reason to rejoice in the recently discovered truth that the church is independent of the state, and that the state best promotes her interests by letting her alone.

July / August 1988

 
 
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