Friday, October 17, 2014

Thomas Cartwright and the Regulative Principle of the State

Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603), Puritan Leader, "The Father of English Presbyterianism"

Thomas Cartwright affirmed the abiding validity of the judicial laws which were not particular to Israel:
[T]hose judicial laws of Moses, which are merely politic, and without all mixture of Ceremonies, must remain; [such] as those which hinder not the atonement of Jews and Gentiles with God, or of one of them with another. Beside that, it being manifest that our Savior Christ came not to dissolve any Good government of commonwealth, he can least of all be thought to come to destroy that which himself had established.[1]
Cartwright understood Zechariah 13 to favorably prophecy the state punishing false prophets in the New Covenant era:
of that place of Zechariah ... that the same severity of punishments that was used against false prophets then, ought to be used now under the gospel, against false teachers, comparing one parson and circumstance with another.[2] 
For Cartwright, those apostatize and attempt to draw others away from God should be executed according to Deuteronomy 13.[3] He adds:
If this be bloody and extreme, I am content to be so counted with the Holy Ghost ... And although in other cases of idolatry, upon repentance life is given ... yet in this case of willing sliding back, and moving others to the same, and other some cases, which are expressed in the law as of open and horrible blasphemy of the name of God: I deny that upon repentance, there ought to follow any pardon of death, which the judicial law doth require.[4] 
On the magistrate's duty to prohibit Sabbath breaking, Cartwright writes:
[The magistrate must] see that all within his gates keep the Lord’s day; even strangers (though Turks, and Infidels) causing them to cease from labour, and restraining them from all open and public Idolatry, or false worship of God ... [5]

Applying the Equity of the Judicial Law 

On applying the equity of the judicial law, Cartwright says this in debate with a one John Whitgift:
And, as for the judicial law, forasmuch as there are some of them made in regard of the region where they were given, and of a people to whom they were given, the prince and magistrate, keeping the substance and equity of them (as it were the marrow), may change the circumstances of them, as the times and places and manners of the people shall require. But to say that any magistrate can save the life of blasphemers, contemptuous and stubborn idolaters, murderers, adulterers, incestuous persons, and such like, which God by his judicial law hath commanded to be put to death, I do utterly deny, and am ready to prove, if that pertained to this question. And therefore, although the judicial laws are permitted to the discretion of the prince and magistrate, yet not so generally as you seem to affirm, and, as I have oftentimes said, that not only it must not be done against the word, but according to the word, and by it.[6]

God's Word gives Direction in all Things

Also in debating Whitgift, Cartwright writes this while defending the abiding validity of the judicial law of Moses and its equity:
My former assertion was, That we have a word of God for our direction in all things which we have to do. My reason illustrating this truth was this, That otherwise our estate should be worse then the state of the Jews, who had direction (as is on all hands confessed) out of the Law, even for the least things; And whereas it is the virtue of a good law, to leave as little undetermined, and without the compass of the Law, as can be, my adversary D. W. [Dr. Whitgift] imagining that we have no word for divers things, wherein the Jews had particular direction, supposeth a greater perfection in the Law given to the Jews, than in that which is left to us.

That this is a principal virtue of the Law, may be seen and evidenced thus; First, because conscience that is well instructed and touched with the fear of God, will seek direction from the light of God's word, even in the smallest actions. Secondly, common reason will urge it, the masters whereof give this rule [a word in another language is given], &c. Arist[to] Theod. viz. It greatly behoveth those laws which are well made, as much as can be to determine of all things, and to leave as few things as  may be to the discretion of the judge.[7]


[1] Thomas Cartwright, The Second Replie of Thomas Cartwright: agaynst Maister Doctor Whitgiftes second answer touching the Churche Discipline (1575), 97. 
[2] Cited in A. F. Scott Pearson, Thomas Cartwright and Elizabethan Puritanism 1535-1603 (Cambridge, UK: University Press, 1925), 91.
[3] Ibid. 
[4] Cited in Ibid.
[5] Thomas Cartwright, A treatise of Christian religion. Or the whole body and substance of divinity (London, 1616), 115-16.
[6] Cited in John Whitgift, The Works of John Whitgift, D. D., the First Portion, Containing the Defence of the Answer to the Admonition, Against the Reply of Thomas Cartwright: Tractates I-VI. (Cambridge: The University Press, 1852), 270.
[7] Thomas Cartwright, Helps for Discovery of the Truth in Point of Toleration (London: Thomas Banks, 1647), 1. We have modernized the spelling.


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