(In the last paragraph Kuyper has distinguished between reformation and revolution by pointing out that reformation is always done in obedience to God.)
62. Concerning Reformation and the Magistrate.
The question is also brought up and is of importance: does not a part of the work of reformation belong to the magistrate? The question is especially whether the magistrate is not called, authorized and obligated “to prevent and exterminate all idolatry and false religion.”
Our conviction in this respect does not agree with that of our fathers. We do not make a secret of this difference. Only God’s Word, not the word of the fathers, is finally authoritative for us. And it is on the ground of God’s Word that we are convinced in conscience not to follow our fathers in this subordinate part of their Confessions.
The reason for this is that these words from the Confessions designate and imply that the obligation rests on the magistrate not only to, admonish heretics if they refuse to perform their public duty, but also to arrest, imprison, and pass sentence upon them, andexecute them on the scaffold.
This actually is implied in these words.
The proof of this is Calvin’s writings: “that heretics must be executed with the sword”; Beza’s Essay, “that heretics must be corporally punished by the civil magistrate”; and further the sentiments of Maresius in his explanation of the Confession. Compare also the sentiments of our theologians: Voetius in his “Dispute. Theol.” III, 802-809, and II, 122; H. Alping in his “Script. Heidelb.” Tom. 2, p. 2, probl. 20, p. 335, f. 9; Spanheim, “Vind. Euang, ‘ ‘ 1, II, lot. 20; C. Van Velzen, “Pheol. Pratt.” II, 1, I, p. 632; Gerdesius, “Bibel, menstr. Belg.” m. Jan. 1742, p. 30; J. a. Marck, “Med Pheol.” C. XXIII, para. 32; De Moor, “Comm. a Marck” VI, p. 490f.; and Turretin, “Theol. Hand.” T. 1, XVIII, p. 84, para. 30.
All these theologians are unanimously of the opinion that Article 36 of our Confessions actually lays on the magistrate the obligation to execute a heretic on the scaffold in the final analysis.
They differ from Rome in this that they leave to the magistrate its own judgment. Rome teaches that the magistrate must pass sentence on the ground of the ecclesiastical judgment. Our fathers say, on the other hand, Let the magistrate decide for himself.
They also grant that as a general rule the magistrate should not resort to this extreme punishment except in the worst instances and with the worst heretics, etc.
Also, it was usually added since the time of a Marck that the magistrate ought not to do this to a heretic as long as he was not a threat to the Republic. But however mildly and however carefully their sentiments were expressed it finally comes down to this, that when other means have failed, the extermination of idolatry must be carried out by fire and sword.
We oppose this Confession out of complete conviction, prepared to bear the consequences of our convictions, even when we will be denounced and mocked on that account as unReformed.
We would rather be considered not Reformed and insist that men ought not to kill heretics, than that we are left with the Reformed name as the prize for assisting in the shedding of the blood of heretics.
It is our conviction: 1) that the examples which are found in the Old Testament are of no force for us because the infallible indication of what was or was not heretical which was present at that time is now lacking.
2) That the Lord and the Apostles never called upon the help of the magistrate to kill with the sword the one who deviated from the truth. Even in connection with such horrible heretics as defiled the congregation in Corinth, Paul mentions nothing of this idea. And it cannot be concluded from any particular word in the New Testament, that in the days when particular revelation should cease, that the rooting out of heretics with the sword is the obligation of magistrates.
3) That our fathers have not developed this monstrous proposition out of principle, but have taken it over from Romish practice.
4) That the acceptance and carrying out of this principle almost always has returned upon the heads of non-heretics and not the truth but heresy has been honored by the magistrate.
5) That this proposition opposes the Spirit and the Christian faith.
6) That this proposition supposed that the magistrate is in a position to judge the difference between truth and heresy, an office of grace which, as appears from the history of eighteen centuries, is not granted by the Holy Spirit, but is withheld.
We do not at all hide the fact that we disagree with Calvin, our Confessions, and our Reformed theologians.
We readily testify that we therefore are not compelled by necessity through invincible testimony to let this difference come out.
We completely agree that those who accede to this paragraph in Article 36 have an easier position in this respect.
We admit that he who in this respect represents us in the church as deviating from the Confessions is true in his testimony.
Notwithstanding this serious objection which we do not consider lightly, we would nevertheless continue frankly to insist: In the name of the Lord we do not ash a scaffold for the heretic.
Because of this the church of our Lord Jesus Christ should understand and it should be sharply bound on the soul of the children of God who know love: Those teachers who claim to maintain this paragraph in Article 36, lay upon the people of God the demand that they shall approve of the execution of heretics. No, even more, if God wills it, they must confess and take upon themselves the responsibility for the blood of heretics once again.
If the children of God are of a mind to do this in their land, then naturally they must condemn us in this matter.
But a better testimony speaks in them: “I may not erect a scaffold for the heretic!” Let them then also have the courage openly to add their vote to ours so that the proponents and opponents of the burning and beheading of heretics may stand in clear and total opposition to each other.
As is known, we deny least of all that which is implied for the magistrate in Christ’s kingship and in both tables of the law. This, however, is treated in earlier paragraphs and need not be repeated here.
Permit us to add only this.
As much as our opponents must maintain that also Nero was obligated to burn the heretics according to his own judgment (i.e., the people whom he held to be heretics), they actually concede that this obligation can only be carried out properly by the magistrates who make profession of the Reformed religion.
And because there is no such magistrate who as yet has appeared in our land, we want the question asked if it is good to condemn brethren concerning such a painful question as the question of the scaffold for the obstinate heretics.
At any rate, we indulge in the hope that even those teachers who are zealous with respect to the preference for the maintenance of this “scaffold-sense” in Article 36, will be themselves the first to shrink back from the consequences of their position when the mayor of their town actually permits a heretic to be brought to the scaffold or the stake.
We think that in that hour they would, rather than to call for the blood of heretics, themselves carry water to extinguish the stack of wood, or in loving zeal cut the ropes which already are tied on the neck of their fellow citizens.