Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stephen Baskerville, Not Peace But a Sword; The Political Theology of the English Revolution

Stephen Baskerville, Not Peace But a Sword; The political theology of the English revolution; Routledge, London and New York, 1993.

‘I am a minister of God’s mercy,’ said Stephen Marshall, ‘and take no pleasure in pressing to such a work as judgment and severity were it not that I am assured that if we should not do justice where God requireth it to be done he will do it without us, and he will do it upon us.’ [Marshall, Divine Project] (85)

However they might be deputy gods in office therefore, the most exalted political figures were still fallible in person, vulnerable to seduction by the temptations of a corrupt and corrupting world. ‘You are but men,’ Blackwell reminded his distinguished audience, ‘gods indeed, but yet but earthen gods: men, weak men, frail men, flesh and blood.’ / ‘You have the same carnal principles in your hearts that are in the hearts of others… pride… self-love… base, slavish fear… ambition … covetousness… temptation from Satan… solicitations from men… evasions in offenders to avoid justice. Friends’ entreaty; enemies obloquy. Such a world of snares, so many respects to work upon your affections, so many occasions to turn you out of the way, so many impediments to justice: this relation and that relation, kindred, acquaintance, fear, favor, hope of reward, frowns, smiles. [Elidad Blackwell, A Caveat for Magistrates, (1645)] (87)

‘Magistrates are called gods,’ Obadiah Sedgwick reminded a local political gathering. ‘It is not a naked title which conveyeth nothing of substance and reality with it. He who hath given this name of excellency unto them hath derived an answerable power and authority in regard of which they may be justly called gods.’ [Obadiah Sedgwick, The Best and the Worst Magistrate (1648)] (118)

Yet the divinity of magistrates resided not in the private persons but in the public positions. ‘The divinity is not stamped upon their persons but upon their office,’ William Spurstowe told the London officials. ‘Their divine constitution doth not change their native condition.’ (119)

It was not that nothing was required of the human will in its won salvation, therefore; on the contrary, it was precisely because so much was required that weak and helpless souls were incapable on their own of doing it, which was why they needed a savior and why what was demanded of man had to be performed by God through Christ. (121)

…grace by its nature was equipped to deal with failure. ‘When we have done all we can do, yet we shall fall short of that exactness of obedience which the law requireth,’ John Brinsley conceded. [John Brinsley, Saints’ Solemn Covenant] (122)

Imperfect obedience in itself was not necessarily a problem under the covenant of grace so long as the effort was ‘sincere’. ‘For thy own part, there is no more required of thee but sincerity,’ John Preston said. ‘under this gracious covenant sincerity is perfection.’ [John Preston, Breastplate, II] (122)


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