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Concerning the lawful coercive power of the civil ruler to suppress heresies, I distinguish between bare opinions or speculations, and scandalous or pernicious practices. The conscience simply considered in itself is for God, the Lord of the conscience alone to judge. But it is the proper function of the civil ruler to punish a man’s practices, if they be against any of God’s commandments of the first or the second table. Rom. 13:3-4 teaches that the object of civil power is actions good or bad, not bare opinions, not thoughts, not conscience, but actions. The ruler should punish men for preaching, printing, spreading of dangerous opinions, for schismatic, pernicious and scandalous practices, for creating factions among the people contrary to the covenant, for resisting the reformation of religion, for lying and railing against the covenant, the State, or against the Reformed Churches.
- George Gillespie, Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty (1644), at http://www.naphtali.com/articles/george-gillespie/wholesome-severity/.