Following the examples of the Apostles, the only way to bring Christianity to the heathen nations and strangers to the Covenant of promises is preaching the Gospel to all, and receiving those who embrace the Gospel into church fellowship. Yet for those who have entered into covenant with God and claim to be Christian believers, and yet corrupt and overturn the true Faith of others among whom they live, the Magistrate has civil dominion over such heathen idolaters. Having been informed of them by the preachers of the Gospel, the Magistrate may break their idols and abolish them, and restrain them from showing contempt to true religion, or abusing the Sabbath, as the Fourth Commandment of the Moral law gives warrant [Exo. 20:8-11, 31:14-16], and indeed may compel them to be instructed in the true religion. For such may and should be not only instructed by Sermon, Conference and Dispute, but also punished by the Civil Magistrate for their deceiving of the people, and troubling the Flocks of Christ, Deut. 13:1f. and Rom. 13:1f.
If someone claims that church censures and civil punishments will only make men hypocrites in the matter of religion, then know that every hypocrite shall bear his own sin. Church censures and civil punishments concern the outward words and deeds of man, that they may be ordered so that religion and the civil peace may not be damaged. If men say and do what is right out of hypocrisy, the society in which he lives is safe, and let the hypocrite answer to God for his deceit. But it is not to be presumed that all who forsake error and embrace the truth as a result of censures and civil punishments are hypocrites, because God has appointed such means for curbing and reclaiming erroneous persons. These means cut off the temptations that have induced them into error, such as the applause of men, vanity, worldly advantage, and sensual pleasure. Having the net of these temptations broken by censures and civil punishments, the captive may come free of his errors and embrace the truth, as we are assured by Zech. 13:6. But whether or not these means fully reclaim the hypocrite, respect must be had to God’s commands and His people’s good, by curbing vice and error, in accordance with the power that God has given the Church and the Civil Magistrate, who is appointed the minister of God for the people’s good (Rom. 13:3-4).
- David Dickson, Therapeutica Sacra: Shewing The Method Of Healing Diseases, Concerning Regeneration (2nd edn, Edinburgh, 1697), pp. 613-14.