Christopher Chelpka

It’s #2KDay! Let’s read some George Gillespie with J. V. Fesko

Since it is #2KDay you are probably wanting to either play a video game or review “the agreements and differences between the nature of the civil and of the ecclesiastical powers or governments” of God. Both sound fun to me, but I can help you more with the second. Here’s what you need to do:

Get out your copy of Aaron’s Rod Blossoming, Or the Divine Ordinances of Church Government Vindicated: So as the Present Erastian Controversy Concerning the Distinction of Civil and Ecclesiastical Government, Excommunication and Suspension, is Fully Debated and Discused, From the Holy Scripture, from the Jewish and Christian Antiquities, and from the Consent of Later Writers, from the True Nature and Rights of Magistracty, and from the Groundlessness of the Chief Objections Made Against the Presbyterial Government, in point of a Domineering Arbitrary Unlimited Power by George Gillespie, Then find and read chapter 4 of the second book.

Alternatively, you can read J. V. Fesko’s summary of Gillespie, which I’ve copied below. It comes from Fesko’s briefly titled book, The Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Context & Theological Insights.

Ten Points in which the Two Kingdoms Agree

  1. They are both from God.
  2. Both are required to observe the law and commandments of God.
  3. According to Luther; civil magistrates and church officers are considered “fathers” vis-à-vis the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:12).
  4. The magistrate and ministry are both appointed for the glory of God and the good of men.
  5. Both are mutually beneficial to one another.
  6. They are both governmental powers.
  7. Each requires singular qualifications, gifts, and endowments.
  8. They have degrees of censure and correction relative to the gravity of the offense.
  9. They may only impose a penalty upon one who is guilty of offense.
  10. Both have jurisdiction in “external matters” in that, even though churchly power is concerned chiefly with a person’s internal spiritual state, church discipline manifests itself in the excommunication of people, as Andrè Rivet (1572–1651) has explained.

Ten Points in which the Two Kingdoms Differ

  1. Efficient cause. The King of the nations has instituted the civil power; the King of saints has instituted the ecclesiastical power.
  2. Matter. The civil magistrate employed the earthly scepter and temporal sword, and it is monarchical and legislative as well as punitive and coercive. Ecclesiastical power possess and employs the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
  3. Forms. The civil magistrate is an authority and dominion immediately subordinate to God, whereas ecclesiastical power is ministerial and is exercised in immediate subordination to Jesus Christ as King of the church.
  4. Ends. The supreme need of the civil magistrate is the glory of God as King of the nations. The ends of ecclesiastical authority are twofold, proximate and remote. Proximately the end or goal is the glory of Jesus Christ; and remotely, the glory of God.
  5. Effects. The civil power effects civil laws, punishments, and rewards. Ecclesiastical power determines controversies of faith, the order and decency of the church, the ordination and disposition of church officers, and church discipline.
  6. Interests. Civil power only has in view the things of this life—peace, war, justice, and issues related to the king and national interest—all things that are external to man. Ecclesiastical power deals with matters pertaining to God, things relevant to the inward man, as a number of theologians have argued, such as Francis Junius (1545–1602), Lambert Daneau (ca. 1530–1595), and Remonstrant theologian Daniel Tilenus (1563–1633).
  7. Adjuncts. Ecclesiastical power should not be exercised without prayer, but no such requirement exists for civil power. And in many cases civil power is given to one person, whereas ecclesiastical power is given to an assembly.
  8. Correlations. Under civil authority people are gathered under a commonwealth or civil corporation, whereas the church is a spiritual corporation.
  9. Ultimate termination. The church can go no further than excommunication, whereas civil authorities can put criminals to death, as Walo Messaliuns (aka Claudius Salmasius) (1588–1653) has argued.
  10. Divided execution. Sometimes the church must censure someone whom the magistrate does not deem worthy of punishment and vice versa—that is, someone might suffer the penalty of the spiritual sword but not the temporal swears, and another might suffer under the temporal sword but not the spiritual sword, as David Pareus (1548–1622) has argued.

Fesko’s summary is part of his discussion of the two kingdoms and the Westminster Standards in his chapter on the church.

For those who want Gillespie’s full arguments, you should read Aaron’s Rod Blossoming. It is a fantastic book from which I’ve learned a lot, including the meaning of the word overkill. The man knows his way around an argument.