Of dealing with Hereticks and Blasphemers

pleading1Keach,

As touching Hereticks or Heresy, the same Censure, when they are convicted, ought to pass against them; Heresy is commonly restrained to signify any perverse Opinion or Error in a fundamental Point of Religion, as to deny the Being of God, or the Deity of Christ, or his Satisfaction, and Justification alone by his Righteousness, or to deny the Resurrection of the Body, or eternal Judgment, or the like. Yet our Annotators say, the Word signifies the same thing with Schism and Divisions; which if so, such that are guilty of Schism or Divisions in the Church, ought to be excommunicated also. Heresies are called Damnable by the Apostle Peter; without Repentance such cannot be saved, as bring in Damnable Heresies, denying the Lord that bought them.

Two things render a Man an Heretick according to the common signification of the Word.

1. An Error in matters of Faith, Fundamental or Essential to Salvation.

2. Stubbornness and Contumacy in holding and maintaining it. A Man that is an Heretick, after the first and second Admonition reject. Now that this Rejection is all one with Excommunication, appears by what Paul speaks, I Tim. I. 20. Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to Blaspheme.

Their Heresy, or Blasphemy was in saying the Resurrection was past.

Some would have none be counted an Heretick but he who is convicted and conde mned so to be in his own Conscience, mistaking Paul’s Words, Knowing t hat he that is such, is subverted, being condemned of himself. He may be con demned of himself, tho not for his Heresy, yet for his spending his Time about Questions, and strife of Words, to the disquieting the Peace of the Church ; or tho not condemned of himself directly, yet indirectly; according to the Purport of his own Notion, or what he grants about the Point in Debate, &c. Else the Apostle refers to some notable and notorious self-condemned Heretick. It is a great question, whether Hymeneus and Alexander were condemned in their own Consciences, about that Heresy charged upon them, and yet were delivered up to Satan. However the Rule is plain, respecting any that are subverted, and resolutely maintain any Heretical Notion, i.e. after he hath been twice (or oftner) admonished, that is, after all due means used, and pains taken with him, to convince him of his abominable Error; and yet if he remains obstinate, he must be delivered up to Satan; that is, the righteous censure of the Church must pass upon him, as in the case of other notorious Crimes. Heresy is a Work of the Flesh: and hence some conceive such ought to be punished by the Civil Magistrate.

The Glory of a True Church — Keach | Founders

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One thought on “Of dealing with Hereticks and Blasphemers

  1. I Like Albert Barnes take on the definition of a heretic, taken from his notes on Titus 3:10-

    The word heretic is now commonly applied to one who holds some fundamental error of doctrine, “a person who holds and teaches opinions repugnant to the established faith, or that which is made the standard of orthodoxy.” Webster. The Greek word here used (\~airetikov\~– haireticos) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The corresponding noun (\~airesiv\~– hairesis) occurs in the following places: Acts 5:17; 15:5; 24:5 Acts 26:5; 28:22, where it is rendered sect; and Acts 24:14 1 Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 5:20; 2 Peter 2:1, where it is rendered heresy, and heresies. See Barnes “Acts 24:14”. The true notion of the word is that of one who is a promoter of a sect or party. The man who makes divisions in a church, instead of aiming to promote unity, is the one who is intended. Such a man may form sects and parties on some points of doctrine on which he differs from others, or on some custom, religious rite, or peculiar practice; he may make some unimportant matter a ground of distinction from his brethren, and may refuse to have fellowship with them, and endeavour to get up a new organization. Such a man, according to the Scripture usage, is a heretic, and not merely one who holds a different doctrine from that which is regarded as orthodoxy. The spirit of the doctrine here is the same as in Romans 16:17, and the same class of persons is referred to. “Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have received; and avoid them.” See Barnes “Romans 16:17”. The word here used is defined by Robinson, (Lex.,) “one who creates dissensions, introduces errors–a factious person.” It is not found in classic Greek, but often in ecclesiastical writers. See Suicer’s Thesau.

    After the first and second admonition. Comp. Matthew 18:15-17. That is, do not do it hastily and rashly. Give him an opportunity to explain himself, and to repent and abandon his course. No man is to be cut off without giving him a proper opportunity to vindicate his conduct, and to repent if he has done wrong. If, after the first and second admonition, a man, who is undoubtedly doing wrong, will not repent, then he is to be cut off. The apostle does not say in what way this admonition is to be given, or whether it should be public or private. The language which he uses would justify either, and the method which is to be adopted is doubtless to be determined by circumstances. The thing which is to be reached is, that his fault is to be fairly set before his mind.

    Reject. \~paraitou\~. This word is rendered excuse in Luke 14:18,19; refuse, Acts 25:11; 1 Timothy 4:7; 5:11; Hebrews 12:25 avoid, 2 Timothy 2:23; and entreated, Hebrews 12:19. Its prevailing meaning, as used in connections like the one before us, is, to reject in relation to an office; that is, to decline appointing one to an office. It probably had a primary reference to that here, and meant that a man who was given to making dissensions, or who was a factious person, should not be admitted to an office in the church. The general direction would also include this–that he should not be admitted to the church. He is neither to be owned as a member, nor admitted to office. Comp. Matthew 18:17: “Let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.” In regard to this passage, then, we may observe,

    (1.) that the utmost limit which this allows is mere exclusion. It does not allow us to follow the offender with injury.

    (2.) It does not authorize us to oppose one on account of his mere private opinions. The essential idea is that of a factious, division-making man; a man who aims to form sects and parties, whether on account of opinions, or from any other cause.

    (3.) It does not make it right to deliver such a man over to the “secular arm,” or to harm him in body, soul, property, or reputation. It gives no power to torture him on the rack, or with thumb-screws, or to bind him to the stake. It authorizes us not to recognise him as a Christian brother, or to admit him to an office in the church –but beyond this it gives us no right to go. He has a right to his own opinion still, so far as we are concerned, and we are not to molest him in the enjoyment of that right.

    (4.) It demands that, when a man is undoubtedly a heretic in the sense here explained, there should be the utmost kindness towards him, in order if possible to reclaim him. We should not begin by attacking and denouncing his opinions; or by formally arraigning him; or by blazoning his name abroad as a heretic; but he is to be dealt with in all Christian kindness and brotherly fidelity. He is to be admonished more than once by those who have the right to admonish him; and then, and then only, if he does not repent, he is to be simply avoided. That is to be an end of the matter so far as we are concerned. The power of the church there ceases. It has no power to deliver him over to any one else for persecution or punishment, or in any way to meddle with him. He may live where he pleases; pursue his own plans; entertain his own opinions or company, provided he does not interfere with us; and though we have a right to examine the opinions which he may entertain, yet our work with him is done. If these principles had been observed, what scenes of bloody and cruel persecution in the church would have been avoided!

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