Calvinism and the Baptists

The following is from Dr. Laurence M. Vance’s excellent recently updated and revised work entitled, “The Other Side of Calvinism.” This definitive work is a 800-page treatment of the theological system known as Calvinism. It is extensively footnoted. Please direct any questions or comments for the author to Vance Publications. Placed on the Internet by permission of the author. Dr. Laurence M. Vance’s e-mail address is:


The controversy over Calvinism among the Baptists calls for special attention. Not only has this debate raged among the Baptists for hundreds of years, the greatest exponents of Calvinism today are not the Presbyterian or Reformed but the Baptists. The fact that a Baptist says he is not a Calvinist means nothing, for the Baptists, more than any other Calvinists, when seeking to draw attention away from the name of Calvin, use the phrase “Doctrines of Grace” as a metaphor for Calvinism.105 Another term used by Baptists is “Sovereign Grace.”106 The term “grace” by itself is also used to stand for the doctrines of Calvinism.107 One Calvinistic Baptist even wrote a book called Grace Not Calvinism.108 But just as was pointed out previously, if Calvinism is the doctrine of grace found in the Bible then this implies that if you disagree with Calvinism then you are denying salvation by grace. Some Calvinistic Baptists get downright offended when they are accused of being Calvinists. Joseph Wilson, the former editor of a Calvinistic Baptist newspaper, went on record as saying:

We are Sovereign Grace Landmark Missionary Baptists. That’s what we are. That’s how we advertise ourselves. That’s what we desire to be known as, and to be called by others. Call us this, and you will get no argument. We are not ashamed of this. We are glad to wear this label. Call us “Calvinists” and you offend us.109

The attempt of these “Sovereign Grace Baptists” to distance themselves from John Calvin by claiming to maintain the “Doctrines of Grace” and denying that they are Calvinists is not only insulting to all adherents and recipients of the doctrine of God’s free grace in salvation, but has further obscured their true identity and therefore made necessary more diligent study of Calvinism and the Baptists.

All of the arguments thus far encountered that are used to prove the truth of Calvinism are continued by the Baptists who espouse this doctrine. The glowing statements about Calvinism that present it as the only true form of biblical Christianity are repeated with a vengeance:

The doctrines of Calvinism, if believed, are a sovereign remedy against the two great heresies in the so-called Christian world, viz: ritualism, or sacramental salvation, on the one hand, and rationalism, on the other; the one the offspring of superstition, the other, the product of infidelity.110

There is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism.111

Milburn Cockrell, the editor of another Calvinistic Baptist newspaper, maintains that nothing proves the state of apostasy that most Baptist Churches are in more than “their departure from the doctrine of free and sovereign grace.”112 Indeed, he does not even recognize as a true Baptist church a church which is against Calvinism:

We do not recognize as true churches those who denounce the doctrines of grace as the doctrines of the Devil. We will not grant a letter to nor receive a letter from any such so-called Baptist church. We grant that a church may be weak on sovereign grace and yet retain its church status, but we do not believe that a church which violently and openly opposes sovereign grace can be a true New Testament Baptist Church.”113

Cockrell never does explain the difference between “violently and openly” opposing sovereign grace and being “weak on sovereign grace.” How “weak on sovereign grace” does a Baptist church have to be to forfeit its “church status”? And furthermore, who decides when the line has been crossed?

But in spite of their aversion to the name of Calvin, the Baptists have always made use of the Calvinist/Arminian dichotomy to fortify their position just like their Presbyterian and Reformed “cousins.” Once again two things about Arminianism need to be emphasized. The first is that when a Calvinist uses the term, he never limits it to the supposed doctrines of James Arminius, for according to Calvinists, Arminianism is anything contrary to Calvinism. And secondly, the arbitrary division of men into either Calvinist or Arminian is the strength of the Calvinistic system, for if there are only two tenable viewpoints then if you are not a Calvinist you have to be an Arminian. Roy Mason (1894-1978) claims “the two terms are fixed and established” so that “whether a person wants to be labeled Calvinistic or Arminian or not, there is no way in which they can avoid it.”114 Once this two-tiered system is set up, the usual shocking statements about Arminianism are made:

Arminianism is a modern form of the way of Cain, for it makes man’s words, worth, and works to do more than Christ did. In truth Arminianism is paganism and popery under the banner of Christianity. It will culminate in the worship of a man in the person of the final Antichrist.115

Adam and his wife were the first to demonstrate the philosophy which came eventually to be known theologically as “Arminianism.” They devised a system of soteriology which, while it included some elements of divine revelation, rested squarely upon their own wisdom rather than upon God’s.116

Once the Calvinist labels all his opponents as Arminians, the guilt by association argument is likewise used. Kenneth Good (1916-1991) reminds us that Pentecostals, Holiness, and Charismatics “are all definitely Arminian.”117 He also makes the doleful connection between Arminianism and Semi-Pelagianism.118 Nevertheless, some Calvinistic Baptists consider it a “cheap tactic,” and despair of this division of all men into these two camps: “I wrote an article some years ago in which I pled with preachers, not to call other preachers Arminians or Calvinists. If they are Baptists, they are not Calvinists, and they are not Arminians.”119 But as we shall soon see, the Calvinists will not recognize any mediating position between Calvinism and Arminianism.

Because of their insistence that Calvinism is the Gospel, the Calvinistic Baptists have made some rash statements about “Arminianism” that some of their number have been forced to mitigate. Cockrell insists that “the Christ of Arminianism is not the Christ of the New Testament.”120 Wilson claims that “no one has ever been or ever will be saved in the way taught by Arminianism.”121 These are serious charges, for they insinuate that no one but a Calvinist can be saved. But some Sovereign Gracers tread lightly on this matter, for they admit that they were “saved under the preaching of an Arminian preacher and church.”122 Even Wilson himself acknowledges that “many of us were saved in Arminian churches under Arminian preaching.”123 So how does he get around his earlier statements? He explains: “Understand that I do verily believe that some (even many) Arminians are saved, but I adamantly insist that they were saved in the way taught by Sovereign Grace.”124 The fact that these saved Arminians may live their life in contempt of Calvinism is no problem, for these Arminians “will be Sovereign Gracers when they do get to heaven, and will shout on the banks of sweet and everlasting deliverance, rejoicing because their doctrine was false.”125

Although the Calvinistic Baptists insist they have the right to reject the terms Calvinist and Calvinism, they will not accord this privilege to their opponents. Keener says Calvinism should be called “anti-Arminianism.”126 The aforementioned Wilson, who so adamantly rejects the label Calvinist, laments that those Baptists who are opposed to Calvinism “are ashamed of the word ‘Arminian.'”127 He says to his antagonists: “Call yourselves what you will; Arminian is what you are.128 But suppose a detractor of Calvinism refuses the label? Wilson further contends that “you don’t have to call yourself either; but not calling yourself either does not change the fact of what you are. Refusing to call yourself an Arminian does not change the fact that, that is what you are.”129 Good insists that “there are some Arminians who do not know that they are Arminians.”130 Because of this duplicity of the Calvinists, the terms Calvinist and Calvinism will be used throughout this book to apply to any man or doctrine that is Calvinistic–whether the designations are accepted or not. And in spite of the obsession that Calvinists have with the terms Arminian and Arminianism, they claim that “a sort of ‘Calviphobia’ develops in the Arminian mind” when the subject of Calvinism is broached.131 But in view of the astounding and exaggerated things that have been said thus far about Arminianism, it is evident that it is the Calvinist who has a phobia due to his obsession with Arminianism. This is no more evident than when a Baptist simply chooses to identify himself as a Bible-believer.

To those Baptists who accept the Bible as the final authority instead of the philosophical speculations and theological implications of Calvinism or Arminianism the Calvinist reserves the most scorn. To call oneself a “Biblicist,” instead of either a Calvinist or an Arminian, although it is particularly offensive to the adherents of both systems because it correctly implies that they are both unbiblical, is especially troubling to a Calvinist because of his adamant insistence that one must be either a Calvinist or an Arminian. In answer to those who say “the truth lies between Calvinism and Arminianism,” Spurgeon replied: “It does not; there is nothing between them but a barren wilderness.”132 Good insists that those who claim the title of Biblicist seek “for a simplistic slogan in order to evade the issues or avoid the studies.”133 And while he commends the desire to be identified as a Biblicist, Good regards “the foundation of the reasoning” as “rather shaky. It actually does not have an adequate Scripture-basis.”134 The problem that Good has with Biblicists is that “they are not actually Biblicists at all.”135 They are actually “following the doctrinal system invented by Arminius.”136 In other words, they are Arminians–just like everyone else who is not a Calvinist. Curtis Pugh maintains that Biblicist pastors “ask church members to allow them to ‘talk out of both sides of their mouths.'”137 But believing that Calvinism is biblical, he simply regards himself “also as a Biblicist”138 to stop the debate. Any attempt to be just a Bible-believing Baptist and you are labeled with the moniker of “Calminian,”139 obviously a derivative from the only two accepted systems.

A corollary to the Calvinist/Arminian dichotomy, and one that is peculiar to the Baptists, is the former division of Baptists into two groups (where have we heard this before?) termed “General” and “Particular” Baptists–General Baptists holding that Christ died for all men in general, and Particular Baptists viewing the Atonement as only for the particular group of God’s so-called elect.140 In America these were called “Separate” and “Regular” Baptists.141 After resurrecting these titles, Calvinists make statements extolling the virtues of the Calvinistic Baptists:

“Baptist orthodoxy was preserved among the Particular or Calvinistic Baptists.”142

“Only the English Particular Baptists remained unscathed by the theological apostasy.”143

Naturally, this implies that the General or Separate Baptists were somewhat less than orthodox. Good implies that we should identify with the Particular Baptists because they were the “largest body of Baptist churches,”144 while Jack Warren, the editor of another Calvinistic Baptist newspaper, bids us to “return to the old paths and to our Particular Baptist roots.”145

Some Baptists, however, refused to be wed to these arbitrary distinctions. In this country, as related by the Baptist historian David Benedict (1779-1874), an unusual association of churches was once formed in Western Pennsylvania called the “Covenanted Independent Baptists.” Of these churches he relates: “These churches are, as they say, called by some Semi-Calvinists, by others, Semi-Arminians.”146 After discussing the types of Baptists in England, the English Baptist historian Thomas Crosby (c. 1685-1752) pertinently observed in his The History of the English Baptists:

And I know that there are several churches, ministers, and many particular persons, among the English Baptists, who desire not to go under the name either of Generals or Particulars, nor indeed can justly be ranked under either of these heads; because they receive what they think to be truth, without regarding with what human schemes it agrees or disagrees with.147

And of this same time period, a more recent Baptist historian relates of a fund established in 1717 to assist needy ministers that it was “argued against restricting it to the Particular Baptists” since “many Baptists did not go under either name.”148 So not all Baptists accepted these man-made designations, contrary to the ardent efforts of the Calvinists to force all their opponents into the Arminian camp.

Like their fellow Calvinists, the Sovereign Grace Baptists also use the historical argument when attempting to prove the truth of their doctrine. Naturally, they start with the Bible and simply progress through time. Mason begins by contending that “the Bible is a predestinarian book.”149 “Christ and His apostles” were Calvinistic, according to Milburn Cockrell.150 The Apostle Paul was even a Sovereign Grace preacher.151 Not wanting to limit it just to the apostles, Mason insists that “Christians of the New Testament times were strong believers in the greatness and sovereignty of God and consequently in the doctrines of election and predestination.”152 And besides appealing to the Calvinism of the Puritans, Covenanters, and Huguenots, he also relates that “the great theologians of history” and “most of the creeds of historic Christendom” have been Calvinistic.153 Other Baptists likewise appeal to these Calvinistic creeds as proof of the truth of Calvinism.154 Regarding the Baptists in particular, Mason maintains: “Baptists have been Predestinarians down through the centuries, from the days of Christ.”155 Garner Smith reiterates that “the doctrines of grace were believed and taught by Baptists before Calvin ever came on the scene.”156 Another adds that “the majority of Baptists have historically been Calvinistic.”157 Warren reminds us that “our heritage is one of Calvinism”158 Wilson insists that Calvin got his Calvinism from the “Baptist preservation” of his doctrines.159 Therefore Spurgeon could say: “The longer I live the clearer does it appear that John Calvin’s system is the nearest to perfection.”160 Sometimes an appeal is made by Baptists to the Calvinism of the old Philadelphia Baptist Association (established 1707).161 Other times the entreaty is to the Calvinism of the Baptist confessions of faith.162 Even the non-Baptist Boettner appeals to the Calvinism of the Baptist confessions when seeking to prove the truth of Calvinism with the historical argument.163 The Presbyterian McFetridge merely says: “The Baptists, who are Calvinists,”164 and then goes on expecting the reader to just accept his statement.

Because the Presbyterian and Reformed groups are inherently Calvinistic, they have never appealed to individual men in history who were Calvinists as have the Baptists. From the Baptist authors we can find not only sections,165 but whole chapters in books devoted to Calvinistic Baptists in history.166 There are also books on the subject as well.167 The stated thesis of one writer is that “Calvinism, popularly called the Doctrines of Grace, prevailed in the most influential and enduring arenas of Baptist denominational life until the end of the second decade of the twentieth century.”168 But even supposing without any reservation that this statement is true, how does that prove that Calvinism is true and that as a consequence all Baptists should be Calvinists? What is implied in the above thesis (and what the author spends the rest of his book attempting to prove) is that because the majority of great Baptist preachers, theologians, and missionaries were Calvinistic–Calvinism must be true. Besides the aforementioned Spurgeon, the roll call of Calvinistic Baptists reads as follows:

Isaac Backus (1724-1806); W. B. Johnson (1782-1862)

Abraham Booth (1734-1806); Adoniram Judson (1788-1850)

James P. Boyce (1827-1888); Benjamin Keach (1640-1704)

John Brine (1703-1765); William Kiffin (1616-1701)

John A. Broadus (1827-1895); Hanserd Knollys (1599-1691)

John Bunyan (1628-1688); John Leland (1754-1841)

William Carey (1761-1834); Basil Manly Sr. (1798-1868)

B. H. Carroll (1843-1914); Basil Manly Jr. (1825-1892)

Alexander Carson (1776-1884); Patrick Hues Mell (1814-1888)

John L. Dagg (1794-1884); Jesse Mercer (1769-1841)

Edwin C. Dargan (1852-1930); J. M. Pendleton (1811-1891)

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815); J. C. Philpot (1802-1869)

Richard Furman (1755-1825); Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)

John Clarke (1609-1676); Luther Rice (1783-1836)

J. B. Gambrell (1841-1921); John Rippon (1751-1836)

John Gano (1727-1804); John C. Ryland (1723-1792)

John Gill (1697-1771); John Skepp (c. 1670-1721)

J. R. Graves (1820-1893); A. H. Strong (1836-1921)

Robert Hall (1728-1791); John Spilsbery (1593-1668)

Alva Hovey (1820-1903); H. Boyce Taylor (1870-1932)

R. B. C. Howell (1801-1868); J. B. Tidwell (1870-1946)

Henry Jessey (1601-1663); Francis Wayland (1796-1865)

The impressive list of names of prominent Baptists who supposedly were Calvinistic that is regularly compiled by the Sovereign Grace Baptists is supposed to so overwhelm the reader as to convince him that he ought to be a Calvinist if he is to be a historic Baptist. But if the Calvinism of the abovementioned men is actually checked, it will be found that it ranges from radical to mild and everything in between. Indeed, some of these Calvinists disputed with each other over the subject. So what exactly is the historic Baptist position?

Of these men there are three that stand out as having had the greatest influence: John Gill, Charles Spurgeon, and Arthur W. Pink–all Englishmen.

Called “Dr. Voluminous” because of his vast writings,169 Gill is arguably the greatest scholar the Baptists have ever had, his Calvinism notwithstanding. At the age of twenty-one, he was called to pastor an already notable church at Goat’s Yard Passage, Fair Street, Horselydown, in the London borough of Southwark.170 Here he remained for over fifty years. Besides his commentary on the whole Bible, he is noted for his Body of Divinity and his numerous polemical writings on baptism and Calvinism. Most of Gill’s works have been reprinted by The Baptist Standard Bearer.171 As was mentioned previously, Spurgeon is the one whom both Baptists and Pedo-Baptists appeal to as an example of a Calvinist who had a fruitful ministry. What is not generally known, however, is that Spurgeon was the successor of John Gill, albeit a few years later. Like his predecessor, Spurgeon assumed the pastorate at a young age and remained until his death. He is chiefly remembered for his sermons, which continued to be published for years after his death. The extent of Spurgeon’s Calvinism is continually debated, with both sides using extracts from his sermons to prove their respective points. But although many non-Calvinists have sought to downplay his Calvinism, Spurgeon is the quintessential Calvinist. Good claims that “what David was to the forces of Israel in the days of Goliath, Spurgeon has been to the Calvinistic Baptists in our own times.”172 Naturally, his Calvinistic sermons have been extracted from the thousands he preached and published seperately.173 Most of Spurgeon’s works have been reprinted by Pilgrim Publications.174 Although an Englishman, Pink began his ministry in the United States after a short stint at Moody Bible Institute in 1910.175 Beginning as a premillennial dispensationalist, Pink later rejected both teachings but remained a radical Calvinist throughout his life. He is best known for his books that grew out of the articles in his magazine Studies in the Scriptures, the most infamous one being The Sovereignty of God, first published in 1918.176 Pink’s Calvinism upset some Calvinists so bad that an attempt was made to tone it down by The Banner of Truth Trust, by issuing, in 1961, a “British Revised Edition” of The Sovereignty of God in which three chapters and the four appendixes were expunged.177 For this they have been severely criticized (and rightly so) by other Calvinists.178 Most of Pink’s works are in print today from a variety of different publishers.179

Among the roll call of Calvinistic Baptists can also be found four great leaders of the modern Baptist missionary movement: Adoniram Judson, Luther Rice, William Carey, and Andrew Fuller. Their professed Calvinism is especially valuable to Calvinists because it is used to prove that Calvinism is not incompatible with missionary work. Judson and Rice were American Congregationalists who later became Baptists: the former going to Burma and the latter raising funds in the United States. But whatever their profession, they proved by their actions on behalf of foreign missions the pretense of their “Calvinism.” Carey, called the “father of modern missions,”180 was an Englishman who went to India. He authored Inquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen, and because of his proficiency in acquiring languages, was responsible for numerous versions of the Scriptures in other languages. And while it is true that Carey’s missionary society was officially entitled the “Particular Baptist Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the Heathen,” to maintain that Carey was a consistent Calvinist is another story. It is because of this disparity that John Ryland supposedly retorted to Carey at his appeal for the use of means in mission work: “Young man, sit down. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid or mine.”181 While pastoring at Kettering, England, Fuller issued The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation in 1785 and was instrumental in the formation of the Baptist missionary society that sent Carey to India. Thus their actions prove that it is only in spite of their Calvinism that these men undertook their missionary efforts.

Because the designations Regular and Separate, as well as Particular and General, are no longer used to denominate Baptists, most Calvinistic Baptists have some sort of name identifying themselves as Calvinists. Since the Baptist aversion to the name of Calvin precludes them from using his name, one can find prefixes like “Sovereign Grace,” “Hardshell,” “Primitive,” “Old,” “Old School,” “Strict,” “Orthodox,” or “Reformed.” The “Gospel Standard Baptists” are a Calvinistic group and so are the “Continental Baptist Churches.” The name of “Missionary Baptists” that some Calvinistic Baptists take upon themselves is a misnomer. All Baptists should be missionary Baptists. The reason that the Sovereign Grace Baptists use the aforementioned term is to distinguish themselves from the stricter Primitive Baptists–the ones who practice their Calvinism. These Baptists are all quick to emphasize their Calvinism, so it isn’t hard to recognize most of them. However, some Baptists are hard to pin down. You will find Baptists with Calvinistic leanings in the various Baptist associations and fellowships, as well as among those who are strictly independent. There has of late even been a resurgence of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention.182 Upon inquiry, most of these men will affirm their Calvinism; however, this is not to say that all of them publicly preach and teach these opinions nor put them into practice. Some of these men are what might be called “closet-Calvinists,” since they keep their Calvinism, like the proverbial skeleton, in the closet, lest their church members take to heart what their pastor believes and stop visitation and giving to missions. This is not to imply that these men disdain visitation and missions–quite the contrary–they might be ardent about visiting and support many missionaries. They are woefully inconsistent; they never resolutely employ their theology. One Calvinist has rather accurately termed these men “shelf-Calvinists,” since their Calvinism is mainly to be found on their library shelves.183 Several newspapers are published by the Calvinistic Baptists (The Christian Baptist, Atwood, Tennessee; The Berea Baptist Banner, Mantachie, Mississippi; The Baptist Examiner, Ashland, Kentucky; the Baptist Evangel, Saginaw, Texas), and they maintain some small colleges (Baptist Voice Bible College, Wilmington, Ohio; Landmark Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas; Lexington Baptist College, Lexington, Kentucky), but one would never know these publications and schools were Calvinistic without further inquiry. So as was mentioned at the beginning of this section, the fact that a Baptist says he is not a Calvinist means nothing. It often takes diligent study in order to identify whether or not a Baptist church, school, or preacher is Calvinistic. Occasionally, however, a group of Sovereign Grace Baptists do put out a directory of their churches.

The concerted attempt of the Calvinistic Baptists to equate Calvinism with Baptist orthodoxy is not shared by their Presbyterian and Reformed “cousins.” These two groups are basically the same in doctrine: the term Reformed emphasising the doctrines of the Reformation and the term Presbyterian emphasising their form of church government. The history of how each group developed will be found in the next four chapters. But in relation to the Baptists, it should first be pointed out that the Presbyterian and Reformed denominations consider their theology to be that of biblical Christianity:

It is my firm conviction that the only theology contained in the Bible is the Reformed theology.184

Christianity comes to its fullest expression in the Reformed Faith.185

The apostolic doctrine was that of Reformed Theology.186

To appeal to a broader spectrum of Christianity, however, sometimes the term Reformed is deemphasized. The title of the widely-adopted theology textbook by the Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof (1873-1957) was changed from Reformed Dogmatics to Systematic Theology, and similar changes were made to some of his other books as well.187

There are two doctrines that are central to the Reformed Faith: Covenant theology and Calvinism. The first is abhorrent to all Baptists and the second is treasured by the Sovereign Grace Baptists. This antinomy of the Baptists is one reason for this work, for as will be maintained throughout this book, Calvinism is not only wrong doctrine, it is Reformed doctrine. That Reformed theology is to be identified with Covenant theology there is no doubt.188 The relationship is so strong that Sproul even avows that “Reformed theology has been nicknamed ‘Covenant theology.'”189 But the adherents of Reformed theology likewise identify it with Calvinism:

This term is often used synonomously with the term Calvinistic when describing a theological position.190

The great advantage of the Reformed Faith is that in the framework of the Five Points of Calvinism it sets forth clearly what the Bible teaches concerning the way of salvation.”191

Predestination can be taken as a special mark of Reformed theology.192

So Calvinism is to be equated with Reformed theology–not just by mere acquiescence, but being a fully cognate term. The aforementioned D. James Kennedy relates why he is a Presbyterian: “I am a Presbyterian because I believe that Presbyterianism is the purest form of Calvinism.”193 Moreover, Kuyper maintains that “Calvinism means the completed evolution of Protestantism.”194 Talbot and Crampton further insist that “if the church does not return to her Reformational shorings, she will reap the worldwind of a truncated gospel and man centered faith.”195 But if Calvinism is the quintessence of Protestantism; the culmination of the Reformation, then it is built on a spurious foundation, for as even the Calvinistic Baptists would agree, the Reformation was just that: a reformation, not a complete return to biblical Christianity. When Loraine Boettner wrote his book The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, he inadvertently told the plain truth: predestination in the Calvinistic system is a Reformed doctrine just like the Catholic Mass is a Catholic doctrine. Calvinism is therefore distinctly a Reformed doctrine, the Baptists notwithstanding.

Although Kenneth Good maintains that Baptists can be Calvinists (his book Are Baptists Calvinists?) without being Reformed (his book Are Baptists Reformed?), those of the Reformed persuasion disagree:

It is our contention that a Reformed Baptist is really an impossibility. The Baptist who defends free will, man’s initiative in the work of salvation, resistible grace, the altar call, the free and well-meaning offer of the gospel, etc., is the Baptist who is consistent. The Baptist who defends dispensationalism, in whatever form it takes, is the Baptist who consistently maintains his position. The Baptist, on the other hand, who maintains the doctrines of grace and repudiates dispensationalsim is inconsistent in his theology. I do not deny that he may, in his theology, be a Calvinist. I do not deny that he may truly repudiate dispensationalism. But he is guilty of a happy inconsistency for all that.196

Those who hold to the truth of infant baptism have generally maintained that the ideas of believers’ baptism and sovereign grace are mutually exclusive, and that those who hold to these two positions hold a contradictory view of salvation.197

One cannot be a Presbyterian or Reformed without being a Calvinist, but one can certainly be a Baptist. A Calvinistic Baptist should be a misnomer, because, in the words of the Dutch Reformed Herman Hanko: “A Baptist is only inconsistently a Calvinist.”198

105. Curtis Pugh, “Six Reasons I Love the Doctrines of Grace,” The Berea Baptist Banner, November 5, 1994, pp. 207-208; Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and for His Glory (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986), p. 13; Tom Ross, Abandoned Truth: The Doctrines of Grace (Xenia: Providence Baptist Church, 1991), pp. ix-x.
106. Joseph M. Wilson, “Sovereign Grace Versus Arminianism,” The Baptist Examiner, July 22, 1989, p. 1; Jack Warren, “For Sovereign Grace; Against Arminian Heresy,” Baptist Evangel, January­March 1997, p. 2.
107. Ted Gower, “Am I a Calvinist?” The Baptist Examiner, November 21, 1992, p. 9; Jimmie B. Davis, in “The Berea Baptist Banner Forum,” The Berea Baptist Banner, March 5, 1990, p. 51.
108. Forrest L. Keener, Grace Not Calvinism (Lawton: The Watchman Press, 1992).
109. Joseph M. Wilson, “From the Editor,” The Baptist Examiner, June 22, 1991, p. 2.
110. Patrick H. Mell, The Biblical Doctrine of Calvinism (Cape Coral: Christian Gospel Foundation, 1988), p. 18.
111. Spurgeon, Sovereign Grace Sermons, p. 129.
112. Milburn Cockrell, Introduction to Tom Ross, Abandoned Truth: The Doctrines of Grace, p. v.
113. Milburn Cockrell, “Second Trip to the Philippines,” The Berea Baptist Banner, January 5, 1995, p. 4.
114. Mason, pp. 5, 4-5.
115. Cockrell, Introduction to Tom Ross, p. vi.
116. Good, Calvinists, p. 85.
117. Ibid., p. 62.
118. Ibid., pp. 60-61, 96.
119. Keener, p. 21.
120. Cockrell, Introduction to Tom Ross, p. vi.
121. Wilson, Sovereign Grace, p.3.
122. Garner Smith, in “The Berea Baptist Banner Forum,” The Berea Baptist Banner, September 5, 1992, p. 172.
123. Joseph M. Wilson, “Is There an Arminian Gospel?” The Baptist Examiner, December 7, 1991, p. 11.
124. Wilson, Sovereign Grace, p.3.
125. Ibid.
126. Keener, p. 18.
127. Joseph M. Wilson, “Sovereign Grace View and Arminian View of Salvation,” The Baptist Examiner, July 18, 1992, p. 8.
128. Ibid.
129. Ibid.
130. Good, Calvinists, p. 63.
131. Ibid.
132. Charles H. Spurgeon, quoted in Good, Calvinists, p. 63.
133. Good, Calvinists, p. 2.
134. Ibid.
135. Ibid., p. 124.
136. Ibid.
137. Curtis Pugh, “The Biblicist Position,” The Berea Baptist Banner, July 5, 1993, pp. 128-129.
138. Ibid., p. 121.
139. Good, Calvinists, pp. 124, 133, 140; Cockrell, Introduction to Tom Ross, p. v.
140. Thomas Crosby, The History of the English Baptists (Lafayette: Church History Research & Archives, 1979), vol. 1, p. 173.
141. John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists (Texarkana: Bogard Press, 1922), vol. 2, p. 407; Thomas Armitage, The History of the Baptists (Watertown: Maranatha Baptist Press, 1980), vol. 2, p. 731.
142. Good, Calvinists, p. 150.
143. Nettles, By His Grace, p. 73.
144. Good, Calvinists, p. 156.
145. Jack Warren, “More on Particular Baptists,” Baptist Evangel, January 1994, p. 2.
146. David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America, and Other Parts of the World (Gallatin: Church History Research & Archives, 1985), vol. 1, p. 602.
147. Crosby, vol. 1, p. 174.
148. Robert G. Torbet, A History of the Baptists, 3rd ed. (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1963), p. 70.
149. Mason, p. 5.
150. Cockrell, Introduction to Tom Ross, p. v.
151. Warren, For Sovereign Grace, p. 2.
152. Mason, p. 1.
153. Ibid., p. 2.
154. Fred Phelps, “The Five Points of Calvinism,” The Berea Baptist Banner, February 5, 1990, p. 25
155. Mason, p. 3.
156. Garner Smith, in “The Berea Baptist Banner Forum,” The Berea Baptist Banner, February 5, 1995, p. 30.
157. Kober, p. 46.
158. Warren, Particular Baptists, p. 2.
159. Wilson, Sovereign Grace, p. 1.
160. Charles H. Spurgeon, quoted in Iain H. Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1978), p. 79.
161. Good, Calvinists, p. 156; Nettles, By His Grace, p. 42.
162. Mason, p. 24; Good, Calvinists, pp. 34-35, 66-67, 80; The Biblical and Historical Faith of Baptists on God’s Sovereignty (Ashland: Calvary Baptist Church, n.d.), pp. 50-51.
163. Boettner, Predestination, p. 1.
164. McFetridge, p. 49.
165. Tom Ross, Abandoned Truth, pp. 21-28; Good, Calvinists, pp. 137-149.
166. Mason, chap. 3; Robert B. Selph, Southern Baptists and the Doctrine of Election (Harrisonburg: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), chap. 2.
167. Nettles, By His Grace and for His Glory; The Biblical and Historical Faith of Baptists on God’s Sovereignty.
168. Ibid., 13.
169. Nettles, By His Grace, p. 73.
170. For a biography of Gill by his immediate successor, see John Rippon, A Brief Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late Rev. John Gill, D.D. (Harrisonburg: Gano Books, 1992); for a more recent work, see George M. Ella, John Gill and the Cause of God and Truth (Durham: Go Publications, 1995).
171. The Baptist Standard Bearer, Number One Iron Oaks Dr., Paris, AR 72855.
172. Good, Calvinists, p. 147.
173. Spurgeon’s Sovereign Grace Sermons; Spurgeon’s Sermons on Sovereignty (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1990).
174. Pilgrim Publications, P.O. Box 66, Pasadena, TX 77501.
175. For the life of Pink, see Richard P. Belcher, Arthur W. Pink: Born to Write (Columbia: Richbarry Press, 1982), and Iain H. Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1981); for an examination and analysis of his Calvinism, see Richard P. Belcher, Arthur W. Pink: Predestination (Columbia: Richbarry Press, 1983).
176. Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God, 4th ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1949). All references to this book are to this edition.
177. Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God, rev. ed. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1961).
178. Marc D. Carpenter, “The Banner of Truth Versus Calvinism,” part 1, The Trinity Review, May 1997, pp. 1-4.
179. Most are published by Baker Book House, P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516.
180. Good, Calvinists, p. 79.
181. Ibid., p. 73.
182. See in the official journal of the Southern Baptist Convention, “A Study Tool for the Doctrine of Election,” SBC Life, April 1995, pp. 8-9, and “Arminian/Calvinist Responses,” SBC Life, August 1995, pp. 8-9.
183. Kenneth H. Good, Are Baptists Reformed? (Lorain: Regular Baptist Heritage Fellowship, 1986), p. 67.
184. R. B. Kuiper, God-Centered Evangelism (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1966), p. 9.
185. Boettner, Reformed Faith, p. 24.
186. Talbot and Crampton, p. 79.
187. Henry Zwaanstra, “Louis Berkhof,” in David F. Wells, ed. Dutch Reformed Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989), pp. 48, 53. His publisher, the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., used to be known as “The Reformed Press.”
188. For a brief assessment of Reformed theology, see George W. Zeller, The Dangers of Reformed Theology (Middletown: The Middletown Bible Church, n.d.); for a major critique, see Good, Are Baptists Reformed? for a comprehensive analysis of Covenant theology, see Renald E. Showers, There Really is a Difference (Bellmawr: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1990).
189. R. C. Sproul, Grace Unknown (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997), p. 99.
190. Coppes, p. x.
191. Boettner, Reformed Faith, p. 24.
192. John H. Leith, Introduction to the Reformed Tradition, rev. ed. (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981), p. 103.
193. D. James Kennedy, Why I Am a Presbyterian (Fort Lauderdale: Coral Ridge Ministries, n.d.), p. 1.
194. Kuyper, p. 41.
195. Talbot and Crampton, p. 78.
196. Herman Hanko, We and Our Children (Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1988), p. 11.
197. Hanko, Covenant of Grace, p. 2.
198. Hanko, We and Our Children, p. 12.

Protestant Government = Fascism = John Calvin

1. Calvin believed that executing unrepentant heretics was justified.

The best known example of this is when Calvin consented to the execution of Michael Servetus, a man who denied the Trinity and infant baptism. Servetus burned for one hour simply because of his theological views.

Calvin supporters are quick to point out that the great Reformer didn’t directly execute the man. He even tried to persuade Servetus not to come to Geneva. Calvin also tried to get Servetus to repent and sought for him to be granted a more humane execution (which was beheading instead of burning).

Even so, Calvin made this remark regarding Servetus, showing that he believed death for heresy was justifiable.

“But I am unwilling to pledge my word for his safety, for if he shall come [to Geneva], I shall never permit him to depart alive, provided my authority be of any avail.” [1]

During Servertus’ trial, Calvin remarked:

“I hope that the verdict will call for the death penalty.” [2]

Nine years after the execution, Calvin made this comment in answering his critics: “Servetus suffered the penalty due his heresies, but was it by my will. Certainly his arrogance destroyed him not less than his impiety.” [3]

Calvin is also quoted as saying, “Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt. This is not laid down on human authority; it is God who speaks and prescribes a perpetual rule for his Church.” [3a]

Whether you agree with Calvin’s view or defend his actions because he was “a man of his times,” many Christians find the idea of executing heretics to be shocking.

This brings up another point for another post, but consider for a moment if murder was legal in our time.

If it were, I think we’d have a lot of dead Christians who lost their lives to other Christians over doctrinal trespasses.

If you think I’m wrong, just watch the vitriol and hatred in many “Christian” online forums as they verbally bludgeon one another over theological interpretations.

In addition to Servetus, Jerome Bolsec was arrested and imprisoned for challenging Calvin during a lecture, then banished from the city. Calvin wrote privately about the matter saying that he wished Bolsec were “rotting in a ditch.” [4]

Jacques Gruet was also a man who disagreed with Calvin. He called Calvin an ambitious and haughty hypocrite. The administrations of Geneva tortured Gruet twice daily until he confessed, and with Calvin’s concurrence, Gruet was tied to a stake, his feet were nailed to it, and his head was cut off for blasphemy and rebellion.

Pierre Ameaux was charged with slandering Calvin at a private gathering. He was to pay a fine, but Calvin wasn’t satisfied with the penalty, so Ameaux spent two months in prison, lost his job, and was paraded through town kneeling to confess his libel, also paying for the trial expense. [5]

2. Calvin believed that the Eucharist provides an undoubted assurance of salvation.

Resembling the Roman Catholic view, Calvin stated that the sacrament of the Eucharist provided the “undoubted assurance of eternal life to our minds, but also secures the immortality of our flesh.” [6]

3. Calvin believed that the Reformed Church (his church) was the true Church and there was no salvation outside of it.

Calvin persuaded an Anabapist named Herman to leave the Anabaptists (which he considered a sect), and join the Reformed church. He wrote the following, which sounds strikingly similar to the way the Catholics of that time spoke of the Roman Catholic Church:

“Herman has, if I am not mistaken, in good faith returned to the fellowship of the Church. He has confessed that outside the Church there is no salvation, and that the true Church is with us. Therefore, it was defection when he belonged to a sect separated from it.” [7]

4. Calvin believed it was acceptable to lambast his opponents with vicious names.

Calvin treated his critics with contempt, calling them “pigs,” “asses,” “riffraff,” “dogs,” “idiots,” and “stinking beasts.” In this vein, Calvin said this of the great Anabaptist leader, Menno Simons: “Nothing could be prouder, nothing more impudent than this donkey.”[8]

5. Calvin believed that the Old Testament capital offenses should be enforced today.

The city of Geneva was ruled by the clergy, which was composed of five pastors and twelve lay elders chosen by Geneva’s Council. But Calvin’s voice was the most influential in the city.

Here are some laws and facts about Geneva under Calvin’s authority:

* Each household had to attend Sunday morning services. If there was preaching on weekdays, all had to attend also. (There were only a few exceptions, and Calvin preached three to four times a week.)

* If a person came to the service after the sermon had begun, he was warned. If he continued, he would have to pay a fine.

* Heresy was regarded as an insult to God and treason to the state and was punished by death.

* Witchcraft was a capital crime. In one year, 14 alleged witches were sent to the stake on the charge that they persuaded satan to afflict Geneva with the plague.

* Clergy were to abstain from hunting, gambling, feasting, commerce, secular amusements, and had to accept annual visitations and moral scrutiny by church superiors.

* Gambling, card-playing, frequenting taverns, dancing, indecent or irreligious songs, immodesty in dress were all prohibited.

* The allowable color and quantity of clothing and the number of dishes permissible at a meal were specified by law.

* A woman was jailed for arranging her hair to an “immoral height.”

* Children were to be named after Old Testament characters. A rebellious father served four days in prison for insisting on naming his son Claude instead of Abraham.

* To speak disrespectfully of Calvin or the clergy was a crime. A first violation was punished by a reprimand. Further violations with fines. Persistent violations were met with imprisonment or banishment.

* Fornication was punished by exile or drowning.

* Adultery, blasphemy, and idolatry was punished with death.

* In the year 1558-1559, there were 414 prosecutions for moral offenses.

* As everywhere in the 16th century, torture was often used to obtain confessions or evidence.

* Between 1542-1564, there were 76 banishments. The total population of Geneva then was 20,000.

* Calvin’s own step-daughter and son-in-law were among those condemned for adultery and executed.

* In Geneva, there was little distinction between religion and morality. The existing records of the Council for this period reveal a high percentage of illegitimate children, abandoned infants, forced marriages, and sentences of death. [9]

* In one case, a child was beheaded for striking his parents. [10] (Following Old Testament Mosaic law, Calvin believed it was scriptural to execute rebellious children and those who commit adultery.) [10a]

* During a period of 17 years when Calvin was leading Geneva, there were 139 recorded executions in the city. [11]

Sabastian Castellio, a friend of Calvin’s who urged him to repent of his intolerance, made the shocking remark,

“If Christ himself came to Geneva, he would be crucified. For Geneva is not a place of Christian liberty. It is ruled by a new pope [John Calvin], but one who burns men alive while the pope at Rome strangles them first.” [12]

Castellio also made this remark:

“Can we imagine Christ ordering a man to be burned alive for advocating adult baptism? The Mosaic laws calling for the death of a heretic were superceded by the law of Christ, which is one of mercy not of despotism and terror.” [12a]

6. Calvin believed that Jewish people were impious, dishonest, lacked common sense, were greedy, and should die without pity.

Calvin wrote, “I have had much conversation with many Jews: I have never seen either a drop of piety or a grain of truth or ingenuousness – nay, I have never found common sense in any Jew.” [13]

Calvin is also quoted as calling Jews “profane dogs” who “under the pretext of prophecy, stupidly devour all the riches of the earth with their unrestrained cupidity.” [14]

He also stated that “their rotten and unbending stiffneckedness deserves that they be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without the pity of anyone.” [15]

7. Calvin believed that God did not create all humans on equal terms, but created some individuals for eternal damnation.

This idea is known as “double predestination.” According to this view, God predestines some to salvation and others to destruction. While this idea will not be shocking to some Christians, particularly Calvinists, the idea that God would knowing create some individuals so as to destroy them eternally in the end is shocking to many believers.

According to Calvin, “The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny . . . By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.” [16]

Chapter 21 of Book III of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is called “Of the eternal election, by which God has predestinated some to salvation, and others to destruction.”

The Declaration of Independence – 1776

Thomas Jefferson drafted The Declaration of Independence. He wrote it in consultation with his patriot peers in June of 1776. Proclaimed on July 4th, 1776, it was the opening round of America’s Revolutionary War for Independence.


IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Thoughts on Government – John Adams

Here is a 1776 letter from John Adams, one of America’s great patriot forefathers, with his Thoughts on Government:


My dear Sir,

If I was equal to the task of forming a plan for the government of a colony, I should be flattered with your request, and very happy to comply with it; because, as the divine science of politics is the science of social happiness, and the blessings of society depend entirely on the constitutions of government, which are generally institutions that last for many generations, there can be no employment more agreeable to a benevolent mind than a research after the best.

Pope flattered tyrants too much when he said,

“For forms of government let fools contest, That which is best administered is best.”

Nothing can be more fallacious than this. But poets read history to collect flowers, not fruits; they attend to fanciful images, not the effects of social institutions. Nothing is more certain, from the history of nations and nature of man, than that some forms of government are better fitted for being well administered than others.

We ought to consider what is the end of government, before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree, that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all divines and moral philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow, that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.

All sober inquirers after truth, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue. Confucius, Zoroaster, Socrates, Mahomet, not to mention authorities really sacred, have agreed in this.

If there is a form of government, then, whose principle and foundation is virtue, will not every sober man acknowledge it better calculated to promote the general happiness than any other form?

Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.

Honor is truly sacred, but holds a lower rank in the scale of moral excellence than virtue. Indeed, the former is but a part of the latter, and consequently has not equal pretensions to support a frame of government productive of human happiness. The foundation of every government is some principle or passion in the minds of the people. The noblest principles and most generous affections in our nature, then, have the fairest chance to support the noblest and most generous models of government.

A man must be indifferent to the sneers of modern Englishmen, to mention in their company the names of Sidney, Harrington, Locke, Milton, Nedham, Neville, Burnet, and Hoadly. No small fortitude is necessary to confess that one has read them. The wretched condition of this country, however, for ten or fifteen years past, has frequently reminded me of their principles and reasonings. They will convince any candid mind, that there is no good government but what is republican. That the only valuable part of the British constitution is so; because the very definition of a republic is “an empire of laws, and not of men.” That, as a republic is the best of governments, so that particular arrangement of the powers of society, or, in other words, that form of government which is best contrived to secure an impartial and exact execution of the laws, is the best of republics.

Of republics there is an inexhaustible variety, because the possible combinations of the powers of society are capable of innumerable variations.

As good government is an empire of laws, how shall your laws be made? In a large society, inhabiting an extensive country, it is impossible that the whole should assemble to make laws. The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good. But by what rules shall you choose your representatives? Agree upon the number and qualifications of persons who shall have the benefit of choosing, or annex this privilege to the inhabitants of a certain extent of ground.

The principle difficulty lies, and the greatest care should be employed in constituting this representative assembly. It should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason and act like them. That it may be the interest of this assembly to do strict justice at all times, it should be an equal representation, or, in other words, equal interests among the people should have equal interests in it. Great care should be taken to effect this, and to prevent unfair, partial, and corrupt elections. Such regulations, however, may be better made in times of greater tranquility than the present; and they will spring up themselves naturally, when all the powers of government come to be in the hands of the people’s friends. At present, it will be safest to proceed in all established modes, to which the people have been familiarized by habit.

A representation of the people in one assembly being obtained, a question arises, whether all the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judicial, shall be left in this body? I think a people cannot be long free, nor ever happy, whose government is in one assembly. My reasons for this opinion are as follow:–

1. A single assembly is liable to all the vices, follies, and frailties of an individual; subject to fits of humor, starts of passion, flights of enthusiasm, partialities, or prejudice, and consequently productive of hasty results and absurd judgments. And all these errors ought to be corrected and defects supplied by some controlling power.

2. A single assembly is apt to be avaricious, and in time will not scruple to exempt itself from burdens, which it will lay, without compunction, on its constituents.

3. A single assembly is apt to grow ambitious, and after a time will not hesitate to vote itself perpetual. This was one fault of the Long Parliament; but more remarkably of Holland, whose assembly first voted themselves from annual to septennial, then for life, and after a course of years, that all vacancies happening by death or otherwise, should be filled by themselves, without any application to constituents at all.

4. A representative assembly, although extremely well qualified, and absolutely necessary, as a branch of the legislative, is unfit to exercise the executive power, for want of two essential properties, secrecy and dispatch.

5. A representative assembly is still less qualified for the judicial power, because it is too numerous, too slow, and too little skilled in the laws.

6. Because a single assembly, possessed of all the powers of government, would make arbitrary laws for their own interest, execute all laws arbitrarily for their own interest, and adjudge all controversies in their own favor.

But shall the whole power of legislation rest in one assembly? Most of the foregoing reasons apply equally to prove that the legislative power ought to be more complex; to which we may add, that if the legislative power is wholly in one assembly, and the executive in another, or in a single person, these two powers will oppose and encroach upon each other, until the contest shall end in war, and the whole power, legislative and executive, be usurped by the strongest.

The judicial power, in such case, could not mediate, or hold the balance between the two contending powers, because the legislative would undermine it. And this shows the necessity, too, of giving the executive power a negative upon the legislative, otherwise this will be continually encroaching upon that.

To avoid these dangers, let a distinct assembly be constituted, as a mediator between the two extreme branches of the legislature, that which represents the people, and that which is vested with the executive power.

Let the representative assembly then elect by ballot, from among themselves or their constituents, or both, a distinct assembly, which, for the sake of perspicuity, we will call a council. It may consist of any number you please, say twenty or thirty, and should have a free and independent exercise of its judgment, and consequently a negative voice in the legislature.

These two bodies, thus constituted, and made integral parts of the legislature, let them unite, and by joint ballot choose a governor, who, after being stripped of most of those badges of domination, called prerogatives, should have a free and independent exercise of his judgment, and be made also an integral part of the legislature. This, I know, is liable to objections; and, if you please, you may make him only president of the council, as in Connecticut. But as the governor is to be invested with the executive power, with consent of council, I think he ought to have a negative upon the legislative. If he is annually elective, as he ought to be, he will always have so much reverence and affection for the people, their representatives and counselors, that, although you give him an independent exercise of his judgment, he will seldom use it in opposition to the two houses, except in cases the public utility of which would be conspicuous; and some such cases would happen.

In the present exigency of American affairs, when, by an act of Parliament, we are put out of the royal protection, and consequently discharged from our allegiance, and it has become necessary to assume government for our immediate security, the governor, lieutenant-governor, secretary, treasurer, commissary, attorney-general, should be chosen by joint ballot of both houses. And these and all other elections, especially of representatives and counselors, should be annual, there not being in the whole circle of the sciences a maxim more infallible than this, “where annual elections end, there slavery begins.”

These great men, in this respect, should be, once a year,

“Like bubbles on the sea of matter borne, They rise, they break, and to that sea return.”

This will teach them the great political virtues of humility, patience, and moderation, without which every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey.

This mode of constituting the great offices of state will answer very well for the present; but if by experiment it should be found inconvenient, the legislature may, at its leisure, devise other methods of creating them, by elections of the people at large, as in Connecticut, or it may enlarge the term for which they shall be chosen to seven years, or three years, or for life, or make any other alterations which the society shall find productive of its ease, its safety, its freedom, or, in one word, its happiness.

A rotation of all offices, as well as of representatives and counselors, has many advocates, and is contended for with many plausible arguments. It would be attended, no doubt, with many advantages; and if the society has a sufficient number of suitable characters to supply the great number of vacancies which would be made by such a rotation, I can see no objection to it. These persons may be allowed to serve for three years, and then be excluded three years, or for any longer or shorter term.

Any seven or nine of the legislative council may be made a quorum, for doing business as a privy council, to advise the governor in the exercise of the executive branch of power, and in all acts of state.

The governor should have the command of the militia and of all your armies. The power of pardons should be with the governor and council.

Judges, justices, and all other officers, civil and military, should be nominated and appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of council, unless you choose to have a government more popular; if you do, all officers, civil and military, may be chosen by joint ballot of both houses; or, in order to preserve the independence and importance of each house, by ballot of one house, concurred in by the other. Sheriffs should be chosen by the freeholders of counties; so should registers of deeds and clerks of counties.

All officers should have commissions, under the hand of the governor and seal of the colony.

The dignity and stability of government in all its branches, the morals of the people, and every blessing of society depend so much upon an upright and skillful administration of justice, that the judicial power ought to be distinct from both the legislative and executive, and independent upon both, that so it may be a check upon both, as both should be checks upon that. The judges, therefore, should be always men of learning and experience in the laws, of exemplary morals, great patience, calmness, coolness, and attention. Their minds should not be distracted with jarring interests; they should not be dependent upon any man, or body of men. To these ends, they should hold estates for life in their offices; or, in other words, their commissions should be during good behavior, and their salaries ascertained and established by law. For misbehavior, the grand inquest of the colony, the house of representatives, should impeach them before the governor and council, where they should have time and opportunist y to make their defense; but, if convicted, should be removed from their offices, and subjected to such other punishment as shall be proper.

A militia law, requiring all men, or with very few exceptions besides cases of conscience, to be provided with arms and ammunition, to be trained at certain seasons; and requiring counties, towns, or other small districts, to be provided with public stocks of ammunition and entrenching utensils, and with some settled plans for transporting provisions after the militia, when.marched to defend their country against sudden invasions; and requiring certain districts to be provided with field-pieces, companies of matrosses, and perhaps some regiments of light-horse, is always a wise institution, and, in the present circumstances of our country, indispensable.

Laws for liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.

The very mention of sumptuary laws will excite a smile. Whether our countrymen have wisdom and virtue enough to submit to them, I know not; but the happiness of the people might be greatly promoted by them, and a revenue saved sufficient to carry on this war forever. Frugality is a great revenue, besides curing us of vanities, levities, and fopperies, which are real antidotes to all great, manly, and warlike virtues.

But must not all commissions run in the name of a king? No. Why may they not as well run thus, “The colony of to A.B. greeting,” and be tested by the governor?

Why may not writs, instead of running in the name of the king, run thus, “The colony of to the sheriff,” &c., and be tested by the chief justice?

Why may not indictments conclude, “against the peace of the colony of and the dignity of the same?”

A constitution founded on these principles introduces knowledge among the people, and inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming freemen; a general emulation takes place, which causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious, and frugal. You will find among them some elegance, perhaps, but more solidity; a little pleasure, but a great deal of business; some politeness, but more civility. If you compare such a country with the regions of domination, whether monarchical or aristocratical, you will fancy yourself in Arcadia or Elysium.

If the colonies should assume governments separately, they should be left entirely to their own choice of the forms; and if a continental constitution should be formed, it should be a congress, containing a fair and adequate representation of the colonies, and its authority should sacredly be confined to those cases, namely, war, trade, disputes between colony and colony, the post-office, and the unappropriated lands of the crown, as they used to be called.

These colonies, under such forms of government, and in such a union, would be unconquerable by all the monarchies of Europe.

You and I, my dear friend, have been sent into life at a time when the greatest lawgivers of antiquity would have wished to live. How few of the human race have ever enjoyed an opportunity of making an election of government, more than of air, soil, or climate, for themselves or their children! When, before the present epocha, had three millions of people full power and a fair opportunity to form and establish the wisest and happiest government that human wisdom can contrive? I hope you will avail yourself and your country of that extensive learning and indefatigable industry which you possess, to assist her in the formation of the happiest governments and the best character of a great people. For myself, I must beg you to keep my name out of sight; for this feeble attempt, if it should be known to be mine, would oblige me to apply to myself those lines of the immortal John Milton, in one of his sonnets:–

“I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs

By the known rules of ancient liberty,

When straight a barbarous noise environs me

Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes, and dogs.”


Two Treatises of Civil Government – John Locke

The Two Treatises of Civil Government are two books written by John Locke regarding the rights of the people to revolt, reject the Divine Right of Kings , and form their own government. They are fundamental resources America’s Founding Fathers turned to for principles shaping the early government of the United States.

Locke’s most famous work of political philosophy began as a reply to Filmer’s defense of the idea of the divine right of kings. It ended up a defense of natural rights, especially property rights, and the principle of government limited to protecting those rights. This 1764 edition is famous for being the edition which was widely read in the American colonies on the eve of the Revolution.

The titles for Locke’s Two Treatises:

Book 1 – The False Principles And Foundation Of Sir Robert Filmer, And His Followers, Are Detected And Overthrown [The “Divine Right Of Kings”]

Book 2 – An Essay Concerning The True Original, Extent And End Of Civil Government [The “Second Essay”]

Due to length, we present a summary and analysis rather than the full texts of these books. These books are in the public domain.


SUMMARY (Courtesy of Spark Notes)

The First Treatise is a criticism of Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha, which argues in support of the divine right of kings. According to Locke, Filmer cannot be correct because his theory holds that every man is born a slave to the natural born kings. Locke refuses to accept such a theory because of his belief in reason and in the ability of every man to virtuously govern himself according to God’s law. The Second Treatise is Locke’s proposed solution to the political upheaval in England and in other modern countries. This text laid the foundation for modern forms of democracy and for the Constitution of the United States.

The Second Treatise consists of a short preface and nineteen chapters. In chapter i, Locke defines political power as the right to make laws for the protection and regulation of property. In his view, these laws only work because the people accept them and because they are for the public good. In chapter ii, Locke claims that all men are originally in a state of nature. A man in this original state is bound by the laws of nature, but he is otherwise able to live, act, and dispose of his possessions as he sees fit. More important, human beings, free from the arbitrary laws of other men, have an obligation to protect the interests of each other, since they are all equally children of God. They also have an obligation to punish those who go against God’s will and attempt to harm another by compromising his life, liberty, or possessions.

In chapters iii and iv, Locke outlines the differences between the state of nature and the state of war. The state of nature involves people living together, governed by reason, without need of a common superior. The state of war occurs when people exert unwelcome force on other people, interfering with their own natural rights and freedom, without common authority. The difference between war in society and war in nature depends on when they end. In society, war ends when the act of force, such as fighting, is over. When the last blow has been thrown, both parties can appeal to common authorities for the final resolution of past wrongs. But in nature, war does not end until the aggressive party offers peace and offers to repair the damage done. Locke claims that one of the major reasons people enter into society is to avoid the state of war.

Chapter v deals with the definition and function of property. Whether by natural reason or the word of the Bible, the earth can be considered the property of all the people in the world to use for their collective survival and benefit. But Locke also believes in individual property. For individual property to exist, there must be a way for individuals to take possession of the things around them. Locke explains that the best theory of right to ownership is rooted in the fact that each person owns his or her own body and all the labor that he or she performs with that body. So, when an individual adds his own physical labor, which is his own property, to a foreign object or material, that object and any resulting products become his property as well. Locke defines labor as the determining factor of value, the tool by which humans make their world a more efficient and rewarding place for all. Locke explains that money fulfills the need for a constant measure of worth in a trading system but is still rooted in the property of labor.

The rest of the Treatise is devoted to a more specific critique of government, stressing the rule of the majority as the most practical choice for government. He identifies three elements necessary for a civil society: a common established law, a known and impartial body to give judgment, and the power to support such judgments. He calls for a government with different branches, including a strong legislature, and an active executive who does not outstrip the lawmakers in power. Toward the end of the Treatise, Locke finally arrives at the question of forming a new government. When the state ceases to function for the people, it dissolve or is overthrown and may be replaced. When the government is dissolved, the people are free to reform the legislative to create a new civil state that works in their best interest. Locke insists that this system protects against random unrest and rebellion because it allows the people to change their legislative and laws without resorting to force.


The ideas expressed in the Treatises arose in the middle of England’s political drama involving Charles II. Locke hoped to provide a convincing critique of England’s current form of government and lay the groundwork for a better option. At the time, Locke’s good friend and ally Lord Ashley, the Earl of Shaftesbury, was working from within the aristocracy to overthrow Charles II. Shaftesbury and many others wanted to prevent him from allowing James II, his Catholic brother, to ascend to the throne. Locke worked on both treatises over several years, finally publishing them when William of Orange invaded and seized the throne in what was called the Glorious Revolution. Locke hoped that his new model of government would support William’s revolution as the necessary solution to a monarchy that had abused its privileges.

Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha had argued for the divine right of kings, and the refutation of this position, which had the weight of centuries of tradition behind it, was one of Locke’s major tasks. Locke describes government as a human invention organized chiefly to further and protect the right of personal property. Human beings have an obligation in accordance with natural, divine, and moral law to care for each other and support the whole human race. Locke’s explanation for the responsibility of community essentially boils down to the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Despite various forms and complicated expansions, no philosopher or political thinker has provided a simpler, more obvious standard than Locke.

The first few chapters of the Second Treatise reveal some of Locke’s most basic beliefs about human nature. Certain problems necessarily arise in a state of nature, such as the fact that some people will always make war or come into conflict with each other, steal from each other, act aggressively toward each other, and so on. But Locke firmly believes that all people have the ability to use reason to find the correct moral path. He insists that we are rational enough to know what is, and is not, in our best interest. Belief in this universal ability is essential to his remedy for war—civil government. Locke believes that people voluntarily create societies and governments all over the world because government provides certain things that the state of nature cannot, like protection and stability. For Locke, maintaining personal liberty is the key to a proper government, which should work toward the individual’s and the commonwealth’s best interest at all times.

The Second Treatise expresses even more emphatically that the key to all of Locke’s political theories is property and the right to individual ownership of goods. Locke doesn’t directly discuss the importance of property until chapter ix, but once he does, property quickly becomes the center of his model for government. After all, Locke says, the primary reason that people join together to form societies is that they have property to protect. Those same people become willing to give up some of their natural rights to the governing of a central authority, since those with property need a higher central authority to protect it. We may note, however, that this explanation leaves those without property out in the cold. Although Locke’s ideas were revolutionary for his time, they have sometimes been criticized as lacking equal treatment for landowners and nonlandowners (i.e., the rich and the poor) alike.

Locke supports the right of the people to overthrow rulers who betray them. The executive and the legislature coexist independently to keep each other in check. Further, Locke asserts that if a leader violates the community’s trust, the people can and should replace him immediately. Similarly, if the legislative body does not fulfill the needs of the people, it should be dissolved and replaced with whatever form of government the people think best.


English Bill of Rights – 1689

Again, the abusive excesses of the king’s governmant caused popular sentiments to seek redress in 1689 with the English Bill of Rights.


An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown

Whereas the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons assembled at Westminster, lawfully, fully and freely representing all the estates of the people of this realm, did upon the thirteenth day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred eighty-eight [old style date] present unto their Majesties, then called and known by the names and style of William and Mary, prince and princess of Orange, being present in their proper persons, a certain declaration in writing made by the said Lords and Commons in the words following, viz.:

Whereas the late King James the Second, by the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges and ministers employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this kingdom;

By assuming and exercising a power of dispensing with and suspending of laws and the execution of laws without consent of Parliament;

By committing and prosecuting divers worthy prelates for humbly petitioning to be excused from concurring to the said assumed power;

By issuing and causing to be executed a commission under the great seal for erecting a court called the Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes;

By levying money for and to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative for other time and in other manner than the same was granted by Parliament;

By raising and keeping a standing army within this kingdom in time of peace without consent of Parliament, and quartering soldiers contrary to law;

By causing several good subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when papists were both armed and employed contrary to law;

By violating the freedom of election of members to serve in Parliament;

By prosecutions in the Court of King’s Bench for matters and causes cognizable only in Parliament, and by divers other arbitrary and illegal courses;

And whereas of late years partial corrupt and unqualified persons have been returned and served on juries in trials, and particularly divers jurors in trials for high treason which were not freeholders;

And excessive bail hath been required of persons committed in criminal cases to elude the benefit of the laws made for the liberty of the subjects;

And excessive fines have been imposed;

And illegal and cruel punishments inflicted;

And several grants and promises made of fines and forfeitures before any conviction or judgment against the persons upon whom the same were to be levied;

All which are utterly and directly contrary to the known laws and statutes and freedom of this realm;

And whereas the said late King James the Second having abdicated the government and the throne being thereby vacant, his Highness the prince of Orange (whom it hath pleased Almighty God to make the glorious instrument of delivering this kingdom from popery and arbitrary power) did (by the advice of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and divers principal persons of the Commons) cause letters to be written to the Lords Spiritual and Temporal being Protestants, and other letters to the several counties, cities, universities, boroughs and cinque ports, for the choosing of such persons to represent them as were of right to be sent to Parliament, to meet and sit at Westminster upon the two and twentieth day of January in this year one thousand six hundred eighty and eight [old style date], in order to such an establishment as that their religion, laws and liberties might not again be in danger of being subverted, upon which letters elections having been accordingly made;

And thereupon the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons, pursuant to their respective letters and elections, being now assembled in a full and free representative of this nation, taking into their most serious consideration the best means for attaining the ends aforesaid, do in the first place (as their ancestors in like case have usually done) for the vindicating and asserting their ancient rights and liberties declare

That the pretended power of suspending the laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal;

That the pretended power of dispensing with laws or the execution of laws by regal authority, as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal;

That the commission for erecting the late Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes, and all other commissions and courts of like nature, are illegal and pernicious;

That levying money for or to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative, without grant of Parliament, for longer time, or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal;

That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;

That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law;

That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law;

That election of members of Parliament ought to be free;

That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament;

That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;

That jurors ought to be duly impanelled and returned, and jurors which pass upon men in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders;

That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void;
And that for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.

And they do claim, demand and insist upon all and singular the premises as their undoubted rights and liberties, and that no declarations, judgments, doings or proceedings to the prejudice of the people in any of the said premises ought in any wise to be drawn hereafter into consequence or example; to which demand of their rights they are particularly encouraged by the declaration of his Highness the prince of Orange as being the only means for obtaining a full redress and remedy therein. Having therefore an entire confidence that his said Highness the prince of Orange will perfect the deliverance so far advanced by him, and will still preserve them from the violation of their rights which they have here asserted, and from all other attempts upon their religion, rights and liberties, the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons assembled at Westminster do resolve that William and Mary, prince and princess of Orange, be and be declared king and queen of England, France and Ireland and the dominions thereunto belonging, to hold the crown and royal dignity of the said kingdoms and dominions to them, the said prince and princess, during their lives and the life of the survivor to them, and that the sole and full exercise of the regal power be only in and executed by the said prince of Orange in the names of the said prince and princess during their joint lives, and after their deceases the said crown and royal dignity of the same kingdoms and dominions to be to the heirs of the body of the said princess, and for default of such issue to the Princess Anne of Denmark and the heirs of her body, and for default of such issue to the heirs of the body of the said prince of Orange. And the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do pray the said prince and princess to accept the same accordingly.

And that the oaths hereafter mentioned be taken by all persons of whom the oaths have allegiance and supremacy might be required by law, instead of them; and that the said oaths of allegiance and supremacy be abrogated.

I, A.B., do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to their Majesties King William and Queen Mary. So help me God.

I, A.B., do swear that I do from my heart abhor, detest and abjure as impious and heretical this damnable doctrine and position, that princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope or any authority of the see of Rome may be deposed or murdered by their subjects or any other whatsoever. And I do declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God.

Upon which their said Majesties did accept the crown and royal dignity of the kingdoms of England, France and Ireland, and the dominions thereunto belonging, according to the resolution and desire of the said Lords and Commons contained in the said declaration. And thereupon their Majesties were pleased that the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons, being the two Houses of Parliament, should continue to sit, and with their Majesties’ royal concurrence make effectual provision for the settlement of the religion, laws and liberties of this kingdom, so that the same for the future might not be in danger again of being subverted, to which the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons did agree, and proceed to act accordingly. Now in pursuance of the premises the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in Parliament assembled, for the ratifying, confirming and establishing the said declaration and the articles, clauses, matters and things therein contained by the force of law made in due form by authority of Parliament, do pray that it may be declared and enacted that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and claimed in the said declaration are the true, ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom, and so shall be esteemed, allowed, adjudged, deemed and taken to be; and that all and every the particulars aforesaid shall be firmly and strictly holden and observed as they are expressed in the said declaration, and all officers and ministers whatsoever shall serve their Majesties and their successors according to the same in all time to come. And the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons, seriously considering how it hath pleased Almighty God in his marvellous providence and merciful goodness to this nation to provide and preserve their said Majesties’ royal persons most happily to reign over us upon the throne of

their ancestors, for which they render unto him from the bottom of their hearts their humblest thanks and praises, do truly, firmly, assuredly and in the sincerity of their hearts think, and do hereby recognize, acknowledge and declare, that King James the Second having abdicated the government, and their Majesties having accepted the crown and royal dignity as aforesaid, their said Majesties did become, were, are and of right ought to be by the laws of this realm our sovereign liege lord and lady, king and queen of England, France and Ireland and the dominions thereunto belonging, in and to whose princely persons the royal state, crown and dignity of the said realms with all honours, styles, titles, regalities, prerogatives, powers, jurisdictions and authorities to the same belonging and appertaining are most fully, rightfully and entirely invested and incorporated, united and annexed. And for preventing all questions and divisions in this realm by reason of any pretended titles to the crown, and for preserving a certainty in the succession thereof, in and upon which the unity, peace, tranquility and safety of this nation doth under God wholly consist and depend, the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do beseech their Majesties that it may be enacted, established and declared, that the crown and regal government of the said kingdoms and dominions, with all and singular the premises thereunto belonging and appertaining, shall be and continue to their said Majesties and the survivor of them during their lives and the life of the survivor of them, and that the entire, perfect and full exercise of the regal power and government be only in and executed by his Majesty in the names of both their Majesties during their joint lives; and after their deceases the said crown and premises shall be and remain to the heirs of the body of her Majesty, and for default of such issue to her Royal Highness the Princess Anne of Denmark and the heirs of the body of his said Majesty; and thereunto the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do in the name of all the people aforesaid most humbly and faithfully submit themselves, their heirs and posterities for ever, and do faithfully promise that they will stand to, maintain and defend their said Majesties, and also the limitation and succession of the crown herein specified and contained, to the utmost of their powers with their lives and estates against all persons whatsoever that shall attempt anything to the contrary. And whereas it hath been found by experience that it is inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant kingdom to be governed by a popish prince, or by any king or queen marrying a papist, the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do further pray that it may be enacted, that all and every person and persons that is, are or shall be reconciled to or shall hold communion with the see or Church of Rome, or shall profess the popish religion, or shall marry a papist, shall be excluded and be for ever incapable to inherit, possess or enjoy the crown and government of this realm and Ireland and the dominions thereunto belonging or any part of the same, or to have, use or exercise any regal power, authority or jurisdiction within the same; and in all and every such case or cases the people of these realms shall be and are hereby absolved of their allegiance; and the said crown and government shall from time to time descend to and be enjoyed by such person or persons being Protestants as should have inherited and enjoyed the same in case the said person or persons so reconciled, holding communion or professing or marrying as aforesaid were naturally dead; and that every king and queen of this realm who at any time hereafter shall come to and succeed in the imperial crown of this kingdom shall on the first day of the meeting of the first Parliament next after his or her coming to the crown, sitting in his or her throne in the House of Peers in the presence of the Lords and Commons therein assembled, or at his or her coronation before such person or persons who shall administer the coronation oath to him or her at the time of his or her taking the said oath (which shall first happen), make, subscribe and audibly repeat the declaration mentioned in the statute made in the thirtieth year of the reign of King Charles the Second entitled, _An Act for the more effectual preserving the king’s person and government by disabling papists from sitting in either House of Parliament._ But if it shall happen that such king or queen upon his or her succession to the crown of this realm shall be under the age of twelve years, then every such king or queen shall make, subscribe and audibly repeat the same declaration at his or her coronation or the first day of the meeting of the first Parliament as aforesaid which shall first happen after such king or queen shall have attained the said age of twelve years. All which their Majesties are contented and pleased shall be declared, enacted and established by authority of this present Parliament, and shall stand, remain and be the law of this realm for ever; and the same are by their said Majesties, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in Parliament assembled and by the authority of the same, declared, enacted and established accordingly.

II. And be it further declared and enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after this present session of Parliament no dispensation by _non obstante_ of or to any statute or any part thereof shall be allowed, but that the same shall be held void and of no effect, except a dispensation be allowed of in such statute, and except in such cases as shall be specially provided for by one or more bill or bills to be passed during this present session of Parliament.

III. Provided that no charter or grant or pardon granted before the three and twentieth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred eighty-nine shall be any ways impeached or invalidated by this Act, but that the same shall be and remain of the same force and effect in law and no other than as if this Act had never been made.


Toleration Act, 1689

The Toleration Act, (May 24, 1689), was an “act of Parliament granting freedom of worship to Nonconformists (i.e., dissenting Protestants such as Baptists and Congregationalists)”, according to “It was one of a series of measures that firmly established the Glorious Revolution (1688–89) in England. It allowed Nonconformists their own places of worship and their own teachers and preachers, subject to acceptance of certain oaths of allegiance. The act did not apply to Catholics and Unitarians and maintained the existing social and political restrictions (including exclusion from political office) for dissenters.”

[A printed version of the most important portions of the text can be found on pages 400-403 of English Historical Documents, 1660-1714, edited by Andrew Browning (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1953).]


Forasmuch as some ease to scrupulous consciences in the exercise of religion may be an effectual means to unite their Majesties Protestant subjects in interest and affection:

II. Be it enacted by the King’s and Queen’s most excellent majesties, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and the Commons, in this present Parliament assembled and by the authority of the same, That neither the statute made in the three and twentieth year of the reign of the late Queen Elizabeth, intituled, An act to retain the Queen’s majesty’s subjects in their due obedience; nor the statute made in the twenty ninth year of the said Queen, intituled, An act for the more speedy and due execution of certain branches of the statute made in the three and twentieth year of the Queen’s majesty’s reign viz. the aforesaid act; nor that branch or clause of a statute made in the first year of the reign of the said Queen, intituled, An act for the uniformity of common prayer and service in the church, and administration of the sacraments; whereby all persons, having no lawful or reasonable excuse to be absent, are required to resort to their parish church or chapel, or some usual place where the common prayer shall be used, upon pain or punishment by the censures of the church, and also upon pain that every person so offending shall forfeit for every such offence twelve pence; nor the statute made in the third year of the reign of the late King James the First, intituled, An act for the better discovering and repressing popish recusants; nor that other statute made in the same year, intituled, An act to prevent and avoid dangers which may grow by popish recusants; nor any other law or statute of this realm made against papists or popish recusants, except the statute made in the five and twentieth year of King Charles the Second, intituled, An act for preventing dangers which may happen from popish recusants; and except also the statute made in the thirtieth year of the said King Charles the Second, intituled, An act for the more effectual preserving the King’s person and government, by disabling papists from sitting in either house of parliament; shall be construed to extend to any person or persons dissenting from the Church of England, that shall take the oaths mentioned in a statute made this present Parliament, intituled, An act for removing and preventing all questions and disputes concerning the assembling and sitting of this present Parliament; and shall make and subscribe the declaration mentioned in a statute made in the thirtieth year of the reign of King Charles the Second, intituled, An act to prevent papists from sitting in either house of Parliament; which oaths and declaration the justices of peace at the general sessions of the peace, to be held for the county or place where such person shall live, are hereby required to tender and administer to such persons as shall offer themselves to take, make, and subscribe the same, and thereof to keep a register: and likewise none of the persons aforesaid shall give or pay,
as any fee or reward, to any officer or officers belonging to the court aforesaid, above the sum of six pence, nor that more than once, for his of their entry of his taking the said oaths, and making and subscribing the said declaration; nor above the further sum of six pence for any certificate of the same, to be made out and signed by the officer or officers of the said court.

III. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every person and persons, already convicted or prosecuted in order to conviction of recusancy, by indictment, action of debt, or otherwise, grounded upon the aforesaid statutes, or any of them, that shall take the said oaths mentioned in the said statute made this present Parliament, and make and subscribe the declaration aforesaid, in the Court of Exchequer, ar assizes, or general or quarter sessions to be held for the country where such person lives, and to be thence respectively certified into the Exchequer, shall be thenceforth exempted and discharged from all the penalties, seizures, forfeitures, judgments, and executions, incurred by force of any of the aforesaid statutes, without any composition, fee, or further charge whatsoever.

IV. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every person and persons that shall, as aforesaid, take the said oaths, and make and subscribe the declaration aforesaid, shall not be liable to any pains, penalties, or forfeitures, mentioned in an act made in the five and thirtieth year of the reign of the late Queen Elizabeth, intituled, An act to retain the Queen’s majesty’s subjects in their due obedience; nor in an act made i the two and twentieth year of the reign of the late King Charles the Second, intituled, An act to prevent and suppress seditious conventicles; nor shall any of the said persons be prosecuted in any ecclesiastical court, for or by reason of their non-conforming to the Church of England.

V. Provided always, and be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any assembly of persons dissenting from the Church of England shall be had in any place for religious worship with the doors locked, barred, or bolted, during any time of such meeting together, all and every persons or persons, that shall come to and be at such meeting, shall not receive any benefit from this law, but be liable to all the pains and penalties of all the aforesaid laws recited in this act, for such their meeting, notwithstanding his taking the oaths and his making and subscribing the declaration aforesaid.

VI. Provided always, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to exempt any of the persons aforesaid from paying of tithes or other parochial duties, or any other duties to the church or minister, nor from any prosecution in any ecclesiastical court or elsewhere, for the same.

VII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person dissenting from the Church of England, as aforesaid, shall hereafter be chosen or otherwise appointed to bear the office of high-constable, or petit-constable, church-warden or overseer of the poor, or any other parochial or ward office, and such person shall scruple to take upon him any of the said offices in regard of the oaths, or any other matter of thing required by the law to be taken or done in respect of such office, every such person shall and may execute such office or employment by a sufficient deputy, by him to be provided, that shall comply with the laws on this behalf. Provided always, the said deputy be allowed and approved by such person or persons, in such manner as such officer or officers respectively should by law have been allowed and approved.

VIII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That no person dissenting from the Church of England in holy orders, or pretended holy orders, or pretending to holy orders, nor any preacher or teacher of any congregation of dissenting Protestants, that shall make and subscribe the declaration aforesaid, and take the said oaths at the general or quarter sessions of the peace to be held for the county, town, parts, or division where such person lives, which court is hereby empowered to administer the same, and shall also declare his approbation of and subscribe the articles of religion mentioned in the statute made in the thirteenth year of the reign of the late Queen Elizabeth, except the thirty-fourth, thirty-fifth, and thirty-sixth, and these words of the twentieth article, viz. “the Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith, and yet”, shall be liable to any of the pains or penalties mentioned in an act made inn the seventeenth year of the reign of King Charles the Second, intituled An act for restraining nonconformists from inhabiting in corporations; nor the penalties mentioned in the aforesaid act made in the two and twentieth year of his said late Majesty’s reign, for or by reason of such persons preaching at any meeting for the exercise of religion; nor to the penalty of one hundred pounds mentioned in an act made in the thirteenth and fourteenth of King Charles the Second, intituled, An act for the uniformity of public prayers, and administration of sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies: and for establishing the form of making, ordaining, and consecrating of bishops, priests, and deacons in the Church of England, for officiating in any congregation for the exercise of religion permitted and allowed by this act.

IX. Provided always, That the making and subscribing the said declaration, and the taking the said oaths, and making the declaration of approbation and subscription to the said articles, in manner as aforesaid, by every respective person or persons herein before-mentioned, at such general or quarter sessions of the peace as aforesaid, shall be then and there entered of record in the said court, for which six pence shall be paid to the clerk of the peace, and no more: provided that such person shall not at any time preach in any place, but with the doors not locked, barred, or bolted, as aforesaid.

X. And whereas some dissenting Protestants scruple in the baptising of infants; be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That every person in pretended holy orders, or pretending holy orders, or preacher, or teacher, that shall subscribe the aforesaid articles of religion, except before excepted, and also except part of the seven and twentieth article touching infant baptism, and shall take the said oaths, and make and subscribe the declaration aforesaid, in manner aforesaid, every such person shall enjoy all the privileges, benefits, and advantages, which any other dissenting minister, as aforesaid, might have or enjoy by virtue of this act.

XI. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That every teacher or preacher in holy orders, or pretended holy orders, that is a minister, preacher, or teacher of a congregation, that shall take the oaths herein required, and make and subscribe the declaration aforesaid, and also subscribe such of the aforesaid articles of the Church of England, as are required by this act in manner aforesaid, shall be thenceforth exempted from serving upon any jury, or from being chosen or appointed to bear the office of churchwarden, overseer of the poor, or any other parochial or ward office or other office in any hundred of any shire, city, town, parish, division, or wapentake.

XII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That every justice of the peace may at any time hereafter require any person, that goes to any meeting for exercise of religion, to make and subscribe the declaration aforesaid, and also to take the said oaths or declaration of fidelity hereinafter mentioned, in case such person scruples the taking of an oath, and upon refusal thereof, such justice of the peace is hereby required to commit such person to prison without bail or mainprize, and to certify the name of such person to the next general or quarter-sessions of the peace to be held for that county, city, town, part or division, where such person then resides; and if such person so committed shall upon a second tender at the general or quarter-sessions refuse to make and subscribe the declaration aforesaid, such person refusing shall be then and there recorded, and he shall be taken thenceforth to all intents and purposes for a popish recusant convict, and suffer accordingly, and incur all the penalties and forfeitures of all the aforesaid laws.

XIII. And whereas there are certain other persons, dissenters from the Church of England, who scruple the taking of any oath; be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That every such person shall make and subscribe the aforesaid declaration, and also this declaration of fidelity following, viz.

I A. B. do sincerely promise and solemnly declare before God and the world, that I will be true and faithful to King William and Queen Mary; and I do solemnly profess and declare, that I do from my heart abhor, detest, and renounce, as impious and heretical, that damnable doctrine and position, That princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope, or any authority of the See of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or any other whatsoever. And I do declare, that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate, hath or ought to have, any power, jurisdiction, superiority, pre-eminence, or authority ecclesiastical or spiritual within this realm.
And shall subscribe a profession of their Christian belief in these words:
I A. B. profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His eternal Son, the true God, and in the Holy Spirit, one God blessed for evermore, and do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.
Which declarations and subscription shall be made and entered of record at the general quarter-sessions of the peace for the county, city, or place where every such person shall then reside. And every such person that shall make and subscribe the two declarations and profession aforesaid, being thereunto required, shall be exempted from all the pains and penalties of all and every the aforementioned statutes made against popish recusants, or Protestant nonconformists, and also from the penalties of an act made in the fifth year of the reign of the late Queen Elizabeth, intituled, An act for the assurance of the Queen’s royal power over all estates and subjects within her dominions, for or by reason of such persons not taking or refusing to take the oath mentioned in the said act; and also from the penalties of an act made in the thirteenth and fourteenth years of the reign of King Charles the Second, intituled, An act for preventing mischiefs that may arise by certain persons called Quakers, refusing to take lawful oaths; and enjoy all other the benefits, privileges, and advantages under the like limitations, provisoes, and conditions, which any other dissenters shall or ought to enjoy by virtue of this act.
XIV. Provided always, and be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That in case any person shall refuse to take the said oaths, when tendered to them, which every justice of the peace is hereby empowered to do, such person shall not be admitted to make and subscribe the two declarations aforesaid, though required thereunto either before any justice of the peace, or at the general or quarter-sessions, before or after any conviction of popish recusancy, as aforesaid, unless such person can, within thirty one days after such tender of the declarations to him, produce two sufficient Protestant witnesses, to testify upon oath, that they believe him to be a Protestant dissenter, or a certificate under the hands of four Protestants, who are conformable to the Church of England, or have taken the oaths and subscribed the declaration above mentioned, and shall also produce a certificate under the hands and seals of six or more sufficient men of the congregation to which he belongs, owning him for one of them.

XV. Provided also, and be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That until such certificate, under the hands of six of his congregation, as aforesaid, be produced, and two Protestant witnesses come to attest his being a Protestant dissenter, or a certificate under the hands of four Protestants, as aforesaid, be produced, the justice of the peace shall and hereby is required to take a recognizance with two sureties in the penal sum of fifty pounds, to be levied of his goods and chattels, lands, and tenements, to the use of the King’s and Queen’s majesties, their heirs and successors, for his producing the same; and if he cannot give such security, to commit him to prison, there to remain until he has produced such certificates, or two witnesses, as aforesaid.

XVI. Provided always, and it is the true intent and meaning of this act, That all the laws made and provided for the frequenting of divine service on the Lord’s Day commonly called Sunday, shall be still in force, and executed against all persons that offend against the said laws, except such persons come to some congregation or assembly of religious worship, allowed or permitted by this act.

XVII. Provided always, and be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that neither this act, nor any clause, article, or thing herein contained, shall extend or be construed to extend to give any ease, benefit or advantage to any papist or popish recusant whatsoever, or any person that shall deny in his preaching or writing the doctrine of the blessed Trinity, as it is declared in the aforesaid articles of religion.

XVIII. Provided always, and be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person or persons, at any time or times after the tenth day of June, do and shall willingly and of purpose, maliciously or contemptuously come into any cathedral or parish church, chapel, or other congregation permitted by this act, and disquiet or disturb the same, or misuse any preacher or teacher, such person or persons, upon proof thereof before any justice of peace, by tow or more sufficient witnesses, shall find two sureties to be bound by recognizance in the penal sum of fifty pounds, and in default of such sureties shall be committed to prison, there to remain till the next general or quarter sessions; and upon conviction of the said offence at the said general or quarter sessions, shall suffer the pain and penalty of twenty pounds, to the use of the King’s and Queen’s majesties, their heirs and successors.

XIX. Provided always, That no congregation or assembly for religious worship shall be permitted or allowed by this act, until the place of such meeting shall be certified to the bishop of the diocese, or to the archdeacon of that archdeaconry, or to the justices of the peace at the general or quarter sessions of the peace for the county, city, or place in which such meeting shall be held, and registered in the said bishop’s or archdeacon’s court respectively, or recorded at the said general or quarter sessions; the register or clerk of the peace whereof respectively is hereby required to register the same, and to give certificate thereof to such person as shall demand the same, for which there shall be no greater fee nor reward taken, than the sum of six pence.


Habeas Corpus Act – 1679

Responding to abusive detention of persons without legal authority, public pressure on the English Parliament caused them to adopt this act in 1679, which established a critical right that was later written into the Constitution for the United States.


An act for the better securing the liberty of the subject, and for prevention of imprisonments beyond the seas.

WHEREAS great delays have been used by sheriffs, gaolers and other officers, to whose custody, any of the King’s subjects have been committed for criminal or supposed criminal matters, in making returns of writs of habeas corpus to them directed, by standing out an alias and pluries habeas corpus, and sometimes more, and by other shifts to avoid their yielding obedience to such writs, contrary to their duty and the known laws of the land, whereby many of the King’s subjects have been and hereafter may be long detained in prison, in such cases where by law they are bailable, to their great charges and vexation.

II. For the prevention whereof, and the more speedy relief of all persons imprisoned for any such criminal or supposed criminal matters; (2) be it enacted by the King’s most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority thereof. That whensoever any person or persons shall bring any habeas corpus directed unto any sheriff or sheriffs, gaoler, minister or other person whatsoever, for any person in his or their custody, and the said writ shall be served upon the said officer, or left at the gaol or prison with any of the under-officers, under-keepers or deputy of the said officers or keepers, that the said officer or officers, his or their under-officers, under-keepers or deputies, shall within three days after the service thereof as aforesaid (unless the commitment aforesaid were for treason or felony, plainly and specially expressed in the warrant of commitment) upon payment or tender of the charges of bringing the said prisoner, to be ascertained by the judge or court that awarded the same, and endorsed upon the said writ, not exceeding twelve pence per mile, and upon security given by his own bond to pay the charges of carrying back the prisoner, if he shall be remanded by the court or judge to which he shall be brought according to the true intent of this present act, and that he will not make any escape by the way, make return of such writ; (3) and bring or cause to be brought the body of the party so committed or restrained, unto or before the lord chancellor, or lord keeper of the great seal of England for the time being, or the judges or barons of the said court from which the said writ shall issue, or unto and before such other person or persons before whom the said writ is made returnable, according to the command thereof; (4) and shall then likewise certify the true causes of his detainer or imprisonment, unless the commitment of the said party be in any place beyond the distance of twenty miles from the place or places where such court or person is or shall be residing; and if beyond the distance of twenty miles, and not above one hundred miles, then within the space of ten days, and if beyond the distance of one hundred miles, then within the space of twenty days, after such delivery aforesaid, and not longer.

III. And to the intent that no sheriff, gaoler or other officer may pretend ignorance of the import of such writ. (2) be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all such writs shall be marked in this manner, Per statutum tricesimo primo Caroli secundi Regis, and shall be signed by the person that awards the same; (3) and if any person or persons shall be or stand committed or detained as aforesaid, for any crime, unless for felony or treason plainly expressed in the warrant of commitment, in the vacation-time, and out of term, it shall and may be lawful to and for the person or persons so committed or detained (other than persons convict or in execution of legal process) or any one on his or their behalf, to appeal or complain to the lord chancellor or lord keeper, or any one of his Majesty’s justices, either of the one bench or of the other, or the barons of the exchequer of the degree of the coif; (4) and the said lord chancellor, lord keeper, justices or barons or any of them, upon view of the copy or copies of the warrant or warrants of commitment and detainer, or otherwise upon oath made that such copy or copies were denied to be given by such person or persons in whose custody the prisoner or prisoners is or are detained, are hereby authorized and required, upon request made in writing by such person or persons, or any on his, her, or their behalf, attested and subscribed by two witnesses who were present at the delivery of the same, to award and grant an habeas corpus under the seal of such court whereof he shall then be one of the judges, (5) to be directed to the officer or officers in whose custody the party so committed or detained shall be, returnable immediate before the said lord chancellor or lord keeper or such justice, baron or any other justice or baron of the degree of the coif of any of the said courts; (6) and upon service thereof as aforesaid, the officer or officers, his or their under-officer or under-officers, under-keeper or under-keepers, or their deputy in whose custody the party is so committed or detained, shall within the times respectively before limited, bring such prisoner or prisoners before the said lord chancellor or lord keeper, or such justices, barons or one of them, before whom the said writ is made returnable, and in case of his absence before any other of them, with the return of such writ, and the true causes of the commitment and detainer; (7) and thereupon within two days after the party shall be brought before them, the said lord chancellor or lord keeper, or such justice or baron before whom the prisoner shall be brought as aforesaid, shall discharge the said prisoner from his imprisonment, taking his or their recognizance, with one or more surety or sureties, in any sum according to their discretions, having regard to the quality of the prisoner and nature of the offense, for his or their appearance in the court of the King’s bench the term following, or at the next assizes, sessions or general gaol-delivery of and for such county, city or place where the commitment was, or where the offense was committed, or in such other court where the said offense is properly cognizable, as the case shall require, and then shall certify the said writ with the return thereof, and the said recognizance or recognizances unto the said court where such appearance is to be made; (8) unless it shall appear unto the said lord chancellor or lord keeper or justice or justices, or baron or barons, that the party so committed is detained upon a legal process, order or warrant, out of some court that hath jurisdiction of criminal matters, or by some warrant signed and sealed with the hand and seal of any of the said justices or barons, or some justice or justices of the peace, for such matters or offenses for the which by the law the prisoner is not bailable.[…]


This document is in the public domain.

Penn’s Charter of Libertie – 1682

William Penn led a Quaker group to found the American Colony known as Pennsylvania. Penn was a seminal figure in America’s history of liberty. Here is Penn’s Charter of Libertie.


To ALL PEOPLE to whom these presents shall come WHEREAS King Charles the second by his Letters, Patents under the Great Seal of England for the Considerations therein mentioned hath been graciously pleased to give and grant unto me William Penn (By the name of William Penn Esq’r son and heir of Sr. William Penn deceased) and to my heirs and assigns forever ALL that tract of land or province called PENNSILVANIA in America with divers Great Powers Preheminencies Royalties Jurisdictions and Authorities necessary for the Well being and Government thereof NOW KNOW YE That for the Welll Being and Government of the said Province and for the Encouragement of all the Freeman and Planters that may be therein concerned in pursuance of the powers afore mentond I the said William Penn have declared Granted and Confirmed and by these presents for me my heirs and Assigns do declare grant and Confirm unto all the flreemen Planters and Adventurers of in and to the said Province those Liberties Franchises and properties TO BE HEED Enjoyed and Kept by the Freemen Planters and Inhabitants of and in the said province of Pennsilvania forever.

” IMPRIMIS “-THAT the Government of this Province shall according to the Powers of the Patent consist of the Governour and Freemen of the said Province in the fform of a Provincial Council and General Assembly by whom all Laws Shall be made Officers Chosen and publick affairs Transacted and is hereafter Respectively declared That is to say

2. THAT the freemen of the said Province shall on the Twentieth day of the Twelfth Month which shall be in this present year One Thousand Six hundred Eighty and two Meet and Assemble in some fit place of which timely notice shall be beforehand given by the Governour or his deputies and then and there shall chuse of themselvs Seventy-Two persons of most note for their Wisdom Virtue and Ability who shall meet on the Tenth day of the ffirst month next ensuing and always be called and act as the Provincial Councill of the said province.

3. THAT at the First Choice of such Provincial Council One Third part of the said Provincial Council shall be Chosen to serve for Three years then next ensuing one Third part for Two years then next ensuing and one Third part for one year then next following such Election and no longer and that the said Third part shall go out accordingly And on the Twentieth day of the Twelfth month aforesaid yearly forever afterward the ffreemen of the said province shall in like manner Meet and Assemble together and then Chuse Twenty flour persons being one Third of the said Number to serve in provincial Council for Three years it being intended that one Third of the whole provincial Council (always consisting and to consist of seventy two persons as aforesaid) falling off yearly it shall be yearly supplied by such new yearly Eleccons as aforesaid and that no one person shall continue therein longer than Three years And in Case any member shall decease before the Last Eleccon during his time that then at the next Eleccon ensuing his decease another shall be chosen to Supply his place for the remaining time he was to have served and no longer.

4. THAT-After the First Seven Years every one of the said Third parts that goeth yearly off shall be uncapable of being Chosen again for one whole year following that so all may be fitted for the Government and have Experience of the Care and burthen of it.

5. THAT-In the provincial Council in all Cases and matters of moment as There agreeing upon Bills to be passed into Laws Exorting Courts of Justice having Judgment upon criminals Impeached and choice of Officers in such manner as is herein after menconed Not lesse than Two Thirds of the whole Provincial Council shall make a Quorum and that the Consent and approbaton of Two Thirds of said Quorum shall be had in all such Cases or matters of Moment. And moreover that in all cases and matters of lesser moment Twenty-ffour members of the said Provincial Council shall make a quorum The Majority of which flour and Twenty shall and may always determine on such Cases and Causes of Lesser moment.

6. THAT-In this Provincial Council the Governour or his deputies shall or may always preside and have a treble Voice. And the said Provincial Council shall always Continue and Sit upon its own Adjournments and Committees.

7. THAT-The Governour and Provincial Council shall prepare and propose to the General Assembly hereinafter menconed all Bills which they shall at any time think fit to be past into Laws within the said Province which Bills shall be publish” and Affixed to the most noted places in the inhabited parts thereof Thirty days before the meeting of the General Assembly in order to the passing of them into laws or Rejecting of them as the General Assembly shall see meet.

8. THAT-The Governour and Provincial Council shall take Care that all Laws Statutes and Ordinances which shall at any time be made within the said Province be duly and diligently executed.

9. THAT-The Governour and Provincial Council shall at all times have the Care of the peace and Safety of the Province and that nothing he by any person Attempted to the subversion of this Frame of Government.

10. THAT-The Governour and Provincial Council shall at all times settle and order the Situation of all Cities ports and Market towns in every County modelling therein all publick buildings Streets and Market places and shall appoint all necessary roads and highways in the province.

11. THAT-The Governour and Provincial Council shall at all times have power to inspect the management of the public Treasury and punish those who shall Convert any part thereof to any other use than what hath been Agreed upon by the Governour Provincial Council and General Assembly.

12. THAT-The Governour and Provincial Council shall Erect and order all publick Schools and incourage and Reward the Authors of usefull Science and Laudable Inventons in the said province.

13. THAT-For the better management of the powers and Trust aforesaid the Provincial Council shall from time to time divide itself into flour Distinct and proper Committees for the more Easie Administration of the Affairs of the province which divides the Seventy Two into flour Eighteens Every one of which Eighteens shall consist of Six out of each of the Three Orders or yearly Eleccons-Each of which shall have a distinct portion of business as followeth A Committee of plantatons to situate and settle cities ports and Market-towns and highways and to hear and decide all Suits and Controversies relating to Plantatons. A Committee of Justice and Safety to secure the peace of the province and punish the Male [mat-] Administration of those who subvert Justice to the prejudice of the publick and private Interest. A Committee of Trade and Treasury who Shall Regulate all Trade and Commerce according to Laws encourage Manufacture and Country-growth and defray the publick Charge of the province. And a Committee of manners Education and Arts that all Wicked and scandalous Living may be prevented and that Youth may be successively trained up in Virtue and useful Knowlledge and Arts. The Quorum of each of which Committees being six that is Two out of each of the three orders or yearly eleccons as aforesaid make a Constant or Standing Council of Four and Twenty which shall have the power of the Provincial Council being the Quorum of it in all Cases not excepted in the ffifth Article. And in the said committees and standing Council of the Province the Governour or his deputy shall or may preside as aforesaid. And in the Absence of the Governour or his deputy if no one is by either of them appointed the said Committees or Council shall appoint a President for that time and not otherwise and what shall be Resolved at such Committees shall be reported to the said Council of the Province and shall be by them resolved and confirmed before the same shall be put in Execution And that these Respective Committees shall not sit at one and the same time except in Cases of necessity.

14. AND TO THE End that all Laws prepared by the Governour and Provincial Council aforesaid may yet have the more-full Concurrence of the Freemen of the Province It is declared granted and confirmed that at the time and place or places for the Choice of a Provincial Council as aforesaid the said FREEMEN shall yearly chuse to serve in a General Assembly as their representatives not exceeding Two hundred persons who shall yearly meet on the Twentieth day of the Second Month in the Capital Town or City of the said province where during Eight days the several members mav freely confer with one another and if any of them see meet with a Committee of the Provincial Council consisting of Three out of each of the flour Committees aforesaid being Twelve in all which shall be at that time purposely appointed to secuir from any of them proposals for the Alteration or Amendment of any of the said proposed and promulgated Bills and on the ninth day from their meeting the said General Assembly after the reading over of the proposed Bills by the Clerk of the Provincial Council and the occasion and motives for them being opened by the Governour or his Deputy shall give their Affirmative or Negative which,to them seemeth best in such manner as hereafter is express. But not less than two thirds shall make a Quorum in the passing of Laws and Choice of such Officers as are by them to be chosen.

15. THAT-The Laws so prepared and proposed as aforesaid that are Assented to by the General Assembly shall be Enrolled as Laws of the province with this stile by the Governour with the Assent and Approbation of the ffreemen in Provincial Council and General Assembly.

16. THAT-For the better Establishment of the Government and Laws of this province and to the end there may be an Universal Satisfaction in the laying of the ffundamentals thereof the General Assembly shall or may for the ffirst year consist of all the ffreemen of and in the said province and ever after it shall be yearly chosen as aforesaid. Which number of Two hundred shall be enlarged as the Country shall Increase in people So as it do not exceed dive hundred at any time The Appointment and proportoning of which as also the laying and methodizing of the choice of the Provincial Council and General Assembly in future times most equally to the Division of the Hundreds and Counties which the Country shall hereafter be divided into shall be in the power of the Provincial Council to propose and the General Assembly to resolve.

17. THAT The Governour and the Provincial Council shall from time to time erect Standing Courts of Justice in such places and number as they shall Judge Convenient for the good Government of the said province And that the Provincial Council shall on the Thirteenth day of the First month yearly Elect and present to the Governour or his Deputy a double number of persons to serve for Judges Treasurers Masters of the Rolls within the said province for the year next ensuing. AND the ffreemen of the said province in their County Courts when they shall be erected and till then in the General Assembly shall on the Three and Twentieth day of the Second Month yearly Elect and present to the Governour or his Deputy a double number of persons to serve for Sheriffs Justices of peace and Coronors for the year next ensuing Out of which respective Eleccons and presentments the Governour or his Deputy shall nominate and Commissionate the proper number for each office the Third day after the said respective presentments or else the first named in such presentment for each office shall stand and serve for that office the year ensuing.

18. BUT for as much as the present Conditon of the Province requires some Immediate Setlement and admitts not of so quick a Revoluton of Officers and to the end the said Province may with all Convenient speed be well ordered and settled I William Penn do therefore think fit to nominate and appoint Such persons for Judges Treasurers Masters of Rolls Sheriffs Justices of the peace and Coronors as are most fitly qualified for those imployments To whom I shall make and grant Commissions for the said Offices respectively TO nod to them to whom the same shall be granted for so long time as every such person shall well behave himself in the Office or place to him respectively granted and no longer And upon the Decease or displacing of any of the said Officers the Succeeding Officer or Officers shall be chosen as before said.

19. That the General Assembly shall continue so long as may be needful to Impeach Criminals fit to be there Impeached To pass Bills into Laws that they shall think fit to pass into Laws and till such time as the Governour and Provincial Council shall declare that they have nothing further to propose unto them for their Assent and Approbation And that Declaration shall be a Dismiss to the General Assembly for that time Which General Assembly shall be notwithstanding Capable of Assemblying together upon the summons of the Provincial Council at any time during that year if the said Provincial Council shall see occasion for their so Assembling.

20. THAT-All the Eleccons of Members or Representatives of the people to serve in Provincial Council and General Assembly, and all Questions to be determined by both or either of them that relate to passing of bills into Laws to the choice of Officers to Impeachments made by the General Assembly and Judgment of Criminals upon such Impeachment by the Provincial Council and to all other Cases by them respectively Judged of Importance Shall be resolved and determined by the BALLOTT And unless on suddain and Indispensable Occasions no business in Provincial Council or its respective Committees shall be finally determined the same day that it is moved.

21. AND THAT at all times when and so often as it shall happen that the Governour shall or may be an Infant under the Age of one and Twenty years and no Guardians or Commissioners are appointed in Writing by the dasher of said Infant or that Such Guardians or Commissioners shall be deceased that during such Minority the Provincial Council shall from time to time as they shall see meet Constitute and Appoint Guardians and Commissions not exceeding Three One of which Three shall preside as Deputy and Chief Guardian during such Minority and shall have and Execute with the consent of the other Two all the powers of a Governour in all publick Affairs and Concerns of the said province.

22. THAT-as often as any day of the month mentoned in any Article of this Charter shall fall on the First day of the Week commonly called the Lord’s day the Business appointed for that day shall be differred till the next day unless in Case of Emergency.

23. THAT-no act Law or Ordinance whatsoever shall at any time hereafter be made or done by the Governour of this Province his heirs or Assigns or by the ffreemen in the Provincial Council or the General Assembly to Alter Change or Diminish the dorm or Effect of this Charter or any part or Clause thereof or contrary to the true Intent and meaning thereof without the Consent of the Governour his heirs or Assigns and six parts of seven of the said ffreemen in Provincial Councll and General Assembly.

24. AND LASTLY THAT I the said William Penn for myself my heirs and Assigns have Solemnly declared granted and confirmed and do hereby solemnly declare grant and confirm that neither I my heirs nor Assigns shall procure or do anything or things w hereby the 1iberties in this Charter contained and expressed shall be Infringed or broken And if anything be procured by any person or persons contrary to these premises it shall be held of no force or Effect. IN WITNESS whereof I the said William Penn have unto this present Charter of Liberties Set my hand and Broad Seal this five and Twentieth day of the Second Month vulgarly called April in the year of our Lord One Thousand Six Hundred Eighty and Two.

Signed sealed and delivered by the within named William Penn as his Act and Deed in the presence of


(1) Verified by Francis N. Thorpe, March 11, 1893, from the original Charter at that time in the possession of Dr. Edward Maris, 1100 Pine Street, Philadelphia.


Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations – 1663

The Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in 1663 was one of the foundations of Early America.


CHARLES THE SECOND, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c., to all to whome these presents shall come, greeting: Whereas wee have been informed, by the humble petition of our trustie and well beloved subject, John Clarke, on the behalf of Benjamine Arnold, William Brenton, William Codington, Nicholas Easton, William Boulston, John Porter, John Smith, Samuell Gorton, John Weeks, Roger Williams, Thomas Olnie, Gregorie Dexter, John Cogeshall, Joseph Clarke, Randall Holden, John Greene, John Roome, Samuell Wildbore, William Ffield, James Barker, Richard Tew, Thomas Harris, and William Dyre, and the rest of the purchasers and ffree inhabitants of our island, called Rhode-Island, and the rest of the colonie of Providence Plantations, in the Narragansett Bay, in New-England, in America, that they, pursueing, with peaceable and loyall minces, their sober, serious and religious intentions, of goalie edifieing themselves, and one another, in the holie Christian ffaith and worshipp as they were perswaded; together with the gaineing over and conversione of the poore ignorant Indian natives, in those partes of America, to the sincere professione and obedienc of the same ffaith and worship, did, not onlie by the consent and good encouragement of our royall progenitors, transport themselves out of this kingdome of England into America, but alsoe, since their arrivall there, after their first settlement amongst other our subjects in those parts, Nor the avoideing of discorde, and those manic evills which were likely to ensue upon some of those oure subjects not beinge able to beare, in these remote parties, theire different apprehensiones in religious concernements, and in pursueance of the afforesayd ends, did once againe leave theire desireable stationies and habitationes, and with excessive labour and travell, hazard and charge, did transplant themselves into the middest of the Indian natives, who, as wee are informed, are the most potent princes and people of all that country; where, by the good Providence of God, from whome the Plantationes have taken their name, upon theire labour and industrie, they have not onlie byn preserved to admiration, but have increased and prospered, and are seized and possessed, by purchase and consent of the said natives, to their ffull content, of such lands, islands, rivers, harbours and roades, as are verie convenient, both for plantationes and alsoe for buildings of shipps, suplye of pypestaves, and other merchandise; and which lyes verie commodious, in manic respects, for commerce, and to accommodate oure southern plantationes, and may much advance the trade of this oure realme, and greatlie enlarge the territories thereof; they haveinge, by neare neighbourhoode to and friendlie societie with the greate bodie of the Narragansett Indians, given them encouragement, of theire owne accorde, to subject themselves, theire people and lances, unto us; whereby, as is hoped, there may, in due tyme, by the blessing of God upon theire endeavours, bee layd a sure ffoundation of happinesse to all America:

And whereas, in theire humble addresse, they have ffreely declared, that it is much on their hearts (if they may be permitted), to hold forth a livlie experiment, that a most flourishing civill state may stand and best bee maintained, and that among our English subjects. with a full libertie in religious concernements; and that true pietye rightly grounded upon gospell principles, will give the best and greatest security to sovereignetye, and will lay in the hearts of men the strongest obligations to true loyaltye: Now know bee, that wee beinge willinge to encourage the hopefull undertakeinge of oure sayd lovall and loveinge subjects, and to secure them in the free exercise and enjovment of all theire civill and religious rights, appertaining to them, as our loveing subjects; and to preserve unto them that libertye, in the true Christian ffaith and worshipp of God, which they have sought with soe much travaill, and with peaceable myndes, and lovall subjectione to our royall progenitors and ourselves, to enjoye; and because some of the people and inhabitants of the same colonie cannot, in theire private opinions, conforms to the publique exercise of religion, according to the litturgy, formes and ceremonyes of the Church of England, or take or subscribe the oaths and articles made and established in that behalfe; and for that the same, by reason of the remote distances of those places, will (as wee hope) bee noe breach of the unitie and unifformitie established in this nation: Have therefore thought ffit, and doe hereby publish, graunt, ordeyne and declare, That our royall will and pleasure is, that noe person within the sayd colonye, at any tyme hereafter, shall bee any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinione in matters of religion, and doe not actually disturb the civill peace of our sayd colony; but that all and everye person and persons may, from tyme to tyme, and at all tymes hereafter, freelye and fullye have and enjoye his and theire owne judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments, throughout the tract of lance hereafter mentioned; they behaving themselves peaceablie and quietlie, and not useing this libertie to lycentiousnesse and profanenesse, nor to the civill injurye or outward disturbeance of others; any lawe, statute, or clause, therein contayned, or to bee contayned, usage or custome of this realme, to the contrary hereof, in any wise, notwithstanding. And that they may bee in the better capacity to defend themselves, in theire just rights and libertyes against all the enemies of the Christian ffaith, and others, in all respects, wee have further thought fit, and at the humble petition of the persons aforesayd are gratiously pleased to declare, That they shall have and enjoye the benefist of our late act of indempnity and ffree pardon, as the rest of our subjects in other our dominions and territoryes have; and to create and make them a bodye politique or corporate, with the powers and priviledges hereinafter mentioned.

And accordingely our will and pleasure is, and of our especiall grace, certaine knowledge, and meere motion, wee have ordeyned, constituted and declared, and by these presents, for us, our heires and successors, doe ordeyne, constitute and declare, That they, the sayd William Brenton, William Codington, Nicholas Easton, Benedict Arnold, William Boulston, John Porter, Samuell Gorton, John Smith, John Weekes, Roger Williams, Thomas Olneye, Gregorie Dexter, John Cogeshall, Joseph Clarke, Randall Holden, John Greene, John Roome, William Dyre, Samuell Wildbore, Richard Tew, William Ffeild, Thomas Harris, James Barker, Rainsborrow,- Williams, and John Nicksonj and all such others as now are, or hereafter shall bee admitted and made ffree of the companv and societie of our collonie of Providence Plantations, in the Narragansett Bay, in New England, shall bee, from tyme to tyme, and forever hereafter, a bodie corporate and politique, in fact and name, by the name of The Governor and Company of the English Colony of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, in New-England, in America; and that, by the same name, they and their successors shall and may have perpetuall succession, and shall and may bee persons able and capable, in the lawe, to sue and bee sued, to pleade and be impleaded, to answeare and bee answeared unto, to defend and to be defended, in all and singular suites, causes, quarrels, matters, actions and thinges, of what kind or nature soever; and alsoe to have, take, possessej acquire and purchase lands, tenements or hereditaments, or any goods or chattels, and the same to lease, graunt, demise, aliene, bargaine, sell and dispose of, at their owne will and pleasure, as other our liege people of this our realme of England, or anie corporation or bodie politique within the same, may be lawefully doe: And further, that they the sayd Governor and Company, and theire successors, shall and may, forever hereafter, have a common scale, to serve and use for all matters, causes, thinges and affaires, whatsoever, of them and their successors; and the same scale to alter, change, breake, and make new, from tyme to tyme, at their will and pleasure, as they shall thinke bitt.

And farther, wee will and ordeyne, and by these presents, for us, oure heires and successours, doe declare and apoynt that, for the better ordering and managing of the adaires and business of the sayd Company, and theire successours, there shall bee one Governour, one Deputie-Governour and ten Assistants, to bee from tyme to tyme, constituted, elected and chosen, out of the freemen of the sayd Company, for the tyme beinge, in such manner and fforme as is hereafter in these presents expressed; which sayd officers shall aplye themselves to take care for the best disposeinge and orderings of the generall businesse and adaires of, and concerneinge the lances and hereditaments hereinafter mentioned, to be graunted, and the plantation thereof’ and the government of the people there. And for the better execution of oure royall pleasure herein, wee doe, for us, oure heires and successours, assign, name, constitute and apoynt the aforesayd Benedict Arnold to bee the first and present Governor of the sayd Company, and the sayd William Brenton, to bee the Deputy-Governor, and the sayd William Boulston, John Porter, Roger Williams, Thomas Olnie, John Smith, John Greene, John Cogeshall, James Barker, William Ffeild, and Joseph Clarke, to bee the tenn present Assistants of the sayd Companye, to continue in the sayd severall offices, respectively, untill the first Wednesday which shall bee in the month of May now next comeing. And farther, wee will, and by these presents, for us, our heires and successessours, doe ordeyne and graunt, that the Governor of the sayd Company, for the tyme being, or, in his absence, by occasion of sicknesse, or otherwise, by his leave and permission, the Deputy-Governor, Ror the tyme being, shall and may, ffrom tyme to tyme, upon all occasions, give order Ror the assemblinge of the sayd Company and callinge them together, to consult and advise of the businesse and affaires of the sayd Company.

And that forever hereafter, twice in every year, that is to say, on every first Wednesday in the month of May, and on every last Wednesday in October, or oftener, in case it shall bee requisite, the Assistants, and such of the ffreemen of the Company, not exceedings six persons For Newport, doure persons ffor each of the respective townes of Providence, Portsmouth and Warwicke, and two persons for each other place, towne or city, whoe shall bee, from tyme to tyme, thereunto elected or deputed by the majour parte of the ffreemen of the respective townes or places For which they shall bee so elected or deputed, shall have a generall meetings or Assembly then and there to consult, advise and determine, in and about the affaires and businesse of the said Company and Plantations. And farther, wee doe, of our especiall grace, certayne knowledge, and meere motion, give and graunt unto the sayd Governour and Company of the English Colonie of Rhode-lsland and Providence Plantations, in New-England, in America, and theire successours, that the Governour, or, in his absence, or, by his permission, the Deputy-Governour of the sayd Company, for the tyme beinge, the Assistants, and such of the Freemen of the sayd Company as shall bee soe as aforesayd elected or deputed, or soe many of them as shall bee present aft such meetinge or assemblye, as aBoresayde, shall bee called the Generall Assemblye; and that they, or the greatest parte of them present, whereof the Governour or Deputy-Governour, and sixe of the Assistants, at least to bee seven, shall have, and have hereby given and graunted unto them, ffull power authority, Prom tyme tyme, and at all tymes hereafter, to apoynt, alter and change, such dayes, tymes and places of meetinge and Generall Assemblye, as theye shall thinke ffitt; and to choose, nominate, and apoynt, such and soe manye other persons as they shall thinke ffitt, and shall be willing to accept the same, to bee Free of the sayd Company and body politique, and them into the same to admits; and to elect and constitute such offices and officers, and to graunt such needfull commissions, as they shall thinke Ott and requisite, ffor the ordering, managing and dispatching of the affaires of the sayd Governour and Company, and their successours; and from tyme to tyme, to make, ordeyne, constitute or repeal, such lawes statutes, orders and ordinances, fformes and ceremonies of government and magistracye as to them shall seeme meete for the good nad wellfare of the sayd Company, and ffor the government and ordering of the lances and hereditaments, hereinafter mentioned to be graunted, and of the people that doe, or aft any tyme hereafter shall, inhabitt or bee within the same; soe as such lawes, ordinances and constitutiones, soe made, bee not contrary and repugnant unto, butt, as neare as may bee, agreeable to the lawes of this our realme of England, considering the nature and constitutions of the place and people there; and alsoe to apoynt, order and direct, erect and settle, such places and courts of jurisdiction, ffor the heareinge and determillinge of all actions, cases, matters and things, happening within the sayd collonie and plantations, and which shall be in dispute, and depending there, as they shall thinke ffit; and alsoe to distinguish and sett forth the severall names and titles, duties, powers and limitts, of each court, office and officer, superior and inferior; and alsoe to contrive and apoynt such formes of oaths and attestations, not repugnant, but, as neare as may bee, agreeable, as aforesayd, to the lawes and statutes of this oure realme, as are conveniente and requisite, with respect to the due administration of justice, and due execution and discharge of all offices and places of trust by the persons that shall bee therein concerned; and alsoe to regulate and order the wave and manner of all elections to offices and places of trust, and to prescribe, limits and distinguish the numbers and bounces of all places, townes or cityes, within the limitts and bounds herein after mentioned, and not herein particularlie named, who have, and shall have, the power of electing and sending of ffreemen to the sayd Generall Assembly; and alsoe to order, direct and authorize the imposing of lawfull and reasonable Dynes, mulcts, imprisonments, and executing other punishments pecuniary and corporal, upon offenders and delinquents, according to the course of other corporations within this oure kingdom of England; and agayne to alter, revoke, annull or pardon, under their common scale or otherwyse, such Dynes, mulcts, imprisonments, sentences, judgments and condemnations, as shall bee thought Bitt; and to direct, rule, order and dispose of, all other matters and things, and particularly that which relates to the makinge of purchases of the native Indians, as to them shall seeme meete; wherebv oure sayd people and inhabitants, in the sayd Plantationes, may be soe religiously, peaceably and civilly governed, as that, by theire good life and orderlie conversations, they may win and invite the native Indians of the countrie to the knowledge and obedience of the onlie [awes, statutes, orders and ordinances, instructions, impositions and directiones, as shall bee soe made by the Governour, deputye-Governour, Assistants and Freemen. Or such number of them as aforesayd, and published in writinge, under theire common scale, shall bee carefully and duely observed, kept, performed and putt in execution, accordinge to the true intent and meaning of the same.

And these our letters patent, or the duplicate or exemplificationon thereof, shall bee to all and everie such officer, superiour or inferiour, From tyme to tyme, for the putting of the same orders, lawes, statutes, ordinances, instructions and directions, in due execution, against us, oure heires and successours, a sufficient warrant and discharge. And further, our will and pleasure is, and wee doe hereby, for US, oure heires and successours, establish and ordeyne, that yearelie, once in the yeare, forever hereafter, namely, the aforesayd Wednesday in May, and at the towne of Newport, or elsewhere, if urgent occasion doe require, the Governour, Deputy-Governour and Assistants of the sayd Company, and other officers of the sayd Company, or such of them as the Generall Assemblye shall thinke Bitt, shall bee, in the sayd Generall Court or Assembly to bee held from that daye or tyme, newely chosen for the year ensuring, by such greater part of the sayd Company, for the tyme beinge, as shall bee then and there present; and if itt shall happen that the present Governour, Deputy-Governour and Assistants, bv these presents apoynted, or any such as shall hereafter be newly chosen into their roomes, or any of them, or any other the officers of the sayd Company, shall die or bee removed From his or their severall offices or places, before the sayd generall day of election, (whom wee doe hereby declare, for any misdemeanour or default, to be removeable by the Governour, Assistants and Company, or such greater parte of them, in any of the sayd publique courts, to bee assembled as aforesayd), that then, and in every such case, it shall and may bee lawfull to and ffor the sayd Governour, Deputy-Governour, Assistants and Company aforesayde, or such greater parte of them, soe to bee assembled as is aforesayde, in any theire assemblyes, to proceede to a new election of one or more of their Company, in the roome or place, roomes or places, of such officer or officers, soe dyeinge or removed, according to theire discretiones; and immediately upon and after such elections or elections made of such Governour, Deputy-Governour or Assistants, or any other officer of the sayd Company, in manner and forme aforesayde, the authoritie, office and power, before given to the fformer Governour, Deputy-Governour, and other officer and officers, soe removed, in whose steade and place new shall be chosen, shall, as to him and them, and every of them, respectively, cease and determine:

Provided, allwayes, and our will and pleasure is, that as well such as are by these presents apoynted to bee the present Governour, Deputy-Governour and Assistants, of the sayd Company, as those that shall succeede them, and all other officers to bee apoynted and chosen as aforesayde, shall, before the undertakeinge the execution of the sayd offices and places respectively, give theire solemn engagement, by oath, or otherwyse, for the due and faythfull perfonnance of theire duties in their severall offices and places, before such person or persons as are by these presents hereafter apoynted to take and receive the same, that is to say: the sayd Benedict Arnold, whoa is hereinbefore nominated and apoynted the present Governour of the sayd Company, shall give the aforesayd engagement before William Brenton, or any two of the sayd Assistants of the sayd Company; unto whome, wee doe by these presenter give Bull power and authority to require and receive the same; and the sayd William Brenton, whoe is hereby before nominated and apoynted the present DeputyGovernour of the sayd Company, shall give the aforesaved engagement before the sayd Benedict Arnold, or any two of the Assistants of the sayd Company; unto whome wee doe by these presents give ffull power and authority to require and receive the same; and the sayd William Boulston, John Porter, Roger Williams, Thomas Olneye, John Smith, John Greene, John Cogeshall, James Barker, William Ffeild, and Joseph Clarke, whoe are hereinbefore nominated apoynted the present Assistants of the sayd Company, shall give the sayd engagement to theire offices and places respectively belongeing, before the sayd Benedict Arnold and William Brenton, or one of them; to whome, respectively wee doe hereby give dull power and authority to require, administer or receive the same: and further, our will and pleasure is. that all and every other future Governour or Deputy-Governour, to bee elected and chosen by vertue of these presents, shall give the sayd engagement before two or more of the sayd Assistants of the sayd Company ffor the tyme beinge; unto whome wee doe by these presents give full power and authority to require, administer or receive the same; and the sayd Assistants, and every of them, and all and every other officer or officers to bee hereafter elected and chosen by vertue of these presents, from tyme to tyme, shall give the like engagements, to their offices and places respectively belonging bofere the Governour or Deputy-Governour for the tyme being; unto which sayd Governour, or Deputy-Governour, wee doe by these presents give full power and authority to require, administer or receive the same accordingly.

And wee doe likewise, for vs, oure heires and successours, give and graunt vnto the sayd Governour and Company and theire successours by these presents, that, for the more peaceable and orderly Government of the sayd Plantations, it shall and may bee lawfull ffor the Governour, Deputy-Governor, Assistants, and all other officers and ministers of the sayd Company, in the administration of justice, and exercise of government, in the sayd Plantations, to vse, exercise, and putt in execution, such methods, rules, orders and directions, not being contrary or repugnant to the laws and statutes of this oure realme, as have byn heretofore given, vsed and accustomed, in such cases respectively, to be putt in practice, untill att the next or some other Generall Assembly, special provision shall be made and ordeyned in the cases aforesayd. And wee doe further, for vs. oure heroes and successours, give and graunt vnto the sayd Governour and Company, and theire successours, by these presents, that itt shall and may bee lawfull to and for the sayd Governour, or in his absence, the Deputy-Governour, and majour parte of the sayd Assistants, for the tyme being, aft any tyme when the sayd Generall Assembly is not sitting, to nominate, apoynt and constitute, such and soe many commanders, governours, and military officers, as to them shall seeme requisite, for the leading, conductinge and travneing vpp the inhabitants of the sayd Plantations in martiall afiaires, and for the defence and safeguard of the sayd Plantations; and that itt shall and may bee lawfull to and for all and every such commander, governour and military officer, that shall bee soe as aforesayd, or by the Governour. or, in his absence, the Deputy-Governour, and six of the sayd Assistants, and majour parte of the Freemen of the sayd Company present att any Generall Assemblies, nominated, apoynted and constituted accordinge to the tenor of his and theire respective commissions and directions, to assemble, exercise in arms, martiall array, and putt in warlyke posture, the inhabitants of the sayd collonie, For theire speciall defence and safety; and to lead and conduct the sayd inhabitants, and to encounter, expulse, expell and resist, by force of armes, as well by sea as by lance; and alsoe to kill, slay and destroy, by all fitting wayes, enterprises and meaner, whatsoever, all and every such person or persons as shall, aft any tyme hereafter, attempt or enterprize the destruction, invasion, detriment or annoyance of the sayd inhabitants or Plantations; and to vse and exercise the lawe martialI in such cases only as occasion shall necessarily require; and to take or surprise, by all wayes and meanes whatsoever, all and every such person and persons, with theire shipp or shipps, armor, ammunition or other goods of such persons, as shall, in hostile manner, invade or attempt the defeating of the sayd Plantations, or the hurt of the sand Company and inhabitants; and vpon just causes, to invade and destroy the native Indians, or other enemyes of the sayd Collony. Neverthelesse, our will and pleasure is, and wee doe hereby declare to the rest of oure Collonies in New England, that itt shall not bee lawefull ffor this our sayd Collony of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, in America, in New-England, to invade the natives inhabiting within the bounces and limitts of theire sayd Collonies without the knowledge and consent of the sand other Collonies. And itt is hereby declared, that itt shall not bee lawfull to or ffor the rest of the Collonies to invade or molest the native Indians, or any other inhabittants, inhabiting within the bounds and lymitts hereafter mentioned (they having subjected themselves vnto vs. and being by vs taken into our speciall protection), without the knowledge and consent of the Governour and Company of our Collony of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations.

Alsoe our will and pleasure is, and wee doe hereby declare unto all Christian Kings, Princes and States, that if any person, which shall hereafter bee of the sayd Company or Plantations, or any other, by apoyntment of the sayd Governour and Company for the tyme beinge, shall at any tyme or tymes hereafter, rob or spoyle, by sea or land, or do any hurt, unlawfull hostillity to any of the subjects of vs, oure heires or successours, or any of the subjects of any Prince or State, beinge then in league with vs, oure heires, or successours, vpon complaint of such injury done to any such Prince or State, or theire subjects, wee, our hearer and successours, will make open proclamation within any
parts of oure realme of England, ffitt ffor that purpose, that the person or persons committing any such robbery or spoyle shall, within the tyme 1ymitted by such proclamation, make full restitution or satisfaction of all such injuries, done or committed, soe as the sayd Prince, or others soe complaineinge, may bee fully satisfyed and contented; and if the sayd person or persons whoe shall commits any such robbery or spoyle shal1 not make satvsfaction, accordingly, within such tyme, soe to bee lymitted, that then wee, oure heires and successours, will putt such person or persons out of oure allegiance and protection; and that then itt shall and may bee lawefull and Tree ffor all Princes or others to prosecute, with hostillity, such offenders, and every of them, theire and every of theire procurers, adders, abettors and counsellors, in that behalfa; Provided alsoe, and oure expresse will and pleasure is, and wee doe, by these presents, For vs. our heirs and successours, ordeyne and apoynt, that these presents shall not, in any manner, hinder any of oure lovinge subjects, whatsoever, ffrom vseing and exercising the trade of ffishing vpon the coast of New-England, in America; butt that they, and every or any of them, shall have ffull and ffree power and liberty to continue and vse the trade of ffishing vpon the sayd coast, in an of the seas thereunto adjoyninge, or-any armes of the seas, or salt water, rivers and creeks, where they have been accustomed to ffish; and to build and to sett upon the waste land, belonginge to the sayd Collony and Plantations, such wharfes, stages and worke-houses as shall be necessary for the salting, drying and keepeing of theire dish, to be taken or gotten upon that coast. And ffurther, for the encouragement of the inhabitants of our sayd Collony of Providence Plantations to sett vpon the businesse of takeing whales, itt shall bee lawefull For them, or any of them, having struck whale, dubertus, or other greate ffish, itt or them, to pursue unto any parte of that coaste, and into any bay, river, cove, creeke or shoare, belonging thereto, and itt or them, vpon sayd coaste, or in the sand bay, river, cove, creeke or shoare, belonging thereto, to kill and order for the best advantage, without molestation, they makeing noe wilfull waste or spoyle, any thinge in these presents conteyned, or any other matter or thing, to the contrary notwithstanding. And further alsoe, wee are gratiously pleased, and doe hereby declare, that if any of the inhabitants of oure sayd Collony doe sett upon the plantings of vineyards (the soyle and clymate both seemeing naturally to coneurr to the production of wynes), or bee industrious in the discovery of ffishing banks, in or about the sayd Collony, wee will, ffrom tyme to tyme, give and allow all due and fitting encouragement therein, as to others in cases of tyke nature. And further, of oure more ample grace, certayne knowledge, and meere motion, wee have given and graunted,. and by these presents, ffor vs. oure heires and successours, doe Five and graunt vnto the sayd Governour and Company of the English Collony of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, in the Narragansett Bay, in New-England in America, and to every inhabitant there, and to every person and persons trading thither, and to every such person or persons as are or shall bee Tree of the sayd Collony, full power and authority, from tyme to tyme, and aft all tymes hereafter, to take, shipp, transport and carry away, out of any of our realmes and dominions for and towards the plantation and defence of the sayd Collony, such and soe many of oure loveing subjects and strangers as shalt or will willingly accompany them in and to their sayd Collony and Plantation; except such person or persons as are or shall be therein restrained by vs. oureheires and successours, or any law or statute of this realme: and also to shipp and transport all and all manner of goods, chattels, merchandises, and other things whatsoever, that are or shall bee vsefull or necessary ffor the sayd Plantations, and defence thereof, and vsually transported, and nott prohibited by any lawe or statute of this our realme; yielding and paying vnto vs. our heires and successours, such the rluties, customes and subsidies, as are or ought to bee payd or payable for the same.

And further, our will and pleasure is, and wee doe, For us, our heires and successours, ordeyn, declare and graunt, vnto the sayd Governour and Company, and their successours, that all and every the subjects of vs. our heires and successours, which are already planted and settled within our sayd Collony of Providence Plantations, or which shall hereafter Roe to inhabit within the sayd Collony’ and all and every of theire children, which have byn borne there, or which shall happen hereafter to bee borne there, or on the sea, goeing thither, or retourneing from thence, shall have and enjoye all libertyes and immunityes of fires and naturall subjects within any the dominions of vs. our heires or successours, to all intents, constructions and purposes, whatsoever, as if they, and every of them, were borne within the realme of England. And ffurther, know ye, that wee, of our more abundant grace, certain knowledge and meere motion, have given, graunted and confirmed, and, by these presents, for vs. our heires and successours, doe give, graunt and confirms, vnto the sayd Governour and Company, and theire successours, all that parte of Our dominiones in New-England, in America, conteyneing the Nahantick and Nanhyganset Bay, and countryes and partes adjacent, bounded on the west, or westerly, to the middle or channel of a river there, commonly called and known by the name of Pawcatuck, alias Pawcawtuck river, and soe along the sayd river, as the greater or middle streame thereof reacheth or lyes vpp into the north countrye, northward, unto the head thereoof, and from thence, by a streight lyne drawn due north, vntill itt meets with the south lyne of the Massachusetts Collonie; and on the north, or northerly, by the aforesayd south or southerly lyne of the Massachusettes Collony or Plantation, and extending towards the east, or eastwardly, three English miles to the east and north-east of the most eastern and north-eastern parts of the aforesayd Narragansett Bay, as the sayd bay lyeth or extendeth itself from the ocean on the south, or southwardly, vnto the mouth of the river which runneth towards the towne of Providence, and from thence along the eastwardly side or banke of the sayd river (higher called by the name of Seacunck river), vp to the ffalls called Patuckett ffalls, being the most westwardly lyne of Plymouth Collony, and soe from the sayd Balls, in a streight lyne, due north, untill itt meete with the aforesayd line of the Massachusetts Collony; and bounded on the south by the ocean: and, in particular, the lands belonging to the townes of Providence, Pawtuxet, Warwicke; Misquammacok, alias Pawcatuck, and the rest vpon the maine land in the tract aforesayd, together with Rhode-Island, Blocke-Island, and all the rest of the islands and banks in the Narragansett Bay, and bordering vpon the coast of the tract aforesayd (Ffisher’s Island only excepted), together with all firme lands, soyles, grounds, havens. ports rivers, waters, ffishings, mines royall, and all other mynes, mineralls, precious stones, quarries, woods, wood-grounds, rocks’ slates, and all and singular other commodities, jurisdictions, royalties, priviledges, franchises, preheminences and hereditaments, whatsoever, within the sayd tract, bounds, lances, and islands, aforesayd, or to them or any of them belonging, or in any wise appertaining: to have and to hold the same, Into the sayd Governour and Companv, and their successours, forever, vpon trust, for the vse and benefit of themselves and their associates, ffreemen of the sayd Collony, their heires and assignas, to be holden of vs. our heires and successours, as of the Mannor of East-Greenwich, in our county of Kent, in free and comon soccage, and not in capite, nor by knight service; Wilding and paying therefor, to vs. our heires and successours, only the Fifth part of all the oare of Fold and silver which, from tyme to tyme, and att all tymes hereafter, shall bee there gotten, had or obtained, in lieu and satisfaction of all services, duties, Dynes, forfeitures, made or to be made, claimes and demands, whatsoever, to bee to vs. our heires or successours, therefor or thereout rendered, made or paid; any graunt, or clause in a late graunt, to the Governour and Company of Connecticutt Colony, in America, to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding; the aforesavd Pawcatuck river haven byn yielded, after much debate, for the fixed and certain bounces betweene these our sayd Colonies, by the agents thereof; w hoe have alsoe agreed, that the sayd Pawcatuck river shall bee alsoe called alias Norrogansett or Narrogansett river; and to prevent future disputes, that otherwise might arise thereby, forever hereafter shall bee construed, deemed and taken to bee the Narragansett river in our late Irrupt to Connecticutt (colony mentioned as the easterly bounds of that Colony. And further, our will and pleasure is, that in all matters of publique controversy which may fall out betweene our Colonv of Providence Plantations, and the rest of our Colonies in New-England, lit shall and may bee lawfull to and for the Governour and Company of the sayd Colony of Providence Plantations to make their appeales therein to vs. our heirs and successours. for redresse in such cases, within this our realme of England: and that itt shall bee lawfull to and for the inhabitants of the sayd Colony of Providence Plantations, without let or molestation, to passe and repasse with freedome, into and thorough the rest of the English Collonies, vpon their lawfull and civill occasions, and to converse, and hold commerce and trade, wit: such of the inhabitants of our other English Collonies as shall bee willing to admits them thereunto, they behaveing themselves peaceably among them; any act, clause or sentence, in any of the sayd Collonies provided, or that shall bee provided, to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding. And lastly, wee doe, for vs. our heires and successours, ordeyne and graunt vnto the sayd Governor and Company, and their successours, and by these presents, that these our letters patent shall be firme, good, effectuall and available in all things in the lawe, to all intents, constructions and purposes whatsoever, according to our true intent and meaning hereinbefore declared; and shall bee construed, reputed and adjudged in all cases most favorably on the behalfe, and for the benefit and behoofe, of the sayd Governor and Company, and their successours; although empress mention of the true yearly value or certainty of the premises, or any of them, or of any other gifts or graunts by vs. or by any of our progenitors or predecessors, heretofore made to the sayd Governor and Company of the English Colony of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, in the Narragansett Bay, New-England, in America, in these presents is not made, or any statute, act, ordinance, provision. proclamation or restriction, heretofore had, made, enacted ordeyned or provided, or any other matter, cause or thing whatsoever, to the contrary thereof in anywise notwithstanding; In witnes whereof, wee have caused these our letters to bee made patent. Witnes our Selfe att Westminster, the eighth day of July, in the Fifteenth yeare of our reigne.

By the King


(1) The Charter in ” The Manual with Rules and Orders for the use of the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island. 1889-’90. Prepared in accordance with a Resolution of the General Assembly by Samuel H. Cross, Sec’y of State 1889.” pp. 49-64.

The commonwealth of England had claimed the right, in 1651, to appoint a governor for Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, with a provincial council, to be elected by the freeholders and accepted by himself. After the restoration an agent was sent to England, who obtained this charter from Charles II.



Despite earlier contracts with English kings to secure the rights and liberties of the people, once again a document seeking redress was found needful and put forward in 1628.


The petition exhibited to his majesty by the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons in this present parliament assembled, concerning divers rights and liberties of the subjects…

To the king’s most excellent majesty: Humbly show unto our sovereign lord the king the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons in parliament assembled, that, whereas it is declared and enacted by a statute made in the time of the reign of King Edward the First, commonly Statutum de Tallagio non Concedendo, that no tallage or aid should be laid or levied by the king or his heirs in their realm by the king or his heirs in this realm without the goodwill and assent of the archbishops, bishops, earls, barons, knights, burgesses, and other the freemen of the commonalty of this realm; and, by authority of parliament holden in the five-and-twentieth year of the reign of King Edward III, it is declared and enacted that from thenceforth no person should be compelled to make any loans to the king against his will, because such loans were against reason and the franchise of the land; and by other laws of this realm it is provided that none should be charged by any charge or imposition, called a benevolence, or by such like charge; by which the statues before mentioned, and other the good laws and statutes of this realm, your subjects have inherited this freedom, that they should not be compelled to contribute to any tax, tallage, aid, or other like charge not set by common consent in parliament: yet, nevertheless, of late divers commissions directed to sundry commissioners in several counties have issued, by means whereof your people have been in divers places assembled and required to lend certain sums of money unto your majesty; and many of them, upon their refusal to do so, have had an oath administered unto them, not warrantable by the laws or statutes of this realm, and have been constrained to become bound to make appearance and give attendance before your privy council and in other places; and others of them have been therefor imprisoned, confined, and sundry other ways molested and disquieted; and divers other charges have been laid and levied upon your people in several counties by lord lieutenants, deputy lieutenants, commissioners for musters, justices of peace, and others, by command or direction from your majesty or your privy council, against the laws and free customs of the realm.

And where also, by the statute called the Great Charter of the Liberties of England, it is declared and enacted that no freeman may be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his freehold or liberties or his free customs, or be outlawed or exiled or in any manner destroyed, but by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land; and in the eight-and-twentieth year of the reign of King Edward III it was declared and enacted by authority of parliament that no man, of what estate or condition that he be, should be put out of his land or tenements, nor taken, nor imprisoned, nor disinherited, nor put to death, without being brought to answer by due process of law: nevertheless, against the tenor of the said statutes and other the good laws and statutes of your realm to that end provided, divers of your subjects have of late been imprisoned without any cause showed; and when for their deliverance they were brought before your justices by your majesty’s writs of habeas corpus , there to undergo and receive as the court should order, and their keepers commanded to certify the causes of their detainer, no cause was certified, but that they were detained by your majesty’s special command, signified by the lords of your privy council; and yet were returned back to several prisons without being charged with anything to which they might make answer according to the law.

And whereas of late great companies of soldiers and mariners have been dispersed into divers counties of the realm, and the inhabitants against their wills have been compelled to receive them into their houses, and there to suffer them to sojourn, against the laws and customs of this realm, and to the great grievance and vexation of the people: and whereas also, by authority of parliament in the five-and-twentieth year of the reign of King Edward III, it is declared and enacted that no man should be forejudged of life or limb against the form of the Great Charter and the law of the land; and, by the said Great Charter and other the laws and statutes of this your realm, no man ought to be adjudged to death but by the laws established in this your realm, either by the customs of the same realm or by acts of parliament; and whereas no offender of what kind soever is exempted from the proceedings to be used and punishments to be inflicted by the laws and statutes of this your realm; nevertheless of late divers commissions under your majesty’s great seal have issue forth, by which certain persons have been assigned and appointed commissioners, with power and authority to proceed within the land according to the justice of martial law against such soldiers or mariners, or other dissolute persons joining with them, as should commit any murder, robbery, felony, mutiny, or other outrage or misdemeanour whatsoever, and by such summary course and order as is agreeable to martial law and is used in armies in time of war, to proceed to the trial and condemnation of such offenders, and them to cause to be executed and put to death according to the law martial; by pretext whereof some of your majesty’s subjects have been by some of the said commissioners put to death, when and where, if by the laws and statutes of the land they had deserved death, by the same laws and statutes also they might, and by no other ought to have been, adjudged and executed; and also sundry grievous offenders, by colour thereof claiming an exemption, have escaped the punishments due to them by the laws and statutes of this your realm, by reason that divers of your officers and ministers of justice have unjustly refused or forborne to proceed against such offenders according to the same laws and statutes, upon pretence that the said offenders were punishable only by martial law and by authority of such commissions as aforesaid; which commissions and all other of like nature are wholly and directly contrary to the said laws and statutes of this your realm.

They do therefore humbly pray your most excellent majesty that no man hereafter be compelled to make or yield any gift, loan, benevolence, tax, or such like charge without common consent by act of parliament; and that none be called to make answer, or take such oath, or to give attendance, or be confined, or otherwise molested or disquieted concerning the same, or for refusal thereof; and that no freeman, in any such manner as is before mentioned, be imprisoned or detained; and that your majesty would be pleased to remove the said soldiers and mariners; and that your people may not be so burdened in time to come; and that the foresaid commissions for proceeding by martial law may be revoked and annulled; and that hereafter no commissions of like nature may issue forth to any person or persons whatsoever, to be executed as aforesaid, lest by colour of them any of your majesty’s subjects be destroyed or put to death, contrary to the laws and franchise of the land (all of which they most humbly pray of your most excellent majesty as their rights and liberties according to the laws and statutes of this realm); and that your majesty would also vouchsafe and declare that the awards, doings, and proceedings to the prejudice of your people in any of the premises shall not be drawn hereafter into consequence or example; and that your majesty would be also graciously pleased, for the further comfort and safety of your people, to declare your royal will and pleasure that in the things aforesaid all your officers and ministers shall serve you according to the laws and statutes of this realm, as they tender the honour of your majesty and the prosperity of this kingdom.


The Mayflower Compact – 1620 A.D.

The “Mayflower Compact” was signed on 11 November 1620, onboard the Mayflower shortly after she came to anchor off Provincetown Harbor. The Pilgrims had obtained permission from English authorities to settle in Virginia, whose northern border at the time extended up to what is now New York. The Pilgrims had originally intended to settle near the mouth of the Hudson River, but due to dangerous shoals and a near shipwreck on their attempt to head south, they decided instead to plant themselves outside the bounds of the Virginia Company patent–which caused some “mutinous speeches” amongst some of the passengers. The Mayflower Compact was an attempt to establish a temporary, legally-binding form of self-government until such time as the Company could get formal permission from the Council of New England. This formal permission came in the form of the Pierce Patent of 1621.

The original Mayflower Compact has been lost, perhaps falling victim to Revolutionary War looting. The text was first published in London in 1622 in A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceeding of the English Plantation Settled at Plymouth in New England. A copy of it is found in William Bradford’s handwritten history, Of Plymouth Plantation, made about 1630. And Nathaniel Morton, secretary for Plymouth Colony, published it, along with the earliest known list of the signers, in his history, New England’s Memorial, published in 1669. A list of signers is also found in Thomas Prince’s 1736 book, Chronological History of New England; and Thomas Hutchinson published a list of signers in 1767 as well. It is uncertain if they had access to the original, or were basing their list of signers off Nathaniel Morton’s.

The following is an image of the original handwritten page of Governor William Bradford’s history Of Plymouth Plantation. This is followed by an exact, line-by-line transcription. Spelling and punctuation have not been modernized.


In ye name of God Amen· We whose names are vnderwriten,
the loyall subjects of our dread soueraigne Lord King James
by ye grace of God, of great Britaine, France, & Ireland king, defender of ye faith, &

Haueing vndertaken, for ye glorie of God, and aduancemente
of ye christian ^faith and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia· doe by these presents solemnly & mutualy in ye presence of God, and one of another, couenant, & combine our selues togeather into a ciuill body politick; for ye our better ordering, & preseruation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hearof, to enacte, constitute, and frame shuch just & equall lawes, ordinances, Acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete & conuenient for ye generall good of ye colonie: vnto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witnes wherof we haue herevnder subscribed our names at Cape Codd ye ·11· of Nouember, in ye year of ye raigne of our soueraigne Lord king James of England, France, & Ireland ye eighteenth and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano: Dom .1620.


John Carver
William Bradford
Edward Winslow
William Brewster
Isaac Allerton
Myles Standish
John Alden
Samuel Fuller
Christopher Martin
William Mullins
William White
Richard Warren
John Howland
Stephen Hopkins

Edward Tilley
John Tilley
Francis Cooke
Thomas Rogers
Thomas Tinker
John Rigsdale
Edward Fuller
John Turner
Francis Eaton
James Chilton
John Crackstone
John Billington
Moses Fletcher
John Goodman

Degory Priest
Thomas Williams
Gilbert Winslow
Edmund Margesson
Peter Browne
Richard Britteridge
George Soule
Richard Clarke
Richard Gardiner
John Allerton
Thomas English
Edward Doty
Edward Leister


Martin Luther: Concerning Christian Liberty

In 1520, Martin Luther, the rebellious priest, penned his essay Concerning Christian Liberty.


CHRISTIAN faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were; and this they do because they have not made proof of it experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is. For it is not possible for any man to write well about it, or to understand well what is rightly written, who has not at some time tasted of its spirit, under the pressure of tribulation; while he who has tasted of it, even to a very small extent, can never write, speak, think, or hear about it sufficiently. For it is a living fountain, springing up into eternal life, as Christ calls it in John iv. 1

Now, though I cannot boast of my abundance, and though I know how poorly I am furnished, yet I hope that, after having been vexed by various temptations, I have attained some little drop of faith, and that I can speak of this matter, if not with more elegance, certainly with more solidity, than those literal and too subtle disputants who have hitherto discoursed upon it without understanding their own words. That I may open then an easier way for the ignorant—for these alone I am trying to serve—I first lay down these two propositions, concerning spiritual liberty and servitude:— 2

A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one. 3

Although these statements appear contradictory, yet, when they are found to agree together, they will make excellently for my purpose. They are both the statements of Paul himself, who says, “Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all” (1 Cor. ix. 19), and “Owe no man anything, but to love one another” (Rom. xiii. 8). Now love is by its own nature dutiful and obedient to the beloved object. Thus even Christ, though Lord of all things, was yet made of a woman; made under the law; at once free and a servant; at once in the form of God and in the form of a servant.

Let us examine the subject on a deeper and less simple principle. Man is composed of a twofold nature, a spiritual and a bodily. As regards the spiritual nature, which they name the soul, he is called the spiritual, inward, new man; as regards the bodily nature, which they name the flesh, he is called the fleshly, outward, old man. The Apostle speaks of this: “Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. iv. 16). The result of this diversity is that in the Scriptures opposing statements are made concerning the same man, the fact being that in the same man these two men are opposed to one another; the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh (Gal. v. 17). 5

We first approach the subject of the inward man, that we may see by what means a man becomes justified, free, and a true Christian; that is, a spiritual, new, and inward man. It is certain that absolutely none among outward things, under whatever name they may be reckoned, has any influence in producing Christian righteousness or liberty, nor, on the other hand, unrighteousness or slavery. This can be shown by an easy argument. 6

What can it profit the soul that the body should be in good condition, free, and full of life; that it should eat, drink, and act according to its pleasure; when even the most impious slaves of every kind of vice are prosperous in these matters? Again, what harm can ill-health, bondage, hunger, thirst, or any other outward evil do to the soul, when even the most pious of men and the freest in the purity of their conscience, are harassed by these things? Neither of these states of things has to do with the liberty or the slavery of the soul.

And so it will profit nothing that the body should be adorned with sacred vestments, or dwell in holy places, or be occupied in sacred offices, or pray, fast, and abstain from certain meats, or do whatever works can be done through the body and in the body. Something widely different will be necessary for the justification and liberty of the soul, since the things I have spoken of can be done by any impious person, and only hypocrites are produced by devotion to these things. On the other hand, it will not at all injure the soul that the body should be clothed in profane raiment, should dwell in profane places, should eat and drink in the ordinary fashion, should not pray aloud, and should leave undone all the things above mentioned, which may be done by hypocrites. 8

And, to cast everything aside, even speculation, meditations, and whatever things can be performed by the exertions of the soul itself, are of no profit. One thing, and one alone, is necessary for life, justification, and Christian liberty; and that is the most holy word of God, the Gospel of Christ, as He says, “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me shall not die eternally” (John xi. 25), and also, “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John viii. 36), and, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. iv. 4). 9

Let us therefore hold it for certain and firmly established that the soul can do without everything except the word of God, without which none at all of its wants are provided for. But, having the word, it is rich and wants for nothing, since that is the word of life, of truth, of light, of peace, of justification, of salvation, of joy, of liberty, of wisdom, of virtue, of grace, of glory, and of every good thing. It is on this account that the prophet in a whole Psalm (Psalm cxix.) and in many other places, sighs for and calls upon the word of God with so many groanings and words. 10

Again, there is no more cruel stroke of the wrath of God than when He sends a famine of hearing His words (Amos viii. II), just as there is no greater favour from Him than the sending forth of His word, as it is said, “He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm cvii. 20). Christ was sent for no other office than that of the word; and the order of Apostles, that of bishops, and that of the whole body of the clergy, have been called and instituted for no object but the ministry of the word.

But you will ask, What is this word, and by what means is it to be used, since there are so many words of God? I answer, The Apostle Paul (Rom. i.) explains what it is, namely the Gospel of God, concerning His Son, incarnate, suffering, risen, and glorified, through the Spirit, the Sanctifier. To preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if it believes the preaching. For faith alone and the efficacious use of the word of God, bring salvation. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. x. 9); and again, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. x. 4), and “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. i. 17). For the word of God cannot be received and honoured by any works, but by faith alone. Hence it is clear that as the soul needs the word alone for life and justification, so it is justified by faith alone, and not by any works. For if it could be justified by any other means, it would have no need of the word, nor consequently of faith. 12

But this faith cannot consist at all with works; that is, if you imagine that you can be justified by those works, whatever they are, along with it. For this would be to halt between two opinions, to worship Baal, and to kiss the hand to him, which is a very great iniquity, as Job says. Therefore, when you begin to believe, you learn at the same time that all that is in you is utterly guilty, sinful, and damnable, according to that saying, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. iii. 23), and also: “There is none righteous, no, not one; they are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. iii. 10–12). When you have learnt this, you will know that Christ is necessary for you, since He has suffered and risen again for you, that, believing on Him, you might by this faith become another man, all your sins being remitted, and you being justified by the merits of another, namely of Christ alone. 13

Since then this faith can reign only in the inward man, as it is said, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Rom. x. 10); and since it alone justifies, it is evident that by no outward work or labour can the inward man be at all justified, made free, and saved; and that no works whatever have any relation to him. And so, on the other hand, it is solely by impiety and incredulity of heart that he becomes guilty and a slave of sin, deserving condemnation, not by any outward sin or work. Therefore, the first care of every Christian ought to be to lay aside all reliance on works, and strengthen his faith alone more and more, and by it grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who has suffered and risen again for him, as Peter teaches (1 Peter v.) when he makes no other work to be a Christian one. Thus Christ, when the Jews asked Him what they should do that they might work the works of God, rejected the multitude of works, with which He saw that they were puffed up, and commanded them one thing only, saying, “This is the work of God: that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent, for Him hath God the Father sealed” (John vi. 27, 29).

Hence a right faith in Christ is an incomparable treasure, carrying with it universal salvation and preserving from all evil, as it is said, “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark xvi. 16). Isaiah, looking to this treasure, predicted, “The consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined (verbum abbreviatum et consummans), in the midst of the land” (Isa. x. 22, 23). As if he said, “Faith, which is the brief and complete fulfilling of the law, will fill those who believe with such righteousness that they will need nothing else for justification.” Thus, too, Paul says, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Rom. x. 10). 15

But you ask how it can be the fact that faith alone justifies, and affords without works so great a treasure of good things, when so many works, ceremonies, and laws are prescribed to us in the Scriptures? I answer: Before all things bear in mind what I have said: that faith alone without works justifies, sets free, and saves, as I shall show more clearly below. 16

Meanwhile it is to be noted that the whole Scripture of God is divided into two parts: precepts and promises. The precepts certainly teach us what is good, but what they teach is not forthwith done. For they show us what we ought to do, but do not give us the power to do it. They were ordained, however, for the purpose of showing man to himself, that through them he may learn his own impotence for good and may despair of his own strength. For this reason they are called the Old Testament, and are so. 17

For example, “Thou shalt not covet,” is a precept by which we are all convicted of sin, since no man can help coveting, whatever efforts to the contrary he may make. In order therefore that he may fulfil the precept, and not covet, he is constrained to despair of himself and to seek elsewhere and through another the help which he cannot find in himself; as it is said, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thine help” (Hosea xiii. 9). Now what is done by this one precept is done by all; for all are equally impossible of fulfilment by us. 18

Now when a man has through the precepts been taught his own impotence, and become anxious by what means he may satisfy the law—for the law must be satisfied, so that no jot or tittle of it may pass away, otherwise he must be hopelessly condemned—then, being truly humbled and brought to nothing in his own eyes, he finds in himself no resource for justification and salvation.

Then comes in that other part of Scripture, the promises of God, which declare the glory of God, and say, “If you wish to fulfil the law, and, as the law requires, not to covet, lo! believe in Christ, in whom are promised to you grace, justification, peace and liberty.” All these things you shall have, if you believe, and shall be without them if you do not believe. For what is impossible for you by all the works of the law, which are many and yet useless, you shall fulfil in an easy and summary way through faith, because God the Father has made everything to depend on faith, so that whosoever has it has all things, and he who has it not has nothing. “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom. xi. 32). Thus the promises of God give that which the precepts exact, and fulfil what the law commands; so that all is of God alone, both the precepts and their fulfilment. He alone commands; He alone also fulfils. Hence the promises of God belong to the New Testament; nay, are the New Testament. 20

Now, since these promises of God are words of holiness, truth, righteousness, liberty, and peace, and are full of universal goodness, the soul, which cleaves to them with a firm faith, is so united to them, nay, thoroughly absorbed by them, that it not only partakes in, but is penetrated and saturated by, all their virtues. For if the touch of Christ was healing, how much more does that most tender spiritual touch, nay, absorption of the word, communicate to the soul all that belongs to the word! In this way therefore the soul, through faith alone, without works, is from the word of God justified, sanctified, endued with truth, peace, and liberty, and filled full with every good thing, and is truly made the child of God, as it is said, “To them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John i. 12). 21

From all this it is easy to understand why faith has such great power, and why no good works, nor even all good works put together, can compare with it, since no work can cleave to the word of God or be in the soul. Faith alone and the word reign in it; and such as is the word, such is the soul made by it, just as iron exposed to fire glows like fire, on account of its union with the fire. It is clear then that to a Christian man his faith suffices for everything, and that he has no need of works for justification. But if he has no need of works, neither has he need of the law; and if he has no need of the law, he is certainly free from the law, and the saying is true, “The law is not made for a righteous man” (1 Tim. i. 9). This is that Christian liberty, our faith, the effect of which is, not that we should be careless or lead a bad life, but that no one should need the law or works for justification and salvation. 22

Let us consider this as the first virtue of faith; and let us look also to the second. This also is an office of faith: that it honours with the utmost veneration and the highest reputation Him in whom it believes, inasmuch as it holds Him to be truthful and worthy of belief. For there is no honour like that reputation of truth and righteousness with which we honour Him in whom we believe. What higher credit can we attribute to any one than truth and righteousness, and absolute goodness? On the other hand, it is the greatest insult to brand any one with the reputation of falsehood and unrighteousness, or to suspect him of these, as we do when we disbelieve him. 23

Thus the soul, in firmly believing the promises of God, holds Him to be true and righteous; and it can attribute to God no higher glory than the credit of being so. The highest worship of God is to ascribe to Him, truth, righteousness, and whatever qualities we must ascribe to one in whom we believe. In doing this, the soul shows itself prepared to do His whole will; in doing this it hallows His name, and gives itself up to be dealt with as it may please God. For it cleaves to His promises, and never doubts that He is true, just, and wise, and will do, dispose, and provide for all things in the best way. Is not such a soul, in this its faith, most obedient to God in all things? What commandment does there remain which has not been amply fulfilled by such an obedience? What fulfilment can be more full than universal obedience? Now this is not accomplished by works, but by faith alone. 24

On the other hand, what greater rebellion, impiety, or insult to God can there be, than not to believe His promises? What else is this, than either to make God a liar, or to doubt His truth—that is, to attribute truth to ourselves, but to God falsehood and levity? In doing this, is not a man denying God and setting himself up as an idol in his own heart? What then can works, done in such a state of impiety, profit us, were they even angelic or apostolic works? Rightly hath God shut up all, not in wrath nor in lust, but in unbelief, in order that those who pretend that they are fulfilling the law by works of purity and benevolence (which are social and human virtues) may not presume that they will therefore be saved, but, being included in the sin of unbelief, may either seek mercy, or be justly condemned. 25

But when God sees that truth is ascribed to Him, and that in the faith of our hearts He is honoured with all the honour of which He is worthy, then in return He honours us on account of that faith, attributing to us truth and righteousness. For faith does truth and righteousness in rendering to God what is His; and therefore in return, God gives glory to our righteousness. It is true and righteous that God is true and righteous; and to confess this and ascribe these attributes to Him, this it is to be true and righteous. Thus He says, “Them that honour Me I will honour, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Sam. ii. 30). And so Paul says that Abraham’s faith was imputed to him for righteousness, because by it he gave glory to God; and that to us also, for the same reason, it shall be imputed for righteousness, if we believe (Rom. iv.). 26

The third incomparable grace of faith is this: that it unites the soul to Christ, as the wife to the husband, by which mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul are made one flesh. Now if they are one flesh, and if a true marriage—nay, by far the most perfect of all marriages—is accomplished between them (for human marriages are but feeble types of this one great marriage), then it follows that all they have becomes theirs in common, as well good things as evil things; so that whatsoever Christ possesses, that the believing soul may take to itself and boast of as its own, and whatever belongs to the soul, that Christ claims as His. 27

If we compare these possessions, we shall see how inestimable is the gain. Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation; the soul is full of sin, death, and condemnation. Let faith step in, and then sin, death, and hell will belong to Christ, and grace, life, and salvation to the soul. For, if He is a Husband, He must needs take to Himself that which is His wife’s and at the same time, impart to His wife that which is His. For, in giving her His own body and Himself, how can He but give her all that is His? And, in taking to Himself the body of His wife, how can He but take to Himself all that is hers? 28

In this is displayed the delightful sight, not only of communion, but of a prosperous warfare, of victory, salvation, and redemption. For, since Christ is God and man, and is such a Person as neither has sinned, nor dies, nor is condemned, nay, cannot sin, die, or be condemned, and since His righteousness, life, and salvation are invincible, eternal, and almighty,—when I say, such a Person, by the wedding-ring of faith, takes a share in the sins, death, and hell of His wife, nay, makes them His own, and deals with them no otherwise than as if they were His, and as if He himself had sinned; and when He suffers, dies, and descends to hell, that He may overcome all things, and since sin, death, and hell cannot swallow Him up, they must needs be swallowed up by Him in stupendous conflict. For His righteousness rises above the sins of all men; His life is more powerful than all death; His salvation is more unconquerable than all hell. 29

Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its Husband Christ. Thus He presents to Himself a glorious bride, without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word; that is, by faith in the word of life, righteousness, and salvation. Thus He betrothes her unto Himself “in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies” (Hosea ii. 19, 20). 30

Who then can value highly enough these royal nuptials? Who can comprehend the riches of the glory of this grace? Christ, that rich and pious Husband, takes as a wife a needy and impious harlot, redeeming her from all her evils and supplying her with all His good things. It is impossible now that her sins should destroy her, since they have been laid upon Christ and swallowed up in Him, and since she has in her Husband Christ, a righteousness which she may claim as her own, and which she can set up with confidence against all her sins, against death and hell, saying, “If I have sinned, my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned; all mine is His, and all His is mine,” as it is written, “My beloved is mine and I am His” (Cant. ii. 16). This is what Paul says: “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” victory over sin and death, as he says, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. xv. 56, 57). 31

From all this you will again understand why so much importance is attributed to faith, so that it alone can fulfil the law and justify without any works. For you see that the First Commandment, which says, “Thou shalt worship one God only,” is fulfilled by faith alone. If you were nothing but good works from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head, you would not be worshipping God, nor fulfilling the First Commandment, since it is impossible to worship God without ascribing to Him the glory of truth and of universal goodness, as it ought in truth to be ascribed. Now this is not done by works, but only by faith of heart. It is not by working, but by believing, that we glorify God, and confess Him to be true. On this ground, faith alone is the righteousness of a Christian man, and the fulfilling of all the commandments. For to him who fulfils the first, the task of fulfilling all the rest is easy. 32

Works, since they are irrational things, cannot glorify God, although they may be done to the glory of God, if faith be present. But at present we are inquiring, not into the quality of the works done, but into him who does them, who glorifies God, and brings forth good works. This is faith of heart, the head and the substance of all our righteousness. Hence that is a blind and perilous doctrine which teaches that the commandments are fulfilled by works. The commandments must have been fulfilled previous to any good works, and good works follow their fulfillment, as we shall see. 33

But, that we may have a wider view of that grace which our inner man has in Christ, we must know that in the Old Testament, God sanctified to Himself every first-born male. The birthright was of great value, giving a superiority over the rest by the double honour of priesthood and kingship. For the first-born brother was priest and lord of all the rest. 34

Under this figure was foreshown Christ, the true and only Firstborn of God the Father and of the Virgin Mary, and a true King and Priest, not in a fleshly and earthly sense. For His kingdom is not of this world; it is in heavenly and spiritual things that He reigns and acts as Priest; and these are righteousness, truth, wisdom, peace, salvation, etc. Not but that all things, even those of earth and hell, are subject to Him—for otherwise how could He defend and save us from them?—but it is not in these, nor by these, that His kingdom stands. 35

So, too, His priesthood does not consist in the outward display of vestments and gestures, as did the human priesthood of Aaron and our ecclesiastical priesthood at this day, but in spiritual things, wherein, in His invisible office, He intercedes for us with God in heaven, and there offers Himself, and performs all the duties of a priest, as Paul describes Him to the Hebrews under the figure of Melchizedek. Nor does He only pray and intercede for us; He also teaches us inwardly in the spirit with the living teachings of His Spirit. Now these are the two special offices of a priest, as is figured to us in the case of fleshly priests by visible prayers and sermons. 36

As Christ by His birthright has obtained these two dignities, so He imparts and communicates them to every believer in Him, under that law of matrimony of which we have spoken above, by which all that is the husband’s is also the wife’s. Hence all we who believe on Christ are kings and priests in Christ, as it is said, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter ii. 9). 37

These two things stand thus. First, as regards kingship, every Christian is by faith so exalted above all things that, in spiritual power, he is completely lord of all things, so that nothing whatever can do him any hurt; yea, all things are subject to him, and are compelled to be subservient to his salvation. Thus Paul says, “All things work together for good to them who are called” (Rom. viii. 28), and also, “Whether life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours; and ye are Christ’s” (1 Cor. iii. 22, 23). 38

Not that in the sense of corporeal power any one among Christians has been appointed to possess and rule all things, according to the mad and senseless idea of certain ecclesiastics. That is the office of kings, princes, and men upon earth. In the experience of life we see that we are subjected to all things, and suffer many things, even death. Yea, the more of a Christian any man is, to so many the more evils, sufferings, and deaths is he subject, as we see in the first place in Christ the First-born, and in all His holy brethren. 39

This is a spiritual power, which rules in the midst of enemies, and is powerful in the midst of distresses. And this is nothing else than that strength is made perfect in my weakness, and that I can turn all things to the profit of my salvation; so that even the cross and death are compelled to serve me and to work together for my salvation. This is a lofty and eminent dignity, a true and almighty dominion, a spiritual empire, in which there is nothing so good, nothing so bad, as not to work together for my good, if only I believe. And yet there is nothing of which I have need-for faith alone suffices for my salvation—unless that in it faith may exercise the power and empire of its liberty. This is the inestimable power and liberty of Christians. 40

Nor are we only kings and the freest of all men, but also priests for ever, a dignity far higher than kingship, because by that priesthood we are worthy to appear before God, to pray for others, and to teach one another mutually the things which are of God. For these are the duties of priests, and they cannot possibly be permitted to any unbeliever. Christ has obtained for us this favour, if we believe in Him: that just as we are His brethren and co-heirs and fellow-kings with Him, so we should be also fellow-priests with Him, and venture with confidence, through the spirit of faith, to come into the presence of God, and cry, “Abba, Father!” and to pray for one another, and to do all things which we see done and figured in the visible and corporeal office of priesthood. But to an unbelieving person nothing renders service or work for good. He himself is in servitude to all things, and all things turn out for evil to him, because he uses all things in an impious way for his own advantage, and not for the glory of God. And thus he is not a priest, but a profane person, whose prayers are turned into sin, nor does he ever appear in the presence of God, because God does not hear sinners. 41

Who then can comprehend the loftiness of that Christian dignity which, by its royal power, rules over all things, even over death, life, and sin, and, by its priestly glory, is all-powerful with God, since God does what He Himself seeks and wishes, as it is written, “He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him; He also will hear their cry, and will save them”? (Psalm cxlv. 19). This glory certainly cannot be attained by any works, but by faith only. 42

From these considerations any one may clearly see how a Christian man is free from all things; so that he needs no works in order to be justified and saved, but receives these gifts in abundance from faith alone. Nay, were he so foolish as to pretend to be justified, set free, saved, and made a Christian, by means of any good work, he would immediately lose faith, with all its benefits. Such folly is prettily represented in the fable where a dog, running along in the water and carrying in his mouth a real piece of meat, is deceived by the reflection of the meat in the water, and, in trying with open mouth to seize it, loses the meat and its image at the same time. 43

Here you will ask, “If all who are in the Church are priests, by what character are those whom we now call priests to be distinguished from the laity?” I reply, By the use of these words, “priest,” “clergy,” “spiritual person,” “ecclesiastic,” an injustice has been done, since they have been transferred from the remaining body of Christians to those few who are now, by hurtful custom, called ecclesiastics. For Holy Scripture makes no distinction between them, except that those who are now boastfully called popes, bishops, and lords, it calls ministers, servants, and stewards, who are to serve the rest in the ministry of the word, for teaching the faith of Christ and the liberty of believers. For though it is true that we are all equally priests, yet we cannot, nor, if we could, ought we all to, minister and teach publicly. Thus Paul says, “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. iv. 1). 44

This bad system has now issued in such a pompous display of power and such a terrible tyranny that no earthly government can be compared to it, as if the laity were something else than Christians. Through this perversion of things it has happened that the knowledge of Christian grace, of faith, of liberty, and altogether of Christ, has utterly perished, and has been succeeded by an intolerable bondage to human works and laws; and, according to the Lamentations of Jeremiah, we have become the slaves of the vilest men on earth, who abuse our misery to all the disgraceful and ignominious purposes of their own will. 45

Returning to the subject which we had begun, I think it is made clear by these considerations that it is not sufficient, nor a Christian course, to preach the works, life, and words of Christ in a historic manner, as facts which it suffices to know as an example how to frame our life, as do those who are now held the best preachers, and much less so to keep silence altogether on these things and to teach in their stead the laws of men and the decrees of the Fathers. There are now not a few persons who preach and read about Christ with the object of moving the human affections to sympathize with Christ, to indignation against the Jews, and other childish and womanish absurdities of that kind. 46

Now preaching ought to have the object of promoting faith in Him, so that He may not only be Christ, but a Christ for you and for me, and that what is said of Him, and what He is called, may work in us. And this faith is produced and is maintained by preaching why Christ came, what He has brought us and given to us, and to what profit and advantage He is to be received. This is done when the Christian liberty which we have from Christ Himself is rightly taught, and we are shown in what manner all we Christians are kings and priests, and how we are lords of all things, and may be confident that whatever we do in the presence of God is pleasing and acceptable to Him. 47

Whose heart would not rejoice in its inmost core at hearing these things? Whose heart, on receiving so great a consolation, would not become sweet with the love of Christ, a love to which it can never attain by any laws or works? Who can injure such a heart, or make it afraid? If the consciousness of sin or the horror of death rush in upon it, it is prepared to hope in the Lord, and is fearless of such evils, and undisturbed, until it shall look down upon its enemies. For it believes that the righteousness of Christ is its own, and that its sin is no longer its own, but that of Christ; but, on account of its faith in Christ, all its sin must needs be swallowed up from before the face of the righteousness of Christ, as I have said above. It learns, too, with the Apostle, to scoff at death and sin, and to say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. xv. 55–57). For death is swallowed up in victory, not only the victory of Christ, but ours also, since by faith it becomes ours, and in it we too conquer. 48

Let it suffice to say this concerning the inner man and its liberty, and concerning that righteousness of faith which needs neither laws nor good works; nay, they are even hurtful to it, if any one pretends to be justified by them. 49

And now let us turn to the other part: to the outward man. Here we shall give an answer to all those who, taking offence at the word of faith and at what I have asserted, say, “If faith does everything, and by itself suffices for justification, why then are good works commanded? Are we then to take our ease and do no works, content with faith?” Not so, impious men, I reply; not so. That would indeed really be the case, if we were thoroughly and completely inner and spiritual persons; but that will not happen until the last day, when the dead shall be raised. As long as we live in the flesh, we are but beginning and making advances in that which shall be completed in a future life. On this account the Apostle calls that which we have in this life the first-fruits of the Spirit (Rom. viii. 23). In future we shall have the tenths, and the fullness of the Spirit. To this part belongs the fact I have stated before: that the Christian is the servant of all and subject to all. For in that part in which he is free he does no works, but in that in which he is a servant he does all works. Let us see on what principle this is so. 50

Although, as I have said, inwardly, and according to the spirit, a man is amply enough justified by faith, having all that he requires to have, except that this very faith and abundance ought to increase from day to day, even till the future life, still he remains in this mortal life upon earth, in which it is necessary that he should rule his own body and have intercourse with men. Here then works begin; here he must not take his ease; here he must give heed to exercise his body by fastings, watchings, labour, and other regular discipline, so that it may be subdued to the spirit, and obey and conform itself to the inner man and faith, and not rebel against them nor hinder them, as is its nature to do if it is not kept under. For the inner man, being conformed to God and created after the image of God through faith, rejoices and delights itself in Christ, in whom such blessings have been conferred on it, and hence has only this task before it: to serve God with joy and for nought in free love. 52

But in doing this he comes into collision with that contrary will in his own flesh, which is striving to serve the world and to seek its own gratification. This the spirit of faith cannot and will not bear, but applies itself with cheerfulness and zeal to keep it down and restrain it, as Paul says, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin” (Rom. vii. 22, 23), and again, “I keep under my body, and bring it unto subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. ix. 27), and “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts” (Gal. v. 24). 53

These works, however, must not be done with any notion that by them a man can be justified before God——for faith, which alone is righteousness before God, will not bear with this false notion-but solely with this purpose: that the body may be brought into subjection, and be purified from its evil lusts, so that our eyes may be turned only to purging away those lusts. For when the soul has been cleansed by faith and made to love God, it would have all things to be cleansed in like manner, and especially its own body, so that all things might unite with it in the love and praise of God. Thus it comes that, from the requirements of his own body, a man cannot take his ease, but is compelled on its account to do many good works, that he may bring it into subjection. Yet these works are not the means of his justification before God; he does them out of disinterested love to the service of God; looking to no other end than to do what is well-pleasing to Him whom he desires to obey most dutifully in all things. 54

On this principle every man may easily instruct himself in what measure, and with what distinctions, he ought to chasten his own body. He will fast, watch, and labour, just as much as he sees to suffice for keeping down the wantonness and concupiscence of the body. But those who pretend to be justified by works are looking, not to the mortification of their lusts, but only to the works themselves; thinking that, if they can accomplish as many works and as great ones as possible, all is well with them, and they are justified. Sometimes they even injure their brain, and extinguish nature, or at least make it useless. This is enormous folly, and ignorance of Christian life and faith, when a man seeks, without faith, to be justified and saved by works. 55

To make what we have said more easily understood, let us set it forth under a figure. The works of a Christian man, who is justified and saved by his faith out of the pure and unbought mercy of God, ought to be regarded in the same light as would have been those of Adam and Eve in paradise and of all their posterity if they had not sinned. Of them it is said, “The Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it!” (Gen. ii. 15). Now Adam had been created by God just and righteous, so that he could not have needed to be justified and made righteous by keeping the garden and working in it; but, that he might not be unemployed, God gave him the business of keeping and cultivating paradise. These would have indeed been works of perfect freedom, being done for no object but that of pleasing God, and not in order to obtain justification, which he already had to the full, and which would have been innate in us all. 56

So it is with the works of a believer. Being by his faith replaced afresh in paradise and created anew, he does not need works for his justification, but that he may not be idle, but may exercise his own body and preserve it. His works are to be done freely, with the sole object of pleasing God. Only we are not yet fully created anew in perfect faith and love; these require to be increased, not, however, through works, but through themselves. 57

A bishop, when he consecrates a church, confirms children, or performs any other duty of his office, is not consecrated as bishop by these works; nay, unless he had been previously consecrated as bishop, not one of those works would have any validity; they would be foolish, childish, and ridiculous. Thus a Christian, being consecrated by his faith, does good works; but he is not by these works made a more sacred person, or more a Christian. That is the effect of faith alone; nay, unless he were previously a believer and a Christian, none of his works would have any value at all; they would really be impious and damnable sins. 58

True, then, are these two sayings: “Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works”; “Bad works do not make a bad man, but a bad man does bad works.” Thus it is always necessary that the substance or person should be good before any good works can be done, and that good works should follow and proceed from a good person. As Christ says, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” (Matt. vii. 18). Now it is clear that the fruit does not bear the tree, nor does the tree grow on the fruit; but, on the contrary, the trees bear the fruit, and the fruit grows on the trees. 59

As then trees must exist before their fruit, and as the fruit does not make the tree either good or bad, but on the contrary, a tree of either kind produces fruit of the same kind, so must first the person of the man be good or bad before he can do either a good or a bad work; and his works do not make him bad or good, but he himself makes his works either bad or good. 60

We may see the same thing in all handicrafts. A bad or good house does not make a bad or good builder, but a good or bad builder makes a good or bad house. And in general no work makes the workman such as it is itself; but the workman makes the work such as he is himself. Such is the case, too, with the works of men. Such as the man himself is, whether in faith or in unbelief, such is his work: good if it be done in faith; bad if in unbelief. But the converse is not true that, such as the work is, such the man becomes in faith or in unbelief. For as works do not make a believing man, so neither do they make a justified man; but faith, as it makes a man a believer and justified, so also it makes his works good. 61

Since then works justify no man, but a man must be justified before he can do any good work, it is most evident that it is faith alone which, by the mere mercy of God through Christ, and by means of His word, can worthily and sufficiently justify and save the person; and that a Christian man needs no work, no law, for his salvation; for by faith he is free from all law, and in perfect freedom does gratuitously all that he does, seeking nothing either of profit or of salvation—since by the grace of God he is already saved and rich in all things through his faith—but solely that which is well-pleasing to God. 62

So, too, no good work can profit an unbeliever to justification and salvation; and, on the other hand, no evil work makes him an evil and condemned person, but that unbelief, which makes the person and the tree bad, makes his works evil and condemned. Wherefore, when any man is made good or bad, this does not arise from his works, but from his faith or unbelief, as the wise man says, “The beginning of sin is to fall away from God”; that is, not to believe. Paul says, “He that cometh to God must believe” (Heb. xi. 6); and Christ says the same thing: “Either make the tree good and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt and his fruit corrupt” (Matt. xii. 33),—as much as to say, He who wishes to have good fruit will begin with the tree, and plant a good one; even so he who wishes to do good works must begin, not by working, but by believing, since it is this which makes the person good. For nothing makes the person good but faith, nor bad but unbelief. 63

It is certainly true that, in the sight of men, a man becomes good or evil by his works; but here “becoming” means that it is thus shown and recognised who is good or evil, as Christ says, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. vii. 20). But all this stops at appearances and externals; and in this matter very many deceive themselves, when they presume to write and teach that we are to be justified by good works, and meanwhile make no mention even of faith, walking in their own ways, ever deceived and deceiving, going from bad to worse, blind leaders of the blind, wearying themselves with many works, and yet never attaining to true righteousness, of whom Paul says, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. iii. 5, 7). 64

He then who does not wish to go astray, with these blind ones, must look further than to the works of the law or the doctrine of works; nay, must turn away his sight from works, and look to the person, and to the manner in which it may be justified. Now it is justified and saved, not by works or laws, but by the word of God— that is, by the promise of His grace—so that the glory may be to the Divine majesty, which has saved us who believe, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, by the word of His grace. 65

From all this it is easy to perceive on what principle good works are to be cast aside or embraced, and by what rule all teachings put forth concerning works are to be understood. For if works are brought forward as grounds of justification, and are done under the false persuasion that we can pretend to be justified by them, they lay on us the yoke of necessity, and extinguish liberty along with faith, and by this very addition to their use they become no longer good, but really worthy of condemnation. For such works are not free, but blaspheme the grace of God, to which alone it belongs to justify and save through faith. Works cannot accomplish this, and yet, with impious presumption, through our folly, they take it on themselves to do so; and thus break in with violence upon the office and glory of grace. 66

We do not then reject good works; nay, we embrace them and teach them in the highest degree. It is not on their own account that we condemn them, but on account of this impious addition to them and the perverse notion of seeking justification by them. These things cause them to be only good in outward show, but in reality not good, since by them men are deceived and deceive others, like ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing. 67

Now this leviathan, this perverted notion about works, is invincible when sincere faith is wanting. For those sanctified doers of works cannot but hold it till faith, which destroys it, comes and reigns in the heart. Nature cannot expel it by her own power; nay, cannot even see it for what it is, but considers it as a most holy will. And when custom steps in besides, and strengthens this pravity of nature, as has happened by means of impious teachers, then the evil is incurable, and leads astray multitudes to irreparable ruin. Therefore, though it is good to preach and write about penitence, confession, and satisfaction, yet if we stop there, and do not go on to teach faith, such teaching is without doubt deceitful and devilish. For Christ, speaking by His servant John, not only said, “Repent ye,” but added, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. iii. 2). 68

For not one word of God only, but both, should be preached; new and old things should be brought out of the treasury, as well the voice of the law as the word of grace. The voice of the law should be brought forward, that men may be terrified and brought to a knowledge of their sins, and thence be converted to penitence and to a better manner of life. But we must not stop here; that would be to wound only and not to bind up, to strike and not to heal, to kill and not to make alive, to bring down to hell and not to bring back, to humble and not to exalt. Therefore, the word of grace and of the promised remission of sin must also be preached, in order to teach and set up faith, since without that word contrition, penitence, and all other duties, are performed and taught in vain. 69

There still remain, it is true, preachers of repentance and grace, but they do not explain the law and the promises of God to such an end, and in such a spirit, that men may learn whence repentance and grace are to come. For repentance comes from the law of God, but faith or grace from the promises of God, as it is said, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. x. 17), whence it comes that a man, when humbled and brought to the knowledge of himself by the threatenings and terrors of the law, is consoled and raised up by faith in the Divine promise. Thus “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm xxx. 5). Thus much we say concerning works in general, and also concerning those which the Christian practises with regard to his own body. 70

Lastly, we will speak also of those works which he performs towards his neighbour. For man does not live for himself alone in this mortal body, in order to work on its account, but also for all men on earth; nay, he lives only for others, and not for himself. For it is to this end that he brings his own body into subjection, that he may be able to serve others more sincerely and more freely, as Paul says, “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord” (Rom. xiv. 7, 8). Thus it is impossible that he should take his ease in this life, and not work for the good of his neighbours, since he must needs speak, act, and converse among men, just as Christ was made in the likeness of men and found in fashion as a man, and had His conversation among men. 71

Yet a Christian has need of none of these things for justification and salvation, but in all his works he ought to entertain this view and look only to this object—that he may serve and be useful to others in all that he does; having nothing before his eyes but the necessities and the advantage of his neighbour. Thus the Apostle commands us to work with our own hands, that we may have to give to those that need. He might have said, that we may support ourselves; but he tells us to give to those that need. It is the part of a Christian to take care of his own body for the very purpose that, by its soundness and well-being, he may be enabled to labour, and to acquire and preserve property, for the aid of those who are in want, that thus the stronger member may serve the weaker member, and we may be children of God, thoughtful and busy one for another, bearing one another’s burdens, and so fulfilling the law of Christ. 72

Here is the truly Christian life, here is faith really working by love, when a man applies himself with joy and love to the works of that freest servitude in which he serves others voluntarily and for nought, himself abundantly satisfied in the fulness and riches of his own faith. 73

Thus, when Paul had taught the Philippians how they had been made rich by that faith in Christ in which they had obtained all things, he teaches them further in these words: “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. ii. 1–4). 74

In this we see clearly that the Apostle lays down this rule for a Christian life: that all our works should be directed to the advantage of others, since every Christian has such abundance through his faith that all his other works and his whole life remain over and above wherewith to serve and benefit his neighbour of spontaneous goodwill. 75

To this end he brings forward Christ as an example, saying, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death” (Phil. ii. 5–8). This most wholesome saying of the Apostle has been darkened to us by men who, totally misunderstanding the expressions “form of God,” “form of a servant,” “fashion,” “likeness of men,” have transferred them to the natures of Godhead and manhood. Paul’s meaning is this: Christ, when He was full of the form of God and abounded in all good things, so that He had no need of works or sufferings to be just and saved—for all these things He had from the very beginning—yet was not puffed up with these things, and did not raise Himself above us and arrogate to Himself power over us, though He might lawfully have done so, but, on the contrary, so acted in labouring, working, suffering, and dying, as to be like the rest of men, and no otherwise than a man in fashion and in conduct, as if He were in want of all things and had nothing of the form of God; and yet all this He did for our sakes, that He might serve us, and that all the works He should do under that form of a servant might become ours. 76

Thus a Christian, like Christ his Head, being full and in abundance through his faith, ought to be content with this form of God, obtained by faith; except that, as I have said, he ought to increase this faith till it be perfected. For this faith is his life, justification, and salvation, preserving his person itself and making it pleasing to God, and bestowing on him all that Christ has, as I have said above, and as Paul affirms: “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Gal. ii. 20). Though he is thus free from all works, yet he ought to empty himself of this liberty, take on him the form of a servant, be made in the likeness of men, be found in fashion as a man, serve, help, and in every way act towards his neighbour as he sees that God through Christ has acted and is acting towards him. All this he should do freely, and with regard to nothing but the good pleasure of God, and he should reason thus:— 77

Lo! my God, without merit on my part, of His pure and free mercy, has given to me, an unworthy, condemned, and contemptible creature all the riches of justification and salvation in Christ, so that I no longer am in want of anything, except of faith to believe that this is so. For such a Father, then, who has overwhelmed me with these inestimable riches of His, why should I not freely, cheerfully, and with my whole heart, and from voluntary zeal, do all that I know will be pleasing to Him and acceptable in His sight? I will therefore give myself as a sort of Christ, to my neighbour, as Christ has given Himself to me; and will do nothing in this life except what I see will be needful, advantageous, and wholesome for my neighbour, since by faith I abound in all good things in Christ. 78

Thus from faith flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love a cheerful, willing, free spirit, disposed to serve our neighbour voluntarily, without taking any account of gratitude or ingratitude, praise or blame, gain or loss. Its object is not to lay men under obligations, nor does it distinguish between friends and enemies, or look to gratitude or ingratitude, but most freely and willingly spends itself and its goods, whether it loses them through ingratitude, or gains goodwill. For thus did its Father, distributing all things to all men abundantly and freely, making His sun to rise upon the just and the unjust. Thus, too, the child does and endures nothing except from the free joy with which it delights through Christ in God, the Giver of such great gifts. 79

You see, then, that, if we recognize those great and precious gifts, as Peter says, which have been given to us, love is quickly diffused in our hearts through the Spirit, and by love we are made free, joyful, all-powerful, active workers, victors over all our tribulations, servants to our neighbour, and nevertheless lords of all things. But, for those who do not recognize the good things given to them through Christ, Christ has been born in vain; such persons walk by works, and will never attain the taste and feeling of these great things. Therefore just as our neighbour is in want, and has need of our abundance, so we too in the sight of God were in want and had need of His mercy. And as our heavenly Father has freely helped us in Christ, so ought we freely to help our neighbour by our body and works, and each should become to other a sort of Christ, so that we may be mutually Christs, and that the same Christ may be in all of us; that is, that we may be truly Christians. 80

Who then can comprehend the riches and glory of the Christian life? It can do all things, has all things, and is in want of nothing; is lord over sin, death, and hell, and at the same time is the obedient and useful servant of all. But alas! it is at this day unknown throughout the world; it is neither preached nor sought after, so that we are quite ignorant about our own name, why we are and are called Christians. We are certainly called so from Christ, who is not absent, but dwells among us—provided, that is, that we believe in Him and are reciprocally and mutually one the Christ of the other, doing to our neighbour as Christ does to us. But now, in the doctrine of men, we are taught only to seek after merits, rewards, and things which are already ours, and we have made of Christ a taskmaster far more severe than Moses. 81

The Blessed Virgin beyond all others, affords us an example of the same faith, in that she was purified according to the law of Moses, and like all other women, though she was bound by no such law and had no need of purification. Still she submitted to the law voluntarily and of free love, making herself like the rest of women, that she might not offend or throw contempt on them. She was not justified by doing this; but, being already justified, she did it freely and gratuitously. Thus ought our works too to be done, and not in order to be justified by them; for, being first justified by faith, we ought to do all our works freely and cheerfully for the sake of others. 82

St. Paul circumcised his disciple Timothy, not because he needed circumcision for his justification, but that he might not offend or contemn those Jews, weak in the faith, who had not yet been able to comprehend the liberty of faith. On the other hand, when they contemned liberty and urged that circumcision was necessary for justification, he resisted them, and would not allow Titus to be circumcised. For, as he would not offend or contemn any one’s weakness in faith, but yielded for the time to their will, so, again, he would not have the liberty of faith offended or contemned by hardened self-justifiers, but walked in a middle path, sparing the weak for the time, and always resisting the hardened, that he might convert all to the liberty of faith. On the same principle we ought to act, receiving those that are weak in the faith, but boldly resisting these hardened teachers of works, of whom we shall hereafter speak at more length. 83

Christ also, when His disciples were asked for the tribute money, asked of Peter whether the children of a king were not free from taxes. Peter agreed to this; yet Jesus commanded him to go to the sea, saying, “Lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth thou shalt find a piece of money; that take, and give unto them for Me and thee” (Matt. xvii. 27). 84

This example is very much to our purpose; for here Christ calls Himself and His disciples free men and children of a King, in want of nothing; and yet He voluntarily submits and pays the tax. Just as far, then, as this work was necessary or useful to Christ for justification or salvation, so far do all His other works or those of His disciples avail for justification. They are really free and subsequent to justification, and only done to serve others and set them an example. 85

Such are the works which Paul inculcated, that Christians should be subject to principalities and powers and ready to every good work (Titus iii. 1), not that they may be justified by these things—for they are already justified by faith—but that in liberty of spirit they may thus be the servants of others and subject to powers, obeying their will out of gratuitous love. 86

Such, too, ought to have been the works of all colleges, monasteries, and priests; every one doing the works of his own profession and state of life, not in order to be justified by them, but in order to bring his own body into subjection, as an example to others, who themselves also need to keep under their bodies, and also in order to accommodate himself to the will of others, out of free love. But we must always guard most carefully against any vain confidence or presumption of being justified, gaining merit, or being saved by these works, this being the part of faith alone, as I have so often said. 87

Any man possessing this knowledge may easily keep clear of danger among those innumerable commands and precepts of the Pope, of bishops, of monasteries, of churches, of princes, and of magistrates, which some foolish pastors urge on us as being necessary for justification and salvation, calling them precepts of the Church, when they are not so at all. For the Christian freeman will speak thus: I will fast, I will pray, I will do this or that which is commanded me by men, not as having any need of these things for justification or salvation, but that I may thus comply with the will of the Pope, of the bishop, of such a community or such a magistrate, or of my neighbour as an example to him; for this cause I will do and suffer all things, just as Christ did and suffered much more for me, though He needed not at all to do so on His own account, and made Himself for my sake under the law, when He was not under the law. And although tyrants may do me violence or wrong in requiring obedience to these things, yet it will not hurt me to do them, so long as they are not done against God. 88

From all this every man will be able to attain a sure judgment and faithful discrimination between all works and laws, and to know who are blind and foolish pastors, and who are true and good ones. For whatsoever work is not directed to the sole end either of keeping under the body, or of doing service to our neighbour—provided he require nothing contrary to the will of God—is no good or Christian work. Hence I greatly fear that at this day few or no colleges, monasteries, altars, or ecclesiastical functions are Christian ones; and the same may be said of fasts and special prayers to certain saints. I fear that in all these, nothing is being sought but what is already ours; while we fancy that by these things our sins are purged away and salvation is attained, and thus utterly do away with Christian liberty. This comes from ignorance of Christian faith and liberty. 89

This ignorance and this crushing of liberty are diligently promoted by the teaching of very many blind pastors, who stir up and urge the people to a zeal for these things, praising them and puffing them up with their indulgences, but never teaching faith. Now I would advise you, if you have any wish to pray, to fast, or to make foundations in churches, as they call it, to take care not to do so with the object of gaining any advantage, either temporal or eternal. You will thus wrong your faith, which alone bestows all things on you, and the increase of which, either by working or by suffering, is alone to be cared for. What you give, give freely and without price, that others may prosper and have increase from you and your goodness. Thus you will be a truly good man and a Christian. For what to you are your goods and your works, which are done over and above for the subjection of the body, since you have abundance for yourself through your faith, in which God has given you all things? 90

We give this rule: the good things which we have from God ought to flow from one to another and become common to all, so that every one of us may, as it were, put on his neighbour, and so behave towards him as if he were himself in his place. They flowed and do flow from Christ to us; He put us on, and acted for us as if He Himself were what we are. From us they flow to those who have need of them; so that my faith and righteousness ought to be laid down before God as a covering and intercession for the sins of my neighbour, which I am to take on myself, and so labour and endure servitude in them, as if they were my own; for thus has Christ done for us. This is true love and the genuine truth of Christian life. But only there is it true and genuine where there is true and genuine faith. Hence the Apostle attributes to charity this quality: that she seeketh not her own. 91

We conclude therefore that a Christian man does not live in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbour, or else is no Christian: in Christ by faith; in his neighbour by love. By faith he is carried upwards above himself to God, and by love he sinks back below himself to his neighbour, still always abiding in God and His love, as Christ says, “Verily I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John i. 51). 92

Thus much concerning liberty, which, as you see, is a true and spiritual liberty, making our hearts free from all sins, laws, and commandments, as Paul says, “The law is not made for a righteous man” (1 Tim. i. 9), and one which surpasses all other external liberties, as far as heaven is above earth. May Christ make us to understand and preserve this liberty. Amen. 93

Finally, for the sake of those to whom nothing can be stated so well but that they misunderstand and distort it, we must add a word, in case they can understand even that. There are very many persons who, when they hear of this liberty of faith, straightway turn it into an occasion of licence. They think that everything is now lawful for them, and do not choose to show themselves free men and Christians in any other way than by their contempt and reprehension of ceremonies, of traditions, of human laws; as if they were Christians merely because they refuse to fast on stated days, or eat flesh when others fast, or omit the customary prayers; scoffing at the precepts of men, but utterly passing over all the rest that belongs to the Christian religion. On the other hand, they are most pertinaciously resisted by those who strive after salvation solely by their observance of and reverence for ceremonies, as if they would be saved merely because they fast on stated days, or abstain from flesh, or make formal prayers; talking loudly of the precepts of the Church and of the Fathers, and not caring a straw about those things which belong to our genuine faith. Both these parties are plainly culpable, in that, while they neglect matters which are of weight and necessary for salvation, they contend noisily about such as are without weight and not necessary. 94

How much more rightly does the Apostle Paul teach us to walk in the middle path, condemning either extreme and saying, “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth” (Rom. xiv. 3)! You see here how the Apostle blames those who, not from religious feeling, but in mere contempt, neglect and rail at ceremonial observances, and teaches them not to despise, since this “knowledge puffeth up.” Again, he teaches the pertinacious upholders of these things not to judge their opponents. For neither party observes towards the other that charity which edifieth. In this matter we must listen to Scripture, which teaches us to turn aside neither to the right hand nor to the left, but to follow those right precepts of the Lord which rejoice the heart. For just as a man is not righteous merely because he serves and is devoted to works and ceremonial rites, so neither will he be accounted righteous merely because he neglects and despises them. 95

It is not from works that we are set free by the faith of Christ, but from the belief in works, that is from foolishly presuming to seek justification through works. Faith redeems our consciences, makes them upright, and preserves them, since by it we recognize the truth that justification does not depend on our works, although good works neither can nor ought to be absent, just as we cannot exist without food and drink and all the functions of this mortal body. Still it is not on them that our justification is based, but on faith; and yet they ought not on that account to be despised or neglected. Thus in this world we are compelled by the needs of this bodily life; but we are not hereby justified. “My kingdom is not hence, nor of this world,” says Christ; but He does not say, “My kingdom is not here, nor in this world.” Paul, too, says, “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh” (2 Cor. x. 3), and “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Gal. ii. 20). Thus our doings, life, and being, in works and ceremonies, are done from the necessities of this life, and with the motive of governing our bodies; but yet we are not justified by these things, but by the faith of the Son of God. 96

The Christian must therefore walk in the middle path, and set these two classes of men before his eyes. He may meet with hardened and obstinate ceremonialists, who, like deaf adders, refuse to listen to the truth of liberty, and cry up, enjoin, and urge on us their ceremonies, as if they could justify us without faith. Such were the Jews of old, who would not understand, that they might act well. These men we must resist, do just the contrary to what they do, and be bold to give them offence, lest by this impious notion of theirs they should deceive many along with themselves. Before the eyes of these men it is expedient to eat flesh, to break fasts, and to do in behalf of the liberty of faith things which they hold to be the greatest sins. We must say of them, “Let them alone; they be blind leaders of the blind” (Matt. xv. 14). In this way Paul also would not have Titus circumcised, though these men urged it; and Christ defended the Apostles, who had plucked ears of corn on the Sabbath day; and many like instances. 97

Or else we may meet with simple-minded and ignorant persons, weak in the faith, as the Apostle calls them, who are as yet unable to apprehend that liberty of faith, even if willing to do so. These we must spare, lest they should be offended. We must bear with their infirmity, till they shall be more fully instructed. For since these men do not act thus from hardened malice, but only from weakness of faith, therefore, in order to avoid giving them offence, we must keep fasts and do other things which they consider necessary. This is required of us by charity, which injures no one, but serves all men. It is not the fault of these persons that they are weak, but that of their pastors, who by the snares and weapons of their own traditions have brought them into bondage and wounded their souls when they ought to have been set free and healed by the teaching of faith and liberty. Thus the Apostle says, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth” (1 Cor. viii. 13); and again, “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. It is evil for that man who eateth with offence” (Rom. xiv. 14, 20). 98

Thus, though we ought boldly to resist those teachers of tradition, and though the laws of the pontiffs, by which they make aggressions on the people of God, deserve sharp reproof, yet we must spare the timid crowd, who are held captive by the laws of those impious tyrants, till they are set free. Fight vigorously against the wolves, but on behalf of the sheep, not against the sheep. And this you may do by inveighing against the laws and lawgivers, and yet at the same time observing these laws with the weak, lest they be offended, until they shall themselves recognize the tyranny, and understand their own liberty. If you wish to use your liberty, do it secretly, as Paul says, “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God” (Rom. xiv. 22). But take care not to use it in the presence of the weak. On the other hand, in the presence of tyrants and obstinate opposers, use your liberty in their despite, and with the utmost pertinacity, that they too may understand that they are tyrants, and their laws useless for justification, nay that they had no right to establish such laws. 99

Since then we cannot live in this world without ceremonies and works, since the hot and inexperienced period of youth has need of being restrained and protected by such bonds, and since every one is bound to keep under his own body by attention to these things, therefore the minister of Christ must be prudent and faithful in so ruling and teaching the people of Christ, in all these matters, that no root of bitterness may spring up among them, and so many be defiled, as Paul warned the Hebrews; that is, that they may not lose the faith, and begin to be defiled by a belief in works as the means of justification. This is a thing which easily happens, and defiles very many, unless faith be constantly inculcated along with works. It is impossible to avoid this evil, when faith is passed over in silence, and only the ordinances of men are taught, as has been done hitherto by the pestilent, impious, and soul-destroying traditions of our pontiffs and opinions of our theologians. An infinite number of souls have been drawn down to hell by these snares, so that you may recognize the work of antichrist. 100

In brief, as poverty is imperilled amid riches, honesty amid business, humility amid honours, abstinence amid feasting, purity amid pleasures, so is justification by faith imperilled among ceremonies. Solomon says, “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” (Prov. vi. 27). And yet as we must live among riches, business, honours, pleasures, feastings, so must we among ceremonies, that is among perils. Just as infant boys have the greatest need of being cherished in the bosoms and by the care of girls, that they may not die, and yet, when they are grown, there is peril to their salvation in living among girls, so inexperienced and fervid young men require to be kept in and restrained by the barriers of ceremonies, even were they of iron, lest their weak minds should rush headlong into vice. And yet it would be death to them to persevere in believing that they can be justified by these things. They must rather be taught that they have been thus imprisoned, not with the purpose of their being justified or gaining merit in this way, but in order that they might avoid wrong-doing, and be more easily instructed in that righteousness which is by faith, a thing which the headlong character of youth would not bear unless it were put under restraint. 101

Hence in the Christian life ceremonies are to be no otherwise looked upon than as builders and workmen look upon those preparations for building or working which are not made with any view of being permanent or anything in themselves, but only because without them there could be no building and no work. When the structure is completed, they are laid aside. Here you see that we do not contemn these preparations, but set the highest value on them; a belief in them we do contemn, because no one thinks that they constitute a real and permanent structure. If any one were so manifestly out of his senses as to have no other object in life but that of setting up these preparations with all possible expense, diligence, and perseverance, while he never thought of the structure itself, but pleased himself and made his boast of these useless preparations and props, should we not all pity his madness and think that, at the cost thus thrown away, some great building might have been raised? 102

Thus, too, we do not contemn works and ceremonies—nay, we set the highest value on them; but we contemn the belief in works, which no one should consider to constitute true righteousness, as do those hypocrites who employ and throw away their whole life in the pursuit of works, and yet never attain to that for the sake of which the works are done. As the Apostle says, they are “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. iii. 7). They appear to wish to build, they make preparations, and yet they never do build; and thus they continue in a show of godliness, but never attain to its power. 103

Meanwhile they please themselves with this zealous pursuit, and even dare to judge all others, whom they do not see adorned with such a glittering display of works; while, if they had been imbued with faith, they might have done great things for their own and others’ salvation, at the same cost which they now waste in abuse of the gifts of God. But since human nature and natural reason, as they call it, are naturally superstitious, and quick to believe that justification can be attained by any laws or works proposed to them, and since nature is also exercised and confirmed in the same view by the practice of all earthly lawgivers, she can never of her own power free herself from this bondage to works, and come to a recognition of the liberty of faith. 104

We have therefore need to pray that God will lead us and make us taught of God, that is, ready to learn from God; and will Himself, as He has promised, write His law in our hearts; otherwise there is no hope for us. For unless He himself teach us inwardly this wisdom hidden in a mystery, nature cannot but condemn it and judge it to be heretical. She takes offence at it, and it seems folly to her, just as we see that it happened of old in the case of the prophets and Apostles, and just as blind and impious pontiffs, with their flatterers, do now in my case and that of those who are like me, upon whom, together with ourselves, may God at length have mercy, and lift up the light of His countenance upon them, that we may know His way upon earth and His saving health among all nations, who is blessed for evermore. Amen. In the year of the Lord MDXX. [1520 A.D.]


The Magna Carta – 1215 A.D.

The text of the Magna Carta of 1215 bears many traces of haste, and is the product of much bargaining. Most of its clauses deal with specific, and often long-standing, grievances rather than with general principles of law. Some of the grievances are clear; others can be understood only in the context of the feudal society in which they arose. This is the Great Charter King John was forced to sign at swordpoint. The precise meaning of a few clauses is still uncertain.

Clauses marked (+) are still valid under the charter of 1225, but with a few minor amendments. Clauses marked (*) were omitted in all later reissues of the charter. In the charter itself the clauses are not numbered, and the text reads continuously. The translation sets out to convey the sense rather than the precise wording of the original Latin. Read the text:


JOHN, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, Greeting. KNOW THAT BEFORE GOD, for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom, at the advice of our reverend fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry archbishop of Dublin, William bishop of London, Peter bishop of Winchester, Jocelin bishop of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh bishop of Lincoln, Walter bishop of Worcester, William bishop of Coventry, Benedict bishop of Rochester, Master Pandulf subdeacon and member of the papal household, Brother Aymeric master of the knighthood of the Temple in England, William Marshal earl of Pembroke, William earl of Salisbury, William earl of Warren, William earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway constable of Scotland, Warin fitz Gerald, Peter fitz Herbert, Hubert de Burgh seneschal of Poitou, Hugh de Neville, Matthew fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip Daubeny, Robert de Roppeley, John Marshal, John fitz Hugh, and other loyal subjects:

+ (1) FIRST, THAT WE HAVE GRANTED TO GOD, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired. That we wish this so to be observed, appears from the fact that of our own free will, before the outbreak of the present dispute between us and our barons, we granted and confirmed by charter the freedom of the Church’s elections – a right reckoned to be of the greatest necessity and importance to it – and caused this to be confirmed by Pope Innocent III. This freedom we shall observe ourselves, and desire to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuity. TO ALL FREE MEN OF OUR KINGDOM we have also granted, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below, to have and to keep for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs:

(2) If any earl, baron, or other person that holds lands directly of the Crown, for military service, shall die, and at his death his heir shall be of full age and owe a ‘relief’, the heir shall have his inheritance on payment of the ancient scale of ‘relief’. That is to say, the heir or heirs of an earl shall pay £100 for the entire earl’s barony, the heir or heirs of a knight 100s. at most for the entire knight’s ‘fee’, and any man that owes less shall pay less, in accordance with the ancient usage of ‘fees’.

(3) But if the heir of such a person is under age and a ward, when he comes of age he shall have his inheritance without ‘relief’ or fine.

(4) The guardian of the land of an heir who is under age shall take from it only reasonable revenues, customary dues, and feudal services. He shall do this without destruction or damage to men or property. If we have given the guardianship of the land to a sheriff, or to any person answerable to us for the revenues, and he commits destruction or damage, we will exact compensation from him, and the land shall be entrusted to two worthy and prudent men of the same ‘fee’, who shall be answerable to us for the revenues, or to the person to whom we have assigned them. If we have given or sold to anyone the guardianship of such land, and he causes destruction or damage, he shall lose the guardianship of it, and it shall be handed over to two worthy and prudent men of the same ‘fee’, who shall be similarly answerable to us.

(5) For so long as a guardian has guardianship of such land, he shall maintain the houses, parks, fish preserves, ponds, mills, and everything else pertaining to it, from the revenues of the land itself. When the heir comes of age, he shall restore the whole land to him, stocked with plough teams and such implements of husbandry as the season demands and the revenues from the land can reasonably bear.

(6) Heirs may be given in marriage, but not to someone of lower social standing. Before a marriage takes place, it shall be made known to the heir’s next-of-kin.

(7) At her husband’s death, a widow may have her marriage portion and inheritance at once and without trouble. She shall pay nothing for her dower, marriage portion, or any inheritance that she and her husband held jointly on the day of his death. She may remain in her husband’s house for forty days after his death, and within this period her dower shall be assigned to her.

(8) No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she wishes to remain without a husband. But she must give security that she will not marry without royal consent, if she holds her lands of the Crown, or without the consent of whatever other lord she may hold them of.

(9) Neither we nor our officials will seize any land or rent in payment of a debt, so long as the debtor has movable goods sufficient to discharge the debt. A debtor’s sureties shall not be distrained upon so long as the debtor himself can discharge his debt. If, for lack of means, the debtor is unable to discharge his debt, his sureties shall be answerable for it. If they so desire, they may have the debtor’s lands and rents until they have received satisfaction for the debt that they paid for him, unless the debtor can show that he has settled his obligations to them.

* (10) If anyone who has borrowed a sum of money from Jews dies before the debt has been repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age, irrespective of whom he holds his lands. If such a debt falls into the hands of the Crown, it will take nothing except the principal sum specified in the bond.

* (11) If a man dies owing money to Jews, his wife may have her dower and pay nothing towards the debt from it. If he leaves children that are under age, their needs may also be provided for on a scale appropriate to the size of his holding of lands. The debt is to be paid out of the residue, reserving the service due to his feudal lords. Debts owed to persons other than Jews are to be dealt with similarly.

* (12) No ‘scutage’ or ‘aid’ may be levied in our kingdom without its general consent, unless it is for the ransom of our person, to make our eldest son a knight, and (once) to marry our eldest daughter. For these purposes only a reasonable ‘aid’ may be levied. ‘Aids’ from the city of London are to be treated similarly.

+ (13) The city of London shall enjoy all its ancient liberties and free customs, both by land and by water. We also will and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall enjoy all their liberties and free customs.

* (14) To obtain the general consent of the realm for the assessment of an ‘aid’ – except in the three cases specified above – or a ‘scutage’, we will cause the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons to be summoned individually by letter. To those who hold lands directly of us we will cause a general summons to be issued, through the sheriffs and other officials, to come together on a fixed day (of which at least forty days notice shall be given) and at a fixed place. In all letters of summons, the cause of the summons will be stated. When a summons has been issued, the business appointed for the day shall go forward in accordance with the resolution of those present, even if not all those who were summoned have appeared.

* (15) In future we will allow no one to levy an ‘aid’ from his free men, except to ransom his person, to make his eldest son a knight, and (once) to marry his eldest daughter. For these purposes only a reasonable ‘aid’ may be levied.

(16) No man shall be forced to perform more service for a knight’s ‘fee’, or other free holding of land, than is due from it.

(17) Ordinary lawsuits shall not follow the royal court around, but shall be held in a fixed place.

(18) Inquests of novel disseisin, mort d’ancestor, and darrein presentment shall be taken only in their proper county court. We ourselves, or in our absence abroad our chief justice, will send two justices to each county four times a year, and these justices, with four knights of the county elected by the county itself, shall hold the assizes in the county court, on the day and in the place where the court meets.

(19) If any assizes cannot be taken on the day of the county court, as many knights and freeholders shall afterwards remain behind, of those who have attended the court, as will suffice for the administration of justice, having regard to the volume of business to be done.

(20) For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood. In the same way, a merchant shall be spared his merchandise, and a villein the implements of his husbandry, if they fall upon the mercy of a royal court. None of these fines shall be imposed except by the assessment on oath of reputable men of the neighbourhood.

(21) Earls and barons shall be fined only by their equals, and in proportion to the gravity of their offence.

(22) A fine imposed upon the lay property of a clerk in holy orders shall be assessed upon the same principles, without reference to the value of his ecclesiastical benefice.

23) No town or person shall be forced to build bridges over rivers except those with an ancient obligation to do so.

(24) No sheriff, constable, coroners, or other royal officials are to hold lawsuits that should be held by the royal justices.

* (25) Every county, hundred, wapentake, and tithing shall remain at its ancient rent, without increase, except the royal demesne manors.

(26) If at the death of a man who holds a lay ‘fee’ of the Crown, a sheriff or royal official produces royal letters patent of summons for a debt due to the Crown, it shall be lawful for them to seize and list movable goods found in the lay ‘fee’ of the dead man to the value of the debt, as assessed by worthy men. Nothing shall be removed until the whole debt is paid, when the residue shall be given over to the executors to carry out the dead man’s will. If no debt is due to the Crown, all the movable goods shall be regarded as the property of the dead man, except the reasonable shares of his wife and children.

* (27) If a free man dies intestate, his movable goods are to be distributed by his next-of-kin and friends, under the supervision of the Church. The rights of his debtors are to be preserved.

(28) No constable or other royal official shall take corn or other movable goods from any man without immediate payment, unless the seller voluntarily offers postponement of this.

(29) No constable may compel a knight to pay money for castle-guard if the knight is willing to undertake the guard in person, or with reasonable excuse to supply some other fit man to do it. A knight taken or sent on military service shall be excused from castle-guard for the period of this service.

(30) No sheriff, royal official, or other person shall take horses or carts for transport from any free man, without his consent.

(31) Neither we nor any royal official will take wood for our castle, or for any other purpose, without the consent of the owner.

(32) We will not keep the lands of people convicted of felony in our hand for longer than a year and a day, after which they shall be returned to the lords of the ‘fees’ concerned.

(33) All fish-weirs shall be removed from the Thames, the Medway, and throughout the whole of England, except on the sea coast.

(34) The writ called precipe shall not in future be issued to anyone in respect of any holding of land, if a free man could thereby be deprived of the right of trial in his own lord’s court.

(35) There shall be standard measures of wine, ale, and corn (the London quarter), throughout the kingdom. There shall also be a standard width of dyed cloth, russet, and haberject, namely two ells within the selvedges. Weights are to be standardised similarly.

(36) In future nothing shall be paid or accepted for the issue of a writ of inquisition of life or limbs. It shall be given gratis, and not refused.

(37) If a man holds land of the Crown by ‘fee-farm’, ‘socage’, or ‘burgage’, and also holds land of someone else for knight’s service, we will not have guardianship of his heir, nor of the land that belongs to the other person’s ‘fee’, by virtue of the ‘fee-farm’, ‘socage’, or ‘burgage’, unless the ‘fee-farm’ owes knight’s service. We will not have the guardianship of a man’s heir, or of land that he holds of someone else, by reason of any small property that he may hold of the Crown for a service of knives, arrows, or the like.

(38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

+ (39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.

+ (40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

(41) All merchants may enter or leave England unharmed and without fear, and may stay or travel within it, by land or water, for purposes of trade, free from all illegal exactions, in accordance with ancient and lawful customs. This, however, does not apply in time of war to merchants from a country that is at war with us. Any such merchants found in our country at the outbreak of war shall be detained without injury to their persons or property, until we or our chief justice have discovered how our own merchants are being treated in the country at war with us. If our own merchants are safe they shall be safe too.

* (42) In future it shall be lawful for any man to leave and return to our kingdom unharmed and without fear, by land or water, preserving his allegiance to us, except in time of war, for some short period, for the common benefit of the realm. People that have been imprisoned or outlawed in accordance with the law of the land, people from a country that is at war with us, and merchants – who shall be dealt with as stated above – are excepted from this provision.

(43) If a man holds lands of any ‘escheat’ such as the ‘honour’ of Wallingford, Nottingham, Boulogne, Lancaster, or of other ‘escheats’ in our hand that are baronies, at his death his heir shall give us only the ‘relief’ and service that he would have made to the baron, had the barony been in the baron’s hand. We will hold the ‘escheat’ in the same manner as the baron held it.

(44) People who live outside the forest need not in future appear before the royal justices of the forest in answer to general summonses, unless they are actually involved in proceedings or are sureties for someone who has been seized for a forest offence.

* (45) We will appoint as justices, constables, sheriffs, or other officials, only men that know the law of the realm and are minded to keep it well.

(46) All barons who have founded abbeys, and have charters of English kings or ancient tenure as evidence of this, may have guardianship of them when there is no abbot, as is their due.

(47) All forests that have been created in our reign shall at once be disafforested. River-banks that have been enclosed in our reign shall be treated similarly.

*(48) All evil customs relating to forests and warrens, foresters, warreners, sheriffs and their servants, or river-banks and their wardens, are at once to be investigated in every county by twelve sworn knights of the county, and within forty days of their enquiry the evil customs are to be abolished completely and irrevocably. But we, or our chief justice if we are not in England, are first to be informed.

* (49) We will at once return all hostages and charters delivered up to us by Englishmen as security for peace or for loyal service.

* (50) We will remove completely from their offices the kinsmen of Gerard de Athée, and in future they shall hold no offices in England. The people in question are Engelard de Cigogné, Peter, Guy, and Andrew de Chanceaux, Guy de Cigogné, Geoffrey de Martigny and his brothers, Philip Marc and his brothers, with Geoffrey his nephew, and all their followers.

* (51) As soon as peace is restored, we will remove from the kingdom all the foreign knights, bowmen, their attendants, and the mercenaries that have come to it, to its harm, with horses and arms.

* (52) To any man whom we have deprived or dispossessed of lands, castles, liberties, or rights, without the lawful judgment of his equals, we will at once restore these. In cases of dispute the matter shall be resolved by the judgment of the twenty-five barons referred to below in the clause for securing the peace (§61). In cases, however, where a man was deprived or dispossessed of something without the lawful judgment of his equals by our father King Henry or our brother King Richard, and it remains in our hands or is held by others under our warranty, we shall have respite for the period commonly allowed to Crusaders, unless a lawsuit had been begun, or an enquiry had been made at our order, before we took the Cross as a Crusader. On our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once render justice in full.

* (53) We shall have similar respite in rendering justice in connexion with forests that are to be disafforested, or to remain forests, when these were first afforested by our father Henry or our brother Richard; with the guardianship of lands in another person’s ‘fee’, when we have hitherto had this by virtue of a ‘fee’ held of us for knight’s service by a third party; and with abbeys founded in another person’s ‘fee’, in which the lord of the ‘fee’ claims to own a right. On our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once do full justice to complaints about these matters.

(54) No one shall be arrested or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman for the death of any person except her husband.

* (55) All fines that have been given to us unjustly and against the law of the land, and all fines that we have exacted unjustly, shall be entirely remitted or the matter decided by a majority judgment of the twenty-five barons referred to below in the clause for securing the peace (§61) together with Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be present, and such others as he wishes to bring with him. If the archbishop cannot be present, proceedings shall continue without him, provided that if any of the twenty-five barons has been involved in a similar suit himself, his judgment shall be set aside, and someone else chosen and sworn in his place, as a substitute for the single occasion, by the rest of the twenty-five.

(56) If we have deprived or dispossessed any Welshmen of land, liberties, or anything else in England or in Wales, without the lawful judgment of their equals, these are at once to be returned to them. A dispute on this point shall be determined in the Marches by the judgment of equals. English law shall apply to holdings of land in England, Welsh law to those in Wales, and the law of the Marches to those in the Marches. The Welsh shall treat us and ours in the same way.

* (57) In cases where a Welshman was deprived or dispossessed of anything, without the lawful judgment of his equals, by our father King Henry or our brother King Richard, and it remains in our hands or is held by others under our warranty, we shall have respite for the period commonly allowed to Crusaders, unless a lawsuit had been begun, or an enquiry had been made at our order, before we took the Cross as a Crusader. But on our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once do full justice according to the laws of Wales and the said regions. *

(58) We will at once return the son of Llywelyn, all Welsh hostages, and the charters delivered to us as security for the peace.

* (59) With regard to the return of the sisters and hostages of Alexander, king of Scotland, his liberties and his rights, we will treat him in the same way as our other barons of England, unless it appears from the charters that we hold from his father William, formerly king of Scotland, that he should be treated otherwise. This matter shall be resolved by the judgment of his equals in our court.

(60) All these customs and liberties that we have granted shall be observed in our kingdom in so far as concerns our own relations with our subjects. Let all men of our kingdom, whether clergy or laymen, observe them similarly in their relations with their own men.

* (61) SINCE WE HAVE GRANTED ALL THESE THINGS for God, for the better ordering of our kingdom, and to allay the discord that has arisen between us and our barons, and since we desire that they shall be enjoyed in their entirety, with lasting strength, for ever, we give and grant to the barons the following security: The barons shall elect twenty-five of their number to keep, and cause to be observed with all their might, the peace and liberties granted and confirmed to them by this charter. If we, our chief justice, our officials, or any of our servants offend in any respect against any man, or transgress any of the articles of the peace or of this security, and the offence is made known to four of the said twenty-five barons, they shall come to us – or in our absence from the kingdom to the chief justice – to declare it and claim immediate redress. If we, or in our absence abroad the chief justice, make no redress within forty days, reckoning from the day on which the offence was declared to us or to him, the four barons shall refer the matter to the rest of the twenty-five barons, who may distrain upon and assail us in every way possible, with the support of the whole community of the land, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, or anything else saving only our own person and those of the queen and our children, until they have secured such redress as they have determined upon. Having secured the redress, they may then resume their normal obedience to us. Any man who so desires may take an oath to obey the commands of the twenty-five barons for the achievement of these ends, and to join with them in assailing us to the utmost of his power. We give public and free permission to take this oath to any man who so desires, and at no time will we prohibit any man from taking it. Indeed, we will compel any of our subjects who are unwilling to take it to swear it at our command.

If one of the twenty-five barons dies or leaves the country, or is prevented in any other way from discharging his duties, the rest of them shall choose another baron in his place, at their discretion, who shall be duly sworn in as they were. In the event of disagreement among the twenty-five barons on any matter referred to them for decision, the verdict of the majority present shall have the same validity as a unanimous verdict of the whole twenty-five, whether these were all present or some of those summoned were unwilling or unable to appear. The twenty-five barons shall swear to obey all the above articles faithfully, and shall cause them to be obeyed by others to the best of their power. We will not seek to procure from anyone, either by our own efforts or those of a third party, anything by which any part of these concessions or liberties might be revoked or diminished. Should such a thing be procured, it shall be null and void and we will at no time make use of it, either ourselves or through a third party.

* (62) We have remitted and pardoned fully to all men any ill-will, hurt, or grudges that have arisen between us and our subjects, whether clergy or laymen, since the beginning of the dispute. We have in addition remitted fully, and for our own part have also pardoned, to all clergy and laymen any offences committed as a result of the said dispute between Easter in the sixteenth year of our reign (i.e. 1215) and the restoration of peace. In addition we have caused letters patent to be made for the barons, bearing witness to this security and to the concessions set out above, over the seals of Stephen archbishop of Canterbury, Henry archbishop of Dublin, the other bishops named above, and Master Pandulf.

* (63) IT IS ACCORDINGLY OUR WISH AND COMMAND that the English Church shall be free, and that men in our kingdom shall have and keep all these liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably in their fullness and entirety for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all things and all places for ever. Both we and the barons have sworn that all this shall be observed in good faith and without deceit. Witness the abovementioned people and many others. Given by our hand in the meadow that is called Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines, on the fifteenth day of June in the seventeenth year of our reign (i.e. 1215: the new regnal year began on 28 May).


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Coronation Charter of King Henry I

The Coronation Charter of King Henry I, also known as the Charter of Liberties , dates to 1100 A.D. With this charter, granted by Henry when he ascended the throne, the king formally bound himself to the laws, setting the stage for the rule of law and constitutionalism. The Charter of Liberties inspired those who compelled King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215 and served as the model for that great document.


Henry, king of the English, to Bishop Samson and Urso de Abetot and all his barons and faithful, both French and English, of Worcestershire, [copies were sent to all the shires] greeting.

1. Know that by the mercy of God and the common counsel of the barons of the whole kingdom of England I have been crowned king of said kingdom; and because the kingdom had been oppressed by unjust exactions, I, through fear of god and the love which I have toward you all, in the first place make the holy church of God free, so that I will neither sell nor put to farm, nor on the death of archbishop or bishop or abbot will I take anything from the church’s demesne or from its men until the successor shall enter it. And I take away all the bad customs by which the kingdom of England was unjustly oppressed; which bad customs I here set down in part:

2. If any of my barons, earls, or others who hold of me shall have died, his heir shall not buy back his land as he used to do in the time of my brother, but he shall relieve it by a just and lawful relief. Likewise also the men of my barons shall relieve their lands from their lords by a just and lawful relief.

3. And if any of my barons or other men should wish to give his daughter, sister, niece, or kinswoman in marriage, let him speak with me about it; but I will neither take anything from him for this permission nor prevent his giving her unless he should be minded to join her to my enemy. And if, upon the death of a baron or other of my men, a daughter is left as heir, I will give her with her land by the advice of my barons. And if, on the death of her husband, the wife is left and without children, she shall have her dowry and right of marriage, and I will not give her to a husband unless according to her will.

4. But if a wife be left with children, she shall indeed have her dowry and right of marriage so long as she shall keep her body lawfully, and I will not give her unless according to her will. And the guardian of the land and children shall be either the wife or another of the relatives who more justly ought to be. And I command that my barons restrain themselves similarly in dealing with the sons and daughters or wives of their men.

5. The common seigniorage, which has been taken through the cities and counties, but which was not taken in the time of King Edward I absolutely forbid henceforth. If any one, whether a moneyer or other, be taken with false money, let due justice be done for it.

6. I remit all pleas and all debts which were owing to my brother, except my lawful fixed revenues and except those amounts which had been agreed upon for the inheritances of others or for things which more justly concerned others. And if any one had pledged anything for his own inheritance, I remit it; also all reliefs which had been agreed upon for just inheritances.

7. And if any of my barons or men shall grow feeble, as he shall give or arrange to give his money, I grant that it be so given. But if, prevented by arms or sickness, he shall not have given or arranged to give his money, his wife, children, relatives, or lawful men shall distribute it for the good of his soul as shall seem best to them.

8. If any of my barons or men commit a crime, he shall not bind himself to a payment at the king’s mercy as he has been doing in the time of my father or my brother; but he shall make amends according to the extent of the crime as he would have done before the time of my father in the time of my other predecessors. But if he be convicted of treachery or heinous crime, he shall make amends as is just.

9. I forgive all murders committed before the day I was crowned king; and those which shall be committed in the future shall be justly compensated according to the law of King Edward.

10. By the common consent of my barons I have kept in my hands forests as my father had them.

11. To those knights who render military service for their lands I grant of my own gift that the lands of their demesne ploughs be free from all payments and all labor, so that, having been released from so great a burden, they may equip themselves well with horses and arms and be fully prepared for my service and the defense of my kingdom.

12. I impose a strict peace upon my whole kingdom and command that it be maintained henceforth.

13. I restore to you the law of King Edward with those amendments introduced into it by my father with the advice of his barons.

14. If any one, since the death of King William my brother, has taken anything belonging to me or to any one else, the whole is to be quickly restored without fine; but if any one keep anything of it, he upon whom it shall be found shall pay me a heavy fine.

Witnesses Maurice bishop of London, and William bishop elect of Winchester, and Gerard bishop of Hereford, and earl Henry, and earl Simon, and Walter Giffard,and Robert de Montfort, and Roger Bigot, and Eudo the steward, and Robert son of Hamo, and Robert Malet. At London when I was crowned. Farewell.


Compact of Ethelred – 1014 A.D.

Our Anglo-American Heritage of Liberty traces back to early England in 1014 A.D., with the Compact of Ethelred.

David Zuniga, founder of AmericaAgain!, noted our struggle for liberty “thus operates not under some new-fangled idea, but continues in the honored tradition of 1,000 years of western constitutional history,” he concluded. “This time-honored tradition began with the Compact of Ethelred in 1014 A.D. — the first true constitution wherein a fee people demanded obedience and agreement from a king.”

Little is known of the specific text of the Compact of Ethelred, but records:

“A.D. 1014 . This year King Sweyne ended his days at Candlemas,
the third day before the nones of February; and the same year
Elfwy, Bishop of York, was consecrated in London, on the
festival of St. Juliana. The fleet all chose Knute for king;
whereupon advised all the counsellors of England, clergy and
laity, that they should send after King Ethelred; saying, that
no sovereign was dearer to them than their natural lord, if
he would govern them better than he did before. Then sent the
king hither his son Edward, with his messengers; who had orders
to greet all his people,saying that he would be their faithful
lord, would better each of those things that they disliked, and
that each of the things should be forgiven which had been
either done or said against him; provided they all unanimously,
without treachery, turned to him. Then was full friendship
established in word and in deed and in compact, on either side.
And every Danish king they proclaimed an outlaw from England
forever. Then came King Ethelred home to his people, in Lent,
and he was gladly received by them all….”

At this time, England was was just beginning to recover from the Norse invasions and Roman occupation to find the blessings of stability and civilized progress as a distinct society.

Liberty and the Bible: New Testament (KJV)

Jesus Christ is the focus of the Bible’s New Testament, the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, the Son of God granting us liberty. In II Corinthians 3:17b we are reminded that “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

OnlyWay Editor David McElroy gives scriptures and commentary.


Truth and Liberty

In John 8:31-32, Christ promised (31b) “…If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; (32) And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” God sent His Son to teach us the principles of liberty, to grant us liberty, so we might in truth be free!
So, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed,” Christ assures us in John 8:36. Truth and Freedom are integral, and that is why we face deceit and “The Father Of Lies” at every turn.

Many use Romans 13 to insist we must blindly obey all government laws and officers, that even obviously corrupt governments can only exist with God’s granting them existance. Read these Romans 13 verses so frequently cited and think:

(1.) “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Are not the souls of government officers and rulers to be subject to God? Is God not the highest power? Should corruption in government not be punished?

(2.) “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” What was that ordinance again… was it not to be subject to God? Was Peter not correct when he said “We ought to obey God rather than men?” in Acts 5:29 where he and other apostles rebuked the council prosecuting them for preaching the Gospel?

(3.) “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.” Rulers, government authorities, are to exercise their powers for good and against evil. Do you see godly people in high places? Has evil come to usurp what God has ordained as proper government? Have our rulers become a terror to good works?

(4.) “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to wrath upon him that doeth evil.” God has intended godly men to lead us as His ministers to us, like Moses or Samuel. Instead we have suffered men like Caligula, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Barack Obama. It is due to our lack of vigilance in standing for God’s principles of liberty that such evil men were able to come to power.

The Apostle Paul speaks to these principles in the rest of Romans 13.


Our “liberty teeth“, our weapons, are vested in our right to self-defense, which the Bible speaks of. Our Lord Jesus supported it.

Yes, we are to live peacefully in brotherly love as much as we are able. We are to “turn the other cheek” to slights and avoid senseless violence. We are never to murder. But if a clear and present lethal danger confronts us, we should defend ourselves. Offense is prohibited, defense is a duty.

In early Israel, each man was expected to provide and carry his own weapon, usually a sword, to defend himself, his family and community in case of an enemy attack. This was a militia type of defense system. However, as Israel came under increasingly centralized government, especially under Caesar’s dominion, Roman law prohibited civilian ownership or use of swords.

In Luke 22:36, Jesus Christ told his disciples “…he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.”

Jesus was saying having a sword, prohibited by Roman law, was even more important than having a cloak or a coat! He wanted his disciples to have the means to defend themselves against evil and remain at liberty.

Our pacifist Christian friends speak of Christ’s example, of his telling Peter to sheath his sword after he wielded it in Jesus’ defense when he was arrested in the garden. In terms of following Christ’s example, one must recall that his personal nonresistance going to the cross was intertwined with his unique calling. He did not resist his arrest because it was God’s will that he fulfill His prophetic role as the redemptive Lamb of God (Matthew 26:52-56). During his ministry, however, he refused to be arrested because God’s timing for his death had not yet come (John 8:59). Jesus’ unique nonresistance during the Passion is not a mandate against self-defense.

A plain reading of Luke 22:36 informs us that Jesus approved of self-defense.

Self-defense can be one of the greatest examples of love. Jesus Christ said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). When protecting your family or even a neighbor, a Christian is unselfishly facing lethal danger for the sake of others’ well-being. We should resist murderers.

Theologians J. P. Moreland and Norman Geisler say that “to permit murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong. To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is an evil. To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable. In brief, not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission. Any man who refuses to protect his wife and children against a violent intruder fails them morally.”

Keep your liberty teeth sharp.


The Law Of Liberty
In James 1:25, we find that “…whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”


Liberty and Rulers

Did Jesus Christ speak in support of liberty in Mark 10:42-44 when he advised his disciples after hearing them argue about which of them was to have the greatest honor in Heaven? (42.) “But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, ‘Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. (43.) But so shall it not be among you, but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister. (44.) And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.'”

First, Jesus spoke of how the world has rulers who exercise authority over others, “lording it over” them. Then, Jesus said his disciples were not to seek lordship and authority over others, but to serve them as ministers.

If you look into the Greek dictionary portion of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, you will find the root of the word translated as ruler is archon, the same root of words like monarch, oligarch, plutarch, etc. Christ was telling his disciples to avoid seeking their own “archy”, or to live in “anarchy”! A Christian community was not to have a ruler. This does not mean having no rules. Christ was not telling his disciples to be wild, unprincipled, selfish, sociopathic sorts, but free men at liberty within God’s law, serving others in the love of Christ and caring for the needs of their people. They were to be brothers in Christ, not kings nor governors.

Liberty is restrained by the rights of others in a disciplined life exemplified by the “Golden Rule” cited in Matthew 7:12 , in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.

In Matthew 22:35-40 Christ answered a lawyer’s crafty question about which of the commandments was greatest in the law. (37.) “Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (38.) This is the first and greatest commandment. (39.) And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (40.) On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.'”

That is the basis of the Golden Rule. It makes God’s law simple and grants us much liberty. Simply love. But men so often want to complicate and obfuscate matters seeking control over others. Remember, anything less than the Ten Commandments is licentiousness, anything more is tyranny.


Liberty and the Bible: Old Testament (KJV)

The Liberty Bell rang out from Independence Hall in Philadelphia July 8th, 1776, to summon people to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Its inscription quotes Leviticus – 25:10b: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof:” It should lead one to read the whole verse: “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.” Might this raise issues of liberty in your mind? What might be returned to you?

OnlyWay Editor David McElroy gives scripture and commentary.


The Foundations Of Law are widely acknowledged in Western societies to be rooted in God’s TEN COMMANDMENTS cited in Exodus 20. They were rendered by YHWH and delivered to the Hebrews by Moses. The commandments are inscribed in large letters on the wall behind the bench in the US Supreme Court House. Read the list, starting at verse 1:

(1.)You shall have no other gods before Me.
(2.)You shall not make idols.
(3.)You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
(4.)Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
(5.)Honor your father and your mother.
(6.)You shall not murder.
(7.)You shall not commit adultery.
(8.)You shall not steal.
(9.)You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
(10.)You shall not covet.

In a brief synopsis, to govern within the Ten Commandments renders liberty, law less than these commandments is licentiousness and law exceeding these commandments is tyranny.

Jesus Christ summed these commandments in reply to a cunning lawyer in Matthew 22: 35-40. Christ had earlier stated the basis for his understanding of God’s law in his Sermon on the Mount, which is famously known as the “Golden Rule” cited in Matthew 7:12.


Free People need to Keep and Bear Arms as illustrated in 1 Samuel 13: 19-20, wherein the people of Israel had been prohibited blacksmiths and metal weapons under Philistine tyranny. The Philistines demanded Israelis come to them to sharpen metal tools. Read:

(19.) “Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make swords or spears:

(20.) But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.”

Of course, rising in rebellion against the Philistine tyranny, Israelis set up forges and began making their own metal weapons and tools.

To be secure in their own homes in returning from exile, Nehemiah led armed men to rebuild the wall around the ravaged city of Jerusalem. Watchmen and men with trumpets were ready to sound the alarm if invaders came. Read Nehemiah 4:17-19:

(17.) “They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other held a weapon.

(18.) For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and builded. And he that sounded the trumpet by me.”

Should we be secure in our homes and cities?


Israel had been founded as a loose tribal confederation, with a system of judges traveling circuits throughout the land to settle disputes according to God’s law. The last of these judges, Samuel, was confronted by the elders of Israel in a time of increasing corruption, seeking a king and a new system of centralized rule. Read 1 Samuel 8:5-20 for God’s warning about a central government’s rulers. Israel’s elders came:

(5.) “And said unto him, ‘Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.’
(6.) But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us’. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.

(7.) And the Lord said unto Samuel, ‘Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

(8.) According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.

(9.) Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.’

(10.) And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king.

(11.) And he said, ‘This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.

(12.) And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

(13.) And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

(14.) And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

(15.) And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

(16.) And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

(17.) He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

(18.) And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.’

(19.) Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, ‘Nay; but we will have a king over us;

(20.) That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.'”

Readers! Must we “be like all the nations”, or live in God’s liberty? Was Israel not better as a tribal confederation under godly judges like Samuel than they would be as a nation under a king? What did God say?