MAGISTRATE'S PROTECTION OF THE INNOCENT
BY ISAAC PENINGTON
And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field,
"I speak not this against any magistrates' or people's defending themselves against foreign invasions,
Whether the magistrate, in righteousness and equity, is engaged to defend such, who,
MAGISTRACY [government authority] was intended by God for the defense of the people; not only of those who have ability, and can fight for them, but of such also who cannot, or are forbidden by the love and law of God written in their hearts so to do. Thus women, children, sick persons, aged persons, and also priests in nations, (who have ability to fight, but are exempted by their function, which is not equivalent to the exemption which God makes by the law of his Spirit in the heart), have the benefit of the law, and of the magistrate's protection, without fighting for the defense of either: and is it not most righteous and equal, that fighting, which came in by the fall, should come to an end in such whom God draws out of the fall; and that magistrates, (who have power given them to rule by God, and ought to rule under him), should not require fighting of them whom the Lord of lords has redeemed out of the fighting nature, and chosen to be as examples of meekness and peacefulness in the places where they live? How can he fight with creatures, in whom is love and good-will towards those creatures, and whose bowels are rolling over them, because of their wanderings in the lusts, in the strife, and in the wars? Fighting is not suitable to a gospel Spirit; but to the spirit of the world, and the children of it. The fighting in the gospel is turned inward against the lusts, and not outward against the creatures. There is to be a time, when "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." When the power of the gospel spreads over the whole earth, thus shall it be throughout the earth; and where the power of the Spirit takes hold of and overcomes any heart at present, thus will it be at present with that heart. This blessed state, which shall be brought forth in the general in God's season, must begin in particulars; and they by it are not prejudicial to the world, nor would be so looked upon, if the right eye in man were but open to see with, but emblems of that blessed state which the God of glory has promised to set up in the world in the days of the gospel. And though by this means there may seem to be a weakening of the strength of the magistrate, and of the defense of that nation in which God causes the virtue and power of his truth to spread in the hearts of his people; yet in truth it is not so, but a great strengthening. For if righteousness is the strength of a nation, and the seed of God the support of the earth, then where righteousness is brought forth, and where the seed of God springs up and flourishes, that nation grows strong; and instead of the arms and strength of man, the eternal strength overspreads that nation, and that wisdom springs up in the spirits of men, which is better than weapons of war; and the wisdom which is from above is pure and peaceable, and teaches to make peace, and to remove the cause of contention and wars, and unites the heart to the Lord, in waiting upon him for counsel, strength, and preservation in this state, who brought into it. Now is not this much better and safer than the present estate of things in the world; first, (the prerequisite), to have the cause of wars removed, and a sweet, peaceable, righteous Spirit in the place of it; secondly, to have a peaceable and righteous generation, whom the Lord has made and preserved so, breathing to the Lord for peace, good, and prosperity to the nation, and magistrates of it, and to stretch forth his arm to be a defense about them; thirdly, [after God has made a righteous generation in that nation] to have the God of heaven engaged by his power to defend that power and magistracy which defends righteousness in general, and particularly his people in their obedience unto him, whom it is most righteous for them to obey, and for the magistrate, who claims his rule and dominion under God, to protect them in? Were not this much better both for magistrates and people than the present estate? Oh that that were awakened in man which can rightly discern and judge!
Answer: 1. When the principle of God, which lies hidden in the hearts of men, over which the corrupt nature has grown, and upon which the spirit of darkness in men tramples, shall be raised and come into dominion; righteousness, peace, and good-will shall spring up as naturally among men, as wars, strifes, divisions, emulations, heart-burnings, etc. now do. (Penington is saying that God's spirit must be in control, [come into dominion] before wars could possibly cease. This paper is testifying as to how that might happen; but he is not advocating nations cease protecting themselves or their citizens before God's power has spread over the world.)
2. There is a promise of such a state, "when the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and lie down with the lamb; when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea, and nothing shall hurt or destroy upon God's holy mountain;" but the nations, who have been full of war, shall throw away their weapons, become subject to the spirit of peace and righteousness, and learn war no more; when the wisdom of the wise, and strength of the strong, shall be broken in pieces; and the little child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the cockatrice's den, and lead all. As certainly as the Lord God is true, so this must be in the Lord's season: and will it not be happy when it comes to pass? Who would hinder it? Who would strive to keep the old heavens and the old earth standing, which must be dissolved before the new heavens and the new earth, (in which dwells righteousness), can be formed and brought forth?
3. This state was in a fair forwardness once, before the universal apostasy from that truth and power which God had sown in the earth, upon the breathing of and sending forth his Spirit among his disciples, according to his promise. Precious was that seed, great the growth of it, the woman, or true church, full of beauty and glory, and brought forth the man-child, which was to rule all nations; but it has pleased the Lord to adjourn that day until after the night of apostasy, catching up the man-child to heaven, and causing the woman to fly into the wilderness, where she has been hidden ever since from all but the inward eye of the inward Israel: and the world, in the heathenish nature, has been crying up holy church, holy church! to her who has set upon the beast, and been drunk with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; but the tender spouse, the Lamb's wife, the mother of all the lambs, has been banished from the earth, and a cruel, bloody step-mother set over all the those of tender conscience ever since. Oh woeful, woeful has been the state of the true church, and of all the children of truth, all this dark night of the apostasy! but the Lord is putting an end to it: and though this false woman seems to be recovering ground, and setting her feet over the necks of the lambs again, and begins to think she shall prevail, and sit as a lady and queen over the consciences of God's heritage for ever; yet she shall find that strong is the Lord God who has begun to judge her; and into the sea which she raises shall she sink like a stone, and her fall shall be great and speedy: for even in one day shall her misery overtake and devour her.
4. After this long night of apostasy the Lord has begun to make some preparations towards this state again. He has opened his treasuries; he has let forth the power of his truth; he has poured down of his Spirit to sanctify and gather a people unto himself; he has opened the principle of life in the hearts of many, and in a great measure drawn them into it; who, so far as they are renewed thereby, and found there, are made peaceable, pure, meek, gentle, innocent, upright-hearted, and those of tender conscience, both towards God and man. And though multitudes of reproaches have been cast upon them, yet the Lord has been pleased to cause their innocence and integrity to shine, to the wiping of them off in a great degree, and will, in due time, bring forth their righteousness as the light, and their judgment as the noon-day. And what remains toward the carrying on of this work, but the Lord's prospering of this principle, and blowing upon the other? As the Lord does this, so will it go on; and the nations, kings, princes, great ones, as this principle is raised in them, and the contrary wisdom, the earthly policy, which undoes all, brought down, so will they feel the blessing of God in themselves, and become a blessing to others. Oh that there were an ear to hear! For this is the only way of healing this nation, (which has been so grievously torn), as will be acknowledged when woeful experience makes it manifest. But man in prosperity cannot hear, and that enforces from the Lord, by the turning of his hand, the bringing upon him the day of his adversity; which, if he could have listened to in the day of his prosperity, he might have been escaped: for God does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men; he is necessitated to it for his own glory's sake, the preservation and defense of his truth and people, and for the carrying on of his work.
Objection: But if all men were of this mind, and none would fight, suppose a nation should be invaded, would not the land of necessity be ruined?
Answer: 1. Whenever such a thing shall be brought forth in the world, it must have a beginning before it can grow and be perfected. And where should it begin but in some particulars in a nation, and so spread by degrees, until it has overspread the nation, and then from nation to nation, until the whole earth is leavened? Therefore whoever desires to see this lovely state brought forth in the general, if he would further his own desire, must cherish it in the particular. [himself] . And Oh! That men would not spend their strength, and hazard the loss of all in cherishing pretences and names of Christianity, but would pray to the Lord at length to open that eye in them which can see the loveliness of the truth, power, and virtue of Christianity; that they might cherish that tenderness of conscience in which the truth grows and springs up in its virtue and power. And then perhaps they would soon acknowledge the happiness of the world to depend upon the growth of that principle, and of that people, who are now despised by the world, and cannot but be so by the spirit and wisdom of the world, which lies in wickedness, they being drawn out of, and testifying against, it, [the spirit of the world instead of Christ, not war].
2. It is not for a nation, coming into the gospel life and principle*, [he is speaking of an entire nation, with changed hearts - sometime, hopefully in the near future] , to take care before-hand how they shall be preserved; but the gospel will teach a nation , (if they hearken to it), as well as a particular person, to trust the Lord, and to wait on him for preservation. Israel of old stood not by their strength and wisdom, and preparations against their enemies; but in quietness and confidence, and waiting on the Lord for direction, Isa. 30:15. and shall not such now, who are true Israelites, and have indeed attained to the true gospel state, follow the Lord in the peaceable life and Spirit of the gospel, unless they see by rational demonstration before-hand how they shall be preserved by it? I speak not this against any magistrates' or people's defending themselves against foreign invasions, or making use of the sword to suppress the violent and evil-doers within their borders, (for this the present estate of things may and does require, and a great blessing will attend the sword where it is borne uprightly to that end, and its use will be honorable; and while there is need of a sword, the Lord will not allow that government, or those governors, to want [lack] fitting instruments [swords] under them for the managing of it, to wait on him in his fear to have the edge of it [sword] rightly directed); but yet there is a better state, which the Lord has already brought some into, and which nations are to expect and travel towards. Yes, it is far better to know the Lord to be the defender, and to wait on him daily, and see the need of his strength, wisdom, and preservation, than to be ever so strong and skilful in weapons of war.
3. If the Lord were to undertake the defense of a nation by his Spirit and power, what can hurt that nation? What power of man can reach it, to disturb the peace of it? "The Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit." Isa. 31:3. What could Sennacherib with his army do against one angel in the time of the law? How many of his host were slain in one night? And what power then shall be able to prevail over a nation brought into the peaceable Spirit of the gospel, and defended by it by the mighty power of God himself? Will not God be as sure a defense over the true Israel, in the way and dispensation in which he leads them, as ever he was over the representative Israel, in the way and dispensation in which he led them? Will he not preserve and defend that nation whom he first teaches to leave off war, that they shall not be made a prey of, while he is teaching other nations the same lesson?
God promised Israel of old, that when they went up three times in the year to appear before the Lord, according to his command, he would keep it out of the hearts of the nations from so much as desiring their land, much more from entering and taking it from them in the meantime, though they might seem watchful after, and sufficiently greedy of such an opportunity, they being cast out of the land, and having had it taken from them before. Exod. 34:24. The Lord also can now keep it out of the hearts of the nations from invading or prejudicing that nation which he shall first draw into the peaceable Spirit. Or if he see not good to do that, he can defend those that have followed him out of the earthly spirit, wisdom, and strength, by ways that man knows not of; nor may it be fit for him to know, until the Lord bring it forth. Israel of old was not to know the deliverance beforehand; but to trust to the Lord. Under the gospel, the Lord gives more faith than to Israel of old under the law, and therefore may justly require greater confidence in greater straits. And awaken, O earth! Behold the Israel of the Lord, whom he has begotten and brought forth in the earth, after the long, dark night of apostasy, and you shall see what hearts the Lord has given them to trust him, in all the straits and trials wherewith he pleases to exercise them, and what the Lord will do for them when they are brought to the brink of the pit, and when it seems impossible for them to escape utter ruin and destruction. The eye which the Lord has given them sees the Lord and his strength; and the heart which he has created anew in them, naturally feareth the everlasting power, which reaches both to the body and soul for ever: but as for whole multitudes of nations, they are but as "the drop of a bucket," and, in their greatest wisdom and strength, but as "vanity, as the small dust of the balance, as nothing before him, and less than nothing to him."
Consider this, O you great men! O you wise men, and deep politicians! All you have done, or can ever do, in relation to overturning any thing that God has purposed, what are you by it? Or what will your work come to? It is just like "the small dust of the balance;" it hinders not at all the weight of his power on the other hand, but he will carry on his work, bring to pass what he has purposed in himself, and promised to his people; and all your councils, wisdom, strength, hopes, resolutions, and present or future advantages against him and his work, shall hinder him not more than the small dust in the scale of a balance which the wind blows away, and it is not. Be wise therefore, O you sons of men! Fear before your Maker; wait in his fear for his counsel, that you may not be suffered by him to undertake any thing against him, lest before you are aware you fall before him. Oh! Let every one in fear remember that passage, "Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance," etc. Forgetting the Lord in the day of prosperity, causes much increase of the anguish and sorrow of heart in the day of adversity. O you that are in present power! Consider how unwilling you would be to have the Lord turn his hand upon you, and bring you under again! Oh, Provoke him not, for he is able to do it, as he was to overturn those which went before. It is far better for you now to fear the Lord, and prevent it, than to bewail and repent afterwards. Oh! Reject not the love and counsel of the Most High, (which would now preserve you), as those which went before you did.
There is a desire in all men, (in whom the principle of God is not wholly slain), after righteousness; which desire will be more and more kindled by God in nations, before righteousness and peace meet together and be established in them. Now such and so great has been the kindling of this desire in this nation, and such is the state of it, that nothing can satisfy the heart of it but righteousness: this it longs after at the bottom: this the governors which were before might have, and the governors that now are, (by asking counsel of the principle of God within themselves, and keeping close to it), may answer the nation in; but if the consultations be not with the Lord, in the principle of life which came from him, but with the wisdom and policy which is of the earth, and from beneath, and not from above, that will incline to self, and to corruption, and never bring forth righteousness; nor can the blessing of God attend it, nor the peace which accompanies righteousness be reaped from it.
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