Thomas Case: The Civil Magistrate to Imitate God on Justice and Mercy


This excerpt is taken from the 5th Edition of the Confessional Presbyterian.

“But thirdly, Eye your rule. In this I might be large, but that I was happily prevented by my learned and Reverend Brother [A. Burgess] that began the work. What therefore I shall offer unto you by way of direction shall be that only which lies before you in the text. Where first you have one General rule implied; and then three particular rules or directions expressed.

The General is lodged in these words, For with the Lord our God there is no, &c. Implying that Judges ought to have their eyes fix’t upon God, and to make him their pattern in the managing of their judicature; to do, and judge, and behave themselves in the execution of their office, as they see God himself doth. And let this be your directory in your dispensations Right Honourable and beloved, Set up that Supreme Judge of Heaven and earth for your pattern.

Whether you execute judgement, or

Whether you show mercy, do both according to the Pattern in the mount.

Be severe, as your heavenly Father is severe; and

Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.

First imitate God in your severity and execution of judgement. And amongst the rest I find three Cases wherein God shows no mercy: only let me Caution this by the way; that when I say, Wherein God shows no mercy, I do not look upon God as sitting upon his own immediate Throne of divine Judicature as the Supreme Judge of quick and dead, judging to, or saving from, eternal death and damnation as he pleaseth: But I look upon God as sitting upon these inferior thrones of Judicature amongst his Delegates and Deputie-Gods (as he is described, Psal. 82:1. God standeth in the congregation of the mighty, he judgeth among the Gods,) there directing and commanding what sentence they shall give, whither of life or death; when they shall spare, and when they shall strike: for such is the care and wise providence of God for the good security and peace of his Church; Yet even of human societies and Associations; that even where sometimes he useth his Prerogative Royal for pardon of the sin against himself, and remitting the everlasting punishment, he yet commandeth his Deputies and Vicegerents not to forgive the trespass, whether it be against a private person or a publique State; but to execute the proportionable penalties; as substance for substance, life for life, and blood for blood without showing any mercy at all. As in the case of murder…[Num. 35:31,33; Deut. 31:23 cited].

And secondly, in terrorem for the preventing of like wickedness and mischief, that others may hear and fear and from henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.

This Caution premised I say among others I find these three Cases wherein God commands Judges not to spare the guilty person.

The first is the Case of wilful murder…[Deut. 19:11-13; Exo. 21:14 cited; Case goes on to include attempted murder in this category].

The Second Case wherein God would have Judges show no Mercy, is where the ground of the quarrel is laid in irreconcilable principles of enmity against the true Religion, and the Government of Jesus Christ. Those mind enemies that would not have me reign over them, bring them hither and slay them before me [Luke 19:27]; Those men that rise up in cursed practices to change Religion, to bring idolatry and false worship; to depose Christ from his Throne, and set up Antichrist in his place: And rather than fail of their project, stick not to subvert Laws, disturb peace, set whole Kingdoms into a combustion, imbrue their hands in, and make their swords drunk with, innocent blood, &c. Such a generation Christ hath doomed to execution: Those mine enemies that would not have me reign over them: Bring them hither and slay them before me.

And this is nothing but Law turned into Gospel-Language: for it was provided under the Law by God himself, Deut. verses

And third Case wherein God would have his Deputies show no Mercy is, That the Principal be not spared when the Accessory suffers. This though the very light of Nature doth dictate, (& Vox natura vox Dei; Natures voice is the voice of God, God being the God of Nature) yet God hath taken distinct and special order for it, See Numbers 25.4.5 where God commanding Execution of all the people that were joined to Baal-Peor, gives special charge first for the cutting of the prime Delinquents… And let not Seducers escape, where the Seduced shall happily feel the keen edge of the sword of Justice: for let me say this much to you; if God have enjoined this severity to his Deputies when they have but judged between person and person; what severity will God expect from you in these cases, who are called this day to Judge for God, between sons of Belial, bloody Rebels, and an Whole Church and State now resisting unto blood for Reformation and so dangerously languishing under those wounds which these unnatural Parricides have made upon her…

And secondly imitate God in your mercy.

Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.

And herein I do not find the Cases so many, as the provision famous, when God would have mercy used. The great known Case wherein God would have mercy shows to the guilty, was in point of ignorance and immaliciousness. He that said, Hee that sheds man blood, by man shall his blood be shed, Commanded notwithstanding the children of Israel to build themselves Cities of Refuge; that the Man-slayer who killed his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in times past might flee thither, and be rescued from the fury and vengeance of the Avenger of blood [Gen. 9.6; Deut. 19.1-4].”

Thomas Case, Jehoshaphat’s caveat to his judges.Delivered in a sermon before the Honourable the commissioners for the court martiall, by vertue of an ordinance of Parliament dated the 17th of August 1644 (London: Felix Kingston for Luke Fawn, 1644) 14-21. Wing C832.

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