Samuel Bolton on Maintaining Christian Liberty

Given the lengthy discussion on my previous post, I thought I’d share a few quotes from Samuel Bolton in his book The True Bounds of Christian Freedom. Feel free to interact with what he has stated. Here they are:

“If civil freedom is so precious and is to be maintained, how much more is spiritual freedom, the freedom wherewith Christ make a man free! A freedom dearly purchased by the blood of Christ! We esteem our civil freedom the better as we remember that it cost so much of the blood of our ancestors to obtain it. It would be baseness in us to be careless of that which cost them their blood. How much more then should we esteem our freedom which was purchased by the precious blood of Christ! You are redeemed, not by silver and gold, but by the blood of Christ, says the apostle. Our freedom is dearly bought, mercifully revealed, freely bestowed, and fully conveyed to us by the Spirit of Christ. We have many and great reasons therefore for maintaining it, and for keeping ourselves clear of the yoke of bondage” (219).

“Maintain your Christian liberty against men, as well as against the law. That liberty is a precious jewel and we must suffer none to rob us of it. Let us never surrender our judgments or our consciences to be at the disposal and opinions of others, and to be subjected to the sentences and determinations of men. We must allow neither power nor policy, neither force nor fraud, to rob us of it” (220-21).

“We must never give up ourselves to the opinions of other men, though they be never so learned, never so holy, merely because it is their opinion. The apostle directs us to try all things and to hold fast that which is good (1 Thess. 5:21). It often happens that a high esteem of others in respect of their learning and piety makes men take up all upon trust from such, and to submit their judgments to their opinions, and their consciences to their precepts. This should not be so. Men will suspect a truth if a liar affirms it” (221).

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3 Comments on “Samuel Bolton on Maintaining Christian Liberty”

  1. Ronnie Jackson Says:

    But what about this?

    1 Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God.

    2 Therefore he who resists the authority, withstands the ordinance of God; and those who withstand will receive to themselves judgment.

    3 For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Do you desire to have no fear of the authority? Do that which is good, and you will have praise from the same,

    4 for he is a servant of God to you for good.

  2. Timmy Says:

    I realize that providing excerpts of what a writer is saying without providing the context can lead to some misunderstanding, so I apologize for not being able to give you the flow of thought by Bolton. While I do not think I am a worthy candidate to speak for Bolton, I think I can say that his argument for maintaining Christian liberty does not abdicate the exercise of authority of those ordained of God to lead nor does it qualify or justify someone not being in subjection to higher authorities. This is not a case for antinomianism or anarchy. It is a call to Christian freedom from the bondage of sin and the potential bondage of enslavement to man-made laws such as that of the Pharisees.

    When the Pharisees but a yoke upon the people with restrictions and moral elitism which they themselves could not bear, do you think that Jesus would call his followers to be subjected to them? After all, they were the spiritual leaders in that day.

    Jesus spoke plainly by saying that “if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed” (John 8:36) and that “if you know the truth, the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Ultimately, this is freedom purchased for us by the blood of Jesus Christ to free us from the slavemarket and bondage of sin. However, once a believer becomes a Christian, there is the tempation to add to the Gospel or seek to maintain right standing with God by our performances and not by grace. As we were saved, so should we live – by the grace of God.

    Obedience to man should be conformative to our obedience to God, and when there are laws made which contradict Scripture, we should bind our consciences to the Word of God. Imagine if Luther today was not willing to maintain his Christian freedom and expose the Popery and devilish work of the purchasing of indulgences! Where would we be today?

    Bolton and the Puritans were heirs of the Protestant Reformation but a part of a church which severely needed reform. Bolton lived under the reign of Charles I in England where most of his life was during the 30 Years War. The Church of England sought to bind the consciences of their ministers with the Book of Common Prayer and other acts in conformity to Popery such as the wearing of vestments, the sign of the cross at baptism, and kneeling during communion. At that time William Laud came to power and the Puritans experienced intense persecution. Therefore, many had to decide whether or not to stay in the Church of England, be a nonconformist, or leave for New England like John Cotton and John Wintrop did.

    Anyway, this book was written by a man among men whom experienced a great deal of persecution coupled with laws and restrictions added to Scripture which conflicted with Biblical freedom. In the SBC, there isn’t persecution but a denomination that is starting to major of enacting resolutions intended to be binding on the consciences of men and women where the Scripture doesn’t speak.

    Ronnie, I hope that helps. The passage from Romans which you quoted is relevant to the discussion to a degree, but I think the Puritans and Bolton would argue that fidelity to Christ is more imporant and should trump subjection to the authority of man. Or as Peter would put it, “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29).

  3. scripturesearcher Says:

    Persevere!

    Press on!


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