Magazine Histoire

Les théonomie chez les réformés baptistes du XVIIe siècle : la réédition de 1646, Samuel Richardson et Benjamin Keach

Par Monarchomaque

Conventicule puritain

Dans mon article La théonomie chez les premiers réformés baptistes, j’ai démontré que les réformés baptistes de première génération étaient massivement théonomistes. Le présent article adresse trois arguments qui pourraient être soulevés contre cette thèse : la réédition en 1646 de la Confession de foi réformée baptiste de 1644, le cas du pasteur Samuel Richardson, et le cas du pasteur Benjamin Keach.

La réédition de 1646

La Confession de foi réformée baptiste de 1644 fut rééditée en 1646 et légèrement modifiée. Dans la section portant sur la magistrature civile, au chapitre XLVIII, une « clause conscience » fut ajoutée, que voici :

Surely it is our wisdom, duty, and privilege, to observe Christ’s laws only, Ps 2:6,9,10,12. So it is the magistrates duty to tender the liberty of mens’ consciences, Eccles. 8:8 (which is the tenderest thing unto all conscientious men, and most dear unto them, and without which all other liberties will not be worth the naming, much less enjoying) and to protect all under them from all wrong, injury, oppression and molestation.

Je ne vois pas la pertinence de mobiliser Ecclésiaste 8:8 ici. Quoi qu’il en soit, cette « clause conscience » ne doit pas être interprétée comme une adhésion au libertarianisme religieux. Comme le souligne le pasteur & historien Robert Oliver dans une conférence de la Strict Baptist Historical Society (voir ci-bas), la réédition de 1646 s’inscrit dans un contexte de protestation contre le projet de l’Assemblée de Westminster d’imposer une Église d’État presbytérienne à toute l’Angleterre, sur le modèle de l’Écosse. En formulant cette « clause conscience », les premiers réformés baptistes ne prônaient donc pas un complet laissez-faire religieux, comme pourrait le laisser croire une lecture anachronique de ce texte, mais ils prenaient simplement position contre l’idée de monopole ecclésial presbytérien, qu’ils rejetèrent en 1646 comme ils avaient rejetés le monopole ecclésial épiscopalien en 1644 : « la pénible tyrannie des prélats haut placés, que miséricordieusement Dieu a renversés » (chapitre L).

Samuel Richardson

Le cas de Samuel Richardson, un des signataires de la Confession de 1644, aumônier dans l’armée parlementaire et copasteur de la congrégation de Wapping (la première église réformée baptiste connue) avec Jonathan Spilsbury, vient renforcer la nécessité d’une interprétation historique des plaidoiries libertaires chez les puritains.

Quelques citations de l’ouvrage Tracts on liberty of conscience and persecution (1614-1661) où nous apprenons ceci sur le pasteur Richardson :

Page 238 :

« Several of his subsequent publications were devoted to the defence of the army, and of the government of Cromwell. He endeavoured to justify the violent proceeding known as Pride’s purge, and dedicated his production to “Honest and faithful Fairfax and Cromwell.” »

Page 239 :

« Mr. Richardson regarded the deeds and character of the Protector with unfeigned and ardent admiration. […] We may be permitted to quote our author’s defence of this remarkable man, to whom he was contemporary. To this a sense of duty prompted him. “I and others,” says Mr. Richardson, “owe him this service as a neighbour, as a friend, as a Christian, as he is under God our chief governor and protector.” » [Citant An Answer to the London Ministers' Letter from them to His Excellency and his Counsel of War, 1649]

Pages 241-241 :

« In the following passage we have Mr. Richardson’s estimate of the services Cromwell had rendered to his country, and of his personal qualities as a man and governor :

“His Highness aimeth at the general good of the nation, and just liberty of every man. He is also a godly man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil ; though he is, nor no man else, without human frailty. He is faithful to the saints, and to these nations in whatsoever he hath undertaken from the beginning of the wars. He hath owned the poor despised people of God, and advanced many of them to a better way and means of living. He hath been an advocate for the Christians, and hath done them much good in writing, speaking, pleading for their liberty in the Long Parliament, and fighting for their liberty. He, with others, hath hazarded his life, estate, family ; and since he hath refused great offers of wealth, and worldly glory for the sake and welfare of the people of God : God hath given him more than ordinary wisdom, strength, courage, and valour. God hath been always with him, and given him great successes. He is fitted to bear burdens, and to endure all opposition and contradictions that may stand with public safety. He is a terror to his enemies ; he hath a large heart, spirit, and principle, that will hold all that fear the Lord, though of different opinions and practices in religion, and seek their welfare. It is the honour of princes to pity the miserable, to relieve the oppressed, and the wrongs of the poor ; he is humble, and despiseth not any because poor, and is ready to hear and help them. He is a merciful man, full of pity and bounty to the poor. A liberal heart is more precious than heaven or earth. He gives in money to maimed soldiers, widows and orphans, and poor families, a thousand pound a week to supply their wants ; he is not a lover of money, which is a singular and extraordinary thing. He will give, and not hoard up money as some do. I am persuaded there is not a better friend to these nations and people of God among men, and that there is not any man so unjustly censured and abused as he is. And some that now find fault with him may live to see and confess that what I have herein written is truth, and when he is gathered to his fathers, shall weep for want of him.” » [Citant Plain Dealing : Or the Unvailing of the Opposers of the Present Government and Governors, 1656]

Pages 242-243 :

« With such views of the government, and the governor, our author would look with regret upon the wild and visionary attempts of the fifth monarchists to overthrow them. Among these were many who were his brethren in the faith, but who openly and strongly expressed their dis approbation of the protectorate, and sought its dissolution. In an address to Mr. Vavasor Powell and others, he endeavoured to reconcile them to the governing authority. He asserted that there was no just reason for their opposition, and that scripture did not sanction their hostility. On the contrary, the divine record confirmed the authority exercised by the Protector and his council, and required their hearty and conscientious obedience to it. Besides which, there were other and sufficient reasons why the legislative power should be exercised by them, according to the provisions of the Instrument of Government. Two of the most violent, Mr. Rogers and Mr. Feake, both independents, had been selected by Cromwell as worthy of imprisonment; Mr. Richardson assures them that they were not suffering for conscience sake, as they mistakenly supposed, but for the “safety of the civil peace” of the community. It is worthy of remark, that the principal ground of defence, taken by our author, is, that liberty of conscience and freedom of religion were fully guaranteed under the protectorate, “which,” says he, “is so great, it is even unspeakable.” » [Citant encore Plain Dealing, 1656]

Donc Richardson considère que la liberté religieuse en 1656 est « tellement grande qu’elle est indescriptible ». Lorsque Richardson écrit cela, l’Instrument de Gouvernement — la constitution du Protectorat — garantit, par ses articles 15, 17, 25, 35, 37 et 39, la liberté religieuse aux seuls protestants (excluant les anglicans high-church) ! Mieux encore, Richardson vante la « grande liberté indescriptible » protégée par le Protectorat de Cromwell pendant que le Règne des Majors-Généraux (un dispositif civil et militaire ayant notamment pour fonction de réprimer le blasphème, l’ivrognerie, l’inconduite sexuelle et l’immoralité publique) battait son plein. Ce dispositif, en place d’août 1655 à janvier 1657, est considéré comme l’apogée de la domination puritaine en Angleterre et au Pays de Galles. Richardson n’y voyait aucun problème, tout comme la partie de la population ayant embrassée la Réformation.

Il est donc manifeste que pour le pasteur Samuel Richardson, qui s’exprimait avec les catégories de langage de ses contemporains, la liberté religieuse n’incluait pas les mœurs licencieuses. Il se déclarait favorable à la liberté religieuse, mais son concept de liberté correspondait à la liberté chrétienne plutôt qu’à notre concept moderne (ou postmoderne) de liberté religieuse quasi-totale. Peut-être que cela est utile pour interpréter correctement les déclarations de Benjamin Keach.

Benjamin Keach

Le pasteur réformé baptiste Benjamin Keach (1640-1704) est l’auteur de 43 ouvrages. Quelques-uns ce ceux-ci sont accessibles en format html (ce qui permet de recherches rapides par mot-clef). Keach semble avoir adopté des positions contradictoires sur l’application de la Première Table du Décalogue par les magistrats civils.

Dans The Glory of a True Church and its Discipline display’d, Keach évoque la répression civile de l’hétérodoxie dans des termes passablement favorables :

« [T]he Rule is plain, respecting any that are subverted, and resolutely maintain any Heretical Notion, i.e. after he hath been twice (or oftner) admonished, that is, after all due means used, and pains taken with him, to convince him of his abominable Error; and yet if he remains obstinate, he must be delivered up to Satan; that is, the righteous censure of the Church must pass upon him, as in the case of other notorious Crimes. Heresy is a Work of the Flesh: and hence some conceive such ought to be punished by the Civil Magistrate. »

Dans Troplogia : A Key to Open Scripture Metaphors, Keach affirme que la peine capitale pour le blasphème n’est pas une particularité propre à la loi hébraïque :

« [C]urse God and die, viz. curse God, that the magistrate taking notice of it, thou inayest be cut off by the sword of justice, for blasphemers were sentenced to death without mercy by the law of Moses, and it is not improbable that the light of nature might carry those nations to as high and severe a revenge against that highest sin and die. »

Puis dans An exposition of the parables, Keach reproduit les arguments piétistes usuels qui s’écartent de la théonomie :

« Some think our Lord refers to Christian magistrates, who have been, and may again be pious persons, and may be ready to cut off by death such offenders, whom our Lord would have lived in the world until the end thereof comes ; not but that murders and traitors ought by the sword of justice to be cut off, or pulled up ; but not such who are only guilty of divers sorts of errors in matters of faith, or such who many ways are immoral in their lives.


This shows that persecution upon the account of religion, is utterly unlawful, though men may hold grand errors, yet no magistrates have any power to persecute them, much less in the highest degree, so as to put them to death.

1. Because the best of men on earth are not infallible. They do not know but that which they call heresy may be a truh of Christ. "After that way, which they call heresy (saith Paul), so worship I the God of your fathers, belleving all things that are written in the law and the prophets," Acts X.14. And as good men are not able to distinguish between some truths and errors, so they may think such and such are tares who may be wheat, i.e., gracious and holy persons ; and this is the reason our Lord allegeth why they should not root out the tares, "Lest they root out also the wheat with them."

2. Because Jesus Christ is only the king and sovereign of the conscience. None ought to impose upon the consciences of men in matters of religion. They must stand and tall in such cases to their own master.

3. Because it is directly contrary to that golden rule, or true moral precept, "Whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you the same uuto them." Persecution is therefore a palpable violation of this holy precept. Would they have others (were they in like power) to persecute them, (for what they believe and practice, according to their light and consciences) no sure, why tjien they ought not to persecute others ; besides, we never find that any Gospel church was a persecuting church, but contrariwise were persecuted.

4. Because such severities have no tending to convince the conscience (if it be erroneous) it may make men to act like hypocrites, i.e., out of fear to do that which is directly against their consciences, and so to sin against God, who alone hath power over it, and will punish those at last accordingly, for obeying man rather than God. When the disciples asked their Lord, whether « they should call for fire from heaven to consume their enemies, (He answered) ye know not what spirit j ou are of," Luke IX.54, no more do they who persecute others for their conscience sake.

Yet let none suppose that our Saviour by these words, "Let both grow together until  harvest,"meant that he would have his people suffer wicked and heretical persons (if [mot illisible] discovered) to abide in his church ; no, for that is directly contrary to those condemned rules of discipline he hath left in the holy gospel, both in respect of private but public offences ; and also in the case of heresy, such ought to come unrequired, der a just and righteous censure, but for no such evils ; but only for murder, treason, felony, &e., ought persons to be delivered up to the civil magistrate, to suffer corporal punishment. This condemns the church of Rome, and all other people, who are persecutors of men for religion. »

Je ne sais pas dans quel ordre ces ouvrages furent publiés (donc lequel constitue une révision d’une position précédente). Réitérons que même lorsque certains auteurs issus du milieu puritain exprimaient des plaidoyers sentimentaux en faveur de la liberté religieuse, cela ne signifie pas nécessairement qu’ils militaient pour une liberté-anarchie au sens où on l’entend aujourd’hui. Par exemple, le célèbre poète John Milton déployait un argumentaire drôlement familier (pour le lecteur du 21e siècle) en faveur de la liberté religieuse, mais maintenait que cette liberté ne doit pas s’étendre aux papistes, aux athées et aux mahométans !

Retour à La Une de Logo Paperblog

A propos de l’auteur

Monarchomaque 333 partages Voir son profil
Voir son blog

l'auteur n'a pas encore renseigné son compte l'auteur n'a pas encore renseigné son compte