Constantine thought more highly of his position as member of Christ?s church than of his position as head of the Roman Empire. Neither the church nor its pastor should be dependent upon the unregenerate members of the congregation. Many a pastor is in the position of a lion tamer with his head in the lion?s mouth. So long as he strokes the fur the right way, all goes well but, if by accident he strokes the wrong way, off goes his head. Dependence upon the spiritual body, which he instructs, is compatible with the pastor?s dignity and faithfulness. But dependence upon those who are not Christians and who seek to manage the church with worldly motives and in a worldly way, may utterly destroy the spiritual effect of his ministry. The pastor is bound to be the impartial preacher of the truth, and to treat each member of his church as of equal importance with every other.
(c) Since each local church is directly subject to Christ, there is no jurisdiction of one church over another but all are on an equal footing and all are independent of interference or control by the civil power.
<402221> Matthew 22:21 ? ?Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar?s; and unto God the things that are God?s?; <440529>Acts 5:29 ? ?We must obey God rather than men.? As each believer has personal dealings with Christ and for even the pastor to come between him and his Lord is treachery to Christ and harmful to his soul. So much more does the New Testament condemn any attempt to bring the church into subjection to any other church or combination of churches, or to make the church the creature of the state. Absolute liberty of conscience under Christ has always been a distinguishing tenet of Baptists, as it is of the New Testament (cf. <451404>Romans 14:4 ? ?Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? to his own lord he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be made so stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand?). John Locke, 100 years before American independence: ?The Baptists were the first and only propounder of absolute liberty, just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty.? George Bancroft says of Roger Williams: ?He was the first person in modern Christendom to assert the doctrine of liberty of conscience in religion. Freedom of conscience was from the first a trophy of the Baptists. Their history is written in blood.?
On Roger Williams, see John Fiske, The Beginnings of New England: ?Such views are today quite generally adopted by the more civilized portions of the Protestant world but it is needless to say that they were not the views of the sixteenth century, in Massachusetts or elsewhere.? Cotton Mather said that Roger Williams ?carried a windmill in his head,? and even John Quincy Adams called him ?conscientiously contentious.?
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