Carson on Two Kingdoms

In light of the so-called “Two-Kingdoms” debate going on in some Reformed circles, this quote from the preface of Alexander Carson’s (1776-1844) Reasons for Separating from the General Synod of Ulster caught my eye:

Every Christian is a member of two kingdoms perfectly distinct, but perfectly compatible in their interests. In each of these he has peculiar duties, in the discharge of which he is to pursue a very different conduct. As a subject of civil government, he is called to unreserved, unequivocal obedience, without waiting to inquire into its nature and quality, or even the legitimacy of the title of those in power. If he understands his Bible, he knows that the ‘powers that be, are ordained of God,’ and that he must ‘submit to every ordinance of man, not merely for wrath, but also for conscience sake.’ In Britain he will submit to monarchy; in America to a republic; and in France he will obey, without puzzling himself in determining whether Buonaparte be a legal governor or usurper. But it is not so in the kingdom of Christ. Here is is his duty in everything to judge for himself, and in no instance to be the disciple of man. He is commanded to examine, not blindly adopt the dogmas of his spiritual guides. He is nowhere required to conform and submit to that form of church government, under which he has been educated, or to which he may at any time have thought it his duty to attach himself. He is enjoined to ‘prove all things, and to hold fast only that which is good.’ He is Christ’s freedman, and should not suffer himself to become the servant of man, nor to be fettered by human systems. (Emphasis his)

Alexander Carson, “Reasons for Separating from the General Synod of Ulster” in Works (Dublin/London/Edinburgh: William Carson/Houlston & Stoneman/Wm. Whyte, 1856), 4:xi-xii.

I chuckle a little to myself at the thought that Carson is using the two kingdoms model as a justification for criticizing the Ulster synod of the Presbyterian church in Ireland. The debate as it rages today largely involves Presbyterians.

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