Sacra, Circa, or in Sacris

Sacra, Circa, Or In Sacris.

The power of the magistrate is scarcely allowed by any party in sacris (in sacred things), but many allow his power circa sacra (about sacred things). The 23d chapter of the Westminster Confession says, however: "The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the word and sacraments for the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God." It is noteworthy that one of the proof texts in the Westminster Confession, under this head, is Mt 2:4-5, Herod's calling together the sanhedrim when startled by the news of the birth of Christ — a rival prince, as he thought, and whom he proposed to destroy. A large party object to this doctrine of the magistrate's power as Erastian and unscriptural, and maintain that the Church should be free of all control on the part of the State, and alike independent of its pay and its patronage. SEE ERASTIANISM. How the compromise is effected between the two powers in the Church of Scotland may be seen in the way in which the General Assembly is annually dismissed at the end of the statutory period beyond which it cannot prolong its sittings. Thus, in the year 1861, the moderator concluded his address by saying, "As this General Assembly was convened in the name and by authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, so in the same name and by the same authority I now dissolve it, and appoint the next meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to be held in this place on Thursday, the 22d day of May, 1862." The lord high commissioner then said: "Right reverend and right honorable, it is now my duty, in my sovereign's name, to dissolve this assembly; and, accordingly, I hereby declare this assembly dissolved in her name, and by the same authority I appoint the next General Assembly to meet on Thursday, the 22d day of May, 1862." SEE SECULAR POWER.

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