“A Persecuting Baptist” American Sentinel 9, 39, pp. 307, 308.

THE Alabama Baptist, of August 9, attempts to justify the persecution of W. B. Capps, who is now serving a sentence of nine months in the county jail at Dresden, Weakely County, Tenn., for plowing in his field on Sunday, by the following argument:—

The law does not compel him to violate his convictions by working on Saturday, neither should he violate the law and the convictions of the people by working on their holy day. If Mr. Capps cannot have the law changed to suit his religious views, he ought to go where there is no such law.

The Baptist Examiner, of September 13th, says, in replying to like “arguments” which appeared in the Baptist and Reflector, of Nashville, Tenn: “It would have been easy, by similar arguments, for those who persecuted Baptists in the past, to have justified their conduct and policy.” How true! and why can’t the Alabama Baptist see it? Its arguments are similar to the arguments of John Cotton, in his justification of the persecution of Elder Holmes. And to show the similarity we will put the words of the Alabama Baptist editor, with slight changes into the mouth of the persecutor of Baptists.

The law does not compel him (Obadiah Holmes) to violate his convictions by being sprinkled himself, neither should he violate the law and the convictions of the people by baptizing by immersion. If Mr. Holmes cannot get the law changed to suit his religious views, he ought to go where there is no such law.

John Cotton and his associates, in the persecution of Baptists, thought Baptists “ought to go where there is no such law,” and the Baptists refusing to go were whipped, imprisoned, and banished, and now the editor of the Alabama Baptist thinks the same of Seventh-day Adventists: and since he thinks they “ought to go,” and they think like Baptists of Massachusetts that they ought to stay, it follows that the John Cotton, of the Alabama Baptist, is in favor of banishing Seventh-day Adventists in 1894 as the John Cotton, of Massachusetts was in favor of banishing Baptists in 1651.

Although the Baptist Examiner says it is easy to show that the cases of the persecutors are similar, the editor of the Alabama Baptist thinks it is easy to show that the case is different. And now hear him try it:—

This case is different from those in which patriots and Christians, especially Baptists, have felt called upon to resist laws that were evidently unjust, and which were intended to be restrictive and proscriptive of one party or creed and in favor of another. This Tennessee statute, like those of other States, restrains those who indorse it as well as those who do not.

This attempted defense of the Tennessee persecutions is the old threadbare excuse of the persecutor. “When we were persecuted we were ‘patriots and Christians,’ but you ‘violate the law’ and are therefore lawless and unchristian.” This was the way the Puritans of colonial days talked about the Baptists. Thomas Shepard, of Charlestown, in a sermon entitled “Eye Salve,” told the governor and magistrates of Massachusetts that “Anabaptists [a nickname for Baptists] have ever been looked at by the godly leaders of this people as a scab,” and the president of Harvard College said, “such a rough thing as a New England Anabaptist is not to be handled over tenderly.”

But, now, all this is changed. Baptists no longer suffer imprisonment, whipping, and banishment. From a small minority they have grown powerful, until in some localities, they have a controlling influence. And, now, forgetting their own sufferings, once and again the persecuted becomes the persecutors, and thereby furnish another proof of the correctness of the statement of the report of the committee on Sunday mails, communicated to the House of Representatives, March 4th and 5th, 1830, that “every religious sect, however meek in its origin, commenced the work of persecution as soon as it acquired political power.”

If the Tennessee Sunday law is not both “restrictive and proscriptive of one party or creed and in favor of another,” then the Massachusetts law requiring all Baptists to attend the established church was neither. It restricts Seventh-day Adventists to five days’ work instead of six, and therefore attempts to make them pay a tax of 16 2/5 per cent. more than is assessed on other citizens. It is proscriptive, since in the language of the Alabama Baptist, the State of Tennessee, “by statute law,” “recognized the Christian Sabbath [Sunday the first day] as God’s holy day,” as against the commandment of God which requires the observance of the seventh day, and which Seventh-day Adventists choose to obey rather than the commandment of the State. The State has come out in favor of the “party or creed,” which teaches the first day is the Sabbath, and thereby proscribes the party which teaches that the seventh day is the Sabbath. The statement that “this Tennessee statute, like those of other States, restrains those who indorse it as well as those who do not,” is a childish excuse. When the Baptist ministers—John Clark, Obadiah Holmes and John Crandall—were forcibly taken to church in compliance with the law compelling all to attend the State church, it was not persecution, according to the Alabama Baptist, since it restrained those who indorsed it as well as those who did not. According to this modern expounded of Baptist principles of religious liberty, all John Cotton needed to say to these Baptist ministers when they protested, was, “Oh, this law restrains me from remaining away from church the same as it does you. It restrains those who indorse it as well as those who do not.”

Now, we expect that the Baptist Examiner, of this city, and other consistent Baptists, will write to the Alabama Baptist, as did the brethren of the Puritans in England, and protest against the prosecuted turning persecutor, and it is probable that the Alabama Baptist will want to reply, We therefore print a part of the letter written by John Cotton, which the Alabama Baptist can use in full with a few changes in names:—

One of them, Obadiah Holmes, being an excommunicate person himself, out of a church in Plymouth patent, came into this jurisdiction, and took upon him to baptize, which I think himself will not say he was compelled here to perform. And he was not ignorant that the rebaptizing of an elder person, and that by a private person out of office and under excommunication, are all of them manifest contestations against [308] the order and government of our churches, established, we know, by God’s law, and he knoweth by the laws of the country. And we conceive we may safely appeal to the ingenuity of your own judgment, whether it would be tolerated in any civil state, for a stranger to come and practise contrary to the known principles of the church estate? As for his whipping, it was more voluntarily chosen by him that inflicted on him. His censure by the court was to have paid, as I know, thirty pounds, or else to be whipt; his fine was offered to be paid by friends for him freely; but he chose rather to be whipt; in which case, if his sufferings of stripes was any worship of God at all, surely it could be accounted no better than will worship. The other, Mr. Clarke, was wiser in that point, and his offense was less, so was his fine less, and himself, as I hear, was contended to have it paid for him, whereupon he was released. The imprisonment of either of them was no detriment. I believe they fared neither of them better at home; and I am sure Holmes had not been so well clad for years before.

But be pleased to consider this point a little further: You think to compel men in matter of worship is to make them sin, according to Romans 14:23. If the worship be lawful in itself, the magistrate compelling to come to it, compelleth him not to sin, but the sin is in his will that needs to be compelled to a Christian duty. Josiah compelled all Israel, or, which is all one, made to serve the Lord their God. 2 Chronicles 34:33. Yet his act herein was not blamed, but recorded among his virtuous actions. For a governor to suffer any within his gates to profane the Sabbath, is a sin against the fourth commandment, both in the private householder and in the magistrate, and if he requires them to present themselves before the Lord, the magistrate sinneth not, nor doth the subject sin so great a sin as if he did refrain to come. But you say it doth but make men hypocrites, to compel men to conform the outward man for fear of punishment. If it did so, yet better be hypocrites than profane persons. Hypocrites gives God part of his due, the outward man; but the profane person giveth God neither outward nor inward man.

And now we wish that the editor of the Alabama Baptist would not use this letter at all, or any of his own similar arguments, but that he would see the error of his way, repent and do works meet for repentance. [308]

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