“Abstract Principle Not Personal Interest” The American Sentinel 7, 3, pp. 19, 20.

January 21, 1892

IT seems that the lately elected Corresponding Secretary of the American Secular Union has accepted and published the false ideas in reference to the principles of THE AMERICAN SENTINEL, the National Religious Liberty Association, and the Seventh-day Adventists, as regards religious legislation, which Sunday-law workers have so industriously circulated. The inability of those who favor legislation upon religious subjects to understand that they who oppose them do so from love of the abstract principles of religious and civil right and duty, and from no selfish thought or purpose whatever, is phenomenal. So persistent is this misconstruction that it would seem a mental impossibility for them to conceive of any one acting from impersonal motives of abstract right. If they had stood by and heard Christ say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” they would have asked what possible advantage he could have expected to gain from such a speech as that.

The Corresponding Secretary of the American Secular Union, in an article in the Boston Investigator, gives credence to this mistaken idea as to the ground of opposition to religious laws and makes an unconscious quotation from some Sunday-law advocate in this paragraph:—

Said one to a prominent Adventist who was working against the Sunday law, “But if it were the observance of the old Jewish Sabbath that was to be enforced,—what then?” “Then,” he said, “I should feel compelled to work for its enforcement.”

The palpable error of any such statement as this is so fully and satisfactorily set forth in the Investigator of December 30, by C. B. Reynolds, Secretary, Washington Secular Union, that the article is here quoted almost entire:—

“This is a gross perversion of things. Every prominent Seventh-day Adventist working against the Sunday law is most thoroughly posted upon the subject. It would, therefore, be utterly impossible for such an one to have made such reply. The connecting paragraphs give evidence that this unprovoked attack upon our most efficient and influential co-workers was a mistake and a misrepresentation of the position of the Adventists.

“The Seventh-day Adventists are, without exception, the opponents of any union between Church and State, and earnest, persistent workers for civil and religious liberty. Their National Religious Liberty Association is a large and powerful organization, with offices in New York City, Washington, D. C., Chicago, Illinois, Oakland, California, and Battle Creek, Michigan. Its mottoes are, ‘Equal and exact justice to all’; ‘Keep the State and Church forever separate.’ Among its published and avowed principles I find: ‘We believe it is the right, and should be the privilege, of every man to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience,’ and, ‘we deny the right of any civil government to legislate on religious questions.’

“Its organ is THE AMERICAN SENTINEL, a most fearless, able and consistent opponent of Sunday laws, religious exercises in our public schools, and the exemption of Church property from taxation.

The Seventh-day Adventists have written, printed and distributed more pages of literature advocating the abolition of all Sunday laws, and giving the facts and arguments in favor of the entire and complete divorce of Church and State, in any one week during the past three years, than the American Secular Union, and all its auxiliaries have ever distributed from the day of its first inception up to the present hour.

“So far from ‘suppressing free thought,’ or ‘strangling free speech,’ the Seventh-day Adventists are honest, zealous defenders of free speech. Their leading ministers have attended our conventions, and from our rostrum most ably and eloquently advocated and defended the justice of the nine demands.

“The Seventh-day Adventists have a record upon the Sabbath and Sunday observance question that is plain and unmistakable. Their position is a matter of public and national record. The record of the Senate of the United States (see 50th Congress, second session, message and documents, No. 43, pages 75-102).

“On December 13, 1888, the United States Senate Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing upon the bill for a national Sunday law, introduced by Senator Blair, who was chairman of that committee. At that hearing the Seventh-day Adventists were officially represented [20] by their honored and accredited exponent, Alonzo T. Jones, editor of THE AMERICAN SENTINEL. Before that committee this very point was brought out clearly and distinctly, over and over again. I give brief quotation:—

Senator Blair.—Would it answer your objection in that regard if instead of saying “the Lord’s day,” we should say, “Sunday?”

Mr. Jones.—No, sir…. If this bill were framed in behalf of the real Sabbath of the Lord, the seventh day, the day which we observe, if this bill proposed to promote its observance or to compel men to do no work upon that day, we would oppose it just as strongly as we oppose it now.

Senator Blair.—You oppose all Sunday laws of the country, then?

Mr. Jones.—Yes, sir.

Senator Blair.—You are against all Sunday laws?

Mr. Jones.—Yes, sir. We are against every Sunday law that was ever made in this world, from the first enacted by Constantine to this one now proposed; and we would be equally against a Sabbath law if it were proposed; for that would be anti-Christian too.

“And this is the constantly avowed position of every one of their papers, publications, and ministers, and heartily indorsed by every Seventh-day Adventist in good standing.

“This whole argument of Elder Jones was published in pamphlet form and thousands of copies have been distributed.

“Nor is this the only record on the subject. On February 18, 1890, the house committee on the District of Columbia, held a hearing on a Sunday bill, introduced by Hon. W. C. P. Breckenridge. The Seventh-day Adventists were heard before this committee. I quote from the verbatim report of the speeches:—

The Chairman.—We desire to know in whose behalf you appear.

Mr. Corliss.—I speak in behalf of the Seventh-day Adventist church at Washington, of which I am pastor; I appear not as has been affirmed before you, to speak in behalf of a Saturday Sabbath. Far from it, gentlemen of the committee. If this bill No. 3,854 were to have incorporated into it instead of “Sunday,” the first day of the week, the words “Saturday, or the seventh day of the week” there is no one who would oppose it stronger than i.

Mr. Jones.—… Congress can make no law upon the subject of religion without interfering with the free exercise thereof. Therefore the Seventh-day Adventists while observing Saturday, would most strenuously oppose any legislation proposed to enforce the observance of that day. Gentlemen, it is time for all the people to declare, as the Seventh-day Adventists decidedly do, that this Nation is, and of right ought to be, free and independence of all ecclesiastical or religious influence, connection, or control.

“In the case of ‘State of Tennessee vs. King,’ Judge Hammond in his decision of the case made false statements akin to those of the Corresponding Secretary of the American Secular Union. A full refutation was published in THE AMERICAN SENTINEL of November 19, giving copy of letter from Mr. Jones to Elder O. A. Olsen, President of the General Conference (the highest office in the Seventh-day Adventists’ ranks).

“Mr. Jones quoted the statement made by the judge that ‘his (King’s) own religious feelings or fanaticism (is) that the seventh day of the week, instead of the first, should be set apart for the day of public rest and religious practices. This is what he really believes and wishes, he and his sect; and not that each individual shall select his own day of public rest, and his own day of labor,’ and asked, ‘Is this true?’ Elder Olsen replied:—

I have been personally connected with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination for more than thirty years, and I can freely say that no such belief or wish is entertained by this people. Our belief and wish is directly the opposite of that stated by the judge.

“There is no excuse for an avowed exponent of secularism being ignorant of these well known facts.

“The Corresponding Secretary of the American Secular Union has placed herself in the unenviable predicament of having in her first official publication made statements which are not only utterly unfounded, but which public and official records show to be untrue, and which all who have ever briefly conversed with any intelligent Seventh-day Adventist know to be untrue.”

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