The Cumberland Presbyterian Church, at its General Assembly in Kansas City, last May, amongst its resolutions passed the following on the subject of the liquor traffic:—
Resolved, That, admitting that it is a crime, it cannot be legalized without sin. It cannot be licensed without legalizing it. Therefore to vote for license is sin.
This is a fair sample of the predicament into which men get when they undertake to create sins. It is probable that to their own satisfaction, that General Assembly has decided that to vote for license is sin. And, probably, that General Assembly is prepared to deal with the man who votes for a license as with a sinner, and to consign him to the place where all sinners are to go, except they repent.
But, have they proved that to vote for license is sin? The conclusion in a syllogism is always as good as the premises, but it is never any better, and it can’t be any better. What then, is the premise in this one? Major: Admitting that it is a crime, it cannot be legalized without sin. Minor: It cannot be licensed without legalizing it. Therefore to vote for license is sin. The whole thing depends upon the major, “admitting that it is a crime.” But suppose that is not admitted, then what? Then neither the minor nor the conclusion follows. So that all that syllogism amounts to, and all that the resolution amounts to in fact is, that if it be admitted that to vote for license is sin, then it is sin. But even that doesn’t follow, because it may be admitted that a certain thing, because it may be admitted that a certain thing is sin when there may be no sin about it.
More than this. A thing may be admitted to be a crime and yet it be not sin at all. It is a crime in nearly every State in this Union to work on Sunday, and a good many people are doing their best to make it a crime anywhere in all the Nation. But to work on Sunday is not sin. An act may be a crime and yet not in any way a sin. To be a Christian in the days of Paul, in the Roman Empire, was to be guilty of the highest crime—crimen majestatis. But there were multitudes of people who committed that crime and yet were sinless in it.
Crime is a violation of human law—a law of the State. And human laws—laws of the State—may forbid that which is right, as the Roman Empire did when it prohibited the worship of any gods but such as were recognized by the Roman law; and as the different States of this Union do when they prohibit work on Sunday. For the Christians to worship God in the Roman Empire in the first two centuries was a crime, but it was not sin. For people to work on Sunday in nearly all the States is a crime, but it is not sin. Consequently, admitting a thing to be a crime does not at all admit it to be sin. It may be sin. But whether it is does not at all depend upon men’s admitting that it is, but upon whether God says it is. If God says a thing is sin, it is sin, whether it be admitted or not, and whether it be a crime or not. And what God does not say is sin is not sin, even though it be admitted to be a crime.
We freely admit that the liquor traffic is sin, whether it is a crime or not depends upon what the State laws say. The liquor traffic is a crime in this country only in Iowa, Kansas, and Maine. In none of the other States is it a crime, because the State does not prohibit it.
Again: This resolution says, “Admitting that it is a crime, it can’t be legalized without sin.” But whether it is a crime or not, depends upon whether it is legal or not. If it is legalized, it is not crime. If it is forbidden, it is crime. Consequently, the admission is not admissible unless the law declares the fact, and if the law declares it, then it is a crime whether it be admitted or not.
This resolution illustrates the absurdities into which men run when they confound crime and sin, and religious with civil things, as the third party prohibition element does. It also shows what the SENTINEL has constantly affirmed, that, if prohibition were secured upon the basis upon which it is demanded by the third party prohibition element, the condition of affairs would actually be worse than they are now. Prohibition, on a civil basis, is right. But prohibition upon a religious basis,—the liquor traffic prohibited because it is irreligious or because it is immoral, or because it is a sin,—would introduce into the body politic such a confusion of elements as would, in a little while, prove the remedy to be ten thousand times worse than the disease.
A. T. J.