CIVIL power is force; all the force that is necessary to secure compliance, even to the taking of life; but the gospel cannot be furthered by force. “All that take the sword shall perish with the sword,” says the Saviour. It is clear, therefore, that the Christian citizen cannot use force for the promotion of the gospel.
GOD is the author of liberty; and being its author, he has established man’s natural right to liberty upon an immovable foundation, which could not be evolved from human customs, traditions, or creeds. The framers of the Declaration of Independence discovered this foundation when they published to the world that “all men are created equal,” and “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Upon this foundation, they could (and did) successfully appeal to mankind. Were there no standard or source of authority to which man could appeal save man himself,—or in other words, outside of that which is human,—the opinion of the majority would have to prevail. Were it not that man’s right to liberty rests upon the eternal and immovable fact of his creation, by an infinitely higher Being than himself, the Declaration of Independence could never have been written.
WE say that religion should be kept separate from the affairs of the State. Our opponents strongly disclaim any intention of uniting Church and State, but say that a union of religion and the State is proper and desirable. In favoring this they endeavor to confound religion with morality and justice. But to say that religion should be kept separate from the State does not in the least imply that the State must act wrongfully in anything. “Religion” may be right and it maybe wrong. As a matter of fact most religions in the world are wrong; indeed, all are save one, and that is the Christian religion. In joining religion with the State, therefore, the chances are altogether in favor of joining the State to error, and producing a union of which, if it amounts to anything, must result in wrong doing on the part of the State.
And here an important truth ought to be stated, which is that even the Christian religion itself is true only as defined and applied by the Holy Spirit. Left to the operation of this Spirit,—a source of wisdom and power infinitely beyond any that is human,—the Christian religion comes to the individual as the perfect, saving truth; but otherwise, as when applied by the State, it becomes error in its most dangerous form. In other words, the mixture of divine truth with conceptions that are human and finite produces the most deceptive and dangerous error, since it is divine in appearance, yet because of its mixture with the human, cannot lead the soul to God. The Christian religion is God’s truth, conceived by himself and his son Jesus Christ in the counsels of eternity between them, and altogether beyond even the comprehension of angels as applied in the saving of men’s souls. Man may hold forth the word of life as God gives it to him; but to enforce or apply any doctrine of that religion to the life of any individual is a matter which only the Spirit of God can rightly do. Therefore we do not want religion—even the Christian religion—brought into the operation of the affairs of the State.
But we do want justice to be there always. We want respect for the natural rights of all men to control the civil power in all its actions. We want the State to do rightly all that it has rightfully the power to do; and what that is is defined in the Declaration of Independence. And if it does this it will not be a Godless State, for God cannot be separated from right and justice.