DOCTOR MACARTHUR writes as a Baptist, and claims much for his denomination; but to that people much is certainly due. For centuries Baptists were, under God, almost the sole defenders of religious liberty, and to them the people of the United States are largely indebted for the freedom hitherto enjoyed in this land in the profession and practice of religion.
BUT while it is true that Baptists have in the past stood stiffly for religious liberty, it is equally true that within a few years the mass of Baptists have, in some respects, proved recreant to their principles, and have, with other Protestants, clamored for governmental support of religious institutions. Doctor MacArthur is himself prominent in the American Sabbath Union, an organization which has done more than any other to secure national recognition of Sunday as “the Christian Sabbath.”
SUNDAY is not only a religious institution, but it is an ecclesiastical institution; and the demand made in its behalf by the united churches under the lead of the American Sabbath Union was not one whit better in principle than is the proposed crusade of the Papists on State funds, in behalf of their denominational schools. The Papists do not ask aid for their schools alone, but only that there shall be an equitable distribution of school funds among all schools giving secular instruction coming up to the requirements of the State, whether Protestant or papal. This is simply inviting Protestants to a concerted action in the matter of school funds similar to the united demand made on the general Government in behalf of the Sunday institution. Consistency demands of the Baptists opposition to Sunday legislation as well as to all other State interference in religious matters.
BUT whether consistent or not, Doctor MacArthur says some excellent things. One paragraph alone fully justifies the position of those who have gone to prison rather than deny their faith by observing a false and counterfeit Sabbath. “The early Christians,” says the doctor, “obeyed civil law in secular matters, but they dared to disobey when their Christian faith was in peril. Then they refused and received punishment with Christian submission and with heroic endurance. Their persecutions arose chiefly from the ancient laws which forbade the worship of deities which the State did not recognize. The Roman Government was tolerant of various religions, when their representatives were quiescent, but when Christians became active in propagating their faith they encountered fierce civil opposition.”
THE principle which the doctor states and applies to the early Christians, is equally true of the Seventh-day Adventists of our own day, and his language needs but little change to express the exact truth concerning the Adventists and the persecution which they are called upon to endure. We paraphrase his words thus: The Adventists obey civil law in secular matters, but they dare to disobey when their Christian faith is in peril. Then they refuse and receive punishment with Christian submission and heroic endurance. Their persecutions arise chiefly from old laws still upon our statute books which require the observance of a pagan festival as the Christian Sabbath. Our civil authorities are tolerant of Adventists when they are quiescent, but when they become active in propagating their faith, and are consistent in living it out, they encounter fierce civil opposition.
THIS is the situation in a nutshell. Human nature has not changed at all, and times have changed but little since the days of the Cesars. The spirit of persecution is not essentially different now from what it was then, while the pretexts for it are almost identical with those of thirteen hundred years ago.
IN the Senate, on Dec. 11, Mr. Cullom, of Illinois, in offering petitions from his constituents said:—
I also present a petition signed by the pastors of a pretty large number of churches in Chicago, praying Congress to make an appropriation (I understand from outside sources that the sum required will not be over $10,000) for a small chapel in connection with the marine hospital Iocated in Chicago, and on the ground which belongs to the Government, and is in part occupied by the marine hospital. The proposed chapel is to be for the accommodation so sick persons who are in the hospital, so that they may have an opportunity to attend church. I move that the petition be referred to the committee on Public Buildings and Grounds.
Is this not a logical conclusion from the appointment of chaplains by the Government? If it is the duty of the United States to provide teachers of religion in Government institutions, why does it not follow that it is the duty of the United States to furnish churches and chapels in which the teaching may be given? This being so, why is it not the right and duty of the Government, then, to decide what form of religion shall be taught by its paid chaplains, and in the building which it has provided? This acknowledged, as how can it be denied if the premises are granted, how does the Government differ from a great ecclesiastical organization, and what is it but an image to the Papacy?