“‘Before Conscience Is Law’” American Sentinel 10, 13, pp. 99, 100.

THE Baptist Examiner, of this city, is making a noble fight against religious intolerance. In its issue of January 31, it said: “There is a deplorable ignorance as to what constitutes religious liberty. To a large proportion of the human race, religious liberty means the right to believe as I please, and act accordingly. Others mistake religious toleration for liberty.” Referring to the persecution of seventh-day observers for laboring on Sunday, the Examiner further says, “In not a few States religious liberty is grossly, wickedly, infamously violated through abuse of what are called the Sunday laws.” After narrating a few of the cases of persecution in the States of Arkansas, Tennessee, Maryland, Georgia and Pennsylvania, the editor continues:—

It is amazing how good people fail to understand what are the principles in this matter. At the last quarterly meeting of the Philadelphia Ministers’ Union, the writer [Dr. Wayland] proposed a resolution to the effect that the Pennsylvania Sunday law of 1794 should not be used for the violation of religious liberty in the case of quiet and conscientious citizens who, having observed the seventh day as a day of rest and worship, perform on the first day of the week such labor as does not interfere with the religious rights of their fellow-citizens. This resolution was opposed to open the door at all, or in the least to relax the requirements of the law; by another, on the ground that very few cases of hardship occurred under the law; and by another, on the ground that if this resolution were adopted, it would be necessary also to exempt those who observe Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or any other day of the week. At last a master-stroke was effected. A member called [100] the attention of the chairman to the fact that the hour of adjournment had already passed, and thereupon the chairman ruled that the body was no longer in session. It is this sort of thing that brings reproach upon Christianity.

Later Dr. Wayland introduced a similar resolution in the Philadelphia Baptist Monday Conference, with the result that it passed that body. Against this noble stand of the Examiner and Dr. Wayland, a number of Baptist papers have protested, among them the Nashville Baptist, the Alabama Baptist, the Canadian Baptist, and Messenger and Visitor (St. John, B.C.). We wonder that any Baptist could defend or excuse these persecutions. Our readers who know the history of the struggle of Baptists for “soul liberty,” and how sacredly they have held the rights of conscience, and how often they have refused to obey human law when that law conflicted with conscience, and have meekly taken the consequent flogging, imprisonment, banishment, and even death, will be interested to know how these Baptists defend what the Examiner calls a gross, wicked, infamous violation of religious liberty.

Here is a sample from the Central Baptist (St. Louis), which appeared in its issue of February 7. The heading of the article is, “Philadelphia Letter,” and the writer is G. J. Burchett:—

“Religious Liberty.

This was the live topic which came before the conference on Monday. Dr. H. L. Wayland introduced the subject by the following resolution:—

Resolved, That we request the Pennsylvania legislature to enact such a law as shall prevent the violation of religious liberty in the person of citizens who, having conscientiously observed Saturday as a day of rest and worship, engage on the first day of the week in quiet labor not interfering with the worship of their fellow-citizens.”

On the fact of it, this resolution is very taking with Baptists. In connection with this we feel that we have a glorious record, and we can afford to grow eloquent on this topic. The world owes us a great debt for the battles we waged and the victories we gained. We were the advocates of this when we stood alone. We are not alone now: others have joined us; we have plenty of religious liberty, such an abundance that the dangers seem to be that one may do most as he wills if only he pleads the rights of conscience in religious matters. The world has heard of our liberty and has come to spy it out. True, they have brought along some uncomfortable weapons; and Mormondom has sprung up among us, and means to share our liberties.

The discussion of this topic brought out the fact that there are persons known as “Adventists” who defy the Sunday laws of many of our commonwealths and make special efforts to get themselves arrested and then cry, “religious persecution.” Probably this is not confined to Adventists. It is plain to be seen that the question of religious liberty is not before us now as once it was: and the Lord is surely raising up some prophet who shall call upon us to remember that before conscience is law. And probably our next great conflict will arise out of this very question as to whether the law of the land shall be obeyed, or every one shall do as he pleaseth, “for there was no king in Israel.”

As we read this we seem to hear not a descendant of Roger Williams or Elder Holmes, but the voice of Cotton Mather as he defends the persecution of Baptists. A favorite argument is to charge that the persecuted court persecution. This was the charge made by Mather against the Baptists. Oh, no, “the question of religious liberty is not before us now as once it was.” It was quite different then. Then we were persecuted: now we are the persecutors. While we are loth to say it, it is nevertheless the fact that the Baptists of the South are the leaders in this persecution of seventh-day observers. The infidel smiles in contempt at the acrobatic agility with which the persecuted Baptist turns into a persecuting Baptist, and as he turns from this Christ-dishonoring performance, he remarks: “I told you so; he howls vociferously about persecution, but give him the power and he will treat his dissenting brother to the same.”

Yes, there has arisen a prophet in these days among Protestants, and he is having a strong following from Baptists, and his message is “that before conscience is law.” But he is not from the Lord, for the Lord says through the Apostle Peter, when human law conflicts with conscience, “we ought to obey God rather than men.” However, the Lord speaks of this prophet in Revelation 19:20, but he calls him a “false prophet.” In the 13th chapter the same power is brought to view under the term, “Image of the beast,” and he here preaches “that before conscience is law;” and those who refuse to accept this papal doctrine are threatened with death. And that which it is attempted to enforce is the “mark of the beast,” or the mark of the papacy. And this is just what those backsliding Baptists are attempting to enforce on Seventh-day Adventists; they are attempting to enforce the papal Sabbath,—Sunday,—which has no foundation in the Scriptures, but which the papacy points to as the sign of mark of its power. Seventh-day Adventists, like Baptists of old, refuse to accept the false doctrine that “before conscience is law,” and like them prefer to suffer persecution.

Not only do they refuse to accept this doctrine of the false prophet, but they are sounding the warning of God against this “false prophet” as found in Revelation 14:8-12.

To faithfully give this warning will cost everything, even life itself; but thank the Lord, there is victory at the end.

“And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.” Revelation 19:19, 20.

“And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” Revelation 15:2, 3. [102]

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