January 28, 1897
A MAN may believe in, and advocate, Constitutional religious liberty, without being confessedly a Christian; and without desiring to be a Christian. But he cannot do so without recognizing and indorsing, and indeed advocating, a Christian principle.
This, because the very principle of Constitutional religious liberty, the principle of separation of religion and the State, the principle of excluding religion from governmental recognition and jurisdiction, is essentially and only a Christian principle.
Though it be possible now for a man to believe in and advocate the truth that religion should be totally separated from government, without being confessedly a Christian, there was a time when such a thing was impossible.
It was Christianity that first announced in the world the idea of separation of religion and the State. This too, at a time when it was death to do so. “The Empire of the Romans filled the world.” By law, under penalty of death, that Empire forbade the exercise of any religion that was not recognized by the Roman State. Yet in the very heart of the Empire, in the most prominent cities—Antioch, Ephesus, Athens, Corinth, Rome itself—without State recognition, without asking any such thing, indeed declaring that the State had nothing to do with the subject, Christianity was exercised in all the privileges that it gave.
At that time, for any one to advocate the truth that religion should be separated from governmental jurisdiction, was in itself to confess Christianity. None but Christians would think of doing it. So essentially Christian was the idea, that had an emperor himself adopted it he would have been looked on as having espoused Christianity.
It took two hundred and fifty years of suffering, and sacrifice of everything, to bring the Roman world to the acknowledgment of the principle. It was finally done though. And then when an ambitious clergy took the antichristian step of securing the imperial, governmental recognition of the “Christian” religion—then it was, and not till then, that pagans and enemies of Christianity advocated the principle. Yet it was still the Christian principle it was before, even though it was adopted and maintained by the enemies of Christianity, as well as by genuine Christians, against the outrages of a professedly Christian, though really antichristian, power.
And so the principle yet, and ever, remains a Christian principle only. It matters not who may advocate it, it is still the same Christian principle it was when Christianity first announced it in the world.
If professed Christians had never taken an antichristian course, it is plain that none but the friends of Christianity could ever have accepted and advocated the principle. It is therefore perfectly plain that the apostate antichristian “Christians” are responsible for the enemies of Christianity using the principles of Christianity in opposition to Christianity.
Bear in mind that we do not object to the enemies of Christianity advocating the principle. We have only called attention to the truth, that had there never been any antichristian “Christians,” there had likewise never been any enemies of Christianity using Christian principles in opposition to what they suppose is Christianity. What we say is, Let Christian principles be espoused and advocated by whomsoever will do it. It is better that it be done by professed enemies of Christianity than not to be done at all by the professed friends of Christianity. When the principle is so outraged in the house of its professed friends, it is well that it should be so befriended in the house of its professed enemies.
It can never be denied that in the Roman world there was never any thought of any such thing as separation of religion and the State. It cannot be denied that  Christianity was introduced into the Roman world in the first century and that it was there in the first and second centuries as really as it ever was at any other time. Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius, Tragan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius, all give unexceptionable testimony that it was there then.
And just as certainly as Christianity was there then, so certainly did it proclaim the divine right of men to worship according to the dictates of their own consciences; and that the State has of right nothing whatever to do with religion. Thus this Christian principle was announced and maintained there then. It has been maintained in the world ever since, and it will always be maintained in the world.
It will always be a Christian principle and nothing else, it matters not who may advocate it. And it is only antichristianity that will ever under any pretext impugn it or deny it.