July 27, 1893
WHAT Is Protestantism?
THIS is a question of living interest and vital importance just now, to the people of the United States.
WHEN the point has been reached where professed Protestants call upon Congress and courts to decide religious controversies for them, and to enact laws enforcing their church dogmas, and where they insist upon calling out the troops to enforce upon the people at the point of the bayonet the recognition and observance of religious observances, then it is time, and it is proper too, to inquire, Is this Protestantism?
AT the second Diet of Spires, held in 1529, there was presented the Protest, which originated, and gave to those who made it, the title and name of Protestants. And in summarizing this protest the historian states its principles as follows:—
The principles contained in the celebrated protest of the 19th of April, 1529, constitute the very essence of Protestantism. Now this protest opposes two abuses of man in matters of faith; the first is the intrusion of the civil magistrate; and the second the arbitrary authority of the Church. Instead of these abuses, Protestantism sets the power of conscience above the magistrate, and the authority of the Word of God above the visible Church. In the first place, it rejects the civil power in divine things, and says with the prophets and apostles, We must obey God, rather than man. In the presence of the crown of Charles the Fifth, it uplifts the crown of Jesus Christ.—D’Aubigne, Hist. Ref. Book XIII, Chap. VI. Page 521.
The Sunday managers claim that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, that it is the great charter of their religion, that it is indeed the very citadel of their faith. And they claim to be Protestants. Now did they oppose the intrusion of the civil magistrate into this great question of their religion? No, indeed. Everybody knows that so far were they from opposing any intrusion of the civil magistrate that they actually and by threat required the civil authority to intrude upon the discussion and decision of the question and the enactment of a law requiring its observance; and also required the courts to intrude themselves into it when the act of Congress was called in question; and further called upon the executive to further intrude the civil authority by force of arms. All this they have done before the eyes of all the people.
NOW as it is the very essence of Protestantism to oppose the intrusion of the civil magistrate in religious things; and as they did not oppose this, it plainly follows that they are not Protestants, and that their movement and work is not Protestantism. As it is the very essence of Protestantism to oppose the intrusion of the civil magistrate in things religious, and as the people engaged in the Sunday movement, professing to be Protestants, not only did not oppose it, but actually required the whole magisterial power of the United States Government under threats to intrude there; it follows that the people who engaged in this Sunday-law movement are not Protestants at all, and that neither their movement nor their work if Protestantism in any sense.
SECONDLY, it is the essence of Protestantism to oppose “the arbitrary authority of the Church.”
NOW, for Sunday observance in any way there is no authority but the arbitrary authority of the Church. The Sunday managers not only know this, but they openly say it. The American Sabbath Union itself in one of its own official publications, in answer to a call for a citation to a command of God for Sunday observance, plainly says: “We admit there is no such command.” The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, also in one of its own publications, inquiring about the change of day from the seventh to the first, says that Christ “did not command it.” There are other such statements also—too many to cite here. Well then, as they know that there is no command of God for Sunday observance; and as the Church power only is that which requires its observance; this is proof in itself that the only authority for it is the arbitrary authority of the Church.
YET more than this. Even though Christ had commanded it, for the Church to require, and enforce upon men its observance by law—this would be nothing else than to assert the arbitrary authority of the Church. Because, Christ himself has said, “If any man hear my words and believe not, I judge [condemn] him not.” As therefore Christ leaves every man free to observe his words or not, for the Church to compel any man to do it, is to put herself above Christ and do what he does not do. And this, in itself, is only to assert the arbitrary authority of the Church. So that whether there be a command of God for Sunday observance or not, in this matter the result is the same; to do as the professed Protestant churches of the United States have done and are doing, in requiring Sunday observance of all by law, is nothing else than to assert the rightfulness of the arbitrary authority of the Church.
BUT it is the essence of Protestantism to oppose the arbitrary authority of the Church. Therefore, as the professed Protestants of the United States have not opposed the arbitrary authority of the Church in this matter of Sunday observance, it plainly follows that they are not Protestants. And as it is the essence of Protestantism to oppose the arbitrary authority of the Church, and as these professed Protestants, not only did not oppose it, but actually asserted it and still maintain it, it unmistakably follows that they are not Protestants at all; and that neither their movement nor their work is Protestantism in any sense.
THIS proves that to oppose the Sunday movement in all its parts, to oppose Sunday laws in any and all their phases, to oppose and deny the right of congresses, or courts, or executives, to touch the question of Sunday observance, or any other religious question in any way, and to reject entirely the authority of any such action when it is asserted—this and this only is Protestantism. Even admitting that Sunday were the Sabbath, those who observe it can be Protestants only by opposing all intrusion of the magistrate into the question; by opposing all attempt of the Church to require its recognition or  observance by law, and by asserting their own individual right to observe it as they choose, without any dictation or interference from anybody. This alone is Protestantism.
THIS is the living, present, absolute truth. There is no discount on it at all. “Protestantism sets the power of conscience above a magistrate,” even though the magistrate calls himself a Christian and a Protestant, and proposes to enforce the “Christian Sabbath.” “Protestantism sets the authority of the Word of God above the visible Church,” even though the Church,” even though the Church calls itself Protestant. Protestantism “rejects the civil power in divine things, and says with the prophets and apostles: ‘We must obey God rather than man,’” and that too as God commands it, and not as man commands it, nor as man says that God commands it. Protestantism opposes and rejects every human intrusion, whether of the magistrate or the ecclesiastic, between the soul and Jesus Christ, and everlastingly maintains the divine right of the individual to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience exercised at his own free choice.
THIS is Protestantism; and the AMERICAN SENTINEL is unqualifiedly and uncompromisingly Protestant. The religious people who publish it are the same. The excellent work in which the SENTINEL and the people who publish it are engaged is genuine Protestantism. That work, as relates to this question, is the constant, unwavering, uncompromising, opposition to every form of Sunday legislation, or any other religious legislation, and to all interference or control of ecclesiastics in the affairs of Government. Protestants are needed to-day to protest against this apostate Protestantism which is now carrying things with so high a hand. Come along!
HERE are some words of as much solemn weight as ever, and as true to-day, and of this Sunday movement, as they ever were at any other time or of any other movement:
“The Reformation was accomplished in the name of a spiritual principle. It had proclaimed for its teacher the Word of God; for salvation, faith; for king, Jesus Christ; for arms, the Holy Ghost; and had by these very means rejected all worldly elements. Rome had been established by ‘the law of a carnal commandment;’ the Reformation, by ‘the power of an endless life.’
“The gospel of the reformers had nothing to do with the world and with politics. While the Roman hierarchy had become a matter of diplomacy and a court intrigue, the Reformation was destined to exercise no other influence over princes and people than that which proceeds from the gospel of peace.
“If the Reformation, having attained a certain point, became untrue to its nature, began to parley and temporize with the world, and ceased thus to follow up the spiritual principle that it had so loudly proclaimed, it was faithless to God and to itself. Henceforward its decline was at hand.
“It is impossible for a society to prosper, if it be unfaithful to the principles it lays down. Having abandoned what constituted its life, it can find naught but death.
“It was God’s will that this great truth should be inscribed on the very threshold of the temple he was then raising in the world, and a striking contrast was to make the truth stand gloriously prominent.”
“One portion of the reform was to seek alliance of the world, and in this alliance find a destruction full of desolation.
“Another portion looking up to God, was haughtily to reject the arm of the flesh, and by this very act of faith secure a noble victory.
“If three centuries have gone astray, it is because they were unable to comprehend so holy and so solemn a lesson.”—D’Aubigne, Id., Book XIV., Chap. 1.