March 29, 1894
IN studying how best to oppose the encroachments of the papacy, it is only to state the truth to say that nothing but genuine Protestantism, consistently manifested, can ever successfully oppose the papacy in anything.
YET it is likewise only to state the truth to say that that which passes for Protestantism to-day, the average, popular, professed Protestantism of to-day, is so lacking in every essential element of true Protestantism, that it has become powerless for any purposes of opposition to the papacy, or for any other purpose that can be accomplished by Protestantism.
THE professed Protestantism of to-day calls upon Congress, and State legislatures, and the courts, to decide religious questions and controversies, and to enact laws embodying religious doctrines and enforcing church dogmas; it prosecutes at the law, fines and imprisons dissenters from the legalized doctrines; and even has gone so far as to demand of the national executive the mustering of the regular troops to enforce upon the people, at the point of the bayonet, the recognition and observance of religious dogmas and institutions. Any or all of this is anything but true Protestantism in any sense.
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 professed Protestants of to-day 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. Now do they oppose the intrusion of the civil magistrate into this great question of the civil magistrate into this great question of their religion?—No, indeed. Everybody knows that so far are they from opposing any intrusion of the civil magistrate that they actually require the civil authority to intrude upon the discussion and decision of the question and the enactment of laws requiring its observance; and also require the courts to intrude themselves into it whenever the law is called in question; and further call upon the executive to further intrude the civil authority by exerting all the power vested in him. All this they have done and are doing 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 these do not oppose this, it plainly follows that they are not Protestants, and that their religion and work is not that of Protestantism. As it is the very essence of Protestantism to oppose the intrusion of the civil magistrate in things religious; and as these people, professing to be Protestants, not only do not oppose it, but actually require the whole magisterial power of the State and United States Governments to intrude there; it follows that these people are not Protestants at all, and that neither their movement nor their work is Protestantism in any sense.
SECONDLY, it is the essence of Protestantism to oppose “the arbitrary authority of the Church.”
NOW, for the institution of Sunday or for Sunday observance, in any way, there is no authority but the arbitrary authority of the Church. Professed Protestants not only know this, but they openly say it. The American Sabbath Union itself, which is composed of the leading “Protestant” churches, 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 Woman’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, it 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. As it is the essence of Protestantism to oppose the arbitrary authority of the Church, and as these professed Protestants, not only do not oppose it, but actually assert it and openly maintain it, it unmistakably follows that they are not Protestants at all; and that their position  is not that of true Protestantism in any sense.
THIS proves that to oppose the Sunday institution itself, 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 it can be Protestants only by opposing it can be Protestants only by opposing all intrusion of the magistrates into the question; by opposing all attempts 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 the 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 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 of 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.
TRUE Protestantism insists that “the Bible and the Bible alone,” “the written word of God,” “thus saith the Lord,” is the only rule of faith and the religion of Protestants. But it is the very certainty of truth that there is no Bible, no written word of God, no “thus saith the Lord,” for the Sunday institution, or for Sunday observance, or for the intrusion of Cesar—the civil power—into the things of God or of the Church; and the professed Protestants of to-day know it, and have said so over and over. Indeed, Protestantism has always known that there is no Scripture, but only Church authority, tradition only, for the institution of Sunday. It was exactly here that the Council of Trent drew the line between Protestantism and Catholicism, and this, too, at the expense of Protestantism, because of its inconsistency. Yet, in spite of the history and the fact, in spite of their own knowledge of the history and the fact, in spite of the Scripture, and in spite of all this inconsistency, the professed Protestantism of to-day persistently stultifies itself by violating every principle of true Protestantism and acting upon papal principles only.
HERE are some words of as much solemn weight as ever, as true to-day, and of the popular Protestantism of to-day, as they ever were at any other time:—
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.
As the case stands to-day it is demonstrated that not only three centuries but three and a half centuries have gone astray because of their unwillingness or their inability to comprehend so holy and so solemn a lesson. And what, now, is the patent result?—Nothing short of the sheer collapse of popular Protestantism as a moral force in the world. The crowning act that demonstrated this was that procedure in 1892, by which the professed Protestantism of the United States, and of the world even, positively required, under threats of the only force at its command, the United States Government, to intrude itself into the realm of religion and conscience, to legalize the arbitrary authority of the Church, and thus to set the magistrate above the conscience and above the word of God. And this crowning act which marked the collapse of popular Protestantism was accompanied by an open confession of this collapse in the procedure by which professed Protestantism called together all the other religions of the world for the purpose of instituting a comparison among them in order to discover and formulate “a new, complete and perfect religion for all mankind.” And so there met in the “World’s Parliament of Religions” the three great divisions—Heathenism, Catholicism and popular Protestantism. Catholicism saw at once, and announced, “the collapse of dogmatic Protestantism.” And proceeded to make the fullest use of the “opportunity” thus opened to Catholicism. By their experiences in the parliament the heathen discovered this collapse and afterward announced it to their nations, as the following report, made by the Japanese priests, who returned from the parliament, shows:—
When we received the invitation to attend the Parliament of Religions our Buddhist organizations would not send us as representatives of the sect. The great majority believed that it was a shrewd move on the part of Christians to get us there and then hold us up to ridicule or try to convert us. We accordingly went as individuals. But it was a wonderful surprise which awaited us. Our ideas were all mistaken. The parliament was called because the Western nations have come to realize the weakness and folly of Christianity and they really wished to hear from us of our religion, and to learn what the best religion is. There is no better place in the world to propagate the teachings of Buddhism than in America. During the meetings one very wealthy man from New York became a convert of Buddhism, and was initiated into its rites. He is a man of great influence, and his conversion may be said to mean more than the conversion of ten thousand ordinary men, so we may say truthfully that we made ten thousand converts at that meeting. Christianity is merely an adornment of society in America. It is deeply believed in by very few. The great majority of Christians drink and commit various gross sins, and live very dissolute lives, although it is a very common belief and serves as a social adornment. Its lack of power proves its weakness. The meetings showed the great superiority of Buddhism over Christianity, and the mere fact of calling the meetings showed that the Americans and other Western peoples had lost their faith in Christianity and were ready to accept the teachings of our superior religion.—New York Independent, Dec. 14, 1893, p. 15.
And the missionary in Japan, who sends this, says that the report was received with “great applause,” and that these statements “will be thoroughly believed by the masses of the people.” Well, why should not the statements be believed by the masses of the people? The statements are true, and are fairly put, and a person does not need to be in Japan to discover it.
As we have said, Catholicism saw this collapse at once. Heathenism discovered it by experience in the parliament. And anybody who has carefully read the speeches made in the parliament cannot fail to see that it is so. The speeches of the heathen and of the Catholics are superior in every respect to the speeches of the representative “Protestants,” and in some respects, far superior. In the speeches of the heathen and the Catholics, and especially of the heathen, there was the keen searching analysis of scholarly attainment and the sober earnestness of conviction, that will always make an impression; while the speeches of professed Protestantism were chiefly characterized by the lightness of leaves in the wind, the instability of water, and the uncertainty of the waves of the sea. All this is easily seen by a comparison of the speeches made in the parliament. And that that is precisely the measure of the effect that the speeches and proceedings had upon those who attended the parliament or who have studied the speeches, is clear to every one who has moved to any extent among the people since. Thus, by seeking the arm of the national power to hold her up, and meeting upon a common basis of inquiry both heathenism and Catholicism, popular Protestantism has openly confessed her conscious inability to stand alone and her conscious lack of Christian truth, and so has confessed her utter collapse as a moral force or as a power for good in the world.
A number of years ago a leading thinker in Europe declared in truth of Protestantism as it is in Europe, what it is in the United States: “Protestants, there are some, but Protestantism is dead.” “The collapse of dogmatic Protestantism” is an accomplished fact. But Protestants will never cease out of the land, and may they increase abundantly.
A. T. J.