“Editorial” American Sentinel 9, 49, p. 385.

December 13, 1894

IT always costs something to consistently adhere to principle.

THE time-server and faint-hearted will always find times when it would seem to be easier, and even better, to compromise principle and lower the standard.

THIS is emphatically true in the advocacy of the separation of Church and State. The logic of one’s position often leads him beyond what he saw in the beginning, and the tendency is to falter. But to falter is to suffer defeat.

THE principles of religious liberty apply not only to the Christian, but to the unbeliever as well. If God ordained freedom to believe, he just as truly ordained freedom not to believe. If he reserved to himself judgment in spiritual things in heathen lands, he did the same in so-called Christian countries; for the words, “The powers that be are ordained of God,” were spoken when Rome ruled the world. Whatever legitimate authority any civil government has now, Rome had then.

BUT we find the disciples of Christ ignoring the laws of Rome that were designed to control men in matters of religious faith and practice. They fearlessly preached the gospel even when directly forbidden by the magistrates to do so. They were, therefore, violators of the civil law of a God-ordained government.

BUT neither Rome nor any other human civil government was ever ordained of God to control men in religious matters. The key to the whole apparent difficulty is found in the words of our Lord: “Render unto Cesar the things which are Cesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” This forever separates between civil and spiritual things, and marks clearly the limits of civil authority. Within this sphere civil government is God-ordained; beyond it, any human government is only usurpation. Therefore the Christian who claims freedom of conscience for himself, must unhesitatingly award the same to every other man, however much his feelings may be hurt, or his religious prejudices outraged.

BUT it costs in more ways than one to adhere to principle in the matter of the separation of Church and State. Baptists and Seventh-day Adventists have put themselves on record as desiring to be consistent in the matter of paying taxes on their church property. And the Baptists were among the first to protect against the appropriation of public money for the support of sectarian Indian schools. It is true that in one instance in Indian territory Baptists did violate the principle, but they dissolved the iniquitous partnership of their own volition before public attention was called to the fact that it existed, and have since consistently held themselves aloof from such entanglements. Adventists have never transgressed in this matter.

IN the matter of Sunday laws, Baptists have not been consistent, but Adventists have. The latter have opposed such laws not only for themselves but for all men. They have refused to accept exemption clauses on the ground that they could not consent to the right of the State to require anybody to keep Sunday. Had they compromised in this matter they might have accomplished much in the modification of Sunday statutes, but would have done nothing for real soul-liberty. They might have kept out of prisons and chain-gangs but they could not have been the means of delivering souls from the bondage of Satan. They might even now go into partnership with civil governments, but in so doing they would deny their principles. And in the words of the historian of the Reformation: “It is impossible for a society to prosper, if it be unfaithful to the principles it lays down. Having abandoned what constitutes its life, it can find naught but death.”

DOUBTLESS, every temptation possible will be thrown in the way of consistent defenders of religious liberty to get them to prove untrue to their principles. Satan leaves no stone unturned to accomplish his purposes. He will frighten the timid, cajole whom he can, and retreat only when he must. It is a time for every lover of soul-liberty, every consistent defender of total separation of Church and State, to be alert. Let Seventh-day Adventists especially, who know what it is to suffer for the truth’s sake, set their faces like a flint against everything “tending toward a union of Church and State either in name or in fact.” It is a time to “be strong and very courageous.” [385]

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