September 22, 1892
THE AMERICAN SENTINEL is in the seventh year of its publication. From the first number that was ever issued, it has been telling the people that in this Government, though forbidden by the Constitution, there would be established a national religion; and that there would be national Sunday legislation at the demand of the churches.
ALL of this is now done by the United States Supreme Court decision of February 29, 1892, declaring this to be a Christian Nation, and by Congress, in the act closing the World’s Fair on Sunday. In these two governmental actions there lies wrapped up, and only awaiting swift development, all that THE SENTINEL has been telling about, and warning against, these seven years. In thus establishing Christianity as the national religion, the United State is doing just what was done in the Roman Empire in the fourth century; and the result will be the same now that it was then, namely, persecution for conscience’ sake.
IN the beginning of the fourth century there was in the Roman Empire, even as there is now in the United States, a powerful ecclesiastical organization, the leaders and managers of which were “only anxious to assert the government as a kind of sovereignty for themselves.”—Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, book 8, chap. 1. While “it was the hope of every bishop in the empire to make politics a branch of theology,” “it was the aim of Constantine to make theology a branch of politics.” In an intrigue therefore with Constantine, they succeeded in bartering to him their influence and power in theology for his in politics.
AMS one of the very first fruits of this intrigue, Constantine was established in the rulership of one half of the Roman Empire. Jointly with Licinius, he then issued the Edict of Milan, reversing the persecuting edicts of Diocletian, and granting “liberty and full freedom to the Christians to observe their own mode of worship;” granting “likewise to the Christians and to all, the free choice to follow that mode of worship which they may wish;” granting “likewise to the Christians and to all, the free choice to follow that mode of worship which they may wish;” “that each may have the privilege to select and to worship whatsoever divinity he pleases;” and commanding that the churches and the church property which had been confiscated by Diocletian, should be restored to “the whole body of Christians,” “and to each conventicler respectively.”—Id., book 10, chap. 5.
THIS was all just and proper enough, and innocent enough, in itself and on its face, if that had been all there was to it. But behind it there lay the ecclesiastical organization, ambitious to assert the government as a kind of sovereignty for itself, and that religio-political intrigue which had been entered into to feed and satisfy this ambition. This ecclesiastical organization likewise claimed to be the legitimate and only true representative and depository of Christianity in the world—it was the Catholic Church. And no sooner had the Edict of Milan ordered the restoration of property to the Christians, than it was seized upon and made an issue by which to secure the imperial recognition and the legal establishment of the Catholic Church.
THE rule had long before been established that all who did not agree with the bishops of the Catholic Church were necessarily heretics, and not Christians at all; it was now claimed by the Catholic Church that therefore none such were entitled to any benefit from the edict restoring property to the Christians. In other words, the Catholic Church disputed the right of any others than Catholics to receive property or money under the Edict of Milan, by disputing their right to the title of Christians. And by this issue the Catholic Church forced an imperial decision as to who were Christians. Under the circumstances, it was a foregone conclusion that this decision would be in favor of the Catholic Church; and accordingly, Constantine’s edict to the proconsul contained these words:—
It is our will that when thou shalt receive this epistle, if any of those things belonging to the Catholic Church of the Christians in the several cities or other places, are now possessed either by the decurions or any others, these thou shalt cause immediately to be restored to their churches.
BUT this did not settle the controversy. Immediately there were two parties claiming to be the Catholic Church. Therefore the emperor was obliged next to decide which was the Catholic Church. Later Constantine addressed a letter to Cecilianus, bestowing more favors upon what he now called “the legitimate and most holy Catholic religion.” No sooner was it decided what was “the legitimate and most holy Catholic Church,” than the civil power was definitely placed at the disposal of this church, with positive instructions to use this power in compelling conformity to the new imperial religion. And persecution was begun at once.
NOR was this long in coming. It all occurred in less than four years. The Edict of Milan was issued in the month of March, A.D. 313. Before that month expired, the decision was rendered that the imperial favors were for the Catholic Church only. In the autumn of the same year, 313, the first council sat to decide which was the Catholic Church. In the summer of 314 sat the second council on the same question. And in 316 the  decree was sent to Cecilianus, empowering him to distribute the money to the ministers of “the legitimate and most holy Catholic religion,” and to use the civil power to force the Donatists to submit to the decision of the councils and the emperor.
The first step taken in the union of Church and State in the Roman Empire, subsequent steps followed, not only easily and naturally, but inevitably. Constantine favored Christianity at the first, just as a whole—“the whole body of Christians.” And then he established a particular sect, the “Catholic Church of the Christians,” just as easily as he did the first. Just so certainly as the Supreme Court of the United States has established Christianity as the religion of this Nation, in exclusion of all other religions, just so certainly will it, or some other power, have to establish one particular sect in exclusion of all other sects. The Supreme Court hints at Protestantism; but if that is it, somebody will have to decide which sect of Protestantism it is.
Madison and other statesmen of his time knew just as certainly as they knew anything, that if Christianity was established as the State religion there must be a particular sect established, and everybody else be oppressed. Of the attempt to establish Christianity in Virginia, Madison wrote:—
Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians.
And of such action he said:—
Instead of holding forth an asylum to the persecuted, it is itself a signal of persecution.
Now mark: Madison and his compatriots held this position; they had experienced this in their day. We have had some of it too in our day. They saw in the mere proposition to make Christianity the established religion of Virginia, “a signal of persecution.” Just as certainly as the proposition to make Christianity the established religion of the State of Virginia was the signal of persecution in that State, just so certainly this Supreme Court decision making Christianity the religion of this Nation, is a signal of persecution through all the Nation. But read again from Madison’s remonstrance:—
Distant as it may be in its present form from the Inquisition, it differs from it only in degree. The one is the first step, the other is the last, in the career of intolerance.
In that proposition to establish “the Christian religion” in Virginia, Madison and other lovers of liberty saw the Inquisition. What does the reader see in this decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, which establishes “the Christian religion” as the national religion, and in the act of Congress which establishes as an essential part of Christianity the dogma that Sunday is the Sabbath? Just as certainly as that, back there, was a signal of persecution, and persecution throughout the State, just so certainly are these a signal of persecution, and persecution through all the Nation. Just so certainly as that had in it the Inquisition, just so certainly these have in them the same thing. And just as certainly as that edict of Constantine had in it the Papacy, just so certainly have these in them an image or likeness to the Papacy—an American papacy, distinct from, but no better than, the Roman Papacy.
KNEW IT WAMS COMING
We knew it was coming. And this is why for years we so continuously and so earnestly protested, and warned the people, against it. We knew not exactly how this union of Church and State, or as some prefer to call it, of religion and the State, would be brought about; we only knew that it would come; but we knew enough about the evil thing, to be able to recognize it when it should be formed. We have protested against this great evil; and we still protest against it. We protest against the evil principle itself, and we protest and shall continue to protest against any and all the consequences of the principle.
We had the right to protest against the establishment of a national religion; and we have the right to protest against this national religion now that it is established. In short, we have the divine and everlasting right to dissent from any and every religious organization on earth; and when the Government joins a religious organization, we have the same right still; even to the extent of refusing obedience to the Government itself, in so far as it is joined to the religious organization.
The one great object of the grand movement of the churches to secure governmental recognition of religion was to secure legislation by which Sunday observance could be enforced throughout the Nation, backed up by national power and influence. We protested against their movement, and disputed their right, to use the governmental power for any such purpose. Now that they have secured it, we still dispute their right to use it. We had the right to dissent from their claim of right to use the Government for any such purpose; and we have still the right to dissent from their use of the governmental power for this purpose. We had the right to refuse to keep Sunday when it was required by the churches without the aid of the Government; and we have the same right to refuse to keep it when it is required by the churches with the aid of the Government. In other words, governmental aid of churches in enforcing their dogmas and ordinances can not take away any man’s right to dissent from those dogmas and ordinances. The Government does wrong in aiding the churches; and men do right in dissenting from both churches and Government in the things wherein they are allied.
WHY THEY SOUGHT AID
It was lack of power to convince the people that they ought to keep Sunday as the Sabbath, that caused the churches to demand the governmental power to aid in compelling the people to do this. Lacking the power to persuade the people, the churches resorted to power to compel the people to observe the ordinance of the Church. The religious controversy, as to whether Sunday is a sacred day or not, has been going on in the United States longer than has the movement to secure the recognition or declaration of the Government that it is sacred. Those who demand that Sunday shall be observed have admitted over and over again that there is no divine command for it. And the effort of these churches to secure the alliance and aid of the Government was only an effort to get the national Government to take their side of this controversy. They now have the Government committed to this. In the effort to gain this they have been boastful, and arrogant, and insolent, enough, in all conscience, as has been abundantly shown by their own words all these years. If any one is inclined to think they will be any less so, now that they have their wish, then the writer only wishes that that one could have sat where he did, in the gallery of the House, when the final vote was taken by which Congress committed the Government to their side of the controversy, and could have seen and heard their exultation.
In this act of closing the World’s Fair on Sunday, Congress has distinctly taken sides in a theological controversy. Congress in this, and the Supreme Court in its decision, have committed the Government of the United States to the decision of a religious question. Neither the act of Congress nor the decision of the Supreme Court, will convince the Jew, or the Christian who observes the seventh day, that Sunday should be observed. No more will the National Reformers be able to convince these with the aid of the power which these acts give, to inflict pains and penalties upon dissenters. We disagreed with the National Reformers before; we disagree with them now. We denied before that Sunday should be observed; we deny now that it should be observed. We refused before to keep Sunday; we refuse now to keep Sunday. We denied before, the National Reform claim of right to use the governmental power to compel anybody to keep Sunday; and although they have secured the use of the power, we deny now their right to use it.
COMMITTED TO A FALSEHOOD
All these years we have denied the right of Congress to legislate in behalf of Sunday or any other religious rite or institution. We denied this wholly upon principle. We protested against Sunday legislation because it is religious legislation. We would have protested equally if it had been proposed to legislate in behalf of any other religious day. We can appeal to the life of THE SENTINEL as clear evidence that this has always been the one prominent feature and reason of our protest against Sunday legislation. And as long as the question had maintained this standing only, so long would this have still been the prominent feature of our protest. But now Congress has legislated upon the subject. Congress has now decided, and has committed the Government to the decision, that Sunday is the Sabbath and shall be observed. And now we protest against it, not only because it is religious legislation, but also, because it is not true. In this act Congress has committed itself and the Government to a falsehood.
Sunday is not the Sabbath. Sunday is not the Lord’s day. Sunday is not in any sense a sacred day. As before stated, the chiefest advocates of this Sunday legislation admit in writing that there is no divine command for the observance of Sunday in any way. They know that the only authority for it is the authority of the Church. And if they do not know, they, and everybody else who will look into the question, may learn that “the church” which is authority for Sunday sacredness is the Catholic Church, and that alone. And they may likewise know that professed Protestants who keep Sunday, are following the authority of the Catholic Church, and that alone, for there is no other authority for Sunday observance whether by church rulers or governmental statute. And Congress in  requiring the observance of Sunday, is requiring submission and obedience to the authority of the Catholic Church, for there is no other authority for Sunday observance. It was therefore perfectly fitting that in the chief speech that was made in favor of the Sunday bill in the Senate (the speech of Senator Hawley of Connecticut), the chief place in the speech should be given to the views of Catholic archbishops upon the subject. But the authority of the Catholic Church is no authority at all; it is only usurpation and fraud, and its Sunday sacredness is a falsehood. Therefore it is that the Congress of the United States, in legislating in behalf of Sunday observance, has committed itself, and the Government of the United States, to a falsehood. And not only to a falsehood, but to a papal falsehood. And we refuse to recognize it or yield any respect to it as either true or right.
The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, and Sunday is not the Sabbath. The seventh day is the Lord’s day, and Sunday is not. The seventh day is the sacred day and the only sacred day, and Sunday is not at all a sacred day. For thus saith the Lord:—
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy sin, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.—Exodus 20:8-11.
And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.—Genesis 2:3.
This is the position and the protest of THE AMERICAN SENTINEL now and always.