>July 21, 1892
LET none misunderstand the position of THE AMERICAN SENTINEL; it is that while men have been, and still are, required to yield something to the majority in matters of religion, yet no such requirement ever has been, or ever can be, just. Religious belief is a matter which properly rests solely with the individual. Religion pertains to man’s relationship to God, and is the man’s personal relationship of faith and obedience, of belief and observance, toward God. Every man has therefore the personal, individual, and inalienable right to believe for himself in religious things.
AND this right of the individual to believe for himself in religious things, carries with it the same personal, individual and inalienable right to dissent from any and every other phase of religious belief that is held by anybody on earth. This right is recognized and declared by Jesus Christ, not only in the words in which he has commanded every man to render to God that which is God’s, while rendering to Cesar that which is Cesar’s, but likewise in the following words: “If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not, for I cam not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him. The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
THE word which Christ spoke was the word of God. The one who is to judge, therefore, is God; and in the last day he will judge every man for the way in which he has acted. To this judgment the Lord Jesus refers every man who refuses to believe and rejects his words. If any man hears Christ’s words and believes not, but rejects him and his words, Christ condemns him not, judges him not; but leaves him to the Judge of all, who will render to every man according to his deeds, in the last day.
In these words, the Author of Christianity, the Saviour of the world, has clearly recognized and declared the right of every man to dissent from every religion known to mankind; and even the religion of Christ itself, being responsible only to God for the exercise of that right. He wants every man to believe and be saved; but he will compel none. Christ leaves every man free to receive or reject, to assent or dissent, to believe or disbelieve, just as he chooses; his responsibility is to God alone, and it is the individual who must answer for himself in the last day. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:12.
WHOEVER therefore presumes to exercise jurisdiction over the religious belief or observances of any man, or would compel any man to conform to the precepts of any religion, or to comply with the ceremonies of any religious body, or would condemn any man for not believing or complying—whoever would presume to do any such thing, puts himself above Jesus Christ, and usurps the place and prerogative of God, the Judge of all.
SUCH is the doctrine of the free exercise of religion, as announced by Jesus Christ himself. And such is the doctrine upon this point that will ever be held by every one who respects that glorious Being. Thus is declared and established by the Author of all true religion, the inalienable, the divine, right of dissent. And such is the divine right of the freedom of religious belief.
NOR is this all in this connection. The founders of the Government of the United States recognized this divine right as such, and established the exercise of it as an inalienable civil right, “by refusing to treat faith as a matter of government, or as having a headship in a monarch or a State;” by excluding all religious tests; and by forbidding Congress ever to make “any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In short, by prohibiting the law-making power from making any law whatever upon the subject of religion.
THE people of Tennessee following this example of the makers of the national Government established in that State that divine right, as also an inalienable civil right, by declaring in the Constitution of the State that “no human power can in any case whatever control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship.” But the courts of the State have nullified that provision and declare that by the laws of that State the conscientious observer of the seventh day is a nuisance if he quietly labors on Sunday, and thus outrages the religious feeling or prejudice of his neighbors.