“History Repeating Itself” American Sentinel 10, 36, pp. 281, 282.

September 12, 1895

HISTORY is repeating itself to-day in the persecution of Seventh-day Adventists.

It is denied by some that the Adventists are persecuted. But persecution has never been called by that name by those who engaged in it—it has always been “ONLY ENFORCING THE LAW.”

Nor has there, as a general thing, been any attempt to justify persecution avowedly in the interests of religion. In every age and in every country religious intolerance has been defended, to a greater or less extent, on the ground of public policy.

Dissenters have ever been accused as enemies of the State, subverters of social order, disturbers of the public peace, and violators of the civil law, just as Seventh-day Adventists are to-day stigmatized as anarchists and indicted for acts “against the peace and dignity of the State.”

Ahab’s wicked accusation, contained in the question to Elijah, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel? 332 has been repeated in various forms in every country and in every age, from that time until the present. It was not as a religious dissenter, that Elijah was persecuted, but as a disturber of the peace of the kingdom.

When Daniel was accused to the king, because he prayed three time a day with his windows open toward Jerusalem, contrary to the royal decree, the accusation was couched in these words: “Daniel, who is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed.” 333 And the argument which prevailed with the king, was: “Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth, may be changed.” 334 Daniel’s disobedience was held to be utterly subversive of civil order, and so worthy of death.

The Son of God was also accused as “one that perverteth the people;” 335 and the prevailing argument with Pilate for his condemnation was, “If thou let this man go, thou art not Cesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Cesar.” 336 Religious bigotry simply invoked against Christ the penalties of the civil law. He suffered, not as an enemy of religion, but as an enemy of the State. The accusation written over him as he hung upon the cross, was, “The King of the Jews.” 337

As with their Master, so with the disciples; they also were accused as disturbers of the public peace, as subverters of civil order. At Thessalonica the cry was, “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Cesar.” 338

And at Ephesus the silversmiths raised a tumult because their craft was endangered (Acts 19:27) by the preaching of the apostles. Nor was the danger imaginary; so close was the relation between the prevailing faith and the social and commercial customs of the country, that it was easy to find what appeared to them to be a substantial secular basis for the legal prohibition of the preaching of Christ.

“There is no new thing under the sun;” 339 and so we find Cardinal Gibbons endeavoring to discover civil reasons for the Inquisition, He says: “The Spanish Inquisition was erected by King Ferdinand, less from motives of religious zeal, than from human policy. It was established, not so much with the view of preserving the Catholic faith, as of perpetuating the integrity of the kingdom…. It was, therefore, rather a royal and political, than an ecclesiastical institution.” 340 [282]

Coming down a little nearer to our own time, we find one of the historians of New England, attempting to justify the banishment of Roger Williams, upon the ground that he was a disturber of the peace. He says:—

In all strictness and honesty he persecuted them—not they him; just as the modern “Come outer,” who persistently intrudes upon some private company, making himself, upon pretense of conscience, a nuisance there; is—if sane—the persecutor, rather than the man who forcibly assists as well as courteously requires, his desired departure. 341

According to Bancroft, the pretext was that Williams was a foe to their civil institutions. He says:—

Roger Williams, the apostle of “soul-liberty,” weakened civil independence by impairing its unity; and he was expelled, even though Massachusetts bore good testimony to his spotless virture. 342

Another of the historians of Massachusetts makes an argument similar to that of Dr. Baxter’s. Of the Quakers and their persecutors, he says:—

It is to be as frankly and positively affirmed that their Quaker tormentors were the aggressive party; that they wantonly initiated the strife, and with a dogged pertinacity persisted in outrages which drove the authorities almost to frenzy. 343

It might appear as if good manners, and generosity and magnanimity of spirit, would have kept the Quakers away. Certainly, by every rule of right and reason, they ought to have kept away. They had no rights or business here…. Most clearly they courted persecution, suffering, and death; and, as the magistrates affirmed, “they rushed upon the sword.” Those magistrates never intended them harm…. except as they believed that all their successive measures and sharper penalties were positively necessary to secure their jurisdiction from the wildest lawlessness and absolute anarchy. 344

Mr. Brooks Adams examines these accusations at length, and shows conclusively from the most authentic records, that the Baptists and Quakers were not as a class guilty of any civil offense, properly so-called. He says:—

The early Quakers were enthusiasts, and therefore occasionally spoke and acted extravagantly; they also adopted some offensive customs, the most objectionable of which was wearing the hat. 345

Mr. Adams shows very clearly that the “annoyance” and “disturbance” attributed to Quakers was due simply to the intolerant feelings of their persecutors.

These inoffensive people were driven from their homes; were cruelly whipped; were banished from the colony; were hung like murders; and yet the testimony of the historian is, that while they “adopted some offensive customs,” “the most objectionable” was “wearing the hat,” that is, refusing to uncover in the presence of so-called superiors.

That which made “the wearing of the hat” so offensive in the Quaker, was his reason for doing it. “The Quaker scorned to take off his hat to any of them [rulers or nobles]; he held himself the peer of the proudest peer in Christendom…. Thus the doctrine of George Fox was not only a plebeian form of philosophy, but a prophecy of political changes…. Everywhere in Europe, therefore, the Quakers were exposed to persecution. Their seriousness was called melancholy fanaticism; their boldness, self-will; their frugality, covetousness; their freedom, infidelity; their conscience, rebellion.” 346 “They were,” says Bancroft, “hated by the church [the English establishment] and the Presbyterians, by the peers and the king. The codes of that day describe them as “an abominable sect;’ ‘their principles as inconsistent with any kind of government.’” Thus it was the Quaker’s principles, and not his hat, that gave offense, and it was for his principles that he was imprisoned in England and banished from Massachusetts. 347

Though banishment was considered one of the milder forms of punishment, it was, when we come to consider the circumstances, barbarously cruel. To the east lay nearly three thousand miles of ocean, and beyond it the persecution from which they had fled; to the west, the trackless wilderness, inhabited by wild beasts and savage men. Banishment meant only too often death, by cold or hunger, or by the hands of savages.

Among the Quakers, banished from Massachusetts, was a family by the name of Southwick. October 19, 1658, the Southwicks were ordered to depart from the colony before the spring elections, namely, to depart in a New England winter; but having no way of going, except on foot, their cattle having been previously seized and sold to pay fines, and they left well-nigh penniless, they remained in the colony, and the following May, says Mr. Adams, “found them once more in the felon’s dock.” When arraigned, they asked what wrong they had done. The judges answered that they were rebellious for not going as they had been commanded. “The old man and woman piteously pleaded ‘that they had no otherwhere to go,’ nor had they done anything to deserve banishment or death, though?100 (all they had in the world) had been taken from them for meeting together.” 348

But their plea was of no avail. “The father, mother, and son, were banished under pain of death.” “But their misery was well-nigh done; they perished within a few days of each other, tortured to death by flogging and starvation.”

Whole columns might be written descriptive of the cruel injustice perpetrated upon inoffensive Baptists and Quakers in New England. The record of fines, imprisonment, whipping, and banishment, and hanging, is a long one; but we spare our readers.

These details are revolting, and the reader wonders that such things could have taken place. But why regard with horror the dark records of injustice in past centuries, when in our own day similar scenes are enacted. Already fines have been imposed; imprisonment has been endured; innocent men have been driven in chain-gangs; banishment has been indirectly attempted; and whipping and death must soon follow. In scores of cases, it has been heartlessly said of Adventists—“If they do not want to conform to our customs, let them leave the country.” But where shall they go? The New England Baptists and Quakers had the trackless wilderness to which to flee. Roger Williams first found an asylum with the Indians, and subsequently settled in Rhode Island, founding a colony there. But where shall the persecuted Sabbath-keeper go? Were he to flee from the persecutions of civilized, “Christian” men, where are the savages with whom he might find refuge? where the wilderness in which he could plant a colony and make for himself a home?

Moreover, many of these people, if they were to go out at all, would have to go as our illustration shows the Quakers of New England going, stripped of all earthly possessions except the clothes on their backs. Injustice and oppression are robbing them of their goods, and when finally they are driven out, they will go penniless.

And yet this is neither China, nor Russia, nor Turkey; it is “free America;” neither are we living in the seventeenth century, but in the closing decade of the nineteenth, surrounded with all the influences of “Christian civilization,” warned by the history of the Dark Ages, and taught by the experience of a century of civil and religious liberty. But our boasted civilization, like Rome, is crumbling under its own magnificence; the light of liberty is going out, extinguished by human selfishness.

Is there, then, no hope? Yea, verily: God lives, and when his people, weaned from earth by the things that they suffer, cry day and night for deliverance, “he will avenge them speedily.” 349 “Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your years: for the coming of the Lord draweth night.” James 5:7, 8.

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