THERE is a phase of human rights which with the mighty men who made this nation took precedence even of the governmental principles of equality of civil right and government only by the consent of the governed. That is Religious Right. It has been this phase of human right, that more than the other, has made this nation what it has been in true greatness, and the light of the world.
With those noble men, those men of Providence, religious right was rightly set up first of all and above all. The right of a man to perform his duty to the Creator according to the dictates of his own conscience, absolutely untrammeled and unmolested—this was singled out, and discussed, and settled, first of all. The founders of our nation said that that must be settled first; for without religious liberty there could be no true civil liberty.
When they had settled that and spread it among the people of the then thirteen States, then they set about to frame a national government; and in that they established as a fundamental principle that the Government must have nothing to do with any man’s religion or irreligion; that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; that no religious test shall ever be required: and that the Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion.
These are the declaration of the men who made the Government,—Washington, Madison, Jefferson,—all the noble patriots who made the Government of that day; and who made it to stand forever as they made it. But to-day vast throngs and combines are being compacted together to draw this nation into the very thing which our fathers repudiated to draw the nation into an alliance with what somebody may choose to call Christian religion; to enforce by law somebody’s idea of what people ought to do with respect to religious observance; and the taxation of the people for the support of the church and religion. All these things are being persistently pushed upon the Government of the United States, against the Constitution, against the history that made the nation, against the plain fundamental principles established by those who made the nation.
When our fathers established the principles of this Government they announced them to the world, and actually fixed them in the great seal of the United States, so that when the great seal of this Government makes its impression upon anything it tells to the world that here is “A new order of things;” and that “God has favored the undertaking.” Every time the Secretary of State of the United States places that great seal upon paper, parchment, wax, or whatever it may be, it tells to the world that this nation was established to show to the world “a new order of things,” and that “God has favored the undertaking” of establishing a nation for that purpose.
When a nation publishes as its fundamental principle the separating the government from religion, leaving everybody free to believe and worship according to the dictates of his own conscience, uninterrupted by any person or power on earth—if that nation separates from that principle and takes the opposite course, setting to the nations the example of religious interference and religious persecution, then what is there left for the people of the other nations, who, so far as they have been enlightened at all, have been enlightened by this great principle? They must be swept back into the old order of things, there to perish. What then remains for this nation itself? What then remains for the world?
Our fathers in their day saw this danger and expressed it plainly. When they were asked to legislate in behalf of the Christian religion, they said, “What a melancholy departure is this bill!” If this principle is destroyed, what will the nations do who are looking to this nation for civil liberty and liberty of conscience? They will have to turn their steps away from us, and then where will they find a place on the earth? Where shall freedom find a refuge if that is done in this nation? That document was written by Madison in his own hand. He realized that legislation in behalf of religious observance was a melancholy departure, and was “the first step” in a course of things, of which the Inquisition is only the last step. Accordingly they declared that they would escape the consequences by denying the principle.
But this principle of our fathers with the others is being ignored and repudiated to-day; and it is time for all the people to begin to think on the question of human rights.
We have said that the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Romans are the basis of this study of human rights. In the fourteenth chapter we read: “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” This is spoken in a connection in which “the powers that be” are considered. How then does the Scripture stand as compared with that which is  being carried on now all over this land? How does this Scripture comport with the widespread efforts to get the United States Government to legislate in behalf of the observance of a certain day. It matters not what any man’s opinion may be. It matters not what any person’s views may be of Sabbath observance,—whether of one day or none at all; there stands the Scripture with respect to the place which man shall occupy, and the place which the powers that be shall occupy with respect to the observance of a day. And none can disregard it except at the peril of the judgment of God. “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?” All are to be left free. We are not to judge anybody, nor interfere with him, nor question him, as to whether he is subject to his master in the right way or not.
There stands the Scripture; how does it compare with the action of the churches, with the work of those who profess reverence for the Scriptures, all over this land, who are persistently urging upon the nation to establish by law the observance of a day?
Here is the Lord’s declaration of human right as to the observance of a day: “He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day to the Lord, he doth not regard it.” “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” If I observe the day to God, I really observe it; if I do not observe the day to the Lord, there can be no faith in it, and therefore I sin in observing it. “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to judge his doubtful thoughts; to his own master he standeth or falleth.” Why should I compel you to observe the day which I observe? I cannot with this scripture in mind. Some observe one day, some observe another, and some do not observe any day religiously. It is true the vast majority observe one special day; but which of these three classes can secure or use law to enforce upon others the observance of the day which they regard, and still be Christians? Who can do it and recognize human rights as God has defined them and laid them down in his Word? Plainly none.
Again: Is it not written in the Scriptures, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, OR OF THE SABBATH DAYS?” Colossians 2:16. And yet all over this land there are “Sabbath laws” on the statute books; Sunday laws, Lord’s day laws, or whatever they may be called, and whosoever does not regard that day according to the law IS JUDGED BY MEN in the enforcement of the law. But the Scripture says, “Let NO MAN JUDGE YOU.” Then that scripture requires every person who receives the Scripture as the Word of God, to protest against every law that is proposed, or that ever could be proposed, in favor of the enforcement of the observance of any day for the Sabbath?
“LET NO MAN JUDGE YOU, in respect of Sabbath days,” saith the Lord. But when I go about to exert my influence with politicians, with legislators, with governors, and other authorities, to secure a law to compel my neighbor to recognize the day which I observe, and then when he does not observe the law which I have had enacted, he is judged BY MEN, is fined, and imprisoned; in that I do the very thing God has said that no man shall do. That Scripture then requires every Christian in the United States and everywhere else to everlastingly protest against anything by which any man can judge another for not observing a certain day, or any day at all, as a Sabbath.
This is not saying that the Lord does not require that the Sabbath shall be observed. God has commanded all to keep the Sabbath. He has told all what day is to be observed. He says distinctly, “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.” But the point is this,—it is God who has commanded it, and to Him alone men are responsible, and not to MAN. He alone, and not man, nor any set of men, is the judge.
A. T. J.