LIBERTY—in the highest and truest sense of the term—cannot be lost except by voluntary surrender. No combination of Church and State power, no Sunday “laws,” no restrictions that can be put upon an individual by religious legislation, can of themselves take away that individual liberty that is from God.
God is infinitely superior to all these forces, and it is His will that every one of His creatures should be free. This is so because freedom is indispensable to the rendering of that worship which is due from the individual to his Creator. God can accept no worship and no service that is not freely given.
It is not therefore in any spirit of hopelessness that we point out the dangers which now threaten the liberties of the American people. It may be, indeed, that the Constitution, and those principles of justice which it embodies, and upon which both the national and State governments are founded, will no longer serve as a protection to individual rights. It would seem that this is all but true of the situation even now. But even though the Constitution be entirely subverted, and though the very pillars of free government fall, soul liberty must still remain at the disposal of its divine Author. Its source is higher than any earthly constitution or government. All of liberty that ever found its way into such embodiments, was placed there by Him who presides over the destinies of all men; and when any people reject it as a principle of government, there still remains that avenue through which the gifts of God descend in their most perfect form, and which no governmental power can control.
This avenue the individual himself controls, and its use depends upon his own volition. It is the avenue of faith in the Word of God, necessitated by the relation of every individual to God. That relation is an individual relation, and is independent of earthly governments or power.
What we would do, in view of the encroachments upon the guaranties of liberty set in the principles and institutions of the Government, is to point out to all the one sure means by which liberty may be retained in the individual life. We are not prophesying the loss of all liberty. We know that liberty will not be lost; that after Sunday “laws” shall have been made as oppressive as enthroned despotism can make them, and enforced as rigorously as the churches are demanding they should be, even after the decree shall have been enforced that none may buy or sell save such as do homage to the papacy through that day she has set up,—there will be those who in the very midst of persecution will enjoy liberty in its fullness, because they have been set free by the Son of God. “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
It was the Son of God who, in the midst of the “burning fiery furnace” kindled by Nebuchadnezzar of old, brought to the three faithful one such freedom that had never been their before. And that was a freedom for all time of the futility of any effort of earthly government to take away liberty from the soul.
And the time is coming—such is the unmistakable indication of events—when every individual must decide it with himself whether in his own case liberty shall be lost, or retained as these ancient worthies retained it. But this need cause no person fear or despair. Never were the three Hebrews better off, or in the government of greater happiness, than when in the midst of the fiery furnace.
The prospect before every individual who will serve and obey God is bright indeed. We would not … point to this as well as to the gathering storm of religious persecution.