“National Reform and the Rights of Conscience” The American Sentinel 1, 2, pp. 11, 12.

February 1886

THE avowed purpose of the National Reform Party is to secure an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, by which every man will be compelled to acknowledge that God is Sovereign, that Christ is Ruler, and that the Bible is the supreme law. Whether a man believes it or not, is no difference, he must be compelled to acknowledge it because they profess to believe it. The Christian Statesman of Oct. 2, 1884, says”—

“Give all men to understand that this is a Christian nation; and that, believing that without Christianity we perish, we must maintain by all right means our Christian character. Inscribe this character on our Constitution… Enforce upon all that come among us the laws of Christian morality.

Enforce,” according to Webster, is “to force; to constrain; to compel; to execute with vigor.” Therefore the proposition of these National Reformers is to force, to compel, all to keep the laws of Christian morality. To execute with vigor upon all, the laws of Christian morality.

And what is to be the penalty for dissent? Well, they pretend to be so kind that they will not whip anybody for it; they pretend to be so liberal that they will not impose a fine upon any one for it; they pretend to be so merciful that they will not imprison any one for it; but they are neither so kind, so liberal, nor so merciful but that they will disfranchise every one who will not acknowledge, and submit to, the provisions which they choose to embody in their Religious Amendment to the Constitution.

Thus, for a religious opinion, however conscientiously held, which may disagree with theirs, they deliberately propose to deprive men of their birthright to the most inestimable right of earth,—that for which thousands upon thousands have laid down their lives; that for which our fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor,—the right to be a citizen amongst a free people, and in this instance a citizen of the best Government or the earth. Every honor to which he might otherwise aspire, every right to which he might otherwise be entitled, must be swept away at one stroke because, forsooth, he chooses to claim the right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. That this is no fancy picture that we have drawn, that it is no fable that we have devised, in regard to what that party proposes to do, we have abundant proof; and that in their own words.

Mr. W. J. Coleman is one of the principal exponents of the National Reform religion. In the Christian Statesman of Nov. 1, 1883, Mr. Coleman replied to some questions that had been put by a correspondent who signed himself “Truth Seeker.” We copy the following“—

“What effect would the adoption of the Christian Amendment, together with the proposed changes in the Constitution, have upon those who deny that God is the Sovereign, Christ the Ruler, and the Bible the law? This brings up the conscience question at once…. The classes who would object are, as ‘Truth Seeker’ has said, Jews, infidels, atheists, and others. These classes are perfectly satisfied with the Constitution as it is. How would they stand toward it, if it recognized the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ? To be perfectly plain, I believe that the existence of a Christian Constitution would disfranchise every logically consistent infidel.”

There we have in plain words what they propose to do with dissenters under their “Christian Constitution.” But let us look into this a little further. Notice, it is only the logically consistent dissenter that will be disfranchised. By the same token, then, the illogically inconsistent can all be citizens. That is, the man of honest intention, of firm conviction, and of real principle, who values his principles more than he does political preference, he must be disfranchised; while the time-servers, the political hacks, the men of no convictions and of no principle, they can all be acceptable citizens. In other words, the honest man, if he be a dissenter, cannot be a citizen; but every hypocrite can be a citizen. Therefore the inevitable logic of the National Reform position is to put a premium upon hypocrisy. And such will be the value of citizenship under their so-called Christian Constitution.

Such a result from such proceedings is not new. The Puritan Parliament “solemnly resolved that no person shall be employed but such as the House shall be satisfied of his real godliness.” And as the natural consequence, the realm was filled with hypocritical piety.

Thus much merely in passing, as it is not so much our purpose in this article to notice the logic of their position, as it is to show their avowed purpose of outraging every principle of the rights of conscience. Mr. Coleman is not alone in thus defining the status of dissenters. In the Statesman of February 21, 1884, Mr. J. C. K. Milligan, in writing upon the same subject, expressed himself thus:—

“The worst result will be to disfranchise them.”

But this is not the worst result which they [12] wish, nor which they intend shall be to such. Just read carefully the following extract from an address delivered by Rev. E. B. Graham at a National Reform Convention held at York, Neb., and reported in the Christian Statesman of May 21, 1885:—

“We might add, in all justice, if the opponents of the Bible do not like our Government and its Christian features, let them go to some wild, desolate land; and in the name of the devil, and for the sake of the devil, subdue it, and set up a Government of their own on infidel and atheistic ideas, and then if they can stand it, stay there till they die.”

Exactly; dissenters must not only be disfranchised, they must all be sent to the devil, and that too in some “wild and desolate land;” and even that is not enough, but they must “stay there till they die.” And that is the National Reform idea of “justice.” That is the kind of a Government that they propose under their Christian Constitution. That is the way in which they propose to convert men to the Christian religion. That is the way in which they propose to exemplify the sublime Christian principle of brotherly love, and the means which they will employ that brotherly love may continue! That is the way in which they are going to bring about the reign of universal peace, even, as they say, the millennium itself. That will be indeed the reign of the saints (?)! By a like scheme of the Christian endeavor of the “Society of Jesus,” there was peace once in the fair Waldensian Valleys. By like exertions Innocent III. succeeded in creating peace amidst the graceful scenery, the rich fields, and the splendid cities of Languedoc and Provence.

This, too, is all to be done in behalf of liberty of conscience,—that is, the conscience of the National Reformers. They give us clearly to understand that it is entirely out of respect to their own consciences that they propose to do all these things. Mr. Coleman says further, in the place before quoted:—

“If there be any Christian who objects to the proposed Amendment on the ground that it might touch the conscience of the infidel, it seems to me it would be in order to inquire whether he himself should not have some con-science in this matter.”

So, then, in this National Reform Christianity, it is the perfection of conscientiousness to outrage some other man’s conscience. And the reverse of the Golden Rule becomes, to them, the law and the prophets. Their chief complaint is that the present Constitution disfranchises them (which is false), and therefore they must have it changed so that it will disfranchise every one but them.

And so, All things whatsoever ye would not that men should do to you, this do ye even unto them; for this is the law of National Reform.

And who are they that propose to do these things? An Association of which the vice-presidents alone number one hundred and twenty, than whom we verily believe that there cannot be found in the United States an equal number of other men who could exert a more positive influence. In a complete list given in the Christian Statesman of Dec. 2, 1883, we read the names of thirteen Bishops of such of the evangelical churches as have bishops, fifteen College Presidents, thirteen College Professors, ten Justices of Supreme Courts. As printed in the Statesman of Dec. 24, 1885, we find eleven Bishops, sixteen College Presidents, fifteen College Professors, three ex-Governors, seven Justices of Supreme Courts, five Judges of Superior Courts, two Judges of the United States District Court, one Judge of the United States Circuit Court, with such a number of Hon.’s, Rev.’s, and D. D.’s, that we cannot attempt now to count them.

As for us, we are neither Jews, infidels, nor atheists. But as we dissent totally from the doctrines of the National Reform Party, we suppose, of course, and we are willing to confess, that we belong to that fourth class to which Mr. Coleman referred by the phrase, “and others.” We do not deny that God is Sovereign, nor that Christ is Ruler, nor that the Bible is the Supreme law. We freely confess all these. But while we confess that God is Sovereign, we positively deny that he has delegated his sovereignty to the National Reform Party. While we confess that Christ is Ruler, we deny that he has chosen the National Reform Party as his confidential advisers in his rule, or that he has appointed that party as his vicegerent in the United States to rule this country in his absence. While we confess that the Bible is the Supreme standard of human actions, we deny in tote that the Author of the Bible has appointed the National Reform Party to be the infallible interpreters of that Book.

And because we distrust their movement, because we see the result of it when they shall have secured the power, they choose to think us possessed of a wonderful “compound of folly and fanaticism.” (See editorial comment in Statesman of Feb. 21, 1884.) But from their own words, fairly quoted in this article, we are justified in saying that the success of their movement will be the destruction of the dearly-bought principle of American liberty; the destruction of the inestimable treasure of American citizenship; and the destruction of every principle of the rights of conscience, under the Government of the United States. And because of this the AMERICAN SENTINEL is set for the defense of the genius of American institutions.

A. T. J.

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