“No Representatives in Religion” American Sentinel 12, 6, pp. 92, 93.

THE members of the State and National legislatures are, as legislators, the representatives of the people. Representatives in what? In religion? No; certainly not. Then what can Congress or a State legislature properly have to do with religious affairs?

As individuals, legislators are like other men accountable to their Creator in all things: but they are not and cannot be accountable to God for other persons, for each individual must render his own account to God. He who expects to render his account or to settle it with God through a State legislature, or even through the Congress of the nation—if there be anyone so foolish—will find himself terribly mistaken in the day of reckoning.

Who is willing to be represented by another in religious faith and practice? Who is willing to make a member of his State legislature or of Congress his representative in religion? Who is willing to be bound in religion [93] by an act of any legislative body? Who will in the day of Judgment fall back with confidence upon such an act as valid authority for his own religious conduct?

The advocates of religious legislation say that legislators are like all other men, bound by the law of God; and so they are. But they are not so bound for other men, but only for themselves. Here is the vital point in the whole subject,—the point which the would-be reformers who are besieging our legislatures overlook or ignore. There can be no representative capacity in religion; and hence while each legislator is bound individually by the divine law, as representative of the people he has nothing to do with religious questions. He must confine himself to civil matters only.

This is not to say that he is to act against religion or against morality. The domain of things secular is not in any sense opposed to that of Christianity, any more than truth and justice in the one sphere are opposed to truth and justice in the other.

Legislators, like all other persons, may properly be urged to be obedient as individuals to the law of God. But to urge them to act thus for their constituents, as their representatives, is a different thing altogether. However righteous it may sound, or however necessary it may seem to be for the good of the country, in reality it is neither necessary nor righteous.

The Almighty will not recognize any arrangement by which one person is made to act for another in religion. Any such arrangement is in reality a heaven-daring piece of iniquity.

Legislators must simply refuse to deal as legislators with religious questions. Such matters must be settled in another way than by legislation. They must be left to the individual conscience and the Word of God.

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