ARE Seventh-day Adventists justified in disobeying the laws of the land, enforcing idleness on Sunday?
To every member of the denomination this question has become of vital importance. His honor, Judge Robinson, in passing sentence upon Mr. Robert R. Whaley, now confined in the county fail at Centreville, Md., said it was Mr. Whaley’s duty to obey the law until he could secure its modification or repeal.
This has been the unanimous admonition of judges from the village magistrate to the United States Circuit Court. It is the argument advanced against them by the organizations which are straining every nerve to maintain existing Sunday laws where endangered, and the enactment and enforcement of more stringent laws wherever possible. The following conversation recently occurred between an editor of the SENTINEL, and a Sunday-law champion:—
Ques.—Are you in favor of the imprisonment of Seventh-day Adventists for laboring on Sunday as now in progress in Tennessee, Maryland, and other States?
Ans.—Seventh-day Adventists, as law-abiding citizens, should obey the Sunday law until they can secure a repeal of the law.
Ques.—Are you, then, in favor of repealing the Sunday laws under which they now suffer?
Ans.—I am not.
Ques.—Then you would oppose the repeal of the laws by which Seventh-day Adventists are imprisoned?
Ans.—I certainly would.
It is very evident that in many cases this counsel is not given in good faith; but there is reason to believe that it has been offered by those who are sincere and who desire to see the oppressive laws repealed. An evidence of this has just come to hand. This advice is given by a Lutheran minister with whom we have corresponded for some time and whom we know to be a friend of the cause of complete separation of Church and State, even to the extent of repealing all Sunday laws. But had the course here advised been followed by the heralds of truth in all ages, the whole world would not be enveloped in the blackest of heathen darkness.
Daniel did not try to secure the repeal of the law, but opened his window toward Jerusalem as aforetime, and prayed, in the face of a law of the world-conquering empire of Babylon, and the one great Lawgiver of the universe sanctioned the violation of that law, “and stopped the mouths of the lions.” The three Hebrews when ordered to bow down before the golden image, stood up, and violated the law of the empire, and again the Supreme Court of heaven ratified the violation and they emerged from the fiery furnace unharmed.
And then the Chief Justice of the supreme court of the universe came to earth in the person of his Son and violated the “civil Sabbath laws” of the Jews, his chosen nation, and faithfully kept the “Sabbath of the Lord,” his own holy day, though hounded and persecuted by the Pharisees and Herodians, the Sabbath association and law and order league of Jerusalem; thus “leaving as an example that ye should follow in his steps.” He  then commanded his disciples, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” “and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” To obey this command was to disobey the laws of that empire which ruled “all the world” with an iron hand, and which forbade the worship of any “new or foreign gods unless they are recognized by public laws.” They did not attempt to get Christianity recognized by public law, or the existing law modified, but threw themselves into the yawning chasm of persecution until, like Napoleon’s famous calvary at Waterloo, they had bridged the ravine with human lives, and made it possible for those who followed to cross in safety.
When the blood-bought victory had been bartered for a mess of pottage,—human power; when the world was again plunged into the midnight darkness of the Middle Ages, there arose men like Wycliffe, Huss, Jerome, and Martin Luther, who said No to the laws of earth’s mighty nations, and purchased anew,—by throwing themselves again into the jaws of death,—that liberty of conscience that has blessed the world for more than a hundred years.
When “Charles, the fifth of the same, by the grace of God emperor elect of the Romans, always august, king of Spain, of the two Sicilies, of Jerusalem, of Hungary, of Dalmatia, of Croatia, etc.; archduke of Austria, duke of Burgundy, count of Hapsburg, of Flanders, of the Tyrol,” etc., etc., had issued an edict against the humble Luther, in which he charged him with having “rushed like a madman on our holy church and attempted to destroy it by books overflowing with blasphemy,” and with “setting aside all authority,” and with being “but Satan himself under the form of a man,” and demanding that “on the expiration of his safe conduct, immediate recourse be had to effectual measures to check his furious rage,“—when all this and more had become the law of the empire, Luther addressed this letter to the man of many titles:—
God, who is the searcher of hearts, is my witness, that I am ready most earnestly to obey your majesty, in honor or in dishonor, in life or in death, and with no exception save the Word of God, by which man lives. In all the affairs of this present life, my fidelity shall be unshaken, for here to lost or gain is of no consequence to salvation. But when eternal interests are concerned, God wills not that man shall submit unto man. For such submission in spiritual matters is real worship, and ought to be rendered solely to the Creator.
And, then, faithful to himself and his God, and in the face of the empire, he continued to all Germany and the world with what the edict declared were “books overflowing with heresy.”
Later, when a new edict was proclaimed, prohibiting the preaching of any other doctrines except the dogmas of Rome, the Reformers stood up in the face of the law of the empire and said:—
We are resolved, with the grace of God, to maintain the pure and exclusive preaching of his only word, such as is contained in the biblical books of the Old and New Testaments, without adding anything thereto that is contrary to it…. For these reasons most dear lords, uncles, cousins and friends, we earnestly entreat you to weigh carefully our grievances and our motives. If you do not yield to our request, we PROTEST by these presents, before God, our only Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer, and who will one day be our Judge, as well as before all men and all creatures, that we, for us and for our people, neither consent nor adhere in any measure whatsoever to the proposed decree in any thing that is contrary to God, to his holy word, to our right conscience [and], to the salvation of our souls.
And what shall we more say, for the time would fail us to tell of Tyndale and Latimer, and Ridley and Knox, and Bunyan and Wesley in the Old World, and Roger Williams and Holmes also, and the Baptists and others in the New, who, through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, and stopped the hand of persecution. They were stoned, they were scourged, they were burned, were slain with the sword, they wandered in deserts and in mountains, and in the dens and caves of the earth. All these have obtained a good report and the Protestant world to-day applauds these violators of law from Daniel in Babylon to Roger Williams in America. More than this, they declare that their courage and faithfulness in violating human law has bequeathed to the world the liberty of conscience so long enjoyed.
But the enemies of Daniel said, “Daniel … regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed.” Or, in other words, Daniel is an anarchist. The enemies of Shaddrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, said; “These men, O king, have not regarded thee; they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
The Sabbath association and the law and order league of Jerusalem and “all the best people” in Israel charged the Son of God with being a “malefactor,” and said, “We have a law and by that law he ought to die.”
Luther was charged in the emperor’s edict with having “incessantly urged the people to revolt, schism, war, murder, robbery, incendiarism,” etc. Bunyan, from the standpoint of his cotemporaries, was a “lawless fellow.” Roger Williams, in the eyes of the “best people” of his time, was one who was attempting “to subvert the fundamental State and government of the country.” Thus it has ever been. One generation murders its prophets, and the next builds their monuments. A prophet is not without honor save in his own country and time. The historian of his own day records that the faithful reformer was a malefactor, but it is chiseled on the monuments of a later period that he was a martyr.
Our own day is no exception to this rule. The sectarian press of the popular religious denominations of the country, with a single exception, indorse the imprisonment of Seventh-day Adventists for Sunday labor, and, like all the persecutors of the past, deny that they are the victims of persecution, or that there is any conscientious principle involved. To this point we will address ourselves in our next issue.