January 2, 1896
WITH this number the AMERICAN SENTINEL enters upon the eleventh year of its publication.
When the first number of the SENTINEl was issued, few, comparatively, even of its friends, realized the real necessity there was for such a paper, and very many thought that there was in this country no field for a journal devoted to the advocacy of religious liberty. But subsequent events have fully justified the existence of the SENTINEL, every year making the necessity for it more apparent than the previous one.
The past year has been unusually eventful in the conflict between truth and error, between righteousness and unrighteousness, between soul-liberty and the bondage of sin.
The year opened with persecution for conscience’ sake, actually in progress in Switzerland, in England, and in various parts of our own country, notably in Tennessee; and there has been no general abatement.
Under color of the Swiss Factory Act, the Seventh-day Adventist publishing house in Basel was closed some months since, the manager imprisoned, and the publishing work carried on there greatly crippled.
The employés of this publishing house, instead of being protected by the operations of this “law,” have been greatly embarrassed and made to suffer hardship because of the loss of employment; and this seems the more inconsistent because Sunday is not as strictly observed in Switzerland as in some other countries. The plaza in front of the Imprimerie Polyglotte, the Seventh-day Adventist publishing house, is frequently the scene of Sunday military parades and athletic games; and on at least one recent occasion the reviewing stands were erected on Sunday. Nevertheless both the government and people of Switzerland have turned a dear ear to the prayer of the Seventh-day Adventists for simple justice.
In England religious persecution, waged against the same people, has run about the same course. Here, as in Basel, it was carried on under color of the Factory Act; and, as appears from the statement which we take from the Daily Graphic, published upon page 4, 449 the greatest sufferers have been those whom the act styles “protected persons.” The facts, as set forth in the appeal of the Board of Directors to the Home Secretary, to which we have just referred, unmistakably stamp the action of the authorities in this instance as religious persecution.
Intolerance in Our Own Land.
In our own country bigotry and intolerance have been no less pronounced. The first quarter of the year saw ten Seventh-day Adventists convicted and imprisoned in Rhea County, Tenn., upon the technical charge of “nuisance,” their offense being the performance of ordinary secular labor on the first day of the week. And this conviction was had notwithstanding the absence of all evidence that there was any disturbance other than the mental annoyance experienced by those whose bigotry and intolerance render them incapable of cheerfully awarding to others the exercise of rights which they demand for themselves. This persecution was a gross injustice not only to the imprisoned men and their families, but also resulted in cutting short a term of the Graysville Academy, to the great detriment of a number of students who were about ready to graduate.
An appeal to the legislature of Tennessee for relief by repeal of the oppressive act was treated with contempt; and four months later eight Seventh-day Adventists, including several of the same individuals formerly imprisoned, were again convicted and imprisoned and worked in the chain-gang with common criminals. During the same time there were other similar cases of persecution in Massachusetts, Maryland, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Ontario, and Manitoba.
In both Illinois and Arkansas there is a clause exempting from the penalties of the “law” observers of the seventh day. But this provision has been overridden, notably in Illinois, and quiet, inoffensive, and in every respect law-abiding citizens have been haled before courts, and have been tried and unjustly convicted. And but for an appeal to the Supreme Court, now pending, these men would be suffering imprisonment at the present moment for the exercise of their God-given, constitutional, and statutory rights.
And what has been the attitude of the people toward these persecutions? Largely one of indifference. This has been especially true in foreign lands. In London it is said by a high government official that the numbers concerned were too insignificant to justify any action looking to relief, by the government. 450 In this country, a considerable part of the secular press has spoken out nobly in defense of the rights of conscience, and in condemnation of tyranny. But a majority of the religious papers have been either silent or have given their voice in favor of restriction and oppression.
With the single exception of the American Baptist Publication Association, the various religious bodies of this country, so far as they have spoken, have by resolutions not only indorsed the restriction of religious liberty, but have demanded the enactment and enforcement of still more stringent statutes calculated to bind as with a chain not only the bodies but the souls of men to the Sunday Juggernaut. With the details our readers are familiar.
What Is Involved.
The law of God declares that the seventh day is the Sabbath, and commands in unequivocal language that it be kept holy. Not only so, but God appeals repeatedly to the facts set forth in that commandment as the ground of his rightful authority over all men, and also declares: “I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” 451 Thus the Sabbath is the sign of God not only as Creator but as re-Creator, or Saviour.
But in contradistinction to this the Catholic Church commands the observance of Sunday, to which she appeals as the badge of her authority to command men under sin. 452 And  such has been her influence with the nations of earth that almost every civilized State on the globe has incorporated into its statutes the papal dogma of Sunday sacredness. So far is our country from being an exception to this statement, that it has stood forth so prominently in this respect that this institution is by many styled “the American Sabbath.”
Notwithstanding the fact that in 1829 and 1830 the Congress of the United States adopted the Sunday Mail Reports, written by Hon. Richard M. Johnson, in which it was declared that if the Sunday act then demanded “should be adopted, it would be difficult for human sagacity to foresee how rapid would be the succession or how numerous the train of measures which [would] follow, involving the dearest rights of all—the rights of conscience.” The Fifty-second Congress in its World’s fair legislation in 1893 took this dangerous step by interpreting the law of God, declaring in effect that the fourth commandment was not only binding upon all men and nations, but that it required the observance of the first day of the week.
It is true that the Government has not been consistent in this matter, but it is plainly seen that the trend of public sentiment and of governmental policy is in the direction of showing greater honor to the Sunday institution; and in this the several States are not one white behind the General Government. In fact, most of the States have for many years been committed to the defense of the Sunday dogma.
What of the Future?
What the present Congress will do it is of course impossible to tell; but indications are not lacking that it is ambitious to make a “reform” record. Already there has been introduced into both the Senate, and House, the joint resolution which we print on page 6; but even if adopted, this proposed amendment would add but little to what we already have in general orders, religious proclamations, the practice of employing chaplains, State and national statutes, and judicial decisions.
Judge Brewer’s dictum of Feb. 29, 1892, that this is a “Christian nation,” while theoretically without force as law, has practically nullified that portion of the First Amendment which declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Being a “Christian nation,” it follows that the “Christian” religion is the religion of the nation, and that its institutions are to be protected because they are “Christian.” Such was probably the most potent argument (aside from threatened political boycott) 453 urged in behalf of the World’s Fair Sunday-closing clause. But be this as it may, the trend of events in this country and in the world cannot be mistaken. Everywhere the Papacy is being exalted either in its own proper character, or by the adoption of its institutions, dogmas and methods.
But this occasions no surprise to the student of sacred Scripture, for it is plainly declared in Revelation 13:8: “All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [the Papacy], whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Obedience is the highest form of worship, and regardless of their profession, those who knowingly obey the command of the Papacy rather than the command of God, thereby worship the beast. It is the boast of Rome that “the observance of Sunday by the Protestants is an homage [worship] they pay, in spite of themselves, to the authority of the [Roman Catholic] church.” 454
The Papacy and Its Image.
The beast, the Papacy, is a church clothed with civil power and therefore holding adulterous connection with the nations of the earth. One of the symbols by which it is represented is that of a lewd woman. (See Revelation 17:1-5.) It follows that any church forsaking the power of God and seeking the power of the State becomes papal in character, whether recognized as a part of the Papacy or not.
Fourteen of the “evangelical” denominations of the United States, banding themselves together in the American Sabbath Union, 455 have sought and obtained civil power for the furtherance of their ends, and the enforcement of at least one of their dogmas, 456 namely, that of Sunday sacredness,—the dogma to which, in preference to all others, as we have shown, the Papal Church appeals as the symbol of her power to “command men under sin.”
In thus imitating the Papacy and receiving power from the State instead of from her Lord, the professed Protestant church of America has inaugurated an American papacy, an image as it were of the Papacy of the pope. And against the worship of this image as well as against obeying the Papacy itself, the Scriptures given the solemn warning of Revelation 14:9, 10. It is for the purpose of sounding this warning that the SENTINEL exists. We have never for a moment expected to prevent those things which are foretold in the Scriptures. Opposition may retard, but cannot finally avert that which the Word of God long since declared would come to pass.
This country was settled and this nation established, we firmly believe, in the providence of God, that it might be an asylum for the oppressed of all nations, and that here a purer church might be maintained and greater liberty to preach the gospel be enjoyed than was possible in any other quarter of the globe. But these privileges have not been appreciated, and misguided men, ambitious for their own aggrandizement and mistaking ambition for religious fervor, have untiringly plotted for the overthrow of liberty of conscience in the suppose interests of the religion of Him who said to the impulsive Peter: “Put up thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”
One after another of the constitutional guarantees of religious liberties have been and are being swept away, not indeed by direct repeal, but by legislation subtly inconsistent with our charters of liberty, State and national, and by practices equally at variance with the spirit of our free institutions, and scarcely less sophistical than the legislation referred to; and by judicial decisions based upon colonial history and royal charters rather than upon those guarantees of freedom of conscience by which the people of nearly every State have sought to make sure their liberties.
The Sunday institution figures more largely in this assault on soul-liberty than any other papal dogma, because it is the test of loyalty to the Papacy, as the Sabbath is the test of loyalty to God. It is for this reason that we view with alarm every attempt to coerce men in this matter, and raise our voices in warning against every forward step which is taken in the exaltation of this man-made institution, this papal counterfeit of the Sabbath of the Lord. And so the SENTINEL will continue in the future to uncompromisingly oppose, as it has in the past, every step in the direction of a more perfect development of union of Church and State, which is bound up with and necessarily included in every statute and every judicial decision, and every governmental action designed in any way to either enforce upon the people the observance of any religious dogmas, or which prohibits in any manner the free exercise of religious faith. The nation may not hear, the great mass of the people may not pause, apostate Protestantism may not desist from her pursuit of civil power; but individuals will heed the warning and be saved in the kingdom of God. And to this end we labor.