American Sentinel 3, 12 , pp. 89, 90 (1888)
THE AMERICAN SENTINEL has occasion frequently to criticise the actions, political and otherwise, of the churches, yet this does not in any way spring from any disrespect for the churches as such, nor for the religion which the Protestant churches profess. The SENTINEL is entirely Christian so far as we are able to understand Christianity from the Scriptures. As true Christianity is as far as the east is from the west from the principles and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, and we being to the best of our ability allied to true Christianity, it follows as a matter of course that we are decidedly Protestant.
We believe in one God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe in Jesus Christ as the Word of God, who is God, by whom “were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers,” who is before all things, and by whom all things consist; by whom alone there is salvation; and who “is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him.” We believe in the Holy Spirit as the one who convinces the world of sin and of righteousness, and of judgment; and as the Comforter and the Guide into all truth, of all who believe in Jesus. We believe that “except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” either here or hereafter; and that in order to this new birth, men must be “justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” We believe that it is by the obedience of Christ alone that men are made righteous; that this righteousness is the gift of God; that it is received by faith and kept by faith; and that there is no righteousness that will avail for any man, except this “righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We believe the Bible to be the word of God.
We believe, according to the word of God, that the church is utterly separated from the world, and bound to Christ in the love of God, as a chaste virgin to a lawful and loving husband. This being so, the members of the church cannot be joined to the world without being counted by the word of God as adulterers against him to whom they profess to be joined in love. Says the Scripture, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 1 John 2:15, 16.
As the individual members of the church of Christ cannot be joined to the world without being counted by the word of God as adulterers against him, so also the church as a body cannot be joined in any way to the powers of the world without likewise being declared by the word of God an adulteress and a harlot. When the professed Christian church of the fourth century forsook her Lord and joined herself to the imperial power of Rome, she was fully committed to that corrupt course in which the word of God describes her as that great harlot, “with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” “And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.” “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” Rev. 17:2, 4, 6. That is the Lord’s description of the Church of Rome; and in the light of history no man can deny the truthfulness of the description. But everybody knows that she never could have committed fornication with the kings of the earth if she had maintained her allegiance to Christ. She never could have been made drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, if she had not traded upon her lascivious charms for the control of the civil power, by which she could persecute to the death those who denied the authority which she had so adulterously gained.
Now the leaders of the Protestant churches of the United States are going in the same way in which the church leaders of the fourth century went. They are seeking an alliance with the civil power. They are seeking for this alliance for the same purpose, in the same way, and by precisely the same means. And when they shall have secured the alliance and gained the control of the power, the same results will inevitably follow this in our day that followed that of the fourth century. And to make the surety of this success doubly sure, they are seeking an alliance with Rome herself. And when these professed churches of Christ shall have formed their illicit connection with worldly power, they will have thus turned themselves into a band of harlots committing fornication with the powers of earth, as did their harlot mother before them. And then the inspired description of Babylon the Great will be complete: “Upon her forehead was a name writ-ten, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” Rev. 17:5.
Let not the professed Protestant churches blame us for this application of the Scripture. They themselves have acknowledged the Church of Rome as their mother, and they need not blame us if we call attention to the Scripture description of the family. In the New York Evangelist of February 9, 1888, Rev. Charles W. Shields, D. D., of Princeton College, in proving that it would never do, in the reunion of Christendom, to forbid a doctrine of Apostolic Succession, said:—
“You would exclude the Roman Catholic Church, the mother of us all, the church of scholars and saints. . .You would exclude also the Protestant Episcopal Church, the beautiful daughter of a beautiful mother.”
This declaration, although made in one of the most influential religious papers in the country, has never yet, so far as we have read, been repudiated or even criticised by any of the leading denominations, or by any paper of any of those denominations. We say again that when these churches declare and admit Rome to be their mother, and “a beautiful mother” at that, they cannot justly blame us for calling attention to the Scripture description of the family. The only things of which the Scriptures declare the Church of Rome to be the mother, are harlots. Therefore whatever church confesses Rome to be its mother, therein confesses itself to be a harlot. And the Protestant churches of the United States, by their religio-political workings, are doing their best to make Doctor Shields’s apparently representative confession a fact.
We recognize and maintain the right of every people who believe alike to organize themselves into a church on whatever order they choose, and to call themselves by whatever name they please; but we utterly deny the right of any church, or all of them together, to use the civil power for any religious purpose whatever. We maintain that any man has as much right to be a Methodist, or a Presbyterian, or a Congregationalist, as any other man has to be a Baptist, an Episcopalian, or a Lutheran; but we deny that any one of these denominations has any right to seize upon the civil power and compel all the others to act as that denomination shall dictate. We deny that all the others have any right to band together and compel any one denomination to conform to the dictates of the many. We maintain that any man in this Nation has just as much right to be a Catholic as any other man has to be a Protestant; but we deny the right of the Catholics to compel any Protestant to act as though he were a Catholic, as we deny the right of the Protestants to compel any Catholic to act as though he were a Protestant. We maintain that any man has just as much right not to be a Christian as any other man has to be a Christian; but we deny any right in those who are not Christians to compel any man who is a Christian to act as though he were not. And we likewise deny that there is any shadow of right in those who are Christians to compel any man who is not a Christian to act as though he were. Christians have no more right to compel any man to partake of Christian ordinances, or to observe Christian institutions, than those who are not Christians have to compel Christians not to partake of Christian ordinances nor to observe Christian institutions.
This is the position of the AMERICAN SENTINEL, and we are Christians too. We know that to many this sounds strange, but it is a fact. We know that many who call themselves Christians are just as ready to call us Liberals, and do call us that; but we are Christians nevertheless. We are glad, however, to let all men know that there are Christians—we do not say that we are the only ones, but there are not enough of them—who are liberal enough to maintain that all other men inalienably possess all the rights, human, civil and religious, that Christians possess.
We are compelled, also, in the interests of truth and right, occasionally to criticise the political workings of professed ministers of the gospel. We have all the respect for ministers of the gospel that the Scriptures require men to have, but when professed ministers of the gospel set themselves up as ministers of the law, both civil and moral, and of politics, then we no longer respect those men as ministers of the gospel; for such they are not. Christ never sent any man forth as a minister of the law, either civil or moral, nor of politics; and whenever any professed minister of the gospel sets himself to work by political influence to secure the enactment and enforcement of statutes compelling religious observances, then he is doing what Christ never sent him to do, and he then ceases to be a minister of Christ or of his gospel.
Both the editors of the AMERICAN SENTINEL are regularly ordained ministers of the gospel, but neither of them ever expects to become a minister of the law, either civil or moral, nor of politics.
NOTE.—Let no one misconstrue our statement that any man has as much right to be a Catholic as any other man has to be a Protestant; and any man has as much right not to be a Christian as any other man has to be a Christian. This is not by any means an admission that the man who is not a Christian is as near right as is the Christian, nor that the Catholic is as near right as is the Protestant. This is not a question of moral right but of civil rights. Of course no man has any moral right to be anything else than perfect before God; and this perfection can only be attained through faith in Christ. But if any man chooses to despise the riches of God’s goodness and grace, and refuses to believe in Christ, no power on earth has any right to call him to account. He is responsible alone to God, and whoever attempts to call him to account for neglect of the word or ordinances of God, thereby usurps the prerogative of God. And that is how it is that all men have the same equal and inalienable rights.
A. T. J.