“The ‘Christian Cynosure’ Again” The American Sentinel 2, 10, pp. 77, 78.

October 1887

OUR readers will remember that in the April SENTINEL we reviewed some National Reform arguments of the Christian Cynosure. Well, the Cynosure has replied, and expects us to reply to this also. We shall do so. And as the Cynosure issues beforehand its pronuncíamento that, “If the AMERICAN SENTINEL wishes to be read by the Cynosure editor, it must deserve to be read,” we shall go very softly and shall humbly endeavor to make our reply so that it may deserve the august notice of the Cynosure editor. First the “Cynosure editor” says:—

“Our Constitution forbids Congress to ‘make any law concerning an established religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereo.’ Taken literally, this forbids laws prohibiting ‘the free exercise’ of polygamy and assassination by Danites or Blood Avengers at Salt Lake; or the multitudes of religious murders by the Kofong, Purrow, Bondoo and other religious secret societies which cover Africa. Insert the word Christian before religion, and our Constitution would recognize exactly what the framers meant and supposed they had done, viz., ‘the free exercise’ of the religion of Christendom, that is, of the Bible.”

Now the first thing that we wish to say is, that we respectfully submit to the readers of the AMERICAN SENTINEL that it is a most discouraging thing to have to argue about the United States Constitution with a person who cannot quote it correctly. Mark, the says, “Our Constitution forbids Congress to ‘make any laws concerning an established religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’” Mr. Editor, the Constitution does not do any such thing. The Constitution forbids Congress to make any “law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The difference is very material; we confess, however, that we have little hope that the Cynosure will detect it. Nor for that matter do we care particularly, whether it does or not; what we want is that the editor of the Cynosure should by some means gain sufficient knowledge of our Constitution to quote it as it reads.

Further he says that, “Taken literally, this forbids laws prohibiting ‘the free exercise’ of polygamy and assassination by Danites or Blood Avengers at Salt Lake.” To this we can only say as we did before, Does the Cynosure mean seriously to assert that the Constitution of the United States guarantees polygamy and assassination as it guarantees the free exercise of religion? In other words, are “religion,” and “assassination” synonymous terms, so that the free exercise of the one is the free exercise of the other? Is the free exercise of religion the free exercise of assassination? Does the prohibition of assassination, or any other crime, prohibit the free exercise of religion? Is it possible that a distinction must be made between these things, that the Cynosure may be enlightened? It seems strange that anybody, much less an editor in this age, should know no such distinction must be made between these things, that the Cynosure may be enlightened? It seems strange that anybody, much less an editor in this age, should know no such distinction.

But more, and just as bad, he continues, “Taken literally, this forbids laws prohibiting ‘the free exercise’ of … the multitudes of religious murders by the Kofong, Purrow, Borldoo, and other religious secret societies which cover Africa.” Well, suppose that all this were even so, what harm can it do? What on earth has our Constitution to do with either allowing or prohibiting the murders, whether religious or otherwise, by “the Kofong, Purrow, Bondoo, and other religious societies which cover Africa?” Suppose the editor of the Cynosure could have our Constitution actually prohibit the murders by the religious societies that cover Africa. What good could it possibly do? That would be decidedly a prohibition that would not, prohibit. It could not prohibit, because our Constitution has nothing, and can have nothing, whatever to do with the secret societies, nor with anything else, that cover Africa.

Now let not the Cynosure whimper over this as it did over our strictures upon its desire to prohibit the religion of Dahomey. That is exactly what it has said. We have only copied verbatim et literatim, its own words. And by these words, its demand is that our Constitution shall have a religious amendment, so that laws can be made under it, which shall prohibit murders committed by the “secret societies which cover Africa.” The Cynosure may, perhaps, say that that is not what it means. Then what does it mean? We have no way of learning what it means but from what it says. Yet we do not so much blame the Cynosure editor, for it seems to be the prime property of National Reform to so confuse the ideas of its advocates that they become incapable of putting together sentences in plain English, that shall tell what they do mean.

Once more, he says: “Insert the word Christian before religion, and our Constitution would recognize exactly what the framers meant and supposed they had done.” This is the “single word” the insertion of which the Cynosure declares is all the addition that National Reformers want to make to our Constitution. Let us try it and see how it would then read, and how it would work. Here it is: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Christian religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Then under that Constitution Congress could make laws respecting an establishment of any religion on earth, except the Christian religion. Under that Constitution the Mohammedan religion, the Chinese religion, or any other except the Christian religion, might be made the established religion of this Government, only so that the free exercise of the Christian religion was not prohibited. Is that “exactly what the framers meant”? Is that “exactly” what they “supposed they had done”? If it is, then that they were mistaken is the happiest thing that ever befell this Nation. But the mistake was not with the framers: they did “exactly” what they meant to do. The mistake lies altogether and solely with the “Cynosure editor.”

Next the Cynosure says:—

“As to Seventh-day Baptists and Adventists who insist on keeping Saturday and working on Sunday, the Cynosure holds that ‘Man needs and God requires a Sabbath.’” [78]

But that is not all that the Cynosure and National Reform hold, not is that as they hold it. The Cynosure and National Reform hold that “Man needs and God requires” Sunday as a Sabbath. And when “Seventh-day Baptists and Adventists” and Jews or any others have kept Saturday as Sabbath, as “man needs and God requires,” the National Reformers want to compel them to keep Sunday besides. The National Reformers declare that all that God requires of man in this connection is one-seventh part of his time, or one day in seven, and then when these people religiously and conscientiously render to God the one day in seven that he requires, the National Reformers want laws to compel them to render another day also. Although, according to their own principles all that God requires of man is one-seventh of his time, they will compel all seventh-day keepers to render two-sevenths, unless they yield their consciences and accept the interpretation of the National Reformers. But in that case men’s right of conscience and of interpretation of Scripture is destroyed, and the National Reformers impose themselves and their interpretation upon men’s consciences in the place of God. And that is the Papacy over again.

Yet says the editor, “The Cynosure is opposed to coercing conscience.” That may be so, but National Reform is not opposed to it. And as the Cynosure is pledged to National Reform, we doubt very much whether it is indeed opposed to coercing conscience.

Again the Cynosure editor avows:—

“We are opposed to imprisoning or fining any decent law-abiding man, who has kept Saturday, because he does not keep Sunday also. The Cynosure would help pay such a man’s fine, petition for his instant relief from jail, and instruct the Legislature to repeal the law which imprisoned him.”

But there have already been a number of instances, in two States, where just that kind of men have been imprisoned, fined, and shamefully treated, for that very reason and no other; and yet the Cynosure never offered to help pay any of the fines, it never petitioned for their relief at all, nor did it ever “instruct” either of the State Legislatures to repeal the law which imprisoned the men, and robbed women and children. True, while the Cynosure did not believe that there were any such cases in existence, it was so bold as to observe that “nothing could be more abhorrent to our Constitution than such persecution.” But when facts were presented in its own columns by a trustworthy citizen of its own city, who himself saw some of the persecutions, then the Cynosure instead of helping to pay the fines, or petitioning for the relief of the persecuted, or instructing the Legislature to repeal the persecuting law, calmly folded its editorial hands and concluded to “wait for confirmation of the facts before commenting upon them.” Then when the facts were confirmed by the public records clear to the Supreme Court of the State, and even to the halls of the State Legislature itself, the Cynosure has never even to this day offered a single word of comment upon the subject, and the persecution continued for more than a year—it continued in fact till the Legislature repealed the law and so put a stop to it. And although the Legislature repealed the law, it never received a word of instruction from the Cynosure, to do so. Mr. Editor, words are very cheap, and until your acts show differently on this subject from what they ever have shown, your professions will amount to nothing, though your words may charm never so wisely—“The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.”

“But” says the Cynosure, “if the Arkansas cases of persecution are just as given, and not the result of religious squabbles, and law perverted by sectarian or neighborhood fights, then the severest strokes of the SENTINEL will but second our own.”

Those cases of persecution were exactly as given, if not worse. But that is not the question at all. Suppose they were entirely the result of “religious squabbles” and of “law perverted by sectarian fights.” It is for that very reason that they ought to be utterly condemned. For what business has the civil law to be made the channel through which shall be poured out the venom that is engendered “in religious squabbles”? By what right is it that the State shall be made the tool of the irregular passions of sectarian bigots who happen to be in the majority, in their “sectarian fights”? It is against this that the SENTINEL wars. It is the principle of the thing which we condemn. Whether the victims of the persecution were Seventh-day Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Indians, or Chinese, the principle is the same, and is utterly perverse. But to make such a thing universal in all this Nation, is the direct aim of National Reform and of the Christian Cynosure. For such will be the inevitable result of the religious amendment to the National Constitution. Therefore the SENTINEL opposes the so-called National Reform, and shall ever oppose it to the very utmost.

Then as was to be expected the Cynosure swings back upon the subject of secret lodges, and says:—

“Several Legislatures have passed laws against imposing secret oaths by secret lodges. The New York Reports, Wendell, Vol. 13, and the testimony before the Rhode Island Legislative Committee give these oaths in the terms imposed in the lodges, sworn to by Masons; and published by John Quincy Adams as given. These oaths swear men to have their throats cut if they violate the by-laws of their lodges.”

That may all be true. We shall allow that it is true at any rate, for the sake of argument. Yet however true it may be, here is something that is just as true as that can be: The taking of such an oath is wholly a voluntary act. No man in the world was ever compelled to take any such oath, much less was anyone ever compelled to take it under penalty of forfeiture of citizenship and all rights of con-science. Yet to compel men to conform to their will, or else suffer the weight of such a penalty, is precisely what the National Reformers will do if they ever succeed in their project. And this is why that, although secret societies and their oaths are bad, National Reform is worse; yes worse than they ever can be unless they should set about to do as the National Reformers are trying to do.

The Cynosure says in effect that if our reply does not suit, it will notice the SENTINEL no more. Very well, we earnestly hope that this our reply will suit: yet if it does not the SENTINEL will survive the calamity we are sure. So dear Cynosure if it must be so,

“Then fare thee well;
And if forever,
Then forever
Fare the well.”

A. T. J.

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