“The National Reform Idea of Tolerance” The American Sentinel 2, 3, pp. 27, 28.

IN several numbers of the SENTINEL reference has been made to the speech made by Rev. Jonathan Edwards, D. D., in the New York National Reform Convention, but that speech is so fully representative of the principles of National Reform, that we feel justified in giving it a more extended notice than we have yet done. There are two or three points in it which we wish here to notice. Said the Doctor:—

“We want State and religion—and we are going to have it. It shall be that so far as the affairs of State require religion, it shall be revealed religion, the religion of Jesus Christ. The Christian oath and Christian morality shall have in this land ‘an undeniable legal basis.’ We use the word religion in its proper sense, as meaning a man’s personal relation of faith and obedience to God.”

Here, then, is the National Reform definition of religion, officially declared. Religion is a mans personal relation of faith and obedience to God. And they are going to have in this Nation “State and religion.” That is to say, they are going to have “State and a man’s personal relation of faith and obedience to God.” In other words, they are going to have the State to associate itself with every man in his “personal relation of faith and obedience to God;” and the State must see to it that every “man’s personal relation of faith and obedience to God” shall be none other than the Christian relation of faith and obedience. For it is the State that rules; it is the State that bears the responsibility; it is the State’s, and not the individual’s, personal relation of faith and obedience to God that must take precedence. Therefore under their own definition, it is clear that the direct aim of National Reform is to have the State to interfere with, to regulate, and control every man’s personal relation of faith and obedience to God. And that is nothing else than a religious despotism. Yet they affect to deny that under such an order of things there would be any oppression. But oppression is absolutely inseparable from the scheme. For to deprive every man of his own choice and the exercise of his own personal relation of faith and obedience to God, is the National Reform idea; but without coercion all men are not going to yield this right; while coercion in such a matter is only the cruelest oppression.

Well indeed might Mr. Edwards say, as he does:—

“We are warned that to engraft this doctrine upon the Constitution will be found oppressive; that it will infringe the rights of conscience; and we are told that there are atheists, deists, Jews, and Seventh-day Baptists, who would be sufferers under it.”

Whether he be atheist, deist, Jew, Seventh-day Baptist, or what not, every man who has a particle of respect for personal right, freedom of thought, or liberty of conscience, must be a sufferer under it. And we cannot avoid the impression, that when these men set forth such abominable doctrine, it must be that the loudest warning comes from their own hearts and consciences, unless, indeed, by the constant assertion of such outrageous principles, they have deadened their consciences.

But what reply does Mr. Edwards make to this warning? This:—

“The parties whose conscience we are charged with troubling, taken altogether, are but few in number. This determines nothing as to who is right, but the fact remains, and is worthy of note, that taken altogether, they amount to but a small fraction of our citizenship. They are not even as many as those among us who do not speak the English language. And then, further, they are almost wholly of foreign importation, and that of comparatively recent date, so that they did not share in the first settlement of this country; they did not brave the hardships; they did not profess the principles which have made that first settlement memorable…. They breathed no protests; they suffered no martyrdom.”

His reply to the “warning” is as atrocious as is the doctrine that gives rise to the warning. He replies to an objection by reasserting the doctrine, and adding to it a deliberate insult.

It might not be altogether impertinent to inquire, just here, To how great an extent did the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, D. D., or any of the National Reformers, “share in the first settlement of this country”? Of the hardships that made that settlement memorable, how many did he brave? What kind of a martyrdom has he ever suffered? and how many times has he suffered it? If these are the things upon which alone rests the surety of the title to the honor and dignity of American citizenship, what part was there enacted by the National Reformers that in them should be lodged the sum total of all such honor and dignity, and that to such a sole and transcendent degree of merit that to them and them alone it should be granted to bestow the privileges and immunities of citizenship in this great nation?

But Mr. Edwards continues his kind endeavor to relieve the minds of the people of all fear that “to engraft this doctrine upon the Constitution will be found oppressive.” And, after giving a clear definition of the terms, atheist, deist, Jew, and Seventh-day Baptist, he says:—

These all are, for the occasion, and so far as our Amendment is concerned, one class. They use the same arguments and the same tactics against us. They must be counted together…. The first named is the leader in the discontent and in the outcry…. It is his class. Its labors are almost wholly in his interest; its success would be almost wholly his triumph. The rest are adjuncts to him in this contest. They must be named from him; they must be treated as, for this question, one party. Now look at it—look at the controversy. The question is not between opinions that differ, but opinions that are opposite, that are contradictory, that mutually exclude each other. It is between Christianity and infidelity. It is between theism and atheism, between the acknowledgment of a God and the denial that there is any God.”

Notice: the question is “between the acknowledgment of a God, and the denial of any God.” This in the face of his own statement just before, that “the deist admits God;” and “the Jew admits God, Providence, and Revelation;” and “the Seventh-day Baptists believe in God and Christianity.” All this, and yet the contest is between the acknowledgment of a God, and the denial that there is any God; between theism and atheism; between Christianity and infidelity! How does it happen then that a people who “believe in God and Christianity,” must be classed with atheists and treated as atheists? Here is how:—


They “are conjoined with the other members of this class by the accident of differing with the mass of Christians upon the question of what precise day of the week shall be observed as holy.”

So then, bear in mind, fellow-citizens, that to “differ with the mass of Christians” is atheism. You may believe in God, and the Bible, and Christianity; you may practice in accordance with this belief ever so consistently; yet if you “differ with the mass of Christians” on a single point, you are an atheist; you may believe and practice all this, yet if you use a single argument against National Reform, the question instantly resolves itself into a contest between Christianity and infidelity—and you are the infidel; between theism and atheism—and you are the atheist; between the acknowledgment of a God, and the denial that there is any God—and you are the one who denies that there is any God. If they will do these things in a green tree, what will they not do in a dry? If this is the result of a difference with this National Reform “mass of Christians” now while they are simply grasping for power, what will the result be when once they shall have secured the power that they want? What right then shall the “atheist” have? Mr. Edwards tells us. Here are his words of comfort and assurance to those who fear oppression under the National Reform rule:—

“What are the rights of the atheist? I would tolerate him as I would tolerate a poor lunatic…. So long as he does not rave, so long as he is not dangerous, I would tolerate him.”

How blessedly tolerant a National Reform régime would be! If you differ with it on a single point, you shall be tolerated as is a [27] lunatic, that is, kept under surveillance, so long as, like a craven, you allow yourself to be vowed into silence. But as soon as you begin to speak your sentiments, then you are “dangerous,” then you are “raving,” and the gentle National Reform rulers will have such a tender regard for you that they will supply you with bars and doors securely fastened.

But Mr. Edwards proceeds:—

“I would tolerate him as I would a conspirator. The atheist is a dangerous man…. But he shall be tolerated. He may live, and go free, hold his lands, and enjoy his home; he may even vote; but for any higher, more advanced citizenship, he is, as I hold, utterly disqualified. And we are aiming, not to increase, but to render definite his disqualification.”

That would be a model government indeed that would allow a conspirator to “go free, hold his lands, and enjoy his home, and even vote.” It is not the custom of governments to allow these privileges to persons who are plotters against the life of the government. Nor does National Reform propose really to do anything of the kind. We know, and in former numbers of this paper have abundantly shown in their own words, that National Reform does not intend to allow dissenters to vote nor to be citizens. No doubt Mr. Edwards means that he will tolerate him as he would a conspirator, and allow him these privileges “so long as he does not rave,” and “is not dangerous,” and so long as it is not known that he is a conspirator. But as soon as the “atheist” begins to utter any sentiments that “differ with the mass of Christians,” then he is raving, is dangerous, and a conspirator, and they will “tolerate”(?) him as such. Yes, continues this Reverend Doctor of Divinity:—

“Yes, to this extent I will tolerate the atheist, but no more. Why should I? The atheist does not tolerate me. He does not smile either in pity or in scorn upon my faith. He hates my faith, and he hates me for my faith.”

After the expression of such principles, there is no just ground for surprise that after a few more words he should exclaim: “Tolerate atheism, sir? There is nothing out of hell that I would not tolerate as soon.”


That is to say, He does not tolerate me, and I must not tolerate him. He does not smile either in pity or in scorn upon my faith; therefore I must make him grieve in lamentation and woe because of my faith. He hates me and my faith, and I must hate him and his unbelief.

And this is National Reform “Christianity.” This gentleman is one of the worthies to whom is committed the interpretation of Scripture on all “moral and civil, as well as ecclesiastical points,” and whose decision must be “final.” This is the way that the sublime principles of the sermon on the mount are to be exemplified when this nation becomes the National Reformed “kingdom of Christ.” But to correspond to such an exposition and exemplification, the sermon on the mount will have to be “re-enacted.” It now reads, in the words of Christ, as follows: “I say unto you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven.”

But National Reform says unto you, Hate your enemies, curse them that curse you, do evil to them that hate you, and persecute them that despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may agree “with the mass of Christians,” and be true children of National Reform; those who do not tolerate you, why should ye tolerate them? Therefore all things whatsoever ye would not that men should do to you, do ye that unto them; for this is the law of National Reform.


This idea of re-enactment is not altogether hypothetical in this connection, for in the same speech Mr. Edwards said that,

“If there be anything in the laws of Moses which the coming of Christ and the subsequent overthrow of Judaism did not abrogate, let them be pointed out—there cannot be many of them—and we are prepared to accept them and have them re-enacted.”

That is to say, They were enacted by the Lord of Heaven and earth, and if they have not been abrogated, please point them out and WE will have them re-enacted.

How much higher does arrogance need to exalt itself before it becomes dangerous? These men assume the authority to reckon and denounce as “atheists” all who oppose National Reform, and plainly assert that under the power which the “Reformers” would wield, all such “atheists” shall be relegated to the place and condition of the lunatic and the conspirator. But as though that were a small thing to do, they boldly usurp the place of the Most High, and consequentially inform us that in certain portions of the word of God what has not been abrogated they will have re-enacted.

Can it be possible that in all this land there is anybody who sees no danger in clothing with civil power such an association of men? Could anything be more intolerant than that which they deliberately propose to do? And yet all this is only the expression of their idea of tolerance! We wish they would convey to us some idea of what in their estimation would be intolerance.

It is high time that all understand that National Reform is a standing menace to human liberty; and that the success of National Reform will be the utter destruction of human liberty in free America.

A. T. J.

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