“The Ruin of the State” American Sentinel 10, 49, pp. 385-387.

December 12, 1895

WE considered last week the inevitable outcome of the movement now in progress in our land to unite religion, as represented by religious organizations, with politics, as affecting the interests of the Church. It was shown that that outcome must be the ruin of the Church. If we consider its bearing upon the State, we shall find it to be equally fraught with ruin.

When the Church becomes a political power, and when by her immense influence and her vote she shall dictate what men shall be chosen to positions of representative office, and what legislation shall be passed in the “interests of morality and religion,” then will this Government have ceased to be “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” and will have become a religious despotism not different in kind from any of those which were the scourges of mankind during the Dark Ages.

Honesty in public office is a prime requisite of good government; but when hypocritical men fill the Church and pose as moral reformers to secure her aid for the furtherance of their ambitions, then will official integrity, none too prevalent under the best conditions, rapidly disappear from our land. The tremendous power of the Church will appeal irresistibly to unprincipled seekers for official trust, and greatly stimulate the flow of human depravity through the channels of public life.

But that which will most surely work the ruin of the State, is the stifling of human liberty which must result from such an alliance with the Church. For the very purpose of the Church in seeking to control the State power is to put down all opposition to herself. Of course, she does this for the “benefit” of mankind, but history furnishes many a terrible warning against the kind of “benefit” to be derived in that way. The aims and motives of the church leaders in this matter may be very good, but all history plainly shows that no church can with safety to human liberty be entrusted with civil power. Considering the frailty and the limitations of our nature, it is evident that the most pious and upright man upon the earth to-day could not safely be entrusted with secular power to promote the religious welfare of his fellows, even were it possible, and in harmony with the divine plan, that Christianity should be established in the earth by force.

It was, seemingly, a very good and pious motive which moved Augustine, in the earlier days of the Church, to inaugurate that which resulted directly in the establishment of the Inquisition. That motive he himself stated, with his justification of the same, thus:—

It is, indeed, better that men should be brought to serve God by instruction than by fear of punishment or by pain. But because the former means are better, the latter must not therefore be neglected…. Many must often be brought back to the Lord, like wicked servants, by the rod of temporal suffering, before they attain the highest grade of religious development. 423

Of this the Church historian, Neander, says:—

It was by Augustine, then, that a theory was proposed and founded, which … contained the germ of that whole system of spiritual despotism, of intolerance and persecution, which ended in the tribunals of the Inquisition. 424

And still in the minds of many men to-day there exists this baleful “germ” within which, like the oak in the acorn, is contained the “whole system” of that hellish institution of the Middle Ages. It only waits for conditions favorable to its growth, and these will be supplied as soon as the religious and civil powers shall have come to an agreement. The idea that the civil law, with its pains and penalties, while not the best means of leading sinners to righteousness, is still a method not to be neglected, has a large following in this nineteenth century and in these United States.

Religion affects human nature at its fountain head. It touches the most deeply-lying springs of desire and emotion. Let it be sought to dominate these by force, and human nature is roused to its utmost, and becomes imbued with the spirit of the martyrs. On the other hand, let the bigot become conscious that civil power reposes in his hands for the propagation of morality, and the temptation to use it to enforce his own religious belief upon others, is too great for him to resist. The fervent Roman Catholic who would care but little about the succession of earthly rulers or any possible variations within the sphere of civil or political affairs, considered by themselves, would give his life to see the world become Catholic; and the same might be said of the Methodist, or Presbyterian, or Baptist of our own land. Men will endure more and attempt more in the cause of their religion, than in any other. All history testifies that this is so.

Men will recognize the propriety of human laws to regulate the outward conduct of individuals, so far as may be necessary for the preservation of their common rights; they will sustain such laws and such government, and only the anarchist and the vicious person will plot against them. But when it is known that the machinery of the civil power has been placed at the disposal of the highest or most powerful bidder in the religious world, and when the religious organizations shall be grasping for that power and employing such portions of it as they can command against those they desire to suppress, then will there be plotting and sedition, confusion and strife, upon every side. And then will human liberty cease to find stable support in earthly government, and become again the plaything of chance.

This nation has been greatly prospered in her short but imposing career as the champion of civil and religious freedom. The eyes of the world have been upon her land as a place of refuge and rest for the oppressed of other lands. And when she shall withdraw those guarantees of liberty which have drawn all nations to her shores, and shall take the lead in the work of oppression, the cause of liberty will be given a wound from which it will not recover.

By exchanging her civil power with the Church for the latter’s spiritual power, by making an alliance with the forces of religion as represented by the predominant bodies of Christendom, this nation will proceed upon [386] the principles which prevailed in the Dark Ages, and made of civil government a religious despotism, crushing liberty and arresting human progress; and a like despotism will be the result in our land. But there will be some features not seen in the despotisms of those days, for great and rapid changes have taken place in the religious world, and now forces have arisen which will be heard from in the contest for supremacy. At this point let us note some predictions contained in the writings of prophecy. In the thirteenth chapter of Revelation, beginning at verse 11, we find a prophetic outline of the work of a power which was to be prominent in the last days, as follows:—

And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men; and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.

This power is to work “great wonders” in the sight of men; and there is a modern wonder-working agency which had its origin and has attained its greatest development in the United States; namely, Spiritualism,—a religion, based upon what purport to be communication between the living and the dead, and whose fundamental doctrine,—that of the inherent immortality of the soul,—is held by nearly all Christendom. As the dead are supposed to know a great deal more and to possess such greater powers than do the living, it is quite natural that intercourse with them should result in the manifestation of “wonders,“—of phenomena beyond our human powers and comprehension.

The culmination of all this is to be reached in the visible performance of “miracles,” and especially in the great wonder of bringing “fire down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.” The words take us mentally back to the days of the prophet Elijah, to that memorable occasion when he appeared before all Israel on the top of Mount Carmel. A great controversy was in progress,—a great question was to be decided; namely, Who was the true God, Jehovah? or Baal? We quote from the narrative given in the eighteenth chapter of 1 Kings:—

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. 425

So the people did as Elijah said, and the prophets of Baal danced and shouted all day around the bullock on the altar of Baal, and called upon him, and cut themselves with knives; but “there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.” Then Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord, which was broken down, and arranged the sacrifice upon it. “And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 426

Thus was decided at that time the question whether Jehovah or Baal was the true God. But that was not the final end of the controversy. A like controversy is agitating the religious world to-day; the same question is again before the people; for while nothing is now heard about “Baal,” the religious world is full of a false worship which is in essence the Baal worship of old. “Baal” was a title, not a specific name, and its meaning was “lord” or “possessor,” in the language of the ancient idolatrous Canaanites. But there is a particular feature of that idolatry, or Baal worship, which demands our notice. We quote the words of an authority upon this point:—

Baal is, without doubt, a sun-god…. He is very frequently called Baal Chamman; and Chamman, “hot,” is applied to the sun in Hebrew. So, also, Baalbek was applied to the sun in Hebrew. So, also, Baalbek was called by the Greeks Heliopolis (city of the sun). It is also noticeable that the Greeks and Romans identified Melkart, the Baal of Tyre, with Heracles (Herenles) the sun god. At Beth Shemesh (the sun-temple) was there an altar to Baal; and it does not militate against this identification when Baal and the sun are distinguished as separate divinities (2 Kings 23; 5); for Apollos was originally a sun-god, but afterward was distinguished from the sun. 427

Baal worship was “lord” worship, in the form—principally at least—of homage paid to the sun. In other words, they worshiped a god of whom they knew only what is expressed by the title “lord,” and of whom the sun was the visible representation. The sun, as chief luminary of the heavens, became naturally the chief objective of heathen worship. There was “the venerable day of the sun,” to which the Emperor Constantine referred in his notable edict given A.D. 321, while not even professedly a Christian, enjoining rest by those in towns and cities on Sunday. As the knowledge of the true God became lost, his worship became perverted; and there is no difference between perverted or false worship and the worship of a false god. The worship of Jehovah must be “in spirit and in truth.” 428 The Saviour said, “In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” 429

The Israelites in the time of Elijah had in great measure lost the knowledge of the true God, and had drifted naturally into the worship of Baal.

There is an institution which points men to the true God, the Creator of heaven and earth. That institution is the “Sabbath of the Lord,” which is enjoined upon all men by the fourth commandment of the Decalogue. That commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work.” And the reason is given, “for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” 430

But the great majority of those who profess the Christian religion are observers not of the seventh day, but of “the venerable day of the sun,” albeit they allege for it a professedly Christian reason. But “reasons” count for nothing in justification of worship unless they are given by God himself; and nowhere does his Word furnish us with a reason or command for making Sunday the Sabbath.

There is now a conflict, the sound of which is everywhere heard, between the true Sabbath and the false, between the day of the Lord and the day of the sun; and this conflict is fast growing in intensity. There is a question which has been forced upon the attention of statesmen and politicians and the public generally, until it is now almost the leading question of the day, and that is the question of sabbath (Sunday) observance. And this controversy, this question, constitute nothing else than the old issue which in Elijah’s day took the form of a contest between Jehovah and Baal. For Sunday observance, while professedly a tribute to Christ, is in reality a tribute to that god in whose worship Sunday observance had its origin. And that observance being but a commandment of men, resting only on tradition, can have no place in the worship of the true God, however worthy the motives of those who engage in it.

The State is now beginning to take part in this religious controversy. Already Congress has voted (August, 1892) that “the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday,” is the Christian Sabbath; and while the vote was pending, Senator Quay called for and had read before the Senate the fourth commandment, and Senator Hawley and others made speeches calculated to impress the Senate with the idea that such a vote was a matter of divine obligation upon them.

The State and the Church are fast forming an alliance, by which the Church is to give the State her vote and political influence, in return for legislation which she asks; and what she asks most loudly and persistently is legislation to secure the observance of Sunday.

The seventh-day Sabbath is stated by God himself to be his “sign” between him and his people. “And hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.” Ezekiel 20:20. The observers of God’s Sabbath point to that observance as the evidence that they are worshipers of the true God. But Sunday observers also claim to be worshipers of the true God. Thus the issue is drawn, and the question of which class are worshipers of the true God is up again for settlement.

But not now, as anciently, will it be decided by the miracle of bringing down fire from heaven; for miracles will be wrought in support of error and for the purpose of deceiving “them that dwell on the earth” into supporting and enforcing the first-day sabbath, and to supply the lack of evidence for the Sunday institution in the Word of God. And among other such “proofs,” will be the miracle described in Revelation 13:13.

Let is be noticed also that Spiritualism is not the only religious power which claims to exhibit wonders through the agency of the dead. The papal church stands conspicuous in making a like claim. She points to many miracles claimed to have wrought by her dead “saints” and certain “relics” of the dead which she places at times on exhibition. And no reader of current news can have failed to note the marked revival of superstition and of belief in the supernatural which is taking place as the result of these exhibitions and claims, and of the work of individuals who manifest what seems to be miraculous powers of healing, and the like.

With all this the State will join itself in an alliance with the forces of religion. There [387] will be not only a union with the papacy, but with this wonder-working power of recent development in the spiritual domain. So that not only will there be the religious despotism resulting from the adoption of papal principles, but this will be reinforced by the tremendous influence upon the public mind of miracles wrought for the support of its evil doctrines and demands. In this miracle-working power is introduced the direct agency of the devil; and with these forces united for the enforcement of religious legislation and the extermination of religious and civil liberty, that State will be plunged into ruin as utter and complete as the devil himself can make it.

Will the State draw back from the proposed Church alliance and avert the threatening ruin? To this end we work and plead.

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