THE Christian Endeavorer says that the Seventh-day Adventists are “carrying on a guerilla warfare against the United States Government.” That paper is just as near the truth in this, as it is in some other of its prominent theories: as for instance that Sunday is the Sabbath, and that “the only preparation for heavenly citizenship is conspicuous and persevering fidelity to the duties pertaining to our earthly citizenship.”
The trouble with the National Reform-Christian Endeavorers is, that they have become so powerful that they begin to think that they are the government, and consequently that whoever is opposed to their evil designs is against the United States Government. This is a mistake—just yet at least.
The principle of total separation of religion and the State, which is the fundamental principle of the Constitution and Government of the United States, as our fathers ordained the Constitution and established the Government, is the genuine principle that Christ announced with respect to governments on earth. And to this principle all genuine Seventh-day Adventists are not only friendly, but absolutely wedded—or, if you please, consecrated.
The men who ordained and established the United States Constitution and Government, totally separate from religion in general and from the Christian religion in particular, said, and with them the Seventh-day Adventists say:—
There is no argument in favor of establishing the Christian religion but may be pleaded with equal propriety for establishing the tenets of Mohammed by those who believe the Alcoran.
It is impossible for the magistrate to adjudge the right of preference among the various sects that profess the Christian faith, without erecting a claim to infallibity [sic.], which would lead us back to the church of Rome.
When our Blessed Saviour declares his kingdom is not of this world, he renounces all dependence upon State power; and as his weapons are spiritual, and were only designed to have influence on the judgment and heart of man, we are persuaded that if mankind were left in quiet possession of their inalienable religious privileges, Christianity, as in the days of the apostles, would continue to prevail and flourish in the greatest purity by its own native excellence, and under the all-disposing providence of God.
To judge for ourselves, and to engage in the exercise of religion agreeably to the dictates of our own consciences, is an unalienable right, which, upon the principles on which the gospel was first propagated and the Reformation from popery carried on, can never be transferred to another.
As every good Christian believes that Christ has ordained a complete system of laws for the government of his kingdom, so we are persuaded that by his providence he will support it to its final consummation.
They said that:—
Almighty God hath created the mind free. All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness: and are a departure from the plan of the holy Author of our religion, who, being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either as was in his almighty power to do. The impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time.
They said that:—
We hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth that “religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” The religion, then, of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right: it is unalienable because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated in their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men; it is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of civil society.
Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.
Further, and as to the effect of governmental recognition of religion upon the State itself, these same noble men said:—
Religious establishments are highly injurious to the temporal interests of any community.
Again they said:—
The establishment in question is not necessary to civil government. If religion be not within the cognizance of civil government, how can its legal establishment be necessary to civil government? What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; IN NO INSTANCE have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty may have found in established clergy, convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.
And again they said:—
Attempts to enforce, by legal sanctions, acts obnoxious to so great a proportion of citizens, tend to enervate the laws in general, and to slacken the bonds of society. If it be difficult to execute any law which is not generally deemed necessary or salutary, what must be the case where it is deemed invalid and dangerous? And what may be the effect of so striking an example of impotency in the government, on its general authority?
All this was said in that day by the men who ordained and established the Constitution and Government of the United States, with the total separation of religion and the nation. And all this is said to-day by the Seventh-day Adventists. All this was said by those noble men in that day in uncompromising opposition to any sort of governmental recognition of religion, in the interests of religious and civil liberty, in sincere respect to Christianity, and for the best possible securing of the State. And all this is said to-day, in the same way and for the same reasons, by the Seventh-day Adventists and the AMERICAN SENTINEL.
And by these same tokens it is demonstrated that the Seventh-day Adventists and the AMERICAN SENTINEL are among the best possible friends that the United States Government has to-day; and that the best possible way for any man really to befriend the United States Government to-day is to stand with the Seventh-day Adventists and the AMERICAN SENTINEL in their uncompromising opposition to the encroachments of a national religion, as did the noble men who created the United States Government.