June 6, 1895
“WE have a law, and by that law he ought to die,” has always been regarded by bigots, whose creeds were crystallized into civil law, as an all-sufficient reason for demanding the death of the dissenter.
The question, “Why, what evil hath he done?” is answered with the cold, cruel statement from the law-favored priests, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die.”
The answer of Justice, “I find no fault in him,” only enrages the accusers to answer the more vehemently, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die.” “If thou let this man go, thou art not Cesar’s friend.”
Men of all creeds now look back upon the scene, which is the subject of our illustration, and condemn the demand of the Jewish leaders for the life of a faultless man. They condemn the time-serving Pilate for yielding to their haughty threats. Yet while this is true there are many of these who, while cursing those who crucified Christ under the guise of loyalty to law, are to-day repeating in principle the same sin against God and man.
On May 15, J. Q. Allison, a Seventh-day Adventist, of Georgia, was sentenced by the Circuit Court of Douglas County, Ga., to pay costs amounting to $22,05, or in default of payment, to serve twelve months in the chain-gang.
What was is crime? Let the report of the court stenographer answer: “State vs. J. Q. Allison. Misdemeanor—Sabbath-breaking.”
The specific act here designated as “Sabbath-breaking” is thus described by one of the State’s witnesses:—
Question. About how much did he appear to plow that [Sunday] morning?
Answer. I suppose nothing hardly but a small garden spot, not more than that.
Q. That was about a quarter from the big road?
A. It was a little over a quarter from the nearest big road from there.
Q. Was it in sight?
A. No, sir; a man could not see him from where I was at, unless he went to him.
It was for this Sunday-Sabbath-breaking, for this invasion(?) of the natural rights of mankind that Mr. Allison was sentenced, in default of the payment of costs, to twelve months in the chain-gang.
And now, to ascertain officially what Mr. Allison was not sentenced to twelve months in the chain-gang for, we quote again from the official report of the trial; this time from Mr. Allison’s cross-examination of one of the State’s witnesses:—
Mr. Allison. Have you [Mr. Strickland] worked near my house on the seventh day? … Haven’t you worked close to my house on the seventh day?
Ans. Yes, sir.
Q. Have I ever found any fault with you about that?
A. If you have, I have not heard of it; you have never bothered me.
Q. I have never complained of your disturbing me?
A. No, sir; you never have at all; I say that.
Q. You know of my ever disturbing your or anyone else?
A. No, sir.
The Court. You are not on trial for disturbing anybody else.
Here we have it announced from the bench  that Mr. Allison was not sentenced to the chain-gang for injuring his neighbors; no, not even for disturbing them.
Since he had not injured any one, either in reputation, person, or property, what had he done so heinous as to take him from his family and business and consign him as a felon to twelve months’ chain-gang labor with the vilest of malefactors? “Why, what evil hath he done?”
In reply to this grave question, let the words of the presiding judge be submitted as they appear in the official record of the trial:—
The Court…. The trouble is this, that if you are allowed to do this—I understand you are a good man your neighbors say you are, there is nothing in the world against you—but if you are allowed to do this, bad men would claim the same privilege, and desecrate what the great majority of people consider the Sabbath, but outside of any reason for it, that is the law.
In this single sentence we have combined the admission of innocence, the secret reason for condemnation, and the retreat behind the law, which characterized the trial and condemnation of the Son of God.
The secret reason given by the rulers for desiring the death of Christ, was: “If we let this man thus alone, all men will believe on him; and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” John 11:48. Thus it is seen that the secret reason for his death was that they could not sustain their creed against the teaching and example of his life. So in this case it is admitted in an unguarded moment that Mr. Allison’s irreproachable life will teach other men the truth that the State-enforced Sabbath is not the Sabbath of the Bible, contrary to the belief of “the great majority of the people.” But immediately perceiving that this “reason” betrayed the ecclesiastical nature of the law and its administration, the court hastens to take shelter behind the law, thus: “Outside of any reason for it, that is the law.” “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die.”
Let those who condemn the rulers of Israel for demanding the life of an innocent man, because “we have a law,” explain why they can to-day condemn an innocent man to the chain-gang because they are the “great majority” and “have a law” which makes it possible.
A strange feature of all these cases is that the accusers, and in some instances, State officials, look upon the conscience of a Seventh-day Adventist as a kind of weather vane to be shifted to accord with every human ordinance. Do they think that faithfulness to conscience has perished from the earth, that God has abdicated the throne in favor of human law?
It is passing strange that they do not shrink from the awful responsibility of attempting to crush a dissenting minority. Do they not dread to add to that torrent of fears, that ocean of anguish, represented in the Apocalyptic vision as pouring into the ear of Omnipotence, with the eloquent voice of woe, that imploring question, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” Revelation 6:10.
Should Seventh-day Adventists weary of courts, fines, confiscation of goods, imprisonments and chain-gangs,—should they yield to the demand that they treat the Sunday-Sabbath, which they for sufficient reasons regard as the mark or badge of papal apostasy, with the same outward regard which they pay to the Sabbath of the Lord, the sign of the true God; will the representatives of these persecuting States appear in judgment with the statement that since they declared Sunday to be that Sabbath of the Lord and compelled the Seventh-day Adventists to observe it, therefore they demand in the name of the commonwealth that the condemned be pronounced guiltless?
At that great and final judgment there will be no foreign minister to unfurl his country’s flag over the violator of heaven’s law, and demand and enforce protection in the name of his government. States may secure for their citizens safe conducts through a country with which they have diplomatic relations, but not through the country of the “King of kings.” Yet, in the face of all this, man, mortal man, whose life is as a vapor that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away; this puny man that must himself stand at the bar of God and answer for his own acts, this same man will presume to interpret the Word of God and force his fellow-mortals to accept of his interpretation, or suffer in prisons and chain-gangs. Could anything be more presumptuous?
Ye rulers of States and of nations,
Who trace with a fallible pen
“Infallible” creed born statutes
To fetter the conscience of men;
Whose laws conflict with Jehovah’s.
And brand on the brow or the hand
A counterfeit seal of that statute
Proclaimed from the mountain top grand;
If we sever our sign of allegiance
To the King of kings on high,
If we’ll wear thy sign of rebellion,
And our Maker and Saviour deny;
If we yield to thy chain-gangs and prisons,
If we bow to thy cruel decree,
If we take our allegiance from heaven
And join it forever to thee:
Wilt thou promise to meet us in judgment,
When the Court is in session on high,
And enforce the decision thou’st rendered,
And the judgments of heaven defy?
Wilt thou hoist o’er the shelterless sinner
Thy glorious banner of State
And demand the verdict “not guilty,“
In the name of thy commonwealth great?
Wilt thou rally thy minions to battle,
And march on the City of Light,
Whence angels excelling in power
Were hurled to the regions of night?
Wilt thou compass the City Eternal,
Its towers and battlements raze.
And train thy batteries brazen
On the throne of the Ancient of Days?
Canst thou brook His glory consuming,
Or challenge the bolts of His wrath,
And drag Him, a trophy adorning
Thy chariot’s conquering path?
Canst thou fetter the feet of Jehovah
And chain him with breakers of stone?
Will Omnipotence bow to your statute,—
Surrender His right to the throne?
Dost thou shrink from a contest so awful,
And tremble at thought of His might;
Wouldst thou bide ‘neath the rock and the
Away from his presence so bright?
Then ask not of subjects who serve Him
With love that scorns at the grave,
To violate laws of His kingdom,
And trust in your power to save.