The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, vol. 66

The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Vol. 66

1889

March 19, 1889

“Circulate the Petitions” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 66, 12, pp. 183, 184.

THE fiftieth Congress has expired; and both the national Sunday law and the proposed Religious Amendment to the Constitution are dead, so far as legislation is concerned, for the present. But this must not be taken as a sign for us to stop circulating the petition against religious legislation, and for the maintenance of the Constitution as it is. Instead of being taken as a sign to stop circulating the petitions, it ought to be the signal for more active circulation of them, if possible, because it gives us another little time of assured peace in which to work. Although the proposed legislation is dead, the movement for the Sunday law and the Religious Amendment is not by any means dead; those in favor of these things are just as active as ever, and as much determined to make their movement successful. Between now and the time when the next Congress meets, next December, the workers for religious legislation will do all in their power to gather such strength that when that body does assemble, they can renew their efforts, backed by such influence as will make their efforts successful. And from the way that they have conducted their movement so far, it may be fairly concluded that they will not be overscrupulous as to the means by which they shall secure support and influence. Besides, at the next effort, they will have before them two years in which to work to carry the legislation which they demand. If the session which has just expired had not been a short one, there is no assurance at all that the Sunday bill would not have passed almost as it is. But when they shall come to it the next time, with a new Congress, and two years in which to work, and probably with a considerably modified bill, the probabilities are that they may secure it. this being so, it becomes us to be more diligent and more earnest than we have yet been, in the circulation of the petitions, and the spread of the truth which makes known the principles of righteousness and of liberty. We have from not till next December assured us in which to work. After that, we cannot be so sure of further time, to any great length, while that Congress shall continue. Therefore, as the Lord in mercy has given us this little time of assured peace and liberty, it certainly becomes us to show our gratitude for it by more diligent work and more earnest spreading of the truth than we have ever before shown. Let every lover of the third angel’s message awake to the importance of the time, and work while it is called to-day; for we know not how soon shall come the night, when no man can work. ARSH March 19, 1889, page 183.1

In circulating the petition which we have, persons are sometimes met who propose a modification of it to suit themselves, saying that if it were modified thus and so, they could freely sign it; and that they have friends whom they could also get to sign it. we have received letters to this effect, proposing, at the suggestion of certain persons, modified forms of petition, and asking to have some printed to suit this demand, so that these persons might be induced to sign them. ARSH March 19, 1889, page 183.2

We here insert the genuine petition which is being circulated:— ARSH March 19, 1889, page 183.3

We, the undersigned, adult residents of the United States, twenty-one years of age or more, hereby respectfully, but earnestly, petition your Honorable Body not to pass any bill in regard to the observance of the Sabbath, or Lord’s day, or any other religious or ecclesiastical institution or rite; nor to favor in any way the adoption of any resolution for the amendment of the National Constitution that would in any way give preference to the principles of any one religion above another, or that will in any way sanction legislation upon the subject of religion: but that the total separation between Religion and the State, assured by our National Constitution as it now is, may forever remain as our fathers established it. ARSH March 19, 1889, page 183.4

One brother, writing to us, said that in his town there is a friend of his “who is a lawyer of more than ordinary standing and influence, most of whose practice is in the higher courts, a member of the Congregational Church, a prohibitionist of national reputation, having run on that ticket for Judge of the Supreme Court of his State twice, and once for governor of his State, and once for Vice-President of the United States; he being, furthermore, very liberal toward our people, and anxious to sign the petition if some slight modifications could be made in it.” The brother thought that the influence and help of such a man were worth securing. The petition modified as proposed by this gentleman, would read as follows, his modifications in italics:— ARSH March 19, 1889, page 183.5

We the undersigned, adult residents of the United States, twenty-one years of age or more, hereby respectfully, but earnestly, petition your Honorable Body not to pass any bill to coerce—but only to protect the observance of the Sabbath, or Lord’s day, or any other religious or ecclesiastical institution or rite; nor to favor in any way the adoption of any resolution for the amendment of the National Constitution that would in any way give preference to the principles of any religious sect or sects above others, or that will in any way sanction legislation upon the subject of sectarian religion: but that the total separation between church and the state, assured by our National Constitution as it now is, may forever remain as our fathers established it. ARSH March 19, 1889, page 183.6

We doubt not at all that the gentleman is anxious to sign such a petition. There is no National Reformer in the country, nor a person who favors religious legislation, that is not equally anxious to sign the petition, if it could only be modified as this one is. His modification in regard to the Sabbath, or Lord’s day, clause is apparently harmless, although Senator Blair says that “protect” is a stronger word than “promote,” as it implies the use of the national power; but this modification in reference to the amendment to the Constitution would make the petition ask for the very thing that Senator Blair proposed in his resolution for the amendment of the Constitution. And his substitution of the word “church” for “religion” is precisely the National Reformers’ argument: they want to put the word “church” instead of “religion” into the first amendment to the Constitution as it now is. But what the National Reformers want our Constitution to say, and the kind of legislation they want on the subject of religion, is precisely what no man who has any respect for his own religion or that of anybody else, or any respect for the rights of men, ought ever to want. We can never circulate any such petition as is proposed in this modified form. Such a petition would justify legislation upon religious questions, and a perfect union of church and state. ARSH March 19, 1889, page 183.7

Another modified form has been sent us by a brother in another State, who is circulating the petition at the capital of his State. He says that members of the State legislature and other leading men at the capital objected to the Sabbath clause in our petition, and on that account refused to sign it. he had succeeded in mollifying all but one, a State senator, by presenting to them for signature the following petition:— ARSH March 19, 1889, page 183.8

We, the undersigned, adult residents of the United States, twenty-one years of age or more, hereby respectfully, but earnestly, petition your Honorable Body not to pass any bill favoring any ecclesiastical institution or rite; nor to adopt any resolution for the amendment of the National Constitution that willgive preference to the principles of any one religion above another, or that will sanction legislation upon the subject of religion: but that the total separation between churchand the state, assured by our National Constitution as it now is, may forever remain as our fathers established it. ARSH March 19, 1889, page 183.9

So far as any material change goes, this petition calls for almost precisely what the other one does. This one asks that no bill may be passed favoring any ecclesiastical rite or institution. But the ones who would sign this petition are fully in favor of a bill in regard to the observance of the Sabbath, or Lord’s day, or other religious institutions; that is, they would be in favor of enforcing religious institutions, if they are not institutions established by the church. But this does not mend the matter a particle. Enforcing religious observances of any kind, whether the institution be established by the church or by the Lord, is only religious despotism, and is the enforcement of hypocrisy, and can only multiply sin. This petition also, as the other, proposes to substitute the word “church” for “religion;” and like that, therefore, this petition and those who sign it would favor exactly what the National Reformers favor, and this petition would ask for the very thing that they ask for. Thus the brother, in being so ready to modify our petition, and to get their signatures, is working directly in favor of the legislation and the movement which he professedly opposes. Undoubtedly he could get all the National Reformers he could visit, to sign that petition. But we are not working in favor of the National Reform movement; we are working against it. more than this: we are not working for numbers; we are working for principles. ARSH March 19, 1889, page 183.10

Another proposed to substitute a new petition entirely, as follows:— ARSH March 19, 1889, page 183.11

We, the undersigned, citizens of the United States, earnestly and respectfully remonstrate against the passage of a bill now pending in Congress, entitled, “A bill to secure to the people the enjoyment of the first day of the week, commonly known as the Lord’s day, as a day of rest, and to promote its observance as a day of religious worship;” and also against any bill or amendment to the Constitution in relation to the observance of Sunday, or religious services and observances on any day of the week, that would tend to give a preference or advantage to one religious sect over any other, or to create a union between the church and the state. ARSH March 19, 1889, page 183.12

This was drawn up by a prominent lawyer in a large city. He argued in favor of it, that Congress has the right to legislate in regard to the Lord’s day or any day that it may choose; but that it had no right to legislate in such a way as to infringe on the rights of others. But if Congress has the right to legislate in regard to the Lord’s day, it has an equal right to legislate in regard to the Lord’s Supper, or the Lord’s prayer, or anything or everything else that is the Lord’s. The fact is, Congress has no right to legislate on anything that is the Lord’s. This also proposes the National Reform substitute of “church” for “religion,” so that legislation may be to any extent in favor of religion and be all right, so long as no particular church is named. Nobody should ever sign any such petition or remonstrance as this. ARSH March 19, 1889, page 183.13

The object of circulating the petition is not simply to get people to sign some petition, and if they will not sign the genuine one, modify it till they are so satisfied with it that they can sign. Such is not at all the purpose of circulating the petition. The petition which we circulate, embodies the principles of the American Constitution and of Jesus Christ on this subject; and it is to maintain these principles that the petition is being circulated. And these principles are to be maintained without modification and without compromise. The petition represents the third angel’s message in that phase of it, and the third angel’s message makes no compromise. It does not propose to move by the influence of numbers obtained by compromise and modification. It proposes to move upon principles,—the principles of Jesus Christ, the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, with no modifications, and with no compromises. ARSH March 19, 1889, page 184.1

Therefore, whoever will not sign this petition as it is printed, needs to be enlightened upon the subject of the relation between religion and the civil government; he needs to be instructed as to what the petition represents, instead of modifying the petition to satisfy himself and confirm National Reform views, and promote National Reform principles. If the brethren who are circulating the petitions are not prepared to give such instruction, and to explain to others what it represents, they should become prepared to do so before going any farther. And in becoming prepared to do so, they are only becoming acquainted with the principles of the third angel’s message; and in explaining to others the object of the petition, they are, in fact, making them acquainted with the third angel’s message. Instead, therefore, of modifying the petition to suit the views of different persons, become acquainted with the principles which underlie it, so that you can explain them, that those persons may discover the danger there is in the very modifications which they propose. ARSH March 19, 1889, page 184.2

This brings up another question which has been asked. It is, What is the real object of circulating the petition anyhow? Is it to defeat legislation on this subject? or is it only a means of spreading the third angel’s message? Well, it is certainly not with the expectation of defeating the movement in behalf of religious legislation, because that cannot be defeated: that is coming anyhow, though this work may delay it for a time. If we work earnestly and faithfully, in the fear of God, the oppressive law may be delayed, and our work can mostly be done in peace, instead of under dreadful oppression and persecution, so that it may be said that, in a certain sense, the object of the circulation of the petitions is to delay the legislation for a while, if possible. But the principal object of it is to spread the third angel’s message, and to warn everybody against the making of the image of the beast. The third angel’s message is given to us to give to the world; that message warns against the worship of the beast and his image. The making of that image is now being prosecuted with all the might of those who are engaged in it. But the people are not to be left without excuse; God has a warning to give against this. The principles of his truth, of his law, and the word of Christ are to be spread abroad to all the world, that they may not be led into this thing without having been warned of the danger and the evil that is in it. To thus warn them is the principal object of circulating the petitions. It gives every member of our ranks opportunity to work in spreading the message as never before. But these letters which we have received, proposing this modification of the petitions, and which really favor the making of the image of the beast, show that there are those even among Seventh-day Adventists, who do not understand the object of the third angel’s message. This is too bad. The time has come when every Seventh-day Adventist must become such a student of the third angel’s message as he has never been before. We cannot do the work of the message without understanding its principles. The time in which we shall have opportunity to make it a study is very short indeed. There is no time to idle away; there is no time to be listless. There is only time for earnest, diligent, prayerful study, and faithful work. The crisis will soon be upon us; God will cut short his work in righteousness, and the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, shall be given to those who shall have loved the truth, and endured the conflict. ARSH March 19, 1889, page 184.3

Then let the petition and its principles, without any modification or compromise, be circulated to the remotest corners of the nation. ARSH March 19, 1889, page 184.4

A. T. JONES.