The American Sentinel 13

15/47

April 21, 1898

“Editorial” American Sentinel 13, 16, p. 241.

ATJ

ONLY the power of God can enforce the law of God. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.1

THE law of man lays hold on the sinner; but the gospel lays hold on the sin. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.2

THERE is no consistency in taking your religion from one source, and your politics from another. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.3

AN effort to force the world to conform to the church always results in conforming the church to the world. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.4

WHAT the church needs to-day is not Sunday laws, but something to separate her more clearly from the world. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.5

THE effectiveness of human law depends altogether upon public sentiment. The effectiveness of the divine law is altogether independent of public sentiment. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.6

IT is better for the worldly man to be engaged in honest work on the Sabbath, or in innocent recreation, than to be going through the forms of Sabbath-keeping. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.7

IF the apostles had turned from the preaching of reform through faith in Christ, to the preaching of political or legislative reforms, the world would have been sunk in evil long ago. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.8

THE mightiest power in the universe is the power of God; and the mightiest manifestation of God’s power is in the gospel. The gospel is the power of God against sin; and that power alone can overcome the evil that is in the world. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.9

IT is better to lean upon God than upon a Sunday law. He who leans upon God does not need any other support; and he who does not lean upon God will fall in spite of all the support that religious legislation can furnish. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.10

IT is entirely useless for Christians to try to compel the world, by the force of law, to act in an unworldly manner. The unregenerate person must act out the nature that he has, until by the grace of God he is given another and better one. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.11

“A Groundless Apprehension” American Sentinel 13, 16, pp. 241, 242.

ATJ

A NEW ORLEANS paper makes note of an effort made during the Louisiana Constitutional Convention just closed, to eliminate from the Constitution the recognition of Sunday as a sacred day, and calls it “an outrageous proposition.” It would be a terrible thing, in its view, if the restraints of the Sunday laws were removed, and people permitted to engage in worldly occupations on that day as on any other. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.1

It is quite natural for religious people in states which have long maintained a Sunday law to hold this view, even though, as in New Orleans, the law has long been practically a dead letter. It seems to them that the removal of such a law would be the opening of the flood-gates of secularism, which would result in sweeping away the Sabbath altogether. But really, there is no foundation at all for this apprehension. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.2

It may be that the removal of Sunday laws would result in an increase of Sunday business and of Sunday amusements. Very well, we say; suppose that it does. If people want to be worldly on the Sabbath (which however is not Sunday), if that is their nature and desire, let them be so. Let the world conduct itself after the manner of the world. How else could it be expected to act? It is only people who want to be worldly—people who could not keep the Sabbath anyway without a change of heart—who will not want to rest on the Sabbath. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 241.3

All this will not affect the church: at least, there is no reason why it should. The church is in the world, surrounded by worldliness in every form; yet she is not to be of the world. The world is the proper place for the church, under the present constitution of things, just as the water is the proper place for a ship; but the world need not get into the church, any more than the water need get into a ship: indeed, the world can always be kept out of the church if the church so wills it. Sometimes water gets into a ship by unavoidable accident; but the church must first voluntarily open its doors to the world before the world can get into it. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.1

Let the people of the world, then, go about their worldly pursuits on the Sabbath, as on any day, and let the church spend the day in rest and the worship of God. This very thing would do much to mark a distinction between the church and the world. The great trouble with the church to-day is that this distinction is not plainly marked. The friends of the world know it is not, and the enemies of religion know it is not; and this is why the church to day has so little influence over them. And the reason it is not plainly marked is that hardly any distinction exists. In endeavoring to conform the world to the church by non-scriptural methods, the church has become very largely conformed to the world. And a Sunday law is one method—and not by any means the least—by which this conformity has been accomplished. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.2

A Sunday law tends always to conform the church to the world. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.3

The government—the state—is of the world. And it must always be of the world, for it is that into which every worldly element enters. The government cannot rise to the level of Christianity; but the Christian church can descend to the level of the world (of course losing her Christianity in the process). And when the government enacts a Sunday law, and compels the world to conform to it, the only effect is to obliterate, in part at least, the distinction between the church and the world. But that distinction ought not to be obliterated; it ought to be much sharper than it is. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.4

When the church joins with the government in this (as she has done in every case, being always the foremost advocate of such laws), she simply joins with the world, and trails the banner of godliness in the dust. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.5

There is a class of people in the country who do not observe the popular rest day, but keep the seventh day instead; and of all classes of religious people, none are more marked as being separate and distinct from the world. And nothing more plainly marks them in this way than their observance of the seventh day as a day of rest and worship, while all the world around them is engaged in its accustomed secular pursuits. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.6

No one tries to force the world into conformity with this people. No law exists or ever existed—of an earthly sort—to curtail worldly business or amusements in any degree upon their day of rest. Yet their Sabbath is not overwhelmed and lost by all this secularism. The flood is beneath it, and can no more overwhelm it than the flood of water could overwhelm the ark. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.7

Let Sunday laws be removed from the statute books everywhere, and the result will be for the good of the church and of all men. Let the church address her petitions to God and not to the state, and the fading line of demarkation [sic.] between the church and the world will become much more clear and distinct. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.8

FOR some reason this “Christian nation” shows no disposition to “turn the other cheek” to Spain; but is getting ready to do something quite different. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.9

“Sunday Laws and Sabbath Keeping” American Sentinel 13, 16, pp. 242, 243.

ATJ

IN behalf of Sunday laws it is said that “Sabbath-keeping develops and strengthens the religious nature, and fosters reverence for God and his revealed truth, which is the basis of all well-being and prosperity.” AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.1

This is true, if it be God’s Sabbath that is kept, and it be kept in God’s appointed way. But how is it as regards the sabbath-keeping which is secured by Sunday laws? AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.2

Does a Sunday law develop and strengthen the religious nature? How is that nature strengthened? Is it not by faith in God? All must admit that it is; but what has a Sunday law to do with faith? What has the aid of the civil power to do with faith? Is not the act of seeking for and depending upon such aid the very opposite of faith in God? AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.3

“Thus saith the Lord: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.” Jeremiah 17:5, 6. Thus has God answered those who would put their dependence upon an earthly power. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.4

On the other hand, how is it with those who do the opposite? We read further in this chapter: “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drouth, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.5

This is the kind of experience that “develops and strengthens the religious nature”; and it comes altogether from faith in God. Faith in God is trust in God; and trust in the arm of flesh is the opposite of trust in God. It is the opposite of faith. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.6

Can it be said, either, that Sunday laws “foster reverence for God and his revealed truth”? Do they call attention to God at all? The law calls attention to the legislative body which enacts it. A human Sabbath law, therefore, calls the attention of the people away from God to a human power as the source of authority in Sabbath observance; and this does not foster reverence for God, but the very opposite. God is the only authority for Sabbath observance, and he alone can rightfully be recognized in such a matter. Any other “authority” is self constituted, and a daring usurper of the prerogative of Heaven. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 242.7

And what have Sunday laws to do with fostering regard for God’s “revealed truth”? What Sunday law ever called attention to God’s truth? It is the very absence of such truth from the foundation of that institution which prompts its adherents to seek a declaration from an earthly power. It is the absence of any divine law in support of the day that calls for support from the laws of men. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 243.1

For the very reason, therefore, that “Sabbath-keeping develops and strengthens the religious nature and fosters reverence for God and his revealed truth,” no human law ought ever to intrude itself into the matter of Sabbath observance. A human law in the domain of religion can only act as a barrier between man and his God. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 243.2

“Natural Rights and the ‘Common Good’” American Sentinel 13, 16, pp. 243, 244.

ATJ

THERE is no more fallacious theory extant than that which is embodied in the common idea that natural rights must be limited by law in order to promote the “common good.” AMS April 21, 1898, p. 243.1

Natural rights are the rights given to man by the Creator. They are neither more nor less than what the Creator made them. To say that they need to be clipped and pruned down to meet the requirements of a successful life, is to reflect upon the wisdom of the Creator. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 243.2

Rights were given to the individual for his good. Among man’s “inalienable rights” the Declaration of Independence enumerates “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The more of these things an individual has, the better off he is, and the more of prosperity does he enjoy. And the more individuals there are of this kind in the community, the more prosperity and happiness is there in the community. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 243.3

What, on the other hand, is the “common good”? It is a very indefinite term. Each person defines it to suit himself. Government define it to suit themselves. Over in Russia it is declared to be for the “common good” that the little children of heretical parents should be taken from their homes and sent away to be brought up in the orthodox “faith.” In Peru, until recently, it was considered to be for the common good that no Protestant marriage ceremonies should be recognized as valid by the state. In Spain it was for the common good that Protestants should not be allowed to worship in church buildings. The list of instances in which personal rights have been invaded under the plea of the “common good,” might be extended indefinitely. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 243.4

How are these things decided to be for the common good? Oh, it is by the decision of the majority, at least of those in power. And this is the way the question is always decided; this is the way it is proposed to decide the question to day, and the only way in which civil government can consider it, in this country at least. A natural right, therefore, as limited by the “common good,” is simply such a privilege as the majority may see fit to grant. And this would take the matter out of the hands of the Creator entirely. It would leave no force to the term “natural” right at all. For what a person is allowed to have by the majority, cannot be his by nature—by birth. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 243.5

And for what purpose is this limitation sought to be put upon natural rights? A quotation from the recent hearing on the Sunday bills before the Massachusetts legislature will explain. A speaker in behalf of the bills said:— AMS April 21, 1898, p. 243.6

“When we speak of natural rights it must be with limitations. Natural rights of the individual in the community are subordinate to the common good. Sabbath laws have been proved to be for the common good.” AMS April 21, 1898, p. 243.7

Natural rights are sought to be curtailed in the interests of Sunday laws. Sunday laws are a denial of natural rights, and this is instinctively recognized by the advocates of such laws in the pleas made for their enactment. It is in behalf of religious legislation that natural rights are most commonly curtailed, in all countries. The two are antagonistic; and when one prevails, the other must give way. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 243.8

This is not saying that the common good does not require that limitations should be set to individual freedom of action. It is not saying that an individual has liberty to do as he pleases. But we are not speaking of what an individual may please to do, but of what he has a natural right to do. He has no natural right to do anything that would conflict with the rights of his neighbor. Rights do not conflict. Any individual in the world may freely exercise the natural rights with which the Creator has endowed him, without interfering with the like exercise on the part of any other person. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 244.1

Natural rights lie at the foundation of all proper legislation and government. Neither individuals now governments may rightfully invade them. They no more justify wrong doing under the plea of “conscience,” than under the plea that might makes right. Test all governmental measures by the touchstone of natural rights, and let it be remembered that natural rights are always individual rights. In this way secure the good of all individuals, and the common good will take care of itself. AMS April 21, 1898, p. 244.2