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THE National Religious Liberty Association was organized at Battle Creek, Mich., on the evening of July 21, 1889. Its purpose was well summed up by the president at the first annual session, held in the autumn of the same year. "A few men," he said, "believing in civil and religious liberty, organized for the purpose of combating anything and everything that has a tendency toward uniting church and state."
The animating principle of the organization was no new one to Seventh-day Adventists. They had been teaching it from the beginning. Like the Baptists, from whom in a sense the denomination may be said to have sprung, Adventists regard the church as a distinctly spiritual organization, owing spiritual allegiance to Christ alone, and seeking from the state nothing more than the protection which that power is intended. to give alike to all its citizens.
Adventists were not occupying new ground in opposing religious legislation. It was a development which their views of
prophecy led them to expect. Already in the middle of the nineteenth century, years before the Blair Sunday bill, or any similar piece of legislation, had been brought before Congress, Adventists had in their literature taken the position, based upon the prophecy of Revelation 13: 11-17, that there would arise here in the United States an intolerant hierarchy similar to the papacy of the Middle Ages, which, taking advantage of certain circumstances, customs, and prejudices, would seize upon the civil power of the government, and use it for the accomplishment of its own ends.
Hence the organization of the National Reform Association, followed by other developments looking in the same direction, and especially persistent efforts to induce Congress to subvert the principles of the national Constitution, together with manifestations of intolerance and persecution in a number of States, all seemed to demand that some steps be taken to meet the issue, and to make the most of the opportunity for warning all the people of the impending danger.
The immediate cause of the organization of the Religious Liberty Association was the rapidly increasing activities, not only of the National Reformers, but of certain other religious organizations having for their aim and purpose to commit the United States to religious legislation. Efforts in this direction were made early in the history of the Republic. In 1811 the synod of Pittsburgh was petitioning Congress to prohibit mail stages from traveling on Sunday, and to close the post offices on that day. In the following year the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church sent in a petition to the same effect. Similar requests and petitions came from various sources in the course of the next few years, and early in 1830 the time seemed opportune for some kind of answer. Col. Richard Johnson, of Kentucky, then serving as chairman of the House Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads, made a statement of the principles involved. He pointed out that conscientious people cherished widely different opinions. He said:
"The memorialists regard the first day of the week as a day set apart by the Creator for religious exercises, and consider the transportation of the mail and the opening of the post offices on that day the violation of a religious duty, and call for a suppression of the practice.
"Others, by counter-memorials, are known to entertain a different sentiment, believing that no one day of the week is holier than another. Others, holding the universality and immutability of the Jewish decalogue, believe in the sanctity of the seventh day of the week as a day of religious devotion, and, by their memorial now before the committee, they also request that it may be set apart for religious purposes. Each has hitherto
been left to the exercise of his own opinion, and it has been regarded as the proper business of government to protect all and determine for none. But the attempt is now made to bring about a greater uniformity, at least in practice; and as argument has failed, the Government has been called upon to interpose its authority to settle the controversy."-" American State Papers," by W. A. Blakely, pp. 245-248. Also "American State Papers," class vii, p. 229 et al. (Library of Congress).
The report went on to point out the limitations of Congress in dealing with such matters:
"Congress acts under a Constitution of delegated and limited powers. The committee look in vain to that instrument for a delegation of power authorizing this body to inquire and determine what part of time, or whether any, has been set apart by the Almighty for religious exercises. On the contrary, among the few prohibitions which it contains, is one that prohibits a religious test, and another which declares that Congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
"If Congress shall, by the authority of law, sanction the measure recommended, it would constitute a legislative decision of a religious controversy, in which even Christians themselves are at issue. However suited such a decision may be to an ecclesiastical council, it is incompatible with a Republican legislature, which is purely for political, and not for religious purposes." Id., pp. 248-250.
This comprehensive statement of the fundamental principles gave a temporary quietus to the attempts to commit Congress to religious legislation. Some years were to elapse before the question would be generally agitated again.
In 1863 there was launched an organization known as the National Reform Association, whose avowed purpose, as stated in Article II of its constitution, was:
"To secure such an amendment to the Constitution of the United States as will declare the nation's allegiance to Jesus Christ and its acceptance of the moral laws of the Christian religion, and so indicate that this is a Christian nation, and place all the Christian laws, institutions, and usages of our government on an undeniably legal basis in the fundamental law of the land." Id., p. 343.
Moreover on May 21, 1888, there was introduced into the Fiftieth Congress a bill prepared by Senator H. W. Blair, of New Hampshire, designed to secure nation-wide Sunday obThe original title read:
"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."- Id., p. 360.
A hearing was given in the interests of this bill on Dec. 13, 1888, the advocates of Sunday laws occupying the entire time, with one exception. A. H. Lewis, D. D., a leading minister and
"Corrupted Icemen are the worst of slaven.” OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, JANUARY, 1886,
The American Sentinel.
PACIFIC PRESS PUBLISHING COMPANY,
Enter as the Post-offer in Oakland,
"A Christian Nation." Teɛ dva which is donated by some that this may be made a Christian nation by simply making is charg at the Cistitution, was thas pertine muy commented upon by the Janesville, Win, Guate
But independent of the question as to what extent we are a Christian nation, it may well be
The American Sentinel.
It is well known that there is a large ad influential assolation in the United States, bear mg the name of the "National Reform Associ ation." It is popularly known as the Iteligions Amendment Party," because it is endeavering to secure a religious amendment to the Cousti tation of the United States. As stated by world, its object to put God in the Constitution According to its own avowal its aim is
Raler and the Bible as the supreme rule of its
or our reasons, will be ready to las un, and all who induce our positions with the base of the earth, aming that we are striking at the foundations of morality and religion But they are much mistaken in their estimate. We promise to do or say nothing agamst the plainest principles of morality and religion So fr from that we shall try to set before our readem the true relation of morality and religion, and show that this relation is not correctly prs. sented by this "smensdocet party”
to progutaBut the objector will say “There can be no Such an amendment to the Constitution of harm in recognising Jous Christ as the Baler the United States (or its preamble) as will suitably acknowledge Almighty God as the of the nation, and his laws as the role of our author of the nation's existence, and the ulti lives" We know that this plen la planelbloms male source of its authority, Jesus Christ as its we may say it is taking with nearly all-religion donlted whether, if the gentlemen who are conduct, and thus indicate that this is a Chris Pople Yet it is sports, placeble in the agtang thes go stion should sacred, Heise nation, and placo ali Christian laws, insti eyes of those only who have not examined the would tot de soocty a very great injury, tations and usages, on an undeniable legal saljeet in its bearings, or have not traced the mensarca are but the initiatory steps which w basis in the fundamental law of the land." And to which it necessarily leads. Let as cotion timately af to restrictions of religions freedom. and to committing the Government to me The president of this association is Hon.some of the things which must attend the woẹ ure which are as foreign to its powers and Felix it. Brunot, who has held that position fees of their efforts, and same principle bearing purposes as would be its action if it should almost from its origlo. Its present list of vice on the subject:undertake to determine ■ disputed question of presidents, to the number of two hundred, 1. The Constitution of the United States mul. theology." embraces bishops of churches, judges in the be so amended us to permit laws to be made highest courts in the land, governors, and repre❘ which shall legalize the laws and institutions of sentative men in various secular positions pre-Christianity, or of that which they may claim idents of colleges, doctors of divinity, and is Christianity. They ask that thứng lawa, inprofessors of theology in large numbers. Institutions, and usages shall be "put on a legal fact there is no other istion in the land basin Of course to be put on a legal basis which can boast such an array of names of they must be made matters of legal enfiens. eminent and influential men. It employs its ment. That this is the object of that associa The ark of God was never taken till it was agents and lecturers, who are precating their tion, real sud avowed, we promise to clearly surranded by the arms of earthly defenderseats to the eburches and to the people, and show.
An Unprofitable Alliance. Is regard to the supposed benefit of the church by State patrounge or an allisues be tween the Church and the State Ford Macaulay speaks as follows Those words are worthy of
with which its scheme accommodates itself to
of Christianity weast be subjected to penalties for his neglect or disabedience. As no law can exist without a penalty, no metitations or mages can be placed on a legal basis without suiber sing penalties for their enforcement. This undeniable.
In captivity, Its sanctity was muth sont to vindi who almost every whore report unbouniles sne 2 To carry this amendment into effect, any cate it fruta insult, and to lay the hostile Hend ce in their effort It has also a paper, the person who refuses to obey the laws and usagan prostrate on the threshold of his own tempde The real cority of Christianity to be found Christian Statesmen, as its organ to advocate In its benevolent morality, in its exquisite its cats. adaptation to the buman heart, in the facility While there are many people in the land who the capacity of every human intellect, in the are opposed to, or look with suspicion upon, the Consolation which it bears to the house ofvements of this party there is no paper pub mourning in the light with which it brightens lushed in the United States, which has for its the grust mystery of the grave. To ach a distinct object the vindication of the rights of system it can bring no addition of diguity or of American citizens, which, we solemnly believe, strength that it in part and parcel of the com are threatened by the actions and atms of this
tion That light may be disseminated
3. A person can be convicted of a minde. monnor only before a court of justice, on the text of the law and the bearing of evidence. 4. The court is necessarily constituted the "The whole history of Christianity show on this subject we have commenced the pabli-judge and expouent of the law, and, therefore, that she is in far greater danger of being car rupted by the sliisure of power, than of being cation of THE AMERICAN SENTINEL That such if disagreement arise as to the meaning of the crushed by its opposition Them who thrust a paper as this in noi dod, we think we can make law, or as to what constitutâ a misdeme tamporal sovereignty upon ber treat her saperent to every ludividual who will read our in the premises, the court in the antl-arity, and their prototypes treated her auther They bow the know and fat of her, they ery," Hallpaper, who will hold prejudice în abeyance, and the sole authority, to which appeal must be and satte her on the cheek, they put a scepter examine our reasons with endor
in ber hand but it tas fragile reed, they brown! While so many really think they are doing 6. And, therefore, if a question ariens as to ber, but it is with thorus, they over with pur-God service in their efforts to change the form what is or what is not Christian law, mago, or pls the whouds which their own hands have in of our Government, and we are willing to give usitation, it must be ditermined by a court of Bieted on her; and inscribe magnitiount titles over the troms on which they have fixed ber them credit for thinking so, we are aware that justice! Or, if it be said that it need not be la to parish in ignominy and pain".-Essay on they will look with disfaver ujan our work, to the decision of a civil court, bat such gam Southey's Calloym and saune, who do not understand our motives!tions may be referred to su ovchmiastical court
editor among the Seventh Day Baptists, was permitted to speak for a few minutes. He weakened his cause, however, by admitting the right of Congress to legislate on the subject, and only asked an exemption in favor of his people.
At this point Seventh-day Adventists, who had been entirely ignored, asked the privilege of a hearing, and were allowed about an hour and a half. A. T. Jones, the chief spokesman, made it very clear that Adventists were not seeking an exemption clause, that they would oppose the bill just as much with as without such a clause, because they regarded the principle of legislation in behalf of a religious institution as in itself fundamentally wrong. Senator Blair, who presided at the hearing, interrupted the speaker again and again, but finally admitted that the argument presented was logical and sound throughout.
A report of this hearing, which brought Adventists for the first time somewhat prominently before the national legislative body, was printed in pamphlet form, with additional material on the subject of religious legislation, and widely circulated throughout the country.
Meanwhile there were various cases, especially in the Southern States, of Adventists' being fined for garden and field labor on Sunday, and everything pointed to the need of enlightening the general public as to the principles of religious liberty. It was in view of these circumstances that Adventists thought it wise to organize an association which should give its particular attention to this one thing. The movement first took shape in the appointment in December, 1888, of a press committee of three "for the purpose of devising and carrying out plans for the dissemination of general information to the public, on the question of civil and religious liberty." C. Eldridge, M. B. Duffie, and W. H. McKee, the members of the committee, had much other work to do; but they were instrumental in securing the publication of a number of articles and reviews in various papers.
In January, 1889, W. H. McKee, who was acting as secretary, was furnished an assistant in A. F. Ballenger. The work thus re-enforced rapidly grew in extent and efficiency. Early in February a new press committee was appointed by the General Conference Committee, consisting of the following seven members: C. Eldridge, A. T. Jones, D. T. Jones, W. A. Colcord, J. O. Corliss, J. E. White, W. H. McKee. The committee organized on the 10th of February, and immediately sought the co-operation of the various conferences, who were asked to