By J. I. Taylor –
The church is ordained of God to evangelize the world for the salvation of men’s souls. It is to reveal unto men the love of God for all mankind. It is to minister charity to the needy, thus relieving physical suffering. Its disciplinary authority extends over its own members only, and over them only to the extent of censure and disfellowship. It is to be maintained in its program of work by the voluntary tithes and offerings of its members and friends.
The state (all civil government) is an association of men for the purpose of securing and maintaining to each individual his God-given right to ” life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It is ordained of God to rule over the bodies of men (Rom. 13: 4), not their souls. It is to enact and execute equitable and just laws for the protection of man against man. It is to regard the rights of the minority as sacredly as the rights of the majority. It is to protect the weak against the strong. It is sacredly to guard every citizen in the enjoyment of liberty in matters of religion. It is to lay a restraining hand upon men only when, in the exercise of their right of liberty, they invade the rights of their fellow men. It is maintained by an assessed tax upon its citizenry. Its authority extends to execution of punishment unto imprisonment and death.
[The State] is to lay a restraining hand upon men only when, in the exercise of their right of liberty, they invade the rights of their fellow men.
Why should we Christians desire that the non-Christian be required by law to observe our religious institutions? Why should we ask that the state punish offenders against our church institutions, when God has withheld such authority from the church? Suppose the non- Christians were in the majority, and they should demand that we observe our Sabbath as they observe it? Would we not at once cry, ” Hands off! This is a matter of conscience over which you have no control “? Have they not the same right of liberty in matters religious as we?
. . .
Religious liberty is a sacred heritage. Baptists, Presbyterians, Seventh Day Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, and others have in the past suffered persecution upon American soil because of the existence of religious laws. Christ said: ” Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matt. 18:6 Let us not take the first steps toward violation of the rights of the ” least” of our brethren. To do so means to bring Christ’s condemnation upon us.