"When the principles of our faith are at stake, we shall not hesitate to show our colors, even though we are called singular for so doing." —Our High Calling, p. 341.
Frequently as I have talked with legislators the question has been asked, "Why are Seventh-day Adventists so keen about religious liberty and freedom of conscience?" Generally my reply has been that it is because Jesus Christ repeatedly emphasized the importance of, and need for, freedom of conscience. Christ taught that certain desirable relationships should exist between members of the human race. Even more important, He affirmed that a special and inviolate relationship should exist between man and the Creator. In this latter relationship no human being could interfere without incurring His wrath.
Christ taught that all should have an opportunity to hear and enjoy the benefits of the gospel. Therefore, he urged that men and governments should accept the divine principle of religious liberty. He further made it clear that in matters of religion no one has the right to coerce or force conscience. One should be permitted to believe or not to believe, to worship or not to worship according as his conscience dictates.
That usually provokes another question: What about social rights, civil rights, economic rights, and academic freedom? Are Seventh-day Adventists interested in these or only in religious liberty? It has been a privilege to point out that while a Christian is naturally interested in all good causes, such things as civil rights are the concern of government, and not the primary concern of the church. As individual citizens, all followers of Christ should work diligently and courageously to do their part in helping the government to work toward the ideal in all these relationships. In such affairs the state not only has a right to interfere but indeed has a mandate from God to legislate in order to preserve peace, harmony, and justice. "The powers that be are ordained of God" (Rom. 13:1). On the other hand, Christ teaches that no one has a right to interfere with man's conscientious relationship with his Creator.
It is to protect freedom of conscience that Seventh-day Adventists, as individuals and as a church, have played such a militant and enthusiastic role. But not all, even of our own members, fully understand these principles, nor the great issues ahead of us. Note these words:
"The time is not far off when the people of God will be called upon to give their testimony before the rulers of the earth." —Ibid., p. 355. We could wish all sensed the importance of these things, but we are told: "Not one in twenty has a realization of what rapid strides we are making toward the great crisis in our history."—Ibid.
Adventists have a distinctive message for this hour when liberty and the inalienable rights of individuals are being threatened on every side. At a time when great religious powers and the world at large are giving mere lip service to the principles of religious liberty, we as a people have the unprecedented privilege of drawing the attention of the world to the attack that is being made on the sovereignty of God, His holy law, and the Sabbath of Creation.
Many bills being introduced today in the halls of legislature appear harmless and laudable, even stressing certain legal rights and privileges. Yet, hidden in what appears to be sincere efforts, often the results of legislators, is the danger that some of these laws will eventually be used against God's work and those who obey Him.
The United States is unique in the way she became a nation. The form of government she has espoused is committed to safeguard the rights of citizens. The Bill of Rights and the Constitution make it abundantly clear that the state exists to serve and protect the individual. But prophecy clearly reveals that these principles will be ignored, and although the separation of church and state is one of the foundation pillars of the Constitution, yet there will eventually be a union of church and state in this country. And Protestants will lead the way, thereby carrying out the designs of the Papacy. Active despotism, oppressive enactments, and repudiation of freedom of conscience will result. And this will become a pattern for all the nations who will follow her example in compelling men to give honor and allegiance to the image of the beast.
We are told by the Spirit of Prophecy that while men are sleeping, Satan is actively arranging matters. The Sunday movement is making its way in darkness. Leaders are concealing the true issues, and many who unite in the movement do not themselves see whither the undercurrent is tending. While the professions are mild and Christianlike at present, there will come a day when this country will speak and act with all the fury of the dragon.
Knowing these things, surely it is time to flood the world with light and unmask the hidden issues. We have been called to prepare a people to stand in the greatest crisis in human history.
Footsteps of an Approaching God
"Is there a Christian whose pulse does not beat with quickened action as he anticipates the great events opening before us? The Lord is coming. We hear the footsteps of an approaching God."—Ibid., p. 346.
There are few subjects in which Seventh-day Adventists are more interested and to which they will respond more willingly and enthusiastically than religious liberty. Let us confront our church members with a bold challenge to do something really big. To help us sense the issues and make us aware of the opportunities that are ours, Liberty magazine has been prepared. As ministers and church leaders we should encourage our members to get this journal into the hands of the most thoughtful people in our communities—attorneys, teachers, clergymen, businessmen, all who influence the thinking of the public.
We thank God for our leaders in religious liberty, but the time has come when every member can and must be a champion of this cause in his own right!
"Halfhearted Christians are worse than infidels; for their deceptive words and noncommittal position lead many astray." p. 348.