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    December 25, 1907

    “Religious Liberty—IV. As Related to the Church Itself” The Medical Missionary, 16, 52, pp. 413, 414.

    ATJ

    ALONZO T. JONES

    WE have seen that no monarchial government has any right to enforce or require any religious observance; and that when any such power does so, the right of individuality in religion is supreme, and the monarch’s word must change.MEDM December 25, 1907, page 413.1

    We have found also that no government in which the law is supreme has any right to put into the law of the realm any statute, decree, or provision touching religion; and that when such a thing is done, the right of individuality in religion remains supreme, and innocency before God, and perfect harmlessness before the government, the law, and society is found in him who disregards such law.MEDM December 25, 1907, page 413.2

    We have found that the church has no right to control the civil power for the execution of her will or the furtherance of her aims; and that when she does so a connection of crowning iniquity is formed, only a Satanic gift is in the possession of such church, and the right of individuality in religion is still supreme and to be freely exercised.MEDM December 25, 1907, page 413.3

    There is yet another combination by means of which domination of man in religion has been sought; this is the church itself, within itself—the church as relates to the membership of the church. And upon this, whether in principle, or in facts of remarkable experience, the Scripture is no less explicit than in any other of the examples given on this subject.MEDM December 25, 1907, page 413.4

    It has been already related how that Israel when delivered from Egypt was first “the church in the wilderness” and afterward in the land of Canaan; and that this same Israel in the days of Christ on earth, though in spirit and substance far short of God’s ideal for them, yet in fact was still the church in direct descent.MEDM December 25, 1907, page 413.5

    The official organization of this church was also still in fact the same in direct descent. The priesthood—the chief priests, and the high priest—in order and in succession, were the direct continuance in succession of the order established by the Lord through Moses in the wilderness; and was just as truly the church in descent from the church in the wilderness.MEDM December 25, 1907, page 413.6

    And the apostle of the Lord and the original disciples of Jesus were all, without exception, members of that church. They took part equally with others in the services and worship of that church. They went to the temple and into the temple with all the others to worship at the regular hours, and they taught in the temple (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:12); and the people were... the approval of... upon them all.MEDM December 25, 1907, page 413.7

    But those apostles and... learned something and knew... truth that the high ones of the church did not know and would not recognize. Therefore they preached Jesus and the resurrection, and salvation through Him, and that there is no other way—that very Jesus of whom the official order and organization of the church had “now been the betrayers and murderers.” Therefore this official order and organization of the church assumed the office and prerogative of deciding that those private church-members should neither preach nor teach this truth that they knew to be the truth.MEDM December 25, 1907, page 413.8

    Accordingly the priests and the temple authorities arrested Peter and John and put them in prison; when they had gone up to the temple at the hour of prayer, and the lame man had been healed through faith in the name of Jesus, and Peter had preached to the assembled wondering people. Then the next morning all the official order and organization of the church—the rulers, the seventy elders, the scribes, the priests, and the high priest—gathered together and had Peter and John brought and set in the midst, and demanded of them what authority they had to be preaching: “By what power, and by what name, have you done this?”MEDM December 25, 1907, page 413.9

    Then Peter “filled with the Holy Ghost” made answer. The whole assembly “marveled” at the boldness of these two only common and illiterate members of the church in the presence of that official and august body, “and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.” Peter and John were remanded outside the council, while the council “conferred among themselves.”MEDM December 25, 1907, page 413.10

    In their conference they decided, “Let us straitly threaten them that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.” Then they called in again Peter and John “and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” But Peter and John answered immediately, “Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard.” In that answer so promptly given, it seemed to that assembly that these mere common men and private and illiterate members of the church, would actually convey the impression that it was possible for such as they to be taught of God, and to know from God things that this whole assembly of the highest officials and most learned ones of the church did not know; and they would pay no attention whatever to the command of ...would go right ahead... that the council might.... Plainly enough such a ... could mean only every one for himself, an individual independence that would overthrow all order and authority.MEDM December 25, 1907, page 413.11

    Such an answer as that from such persons as those, to such an official and dignified body as this; such an answer from mere common persons to this august assembly, from mere private members of the church to the regular assemblage of that which for ages had been the highest official and divinely appointed order in the organization of the church; could not be considered by those officials as anything less than arrant presumption, and the destruction of all order and organization in the church.MEDM December 25, 1907, page 414.1

    However, the council let them go, with further charge under heavy threat that they should so teach no more.MEDM December 25, 1907, page 414.2

    Peter and John being let go went to the company of the other disciples and “reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.” And all the others, instead of being in the least awed or more afraid by it, not only decidedly approved what Peter and John had done, but were so glad of it that “with one accord” they thanked and praised God, asked Him to “behold the threatenings of the church officials and grant to all of the disciples boldness that they may speak thy word.” And God witnessed to their Christian steadfastness, “and the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of man and women.”MEDM December 25, 1907, page 414.3

    This open disobedience to the “authority” of the church, this bold “disregard for established order and organization? could not be allowed to go on. Therefore all the apostles were next arrested and imprisoned; for “then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, and were filled with indignation, and laid hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.”MEDM December 25, 1907, page 414.4

    But lo! “the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning and taught.”MEDM December 25, 1907, page 414.5

    That same morning the high priest and they that were with him “called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison” to have the apostles brought before them to answer for all this “insubordination,” “apostasy” and “opposition to the organized work” of the church. The messengers returned and reported that they found the prison securely closed and the keepers on guard, but there were no prisoners. But while those of the council were wondering what this could mean, there came one saying that the men were “standing in the temple and teaching the people.”MEDM December 25, 1907, page 414.6

    Officers were sent who arrested them all anew and brought them before the council. The high priest demanded of them, “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.”MEDM December 25, 1907, page 414.7

    The apostles answered as before: “We ought to obey God rather than man. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel with forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him.”MEDM December 25, 1907, page 414.8

    At this bold persistence in the forbidden course the council “took counsel to slay them.” From actually murdering the apostles the council was dissuaded by Gamaliel. Nevertheless, the council called in the apostles again, and “had them flogged” and then again “commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.”MEDM December 25, 1907, page 414.9

    The apostles departed from the presence of the council. But instead of being either awed or subdued by the council or by what it had done, they were all only glad again to be counted worthy to suffer stripes and whatever other disgrace from the official organization of the church for teaching what they saw and knew to be the truth. And notwithstanding that it was “all the senate of the children of Israel,” that is, all those who composed the official organization of the church, that had so treated them and had repeatedly commanded them not to preach at all nor teach the things which they were both preaching and teaching, “never for a single day, either in the temple or in the private houses, did they discontinue teaching or telling the good news of Jesus the Christ.”MEDM December 25, 1907, page 414.10

    (To be Continued.)

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