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The Rights of the People

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    DIVINE RIGHT

    It is the divine right of every man to believe or not believe, to be religious or not religious, as he shall choose for himself. God himself, in Jesus Christ, has said: “if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” John 12:47, 48. Thus the God of heaven, the Author of Christianity, has left every soul free to believe or not believe, to receive or reject, his words, as the man may choose for himself. And when any man chooses not to believe, and chooses to reject his word, the Lord does not condemn him.ROP 246.2

    Whoever, therefore, would presume to exercise jurisdiction over the religious belief or observances of any man, or would compel any man to conform to the precepts of any religion, or to comply with the ceremonies of any religious body, or would condemn any man for not so complying, does in that thing put himself above Jesus Christ, and, indeed, above God, for he exercises a prerogative which God himself refuses to exercise.ROP 246.3

    The word of God is the word of life. To whomsoever that word comes, whosoever heareth it, to him in that word there comes life from God-eternal life. Then he who rejects that word rejects life. He who rejects life does in that very thing choose death. And he who chooses death by the rejection of life does in that pass judgment of death upon himself. And so it stands written, “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life,” etc. Acts 13:46. Thus it is that God judges no man for rejecting his word; and this is how it is that that word shall judge men in the last day. “In that day” that word of life will stand there as the witness to all that eternal life came to all, but was rejected, and nothing but death remains. And when the death is received, each one receives simply what he has chosen, and in that the God of love does not condemn, but is sorry instead.ROP 246.4

    Now to the Christian church is committed this word of life as she is sent into the world. She is to “preach the word.” To her it is written, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings; that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.” Philippians 2:14-16. Thus the true church is in the world “in Christ’s stead” (2 Corinthians 5:20), to hold forth, to bring to men, the word of life. In so doing she judges no one, she condemns no one, she sets at naught no one, for she “is subject unto Christ” in everything (Ephesians 5:24), and he ever says, “If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge [condemn] him not.”ROP 247.1

    In this word Christ also establishes the divine right of every man, at his own free choice, to dissent from, and to disregard in every way, any doctrine, dogma, ordinance, rite, or institution of any church on earth. And no man can ever rightly be molested or disquieted in any way whatever in the free exercise of this divine right.ROP 247.2

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