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    September 18, 1884

    “Civil Government and the First Table of the Law” The Signs of the Times 10, 36, pp. 562, 563.

    ROGER WILLIAMS enunciated the doctrine that “the civil magistrate has no authority over offenses against the first table” of the law of God. On this Dr. Crafts remarks that it “is worthy of all acceptance; but it must be interpreted and applied with common sense.” Then he proceeds to give us an “interpretation,” which presumably he considers to be “common sense.” And now—SITI September 18, 1884, page 562.1

    “Turn hear your steps, and your eyes employ, Ye hapless daughters, and ye sons of Troy.”SITI September 18, 1884, page 562.2

    And see how he does it. He says: “The Mormon is not to claim under it a right to bigamy and polygamy.”SITI September 18, 1884, page 562.3

    What shadow of connection is there between “bigamy and polygamy,” and the first table of the law? Or has he become so accustomed to looking at everything in the reverse that the law of God to is turned backward, and so to his vision the second table of the law is the first, and duty toward men takes precedence of that toward God? The Mormon in his “bigamy and polygamy,” commits adultery, which is transgression of the seventh commandment, the third statute of the second table; and the second table regulates our duties toward our fellow-men, and civil government has a right to, yea, it must, exercise its authority there, because that is one of the main purposes of civil government. And when Congress legislates on the Mormon adultery, what kind of “common sense” is that which interpret such action as legislation upon offenses against the first table? So far is it from being common sense, that it is the oldest kind of nonsense—in short there is no sense at all in it. But utterly destitute of sense as it is, it shows plainly that there is no sophistry, no subterfuge, and that will not be employed to blind the minds of the masses to the unrighteousness of the enactment and enforcement of Sunday laws.SITI September 18, 1884, page 562.4

    This statement by Roger Williams is sound doctrine and eminently common sense as it stands. It is truth that civil government has no right to legislate in matters pertaining to the first table of the law. The first table has to do it alone with man’s duty to God; and what ever conception of what God is or what God requires, is distinctively his own conception, and applies exclusively between that man and his God. And when the State attempts by law to regulate such conception, it enters the domain where it does not belong, and where it can have no shadow of a right.SITI September 18, 1884, page 562.5

    The State has no right to say whether a man shall have one God or fifty, or whether he shall have any God at all. It has no right to say whether its subject shall worship Jehovah, Jupiter, Josh, Buddha, Thor, Odin, Isis, or Osiris. So far as the State is concerned, the Chinaman has a right to bring his graven images of his gods with him, and worship them. The Hindu has a right to bring his Buddha with him and worship if there. The Sabian has the right to bring his sacred fire, and worship it.SITI September 18, 1884, page 562.6

    But, on the other hand, the worshiper, of what kind soever he may be, must keep his worship between himself and his god, must keep it within the limits of the first table. He, on his part, must not invade the domain of the State. The fire-worshiper may carry on his worship unmolested so long as he keeps it between himself and his fire-god; but the moment that he sees is one of his fellow-men and attempts to kill him and burn him in the fire as a sacrifice to his god, that moment the State stretches forth its powerful hand and stops him. Because, in the exercise of one of its chief offices, the State must protect the life of this one of its subjects. Therefore when any one in his worship of his god attempts the life of another, even though it be his own child, the State must interfere and protect the life of its subject, and prosecute the offender. Prosecute him, not for any offense against any part of the first table, but for his offense against that statute of the second table, which says, “Thou shalt not kill.” And the State has the right to so prosecute, even to the annihilation of such worship, if it proved to be necessary to the protection of the lives of its subjects.SITI September 18, 1884, page 562.7

    So likewise the Mormons have the right to separate themselves, and go away into the wilderness, and there establish a hierarchy if they choose, and the Government can say nothing against their proposal to worship their god in that way. But when they make adultery the chief corner-stone of their hierarchy, and when every act of worship toward their god must be sanctified by adultery, then the Government must interfere; because the State has the right to, yea, it must protect its subjects from the adulterer as well as from the murderer. And in this, as in the above case, such interference is not because of any infringement of the first table of the law, but solely because, and in correction of, there infringement of that statute of the second table which says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery;” and the State has the right to carry such interference to the extent of annihilating that hierarchy, if it be found necessary to the abolition of their adulterous practices.SITI September 18, 1884, page 562.8

    Again, suppose a class of religionists should arise, holding, upon Acts 4:32, that no worship was acceptable to God except that based upon the principles of community of property. So long as such religionists, believing it their duty, maintain such views and worship between themselves and God, the Government has nothing to say against what they do. But if they, in carrying out their principle of “all things common,” begin to appropriate the property of their neighbors, then the State asserts its right to protect the property of its citizens. And such action in no wise touches relations nor duties of the first table, but does solely with that part of the second table which says, “Thou shalt not steal.” The same principle would hold in regard to any infraction of the ninth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Therefore it is plain that the civil Government has no right to interfere with the religious practices of any people so long as such practices are confined within the limits of the first table of the law.SITI September 18, 1884, page 562.9

    Now the question arises, Has the State any right to compel the observance of the Sabbath? From the principles pointed out in the foregoing, the question must be answered in the negative; because the Sabbath is an institution belonging exclusively to the first table of the law, and is regulated wholly by a statute of the first table. The non-observance of the Sabbath interferes with no person’s life, nor chastity, nor property, nor character. Consequently the non-observance of the Sabbath on the part of any person can by no possibility come within the limits of the jurisdiction of the State. This of the Sabbath. We do not hear refer to Sunday, because Sunday-keeping has no connection whatever with anything in either first or the second table, unless it be in the form of a transgression of the first commandment. And as we have seen that, though it were part of the first table, the State can have nothing to do with it; and as every one knows it is no part of the second table, therefore any legislation in behalf of Sunday is utterly excluded, so far as the two tables of the law are concerned.SITI September 18, 1884, page 562.10

    But suppose that Sunday were truly the Sabbath; is there been any just ground for legislation, in the claim of the Sunday-law people, that there rest is disturbed by other people not keeping Sunday? It is difficult to see how one person’s choice not to rest on a certain day can disturb the one who chooses to rest that day. Suppose I rest on Sunday; my neighbor across the way works on Sunday. Now how can his work, on his own premises, disturb my rest on my premises? It does not disturb my rest and it cannot. This we know, for we are acquainted with the experience, not in keeping Sunday, it is true, but in keeping the Sabbath, and the principle is the same. There are thousands of Sabbath-keepers in the United States. They are found in city and country in every State and Territory in the Union. They all rest on the Sabbath of the Lord (Saturday), which is acknowledged to be the busiest day of the week, and yet no such thing was ever heard of as a Seventh-day Adventist complaining of his rest being disturbed. We have churches in such busy cities as Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, and many others, where they meet for worship every Sabbath, and although in the midst of these busy cities, on the busiest day of the week, yet no one ever heard a complaint of their worship being disturbed by other people working. And if such complaints were made (which will never be), how much respect would it received from Sunday-keepers? Just none at all. It would be considered as wholly unworthy their notice. And this shows that their cry about their rest, worship, etc., being disturbed by people working on Sunday, does not spring from principle, but entirely from willfulness. Well they are consistent in that at least; for as we have shown in the articles that have gone before, that Sunday-keeping is will-worship, so, therefore, they are consistent in consulting their own willfulness alone in seeking to compel others to keep it. In their whole system there is no recognition of the principle of equal rights, but as we have shown in a previous article, it rests wholly upon the idea that “might is right.” With them there is no recognition of the right of every man to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, but every man must worship according to the dictates of the conscience of the Sunday-law claimant. Yet even this is not a true statement of the case, but rather that every man must worship according to the will of the Sunday-law claimant. We say “will” because in this case, as a matter of fact, there is no conscience at all.SITI September 18, 1884, page 562.11

    In short, the more closely the Sunday institution, and the claims for Sunday laws are examined, the more plainly it appears that they rest upon no particle of right or equity. The more carefully they are weighed in the balances, the more decidedly they are found wanting. Instead of the National Reform movement being a work of reform, it is the opposite. Instead of its being a progression in the civilization of the nineteenth century, it is a retrogression to that of the twelfth century. Instead of its shedding a broader and purer light upon the intellectual world, instead of its turning the shadow backward, it swings it forward until the bright face of the intellectual dial-plate is covered with the black this of darkness of the Dark Ages.SITI September 18, 1884, page 563.1

    In closing we give the following words of wisdom from Washington: “I have often expressed my opinion, that every man who conducts himself as a good citizen is accountable to God alone for his religious faith, and should be protected and worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience.” And with this we say that the government has no right to enact laws making any of the duties of the first table a test of good citizenship.SITI September 18, 1884, page 563.2

    ALONZO T. JONES.

    Oakland, Cal., Sept. 10, 1884.SITI September 18, 1884, page 563.3

    NOTE:—I believe that the principles laid down in this article will bear the test of just judicial criticism. If any think otherwise, I shall be glad to receive any suggestions they may make.SITI September 18, 1884, page 563.4

    A. T. J.

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