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    July 6, 1891

    “Disestablishment vs. Religious Liberty” The Signs of the Times, 17, 27.

    E. J. Waggoner

    The sentiments uttered by the speakers at a recent annual meeting of the English “Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and Control” are very suggestive as showing that it is not necessary to have what is technically known as an “established church” in order to have all the pernicious effects of religious legislation. They demonstrate, also, the fact that very many who seem to be zealous workers for religious liberty, do not have any just conception of what religious liberty really is. The meeting in question was presided over by Sir George O. Trevelyan, M.P., who, in his opening speech, which was the principal one of the evening, spoke as follows:—SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.37

    “Addressing himself to those who held aloof from the work of the society because from a religious movement it had not become a political one, he said that the very words of the charge answered themselves. It did not require that a man should be a very deep Greek scholar in order to know that the meaning of the word ‘political’ was ‘that which concerns the State.’ Their object was to separate the Church from the State, and if that was not a political movement, he did not know what was, and he should specially like to put the question to those who appeared to think that religious equality was to come down like manna from heaven, and that it was not now as ever to be won by human effort, human courage, and human self-sacrifice. [Cheers.] Now, as ever, the motive power of their cause was religious, but their weapons were human, and as long as those weapons were honorably, safely, and valiantly used, they were not ashamed to look in the face anyone who told them that they ought not to bring their cause into the arena of politics. In a free country no cause was ever successful until it became political. [Cheers.]SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.38

    “But it was not only a question of taking the aggressive in politics; it was likewise a plain question of self-defense. There were in that hall, he supposed, a good many ministers of religion, and tomorrow certain newspapers would taunt them with being partisans and politicians, and yet those very newspapers would tell them that if they only maintained the church in Wales for another generation they would kill out dissent in the Principality. [Laughter.] The Nonconformist ministers of religion were warriors, and why should they not be when they were fighting for the life of churches whose life was as dear to them as their own? All the religious endowments of the country, all the prestige of State connection, not in Wales only, was conferred on one religious body in order that it should be able to extinguish all the others; and as long as that was the case, then, not in Wales only, but elsewhere, political action on the part of churches that were threatened became not only a necessity and an obligation, but absolutely a religious duty. [Cheers.]”SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.39

    The above is taken from the report in the London Daily News, and, while not verbatim, is a correct summary of a portion of the honorable gentleman’s speech. Before making any comments, it may be well to have before us a statement made at the same meeting by Sir Wilfrid Lawson: “It is said that ministers of religion should not be political, but it might just as well be said that politicians should not be religious. For his part he regarded a man who had no politics as a human cabbage or an idiotic oyster.”SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.40

    In all this we see a failure to distinguish between things that differ.While as long as society exists there must be force for its legislation, and consequently must be politics (in the best sense of the word), it does not follow that politics and religion must have any connection. Politics concerns the entire body of citizens, as a body, while religion is solely a matter between an individual and God. But when men fail to distinguish between things that differ, it soon results in there being no difference between those things; and so the result of such movements as the one under consideration is to make religion and politics identical. Thus the separation of Church and State, when gained, will be a separation only in name.SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.41

    One of the most celebrated of England’s poets wrote:—SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.42

    “How small of all that human hearts endure.
    That part which laws of kings can cause or cure.”
    SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.43

    But men, and women too, nowadays seem to think that legal enactment is a panacea for all the ills that human flesh and human souls are heir to. If they could but come to know practically the religion of Jesus Christ, they would know that true and perfect freedom is obtained in it alone, and that the freedom which it bestows may be enjoyed in the most autocratic government as well as in the freest democracy. The apostle Paul rejoiced in true religious freedom while he was held a prisoner in chains by the despotic Nero. On the other hand, the “Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and Control” will, if successful, make religious liberty in England a much rarer thing than it now is.SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.44

    One not acquainted with the situation would naturally think that the disestablishment of the Church in England would be a long step in the direction of religious liberty; but from the extracts quoted above it can readily be seen that the society which is working for the establishment in England is almost identical with what is known as the National Reform Association in America. The Society in England is dissatisfied because one church has the monopoly of State emoluments; its members are not opposed to church members and ministers engaging in politics in behalf of (a form of) religion, but they want that all the churches should have an equal chance. Likewise, the National Reform Association is opposed to the idea of one church or sect being singled out as the recipient of special favors by the government, but is most heartily in accord with religious legislation in favor of all religious bodies as a confederated whole.SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.45

    A religio-political movement may be intensely religious, but it can never be godly or Christlike. Sir George Trevelyan said that “their cause was religious, but their weapons were human.” But with human weapons only human results can be obtained; consequently the “religious liberty” resulting from the success of such a movement can be nothing else than liberty as regards a human religion. But a human religion is of no use whatever so far as salvation is concerned, and salvation is supposed to be the ultimate object of religion, although it is too often lost sight of. In contrast with the words of Mr. Trevelyan are the words of Paul.” “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [human], but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.46

    The lesson that we commend to the thoughtful reader is to learn to distinguish between true and false movements in behalf of religious liberty. The term “religious liberty” is getting to be popular, and we need to be on our guard lest we be carried away with some movement having that as its watchword, while it is actually, though unconsciously, not only tending toward, but is really in itself, religious bondage. We must remember that true religion does not confine itself to church and society lines, but is an individual affair. Human nature averages the same in all parts of the world, and in all societies; in every established church there are many who are advocates and actual possessors of real religious liberty, while dissenting bodies, as bodies, are very far from being acquainted with the real meaning of the term.SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.47

    From the prophecies we are sure that religious despotism and religious persecution will prevail in all the world before the end comes; but that can only be when a vast majority of the people assent to such a condition; and that majority will be made up from all classes and all denominations. Majorities, as well as minorities, are always composed to individuals, and they take the color of the sentiments of the individuals composing them; therefore religious despotism can be prevalent only when the majority of people are ignorant of true religious freedom, and have a religious despotism in their own hearts. As in days past, relentless and bloody persecution was carried on in the name of Christianity, so in the tine to come, religious liberty-which is but another name for pure Christianity-will be the rallying cry of the men who will enact and enforce the most intolerant laws.SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.48

    Let us remember that the only religious liberty is “the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,” and that this is obtained, not by human weapons, but by the weapons which the Holy Spirit furnishes, and which it alone can wield. It is not the possession of any society of men, as a society, whether that society be religious or political, or not, neither is wholly an affair of the individual heart, and can be properly advocated only by those whom the Son has made free. It can no more be gained by political action than can love be gained by personal violence. All such action is death to that which it vainly thinks to gain. Jerusalem which is above is alone free, and the kingdom of which it is the capital is not of this world; hence, its children cannot fight with human weapons of any sort. May the readers of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES be so thoroughly acquainted with Christ and the freedom which he alone can give, that they will not be deceived by vain movements for religious liberty. E. J. W.SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.49

    Hamburg, Germany, June 2, 1891.SITI July 6, 1891, page 171.50

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