WE have now traced in the Word of God the principle of the divine right of individuality in religion, as that principle is applied and illustrated as relates to autocracy, to government of the supremacy and inflexibility of law, to the union of Church and State, to the church itself, and to individuals.
Please let no one think that all this is only a series of studies in ancient history, nor yet that it is a study of principles and Scriptures only as such: though on either ground the study would be amply justified. However, it is nothing of the kind. It is a study of principles which in one phase or another are fully as alive and active today as ever. And the day is yet to be, and that not far distant, when the whole series of illustrations covered in these studies will again be all alive and active, and all at once, as truly and to the like purpose as each was in its place and day.
The day is coming, and it is not far distant, when autocracies, governments of the supremacy and the inflexibility of the law, unions of church and State, and churches as such, will all be standing unitedly, and bent as from one mind, to compel submission and uniformity in religion; and to crush out every suggestion of individuality in religion and every kind of right of it.
It is particularly in view of what is soon to come that these studies have been published. All these things written in the Scriptures were set down there by the Spirit of inspiration, not only for the instruction of all people always, but, particularly "for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come." The mightiest contest, and this upon the grandest scale, between the forces of evil and the reign of righteousness that this world's experience shall ever know, is yet to be. This mightiest conflict is to be in the time when the ends of the world are come. That time is even now at hand. For this reason these lessons from the inspired record are all-important just now.
In view of the mighty pressure from all these sources and by all these forces, that is soon to be put on every individual, it is of the greatest importance that cach individual shall know for himself, and know by the surest possible evidence-to know by very certitude itself-just what is his place, his responsibility, and his right, individually, in the presence of principalities and powers, and before God and with God.
While in these studies of the Scriptures we have discussed each case from the point of view that these powers have no right to assert or exercise any authority or jurisdiction in religion, but that the right of individuality in religion is supreme in the presence of all, the other side is equally true and no less important, even if it be not even more important—that it is incumbent on the individual never to allow any other than God to assert authority or jurisdiction in religion without being openly challenged and absolutely ignored: that in true allegiance to God and perfect loyalty to the right, the divine right of individuality, in religion, shall be maintained. This every individual owes absolutely to God, to the right, and to himself in God and for the right. This principle each individual must maintain or else prove disloyal to God, to himself as a man before God, and to consent that the wrong shall prevail instead of the right: in other words, to consent that the wrong shall be the right.
It is true, as the inspired record shows, that autocracy, as illustrated in King Nebuchadnezzar; that government of the supremacy of law, as illustrated in the Medo- Persian power; that the union of church and State, as illustrated in the Jewish church and the Roman power united against Christ; that the church as such, as illustrated in the church of Israel against the disciples of Christ; has no right to assert authority or jurisdiction in religion. It is equally, and even more emphatically, true, that, to be at all loyal to God and the right, or true to themselves and to their fellow men, the three Hebrew young men, the man Daniel, the Lord Jesus, and the apostles of the Lord, must absolutely disregard every such assertion. In each case God's dominion was usurped. In each case the right was being completely thrown over, and the wrong established in its place. In such a case and at such a time could any who knew God or cared for the right, sit still and do nothing? Is allegiance to God, nothing? Is loyalty to the right, never to be known? Shall the wrong be recognized as having only the right to prevail? Shall man never be true—neither true to God nor to the right, neither true to himself nor to his fellowman.
It is true that Nebuchadnezzar was entirely out of his place and did wholly wrong when he attempted to exercise authority in religion; and the story is written to show to all people forever that every autocracy is just as much out of place, and just as far wrong, when it presumes to assert authority in religion. At the same time it is true, and equally important to remember, that the three Hebrew individuals openly and uncompromisingly disregarded that autocratic assertion of authority in religion. And the story is written to teach that all other individuals forever must do as did those three individuals, if these too will be true to God, to the right, to themselves, and to their kind.
It is true that, notwithstanding its principles of supremacy and inflexibility of the law, the Medo-Persian government did wrong when it by its law entered the field of religion; and the story is written to show to all governments and people forever that every government is equally wrong in entering by law the field of religion. It is equally true, and equally important to remember, that the individual,—Daniel,—did absolutely and uncompromisingly disregard that law; and that the story is written to teach all individuals forever that in all like circumstances they must do as did that individual, if they will honor God and the right and be true to themselves and to their fellowman.
It is true that the Church of Israel did an enormously wicked thing when she allied herself with the civil power in order to make her will effective; and the story of it is written to show to all the world forever that every church commits the like enormity whenever, under any pretext whatever, she seeks to control the civil power to make her will effective. It is equally true, and equally important to recognize and remember,, that the One lone Individual Who was the object of this wicked alliance of the church and State, would die under it rather than to yield to it or to recognize it in the slightest degree. And this is all written, that every other individual to the world's end shall be ready under like circumstances to do as did the Lord Jesus, in order to be true to God, true to the truth, true to himself, and true to the human race.
It is true that the church of Israel went out of the right way, and did entirely wrong, when she assumed the authority to decide what the members of that church should or should not believe and teach; and the story of it is written to make plain to all churches and people forever, that every church is just as far from the right way, and equally wrong, when she assumes any authority to decide what any member of the church shall or shall not believe and teach. It is equally true, and just as important to remember, that the individual church members there openly and uncompromisingly refused to recognize any such authority to any extent or in any degree whatever. And this is written to teach to all church- members forever that they must individually do the like, if they will be true to God, true to Christ, true to the right, true to themselves, and true to mankind.
The three Hebrew young men did right when they refused to recognize any right of autocracy in religion. Daniel did right when he refused to recognize any right of civil government of law in religion. The Lord Jesus did right when he refused to recognize any right of the church through the civil power to make effective her will. The apostles and disciples of the Lord Jesus did right when they refused to recognize any right of the church to decide or to dictate what they should or should not believe and teach. In each of these cases God openly and in mighty miraculous power made perfectly plain to all that these individuals were right. By this it is openly demonstrated not only that they were right, but that they were divinely right. And in each case the story has been written out that all powers and people forever may know that such course is divinely right. And whosoever will stand with God as did each of these in his place, can know it.
It is these individuals and such as these, who, in their day and from age to age, have kept alive in the world the honor of God, who have kept alive the right in the world, who have kept alive integrity and true manliness in mankind; yea, it is just these and such as these blessed individuals who have kept the world itself alive.
It is not autocracies, nor governments of law, nor unions of church and state, nor yet is it even churches as such that have maintained the honor of God, that have held true to the right, and that have preserved the integrity of man. For all history with one voice testifies that all these have done all that they could to undermine and break down all individuality and integrity of man, to obliterate the right, and to shut out God from his own place in men and in the world.
No, it is not these, but the blessed INDIVIDUAL with God and in God; it is those who have known and maintained the divine right of individuality in religion; it is the Daniels, the Christ, the Pauls, the Wyckliffes, the Luthers, who have stood alone in the world and in the church, and against both the church and the world—it is THESE, who have maintained the honor of God, who have kept alive the knowledge of God, of the right and of the true, and so have kept alive the world.
And now, and for the time to come— when there is being pushed forward among the churches and urged upon the world, denominational, national, international, and world FEDERATION in religion and of religion; when all this is aimed expressly to the one end of asserting by autocracies, by governments of the supremacy and inflexibility of law, by churches allied with and in control of civil power, and by churches of themselves; when all these shall work at once and together to the assertion and exercise of absolute authority in religion -in view of all this, just now, as never before, it is essential to know, to proclaim, and to maintain, The Divine Right of Individuality in Religion, and Religious Liberty Complete.
Faith in a lie will not have a sanctifying influence upon the life or character. No Error is truth, or can be made truth by repetition, or by faith in it. Sincerity will never save a soul from the consequences of believing an error. Without sincerity there is no true religion, but sincerity in a false religion will never save a man. I May be perfectly sincere in following a wrong road, but that will not make it the right road, or bring me to the place I wish to reach. The Lord does not want us to have a blind credulity, and call that the faith that sanctifies. The Truth is the principle that sanctifies, and therefore it becomes us to know what is truth. We must compare spiritual things with spiritual. We must prove all things, but hold fast only that which is good, that which bears the divine credentials, which lays before us the true motives and principles which should prompt us to action. Selected Messages Bk2, pg. 56
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