by Ellen White
CHRIST came to set men free. He said, "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me;
because the LORD hath anointed me . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the
opening of the prison to them that are bound." Isaiah 61:1. Perfect liberty is found
only in Christ. God's law is called the law of liberty. The Inspired Word calls that law a
hedge. It marks out the unchangeable principles of right between man and God, and between
man and man, which must be recognised, else liberty is impossible to intelligent beings.
All slavery, physical, moral, and intellectual, comes from breaking that law. Liberty is
found only in obedience to it. Still there is a sort of slavery in the futile attempt to
keep it in our own strength. But Christ, through the new covenant, writes that law in the
heart, so that we not only have power to keep it, but His will becomes ours, and with
Christ we delight to do His will, because His law is in our hearts. Here is perfect
liberty. The perfectly saved will be perfectly free. Throughout eternity they will do just
what they please, because they please to do just what makes liberty and joy possible.
Now, as to the relation of the state to the conscience of man, Christ found men
enslaved to kings and priests. He taught that all men are brothers, sons of one Father,
and therefore equal before the law--equal in civil rights. Rulers were, therefore, only
their servants, chosen under God to protect them in the enjoyment of their rights. He
freed us from the chains of priestcraft by teaching the absolute independence of the
individual soul in matters religious, and by promising the Spirit of truth to guide each
one into all truth.
It is true that all liberty comes through keeping God's law, but God Himself, who wrote
that law in the hearts of men in the beginning, who spoke it amid the thunders of Sinai,
that all might hear and obey, who waits through the new covenant to rewrite it in every
trusting soul--God Himself, who did all this, still made man as free to disobey these
precepts as to obey them. Why did God allow all this fearful iniquity that man might be
made free? To this there can be but one answer. It was because He knew the worthlessness
of all forced obedience, and that, therefore, the freedom to sin was absolutely necessary
to the possibility of righteousness.
After having made men free to sin, that the internal principle of love might work
itself out in outward acts of righteousness unhindered by force--after having made men
thus, has God given to any human authority the right to take away that freedom, and so to
thwart His plans? He has commanded all men to worship Him and obey His precepts, and this
command applies to each individual personally; but has He ever commanded any man or set of
men to compel others to worship Him, or to act even outwardly as if they worshiped Him? To
ask these questions is to answer them emphatically in the negative.
The civil power is the power of arbitrary force to compel men who will not be
righteous, to at least be civil, that men may live together in peace and quietness. The
true power of the church is the power of divine love manifest in the flesh, to win men to
lead righteous lives. The two powers are entirely separate, and Jesus so taught when He
said, "Render to Caesar [the civil powers] the things that are Caesar's, and to God
the things that are God's." Mark 12:17.
When Peter, as a member of the Christian church, sought to defend the truth by the
sword, Jesus, pointing to His Father as the Church's only Source of power, said, "Put
up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword [i.e., in religious
matters] shall perish with the sword." Matthew 26:52. The tares are to be allowed to
grow with the wheat until the harvest. Then God will send forth His angels to gather out
the tares to burn them. No human effort of arbitrary force can be used in rooting them
out, lest in the act the wheat shall be rooted also. See Matthew 13:24-30.
Again Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this
world, then would my servants fight." John 18:36. Every civil law has the power of
the sword back of it. If it is right to make law, then it is right to enforce it. In
denying the church the power of the sword, Jesus therefore forbade the church to ask the
state for laws enforcing beliefs and observances. Paul understood this when he said,
"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling
down of strong holds." 2 Corinthians 10:4.
The early church, strong only in the power of God, triumphed grandly, even over the
opposing forces of a false religion, upheld by the state. Only when she allied herself
with the state, seeking its aid, did she deny her God, lose her power, and darken the
world into a night of a thousand years. The present effort of the church to get the state
to enforce the observance of Sunday, and to introduce the teaching of Christianity into
state schools, is but a revival of the pagan and papal doctrine of force in religious
things, and as such it is antichristian.
The Watchman, May 1, 1906