In their opposition to Sunday laws Seventh-day Adventists reveal that they are callous to the needs of the working man and are blind to the fact that the very stability of the country is endangered by the godless course of millions who give no day in the week to God. It seems that they are more concerned to protect themselves against persecution than to give support either to the workingman or to the moral uplift of the country.
One of the evident facts regarding our denomination is that it is composed, not of rich men, but of working men! Yet our whole membership are opposed to Sunday laws! Need more be said on this point?
The next evident fact is that we are far from blind to the moral state of the world. Our literature says much about the woeful state of morality and the godless condition of men. The difference between us and the Sunday law advocates is not in the relative degree of our eyesight but in the methods that we believe should be employed to cure the malady of godlessness. They would bring in the kingdom of God through the gateway of politics, and have our legislators save us from destruction. We would invoke the promised second coming of Christ to save the ungodly from this evil world, and as we wait for His soon coming we work with earnestness to turn men to God by the preaching of the gospel.
The third fact, which will become evident as we proceed, is that our opposition to Sunday legislation is not prompted by a selfish desire to save ourselves from possible persecution. We do not concede, of course, that there is anything necessarily selfish or evil in a person's invoking his constitutional rights to save himself from persecution. Even the great apostle Paul repeatedly invoked his Roman citizenship to save him from brutal treatment by his erstwhile brethren. Our reasons for opposition are these:
1. As students of prophecy we believe that the day is coming
when the principles of religious intolerance that marked the Dark Ages will be revived, that there will be in the very closing hours of this world's history a mighty religio-political combine that will endeavor to dominate the consciences of men. We believe it is our solemn duty to warn men against giving their support to it. Indeed, we have no alternative in the matter, seeing that Christ, through the prophet John, has commanded us to cry out against this movement, so that men may be saved from giving their support to such an evil program.
2. In connection with this warning message that we are commanded to give, we find the injunction to proclaim the great Sabbath message to the world, and what more auspicious occasion could be found for giving special publicity to the true Sabbath than when men are endeavoring to stir up the world in support of the false? In this way our opposition to Sunday laws become not a negative but a positive thing. We simply capitalize the occasions of great public interest in Sunday laws to proclaim more fully the true Sabbath message.
As the time of trouble begins, the people of God are to go forth to preach the Sabbath doctrine more fully and more convincingly than ever before. The agitation for Sunday legislation provides a choice illustration of how the wrath of man can be made to praise God; or, to state it in the most charitable form, how the endeavors of mistaken zealots can be made to serve a good purpose.
As a result of the widespread campaign that reformers have made through the public press and otherwise in recent years, there are probably more people who have become acquainted with the real facts on the Sabbath question than ever before, because every agitation by Sunday advocates has made newspaper and magazine editors even more than ready to publish matter giving the other side of the case. We would have been woefully remiss in our duty if we had failed to use these opportunities.
3. We believe that there are many sincere and earnest men in the ranks of Sunday-law advocates. In fact, we are willing to admit
all of them are striving, according to their conception of the gospel, to advance the kingdom of God. But their sincerity does not make their course any the less wrong. If their program is carried out, and the strong arm of the law is drafted in their support, they will thus become persecutors.
We can conceive of no fate more tragic than that of a man whose misguided zeal for God finally cause him to become a persecutor of others who are striving to preach the gospel. Christ foretold such a tragedy as this when He declared that the time will come when he that "killeth you will think that he doeth God service." This divine forecast was fulfilled during the Middle Ages, and may be fulfilled again in the last days. In fact, at the very last there will be only two classes, the persecutors and the persecuted—those who give support to the great religio-political combine and those who, because of the opposing stand, are forbidden even to buy or sell. Not to save ourselves from being persecuted, but to save others from being persecutors, is the chief reason for our stand against Sunday laws. We have endeavored in all our literature to make clear to the reformers the evil direction in which they are going, and it should ever be in our zealous endeavor to do this in a spirit of charity and Christian love, making our attack on principles, not on persons.
4. The Scriptures plainly declare that we owe allegiance to the state, and should endeavor loyally and zealously to support it in the carrying out of its proper function. (See Rom. 13:1-7; Matt. 22:16:21.) In this fact is to be found a valid reason for our outcry against the endeavors of reformers to combine the church with the state. Knowing as we do from history and prophecy that such a combine can work only to the detriment of the citizens and to the destruction of the free institutions of the country, we would surely fail to carry out the full meaning of the divine injunction to support the government if we failed to raise our voice in warning against such a menacing danger.
The truly loyal citizen is the man who possesses the moral courage to rise up and sound an alarm, even though he may be
in the minority, and his numerous opponents may be the advocates of an apparently good program. And the one who thus sounds the alarm is in no wise violating the principle of the separation of church and state. Instead, he is arousing all men to the need of continuing inviolate that vital separation.
5. Finally, we oppose Sunday legislation because we would protect Christianity from the false conception of it that the masses of the people would have if proposed religious legislation were allowed to go unchallenged. One of the greatest handicaps under which the minister of the gospel labors is the feeling of the part of the man on the street that the church symbolizes an organization that is striving to force its views upon the people. Surely there is a historical basis for such a feeling. And when the average individual, who is not a churchgoer, see the endeavors of present-day militant church leaders to employ the power of the state, the antipathy toward the church is only intensified.
We are jealous to protect the Christian religion from this gross misconception. We could not be loyal to our divine Lord if we did not use every means possible to let men know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not a gospel of force, and that He has commissioned His disciples to invite men to believe in Him. We would oppose with equal vigor any attempt to enforce the seventh-day Sabbath by law.
Source: Answers to Objections, by Francis D. Nichol, copyright 1932, 1947, 1952, by the Review and Herald Publishing Association, pages 429-432.