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LIBERTY IN RELIGION.
A SERIOUS WARNING TO CHRISTIANS OF THE PRESENT
(From the French of Adrian Boissier).
Nice, Jan. 21st, 1853. Dear Brother,—The question of religious liberty, a subject of such general interest but a few years back, has again become the order of the day through the persecutions in Tuscany, and certain despicable interferences which have occurred in France. It is not without unfeigned sorrow that I see that many Christians are quite ready to renew former mistakes, and again to enter upon the same wrong path which we formerly, without blessing or result, followed.
Already has one, a brother in the Lord, a picked man as to endowment and activity, courageously thrown himself into the breach (watchful and intelligent sentinel that he is), to call attention to what is anti-scriptural and anti-spiritual in the project of placing the profession of faith in the Gospel under the protection of Protestant authorities, and of what may disastrously result from the realising of the project. His warning, alas ! will not be better listened to than that which I now make. For myself, I see not what reply can be given to the remarks, presented with so much feeling and logic in the late numbers of Les Archives du Christianisme.a
The rapid survey of the Count de Gasparin had not misled him when he pictured to himself, as already seen gathering in the horizon, and about to burst forth in a future, not far distant, the tempest of a religious war; and his conscience, as a Christian, acted most correctly when in discussing the question of protection, he re-called the master principle laid down by Paul, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal" (2 Cor. x. 4). Only be it remarked, the Count still remains the eloquent and conscientious advocate of the cause of religious liberty; a cause which, as I think, after the glance cast over the future (to which I have just referred), and the great principle of spirituality, which gives its tone to all that is in the church, ought, in common consistency, to have been entirely abandoned.
* A religious journal published in Paris.
It is needless to say that in speaking thus, as also in that which I am about to add, I have in view only Christians who are members of the body of Christ, and are of that peculiar nation which God forms for Himself from among the Gentiles, since from at first He began to visit them with this object in view (Acts xv. 14).
From the moment that we become of that peculiar people, and in proportion as we grow in the understanding and realization of the privileges which pertain to that blessed position, the line of demarkation which separates between the things out of which we have been taken, and those into which we have been translated, daily becomes more and more visible; the judgment we entertain of them assumes a character more precise and distinct; we constantly learn to distinguish better; and among the former things there be principles, institutions, systems which we knew after the flesh, that is to say, which we received favourably, loved, praised and propagated, henceforth know we them no more (2 Cor. v. 16).
Protestantism, in general, and religious liberty, seem to me most peculiarly to have their place among the things formerly known in the flesh, but which the child of God knows no more.
b (Since the above was written, the Emperor of all Russia, as head of the Greek Church, has made a movement as Emperor with regard to Turkey. Napoleon, Emperor of the French, constantly puts forth as a fact, that the Pope has been restored by himself. England and Prussia have shown their thoughts at the court of Tuscany.Ed.].
I. Let there be no mistake here. My thought is not that the Protestant nations will turn renegade, and preserve that silence which becomes only the avowal of weakness and submission, in the face of vexations and outrages to which their co-religionists may here and there be subjected by Roman Catholic governments. I say not either that they will, or that they ought to act thus. This matter is exclusively their own; in it, in my character of child of God, already translated into the kingdom of the Son (Col. i. 13), I see absolutely nothing for me to do. By being Protestant they are not the less nations, and as a child of God, I have been taken out from among the nations.
My attention is never turned towards them, unless it be in the expectation, full of tender and lively affection, if, peradventure, it may be given to me to be, in the Lord's hand, the blessed means of the conversion of one or other of their number. But were I considering how I could obtain facilities for the exercise of my energy as an evangelist, or protection in the celebration of worship, or the repression of, and retribution for, the evil treatment which my brethren
have to endure, I should at once recall the thought that the nations are incompetent for such things, and that my privilege consists ability
of access to an ear which is ever attentive, full of solicitude, and which is connected with an arm mighty to overthrow the most haughty fastnesses, and to place the abject, when the right time is come, upon an unassailable rock.
Where is now-a-days the enlightened child of God who could consent to say, after reflection and consideration, we, when speaking of Protestant nations ? Who could identify himself with them - would be willing to acknowledge his full fellowship with their past and with their present, and to accept their destinies as his hiding-place? I trust that there is not even one such to be met with.
• It is superfluous to notice that the “I” here is only used for the sake of facility of expression.
It is now a long while since Protestantism, considered as a body, has become that which Romanism had become many centuries before the appearance of Luther and Calvin. I mean (it has become as) the camp where all was in ruinsthe camp in which the adversary has spoiled all—the camp, out of which all they who seek the Lord, should retire towards the tabernacle of the congregation which the Holy Spirit takes care to pitch for the intelligent of every dispensation and of every age (Ex. xxxiii. 7; Heb. xiii. 13.) [See note at the end of this paper.]
If this be the case, the line of conduct which the children of God have to follow in our day is
very clearly traced. Let them keep altogether outside of all the discussions, contentions, arrangements, transactions of the nations and of worldly religions, Protestant as well as Romanist. Let them leave to them that are such to debate upon and solve, after their own fashion, the questions which pre-occupy them, the differences which have arisen, or which may rise among them. Let them, as a people that are Nazarites, d as was and as still is their Savicur, their Head, carefully kept themselves apart, bearing in mind that they are of heaven, and that it is still in heaven that their treasure, life, hope, power and glory are found (Eph. i.; Col. iii.)
II. It will be easily seen in what aspect, from the centre of such principles, I must regard the question of religious liberty.
For me it is a question as to which the Bible says nothing; and consequently it is a question which cannot be entertained. Its place is found in the programme of,
Liberty : Freedom from all restraint and law." This word signifies separated. . See the law of Nazariteship (Numb.v.) Joseph is called the Nazarite from among his brethren (Gen. xlix. 26; and Deut. xxxiii. 16). Samson, another Nazarite (Judg. xiii. 5). The first seems to be a striking type of Jesus, and the second, under various aspects, of the church. There was the Nazariteship for a time, and Nazariteship for liro; th: one and the other evidently symbolise separation from the world first of Jesus, and then of His body, the church.
For the realization of which Satan, since Eden, has ever been driving, and which will be fully realized by and for him who will be a personification, and as it were, incarnation of Satan, in as much as in all things he will do according to his own will, and will be truly the lawlesse one.
This is the offspring of philosophy, of human wisdom; it is an offspring which faith will not acknowledge. It belongs altogether to the province of the civilian, the moralist and the statesman. The Christian has nothing whatsoever to do with it; certainly, therefore, nothing as to the redress of its infringement, either with regard to himself or others.
Caesar governs in things temporal with an authority, which, for the time being, is subject to no control what
He has not, as yet, to give account of the use, or of the abuse of power in his hands. In the supremacy of his power he sends forth decrees, promulgates laws, makes ordinances as to all things which seem to him to be of interest to the jurisdiction of his kingdom, and to demand his intervention.
It is remarkable how, at all times, religion has been that upon which, with a predilection quite peculiar, man seems to have been led to exercise his legislative energy. But a little serious reflection shows us how natural it is that it should be so. Moreover history presents us with Nebuchadnezzar and his decree as to worship for the whole earth; with Darius, and his prohibition of any prayer being made during thirty days to any god whatsoever; none save to himself; and with Alexander
proclaiming himself as son of Jupiter, and receiving divine honors. The last successor of these mighty monarchs of Babylon, as the revelation assures us (chap. xiii., xvii., xix., xx.), will not care to repudiate these family traditions. In this, as in all else, he will surpass all that has been most outrageous in his predecessors; religion will be his great, or rather his sole business; and he will make his glory to consist in presenting and obliging himself to be accredited as the exclusive and supreme
e The Greek word designates anti-Christ in Thess. ii. 8: also Dan, xi. 36.