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    August 29, 1905

    “Religious Liberty No. 3” The Watchman 14, 35 , pp. 554, 555.

    ATJ

    THUS far we have considered the subject of Religious Liberty, upon original foundation, in view of original principles, and as involved in original conditions. Let us now consider it in actual experiences.SOWA August 29, 1905, page 554.1

    Man did use his freedom of choice the wrong way. He did choose to sin, and when he had done this, what is the first manifestation of God’s disposition toward him and of God’s treatment of him, after he had gone the wrong way in the garden? After the man had made his choice to do the wrong thing, to serve the wrong one, and to go the wrong way, and God came into the garden, it is true that the man was afraid and hid himself. But did he need to be afraid? That is the question that is here asked.SOWA August 29, 1905, page 554.2

    Was there on the Lord’s side any ground for the man to be afraid of God? Did God go into the garden to condemn or punish the man? No; his fear was but the result of what he had done. He had made a wrong choice, he had started the wrong way, he was under the wrong master, and his own life being separated from God and committed to the wrong, in the darkness and gloom of the evil in which he had been taken, he misjudged God, and so was afraid of him. But when the man was come face to face with God, and the Lord had brought the fault to its original source in the evil one, what then did he say? He spoke the word that then meant and everlastingly means only salvation to every soul of man; “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it”—the seed of the woman—“shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Thus it was the word of salvation that God brought the first thing to the man after he had made his wrong choice. That word of salvation was the promise of the One to come who should break off this evil that had been fastened upon man, set the man free again, and bring him to God, where his choice would be on the right side, and he dwell truly with God and in God.SOWA August 29, 1905, page 554.3

    And when Jesus (of whom this was the promise), came into the world in the flesh, in the exact expression of all that we have so far found, this is his word: “If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not.” What word is it that Christ brought that he desires every man should hear? Only the word of God—the word of salvation. He is only the Saviour, he is not the destroyer; and therefore his name when he came into the world was given Jesus, Saviour, because “he shall save his people from their sins.”SOWA August 29, 1905, page 554.4

    Again, the other name, “Emmanuel,” which is being interpreted, “God with us.” When he came, he came as God with us; that is, bringing God to man, to make man acquainted with God as the Saviour, which alone he is, and than which he cannot be anything else. Thus he came bringing only the word of salvation. And when he came presenting that word in whatever way, in whatever light, he could present it to mankind, yet he proclaims the whole principle of original and eternal religious liberty—“If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not.” John 12:17.SOWA August 29, 1905, page 554.5

    And although that is there exactly as it is here quoted, yet there are professed Christian people who cannot believe that it is there until they have opened their own Bibles and read, and have found that it says just that. And even then, they can hardly believe that it is right. They say, “That is not the way I thought it read,—I thought it read, ‘If any man hear my word and believe, I judge him not;’ and, if he does not believe, then I supposed that he would be judged and punished for it.”SOWA August 29, 1905, page 554.6

    But that is not the way of Christ and of God. That is the way of the world. Indeed, that has been for ages the way of the church. And even yet, far, far too much, that is the way in the churches; even to the very latest church. When the church presents the gospel, the word of God which is committed to the church of God to preach, and the people choose not to obey it, but to reject it, then they are immediately judged as unworthy of further attention or recognition, presently judged to be incorrigible, and then to be compelled to obey, or to be punished for not obeying, the dictates of the church framed into the law of the state. And just there is where the turn is made from religious liberty to religious despotism, from Christianity to anti-christianity.SOWA August 29, 1905, page 554.7

    But that is not the Christian way; that is not Christ’s way; that is not God’s way; that is not religious liberty. Religious liberty, Christian religious liberty, in the word of Christ is, “If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not.” Then when Christ sends forth me or you as his ambassador to present his word to the people, and we present it to them, and they choose not to believe it, that is their freedom; and that they choose to exercise their freedom in that way is none of our business at all. They do not derive their existence from us, they are not responsible to us, but to God only. We are not to judge them! nor to set them at naught; nor in any way to slight them; but only to love them freely as before, and seek by every possible Christian means to win them to see that what we preach is the word of God, and the word of Christ; and to win them to believe in him.SOWA August 29, 1905, page 554.8

    Further: God has put his word here to be believed. He longs and waits with all long-suffering for the people to believe it. And when he gives that word to you and to me to present to the people that they may believe it, and at the first essay they choose not to believe it, and then we treat them so as to offend them, we, by that act, are preventing the very thing we are sent to do. We are sent to persuade the people to believe the word of God. When a man chooses not to believe it, and I take a course toward him that will offend him, thereby I fix it so that he will not be inclined to believe it. Indeed, he will be less inclined to believe it, and less liable to obey and go in the right way than if he had never heard me at all. And I by such a course have defeated the very purpose for which I was sent forth into the world.SOWA August 29, 1905, page 554.9

    Therefore the only true way to treat people when we present the word of God to them and they reject it, is just as lovingly, just as tenderly, just as winningly as the great mercy and loving-kindness and long-suffering of the Lord can enable us to do: that thus we may still induce them to incline to believe, and in believing choose to go in the right way. We are commanded to “exhort with all long-suffering.” And let it be said again, for it cannot be too much emphasized: When Christians take any other course toward those who do not believe, they prevent the very things that they profess to be trying to accomplish.SOWA August 29, 1905, page 555.1

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