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    THE FIRST OF ALL PRINCIPLES

    There can be no question but that the Declaration of Independence was the beginning of this nation. And the first principle embodied in that immortal declaration is that “all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”WIP 2.2

    The first and greatest of all the rights of men is religious right. And “religion” is “the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it.” The first of all duties is to the Creator, because to him we owe our existence. Therefore the first of all commandments, and the first that there can possibly be, is this: “Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” Mark 12:29, 30.WIP 2.3

    This commandment existed as soon as there was an intelligent creature in the universe; and it will continue to exist as long as there shall continue one intelligent creature in the universe. Nor can a universe full of intelligent creatures modify in any sense the bearing that this commandment has upon any single one, any more than if that single one were the only creature in the universe, for as soon as an intelligent creature exists, he owes his existence to the Creator. And in owing to him his existence, man owes to him the first consideration in all the accompaniments, and all the possibilities of existence. Such is the origin, such the nature, and such the measure of religious right.WIP 2.4

    Did, then, the fathers who laid the foundation of this nation in the rights of the people-did they allow to this right the place and deference among the rights of the people which, according to its inherent importance, are justly its due? That is, did they leave it sacred and untouched, solely between man and his Creator?WIP 3.1

    The logic of the Declaration demanded that they should; for the Declaration says that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Governments, then, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, can never of right exercise any power not delegated by the governed. But religion pertains solely to man’s relation to God, and to the duty which he owes to him as his Creator, and therefore in the nature of things it can never be delegated.WIP 3.2

    It is utterly impossible for any person ever, in any degree, to delegate or transfer to another any relationship or duty, or the exercise of any relationship or duty, which he owes to his Creator. To attempt to do so would be only to deny God, and renounce religion: and even then the thing would not be done; for, whatever he might do, his relationship and duty to God would still abide as fully and as firmly as ever.WIP 3.3

    As governments derive their just powers from the governed; as governments can not justly exercise any power not delegated; and as it is impossible for any person in any way to delegate any power in things religious; it follows conclusively that the Declaration of Independence logically excludes religion in every sense, and in every way, from the jurisdiction and from the notice of every form of government that has resulted from that declaration.WIP 3.4

    This is also according to Holy Writ. For to the definition that religion if, “the recognition of God as an object of worship, love, and obedience,” the Scripture responds: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Matthew 4:10. “It is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” Romans 14:11.WIP 4.1

    To the statement that religion is “man’s personal relation of faith and obedience to God,” the Scripture responds: “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God.” “So, then, every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:22, 12.WIP 4.2

    And to the word that religion is “the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it,” the Scripture still responds: “For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10.WIP 4.3

    No government can ever account to God for any individual. No man nor any set of men can ever have faith for another. No government will ever stand before the judgment-seat of Christ to answer even for itself, much less for the people or for any individual. Therefore, no government can ever of right assume any responsibility in any way in any matter of religion.WIP 4.4

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