EVIL MEN PERSECUTE RIGHTEOUS
BECAUSE Jesus had not kept the Sabbath according to their ideas, what did the Jews do?
"Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day." John 5:16.
What kind of fast is most acceptable to God?
"Is not this the fast that I have chosen ? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?" Isaiah 58:6.
NOTE.—This is what Jesus did. He, the Author and Lord of the Sabbath, in addition to attending and taking part in religious services (Luke 4:16), went about doing good, healing the sick, relieving the oppressed, and restoring the impotent, lame, and blind, on the Sabbath day. But this, while in perfect accord with the law of God, the great law of love, was contrary to the tradi- tions and perverted ideas of the Jews respecting the Sabbath. Hence they per- secuted Him, and sought to slay Him.
Why did Cain kill Abel?
"For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous." 1 John 3:11, 12.
NOTE.—If you will read the word of God, you will find that from the beginning all good people were persecuted because they were good. Abel was slain by his brother because he was good, and Cain could not endure the sight of him.
Commenting upon the treatment of Isaac, the son of Sarah, by Ishmael, the son of the bondwoman, what principle does the apostle Paul lay down?
"But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now." Galatians 4:29.
NOTE.—Other instances of persecution mentioned in the Bible, demonstrate the correctness of this principle: a. Esau, who sold his birthright, persecuted Jacob, who vowed his loyalty to God. Genesis 25:29-34; 27:41; 32:6. b. The wayward and envious sons of Jacob persecuted Joseph, who feared God. Genesis 37; Acts 7:9.
c. The idolatrous Egyptians persecuted the Hebrews, who worshiped the true God. Exodus 1 and 5.
d. The Hebrew who did his neighbor wrong thrust Moses, as mediator, aside. Exodus 2:13, 14; Acts 7:26, 27.
e. Saul, who disobeyed God, persecuted David, who feared God. 1 Samuel 15, 19, 24.
f. Israel, in their apostasy, persecuted Elijah and Jeremiah, who were prophets of God. 1 Kings 19:9, 10; Jeremiah 36:20-23; 38:1-6.
g. Nebuchadnezzar, while an idolater, persecuted the three Hebrew' cap- tives for refusing to worship idols. Daniel 3.
h. The envious and idolatrous princes under Darius, persecuted Daniel for daring to pray to the God of heaven. Daniel 6.
i. The murderers of Christ persecuted the apostles for preaching Christ. Acts 4 and 5. j. Paul, before his conversion, persecuted the church of God. Acts 8:1; 9:1, 2; 22:4, 5, 20; 26:9-11; Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 1:12, 13.
The history of all the religious persecutions since Bible times is but a repetition of this same story—the wicked persecute the righteous. And thus it will continue to be until the conflict between good and evil is ended. (See Psalms 37:12, 14, 32.)
Who does Paul say shall suffer persecution?
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." 2 Timothy 3:12.
What is essential to extensive religious persecution?
Ecclesiastical control of the civil power, or a union of church and state.
Since persecution is invariably wrong, and the persecutor is generally in the wrong on religious subjects, what must be true of persecuting governments?
They likewise must be in the wrong.
NoTE.—"There are many who do not seem to be sensible that all violence in religion is irreligious, and that whoever is wrong, the persecutor cannot be right."—THOMAS CLARKE, History of Intolerance (1819 ed.), vol. 1, p. 3.
"Have not almost all the governments in the world always been in the the wrong on religious subjects ?"—MAcAuLAy, Essay on "Gladstone on Church and State," in his Critical and Historical Essays (1865 ed.), vol. 2, p. 60.
God never forces the will or the conscience; but, in order to bring men under sin, Satan resorts to force. To accomplish his purpose, he works through religious and secular rulers, influencing them to enact and enforce human laws in defiance of the law of God.
Under what terrible deception did Christ say men would persecute His followers?
"They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." John 16:1, 2.
Who is the original murderer?
"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning." John 8:44.
When James and John wished to call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans who did not receive Christ, what did Christ say to them?
"He turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." Luke 9:55, 56.
SOME WHO WOULD JUSTIFY PERSECUTION
Has the Papacy ever claimed. authority to persecute? Yes.
NOTE.—"That the Church of Rome has shed more innocent blood than any other institution that has ever existed among mankind, will be ques- tioned by no Protestant who has a competent knowledge of history. The memorials, indeed, of many of her persecutions are now so scanty that it is impossible to form a complete conception of the multitude of her victims, and it is quite certain that no powers of imagination can adequately realize their sufferings."—W. E. H. LECKY, in History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe (1910 ed.), vol. 2, p. 32.
"This claim to exercise coercive jurisdiction has, as might be expected, been denied by various heterodox writers. Thus Marsilius Patavinus (Defensor Pacis, II, iv), Antonius de Dominis (De rep. eccl., IV, vi, vii, ix), Richer (De eccl. et pol. Potestate, xi-xii), and later the Synod of Pistoia, all alike maintained that coercive jurisdiction of every kind belongs to the civil power alone, and sought to restrict the Church to the use of moral means. This error has always been condemned by the Holy See. Thus, in the Bull `Auctorem Fide?, Pius VI makes the following pronouncement regarding one of the Pistoian propositions: IThe aforesaid proposition] in respect of its insinua- tion that the Church does not possess authority to exact subjection to her decrees otherwise than by means dependent on persuasion: so far as this signifies that the Church "has not received from God power, not merely to direct by counsel and persuasion, but further to command by laws, and to coerce and compel the delinquent and contumacious by external and salutary penalties" [from the brief "Ad assiduas" (1755) of Benedict XIV], leads to a system already condemned as heretical.' Nor may it be held that the pope's laws must exclusively concern spiritual objects, and their penalties be ex- clusively of a spiritual character. The Church is a perfect society (see Church, XIII). She is not dependent on the permission of the State for her existence, but holds her charter from God. As a perfect society she has a right to all those means which are necessary for the attaining of her end. These, however, will include far more than spiritual objects and spiritual penalties alone: for the Church requires certain material possessions, such, for example, as churches, schools, seminaries, together with the endowments necessary for their sustentation. The administration and the due protection of these goods will require legislation other than what is limited to the spiritual sphere. A large body of canon law must inevitably be formed to determine the condi- tions of their management. Indeed, there is a fallacy in the assertion that the Church is a spiritual society; it is spiritual as regards the ultimate end to which all its activities are directed, but not as regards its present constitution nor as regards the means at its disposal. The question has been raised whether it be lawful for the Church, not merely to sentence a delinquent to physical penalties, but itself to inflict these penalties. As to this, it is sufficient to note that the right of the Church to invoke the aid of the civil power to execute her sentences is expressly asserted by Boniface VIII in the Bull `Unam Sanctam.' This declaration, even if it be not one of those portions of the Bull in which the pope is defining a point of faith, is so clearly connected with the parts expressly stated to possess such character that it is held by theologians to be theologically certain (Palmieri, 'De Romano Pontifice', thes. xxi). The question is of theoretical, rather than of practical importance, since civil Governments have long ceased to own the obligation of enforcing the decisions of any ecclesiastical authority. This indeed became inevitable when large sections of the population ceased to be Catholic. The state of things supposed could only exist when a whole nation was thoroughly Catholic in spirit, and the force of papal decisions was recognized by all as binding in conscience."—The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 12, p. 266, art. "Pope." New York: The Gilmary Society, A Membership Corporation. Used by permission.
"The Roman Catholic Church, convinced, through its divine prerogatives, of being the only true church, must demand the right to freedom for herself alone, because such a right can only be possessed by truth, never by error. As to other religions, the church will certainly never draw the sword, but she will require that by legitimate means they shall not be allowed to propa- gate false doctrine. Consequently, in a state where the majority of the people are Catholic, the church will require that legal existence be denied to error, and that if religious minorities actually exist, they shall have only a de facto existence without opportunity to spread their beliefs. If, however, actual cir- cumstances, either due to government hostility or the strength of the dissenting groups, makes the complete application of this principle impossible, then the [Catholic] church will require for herself all possible concessions, limiting herself to accept, as a minor evil, the de jure toleration of other forms of wor- ship. In some countries, Catholics will be obliged to ask full religious freedom for all, resigned at being forced to cohabitate where they alone should right- fully be allowed to live. . . . We ask Protestants to understand that the Cath- olic Church would betray her trust if she were to proclaim, theoretically and practically, that error can have the same rights as truth, especially where the supreme duties and interest of man are at stake. The church cannot blush for her own want of tolerance, as she asserts it in principle and applies it in prac- tice."—F. CAVALLI, S.J., in La Civilta Cattolica (a Jesuit organ published at Rome), April, 1948, quoted in an editorial in The Christian Century, June 23, 1948, p. 623.—Used by permission.
"There is reason to believe, accordingly," says Paul Hutchinson, speaking of modern political developments, "that the old issue of church and state, or of church against state, will soon be upon us in a fury unknown for a thou- sand years. Are we ready to face that storm? Do we comprehend from how many quarters it is likely to blow ?"—T he New Leviathan (1946 ed.), p. 19.
WISER MEN CONDEMN PERSECUTION
This erroneous position has been well refuted by Lord Macaulay in the following words: "The doctrine which, from the very first origin of religious dissensions, has been held by all bigots of all sects, when condensed into a few words, and stripped of rhetorical disguise, is simply this: I am in the right, and you are in the wrong. When you are the stronger, you ought to tolerate me; for it is your duty to tolerate truth. But when I am the stronger, I shall persecute you; for it is my duty to persecute error."—Essay on "Sir James Mackintosh" in Critical and Historical Essays (1865 ed.), vol. 1, pp. 333, 334.
"When a religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, it is a sign, I appre- hend, of its being a bad one."—Letter to Dr. Price, Oct. 9, 1780, in The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, edited by Albert Henry Smyth, vol. 8, p. 154.
John Wesley gave the following Christian advice: "Condemn no man for not thinking as you think: Let every one enjoy the full and free liberty of thinking for himself: Let every man use his own judgment, since every man must give an account of himself to God. Abhor every approach, in any kind or degree, to the spirit of persecution. If you cannot reason or persuade a man into the truth, never attempt to force him into it. If love will not compel him to come, leave him to God, the Judge of all."—"Advice to the People Called Methodists" in his Works, vol. 8 (1830 ed.), p. 357.
THE DIVINE CURE FOR THE BIGOT
What divine precepts received and obeyed would do away with all oppression and persecution?
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Matthew 22:39. "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Matthew 7:12.
What does love not do?
"Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the ful- filling of the law." Romans 13:10.
How does Christ bless those who are persecuted?
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for their's is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." Matthew 5:10-12. (See Revelation 2:10; 6:9-11.)