Four Winds Publications

Principles of Liberty of Conscience and Religious Liberty


The principle upon which this declaration stands is that civil government is civil, and has nothing to do in the matter of legislation, with religious observances in any way. The basis of this is found in the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 22:21. When the Pharisees asked whether it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not, he replied: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."

In this the Savior certainly separated that which pertains to Caesar from that which pertains to God. We are not to render to Caesar that which pertains to God; we are not to render to God by Caesar that which is God's.

ARGUMENT: May not the thing due to Caesar be due to God also?

RESPONSE: No. If that be so, then the Savior did entangle himself in his talk, the very thing which they wanted him to do. The record says that they sought "how they might entangle him in his talk," Having drawn the distinction which he has between that which belongs to Caesar and that which belongs to God, if it be true that the same things belong to both, then he did entangle himself in his talk; and where is the force in his words which command us to render to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to God the things that are God's?

ARGUMENT: Is it not a requirement of God's that we render to Caesar that which is due to Caesar?


ARGUMENT: If Caesar is society, and the Sabbath is required for the good of society, does not God require us to establish the Sabbath for the good of society? and if society makes a law accordingly, is it not binding?

RESPONSE: It is for the good of society that men shall be Christians; but it is not in the province of the State to make Christians. For the State to undertake to do so would not be for the benefit of society; it never has been, and it never can be.

ARGUMENT: Do you not confuse this matter? A thing may be required for the good of society, and for that very reason be in accordance with the will and the command of God. God issues his commands for the good of society, does he not? God does not give us commands that have no relation to the good of society.

RESPONSE: His commands are for the good of man.

ARGUMENT: Man is society. It is made up of individual men.

RESPONSE: But in that which God has issued to man for the good of men he has given those things which pertain solely to man's relationship to his God and he has also given things which pertain to man's relationship to his fellowmen. With those things in which our duty pertains to our fellowmen, civil government can have something to do.

ARGUMENT: Man would obey God in obeying civil society.

RESPONSE: In the things which pertain to our duty to God, with the individual's right of serving God as one's conscience dictates, society has nothing to do; but in the formation of civil society, there are certain rights surrendered to the society by the individual, without which society could not be organized.
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