Some people call it sentimentalism, while others call it patriotism, and still others something else; but whatever you may want to call it, we got quite a thrill out of seeing the famous Liberty Bell preserved in the historic Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The old bell once hung in the belfry of the Old State House, and was rung when the Continental Congress declared the independence of the United States in 1776. On it are inscribed the words. “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land to, all the inhabitants thereof.” We were also deeply impressed concerning the large crack the old bell is said to have received in 1835. The thought could hardly be suppressed as we looked at that old cracked bell that we were looking at the symbol of liberty with a crack in it. And isn’t the crack just as symbolic as the bell? Men have tried to preserve this symbol of freedom, even attempting to fix the crack. So liberty, the thing symbolized, men seek to preserve it, and when attempts are made to crack that liberty men use every effort to restore the soundness of the liberty they wish to preserve. National freedom is always in constant threat of being cracked. That has been the history of our nation since its inception. Even today, so it is said, we are in the war now raging struggling to keep our freedom. National freedom, as we understand it, is the right of a nation to live and move and have its being according to laws of its own prescription without any interference from without or within. As soon as that right is menaced, there must necessarily follow disturbance and possibly war. Now, of course, we do not intend in this essay to broaden out on or to defend the subject of national freedom. We merely mention it, in passing to show that this freedom as all other freedoms is something to be safe-guarded and defended as a precious possession. We are interested primarily in the subject of freedom of religion.

This freedom is not to be confused with another liberty closely related, known as Christian Liberty. A very sharp distinction can and should be drawn between the two.

Christian liberty, on the one hand, is the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. The Christian by nature is bound in shackles of sin and death. He is free only to sin, and such ‘freedom’ is his bondage and slavery under a vicious tyrant, the prince of darkness. However, Christ Jesus came into his prison-house and loosed him from these bands, delivering him from his prison and filling is heart with the peace which surpasses all understanding. So that, though all the world with the devil and his hosts accuse him, he stands free before the Judge of heaven and earth Who justifies him and sanctifies him and transforms him into the image of His Son,. The Christian, therefore, possesses in and through Christ a liberty which can never be dissolved or taken away from him.

Religious freedom, on the other hand, is something of which the Christian can be deprived. Like national freedom, religious freedom is something which is constantly threatened and demands an ever vigilant defense. It is even possible that he will lose it after a strong defense. In fact, the Christian is forewarned in the Scriptures that he will ultimately lose it.

By religious freedom, we understand the privilege of the Christian as well as the Christian Church to exercise his or its religious convictions. Every attempt from without to check the exercise of his Christian principles, and every attempt to stop the Church institute from conducting its services and Christian practices, is an attempt to destroy religious freedom and bring it into slavery.

There is another point, here that should not lightly be passed over when we speak of religious freedom. There is much talk these days about religious freedom. In fact, one of the four freedoms mentioned by our government for which we are supposed to be fighting is the freedom of religion. Now the question arises: what is to be understood by this freedom? Is it a freedom according to which the Christian may exercise his Christian principles unmolested? So that he may worship God according to the dictates of His Word, and may freely speak of His truth, airing the truth before all with whom he comes in contact, even instructing his children in his Scriptural principles? Or does it means that men may worship God if they want to and if they prefer not, that is their privilege? When you read the papers and listen to your radio on this subject, you can hardly escape the conclusion that it is the latter which is commonly referred to as religious freedom. All men are created equal and no one can force his religion on another. Man is perfectly free to have religious convictions or he is free not to have them. All this goes under the term religious freedom. If this is the freedom we are fighting for, let us be aware that we are striving for a pseudo-freedom. One cannot escape the fact that should he defend such a freedom he would be, to mention only one example, promoting the cause of advanced Atheism. For under this conception of religious freedom the ungodly atheist has as much right of his ungodliness as the Christian to worship God. The question cannot be suppressed what right does the Christian have to defend and what basis does the government have to expect that Christians will defend a freedom which gives the atheist license to curse the Christian’s God or even to deny Him? We must have nothing of this ‘religious freedom’.

Religious freedom, therefore, according to its true meaning, is the freedom to worship and serve the Only True God as He would be served.

Just as any true citizen of our country desires the freedom to live unmolested our constitutional rights with no forces of tyranny to disrupt our national unity and way of life, so the Christian desires to serve his God as God has revealed Himself and dictated in His Word. And just as freely as he desires to exercise his Christian principles, so freely also would he defend the right of religious freedom.

Recently we heard one of our leaders declare in a public lecture on the subject of “Religious Freedom and Youth” that there are chiefly three ways our religious freedom is threatened and endangered. We can do no better than re-state them. Religious freedom is endangered by the church, the state, and society.

It may seem strange that religious freedom should he threatened by the church, and yet we have only to look at the history of the reformation to see how this is possible. The Roman Catholic Church denied the freedom of interpreting the Scriptures by the laity. The common member of the Church was denied the Spirit-given power to know the truth and to interpret it. The Scriptures itself declaring that the Spirit of Christ would lead the Church and therefore also the individual believer into all the truth and that therefore he had no need that anyone teach him for they would all know. This religious freedom was denied the believer, thus bringing him into bondage to the Church. The reformers, on the other hand, defended the freedom of the believer to interpret the Scriptures in the light of the Word of God. We can also conceive of more instances where the Church stands in the way of religious freedom. It is our conviction that where you have an ungodly majority in the institution, and the cruel aspect of lording it over the faithful minority takes place, you have religious persecution within the Church and freedom of religion is destroyed. And certainly also in our day where the nominal Church modernizes in doctrine and practice, the result will be a concerted effort to shackle the religious convictions and expression of conviction of the children of God who may yet be found in her confines.

Unto the state has been given the power of the sword to punish the evil and to defend the good. But if that state and that sword rests in the hands of godless men who care not for God or His Word, it is easily conceivable how that such a state is a constant threat to the religious liberties of its subjects. The violent death of some of the apostles will serve as an example of what the godless state can and will do to shackle the religious freedom of the Christian History is replete with examples of like character.

Society also is a potential enemy of religious freedom. The striking thing about this dangerous instrument threatening religious liberty is that it is not regulated by a God-given sovereignty, but is a law unto itself. By mass onslaught of public opinion therefore it ruthlessly takes things into its own hands and often becomes the occasion for countless religious persecutions. In our day, one of the most reckless demonstrations of power of society to shackle religious freedom is witnessed in the ever increasing torture of the Christian laborer by the hands of godless unions. It appears that the Christian laborer is no longer free to live his convictions in the sphere of industry. With a mighty sledge-hammer stroke, these godless organizations have apparently nullified the constitutional rights of our citizenry to earn a decent livelihood in occupations of free choice, through boycott and other brutal means of force. While at the same time they surged as a mighty avalanche into control of industry, dictating their godless policies and enforcing them in such a way that it is in many instances humanly impossible for a Christian to continue labor while he would maintain his Christian principles.

It is our deepest conviction that after this present conflict the latter enemy of religious freedom will take on added momentum. By this we do not mean that the other enemies of religious freedom will cease functioning. No indeed, they will always be a constant menace. But we fear especially the effects we believe the present war will have on the labor situation. It is an undeniable fact that in the last five years labor unions have gained tremendous footholds in industry and even in government influence. And it appears that, though temporarily labor unions have been considerably toned down and regimented into the war effort, this apparent willingness to cooperate is with a view to making more stringent demands for recognition when the time is ripe. And those of us who have a little knowledge of what awful influence and power these godless organizations cast against the man of Christian principles now, will also no doubt draw the same conclusions we have concerning the future, namely, that the position of the Christian will be increasingly difficult to maintain.

How shall we be able to meet these threats? What shall be our attitude in respect to them? Shall we give up our principles and save our hide? Shall we perhaps keep our mouths still and let the enemies rage? Or shall we take up force against them to maintain our rights and privileges?

Even now, Christian, you must answer these questions in calm conviction, ruled by your Christian principles. You shall therefore not fear these evil forces that would destroy your religious liberty, but face them boldly with your spiritual weapons. No, we will not use carnal weapons of force, for ours is not a carnal warfare. We shall lift up our voices in earnest protest against them basing all our arguments strictly on the Word of our God Whom only we would serve. We shall not give in one inch to save our skins or to gain an extra slice of bread. By the grace of God, we shall hold to our religious convictions, even in the face of superior physical strength maligned against us. Being confident of this that He Who is with us is greater than all those which are with them. Being aware also of this that the Lord has not promised us religious freedom, rather, He has said: “in the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good courage, I have overcome the world.” Remember too, that the time is coming when we shall lose our religious freedom, for we shall not be able to buy or sell without the mark of the beast. It is not at all impossible that this triple enemy of religious freedom will ultimately combine all his forces to remove us out of our place. But what of that, so persecuted they the great cloud of witnesses who have gone on before us. And so an abundant entrance shall be given to the faithful into the joy of their Lord.