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Then And Now - The Rights of the People, Part 1

Jesus Christ came into the world to set men free, and to plant in their souls the genuine principle of liberty,-liberty actuated by love,-liberty too honorable to allow itself to be used as an occasion to the flesh, or for a cloak of   bymaliciousness,-liberty led by a conscience enlightened by the Spirit of God,-liberty in which man may be free from all men, yet made so gentle by love that he would willingly become the servant of all, in order to bring them to the enjoyment of this same liberty. This is freedom indeed. This is the freedom which Christ gave to man; for whom the Son makes free, is free indeed.

In giving to men this freedom, such an infinite gift could have no other result than that which Christ intended, namely, to bind them in everlasting, unquestioning, unswerving allegiance to him as the royal benefactor of the race. He thus reveals himself to men as the highest good, and brings them to himself as the manifestation of that highest good, and to obedience to his will as the perfection of conduct. Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh. Thus God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, that they might know him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent. He gathered to himself disciples, instructed them in his heavenly doctrine, endued them with power from on high, sent them forth into all the world to preach this gospel of freedom to every creature, and to teach them to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them. 

The Roman Empire then filled the world,-"the sublimest incarnation of power, and a monument the mightiest of greatness built by human hands, which has upon this planet been suffered to appear." That empire, proud of its conquests, and exceedingly jealous of its claims, asserted its right to rule in all things, human and divine. As in those times all gods were viewed as national gods, and as Rome had conquered all nations, it was demonstrated by this to the Romans that their gods were superior to all others. And although Rome allowed conquered nations to maintain the worship of their national gods, these, as well as the conquered people, were yet considered only as servants of the Roman State. Every religion, therefore was held subordinate to the religion of Rome, and though "all forms of religion might come to Rome and take their places in its Pantheon, they must come as the servants of the State." The Roman religion itself was but the servant of the State; and of all the gods of Rome there were none so great as the genius of Rome itself. The chief distinction of the Roman gods was that they belonged to the Roman State. Instead of the State deriving any honor from the Roman gods, the gods derived their principal dignity from the fact that they were the gods of Rome. This being so with Rome's own gods, it was counted by Rome an act of exceeding condescension to recognize legally any foreign god, or the right of any Roman subject to worship any other gods than those of Rome. Neander quotes Cicero as laying down a fundamental maxim of legislation as follows:-

"No man shall have for himself particular gods of his own; no man shall worship by himself any new or foreign gods, unless they are recognized by the public laws."-Neander's Church History, Vol. I, pp. 86, 87, Torrey's translation, Boston 1852. 

Thus it is seen that in the Roman view the State took precedence of everything. The State was the highest idea of good. As expressed by Neander:- 

"The idea of the State was the highest idea of ethics; and within that was included all actual realization of the highest good; hence the development of all other goods pertaining to humanity was made dependent on this."-Id., p. 86.

Man with all that he had was subordinated to the State; he must have no higher aim; he must seek no higher good. Thus every Roman citizen was a subject, and every Roman subject was a slave. Says Mommsen:- 

"The more distinguished a Roman became, the less was he a free man. The omnipotence of the law, the despotism of the rule, drove him into a narrow circle of thought and action, and his credit and influence depended on the sad austerity of his life. The whole duty of man, with the humblest and greatest of the Romans, was to keep his house in order, and be the obedient servant of the State."-Quoted in Ten Great Religions, Chapter VIII, sec. 4. {1895 ATJ, ROP 11.4}

It will be seen at once that for any man to profess the principles and the name of Christ, was virtually to set himself against the Roman Empire; for him to recognize God as revealed in Jesus Christ as the highest good, was but treason against the Roman State. It would not be looked upon by Rome as anything else than high treason, because, the Roman State representing to the Roman the highest idea of good, for any man to assert that there was a higher good, and thus make Rome itself subordinate, would not be looked upon in any other light by Roman pride than that such an assertion was a direct blow at the dignity of Rome, and subversive of the Roman State. Consequently the Christians were not only called "atheists," because they denied the gods; but the accusation against them before the tribunals was of the crime of "high treason," because they denied the right of the State to interfere with men's relations to God. The accusation was that they were "irreverent to the Caesars, and enemies of the Caesars and of the Roman people." 

The Great Controversy - The Global War on freedom

To the Christian, the word of God asserted with absolute authority: "Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man." Eccl. 12:13. To him, obedience to this word through faith in Christ was eternal life. This to him was the conduct which showed his allegiance to God as the highest good,-a good as much higher than that of the Roman State as the government of God is greater than was the government of Rome, as God is greater than man, as heaven is higher than earth, as eternity is more than time, and as eternal interests are of more value than temporal.  {1895 ATJ, ROP 12.1}

Author: AT Jones 


Affiliated Article:

Then and Now - The Rights of the People, Part 2


Essential Reading Material:

To learn more the Great Controversy book gives a clear understanding of the Global War on Freedom

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