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Christian Patriotism






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Chapter IX

Roman Empire vs Right to Conscience

When Christianity started in the Roman Empire, there was no such thing as rights of conscience. In fact, there was no such thing as rights of the individual. Christianity means nothing if not the rights of conscience. That was its one claim that overtopped everything else as it entered the Roman Empire. The contest between Christianity and all the power of the Roman Empire was upon the Christian's claim of the right of conscience. The empire of Rome denied it, because the empire did not know anything about it.

Rome said, "What the law says, is right." And from the law alone, we get the idea of right and wrong. What the law says to be done, that is right. What the law prohibits, that is wrong and that is the reason why it is right or wrong.

But the Christian said, "What God says is right" is what makes it right, and what God says is wrong, is what makes it wrong.

To Rome, the State was god; and therefore the maxim: "The voice of the people is the voice of God." And as the laws were the voice of the people, the law was the voice of the Roman god. Therefore when the Christian denied the Roman god, and asserted the rights of conscience toward the true God, he himself became judge of the right or wrong of the law. Yet to the Roman mind, the law itself was the test of right or wrong.

That contest went on for 250 years before it was settled in favor of the rights of conscience. And by that time the principles of Christianity had so impressed the pagans, who made no profession of anything but paganism, that the rights of conscience were sacred. When the apostasy seized the civil power and began to use it in behalf of what they called the Christian religion, then pagans pleaded the rights of conscience!

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