Who Persecute and Why
Because Jesus had not followed their unbiblical traditions about the Sabbath, 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?" Isa. 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 traditions and perverted ideas of the Jews respecting the Sabbath. Hence they persecuted Him, and sought to slay Him.
Why did Cain kill Able?
"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 on Ishmael's treatment of Isaac, what principle does Paul give us?
"But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now." Gal. 4:29.
NOTE: Other instances of persecution mentioned in the Bible are:
a. Esau, who sold his birthright, persecuted Jacob. Genesis 25:29-34; 27:41.
b. The wayward and envious sons of Jacob persecuted Joseph. Genesis 37; Acts 7:9.
c. The idolatrous Egyptians persecuted the Hebrews. 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 captives 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 Psalm 37:12, 14, 32.)
Who does Paul tell us will suffer persecution?
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." 2 Tim. 3:12.
What is essential to religious persecution?
Ecclesiastical control of the civil power, or a union of church and state.
Since persecution is invariably wrong, 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 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 man 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.
What terrible deception would it require for religious people to persecute Christians?
"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 unbelieving Samaritans, what did Christ say in reply?
"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.
Has the Papacy claimed the authority to persecute?
NOTE: "That the Church of Rome has shed more innocent blood than any other institution that has ever existed among mankind, will be questioned 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 Spirits 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 Marsilious Patavinius (Defensor Pacis, II, iv), Antonius de Dominis (De rep. eccl., iv, vi, vii, ix), Richer (De eccl. et pal. Protestate, 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 Fidel', Pius VI makes the following pronouncement regarding one of the Pistoian propositions: '[The aforesaid proposition] in respect of its insinuation 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 exclusively 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 penalties alone: for the Church requires certain material possessions, such, for example, as churches, schools, seminaries, together with the endowments 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 conditions 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 Sanctum.' 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.
"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 require that by legitimate means they shall not be allowed to propagate 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 circumstances, either due to government hostility or the strength of the dissenting groups, makes the complete application of this principle impossible, then the [Catholic) church wilt require for herself all possible concessions, limiting herself to accept, as a minor evil, the de jure toleration of other forms of worship. In some countries Catholics will be obliged to ask full religious freedom for all, resigned at being forced to cohabitate where they alone should rightfully be allowed to live - .We ask Protestants to understand that the Catholic 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 is principle and applies it in practice." —F. Cavalli, S.J., in Ia Civilt Cattolica (a Jesuit organ published at Rome), April, 1948, quoted in an editorial in The Christian Century, June 23, 1948, p. 623.
"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 thousand years. Are we ready to face that storm? Do we comprehend from how many quarters it is likely to blow?" —The New Leviathan (1946 ed.), p. 19.
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, p.. 333-334.
Benjamin Franklin: "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, apprehend, of its being a bad one." —Letter to Dr. Price, Oct. 9, 1780, in The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, edited by Albert Henry Smith, 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.
What divine command, if obeyed, would do away with all oppression and persecution?
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor 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 neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Romans 13:10.
What blessing does Christ impart to those who are persecuted?
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs 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.)
NOTE: The world hates righteousness and loves sin. This is what caused the hostility to Jesus when He was here on earth. Those who do not accept the love of God will find Christianity a disturbing element and will sooner or later war against the truth and its representatives. Fellowship with God brings enmity with the world.
"In the eyes of the [Roman] church, Protestants are heretics pure and simple; and if the name be offensive, it's nothing more than the offensiveness of truth...
"We do not question the possibility of good faith, or of the theological distinction between material and formal heresy. That there are among Protestants material heretics, those who in invincible ignorance deny some dogmas of faith while honestly believing themselves to be in possession of the whole deposit, is not for us or even for the church to positively affirm or deny. Only the all seeing Searcher of hearts can know aught of that. But in our opinion, the assertion that Protestants in general are not to be considered as heretics, as men who have voluntarily, in one or other of many ways in which an act can be voluntary, refused the light, merits unqualified condemnation as militating against the present economy of salvation as well as against the efficiency of the means that God infallibly gives to all who do what lies in their power to come into the possession of truth.
"In this, as in all other matters of doctrine, the church alone is to be our guide. That the church has ever regarded Protestants as heretics, has ever called them heretics, has ever conducted herself toward them as heretics, is undeniably true, and it ill becomes us to dictate to the church that her terms are 'only partly true' and unnecessarily offensive.
"We abominate these spineless Catholics who adopt such methods of kinship and co-operation with Protestants in view of their conversion." The Western Watchman (Roman Catholic), January 27, 1916.
"In actual fact, the church at first dealt more leniently with heretics, excommunicating them, consfiscating their property, .till at last she was compelled to inflict the extreme penalty; 'secondly, experience shows (says Bellarm., "De Laicis," I, 3, c. 21) that there is no other remedy: for the church gradually advanced, and tried every means, first excommunication alone, then a pecuniary fine was added, then exile, FINALLY SHE WAS COMPELLED TO FALL BACK ON DEATH [the capitals here are the author's own.] Heretics despise excommunication and say that that bolt is powerless; if you threaten them with a pecuniary fine, they will find fools enough to believe them and support them. If you imprison them or send them into exile, they corrupt those near them with their words and those at a distance with their books. SO THE ONLY REMEDY IS TO SEND THEM SOON TO THEIR OWN PLACE' [capitals are the author's]. The society of the church and its public order, against the disturbance of which there are many ecclesiastical charges, must necessarily be pre- served, that men's souls may be sanctified by the true faith and good works, and that they may gain eternal salvation." —Institutiones Juris Ecclesiastici Publici (Institutes of Public Ecclesiastical Law), P. Marianus de Luca, S. J. (Roman Catholic), Professor in the Gregorian University of Rome, Vol. 1, p. 143. 1901.
NOTE: This work was highly recommended by Pope Leo XIII.