Liberty of Conscience in Civil Matters by William Roberts

“The kingdom which the God of heaven sets up, protects the rights of conscience. In reference to civil matters, the grand principle in relation to liberty of conscience, is this: That no human constitution or law that is not founded in the Divine law, of which we have treated above, is obligatory upon the conscience of men. “Be ye not the servants of men.”

God is the Lord of the conscience. It is absolutely free from the dominion of man, but subject to the authority and law of God. …

We must obey God; is the first rule of action. A loose view is entertained by a vast majority of men. That conscience only is the rule of action. Hence the common expression, “The dictates of conscience.” Conscience, however, is not a dictator, but a subject. The subject of the Supreme Lawgiver, Jehovah. He is its sovereign Lord, and his dictates, it is bound to obey. He who teaches otherwise is the advocate of rebellion, and strengthens the human mind: in its enmity against God, displayed in disobedience to his law. Liberty of conscience is therefore not a licentious liberty. Men have not a right to think, speak and act, as they please. No man, however exalted, has this right. All our rights are derived—they are derived from God. He has given to no man the right of doing what is right in his own eyes. The will of God is the rule of the intelligent creature’s actions. …

The revealed law of the God of heaven binds authoritatively the conscience. It is a first principle of the law, yea, its very essence, that man believe whatever God reveals, and performs whatever he requires. “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to harken than the fat of rams. Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you.” The dependant relation which man sustains to his Creator, proves that it is his duty to believe whatever God reveals, and perform whatever he enjoins. The holiness and rectitude of the Divine nature secures that nothing shall be revealed and enjoined, but what is right, and the interest of man to believe and obey. “The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth purified seven times.” Whatever, therefore, the God of heaven has prescribed in his revealed will, as a duty, binds the conscience of the human being upon whom the duty is enjoined. To refuse obedience is direct rebellion. All men, all nations, lie under this obligation. They are to observe all things whatsoever the God of heaven hath commanded them.

No human enactment, by whomsover issued, contrary to the law of the God of heaven, is obligatory upon conscience. We must obey God rather than men. This is a grand point amidst the rights of conscience. The human mind is not bound in chains to any merely human authority. ”

Covenanter William L. Roberts, The Higher Law, 1851


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