We Are Not Convinced

Ellet J. Waggoner

The Signs of the Times : February 25, 1889

Some people are trying hard to convince the Seventh-day Adventists that it is wrong to work on Sunday in violation of the civil law. The argument is easily made; it is this: We are to be in subjection to the “powers that be;” to obey rulers, etc. by this rule we are under obligation to abstain from labor on “the venerable day of the sun.”
At the risk of being considered somewhat obdurate[1], we must say we are not convinced. We think, however, it is not because of obduracy in us, but that we have studied the word of God too intently to be misled by any such misapplication of its teachings. It is a well-known saying, that “a little learning is a dangerous thing;” and this may prove true in the case of some people, whose knowledge of the Bible is too superficial to be of benefit to themselves or others.
We are reminded of the debater who once undertook to prove that it was a duty to baptize children. The proof offered was considered positive beyond the possibility of evasion. It is found in 1 Peter 2:13: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man.” But we are hardly prepared to adopt this rule without the limitations which the Scriptures put upon it. We have adopted the Scriptures to use, but do not choose to abuse them in the manner indicated by such arguments.
If we are wrong in working on Sunday for the reason stated, then Moses was wrong for not yielding to the laws of Pharaoh; the three Hebrew children were wrong for disobeying the law of Nebuchadnezzar, by reason of which they were (very justly, it must be supposed) cast into the fiery furnace; Daniel was wrong in disobeying the law of Darius, and of course he was deservedly thrown into the den of lions. And the apostles of Christ were wrong when they persisted in preaching “Jesus and the resurrection,” after the rulers had strictly prohibited such seditious conduct. Many like instances may be presented. And it must seem strange to these modern expositors of the word of God, that in all these cases the Lord vindicated them in their “wrong-doing” and put the rulers to confusion. How will they account for this?
We can easily solve the difficulty. In these cases the rulers were enacting laws which were contrary to the law of God; which, if obeyed, would lead to a violation of the law of God. Such laws must not be obeyed. When “the powers that be” are “a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well” (Rom. 13), then it is the Christian’s duty and delight to yield obedience to them; but when they turn aside and make themselves a praise to evildoers and a terror to them that do well, then our answer is always found in the answer to the rulers in Acts 4:19: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.”

[1] Definition: “Stubbornly persistent in wrong doing”