The Prophetic Peace Witness of Army Veteran A. T. Jones


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The following excerpts are from a talk delivered by Adventist pioneer, U.S. Army veteran, and champion of religious liberty, Alonzo T. Jones, on March 15, 1897, during the 32nd General Conference meetings in response to widespread Christian enthusiasm for U.S. imperialism and militarism in the Spanish-American War. I have made minor adjustments in his punctuation and paragraphing for ease of reading. The full text of his speech, entitled “Out of Babylon and Egypt” and originally published in the General Conference Bulletin, can be read here. (This image of the original (which is now out of copyright) is taken from the digital collection of Adventist historical periodicals at http://www.adventistarchives.org/DocArchives.asp)

Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of Jones’s theopolitics, his words (which include lengthy quotations from a variety of early Adventist publications as well as from Ellen White), testify to the radical pacifism and prophetic Christian anarchism of the Adventist pioneers. They also testify to the death of the prophetic spirit among contemporary Adventists. On questions of violence, allegiance, and obedience to the nation-state in times of war, A. T. Jones’s radical voice would not be heard in any official Adventist publication in the United States today.

Some have been willing to…allow…for Christians even, any Christian, Seventh-day Adventists or others, to fight. Not to fight one another, of course, but to fight for their country, and engage in war to maintain civil government. But where is the Christian’s country? Where is the Christian’s government? Can you tell?

[Voices from the congregation cry out: “Not of this world.”]

It is not of this country, and not of this world. Our kingdom and country are not of this world.

But can Christians fight for their country with weapons of carnal warfare? The King of that country allowed himself to be crucified, put to death, and buried out of sight, rather than to lift a hand to fight for his country. Then can anything, the logic of which goes to that extent, be true at the beginning?

But this is not all. If we as Seventh-day Adventists are to preach those principles, and are to hold to them, there is an important step that must be taken, in justice to the United States government…I have here two little documents printed in 1865, but what is written in them occurred in 1864…At that time Seventh-day Adventists, by the General Conference Committee, represented to the government of the United States…that Seventh-day Adventists, as Christians, and because they were Christians, could not…under any circumstances bear arms or fight…

Now I do not believe for a moment that we should hold to something that was done, simply because it was done. But if the thing that was done was right, then hold to it. And I say now, that if our views are to change upon that, we owe it to these governments to inform them of the fact, so that they will not think of us as other than just what we are. That is only fair to the governments because as a denomination we did officially put ourselves on record as holding the opposite position…

The War Spirit is Hatred and Delusion

Now I will read to you some of the extracts that were then [in 1865] printed from documents, publications, and papers of Seventh-day Adventists, as evidence to the United States government, and as evidence to the governors of the States, that that position taken by the General Conference Committee of the denomination was their understood position, and not one made up for the occasion to escape the draft or to escape the results that were coming upon the country because of the war. This matter was issued as evidence to these governments that it was a principle with the Seventh-day Adventists, and they were holding to it because it was Christianity…

Here is an extract from something written in the Signs of the Times, by Elder James White, in 1852:

“The professed church of Christ has left the arm of her true husband, and now leans on the strong arm of the law. She seeks protection and to be nourished by the corrupt governments of the world, and is properly represented by the harlot daughters of the old mother…The church is unlawfully wedded to the world. This may be seen in the various departments of civil government. Even in the war department the professed minister of Jesus Christ is seen mocking the God of peace with his prayers for success in battle.”

Again, an extract quoted from the Review and Herald of May 9, 1854:

“Whether these things are at hand or not [it is about the coming of the Lord], the fact remains; a war spirit is abroad, a spirit of hatred and delusion. It is its contaminating influence that we fear—it is the demoralizing influence of familiarity with the ideas of war and bloodshed, it is the unhealthy excitement, the bitter party spirit that is evil, and causes evil to spread”…

The Whole Fabric of Human Government Rests Upon the Sword

Another extract reprinted from Review and Herald of July 31, 1856:

“…What more do you want? or what less do you want, dear brother? The next step you require of your agent is to enact laws, which, if disregarded, are enforced by the sword, an unchristian weapon. Said laws are the essential, vital being of said government of which he is a component part, which can sustain its nationality only by arsenals or implements of death, large navies and military, equipped with their deadly weapons. You next place your good brother Christian, follower of the Prince of Peace, aside the scaffold, to inflict death, or at the head of a body of military, with a habeas corpus writ to thrust back into bondage a poor brother, for the crime of desiring to inhale heaven’s free air. Or, if he is your chief magistrate of the nation, you mount your good bishop on a war-horse armed cap-a-pie, general-in-chief over all the sinews of death in the nation…Does not the whole fabric of human government rest on the sword? Are they not to be dashed to shivers when he comes whose right it is to rule in righteousness?

“But I am not at war with human governments. No, no… If, my brethren, you keep in mind that Christians are a different company, a little flock, separated, chosen out of the world, to be lights in, or to, the world, that the world by beholding their good works (light), may be led to join in company with the little flock, counted all the day long to the slaughter, and thus glorify your Heavenly Father, then you will be able to comprehend such scriptures as Romans 13…”

I now read another extract, reprinted from the Review, dated Aug. 14, 1856:

“Has the gospel of Jesus granted you the right to use the sword, to arm you with carnal weapons, to take the sword to ‘provide for your own household,’ to deliver the oppressed out of the power of the oppressor, by breaking the sixth commandment of God, ‘Thou shalt not kill’? Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’”

…That is what the denomination said in 1864. They presented that to the government of the United States, as evidence that they did not believe in war, and that they could not engage in bearing arms, and that if they were drafted, they could not be expected to fight. And the government of the United States listened to their representations, and made provision that they should attend the hospitals where they could do the work of ministers of the gospel, and care for the sick, and bring salvation to the dying. Now if that is to be reversed, we should stand fairly before the government, and state that it has been reversed.

There is One Lawgiver for the Christian

I continue reading:

“…Jesus says, ‘If any man serve me, let him follow me.’ But do you say, This I can do, and serve as a faithful citizen of my country, in her national policies and government? Stop. Jesus says, ‘No man can serve two masters.’ …What share can you take in the policies of the world, if ‘ye are not of the world,’ but are hated of the world, and are chosen ‘out of the world’? …the world is not willing…to obey God, or follow Jesus, not acknowledging that there is one Lawgiver. James 4:12…

“‘Wherefore the Lord said…for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.’ How wonderfully this is exemplified in the course of the many high professors of divinity, who have, but a short time in the past, stood at the head of religious revivals, moral reforms, and peace societies…

“Now in the very face of the gospel, when Jesus has said, ‘Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy…’ Notwithstanding these scriptures, we see the deplorable state of the Christian churches as they develop their moral fall and conformity to the world…Here follow several statements of prominent preachers, breathing of ‘arms,’ ‘fighting,’ ‘battle,’ ‘war,’ etc…

“Are these men following Jesus? Are they harnessing themselves and followers with gospel weapons? Are they exhibiting implicit confidence in the perfect law of God? Do they acknowledge that there is but one Lawgiver for the Christian? Do they hear Paul say, ‘The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds’? Are they finally heeding the Scriptures that they professedly teach?...

“But we wrestle ‘against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’…

“Let Christians walk in the light of these truths, and there would be but few Christian generals or soldiers, to use the ‘Rev. Mr. Beecher’s twenty-five Sharp’s rifles,’ although a Bible sanctimoniously be attached to the breech of each…

“Christians thus armed with these gospel weapons, and completely disarmed of carnal ones, being entirely separate from the governments of the world, they may let the world, armed down with weapons of death as they are, rush down the broad road, enforcing their unchristian laws with the penalty of death.”…

Christians Are Citizens of a Different Government

There is considerable more in this leaflet, but I do not need to read any more of it. I will read a passage or two more from the Lord, that is here for us in our day. This was given to us four years ago from the Spirit of prophecy, and was read to us in this Tabernacle:

“…Consider, my brethren and sisters, that the Lord has a people, a chosen people, his church, to be his own, his own fortress, which he holds in a sin-stricken, revolted world; and he intended that no authority should be known in it, no laws be acknowledged by it, but his own.”

Another came to us in General Conference this present year. This carries us right back to where the apostasy began, and brings us face to face with God, and with his truth, and with this whole subject as it is from the Lord, as he desires to be with his people today:

“The line of demarcation between the professed commandment-keeping people of God and the world, is not as distinct as it once was…They have handled common fire so long that their discernment is lost. There is a people who have enlisted to stand under the banner of Jesus. They are Christ’s army. They have pledged themselves to come out from the world, and be separate. They have pledged themselves to use the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, to make aggressive warfare against sin and all iniquity. We are to show our loyalty.”

There is a governmental term. There is a term that applies to citizenship. We are to show our loyalty to what? That is the question.

“We are to show our loyalty to our King, the Lord Jesus Christ.”…

So these lessons close just where we began…‘THOU shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.’ Then you will not wander from your Maker. Then there will be no apostasy. Then there will be no idolatry. Then there will be no government set up after the example of the heathen who have gone away from God…

“Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”

And let all the people say, “Amen and Amen.”


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4938