The people of God will recognize human government as an ordinance of divine appointment and will teach obedience to it as a sacred duty within its legitimate sphere. But when its claims conflict with the claims of God, the word of God must be recognized as above all human legislation. "Thus saith the Lord" is not to be set aside for Thus saith the church or the state. The crown of Christ is to be uplifted above the diadems of earthly potentates.
The principle we are to uphold at this time is the same that was maintained by the adherents of the gospel in the great Reformation. When the princes assembled at the Diet of Spires in 1529, it seemed that the hope of the world was about to be crushed out. To this assembly was presented the emperor's decree restricting religious liberty and prohibiting all further dissemination of the reformed doctrines. Would the princes of Germany accept the decree? Should the light of the gospel be shut out from the multitudes that were still in darkness? Mighty issues for the world were at stake. Those who had accepted the reformed faith met together, and the unanimous decision was: "Let us reject the decree. In matters of conscience the majority has no power."
The banner of truth and religious liberty which these Reformers held aloft has in this last conflict been committed to us. The responsibility for this great gift rests with those whom God has blessed with a knowledge of His word. We are to receive God's word as supreme authority. We must accept its truths for ourselves. And we can appreciate these truths only as we search them out by personal study. Then, as we make God's word the guide of our lives, for us is answered the prayer of Christ: "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth." John 17:17. The acknowledgment of the truth in word and deed is our confession of faith. Only thus can others know that we believe the Bible.
Those Reformers whose protest has given us the name Protestant felt that God had called them to give the gospel to the world, and in doing this they were ready to sacrifice their possessions, their liberty, and their lives. Are we in this last conflict of the great controversy as faithful to our trust as were the early Reformers to theirs?
In the face of persecution and death, the truth for that time was spread far and near. The word of God was carried to the people; all classes, high and low, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, studied it eagerly, and those who received the light became in their turn its messengers. In those days the truth was brought home to the people through the press. Luther's pen was a power, and his writings, scattered broadcast, stirred the world. The same agencies are at our command, with facilities multiplied a hundredfold. Bibles, publications in many languages, setting forth the truth for this time, are at our hand and can be swiftly carried to all the world. We are to give the last warning of God to men, and what should be our earnestness in studying the Bible, and our zeal in spreading the light!