A “NATIONAL assembly” of “Christian politicians” is to be held May 1, of this year, in the city of Rock Island, Ill., for the purpose of organizing a “Christian Political Union,” which will apply “the principles of Christ to the Government of the United States of America.” This call, which is in the form of an address adopted by a “conference of Christian men and women” held in Willard Hall, Chicago, December 31 last, is as follows:—
“To all Christian Voters and Friends of Jesus of Nazareth throughout the United States of America, Greeting:
“We believe the fullness of time to have arrived when the eternal principles of justice, mercy and love, as exemplified in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, should be embodied in the political economy of our nation, and applied in concrete form to every function of our Government,—national, state, municipal and local.
“We believe that the most direct means of accomplishing this end is the formation of a political body of united Christian men and women, who shall use their elective franchise for the selection of able, worthy, and conscientious public officials who will seek in their respective positions to perform the functions of government in the spirit of the Man of Galilee.
“We believe that a sufficient number of our fellow-citizens have been so spiritually and intellectually enlightened by the example and teachings of Christ and his disciples as to equip them for wise and efficient leadership of such a political force; and to these we appeal for immediate and vigorous co-operation.
“We believe that the pressing need, yea, the necessity of the times among the great masses of our fellow-citizens is a practical application commercially and socially of the spirit and principles of Jesus of Nazareth….
“We therefore call for a national assembly of Christians men and women of legal age, representing every State, territory and possession of the United States of America, to meet in the city of Rock Island, Ill., on the first Tuesday of the month of May (May 1), in the year of our Lord 1900, at the hour of 10 A. M., for the purpose of formulating a plan for national political action.
“For the purpose of securing the fullest possible expression of the will of the people, we recommend that, for this initial national assembly, the number of delegates named by each State, territory, or possession, shall be fixed at the discretion of the constituents. ‘Whosoever will, let him’ come. The only test of eligibility shall be:—
“Actual personal attendance at the conference and satisfactory answer of the following question: ‘Have you been elected as such delegate by a parliamentary body of your fellow citizens, and do you believe in the application of the principles of Christ to the government of the United States of America?”
These are remarkable statements, and all the more significant because they express a sentiment, or conception, that is everywhere pervading the religious world. And how does this prevailing conception accord with the divine standard of religious truth? Let us note some of its features:—
The “eternal principles of justice, mercy, and love, as exemplified in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ,” are now to be “applied in concrete form to every function of our Government.” But have these principles, as thus exemplified, been applied in concrete form to the lives of the individual citizens?—Oh no; only to a very small extent. This is a truth plainly seen on every hand. How then can they possibly be applied in the Government, which is of the pople [sic.] and by the people?
“Worthy and conscientious public officials,” to be chosen by the people, are to “perform the functions of government in the spirit of the Man of Galilee.” And the leaders of this new political force are to be “a sufficient number of our fellow-citizens” who have been equipped for such leadership by being “spiritually and intellectually enlightened by the example and teachings of Christ and his disciples.” But where in all the record of the example and teachings of Christ and his disciples, is there to be found any instruction or any precedent, conducting political affairs? The Saviour kept entirely aloof from politics, though the government of Judea was more corrupt in his day than is the government of the United States at the close of the nineteenth century. If it had been important for Christians to apply the principles to the governments of the world, would he not have instructed them upon this point?
The “pressing need” and “necessity of the times” is “a practical application commercially and socially of the spirit and principles of Jesus of Nazareth.” Does this mean that there is any greater necessity for society to-day than that of these principles to the individual heart, by God’s plan of faith in Jesus Christ? And if it does mean this, can it possibly be true?
The masses of the people are unchristianized; this is plain. Iniquity and corruption abound on every hand. The great cities are like Sodom and ancient Babylon. Men and women are given to every form of worldly pleasure and every form of vice. The church congregations are small. The great majority of the voting population are not even nominally Christian. And yet (it is thought) somehow, through these very people, and without changing them individually at all, the Government is to become Christian! Somehow, through these unchristian masses who do not apply the “principles of Christ” to their own practises at all, these principles are to be applied and carried out in the practises of the Government! This is strange blindness, truly.
In every manifestation of Christianity, the starting point from which it is developed is always the individual heart. This is the starting point, always; and any thing which does not start there—anything which ignores that starting point—cannot be Christianity. And Christianity starts in the individual heart only by the grace of God, through faith.