ONE of the assumptions of National Reform, and of governmental religion under any name, is that by a profession of Christianity a nation is made better.
In the late New Castle convention it was repeatedly said that “our officers ought to be Christian men,” and that “then we should have no Lexow Committees and no such revelations of corruption as those in New York that so recently shocked the moral sense not only of the United States but of the world.”
Of course the idea was that under the administration of Christian men, corruption would not exist. This is quite true. If it were possible to have a government carried on by Christian men, it would of necessity be honestly administered; for it is the Christian rule to “provide things honest in the sight of all men.” A dishonest man is not a Christian man; and this applies not only in private life but in official position as well. Every Christian must take his religion into public office to the extent that it must make him an honest man; but not in the sense of using political power to further the ends of his creed or church, or of using political power to enforce his religion upon others. The very foundation principle of Christianity forbids any such use of civil power. The one all-comprehensive rule which must govern the real Christian in all his dealings and relations with his fellowmen is, “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” And this forbids all use of official position or of civil power for the  propagation of religion or of irreligion; for no man wants the power of the State used to disseminate views with which he is not in harmony; hence no man has, according to the Golden Rule, any right to use such power to propagate views that others do not believe.
But while it is true that really Christian men would administer a government honestly, is a profession of Christianity by the government any guarantee of Christian administration?—Certainly not. Everybody knows that dishonest men will profess anything for pecuniary advantage. To make a profession of religion a qualification for holding office is only to put a premium upon hypocrisy, and to multiply S. C. P. Breckinridges in the church. He was a man prominent in religious circles, a leader in his church, the father of one of the Sunday bills that has been before Congress during the past five years, and a lecturer on social purity; and yet at the time violating every principle of Christianity, living a life of deliberate, persistent sin; a veritable moral leper. And his is not an isolated case. How many embezzlers and defaulters as well as corrupt civil officials are members of churches, superintendents of Sunday schools, etc. Everybody knows that the list of such offenders is painfully long, and that a profession of Christianity is no guarantee of honesty. Among the twelve apostles was one Judas, and the proportion of evil men professing godliness has certainly never been less, except as persecution may at times have burned the dress out of the church, leaving only the genuine; and it is certainly very much greater whenever a premium is placed upon mere profession.
We have only to go to Russia to see the practical workings of a government in which a profession of religion is an essential to office holding. Russia professes a religion, the “Christian” religion, and office holders in that country must be members of the Orthodox Church. But are they honest? Is the government honestly administered?—Certainly not. It is notorious that Russian judges are bribetakers, that Russian tax collectors are thieves, and that Russian officials, almost from the highest to the lowest, are extortioners.
It follows, therefore, that a mere profession of religion does no make men honest, but mere profession is all that any human government can possibly secure; nay, more; the mere any government has to do with religion, the more any government does to enforce religious profession, the more of false profession there will be. Therefore the greatest service that human government can possibly render true religion is to let it absolutely alone. Government can foster religious formalism and hypocrisy, but not genuine Christianity.
France, just preceding the great Revolution, affords a striking illustration of a government controlled by men making a profession of religion for worldly gain. The sequel was the Reign of Terror. Men seeing the falsity of governmental religion, and revolting against Sunday, extortion, and all kinds of ecclesiastical corruption, went to the other extreme and repudiated all religion. They said, If this is religion we want none of it. The trouble arose form a failure to distinguish between Christianity and that which was called Christianity. But who was to blame? Where but to the Church is the world expected to look for true Christianity? And is it not natural that it should accept as Christianity that which the Church says is Christianity? The Reign of Terror is continually pointed to as an awful exhibition of the effects of infidelity; it is also an awful example of the results of false profession and of governmental religion.