“A Political Gospel” The American Sentinel 1, 10, pp. 74, 75.

October 1886

MRS. MARY A. WOODBRIDGE, recording secretary of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and vice-president of the National Reform Association, made the principal National Reform speech, at Chautauqua Assembly on National Reform Day, July 23. Among many other such like things in her speech we find the following:—

“Shall we not amend our National Constitution, that the world shall know that we acknowledge Christ as Ruler? as the Head of our Nation? and in his name, and for his glory, shall not ‘We, the people, in order to form a more perfect union,’ thus ‘ordain’? While we render unto Cesar the things that are Cesar’s, shall we not render unto God the things that are God’s?”

To render unto Cesar the things that are Cesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s, is eminently sound and practical Christian doctrine. But the practice of that principle is not at all what the National Reformers want the people of this Nation to do. The National Reformers not only want us to render to Cesar that which is Cesar’s, but they want to compel us to render to Cesar that which is Gods. This we, under Christ, deny their right to do; and by his help it is what we will never submit to do.

In these words Christ established a clear [75] distinction between Cesar and God, between that which is Cesar’s and that which is God’s; that is between the civil and the religious power, and between what we owe to the civil power and what we owe to the religious power. We owe to Cesar, the civil power, that which is civil: we owe to God, the religious power, that which is religious. This is the distinction which God, in Christ, has absolutely fixed. Whoever seeks to confound this distinction is against God and against Christ; to join, or to seek to join, the religious with the civil power is to confound the distinction; and to join the religious with the civil power is precisely what the National Reform party proposes to do. The logical conclusion from this is clear, and we do not hesitate to say that it is strictly according to Scripture and, therefore, perfectly true.

For the State to enforce religious duties it thereby demands that to Cesar shall be rendered that which is God’s, and therefore it usurps the place of God, and so far as it is obeyed, it destroys the true worship of God. We know the claim that these men make, as of all of their kind in the dreadful history of persecution everywhere, that is, that it is the true worship of God and of Christ which they ask that the civil power shall enforce, and this according to the Bible. But no such thing can be done. Christ did not say that we should render to Cesar that which is God’s; neither did he say that we should render to God by Cesar that which is God’s. That which is God’s is his, and we are to render it to him direct, without any of the meddling mediumship of Cesar. When we have rendered to Cesar that which is Cesar’s, we have rendered to Cesar all his due and he has no right to demand any more. And when he has so received his just due on all his proper claims, then what business is it of Cesar’s how we render to God that which is God’s or whether we render it at all or not?—It is just none of his business. And when he seeks to make it his business he is meddling with that which in no wise concerns him. One of the unbecoming and irreverent results of such action is well expressed by Gibbon, in speaking of Constantine and his sons:—

“Those princes presumed to extend their despotism over the faith, as well as over the lives and fortunes of their subjects; …. and the prerogatives of the King of Heaven were settled, or changed, or modified, in the cabinet of an earthly monarch.”Decline Fall, chap 21, par. 16.

Could anything possibly be more incongruous! It is just such incongruity that these words of Christ are intended forever to prevent. Yet history is full of it, and, while our own Government has escaped it so far, now the National Reform party seeks by the subversion of the Constitution to inflict it upon this great Nation.

Whenever the civil power steps between a man and God and proposes to regulate just what shall be rendered to God and just how it shall be rendered, then Cesar is entirely out of his place. George Washington was a man for whose opinions we suppose there is yet remaining some respect on the part of Americans, and he said:—

“I have often expressed my opinion, that every man who conducts himself as a good citizen is accountable alone to God for his religious faith, and should be protected in worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience.”

We say again, that in the words, “Render therefore unto Cesar the things which are Cesar’s; and unto God the things which are God’s,” Matthew 22:21, Christ separated forever the civil from the religious power. And the National Reform party in its endeavor to join them, clearly sets itself against the word of Christ.

But the National Reform idea of the work of the gospel is as crude as its idea of the relation of the civil and the religious power. Mrs. Woodbridge says further:—

“An amendment to the National Constitution requires the endorsement of two-thirds of the States, to become law. Although the action must be taken by State Legislative bodies, let such an amendment be submitted, and it would become the paramount issue at the election of legislators, and thus God would be in the thought, and his name upon the lip of every man. May not this be the way opened to us? How to bring the gospel of Christ to the masses, has been, and is, the vexing problem of the church. Would not the problem be solved? … In considering the submission of such an amendment, we may use the very argument used by Moses, in his song containing these words of Jehovah, ‘For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land.’ How prayerfulness would be stimulated! Conscience would press the words, ‘If the Lord be God, follow him, but if Baal, then follow him.’ Then would there be searchings of heart, as David’s, of which we learn in the fifty-first Psalm. Prayer would bring faith and the power of the Spirit: and when such power shall rest upon the children of God, there will be added to the church daily such as shall be saved.”

Oh yes! to be sure! What a most excellent method of bringing the gospel (?) to the masses! Most assuredly the problem would be solved. This scheme has been tried, and the problem solved, before, and in much the same way. By making the subject of the Trinitarian controversy a national and governmental issue the name of God and of Christ was “upon every lip,” clubs, stones, or military weapons, in the hands, and murder in the heart, of every man. Thus the gospel was brought to the masses, and so there was added to the church daily such as should be——. Especially in the city of Rome, by this means, the masses became so devout, that in the most exciting and decisive moment of a horse-race, the whole multitude in the vast circus could in an instant turn their minds to the gospel (?) and shout “One God, One Christ, One Bishop.” And, by the way, the women were among the leaders, and were the main help in bringing about this triumph of the gospel among the masses at a horse-race in the Roman circus. Thus, in that age, was the gospel brought to the masses; thus, then, was the problem solved. And “history repeats itself,” even to the part the women play in the political project of bringing the gospel to the masses.—See Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, chap. 21, par. 35.

But the illustrations are hardly needed to show how entirely foreign to the gospel of Christ are such propositions and such arguments as we here present from the Chautauqua National Reform Speech.

Such stuff needs but to be read to be condemned utterly by every one who has any respect for the gospel or for its Author. But if the reading of this is not enough to condemn both it and the cause in behalf of which it must be used, then we shall insert just one more sentence from the very midst of whence these are copied. Immediately following the words, “Would not the problem be solved?” are these:—

“Yea, Christ would then be lifted up, even as the serpent in the wilderness, and would we not have right to claim the fulfillment of the promise, that ‘He will draw all men unto himself?’”

To think of a political campaign managed by ambitious clerics, political hypocrites, ward politicians, and city bosses, and call that bringing the gospel of Christ to the masses, and the means of adding to the church daily such as shall be saved, is certainly a conception of the gospel of Christ which is degrading enough in all conscience. But when to cap such a conception, it is avowed that such would be the lifting up of Christ, even as the serpent in the wilderness, and the fulfillment of the promise that he will draw all men unto him, the whole idea becomes one that is vastly nearer to open blasphemy than it is to the proper conception of the gospel of Christ. But such, and of such, is the gospel of National Reform.

A. T. J.

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