May 29, 1890
SUNDAY, May 4, Rev. Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst, of Madison Square Presbyterian Church, this city, delivered a sermon on the scripture text, “And I John saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” It was directly in the line of the Church and State preaching that is constantly becoming more and more prevalent. He declared that “heaven is a redeemed commonwealth.” Now a commonwealth is “an established form of government, or civil polity, or, more generally, a State.” His statement amounts to this then that heaven is a redeemed State, but no State has yet been redeemed. If heaven be therefore a redeemed State, there is as yet no such place because there is no such thing. Heaven was, before there ever was a State, and will be after all States are gone.
This criticism is not a play upon words, for the rest of his sermon shows that such is his idea of what heaven is, and that the redeemed commonwealth is the culmination of history, and when we reach that place, then that place and that commonwealth will be heaven. He says:—
Now if a redeemed commonwealth is appointed of God to be the culmination of history and the end toward which he is working, then that end we are to consider as a law regulating or determining the methods by which, as God’s workmen, we are to help in the achievement of God’s aim and ambition. If it were only a question of how many individuals could be brought to their knees and induced penitentially to accept Christ as their Saviour, then all we should have to do, as a church, would be to teach the doctrines of repentance and regeneration, multiply our missions, strengthen our evangelistic forces and count the converts.
Thus Mr. Parkhurst’s view of the purpose and work of the Church is that it is to save States instead of souls, and that the song of the redeemed in that day will be that the Lord had saved every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, and not as the Scripture says, that the redeemed are gathered “out of every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”
It would be difficult to form a statement of God’s purpose as revealed, that would be more directly contrary to the truth than is this statement by Dr. Parkhurst. In the Scripture there is no such thing announced, nor contemplated, as a redeemed State. No State will ever reach the other world. No State will ever be redeemed. There will be some people redeemed out of all the States that have ever been. This theory springs from the idea that is so largely held, of the conversion of the world. But that idea is totally false: it is contrary to every statement of Scripture. When the world ends, it will be in wickedness.
The record is that “in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers; false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5. And, instead of there being any promise or prophecy that they will all become good, and better and better, the record is that being thus bad they “shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” And having grown worse and worse, when the end comes, and the heaven departs as a scroll when it is rolled  together, and every mountain and island are moved out of their places, then the word of God is that “The kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free-man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
There has been no more deceptive doctrine invented than that which teaches the conversion of the world, and the redeeming of commonwealths. The Saviour did not die for commonwealths, he died for individuals. All may have eternal life if they will. Yet in fact many have chosen, and many do still choose the other way instead, and every man is at liberty to choose which way he will. “Whosoever will, let him come.” If he will not, he may go the way of his choice. The truth is that it is in fact, “only a question of how many individuals can be brought to their knees and induced penitentially to accept Christ as their Saviour;” and therefore it is true that all that the Church has to do “is to teach the doctrines of repentance and regeneration, multiply its missions and strengthen its evangelistic forces” for that very purpose. Whenever the Church ceases to do that, it then ceases to be a Church in the proper sense of the word. And too many of them have ceased to do it, and there is too much preaching of this kind that leads in the way for more of it to be done.
Those who profess to be the representatives of the Church have forgotten what the Church is, and what its work is. These are the ones who neglect the humble task of preaching to individuals the doctrines of repentance and regeneration, and enter upon a course of ambitious political action, to convert cities, States, and nations as such. Leaving individual action, individual responsibility, and individual influence, they undertake to convert men by wholesale. They make the city Christian by electing a mayor who will enforce Sunday laws. They make the Nation Christian by incorporating the name of the Saviour in its Constitution and laws. Thus they hope to obtain a redeemed commonwealth.
Yes, it was in this way that the Roman Empire was redeemed; thus it was made a redeemed commonwealth. But it was worse after it was so redeemed than it was before. Such a redemption multiplied and heaped up wickedness to such an extent that human society could not bear it; it had to be utterly swept out of existence, as it was, by the flood of savage barbarism that swept the Empire from one end to the other. Such a redemption in that day ended in utter ruin. Such a one wrought again in this day will end in the same thing; and whoever will escape it needs as an individual to turn to Christ and penitentially accept him as the Saviour.
A. T. J.