“‘Are Our Politics to Be Purified’” The American Sentinel 2, 2, pp. 12, 13.

THIS is a question asked by the National Reform party. We, too, may ask the same question. The Reform party place great reliance upon the success of their movement for the accomplishment of this (much-to-be-desired, indeed!) result. Dr. Merrick in his address at the Cleveland National Reform Convention, said:—

“Where, then, is the antidote [for corrupt politics] to be found? Unhesitatingly I answer, In the religion of Jesus Christ…. How can it fail to purify our politics if Christianity be allowed its legitimate place in our Government?”Christian Statesman, Dec. 1883.

Dr. McAllister, also, in the same convention said:—

“Finally, the proposed Amendment will draw to the administration of the Government such men as the law of God requires,—not the reckless, the unprincipled, the profane but able men, who fear God and hate covetousness.”—Ibid., Dec. 27, 1888.

This thing has been tried several times, and always with the same result, namely, to make corruption more corrupt. Given, human nature what it is, and make profession of religion a qualification for governmental favor, or political preference, and the inevitable result will always be that thousands will profess the required religion expressly to obtain political preferment, and for no other reason; and so to dishonest ambition is added deliberate hypocrisy.

The first to employ this method was he to whom can be traced almost every ill that Christianity has suffered (this last one being by no means the least),—Constantine. He made the bishop of Rome a prince of the empire, and clothed the inferior bishops with such power that they not only ruled as princes, but imitated the princes in pride, luxury, worldly pomp, and hateful haughtiness,—imitated the princes in these, and imitated the emperor in persecuting with relentless vigor all who differed with them in faith. And the [13] bishop of Rome, above all in rank, held the supremacy also in pride, arrogance, and profusion of luxury, to such a degree that one of most eminent of the heathen writers exclaimed, either in envy or indignation, “Make me bishop of Rome and I will be a Christian.”

Nor were the governmental favors of Constantine confined to the bishops; they extended to all orders; and by the promise of a white garment, and twenty pieces of gold to every convert, there was secured in a single year the baptism of no fewer than twelve thousand men, besides a proportionate number of women and children. See Gibbon, “Decline and Fall of Rome,” chap. 20, par. 17. And the inevitable consequence was that “formalism succeeded faith, and religion fled from a station among the rulers of Christendom to shelter in her native scenes among the suffering and the poor.” Was politics purified there? No! religion was corrupted and faith debased; and amidst and by it all, were taken the widest and most rapid strides of the Church of Rome toward that fearful height of power and depth of degradation which was the astonishment and the shame of the world.

Another notable instance was Louis XIV. of France. The early part of his reign was a time of much license; “but in his old age he became religious; and he determined that his subjects should be religious too. He shrugged his shoulders and knitted his brows if he observed at his levee, or near his dinner table; any gentleman who neglected the duties enjoined by the church. He rewarded piety with blue ribands, pensions, invitations to Marlé, governments, and regiments. Forthwith Versailles became in everything but dress, a convent. The pulpits and confessionals were surrounded by swords and embroidery. The marshals were much in prayer; and there was hardly one among the dukes and peers who did not carry good little books in his pocket, fast during lent, and communicate at Easter. Madame de Maintenon, who had a great share in the blessed work, boasted that devotion had become quite the fashion.”

And was politics purified? With a vengeance! We read on: “A fashion indeed it was; and like a fashion it passed away. No sooner had the old king been carried to St. Denis than the whole court unmasked. Every man hastened to indemnify himself, by the excess of licentiousness and impudence, for years of mortification. The same persons who, a few months before, with meek voices and demure looks, had consulted divines about the state of their souls, now surrounded the midnight table, where, amidst the bounding champagne corks, a drunken prince, enthroned between Dubois and Madame de Parabere, hiccoughed out atheistical arguments and obscene jests. The early part of the reign of Louis XIV. had been a time of license; but the most dissolute men of that generation would have blushed at the orgies Regency.”Macaulays Essay on Leigh Hunt.

But undoubtedly the most notable instance of all is that of the Puritan rule, of the Commonwealth of England. “It was solemnly resolved by Parliament “that no person shall be employed but such as the House shall be satisfied of his real godliness.’ The pious assembly had a Bible lying on the table for reference…. To know whether a man was really godly was impossible. But it was easy to know whether he had a plain dress, lank hair, no starch in his linen, no gay furniture in his house; whether he talked through his nose, and showed the whites of his eyes; whether he named his children Assurance, Tribulation, and Maher-shalal-hash-baz; whether he avoided Spring Garden when in town, and abstained from hunting and hawking when in the country; whether he expounded hard scriptures to his troops of dragoons, and talked in a committee of ways and means about seeking the Lord. These were tests which could easily be applied. The misfortune was that they proved nothing. Such as they were, they were employed by the dominant party. And the consequence was that a crowd of impostors, in every walk of life, began to mimic and to caricature what were then regarded as the outward signs of sanctity.”Ibid.

Thus has it ever been, and thus will it ever be, where Governments, as such, attempt to propagate a religion. The only means which it is possible for Governments to employ are “reward and punishment; powerful means indeed for influencing the exterior act, but altogether impotent for the purpose of touching the heart. A public functionary who is told that he will be promoted If he is a devout Catholic, and turned out of his place if he is not, will probably go to mass every morning, exclude meat from his table on Fridays, shrive himself regularly, and perhaps let his superiors know that he wears a hair shirt next his skin. Under a Puritan [or a National Reform also we may say] Government, a person who is apprised that piety is essential to thriving in the world [see Christian Statesman of Nov. 21, Dec. 21 and 27, 1883, and Feb. 21, 1884. particularly, but in fact almost any number], will be strict in the observance of the Sunday, or, as he will call it, Sabbath; and will avoid a theater as if it were plague-stricken. Such a show of religion as this the hope of gain and the fear of loss will produce, at a weeks notice, in any abundance which a Government may require. But under this show, sensuality, ambition, avarice, and hatred retain unimpaired power, and the seeming convert has only added to the vices of a man of the world all the still darker vices which are engendered by the constant practice of dissimulation. The truth cannot be long concealed. The public discovers that the grave persons who are proposed to it as patterns, are more utterly destitute of moral principle and of moral sensibility than avowed libertines. It sees that these Pharisees are further removed from real goodness than publicans and harlots. And, as usual, it rushes to the extreme opposite to that which it quits. It considers a high religious profession as a sure mark of meanness and depravity. On the very first day on which the restraint of fear is taken away, and on which men can venture to say what they think, a frightful peal of blasphemy and ribaldry proclaims that the short-sighted policy which aimed at making a nation of saints has made a nation of scoffers.”—Ibid.

Yet in the very face of these plainest dictates of pure reason, and these most forcible lessons of history, and in utter defiance of all the teaching of universal history itself, the National Reform party, with that persistence which is born of the blindness of bigoted zeal, is working, and will continue to work, with might and main, to bring upon this dear land all this fearful train of disorders. Their movement reminds us of nothing so much as of these quack medicines that are so abundant, warranted to cure every ill that is known to the human body; while at the same time they will create a thousand ills that the human system has never known before. As with these, so with the National Reform; it is warranted to cure all the ills of the body politic, while, as anyone with half an eye can see, it bears in its hands a perfect Pandora’s box, wide open, to inflict its innumerable evils upon our country; and, as they will learn when it is too late, they will have no power to retain even hope. She herself will have flown away, and nothing remain but utter, irretrievable, awful ruin.

A. T. J.

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