April 9, 1896
“A PRACTICAL and adequate organization,” says the Christian Citizen, 620 “has recently been called into existence in Chicago, called the ‘National Christian Citizenship League,’ which has already abundantly vindicated its reason for being. Its avowed three-hold object is:—
“1. To reveal Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the nation as well as of the individual.
“2. To make Christian principles operative in public affairs.
“3. To unite the followers of Christ in consistent, harmonious and aggressive action, not as church members, but as Christian citizens, for the following purposes, viz.:
“1. To prevent, by personal effort, the nomination and election of corrupt candidates and the enactment of corrupt laws in the city, State, and nation.
“2. To secure fidelity on the part of officers instructed with the execution of the laws.
“3. To exterminate the saloon as the greatest enemy of Christ and humanity.
“4. To preserve the Sabbath.
“5. To purify and elevate the elective franchise.
“6. To promote the study of social wrongs, and the application of effective remedies.
“7. In general, to seek the reign of whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report.”
The Christian Citizen further says:—
“We do not wish for a union of Church and State. Nor do we seek to govern the State through the Church. But we do propose to identify Christian citizens with public affairs, and thus infuse into industries, policies and administrations, the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
“To this necessary and sacred work we summon all, of whatever creed, party, nationality, or sex, who acknowledge God as supreme over all.”
Christ the Saviour of the Individual.
The reader familiar with the principles which should govern the relations of Church and State, need not be told that this so-called “Christian Citizenship” movement is the rankest kind of National Reform.
It seem strange that men do not see the absurdity of such leagues. Of course, if Jesus Christ is ever to be revealed “as the Saviour of the nation,” it must be by some human power, as God has never revealed him in any such way. The Scriptures set Christ forth as the Saviour of the individual, and of the individual only. “Whosoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” 621
It is true that “the kingdoms of this world” are finally to “become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ;” 622 but it will not be by political action, nor will it be in the world that now is. That kingdom, as the Apostle Peter plainly tells us, is to be in the “new earth,” which is to come forth from the ashes of the present world which is reserved unto destruction against the day of judgment, and perdition of ungodly men, and in it is to dwell only righteousness. 623 Moreover the inhabitant of that kingdom “shall not say, I am sick,” 624 “for they which shall be all counted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” 625
Nor is this kingdom to be given to Christ by political action. He receives the kingdom from his Father, who says: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron: thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 626
Christian Principles in Public Affairs.
There is one sense, and one sense only, in which Christian principles can properly be applied in public affairs. The Christian must be honest in all the walks of life; whether in private or public he must and will discharge faithfully every duty devolving upon him. He cannot be an embezzler nor an extortioner. He must deal justly with his fellowmen, and discharge conscientiously every trust committed to him. The individual and the individual only can “make Christian principles operative in public affairs,” for only the individual can possess Christian principles.
But Christianity is not the only system of ethics which enjoins honesty, and it is a sad fact that professed Christians are not as a rule more trustworthy than many who make no profession. A very large number of our unfaithful public servants, political tricksters, corrupt politicians, are men who make a profession of religion, as are likewise a great many embezzlers and defaulting bank officers. The public would gain nothing by making a profession of Christianity a stepping-stone to public office. Indeed to do so would only be to place a premium upon hypocrisy; and this the National Reformers of the various schools have already done.
In the early days of the National Reform movement it was predicted by one of the leaders that when the movement was seen to be a success, the politicians would hasten to secure front seats. As recently as 1892, during the agitation for the Sunday-closing of the World’s Fair, a direct premium was put upon political dishonesty by the threatened political boycott, which was likewise an implied promise that those who yielded to the demands of the advocates of Sunday-closing should receive their support at the polls.
Religious Combinations Dangerous.
It was declared by a committee of United States Congress more than sixty years ago that “religious combinations to effect political objects are dangerous.” It is equally true to-day, and this effort to unite the “followers of Christ” for “consistent, harmonious, and aggressive [political] action” is a menace to our free institutions. Such combinations never have and never can confine themselves to proper political objects. They always have and always will endeavor to use civil power for the furtherance of religion; and the danger is no less, because instead of being united in one denomination, they act simply as “Christian citizens.”
The Papacy was the outgrowth of just such a combination. It was not as Roman Catholics, but as “Christians” that the churches of that day brought their influence to bear upon the civil power. Not Roman Catholicism but “Christianity” was made the religion of the Roman Empire; what followed was only the logical, and, under the prevailing conditions, the inevitable result.
“To prevent by personal effort the nomination and election of corrupt candidates” through this gigantic religious combination means simply to prevent the election of anybody who will not be subservient to the dictates of these “Christian citizens.” And “to secure fidelity on the part of officers entrusted with the execution of the laws,” simply means, in this connection, to secure prompt attention to the demands of the church people for the enforcement of such civil laws as they may deem of advantage to them. It means especially the rigid enforcement of Sunday laws, and the closing of saloons—on SUNDAY.
It has been plainly shown by these so-called Reformers that they do not desire so much the “extermination of the saloon” as they do the exaltation of Sunday. “To preserve the ‘sabbath’” is the great object in view, and everything else must be made to bend to that.
The explanation: “We do not wish for a union of Church and State” would never be made was there not a consciousness even on the part of these so-called Reformers that their movement must inevitably lead to such a result.
The Very Essence of Church and State.
The very essence of Church and State is the use of civil power to enforce religious dogma, or to advance the interests of the Church. It matters not whether that dogma be peculiar to one sect or many. All the evils of union of Church and State would be just as great and would develop just as speedily with a multitude of sects established by law as with a single sect. In fact they would be greater because a single sect established by law would necessarily be held in check to a great extent by other sects; but let all the sects, or at least the more powerful sects, be clothed with civil power to enforce the dogmas held by them in common, and the small minority left to protest, have practically no redress. This has been repeatedly demonstrated in the case of Sabbatarians who, it is urged, constitute only seven-tenths of one percent. of the population, and are therefore not to be considered as having any rights which the majority is bound to respect.
The “pious” invitation: “To this necessary and sacred work we summon all, of whatever creed, party, nationality, or sex, who acknowledge God as supreme over all,” deserves passing notice. There are very many who acknowledge God as supreme over all, but who deny the right of any number of  men, or of any number of churches to dictate to them an interpretation of God’s will. And that is just what it means, for “‘God’ to be supreme over all.” If God were indeed supreme no one would have ought to fear; but those having control of legislation and not God would be supreme, ruling professedly in the name of God, but in reality administering not the law of God, but their own interpretation of that law. Thus, like the Papacy, they would sit in the temple of God, showing or professing themselves to be God. It would be nothing less than an image of the Papacy.