IN the November issue of The Defender, is printed a speech by Rev. J. B. Carruthers, telling how Christianity should be “applied to civic interests.” The writer states that at present Christianity is applied only indirectly to such interests, which falls far short of what the church desires. He believes that “the Christian can be a power, according to his ability in the political and social life of the community.” In outlining his plan of church work for civic reform, this clergyman says:—
“The church at the present time is utterly ignored by the politician in making up his slate. Must it always be so? The saloon holds both of the leading political parties in its power. Either party, when in power, will protect the saloon against any prosecution that threatens to do it any serious injury.
“It is the duty of the church to teach the masses through good laws, enacted and sustained. A well-regulated community gives the average man a moral uplift. With our old methods of ‘letting outside questions alone,’ we have reached a condition of things where the New England Sunday is something of the past, and the saloon holds sway in the good old state of Maine. What shall we do? Draw up some strong resolution? We have done that in the past; we have drilled down to the very bed rock of the Sunday and the saloon question. The resolutions, the holes, are all right; what we need now is to charge them with a generous amount of moral, civic dynamite. Let Christians go into the caucus and help to make or break the slate.
“What is the church doing to mould the civic sentiment of the community? Shall the church be ‘like a weather cock, that changes with every wind, or like the mountains that change the course of the winds?’ We need some intelligent, united action before the church can make itself felt against the great evils of the day. The Congregational Church, the church of our fathers, is well equipped to lead in this work.
“It certainly is the duty of the church to look after the moral interests of a community, and to aid in removing the causes of immorality and crime, and, as this can be done in no way so well as by the church acting in its civic capacities, we need in New England a non-political organization, so organized, manned, and financially sustained that it can demand that our laws be enforced. The masses are coming to believe, and are encouraged in their belief by corrupt lawyers and corrupt politicians, that the laws are not made to be kept. When the Christian citizens are organized in a civic organization, they will be able to impress the masses, the politician, and the officials with the fact that good laws are made to be respected, and, by so doing, politics will be purified, and we will be able to rid our communities of many evils that now menace their peace and prosperity, and hinder the advance of the kingdom of God.”
This is a plain proposition to turn the church into a political organization. Under the present order of things he says, the church cannot “make itself felt against the great evils of the day.” What is the remedy? “Let Christians go into the caucus and help to make or break the slate.”
Christians are ambassadors for God. As such they proclaim to all men the gospel of salvation through faith in Christ. They do this in fulfillment of the instructions of Him who said, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” But now, in this year A. D. 1898, it has been found by one of these ambassadors—by a certain class of them, rather—that this method of work will not do. God’s ambassadors must copy the methods of the politicians. They should have been copying the methods of these worldly men from the first. Evidently the Lord must have made a mistake in his instructions upon this point!
“It is the duty of the church to look after the moral interests of a community,” and in no way can this be done “so well as by the church acting in its civic capacities,” demanding “that our laws be enforced.” The church should do this in order that politics may be purified and serious obstacles be removed which hinder “the advance of the kingdom of God.”
What Christians, who are such in deed as well as name, do for the community in which they reside, is plainly stated in the Scripture declaration that they “are the salt of the earth.” By them the whole earth is preserved from destruction. But how are they the salt of the earth?—as politicians? as voters? as caucus manipulators? Did Christ himself figure in any of these things, or the Christians of his time? And have Christian methods of work changed between that time and the present? To assert it would be to say that God himself has changed.
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set upon a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick.” This states the position and work of the Christian Church. She is the light of the world, and therefore must be above the world. Lighthouse lamps are not fixed on a level with the earth. And when the church descends from her divinely-appointed station, above the world, down to the arena of politics, she puts herself on a level with the world, and her light is no longer seen by souls adrift upon the sea of time and in danger of shipwreck.
When professed ministers of the gospel turn from the gospel and advocate political work as the only effective way of accomplishing the reforms needed in society, they deny the power of godliness, and proclaim that we have reached an age of apostasy in the professedly Christian Church.