“Christianity and Civilization” American Sentinel 12, 5, pp. 66, 67.

THE Christian Endeavorers, the Christian Citizens League, the National Reformers—the combined churches generally—distinctly announce it to be their great purpose to “regenerate the city,” to “redeem the States” to “save the nation.” This in order to preserve to the world the benefits of the highest state of civilization, which in turn shall redound to the glory of the Church.

To accomplish these great things they declare that the Church must direct the primaries, control the candidates and have general supervision of all the interests of State and nation; because Christians are best of all qualified to know what is for the true interests of the State, of the nation, and of civilization. Therefore they count the primary as important to the Christian as is the prayer meeting; to go to the polls as much an act of worship as to go to the Lord’s supper; the ballot as much a symbol of Christian standing as baptism.

They argue that the Church is certainly in the world for good; she is to influence people, States and nations for good. But if she is to keep herself separate from the State, and her work apart from the work and workings of the State, then how shall she fulfill her mission for good in the world? Then at the rate at which corruption is pervading the government of cities, States, and the nation, what will become of our civilization? And [67] then what shall become of the Church?—what indeed will become of Christianity?

The answer to all this is that keeping herself totally separate from the State, and her work entirely separate from the work and workings of the State and the world, is the only way in which the Church can ever influence the State for good. It is only by being not of the world even as He is not of the world, that Christians can ever influence the world for good.

The Church, the Christian, though in the world, is to be not of the world. The Lord says, “I have chosen you out of the world.” “Ye are not of the world even as I am not of the world.” As certainly as the Church is in the world, she will influence the world and all that is in it. But the vital question is, shall she influence it for good, or for evil? She will exert a powerful influence one way or the other: which shall it be?

The Church will influence the world, the kingdoms, nations, and peoples thereof, when and only when she is faithfully the Church of Christ, walking only as He walked, and when she is not of the world even as He is not of the world. When it is not so with her, she will influence them, that is true; but it will be only to their undoing.

The truth is, that the Church has nothing to do with civilization as such. Christians have no commission to civilize the world, nor to preserve civilization in the world. Christianity does not aim to civilize anybody. Christianity aims alone at Christianizing men.

If civilization were the object and aim of Christianity, then there was no place for Christianity in the place, and at the time, when it was started in the world in the days of Christ on earth.

Were not the Jews civilized? Then what had Christianity to do for the Jews, if civilization is its object?

But if it be said that the Jews were not up to the proper standard of civilization, then let us turn to the Greeks and Romans. What of them at that time?—They had such a standing in architecture, art, literature, law, and the science of government—all that pertains to civilization—that the very goal of the most advanced nations of to-day is to copy successfully the achievements of those peoples. Therefore we say that if civilization were the object of Christianity there was no place for it at that time within a thousand miles of where it was started in the world.

But what were those people morally, who were so highly civilized? They were heathen. They were civilized heathen. Their “art” was idolatry. Their wisdom was foolishness. Their philosophy was a lie. Their morals were immorality. Amidst all the splendor of their outward civilization, at heart they were savages.

And to those civilized heathen, those civilized savages, in fact, the gospel of Jesus Christ is sent, because they needed it just as much as did the savage heathen—the uncivilized savages. But the gospel was not sent to them to civilize them. It was sent to save them. And those who were saved, those who were changed in heart, were civilized. However savage they may have been before.

Thus as a matter of fact, the gospel will have much to do in civilizing people, provided that no effort shall be made by means of the gospel to civilize people. That is to say: If the gospel, which is sent to the world solely to Christianize men, shall be used only to civilize men, then it will not even civilize men. Whereas if the gospel shall be used solely to Christianize men, it will indeed Christianize men, and, as a consequence, will civilize them.

Therefore Christians are not to aim at civilizing men, solely at Christianizing them. Christians are not to seek to civilize men in order to Christianize them. Christians are not to seek to Christianize men in order to civilize them. Christians are to seek to Christianize men solely in order to save them: and when that is done the civilizing will take care of itself.

Let all the power, all the zeal, and all the effort of all these professed Christians organizations, be turned with all the mind and all the soul only to Christianizing people. Then they and the world too will find that they are influencing the city, the State, the nation, and the world only for good. While to continue as they are going, will be only to influence all for unmitigated evil.

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