THE fifth resolution of the Cleveland National Reform Convention reads: “Resolved, That we re-affirm that this religious amendment, instead of infringing on any individual’s right of conscience, or tending in the least degree to a union of church and State, will afford the fullest security against a corrupting church establishment, and form the strongest safeguard of both the civil and religious liberties of all citizens.”
It is apparently necessary for that party to constantly “re-affirm” that this movement does not tend to a union of church and State; for as their actions and writings all betray that very tendency, a blind must be kept up by each convention re-affirming that it does not so tend. That such is its direct tendency we propose to prove.
Mr. W. J. Coleman, one of the chief speakers in the movement, in explaining to “Truth Seeker” the change that will have to be made in the existing Constitution when the proposed amendment shall have been adopted, says:—
“The first sentence of Article I. of Amendments reads, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ This would be made consistent with the proposed amendment by substituting the words ‘a church’ for ‘religion,’ making it read, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of a church.’ This is what the Reform Association believes should be the rule in a rightly constituted State. There should be religion, but no church.”
“There should be religion, but no church.” What religion should there be? the Christian religion, to be sure. No idea of any other is for a moment entertained by the National Reform party. But the Christian religion is embodied in the Christian church. Apart from the Christian church there is no Christian religion in this world. Christ did not say, On this rock will I build my religion; but he did say, “On this rock will I build my church,” and in that church is his religion. The church is the “body of Christ” (Colossians 1:18); the members of the church are members of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15); members of his body—the church (Ephesians 5:29, 30). Out of Christ no man can live a Christianly religious life; for he himself said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” But to be in Christ is to be in his church, for we have proved that the church is his body in this world. We repeat therefore that apart from the Christian church there is no Christian religion. This is exactly what the National Reform party believes; and it is the Christian religion as embodied in what they call the Christian church that the party wants this Government to make the fundamental law of the nation. And that will be church and State. For the nation to unite with the Christian religion as embodied in the Christian church is to form a union with the Christian church and is therefore a union of church and State.
If they deny our deduction from their proposition as quoted, and insist that they mean literally that there can be “religion [the Christian religion], but no church,” then it follows that they mean that the religion of Christ can be separated from the church of Christ. Then there follows upon this the absurd conclusion that there can be—a church of Christ with no religion, and a religion with no representatives! But if the religion of Christ have no representatives in the world, then there is no religion of Christ in the world. If it be claimed that this is so as far as our nation is at present concerned; and that now our nation must adopt this religion, and by constitutional amendment embody in the nation’s fundamental law the doctrine of God and of Christ, and enforce its observance; that will be simply for the State to create for itself the Christian religion, and so will be nothing else but a union of church and State. It is plain, therefore, that by their own proposition, whatever they may claim under it, there is literally no escape from a union of church and State.
If this reasoning is, by the National Reform party, considered unsound, if the deduction which we make from their premise is not logical, then we verily wish that that party would show us where the line shall be drawn between the Christian religion and the Christian church. Will they show us where the line shall be drawn which will shut the Christian religion in the State, and shut the Christian church out? They will never show it. They know just as well as we do, and we just as well as they, that practically they never intend to make any such distinction. And their claim of such distinction is nothing but a piece of Jesuitical casuistry by which they would hide their real intention.
Further, it is a fact that what used to be the Presbyterian Church is now only the Presbyterian branch of the Christian church. That which once was the Methodist or Baptist Church is now merely the Methodist or the Baptist branch of the church of Christ, or the one true church. And it is a subject of constant rejoicing to them that all the differences that once made them antagonists, are being accommodated, and that the one grand object of the “unity of the church” and its work, is about to be realized. And even the Catholic Church is not excluded, but is recognized by some of the leading religious papers of our land as a part of the true church, and is recognized by the Reform Association in its work (not in its theory) as an efficient helper. That this is the position of the National Reform party the following is proof:—
“But these divisions are a fact, and they have been overruled so that they are not inconsistent with the unity of the church. All upon whom the name of Christ is named have their calling. The Methodists have their vocation in the history of the church to arouse Christian life; the Presbyterians their vocation to conserve Calvinistic principles; and the Reformed Presbyterians their vocation to keep unfurled the blue banner for Christ’s crown and covenant.’ We are different divisions of Immanuel’s army. The Methodists are the charging cavalry, the Presbyterians the fighting infantry, the Covenanters the batteries upon the heights. We have one Commander-in-chief; and under him we go forward, one united phalanx against the common enemy. And when the victory is gained, the army will be one as the Leader is one.”—Christian Statesman, Feb. 7, 1884, page 6.
So then, if, as they claim, all these are but branches of the one church, of course it requires all of them to make up the church. And if it  requires all of them to make up the Christian church, and the representative of Christianity in the earth, when they all unite, as they are doing, and all work to the one point of securing this religious amendment to the Constitution, and under it enforcing their united views, what is that but church and State?
But as they insist that their movement does not tend “in the least degree to a union of church and State,” it may be well to lay before our readers the National Reform idea of what is union of church and State. In the Pittsburg convention, in 1874, Professor Blanchard gave their definition of a union of church and State. It is as follows:—
“But union of church and State is the selection by the nation of one church, the endowment of such a church, the appointment of its officers, and oversight of its doctrines. For such a union none of us plead. To such a union we are all of us opposed.”
Let us accept this definition, and see what it proves. Here it is plainly declared that “the selection by the nation of one church” as the recipient of its favor is the union of church and State. In the quotations that precede this it is just as plainly declared that the different denominations are one church. Therefore, according to their own words, when this nation selects this one church, and by Constitutional amendment espouses her to itself as the especial object of its favor, that will be the union of church and State.
But let us examine the point which is doubtless intended in this last quotation, and see whether they fare any better. In the phrase “the selection by the nation of one church,” the meaning is, no doubt, that the selection by the nation, for instance, of the Methodist, or the Baptist, or the Reformed Presbyterian Church, as the object of its favor, would be the union of church and State. But if this would be the union of church and State, how is it that the other would not be? If the selection by the nation of one church is union of church and State, we should like to know how the difficulty is in the least relieved by the selection of a dozen or fifty as one. Will some one of the National Reform advocates point out the distinction and draw the line of demarkation?
Once more: In one of the foregoing quotations from the Statesman, the Methodists, Presbyterians, and the Reformed Presbyterians are said to be but “different divisions of Immanuel’s army,”—the Methodists, the cavalry; the Presbyterians, the infantry; and the Reformed Presbyterians, the artillery, in “one united phalanx” in the one army. Now in the Declaration of Independence our fathers charged that the king of Great Britain had affected “to render the military independent of; and superior to, the civil power.” What a great pity it is that George III. did not have for his advisers some of these National Reform statesman(?)! If he only could have had these, he could have shown to a “candid world” that this charge of his American colonies was altogether false, and foreign to the subject of their grievances. With the assistance of these profound statesman, he could have projected into the controversy this magnificent and most conclusive disclaimer: “We re-affirm” that the establishment of our military forces in America, instead of tending in the least degree toward making the military superior to the civil power, will afford the fullest security against such a corrupting establishment, and form the strongest safeguard of the liberties of all citizens. But what we mean by making the military superior to the civil power is the selection by the king of one division of the army, the artillery, for instance, and making that the depository and the expositor of the king’s will. For such a superiority no one pleads. To such a superiority all of us are opposed. For the king to thus select and favor one division of the army would indeed be to make the military superior to the civil power; but for him to so select the whole army together—cavalry, infantry, and artillery—would not tend “in the least degree” to make the military superior to the civil power.
Now these National Reform advocates, as well as all others, know perfectly that for the king of Great Britain to have offered to the American colonies such an excuse as that for his military occupancy here, would have been only to make himself supremely ridiculous in the eyes of all civilized people. Yet when we charge, as we distinctly do, that the National Reform party aims directly at the union of church and State, and affects to make the ecclesiastical superior to the civil power in the Government of the United States, that party, apparently in all soberness, offers just such an absurdly ridiculous plea in justification of its course,—a plea that is worthy only the casuistry of the veriest Jesuit. However, we do not see how we can expect anything else of that party. Its cause is worthy only of Jesuitism and the Inquisition, and can only be justified by such casuistry as a Jesuit might envy. We shall have something more to say on this subject.
A. T. J.