“A VERY familiar objection to the National Reform movement,” says the Christian Statesman, of Dec. 14, 1895, is, “Put God and Christ and the Bible into the hearts of the people, and there will be no necessity for the proposed Christian amendment of the Constitution.” “This,” says the Statesman, “raises the question as to the practical character of the National Reform movement.”
The Statesman attempts to answer the question by the following:—
The first thing to be noticed is that it is an effort to secure the acceptance, by every man, of God as the source of all authority, of Jesus Christ as the king in every relation of life including the political, and of the Bible as the supreme rule of conduct everywhere. In other words, it is an effort to secure at least all that the objector says ought to be secured in order to the purifying of the political pool. But the practical reformer is … met by the astounding fact that many of … and the Bible in their hearts are ring leaders in political corruption. And a little investigation reveals the fact that they do not consider themselves bound by moral restraints in the political sphere. They have accepted God, Christ and the Bible for deliverance from condemnation in the next world, and probably for the regulation of political conduct. From the political sphere divine authority and law are ruled out. The National Reform movement aims to supplement the work that has been done in putting Christ and his law in the hearts for salvation in the next world, by putting into the heart respect for divine authority and law in the sphere of politics.
It is an effort to drive out of men’s hearts the secular theory of politics and to teach men that they must accept of God as supreme in the political sphere, of Christ as their ruler in politics, and of the divine will as of supreme authority in all political matters. This is practical reform work of the most fundamental and necessary kind. There never will be thorough and permanent reform so long as men act on the secular theory of politics, which practically and theoretically denies accountability to God for acts performed in the political sphere.
To secure the recognition, by every citizen, of God as the supreme ruler, and of his right as Creator of all things, would be a most worthy motive in any work. But God cares only for such a recognition and acknowledgment of his claims as is prompted by love. “God is love;” and whatsoever is not of love is not from him. He speaks of sacrifices and offerings to him not prompted by love, as “an abomination,” and “a smoke in my nose.” Proverbs 28:9; Isaiah 65:3-5.
There is one way of securing from men a recognition of God’s claims, which is acceptable to him; and that is by the conversion of the heart, through the power of the gospel of his Son.
But does the Statesman advocate this means for securing the recognition of God which it demands? No; it is continually calling for legislation, to compel men to do that which in their hearts they do not want to do.
“The practical reformer,” it tells us, “is  often met by the astounding fact that many of those who profess to have God and Christ, and the Bible in their hearts, are ring-leaders in political corruption.” The writer of this talks like some innocent youth just getting his eyes opened to the depravity of human nature. There is no more common class of people in the world than hypocrites; and one great fault of the “National Reform” scheme is that by making a profession of religion a necessary qualification for office, and a thing demanded of all by “the law,” it would place a premium upon hypocrisy which would make it an infinitely greater evil than it is.
The Statesman speaks as though it were possible for an individual to be a Christian in those relations of life pertaining to church affairs, and a worldling in other relations, at the same time. “The National Reform movement,” it says, “aims to supplement the work that has been done by putting Christ and his law in the heart for salvation in the next world, by putting into the heart respect for divine authority and law in the sphere of politics.”
But the person who professes to have Christ and his law in his heart for salvation in the next world, and yet does not conduct himself harmoniously with that profession in matters relating to civil government, is a hypocrite, and his profession of Christ is a sham. And this sham the “reform” scheme would “supplement” by a corresponding sham “in the sphere of politics.” Only, in that sphere it would be infinitely worse than when confined to the sphere of private life, since it would work injury not only to the interests of one person, but to the rights of many others.
The “National Reform” scheme assumes that were all our rulers and legislators Christians they would at once have laws enacted compelling all persons to recognize the sovereignty of God, and the binding obligation of his law. But this is exactly what, in such a case, we should not have; for a Christian is one who is like Christ, and Christ, though having legions of angels at his call, never once sought to convert anybody by force, or to secure recognition of himself or his Father by such means.
The “reform” scheme is in fact nothing less than an effort to overturn the Republic of the United States, and set up in its place a man-made theocracy, with these “reformers” as it self appointed rulers; since it is wholly at variance with the idea of a government by representatives. Power can be delegated by one person to another, but morality cannot be. Morally, one person cannot represent another; he can represent only himself. It is certain that man is a free moral agent; and this being true, it is equally certain that moral action cannot be performed by one person as the representative of another. To be the moral representative of another would involve nothing less than the “mystery of godliness” made manifest in the gospel of Christ,—that mystery by which the sinner can be crucified with Christ, and created new in him. Man has and can have but one Saviour. The righteousness of Jesus Christ, and him only, can be made the righteousness of individuals on this earth.
The members of Congress, or of the State legislatures, hold in their hands the power delegated to them by the people, and acting within the limits of that delegated power, represent the people themselves; but they hold no moral power or accountability belonging to the people. Such power the people cannot delegate, any more than they can give up their free moral agency. No such transaction would be rcognized [sic.] by the Creator, for he will reward or punish every individual at the final day for his own deeds. In the scheme of “Christian” government, therefore which these “reformers” hope to realize, there will be in the place of the proper representatives of the people, certain persons who assume to recognize the authority of God and to execute his will for the individuals whom they govern. This usurpation of power and authority is involved in any attempt at a governmental recognition of God and conformity to his standard of morality.
In fact, the “National Reform” scheme of government does not admit that civil governments are established by the people, but declares them to be creatures of God; so that only those whom God chooses can rightfully fill the positions of governmental authority. These positions would of course, necessarily be filled by some persons; and it would rest with the “reformers” and their religious associates, as being the ones presumably most closely in touch with the divine will, to determine through what individuals the will of Christ, that is, their idea of his will, should be governmentally carried out. And what would be more natural and fitting in such a scheme than that they should appoint themselves to the offices pertaining to their theocracy?
A civil government is not “godless” which does not recognize God and attempt to carry out the requirements of the moral law; for the reason that any such attempt by civil government would be but an effort to do that which it is not constituted to do, and which it could not claim to do without asserting what is false. A government which would, in the name of the people, profess an allegiance to God which only a part of the people believed in or acknowledged, and would, as the act of the people, do that which only a part of the people would think of doing, by way of carrying out its conception of the will of Christ, would be a godless government indeed. A government which would compel its citizens by legislation to profess to recognize God and to observe the requirements of his moral law, would be utterly godless. But that government which leaves all its citizens free, as the Creator has left them, either to recognize God or not, and to conform to his requirements or not, is a government in harmony with the purpose of the gospel, and with God’s will concerning government as it must exist in this fallen world.