THE “National Reform” movement is under the impression that it is combating the papacy. For some time past its official organ, the Christian Statesman, has devoted considerable space to an exposition of the evils of that un-American and antichristian system. It seems not to be aware that those same evils are paralleled in its own system of “National Reform.”
The Statesman of November 28, contains an article on “Romanism and Loyalty,” which discusses the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility in its relation to loyalty to the State. The Statesman seems to have at least a dim perception of the important bearing of this papal doctrine upon the “National Reform” doctrine that the United States is a “Christian nation;” for after setting forth the papal position, it says:—
And now comes the consistent Roman Catholic demanding that our nation must go to the Roman Catholic Church to know what is right and what is wrong. He insists that this is doing nothing more than to assert God’s sovereignty over the nation; that Christ speaks to the nations through his infallible vicegerent on earth.
Intelligent Roman Catholics can see plainly enough the logic of the “National Reform” movement. They know that if carried to its conclusion as the National Reformers hope to see it, a situation will be reached in which logic and consistency will demand that this nation shall defer to the Roman Catholic Church as the proper interpreter of the divine will in civil affairs. Already they are beginning to call attention to the logical demands of the situation, and standing upon this vantage ground, Rome hopes, not unreasonably either, when the opportune day shall arrive, to gain a signal victory.
The papal church alone offers to the world a human authority which is recognized as “infallible” in the interpretation of the will of God. It matters not that the infallibility of this authority is disputed. It alone claims to be infallible, and is believed actually to be infallible by a large division of the nominally Christian Church. If an authoritative human interpreter of the divine will must be found, the weight of evidence, as between all human authorities, cannot lead elsewhere than to the papacy.
And this authoritative human interpreter of the will of God is exactly what the “National Reform” system demands. That system maintains that the United States is a “Christian nation”—a “sovereign moral being in direct relations with God, capable of knowing his moral law given in the Bible.” It treats the State as a personal entity possessing moral accountability, and therefore bound to fulfill the law of God. But the Government operates only through human agencies. It must operate through these or cease to be a Government. It has a chief executive, a Supreme Court, and a supreme legislative body; and these three branches of the Government exercise supreme authority in the departments over which they are placed. Without such a recognized supreme human authority, no branch of the Government would be complete or capable of performing its functions.
The national Government could not proceed at all without a President, a Congress, and a Supreme Court. If then the Government is to act in a religious capacity, it must have a supreme human authority to decide what its action shall be in this sphere, as in the domain of the secular. And as it must act as a “Christian nation,” it must have a supreme human authority to decide what is the will of God, as revealed in the Christian religion.
The National Reformers themselves admit, under pressure, that this must be so. Dr. David McAllister, the spokesman of the Reform party, in the hearing given last March by a committee of Congress on the proposed “Christ an amendment” to the Constitution, was forced to just this position, as appears in the following extract from the official report:—
MR. BURTON—Is not this the theory: Each man regards the day he believes to be the Sabbath, and the Government protects him in his worship from disturbance or interference?
DR. McALLISTER—Not only must this be the case in regard to every man, but the State and the nation must decide for themselves whether they will keep one day or not.
MR. CONNOLLY—Suppose the Bible has already settled that question, how could any act of Congress interfere with it if that is to be in the Constitution.
DR. MCALLISTER—Because we must interpret the Bible.
“And now”—to quote the Statesman again—“comes the consistent Roman Catholic demanding that our nation must go to the Roman Catholic Church to know what is right and wrong.” Of course; what else could be expected from the consistent Roman Catholic? and what could be more consistent and logical from the “National Reform” standpoint? If the nation must have a supreme human interpreter of the Bible to instruct it in keeping the law of God, could it do better than to turn to that church which claims to be infallible in her religious teaching, and is accepted by millions of its citizens as infallible? It would be no slight advantage to the nation to possess an infallible Congress, Supreme Court, or President. Why, then, should our Government pass by the opportunity to secure an “infallible” guide in the important sphere of religion, to which it now stands fully committed?
We repeat, that as between all human authorities to which the Government may turn for guidance in the performance of religious duties, the preëminence lies with the papacy. The papal church has acted in that capacity for centuries; she is the oldest “Christian” denomination, as well as the largest in this country; and, as we have said, millions of the citizens of this Government already believe in her infallibility and in her claim of right to dictate conduct to the civil power, if any other church or religious body is chosen to interpret the divine will for the nation, the same objections will apply to it as to the papacy, without any of the advantages which can be urged in the latter’s favor.
If any further evidence were needed that the whole tendency of the movement to make the United States a Christian nation, is to place this Government under the domination of the papacy, it is supplied by recent events in the shape of official acts of the Government itself, in each of its three departments. In February, 1892, the Supreme Court declared that the United States “is a Christian nation;” and the joy with which this utterance was hailed by the “National Reform” party, and the use they have made of it, shows that, whether due to the influence of National Reform sentiment or not, it is directly in the line of what their movement aims to secure. And if any question might remain as to the precise religious significance of the Supreme Court’s declaration, it would be answered by the references made in the decision to the “Christian” character of Sunday laws, and by the fact that this same court has upheld Sunday laws as a proper exercise of the legislative power of the State, on the ground that they are for the benefit of mankind. Bearing in mind that Sunday as a “Christian” day originated with the Roman Catholic church, and is pointed to by that church as the special sign of her spiritual authority, there remains no room for doubt that if “this is a Christian nation” by virtue of its religious laws and its belief in the sacredness of Sunday, it is a Roman Catholic Christian nation and nothing else.
Again, in August, 1892, Congress legislated upon the question of which day is the Sabbath, and decided that “the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday,” is the Sabbath with the meaning of the fourth commandment. In this the supreme legislative body of the nation took its stand squarely on papal ground.
And finally, the nation’s chief executive, in the latest national Thansgiving [sic.] proclamation, sets his official seal of approval to the doctrine that the United States is a Christian nation, thereby investing Thanksgiving with the character of a “Christian” holy day. But “Christian” holy days other than those set apart in Scripture constitute an exclusive feature of the papal religion. They have the stamp of the papacy upon them, and no other.
It is perfectly clear, therefore, that the National Reform movement is not combating the papacy in any way except on paper, and that it is actually in perfect harmony with the papacy, and that all its work is only in the line of justifying the latter and strengthening her hands for the accomplishment of her evil designs. The two systems are in principle one and the same, and equally ruinous in their results.