THE following items of interest pertaining to the progress of the National Reform movement, are gathered from the latest of the National Reform organ Christian Statesman:—
IN the annual report of the Postmaster-General recommendation is made to Congress in favor of “the modification of the eight-hour law, which shall provide for six days’ work of forty-eight hours, with as much additional hours on Sunday, not exceeding eight, as the exigencies of the service may demand.” This disregard of the claims made for Sunday as a sacred day called forth a “faithful rebuke” from the theocratic party and “Mr. Smith [the Postmaster-General] has assured the editor of the Statesman that no such recommendation will ever again find place in his report.”
“WITH the increasing prosperity of the times it now seems probable,” says the Statesman, “that this year’s receipts will be far in advance of those of any recent year.” And these will be used “to carry forward the many important lines of practical work now in hand.” “The present list of workers in the National Reform cause,” we read further, “is by far the largest during the entire history of the movement,” and “with such a corps of workers the year 1900 will be the inauguration of a new era in the cause of National Reform.”
THE proposed religious amendment to the Constitution, by which the Government is to be made “Christian,” will, we are told, “safeguard the religious liberty and equality of all citizens by providing toleration and ecclesiastical freedom, and by completely separating church and state.” This amazing assertion appears in the Christian Statesman as a part of an “admirable argument” prepared by Prof. J. McNaugher in support of a resolution passed at the late National Reform convention in this city.
To determine how much truth this assertion contains, we have only to note that under the State enforcement of Sunday observance, which the theocratic party aim by means of this amendment to make more rigid and more widespread, exactly the same results have followed that were seen under the religious persecutions of former times. This party want Sunday enforcement not only by authority of the States, but of the nation. This party want the Government to become “Christian” in order that Sunday enforcement may become more general and more rigid. And they say this would not bring religious persecution. It would not infringe religious liberty, but would safeguard it. But note: in various States of the Union, under the operation of existing Sunday laws, people who for conscience’ sake could not conform to such requirements, believing themselves bound by the law of God to honor the seventh day of the week and not the first day, have been arrested, fined, imprisoned, worked in the chain-gang, and treated just as “heretics” were treated under the religious persecutions of the Dark Ages, except that they have not yet suffered the death penalty. In the one case the system has not been carried quite as far as in the other, but it is the same in character, for it bears the same kind of fruit. If a system of government that is called for does not mean religious persecution, then religious persecution will not be possible under it. And where such persecution does appear, the system under which it appears is plainly stamped as an invasion of religious freedom, however strongly its defenders may assert its innocence.
“A joint resolution has been introduced into the Senate of the United States by Mr. Kyle, which proposes the following amendment as Article XVI. of the Constitution: ‘The Congress as the highest law-making power of a Christian nation, shall have exclusive power to regulate marriage and divorce in the several States, Territories, and the District of Columbia.’ This amendment, if adopted, would harmonize the action of the legislative department of the Government with the decision of the Supreme Court in which it is declared that ‘this is a Christian nation.’”
This would be an “amendment” of the Constitution, with a vengeance. It would sweep away the Constitution altogether. More than this: it would sweep away the Republic altogether, and in its place establish the worst form of monarchy. All this it would do in theory as soon as adopted by Congress; and actually, as soon as it should be carried into effect.
Marriage and divorce are regulated in each State by the State law. This is so by virtue of the principle of American Government which accords to each State the sovereignty over its own affairs. Should this power be taken from the State and given to Congress, this principle would be broken and the regulating power of the State over any other matter might with equal propriety be transferred in like manner. No logical ground would remain in support of the system of independent State government; and the complete absorption of State power by the national Government would follow as a natural result.
But this is not the worse feature of the proposed amendment. Congress, by its provisions, is to exercise this power “as the highest law-making power of a Christian nation.” Congress is to become Christian. None but Christians—and orthodox Christians they must be—can be sent to Congress. “We the people of the United States,” who ordain the Constitution, will be changed to “We the orthodox Christian people of the United States;” and all others can choose between being governed by the “orthodox Christians” or emigrating to some other land. Indeed, they have already been invited to emigrate by representatives of this “Christian” party.
And this, as the National Reform party correctly sees, “would harmonize the action of the legislative department of the Government with the decision of the Supreme Court in which it is declared that ‘this is a Christian nation.’” Such is the nature and meaning of that decision.
THE God-in-the-Constitution party are trying hard to make capital out of the action of Congress in the Roberts’ case. They want the Government to base its action against polygamy on religious grounds. At the annual business meeting of this association, the Committee on Resolutions was instructed to prepare “resolutions on the exclusion of Brigham H. Roberts, an avowed polygamist, from Congress, and on the securing of an amendment to the national Constitution excluding polygamists from all national offices on Christian grounds.”
This scheme is now being actively pushed by the “reform” forces at Washington. “Several Joint Resolutions have been introduced into the House of Representatives for an anti-polygamy amendment to the Constitution.” One of these reads thus: ‘Polygamy is hereby declared to be an offense against the United States, and forever prohibited within them or any place subject to their jurisdiction; and no person engaged in the practise therefore shall hold any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States or any State.” The theocratic party want to have inserted in this, after “polygamy,” the words “being condemned by the law of Christ governing the marriage relation.” The importance in this critical juncture,” says the Statesman, “of giving to an anti-polygamy amendment an distinctly Christian character, with an express acknowledgment embodied in it of the law of Christ as of supreme authority in the government of the marriage relation, cannot be overestimated.”
It is indeed a matter of great importance whether the Government legislates against polygamy and debars polygamists from office because of the law of Christ, or whether it is done upon purely secular grounds. For if the Government is to enforce one thing because it is demanded by the law of Christ, how can it refuse to enforce any other thing demanded by that law? The Government would be logically bound to attempt to enforce the law—or will—of Christ in all things, and thus to make itself a theocracy, executing the dictates of the church and calling back the dark days of religious persecution. It is to this ignoble point that the National Reform “God-in-the-Constitution” theocratic party are with untiring zeal striving to lead this nation.
IN behalf of the “religious amendment to the Constitution” demanded by the theocratic party, it is argued that “The conducting of civil government requires continually the determination of national moral problems.” And “this necessity proves the nation itself to be a moral agent, and that it needs an infallible standard for its guidance, such as only the moral law of the Christian religion affords.”
It is true that a being having moral responsibility needs to be guided by an infallible standard to be used by the Government? The theocratic “reformers” insist that the Government shall enforce the observance of Sunday. They say this is a duty commanded by the Decalogue. That is their view—their opinion—of it. But is their opinion infallible? And when they insist that the Government enforce their opinion of the meaning of the moral law, will the Government then be guided by an infallible standard? Certainly it will not. No man is infallible; no assemblage or organization of men is infallible. And no man or organization of men can give an infallible application of the moral law. No infallible directions can be given to the Government by any man or men with reference to moral duty. The Government, if it permits any such moral guidance, will be infallibly led astray.
The infallible standard afforded by the Word of God is of practicable value only through the agencies of instruction which God himself bas [sic.] provided. God has given, to the believer, his Holy Spirit, as an infallible guide into all truth. This cannot possibly be dispensed with. The infallible voice must be the voice of God, never the voice of man.
And as each individual of the human family is required to have faith, and to seek to the Lord for wisdom, so is the guidance of the Holy Spirit for each individual, independently of all others. The infallible standard of morality can be seen in its application to human affairs only by each individual for himself, and only within the limits of his own moral responsibilities. When one person attempts to apply God’s infallible moral standard within the sphere of another person’s responsibilities, he puts himself in the place of God, and can only lead others into darkness instead of light.
There is already in the world, and has been for centuries, a religious organization, which professes to do just what these reformers have in mind to do: it professes to apply the infallible moral standard to the affairs of governments as well as of individuals, and is ready to point out certain requirements as being morally binding upon governments. That organization is the papacy; and it became the papacy only by holding to the doctrine that civil governments are bound by the moral law, and assuming, just as the theocratic party does now, to point out to the civil power the moral duties binding upon it. That organization is as good a one as can be devised for that purpose. The National Reform party and its allies are forming another organization which can at best only be exactly like the first one, and not in any way better.
But even it these “reformers” or any body of men on the earth could speak with an infallible voice in applying the moral law to human affairs, the Government would still be debarred from attempting to conform to its requirements, for the reason that a government can not possess moral responsibility. Civil government is a creature of man, and the creature is reponsible [sic.] only to its creator. Civil government exists not to obey law, but to execute it; and the only law that civil government can know is the will of the people who create it. Civil government exists to prevent anarchy in human society, and it has no other purpose whatever. And when it does this, it reaches the limit of its responsibility and its usefulness. It has no other business than to prevent anarchy because there is no other necessity than to prevent anarchy because there is no other necessity for it. It prevents anarchy when it protects the individuals of society in the enjoyment of their natural rights; and it does this by enforcing the laws which have been devised for this purpose. Civil government is a means of serving moral beings, and not a moral being itself. Moral beings, so far as this world is concerned, and human beings, always. At the first, the only moral beings on the earth were Adam and Eve, and all other moral beings since their time are only such as have descended from them. God alone can create a being having moral responsibility.
BE intolerant as you please of sin in your own heart, but remember that you cannot look into the hearts of others.