September 12, 1889
THE New York Examiner, a short time ago, recommended that the pulpits of the country should take up as a part of their work, the discussion of civil service reform, “on the ground that its application depends on the principles of righteousness which are based on religion.” Civil service reform is that reform which proposes to have all the civil offices of the country, except the very highest, held by the same persons during life unless by committing crime they forfeit them. This is to avoid the changes that would otherwise follow upon the change of administration. The movers in this reform have been at work a good many years, and some United States laws have actually been secured on the subject. But, success in a political contest is so desirable, that it has been found expedient, and not altogether difficult, to evade the law, or even openly to violate it.
If civil service reform were actually established, and carried into effect, a system would be established by which, for instance, when Mr. Cleveland became President there would have been no changes amongst the postmasters of the country, but all who were postmasters when he became President, would have remained clear through his administration if they had lived and behaved themselves. But, President Cleveland made a good many changes; because, the argument is, that if the people of the country choose a Democratic administration, then it is proper that the administration of public affairs should be carried on by Democrats. Therefore, it was proper for him to make the changes. Then, upon the same consideration, when President Harrison was elected, the people chose a Republican administration and, it is considered but proper and right that the public affairs should be administered by Republican officials, consequently another series of changes was in order. Civil service reform proposes to stop all this, and make public office a public trust and not a reward for political service. It will be seen that this is wholly a political question. This reform is what the Examiner recommended that the pulpits should discuss as a part of their work. The Examiner is a religious paper. Other religious papers endorse it, and the pulpits apparently being in want of something to talk about seem a good deal inclined to adopt the recommendation, and to enter upon the discussion, “on the ground that its application depends upon the principles of righteousness which are based on religion.”
The New York Sun laughed at the clergy for being “caught with chaff.” The Christian Union takes up the defense of the clergy, heartily endorses the recommendation of the Examiner, and says:—
“The clergy are right in seeing in this a moral issue, and if the clergy shall follow the suggestion which has been made, and generally preach on this subject on next Thanksgiving day, we may expect to see an impulse given to public honesty, that is, to civil service reform, which will make the campaign of resistance still more difficult for the place-hunters and their advocates.”
If this question is to be discussed by the pulpit because it depends on the principles of righteousness which are based on religion, thus virtually making it a religious question, instead of political, then, why not every other political question also be discussed by the preachers for the same reason? Then, how long will it be before religion becomes a direct element in politics, the pulpit only a place for political scheming and the preachers become partisans. A union of religion and the State is becoming more and more popular. The evil spirit seems to be in the very air and can be discerned in almost every wind that blows.
If the pulpits would engage constantly and faithfully in the preaching of the gospel of Christ, and inculcating upon the hearts of men the principles of righteousness as therein revealed, implanting in the heart the love of righteousness for righteousness’ sake rather than as a political factor, then there would be vastly more of the principles of genuine reform pervading all classes and conditions of society, and there would not be such a special demand for the discussion of particular phases of politics.
A. T. J.