“The Church and Citizenship” American Sentinel 10, 30, pp. 234, 235.

THE Church is an association of Christians. The work of the Church is not to make men good citizens, but to spread the light of the gospel, by which men are made Christians. A Christian is necessarily a good citizen, but good citizenship is not the aim of the gospel. If it were, it would fall infinitely short of accomplishing what it does to-day. A Christian must be a good citizen; but a good citizen may be no Christian at all.

The foundation of Christianity is faith,—“the faith of Jesus.” The foundation of citizenship is respect for the rights of others. Christianity deals with the thoughts and intents of the heart; citizenship deals only with the outward deportment. The majesty of the law may secure in an individual an outward regard for the rights of others, but it cannot make right the thoughts and intents of the heart.

He whose outward deportment does not correspond with the desires and intents of his heart is a hypocrite. The law can change a man’s deportment, but not the man himself. [235] When it essays to change character, it succeeds, if at all, only in making men hypocrites.

To bring the force of the government to bear upon the consciences of men is therefore the worst possible way to attempt to make good citizens; for good citizens are not identical with hypocrites. The man who yields to force and regards not the dictates of his own conscience, will not be likely to regard the consciences of others. No reform in character, therefore, can come through the ballot box; but only a change in the administration of government. The reform that is to make men better must be wrought by the grace of God. The one uplifting and transforming power that can be brought to bear upon men in this world is the power of the gospel.

It is the work of the Church to “preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15. This includes ministering to the physical as well as to the spiritual wants of mankind. See James 1:27; Matthew 25:31-46. And when the Church is doing this, her legitimate, God-appointed work, she is doing all that it is possible for her to do toward making men good citizens.

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