THE Christian Statesman of July 4, 1889, says that:—
“The moral and religious needs of the army and navy of the United States have been brought before several church courts within a year or two, and action has been taken looking to—
“1. The appointment of chaplains in such numbers as to provide for every post occupied by troops.
“2. A movement to secure the convocation of the chaplains in annual session for conference about their work, and for devising new and improved methods.
“3. The setting apart of the Sabbath on or immediately preceding the Fourth of July as Army and Navy Day, on which one service, at least, will be held in connection with that patriotic occasion, when special prayers shall be offered, and the attention of the congregations called to the duty of the church toward the naval and military forces of the country, which are maintained for the supremacy of authority and defense of our orders, who, by the manner of life required in the service of their country, imperil both soul and body for the common good.
“4. That gambling be prohibited in the army and the navy.
“5. That the use of intoxicating liquor as a beverage be prohibited.
“6. That the rights of Christian officers and men to a conscientious observance of the holy Sabbath be guaranteed against invasion by superiors in requiring any duty not exigent and unavoidable.
“7. That a commission of five, with a corresponding secretary, be appointed to co-operate with like commissions from other churches in obtaining, as soon as possible, the legislation necessary to secure the above-mentioned improvement in the moral and religious condition of our soldiers and marines; and also to act as a board to examine and recommend for appointment to the position of chaplain, such ministers as may apply for such position.”
When the legislation necessary to secure all that has been adopted, then, how far will the country be from a union of Church and State? How far from a church domination in civil affairs? But besides all this, whoever before heard of any man’s imperiling his soul for the public good? What good can any man do to the public by imperiling his soul ten thousand times? A man cannot do the public, nor himself, nor anyone else, any good by imperiling his soul. He can do only harm to himself, and, perhaps indirectly by his influence, to others. A man cannot imperil his soul except in the way of sin, and sin never can be for the common good, nor any other kind of good.
Sin is the only thing that can ever imperil anybody’s soul. Suppose then that the commonwealth of souls were imperiled, and for the common good of souls the men in the army and navy, one and all, by some masterly stroke of sin, imperil their souls for the common good; what possible benefit could ever that be to any soul? It would only the more certainly imperil the souls of those who did it.
But all this is consistent with the National Reform idea of the oneness of moral and civil things. Civil government is for the common good. If a man can imperil his soul for the common good, it must be that the souls of men are a part of the commonwealth, and when anyone sees the commonwealth of souls in danger he shall imperil his for the common good! Did such wild nonsense ever get into the brain of anybody but a National Reformer?
A. T. J.