A GREAT deception is upon the religious world, and this deception is steadily drawing the religious world towards the brink of irreparable disaster. To point out this impending danger which threatens at once both the church and the state, is a mission than which none could be greater or more urgent at the present time.
The professedly Christian churches are in politics. Through politics they are seeking to advance the kingdom of God. By this we do not mean that they have joined hands with any political party, but that they have adopted political principles and methods. The Spirit of politics has become diffused through their midst, and they see no conflict between this spirit and the Spirit of Christian piety. They hail it as the spirit of righteousness and the agency of salvation. This is the great deception.
An illustration of the working of this deception is seen in the commingling of the most sacred themes and themes that are purely political—the exaltation of the nation’s military heroes, the approval of war, the indorsement of the policy of the Administration, etc.—at the gatherings of the leading religious bodies.
The idea of all this is that the civil government—the political power in the nation—can go hand in hand with Jesus Christ in working out the world’s salvation and setting up the kingdom of God.
In order to get the truth upon this subject we must get down to first principles and clearly define the two leading agencies concerned,—the spirit of politics and the spirit of Christ.
Politics, always and everywhere, is a contest for the supremacy. It is a contest between men, which results in the uplifting, not of the divine, but of the human. It exalts and glorifies, not man, but a man. And wherever this is done, whether in a political party or in the church, whether for political purposes or for church purposes, whether by many or by few, the spirit of politics is there as the ruling spirit.
Anything which aims at the exaltation and glorification of something else than God, is political in its principles and nature. This is politics defined in its broadest sense.
Where did the spirit originate? Where first was the effort made to exalt and glorify something else than God? To this question there is a plain answer given by Scripture. It was Lucifer, the exalted one who stood by the throne of God in heaven, who first sought the exaltation of something else than God, which something was himself. Then he induced others to join with him in the effort for his exaltation. And there was formed the first political party that ever existed.
The leader sought to get himself in the supreme power in heaven. He sought to win the votes of all the beings in heaven, excepting of course, the One to whom he had made himself a rival. Heaven was divided; and finally, Satan with his party was cast out, and the movement to exalt and glorify some other being than God was forever banished from the celestial realm.
But being shut out of heaven, it came down to the earth, and here it has found a home ever since. Eve sought to exalt herself to a higher realm of knowledge, by eating of the tree in Eden, contrary to the command of God. Man fell, and there was implanted in the race the spirit of self-supremacy; and ever since that time, this spirit has dominated among men everywhere outside of the true people of the Lord.
But even in the Christian Church it has been continually showing itself, and a continual source of trouble and peril. In the gospel narratives it stands out very plainly as influencing the course pursued by the Saviour’s immediate followers, the twelve apostles. Even they were not free from it, although they were the most intimate associates of the spotless and perfect Pattern. So deceptive is the spirit, that it creeps into the most sacred sanctuaries undistinguished from the spirit of righteousness. If it was so marked among the very apostles of the Lord while there with him, small wonder is it that it should gain entrance to-day in the most select Christian circles, and should so distort the view of Christian truth as to influence powerfully movements which seem to have but one aim of advancing the cause of Christ.
Even when the most serious and solemn thoughts should have engrossed the minds of the disciples, this political spirit rose up and completely blinded them to the important truths the Saviour desired them to comprehend. It turned them completely aside from their proper course of action and left them unprepared for the crisis before them. The record tells us that near the close of his ministry, when Christ was going up to Jerusalem to be condemned and crucified, he took the twelve disciples and endeavored to open to their minds the truth pertaining to this trying experience awaiting them. Three separate times he endeavored to break through the earthly influence that darkened their understandings, and each time the spirit of politics within them shut off their view of the truth. They were contending among themselves as to which should be the greatest!
There it was—the spirit of self-exaltation, of self-supremacy, right among the twelve apostles themselves, doing its foul and fatal work. Notice how it is set forth in the following from the narrative by Matthew:—
“And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them,
“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,
“And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
“Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshiping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
“And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.
“But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask.” Matthew 20:17-22.
Then, pointing them to the trying experience that awaited him and them before they could attain the kingdom of glory, he told them it was not given to him to bestow offices upon his followers, but the positions desired should be given “to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.”
Note the following points:—
The mother of James and John (Zebedee’s children) came unto Jesus with them, worshiping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. Here was (1) a “cut and dried” plan between James and John and their mother to get themselves into the chief places in the kingdom of  glory. (2) “Pull”—the all essential thing in politics. Jesus had always been so considerate of womankind, that surely the request would be more likely to be granted if made by their mother. (3) Hypocrisy—they came “worshiping him,” not in sincerity, but to further, as they thought, the chances of success for their selfish scheme. (4) Office-seeking, not as a reward of merit, but as a favor. This was the spirit of politics, through and through. And Jesus then and there put a rebuke upon it, which should be good for all time with those who profess to be guided by his example.
“And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.” Verse 24.
Thus they showed that they were of the same spirit; for instead of pitying the two disciples for their blindness, as they would have done had their own eyes been open, they were angry with James and John for endeavoring to get honors they coveted for themselves.
The Saviour endeavored to enlighten them and lead them out of the great delusion in which they had become entangled. He set before them the contrast between the spirit that was actuating them and the spirit that must prevail among his followers; and it would be well if his professed followers to-day would keep in mind his plain instruction upon this point. He said to his disciples:—
“Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
“But it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Verses 25-28.
This is the spirit of Christ, the spirit of self-denial; the spirit not of serving self, but of serving others. And that is the spirit God; for God seeks not to serve himself, but to minister to all his creatures; to preserve them in life, to surround them with that which will conduce to their happiness and welfare. God’s infinite power flows out from him to all the universe, to give light, and life, and love, and happiness to the myriads of his creatures. Imagine for a moment the infinite One withdrawing his power from the universe, and turning it inward upon himself, to exalt serve himself. That very moment the universe would collapse, and only ruin and death would be the result. Yet in that God would be doing only what men are constantly doing in this world, under the control of the spirit of self-exaltation, the spirit of politics. But the spirit, that principle, is a principle of death and not of life.
Self-denial and the service of others, is the spirit of God; and that spirit had always ruled in the universe from the beginning until Lucifer introduced its opposite in seeking to exalt himself.
The spirit of Christ, therefore, the Christian spirit, the spirit which should rule in the Christian Church, is the spirit which seeks to serve others, and never to serve self; to exalt and glorify the Creator and never the creature. The opposite spirit is a spirit of self-exaltation and self-supremacy, the spirit of politics, the spirit of the devil.
The disciples, under the blinding influence of this deceptive spirit, failed to discern the most important truths of the teachings of Him whom they called their Lord and Master; they were let off into error and delusion, and entirely failed of the preparation they so much needed for the crisis before them. They came up to that crisis wholly unprepared; and when there Master spent hours of agony in Gethsemane, while they should have watched with Him, they slept. And when He was betrayed and delivered a prisoner into the hands of the Gentiles, they all “forsook him and fled.” And Peter, a little later, denied Him with cursing.
That was the result then of the deceptive spirit of politics—the spirit of strife for the supremacy, with its accompanying conception of an earthly, political kingdom of God—in their minds. And if the end of all things had come then, that deception would have involved them in final, eternal ruin. And it is because the like deception will bring just this result upon its victims in the generation when the end does come, that the study of this subject is of tremendous importance to-day.