SINCE writing was printed last week under this heading, an incident has occurred which strikingly illustrates the commingling of religion and politics which has brought the religious world under the spell of a great deception.
In the press reports the incident is thus described:—
“Ocean Grove, August 27.—A most extraordinary scene, the climax of the great camp-meetings of the past week, took place to-day when a great crowd was aroused to heights of religious and political enthusiasm.
“The latter was a result of the visit of President McKinley, which called forth a remarkable address by Dr. A. E. Schell, of New York, corresponding secretary of the Epworth League. He said:—
“The church militant salutes the nation militant, and recognizes that their mission in duty is to-day  are identical—the civilization and evangelization of the world.
“‘There are more than 1,000,000 young men in the Epworth League alone. No Alexander or Cesar ever had an army like that. We aspire to be the Tenth Legion for any campaign.
“‘President McKinley may plan for peace at home or peace with honor abroad. These young men with their blood and breeding will march through sand or jungle and fling themselves at a breastwork with a hardihood and a daring that no veteran of the Old Guard or Wellington’s Iron Brigade could surpass.
“‘He has our prayers to-day. He can have our money to-morrow, and the whole million will enlist the day after if we are needed.’”
This goes beyond the demonstrations that have been made at the conventions of the great religious bodies of which the Epworth Leagues is a type. But it does not depart from it in principle. It only expresses more fully what is in the principle of glorifying political heroes and political power, and to what the spirit of politics and the church must lead.
The political spirit which was manifested in the contest for supremacy among the twelve apostles, was renounced by them after it had led them into grievous deception and sin; but the contest for the supremacy was not long kept out of the Christian Church. “Grievous wolves,” foretold by St. Paul, entered into the flock; false teachers, whose aim was to draw away disciples after themselves. The question as to which should be the greatest became again the all-absorbing theme, until finally by an imperial edict, it was settled in favor of the bishop of Rome. He was declared to be the rightful head over all the churches; in recognition of which supremacy he assumed the title “pope.”
That was the fruit of politics in the early Christian Church. And wherever that spirit comes in, popery is a result, and the only result that can follow. There are many popes in the world besides the chief one who sits in the Vatican at Rome.
When the spirit of politics came into the early church, in proportion as it came in the spirit of the Lord went out, and the church ceased to be Christian. When finally the political spirit assumed complete control, the church still called herself Christian, but she was teaching abominable error and persecuting the true saints of God.
The Reformation came and new denominations arose; but in each of them this history was repeated. They began to exalt the human into the place of the divine. In their religious gathering there appeared the contest for supremacy. They directed the Lord’s work by “cut and dried” plans of cliques conceived in human wisdom. They look to men for spiritual guidance rather than to the Word of God. They joined hands with the state and persecuted dissenters. This has been in a substantial degree the history of every prominent religious body that has taken the Christian name down to the present time.
And now this same subtle spirit continues to work among the followers of Christ, and prepares a fresh and crowning catastrophe. As it led the early disciples to see visions of the kingdom of God to be set up through political agencies, by force, on the earth, so now it leads the multitudes to dream of Christ’s kingdom being set up on the earth through political power. “The kingdom of God,” say the W. C. T. U., “is to enter the realm of law through the gateway of politics.” “The church militant,” says a spokesman of the Epworth League, “salutes the nation militant, and recognizes that their mission is to-day identical;” and he declares that the church forces are ready to fight the battles of the civil power. And the Christian Endeavor Society, Christian Citizenship League, and kindred organizations, have expressed by word or action substantially the same thing.
And the subtlety of this deception lies very largely in the fact that this political spirit associates itself with so much that is good and true. That was the way it first began its fatal work. Had it not been Lucifer, the exalted one who stood by the throne of God, that introduced it in heaven, the deception might not have extended far among the celestial host. But for the very reason that Lucifer had so much goodness, wisdom, and brightness, the deception did extend until it involved myriads of heavenly beings in eternal ruin. And because the Epworth League, Christian Endeavor Society, and like religious bodies represent so much that is good, and true, and Christian, the political spirit that has crept into their purposes and methods is unsuspected of being evil, and will the more readily do its fatal work to-day. A serpent in Paradise deceive the parents of the race.
The power represented by the “church militant” joined with the nation militant is political. That union will be made, as was said by the speaker at Ocean Grove, to fulfill the mission of the church in the world. That is to say that it will be done to establish the kingdom of God. And as the kingdom of God was not set up in that way in the days of the apostles, and could not be without going contrary to the spirit of Christianity, so it cannot be established by such means to-day; and as surely as this false conception concerning the kingdom led the disciples of old to forsake their Lord, so surely will it lead disciples of this time away from him, and into even more fatal error.
When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, the disciples new by what power the Lord would work in the earth for the establishment of his kingdom. They knew then that no political agencies would figure in setting up the reign of righteousness; that it would be “not by might, nor by power,” but by the divine Spirit that had been poured out upon them. That Spirit did not come upon them until there were all “with one accord” assembled in waiting for it; not until every particle of the spirit of controversy, of  self-supremacy, of planning for the exaltation of the human—in short, the spirit of politics—had been banished from their midst. And when they received that spirit, that mind was in them which was in Christ, which led him not to exalt himself but to humble himself, even from his position of equality with God, to the likeness of sinful man, to be born in a manger, and after a life of poverty and reproach, to consent to a death upon the cross.
These two spirits—the spirit of politics and the Spirit of Christ—have been working in the world, the one really and the other professedly and only so, for the setting up of the kingdom of God. They are at work to-day; and as the scheme which involves political agencies gathers magnitude and power, the contest between them will grow in magnitude and intensity. For they have nothing in common, and not the least compromise can be made between them.
The churches and religious societies are working to fulfill the purpose of God that righteousness shall be established in the earth. But to accomplish this they purpose to reform the civil governments. They purpose to “purify politics.” They purpose to step into the political arena, and by their political power control the elections, and put good men in public office. They will not allow men to get into public office and unless he has their certificate of good character. What will follow from this? What does all history teach will follow, what else can follow, but that on principle politicians, rank hypocrites, will come with pious face knocking at the doors of the church? But will not these good people be able to detect the hypocrites? For answer, we might refer to the experience some of them had a few years ago with Congressman W. C. P. Breckinridge, of Kentucky. He was then a member of Congress, and was their champion in furthering a bill for “purifying” government in the District of Columbia. He was therir noble Christian politician, the type of what the country needed in public office to establish a Christian government. But when by accident they found out what he was, they ceased lauding him and referred to him as “that infamous old libertine.” But the details of that are too well known to need repeating.
No; human powers of discernment cannot be relied on to detect hypocrisy. Clothed with a pious exterior, it can easily gain admission to the sanctuary. The safety of the church in this regard lies in maintaining the pure principles and practices of Christianity which are repugnant to hypocrisy in all its forms. It lies in maintaining the spirit of self-denial, which makes church membership and undesirable thing for any one of the spirit of the world.
But there is one agency which can and always does detect hypocrisy, and that is the Holy Spirit. And that is just the work the Holy Spirit will do among the true disciples when it is given them, as it is to be, in full measure. For just as it was in the early church which received the “former rain,” so it will be in the “remnant” church when it receives the “latter rain.” And how was it in the early church? That question is answered by the narrative of Ananias and Sapphira. And when they had been struck dead for their hypocrisy, “of the rest [those like them] durst no man join himself to them,” but “believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” See Acts 5.
For the hypocrite, the Christian Church was then the worst of all places to be in,—a place to be gotten out of with all possible speed. And just such the Christian Church will be again when the climax of the great controversy shall be reached, and God’s people are clothed with the divine power to perform their part in that stage of the controversy. And thus will be presented to companies, both religious in profession, both working professedly for the same end, but embodying two opposing spirits,—the spirit of politics in the spirit of Christ; the one glorying in its numbers and political power, the other few in numbers but clothed with the power of God; while hypocrites of every class will be flocking into the one, and flocking out of the other.
Worldly, political power rises to its greatest height by confederation. Combines are now the order of the day everywhere, and religious combines are almost as prominent as those in the secular sphere. And still further combination and federation is aimed at in the religious world. But the final and greatest combine of all will be when the religious and political forces of the earth join hands, in which the religious world is now being led by the deception that is upon them. That combine will represent great power,—the greatest that the author of deception and the “prince of this world” can muster in the earth. But over and above it all, and far beyond its utmost limits, will be seen the power of God in his people: when his true followers, separated from every unworthy character, and endued with power from on high, it shall stand forth as the true church, “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.”
The Spirit of Christ, or the spirit of politics—by our choice between them will be determined the position we shall occupy in that day.