December 5, 1895
THE AMERICAN SENTINEL has long raised its voice in emphatic protest against the movement on the part of the leading churches to organize their forces for the purpose of exercising a controlling hand in political and civil affairs.
There can be but one outcome to this movement if the hopes of its promoters are realized, as there is now every prospect that they will be; and it is not difficult to state what this will be, for history will repeat itself in our day, as surely as like causes produce like effects.
There is more in this matter than a mere theory of the proper functions of the State, or of the true spheres of the Church and the civil power. We are confronted not only by a theory, but by a terrible prospective condition, even nothing less than the ruin of both the State and the Church, with every individual who is a participant in this religio-political scheme.
In 1892 the churches, or leading representatives of the same, besieged Congress with petitions and threats demanding that the World’s Fair be closed on Sunday. The demand was based upon religious grounds, namely, the plea that the Fair ought not to be kept open on the “Christian sabbath;” and it was religious sentiment against what was viewed as a desecration of the sabbath, that inspired the petitions to Congress and moved Senators Quay, Hawley, and others to quote from the Scriptures and argue that the demand of the Church should be granted. In the summer of that year Congress capitulated, and it was decided by act of Congress that “the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday,” is the sabbath to be observed by the American people.
The church leaders who had been foremost in demanding this action were naturally elated, and one of them went so far as to say, “We have learned that we hold Congress in our power,” while another declared that thereafter the voice of the Church would be heard more frequently in the legislative halls. And certainly there has been no disposition manifested by the church leaders who cherish like sentiments to recede from their vantage ground in this respect.
To-day the organization of the churches and church societies for political ends is much more complete than was the case in 1892. The society of Christian Endeavor and kindred organizations have grown enormously since that time, and are still growing; and their tremendous power, wielded it is true in many ways for good and always no doubt with good intentions, is ready, alas, to be exercised to the full to advance a mistaken conception of the nature of true Christian work; in others words, to promote the movement whose real and only meaning is a union of Church and State.
As stated before, the outcome of this movement, as concerning both the State and the Church, is not difficult to foresee. It can be discerned both in the light of history and of revelation. The eye of Omniscience, foreseeing the events of our day no less plainly than those of antiquity, discerned it from the first, and the Word of the Almighty is not silent concerning a matter which so directly concerns the interests of his people and his cause. That Word tells us of “great Babylon,” the prophetic title designating an apostate, world-loving church; of the manner of her apostasy and its result. In Revelation 18:1, 2, we read: “And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” These words picture the result of a flood of worldliness in the Church, and the prophet in holy vision was looking down the line of future events to a time when such would be the condition of the professed Church of Christ. He was looking forward even to our own day.
Let us see what will result to the Church from the success of the present movement to bring the Church with the mighty power of its numbers, organization, and influence, into the arena of political strife.
Is it not plain to every intelligent person that this movement must open upon the Church the floodgates of worldliness? What is it that debars worldliness from the Church of Christ? Is it not the fact that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, 415—that it offers no worldly inducements of any kind to those who enter its fold, but that instead there is promised them persecution, with a daily cross and self-denial? For it is written: “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution;” 416 and Jesus said, “He that will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” 417 This causes a separation between the world and the Church, and worldly men, so long as they retain their worldliness, look with no favor upon her, and regard her adherents as fools. For unto the world the gospel of Christ is foolishness.
But let it be seen that the Church has become a power in politics,—that only those upon whom the Church looks with favor are likely to succeed in political contests,—in other words, that office-holding under the civil government is well-nigh impossible without the aid of the Church, and all but assured with her aid, and there will at once be a marked change on the part of worldly, unscrupulous men toward the Church. They will as assiduously court her favor as before they shunned her counsel. They will seize upon any cheap method of posing as men of morality and piety. Already we have before us examples of this kind. And as the surest means of appearing well in the Church’s eye, they will flock into the Church and boldly make their way into the very inner courts of the sanctuary. There hypocrisy and worldly ambition, clothed in pious garb, will pose in the place of Christian virtue. There base men will stand side by side as co-workers with those whose lives are actuated by Christian principles, making the temple of God an arena of their strifes and intrigues. The language of James 3:16, completes the description: “Where envying and strife is, there is confusion, and every evil work.”
Thus will the Church, having turned from the way of righteousness, speedily become in  very truth “the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” And this will be the utter ruin of the Church,—the nominal church, those visible organized bodies which in name and profession represent the Church of Christ, as many of them as shall have entered into this unholy alliance with the world. And this is the time of which the prophet writes: “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues; for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.” 418
Of this terrible result to the Church there can be no manner of doubt. It will be but a repetition of what has been. History tells us of a similar fall experienced by the Church soon after the days of the apostles, which resulted in the development of the papacy. There was an alliance between the Church and the civil power. The Church wanted laws enacted which would suppress upon Sundays certain places of amusement which drew the people away from attendance at the house of worship. The church historian, Neander, says of this:—
Owing to the prevailing passion at that time, especially in the large cities, to run after the various public shows, it so happened that when these spectacles fell on the same days which had been consecrated by the Church to some religious festival, they proved a great hindrance to the devotion of Christians, though chiefly, it must be allowed, to those whose Christianity was the least an affair of the life and of the heart. Church teachers … were, in truth, often forced to complain that in such competitions the theater was vastly more frequented than the church. 419
This was in the latter part of the fourth century. In A.D. 401, at a church council held at Cathage, it was enacted that “On Sundays and feast-days, no plays may be performed.” 420 That this might be made effective, a petition was addressed to the emperor, Honorius, praying “that the public shows might be transferred from the Christian Sunday and from feast-days, to some other days of the week,” citing as one reason for the same, that “the people congregate more to the circus than to the church.” 421
In A.D. 425, a law was secured closing theaters and other places of amusement on Sundays and other feast-days, “in order that the devotion of the faithful might be free from all disturbance.” 422 Thus did the Church seek an alliance with the State in those early days, and thus did the papacy develop and grow into power until, utterly apostate and corrupt, though nominally the Church of Christ, she dominated the State, and wielded its power to persecute and scatter the true people of God. Then was ushered in that awful period of human history known as the Dark Ages.
To-day, the Church is again seeking an alliance with the civil power. What is that alliance? It is one whose basis is the exchange of her power at the ballot box for the legislation which she demands. Leading clergymen who speak for the Church are now giving politicians and aspirants for public office to understand that they cannot succeed against its influence and its vote; and already they do understand it, and the game of politics is being adapted to this new feature. No astute and far-sighted politician now ventures to ignore the decrees of the Church in a matter involving a moral or religious question; and as such questions are forced by the Church more and more into the sphere of civil legislations with the Church will be more and more obvious to unscrupulous aspirants for positions of public trust.
When this Church and State movement shall have proceeded to the point where church relationship becomes no longer a matter of self-denial but a means of the gratification of selfish ambition,—when church connection shall have shifted from the basis of principle to that of policy, then know that the ruin of the Church is nigh!
This dreadful consummation the AMERICAN SENTINEL does not wish to see, and would do all in its power to avert; and therefore it lifts its voice in protest and warning against the Church’s entrance into the field of political strife. It points to the divinely-ordained principle of the entire separation of the State and the Church, and calls upon men to render to Cesar the things that are Cesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s; to let the State make manifest the power of the civil arm in the sphere for which it was ordained, while the Church shows forth the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Will the Church see her peril and turn from the evil path into which she has been led, making God and his omnipotent word the source of her power? It so, well; but it not, then erelong a trumpet voice will be heard proclaiming in her mist, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”