AT the late National Reform convention in Philadelphia, Rev. David McAllister, a leading exponent of National Reform ideas, spoke of a state as being “the infallible interpreter of and the active agent in applying moral law.” This he said was the conception and aim of the National Reform movement.
Let us look for a moment at this “infallible” state.
Where shall we find it? Where is there any record of on, or where is there one that claims to be infallible at the present time?
There is none; but Dr. McAllister doubtless does not claim that there ever was an infallible state or even that there is one in existence now. Yet the National Reform idea is that the state is to become “the infallible interpreter” of moral law.
But how is the state to become infallible? If it never was infallible in the past, and is not infallible now, how is it to acquire infallibility in the future?
Is it to acquire this by being made the “interpreter of an active agent in applying moral law”?
Can the National Reformers and their allies who would make it such, confer infallibility upon it? How can they if they are not infallible themselves?
And if no person in the state if infallible, or can become infallible, how can the state, as representing the ideas and judgment of the people in it, become infallible?
If all the people of the state, not one of whom is infallible, or a majority of them, were to decide that the state is infallible, would it therefore be infallible? If the National Reformers and their allies, all being fallible persons, were to declare that the state in carrying out their program is infallible, would it be infallible?
No one person is infallible, of course; no individual in this country claims to be infallible. But when a large number of persons get together and speak with a common voice, is there not infallibility in it then?
If you add fallibility to fallibility, can you not after a time get enough fallibility together to produce infallibility?
That is just the idea which has come down to us from paganism and the Dark Ages. The old Romans said, “The voice of the people is the voice of God;” and the later representatives of Rome, assembled in ecumenical council in A.D. 1870, declared that the pope when speaking “ex-cathedra,” is infallible. Out of their fallibility came the pope’s “infallibility.” The idea of the infallibility of the voice of the people is twin with that of the infallibility of an ecumenical council; and the perfect similarity of the doctrine of the “infallible state” to these two, shows its close relationship with them and thoroughly pagan character.
The “infallible state,” as the interpreter of morals, means simply a state pope. But if we are to have a pope, let it be Leo XIII. Certainly he will do as well as any.