THE Christian Statesman and the National Reform workers are making a great deal out of the afflictions that have come upon certain members of the national administration.
Secretary Blaine lost a son and a daughter in quick succession, and Secretary Tracy’s house was burned, with fearful consequences—the death of his wife and daughter. There is no one in the land who does not sympathize deeply with both of these families in their affliction, and it is not the surest sign of Christian sympathy to turn this into a national thing, and thus charge the afflicted ones with such heaven-daring sins as to exhaust the divine mercy.
This is just what the National Reformers are doing. Dr. McAllister started it with a sermon in Pittsburg, entitled “The Washington Calamity; God’s Call to a national repentance.” He attacked the present administration with being “unchristian,” and said that the afflictions which had befallen Secretary Blaine and Secretary Tracy are “acts of a displeased and warning Providence.” He declared that the first and chiefest reason for these afflictions is that President Harrison, in his Thanksgiving proclamation last year, made no reference to Jesus Christ, and the more fully to prove that this is a great reason, he says:—
The question now arises, where is the reason for the singular train of calamities which has of late attended the course of those who hold the reins of our Government? The question can be answered. It can be answered when the course of the present administration is pointed out; when we observe how its actions correspond with the tone of a Christian people. Take, for the first, the last Thanksgiving proclamation issued by President Harrison. In it thanks were directed to be offered by this Christian Nation, but there was not even a reference to Jesus Christ. Had the omission of this sacred name been accidental, or caused by lack of forethought, the case would not be so glaring.
But President Harrison was waited on by a committee and was earnestly solicited to insert in the proclamation the name of Jesus Christ. In the face of this, Mr. Harrison refused to make the insertion.
Thus the National Reformers already assume the place and the prerogative of the interpreters of the will of God in the movements of Providence, and make themselves judges both to name the sin and measure the guilt of the national authority.
How do these men know that that was a divine punishment for sins? And even though they knew that it were such, how do they know what and how many the sins were? The truth is they know not one solitary thing about it. The God of providence alone knows the purpose of these afflictions, and why they fell as they did. And it is more human, and much more Christian, tenderly to sympathize with the afflicted—to “weep with them that weep”—than it is to stand off and point the finger, and exclaim, “Ah, ha! that is what you got for your wickedness.” It is neither Christian nor wise for men to usurp the throne of Providence, and presume to run the universe according to their narrow views, and in the line of their unsympathetic and wicked ideas.
Balls and festivities at which wine was used are also named as associate sins for which this punishment came; and, taken altogether, Dr. McAllister pronounces the present administration a disappointing one. He says:—
In many other ways the present administration has been a disappointing one to the Christian people of this land. It was expected that with so many men in high and responsible positions who were stanch members of the Christian church, many long-looked-for reforms would be made. To-day in this great Christian country we are in many respects behind some of Europe’s dynasty-stricken Governments. The name of God is not mentioned in the Constitution. Although the land is filled with societies covering every line of moral work and trying to help on the great cause, yet in many instances they fail because they have not the proper backing.
So they expected great things of the administration because there was so many men connected with it who were stanch members of the Christian church; and because of this they expected their long-looked-for reforms to be made. But men cannot be reformed by law; and even if they could, these men cannot make law where they are. President Harrison has no law-making power in his hands. He is not the chief legislator, he is the chief executive; he is there to execute laws that are made by the law-making power—Congress. But Congress cannot make laws that will reform people. The legislators are only representatives of those who send them to Congress; they can only represent the sentiment of those who send them. Then to the people is the place to. look; the people are the ones to be labored with,—they themselves are the ones to be reformed. But even then law is powerless. No man can make a law by which to reform himself. The incentive to reform must come to him from without himself; and when that incentive has been applied by the people, the reform is accomplished without the need of any State or national laws, and without any effort of the administration.
The surest, the most lasting, said the most blessed incentive to reform, is the love of God as manifested to the world in the grace of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Christ, in the true demonstration of the power and spirit of Christ, is the surest, in fact, it is the only, means of real reform. If the churches and the societies which are endeavoring so persistently to reform the Nation by human statutes, would only take up the blessed work of inculcating the genuine gospel of Jesus Christ, there would readily and easily come such a reform as would do the people good.
It is true those societies fail because “they have not the proper backing;” but the proper backing is the gospel of Christ, and not a law of Congress, or official in-corporation of the name of God in national documents. If these societies have not the proper backing, it is because they have not the gospel of Jesus Christ; and if they have not that, it is their own fault and not the fault of the administration. And it is not fair, much less is it Christian, for them to visit guilt and condemnation and supreme punishments upon the national administration for faults which are their own.
A. T. J.