“To Increase Church Collections” American Sentinel 11, 2, pp. 10, 11.

THE book, “Practical Christian Sociology,” 471 a late literary production, to which we have taken occasion to refer several times recently, is full of unique and striking things.

Like a true “reformer,” the author of the book in question, cuts and slashes in every direction, sparing neither friend nor foe. Dividing the 19th century into three periods, of the second he says:—

The daybreak that came with that middle third of our century has already been overcast with heavy thunder clouds, especially in our own country. No doubt there has been moral progress since 1867 in the world at large, but it would be hard to prove moral progress in the United States since that date. 472

Our author then enumerates the rise and development of various evils, prominent among which is “the Sunday paper, which,” he says, “in most instances, is not only a sin but a crime.”

Following his bill of particulars, he says:—

One reason why these evils have grown apace is because the church has not adequately recognized personal and social ethics as an integral and important part of its work. As Columbus discovered an unknown hemisphere, so we are just discovering a neglected hemisphere of social ethics. Those critics of the church are in error who assume that in British and American pulpits dogma has crowded out duty and creed has displaced conduct. All that can truly be said is that individual and social ethics have not had due emphasis in the utterances of the churches even in sermons, much less in creeds. They are a nineteenth-century development not sufficiently recognized in the eighteenth-century creeds and disciplines of our churches. 473

We thank our author for the frank statement that his so-called “reforms,” prominent among which is his “sabbath” crusade, are “a nineteenth-century development.” [11] This is practically what we have been telling our author, and everybody else for years about the Sunday movement; that Christ and his apostles knew nothing of it; that the early church never kept Sunday; that it always rested upon no better authority than the edict of Constantine and the decrees of a fallen church; and that the idea of compelling its observance as the sabbath, is of very modern origin indeed. Now, Mr. Crafts acknowledges this himself. The demand that everybody shall observe Sunday as the “Christian sabbath,” is only a nineteenth-century development, saving, of course, the Puritan theocracy in New England in the seventeenth century. The Puritans were something more than two centuries in advance of our author in the matter of enforced Sunday-keeping. But no matter; Mr. Crafts is quite right: it is a modern discovery—certainly much more modern than the sacred Scriptures; which accounts fully and satisfactorily for the fact that it is nowhere mentioned in the writings of apostles, prophets, or evangelists.

But notwithstanding the modern origin of these “reforms,” our author sharply arraigns the whole of the modern church for failure to give them financial support. He says:—

Not one of the large denominations, so far as we know, recognizes any of the social reforms as a part of Christianity in its official schedules of benevolence. How the efficacy of other church collections is decreased by lack of adequate church support of social reforms, for example, sabbath observance! Offerings for church erection and ministerial education and home missions are of value in proportion as the people are on the sabbath free to attend the churches thus erected and hear the preachers thus educated and supported. Mr. Puddefoot, the well-known home missionary secretary, informs me that there are in the frontier towns home missionary churches where the only man in attendance on sabbath morning is the preacher; churches where the communion has to be postponed from sabbath morning until evening, “because the deacons are all down in the mines.” Surely, if only to increase the efficiency of other church benevolences, there ought to be in every church table of collections a column for sabbath reform. 474

Our author would, with his so-called sabbath reform, very soon change all this, for he would by civil law compel those deacons to remain out of the mines on Sunday; would prohibit Sunday papers, close places of Sunday amusement, and make the day everywhere so uninteresting that the deacons and everybody else would gladly resort to the churches. Then would the people not only receive the instruction supplied by collections taken elsewhere for the support of frontier churches, but such churches would themselves have larger collections, for there would be more persons present to give. This is certainly “practical sociology,” even though it be not Christian.

Then, too, with the Sunday laws of all the States put in proper working order and energetically enforced, as would be the case if our author was well supplied with collections, it would be so much easier to enforce church discipline. The worldly-minded deacons who not having the fear of the minister before their eyes go into the mines on Sunday instead of to the communion, could be persuaded by the terrors of the civil law—by fines or by imprisonment, if need be—to go to the communion on Sunday morning instead of to the mines. And though at first they might realize that it was not their choice, that they would prefer the mines and the wages there earned, they would by and by come to imagine it a matter of their own choice, and then if not before, would they be devout observers of the so-called Christian sabbath; and all owing to the collections for so-called sabbath reform! Yes, the scheme is practical; very practical—but is it Christian?

But how about the spiritual life of the churches whose pews and collection boxes must be filled by means of Sunday laws? The words of our author himself, though not so designed, are well adapted to answer this question. He says:—

Christians have mostly ceased from hating each other for microscopic differences of doctrine, but Christian love seldom goes beyond its own church walls, and does not always go beyond its own hired pew. General society is, of course, more Christianized, and the quantity of Christian sociology is much greater, but the quality of it inside the church, we fear, has not improved. The heathen are not audibly exclaiming to-day, “See how these Christians love each other!” They, and the Christians also, are rather pointing to “the flagitious anarchy,” the “Hadesian theology” of our sectarian conflicts, and to the well-defined Christian castes that radiate from the central high-priced pew of Deacon Dives to the inferior pews of Demas and Lazarus; the one next the pulpit and the other next to the door. Not thus were the Christian slaves and “the saints of Cesar’s household” separated in the early church. There were no class churches. Christian brotherhood was not as often to-day so nominal that in the words of Prof. Ely, one would rather be a second cousin by blood than a “brother,” in the general sense, even to a Christian. 475

These facts answer the question as to the spiritual condition of the churches. “He that loveth not knoweth not God.” 476 “For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” 477

According to our author’s own representation, the church is lacking in Christian love, and is therefore without the true knowledge of God. And this is the reason why there is so much seeking after the power of organization and the power of the State. The very federations and confederacies for which Mr. Crafts is laboring are only so many efforts to supply by numbers the lack of power in the church; but the Word of the Lord is, “Say ye not, A confederacy to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” 478

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