THE “National Christian Citizenship League,” in its “proclamation” and call for a million volunteers to for … the “Christian citizenship” cause, appeals to “the right-minded, true-hearted men and woman of the Republic who believe with Charles Sumner that ‘righteousness is preservation.’” As it is undoubtedly true that “righteousness is preservation,” and as the class of individuals to whom the league appeals recognize this fact, it is assured that they will join in the Christian citizenship movement, as the proper method of giving practical expression to this belief.
But to say simply that “righteousness is preservation” without any additional words of qualification, is but to give expression to a “glittering generality,” and one which fails to furnish any indorsement or justification of the “Christian citizenship” campaign.
What is righteousness? The only authority to which one can turn for an answer to the question, is the Word of God. There we find it stated that “all unrighteousness is sin,” and that “sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4; 5:17. From this it is clear that righteousness is the keeping of the law. But it is also written that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20. This is because all flesh is by nature “under the law” and “guilty before God,” having fallen in the transgression of Adam. “But now,” the apostle adds, “the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference; … being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Verses 21-24.
Therefore apart from faith in Jesus Christ, there is no righteousness for any being on the earth. Righteousness, as it must be known by every person who has it, means the result of faith in Jesus Christ, and the statement that “righteousness is preservation” means that there is preservation in the faith of Christ.
And this is very true. He who fights “the good fight of faith” lays “hold on eternal life.” 1 Timothy 6:12. Jesus said that whosoever should lose his life for his sake should preserve it. He who gives away treasure through faith in Christ, preserves the same “where moth and rust do not corrupt,” and where riches will never take to themselves wings and fly away.
But what has all this to do with “Christian citizenship”? What has it to do with the preservation of the government or institutions of the country in which “citizenship” is held? Of what significance to these is the statement that “righteousness is preservation”? For it is evident from the nature of righteousness, as set forth in the foregoing texts, that it is not a thing that can be applied to these at all. Whatever preservation they are to have, they must obtain in another way.
Faith is the one and only source of righteousness. And faith is not a profession, it is not anything that can be set forth in legal or political documents; it is an actuating, governing principle of life, sent to save the individual sinner, and applicable alone to him. “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God.”