WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA is the habitat of National Reform in the United States, hence it is there seen in its best, or rather, worst aspects.
It was in western Pennsylvania that Alexander Campbell battled against the “Moral Societies,” the National Reform Association of three-quarters of a century ago; and it is in western Pennsylvania that the most radical National Reform utterances are heard to-day.
In the recent National Reform convention in New Castle, Dr. R. J. George, a leading light in National Reform circles, spoke on the “Duties of the State to the Church.” He said:—
The State is subservient to the Church. The nations and kingdoms which do not serve God shall perish.
It is the highest dignity and honor of the State that it has been placed under the authority of the Church’s hand.
The State should perform the true Christian religion. The Church is to teach the State God’s message. The Sabbath mail service is an assault upon the Church, because it is trampling upon the sacred day appointed by God for his service.
The State must have its moral system maintained in its legislation. It is the duty of the nations of the world to protect the Church in its work among missions. The State should bestow national gifts upon the Church and thus testify the sincerity of her attachment fo the gospel.
The State erects jails and gallows, but gives nothing to the Church.
The very first proposition in the quoted paragraphs shows the true nature of National Reform, and is a confusion of all that has ever been charged against the system. Webster defines subservient as, “Fitted or disposed to subserve; useful in an inferior capacity; serving to promote some end; subordinate.” It follows that, according to Dr. George, and according to National Reform, the State exists only to serve the Church; and as service means obedience, it follows that the real governing power is the Church, and that the State exists only to enforce the laws and decrees of the Church. And this is simply the papacy over again, a veritable image of the papacy.
Again, National Reform asserts that the State should profess the “true Christian religion;” but before the State can profess the true Christian religion, it must decide what the true Christian religion is; and this must be an authoritative decision, binding upon the several units which compose the State, for the State is simply the people in their aggregate capacity. But the action of the people in their aggregate capacity is only the action of the majority, or more frequently, of an organized minority having control of legislation; and under the National Reform scheme this majority or a united minority having control of legislation, must decide for the whole people what is the true Christian religion. But to decide for another what is the true Christian religion is to assume the prerogative of infallibility, and thus again National Reform leads us back to the papacy,—to the church of Rome; for this usurpation of authority to decide what is the true Christian religion, is the very groundwork of the papacy.
This Government was at the first framed upon the principle of equal civil and religious rights to all. It was not opposed to religion, nor to its free exercise, but only to any profession of religion by the Government, because in the very nature of the case any profession of religion by the civil government must of necessity trench upon the freedom of the individual. It very properly held by the framers of the Constitution that the “greatest service any government can render religion is to let it alone.” This is Protestantism, and it was after this principle that our Government was fashioned. But now comes National Reform and demands that the fashion of our institutions shall be changed; that instead of remaining as our fathers made it, this Government shall be imaged after the papacy; that it shall assume the prerogative of infallibility and define and profess “the true Christian religion.” Is not this a fulfillment of the prophecy of Revelation 11:14, “Saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast [the papacy], which had the wound by the sword and did live”?
And is not this virtually what has been done by the action of the various departments of the Government? First, in February, 1892, the Supreme Court decided that “this is a Christian nation;” then followed the World’s Fair legislation, in which Congress assumed to define at least one dogma of the “true Christian” faith, by declaring that Sunday, the first day of the week, is the Sabbath according to the fourth commandment; and this at the demand of the churches, thus giving “the church” the place claimed for her by National Reform, namely, that of lawgiver to the State.
The principle contended for by National Reformers has certainly been admitted by the Government. Over and over again it had been plainly stated by Dr. H. H. George, as it was in the New Castle convention, that the church can have anything she demands from Congress. “The Christian people have learned their power; they can mould legislation as they will.” Such is the boast of National Reform to-day; and this being true, the State being, by its own acknowledgement, subservient to the Church, have we not in this country a perfect image to the papacy, a church dominating the civil power and using it to further her own interests and to enforce her dogmas? We certainly have.
Certainly, if Dr. George’s theory were correct, if the State should have a religion, it should support it. And this is National Reform as one finds it in western Pennsylvania, and as it in fact obtaining in every part of our land once the house of liberty of conscience, but now the seat of the image to the papal beast, the home of that iniquitous system whereby the Government … itself to the combined churches to enforce upon the consciences of all men the unscriptural dogma of Sunday sacredness.