TENDENCIES already noted, toward a combination of religious sentiments in sympathy with "political reform" movements, are step by step making headway, preparing for the predicted politico-religious "Confederacy." (Isa. 8:12.) These give evidence of four things: (1) that the "form of godliness" and outward ceremony flourish as the Apostle predicted (2 Tim. 3:5); (2) that personal, vital godliness and clear appreciation of the divine mind are decreasing; (3) that the nominal church contains so much of the world and its spirit as to be ready for the move; (4) that the worldly, while unconverted in the true sense, are greatly influenced by respect, fear and public sentiment, and see no danger from the movement.
We are far from claiming, as many do, that our day is witnessing a general decline of moral and religious sentiment. On the contrary, we hold that these sentiments are more general perhaps than ever before, as witnessed by the philanthropies and charities of both public and private support, and the increase of humane and kindly sentiment. But we claim that while the civilized world is much brighter and better as a whole than it ever was, because of the diffusion therein of the Gospel light, yet the mass of the church, the light-bearers, are declining in intelligent faith and zeal and approaching the worldly standard about as fast as the world has been approaching the Christian standard, so that the world and the nominal Church have again come close together;—closer than at any time before during the present century; so close that to many it appears that, to fully install the Millennium—the triumphal reign of the churches—only the three following "reforms" are needed; viz.—(1) Insert the names of God and Christ in the United States Constitution; (2) compel professing Christians to take a more active part in politics, form Good Citizenship Leagues, etc., and learn to outwit Satan at his own game; (3) by so doing obtain prestige and power enough to influence legislation to the enactment of stringent Sunday laws which would at least make us look like a religious people; also suppress the social evil and break up present "rings," or else convert them to the new religio-political program. Later on it will do to enforce religious worship and have the public servants attest their fidelity by attending in squads and in uniform. The appointing of obligatory fast days and thanksgiving days as is and has long been the case in countries thoroughly dominated by Roman Catholicism will follow later. The next step would be to suppress all literature antagonistic to this union; symbolically behead it (Rev. 20:4—like John the Baptist) for pointing out the wrong of the professed bride of Christ being united to the world. Then, later, when questions would arise as to what would constitute Christian worship, the Supreme Courts could be called upon to define more and more explicitly what is, and what is not, Christian faith and worship.
Such a reign of the churches will be but the counterpart to the reign of Papacy during the "dark ages," except that it will be a more enlightened reign, from [R2091 : page 20] the fact that general civilization has progressed, and general intelligence will have some weight.
But that reign will be short. Worldliness, being merely covered with a thin outward veneer of religion, will speedily assert its true nature—selfishness, envy, malice, hatred and strife. But it will not be left thus to disintegrate: its fall will be sudden; it will be utterly disrupted by the "great earthquake" (Rev. 16:18), the revolt of the masses, precipitating the anarchy foretold in Scripture, in the midst of which the dominions of this world shall pass into the hands of the true Kingdom of God, when the true Millennial reign will begin.
The fact is that the faith of the Church has always been the most pure and fervent when under opposition and even persecution from the world. There can be no ground for union between the Church and the world except as the Church wholly or in part loses sight of or abandons the divine program. Our Lord's example and precepts are applicable to all of his followers yet, and will continue to be so until the "present evil world" shall give place to "the world to come" and its Messianic Kingdom. Our Lord declared, "Ye are not of the world. I have chosen you out of the world. Marvel not if the world hate you, ye know that it hated me, before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own."
The present effort to unite the Church and the world more closely, like the successful efforts of the past, is only a trap and a snare by which the great Adversary would divert attention from the true work of the Church—her self purification and separation from the world, by which her light would shine upon the world with greater clearness, convincing of sin, of righteousness and of a coming judgment.
But as in the past a falling away of the majority into worldliness served to separate the Lord's "jewels," so now such a separation is in progress. And it is for this "jewel" class that God is supplying the light of present truth;—clearer light on the "ransom" and its present and future results; on the "royal priesthood" and its present sacrificing and future glory; on Covenants and their fulfilment; on the Kingdom now in embryo suffering violence, and by and by in glory and power the blessing of all the families of the earth; on the fulfilment of prophecies which prove that we are in the "harvest" of this age, and that the great Reaper is present, "gathering together his elect," his jewels.
(1) A Supreme Court decision which, although indirect, can be, and no doubt later on will be, construed to signify that the United States Government is in some sense a religious, a Christian government, and become a basis for Christian laws and regulations, and not merely laws of Justice. All should know how many narrow meanings have been given to the term, "Christian regulation," by various well-meaning, but grossly deceived, parties in the past.
(2) President Cleveland in his last Thanksgiving-day Proclamation departed from all past usage by mentioning [R2092 : page 20] in it the name of Christ, and what might be construed as partisan politics in the suggestion of thankfulness that the Silver Party had failed to carry the election. His example was followed by the Governors of several States in their Proclamations. There is nothing in the Constitution giving any authority for such Proclamations: they are therefore merely suggestions; and in making the suggestions all previous Presidents have wholly separated politics, and in consideration of the fact that millions of citizens (including Jews, infidels and skeptics) do not acknowledge Christ, have merely suggested that thanks be rendered to Almighty God for his blessings, etc. The framers of the National Government were not devoid of religious sentiment, but they were logical when they said, "Who does not see that the same authority that can set up the Christian religion over all other religions, can with the same ease set up some particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects?" Acting upon this thought, they sought to found a government of the people entirely free from religious bias, under which every citizen and stranger shall have liberty to worship God or not to worship him, according to his own conscience.
"Suppose the President had been a Roman Catholic and referred to the invocation of Mary as a mediatrix, he would have made a mistake, because the prevailing sentiment of the land would be against him."
Indeed, the United States Constitution seems to us almost miraculous: we believe that God must have providentially guided in its preparation—so remarkably does it guard religious liberty even against the will of a majority; and that in a land where majorities rule in general matters.
Considerable opposition was aroused by these two evidences of religio-political combination, as well as considerable approval; but the masses of the people are apathetic and care little one way or the other, and do not see the danger. In answer to criticisms the Cleveland [R2092 : page 21] Plain Dealer seems to suggest an Amendment to the Constitution, establishing rules (to be drafted by experts) for such occasions as Thanksgiving-day Proclamations.
"The Thanksgiving proclamation is in this respect the first one that might not have been appropriately issued in China or among the Choctaws, or wherever a Supreme Being is recognized. This is the first proclamation in accord with the long list of historic facts on the basis of which the Supreme Court said, on Feb. 29, '92, in a unanimous opinion (Trinity Church case): 'This is a Christian nation.' This proclamation, with the burial of the spoils system and the arbitration treaty, will make this administration distinguished in history above any other since the war."
"Between undue sensitiveness and a just appreciation of insult and rightful apprehension of encroachments upon liberty, there are great differences. No one familiar with the systematized efforts of the numerous Christian organizations to obtain recognition of Christ in the Constitution; of the tendency of the decision of the United States Supreme Court, that this is a Christian nation; and of the natural results which must follow upon the arrest and conviction of Seventh-day Adventists in various States of the Union, can view with indifference President Cleveland's departure from the precedents of all the presidents who have gone before him. Mr. Cleveland has done what no previous president has ever dreamed of doing, what all have taken pains to avoid doing....
"There is an untiring effort being made to turn this country into a Christian State and to place on a footing of toleration only, all those who do not profess the Christian religion. The danger of the eventual success of this scheme is much greater than many are inclined to believe. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and it behooves every lover of freedom to be on his guard against its foes, and, more especially, against such an evident attack as is made in President Cleveland's message, whether it was intended or not.
"Those who close their eyes to the strength of the movement which has for its aim the Christianization of our country, and the consequent death blow to all of its boasted freedom, either know little of what is going on or sadly underestimate the number and influence of those engaged in this revolutionary and retrogressive movement. Ignorance and indifference only can account for the tendency to make little of President Cleveland's breach of the unwritten law which has hitherto been held sacred....Those who are inclined to underestimate the influence of his action will have a chance to estimate it at its true value when the jubilations of Christianizing elements have had time to make themselves heard. That they will be heard in tones unmistakably loud, only those who know nothing of the fight being made can doubt."
The desire to rule others and to compel obedience is very strong in some people. The Christian Standard, for instance, is urging a rigid religious observance of Thanksgiving Day, and would like to have all religious people oppose foot-ball and other recreative games on that day.
"As Washington was distinctly a Christian citizen and showed his loyalty to his divine Master on every occasion, there is every reason why the celebration of his birthday should have a religious tone to it."
It says that about six hundred C.E. Societies will follow the plan this year. It is proposed to make it general at the next convention. It will not be long, probably, until those who hold aloof from these church and world combination schemes will be esteemed religious anarchists.
"We want to touch legislation; we want to go over yonder into that Capitol building and sit there among the law makers with as much serenity and with as much right as do the lobbyists of the great corporations. We want to put our finger on the moral pulse of the legislature until they feel the power of our influence to the extent that they dare not refuse our demands.
Let all who can read the signs of the times draw specially near to the Lord and his Word, and seek the more grace and wisdom to walk circumspectly and to labor while it is called day, before the night shall close our opportunities and indicate that the gathering of the elect is complete.
The "Evangelical Alliance" has taken a specially active part in Christian Union efforts of late. It is worth while remembering that in this association directly the union movement took its start in the formation of the "image," as marked in prophecy, in 1846 A.D. It is altogether probable that it will also play an important role in connection with its receiving "life."—Rev. 13:15.
A remarkable sensation was created in London recently, in connection with the public consecration of Rev. Dr. Temple as Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of the Church of England, and next to the Queen the head of that church. As the ceremonies (which took place in the Church of Saint Mary LeBow) commenced, the Rev. Edward Brownjohn of Bath arose and solemnly and earnestly protested against the consecration, "on the ground that Rev. Dr. Temple was a confessed believer in the full doctrine of Evolution, a doctrine incompatible not only with the Bible but also with the Book of Common Prayer and Articles of Religion of the Church of England."
The Queen's commissioners refused to entertain the protest of one man; and considering that they had the backing of practically the entire Church of England in favor of Evolution, and the Queen's choice of Primate, the ceremony proceeded. This was on Dec. 22, '96.
"The mandate for the enthronement was presented by the vicar-general to the chapter of Canterbury, in the treasury. After this ceremony the chapter proceeded to the deanery and conducted the archbishop to the great West door. The procession was then formed.
The archbishop was attired in full archiepiscopal robes, his long scarlet train being borne by two boys, king's scholars of the cathedral school. They wore, according to immemorial custom, surplices of pure white linen, yellow sandals and little purple caps.
"There was a dramatic incident as the archbishop was traversing the nave at the end of the procession. A voice shouted loudly: 'The whole proceedings are a fraud.' The interruption came from an elderly gentleman of clerical appearance. He was speedily and forcibly ejected amid considerable excitement.
"The order of installation was read in Latin, and the archbishop was conducted to the marble chair, accompanied by the archdeacons of Canterbury. The marble chair, known as the patriarchal throne, is said to have been used by St. Augustine, and in it during many centuries the archbishops of Canterbury have been enthroned.
The reaction in the Church of England against Papacy is showing itself in an increased desire to form a Universal Protestant Organization. The Bishop of Salisbury at a public meeting recently said, of the Pope's recent deliverance which repudiated Anglican Orders and union,—
"It has set us free to do work which lies nearest hand, without so much regard to ulterior consequences. We are free to follow the path opened to us by a Divine Providence, and to create an independent world-wide communion." He suggests that the first step should be toward a union with Presbyterians.