Last week we took a look at God’s call to become involved with politics. This week we will take a look at that call from the pulpit during the foundation era. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice” [Proverbs 29:2 NKJV ]. This Bible verse, and the core principals it represents, was a topic of frequent discussion by Bible-minded ministers. Across the generations, Christian civic duty and participation was an area of heavy emphasis from the pulpit.
Typical of this focus was the charge of Rev. Mellish Irving Motte to his congregation :
“You should deposit your vote for office, with a religious sense of accountability, like that which makes you so serious when you handle the emblems of the Savior’s body and blood” [Motte, The Christian Patriot]. Voting was to be considered as sacred as the sacrament of Communion. See 1 Corinthians 11 about the seriousness of Communion. This same sober-mindedness and sense of individual accountability to God was likewise to precede and accompany citizen voting.
Likewise, the religious solemnity of voting was expressed by Rev. Willard Spaulding :
“The pulpit should teach the people not to forget their religion while acting the part of citizens. Singular as it may seem, there are many men who stand well in the church but who are a disgrace to the state. They pray well but they vote infamously…There are multitudes of the most moral and religious members of the community who thus neglect their civic duties. Hence our elections in many cases are carried by the selfish and debased” [Spaulding, Pulpit and the State, pages 15-16].
The Rev. Matthias Burnett had a similar message for his congregation :
“Look well to the characters and qualifications of those you elect and raise to office and places of trust…Think not that your interests will be safe in the hands of the weak and ignorant; or faithfully managed by the impious, the dissolute and the immoral. Think not that men who acknowledge not the providence of God nor regard His laws will be uncorrupt in office, firm in defense of the righteous cause against the oppressor, or resolutely oppose the torrent of iniquity…Watch over your liberties and privileges, civic and religious, with a careful eye” [Matthias Burnett, An Election Sermon Preached at Hartford on the Day of the Anniversary Election, May 12, 1803, pages 27-28]. This is a sermon that could very well apply to today.
The Rev. Charles Finney, revivalist and church theologian of the Second Great Awakening, warned Christians :
“The church must take right ground in regard to politics…The time has come that Christians must vote for honest men, and take consistent ground in politics, or the Lord will curse them…Christians have been exceedingly guilty in this matter. But the time has come when they must act differently…God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the church will take right ground. Politics are a part of a religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as part of their duty to God. It seems sometimes as if the foundations of the nation were becoming rotten, and Christians seem to act as if they thought God did not see what they do in politics. But I tell you, He does see it, and He (God) will bless or curse this nation, according to the course they (Christians) take (in politics). [Charles Finney, “Hindrances to Revivals”, in Lectures on Revivals of Religion, 1835, pages 274-275].
There are countless additional examples and they all attest to the solemn reality that the current condition of our country and its government is simply a reflection…or, more specifically, the lack thereof…by the God-fearing community. In Matthew 13:25 we find ourselves exemplified by a good field that became infested over night by weeds. Jesus identified the problem: while the good men slept, the enemy came in and planted the weeds. Jesus did not fault the enemy for doing what he did. The problem was that the good men went to sleep. As we try to figure out how to get this “ship of state” out of shoal waters we cannot go to sleep for one minute. That’s all it takes for disaster to strike. Once on the “reefs of defiance of God” recovery is almost impossible without just starting over and that is a painful process.
Next week we will take a look at some of this “ship of state’s” crew members. I hope it doesn’t get anyone to looking for a “life boat”.
– Bob Munsey