THE State Churchesreligious institutions supported by the general governmentowed their beginning to the theories of Antichrist, when Satan, the great deceiver who beguiled mother Eve, in the third century beguiled the majority of those who believed in Christ. The deceptive theory by which he accomplished this was that the Church had misunderstood the teachings of the Lord and of the apostles respecting the second coming of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God at that time. Satan's new theory was that God had laid this responsible work upon the shoulders of the Church nownot waiting for the second coming of Jesus; that it was the duty of the Church to convert the world, and that then Christ would come and approve the work. The theory further was that this conversion of the world at the hands of the Church was to be accomplished by a vicegerent of Christthat is to say, that the Lord would select from amongst the clergy one who would represent Jesus and reign in his stead; and others (cardinals, bishops, etc.) would represent the apostles and faithful of the "little flock," who were promised a share in the Kingdom. The theory gradually developed, and in the fourth century the Bishop of Rome was recognized as the head of the Church and Christ's vicegerent or reigning representative in the world, and to himself about that time he gathered the "Sacred College," or "little flock," composed of cardinals.
From that time on, quietly, the people were instructed to regard the Pope as the king of the world, God's representative, Christ's vicegerent, and the head over all kings and princes. As this idea prevailed amongst the people they were taught to look to the popes for their approval of kings and princes and laws, until finally a wonderful power was built up, and any king or prince out of accord with the Papacy could very easily be dispossessed of all authority. Another, having the papal sanction, would make war upon him; and the people, believing that the papal sanction meant the divine sanction, would support the papal decree. It was under these conditions that the public government was required to set aside from the public revenues money for the support of Roman Catholic churches and ministers throughout their domains.
This custom, once universal throughout Europe, received a severe shock, a set-back, in Reformation times. But the kings and princes supporting the Reformation movement, wishing to have some religious or spiritual approval to sanction their authority in the minds of the people, voluntarily accepted the Reformers and their approval as instead of the papal sanction. Thus it was that Reformed churches in Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland were organized and became Protestant State churches as thoroughly as they had previously been Roman Catholic State churches. The principle was the sameit was merely a different Church which was now supported. Roman Catholic dominion still prevails in Italy, Hungary, Spain, Portugal and, until very recently, in France. These governments, authorized by the Papacy, supporting the Papacy financially, have been known as Christian governments, and they in turn have inscribed upon their coins and in their official documents that they reign over the people by the grace of God (indicated to them through the Papacy). Similarly the Protestant countries above named, carrying the State Church idea with them, are known as kingdoms of God, and they also on their coins and in their official documents declare that their kings and princes reign by the grace of God, as indicated through their recognition by the Reformers and by their support of the Church.
In some countries, particularly in Germany, all religions are recognized by the State, and a provision made for salaries to pastors and teachers, whether Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Jews, or what notso long as a congregation of German people, recognized by the government as a denomination, desire such ministers.
Now, however, we are coming to a time of general disruption along these lines. The people are getting awake to the fact that the kings and princes are reigning under a law of selfishness instead of under a divine [R3984 : page 132] code and authorization. They are learning, too, gradually, that a majority of ministers are preaching and teaching as a matter of business, and with a view to getting as much as possible of the butter of honor of men and salary along with their daily bread. Popular government is consequently tending more to the thought that those who believe certain doctrines should pay for them, and that the public should not be taxed for its religion, which should be free and should be provided by those in accord with the promulgated tenets. This is the program followed in the United States, and the progress of this country in every way has been a wonderful lesson to the people of other countries, who in various ways are seeking to copy our methods, thus corroborating the thought set forth by Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty, that personified in this nation Liberty is enlightening the world.
Word comes from various quarters of Europe to the effect that Church and State union is threatened with dissolution. In Great Britain, in Sweden, in Switzerland, in Spain, the matter is being actively discussed, and the indication is that the accomplishment will not be far off, while in France there is a great turmoil through the dissolution of the Roman Catholic Concordat or agreement with the French government by which now the French are free from all State support so far as Roman Catholic and all other religious systems are concerned.
At the time of the French Revolution all the Church property of France was confiscated, but in 1801 Napoleon Bonaparte entered into an agreement with Pope Pius VII., long known as the Concordat. It is this Concordat or agreement that has just been dissolved in France, and which returns to the care of the people all of the Church property, which is presumed to be theirs because it was built at their expense.
Under the terms of the Concordat the French government became responsible for the maintenance of the clergy and the churches, and the clergy were recognized as civil servants of the French nation. French bishops and others of the Roman Catholic clergy could be appointed only by the approval of the government. Thus the Catholic Church was completely under State control. The Papacy, naturally enough, did not very highly appreciate this arrangement, which placed her interests so much in the hands of the French government, and consequently there was continual friction, the clergy striving in various ways to ignore their responsibility to the government, and the Papacy seeking more and more to maintain the control of the clergy and to oppose any and every interest and matter in the French government that seemed to be inimical to Roman Catholic interests. The light of our day upon every subject strained this relationship more and more, and the intriguing on the part of the Jesuits against the Republic and in favor of a monarchyesteemed to be more desirable for the Papacy's interestshad the effect of leading the government in 1881 to endeavor to expel the Jesuits and to control other Roman Catholic orders, with a view to the protection of the interests of the Republic, the foes of which they were realized to be. The movement was only partly successful because of the blindness of the people to the real situation. Not until the beginning of the present century did the government have a sufficient support from the people to take its standto resent papal influence in its affairs.
On December 11, 1905, the French Congress passed a bill which provided for the separation of Church and State, but giving one year during which the churches could make their arrangements for conforming to the law. Meantime inventories of all the Church paraphernalia were made, and everything was prepared for the proper taking over of the property for the State on December 11, 1906. The essence of this law set forth that the State should no longer provide for the salaries of the clergy nor for the expenses of religious services, and that thenceforth the use of the Church edifices and equipments would be for the peoplethat no foreign religious power such as the Papacy would be recognized. On these terms all who desired to use the Church buildings were invited to organize congregations, whose representatives or trustees would be dealt with by the government, and receive the right or permission to use the buildings for religious purposes. These trustees would be answerable to the government for the proper use of the buildings. Thus the churches of France would have been put practically on the same basis or footing as the churches in the United States, except that here the title-deeds may be in the name of the Pope, while a congregation not in harmony with the Pope or head or the holder of the title could be legally expelled; whereas under the new laws of France each congregation is independent and cannot be expelled from the Church edifice or by order of presbyteries or synods or bishops or the Pope, since the title-deed is in the government, by which the possession is guaranteed to the congregation. This feature of the law really places religion in France upon the most independent plane imaginable, permitting the congregation to formulate its own creed, and [R3985 : page 132] if desirable to change the same from time to time.
The law provided that if its terms were not met by December 11, 1906, the churches should be closed and the property confiscated to the State. After this law was framed, about a year ago, the Pope condemned it, but gave no positive instructions as to procedure; and matters standing thus, the French government, just before the law went into effect, to avoid a conflict with the Papacy, announced that regular services might be continued another year if the congregations would comply with the law of 1881, which required application to the police department for the privilege of holding services, and a declaration of loyalty to the government. But just before the law was to go into effect the Pope precipitated matters by issuing an encyclical instructing all the priests and church-wardens to abstain from any declaration or application to the authorities.
This was esteemed by the French government an [R3985 : page 133] attempt on the Pope's part to intermeddle with its affairs and an endeavor to block the laws of Francean incitement of the French people to rebellion against the laws of their country. Consequently the government took prompt steps, and in resentment of the interference deported the papal representative at Paris, and gave orders that bishops or priests or others who attempted either by word or act to interfere with the execution of the law should be placed under arrest. Thus the dissolution of Church and State arrangements in France was effected without special disorder, though the Pope and his representatives in a quiet way, so as not to become amenable to the law, are seeking still to arouse the people to resentment against the government by refusing to perform various acts and functions which Catholics are led to believe are all important and to be performed only by the clergy, viz., baptism, rites for the dead, etc., etc. Evidently the time when the Pope could overthrow governments by giving a hint to the people through the clergy is about past.
It is high time that these unscriptural unions of Church and State come to an end. They were built upon fraud to begin with, and have prospered through frauds continually. As God never authorized the Pope to be the vicegerent of Jesus, never authorized his reign upon earth over kingdoms and peoples, never authorized him to set prince against prince and to cause awful bloodshed for the maintenance of papal influence, and never authorized the governments recognized by Papacy to call themselves Christendom (Christ's kingdom), and as the Protestant unions of Church and State had no more authority than the papal, it is well that all of these human institutions go down, that the shackles of superstition should be broken, and the people should be the better prepared to learn that all the kingdoms of this world are man-made and selfish in origin and practice, and that the Kingdom of God's dear Son, the Millennial Kingdom, which will shortly be inaugurated, will be the only rightful spiritual empire to have control of all the affairs of the world of mankind. Its control of human destinies will be to the advantage of every creatureto lift them up, to set them free from superstition and by restitution processes to bring back into harmony with God and into the divine likeness all who will obey the great King of that day. O Lord, thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
At this distance it would appear that the present crisis in religious affairs in France would be a most favorable opportunity for the presentation of the Truth amongst the people of that land. While Protestants there are very few, undoubtedly there are many Catholics who are generally enlightened and now being set free from their superstitious reverence for Romanism. These as well as the Protestants should be ready for the glorious message of the Millennial Kingdom and the better government, spiritual and temporal, which the Lord is providing and which shortly will be established. We would like to encourage the dear friends of the Truth under such conditions to be vigilant for the use of every opportunityto go forward in the name and strength of the Lord with holy courage, to lift high the light and the royal banner. Similarly conditions are growing more favorable in Italy and Austria and Hungary. He that reapeth receiveth wages, and each one desiring to reap should first see what lies nearest to his hand and in which department of the service he could most effectively and most economically enlist his talents. "He that reapeth receiveth wages and gathereth fruit unto life eternal."John 4:36.