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Christian Citizenship

I am currently conducting research in the Gospel Advocate, a journal of the Churches of Christ founded in the 1850s, for a project involving a reprint of David Lipscomb’s book On Civil Government. Along the way, I am certain I will find numerous gems worthy of note here on the LCI Blog. I came across this one from August 1866 – published just a short while after the Civil War. The GA notes that it first appeared in The Messianic Banner, another Church of Christ journal published by J.T. Walsh in Baltimore (GA was published by Lipscomb in Tennessee). I don’t know who originally wrote this piece, so I think we are to assume Walsh is the author.

I love the language of the era; these gentlemen know how to turn a phrase! But more importantly, the import of the Christian’s aversion to violence shines through. Note how the author in particular suggests that Christians fighting against other Christians – exactly what happened in the American Civil War – is completely unbecoming of their allegiance to Jesus. One’s citizenship in Heaven absolutely trumps any country citizenship, especially if that means killing one’s spiritual brothers. Yes, slavery was wrong – Lipscomb was, in fact, a staunch abolitionist in Tennessee – but going to war was also wrong.

Here is the original text to enjoy and ponder!

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Christian Citizenship

But to the disgrace of the Christian name and the Christian ministry, professed ministers of Christ, of the meek and lowly Savior, have gone into the pulpits of the land, and, instead of “preaching Christ and him crucified,” they have mounted some political, partizan, sectional hobby, and made that the topic of discussion for the edification of their hearers. On such themes they have grown grandiloquent, and received their reward in the theatrical shouts and applause of the multitude! What we have just stated is known to be a fact, read and known of all men. And some have not even paused here. They have gone one step further, appealed to the worst passions of the human heart, and clamored for the shedding of human blood! We pity the flock when its pastors are men of blood! We pity the church whose teacher is a politician! And we pity the people whose preachers and religious editors are captains, generals, or partizan leaders of any sort. God help his cause, when the professed followers of the meek and lowly Savior can meet on the ensanguined battlefield and imbrue their hands in each other’s blood! God pity the world, when the professed ministers of Christ abandon the cross for the political rostrum! Could angels weep, they would weep bitter tears over such scenes as these. But, alas, while they hover near to bear the joyful news to heaven that one sinner has repented, they have to cover their faces with their wings and report, no sinner repents. “Demas,” has abandoned the glorious theme of the bitter agony and death of Christ, “having loved the present world.”

God and country,” is the avowed motto of one who professes to be a Christian preacher! How unlike the language of the Heaven-inspired apostle, who “had no certain dwelling-place.” “For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2) How unlike the language and faith of Abraham, whose son, too, he professed to be! How unlike, indeed, the language of all those ancient worthies, who “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” “For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country,” a “better,” a “Heavenly country.”

While we, as Christians, should be profoundly thankful that the “lines have fallen to us in pleasant places,” and that we enjoy the great and glorious privilege of serving God according to his word, still we should never forget that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” and that “this is not our home.” We “seek a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Earthly cities and kingdoms have no solid foundations and will soon pass away. “He builds too low, who builds beneath the skies.”*

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* This appears to be quoting the poet Edward Young. The actual quote may indeed be “Too low they build, who build beneath the stars.” However, there are many instances of the paraphrased quote in 19th-century periodicals and poetry. What an inspiring line!

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