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    April 6, 1899

    “Spiritual Impotence of Civil Government” American Sentinel 14, 14.

    E. J. Waggoner

    “Present Truth.” (London, England.)

    A motion was lately made in the House of Lords that a report be provided showing the number of cases in which confessional boxes have been introduced into the Church of England. Lord Salisbury, while agreeing to the request, pointed out that whatever steps were taken by the government, they were powerless to deal with any spiritual evil. He said:-AMS April 6, 1899, page 211.1

    “If there are any means of repressing or discouraging the practice of habitual confession, they would deserve all our consideration. I fear, however, that you are undertaking an effort to coerce consciences, which greater powers have failed to effect, and that you are more likely to increase the disease than to stop it. but allow me to point out that this return will not tell you one hundredth part of the evil.AMS April 6, 1899, page 211.2

    “If there is to be confession, which I most earnestly deprecate, I would rather have the open box in the church than the secret interview in the vestry. It is between these two that you have to choose, and my fear is, in the first place, that you will not get an accurate return of the boxes there are, because everybody who returns the existence of a box returns a confession that he has broken the law. You will not get people to do that; they will simply put your circular in the fire. And beyond that you will be giving a vicious stimulus to a certain mistaken spirit of religious courage which will most undoubtedly, and I think unfortunately, induce a more extended practice of the evil which you so justly deprecate.AMS April 6, 1899, page 211.3

    “I greatly fear that if men wish to confess to men or-perhaps I should put it more accurately-if women wish to confess to men, all the power this Parliament possesses will not avail seriously to arrest the process. The power of arresting it lies with the organization over which the right reverend prelates preside. It is for them to teach their flocks-they cannot do it too earnestly and too often-the evils which may attend habitual and systematic secret confession. But let us be careful lest we hinder their work, and prevent them from doing that which it is their proper charge to carry out, by bringing in the arm of the flesh which never yet beat down a religious error, and has often made the evil worse than before.”AMS April 6, 1899, page 212.1

    Lord Salisbury recognizes that it is the work of the church to attend to matters of religion, and that the “arm of flesh” never yet mended matters. If the church is corrupt and powerless for good, it is only by reason of its unlawful connection with the world, and the first step in reform must be a separation from this entangling and corrupting alliance. If the church neglects its work, the State cannot take it up. It should not be necessary for a statesman to remind the church of this truth.AMS April 6, 1899, page 212.2

    A merely political disestablishment will not suffice to correct the evil. The forbidden connection with the State arises out of a lack of faith in the power of the Word, and a sinful yielding to worldly influences. The friendship of the world is enmity with God (James 4:4), and the duty of every believer in the church is to repent and do the first works, not trusting in the arm of flesh, but returning to his first love. Revelation 2:4, 5. Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, and the church which loyally recognizes its obligation to its Lord will, forsaking all other, cleave only to him, content with the riches and the power which he bestows.AMS April 6, 1899, page 212.3

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