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    May 16, 1895

    “The Civilizing Influence of Christianity” The Signs of the Times 21, 19, pp. 6, 7.

    BY A. T. JONES

    A QUESTION has been raised as to the influence of Christianity in civilizing people beyond the limit of those whom it Christianizes. A good illustration is before us in Christianity in the Roman Empire, which will answer the question and also illustrate the principle.SITI May 16, 1895, page 6.1

    When Christianity started in the Roman Empire, there was no such thing known as rights of conscience. In fact, there was no such thing known as the rights of the individual, of any kind; and as the rights of conscience are the chief of all rights, of course this was the least known. Christianity means nothing if not the rights of conscience. That was its one claim that overtopped everything else, and of course included everything else, as it entered the Roman Empire. The contest between Christianity and all the power of the Roman Empire was upon the Christian’s claim of the right of conscience, the empire of Rome denying it, because the empire did not know anything about it.SITI May 16, 1895, page 6.2

    Rome said, “What the law says, is right.” But the Christian said, “What God says is right, that is right; and what God says is wrong, that is wrong.” To Rome, the state was god; and therefore the maxim, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” And as the law was the voice of the people, so the law was the voice of the Roman god. Therefore when the Christian denied the Roman god, and asserted the rights of conscience toward the true God, he himself became judge of the right or wrong of the law, which to the Roman mind was in itself the test of wrong or right.SITI May 16, 1895, page 6.3

    That contest went on for two hundred and fifty years before it was settled in favor of the rights of conscience. And by that time the principles of Christianity had so impressed the pagans, who made no profession of anything but paganism, that the rights of conscience were sacred, so that when the apostasy seized the civil power and began to use it in behalf of what they called the Christian religion, then pagans pleaded the rights of conscience.SITI May 16, 1895, page 6.4

    There is the whole story. Christianity, the principles of Christianity, Christianized multitudes of people. The Christianizing of these people fixed in them, in its integrity, the rights of conscience; and there it was so fixed that they would die rather than yield. That was genuine Christianity. These were Christianized, and by their integrity, at the expense of every consideration in holding to that principle, pagans themselves were impressed by it, to the point to which they pleaded it when occasion offered. There is where Christianity Christianized one multitude of civilized another.SITI May 16, 1895, page 6.5

    This illustrates the principle that Christianity, if held faithfully by those who profess it, will exert upon those who are not Christianized by it, upon those who make no pretensions to Christianity at all, an influence for good, that will elevate them above savagery, and above the base principles and ways of civilized paganism.SITI May 16, 1895, page 295.1

    Macaulay discovered the principle, too, and expressed it in a sentence that is one of the most powerful human statements there is in literature, in favor of Christianity. In writing of India, in a certain place he makes this remark: “A man needs to be a Christian to desire that Christianity should be spread in India.” That tells the whole story. Now a Christian wants Christianity spread in India for Christ’s sake, for the sake of souls who will be Christianized. The man who is not a Christian can well wish for Christianity to be in India, for the sake of the poor heathen that would be elevated, even if they do not become Christians. That is the thought.SITI May 16, 1895, page 295.2

    But the mischief has always been, and it is yet, that Christianity is not taken and held for what it is by those who profess it. God is not given large enough place in the profession of it by those who profess it; and by not being given large enough place, he does not have any chance to demonstrate the real power of Christianity in these people who do not give him the place that belongs to him, in which he would demonstrate the divinity of Christianity with power that would convince. Then men, finding the loss of that divine power and influence, go about to do by themselves and by human power the things that would be done by the Lord if only they would give him the place that belongs to him in their profession. That is why professed Christians must put themselves forward and propose to legislate, or get into office, or manage, and dictate to those who do legislate or are in office. And all to give things “a Christian mold,” and make that influential in elevating the people, and bring cities, states, and nations around to the right way. But that is putting themselves in the place of Jesus Christ; that is putting themselves in the place of God. And that is the mystery of iniquity over again.SITI May 16, 1895, page 295.3

    Let those who name the name of Christ do it in such integrity, in such absolute surrender to God, as will give to God all the place, and him alone all the place, that belongs to him. Let the influence all be his, let the power all be his, let him along be look to, and depended upon, to do all in all. Then Christians will see the power of God so manifest that they would be ashamed to put themselves forward to give mold or shape to the influence of Christianity.SITI May 16, 1895, page 295.4

    When people do not give the Lord the place which belongs to him, and therefore do not see what they expect to see, it is very natural that they should begin to think that they are better than the Lord, and could do better than he does, and so they must take hold and do the things their Christianity fails to do. But that, I say again, and it is plain to be seen, is only to leave God out, and put themselves in his place. And by leaving God out they leave out his power; and by putting themselves in his place, they put into exercise their own power; and that is worldly, earthly, sensual, and, at the last, devilish.SITI May 16, 1895, page 295.5

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