Charles G Finney on Politics
Excerpt from: Lectures to Professing Christians
By Charles Grandison Finney
CONFORMITY TO THE WORLD.
Text.—Be not conformed to this world.—Romans xii. 2
I will show why professing Christians are required not to be conformed to the world in politics.
1. Because the politics of the world are perfectly dishonest.
Who does not know this? Who does not know that it is the purposed policy of every party to cover up the defects of their own candidate, and the good qualities of the opposing candidate? And is not this dishonest? Every party holds up its candidate as a piece of perfection, and then aims to ride him into office by any means, fair or foul. No man can be an honest man, that is committed to a party, to go with them, let them do what they may. And can a Christian do it, and keep a conscience void of offence?
2. To conform to the world in politics is to tempt God.
By falling in with the world in politics, Christians are guilty of setting up rulers over them by their own vote, who do not fear nor love God, and who set the law of God at defiance, break the Sabbath, and gamble, and commit adultery, and fight duels, and swear profanely, and leave the laws unexecuted at their pleasure, and that care not for the weal or wo of their country, so long as they can keep their office. I say Christians do this. For it is plain that where parties are divided, as they are in this country, there are Christians enough to turn the scale in any election. Now let Christians take the ground that they will not vote for a dishonest man, or a Sabbath-breaker, or gambler, or whoremonger, or duellist, for any office, and no party could ever nominate such a character with any hope of success. But on the present system, where men will let the laws go unexecuted, and give full swing to mobs, or lynch-murders, or robbing the mails, or any thing else, so they can run in their own candidate who will give them the offices, any man is a dishonest man that will do it, be he professor or non-professor. And can a Christian do this and be blameless?
3. By engaging with the world in politics, Christians grieve the Spirit of God.
Ask any Christian politician if he ever carried the Spirit of God with him into a political campaign? Never. I would by no means be understood to say that Christians should refuse to vote, and to exercise their lawful influence in public affairs. But they ought not to follow a party.
4. By following the present course of politics, you are contributing your aid to undermine all government and order in the land.
Who does not know that this great nation now rocks and reels, because the laws are broken and trampled under foot, and the executive power refuses or dare not act? Either the magistrate does not wish to put down disorder, or he temporizes and lets the devil rule. And so it is in all parts of the country, and all parties. And can a Christian be consistent with his profession, and vote for such men to office?
5. You lay a stumbling-block in the way of sinners.
What do sinners think, when they see professing Christians acting with them in their political measures, which they themselves know to be dishonest and corrupt? They say, “We understand what we are about, we are after office, we are determined to carry our party into power, we are pursuing our own interest; but these Christians profess to live for another and a higher end, and yet here they come, and join with us, as eager for the loaves and fishes as the rest of us.” What greater stumbling-block can they have?
6. You prove to the ungodly that professing Christians are actuated by the same spirit with themselves.
Who can wonder that the world is incredulous as to the reality of religion? If they do not look for themselves into the scriptures, and there learn what religion is, if they are governed by the rules of evidence from what they see in the fives of professing Christians, they ought to be incredulous. They ought to infer, so far as this evidence goes, that professors of religion do not themselves believe in it. It is the fact. I doubt, myself, whether the great mass of professors believe the Bible.
7. They show, so far as their evidence can go, that there is no change of heart.
What is it? Is it going to the communion table once in a month or two, and sometimes to prayer meeting? Is that a change of heart, when they are just as eager in the scramble for office as any others? The world must be fools to believe in a change of heart on such evidence.
8. Christians ought to cease from conformity to the world in politics, from the influence which such a course would have on the world.
Suppose Christians were to act perfectly conscientious and consistent in this matter, and to say, “We will not vote for any man to office, unless he fears God and will rule .the people in righteousness.” Ungodly men would not set men as candidates, who themselves set the laws at defiance. No. Every candidate would be obliged to show that he was prepared to act from higher motives, and that he would lay himself out to make the country prosperous, and to promote virtue, and to put down vice and oppression and disorder, and to do all he can to make the people happy and HOLY! It would shame the dishonest politicians, to show that the love of God and man is the motive that Christians have in view. And a blessed influence would go over the land like a wave.