A Christian Nation by Rev. Dr. John Nowry MacGonigle Memorial Presbyterian Church Daily Herald
Rev. Dr. MacGonigle's Powerful Discourse Sunday, March 28, 1898
Holds His Hearers Spellbound
The Eloquent Divine Defines the True Position of Our Country with Regard for Cuba and Tempers Patriotism with the Religion of Christ in Convincing manner.
Rev. John N. MacGonigle, pastor of the Memorial Presbyterian church, preached a patriotic sermon yesterday that stirred the hearts of all the large concourse that listened to his words. The discourse is given below in full:
"There are three great motives that always move humanity--love of God, love of country, love of kindred. The first of these should always be supreme. It is the inspiring force, it is the guiding hand, for both the others. He who loves God supremely will never be a laggard when his country calls, nor will he lack the love that treasures his kindred and protects his home. By that law of God, the correlation of forces, which is as true in religion as it is in physics, these three great motives are closely correlated, thoroughly interchangeable. The light of our love for God may be the heat of patriotism or may be mellowed into the soft sound of conjugal and parental love. Conflict there never can be, but correlation always, and God gives us all the grace to see when our deep love for him call us to transform our love for him and our love of home into a love that waits with patience or faces death for our country's honor.
Two Great Motives. "In the text, the two great motives---love of God and love of country are muted. But true it is that in all our land today patriotism is the dominating motive, the ruling power. My prayer is to turn your hearts today from thoughts begotten by the secular press to that truest, highest patriotism, which fights if need be, but labors always toward the country's welfare, and the redemption of humanity from its own evil and the crushing heel of its oppressors.
"In pleading, today, for a more active and widespread dissemination of the Gospel of Christ, I do it by making the claim that our country is already a Christian country. Its essential, dominating spirit is Christian. Its influence in the world is Christian. It stands today before the world a living evidence of the spirit of Jesus Christ, a spirit of patience, of tolerance, and yet of readiness to do what God may show us is his holy will. 'Rather let my administration prove an ignominious failure, than that I should plunge the country into an unholy war.' Those words are possible only for the Christian President of a Christian republic.
"For three years there has gone on at our very doors a war as wicked, as cruel, as unrighteous as ever blotted the pages of history. The unfairness, the tyranny, the cruelty of it, all have called aloud, again and again, to us as a nation. The gaunt hand of famine has reached out to us. The wall of homeless, outraged women has sounded in our ears. The ghastly picture of helpless babes feeding on death from their mother's breast has come to our eyes. Hundreds of thousands of innocent and helpless men and women have gone down the avenues of hunger and disease to destruction driven by a task-master as cruel and relentless as any Egyptian Pharaoh, or any Roman Caesar. A premeditated, cold blooded system of malicious murder has been practiced on a native people by a mother country that has blasted and withered every instinct of motherhood by greed of blood and gold.
We have Forborne. "Before the face of our republic this barbarous cruelty, with all its unnamed horrors, has been perpetuated, and we have striven all along to hold in check our instinctive desire to interfere by diplomacy or force, lest our motive be misjudged and our good be evil spoken of. And all along, people and President have been goaded to action by a yellow press and a mere yellow pulpit. The politician has not ceased to back up a poisoning press and a sensation-loving pulpit.
"Spanish insolences has thrust its course insults in our face again and again. The spirit of hasty war has knocked hard at our doors urging the plea of property desolated and commerce destroyed. Just when the worst side of the true picture of Spanish crucify and Cuban suffering is turned toward us, our whole is shadowed with the gloom of an awful death which over to 266 of our sailors while in the peaceful discharge of their duty And that their death was due to a devised and devilish plan scarcely anyone doubted and we all now know.
"Through all these circumstances our nation as a mass and two successive Presidents have adhered firmly, patiently, to the policy of non-interference with the rights of another nation. The heart of this policy has not been either want of courage or want o means, but the essential spirit of that religion of Christ which has made us patient to wait and will make us strong to strike, if that be God's will. And mark this truth as well, while insult and insolence and maligned motives are thrust back at us from Spanish people, for every dead body entombed in our martyred Maine, we are sending into Cuba tons of food to stay the hunger and relieve the pain Spain has ruthlessly created.
A Contrast. "Now for a bit of contrast. A few months ago a few German missionaries were killed by an irrepressible mob in China. Instantly the German Emperor proclaims the gospel of his own sacred person and hurries his ships to China, bearing the sword of a new crusade, but the hilt of the sword is soiled with the dust of land grab. Russia moved by equal greed and jealousy, begins a system the demonstration of power against the enfeebled empire of China. I say quite emphatically, in view of all this, that ours is a Christian nation, moved by a Christian spirit as exemplified in the patience and forbearance we have shown to a neighbor, and the sympathy and Good Samaritanism shown to our suffering fellowmen in Cuba. Today, with the most civilized and Christian nation in Europe, England, urging upon us the duty of interference, we stand patient, but expectant, endeavoring to fulfill the apostolic teaching: 'If it is possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.' Avenge ourselves we will not, but, if for the sake of outraged justice and crushed humanity, we must take the sword, it will be with a courage equal to our patience and forbearance, born of the feeling that it is God's work that commands and the call of a brother man that we answer.
"The prevailing spirit of our country today is the direct and immediate outgrowth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The regenerating life of the Son of Man has been at work for generations. The leaven of the kingdom has spread itself throughout the mass. It does not matter what figures or statistics may show regarding the growth of the church.
"The preaching of the gospel and the prevalence of it - spirit are very different from mere church extension. The kingdom of God does not find its limits within consecrated walls, but in Christian hearts. Lives that keep the Christ in their foreground are more than names or names on the rolls of churches. Thus in the length and breadth of our land Christ and his spirit are being preached and being lived. And we face the world today with humble pride, not because we boast the greatest navy, or the mightiest army, or the grandest resources, but because we are Christians at the heart of our national life and have the grace to obey the gospel of God in our relations with other nations and other men.
The Need of the Day. "The need of today, the pressing need, is a yet wider preaching of the truths of Jesus in our land. It is no longer needful that we should pray 'Thy kingdom come," but there is yet a vast need that we should pray, "Thy will be done' and teach the will of God to men. Christ said not only. 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature, but he said with equal authority, 'teaching them to observe whatsoever thing I have commanded you.'
'It is not only a gospel of grace that Christ preaches, but a gospel of obedient love. For the preaching of that Gospel let us yield ourselves. If there be no voice, or word, or song for us, there is yet for every man a way, for he can live that Gospel in his daily life, and out of God's gift to him he can send others to preach in his stead.
"Today, as we stand in the breach between peace and war; as we think of the Spanish cruelty and treachery with patience, and Cuban suffering with pity; as we feel our country like a girded hero chafing against insult, but slow to strike; as we stand before the world, a Christian nation, tolerant of the rights of others, yet true to our own, let us remember that to the Gospel of God we owe it all, and let us speed that Gospel onward, forward for our nation's future safety and the world's redemption.
'Only a little while ago Congress voted $50,000,000 for the national defense. That was well done, only it ought to have been $100,000,000, and should have been done five years ago. But let us not forget that the truest defense of our nation is in the hearts of its people. The stout spirit of the Gospel, that despises despotism, that hates corruption, that stands for law and liberty, for fair play, and for God and man, is our strongest refuge and our surest hope. Let us have more preachers, more churches, more Salvation Armies, more teachers of Christ's Gospel and to the millions for material defense let us add millions for the preaching of that religion which make heroes of men and patriots of citizens.
God Reigns Over All. Men and women what the forward movement of events may bring us we may not know, but let us not forget that God reigns, and his will does not fail. Let us look for his leadings and follow where he leads. Steadfast thus far in Christian patience and forbearance let us be steadfast still for peace, if God will, and for truth and justice Fear God, Honor to King.' Let piety rule patriotism. Let piety and patriotism be as one.
"Today our beloved flag floats for peace and freedom, but wherever it may lead us and for what ever else it stands, let us remember that it stands for God. The red blood of his life, the white light of his holiness, and the blue of his truth, studded all golden with the stars of his mercy. Follow that flag for God and country and kindred we will, and today, for the glory of the one and the saving of the other, let our hearts be open to speed his Gospel through our Gospel-lighted land."