Controversy!

In the late 1800s, Church of England Bishop J.C. Ryle argued against severing the church and the state by imagining England without its state church:

 

The Government of England would allow all its subjects to serve God or Baal, – to go to heaven or to another place, – just as they please.  The State would take no cognizance of spiritual matters, and would look on with Epicurean indifference and unconcern.  The State would continue to care for the bodies of its subjects, but it would entirely ignore their souls.  

Gallio, who thought Christianity was a matter of ‘words and names,’ and ‘cared for none of these things’ [Acts 18:17], would become the model of an English statesman.  The Sovereign of Great Britain might be a Papist, the Prime Minister a Mohammedan, the Lord Chancellor a Jew, Parliament would begin without prayer.  Oaths would be dispensed with in Courts of Justice.  The next King would be crowned without a religious service in Westminster Abbey.  Prisons and workhouses, men of war and regiments, would all be left without chaplains.  In short, for fear of offending infidels and people who object to intercessory prayer, I suppose that regimental bands would be forbidden to play ‘God Save the Queen’…

Scripture teaches plainly that God rules everything in this world, – that He deals with nations as they deal with Him, – that national prosperity and national decline are ordered by Him,…and that without His blessing no nation can prosper…Whether men like to see it or not, I believe it is the first duty of a State to honour and recognise God… The sinews of a nation’s strength are truthfulness, honesty, sobriety, purity, temperance, economy, diligence, brotherly kindness, charity among its inhabitants.  Let those deny this who dare. – And will any man say that there is any surer way of producing these characteristics in a people than by encouraging, and fostering, and spreading, and teaching pure Scriptural Christianity?  The man who says there is must be an infidel.

The Government which ignores religion, and cooly declares that it does not care whether its subjects are Christians or not, is guilty of an act of suicidal folly.  Irreligion, even in a temporal point of view, is the worst enemy of a nation… In what manner God would punish England, if English Governments cast off all connection with religion, I cannot tell.  Whether he would punish us by some sudden blow, such as defeat in war, and the occupation of our territory by a foreign power, – whether He would waste us away gradually and slowly by placing a worm at the roots of our commercial prosperity, – whether He would break us to pieces by letting fools rule over us and allowing Parliaments to obey them, and permitting us, like the Midianites, to destroy one another, – whether He would ruin us by sending a dearth of wise statesmen in the upper ranks, and giving the reins of power to communists, socialists, and mob-leaders, – all these are points which I have no prophetical eye to see, and I do not pretend to determine.  God’s sorest judgments, the ancients said, ‘are like millstones, they grind very slowly, but they grind very fine’.  The thing that I fear most for my country is gradual, insensible dry-rot and decay.  But of one thing I am very sure, – the State that begins by sowing the seed of national neglect of God, will sooner or later reap a harvest of national disaster and national ruin.

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