“It appears to us that a Christian minister cannot keep himself in the true path of consistency at all, without refusing to each of the parties all right of appropriation. . . He who cares for neither [of two rivaling political parties] is the only independent man; and to him only belongs the privilege of crossing and re-crossing their factious line of demarcation, just as he feels himself impelled by the high, paramount, and subordinating principles of the Christianity which he professes. . . But turning away from the beggarly elements of such a competition as this, let us remark, that on the one hand, a religious administration will never take offence at a minister who renders a pertinent reproof to any set of men, even though they should happen to be their own agents or their own underlings; and that, on the other hand, a minister who is actuated by the true spirit of his office, will never so pervert or so prostitute his functions, as to descend to the humble arena of partisanship. He is the faithful steward of such things as are profitable for reproof and for doctrine, and for correction, and for instruction in righteousness” (Collected Works 11:34-36).
Now, this is anything but a call for the clergy remain aloof from all things political. Instead, it holds out the high principle of ministerial allegiance to heaven, which may make the man of God unpopular or put him on a collision course with the powers that be – whoever they be. This was the legacy of Knox, the bold gadfly of Queen Mary. This was the costly legacy of the John the Baptist and of so many of the prophets who preceded him. May God grant us a double portion of their spirit. And so let us stay out of anyone’s pocket – except God’s.