2 Samuel 15:2-6
Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): In every age, and in every part of the world, the heart of man is pretty much the same. There have never been wanting men ready to persuade others that they are not so well governed as they ought to be, and that they themselves are the fittest rulers that can be found.
ANDREW FULLER (1754-1815): There is another species of departure from God that many in the present age have fallen sacrifices to―This is, taking an eager and deep interest in political disputes.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Do you people still believe in politicians? I’m old enough to remember when men virtually worshipped politicians. I remember hearing a man say quite seriously to my own father when I was a boy―I happened to be in a [horse-drawn buggy] with my father, and we gave a lift to a man, and Lloyd-George had just been introducing his famous 1909 budget. And this man said to my father, “you know, this Lloyd-George is going to do a much greater good than Jesus Christ.” And they worshipped politicians! And I have an uncomfortable feeling that―our churches in general―are as they are because our foolish forefathers ceased to worship God and began to worship politicians.
J. C. RYLE: There are few Englishmen who do not know something of a general election to Parliament. Many are the evils which come to the surface at such a time. Bad passions are called out. Old quarrels are dug up, and new ones are planted. Promises are made, like piecrust, only to be broken. False profession, lying, drunkenness, intimidation, oppression, flattery, abound on every side. At no time perhaps does human nature make such a poor exhibition of itself as at a general election!
LORD SHAFTESBURY (1801-1885): Public life is intolerable and disgusting―yet how much worse in America! “Truth and justice, religion and piety,” for which we pray, have no more share in these concerns than the mines of Golconda in the manufacture of green cheese.*
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): You know what party politics are. We are all trying to get in another set of maggots to eat the cheese! That is about all it amounts to—first turn out one lot and then turn in another. It comes to little more than that!
JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): I have so poor an opinion of the bulk of both the electors and the elected, that I think if the seats in the House of Commons could be determined by a lottery, an abundance of mischief and wickedness might be prevented, and perhaps the nation might be represented to as much advantage by this as by any other method.
C. H. SPURGEON: There seems to be connected with politics in every country something that besmears the mind, and defiles the hand that touches it.
GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE (1807-1870): Politicians are more or less so warped by party feeling, by selfishness, or prejudices, that their minds are not altogether balanced. They are the most difficult to cure of all insane people, politics having so much excitement in them.
C. H. SPURGEON: I know several specimens of this class. I knew one, high in court circles, who has confessed to me that he wished he were poor, for then he might enter into the kingdom of heaven. He has said to me, “Ah! Sir, these politics, these politics! I wish I were rid of them, they are eating the life out of my heart; I cannot serve God as I would.”
ANDREW FULLER: Let worldly men, who thirst after preferment, busy themselves in a contested election—they have their reward—but let Christians, if called to appear, discharge their duty, and retire from the tumultuous scene.
C. H. SPURGEON: Even in the pursuit of really good matters of policy, do you know any Christian who goes into politics who is the better for it? If I find such a man, I will have him stuffed if I can, for I have never seen such a specimen yet!
WILLIAM WILBERFORCE (1759-1833): You know that is my custom in the summer to banish politics, and not to resume the consideration of them till about a month before the meeting of Parliament…I own I am obliged to bite my cheek and set my teeth hard, when I quit such an enviable retirement, to plunge into the bustle and wickedness of political life. But slave or free, every one is to remain and do his Lord’s work in that state in which he is called, I Corinthians 7:20; and so I fall to work again, though, I own, mine is one of the last trades which I should have selected.*
JOHN NEWTON: The instruments whom the Lord employs in political matters are usually such as are incapable of better employment.
C. H. SPURGEON: And you, too, who are for ever agitating this and that public question, I would say to you, “Let politics alone till your own inward politics are settled on a good foundation.” You are a Radical Reformer, you could show us a system of political economy which would right all our wrongs and give to every man his due; then I pray you right your own wrongs, reform yourself, yield yourself to the love of Jesus Christ, or what will it signify to you, though you knew how to balance the affairs of nations, and to regulate the arrangement of all classes of society, if you yourself shall be blown away like chaff before the winnowing fan of the Lord…What have you to do with politics? Let your politics be the politics of your own soul.
LORD SHAFTESBURY: If, for political and public purposes, there can be in the Bible one book more valuable than another, to throw light on the days in which we live, it is Jeremiah.*
*Editor’s Note: As actual members of the British Parliament, Lord Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper) and William Wilberforce knew the evils of politics intimately from the inside, so their comments bear additional experiential weight.
William Wilberforce was converted at age 24, when he was already an elected member of Parliament. After his conversion, Wilberforce intended to resign from politics, but after several conversations with John Newton, Wilberforce remained in Parliament because he felt it was God’s providential placement of him for the particular work of ending the slave trade in the British Empire, and that he must abide in the calling in which he had been called; but it was a 50 year fight before he finally saw its success.
Lord Shaftesbury, by virtue of his family property, wealth, and upper class position, was born to politics (so to speak). Because of his privileged station in life, he felt an obligation of duty to serve his nation in Parliament. But despite his aristocratic background, he was no “look-the-other-way” friend of big business interests, and was politically instrumental in the fight against child labour, and improving working and safety conditions in British coal mines and factories. Once, during a dinner at another wealthy man’s house, Shaftesbury’s host pointed to a painting purporting to be Christ hanging on the cross. “You see that, Shaftesbury,” the man said, “That’s what they do to reformers!”