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to those persons in the Christian church who practise the forms of a godly life while destitute of its power. They lack sincerity in their confessions and worship. Amid all their attention to the formalities of religion, their rigid orthodoxy of opinion, and punctilious regard for what is outward and ceremonial, there is in them an evil heart of unbelief. Inwardly, and so far as witnessing for Christ before men goes, they are full of heresy and alienation from the truth. The fruits which they produce in their lives are no better than if they made no pretence of believing the doctrines which Christ taught. This is the infidelity which God visits with his special abhorrence. It was the great sin of the Jews, bringing upon them a worse fate than overtook Sodom and Gomorrah. The gospel, with its doctrine of the new birth and freedom from external rites, was given to rescue man,
if possible, from this demon of doubt, which is so apt to creep into the heart of the formal religionist.
But the use of the word “infidelity” does word is now not, in any of the cases now noticed, touch the
subject matter which I propose to treat. are concerned with the unbelief which has become an intellectual theory; to the support of which logic and argument are summoned; which assails the Christian system, affects to be in some real sense its rival, and seeks, by dint of philosophical reasoning, to displace it. I should say that any person who does not recognize the authority of Christ as final on all questions of religious faith, is, in the judgment of the largest charity, an infidel. Even Professor Newman, the radical religionist, is candid enough to say, “It is evident that we must either quite disown the
Sense in which the
Gospels, or admit that Christ regarded men as impious who did not bow before him as an authoritative teacher.”
Strictly speaking, an infidel is one who has Etymologiapostatized. This is according to the etymology ing. of the word. The first Christians used it, I suspect, as those in later times certainly did, to designate one who, after attaching himself to Christ, had become unfaithful, or had forsaken him. A distinction is thus made between the infidel and such as have never believed on Christ's
He is a far baser person than the pagan, who, having no knowledge of Christ, nor at any time confessing him as Lord, cannot be charged with unfaithfulness to him. But we need not use the term in this harsh sense. Though the infidel of to-day is one who dwells where Christ is preached, and who therefore may have fallen away from the Christian faith into his present state of unbelief, yet his heart does not plead guilty to the charge of treachery. He may have a conviction of honesty, and the approval of conscience, in what he has done. All this we are ready to grant him; nor do we, in applying to him a terin which usage has made current, mean anything beyond what he is ready to acknowledge; namely, that he has rejected Christ as the supreme authority in matters of religious faith. Such, I take it, is the most legitimate application of the word at present. I do not propose to employ it, save in this perfectly fair and honorable method.
If the word “infidelity” be odious to-day, the odium is in the character of those who have been its advocates. To be an infidel is no more a shame now, than to be crucified was a shame in the time of Christ. But Christ and
fuliy used, even in its milder sense.
his followers have made the cross glorious. If infidels cannot thus transfigure their reproach, this but proves the To be care absurdity of their claims. Those who set up no
claim in opposition to Christ, who acknowl
edge him as the supreme authority in religion, who accept his word as that by which any religious doctrine is to be judged, are improperly called infidels. 1: is an abuse of language, as well as contrary to the “new commandment” in the gospel, when the various Christian bodies thus brand each other. Some of those bodies may seem to us to teach fatal error; and we may conscientiously refuse to have fellowship with them; but so long as they make Christ their Master, we have no good right to call them infidels. To misinterpret the divine Teacher's words is not the same thing as denying his authority. Men may differ widely as to what Christ taught, — so widely as to be unable to dwell together in ecclesiastical fraternity, — and yet be equally earnest in maintaining
that Christ is Lord. Where this supremacy is plied, where not accorded, however; where any one has deserved.
rejected Christ, after full opportunity to know him; and not only that, but has framed this his denial into a positive creed, and is seeking to establish it as true by what he regards as rational argument, — there we should recognize infidelity, in the proper sense of the term. He has investigated and reflected, till he has come to certain conclusions; and those conclusions are entirely subversive of Christianity as an authoritative religion. This thei: logical effect he sees, and not only makes no effort to avoid it, but stoutly insists upon it. What the treatises are, which come within this definition, I do not now under
take to say. The catalogue of modern infidelities need not be given. Any list which I might draw up would be regarded by some as incomplete; while others might accuse it of injustice, saying that it included speculations worthy of better company. It is enough to have given a criterion, - entirely fair, I think all must admit, — by which we may each determine the religious bearing of any book or utterance that meets us. Whatever claims preeminence over Christ, or denies to him the supremacy in matters of religious faith, or lays down propositions known to be subversive of his authority, is an infidelity. In that view of it, although associated with much that we admire, and even approve, it deserves no quarter at our hands. As the disciples of Christ, believing that he spoke the absolute truth, and concerned for the well-being of men as truly as for his honor, we are bound to unmask the intruder, and battle against it under its proper designation.
As to the sources of these various infidelities which are around us, and throughout the Chris- of infidelity. tian world, one need feel less hesitation in speaking. They seem to me to be reducible to two sources -Pantheism, represented by Spinoza, and Positivism, represented by Comte. Some may be inclined to add a third source, namely, Deism. But this is hardly more than a dependent form of infidelity. It rests on no steady foundation of its own, but is always falling away into either Pantheism or Positivism, where it is not happily exalted into Christianity.
But even this statement may be simplified; Strictly but for, in the last analysis, all forms of religious
error may be brought to a single source the separation of man from God. It was in the garden of Eden that these poisonous waters, still polluting the earth, took their rise. When man fell from his Maker's embrace, then immediately infidelity began. It is evident, since man came forth from God, that his faculties must have acted abnormally, leading him astray constantly in all his searches after truth, as soon as he had separated himself from God. This may seem to be a sweeping remark; for it might be said that many persons, into whose thoughts the idea of a God almost never enters, have yet been successful students of nature, of history, of the human mind; have shown excellent judgment in matters of business, and in all that concerns the welfare of the state. But this latter remark seems to me to need qualification, rather
than the other. If we look at human conduct
comprehensively,- if we consider it in all its relations, and follow it on to its remoter issues,
we shall find that it is never thoroughly wise while acting independently of God. The statesman does not plan what is best for the state, the reformer mingles much of evil with his good, and the most successful man of business fails in certain important respects while not inspired and kept by a divine influence. In no partial sense, but in the broadest sense, it is true that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We cannot separate material interests from spiritual, or temporal from eternal. Profitableness and ungodliness, wisdom and atheism, are never joined together. The human mind acts abnormally on all subjects, mistaking error for truth, and confounding success with failure, as soon as it has departed from God.
Effects of the Fall.