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Causes of Infidelity.

Database

Causes of Infidelity.

James Dodson

THE original cause of infidelity is doubtless inherent in the moral constitution of man—of man fallen by breach of covenant with God. The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. But there are occasions, furnished in holy and sovereign providence, where enmity to God is manifested by special hostility to his revealed will. Among such occasions, may be noticed the obstinacy with which ministers, and other professors of the Gospel, resist the evidence of God’s word against slavery. The just God, who loveth righteousness, denounces judgment against all oppressors. Slavery is complicated oppression—in body, soul, substance, relation, reputation. The ingenuity of divines, in concert with politicians, has been exercised for a quarter of a century to defend the lawfulness of this inhuman system. By wresting the Scriptures, attempts have been made to prove that the God of justice and mercy ordained the relation between master and slave. The present degradation of the negro is inferred as lawful, from the mark set upon Cain—the intervention of the Deluge notwithstanding!—from the curse upon Canaan—from the domestic economy of Abraham—from the Mosaic code, regulating the relation of master and servant; and even professors of natural science are invoked to ascertain from their profound researches in physiology, and especially geology, that the negro is naturally inferior to the white man—in fact, to prove that the colored man is not a man at all!—thus evincing an irresistible conviction, that if the negro be a man, all the preceding grounds of argument for his enslavement are false. Is it to be thought strange that theatre-going, novel-reading, ignorant and licentious youth, should be hardened in sin and confirmed in infidelity ? For the God of the Bible, as portrayed by the advocates of slavery, is not the same God revealed in the volume of creation. Those who thus handle the Word of God deceitfully, wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction, have undoubtedly "unchurched themselves."

Another occasion, which ungodly men eagerly seize upon to confirm themselves in unbelief, is the facility with which ministers of the Gospel change their ecclesiastical relations. Unhappily, the visible body of Christ is rent asunder by manifold causes in our time. All these causes are doubtless resolvable into one—a departing from the faith, either in theory or in practice, or both. And the changes in fellowship, which in our day are so rapid and so frequent, whether by ministers or others, are seldom from a more corrupt to a more pure communion. Indeed, "going from a more pure to a more corrupt fellowship," as has been well remarked, "is the rule, not the exception, in our time." The Presbyterian passes into the fellowship of the Methodist Church, the Associate into that of the Presbyterian, the Reformed Presbyterian into that of the United Presbyterian—each "carrying all his principles with him"—and congratulates himself on a great accession to his gospel liberty! "I speak that I do know, and testify that I have seen." Now the youth of our day, who have been in any good measure brought up m the nurture and admonition of the Lord, cannot but see and hear such important facts. They, of course, will reason from them; and alas! their deductions are to be lamented. With them who are not rooted and grounded in the truth, it is perfectly natural to judge of religion by the conduct of its professors. Looking at the instability, especially of ministers, and not the immutability of the Word of God, such persons conclude, first, there is no sincerity in professors—then, there is no reality in the matter of their profession! All this may be illustrated by referring to a special case.

During the time of the "great awakening," as it was often termed, last winter, some doctor of divinity wished to learn from Edwin Forrest, the tragedian, whether he had experienced a gracious change, as had been rumored. The facetious and wily stage-player in substance replied in the negative: That, as heretofore, "he loved his friends and hated his enemies, for he could not be a hypocrite!" insinuating that all professing Christians are hypocrites, and in this, imitating their Master! (Absit blasphimia.) A word or two on this singular case of declared infidelity. The cunning tragedian did not know that in the very act of "reproaching the Lord," he was confirming his word; for if "every man walketh in a vain show," this is true, emphatically, of the scenic actor; and it is more emphatically true, inasmuch as the Lord has selected the very word used to designate a stage-actor to portray the character of the worst of men.[1]

What shall we say of those ministers who decline from a more "pointed testimony to a more loose and general one?" Why, that they are condemned of themselves, at least as to their intelligence or sincerity. When a minister publicly declares: "I never approved of that part of the Testimony which condemns errors, and testifies against all who maintain them," is it a breach of the law of charity to infer that such a one is defective in respect of intelligence, or sincerity, or faithfulness? Can such be supposed to possess a scriptural sense of the obligation of ordination and other vows? Can it be said that he has "kept his oath of office?" But further, What will be the natural process of reasoning in the minds of such as are of "stronger capacity," whose memory will furnish matter for such reflection—matter brought forward in public ministrations for twenty or thirty years past? Certainly, that the preacher did not believe his own doctrine! But does not the instability of the minister in his profession tend to urge to the further impious conclusion—that his doctrine was erroneous? Moreover, if a person shall call to mind that such unstable ministers would take occasion to urge the Master’s alarming declaration: "Verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me"—pressing the same upon the consciences of communicants at the Lord’s Table,[2] the facility with which they can relinquish the distinctive principles of the covenanted unity and the peculiar practice of covenanted uniformity, will have a tendency to stagger the faith of God’s children—because with lies they make the heart of the righteous sad, whom the Lord has not made sad, and strengthen the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life. Thus, when covenanted witnesses make defection from reformation attainments, and become identified with ecclesiastical bodies whose members make common cause with infidel and slaveholding political parties, the direct tendency of such unions and confederacies is to generate and perpetuate infidelity. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? Just what they have always done—encourage themselves in the Lord their God. For what if some do not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid; yea, let God be true, but every man a liar. If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself. O Lord God of Hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee?

DAVID STEELE.

HILL PRAIRIE, ILL., December 15th, 1858.

 

 

Footnotes:

 

[1] The learned are aware that the word hypocrite in Scripture, is borrowed from the (dramatis personae,) actors on a stage.

[2] It was a matter of serious thought with some at the time, whether the theme was appropriate in the circumstances.