A PORTRAITURE OF MODERN INFIDELITY.
"THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES." Such is the concluding sentence of a description which strips fallen humanity of all its boasted excellence; which shows,
by a most convincing train of reasoning, that Jews and Gentiles are alike guilty before God; and which pictures, in vivid
colors, the awful depravity into which men sink without the intervention and the vital reception of the Gospel of peace.
As the whole race is involved in one common apostacy, there is only one remedy that meets their case, and that remedy is Christianity.
Wherever this divine catholicon is embraced, it ultimately effects the cure of man's moral distempers; it purifies his conscience
from guilt, by an application of "the blood of sprinkling;" it purifies his heart by the operation of a living faith; and
it purifies his life by the all-subduing influence of motives which animate him with the love of God, and with the quenchless
desire of being conformed to his moral
image. Wherever Christianity is rejected, man remains the victim of apostacy, the child of wrath, the sport of evil passions, and, in the truest sense, "without God, and without hope in the world." Whether we survey a state of pure heathenism, * or contemplate a condition of society in which Christianity is rejected as a fable, we behold, in either case, a soil fertile in every species of wickedness that can insult the divine Majesty, or that can degrade and brutalize the human race. Could we conceive of a community wholly made up of men denying revelation, and wholly imbued with the principles and feelings of modern deism, we should have presented before our minds a scene of moral turpitude and guilt too fearful to admit of minute examination. In such a community we should see every social tie dissolved, every virtuous obligation trampled upon, and all the savage passions of the human heart brought into resistless and destructive play. In the creed of an infidel, there is nothing whatever to deter him from the basest actions, provided he can screen himself from the eye of public justice, and from the scorn and derision of his fellow-men. He is a man altogether without principle, who denies the legitimate distinction between virtue and vice, who resolves all
human motive into a principle of self-love, and who is an equal foe to the laws of Heaven, and to the wise and benevolent institutions of men. A powerful writer, and an acute observer of mankind, (Rev. Andrew Fuller,) has said that "modern unbelievers are Deists in theory, Pagans in inclination, and Atheists in practice." They profess, indeed, to believe in one supreme and uncreated intelligence, infintely benevolent, and infinitely holy; but they neither cultivate his benevolence nor intimate his purity; and as it respects prayer, and praise, and the homage of devout worship, they are as scornfully neglectful of them as if there were no God, and are practically in that state of total irreligion which shows that verily "there is no fear of God before their eyes." Though they talk loudly of one God, and profess to pay him homage in the temple of nature, it is most clear, that in escaping from the folly and absurdity of the "gods many and lords many" of the heathen, they have plunged themselves into a state of reckless scepticism and doubt, which leaves every perfection of the Deity undefined, which utterly extinguishes his moral government, and which renders even the belief of his very existence a powerless and uninfluential admission.
By the aid of revelation, indeed, they have wrought their way out of the Pantheon; but standing in the full blaze of celestial
discovery, they have set themselves to blaspheme "the only living and true
God." Ungrateful return for that light which the God of mercy has shed upon their path, and which was never surely intended to heighten their guilt or to accelerate their condemnation!
What, then, are we to understand by modern infidelity? Not surely that infidelity is a new thing; for since man lost the image of his God, he has, in all the periods of his eventful history, evinced a tendency to discredit his Maker, and even "when he knew him, not to glorify him as God." To provide in some degree against this tendency, and to preserve the successive revelations of heaven from being utterly lost, the Most High selected one family as the depositaries of his truth, and as the ministers of his mercy to the rest of mankind.
It would be easy to show, by an induction of facts, that it was infidelity, in days of old, which paved the way for the abominations
of polytheism. Men first discredited and opposed the true oracles of Heaven, and then set themselves to serve God in their
own way, and to prescribe a religion and a worship for themselves, and because "they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,
God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness;
full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors
of evil things, disobe-
dient to parents; without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful; who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." It was such infidelity as this, my esteemed reader, which prepared the minds of mankind for all the grossness and all the absurdity of heathenism; it was such infidelity as this which obtained in Philistia, and Egypt, and Canaan; it was such infidelity as this which called forth the stupendous energy of Omnipotence, in confounding and terrifying those evil powers who contemned the name of Israel's God and oppressed the chosen tribes; yea, it was such infidelity as this which prompted all the idolatries of the ancient church, who no sooner forgot the Lord their God, than they set themselves to worship the gods of the nations among whom they sojourned.
Infidelity is no new thing. It is a plant indigenous to the sinful heart of man; it has sprung up in every age; it has more or less pevailed in every nation under the whole face of heaven; it is the palpable exhibition of that secret and deep-rooted unbelief which is unwilling to accredit any communication as divine that does not picture the Most High as a being altogether answering to the sinful imaginings of a depraved and apostate heart.
By modern infidelity, then, we are simply to understand those new forms and that new energy which
scepticism has put on in modern times, and more particularly since the era of the French Revolution; by which it has mightily diffused itself among all ranks of society, and has produced a class of writers capable of making their appeal to each separate branch of the community. It is modern, because those who are yet in middle life can remember the baneful period when it began to exert its giant strength, and when, with a fiend-like daring, it aimed a deadly blow at the foundations of civil government and at the altars of religion. We can remember all this, and we can trace in the bloody, and impure, and ruthless steps of infidelity, the odious character which belongs to it. It is modern, for it has decked itself forth in a thousand novel aspects; at one time assuming the air of reason and philosphy; at another, appealing to the most vulgar prejudices of the human mind; now weaving itself into the texture of history, and then clothing itself in the maxims of political wisdom; in some instances concealing itself beneath the witchery of a well-imagined tale; and, in others, polluting even the very streams of salvation, by infusing a potion of its deadly virulence into the theology of the age. *
It is modern, for where, at any former period in the history of the world, did a thing so worthless and
abominable put on such an imposing air, and give itself forth as an angel of mercy to the afflicted race? Though it has taught men that "adultery must be practiced if we would obtain the advantages of life; that female infidelity, when known, is a small thing; and, when unknown, nothing;" * that "there is no merit or crime in intention;"* that "the civil law is the sole foundation of right and wrong, and that religion has no obligation but as enjoined by the magistrate;"* that "all the morality of our actions lies in the judgment we ourselves form of them;"* "that lewdness," in certain cases only, "resembles thirst in a dropsy, and inactivity in a lethargy;" that virtue is "only the love of ourselves:"* those these are the scandalous lessons which it has proclaimed as the only system calculated to model and perfect humanity; as the last and only refuge for the sorrowing, and suffering, and unhappy children of men! This it is which is to rescue them from all unworthy prejudices, which is to dissipate the mists of ages, which is to bring back the golden period of wisdom and reason, which is to convert the whole earth into a paradise, and which is to make men happy as angels under its mild and benignant sway! There is no cant so disgusting as that of infidelity. Though
most of its advocates have been libertines, though its footsteps may be traced in the blood which it has spilt, though it has trampled on all the laws of personal property and of the individual right, though it pollutes and degrades wherever it touches, yet are its advocates ever and anon boasting of its sublime virtues and its blessed achievements. One thing we may be quite sure of, that no one will listen to their vain and empty declamations till he has lost a certain portion of self-esteem, and till he wants to find an excuse for his conduct in the laxness and uncertainty of his belief. Looking at both the literary and vulgar part of modern infidels, we are constrained to say of them, in the words of the great apostle, "There is no fear of God before their eyes."