The Present Crisis
"Doctrine!" cry they, "Who cares for that?" Calling it "dogma," they make a football of it, and again they shout, "Who cares?"
The age is on the stir. Some sadly compare it to "the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt;" and the analogy certainly holds good to a very high degree. Others liken the period to the awakening days of spring, when all the pent up forces burst into action, and prophesy a season of growth and fruit. There is truth in this also, although the awakening energies are not all those of goodness, and caution asks the question, "What will the harvest be?"
In any case, the constable of society cries roughly, "Move on;" and the throngs in the streets of Mansoul insist that everyone shall proceed one way or another. Virtuous advances, if possible; but advances, even if virtue be left behind: such is the restless demand of the time.
Politics in a hurry takes to alliances which patriotism formerly forbade, and ventures upon stratagems which old-fashioned honesty would have condemned. Benevolence in a fever will not stay to consider possible failure, and assured hazard; but declares that the die is cast, and goes in for a vast experiment. Liberty, sick of her own sweets, turns to despotic power, as, at least in religion, the cure for her feebleness.
Religion itself, weary of laborious advance, regards her holy scruples as impedimenta, and adopts the methods of the world, while her doctrinal teaching is left, like some ancient Caesar's camp, to be viewed as a curiosity by this advanced generation. These are serious alterations; are they improvements?
Those who have no delight in unsettlement, and useless change, are by no means indifferent spectators of the childish freaks of this lightheaded generation. As fresh developments appear, the question arises again and again, "What next?" and with the enquiry comes the sigh, "O Lord, how long?" Certain of us are distressed beyond measure by that which others enter upon with a light heart. To mention this is to bring upon such dissentients a storm of ridicule. Why should they? They despise the regrets cause no concern to the changeful old fogies who cannot, like themselves, rush into the bogs after the jack-o'-lantern of progress.
"Doctrine!" cry they, "Who cares for that?" Calling it "dogma," they make a football of it, and again they shout, "Who cares?" Without waiting for an answer, they hurry forward in their infallible wisdom to exercise their liberality of spirit by scoffing at the narrow-minded orthodox. "Waters of a full cup are wrung out to them."
New teaching and new methods mar the peace of churches which, for many generations, have held to the once-delivered faith. The intrusion has been wanton and illegal; but what of that? Protests are of no avail: it usually suffices to answer them with a sneer. Where contempt would scarcely be prudent, the pretence of agreement is made to cover over a fatal difference, and to give opporunity to stab the truth in the back.
All things appear to be regarded as fair in the conflict with old-fashioned believers: they are a kind of creature with whom no faith is to be kept, and to whom no rights are reserved. No matter how venerable in years, profound in knowledge, or great in usefulness a man may be, let him hold to the old faith, and he has thereby forfeited every claim to regard.
"He was the founder of the church." He has ruled it too long! "He has been its principal pillar for many years." It is time that there was a change! "He is gently, and of tender spirit. It is cruel to oppose him." Men cannot be considered; if they are opposed to modern progress, they must endure the inevitable! This is the spirit of the new religion -- the religion of "humanity," they describe it is to give serious offence, but the description has been proved to be emphatically true in many instances; and others will be forthcoming with cruel certainty in due time.