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An Irreverent Age PDF Print E-mail
Written by F.E. Davidson/Sylvestor Hassell   

The Gospel Messenger--November 1906

This is an age of irreverence. It manifests itself in numberless ways, but it is everywhere apparent. People joke about religious things, parody biblical incidents, speak familiarly of prophets, priests, and kings, turn the house of God into a show place, sing jig music and minstrel melodies in prayer meeting, make the Sunday service a display of costly millinery, exalt opera in the choir gallery, cut the sermon down to a vanishing point and render it a harmless potion to saint and sinner.

Time was when Sunday was different from all other days; now every day to vast masses is alike. The line between secular and religious things is ob­literated, the flood of secularism sweeps right on in many places seven days in the week.

Time was when the Bible was regarded as a holy book; that claim is now scoffed at by the multi­tudes. It has been driven out of the schools, and out of the home, and is being supplanted in many churches by political discussions and literary essays. The holy ordinances of religion are ignored and counted of no special value, any more than the rites of the heathen, and a standing in the church does not seem to differentiate men very much from their fellows. A great, deep, mighty nation-wide flood of irreverence for sacred things is everywhere apparent.

As Mrs. Browning puts it:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes—
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries.”
 
The fact is, for multitudes, the day, the book, the house, the ceremonies, the people have no pecul­iar sanctity, no supernatural interest, no divine charm, and no deep heart-compelling power. Having eyes they see not, having ears they hear not, having feelings they appreciate not the sanctity of sacred things. Such people, if they had faced the Burn­ing Bush that Moses saw, would have seen noth­ing but leaves and berries. There is a way of looking at things with such a heedless, friv­olous stare that eternal realities withdraw them­selves, never to return. We put out the light with our impudent and irreverent behavior. The more we crowd in irreverently, the more it flies from us. If we bore in mind the injunction that “the place whereon thou standest is holy ground,” and walked more softly, we should see more. In these days of Sunday excursions and Sunday visiting and Sunday baseball and Sunday band concerts and Sun­day “grand sacred entertainments,” in which choir singing of “The Holy City” is sandwiched in between moving pictures of prize fights and cake walks, it re­quires about all the grace ordinary individuals can muster to keep out of the maelstrom of irreverence that circles around him.

Cultivate reverence for the house of worship. When we fail to recognize the difference between the sacred temple of God and an opera house or a lodge room, we make a vast mistake. To so far forget our surroundings as to giggle or whisper or write notes we desecrate the place and assist in destroying rev­erence. It is a great thing to know how to behave in the house of God. And the same thing applies to God’s book. It is a holy volume and should not be handled irreverently. To what base uses has it been put. Used for an or­gan stool, used to prop open a window, used to kill flies and spiders with, used to keep unruly children apart, used to kindle fires by shiftless sextons, used merely as an ornament for the pulpit. Irreverent behavior toward the Book.

It is no uncommon thing to see young people and adults joking and mocking at the ordinances of religion. The baptismal service is to many an occa­sion of great hilarity. They see no solemnity in the ordinance; it is an occasion excruciatingly funny. To such an extent has this gone that in many churches no public announcement is made of the sol­emn ordinance in order to avoid a noisy, giggling rabble.

To take one’s place amid that company from whose souls all sense of reverence has departed, is to confess one’s self sadly fallen. To keep one’s heart forevermore in touch with the great realities which have come down to us through the ages, that we may hand them on as a priceless legacy to the generations yet to be, is to stand in line with the deathless spirits of the past, the great souls of the present, and the enthroned ones of the future.

Never allow yourself to make sport of, or to look with supercilious contempt upon the religious ob­servances of others; to do so is to commit a perma­nent injury upon your own soul. Such observances may be crude, may be uncongenial to you, may not appeal to your sense of true worship, but to others it may be the only way to rise out of a sense of guilt. And the crudest attempt of man to recognize the claims of his Creator is an infinite advance over the condition of that irreverent human being who repu­diates all his obligations, and, like an unthinking horse, eats and drinks and dies, without one act of devotion.

--F. E. Davidson
 
From Elder Sylvester Hassell
 
The terrible, wave of infidelity, heathenism, and atheism, thus well described and rebuked by Mr. Davidson, of Vermont, swept over Europe in the eighteenth century, and over the Northern States of the Union in the nineteenth century, and is sweep­ing over the Southern States in the twentieth cen­tury. This diabolical down-rush of the human race to perdition was foretold, and the certainty of its awful punishment by the only living, holy, and Al­mighty God was declared in Matt. xxiv; II Thess. i, 7-10; I Tim. iv; II Tim. iii; Rev. iii, 14-22; xix, 11-21. The irreverence, corruption, and violence pervading this wicked and adulterous generation are like the same satanic vices that pervaded nearly the whole human race in the days of Noah; and as unbelievers were destroyed by a flood of water then, so shall they soon be destroyed by a flood of fire. The sun shall become black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon as blood, and the stars shall fall, and the heavens depart as a scroll when it is rolled together, and every mountain and island be moved out of its place, and the kings of the earth and the rich men and the chief captains and the mighty men hide themselves in the dens and rocks of the mountains, and say to the moun­tains and rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand? Rev. vi, 12-17. Then all the indifference and irreverence and infidelity and atheism will be instantaneously and everlast­ingly driven from the minds of the human race; for even the devils or demons or evil spirits believe and tremble (James ii, 19); but our poor, ungodly, irrev­erent, and sinful race, deceived by Satan, the chief enemy of God and man, seems to be more stupid and more wicked than even the devils. May the Lord graciously save his people everywhere from such un­utterable folly and sinfulness.  S.H.

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.