The Secular Spirit

By Isaac Errett

Far more widespread is the mischief arising from the intensely secular spirit of the age. The second mentioned evil is one that is realized by thinkers and students; but the mass of people do not think or study closely on these subjects. Without much thought or study they drink in the spirit of the age, which is grossly material and worldly. It is an age of material interests. Even science is subsidized by materialism, and has its chief value in ministering to the advancement of material interests. Education no longer proposes intellectual and moral enlargement and elevation as an end. Its end now is to fit us for the successful pursuit of wealth. Money is more than intellect, and intellect more than heart, these days. We are willing to wear the long ears of Midas, if only everything we touch may turn to gold. This insane thirst for riches, and the absorbing interest in the worldly pursuits which it necessarily engenders, puts every spiritual interest in peril. Not only are the devotees of wealth impervious to all at-tacks made by the gospel on heart and conscience, but the church is unnerved for the at-tack that ought to be made. This secular spirit is eating up the piety of heart and home and church. The closet is forsaken; the family altar crumbles. The Bible is no longer the book of the household. The daily papers, saturated with worldliness and reeking with vice and crime, and the weekly or monthly journal of literature and fashion, utterly Christless, if not positively infidel in its tendencies, form the reading of the family. Beyond this, if books are read, they are apt to be frothy fictions, written to minister to sentimentalism, and leaving the reader with hot blood and prurient desires. Our children go from these almost godless homes to secular schools, from which everything moral and religious is being most diligently rooted out, in obedience to the atheistic demands of a foreign population, who are not con-tent to enjoy in this land the liberty which Christianity has given them, but seek to establish in our country the same atheistic principles that have already sapped the foundations of morals in Europe, and made France the helpless, pitiable spectacle she is today. And our churches are invaded by the same secular spirit. The simplicity and spirituality of the church of God are sacrificed to pride and fashion. The crashing thunders of truth against all sin and wrong are exchanged for dulcet notes of rhetorical elegance, or for the sky-rockets of a sensational oratory. A false and hollow liberalism succeeds to the stern old bigotry that used to reign in the pulpit. Very short prayers and ten-minute sermons are the rage now. For the rest, the house of God must be made a place of refined amusement, so as to draw. Either delicious music or startling oratory must be had to draw. And when our children go from such homes into such schools, and from such schools into such churches, what sort of a generation are we training for the work of God? I tremble when I think of it. I am no foe to refinement or to oratory, and certainly no advocate of boorishness or of Ishmaelitish aggressiveness in the pulpit; but I would a thousand times rather see our pulpits filled with hairy Elijahs that could call down fire from heaven and send terror and slaughter among the foes of Israel, than with the most accomplished trimmers and slaves of the hour.

It is this worldliness, so wide-spread and so insinuating, that more than anything else paralyzes our missionary efforts. We are so intoxicated with the spirit of the times that we can not be brought to sympathize with a world that is rushing down to death. And we grow so selfish and ambitious in the midst of our earthly prosperities that we have no heart to give as we ought to give to the missionary work. There is ever an increasing selfishness, attending our growth in wealth, which very few escape. We have less sympathy with the world, and more anxiety for our own interests. And this operates in regard to our religious giving as in all other things. We lose our sympathy with the world of mankind. We learn to sneer at Foreign Missions, and figure on it to ascertain how much it costs to convert a soul in Africa or in India.

(Quoted from “Opportunity and Opposition,” New Testament Christianity I:76-79).

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 15, p. 5
August 4, 1994