From Whitla’s introduction to Isaac Newton, Observations Upon The Prophecies Of Daniel and The Apocalypse Of St. John – Back to Table of Contents of the Introduction
WE come now to a study of the real nature, origin, and meaning of unbelief, keeping in mind our definition that Unbelief is the incapacity of the sceptical mind to accept or understand any phenomena belonging to what is usually understood as the Supernatural Sphere, in which are included our conception of a personal God, inspiration or revelation, miracles, prophecy, and prayer.
A close observation and study of human character and mentality convinces us of two prevailing errors the ideal or typical infidel and the real genuine hypocrite are supposed to be common types of men this is not so; both are comparatively rare. They are not to be met with at every street corner. It is a cheering reflection that we meet with very few Uriah Keeps and with comparatively few religious hypocrites men who steal the livery of heaven in order that they may wear it in the service of the devil the majority of those whom the world regards as hypocrites are specimens of weak Christians, often with high ideals up to the standard of which they are unable to live, and their frequent falls are accepted as proof of their utter insincerity and hypocrisy, whilst we should consider them as objects of pity demanding help instead of scorn. We shall see presently how similar considerations apply to the type of a good man commonly regarded as an infidel.
If unbelief then be a comparatively rare thing, why all this hubbub about its rapid spread inside and outside the Church? Real Unbelief cannot be propagated like a mushroom or fungus. There must be no confusion here : the German Higher Criticism is the product of unadulterated
26 infidelity, as explained in the former address. Men living at variance with the will and laws of God seize gladly upon its crude theories and baseless assertions, greedily swallowing them in order to set conscience asleep, just as the opium-eater dopes himself with laudanum to indulge in a few hours of lethe. The clear thinker will presently see that the narcotic laudanum corresponds in the simile, not with real infidelity or atheism, for it is something very different. If we change the simile to a metaphor, still using medical phraseology, we may call this something ” conscience salve.'”
Everyone meets with men who delight in aggressively and often offensively airing their opinions on the absurdity of accepting any of the before-mentioned varieties of supernatural phenomena included in our definition of Unbelief. We leave out of consideration the honest doubter. He is in another category, and moreover, he is, as a rule, ominously silent about his religious or spiritual perplexities. It is the privilege of the observant physician to see deeper into true character than most men, even including clergymen. How often do we find the boastful or blatant unbeliever change his note on the advent of some suddenly prostrating illness, and notice how he blanches in terror when ” the dark messenger, cloaked from head to foot,” is waiting for him in the antechamber to lead him to the Judgmentseat of his Creator! (The totally God-blind sceptic or rationalist has no bands in his death.)