"THE POWERS of the heavens shall be shaken," said our Lord: and all whose eyes are open can see the great shaking now in progress in the symbolic ecclesiastical "heavens" of the present time. How its stars are falling!*
Rev. Burt Estes Howard, formerly of the First Presbyterian Church of Cleveland, Ohio, but latterly of the First Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles, Cal., and now resigned with the intention of becoming a professor at Stanford University (the richest university in the world), declares his present position of disbelief as follows:—
"My ideas have changed regarding nearly all of the generally accepted religious tenets. My beliefs have not changed suddenly, but in the slow course of the last half dozen years. Simple faith in the Scriptures has given way to an irresistible belief in what is called higher criticism in religious thought.
"The old Testament is largely an historical work. There can be no question as to the Bible's power for elevating and uplifting humanity. But one does not have necessarily to believe in the miracles to feel and profit by this power.
As there were Gentiles who exhibited great faith in our Lord at his first advent, while the scribes and Pharisees and Doctors of the Jews disbelieved and scoffed, so now it is gratifying to note the zeal of a few secular journals in the defense of the Bible, while so many of the professed ministers of the Gospel are repudiating it. Discussing the trend of the high ones in the church nominal, toward infidelity,—called "higher criticism," evolution, etc.,—The Atlanta Constitution says:—
"The manifestations of unbelief in the pulpit have become so frequent and so notorious that a well-conducted newspaper cannot fail to take note, if only as a part of the phenomena of the time. Those of our readers who have access only to a few of the newspapers of the day would be astonished if we had room in these columns to present even one-half of the manifestations of unbelief that have become visible as the result of the encouragement and support which Dr. Briggs and his views have received.
"Already various pulpit imitators of Dr. Briggs are boldly avowing the conclusions to which the higher criticism leads. For instance, here is a professor in the Chicago Theological Seminary declaring that it is not necessary for Christians to believe in the miraculous birth of Christ; that such belief is not necessarily a part of the Christian creed. This professor takes the ground that the statements of the apostles on this matter are not revelations at all. Commenting on the Savior's words in the seventeenth chapter of John, this Chicago professor of theology calmly remarks:—'This is scarcely the utterance of one who was conscious of being the Messiah sent from God, but the preexistence which is involved is ideal.'
"We need not say that The Constitution prints this shameful, scandalous and blasphemous statement, not to horrify decent men and women, but to show how accurate were its predictions with respect to the [R2499 : page 180] purport and tendency of the higher criticism. Its whole aim is to tear down and undo, to uproot and destroy, the faith that has served the purposes of Christendom for nearly nineteen hundred years. Since we have quoted the sacrilegious teachings of a professor in the Chicago Theological Seminary, we cannot do better than to quote the remarks of Dr. Adams, editor of The Advance. 'The Congregationalists may put up with loose views on the atonement, but you may rest assured [he was talking to a reporter] that they will never endure a man who denies the miraculous birth and the preexistence in heaven of Jesus Christ.'
"The pretentiousness of the higher criticism could not be more powerfully set forth than its claim to be 'scientific.' No word in our English vocabulary has come to have a cheaper or a more insignificant meaning. It has been tossed to and fro between theorists and cranks until its primary significance has been lost and it stands for any wild or absurd conclusion that the disordered mind of man is capable of conceiving.
"Let it be understood that there is no objection anywhere to earnest and orderly investigations into the history and evolution of the books of the Bible. So long as such investigations are set on foot by men well enough equipped for the purpose and are not undertaken for the purpose of proving a theory already conceived, they are well enough. Let it be understood, also, that there is no claim among Christians anywhere that the translations of the Bible are free from error, or that the letterpress is inerrant; these are the work of man, and man's work is necessarily defective at some point or other.
"The claim that is made, and the claim that The Constitution upholds, is that the books of the Bible, of the Old as well as the New Testament, are divinely inspired; that to prove one or a dozen to be myths or fables is to tear down the whole scheme of salvation; and that the promise and the fulfilment are so intimately connected in the scheme of salvation that to prove one false is to prove the other a fraud. This is shown by comparing the conclusions of Dr. Briggs with the declarations of Dr. George H. Gilbert, the theological professor at Chicago. Dr. Briggs says that the Bible is made up of myths, fables, fairy tales, poems and fictitious narratives. The Chicago man is sure that the world is to be saved, if saved at all, by an Eastern philosopher who was not a Messiah but a gifted idealist. This is the logical conclusion of Briggism, and this is why Robert Ingersoll regards Briggs as a modern hero.
"Dr. Briggs and those who are hurrying his doctrines to their logical conclusions have nothing to offer in the place of the Bible they are destroying; no hope to hold out to those whose faith they are trying to undermine. In place of our Lord and Savior of whom the prophets tell, and to whom the apostles bear witness, they do not even offer us Mahomet, nor Brahma, nor Confucius. What then? Why, so far as the higher criticism is concerned, we have no choice but between Robert Ingersoll and the devil!"
While Satan's arts are beguiling some from faith in the Bible, he realizes the need of a substitute, and is rapidly pushing forward his "seducing spirits and doctrines of devils." (1 Tim. 4:1.) Theosophy, Christian Science (falsely so-called) and Spiritism are being advanced and exploited in various ways, through influential channels. Recently the New York and Boston journals of largest circulation have printed columns of matter, profusely illustrated, detailing the tests applied to Spiritism by Prof. Hodgson, representative of the English Society for Psychical research, Prof. James Hyslop of Columbia College, and Prof. James of Harvard College. We extract as follows:—
"'I have had in all seventeen sittings with Mrs. Piper,' said Dr. Hyslop. 'She had no possible means of knowing who I am. In not a single incident did she tell me facts connected only with my own memory. They were common as well with the memory of persons now dead.
"'Now that this was not fraud is proved by this statement of Prof. James, of Harvard, in the Psychological Review: "Dr. Hodgson considers that the hypothesis of fraud cannot be seriously entertained." I agree with him throroughly and absolutely.'
"'I shall be ready to lay my case completely before the world in just about a year. By that time I hope to organize a body of scientific men to examine my facts, and to get enough money to endow a fund to break down the frauds bound to spring up.'
"'The fact,' said he, 'that he has gone at the matter in the most extreme spirit of skepticism, and is supported in his research by such men as Dr. James, of Harvard, and Dr. Hodgson, of Boston, leads me to believe that he would not make any statement not well [R2500 : page 180] grounded on scientific facts.
Alas! poor Babylon, her lords and her teachers, in whom she has trusted, are leading on to the ditch of Infidelity, and fulfilling our Lord's prediction,— [R2500 : page 181] "When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find the faith on the earth?" He will evidently find only a "little flock" walking in the light of his Word.
How opportune seems the booklet—What say the Scriptures about Spiritualism?* All friends of the truth should have some of these on hand to loan—as helping hands to assist our "brethren" to escape this snare of the Adversary.
"Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching
forth unto those things which are before."—Phil. 3:13 .
Tho disappointments, keenly felt,
Have traced care on thy brow;
Tho hopes have perished that have caused
Thy heart in grief to bow;
Tho friends have failed thee whom thou loved,
And foes with wicked dart
Have drawn the cruel bow of scorn
To pierce thy breaking heart:
Be vigilant, be strong, be true,
And quit thee like a man;
Be diligent God's will to know—
Submissive to his plan;
Heed not the counseling of men,
E'en tho in love 'tis given.
(Shortsighted it is apt to be,
And lead thee far from Heaven.)
But ready be to follow Christ,
Wherever he may lead;
To voice of stranger hearken not,
But to his voice give heed.
Through evil or through good report
Undaunted follow on;
Your feet will never find a path,
But there your Lord has gone.
And what if men may look askance
And sneer and laugh and scorn?
You'll never feel a pang of pain,
But that your Lord has borne;
The trials of this present life
Are not to be compared
To glory we shall share with him,
Whose sufferings we have shared.