I have another unpopular complaint to make. The old-fashioned hatred of heresy is becoming scarce.
God is not habitually looked at as the sole truth; and so the existence of heresies no longer appalls the mind. It is assumed that God must do nothing painful, and His dominion must not allow itself to take the shape of an inconvenience or a trammel to the liberty of His creatures. If the world has outgrown the idea of exclusiveness, God must follow our lead, and lay it aside as a principle in His dealings with us. What the enemy want they must have at last. This is the rule and the experience of a constitutional country. Thus discord in religion, and untruth in religion, must come to be less odious and less alarming to men, simply because they are accustomed to them. It requires courage, both moral and mental, to believe the whole of a grand nation to be wrong, or to think that an entire century can go astray. But theology, with a brave simplicity, concludes a whole world under sin, and sees no difficulty in the true Church being able to claim only a moderate share of the population of the earth. The belief in the facility of salvation outside the Church is very agreeable to our domestic loves and to our private friendships. Moreover, if we will hold this, the world will pardon a whole host of other superstitions in us, and will do us the honor of complimenting the religion God gave, as if it were some literary of philosophical production of our own. Is this such a huge gain? Many seem amazingly pleased with it, and pay dear for it quite contentedly. Now, it is plain that this belief must lower the value of the Church in our eyes. It must relax our efforts to convert others. It must relax our efforts to convert ourselves. Those who use the system of the Church least will of course esteem it least and see least in it, and are the most forward and the most generous in surrendering the prerogatives of the Church to the exigencies of modern smoothness and universalism. It would be strange if divine truths were not sometimes harsh to a world lost in corruption and sin. Yet we have not the bravery to hold fast to our principles. We should think priest, and sacrament, and church membership, of the last consequence to ourselves, if we were dying. But we regard them of too little consequence to our neighbor to justify a candor which might savor of impoliteness, or a sincerity which may be unpopular. Or is it that we really do not care whether he be saved or not? However, our want of hatred of heresy first lowers our doctrines, and then our standard of practice. Hence it is that, with the spirit of inward repentance, a love of the Church grows also; and that, where there is cordial hatred of sin, cordial hatred of heresy is not far off. All these are antiquated notions; yet I keep running into them unconsciously. I believe we should be more really and validly repentant if we had a trifle more of the spirit of the old Inquisitors about us. I know I ought to be ashamed of this in the meridian splendor of the Nineteenth Century; but it is a weakness which I cannot overcome, perhaps because I have not made sufficiently earnest efforts to overcome it. Up to this time I continue to hold that hatred of heresy will go along with genuine inward repentance. I beg of God, in His infinite compassion, to keep alive in me to the last hour of my life the intense hatred of heresy with which He has inspired me, and which I recognize as His gift. I beg of Him to make it grow in me to an abhorrence far greater that it is yet. Heaven is the land of love; but the hatred of heresy will not diminish there; for the hatred of heresy is the adoring love of God’s ever-blessed truth.