The Decline Of The Religious Sentiment -- By: James H. Fairchild

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 028:109 (Jan 1871)
Article: The Decline Of The Religious Sentiment
Author: James H. Fairchild


The Decline Of The Religious Sentiment

Rev. James H. Fairchild

Religion, as a human experience, involves three elements —the intellectual, the emotional, and the ethical. We must have, first, the rational apprehension of God — the great facts of his being and government; next, the emotions which these facts excite—the awe, the reverence, the fear, or hope which these great objects of religious thought inspire, often called religious sentiment; and lastly, the moral attitude and action which the facts require — the adjustment of character and life to the truths of religion as intellectually apprehended.

These elements of religious experience exist, in constantly varying proportions, both in the individual and in the community, the nation or the race. In some form or degree, they are all essential to the existence of religion as a genuine experience; but the same individual, in different stages of his progress, may exhibit different degrees and combinations of religious thought and feeling and ethical action. At one time he passes through a period of special intellectual activity, in which the thought is directed to the truths pertaining to God — his nature and government and providence — a period of earnest thinking, in which the foundations are laid in religious doctrine. Again, these facts act profoundly upon the feelings, and call forth the intense emotions which it is their nature to awaken; and then, again, the obligations and requirements of religion address themselves to the soul, and the character and the life are brought into harmony with the facts. The last result is, of course, the proper outcome of all thinking and feeling in connection with religion, Nothing that is ultimately salutary and

valuable has been accomplished until religion reaches and moulds the character and life. Where this is attained, religion is a success; where it is not, it is a failure. The thinking and feeling are, however, necessary steps in the process; because through these come all the motives to action, all the objects upon which the activity can terminate. Similar fluctuations are exhibited in communities, as in individuals. We sometimes come upon a period of religious thinking — a theological era, when the general mind is turned in the direction of the objects of faith, traversing the field of religious thought, defining more accurately the old, and bringing out the new, and extending the limits of religious knowledge. Again, we may have a general awakening of religious feeling, a quickening of the religious sentiment — the result of progress in religious thinking, of the apprehension of some new and moving truth, or a freshening of the old, or the consequence of providential events that touch th...

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