Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
Want of faith in God, or the disbelief of the truths of revelation, and the great principles of religion. If we enquire into the rise of infidelity, we shall find it does not take its origin from the result of sober enquiry, close investigation, or full conviction; but it is rather, as one observes, "The slow production of a careless and irreligious life, operating together with prejudices and erroneous conceptions concerning the nature of the leading doctrines of Christianity. It may, therefore, be laid down as an axiom, that infidelity is, in general, a disease of the heart more than of the understanding; for we always find that infidelity increases in proportion as the general morals decline. If we consider the nature and effect of this principle, we shall find that it subverts the whole foundation of morals; it tends directly to the destruction of a taste for moral excellence, and promotes the growth of those vices which are the most hostile to social happiness, especially vanity, ferocity, and unbridled sensuality. As to the progress of it, it is certain that, of late years, it has made rapid strides.
Lord Herbert did not, indeed, so much impugn the doctrine or the morality of the Scriptures, as attempt to supersede their necessity, by endeavouring to show that the great principles of the unity of God, a moral government, and a future world, are taught with sufficient clearness by the light of nature. Bolingbroke, and others of his successors, advanced much farther, and attempted to invalidate the proofs of the moral character of the Deity, and consequently all expectation of rewards and punishments, leaving the Supreme Being no other perfections than those which belong to a first cause, or Almighty contriver. After him, at a considerable distance, followed Hume, the most subtle of all, who boldly sinned to introduce an universal scepticism, and to pour a more than Egyptians darkness into the whole region of morals. Since his time, sceptical writers have sprung up in abundance, and infidelity has allured multitudes to its standard; the young and superficial, by its dexterous sophistry; the vain, by the literary fame of its champion; and the prodigate, by the licentiousness of its principles." But let us ask, What will be its end? Is there any thing in the genius of this principle that will lead us to suppose it will reign triumphant? So far from it, we have reason to believe that it will be banished from the earth.
Its inconsistency with reason; its incongruity with the nature of man; its cloudy and obscure prospects; its unsatisfying nature; its opposition to the dictates of conscience; its pernicious tendency to eradicate every just principle from the breast of man, and to lead the way for every species of vice and immorality, show us that it cannot flourish, but must finally fall. And, as Mr. Hall justly observes, "We have nothing to fear; for, to an attentive observer of the signs of the times, it will appear one of the most extraordinary plaenomena of this eventful crisis, that, amidst the ravages of atheism and infidelity, real religion is on the increase; for while infidelity is marking its progress by devastation and ruin, by the prostration of thrones and concussion of kingdoms, thus appalling the inhabitants of the world, and compelling them to take refuge in the church of God, the true sanctuary; the stream of divine knowledge, unobserved, is flowing in new channels; winding its course among humble valleys, refreshing thirsty deserts, and enriching, with far other and higher blessings than those of commerce, the most distant climes and nations; until, agreeably to the prediction of prophecy, the knowledge of the Lord shall fill and cover the whole earth."
See Hall's admirable Sermon on Infidelity; Fuller's Gospel of Christ its own Witness; Bishop Watson's Apology for the Bible; Wilberforce's Practical View, $ 3. ch. 7; Bp. Horne's Letters on Infidelity, and books under article Deism.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Infidelity'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/i/infidelity.html. 1802.