An Immoderate reader sent me this quote and I thought it was well worth passing on.

Presbyterian theologian and church historian* Robert Dabney (1820-98) was concerned with the revivalism of his day and where it would lead. In fact, he saw it as more dangerous than Rome herself. How much does American evangelicalism today mirror what he criticizes here?

“The best argument for any creed is the godly living of its professors. Protestantism used to have a grand and victorious advantage on that point. She is ceasing to wield it. . . . Church discipline is nearly extinct. Meantime spurious revivalism, relying upon all species of vulgar clap-trap and sensational artifice, upon slang rhetoric and the stimulating of mere animal sympathies, instead of the pure word and spirit of God, is hurrying tens of thousands of dead souls into the Protestant churches. These evils have gone so far that a profession of faith in these churches has come to mean nearly as little as a professed conformity to Rome means . . . Meantime, Rome gets up no spurious revivals; she works her system with the steadiness and perseverance which used to characterize pastoral effort and family religion among Presbyterians. It is true that her cultus is intensely ritualistic; but, at least, it does not offend decent people by irreverent slang; her worship is liturgical, but her liturgies, however erroneous in doctrine, are, at least, genteel, and marked by aesthetic dignity. Rome does not venture on sham miracles very much in these United States. It is true she has her spurious relics and other superstitious impostures for impressing the people; but wherein are they less of human artifices and less deceptive than the machinery of our pretended revivals, with their marchings, hand-shakings, choruses, and ephemeral conversions?”


*Here is a tract Dabney wrote concerning worship on the Lord’s Day.

**”The Attractions of Popery” in Discussions, vol. 3.