Apostasy, 18th century style

One thing a reading of history shows is that the grand old past usually wasn’t all that grand. In all times and all ages, the church has been troubled and vexed by apathy and apostasy. One episode, recounted in Murray’s great book, “Evangelicalism Divided,” concerns Frederick the Great (1712-86):

Athough he has been brought up in a nominal Reformed faith, Frederick the Great (as he became known) was a thorough rationalist and patrol of ‘free thought.’ The sight of a cross, it was said, was enough to make him blaspheme. On one occasion when he was declaiming against Christ and the Christian religion during a dinner he observed an apparent lack of sympathy on the part of one of his guests, Prince Charles of Hesse. To an enquiring question from the king, the prince replied: ‘Sire, I am not more sure of having the honour of seeing you, than I am that Jesus Christ existed and died for us as our Saviour on the cross.’ After a moment of surprised silence, Frederick declared, ‘You are the first man who has ever declared such a belief in my hearing.’

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