The repentance of England requireth two things: First, the expulsion of all dregs of popery and the treading under foot of all glistering beauty of vain ceremonies. Next, no power or liberty must be permitted to any, of what estate, degree or authority they be, either to live without the yoke of discipline by God’s word commanded, or to alter one jot in religion which from God’s mouth thou hast received. If prince, king or emperor would enterprise to change or disannul the same, that he be the reputed enemy to God, while a prince who erects idolatry must be adjudged to death.
John Knox the Scotchman, Martin Luther the German, and John Calvin the Frenchman, were contemporaries. They constitute a trinity of strong men who profoundly influenced their times; and the epoch they made was so important that we call it “The Reformation.” They form the undertow of that great tidal wave of reason and commonsense called the Italian Renaissance. And as the chief business of the Hahnemannian school of medicine was to dilute the dose of the Allopaths, and the Christian Scientists confirmed the homeopaths in a belief concerning the beauties of the blank tablet, so did Luther, Calvin and Knox neutralize the arrogance of Rome, and dilute the dose of despotism.
Knox, Luther, and Calvin were hunted men. They lived stormy, tumultuous lives, torn by plot and counterplot. Very naturally, their religion is filled with fever and fear, and their God is jealous, revengeful, harsh, arbitrary, savage–a God of wrath.
Only a bold man, rough and coarse, could have defied the reigning powers and done the work which Destiny had cut out for John Knox to do. His power lay in the hallucination that his utterances were the final expressions of truth. Had he known more he would have done less.
Life is a sequence, and we are what we are because this man lived. To the memory of John Knox we acknowledge our obligation; but we realize that for us to accept and adopt the conclusions and ideals of one who lived in such tempestuous times is no honor to ourselves, nor to him.
The Christian Church has preached five special phases of belief, as follows: First, Religion by Definition; Second, Religion by Submission; Third, Religion by Substitution; Fourth, Religion by Culture; Fifth, Religion by Service.
All of these phases overlap, more or less, and the difference in sects consists simply in the amount of emphasis which is placed upon each or any particular phase. And this is largely a matter of temperament.
The Catholic Church emphasizes definition above all things. You are told the nature of evil; the Godhead, the trinity, the sacraments, the “elements” are explained, and the syllabus and catechism play most important parts. Before you are confirmed you have to memorize many definitions: little girls of ten glibly explain the difference between a mortal and a venal sin, and boys in knee-breeches discourse upon the geography of other worlds, and the state of sinners after death.
Next to Religion by Definition is Religion by Submission, and usually they go together. Persons too stupid to define can still submit. Service is not an essential, and in fact service without definition is usually regarded as hideous, “the righteousness of an unbeliever being as filthy rags.” However, if it were not for the service rendered by the monks, priests and nuns, the Catholic Church could never have retained its hold upon humanity. Its schools, asylums, hospitals and houses of refuge have been its excuse for existence, and the undoing of the infidel. But service with the Catholic Church is emphasized only for the priesthood–the laity being simply asked to define, submit and pay. Culture and character are left to natural selection, and the thought that any person but a priest could have either is a very modern hypothesis. In way of Religion by Definition, Saint Paul was the great modern exponent. That the Theological Quibblers’ Club existed long before his time we know full well. In fact, the chief invective of Jesus against Judaism was that it had degenerated into a mere matter of dispute concerning intricate nothings.