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John Knox
by [?]

When Paul was brought before Gallio, the brother of Seneca, Gallio paid his respects to the same quibbling propensities against which Jesus had inveighed, by saying, “If it were a matter of wrong or of wicked villainy. O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: but if they are questions about words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; I am not minded to be a judge of these matters.”

Pity and piety have nothing necessarily to do with Religion by Definition. We can all recall men of acute minds who thought themselves pious, who had bartered their souls away in order to become senior wranglers. Intellect lured them on into wordy unseemliness; their skill in forensics became a passion, and to embarrass and defeat the antagonist became the thing desired, not the pursuit of truth. They fell victims to their facility in syntax and prosody–semi- Solomons in Scriptural explanations, waxing wise in defining the difference ‘twixt hyssop and myrrh.

Forty years ago no town in America was free from joint debates where the disputants would argue six nights and days together concerning vicarious salvation, baptism, regeneration, justification and the condition of unbaptized infants after death. Debates of this kind set the entire populace by the ears, and at post-office, tavern, grocery, family table, and even after the disputants had gone to bed, reasons nice, and subtleties hairsplitting were passed back and forth, until finally the party getting worsted fell back on maternal pedigrees, and epithet took the place of logic.

If the matter ended merely with the weapons of wordy warfare, it was fortunate and well, for these eyes have seen a camp-meeting where singletrees, neck-yokes, harness-tugs and scalding water augmented arguments concerning foreordination as taught by John Calvin and freewill as defined by John Knox.

Theological wrangles belong essentially to a pioneer people: an earnest, stubbornly honest people, whose lives are given over to a battle with the elements and the brute forces of Nature, always argufy.

Submission is not recognized in their formula except as a word, and their abnegation takes the form of a persistent pursuit of the thing desired, by following another trail. Such persons are always very proud, and the thing upon which they most pride themselves is their humility, and absence of pride.

“Morality comes only after physical self-preservation is secure,” says Herbert Spencer, and with culture it is the same, and so the word is not in the bright lexicon of pioneers. All of their service is of the Connecticut variety–if you need things, they have them for sale. And so we get the wooden-nutmeg enterprise, and the peculiar incident of the New Haven man at the Pan-American Fair, who sold wooden nutmegs for charms and bangles. But one day, running out of wooden nutmegs, he went to a wholesale grocer and bought a bushel of the genuine ones, and these he palmed off upon the innocent and unsuspecting, until he was brought to book on the charge of false pretenses. Human service, as taught by Jesus of Nazareth, has only been tried in a very spasmodic way, except for advertising purposes. The world has now, for the first time in history, reached a point where as a vital problem the production of wealth is secondary to the question of how we shall distribute it. And so the Religion of Service is being seriously considered, and perhaps will soon be given a trial. The man who said that the number of marriages was in exact ratio to the price of corn spoke wisely. What he meant was that physical well-being directly affects all of our social relations. It is exactly the same with our religion. Economics and religion are very closely related. People in a certain physical environment have a certain religion. A tired and overworked people, enslaved as chattels or by the spirit of the times, find solace in a mournful religion, and a haven of rest hereafter– also, in the contemplation of a Hell for those who believe differently from what they do. They sing, “All Days Will Be Sunday By and By,” or “Sweet Rest in Heaven.” If they are oppressed by debt and mortgages that gnaw, they sing, “Jesus paid it all, yes, all the debt I owe.” A warlike people whose wealth has come from conquest will shout the English National Hymn and take joy in such lines as “Confound their knavish tricks,” expressed as a prayer.