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John Knox
by [?]

The Religion of Culture flowers best in those with seven generations of New England clerical ancestry, or a carefully pruned F. F. V. family-tree. It goes with just a little and not too much C. B. & Q. and Old Colony eight per cent guaranteed, or wide ancestral acres. Most Unitarians and Episcopalians hold a caveat on culture and have character by the scruff. The Religion of Culture has a flavor of thyme and mignonette, and a gleam of old silver plate handed down as heirlooms. It means leisure, books on the shelf, well-filled woodsheds, and cellars stocked with vegetables.

It is leisurely, kindly, intelligent, gentle beautiful. The Religion of Culture is exclusive, and slips easily into social caste, which is spiritual and mental ankylosis. Its disadvantages are that to pursue culture is to frighten her far afield, and have her elude you. To strive for character is to lose it.

People who strive for health are headed for the sanatorium, for vitality plus comes only to those who do not think much about it; and likewise character is evolved best by those who forget character and lose their lives in service. Dyspeptics are people who have no faith in their digestive apparatus.

The Reformation revolved around Definition and Substitution. We escape the doom we deserve through the death of some one else. This belief in Substitution goes with an age that never doubted the beauty of capital punishment, and was worked out by men familiar with block, broadax and basket. Luther, Calvin and Knox possessed the elements of Submission, Character and Service only in rudimentary form. Substitution and Definition were their cornerstones.

* * * * *

That sturdy reformer, Martin Luther, was born in Fourteen Hundred Eighty-three. He was nine years old when Columbus turned the prow of his caravel to the West and persistently sailed on.

Luther’s father was a miner–a day laborer–and the lad’s childhood was grim and cheerless. He sang on the streets, and held out a ragged cap for pennies. His fine, sweet voice caught the ear of a priest, and the boy’s services were used at the altar. The lad was alert, active, intelligent, ambitious. Very naturally he was educated for the priesthood. He became a monk, and evolved into a preacher of worth and power.

A prosperous and successful church always produces a class of dignitaries given over to sloth and sensuality. From a sublime idea, with a desire to benefit and to bless, the church degenerates into an institution for the distribution of honors, and an engine for punishment for all who oppose it. To Martin Luther religion was a matter of the heart, and his soul was filled with the thought of service. At the same time he had ability in the matter of definition. He began calling upon the Church to reform, and demanding that priests repent. Very naturally the priests thought it absurd for Luther to try to bring the righteous to repentance. They laughed. Later they scowled. Then they called on Doctor Luther to mend his manners, and not make the Church and himself ridiculous in the eyes of the world.

Had Luther had an eye on the main chance he would at this time have pulled in his horns, and chosen other texts, and been promoted in due course to a bishopric; for although the man was small in stature, yet he carried the crown of his head high and his chin in. What he had before simply stated he now began to prove. The small hand of authority, gloved in imitation velvet, here lifted Luther out of a position of power and honor as “District Vicar,” a place that spelled promotion, and put him back as a grade school-teacher. Had the Pope been really infallible and the church authorities all-wise, they would have killed Luther, and that would ‘a’ been an end on ‘t. Leniency just then was an error in judgment. Luther set about bolstering his mental position. The more he thought about it, the more firmly convinced was he that his cause was just.