TRUE AND FALSE RELIGION
by J. C. Philpot
“I see that you are very religious in every way.” Acts 17:22
True religion is what the world does not want –nor does true religion want the world. The two are as separate as Christ and Belial. But some religion the world must have! And as it will not have, and cannot have the true–it will and must have the false.
Worldly religion cannot exist without an order of men to teach it and practice its ceremonies. Hence come clergy, forming a recognized priestly caste. And as these must, to avoid confusion, be governed, all large corporate bodies requiring a controlling power, thence come bishops and archbishops, ecclesiastical courts, archdeacons–and the whole apparatus of clerical government.
The ceremonies and ordinances cannot be carried on without buildings set apart for the purpose–thence churches and cathedrals. As prayer is a part of all religious worship, and carnal men cannot, for lack of the Spirit, pray spiritually–they must have forms of devotion made ready to their hand, thence come prayer-books and liturgies. As there must be mutual points of agreement to hold men together, there must be written formulas of doctrine –thence come articles, creeds, and confessions of faith.
And finally, as there are children to be instructed, and this cannot be safely left to oral teaching, for fear of ignorance in some and error in others, the very form of instruction must be drawn up in so many words– thence come catechisms. People are puzzled sometimes to know why there is this and that thing in an established religion–why we have churches and clergy, tithes and prayer-books, universities and catechisms–and the whole apparatus of religion. They do not see that all these things have sprung, as it were, out of a moral necessity, and are based upon the very constitution of man–that this great and widespread tree of a human religion has its deep roots in the natural conscience; and that all these branches necessarily and naturally grow out of the broad and lofty stem.
The attachment, then, of worldly people to a worldly religion is no great mystery. It is no riddle for a Samson to put forth–or requiring a Solomon to solve.