In the following exchange from John Bunyan’s famous work, consider how the health and wealth “gospel” is still attractive today, yet no less divisive.
“Now, I saw in my dream that Christian and Hopeful proceeded on at their former good pace while Mr. By-ends dawdled along as best suited on his fancy for he was a rather rich and lazy fellow. But one of them, chancing to look back, saw three other men join themselves to Mr. By-ends: Mr. Hold-the-world, Mr. Money-love, and Mr. Save-all.
By-ends: “Oh,” he complained dourly, “those two [Christian & Hopeful] are so legalistic and so much in love with their own opinions that they will not keep company with any but those who agree with them.”
Save-all: “Well, no matter,” with a resigned air, “wherever we may go, we are sure to find some who are religious overmuch. But pray tell, sir, what were your differences?”
By-ends: “Well, for one thing, these fellows are so bullheaded that they consider it their duty to press on their journey no matter what the weather while I am all for waiting till the wind and tide be favorable”
Hold-the-world: “But of course! ‘Tis only good sailing sense. Why, ask any sailor. ‘Sail with the tide,’ they’ll tell you. ‘With the tide!'”
By-ends: “So I told them!”
Money-love: “What else?” As he adjusted his fine ostrich-plumed hat.
By-ends: “Another major difference is that they are all for making their religion the most important thing in the world while I am for securing to myself the comforts of this life. After all, did not the Lord tell us to ‘abide till He come?'”
Save-all: “Yes, indeed. And what else, pray tell?”
By-ends: “Well, they are all for holding to their belief though all the world be turned against them. But I am for religion only to the extent that it is popular to be so.”
Money-love: “Very wise. ‘Go with the flow’-that’s my motto. Is that all?”
By-ends: “Yes, except that they are for standing by their religion whether popular or contemptible, whether in rags or riches. But I espouse Him only when, on sunny days, He walks smooth streets in His silver slippers, wind at His back, and with good applause.”
Hold-the-world: “Here! Here!” he proclaimed loudly.
Save-all: “We must be wise as serpents. Does not God send both rain and sun? And if they be fools enough to slog ahead through muck and mire, at least let us be wise enough to take shelter till the sun comes again.”
By-ends: “Aye! I am in full agreement.”
Bunyan, John. (1678). Pilgrim’s Progress (Translated by Jim Pappas, 2001)