Home » Fiction & Literature » Helen O. Belknap » The Church on the Changing Frontier: A Study of the Homesteader and His Church

March 11 , 2008

The Church on the Changing Frontier: A Study of the Homesteader and His Church


A FOREWORD The dictionaries and the students of words have a great deal to say, – perhaps more than is worth while, – of the origin of the word Gentleman, – whether a gentleman in England and a gentilhomme in France mean the same thing, and so on. The really interesting thing is that in a republic where a man's a man, the gentleman is not created by dictionaries or by laws. You cannot make him by parchment. As matter of philology, the original gentleman was gentilis. That is, he belonged to a gens or clan or family, which was established in Roman history. He was somebody. If he had been nobody he would have had no name. Indeed, it is worth observing that this was the condition found among the islanders of the South Sea. Exactly as on a great farm the distinguished sheep, when they were sent to a cattle fair might have specific names, while for the great flock nobody pretends to name the individuals, so certain people, even in feudal times, were gentilis, or belonged to a gens, while the great body of men were dignified by no such privilege. The word gentleman, however, has bravely won for itself, as Christian civilisation has gone on, a much nobler meaning. The reader of this little book will see that the poet Dekker, surrounded by the gentlemen of Queen Elizabeth's Court, already comprehended the larger sense of this great word. The writer of this essay, taking the familiar language of the Established Church of England, follows out in some of the great crises of the Saviour's life some of the noblest illustrations of the poet's phrase
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