Knowledge and religion in folio
What shall I saye? Wee had rather bee whole sinners than halfe Christians. White is counted no colour: so zeale is counted no vertue. But meere hypocrisie is counted true Christianitie: and true Christianitie is counted but hypocrisie. Our wealth is in an Epha, our zeale is in a Gomer. Our sinne like an Oake, our faith like a Mustard seede. They which haue no religion are counted honest men: for they count it as easie a mater to be a Christian as to saie the Lordes prayer, the Apostles Creede, the tenne Commaundementes, and goe to the church, this is countrie Diuinitie, this is Citie Diuinitie, and I say Saint Clements Diuinitie. He which can sweare that the Pope is Antichrist, and that flesh is good on Fridaies, is a protestant at least, a Christian everie inche: hee hath zeale, knowledge and religion in Folio (sig. Hhh5r).
This is "silver-tongued" Henry Smith discussing zeal in a sermon (printed in 1593). This passage comes from Smith's sermon on "The Dialogue betweene Paul and Agrippa" in Acts 26:26-29. The sermon is a great example of Smith's ability to turn single words into powerful displays of exhortation and admonition. In this case, he picks up on the words "almost" and "altogether" in the passage--Agrippa says to Paul, "Almost thou perswadest me to become a Christian" and Paul replies, "I would to God, that not onely thou, but also all that heare me this daie were both almost, and altogether such as I am." Smith works his way into arguing that folks in his time are content with "almost." This lack of zeal leads to the situation described in the somewhat confusing passage above.
What interests me here is the final phrase, Smith's claim that in the present, almost-oriented situation, someone who merely swears the Pope is antichrist and that flesh is acceptable to eat on Fridays is a "Christian euerie inche" and has "zeale, knowledge and religion in Folio." Smith of course doesn't think such a thing; he is calling attention to the wrongheadedness of the "almost" culture, in part by reference to the folio format. As I have been working on the language of books, I have found that most writers use "X in folio" in surprising ways. Specifically, they frequently use the folio format (as Smith wryly does here) to signal something other than fullness and richness. Typically, the end point of a reference to the folio format is to minimize or reduce, rather than to enhance or enlarge. Smith's reference to folio here resembles Shakespeare's in Don Armado's line, "I am for whole books in folio." In both cases, a big book functions, ultimately, as a sign of intellectual poverty.
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