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The Greatest English Classic A Study of the King James Version of
by Cleland Boyd McAfee
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Here are these three great movements, not to seek others. All of them have had tremendous influence in the religious and political history of both the nations where they have moved most freely. Each of them is a direct and undisputed result of the influence of the Bible. Much has already been said of the Puritans in England, and there will be occasion to see what was their influence in America. But think for a moment of the Quakers. James Freeman Clark calls them the English mystics; certainly they were more than that.[1] George Fox had little learning but the Bible; that he knew well. He first came to himself out in the fields alone with the Bible. He was not stirred to the origin of the movement nor to his greatest activity by experiences he had in public places. He came to those public places profoundly affected by his familiarity with the English Bible. He came at a time when his protest was needed, a protest against formalism, against mere outward conformity. A thousand years before, Mohammedanism had really saved the Christian faith by its protest, violent and merciless, against its errors, challenging it to purity in faith and life. Now Fox and the Quakers saved church life by protest against church life. The Bible was still the law, but not the Bible which you read for me, but that which you read for you and I for me, each of us guided by an inner light. The Quaker movement was a distinct protest against church formalism in the interests of freedom of the Bible.

[1] David Gregg, The Quakers in America.

That Quaker influence was far stronger in America than it ever proved to be in England. George Fox himself visited the colonies and extended its influence. Three great effects are easily traceable. The very presence of the Quakers in the New England colonies, notably in Massachusetts, and the persecutions which they endured, did more to purify the Puritans than any other one influence. One is only loyal to the Puritan character and teaching in declaring that in the manner of the Puritans toward the Quakers they were wrong; they were wrong because they were untrue to their own belief, untrue to their own Bibles, and when the more thoughtful among them found that they were taking the attitude toward the Quakers which they had resented toward themselves, remembering that the Quakers were drawing their teaching from the same Bible as themselves, they were naturally checked. And, while the Quakers in New England suffered greatly, their suffering proved the purification of the Puritans. It accented and so it removed the narrowness of Puritan practice. Further, the Quaker movement gave to American history William Penn and the whole constitution of Pennsylvania. It was there that a state first lived by the principle which William Penn pronounced: "Any government is free where the people are a party to the laws enacted." So it came about that Independence Hall is on Quaker soil. The Declaration of Independence appeared there, and not on Puritan soil. It may be there was more freedom of thought in Pennsylvania. It may be explained on purely geographical ground, Philadelphia being the most convenient center for the colonies. But it remains significant that not on Cavalier soil in Virginia, not on Dutch soil in New York, not on Puritan soil in Boston, but on Quaker soil in Philadelphia the movement for national independence crystallized around a general principle that "any government is free where the people are a party to the laws enacted," but that no government is free whose people have not a voice. That is not minimizing the power of Puritanism, nor forgetting Fanueil Hall and the Tea Party. It only accents what should be familiar: that Puritanism drew into itself more of the fighting element of Scripture, while the Quaker movement drew into itself more of the uniting, pacifying element of Scripture. The third effect of the Quaker movement is John Greenleaf Whittier, with his gentle but never weak demand that national freedom should not mean independence of other people alone, but the independence of all people within the nation. So that while the Quaker spirit helped the colonies to break loose from foreign control and become a nation, it helped the nation in turn to break loose from internal shackles. The nation stood free within itself as well as free from others. Yet the Quaker movement—and this is the argument—is itself the result of the English Bible, and the Quaker influence is the influence of the English Bible on history.

There is not need for extended word about the great Wesleyan movement in the midst of this period, which has so profoundly affected both English and American history. It has not worked out into such visible political forms. But any movement that makes for larger spiritual life makes for the strengthening of the entire life of the nation. The mere figures of the early Wesleyan movement are almost appalling. Here was a man, John Wesley, an Oxford scholar, who spent nearly fifty years traveling up and down and back and forth through England on horseback, covering more than two hundred and fifty thousand miles, preaching everywhere more than forty thousand times, writing, translating, editing two hundred works. When death ended his busy life there were in his newly formed brotherhood one hundred and thirty-five thousand members, with five hundred and fifty itinerants who were following his example with incessant preaching and Bible exposition. It was the old Wiclif-Lollard movement over again. And here was the other Wesley, Charles, teaching England to sing again, teaching the old truths of the Bible in rhyme to many who could not read, so that they became familiar, writing on horseback, in stage-coaches, everywhere, writing with one passion, to help England back to the Bible and its truth. Such activity could not leave the nation unmoved; all its religious life felt it, and its political life from serf to king was deeply affected by it. It is a common saying that the Wesleyan movement saved English liberty from European entanglement. Yet the Wesleyan movement issued from the Bible and led England back to the Bible.

But apart from these wide movements and the great souls who led them, there is time for thought of one typical character on each side of the sea who did not so much make a movement as he proved the point around which a great fluid idea crystallized into strength. Across the sea the character shall be that man whom Carlyle gave back to us out of obloquy and misunderstanding, Oliver Cromwell. Choosing him, we pass other names which crowd into memory, names of men who have served the need of England well-Wilberforce, John Howard, Shaftesbury, Gladstone—who drew their strength from this Book. Yet we choose Cromwell now for argument. On this side it must be that best known, most beloved, most typical of all Americans, Abraham Lincoln.

An English historian has said that the most influential, the most unescapable years in English history are those of the Protectorate. That is a strong saying. They were brief years. There were many factors in them. Oliver Cromwell was only one, but he was chief of all. He was not chief in the councils which resulted in the beheading of Charles I. on that 30th of January, 1649, though he took part in them. Increasingly in the movements which led to that event and which followed it he was growing into prominence. After Marston Moor, Prince Rupert named him Ironsides, and his regiment of picked men, picked for their spirit, went always into battle singing psalms, "and were never beaten." As he rode out to the field at Naseby (1645) he knew he faced the flower of the loyalist army, while with him were only untrained men; yet he smiled, as he said afterward, in the "assurance that God would, by things that are not, bring to naught things that are." Then he adds, "God did it." Never did he raise his flag but in the interests of the liberty of the people, and back of every movement of his army there was his confidence in the Bible, which was his mainstay. They offered him the throne; he would not have it. He dissolved the Parliament which had dragged on until the patience of the people was exhausted. He called another to serve their need. The evening before it met he spent in meditation on the One hundred and third Psalm. The evening before the second Parliament of his Protectorate he brooded on the Eighty-fifth Psalm, and opened the Parliament next day with an exposition of it. The man was saturated with Scripture. Yes, the times were rude. It was an Old Testament age, and in right Old Testament spirit did Cromwell work. And it seemed that his work failed. There was no one to succeed him, and soon after his death came the Restoration and the return of Charles II., of which we have already spoken, in which occurred that hint of the real sentiment of the English people which a wise man had better have taken. Yet, recall what actually happened. Misunderstanding the spirit of the English people, which Cromwell had helped to form, but which in turn had made Cromwell possible, the servile courtiers of the false king unearthed the Protector's body, three years buried, hanged it on a gallows in Tyburn for a day, beheaded it, and threw the trunk into a pit. His head they mockingly set on a pinnacle of the Parliament Hall, whence for some weeks it looked over the city which he had served. Then, during a great storm, it came clattering down, only a poor dried skull, and disappeared no one knows where. But when you stand opposite the great Parliament buildings in London to-day, the most beautiful buildings for their purpose in the world, the buildings where the liberties of the English express themselves year after year, whose is the one statue that finds place within the inclosure, near the spot where that poor skull came rattling down? Not Charles II.—you shall look in vain for him. Not George Monk, who brought back the King—you shall not find him there. The one statue which England has cared to plant beside its Parliament buildings is that of Oliver Cromwell, its Lord Protector. There he stands, warning kings in the interests of liberty. John Morley makes no ideal of him. He thinks he rather closed the medieval period than opened the modern period; but he will not have Cromwell compared to Frederick the Great, who spoke with a sneer of mankind. Cromwell "belonged to the rarer and nobler type of governing men, who see the golden side, who count faith, piety, hope among the counsels of practical wisdom, and who for political power must ever seek a moral base." That is a rare and noble type of men, whether they govern or not. But no man of that type governs without red blood in his veins; and the iron that made this man's blood run red came from the English Bible.

It is a far cry from Oliver Cromwell to Abraham Lincoln—far in years, far in deeds, far in methods, but not far in spirit. Great men are kindred, generations over. We pass from the Old Testament into the New when we pass from Cromwell to Lincoln; but we still feel the spirit of liberty. From the days of the Puritans, the Quakers and the Dutch, history had been preparing for this time. Benjamin Franklin had done his great work for human liberty; he had summed up his hope for the nation in his memorable address in 1787, when he stood eighty- one years old, before the convention assembled to frame a constitution for the new government. He reminded them that at the beginning of the contest with the British they had had daily prayers in that room in Philadelphia for the Divine protection, and said: "I have lived for a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proof I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that 'Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall proceed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our deliberation be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service."

George Washington sounded a familiar note in his farewell address: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. A volume could not trace all their connection with private and public felicity. Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles." Thomas Jefferson, of whom it is sometimes said that he was indifferent to religion, had yet done his great work under inspiration, which he himself acknowledges in his inaugural address, when he speaks of the nation as "enlightened by a benign religion, professed indeed, and practised in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensation proves that it results in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter." Greater than Jefferson had appeared John Marshall, greatest of our Chief Justices, like in spirit to that John Marshall Harlan, whose death marked the year which has just closed, of whom his colleagues said that he went to his rest each night with one hand on the Bible and the other on the Constitution of the United States, a description which could almost be transferred to his great predecessor in that court. Moreover, when Lincoln came, Joseph Story, the greatest teacher of law which our country had produced, had only just died from his place on the Supreme Bench, In his Phi Beta Kappa address at Harvard (1826), in a brilliant and masterful analysis of "The Characteristics of the Age," he had paid tribute after tribute to the power of religion and the Bible. He had declared his belief that the religion of the Bible had "established itself in the hearts of men by all which genius could bring to illumine or eloquence to grace its sublime truths." Of the same period with Lincoln was also Webster, who was called the "concordance of the House." Many of his stately periods and great ideas came from the Bible. Indeed, there is no oratory of our history, which has survived the waste of the years, which does not feel and show the power of the Scriptures. The English Bible has given our finest eloquence its ideas, its ideals, its illustrations, its phrases.

The line is unbroken. And it leads to this tall figure, crowned with a noble head, his face the saddest in American history, who knew Gethsemane in all its paths. The heart of the American people has always been touched by his early years of abject poverty. But there were compensations. He had few books, and they entered his blood and fiber. In his earliest formative years there were six books which he read and re-read. Nicolay and Hay name the Bible first in the list, with Pilgrim's Progress as the fourth. Mr. Morse calls it a small library, but nourishing, and says that Lincoln absorbed into his own nature all the strong juice of the books.[1] How much he drew from the pages of the Holy Book let any reader of his speeches say. Quotation, reference, illustration crowd each other. The phrases are familiar. The man is full of the Book. And what the man does is part of the work of the Book.

[1] American Statesman Series, Abraham Lincoln, i, 12, 13.

One of his biographers says that there is nothing in the life or work of Lincoln which cannot be explained without reference to any supernatural influence or power. That depends on what is meant by supernatural. There were no miracles, no astounding visions nor experiences. But there ran into Lincoln's life from his young manhood onward this steady and strong current of ideas and ideals from the Bible. In his second inaugural address he worded the thought that was the deepest horror of the Civil War— that on both sides of the strife men were reading the same Bible, praying to the same God, and invoking His aid against each other! In that very brief inaugural Mr. Lincoln quotes in full three Bible verses, and makes reference to two others, and the whole address lasted barely four minutes. There could be no mistaking the solemn importance of the fact to which he referred in the inaugural, the presence on the other side of men who held their Bibles high in regard. "Stonewall" Jackson was devout beyond most men. The two books always at his hand were his Bible and the Manual of the Rules of War. Robert E. Lee was a cultured, Christian gentleman, as were many others with him, while throughout the South were multitudes who loved and reverenced the Bible as fully as could any in the North. As we look back over half a century, this comes out plainly: that so far as the American civil war was a strife about union pure and simple, having one nation or two here in our part of the continent, it was matter of judgment, not of religion. There grew around that question certain others of national honor and obligation, which were not so clear then as now. But men on opposite sides of the question might read the same Bible without finding authoritative word about it. In so far, however, as the war had at its heart the matter of human slavery, it was possible for men to differ only when one side read the letter of the Bible while the other read its manifest spirit. Written in times when slavery was counted matter of course, its letter dealt with slavery as a fact. It could be read as though it approved slavery. But long before this day men had found its true spirit. England had abolished slavery (1808) under the insistence that it was foreign to all right understanding of God's Word. Lincoln knew its letter well; he cared for its spirit more, and he found his strength not in the familiar saying that God was on his side, but in the more forceful one that he believed himself to be on God's side. So he became a point around which the great fluid idea crystallized into strength—a point made and sustained by the influence of the Bible, which he knew only in the King James version.

We have spoken of some wide movements and of men around whom they crystallized, finding in them the influence of the Bible. It will be well to note two outstanding traits of the Bible which in English or any other tongue would inevitably tend to strong and favorable influence on the history of men. Those two traits are, first, its essential democracy, and, secondly, its persistent moral appeal.

Here must be recalled that century before the King James version, when by slow filtration the fundamental ideas of the Bible were entering English life. Surely it is beyond words that the Bible made Puritanism, though it was in strong swing when James came to the throne. Now John Richard Green is well within the fact when he says that "Puritanism may fairly claim to be the first political system which recognized the grandeur of the people as a whole."[1] It, was the magnifying of the people as a whole over against some people as having peculiar rights which marked Puritanism, and which is democracy. Shakespeare knew nothing of it, and had no influence on the movement for larger democracy. After we have said our strong word of Shakespeare's powerful influence upon literature it yet must be said that it is difficult to lay finger on one single historical movement except the literary one which Shakespeare even remotely influenced. The Bible, meanwhile, was absolutely creating this movement. Under its influence "the meanest peasant felt himself ennobled as the child of God, the proudest noble recognized a spiritual equality with the meanest saint." That was the inevitable result of a fresh reading of the Bible in every home. It assured each man that he is a son of God, equal in that sonship with all other men. It assured him no man has right to lord it over others, as though his relation to God were peculiar. The Bible constantly impresses men that this relation to God is the essential one. Everything else is incidental. Granted now a people freshly under the influence of that teaching, you have a large explanation of the movement which followed the issuance of this version.

[1] Short History of the English People, chap. vii, sec. vii.

James opened his first parliament (1604) with a speech claiming divine right, a doctrine which had really been raised to meet the claim of the right of the pope to depose kings. James argued that the state of monarchy is the supremest thing on earth, for kings are not only God's lieutenants on earth and set upon God's throne, but even by God Himself are called gods. (He never found that in the Genevan version or its notes!) As to dispute what God may do is blasphemy, so it is sedition in subjects to dispute what the king may do in the height of his power. "I will not be content that my power be disputed on." The House of Commons sat by his grace and not of any right.

Set that idea of James over against the idea which the Bible was constantly developing in the mind of the people, and you see why Trevelyan says that the Bible brought in democracy, and why he thinks, as we have already seen, that the greatest contribution England has made to government is its treatment of the Stuarts, when it transferred sovereignty from the king to Parliament. Among the men who listened to that kind of teaching were Eliot, Hampden, Pym, all Puritans under the spell of the Bible. But the strife grew larger than a merely Puritan one. The people themselves were strongly feeling their rights. "To the devout Englishman, much as he might love his prayer-book and hate the dissenters, the core of religion was the life of family prayer and Bible study, which the Puritans had for a hundred years struggled not in vain to make the custom of the land." It was this spirit which James met.

We have already thought sufficiently of the events which actually followed. The final rupture of Charles I. with parliamentary institutions was due to the religious situation. There were many Bible-reading families, learning their own rights, while kings and favorites were plotting war. Laud and the bishops forbade non-conforming gatherings, but they could not prevent a man's gathering his household about him while he read the great stories of the Bible, in which no king ruled when he had ceased to advance his kingdom, in which each man was shut up to God in the most vital things of his life. The discussion of the time grew keen about predestination and free-will. One meant that only God had power; the other meant that men, and if men, then specially kings, might control other men if only they could. Not fully, but vaguely, the crowd understood. Very fully, and not vaguely, the leaders understood. Predestination and Parliament became a cry. That is, control lifted out of the hands of the free-will of some monarch into the hands of a sovereign God to whom every man had the same access that any other man had. Laud decreed that all such discussion should cease. He revived an old decree that no book could be printed without consent of an archbishop or the Bishop of London. So the books became secret and more virulent each year. The civil war (1642-46) between Charles and Parliament was a war of ideas. It is sometimes called a war of religion, not quite fairly. It was due to the religious situation, but actually it was for the liberties of the people against the power of the king. And that question rooted far down in another regarding the rights of men to be free in their religious life. Charles struck his coin at Oxford with the Latin inscription: "The Protestant religion; the laws of England; the liberties of Parliament." But he struck it too late. He had been trifling with the freedom of the people, and they had learned from their fireside Bibles and from their pulpits that no man may command another in his relation to God. It was long after that Burns described "The Cottar's Saturday Night"; but he was only describing a condition which was already in vogue, and which was having tremendous influence in England as well as in Scotland:

"The cheerfu' supper done, wi' serious face, They, round the ingle, form a circle wide; The sire turns o'er, wi' patriarchal grace, The big ha' Bible, ance his father's pride: His bonnet rev'rently is laid aside, His lyart haffets wearing thin an' bare; Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide, He wales a portion with judicious care, And 'Let us worship God!' he says, with solemn air."

Under such guidance as this the people of England, Puritans and others, relaxed the power of the Stuarts and became a democracy. For democracy is not a form of government. It can exist under monarchy, provided the monarchy is a convenience of the will of the people, as it is in England. It can exist under institutions like our own, provided they also are held as a convenience of the people. This was no rebellion against some form of monarchy. It was simply a claim of every man to have his rights before God. Under the Parliament of eighteen years duration, the Independensts, Presbyterians, and all other non-conforming bodies suffered as heavily as under James and Charles, yet they did not flee the land. Their battle was really won. They believed the time would come when they as part of "the people" who now governed should assert themselves. If they were persecuted, it was under a government where yet they might hope for their rights. Fleeing from England in 1620 was heroism; fleeing in 1640 would have been cowardly. It is impossible to calculate what was the revelation to the readers of the English Bible of their rights.

Let Trevelyan tell the story: "While other literary movements, however noble in quality, affect only a few, the study of the Bible was becoming the national education. Recommended by the king, translated by the Bishops, yet in chief request with the Puritans, without the rivalry of books and newspapers, the Bible told to the unscholarly the story of another age and race, not in bald generalization and doctrinal harangue, but with such wealth of simple narrative and lyrical force that each man recognized his own dim strivings after a new spirit, written clear in words two thousand years old. A deep and splendid effect was wrought by the monopoly of this Book as the sole reading of common households, in an age when men's minds were instinct with natural poetry and open to receive the light of imagination. A new religion arose, of which the mythus was the Bible stories and the pervading spirit the direct relations of man with God, exemplified in the human life. And while imagination was kindled, the intellect was freed by this private study of the Bible. For its private study involved its private interpretation. Each reader, even if a Churchman, became in some sort a church to himself. Hence the hundred sects and thousand doctrines that astonished foreigners and opened England's strange path to intellectual liberty. The Bible cultivated here, more than in any other land, the growth of intellectual thought and practice."[1]

[1] England under the Stuarts.

All that has seemed to refer only to England, but the same essential democracy of the Bible came to America and founded the new nation. It was a handful of Puritans turned Pilgrims who set out in the Mayflower to give their Bible ideas free field. In a dozen years (1628-40), under Laud's persecution, twenty thousand Englishmen fled to join those Pilgrims. And how much turned on that! Suppose it had not happened. Then the French of the North and the cavaliers of Virginia, with the Spanish of the South, would have had only the Dutch between them. And of the four, only the Dutch had free access to the Bible. The new land would not have been English. It is an English writer who says that North America is now preparing the future of the world, and English speech is the mold in which the folk of all the world are being poured for their final shaping.[1] It is the democracy of the Bible which is the fundamental democracy of America, in which every man has it accented to him that he is so much a child of God that his rights are inalienable. They cover life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And though we have held that principle of democracy inconsistently at times, and have paid a terrible price for our inconsistency in the past, and may pay it in the future again, it is still true that the fundamental democracy of our American life is only that essential democracy of the Bible, where every man is made the equal of his fellow by being lifted into the same relation with Almighty God.

[1] Trevelyan, England under the Stuarts, p. 174.

The Bible makes its moral appeal on the same basis. If a man is a child of God, then he is shut up to duties which cannot be avoided. Some one else may tell a man his duty in a true monarchy. In a democracy each man stands alone at the most solemn point of his duty. There is no safe democracry where men refuse to stand alone there. In Jefferson's great speech, replying to the forebodings of Patrick Henry, he insisted that if men were not competent to govern themselves they were not competent to govern other people. The first duty of any man is to take his independent place before God. Democracy is the social privilege that grows out of the meeting of these personal obligations.

Several facts strengthen this persistent moral appeal. For one thing, the Book is absolutely fair to humanity. It leaves out no line or wrinkle; but it adds none. The men with whom it deals are typical men. The facts it presents are typical facts. There are books which flatter men, make them out all good, prattle on about the essential goodness of humanity, while men who know themselves (and these are the only ones who do things) know that the story is not true. On the other hand, there are books which are depressing. Their pigments are all black. They move from the dignity of Schopenhauer's pessimism to the bedlam of Nietzsche's contempt for life and goodness. But here, also, the sane common sense of humanity comes to the rescue. The picture is not true if it is all white or all black. The Bible is absolutely fair to humanity. It moves within the circle of man's experience; and, while it deals with men, it results in a treatment of man.

That is how it comes about that the Bible inspires men, and puts them at their best. No moral appeal can be successful if it fails to reach the better part of a man, and lays hold on him there. Just that it did for the English people. "No greater moral change ever passed over a nation than passed over England during the years that parted the middle of the reign of Elizabeth from the meeting of the Long Parliament. England became the people of a Book, and that Book was the Bible."[1]

[1] Green, Short History of the English People.

Add to that personal appeal and that absolute fairness to humanity the constant challenge of the Bible to the nobler elements of humanity. It never trifles. It is in deadly earnest. And it makes earnest men. Probably we cannot illustrate that earnestness more clearly than by a study of one element in Puritan history, which is confused in many minds. It is the matter of the three great antagonisms of Puritanism in England and America. They can never be understood by moral triflers. They may not be approved by all the morally serious, but they will be understood by them. What are those three marked antagonisms? The antagonism to the stage, to popular frivolity, and to the pleasure Sabbath.

1. The early English stage had the approval of virtually all the people. There were few voices raised against the dramas of Shakespeare. But the cleavage between the Puritans and the stage grew greater as the years went on. There were riotous excesses. The later comedy after Shakespeare was incredibly gross. The tragedies were shallow, they turned not on grave scenes of conscience, but on common and cheap intrigues of incest and murder. In the mean time, "the hatred of the Puritans for the stage was only the honest hatred of God-fearing men against the foulest depravity presented in poetic and dramatic forms." The Bible was laying hold on the imagination of the people, making them serious, thoughtful, preparing them for the struggle for liberty which was soon to come. The plays of the time seemed too trifling or else too foul. The Puritans and the English people of the day were willing to be amused, if the stage would amuse them. They were willing to be taught, if the stage would teach them. But they were not willing to be amused by vice and foulness, and they were not willing to be taught by lecherous actors who parroted beautiful sentiments of virtue on the stage and lived filthy lives of incest and shame off the stage. Life had to be whole to the Puritan, as indeed it has to be to other thoughtful men. And the Bible taught him that. His concern was for the higher elements of life; his appeal was to the worthier values in men. The concern of the stage of his day was for the more volatile elements in men. The test of a successful play was whether the crowds, any crowds, came to it. And as always happens when a man wants to catch the interest of a crowd, the stage catered to its lowest interests. You can hardly read the story of the times without feeling that the Puritan made no mistake in his day. He could not have been the thoughtful man who would stand strong in the struggle for liberty on that side of the sea and the struggle for life on this side of the sea without opposing trifling and vice.

2. The antagonism of the early Puritan to popular frivolity needs to have the times around it to be understood. No great movement carries everybody with it, and while it is still struggling the majority will be on the opposing side. While the real leadership of England was passing into the stronger and more serious hands the artificial excesses of life grew strong on the people. "Fortunes were being sunk and estates mortgaged in order that men should wear jewels and dress in colored silks."[1] In the pressure of grave national needs men persisted in frivolity. The two reigning vices were drunkenness and swearing. In their cups men were guilty of the grossest indecencies. Even their otherwise harmless sports were endangered. The popular notion of the May-pole dances misses the real point of the Puritan opposition to it in Old and New England. It was not an innocent, jovial out-door event. Once it may have been that. Very often it was only part of a day which brought immorality and vice in its train. It was part of a rural paganism. Some of the customs involved such grave perils, with their seclusion of young people from early dawn in the forests, as to make it impossible to approve it. Over against all these things the Puritans set themselves. Sometimes they carried this solemnity to an absurd length, justifying it by Scripture verses misapplied. Against the affected elegancies of speech they set the plain yea, yea and nay, nay of Scripture. In their clothing, their homes, their churches, they, and in even more marked degree, the Quakers, registered their solemn protest against the frivolity of the times. If they went too far, it is certain their protest was needed. Macaulay's epigram is familiar, that the Puritan "hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators." In so far as that is true, it is to the credit of the Puritan; for the bear can stand the pain of being baited far better than human nature can stand the coarsening effects of baiting him, and it is nobler to oppose such sport on human grounds than on animal grounds. But, of course, the epigram is Macaulay's, and must be read with qualification. The fact is, and he says it often enough without epigrams, that the times had become trifling except as this grave, thoughtful group influenced them.

[1] Trevelyan, England under the Stuarts, p. 66.

3. The attitude of the Puritans toward the Sabbath came from their serious thought of the Bible. Puritanism gave England the Sabbath again and planted it in America as an institution. Of course, these men learned all that they knew of it from the Bible. From that day, in spite of much change in thought of it, English- speaking people have never been wilful abusers of the Sabbath. But the condition in that day was very different. Most of the games were on the day set apart as the Sabbath. There were bull-baiting, bear-baiting, and football on Sunday. Calvin himself, though not in England, bowled on Sunday, and poor Knox attended festivities then, saying grimly that what little is right on week-days is not wrong on Sundays. After the service on Sunday morning the people thronged to the village green, where ale flowed freely and games were played until the evening dance was called. It was a work-day. Elizabeth issued a special injunction that people work after service on Sundays and holidays if they wished to do so. Employers were sustained in their demand for Sunday work.

There are always people in every time who count that the ideal Sabbath. The Puritans found it when they appeared. The English Reformation found it when it came. And the Bible found it when at last it came out of obscurity and laid hold on national conditions. Whatever is to be said of other races, every period of English-speaking history assures us that our moral power increases or weakens with the rise or fall of Sabbath reverence. The Puritans saw that. They saw, as many other thoughtful people saw, that the steady, repeated observance of the Sabbath gave certain national influences a chance to work; reminded the nation of certain great underlying and undying principles; in short, brought God into human thought. The Sunday of pleasure or work could never accomplish that. Both as religionists and as patriots, as lovers of God and lovers of men, they opposed the pleasure-Sunday and held for the Sabbath.

But that comes around again to the saying that the persistent moral appeal of the Bible gives it inevitable influence on history. It centers thought on moral issues. It challenges men to moral combats.

Such a force persistently working in men's minds is irresistible. It cannot be opposed; it can only fail by being neglected. And this is the force which has been steadily at work everywhere in English-speaking history since the King James version came to be.



LECTURE VI

THE BIBLE IN THE LIFE OF TO-DAY

THIS lecture must differ at two points from those which have preceded it. In the first place, the other lectures have dealt entirely with facts. This must deal also with judgments. In the earlier lectures we have avoided any consideration of what ought to have been and have centered our interest on what actually did occur. We especially avoided any argument based on a theory of the literary characteristics or literary influence of the Bible, but sought first to find the facts and then to discover what explained them. It might be very difficult to determine what is the actual place of the Bible in the life of to-day. Perhaps it would be impossible to give a broad, fair judgment. It is quite certain that the people of James's day did not realize the place it was taking. It is equally certain that many of those whom it most influenced were entirely unconscious of the fact. It is only when we look back upon the scene that we discover the influence that was moving them. But, while it is difficult to say what the place of the Bible actually is in our own times, the place it ought to have is easier to point out. That will involve a study of the conditions of our times, which suggest the need for its influence. While we must consider the facts, therefore, we will be compelled to pass some judgments also, and therein this lecture must differ from the others.

The second fact of difference is that while the earlier lectures have dealt with the King James version, this must deal rather with the Bible. For the King James version is not the Bible. There are many versions; there is but one Bible. Whatever the translators put into the various tongues, the Bible itself remains the same. There are values in the new versions; but they are simply the old value of the Bible itself. It is a familiar maxim that the newest version is the oldest Bible. We are not making the Bible up to date when we make a new version; we are only getting back to its date. A revision in our day is the effort to take out of the original writings what men of King James's day may have put in, and give them so much the better chance. There is no revised Bible; there is only a revised version. Readers sometimes feel disturbed at what they consider the changes made in the Bible. The fact is, the revision which deserves the name is lessening the changes in the Bible; it is giving us the Bible as it actually was and taking from us elements which were not part of it. One can sympathize with the eloquent Dr. Storrs, who declared, in an address in 1879, that he was against any new version because of the history of the King James version, describing it as a great oak with roots running deep and branches spreading wide. He declared we were not ready to give it up for any modern tulip-tree. There is something in that, though such figures are not always good argument. Yet the value to any book of a worthy translation is beyond calculation. The outstanding literary illustration of that fact is familiar. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam lay in Persian literature and in different English translations long before Fitzgerald made it a household classic for literary people. The translator made the book for us in more marked way than the original writer did. In somewhat the same way the King James version gave to the English-speaking people the Bible; and no other version has taken its place.

Yet that was not a mistaken move nearly forty years ago, when the revision of the King James version was proposed and undertaken. Thirty years ago (1881) it was completed in what we ordinarily call the Revised Version, and ten years ago (1901) the American form of that Revised Version appeared. Few things could more definitely prove the accepted place of the King James version than the fact that we seem to hear less to-day of the Revised Version than we used to hear, and that, while the American Revised Version is incomparably the best in existence in its reproduction of the original, even it makes way slowly. In less than forty years the King James version crowded all its competitors off the field. The presence of the Revised Version of 1881 has not appreciably affected the sales or the demand for the King James version. In the minds of most people the English and the American revisions stand as admirable commentaries on the King James version. If one wishes to know wherein the King James version failed of representing the original, he will learn it better from those versions than from any number of commentaries; but the number of those to whom one or other of the versions has supplanted the King James version is not so large as might have been expected.

There were several reasons for a new English version of the Bible. It was, of course, no indignity to the King James version. Those translators frankly said that they had no hope to make a final version of the Scriptures. It would be very strange if in three hundred years language should not have grown by reason of the necessities of the race that used it, so that at some points a book might be outgrown. In another lecture it has been intimated that the English Bible, by reason of its constant use, has tended to fix and confirm the English language. But no one book, nor any set of books, could confine a living tongue. Some of the reasons for a new version which give value to these two revisions may be mentioned.

1. Though the King James version was made just after the literary renaissance, the classical learning of to-day is far in advance of that day. The King James version is occasionally defective in its use of tenses and verbs in the Greek and also in the Hebrew. We have Greek and Hebrew scholars who are able more exactly to reproduce in English the meaning of the original. It would be strange if that were not so.

2. Then there have been new and important discoveries of Biblical literature which date earlier in Christian history than any our fathers knew three hundred years ago. In some instances those earlier discoveries have shown that a phrase here or there has been wrongly introduced into the text. There has been no marked instance where a phrase was added by the revisers; that is, a phrase dropped out of the original and now replaced. One illustration of the omission of a phrase will be enough. In the fifth chapter of I John the seventh verse reads: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one." In the revised versions it is omitted, because it seems quite certain that it was not in the original writing. It does not at all alter the meaning of Scripture. While it appears in most of the best manuscripts which were available for the King James translators, earlier manuscripts found since that time have shown that it was formerly written at the side as a gloss, and was by some transcriber set over in the text itself. The process of making the early manuscripts shows how easily that could have occurred. Let us suppose that two or three manuscripts were being made at once by different copyists. One was set to read the original; as he read, the others wrote. It would be easy to suppose that he might read this marginal reference as a suitable commentary on the text, and that one or more of the writers could have written it in the text. It could easily happen also that a copyist, even seeing where it stood, might suppose it had been omitted by the earlier copyist, and that he had completed his work by putting it on the margin. So the next copyist would put it into his own text. Once in a manuscript, it would readily become part of the accepted form. Discoveries that bring that sort of thing to light are of value in giving us an accurate version of the original Bible.

3. Then there are in our King James version a few archaic and obsolete phrases. We have already spoken of them. Most of them have been avoided in the revised versions. The neuter possessive pronoun, for example, has been put in. Animal names have been clarified, obsolete expressions have been replaced by more familiar ones, and so on.

4. Then there were certain inaccuracies in the King James version. The fact is familiar that they transliterated certain words which they could not well translate. In the revised versions that has been carried farther still. The words which they translated "hell" have been put back into their Hebrew and Greek equivalents, and appear as Sheol and Hades. Another instance is that of an Old Testament word, Asherah, which was translated always "grove," and was used to describe the object of worship of the early enemies of Israel. The translation does not quite represent the fact, and the revisers have therefore replaced the old Hebrew word Asherah. The transliterations of the King James version have not been changed into translations. Instead, the number of transliterations has been increased in the interest of accuracy. At one point one might incline to be adversely critical of the American revisers. They have transliterated the Hebrew word Jehovah; so they have taken sides in a controversy where scholars have room to differ. The version would have gained in strength if it had retained the dignified and noble word "Lord," which comes as near representing the idea of the Hebrew word for God as any word we could find. It must be added that the English of neither of our new versions has the rhythm and movement of the old version. That is partly because we are so accustomed to the old expressions and new ones strike the ear unpleasantly. In any case, the versions differ plainly in their English. It seems most unlikely that either of these versions shall ever have the literary influence of the King James, though any man who will prophesy about, that affects a wisdom which he has not.

These, then, are the two differences between this lecture and the preceding ones, that in this lecture we shall deal with judgments as well as facts, and that we shall deal with the Bible of to-day rather than the King James version.

Passing to the heart of the subject, the question appears at once whether the Bible has or can have to-day the influence or the place which it seems to have had in the past. Two things, force that question: Has not the critical study of the Bible itself robbed it of its place of authority, and have not the changes of our times destroyed its possibilities of influence? That is, on the one hand, has not the Bible been changed? On the other hand, has it not come into such new conditions that it cannot do its old work?

It is a natural but a most mistaken idea that the critical study of the Bible is a new thing. From long before the childhood of any of us there has been sharp controversy about the Bible. It is a controversy-provoking Book. It cannot accept blind faith. It always has made men think, and it makes them think in the line of their own times. The days when no questions were raised about the Bible were the days when men had no access to it.

There are some who take all the Bible for granted. They know that there is indifference to it among friends and in their social circle; but how real the dispute about the Bible is no one realizes until he comes where new ideas, say ideas of socialism, are in the air. There, with the breaking of other chains, is a mighty effort to break this bond also. In such circles the Bible is little read. It is discussed, and time- worn objections are bandied about, always growing as they pass. In these circles also every supposedly adverse result of critical study is welcomed and remembered. If it is said that there are unexplained contradictions in the Bible, that fact is remembered. But if it is said further that those contradictions bid fair to yield to further critical study, or to a wiser understanding of the situations in which they are involved, that fact is overlooked. The tendency in these circles is to keep alive rather the adverse phases of critical study than its favorable phases. Some of those who speak most fiercely about the study of the Bible, by what is known as higher criticism, are least intelligent as to what higher criticism actually means. Believers regret it, and unbelievers rejoice in it. As a matter of fact, in developing any strong feeling about higher criticism one only falls a prey to words; he mistakes the meaning of both the words involved.

Criticism does not mean finding fault with the Bible.[1] It is almost an argument for total depravity that we have made the word gain an adverse meaning, so that if the average man were told that he had been "criticized" by another be would suppose that something had been said against him. Of course, intelligent people know that that is not necessarily involved. When Kant wrote The Critique of Pure Reason he was not finding fault with pure reason. He was only making careful analytical study of it. Now, critical study of the Bible is only careful study of it. It finds vastly more new beauties than unseen defects. In the same way the adjective "higher" comes in for misunderstanding. It does not mean superior; it means more difficult. Lower criticism is the study of the text itself. What word ought to be here, and exactly what does that word mean? What is the comparative value of this manuscript over against that one? If this manuscript has a certain word and that other has a slightly different one, which word ought to be used?

[1] Jefferson, Things Fundamental, p. 90.

Take one illustration from the Old Testament and one from the New to show what lower or textual criticism does. In the ninth chapter of Isaiah the third verse reads: "Thou hast multiplied the nation and not increased the joy." That word "not" is troublesome. It disagrees with the rest of the passage. Now it happens that there are two Hebrew words pronounced "lo," just alike in sound, but spelled differently. One means "not," the other means "to him" or "his." Put the second word in, and the sentence reads: "Thou hast multiplied the nation and increased its joy." That fits the context exactly. Lower criticism declares that it is therefore the probable reading, and corrects the text in that way.

The other illustration is from the Epistle of James, where in the fourth chapter the second verse reads: "Ye lust, and have not; ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain; ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not." Now there is no commentator nor thoughtful reader who is not arrested by that word "kill." It does not seem to belong there. It is far more violent than anything else in the whole text, and it is difficult to understand in what sense the persons to whom James was writing could be said to kill. Yet there is no Greek manuscript which does not have that word. Well, it is in the field of lower criticism to observe that there is a Greek word which sounds very much like this word "kill," which means to envy; that would fit exactly into the whole text here. All that lower criticism can do is to point out such a probability.

When this form of criticism has done its part, and careful study has yielded a text which holds together and which represents the very best which scholarship can find for the original, there is still a field more difficult than that, higher in the sense that it demands a larger and broader view of the whole subject. Here one studies the meaning of the whole, the ideas in it, seeks to find how the revelation of God has progressed according to the capacities of men to receive it. Higher criticism is the careful study of the historical and original meanings of Scripture, the effort to determine dates and times and, so far as may be, the author of each writing, analyzing its ideas, the general Greek or Hebrew style, the relation of part to part. That is not a thing to be afraid of. It is a method of study used in every realm. It is true that some of the men who have followed that method have made others afraid of it, because they were afraid of these men themselves. It is possible to claim far too much for such study. But if the result of higher criticism should be to show that the latter half of the prophecy of Isaiah is much later than the earlier half, that is not a destruction of the Word of God. It is not an irreverent result of study. If the result of higher criticism is to show that by reason of its content, and the lessons which it especially urges, the Epistle to the Hebrews was not written by the Apostle Paul, as it does not at any point claim to have been, why, that is not irreverent, that is not destructive. There is a destructive form of higher criticism; against that there is reason to set up bulwarks. But there is a constructive form of it also. Scholarly opinion will tell any one who asks that criticism has not affected the fundamental values of the Bible. In the studies which have just now been made we have not instanced anything in the Bible that is subject to change. No matter what the result of critical study may be, the fundamental democracy of the Scripture remains. It continues to make its persistent moral appeal on any terms. Both those great facts continue. Other great facts abide with them. And on their account it is to our interest to know as much as we can learn about it. The Bible has not been lessened in its value, has not been weakened in itself, by anything that has taken place in critical study. On the other hand, the net result of such studies as archaeology has been the confirmation of much that was once disputed. Sir William Ramsay is authority for saying that the spade of the excavator is to-day digging the grave of many enemies of the Bible.

Take the second question, whether these times have not in them elements that weaken the hold of the Bible. There again we must distinguish between facts and judgments. There are certain things in these times which relax the hold of any authoritative book. There is a general relaxing of the sense of authority. It does not come alone from the intellectual awakening, because so far as that awakening is concerned, it has affected quite as much men who continue loyal to the authority of the Bible as others. No, this relaxing of the sense of authority is the result of the first feeling of democracy which does not know law. Democracy ought to mean that men are left independent of the control of other individuals because they realize and wish to obey the control of God or of the whole equally with their fellows. When, instead, one feels independent of others, and adds to that no sense of a higher control which he must be free to obey, the result is not democracy, but individualism. Democracy involves control; individualism does not. A vast number of people in passing from any sense of the right of another individual to control them have also passed out of the sense of the right of God or of the whole to control them. So that from a good many all sense of authority has passed. It is characteristic of our age. And it is a stage in our progress toward real democracy, toward true human liberty.

Observe that relaxed sense of authority in the common attitude toward law. Most men feel it right to disregard a law of the community which they do not like. It appears in trivial things. If the community requires that ashes be kept in a metal receptacle, citizens approve it in general, but reserve to themselves the right to consider it a foolish law and to do something else if that is not entirely convenient. If the law says that paper must not be thrown on the sidewalk, it means little that it is the law. Those who are inclined to be clean and neat and do not like to see paper lying around will keep the law; those who are otherwise will be indifferent to it. That is at the root of the matter-of- course saying that a law cannot be enforced unless public opinion sustains it. Under any democratic system laws virtually always have the majority opinion back of them; but the minority reserve the right to disregard them if they choose, and the minority will be more aggressive. Rising from those relaxations of law into far more important ones, it appears that men in business life, feeling themselves hampered by legislation, set themselves to find a way to evade it, justifying themselves in doing so. The mere fact that it is the law does not weigh heavily. This is, however, only an inevitable stage in progress from the earliest periods of democracy to later and more substantial periods. It is a stage which will pass. There will come a democracy where the rule of the whole is frankly recognized, and where each man holds himself independent of his fellows only in the sense that he will claim the right to hold such relation to God and his duty as he himself may apprehend.

In these times, also, the development of temporal and material prosperity with the intellectual mood which is involved in that affects the attitude of the age toward the Bible. Sometimes it is spoken of as a scientific age over against the earlier philosophical ages. Perhaps that will do for a rough statement of the facts. It is the age of experiment, of trying things out, and there naturally works into men a feeling that the things that will yield to the most material scientific experimentation are the things about which they can be certain and which are of real value. That naturally involves a good deal of appreciation of the present, and calls for the improvement of the conditions of present life first of all. It looks more important to see that a man is well fed, well housed, well clothed, and well educated than that he should have the interests of eternity pressed on his attention. That is a comparatively late feeling. It issues partly from the fact that this is a scientific age, when science has had its attention turned to the needs of humanity.

Another result of our scientific age is the magnifying of the natural, while the Bible frankly asserts the supernatural. No effort to get the supernatural out of the Bible, in order to make it entirely acceptable to the man who scouts the supernatural, has thus far proved successful. Of course, the supernatural can be taken out of the Bible; but it will destroy the Bible. Nor is there much gain in playing with words and insisting that everything is supernatural or that everything is natural. There is a difference between the two, and in an age which insists upon nature or natural laws or forces or events as all- sufficient it is almost inevitable that the Bible should lose its hold, at least temporarily.

Regarding all this there are some things that need to be said. For one thing, this, too, is a passing condition. As a matter of fact, men are not creatures of time. They actually have eternal connections, and the great outstanding facts which have always made eternity of importance continue. The fact is that men continue to die, and that the men who are left behind cannot avoid the sense of mystery and awe which is involved in that fact. The fact also is that the human emotions cannot be explained on the lower basis, and the only reason men think they can be is because they have in the back of their minds the old explanations which they cast into the lower forms, deceiving themselves into thinking they are new ideas when they are not.

It ought to be added that the Bible has greatly suffered in all its history at the hands of men who have believed in it and have fought in its behalf. Many of the controversies which were hottest were needless and injurious. All the folly has not been on one side. Some one referred the other day to a list of more than a hundred scientific theories which were proposed at the beginning of the last century and abandoned at the end of it. Scientific men are feeling their way, many of them reverently and devoutly, some of them rather blatantly and with a readiness for publication, which hastens them into notoriety. But there has been enough folly on both sides to make every one go cautiously. It has been remarked that in Dr. Draper's book The Conflict Between Science and Religion he makes science appear as a strong- limbed angel of God whereas religion is always a great ass. The title of the book itself is not fair. In no proper understanding of the words can there be any conflict between science and religion. There can be a conflict, as Dr. Andrew D. White puts it, between science and theology. There can certainly be contest between scientists and religionists. Science and religion have no conflict.

It is interesting to observe how far back most of the supposed conflicts actually lie. There is no warfare now; and, while our fathers one or two generations ago felt that they must fly to the defense of religion against the attacks of science, no man wastes his strength doing that to-day. That period has passed. The trouble is that some good people do not know it, and are just fond enough of a bit of a tussle to keep up the fighting in the mountain-passes while out in the plain the main armies have laid down their arms and are busy tilling the soil.

The period of conflict is past, partly because we are learning to distinguish between the Bible as it really is and certain long-established ideas about the Bible which came from other sources and have become attached to it until it seemed to sustain them. The proper doctrine of evolution is entirely compatible with the Bible. The great Dr. Hodge declared that the consistent Darwinian must be an atheist. For that matter, Shelley defended himself by saying that, of course, "the consistent Newtonian must necessarily be an atheist." But fifty years have made great changes in the doctrine of evolution, and the old scare has been over for some time. Newton is honored in the church quite as much as in the university, and Darwin is not a name to frighten anybody. Understanding evolution better and knowing the Bible better, the two do not jangle out of tune so badly but that harmony is promised.

The doctrine of the antiquity of the world is entirely compatible with the Bible, though it is not compatible with the dates which Archbishop Ussher, in the time of King James, put at the head of the columns. That is so with other scientific theories. Any one who has read much of history has attended the obsequies of so many theories in the realm of science that he ought to know that he is wasting his strength in trying to bring about a constant reconciliation between scientific and religious theories. It is his part to keep an open mind in assurance of the unity of truth, an assurance that there is no fact which can possibly come to light and no true theory of facts which can possibly be formed which does not serve the interest of the truth, which the Bible also presents. The Bible does not concern itself with all departments of knowledge. So far as mistakes have been made on the side of those who believe it, they have issued from forgetting that fact more than from any other one cause.

On the other hand, it has sometimes occurred that believers in the Bible have been quite too eager to accommodate themselves to purely passing phases of objection to it. The matter mentioned a moment ago, the excision of the supernatural, is a case in point. The easy and glib way in which some have sought to get around difficulties, by talking in large terms about the progressiveness of the revelation, as though the progress were from error to truth, instead of from half light to full light, is another illustration. The nimble way in which we have turned what is given as history into fiction, and allowed imagination to roam through the Bible, is another illustration. One of our later writers tells the story of Jonah, and says it sounds like fiction; why not call it fiction? Another tells the story of the exodus from Egypt, and says it sounds like fiction; why not call it fiction? Well, certainly the objection is not to the presence of fiction in the Bible. It is there, openly, confessedly, unashamed. Fiction can be used with great profit in teaching religious truth. But fiction may not masquerade in the guise of history, if men are to be led by it or mastered by it. If the way to be rid of difficulties in a narrative is to turn it into pious fiction, there are other instances where it might be used for relief in emergencies. The story of the crucifixion of Christ can be told so that it sounds like fiction; why not call it fiction? Certainly the story of the conversion of Paul can be made to sound like fiction; why not call it fiction? And there is hardly any bit of narrative that can be made to sound so like fiction as the landing of the Pilgrims; why not call that fiction? It is the easy way out; the difficulties are all gone like Alice's cat, and there is left only the broad smile of some moral lesson to be learned from the fiction. It is not, however, the courageous nor the perfectly square way out. Violence has to be done to the plain narrative; historical statement has to be made only a mask. And the only reason for it is that there are difficulties not yet cleared. As for the characters involved, Charles Reade, the novelist, calling himself "a veteran writer of fiction," declares that the explanation of these characters, Jonah being one of them, by invention is incredible and absurd: "Such a man [as himself] knows the artifices and the elements of art. Here the artifices are absent, and the elements surpassed." It is not uncommon for one who has found this easy way out of difficulties to declare with a wave of his hand, that everybody now knows that this or that book in the Bible is fiction, when, as a matter of fact, that is not at all an admitted opinion. The Bible will never gain its place and retain its authority while those who believe in it are spineless and topple over at the first touch of some one's objection. It could not be a great Book; it could not serve the purposes of a race if it presented no problems of understanding and of belief, and all short and easy methods of getting rid of those problems are certain to leave important elements of them out of sight.

All this means that the changes of these times rather present additional reason for a renewed hold on the Bible. It presents what the times peculiarly need. Instead of making the influence of the Bible impossible, these changes make the need for the Bible the greater and give it greater opportunity.

Add three notable points at which these times feel and still need the influence of the Bible. First, they have and still need its literary influence. So far as its ideas and forces and words are interwoven in the great literature of the past, it is essential still to the understanding of that literature. It remains true that English literature, certainly of the past and also of the present, cannot be understood without knowledge of the Bible. The Yale professor of literature, quoted so often, says: "It would be worth while to read the Bible carefully and repeatedly, if only as a key to modern culture, for to those who are unfamiliar with its teachings and its diction all that is best in English literature of the present century is as a sealed book."

From time to time there occur painful reminders of the fact that men supposed to know literature do not understand it because they are not familiar with the Bible. Some years ago a college president tested a class of thirty-four men with a score of extracts from Tennyson, each of which contained a Scriptural allusion, none of them obscure. The replies were suggestive and quite appalling. Tennyson wrote, in the "Supposed Confessions":

"My sin was a thorn among the thorns that girt Thy brow."

Of these thirty-four young men nine of them did not understand that quotation. Tennyson wrote:

"Like Hezekiah's, backward runs The shadow of my days."

Thirty-two of the thirty-four did not know what that meant. The meaning of the line,

"For I have flung thee pearls and find thee swine,"

was utterly obscure to twenty-two of the thirty- four. One of them said it was a reference to "good opportunities given but not improved." Another said it was equivalent to the counsel "not to expect to find gold in a hay-stack." Even the line,

"A Jonah's gourd Up in one night, and due to sudden sun,"

was utterly baffling to twenty-eight of the thirty-four. One of them spoke of it as an "allusion to the uncertainty of the length of life." Another thought it was a reference to "the occasion of Jonah's being preserved by the whale." Another counted it "an allusion to the emesis of Jonah by the whale." Another considered it a reference to "the swallowing of Jonah by a whale," and yet another considered that it referred to "things grand, but not worthy of worship because they are perishable." It is amazing to read that in response to Tennyson's lines,

"Follow Light and do the Right—for man can half control his doom— Till you find the deathless Angel seated in the vacant tomb,"

only sixteen were able to give an explanation of its meaning! The lines from the "Holy Grail" were equally baffling:

"Perhaps like Him of Cana in Holy Writ, Our Arthur kept his best until the last."

Twenty-four of these thirty-four young men could not recall what that meant. One said that the keeping of the best wine until the last meant "waiting till the last moment to be baptized!"

All that may be solely the fault of these young men. Professor Lounsbury once said that his experience in the class-room had taught him the infinite capacity of the human mind to withstand the introduction of knowledge. Very likely earnest effort had been made to teach these young men the Bible; but it is manifest that they had successfully resisted the efforts. If Tennyson were the only poet who could not be understood without knowledge of the Bible, it might not matter so much, but no one can read Browning nor Carlyle nor Macaulay nor Huxley with entire intelligence without knowledge of the greater facts and forces of Scripture. The value of the allusions can be shown by comparing them with those of mythology. No one can read most of Shelley with entire satisfaction without a knowledge of Greek mythology. That is one reason why Shelley has so much passed out of popularity. We do not know Greek mythology, and we have very largely lost Shelley from our literary possession. The chief power of these other great writers will go from us when our knowledge of the Scripture goes.

The danger is not simply with reference to the great literature of the past. There is danger of losing appreciation of the more delicate touches of current literature, sometimes of a complete missing of the meaning. An orator describing present political and social conditions used a fine phrase, that "it is time the nation camped for a season at the foot of the mount." Only a knowledge of Bible history will bring as a flash before one the nation in the desert at Sinai learning the meaning and power of law. Yet an intelligent man, hearing that remark, said that he counted it a fine figure, that he thought there did come in the life of every nation a time before it began its ascent to the heights when it ought to pause and camp at the foot of the mountain to get its breath! After Lincoln's assassination Garfield stood on the steps in New York, and said: "Clouds and darkness are around about him! God reigns and the government at Washington still lives!" Years after, some one referring to that, said that it was a beautiful sentence, that the reference to "clouds and darkness" was a beautiful symbolism, but that Garfield had a great knack in the building-up of fine phrases! He lacked utterly the background of the great Psalm which was in Garfield's mind, and which gives that phrase double meaning. If we go back to Tennyson again, some one has proposed the inquiry why he should have called one of his poems "Rizpah," since there was no one of that name mentioned in the whole poem! When, some years ago, a book was published, The Children of Gideon, one of the reviewers could not understand why that title was used, since no one of that name appeared in the entire volume. And when Mrs. Wharton's book, The House of Mirth, came out some one spoke of the irony of the title; but it is the irony of the Scriptures and the book calls for a Scriptural knowledge for its entire understanding.

Take even an encyclopedia article. Who can understand these two sentences without instant knowledge of Scripture? "Marlowe and Shakespeare, the young Davids of the day, tried the armor of Saul before they went out to battle, then wisely laid it off." "Arnold, like Aaron of old, stands between the dead and the living; but, unlike Aaron, he holds no smoking censor of propitiation to stay the plague which he feels to be devouring his generation."[1] That is in an encyclopedia to which young people are often referred. What will they make out of it without the Bible? In a widely distributed school paper, in the question-and-answer department, occurs the inquiry: "Who composed the inscription on the Liberty Bell?" The inscription is, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof."[2] It is to be hoped it was a very young person who needed to ask who "composed" that expression!

[1] New International Encyclopedia, art. on English Literature.

[2] Current Events, January 12, 1912.

This applies to all the great classics. There has come about a "decay of literary allusions," as one of our papers editorially says. In much of our writing, either the transient or the permanent, men can no longer risk easy reference to classical literature. "Readers of American biography must often be struck with the important part which literary recollection played in the life of a cultured person a generation or two ago. These men had read Homer, Xenophon and Virgil, Shakespeare, Byron and Wordsworth, Lamb, De Quincey and Coleridge. They were not afraid of being called pedants because they occasionally used a Latin phrase or referred to some great name of Greece or Rome." That is not so commonly true to-day. Especially is there danger of losing easy acquaintance with the great Bible references.

There are familiar reasons for it. For one thing, there has been a great increase of literature. Once there was little to read, and that little became familiar. One would have been ashamed to pretend to culture and not to know such literature well. Now there is so much that one cannot know it all, and most men follow the line of least resistance. That line is not where great literature lies. Once the problem was how to get books enough for a family library. Now the problem is how to get library enough for the books. Magazines, papers, volumes of all grades overflow. "The Bible has been buried beneath a landslide of books." The result is that the greatest literary landmark of the English tongue threatens to become unknown, or else to be looked upon as of antiquarian rather than present worth. There our Puritan fathers had the advantage. As President Faunce puts it: "For them the Bible was the norm and goal of all study. They had achieved the concentration of studies, and the Bible was the center. They learned to read that they might read the literature of Israel; their writing was heavy with noble Old Testament phrases; the names of Old Testament heroes they gave to their children; its words of immortal hope they inscribed on their tombstones; its Mosaic commonwealth they sought to realize in England and America; its decalogue was the foundation of their laws, and its prophecies were a light shining in a dark place. Such a unification of knowledge produced a unified character, simple, stalwart, invincible." It is very different in our own day. As so-called literature increases it robs great literature of its conspicuous outstanding character, and many men who pride themselves on the amount they read would do far better to read a thousandth part as much and let that smaller part be good.

Another reason for this decay of the influence of literary knowledge of the Bible is the shallowness of much of our thinking. If the Bible were needed for nothing else in present literary life, it would be needed for the deepening of literary currents. The vast flood of flotsam and jetsam which pours from the presses seldom floats on a deep current. It is surface matter for the most part. It does not take itself seriously, and it is quite impossible to take it seriously. It does not deal with great themes, or when it touches upon them it deals with them in a trifling way. To men interested chiefly in literature of this kind the Bible cannot be of interest.

That is a passing condition, and out of it is certain to come here and there a masterpiece of literature. When it does appear, it will be found to reveal the same influences that have made great literature in the past, issuing more largely from the Bible than from any other book. That is the main point of a bit of counsel which Professor Bowen used to give his Harvard students. To form a good English style, he told them, a student ought to keep near at hand a Bible, a volume of Shakespeare, and Bacon's essays. That group of books would enlarge the vocabulary, would supply a store of words, phrases, and, allusions, and save the necessity of ransacking a meager and hide-bound diction in order to make one's meaning plain. Coleridge in his Table-Talk adds that "intense study of the Bible will keep any writer from being VULGAR in point of style." So it may be urged that these times have and still need the literary influence of the Bible.

Add that the times have and still need its moral steadying. Every age seems to its own thoughtful people to lack moral steadiness, and they tend to compare it with other ages which look steadier. That is a virtually invariable opinion of such men. The comparison with other ages is generally fallacious, yet the fact is real for each age. Many things tend in this age to unsettle moral solidity. Some of them are peculiar to this time, others are not. But one of the great influences which the Bible is perpetually tending to counteract is stated in best terms in an experience of Henry M. Stanley. It was on that journey to Africa when be found David Livingstone, under commission from one of the great newspapers. Naturally he had made up his load as light as possible. Of books he had none save the Bible; but wrapped about his bottles of medicine and other articles were many copies of newspapers. Stanley says that "strangest of all his experiences were the changes wrought in him by the reading of the Bible and those newspapers in melancholy Africa." He was frequently sick with African fever, and took up the Bible to while away his hours of recovery. During the hours of health he read the newspapers. "And thus, somehow or other, my views toward newspapers were entirely recast," while he held loyal to his profession as a newspaper man. This is the critical sentence in Stanley's telling of the story: "As seen in my loneliness, there was this difference between the Bible and the newspapers. The one reminded me that apart from God my life was but a bubble of air, and it made me remember my Creator; the other fostered arrogance and worldliness."[1] There is no denying such an experience as that. That is precisely the moral effect of the Bible as compared with the moral effect of the newspaper accounts of current life. Democracy should always be happy; but it must always be serious, morally steady. Anything that tends to give men light views of wrong, to make evil things humorous, to set out the ridiculous side of gross sins is perilous to democracy. It not only is injurious to personal morals; it is bound sooner or later to injure public morals. There is nothing that so persistently counteracts that tendency of current literature as does the Bible.

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