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Study Of The King James Bible by McAfee

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. 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?

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.| 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.| It is to be hoped
it was a very young person who needed to ask
who |composed| that expression!

New International Encyclopedia, art. on English Literature.

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.|
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.

Autobiography, p.252.

From an ethical point of view, |the ethical
content of Paul is quite as important for us as
the system of Schopenhauer or Nietzsche. The
organization of the New England town meeting is
no more weighty for the American boy than the
organization of the early Christian Church. John
Adams and John Hancock and Abraham Lincoln
are only the natural successors of the great
Hebrew champions of liberty and righteousness
who faced Pharoah and Ahab and put to flight
armies of aliens.| But aside from the definite
ethical teaching of the Bible there is need for
that strong impression of ethical values which it
gives in the characters around which it has
gathered. The conception of the Bible which
makes it appear as a steady progression should
add to its authority, not take from it. The
development is not from error to truth, but from
light to more light. It is sometimes said that
the standards of morality of some parts of
Scripture are not to be commended. But they
are not the standards of morality of Scripture,
but of their times. They are not taught in
Scripture; they are only stated; and they are so
stated that instantly a thoughtful man discovers
that they are stated to be condemned. When
did it become true that all that is told of a good
man is to be approved? It is not pretended
that Abraham did right always. David was
confessedly wrong. They move much of the time
in half-light, yet the sum total of the impression
of their writings is inevitably and invariably for
a more substantial morality. These times need
the moral steadying of the Bible to make men,
not creatures of the day arid not creatures of
their whims, but creatures of all time and of
fundamental laws.

Add the third fact, that our times have and
still need the religious influence of the Bible.
No democracy can dispense with religious culture.
No book makes for religion as does the
Bible. That is its chief purpose. No book can
take its place; no influence can supplant it.
Max Muller made lifelong study of the Buddhist
and other Indian books. He gave them to the
English-speaking world. Yet he wrote to a
friend of his impression of the immense superiority of the Bible in such terms that his
friend replied: |Yes, you are right; how tremendously ahead of other sacred books is the
Bible! The difference strikes one as almost unfairly great.| Writing in an India paper,
The Kayestha Samachar, in August, 1902, a
Hindu writer said: |I am not a Christian; but
half an hour's study of the Bible will do more
to remodel a man than a whole day spent in
repeating the slokas of the Purinas or the
mantras of the Rig-Veda.| In the earlier
chapters of the Koran Christians are frequently
spoken of as |people of the Book.| It is a
suggestive phrase. If Christianity has any value
for American life, then the Bible has just that
value. Christianity is made by the Bible; it
has never been vital nor nationally influential
for good without the Bible.

Speer, Light of the World, iv.

Sometimes, because of his strong words regarding
the conflict between science and theology,
the venerable American diplomat and educator,
Dr. Andrew D. White, is thought of as a
foe to religion. No one who reads his biography
can have that impression half an hour. Near
the close of it is a paragraph of singular insight
and authority which fits just this connection:
|It will, in my opinion, be a sad day for this or
for any people when there shall have come in
them an atrophy of the religious nature; when
they shall have suppressed the need of communication, no matter how vague, with a supreme
power in the universe; when the ties which bind
men of similar modes of thought in the various
religious organizations shall be dissolved; when
men, instead of meeting their fellow-men in
assemblages for public worship which give them a
sense of brotherhood, shall lounge at home or in
clubs; when men and women, instead of bringing
themselves at stated periods into an atmosphere
of prayer, praise, and aspiration, to hear
the discussion of higher spiritual themes, to be
stirred by appeals to their nobler nature in behalf of faith, hope, and charity, and to be moved
by a closer realization of the fatherhood of God
and the brotherhood of man, shall stay at home
and give their thoughts to the Sunday papers,
or to the conduct of their business, or to the
languid search for some refuge from boredom.|
Those are wise, strong words, and they sustain
to the full what has been urged, that these
times still need the religious influence of the
Bible.

Autobiography, vol. ii, p.570.

The influence of the Bible on the literary,
moral, and religious life of the times is already
apparent. But that influence needs to be constantly strengthened. There remains, therefore,
to suggest some methods of giving the Bible
increasing power. It should be recognized first
and last that only thoughtful people will do it.
No help will come from careless people. Moreover,
only people who believe in the common
folk will do it. Those who are aristocrats in
the sense that they do not believe that common
people can be trusted will not concern themselves
to increase the power of the Bible. But
for those who are thoughtful and essentially
democratic the duty is a very plain one. There
are four great agencies which may well magnify
the Bible and whose influence will bring the
Bible into increasing power in national life.

First among these, of course, must be the
Church. The accent which it will place on the
Bible will naturally be on its religious value,
though its moral value will take a close second
place. It is essential for the Church to hold
itself true to its religious foundations. Only
men who have some position of leadership can
realize the immense pressure that is on to-day
to draw the Church into forms of activity and
methods of service which are much to be
commended, but which have to be constantly
guarded lest they deprive it of power and concern
in the things which are peculiar to its own
life and which it and it alone can contribute to
the public good. The Church needs to develop
for itself far better methods of instruction in
the Bible, so that it may as far as possible drill
those who come under its influence in the knowledge of the Bible for its distinctive religious
value. This is neither the time nor the place
for a full statement of that responsibility. It is
enough to see how the very logic of the life of
the Church requires that it return with renewed
energy to its magnifying and teaching of the
Bible.

The second agency which may be called upon
is the press. The accent of the press will be
on the moral value of the Bible, the service which
its teaching renders to the national and personal
life. There seems to be a hopeful returning
tendency to allusions to the Scripture in newspaper and magazine publications. It is rare to
find among the higher-level newspapers an
editorial page, where the most thoughtful writing
appears, in which on any day there do not
appear Scripture allusions or references. When
that is seriously done, when Scripture is used
for some other purpose than to point a jest, it
helps to restore the Bible to its place in public
thought. In recent years there has been a
noticeable return of the greater magazines to
consideration of the moral phases of the Scripture. That has been inevitably connected with
the development of a social sense which condemns
men for their evil courses because of
their damage to society. The Old Testament
prophets are living their lives again in these
days, and the more thoughtful men are being
driven back to them for the great principles on
which they may live safely.

The third agency which needs to magnify the
Bible is the school. The accent which it will
choose will naturally be the literary value of the
Bible, though it will not overlook its moral
value as well. Incidental references heretofore
have suggested the importance of religion in a
democracy. But there are none of the great
branches of the teaching of the schools, public
or private, which do not involve the Bible. It
is impossible to teach history fairly and fully
without a frank recognition of the influence of
the Bible. Study the Reformation, the Puritan
movement, the Pilgrim journeys, the whole of
early American history! We can leave the Bible
out only by trifling with the facts. Certainly
literature cannot be taught without it. And if it
is the purpose of the schools to develop character
and moral life, then there is high authority for
saying that the Bible ought to have place.

Forty years ago Mr. Huxley, in his essay on
|The School Boards: What They Can Do, and
What They May Do,| laid a broad foundation
for thinking at this point, and his words bear
quoting at some length: |I have always been
strongly in favor of secular education, in the
sense of education without theology; but I must
confess I have been no less seriously perplexed to
know by what practical measures the religious
feeling, which is the essential basis of conduct,
was to be kept up, in the present utterly chaotic
state of opinion on these matters, without the
use of the Bible. The pagan moralists lack life
and color, and even the noble stoic, Marcus
Aurelius Antoninus, is too high and refined for
an ordinary child. Take the Bible as a whole;
make the severest deductions which fair criticism
can dictate for shortcomings and positive
errors; eliminate, as a sensible lay teacher would
do if left to himself, all that is not desirable
for children to occupy themselves with; and there
still remains in this old literature a vast residuum of moral beauty and grandeur. And then consider
the great historical fact that, for three centuries, this Book has been woven into the life of
all that is best and noblest in English history;
that it has become the national epic of Britain,
and is as familiar to noble and simple, from
John-o'-Groat's House to Land's End, as Dante
and Tasso once were to the Italians; that it is
written in the noblest and purest English, and
abounds in exquisite beauties of mere literary
form; and, finally, that it forbids the veriest
hind who never left his village to be ignorant
of the existence of other countries and other
civilizations, and of a great past, stretching back to the furthest limits of the oldest nations of the world. By the study of what other book could
children be so much humanized and made to
feel that each figure in that vast historical procession fills, like themselves, but a momentary
space in the interval between two eternities;
and earns the blessings or the curses of all time,
according to its effort to do good and hate evil,
even as they also are earning their payment for
their work? On the whole, then, I am in favor
of reading the Bible, with such grammatical,
geographical, and historical explanations by a lay
teacher as may be needful, with rigid exclusion
of any further theological teaching than that contained in the Bible itself.| Mr. Huxley is an Englishman,
though, as Professor Moulton says, |We
divide him between England and America.| But
Professor Moulton himself is very urgent in this
same matter. If the classics of Greece and Rome
are in the nature of ancestral literature, an equal position belongs to the literature of the Bible.
|If our intellect and imagination have been
formed by Greece, have we not in similar fashion
drawn our moral and emotional training
from Hebrew thought?| It is one of the curiosities
of our civilization that we are content
to go for our liberal education to literatures
which morally are at opposite poles from ourselves; literatures in which the most exalted
tone is often an apotheosis of the sensuous,
which degrade divinity, not only to the human
level, but to the lowest level of humanity. |It
is surely good that our youth during the formative
period should have displayed to them, in a literary dress as brilliant as that of Greek literature,
a people dominated by an utter passion for
righteousness, a people whose ideas of purity,
of infinite good, of universal order, of faith in
the irresistible downfall of moral evil, moved
to a poetic passion as fervid and speech as
musical as when Sappho sang of love or Eschylus
thundered his deep notes of destiny.|

Literary Study of the Bible, passim.

But there is a leading American voice which
will speak in that behalf, in President Nicholas
Murray Butler, of Columbia University. In his
address as President of the National Educational
Association, President Butler makes strong plea
for the reading of the Bible even in public schools. |His reason had no connection with religion. It
was based on altogether different ground. He
regarded an acquaintance with the Bible as absolutely indispensable to the proper understanding
of English literature.| It is unfortunate in the
extreme, he thought, that so many young men
are growing up without that knowledge of the
Bible which every one must have if he means
to be capable of the greatest literary pleasure
and appreciation of the literature of his own
people. Not only the allusions, but the whole
tone and bias of many English authors will become
to one who is ignorant of the Bible most
difficult and even impossible of comprehension.

The difficulties of calling public schools to
this task appear at once. It would be monstrous
if they should be sectarian or proselytizing.
But the Bible is not a sectarian Book.
It is the Book of greatest literature. It is the
Book of mightiest morals. It is governing history.
It is affecting literature as nothing else
has done. A thousand pities that any petty
squabbling or differences of opinion should prevent the young people in the schools from realizing
the grandeur and beauty of it!

But the final and most important agency.
which will magnify the influence of the Bible
must necessarily be the home. It will gather
up all its traits, religious, moral, and literary.
Here is the fundamental opportunity and the
fundamental obligation. Robert Burns was right
in finding the secret of Scotia's power in such
scenes as those of |The Cottar's Saturday Night.|
One can almost see Carlyle going back to his
old home at Ecclefechan and standing outside
to hear his old mother making a prayer in his
behalf. A newspaper editorial of recent date
says this decay of literary allusion is traceable
in part to the gradual abandonment of family
prayers. Answering President Butler, it is
urged that it is not so important that the Bible
be in the public schools as that it get back again
into the homes. |Thorough acquaintance with
the Bible is desirable; it should be fostered.
The person who will have to foster it, though,|
says this writer, |is not the teacher, but the
parent. The parent is the person whom Dr.
Butler should try to convert.| Well, while
there may be differences about the school, there
can be none about the place of the Bible in the
home. It needs to be bound up with the earliest
impressions and intertwined with those impressions
as they deepen and extend.

So, by the Church, which will accent its religious
value; by the press, which will accent its
moral power; by the school, which will spread
its literary influence; and by the home, which
will realize all three and make it seem a vital
concern from the beginning of life, the Bible
will be put and held in the place of power to-day
which it has had in the years that are gone, and
will steadily gain greater power.

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