Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Christianity has ever known followed the publication in 1859 of Darwin's "Origin of Species.”

Origin of Species.” Then, pointing to the brick dormitories of the old seminary, he might have said, “From those buildings in my own time, hundreds of young men have gone forth to preach the Word of Life in every land from the Columbia to the Ganges. They have given the Scriptures to many nations in their own tongues, and there is not a man living who knows enough to read the alphabets of the languages into which, in my day, Andover students have translated the Bible."

Thus, at the outset, I bring before you this distinctive feature of Christianity, that it is giving to the world its Bible. It gives it in a multitude of languages. The Moslem offers his Koran in one. The representatives of the other faiths are not eager to furnish Christendom with translations of their own sacred books. Some of them do not even scatter them widely among their own people. The latest writer on the religions of Japan has said, The Buddhist scriptures were numerously copied and circulated among the learned class, yet neither now nor ever, except here and there in fragments, were they found among the people. For although the Buddhist canon has been repeatedly imported, copied by pen and in modern times printed, yet no Japanese translation has ever been made.”

Having endeavoured in my first Lecture to show some of the Universal Aspects of Christianity, and having in the second Lecture pointed to some of the World-wide Effects of the Christian faith on individualand national life, and having in the last lecture considered Christian Theism as the Basis of a Universal religion, I ask you now to consider, in a large way, the Christian Scriptures, which I have called the Universal Book, although, with the late Professor Blackie, I prefer to describe the Bible as a collection of books, with a backbone of history and biography of the highest kind, stretching over a period of more than three thousand years." Christianity presents as its Text-Book, its rich and abundant message, the Universal Bible, a volume of well-defined proportions and contents, like the Koran, distinguishable clearly from the glosses, and comments, and parasitic growths which have expanded both the Brahmanic and Buddhistic scriptures into immense and varying proportions. Speaking generally, and not forgetting the Protestant and Catholic divergence over the Apocryphal Books, we may say that the Christian Scriptures are a well-defined collection of sacred writings, fitted, as we believe, for the spiritual instruction and sure, final authoritative guidance of mankind, in connection with which we must not forget the most impressive fact, that the experience of nineteen centuries has produced nothing worthy to be added to them.

The position which the Bible holds in Christian faith is depicted in Kaulbach's cartoon of the Era of the Reformation. Gathered in an ample portico, are the chief men of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the theologians, the poets, the artists, the philosophers, the discoverers, a noble group in one of the greatest ages of Christian history; but in the centre of them all stands the German monk of Wittenberg, Martin Luther with arms upraised and holding the open volume of God's Word, whose pages seem to be the light illumining the illustrious assembly. But ours, far more than the Lutheran, is an age of Biblical enlightenment. At International Expositions some of us have had put into our hands a small pamphlet, in which the most precious verse of the third chapter of John's Gospel was printed in nearly three hundred languages and dialects, and we have thus gained a new feeling of the universality of the Christian faith. In the last fifty years the Book which we reverently name the Word of God, has secured admission into almost every part of the globe; has crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico, and the Orinoco and Amazon into the heart of South America; has entered the gates of Japan, China, India, and has become a torch of light which is illumining the Dark Continent. More than two hundred millions of copies in all of the great and most of the minor tongues of men, have told the story of redemption the wide world round.

And we believe it to be just as life-giving to-day as when it first entered into the spiritual blood of the English nation, or when in the fourth century, Constantine ordered the writing out of fifty costly manuscripts of the Bible for the churches of Byzantium.

It is with reverence and amazement that we think of this unique and wondrous Book. To some of us the most imposing building in London is not Westminster Abbey, that sacred meeting-place of religion and renown, or the Parliament Houses, with their memories of political strife and achievement, or the British Museum, the chief treasury of the world's learning; or St. Paul's Cathedral, the greatest of Protestant churches. More impressive still is the building of the British and Foreign Bible Society, within which we have seen this Book in nearly all the languages of earth; where we could purchase it, not as our ancestors were compelled to do before the days of Gutenberg, as the costliest book in the world, but the New Testament for an English penny, and the whole Bible for a sixpence; where we could lay our hands on copies of the Book which the poor and the persecuted had treasured as the choicest gifts of Heaven, and where we could meditate on the far-reaching empire of British commerce which tends towards the ultimate prevalence of Biblical Christianity. As you stand by the Bank of England, in the heart of the richest of capitals, and see about you the commercial houses of Calcutta, Melbourne and Canton, the Banks of America, New Zealand and Australia, Canada, India, China, and as you look up at the Royal Exchange above whose architrave is the statue of Commerce, on either side of which are figures of English, Chinese, Negro, Greek, Indian, Persian, Turkish, and Arabian merchants, while below is the inscription “The death is the Lord's and the fulness thereof;" or as you walk down the Thames to the port of London, and let your imagination tell the stories of those ships which do business in the great waters; as you think of the masts which have shuddered amid the icebergs of Labrador, or have caught the gleam of the Southern constellations "in the long twilight of Antarctic Seas: as you remember that these barks have borne to the world's centre, the cotton of Egypt, the teas of the Celestial Empire, the wheat of America, the spices of Ceylon, the oranges of Sicily, the timber of New Zealand, the coffee of Brazil, the Ivory of the Congo, and the furs of Hudson's Bay, you have been thankful that you have seen also the treasures of England's great Bible House, and that, with those world-wide conquests over land and ocean by which Great Britain has become the first of commercial nations, are joined the power and the disposition to carry round the globe the knowledge of the true God contained in His Word, that God of righteousness and of love to whom, according to the prophet, the abundance of the seas shall yet be converted !

Those who have carried the Bible to the non-Christian nations have accomplished a great work in opening up the world to our sight. Without them the greatest of modern geographers, Carl Ritter, confesses that he could not have written his chief book.. They have rendered more real service to geography than all the geographical societies. Oriental linguistic learning has been largely indebted to these Christian heralds, translators, and teachers of the Bible, who have enabled “the German in his closet” to compare more than two hundred languages.

All great books are surrounded in time with ation and kindle noble enthusiasm. Classical literature has

vener

а

had its devotees and its martyrs. Virgil was the object of Dante's fervent devotion. St. Chrysostom slept with the comedies of Aristophanes under his pillow. Alexander reposed his head on the resounding lines of the Iliad. Petrarch searched sea and land for ancient manuscripts, and wept because he could not read Homer in the original. Lady Jane Grey, as Macaulay loved to mention, sat in the lonely oriel fixed to Plato's story of the death of Socrates, unmindful of the blowing horn and rushing steed without. Byron died for Greek liberty from devotion to Greek learning with the name of Greece upon his lips. But such incidents are over-matched a hundredfold by Christian devotion to the Bible, and the sob of the great Italian sentimentalist because he could not read Homer in Greek, is meaningless beside the moan of the slave girl, sorrowing that she could not read the words of Jesus in her own tongue. Thousands have endured martyrdom for the verities of this Book. The earth is rich with the blood of those who would not sell this truth for their lives.

We know how pathetic oftentimes has been the patriotic enthusiasm of the Israelite for that part of the sacred Scriptures which he deems divine, and regards as his own national possession. There is a devotion among Moslems to the Koran which is strangely thrilling and suggestive, but with the Jew and the Christian the Bible is not a charm or an amulet, but a fountain of life. While the Moslem may tell you of negro boys on the banks of the Congo who are able to repeat in Arabic the prophet's holy book from the first Surah to the last, without understanding a word of it ; the Christian will point to millions upon millions of men, women and children poring every Lord's day intelligently over the pages which tell the great story of God's love in man's redemption.

The sacred literatures of the world are almost immeasurable. Recent scholarship has given us, in forty volumes of translations, the Oriental Bibles, but they might have been expanded into four hundred volumes. In the sacred writings of the nations there are treasures which are valuable to the student of extinct religions, like the Book of the Dead, captured from Egyptian sepulchres, useful in the knowledge of the thought of ancient Egypt which it furnishes, but by the side of all living scriptures indeed a Book of the Dead. There are the old Akkadian and Assyrian hymns; there are the sacred writings of the Parsees, the Avesta, the records of the old Iranian faith, prayer books, rituals of an almost extinct race, which have been called “the ruins of a religion.” There is the ancient Kojiki of Japan, a

K

mosaic of myths joined together oftentimes with indecent lovestories. But we reach a loftier level or come more closely to the realm of life, when we note the ancient books of the Chinese, the work of Confucius, the Chinese classics, or the treatises of the philosopher Laotze, those books of poetry and of history, of political economy and those maxims of ethics by which Chinese thought has been held with iron rigidity for ages. Then there are the Tripitaka which contain the abundant doctrines, metaphysics, ethics and legends of the Buddhist faith, expanded in Thibet into three hundred and twenty-five folio volumes, found in shorter form in Siam, but even then more than five times as voluminous as our Scriptures, Buddhist writings in the midst of whose metaphysics and legends we discover an abundance of lofty thought and noble sentiment. Then there are the Vedas, the popular songs of the ancient Aryans, sung long ago in the fair fields of the Indus and by the streams of the Punjab, the early Vedic literature which according to Indian orthodoxy is inspired in every line, the work of the Deity, writings supplemented, as we know, by what has become much more potential than the ancient oracles, the Brahmanas and the philosophies of the Upanishads, together with the eighteen Puranas, followed by the sacred and semi-inspired and enormous poems which have exercised for ages such a spell over many millions, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, whose stories are the delight of the Hindu festivals. Then there is, perhaps, the only one of the world's sacred books worth naming that is younger than the New Testament, unless I except the Bible of the Sikhs, the Mohammedan Koran, which the faithful deem the only miracle needed to authenticate their religion as ultimate and divine. Doubtless a "measure of inspiration” belongs, as Mr. Balfour has written, “ to the ethico-religious teachings of the great Oriental reformers;" “ these things,” he says, “are assuredly from God, and whatever be the terms in which we choose to express our faith, let us not give colour to the opinion that His assistance to mankind has been narrowed down to the sources, however unique from which we immediately and consciously draw our own spiritual nourishment.”

But in the Lecture this afternoon I shall hope to indicate some of the reasons for holding that the Christian Bible and that alone is worthy to be called the universal, sacred Book of humanity. And at the very outset we are confronted by the interesting fact that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures originated in a land which was itself an epitome of the whole world. The configuration of Palestine, its immense variations

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »