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of natural scenery, its vast range of climate, tell a unique and wonderful story, for in that little realm of sacred history, scarcely larger than Wales or New Hampshire, we discover the scenery of the entire globe. The region where the writers of this Book lived and wrote is no Arabian desert, like that from which the Koran came forth, though deserts fringe its eastern and southern borders. It reproduces the geographical features of the whole earth, and indicates, it would seem, that this Book was meant to meet the wants of all mankind. It is full of the imagery of the sea, and is fitted to be the companion and friend of those whose lives are spent on the great waters. Cowper's cottager reads it a quiet English shore, and the sailor in the storm thinks of Paul on the Mediterranean, and of Him who calmed the Galilean waves. The Bible is full of pastoral imagery. It tells of a God who is a shepherd, of a darling king who came from the sheepfold, of a Saviour whose advent was announced to the keepers of flocks, and the multitude who ply the shepherd's trade on Scottish Highlands or western prairies find it preeminently the shepherd's book. But the Bible is warm with the breath and brilliant with the light of the Eastern clime. It tells of gardens and spices and pomegranates, of roses and lilies and jewels and palms. Its imagery is oriental in its richness, and is it not in this respect at least, the book for the teeming millions who dwell beneath the tropic sun ? But it is also a book of mountains and snow and ice ; the hoar frost of Lebanon is on it. The snowy splendour of Hermon casts a cold light on its pages; and is it not the book for the Alpine herdsman, and even for the far-off tribes which watch the unsetting sun amid the white and ghastly solitudes of the North ?
But this Book which Christians deem the pre-eminent divine revelation, reflects not only the outer life of the world, but also the whole inner life of humanity. We know that primarily the Bible is a story, the story of redemption, interwoven with fascinating biographies and almost every variety of literature. Nothing stirs the mind and heart like action, dramatic, heroic, progressive, human action. Can anything be found in literature which for the delight of the young and the instruction of the aged is equal to the stories in the Old and New Testaments ? The Bible is the history of man on all sides of his nature, in every aspect of his character from the vilest to the holiest. When understood as the best Christian scholarship now understands it, it is not exposed to the objections which scornful
unbelief has often flung against it. The Bible is the literature, the spiritual and choice literature, of a great and heaven-guided people, a literature resplendent with universal moral and spiritual truths, full of elements human and divine, perfectly adapted to its supreme work of restoring the soul, not a treatise of science or history by the pen of the Almighty and All-wise, but the inspired human record of prophets, kings, patriarchs, seers, apostles, warriors, poets, fishermen. It is coloured by the prismatic hues of many minds; it is not the product of one
; generation, but of nearly fifty, not in one language but mostly in two, the simple and fervent Hebrew for the Old Testament, the literary and philosophical Greek for the New. The divine inspiration comes to us from Rabbis and shepherds, from the statesman-like Moses, the visionary Isaiah, the practical Peter, the argumentative Paul, the mystical John. The word spoken is for children and for the aged, for women and for men, for the rich and the humble, for the sovereign and the
, subject, for magistrate and criminal, for the exile, the sorrow-laden and the dying. The Spirit of God reaching us through such various channels appeals to gratitude and hope, to fear and to love. As one who denied its divine origin has written, “It goes equally to the cottage of the plain man and the palace of the king. It is woven into the literature of the scholar and the talk of the street. It blesses us when we are born; gives names to half Christendom ; rejoices with us; has sympathy with our mourning ; tempers our grief to finer issues.” It tells the story of one who was carpenter and king, peasant and Redeemer, child and youth and man and the Son of God, the story which charms the evening fireside and consoles the heart of the dying believer.
Remember that the Biblical literature has not come to us under any monotonous form, not as a collection of precepts, strung together like these of the Confucian and Buddhist scriptures, and not the production of a single mind, like the Koran where the chapters excepting the first, which is a brief prayer of thanksgiving, are arranged mechanically, beginning with the longest and ending with the briefest. Our Bible has greater variety even than the Hindu sacred books, which resemble it in this respect, but it is not a voluminous and almost endless encyclopedia of undefined and interminable extent, which even a company of scholars working for two decades would not fully explore. It is a book which a ten years child may read in a week, and which is now brought within the reach of the poor. both in India and America, and yet it is a book which a life
time of study never begins to exhaust. It has almost infinite variety, scores of authors, living through a period of perhaps fifteen centuries contributing to it, and writing in different styles and tongues their different kinds of literature. We have dramatic poetry like Job, which many of us deem with Carlyle “the greatest of human compositions," epic poetry which is really history, like the story of Joseph and the story of David, tragedies which Shakespeare and the Greeks have not surpassed in terror in the fate of Absalom and Ahab, of Jezebel and Judas and Ananias; pastorals like Ruth, with which Dr. Johnson amazed and delighted a fashionable circle of ignorant sceptics in London ; love songs like that attributed to Solomon, sententious precepts like the Proverbs; grandest oratory like the writings of Isaiah, which Milton loved and praised; fascinating biographies like the Gospels, grave practical letters like those of Paul, profoundest principles of statesmanship running through the Old Testament prophets, missionary annals like the Acts of the Apostles, visions of earthly and heavenly victory over evil like the Apocalypse.
And to prove its universal adaptation still further, the Bible is a book which unlike some other sacred scriptures can be readily translated. Its loveliness and its inspiring power do not lie, as with the Koran, in the original text. The Bible can be put into all tongues and become, like Luther's translation into the German or like the King James' version into the English, the noblest product and conservator of a great modern speech. Into hundreds of the minor languages and dialects the Bible has gone and has not lost its glory, and sometimes it lifts those languages and their peoples with them, putting noble conceptions into the place of debasing ideas. Where its truths have been preached, in the last fifty years, a thousand church spires rise above the vanishing idolatries of the Pacific Archipelago. Going to new nations the Bible has introduced them into the noblest intellectual companionships; has made them contemporaries with the vast and wonderful history recorded in its
pages ; has placed them with Adam in the primeval garden amid trees of Paradise ; with Abraham on the mysterious mount of sacrifice; with Moses before the majesty of Egypt and the infinite glory of Jehovah; with Jesus on the mount of Beatitudes, the awful summit of Calvary and the peaceful hill over which bloomed the skies of His Ascension, thus widening their intellectual horizon until it has become conterminous with God's purposes of love to His children.
Does it not appear to you that, in comparison, the ministry
of other sacred books has been limited to national areas ? Much of the best modern poetry, where the beauty depends so much on the artistic expression, cannot be successfully put into most other tongues, but the poetry of the Psalter for example, is primarily in the thought, and thought can go everywhere. Expert scholars inform us that the Bibles of other peoples when translated into English are as variant from the original form and melody as cau well be imagined. Many Moham
. medans deem it a sacrilege for the Koran to talk in infidel tongues ; the very words which the prophet dictated, and which his scribes wrote down on palm-leaves and shoulder-blades, must be learned in the Arabic and repeated in the original. But there can be no life-giving power in such exercises. An intelligent world is not to be permanently influenced by superstitions. But the Bible, entering as life and truth, justifies its claims by what it has wrought for the savage and civilized races of men. It has lifted the mind and transformed the life, enlarged the horizon and given to human darkness the bright atmosphere of celestial worlds. To the ancient Greek the knowledge of the Old Testament and the New brought fresh constellations to his sensitive and ever-expanding intelligence ; and, surveying the effects which the Bible has wrought on some modern peoples, like Japan, ambitious to get out of the primitive stages of civilization, one writer, using a thoroughly modern metaphor, tells us that the “translation of the Bible is like building a railroad through the national intellect.”
Mr. Lowell has said that the only universal authors are Dante, Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Goethe. They translate well, both from their style and from their broad humanity. But the four magnates of literature whom he eulogizes, when compared with the writers of the Scriptures, reach but a few, and they do not speak or claim to speak with any authority on the chief themes of human concern, and we may say without contradiction that the most popular poet in all the world to-day is none of these, but David of Bethlehem, using that name to represent the succession of singers who gave us the chief devotional book of the world.
And I think we may safely argue the permanent influence of the Biblical literature on the modest ground that it is literature, and not a book of science, law or systematized theology. Books of science are left behind in the march of
progress, while the great poets are always in the vanguard of human life. But the Biblical literature abides also, because it speaks through object lessons to the child-heart which comes back to earth with each new generation, living in its
own paradises and delighting in the pictures which bring immortal truth to youthful eyes, and furthermore because, while thus addressing the soul of childhood, it reaches the depths of all human need, keeping ahead of the most disciplined mind and luring the imagination on and on with dreams of the infinite and eternal. I say that it fits into all men's needs, those old and ever-returning spiritual wants which belong to men not as members of a nation, but as members of a race. And yet by its vastness, variety, and constant revelation of new truths and adaptations, it keeps abreast of the eager intellect and yearning heart with every new occasion and epoch of history. What an inspiring power, preeminent among all books, this volume has had over the intellectual life! The most radiant and productive period in the literary history of England, the century extending from the birth of Shakespeare to the close of Milton's life, was that wherein according to perhaps the wisest of English historians, the people became the people of one Book and that book the Bible. This is no surprise. The Bible presents a series of unequalled literary phenomena. Paul has left us profounder analyses of character, of the human soul in its conflicts with sin, than we can discover elsewhere.
A Book which contains the Gospel of John, which Schaff called “the most important literary production ever written by man;" a Book which has given to mankind all the pure and strong and vigorous monotheism now prevailing in our race, among nations as diverse as those who dwell in Scotland and those who dwell in Arabia; a Book whose prolonged history was a manifest prophecy of the Messiah, culminating in the matchless person and teachings of Jesus Christ, and through whose record there runs by the side of human sin the current of a divine redemption; a Book which opens with creation's story, written long before the birth of science and conformed to that theory of development from the simple to the complex, and from the lower to the higher which science now wears as its most lustrous crown -a Book which deals with those stories of the earth's origin and of the earth's destruction by a deluge in such a way as to demonstrate its moral superiority above the other traditions and accounts which have been left us; a Book which has furnished in its Psalms written more than two thousand years ago, the one devotional volume most acceptable to the enlightened nations of to-day; those Psalms on which John Bright declared he would be content to stake the question whether there is or there is not a Divine revelation ; a Book which has